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Title: Pearl of Pearl Island
Author: Oxenham, John, 1852-1941
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pearl of Pearl Island" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



PEARL OF PEARL ISLAND

BY JOHN OXENHAM

HODDER AND STOUGHTON
PUBLISHERS LONDON
1908



TO MY WIFE



CONTENTS

PART THE FIRST     PEARL
PART THE SECOND    LOST PEARL
PART THE THIRD     PEARL ISLAND
PART THE FOURTH    PEARL OF PEARL ISLAND
PART THE FIFTH     PEARL IN A RING
PART THE SIXTH     SMALLER PEARLS



    PEARL OF THE PEARL OF THE SILVER SEA!

    PEARL Iridescent! Pearl of the sea!

    Shimmering, glimmering Pearl of the sea!
      White in the sun-flecked silver sea,
      White in the moon-decked silver sea,
      White in the wrath of the silver sea,--
    Pearl of the Silver Sea!
      Lapped in the smile of the Silver Sea,
      Ringed in the foam of the Silver Sea,
      Glamoured in mists of the Silver Sea,--
    Pearl of the Silver Sea!
      Glancing and glimmering under the sun,
      Jewel and casket all in one,
      Joy supreme of the sun's day-dream,
      Soft in the gleam of the golden beam,--
    Pearl of the Silver Sea!
      Splendour of Hope in the rising sun,
      Glory of Love in the noonday sun,
      Wonder of Faith in the setting sun,--
    Pearl of the Silver Sea!

      Gaunt and grim to the outer world,
      Jewel and casket all impearled
      With the kiss of the Silver Sea!--
      With the flying kiss of the Silver Sea,
      With the long sweet kiss of the Silver Sea,
      With the rainbow kiss of the Silver Sea,--

    Pearl of the Silver Sea!
      And oh the sight,--the wonderful sight,
      When calm and white, in the mystic light,
      Of her quivering pathway, broad and bright,
      The Queen of the Night, in silver dight,
      Sails over the Silver Sea!

    Wherever I go, and wherever I be,
    The joy and the longing are there with me,--
    The gleam And the glamour come back to me,--
    In a mystical rapture there comes to me,
    The call of the Silver Sea!
    As needle to pole is my heart to thee,
    Pearl of the Silver Sea!

    Pearl of the Pearl of the Silver Sea!
    To some you are Margaret, but to me,
    Always and ever, wherever I be,
    You are Pearl of the Pearl of the Silver Sea!

    J.C.G.



PART THE FIRST


I

    NOTE.--_It would be impossible to depict the Sark of to-day
    without using the names native to the Island. All such names
    here employed, however, are used without any reference whatever
    to any actual persons who may happen to bear similar names in
    Sark. The characters are to be taken as types. The incidents are
    in many cases fact._


If you want murders, mysteries, or mud--pass on! This is a simple,
straightforward love-story.


"Jock, my lad," said Lady Elspeth softly, nodding her head very many
times, in that very knowing way of hers which made her look like a
Lord Chief Justice and a Fairy Godmother all in one, "I've found you
out."

And when the shrewd old soul of her looked him gently through and
through in that fashion, he knew very much better than to attempt any
evasion.

"Ah!" he said meekly, "I was afraid someone would, sooner or later.
I've been living in constant dread of it. But it's happened before,
you know, between you and me. What is it this time, dear Lady
Elspeth?"

"Here have I been imputing grace to you for your kindly attentions to
a poor old woman whose race is nearly run, and setting you up above
the rest of them therefor, and lo, my idol----"

"Ah!" he said again, with a reproving wag of the head, for he knew now
what was coming,--"idols are perverse, camstairy things at best, you
know, and a bit out of date too. And, besides,"--with a touch of
remonstrance--"at your age and with your bringing-up----"

"Ay, ay, ye may be as insulting as ye choose, my laddie, and fling my
age and my upbringing in my face like a very man----"

"There isn't a face like it in all England, and as to----"

"I prefer ye to say Britain, as I've told ye before. Your bit England
is only a portion of the kingdom, and in very many respects the
poorest portion, notably in brains and manners and beauty. But ye
cannot draw me off like that, my laddie, whether it's meant for a
compliment or no. I was just about telling you you were a fraud----"

"You hadn't got quite that length, you know, but----"

"Will I prove it to you? Haven't you been coming here as regular as
the milkman for a month past----"

"Oh, come now!--Only once a day. I've an idea milkie comes twice, and
besides----"

"And what did ye come for, my lad?" with an emphatic nod and a
menacing shake of the frail white hand, pricelessly jewelled above,
comfortably black-silk-mittened below. "Tell me that now! What did ye
come for?"

"To see the dearest old lady in England--Britain, I mean. And--"

"Yes?--And?--" and she watched him, with her head a little on one side
and her eyes shining brightly, like an expectant motherly robin
hopping on treasure trove.

He smiled back at her and said nothing. He knew she knew without his
telling.

"And so I was only second fiddle--" she began, with an assumption of
scornful irascibility which became her less than her very oldest cap.

"Oh, dear me, no! Leader of the orchestra!--Proprietor of the
house!--Sole director and manager and--"

"Tuts! It was Margaret Brandt you came to see," and the twinkling
brown eyes held the merry gray ones with a steady challenge.

"Partly,--and I was just about to say so when you interrupted me--"

"Ay! Were you now? Ye can out with things quick enough at times, my
laddie!"

"Well, you see, there are some things one does not speak about until
one feels one has an absolute right to."

"You'd have told your mother, Jock."

"Perhaps, I'm not sure,--not yet--not, at all events, until--"

"And wasn't I to take her place when she left you all alone?"

"And so you have. You're just the dearest and sweetest old--"

"Second fiddle! Come away and we'll talk of Margaret, since that's all
you come for."

"And isn't she worth coming for? Did you ever in all your life see
anything more wonderful than Margaret Brandt?"

And she looked at him for half a minute with a twinkle in the shrewd
old eyes, which had surely seen many strange and wonderful things
since the first wonders passed and gave place to the common things of
life. Beautiful eyes they were still,--of a very tender brown, and
shining always with kindly feeling and deepest interest in the person
she was talking to.

I do not know how it may be with you, but, personally, I detest people
whose eyes and thoughts go wandering away over your left shoulder
while you are talking with them. It may be, of course, that you are
not much of a talker and are simply boring them, but, all the same,
mental squinters are not to my liking.

But Lady Elspeth was never bored--visibly, at all events, and while
you talked with her you were the one person in the world in whom she
was interested.

Margaret's eyes had something of the same in them, but they were very
deep blue, and there was in them just that touch of maidenly reserve
which best becomes a maiden's eyes, until, to one at all events, she
may lay it aside and let her heart shine through.

Lady Elspeth looked at him, then, for half a minute, with a starry
twinkle, and then said, with a finality of conviction that made her
dearer to him than ever--

"Never!" and he kissed her hand with fervour,--and not ungracefully,
since the action, though foreign to him, was absolutely spontaneous.

"But--!" she said firmly. And he sat up.

"But me no buts," he said. "And why?"

"Well, you see, Margaret is by way of being an heiress--and you are
not."

"I'm sorry. But, you see, I couldn't very well be if I tried. Still
I'm not absolutely penniless, and--"

"Tuts, boy! What you have is just about enough to pay Jeremiah
Pixley's servants' wages."

"D-hang Jeremiah Pixley!"

"D-hang is not a nice expression to use before a lady, let me tell
you. What you have, as, I was saying, is just enough to make or mar
you--"

"It's going to make me. I can live on it till things begin to come my
way."

"Everyone writes nowadays," she said, with a dubious shake of the
head. "Who reads all the books passes my comprehension. I suppose you
have all just to buy one another's to make a bit of a living out of
it."

"Like those washing people! But it's not quite as bad as all that.
There are still some intelligent people who buy books--good books, of
course, I mean."

"Not many, I'm afraid. They read reviews and chatter as though they'd
read the books. And if they really want to read them they get them out
of a library. You don't see bought books lying on the tables, as you
used to do when I was a girl, and they were scarcer and dearer. How is
this last one going?"

"I have reason to believe my publishers are not absolutely
broken-hearted over it, which leads me to think that they have
probably done pretty well out of it. They are not what you might call
a gushing race, you know, but they have given me a kind of cautious
half-hint that they might not refuse to look at my next if I offered
it to them on my bended knees. But let us get back to our--to Miss
Brandt. I had no idea she was an heiress. I have really never thought
of money in the matter, except as to how I could earn enough to offer
it to her."

"She has a fair portion--about two thousand a year, I believe. Her
father was Danish Consul in Glasgow, and had a shipping business
there. I should not be surprised if Mr. Pixley had views of his own
concerning Margaret's portion and his son--and of course Margaret
herself."

"Will you permit me to say, 'Hang Mr. Pixley!' dear Lady Elspeth? It
would be such a relief--if you're sure you don't mind."

"You may say 'Hang Mr. Pixley!' though it is not an expression I am in
the habit of using myself. But please don't begin it with a D."

"Hang Mr. Pixley, and Mr. Pixley's son, and all his intentions!" he
said fervently and with visible relish.

"Yes," she nodded slowly, as though savouring it; and then added, with
a delicious twinkle of the soft brown eyes, "There is something in
that that appeals to me. Jeremiah Pixley is almost too good for this
world. At least--"

"He is absolutely unwholesomely good. My own private opinion is that
he's a disreputable old blackg--I mean whited sepulchre."

"Unwholesomely good!" She nodded again. "Yes,--that, I think, very
fairly expresses him. 'Unco' guid,' we would say up north. But, all
the same, he is Margaret's uncle and guardian and trustee. He is also
the kind of man whom nothing can turn from a line he has once
adopted."

"I know. Pigheaded as a War-Office-mule," he side-tracked hastily.

For she had looked at him with a momentary bristle of enquiry in the
gentle brown eyes, and he remembered, just in time, that her husband
had once held the reins in Pall Mall for half a year, when, feeling
atrophy creeping on, he resigned office and died three months later.

He hastened to add,--"The ordinary Army-mule, you know, is specially
constructed with a cast-iron mouth, and a neck of granite, and a
disposition like--like Mr. Pixley's. I imagine Mr. Pixley can be
excessively unpleasant when he tries. To me he is excessively
unpleasant even to think of, and without any exertion whatever on his
part."

"Yes. Mrs. Pixley would rather convey that impression. She is always
depressed and apprehensive-looking. But she is very fond of Margaret,
and that no doubt is why--But I suppose she really has no choice in
the matter, until she comes of age--"

"Mrs. Pixley?"

"Until Margaret comes into her own she is no doubt obliged to submit
to her guardian's views. It is difficult to imagine anyone not a
Pixley living in the Pixley atmosphere of their own free will. What is
the son like? I have only seen him once or twice. Does he take after
his father?"

"He's about twice as tall, and several times as wide in some respects,
I should say,--certainly in the matter of the enjoyment of life. He's
not bad-looking--in a kind of a way, you know,--that is, for those who
like that kind of looks,--a trifle fleshy perhaps. But he's a fair
dancer, and sings a song well, and can talk about nothing as nicely
as any man I ever met. It's an accomplishment I often envy."

"I wouldn't trouble about it, if I were you. There are things more
worth doing in the world. And that reminds me. We were talking of your
books. I've been wanting to tell you that your love-scenes are not
altogether to my liking. They are just a little--well, not quite--"

"Yes, I know," he said sadly. "You see, I lack experience in such
things. Now, if Margaret--"

"Don't tell me you want to use her simply as a model," she began, with
another incipient gentle bristle.

"I want her as a model and a great many other things besides, dear
Lady Elspeth. I love Margaret Brandt with every atom of good that is
in me."

"And she?" with a nod and a sparkle.

"Ah! There now--that's what I don't know. She's not one to wear her
heart on her sleeve. At times I have dared to hope. Then again I have
feared--"

"That is quite right. That is quite as it should be. Anything more, so
early as this, would imply unmaidenliness on her part."

"Truly? You mean it? You are, without exception, the most charming old
lady in the world! You relieve my mind immensely. You see, she is
always so sweet and charming. But then she could not be anything
else, and it may really mean nothing. Do you really think I may hope?"

"'White-handed Hope, thou hovering angel, girt with golden wings,'"
she quoted, with a smile.

"That's Margaret," he murmured rapturously.

"It's a poor kind of man that gives up hope until he lies in his
coffin, and even then--" and she nodded thoughtfully, as though
tempted to a descent into metaphysics.

"Let us talk of bridal wreaths. They are very much nicer to think of
than coffins when one is discussing Margaret Brandt."

"She is very sweet and very beautiful--"

"There never was anyone like her in this world--unless it was my
mother and yourself."

"Let Margaret be first with you, my boy. That also is as it should be.
Neither your dear mother nor I stand in need of empty compliments.
Margaret Brandt is worthy any good man's whole heart, and perhaps I
can be of some help to you. But, all the same, remember what I've
said. You may be too late in the field."

"You are just the splendidest old lady in the world," he said
exuberantly; and added, with a touch of gloom, "She was talking of
going off to the Riviera."

"Ah, then, I suppose I shall be in eclipse also, until she returns."

"Oh no, you won't. We can talk of her, you know," at which Lady
Elspeth's eyes twinkled merrily.

"What would you say to convoying a troublesome old lady to the
Riviera, yourself, Jock?"

"You?" and he jumped up delightedly,--and just at that point old
Hamish opened the door of the cosy room, and announced--

"Miss Brandt, mem!"


II

"Miss Brandt, mem!" announced old Hamish, in as dry and matter-of-fact
a voice as though it were only, "Here's the doctor, mem!" or "Dinner's
ready, mem!" and Margaret herself came in, rosy-faced and bright-eyed
from the kiss of the wind outside.

Lady Elspeth laughed enjoyably at the sight of her, and touched the
bell for tea.

"You are always like a breath from the heather to me, my dear, or a
glimpse of Schiehallion," said she, as they kissed, and Graeme stood
reverently looking on, as at a holy rite.

"Oh, surely I'm not as rugged and wrinkled as all that!" laughed
Margaret. "And I certainly am not bald. How do you do, Mr. Graeme?"

"There is no need to ask you that question, at any rate," he said,
with visible appreciation.

"I have loved Schiehallion all my life," said Lady Elspeth. "To me
there is no mountain in the world to compare with it. You see how
one's judgment is biassed by one's affections. And how is Mrs. Pixley
to-day, my dear?"

"She is much as usual, dear Lady Elspeth. She is never very lively,
you know. If anything, I think she is, perhaps, a trifle less lively
than usual just now."

"And Mr. Pixley is as busied in good works as ever, I suppose."

"As busy as ever--outside,"--at which gentle thrust the others smiled.

"It's all very well to laugh," remonstrated Margaret, "but truly, you
know, philanthropy, like charity, would be none the less commendable
to its relations if it sometimes remembered that it had a home. I
sometimes think that if ever there was a deserving case it is poor
Aunt Susan."

"And young Mr. Pixley? Doesn't he liven you up?" asked Lady Elspeth.
"He is very good company, I am told."

"Oh, Charles is excellent company. If we didn't see him now and again
the house would be like a tomb. But he's not there all the time, and
we have relapses. He has his own rooms elsewhere, you know. And I'm
really not surprised. It taxes even him to lighten the deadly dulness
of Melgrave Square."

"It must be a great comfort to Mrs. Pixley to have you with her, my
dear."

"I can't make up for all she lacks in other directions," said
Margaret, with a shake of the head. "I get quite angry with Uncle
Jeremiah sometimes. He is so--so absorbed in benefiting other people
that he--Well, you can understand how delightful it is to be able to
run in here and find the sun always shining."

"Thank you, my dear," said Lady Elspeth, with a twinkle in the brown
eyes. "Some people carry their own sunshine with them wherever they
go."

"And some people decidedly don't," said Margaret, who was evidently
suffering from some unusual exhibition of Pixleyism.

"It is generally possible to find a ray or so somewhere about, if you
know where to look for it," suggested Graeme.

"I was just accusing Jock of coming here as regularly as the milkman,"
twinkled Lady Elspeth.

"We have a community of tastes, you see," he said, looking across at
Margaret. "I also have a craving for sunshine, and I naturally come
where I know it is to be found," and Lady Elspeth's eyes twinkled
knowingly again.

"It's a good conceit of myself I'll be getting, if you two go on like
this."

"I'm quite sure you will never think half as well of yourself as your
friends do," said Graeme.

"Besides, you might even pass some of the credit on to us for the
excellent taste we display."

"Ay, ay! Well, it's good to be young," said Lady Elspeth.

"And it's very good to have delightful old sunbeams for friends."

"To say nothing of the young ones," laughed the old lady.

"They speak for themselves."

"We are becoming quite a mutual admiration society," said Margaret.
"Have you been dining with your fellow Friars lately, Mr. Graeme?"

"I'm sorry to say I've been neglecting my privileges in that respect.
I haven't been there for an age--not since that last Ladies' Dinner,
in fact. You see, I'm an infant there yet, and I scarcely know
anybody, and I've been very busy--"

"Chasing sunbeams," suggested Lady Elspeth.

"And other things."

"You are busy on another book?" asked Margaret.

"Just getting one under way. It takes a little time to get things into
proper shape, but once it is going, the work is very absorbing and
sheer delight. You were talking of going abroad again. Are you still
thinking of it?"

"I was hoping to get away. I wanted Aunt Susan to come with me to the
Riviera, but she flatly refuses to leave home at present, so I'm
afraid that's off."

"Well, now, that's curious. I've been feeling something of an
inclination that way myself," said Lady Elspeth. "I wonder if you'd
feel like coming with me, Margaret. I don't believe we would quarrel."

"Oh, I would be delighted, dear Lady Elspeth, and I'll promise not to
quarrel whatever you do to me."

"Who ever heard of sunbeams quarrelling?" said Graeme gaily, with Lady
Elspeth's earlier suggestion to himself dancing in his brain. "But
think of London left utterly sunless."

"London will never miss us," said Margaret. "It still has bridge, and
we are neither of us players."

And then, having an appointment from which he could not escape, and
knowing that they always enjoyed a little personal chat, he
reluctantly took his leave, and left them to the discussion of their
new plans.


III

He had met Margaret Brandt for the first time at a Ladies' Banquet of
the Whitefriars Club.

Providence,--I insist upon this. No mere chance set them next to one
another at that hospitable board,--Providence, forecasting the future,
placed them side by side, and he was introduced to her by his good
friend Adam Black, who had the privilege of her acquaintance and sat
opposite enjoying them greatly.

For they were both eminently good to look upon;--Margaret, tall and
slender, and of a most gracious figure and bearing, with thoughtful,
dark-blue eyes, a very charming face accentuated by the
characteristics of her northern descent, and a wealth of shining brown
hair coiled about her shapely head;--Graeme, tall, clean-built, of an
outdoor complexion, with nothing of the student about him save his
deep, reflective eyes, and the little lines in the corners which
wrinkled up so readily at the overflowing humours of life.

It was Charles Pixley--Charles Svendt Pixley, to accord him fullest
justice, which I am most anxious to do--who brought her, and to that
extent we are his debtors.

Though why Pixley should be a Whitefriar passes one's comprehension.
His pretensions to literature were, I should say, bounded by his Stock
Exchange notebook and his betting-book. He had not even read Graeme's
latest, though it was genuinely in its second--somewhat
limited--edition, and he did not even smile affably when Adam Black
introduced them. Graeme, however, had no fault to find with him for
that. There were others in like dismal case.

Pixley nodded cursorily at the introduction, with a
"How-d'ye-do-who-the-deuce-are-you?" expression on his face. He struck
Graeme as not bad-looking, in a somewhat over-fed and self-indulgent
fashion, and inclined to superciliousness and self-complacency, if not
to actual superiority and condescension. It occurred to him afterwards
that this might arise from his absorption in his companion, for he
turned again at once to Miss Brandt and began chattering like a lively
and intelligent parrot.

Graeme was one of the silent and observant ones, and he could not but
think how beneficent Nature is in casting us in many moulds. If we
were all built alike, he thought, and all dribbled smart inanities,
and nothing but inanities, with the glibness of a Charles Pixley, what
a world it would be!

However, it was Charles Pixley who brought Margaret Brandt to that
dinner, and Graeme sat on the other side of her there. And so, Charles
Svendt--blessings on thee, unworthy friar though thou be!

And presently, Miss Brandt, wearying no doubt of _perdrix, perdrix,
toujours perdrix_,--that is to say of Charles's sprightly chatter, of
which she doubtless got more than enough at home,--essayed
conversation with the silent one at her other side, and, one may
suppose, found it more to her taste, or more of a novelty, than the
Pixley outflow.

For, once started, she and Graeme talked together most of the
evening--breaking off reluctantly to drink various toasts to people in
whom they had, at the moment, no remotest interest whatever, and
recovering the thread of their conversation before they resumed their
seats.

Only one toast really interested Graeme, and that was "The Ladies--the
Guests of the Evening"; and that he drank right heartily, with his
eyes on Miss Brandt's sparkling face, and if it had been left to
himself he would have converted it from plural to singular and drunk
to her alone.

Adam Black, excellent fellow, and gifted beyond most with wisdom and
insight, and the condensed milk of human kindness, took upon himself
the burden of Pixley, and engaged that eminent financier so deeply in
talk concerning matters of import, that Miss Brandt and Graeme found
themselves at liberty to enjoy one another to their hearts' content.

They talked on many subjects--tentatively, and as sounding novel
depths--in a way that occasioned one of them, at all events, very
great surprise. Indeed, it seemed to him afterwards that, for a silent
and observant man, he had been led into quite unwonted, but none the
less very enjoyable, ways. He went home that night feeling very much
as Columbus must have done when his New World swam before his eyes in
misted glory. He too had sighted a new world. He had discovered
Margaret Brandt.

She had travelled widely over Europe, he learned, and was looking
forward with eagerness to another tour in the near future. They
discovered a common liking for many of the places she had visited.

She was a wide and intelligent reader. To him it was a rare pleasure
to meet one.

"New places, and new books, and new people are always a joy to me,"
she said, in a glow of naïve enthusiasm. And then she blushed slightly
lest he should discover a personal application in the last-named, or
even in the last two.

But Graeme was thinking of her, and was formulating her character from
the delicious little bits of self-revelation which slipped out every
now and again.

"Yes," he said, "new things are very enjoyable, and in these times
there is no lack of them. The tendency, I should say, is towards
superfluity. But new places----! There are surely not many left except
the North Pole and the South. Everybody goes everywhere nowadays, and
you tumble over friends in Damascus and find your tailor picnicking on
the slopes of Lebanon."

Now, as it chanced,--if you admit such a thing as chance in so tangled
a coil as this complex world of ours,--Adam Black had just tucked
Charles Pixley into a close little argumentative corner, and given him
food for contemplation, and catching Graeme's last remark, he smiled
across the table, and in a word of four letters dropped a seed into
several lives which bore odd fruit and blossom.

"Ever been to Sark, Graeme?" he asked.

"Sark? No. Let me see----"

"Channel Islands. You go across from Guernsey. If ever you want relief
from your fellows--to finish a book, or to start one, or just to
grizzle and find yourself--try Sark. It's the most wonderful little
place, and it's amazing how few people know it."

Then Charles Pixley bethought him of a fresh line of argument, and
engaged Black, and was promptly shown the error of his ways; and
Margaret Brandt and Graeme resumed their discussion of places and
books and people. And before that evening ended, with such affinity of
tastes, their feet were fairly set in the rosy path of friendship.

Now that is how it all began, and that explains what happened
afterwards when the right time came.

Chance, forsooth! We know better.


IV

Not long after that dinner, Lady Elspeth Gordon came up to town for
the first time after her husband's death.

She had been John Graeme's mother's closest friend, and when he was
left alone in the world, the dear old lady, before she had fully
recovered from her own sore loss, took upon herself a friendly
supervision of him and his small affairs, and their intercourse was
very delightful.

For Lady Elspeth knew everybody worth knowing, and all that was to be
known about the rest; and those gentle brown eyes of hers had missed
little of what had gone on around her since she first came to London,
fifty years before. She had known Wellington, and Palmerston, and John
Russell, and Disraeli, and Gladstone, and Louis Napoleon, and
Garibaldi, and many more. She was a veritable golden link with the
past, and a storehouse of reminiscence and delightful insight into
human nature.

And--since she knew everyone worth knowing, Graeme very soon
discovered that she knew Margaret Brandt, and Miss Brandt's very
frequent visits to Phillimore Gardens proved that she was an
acceptable visitor there.

Upon that, his own visits to Lady Elspeth naturally became still more
frequent than before,--approximating even, as she had said, the record
of the milkman,--and, though his dear old friend might rate him gently
as to the motives for his coming, he had every reason to believe that
her sympathies were with him, and that she would do what she could to
further his hopes.

He had never, however, openly discussed Margaret with her until that
afternoon of which I have already spoken.

Miss Brandt, you see, was always most graciously kind and charming
whenever they met. But that was just her natural self. She was
charming and gracious to everyone--even to Charles Pixley, the while
he swamped her with inane tittle-tattle, and higher proof of grace
than that it would be difficult to imagine.

And, since she was charming to all, Graeme felt that he could base no
solid hopes on her gracious treatment of himself, though the quiet
recollection of every smallest detail of it would set him all aglow
with hope for days after each chance meeting. And so he had never
ventured to discuss the matter with Lady Elspeth, and would not have
done so that afternoon had she not herself opened it.

The dear old lady's encouragement, however, deepened and strengthened
his hopes, in spite of her insidious hints concerning Mr. Pixley's
possible intentions. For she was a shrewd, shrewd woman, and those
soft brown eyes of hers saw far and deep. And, since she bade him
hope, hope he would, though every brick in London town became a Pixley
set on thwarting him.

The fact of Margaret's means being, for the present at all events, so
much larger than his own, he would not allow to trouble him. It was
Margaret herself he wanted, and had wanted long before he heard she
had money. The troublesome accident of her possessions should not come
between them if he could help it. He did not for one moment believe
she would ever think so ill of him as to believe that he wanted her
for anything but herself. And in any case, if kind Providence bestowed
her upon him, he would insist on her money being all settled on
herself absolutely and irrevocably.

Since that never-to-be-forgotten dinner, they had come across one
another at Lady Elspeth's with sufficient frequency to open the eyes
of that astute old lady to the heart-state of one of them at all
events. Possibly she knew more of the heart and mind of the other than
she cared to say in plain words; but, as a woman, she would naturally
abide by the rules of the game. In the smaller games of life it is
woman's privilege, indeed, to stretch and twist all rules to suit her
own convenience, but in this great game of love, woman stands by woman
and the womanly rules of the game--unless, indeed, she craves the
stakes for herself, in which case----

And so--although Lady Elspeth favoured him, that afternoon, only with
vague generalities as to the pleasures of hope, and afforded him no
solid standing-ground for the sole of his hopeful foot, but left him
to discover that for himself, as was only right and proper--his heart
stood high, and he looked forward with joyous anticipation to the
future.

The radiant sun of all his rosy heavens was Margaret Brandt, and he
would not for one moment admit the possibility of its clouding by
anything of the name of Pixley.


V

Graeme had not the entrée of the Pixley mansion.

Mr. Pixley he knew, by repute only, as the head of Pixley's, the great
law-firm, in Lincoln's Inn. Mrs. Pixley he had never met.

Mr. Pixley was a bright and shining light--yea, a veritable
light-house--of respectability and benevolence, and bushel coverings
were relegated to their proper place outside his scheme of life. His
charities were large, wide-spread, religiously advertised in the
donation columns of the daily papers, and doubtless palliated the
effects of multitudes of other people's sins.

He was a church-warden, president and honorary treasurer of numerous
philanthropical societies--in a word, at once a pillar and
corner-stone of his profession, his church, and his country.

He was also a smug little man with a fresh, well-fed face, bordered by
a touch of old-fashioned, gray side-whisker, rather outstanding blue
eyes, and he carried, and sometimes used as it was intended to be
used, a heavy gold pince-nez, which more frequently, however, acted as
a kind of lightning-conductor for the expression of his feelings. A
pince-nez of many parts:--now it was a scalping-knife, slaughtering
the hopes of some harried victim of the law; and again, it was a bâton
beating time to a hymn or the National Anthem; possibly it was, in
moments of relaxation, a jester's wand poking fun at ancient cronies,
though indeed a somewhat full-blooded imagination is required for
that. I have heard that once when, in the fervour of a speech, Mr.
Pixley dropped his pince-nez among the reporters below, he was utterly
unable to continue until the fetish was recovered and handed back to
him. It is an undoubted fact that though you might forget the exact
lines of Mr. Pixley's face and even his words, you never forgot the
fascinating evolutions of his heavy gold pince-nez. Like a Frenchman's
hands, it told even more than his face or his words.

He had a good voice, and a deportment which had, without doubt, been
specially created for the chairmanship of public meetings. And he was
Margaret Brandt's uncle by marriage, her guardian and trustee, and the
father of Charles Svendt, on whose account Lady Elspeth had thought
well to throw out warning hints of possible paternal intentions
respecting Margaret and her fortune.

From every point of view Graeme detested Mr. Pixley, though he had
never passed a word with him. He was too perfect, too immaculate. His
"unco' guidness," as Lady Elspeth would have said, bordered on
ostentation. The sight and sound of him aroused in some people a wild
inclination towards unaccustomed profanity and wallowing in the mire.
He was so undisguisedly and self-satisfiedly better than his fellows
that one felt his long and flawless life almost in the nature of a
rebuke if not an affront. He was too obtrusively good for this world.
One could not but feel that if he had been cut off in his youth, and
buried under a very white marble slab and an appropriate inscription,
both he and the world would have been far more comfortably
circumstanced. And John Graeme devoutly wished he had been so
favoured, for, in that case, he could neither have been Margaret's
uncle, trustee, nor guardian, and it is possible that there would also
have been no Charles Svendt Pixley to trouble the course of his own
true love.

But of Charles Svendt I have no harsh word to say. He could not help
being his father's son, and one must not blame him for the
unavoidable. And, in most respects, he was as unlike his worthy parent
as circumstances permitted.

He was on the Stock Exchange and doing well there. He had very
comfortable rooms near St. James's Square, and enjoyed life in his own
way and at his own not inconsiderable expense. When Margaret Brandt
was at home, however, he was much at his father's house in Melgrave
Square.

He made no pretence to unco' guidness whatever. He subscribed to
nothing outside the House, with two exceptions--the Dogs' Home at
Battersea, and the Home of Rest for Aged Horses at Acton--signs of
grace both these offerings, I take it!

To all other demands he invariably replied,--"Can't burn the candle
at both ends, my dear sir. The governor charitables for the whole
family. He'll give you something if you'll let him head the list and
keep it standing."

No, we have no fault to find with Charles Svendt. Time came when he
was weighed and not found wanting.

Graeme and he had run across one another occasionally--at the
Travellers' Club and elsewhere--but their acquaintance had never
ripened to the point of introduction till that night at the
Whitefriars' dinner. After that they were on nodding terms, but not
much more, until--well, until later.

So, though there was hope in his heart, born of Lady Elspeth's
approval and quiet suggestings, John Graeme was still somewhat
doubtful as to Margaret Brandt's feelings towards him, and quite at a
loss how to arrive at a more exact knowledge of them.

Too precipitate an advance might end in utter rout. And opportunities
of approach were all too infrequent for his wishes.

Their chance meetings were rare and exquisite pleasures,--to be looked
forward to with an eagerness that held within it the strange
possibility of pain through sheer excess of longing;--to be enjoyed
like the glory of a fleeting dream;--to be looked back upon with
touches of regret at opportunities missed;--to be dwelt upon for days
and nights with alternate hope and misgiving, with the rapturous
recalling of every tone of the sweet voice, of every word it had
uttered, of every gracious gesture, and every most minute and subtle
change in the sweetest face and the frankest and most charming eyes in
the world.


VI

Their acquaintance had blossomed thus far, when a dire disaster
happened and justified all his fears.

He ran gaily up the steps of Lady Elspeth's house one afternoon,
brimming with hope that kindly fortune might bring Margaret that way
that day, and was hurled into deepest depths of despair by old Hamish
as soon as he opened the door.

"Ech, Mr. Graeme!" said the old man, with his grizzled old face tuned
to befitting concern. "Her leddyship's awa' to Inverstrife at a
moment's notice. She had a tailegram late last night saying the little
leddy--the Countess, ye ken--was very bad, and would she go at once.
And she and Jannet were off by the first train this morning. They aye
send for us, ye ken, when anything by-ordinar's to the fore. It's the
little leddy's first, ye understand, and ye'll mind that her own
mother died two years ago."

"Well, well! I'm sorry you've had such an upsetting, Hamish. And
there's no knowing when Lady Elspeth will return, I suppose?"

"It a' depends on the little leddy, Mr. Graeme. Her leddyship will
stay till everything's all right, ye may depend upon that. She told me
to give you her kindest regairds and beg you to excuse her not
writing. They were all on their heads, so to speak, as ye can
understand."

"Yes, of course. Well, we must just hope the little lady will pull
through all right. If I don't hear from Lady Elspeth I will call now
and again for your latest news."

"Surely, sir. Jannet'll be letting me know, if her leddyship's too
busy. Miss Brandt was here about hauf an hour ago," he added, with
unmoved face;--to think of any man, even so ancient a man as old
Hamish, being able to state a fact so great as that with unmoved face!
And there was actually no sign of reminiscent and lingering after-glow
perceptible in him!--but Graeme was not at all sure that there was not
a veiled twinkle away down in the depths of his little blue-gray eyes.

"Ah! Miss Brandt has been here! She would be surprised too----"

"She was that, sir,--and a bit disappointed, it seemed to me----"

Yes, there _was_ a twinkle in the old fellow's eyes! Oh, he knew, he
knew without a doubt. Trust old Hamish for not missing much that was
to the fore. He and his old wife, Jannet Gordon, had been in Lady
Elspeth's service for over forty years, ever since her leddyship
married into the family, and Lady Elspeth trusted them both implicitly
and discussed most matters very freely with them. The dilatations of
those three shrewd old people, concerning things in general, and the
men and women of their acquaintance in particular, would have been
rare, rare hearing.

"Well, I'll call again in a day or two, Hamish," and he went away
along the gloomy streets, which were all ablaze with soft April
sunshine, and yet to him had suddenly become darkened. For he saw at a
glance all that this was like to do for him.



PART THE SECOND


I

The rare delight of his meetings with Margaret was at an end. Bluff
Fortune had slammed the door in his face, and White-handed Hope had
folded her golden wings and sat moping with melancholy mien.

He wandered into Kensington Gardens, but the daffodils swung their
heads despondently, and the gorgeous masses of hyacinths made him
think of funeral plumes on horses' heads.

He went on into the Park. She might be driving there, and he might
catch glimpse of her. But she was not, and all the rest were less than
nothing to him.

He found himself at Hyde Park Corner and back again at Kensington
Gate. But the door was still closed in his face, and he longed for the
sight of somebody else's as he had never longed before.

The post was of course open to him, but, at this stage at all events,
he felt that the written word would be eminently inadequate and
unsatisfying.

He wanted, when he approached that mighty question, to look into her
eyes and see her answer in their pure depths before it reached her
lips,--to watch the fluttering heart-signals in her sweet face and
learn from them more than all the words in the world could tell.
Letters were, at best, to actual speech but as actual speech would be
to all that his heart-quickened eyes would discover if he could but
ask her face to face.

And besides--he would have wished to make his footing somewhat surer
before putting everything to the test.

But, since matters had gone thus far, it was quite out of the question
to let them stop there unresolved. Either the precious cargo must be
brought safely into port or the derelict must be sunk and the fairway
cleared. The question was--how to proceed?

The unwritten laws of social usage would hardly permit him to carry
the Pixley mansion by assault and insist on seeing Miss Brandt.
Besides, that might expose her to annoyance, and that he would not
upon any consideration.

And so, before he reached his rooms, his mind was groping clumsily
after written phrases which should in some sort express that which was
in him without saying too much too soon,--which should delicately hint
his regrets at this sudden curtailment of their acquaintance, and
leave it for her to say whether or no she regarded the matter in the
same light.

Lady Elspeth's sudden summons to the north furnished an acceptable
text. Margaret was not to know that he knew of her call at Phillimore
Gardens. It was surely but a friendly act on his part to inform her of
a matter so nearly concerning one who was dear to them both.

It took a considerable time, however, and the expenditure of much
thought and ink and paper, before he succeeded in producing a letter
in any degree to his liking. And even when it was written many
perusals only served to deepen his doubts.

In any case, it was the best he could do under the circumstances, and
since he could not see her answer in her eyes or in her face, the
words she would send him in reply would surely afford his quickened
perceptions some indication of her feeling, though nothing to what her
presence would have told him.

So he wrote--

    "Dear Miss Brandt,--When I called at Lady Elspeth Gordon's this
    afternoon, I learned, to my very great regret, in which I dare
    to hope you may participate, that our dear old friend had been
    summoned to Inverstrife at almost a moment's notice, by the
    sudden illness of her niece, the Countess of Assynt.

    "I trust her visit may not need to be a very extended one, but
    Lady Elspeth is such a tower of strength to all who seek her
    help that she is not likely to return so long as she can be of
    any possible assistance to her friends.

    "For reasons which, perhaps, I need not particularise, her
    sudden departure is to me a loss beyond its apparent magnitude.
    The hours I have spent at her house have been among the
    brightest of my life. You also have enjoyed her friendship. I
    venture to hope that you also will miss her.

    "Should I not have the pleasure of seeing you for some little
    time, I would beg of you to bear me in your kindly
    remembrance.--Sincerely yours,

    "JOHN C. GRAEME."

Did it say too much? Would she look upon it as an overstepping of the
limits their acquaintance had reached?

Did it say enough? Could she possibly overlook the things he would so
dearly have liked to say but had left unsaid?

Did it say too little? Could she possibly deem it an unnecessary
liberty, and cold at that? He did not think she could by any
possibility look at it in that light.

But after it was at last surely lodged in the pillar-box, all these
doubts came back upon him with tenfold force, and his sleep that night
would have been short-commons for a nightingale.

She would get his letter by the first post in the morning. Would she
answer it at once? Or would she wait half a day considering it?

Either course held hopeful possibilities. A prompt answer would
surely suggest a concurrence of feeling. An answer delayed would
without doubt mean that she was pondering his words and reading
between the lines. So he possessed his soul in patience, of a somewhat
attenuated texture, and waited in hope.

But the whole day passed, and the night, and the next morning's post
still brought him nothing,--nothing but an intimation from a publisher
of excellent standing that he would not decline to look over the
manuscript of his next book if he was open to an offer. And this
important document he tossed on one side as lightly as if it were a
begging letter or a tailor's advertisement.

What were any other letters, or all the letters in the world, to him
when the one letter he desired was not there?

All that bright April day he waited indoors, in order to get
Margaret's letter the moment it arrived. For how should he wander
abroad, in gloomy-blazing streets or desolate-teeming parks with that
anxiously-expected letter possibly awaiting him at home?

The callous passage of the last post, after knocking cheerfully at
every door but his own, left him wondering and desperate.

Could he by any possibility have addressed his letter wrongly? It was
not easy to make a mistake in No. 1 Melgrave Square.

Could it have gone astray? The Post Office was abominably careless at
times. One was constantly hearing of letters slipping down behind
desks and monstrously delivered twenty years after date. What earthly
good would that letter be delivered when he was forty-seven and
Margaret Brandt somewhere in the neighbourhood of forty? Truly, it was
monstrous, it was abominable that such carelessness should be
permitted in the public departments!

Could Margaret have taken umbrage at anything he had said? He conned
his rough draft with solicitous care. It seemed new and strange and
crude to him. He feared at each word to come upon the one that might
have offended her. But no word, no phrase, nothing even of all that he
had left unsaid sprang up before his horrified eyes to choke him with
a sense of inadequacy, or inadvertency, or trespass.

No sleep got he that night for cudgelling his tired brains for reasons
why no answer had come from Margaret.

Could she be ill? She was well enough, two days before, to call at
Lady Elspeth's house. But, of course, even in a day one may take a
chill and be prostrated.

The possibility of that was brought home to him next morning by his
landlady's surprised stare and exclamation at sight of his face.

"Law, Mr. John!"--she had been handmaid to his mother for many years
and he was still always Mr. John to her,--"Have you got the influenza
too? Everyone seems to have it nowadays."

He reassured her on the point. But every friend he met that day
credited him with it, and suggested remedies and precautions
sufficient to have made an end of any ordinary man.

He was vexed to think his face so clear an index of his feelings, but,
truly, his spirits were none of the best and the weather was
enervatingly warm.

It was quite inconceivable to him that Margaret Brandt should, of
knowledge and intention, drop their pleasant acquaintance in this
fashion. He believed he knew her well enough to know that, even if she
had any fault to find with his letter, she would still have replied to
it, and would have delicately conveyed her feeling in her answer.

Then, either she had never received it, or, for some good reason or
other, she was unable to reply.

He went down to Melgrave Square to make sure that No. 1 was still
there. Possibly he might come across Margaret in the neighbourhood. If
he did he would know at a glance if she had received his letter.

But No. 1 offered him no explanations. It stood as usual, large and
prim and precise, the very acme of solid, sober wealth and assertive
moral rectitude. He was strongly tempted to call and ask for Miss
Brandt, but it was only ten o'clock in the morning, and the house
looked so truly an embodiment in stucco of Mrs. Grundy and Jeremiah
Pixley, that he forbore and went on his melancholy way.

First, to his rooms again, to see if by chance the letter had come in
his absence. Then, as it had not, to Lady Elspeth Gordon's for old
Hamish's latest news, which, in a letter from his wife, was
satisfactory as far as it went, but pointed to a protracted stay. And
then, with stern resolution, up to Baker Street and away by train to
Chesham, for a long day's tramp through the Buckingham hills and
dales, by Chenies to Chorley Wood and Rickmansworth, so to weary the
body that the wearier brain should get some rest that night.

The sweet soft air and sunshine, the leisurely life of the villages,
and the cheerful unfoldings of the spring, in wood and field and
hedgerow, brought him to a more hopeful frame of mind. Every sparrow
twittered hope. The thrushes and young blackbirds fluted it
melodiously. It was impossible to remain unhopeful in such goodly
company. Something unexpected, accidental, untoward, had prevented
Margaret replying to his letter. Time would clear it up and set him
wondering at his lapse from fullest faith.

Also--he would risk even further rebuff. He would write again, and
this time he would trust no precarious and problematical post-office.
He would drop his letter into the Pixley letter-box himself, and so be
sure that it got there.

If then no answer,--to the winds with Mrs. Grundy and all her coils
and conventions! He would call and see Margaret himself, and learn
from her own eyes and face and lips how matters stood, and Mrs. Grundy
might dance and scream on the step outside until she grew tired of the
exercise.

There was joy and hope in action once more. Patient waiting on
slowly-dying Hope is surely the direst moral and mental torture to
which poor humanity can be subjected. That is where woman
pre-eminently overpasses man. Woman can wait unmurmuringly on dying
Hope till the last breath is gone, then silently take up her burden
and go on her way--or, if the strain has been too great, fold quiet
hands on quiet heart and follow her dead hopes into the living hope
beyond. Man must aye be doing--and as often as not, such natural
judgment as he possesses being warped and jangled by the strain of
waiting, he succeeds only in making matters worse and a more complete
fool of himself.

To be writing to Margaret again was to be living in hope once more.

If nothing came of this, he would call at the Pixley house.

If nothing came of that--he grew valiant in his new access of life--he
would beard Jeremiah Pixley in his den in Lincoln's Inn, state clearly
how matters stood, and request permission to approach his ward.

After all, this is a free country, and all men are equal under the
law, though he had his own doubts as to whether he would find himself
quite equal to that gleaming pillar of light, Mr. Jeremiah Pixley.

So he wrote--

    "DEAR MISS BRANDT,--I wrote to you a few days ago, giving you
    the information of our dear friend Lady Elspeth's sudden summons
    to Inverstrife, to attend her niece, the Countess of Assynt.

    "I hope you will not consider it presumption on my part to
    express the fear that my letter has somehow miscarried--probably
    through some oversight of my own, or carelessness on the part of
    the postal authorities.

    "You will, I know, be glad to hear that Lady Elspeth
    accomplished her journey in safety and without undue discomfort.
    But Lady Assynt's condition makes it probable that her stay may
    be somewhat prolonged.

    "I venture to hope that you may regret this as much as I do. All
    who enjoyed Lady Elspeth's friendship and hospitality cannot but
    miss her sorely.

    "I hope, however, that I may still have the pleasure of meeting
    you occasionally elsewhere. When one has not the habit of
    readily making new friendships one clings the more firmly to
    those already made.--Sincerely yours,

    "JOHN C. GRAEME."

That letter he dropped into the Pixley letterbox himself that night,
and so was assured of its delivery. But two days passed in waning
hope, and the afternoon of the third found him on the doorstep of No.
1 Melgrave Square.


II

"Miss Brandt?"

The solemn-faced man-servant eyed him suspiciously as a stranger. He
looked, to Graeme, like a superannuated official of the Court of
Chancery.

"Miss Brandt is not at home, sir."

"Mrs. Pixley?"

"Mrs. Pixley is not at home, sir."

Was he right or wrong, he wondered, in thinking he detected a gleam of
satisfied anticipation, of gratified understanding, in the solemn
one's otherwise rigid eye--as of one who had been told to expect this
and was lugubriously contented that it had duly come to pass?

However, there was nothing more to be done there at the moment. The
polite conventions, to say nothing of the law, forbade him the
pleasure of hurling the outcast of Chancery into the kennel and
forcing his way in. Instead, he hailed a hansom and drove straight to
Lincoln's Inn, boldly demanded audience of Mr. Pixley on pressing
private business, and presently found himself in the presence.

Mr. Pixley stood on the hearthrug with his back to the fire, and
handled his gold pince-nez defensively.

Here also Graeme had an intuition that he was expected, which was
somewhat odd, you know, unless his letters had been handed to Mr.
Pixley for perusal, which did not seem likely.

Mr. Pixley bowed formally and he responded--the salute before the
click of the foils.

Mr. Pixley stood expectant, but by no means inviting of confidences
such as his visitor was about to tender him. Rather he seemed fully
armed for the defence, especially in the matter of the heavy gold
pince-nez, which he held threateningly, after the manner of the
headsman of old towards the victim on whom he was about to operate.

"I have taken the liberty of calling, Mr. Pixley," said Graeme,--and
Mr. Pixley's manner in subtle fashion conveyed his full recognition of
the fact that liberty it undoubtedly was, and that he had no smallest
shadow of a right to be there,--"to inquire after Miss Brandt."

"Miss Brandt?" said Mr. Pixley vaguely, as though the name were new
and strange to him. Or perhaps it was an endeavour on his part to
express the impassable gulf which lay between his visitor and his
ward, and the profound amazement he felt at any attempt on his
visitor's part to abridge it. He also made a little involuntary
preliminary cut at him with the pince-nez, as much as to say, "If this
my weapon were of a size commensurate with my wishes and your
colossal impudence, your head would lie upon the ground, young man."

"I have had the pleasure of meeting Miss Brandt at Lady Elspeth
Gordon's and elsewhere. I think I may claim that we were on terms of
friendship. Lady Elspeth has been called from home very suddenly to
the bedside of her niece, Lady Assynt, and I have written twice to
Miss Brandt and have had no reply. It struck me that she might be ill
and I have called to inquire."

This was all lame enough no doubt, and so he felt it, but it was only
in the nature of preliminary feinting. They were not yet at grips.

"Ah!" with ponderous deliberation, "you have called to inquire if Miss
Brandt is ill. I have pleasure in informing you that she is not."

"I am glad to hear that, at all events. Might I ask if you are aware
of any reason why she should not have received my letters--or replied
to them?"

"Two questions," said Mr. Pixley, cutting them in slices with his
pince-nez, as though they were to be charged up to his visitor at so
much per pound. "There is no reason whatever why Miss Brandt should
not have received your letters. There may be the best possible reasons
why she should not reply to them."

"So far as I have been able to form an opinion of Miss Brandt it is
quite unlike her not to have, at all events, acknowledged them."

"Ah! Your opportunities have probably been limited, Mr.--er--"--with
a glance at the card--"Graeme, and you may possibly be--from your
calling upon me I judge you undoubtedly are--ignorant of the facts of
the case," and the gold pince-nez hammered that into the stolid young
man's head.

"Perhaps you would be so good as to enlighten me."

"It would perhaps be as well to do so. To be perfectly frank with you,
Mr. Graeme, my ward had the very best of reasons for handing your
letters to me and not replying to them herself."

"Really! I would esteem it a favour, Mr. Pixley, if you would
enlighten me further."

"Certainly!" with an airy wave of the pince-nez. "I intend to do so.
The simple fact of my ward's engagement to my son, and that they are
looking forward to the celebration of their marriage in something less
than three months, will probably suffice to explain Miss Brandt's
disinclination to enter into correspondence with a comparative
stranger,"--and the pince-nez shredded Graeme's hopes into little
pieces and scattered them about the floor.

"Miss Brandt is engaged to your son?" he jerked, feeling not a little
foolish, and decidedly downhearted.

"As I have informed you. It is a union to which we have been looking
hopefully forward for some time past--a most excellent conjunction of
hearts and fortunes. My ward possesses some means, as you are
doubtless aware,"--with an insolent thrust of the pince-nez at the
would-be suitor's honour,--"and my son is also well provided for in
that respect."

"Then--I am afraid my visit is something in the nature of an
intrusion." Mr. Pixley bowed his fullest acquiescence in this very
proper estimate of his position, and the pince-nez intimated that the
way out lay just behind him and that the sooner he took advantage of
it the better.

"I can only say, by way of apology," added Graeme, "that I was wholly
unaware of what you have just told me. I will wish you good-day, Mr.
Pixley."

Mr. Pixley and the pince-nez wafted him towards the door, and the
lumpy cobbles of the courtyard outside seemed to him, for the moment,
absolutely typical of life.

He went back home numbed and sore at heart. It was hard to believe
this of Margaret Brandt.

And yet--he said to himself--it was wholly he who was to blame. He had
deceived himself. He had wished to believe what he had so earnestly
desired should be. Possibly he had closed his eyes to facts and
indications which might have enlightened him if he had been on the
look-out for them. Possibly--well, there!--he had played the fool
unconsciously, and he was not the first. It only remained for him now
to play the man.

He felt sore, and bruised, and run down, and for the moment somewhat
at odds with life. He would get away from it all to some remote
corner, to rest for a time and recover tone, and then to work. For
work, after all, is the mighty healer and tonic, and when it is to
one's taste there are few wounds it cannot salve.



PART THE THIRD


I

Six o'clock next morning found Graeme on the deck of the _Ibex_ as she
threaded her way swiftly among the bristling black rocks that guard
the coast of Guernsey.

Herm and Jethou lay sleeping in the eye of the sun. Beyond them lay a
filmy blue whaleback of an island which he was told was Sark, and it
was to Sark he was bound.

And wherefore Sark, when, within reasonable limits, all the wide world
lay open to him?

Truly, it might not be easy to say. But this I know,--having so far
learned the lesson of life, though missing much else--that at times,
perhaps at all times, when we think our choice of ways our very
own,--when we stand in doubt at the crossroads of life, and then
decide on this path or that, and pride ourselves on the exercise of
our high prerogative as free agents,--the result, when we look back,
bears in upon our hearts the mighty fact that a higher mind than our
own has been quietly at work, shaping our ends and moulding and
rounding our lives. We may doubt it at times. We may take all the
credit to ourselves for dangers passed and tiny victories won, but in
due time the eyes of our understanding are opened--and we know.

Possibly it was the rapt eulogiums of his friend Black--who had spent
the previous summer in Sark, and had ever since been seeking words
strong enough in which to paint its charms--that forced its name to
the front when he stood facing the wide world, that lacked, for him at
all events, a Margaret Brandt, and was therefore void and desolate.

"If ever you seek perfect peace, relief from your fellows, and the
simple life, try Sark--and see that you live in a cottage!" he
remembered Adam Black murmuring softly, as they sat smoking at the
Travellers' one night, shortly after that memorable dinner of the
Whitefriars'. And then he had heaved a sigh of regret at thought of
being where he was when he might have been in Sark.

Graeme knew nothing whatever of Sark save what his friend had let fall
at times. "Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark," recalled his
short-jacket and broad-collar days, and the last of the quartette had
always somehow conjured up in his mind the image of a bleak,
inaccessible rock set in a stormy sea, where no one lived if he could
possibly find shelter elsewhere,--an Ultima Thule, difficult of access
and still more difficult of exit, a weather-bound little spot into
which you scrambled precariously by means of boats and ladders, and
out of which you might not be able to get for weeks on end.

But Sark was to hold a very different place in his mind henceforth.
The name of Calais burnt itself into the heart of Queen Mary by reason
of loss. Surely on John Graeme's heart the name of Sark may hope to
find itself in living letters, for in Sark he was to find more than he
had lost--new grace and charm in life, new hopes, new life itself.

He had gone straight home from Lincoln's Inn, and packed his
portmanteau, knowing only that he was going away somewhere out of
things, caring little where, so long as it was remote and lonely.

Fellow-man--and especially woman--was distasteful to him at the
moment. He craved only Solitude the Soother, and Nature the Healer.

He packed all he thought he might need for a couple of months' stay,
and among other things the manuscript he had been at work upon until
more pressing matters intervened. He felt, indeed, no slightest
inclination towards it, or anything else, at present. But that might
come, for Work and he were tried friends.

He wrote briefly to Lady Elspeth telling her how things were with him,
and that he was going away for a time. He did not tell her where, for
the simple reason that at the moment of writing he did not know
himself. Sark came into his mind later.

He told his landlady that he was going away for a change, and she
remarked in motherly fashion that she was glad to hear it, and it was
high time too. He told her to keep all his letters till he sent for
them. He had no importunate correspondents, his next book was as good
as placed, and all he desired at the moment was to cut the painter,
and drift into some quiet backwater where he could lie up till life
should wear a more cheerful face.

And so no single soul knew where he had gone, and he said to himself,
somewhat bitterly, and quite untruthfully, that no single soul cared.

He had paced the deck all night. The swift smooth motion of the boat,
with a slight slow roll in it, was very soothing; and the first
tremulous hints of the dawn, and the wonder of its slow unfolding, and
the coming of the sun were things to be remembered.

The cold gaunt aloofness, and weltering loneliness of the Casquets
appealed to him strongly. Just the kind of place, he said to himself,
for a heart-sick traveller to crawl into and grizzle until he found
himself again.

As they turned and swung in straight between the little lighthouse on
White Rock and Castle Cornet, the bright early sunshine was bathing
all the rising terraces of St. Peter Port in a golden haze. Such a
quaint medley of gray weathered walls and mellowed red roofs, from
which the thin blue smoke of early fires crept lazily up to mingle
with the haze above! Such restful banks of greenery! Such a startling
blaze of windows flashing back unconscious greetings to the sun! This
too was a sight worth remembering. For a wounded soul he was somewhat
surprised at the enjoyment these things afforded him.

A further surprise was the pleasure he found in the reduction of a
hearty appetite at an hotel on the front. Come! He was not as hard hit
as he had thought! There was life in the young dog yet.

But these encouraging symptoms were doubtless due to the temporary
exhilaration of the journey. The workaday bustle of the quays renewed
his desire for the solitary places, and he set out to find means of
transport to the little whalebacked island out there in the golden
shimmer of the sun.

There was no steamer till the following day, he learned, and delay was
not to his mind. So presently he came to an arrangement with an
elderly party in blue, with a red-weathered face and grizzled hair, to
put him and his two portmanteaux across to Sark for the sum of five
shillings English.

"To Havver Gosslin," said the aged mariner, with much emphasis, and a
canny look which conveyed to Graeme nothing more than a simple and
praiseworthy desire on his part to avoid any possibility of mistake.

"To Sark," said Graeme, with equal emphasis.

"Ay, ay!" said the other; and so it came that the new-comer's initial
experience of the little island went far towards the confirmation of
the vague ideas of his childhood as to its inaccessibility.

The ancient called to a younger man, and they strolled away along the
harbour wall to get the baggage.


II

"Ee see," said the old gentleman, as soon as they had pulled out past
Castle Cornet, and had hoisted the masts and two rather dirty sprit
sails, and had run out the bowsprit and a new clean jib with a view to
putting the best possible face on matters, and were beginning to catch
occasional puffs of a soft westerly breeze and to wallow slowly
along,--"Ee see, time's o' consekens to me and my son. We got to arn
our livin'. An' Havver Gosslin's this side the island an' th' Creux's
t'other side, an' th' currents round them points is the very divvle."

"That's all right, as long as you land me in Sark."

"The very divvle," and the grizzled head wagged reminiscently. "I seen
'em go right up to Casquets and haf-way to Jarsey trying to get across
to Sark. An' when time's o' consekens an' you got to arn your livin',
you don' want to be playin' 'bout Casquets an' Jarsey 'stid of gittin'
'cross to Sark an' done wi' it."

"Not a bit of it. You're quite right. Try some of this,"--as he began
fumbling meaningly with a black stump of a pipe.

He filled up, and passed on the pouch to his son, who was lying on the
thwarts forward, and he also filled up and passed it back with a nod.

"What's this?" asked Graeme.

"Jetto. Mr. Lee--Sir Austin 'e is now--brother o' Passon Lee o' the
Port," with a backward jerk of the head, "'e rents it."

"Live there?"

"Naw--rabbits."

"And the bigger island yonder?"

"'At's Harm. 'T's a Garman man has that--Prince Bloocher, they calls
him. Keeps kangyroos there an' orstrichers an' things. Don't let
annybody ashore there now 'cept just to Shell Beach, which he can't
help."

They struck straight across to the long high-ridged island in front,
and Graeme's untutored eyes found no special beauty in it.

There was about it, however, a vague gray aloofness which chimed with
his spirit, a sober austerity as of a stricken whale,--a mother-whale
surely, for was not her young one there at her nose,--fled here to
heal her wound perchance, and desirous only of solitude.

But, as they drew nearer, the vague blue-gray bloom of the whaleback
resolved itself into a mantle of velvet green, which ran down every
rib and spine until it broke off sharp at varying heights and let the
bare bones through; and all below the break was clean naked
rock--black, cream-yellow, gray, red, brown,--with everywhere a tawny
fringe of seaweed, since the tide was at its lowest. Below the fringe
the rocks were scoured almost white, and whiter still at their feet,
like a tangled drapery of ragged lace, was the foam of the long slow
seas.

And the solid silhouette of the island broke suddenly into bosky
valleys soft with trees and bracken, and cliff-ringed bays, with
wide-spread arms of tumbled rock whose outer ends were tiny islets and
hungry reefs.

"Brecqhou," said the ancient mariner, as they swung past a long green
island with beetling cliffs, and yawning caverns, and comet-like
rushes of white foam among the chaos of rocks below.

Then they swirled through a tumbling race, where the waters came up
writhing and boiling from strife with hidden rocks below,--past the
dark chasm between Brecqhou and the mainland of Sark, through which
the race roared with the voice of many waters--and so into a quiet
haven where hard-worked boats lay resting from their labours.

There was a beach of tumbled rocks and seaweed at the head of the bay,
and there the grim cliffs fell back into a steep green gully which
suggested possibility of ascent. But instead of running in there, the
sails were furled and the boat nosed slowly towards the overhanging
side of the cliff, where a broad iron ladder fell precariously into
the water with its top projecting out beyond its base, so that to
climb it one had to lie on one's back, so to speak.

The ancient one eyed his passenger whimsically as the boat stole up to
the rungs, so Graeme permitted himself no more than a careless glance
at the forbidding ladder and asked, "How about the baggage?"

"We'll see to et," grinned the ancient, and stood, hands on hips and
face twisted into a grim smile, while the stranger laid hold of the
rusty iron and started upwards, with no slightest idea where the end
of the venture might land him.

With the after-assistance of a neighbour of somewhat more genial
construction,--inasmuch as it at all events stood upright, and did not
lean over the opposite way of ladders in general,--the top rung landed
him on a little platform, whence a rope and some foot-holes in the
rock, and finally a zigzag path, invited further ascent still.

The portmanteaux were hauled up by a rope and shouldered by his
guardian angels, and they toiled slowly up the steep.

Each step developed new beauties behind and on either side. At the top
he would fain have rested to drink it all in, but his guides went
stolidly on,--towards drink of a more palpable description, he doubted
not; and he remembered that time was of consekens, and tore himself
away from that most wonderful view and panted after them.

The zigzag path led round clumps of flaming gorse to a gap in a rough
stone wall, and so to a tall granite pillar which crowned the cliff
and commemorated a disaster. It was erected, he saw, to the memory of
a Mr. Jeremiah Pilcher who had been drowned just below in attempting
the passage to Guernsey. He had but one regret at the moment--that it
was not instead to the memory of Mr. Jeremiah Pixley.


III

Down verdant lanes--past thatched cottages, past a windmill, past
houses of more substantial mien, with a glimpse down a rolling green
valley----

"Hotel?" asked the ancient abruptly, from beneath his load.

"No, I want rooms in some cottage. Can you----"

"John Philip," said the ancient one didactically, and trudged on, and
finally dumped his share of the burden at the door of what looked like
a house but was a shop, in fact the shop.

He went inside and Graeme followed him. A genial-faced elderly man,
with gray hair and long gray beard and gray shirt-sleeves, leaned over
the counter, talking in an unknown tongue to a blue-guernseyed
fisherman, and a quiet-faced old lady in a black velvet hair-net stood
listening.

They all looked up and saluted the ancient one with ejaculations of
surprise in the unknown tongue, and Graeme stared hard at the
gray-bearded man, while they all discussed him to his face.

"Mr. De Carteret," said the ancient at last, with a jerk of the head
towards Gray-Beard. "He tell you where to find rooms."

"Thanks! Do you speak any English, Mr. De Carteret?"

The pleasant old face broke into a smile. "I am En-glish," he said,
with a quaint soft intonation, and as one who speaks a foreign tongue,
and beamed genially on his young compatriot.

"That's all right then. Do you know you're very like Count Tolstoi?"

"I haf been told so, but I do not know him. What is it you would like,
if you please to tell me?"

"I want a sitting-room and a bedroom for a month or so, perhaps
more,--not at an hotel. I want to be quiet and all to myself."

"Ah--you don' want an hotel. You want to be quiet," and he nodded
understandingly. "But the hotels is quiet joost now--"

"I'd sooner have rooms in a cottage if I can get them."

Count Tolstoi turned to the fisherman to whom he had been speaking,
and discussed the matter at length with him in the patois.

Then, to Graeme, "If you please to go with him. His wife has roomss to
let. You will be quite comfortable there."

Graeme thanked him, and as soon as he had settled satisfactorily with
his boatmen, his new keeper picked up both his bags, and led him along
a stony way past the post-office, to a creeper-covered cottage, which
turned a cold shoulder to the road and looked coyly into a little
courtyard paved with cobble-stones and secluded from the outer world
by a granite wall three feet high.

And as they went, the young man asked his silent guide somewhat
doubtfully, "And do you speak English?"

"Oh yes. We all speak English," he said, with a quiet smile, "except a
few of the older folks, maybe, and they mostly understand it though
they're slow to talk."

"And your name?"

"John Carré,"--which he pronounced Caury.

"Now that's very odd," laughed Graeme, and stood to enjoy it. "My name
is Corrie too, and John Corrie at that."

"So!" said the other quietly, with a glance from under his brows which
might mean surprise or only gentle doubt as to the stranger's
veracity. And, so odd was the coincidence, that the newcomer saw no
necessity to spoil it by telling him that his forebears had left him
also the family name of Graeme.

A large brown dog, smooth of hair and of a fine and thoughtful
countenance, got up from the doorstep and gave them courteous
greeting, and a small, white, rough-coated terrier hurried out of the
kitchen and twisted himself into kinks of delight at sound of their
voices. And that decided it before ever Graeme looked at the rooms.
For if there was one thing he liked when he wanted to be alone, it was
the friendly companionship of a couple of cheerful dogs.

And that is how he came,--without any special intent that way, but
through, as one might say, a purely accidental combination of
circumstances--to be living in that cottage in the Rue Lucas in the
little isle of Sark, and under a name that was indeed his own but not
the whole of his own. And herein the future was looking after itself
and preparing the way for that which was to be.


IV

The cottage was apparently empty. His guide and namesake looked into
the kitchen, and called up a stair which led out of it, but got no
answer.

"She will be up at the house," he said, and turned and went off up the
garden behind, while the dogs raced on in front to show the way.

Through a cleft in the high green bank topped by a thick hedge of
hawthorn, they came out into a garden of less utilitarian aspect. Here
were shrubs and flowers, palms and conifers and pale eucalyptus trees,
clumps of purple iris and clove pinks, roses just coming to the bud,
and beyond, a very charming bungalow, built solidly of gray granite
and red tiles, with a wide verandah all round. A pleasant-faced woman
in a large black sunbonnet came out of the open front door as they
went up the path.

"My wife," murmured Carré, and proceeded quietly to explain matters in
an undertone of patois.

"I hope you speak English also, Mrs. Carré," said Graeme.

"Oh yess," with a quick smile. "We are all English here."

"Surely you are Welsh," he said, for he had met just that same
cheerful type of face in Wales.

"Noh, I am Sark," she smiled again. "I can gif you a sitting-room and
a bet-room"--and they proceeded to business, and then the dogs
escorted them back to the cottage, to see the stranger fairly inducted
to his new abode, and to let him understand that they rejoiced at his
coming and would visit him often.

He thought he would be very comfortable there, but why the
sitting-room was not the bedroom he never could understand. For it was
only a quarter the size of the other, and its single window looked
into a field, and a rough granite wall clothed with tiny rock-weeds
hid all view of the road and its infrequent traffic. While the bedroom
was a room of size, and its two windows gave on to the covered well
and the cobbled forecourt, and offered passers-by, if so inclined,
oblique views of its occupant in the act of dressing if he forgot to
pull down the blind.

The windows of both rooms were set low in the massive granite walls,
and being always wide open, they offered, and indeed invited, easy
access to--say, a grave-faced gentlemanly brown dog and a spasmodic
rough-coated terrier without a tail, whenever the spirit moved them to
incursion, which it invariably did at meal-times and frequently in
between.

These two new friends of his--for they were never mere acquaintances,
but adopted him into fullest brotherhood at sight--proved no small
factors in Graeme's extrication from the depths.

Human companionship, even of the loftiest, most philosophic, most
gracious, would, for the time being, have jarred and ruffled his
naturally equable spirit. Two only exceptions might have been
conceivably possible--some humble, large-souled friend, anxious only
to anticipate his slightest wish, desirous only of his company,
and--dumb, and so unable to fret him with inane talk; or--Margaret
Brandt.

The first he could have endured. The latter--ah, God! How he would
have rejoiced in her! The spirit groaned within him at times in
agonised longing for her; and the glories of the sweet spring days, in
a land where spring is joyous and radiant beyond most, turned gray and
cheerless in the shadow of his loss. What Might Have Been stabbed What
Was to the heart and let its life-blood run.

But, since neither of these was available, a benignant Providence
provided him with friends entirely to his taste. For the great brown
hound, Punch, was surely, despite the name men had given him, a
nobleman by birth and breeding. Powerful and beautifully made, the
sight of his long lithe bounds, as he quartered the cliff-sides in
silent chase of fowl and fur, was a thing to rejoice in; so exquisite
in its tireless grace, so perfect in its unconscious exhibition of
power and restraint. For the brown dog never gave tongue, and he never
killed. He chased for the keen enjoyment of the chase, and no man had
ever heard him speak.

He was the first dumb dog Graeme had ever come across, and the
pathetic yearning in his solemn brown eyes was full of infinite appeal
to one who suffered also from an unforgettable loss. He answered to
his name with a dignified appreciation of its incongruity, and the
tail-less white terrier, more appropriately, to that of Scamp.


V

They were on the very best of terms, these two friends of his,
possibly because of their absolute unlikeness,--Punch, large, solemn,
imperturbable, with a beautifully-curved slow-waving tail and no
voice; Scamp, a bundle of wriggling nerves moved by electricity, with
a sharp excited bark and not even the stump of a tail. When he needed
to wag he wagged the whole of his body behind his front legs.

These two were sitting watching him expectantly as Mrs. Carré brought
in his dinner that first day, and she instantly ordered them out.

Punch rose at once, cast one look of grave appeal at Graeme, as who
would say--"Sorry to leave you, but this is the kind of thing I have
to put up with,"--and walked slowly away. Scamp grovelled flat and
crawled to the door like a long hairy caterpillar.

"Oh, let them stop," said Graeme. "I like them by me," and the
culprits turned hopefully with pricked ears and anxious faces.

"Mais non! They are troublesome beasts. Allez, Ponch! Allez, Scamp! A
couche!"--and their heads and ears drooped and they slunk away.

But, presently, there came a rustling at the wide-open window which
gave on to the field at the back, and Graeme laughed out--and he had
not smiled for days--at sight of two deprecatingly anxious faces
looking in upon him,--a solemn brown one with black spots above the
eloquent grave eyes, and a roguish white one with pink blemishes on a
twisting black nose. And while the large brown face loomed steadily
above two powerful front paws, the small white face only appeared at
intervals as the nervous little body below flung it up to the sill in
a series of spasmodic leaps.

"We would esteem it a very great favour, if you are quite sure it
would not inconvenience you," said Punch, as plain as speech.

"Do, do, do, do, do give us leave!" signalled Scamp, with every twist
of his quivering nose, and every gleam of his glancing eyes, and every
hair on end.

A click of the tongue, a noiseless graceful bound, and Punch was at
his side. A wild scrambling rush, a wriggle on the sill, a patter over
the window-seat, and Scamp was twisting himself into white
figure-eights all over the room, with tremendous energy but not a
sound save the soft pad of his tiny dancing feet.

Then, as he ate, the great brown head pillowed itself softly on his
knee, and the eloquent brown eyes looked up into his in a way that a
stone image could hardly have resisted. The while Scamp, on his hind
legs, beat the air frantically with his front paws to attract
attention to his needs and danced noiselessly all over the floor.

He gauged their characters with interest. When he gave them morsels
turn about, Punch awaited his with gentlemanly patience, and even when
purposely passed by in order to see what he would do, obtruded his
claims by nothing more than a gentle movement of the head on his
friend's knee; while Scamp, in like case, twisted himself into knots
of anxiety and came perilously near to utterance.

The difference between them when, through lack of intimate knowledge
of their likes and dislikes, they got something not entirely to their
taste, was also very typical. Punch would retire quietly into
obscurity, and having disposed of the objectionable morsel
somehow--either by a strenuous swallow or in some corner--would
quietly reappear, lay his head on Graeme's knee again, and work it up
to his lap with a series of propitiatory little jerks that never
failed of their object. Scamp, on the other hand, would hold it in his
mouth for a moment till he had savoured it, then place it meekly on
the floor, bow his head to the ground, and grovel flat with
deprecatory white-eyed up-glances, and as clearly as dog could say,
would murmur,--"Oh, Man, Lord of all that go on four legs, forgive thy
humble little servant in that he is unable with enjoyment to eat that
thou hast of thy bounty tendered him! The fault is wholly his. Yet, of
thy great clemency, punish him not beyond his capacity, for his very
small body is merely a bundle of nerves, and they lie so very close to
the skin that even a harsh word from thee will set them quivering for
an hour." But, at a comforting word, he was up in a flash dancing and
sparring away as gaily as ever.

Then, when Mrs. Carré brought in the next course, they both retired
discreetly below the tent of the tablecloth. But she, knowing them of
old perhaps, found them out at once and cried, "Ah you! I see you
there! You are just troublesome beasts!" But, seeing that her guest
was in the conspiracy, she permitted them for that once; and in time,
seeing that he really desired their company, she allowed them to
remain as a matter of course and without any preliminary harrying.


VI

One other acquaintance he made during these dark days,--perhaps one
ought to say an acquaintance and a half, if indeed the half in this
case was not greater than the whole, a matter which Graeme never fully
decided in his own mind,--a small person of grim and gloomy
tendencies, whose sombre humours chimed at times with his own,--and
that small person's familiar.

His name was Johnnie Vautrin, and, as far as Graeme could make out, he
was about eight years old in actual years, but aged beyond belief in
black arts which made him a terror to his kind. And his familiar, in
the person of an enormous black cat, which came and went, was named
Marielihou.

Johnnie, and presumably Marielihou, lived with an ancient dame who was
held by some to be their great-grandmother, and by some to be
Marielihou herself. This was a moot and much-discussed point among the
neighbours. What was beyond dispute was that Johnnie was said to be
grievously maltreated by her at times, and to lead her a deuce of a
life, and she him. The family came originally from Guernsey and had
married into Sark, and, for this and other reasons, was still looked
askance at by the neighbours.

Both Johnnie and his ancient relative were popularly--or
unpopularly--credited with powers of mischief which secured them
immunities and privileges beyond the common and not a little prudently
concealed dislike.

Old Mrs. Vautrin could put the evil eye on her neighbours' cows and
stop their milk, on their churns and stop their butter, on their
kettles and stop their boiling.

Johnnie claimed equal powers, but excelled in forecasts of bad weather
and ill luck and evil generally, and, since there was no end to his
prognostications, they occasionally came true, and when they did he
exulted greatly and let no one forget it.

He had a long, humorously snaky, little face, a deep sepulchral voice,
which broke into squeaks in moments of excitement, and curious black
eyes with apparently no pupils--little glittering black wells of ill
intent, with which he cowed dogs and set small children screaming and
grown ones swearing. His little body was as malformed as his twisted
little soul, and he generally sat in the hedge taking his pleasure off
the passers-by, much to their discomfort.

Johnnie also saw ghosts, or said he did, which came to much the same
thing since none could prove to the contrary. He had even slept one
night in an outhouse up at the Seigneurie, and had carefully locked
the door, and so the little old lady in white, who only appears to
those who lock their doors of a night, came to him, and, according to
Johnnie, they carried on a long and edifying conversation to their
mutual satisfaction.

He had also a cheerful habit of visiting sick folks and telling them
he had seen their spirits in the lanes at night, and so they might
just as well give up all hopes of getting better. On payment of a
small fee, however, he was at times, according to his humour, willing
to admit that it might have been somebody else's ghost he had seen,
but in either case his visitations tended to cheerfulness in none but
himself. He was great on the meanings--dismal ones mostly--of flights
of birds and falling stars and fallen twigs. And he had been known to
throw a branch of hawthorn into a house which had incurred his
displeasure.

The men scoffed at him openly, and occasionally gave him surreptitious
pennies. The women and children feared him; and the dogs, to the last
one, detested him but gave him wide berth.

Graeme had very soon run across the little misanthrope and, in his own
black humour, found him amusing. They rarely met without a trial of
wit, or parted without a transfer of coppers from the large pocket to
the small. Wherefore Johnnie made a special nest in the hedge opposite
the cottage, and waylaid his copper-mine systematically and greatly to
his own satisfaction and emolument. But, like the dogs, though on a
lower level, he too was not without his effect on Graeme's spirits,
and if he did not lift him up he certainly at times helped him out of
himself and his gloomy thoughts.


VII

"You're just an unmitigated little humbug, Johnnie," said Graeme, as
he leaned over the wall smoking, to the small boy whose acquaintance
he had made the previous day, and who had promptly foretold a storm
which had not come.

"Unmitigumbug! Guyablle! Qu'es' ce que c'es' que ça?" echoed the small
boy, with very wide eyes.

"You, my son. Your black magic's all humbug. It lacks the essential
attribute of fulfilment. It doesn't work. Black magic that doesn't
work is humbug."

"Black-mack-chick! My Good! You do talk!"

"What about that storm?"

"Ah ouaie! Well, you wait. It come."

"So will Christmas, and the summer after next, if we wait long enough.
On the same terms I foretell thunders and lightnings, rain, hail,
snow, and fiery vapours, followed by lunar rainbows and waterspouts."

"Go'zamin!" said Johnnie, with a touch of reluctant admiration at such
an outflow of eloquence; and then, by way of set-off, "I sec six black
crows, 's mawn'n."

"Ah--really? And what do you gather from such a procession as that
now?"

"Some un's gwain' to die," in a tone of vast satisfaction.

"Of course, of course--if we wait long enough. It's perhaps you.
You'll die yourself sometime, you know."

"Noh, I wun't. No 'n'll ivver see me die. I'll just turn into
sun'th'n--a gull maybe," as one floated by on moveless wing, the very
poetry of motion; and the fathomless black eyes followed it with
pathetic longing.

"Cormorant more likely, I should say."

"Noh, I wun't. I don' like corm'rants. They stink. Mebbe I'll be a
hawk,"--as his eye fell on one, like a brown leaf nailed against the
blue sky. "Did ee hear White Horse last night?"

"I did hear a horse in the night, Johnnie, but I couldn't swear that
he was a white one."

"Didn' git up an' look out?" disappointedly.

"No, I didn't. Why should I get up to look out at a horse? I can see
horses any day without getting out of bed in the middle of the night."

"'Twus the White Horse of the Coupée,"--in a weird whisper.--"I heerd
him start in Little Sark, and come across Coupée, an' up by Colinette,
an' past this house. An' if you'd ha' looked out an' seen him, you'd
ha' died."

"Good old White Horse! I'm glad I stopped in bed. Did you see him
yourself now?"

"I've rid him! Yes!--an' told him where to go," with a ghoulish nod.

"Quite friendly with ghosts and things, eh?"

"I don' mind 'em. I seen the ole lady up at the big house. Yes, an'
talked to her too."

"Clever boy! Put the evil eye on her?"

"Noh, ee cann't."

"Can't? Why, I thought you were a past master in all little matters of
that kind."

"Ee cann't put evil eye on a ghost," with infinite scorn.

"Oh, she's a ghost, is she? And what did you talk about?"

"You coul'n't understan'," grunted Johnnie, to whom his meeting with
the White Lady was a treasured memory if a somewhat tender subject.


VIII

And Marielihou? Ah, Marielihou was a black mystery. Sometimes she was
there, and sometimes she wasn't, and if at such times you asked
Johnnie where she was, he would reply mysteriously, "Aw, she's busy."

And busy Marielihou was, always and at all times. If Graeme found her
in the hedge with Johnnie, she was busy licking her lips with vicious
enjoyment as though she had just finished eating something that had
screamed as it died. Or she was licking them snarlishly and
surreptitiously, and sharpening her claws, as though just about
starting out after something to eat--something which he knew would
certainly scream as it died. For Marielihou was a mighty hunter, and
her long black body could be seen about the cliffs at any time of
night or day, creeping and worming along, then, of a sudden, pointing
and stiffening, and flashing on to her prey like the black death she
was.

Six full-grown rabbits had Marielihou been known to bring home in a
single day, to say nothing of all the others that had gone to the
satisfaction of her own inappeasable lust for rabbit-flesh and
slaughter.

As to the strange tales the neighbours whispered about her, Graeme
could make neither head nor tail of them. But when old Tom Hamon put
it to him direct, he had to confess that he never had seen old Mother
Vautrin and Marielihou together, nor both at the same time.

"B'en!" said old Tom, as if that ended the matter. "An' I tell you, if
I had a silver bullet I'd soon try what that Marrlyou's made of."

"And why a silver bullet?" asked Graeme.

"'Cause--Lead bullets an't no good 'gainst the likes o' Marrlyou.
Many's the wan I've sent after her, ay, an' through her, and she none
the worse. Guyablle!" and old Tom spat viciously.

"Perhaps you missed her," suggested Graeme, not unreasonably as he
thought.

"Missed her!" with immense scorn. "I tell ee bullets goes clean
through her, in one side an' out t'other, an' she never a bit the
worse. I've foun' 'em myself spatted on rock just where she sat."

"Well, why don't you get a silver bullet and try again?"

"Ah! Teks some getting does silver bullets."

"How much?"

"A shill'n would mek a little wan," and Graeme gave him a shilling to
try his luck, because Marielihou's unsportsmanlike behaviour did not
commend itself to him.

But it took many shillings to obtain anything definite in the way of
results, and Graeme had his own humorous suspicions as to the billets
some of them found, and gently chaffed old Tom on the subject whenever
they met.

"You wait," said Tom, with mysterious nods.


IX

Graeme's sober intention had been to put Margaret Brandt, and the
agonising regrets that clung to every thought of her, strenuously out
of his mind. But that he found more possible in the intention than in
the accomplishment.

The first shock of loss numbs one's mental susceptibilities, of
course, much as a blow on the head affects the nervous system. The
bands are off the wheels, the machinery is out of order, and the
friction seems reduced. It is when the machine tries to work again
that the full effects of the jar are felt.

And so he found it now. As mind and body recovered tone in the whole
vitalising atmosphere of the wondrous little isle,--the air, the sea,
the sense of remoteness, the placid life of the place, the abounding
beauties of cliff and crag and cave,--his heart awoke also to the
aching sense of its loss.

All outward things--all save Johnny Vautrin, and Marielihou, and old
Tom Hamon, and several others--sang abundantly of the peace and
fulness and joy of life, but his heart was still so sore from its
bruising that at times these outward beauties seemed only to mock him
with their brightness.

In the first shock of his downcasting, wounded pride said, "I will
show no sign. I will forget her. I will salve the bruise with work.
Margaret Brandt is not the only woman in the world. In time some other
shall take her place;"--and he tried his hardest to believe it.

But body is one thing and mind another. The body you may compel to any
mortal thing, but the mind is of a different order, and strongest will
cannot whip it to heel at times. Forbid it thought of thing or person
and the forbidden is just that which will persist in obtruding itself
to the exclusion of all else.

And so, in spite of him, the dull ache in his heart at every thought
of Margaret murmured without ceasing, "There is none like her--none!"
And crush and compel it as he might, the truth would out, and out the
more the more he tried to crush it.

And so at times, in spite of his surroundings, his spirits dragged in
lowest deeps.

Work he could not as yet, for the work of the writer demands absolute
concentration and most complete surrender, and all his faculties were
centred, in spite of himself, on Margaret Brandt and his own great
loss in her.

He rambled all over the island with his dog friends, risked skin and
bones in precarious descents into apparently impossible depths,
scrambled laboriously among the ragged bastions of the Coupée and
Little Sark, explored endless caverns, loitered by day in bosky lanes,
and roamed restlessly by night under the brightest stars he had ever
seen.

But, wherever he went--down underground in the Boutiques or the
Gouliots; or lying on the Eperquerie among the flaming gorse and
cloudlike stretches of primroses; or standing on Longue Pointe while
the sun sank in unearthly splendours behind Herm and Guernsey; or
watching from the windmill the throbbing life-lights all round the
wide horizon;--wherever he was, and whatever he was doing, there with
him always was the poignant remembrance of Margaret Brandt and his
loss in her.

His heart ached so, at thought of the emptiness and desolation of the
years that lay before him, that at times his body ached also, and the
spirit within him groaned in sympathy.

Life without Margaret! What was it worth?

Though it brought him riches and honours overpassing his hopes--and he
doubted now at times if that were possible, lacking the inspiration of
Margaret--what was it worth?

Riches and honours, won at the true sword's point of earnest work,
were good and worth the winning. But yet, without Margaret, they were
as nothing to him. His whole heart cried aloud for Margaret. Without
her all the full rich hues of life faded into dull gray ashes.

With Margaret to strive for, he had felt himself capable of mighty
things. Without her--!

And that she should throw herself away on a Charles Pixley!--Charles
the smiling, the imperturbable, the fount of irrepressible chatter and
everlasting inanities! How could such a one as Charles Pixley possibly
satisfy her nobler nature? Out of the question! Impossible! But then
it is just possible that he was not exactly in the best state of mind
for forming an unbiassed opinion on so large a question as that.

Anyway he was out of it, and Margaret Brandt was henceforth nothing to
him. If he said it once he said it hundreds of times, as if the simple
reiteration of so obvious a truth would make it one whit the truer,
when his whole heart was clamouring that Margaret was all the worlds
to him and the only thing in the world that he wanted.

With an eye, perhaps, to his obvious lack of cheerfulness, his
namesake and host suggested various diversions,--fishing for congers
and rock-fish, a voyage round the island, a trip across to Herm, a day
among the rabbits on. Brecqhou. But he wanted none of them. His life
was flapping on a broken wing and all he wanted was to be left alone.

In time the wound would heal, and he would take up his work again and
find his solace in it. But wounds such as this are not healed in a
day. It was raw and sore yet, the new skin had not had time to form.

He recalled Lady Elspeth's dissatisfaction with his love-scenes, and
thought, grimly, that now he could at all events enter fully into the
feelings of the man who had lost the prize, and would be able to
depict them to the life. If the choice had been left to him he would
gladly have dispensed with all such knowledge to its profoundest
depths, if only the prize had remained to him. But the choice had been
Margaret's, and the prize was Charles Pixley's.

If there was one thing he could have imagined without actual
experience, it was how a man may feel when he loses. What he could not
at present by any possibility conceive was--how it might feel to be
the accepted lover of such a girl as Margaret Brandt.

Confound her money! If it were not for that, Pixley would probably
never have wanted to marry her. Money was answerable for half the
ills of life, and the contrariness of woman for the other half.
Confound money! Confound--Well, truly, his state of mind was not a
happy one.


X

But there was something in the crisp Sark air that, by degrees and all
unconsciously, braced both mind and body;--something broadening and
uplifting in the wide free outlook from every headland; something
restorative of the grip of life in the rush and roar of the mighty
waves and the silent endurance of the rocks; something so large and
aloof and restful in the wide sweep of sea and sky; something so
hopeful and regenerative in the glorious exuberance of the spring--the
flaming gorse, the mystic stretches of bluebells, the sunny sweeps of
primroses, the soft uncurlings of the bracken, the bursting life of
the hedgerows, the joyous songs of the larks--that presently, and in
due season, earthly worries began to fall back into their proper
places below the horizon, and a new Graeme--a Graeme born of Sark and
Trouble--looked out of the old Graeme eyes and began to contemplate
life from new points of view.

It took time, however. Love is a plant of most capricious and
surprising growth. It may take years to root and blossom. It may
spring up in a day, yet strike its roots right through the heart and
hold it as firmly as the growth of the years. And, once the heart is
enmeshed in the golden filaments, it is a most dolorous work to
disentangle it.

For the first two weeks his mind ran constantly on his loss.
Momentarily it might be diverted by outward things, but always it came
back with a sharp shock, and a bitter sense of deprivation, to the
fact that Margaret Brandt had passed out of his life and left behind
her an aching void.

Did he sit precariously among the ragged scarps and pinnacles of
Little Sark, while the western seas raged furiously at his feet and
the Souffleur shot its rockets of snowy spray high into the gray
sky--through the passing film of the spray, and the marbled coils of
the tumbling waves, the face of Margaret Brandt looked out at him.

Did he stride among the dew-drenched, gold-spangled gorse bushes on
the Eperquerie, while the sun came up with ever fresh glories behind
the distant hills of France--Margaret's face was there in the sunrise.

Did he stand above Havre Gosselin in the gloaming, while the sun sank
behind Herm and Guernsey in splendours such as he had never dreamed
of--just so, he said to himself, Margaret had gone out of his life and
left it gray and cheerless as the night side of Brecqhou.

Wherever he was and whatever he did, it was always Margaret,
Margaret,--and Margaret lost to him.

By the end of the third week, however, the tonic effects of the strong
sea air and water began to work inwards. Healthy body would no longer
suffer sick heart. He had taken his morning plunge hitherto as a
matter of course, now he began to enjoy it and to look forward to
it--certain index of all-round recovery.

His appetite grew till he felt it needed an apology, at which Mrs.
Carré laughed enjoyably. He began to take more interest in his
surroundings for their own sakes. His thoughts of Margaret, with their
after-glow of tender memory, were like the soft sad haze which falls
on Guernsey when the sun has sunk and left behind it, in the upper
sky, its slowly dying fires of dull red amber and gold.

Towards the end of the fourth week he tentatively fished out his
manuscript and began to read it--with pauses. He grew interested in
it. He saw new possibilities in the story.--His life was getting back
on to the rails again.


XI

Greater bodily peace and comfort than he found in that thick-set,
creeper-covered, little cottage in the Rue Lucas, man might scarcely
hope for. Anything more would have tended to luxury and made for
restraint.

He was free as the wind to come and go as he listed, to roam the
lonely lanes all night and watch the coming of the dawn--which he did;
or to lie abed all day--which he did not; to do any mortal thing that
pleased him, so long only as he gave his hostess full and fair warning
of the state of his appetite and the times when it must be satisfied.

His quarters were not perhaps palatial, but what man, king of himself
alone, would live in a palace?

He bumped his head with the utmost regularity against the lintel of
the front door each time he entered, and only learned at last to bob
by instinct. And the beams in the ceilings were so low that they
claimed recognition somewhat after the manner of a boisterous
acquaintance.

But doors and windows were always open, night and day, and his good
friends the dogs came in to greet him by way of the windows quite as
often as by the doors.

All through the black times those two were his close companions, and
no better could he have had. They asked nothing of him--or almost
nothing, and they gave him all they had. They were grateful from the
bottom of their large hearts for any slightest sign of recognition.
And they were proud of his company, which to others would have proved
somewhat of a wet blanket. Without a doubt they assisted mightily in
his cure, though neither he nor they knew it.

Every morning when he jumped up to see the weather, the first things
that met him when he reached the open window, were four eager eyes
full of welcome, and a grave intelligent brown face and hopeful
swinging tail, and a dancing white face and little wriggling body.

Then he would pull up the blinds and they would enter with an easy
bound and a scramble, and while he hastily flung on his things they
would prowl about, now pushing investigating noses into an open
drawer, and again taking a passing drink out of his water-jug by way
of first breakfast.

Then, away through the gaps in the jewelled hedges, with the larks at
their matins overhead, and the tethered cows nuzzling out the dainty
morning grasses, and watching the intruders speculatively till they
passed out of sight into the next field.

"Which way? Which way? Which way?" shrieked Scamp, as he tore to and
fro down every possible road to show that all were absolutely alike to
him. While Punch bounded lightly to the first dividing of the ways and
waited there with slow-swinging tail to see which road Man would
choose.

The Harbour--or Les Lâches--which? Every morning Scamp raced hopefully
towards the sweet-smelling tunnel of hawthorn trees that led down to
the other tunnel in the rock and the tiny harbour, because, for a very
small dog, the granite slip was much easier to compass than the steep
ledges of Les Lâches. And every morning Punch waited quietly at
Colinette to see how Man would go.

And when the tide was low and the harbour empty, Punch knew it was Les
Lâches almost before Man's face had turned that way, and off he went
at a gallop, and Scamp came tearing back with expostulatory yelps, and
got in Punch's way and was rolled head over heels, but always came
right side up at the fourth turn and rushed on without even a
remonstrance, for that was a very small price to pay for the exalted
companionship of Punch and Man.

So, past La Peignerie and La Forge, with the thin blue smoke of gorse
fires floating down from every dumpy chimney and adding a flavour to
the sweetest air in the world,--with a morning greeting from everyone
they met--over the heights and down the zigzag path to the sloping
ledges, and in they went, all three, into the clearest and crispest
water in the world, water that tingled and sparkled, full charged with
life and energy.

Then shivers and shakes, and hasty play with a towel, and they were
racing back across the heights to breakfast and the passing of another
day, of which the greatest charm had passed already with that plunge
into the life-giving sea.

If you are inclined to think that I enlarge too much on these two
friends of his, let me remind you that a man is known by the company
he keeps, and these two were Graeme's sole companions for many a
day--those first dark days in the sunny little isle, when all human
companionship would have been abhorrent to him.

In their company he found himself again. Their friendship weaned him
by degrees from the jaundiced view of life which Margaret's
dereliction had induced. They drew him, in time, from his brooding
melancholy, and through the upbuilding of the body restored him to a
quieter mind.

Let no man despise the help of a dog, for there are times when the
friendship of a dog is more sufferable, and of more avail, and far
more comforting, than that of any ordinary human being.



PART THE FOURTH


I

It was just two days before the end of Graeme's fourth week in Sark.
His spirits were rising to the requirements of his work, and he was
looking forward with quite novel enjoyment to a steady spell of
writing, when his hostess startled him, as she cleared away his
breakfast, by saying--

"It iss the day after to-morrow you will be going?"

"Eh? What? Going? No, I'm not going, Mrs. Carré. What made you think I
was going? Why, I've only just come."

His landlady put down the dishes on the table again as a concrete
expression of surprise, put her hands on her hips by way of taking
grip of herself, and stared at him.

"You are not going? Noh? But it wass just for the month I thought you
kem."

"Not at all. I may stop two months, three months,--all my life
perhaps. Won't you let me live and die here if I want to?"

"Ach, then! It iss not to die we woult want you. But I thought my man
said it wass just for the month you kem, and--my Good!--I haf let your
roomss for the day after to-morrow," and her face had lost its usual
smile and was full of distress and bewilderment.

"You've let my rooms? Oh, come now!--But now I think of it, I believe
I did say something about a month or so, when I spoke to John Philip.
Well now, what will you do? Put me out into the road? Or can you find
me somewhere else?--though I'm quite sure you'll not be able to find
me any place as comfortable as this."

"Whatt will we do?" she said, much disturbed, and gazed at him
thoughtfully. Then, with sudden inspiration, "There iss the big house
up the garden?" and looked at him hopefully.

"But it's empty."

"Everything iss there, and all ready for them to come any time they
want to. It woult only mean making up a bed and you coult come here
for your meals."

"That would do first-rate if you can arrange it."

"I will write to Mrs. Lee to-day and ask her to tell me by the
telegraph. It will be all right."

"That's all right then. Who's the wretched person who is turning me
out of here?"

"It is two leddies. They wrote to the Vicar, and he asked John Philip
and he told my man."

"Two ladies! Then I can't possibly have my meals in here. You'd better
let me join you in the kitchen,"--a consummation he had been striving
after for some time past, in fact ever since his literary instincts
had shaken off the thrall and got their heads above the mists,--with a
view, of course, of turning a more intimate knowledge of his
surroundings to profitable account.

But his hostess was jealous of her kitchen and would not hear of it.

"There iss no need. I will arrange it, and you will tek your meals in
here just as usual. Which room woult you like in the big house?"

"I'll go up and have a look round. Does it make any difference to you
which I choose? I'd like one with a balcony if it's all the same to
you."

"It iss all the sem, and I will get it ready for you as soon ass I
hear from Mrs. Lee. You will not be afraid, all alone by yourself up
there?"

"Afraid? No. What is there to be afraid of?"

"Och, I do not know. Only--all alone--sometimes one iss afraid--"

"There aren't any ghosts about, are there?"

"Ghosts? Noh!"--with a ghost of a laugh. "I do not believe in ghosts
or any such things, though some people does. There are some
people"--very scornfully--"will not go by the churchyard at night,
and"--lest so sceptical a mind should provoke reprisal--"I do not know
that I woult myself. And down by the Coupée--But the house there iss
too new to have anything like that." "Well, if I see any I'll try and
catch one and bring it down to breakfast."

And so it was arranged that, if the permission of the owner of the Red
House could be obtained, he should sleep there and come down to the
cottage for his meals, Mrs. Carré undertaking that no inconvenience
should thereby be caused to any of those concerned.

He strolled up the garden, with the dogs racing in front, to choose
his bedroom, and came across his host unwillingly busy with hoe and
spade in the potato patch. His whole aspect betokened such undisguised
sufferance that Graeme could not repress a smile.

"Like it?" he asked.

"Noh!"

"Sooner be at the fishing?"

A nod and a brief smile, and Graeme left him to his unwelcome labours,
and passed through the gap in the tall hedge to his new abode.

It was a well-built house, gray granite below and red tiles up above,
with a wide verandah round the lower storey and white balconies to the
upper one; the inside was all polished pitch pine, and the rooms were
large and airy and suitably furnished for summer occupancy. It was
left in Mrs. Carré's charge, and she and the sun and wind kept it
always sweet and clean, and ready for use at an hour's notice.

With the assistance of his two friends, who displayed an active and
intelligent interest in the matter, he chose the room with the largest
balcony, and said to himself that the coming of the ladies was, after
all, a blessing in disguise. He believed he would be even more
comfortable there than he had been at the cottage. He would have been
quite willing to move in at once if that had been possible.

Next morning, however, the permission duly arrived, and in many trips
he gaily carried all his belongings up the garden and installed
himself in the balcony room.

It was a very delightful room, with fine wide outlook--over towards
the church in its dark embowerment of evergreen oaks, which some of
the folk would not pass by night; over the long sweep of the land
towards Little Sark; then, over to the left, a glimpse of the sea and
a dark blue film on the horizon which he knew was Jersey.

This room and the balcony outside should be his workshop, he decided,
and he looked forward, with an eagerness to which he had been stranger
for weeks past, to burying himself in his work and finding in it
solace and new strength.


II

Graeme possessed a lively imagination, else surely he had never taken
to writing. But a lively imagination, sole occupant of a ten-roomed
house in a strange land whose inhabitants believed firmly in ghosts
and spirits and things that walked by night, and that house but a
stone's-throw from the black churchyard where such discomforting
things might naturally be supposed to congregate, was not nearly so
enjoyable a possession at midnight as in the full light of day.

He lay awake for hours, hearing what seemed to him uncanny sounds
about the house, inside and out. The night wind sighed through the
heavy pale leaves of the eucalyptus trees, and set the roses and
honeysuckle on the verandah posts whispering and tapping. In the stark
silence, sounds came out of the other nine empty rooms as though they
chose that quiet time for passing confidences. The stairs creaked as
though invisible feet passed up and down. And once he could have sworn
to stealthy footsteps along the verandah below his window.

He laughed at his own foolishness. Ghosts, he vowed, he did not
believe in, and the Sark men were notably honest. All the same it was
close on daylight before he slept.

When he pushed through the dewy hedge and went down to the cottage
for breakfast, his hostess's eyes twinkled as she asked, "You did not
see any ghosts--Noh?"

"Not a ghost, but all the same it did feel a bit lonesome. What would
you say to my taking Punch with me to-night, just for company?"

"Yess indeed, tek him. He iss quiet. The other iss too lively."

"And when do your ladies arrive?"

"With the boat. When will you be pleased to have your dinner?"

"I'm off to Little Sark for the day. How would seven o'clock suit you
and them?"

"I will mek it suit. They will haf dinner before or after. It will be
quite all right."

He spent the day with the dogs, scrambling among the rugged bastions
at the south end of the island, investigated the old silver mines,
bathed, all three, in the great basin of Venus in the hollow under the
southern cliffs, and came home after sunset, tired and ravenous.

"Well, have your ladies come?" he asked, as he sat down to his dinner.

"Oh yess, they are come. They are gone for a walk. One of them is Miss
Hen and the other iss Miss Chum."

"Good Lord, what names! Two old maids, I presume,--curls and
spectacles and that kind of thing!"

"They are not old, noh. And they are ferry nice to look at,
especially Miss Chum."

"Well, well, so she ought to be to make up for her name."

"They were quite put out to think of having turned you out of your
roomss--"

"Not half as much as I was, but you can assure them that I am
delighted they came. It's as nice a house as one could wish for, and
if you can arrange the meals all right I'll not trouble them in the
least. How long are they going to stay?"

"They are like you. They do not know. It may be a month, it may be
more."

"Oh well, I'll keep out of their way as much as possible. People who
come to Sark come to be quiet, I expect. Don't trouble about coffee
tonight, Mrs. Carré. I shall just have a smoke and then turn in. I'm
tired but and I want a good night's rest."

"Ah yess. Well, you will tek Punch to-night, and then you will hear no
ghosts."

The sky was still softly suffused with the clear rose and amber of the
sunset when he leaned over the wall, as he filled his pipe, and looked
out into the darkening road.

"Har-Héri! Qué-hou-hou!" croaked a hoarse little voice in the hedge
opposite.

"Hello, Johnnie-boy! That you?"

"Where you bin te-day?"

"Where have I been? Down in Little Sark, prowling about the mines,
stealing lumps of silver----"

"Godzamin! They an't any silver now."

"No? All right, my son. Then I'm telling you fibs."

"Show me."

"Ah, I don't carry it about with me."

"An't got any." And presently, as Graeme lit up, without deigning any
answer,--"I seen a ghost las' night."

"Clever boy! What did you make out of it?"

"'Twas the ghost of old Tom Hamon's father. Was all white and
dead-like."

"You're too previous, Johnnie. He's getting better."

"He's a-goin' to die."

"So are you sometime."

"No, I a'n't. Show me 'at silver."

"Sometime, perhaps, if you ask nicely. I'm going to bed now. Come
along, Punch! Goodnight, Johnnie! Keep your eyes skinned for ghosts.
Capital night for them, I should say," and he went off up the garden,
with Punch stalking solemnly alongside.

And Johnnie Vautrin erected himself on his hands and haunches to see
where he was going, while the vivacious Scamp, shut up in the
wood-house and bereft of his bedfellow, and doubtless fearful of
ghosts in every nerve of his quivering little body, rent the still
night with his expostulations, as he heard them go past.

The scent of the pipe was lingering still in the forecourt when the
ladies turned in out of the road, and they just caught a glimpse of
the smoker disappearing through the gap in the hedge.

"Ah-ha! There goes the Bogey-Man!" said Miss Hen. "Does this dear
little dog carry on this way all through the night, Mrs. Carré?"

"It iss becos the gentleman hass tekken Punch up to the house to kip
away the ghosts," smiled Mrs. Carré.

"I should say this one would have been of more use."

"He will be quiet soon. Scamp, bad beast, be qui-et! A couche!"

"To keep away ghosts! What a muff he must be!" said Miss Hen. "Chum,
what do you say to putting on white sheets and giving him a scare? If
we did a skirly-whirly à la Loie Fuller, below his window, he'd
probably have blue fits. Ghosts, indeed!"

"If that big brown Punch got out at you it's you would have the blue
fits," said Miss Chum. "The Sark air is getting into your head,
Hennie."

"Of course it is. That's what we came for, isn't it? You'll feel it
yourself before you're two days older, my child. You're looking better
than I've seen you for a month past."

"It's so delightful to feel free," said Miss Chum.


III

Thoroughly tired out, and with a guardian angel on the mat at his
bedside, in the shape of a long brown body which sought fresh ease in
an occasional sprawl, and flopped a responsive tail each time he
dropped a friendly pat on to its head in the dark--Graeme looked
confidently for a sound night's rest.

He fell asleep indeed at once, but woke with a start sometime in the
night, with the impression of a sound in his ears. Had he really heard
something? Or was it only the tail-end of a dream? Wood-lined houses
talk in the night. Was it only the pitch pine whispering of the old
free days in the scented woods? He could not be sure, so he lay still
and listened.

And as he waited, it came again--a low, wailing cry, long-drawn and
somewhat curdling to the blood.

Outside or inside? He could not be sure.

Cats? Cats can do wonders in the way of uncanny noises, but somehow
this did not sound like cats. There was something human, or inhuman,
in it, and his door suddenly shook as though something tried to get
in.

He bethought him to feel for Punch. But his hand fell on space, and as
he struck a match to see the time and what had become of his
companion, the church bell tolled one dismal stroke, and he saw Punch
standing like a bronze statue at the door, with his nose down at the
crack, his tail on the droop, and every hair apparently on the
bristle.

At the glow of the match the drooping tail gave one slow swing, but he
did not look round.

Graeme struck another match, and lit his candle, and jumped into his
shoes.

"What is it, old fellow?" And Punch scraped furiously at the door
again, and so explained that part of the matter.

There came a sudden scuffling fall against the door. Punch rasped at
it with his front feet in strenuous silence. If he had been able to
give voice it would have been a relief to both of them. His mute
anxiety added to the weirdness of the proceedings, and Graeme
experienced a novel creeping about the nape of the neck.

Ghosts or no ghosts, however, it had to be looked into. He picked up a
heavy boot, turned the key, and flung open the door. Punch went down
the stairs in two long bounds, and a rush of cold air put out the
candle. He laid it down and followed cautiously, ready to launch the
boot at the first sign of uncanniness.

The rush of night air came through a small pantry opening off the
hall. The window in it was wide open, and there was no sign of Punch.
He and the ghost had evidently gone through that way. Graeme and the
boot followed.

It was a dark night between moons. The velvet-black vault was
brilliant with stars, but the earth was full of shadows. The fleshy
leaves of the eucalyptus trees showed pale against the darkness. The
night wind set them rustling eerily. From somewhere beyond them, past
the dark hedge, there came a sound of subdued strife. Graeme clutched
his boot and sped towards it, drenched with dew from every disturbed
branch.

The sounds led him into the potato patch in the lower garden, and in
the dimness he became aware that Punch was standing on something that
struggled to get up and was held down by the great brown paws and
body.

No ghost, evidently. Graeme dropped his boot and stooped and laid hold
of the struggler, and knew in a moment, in spite of his own
disturbance of mind, that this ghost at all events had materialised
into the bodily form of Master Johnnie Vautrin, and he wondered how
many more might have done the same if they had been followed up as
closely.

He lifted the squirming small boy who had not spoken a word.

"So this is what Sark ghosts are made of, is it, Master Johnnie?" he
asked, giving him a shake. "You little scamp! For once you shall have
what you jolly well deserve," and he carried him, kicking and
wriggling, back to the house, shoved him through the window, and held
him with one hand while he got through himself. Punch followed with
an easy bound, and they all went upstairs. Graeme found his candle,
and lit it and looked at his prisoner.

Johnnie was covered with mould from the potato patch, but his black
eyes gleamed through it as brightly as ever, and, as far as Graeme
could distinguish through its masking, his face showed no sign of
confusion.

"Do you know what we do with naughty little ghosts in England,
Johnnie?"

Johnnie's eyes glittered like a snake's.

"We spank 'em, Johnnie. I'm going to spank you--hard."

Then Johnnie spoke.

"I'll put tha evil eye on you."

"Two if you like, my son,--or twenty if you've got 'em handy. Evil
eyes rather tickle me. We'll see which makes most impression--my hand
or your eye," and he laid the black-magic man across his knee, and
gave him such a genuine motherly quilting as he had never experienced
in his life before. Hot blows he was accustomed to, but this cool,
relentless, tingling flagellation, all on the one spot, and continued
till every particle of blood in his body seemed to leap to meet each
stroke, was new to him, and it made a great and lasting impression.

He did not cry, but tried to bite and scratch the operator, and Punch
stood looking on with a grave smile on his face and a slowly swinging
tail expressive of the greatest satisfaction.

Discipline over, Graeme handed him out through the pantry window, bade
him to go home to bed, and fastened the window behind him. The night
passed without further disturbance, and Graeme awoke as the dawn
glimmered golden on his wide-open window.

In ten minutes he was racing bareheaded past Colinette and La Forge
towards Les Lâches, a towel round his neck and Punch bounding silently
by his side. They had stolen out the back way through the top of the
post-office fields, and had left Scamp still prisoner in the
woodhouse, lest the hysterical joy of his release should disturb the
ladies.

And presently they were racing back home, all aglow with the tingling
kisses of the waves, and rough of hair with the salt and the wind.

The sun was up but not yet stripped for the long day's race to the
west. The eastern skies still gleamed through a faery haze with the
soft iridescence of a young ormer shell, the tender pinks and greens
and golds of the new day's birth-chamber mellowing upwards into the
glorious blue of a day of days.

    'The year's at the spring,
    The day's at the morn;
    Morning's at seven;
    The hillside's dew-pearled:
    The lark's on the wing;
    The snail's on the thorn;
    God's in his heaven--
    All's right with the world!'

The lilt of the joyous words had often been with him as he sped
through the sleeping fields to his morning plunge.

This day of days, as though his soul forecasted what was coming, they
sang in his heart and on his lips. His cure was surely near
completion. The salt was regaining its savour. Life was worth living
again.

And it was then, when he had come through the valley and was ready to
climb again, that the glory came to him.

As the two friends sprang lightly over the turf wall into the garden
of the Red House, they saw a sight which one of them will not forget
as long as he lives.

In the gap of the tall hedge, where the path led down to the
cottage,--ringed in its darkness like a lovely picture in a sombre
frame, with a pale eucalyptus rising stately on either side; and
behind it all, and gleaming softly through and round it all, the
tender glories of the new day,--stood a girl in a dove-coloured dress,
bareheaded, holding the dew-pearled branches apart with her two hands,
and gazing at him with wide eyes, and parted lips, and startled face.

And the girl was Margaret Brandt.


IV

Graeme's first thought was that he was dreaming. He blinked his eyes
to make sure they were not playing him false.

If she had disappeared at that moment, he would have sworn to
hallucinations and the visibility of spirits to the day of his death.

But she did not disappear, and Punch proved her no spirit by stalking
gravely up to give her welcome. Without taking her startled eyes off
Graeme, she dropped one white hand on to the great brown head and the
diamonds sprinkled her dove-coloured dress.

"Mr. Graeme!" she said, in a voice which very fully expressed her own
doubts as to his reality also.

"Mar--Miss Brandt? ... Is it possible?"

They had both drawn nearer, he along the broad gravel walk, she along
the narrow path between the eucalyptus trees.

"Are you quite sure you are real?" he asked breathlessly, and for
answer she laughed and stretched a friendly hand towards him.

He took it with shining eyes, and then bent suddenly and kissed it
gently, and his eyes were shining still more brightly as she drew it
hastily away.

"But whatever brings you here?" she asked abruptly.

"We're just out of the sea,"--and the joy of the sea and the morning,
and this greatest thing of all, was in his face.

"But _why_ are you here? What are you doing here?"

"Doing? We're living here."

"Did you know I was here? How----?" she began, with a puzzled wrinkle
of the fair white brow, and stopped.

"I did not know. I wish I had."

"If you did not know, how--why----?"

"If I had known perhaps I should not have dared to follow you. On the
whole I'm glad I did not know."

"I don't understand.... How long have you been here?"

"Just four weeks," he said, with a smile at thought of the blackness
of those four weeks now that he stood in the sunshine.

"Four weeks! Then you mean--you mean that I--that we--followed----"

"In the mere matter of time, yes!--and of place too," he laughed."
For you turned me out of my rooms."

"Do you mean to say you are the Bogey-Man?"

"Well,--no one ever called me so to my face before, but I'm bound to
say I've felt uncommonly like one for the past four or five weeks."

"Come with me," she said hastily. "I must put this right at once, or
Hennie----" and she turned and went through the gap in the hedge.

"Put what right?" he asked, as he followed.

"Oh--you," she said hastily.

"I'm all right--now. And who is Hennie?"

"My friend Miss Penny--"

"I beg your pardon. I thought you said Hennie."

"Henrietta Penny. She was at school with me. We are taking care of one
another."

They had come to the forecourt of the cottage.

"Hen!" cried Margaret. The window was wide open, but the blind was
discreetly down.

"Hello, Chum!" came back in muffled tones. "What's up now? Been and
got yourself lost again?"

"Come out, dear. I want you."

"Half a jiff, old girl. Give a fellow a chance with his back hair. You
had first tub this morning, remember." At which Graeme's eyes twinkled
in unison with Margaret's.

"There's a gentleman waiting to see you, dear," said Margaret, to
prevent any further revelations.

"A _what_?"--and there followed a clatter of falling implements as
though a sudden start had sent them flying. "Wretch!--to upset one
like that! It's that big brown dog, I suppose. I know you, my child!"

Then the blind whirled up and a merry face, in a cloud of dishevelled
hair, looked out, a pair of horrified eyes rested momentarily on
Graeme, and the blind rattled down again with something that sounded
like a muffled feminine objurgation.

And presently the inner door opened and Miss Penny came forth
demurely, and bowed distantly in the direction of Margaret and Graeme.

She was of average height but inclined to plumpness, and so looked
smaller than Margaret; and she had no great pretensions to beauty,
Graeme thought--but then he was biassed for life and incapable of free
and impartial judgment--save such as might be found in a very frank
face given to much laughter, a rather wide mouth and nice white teeth,
abundant dark hair and a pair of challenging brown eyes which now,
getting over their first confusion--and finding herself at all events
fully dressed, wherein she had the advantage of him--rested with much
appreciation on the young man in front of her.

The salt water was still in his hair, and the discrepancies in his
hasty attire were but partly hidden by the damp towel round his neck.
Nevertheless he was very good to look upon. His moustache showed crisp
against the healthy brown of his face; his hair, short as it was, had
a natural ripple which sea-water could not reduce; and his eyes were
brimming with the new joy of life and repressed laughter. Miss Penny
liked the looks of him.

"Margaret Brandt, I will never forgive you as long as I live," said
she emphatically.

"All right, dear! This is Mr. Bogey-man whose rooms we have
appropriated. He wished to be introduced to the other malefactor. Miss
Henrietta Penny--Mr. John Graeme! Mr. Graeme and I have met before."

If Mr. John Graeme had had more experience of women, the flash that
shot across from the brown eyes to the dark blue ones might have told
him stories--for instance, that his name and would-have-been standing
towards her friend were not entirely unknown to Miss Penny; that, for
a brief half second, she wondered--doubted--and instantly chid herself
for such a thought in connection with Margaret Brandt.

But Margaret herself, being a woman, caught the momentary challenge
and repelled it steadily.

"I am very pleased to meet you, Miss Penny--in such a place, and in
such company. I have heard of you from Miss Brandt," said Graeme.

"Never till five minutes ago," laughed Margaret.

"Yes, if you will pardon me--once before, at Lady Elspeth Gordon's.
Unless I am mistaken, Miss Penny had just been across to Dublin to
take a degree which Cambridge ungallantly declined to confer upon
her."

"Quite right!" said Miss Penny. "M.A. They're misogynists at
Cambridge."

"Will you oblige me by informing Miss Penny, Mr. Graeme, that this
meeting is purely accidental? I caught a spark in her eye and I know
what it means. Had you the very slightest idea that we were coming to
Sark?"

"Not the remotest. When I saw you standing in the hedge there, with
the morning glories all about you, I first doubted my eyes, then I
thought you a vision--"

"And do you think it possible that I knew of you being here?"

"I am certain you did not. Nobody knows. I left no address, and I told
no one where I was going. I have not had a letter since I left London.
I have been buried alive in this heavenly little place."

"There now, Mademoiselle," said Margaret, with a bow. "Are you
satisfied now?"

"I was satisfied before you opened your mouth, my dear. The
possibility inevitably suggested itself, but it was stillborn. Has not
our friendship passed its seventh birthday?"

"Thank you, dear. But the coincidence of our coming to bury ourselves
in Sark, and Mr. Graeme's coming to bury himself in Sark, was almost
unbelievable."

"Not at all," said Miss Penny. "If you could both trace back you would
probably find the same original spring of action--a chance word from
some common friend, or some article you have both read. Then, when
circumstances loosed the spring, you both shot in the same direction.
What was it loosed your spring, Mr. Graeme?"

"Well,--I wanted to get away out of things. I'm busy on a book, you
see, and I'd heard of Sark--"

"Same here!" said Miss Penny--"less the book. We wanted to get away
out of things--and people, and we'd heard of Sark, and here we are.
Was it you suggested Sark, or I, Meg?"

"I'm sure I don't know, dear. You, I should think."

"I will take all the credit of it."

Just then Mrs. Carré, who had been down to John Philip's for bread,
turned in out of the road with a loaf under each arm. At sight of all
her guests fraternising, her face lit up with a broad smile, and
Scamp, who had whirled in after her, twisted himself into
hieroglyphics of delight and rent the air with his expression of it,
and then launched himself at Punch and taxed him with perfidy in going
off to bathe without him.

"Ah, you have med friends with the leddies," she said to Graeme.
"Scamp! Bad beast, be qui-et! A couche!"

"I'm doing my best, Mrs. Carré."

"That iss very nice."

"Very nice, indeed!" And Miss Penny asserted afterwards that he was
looking at Margaret all the time.

"I told them you were a nice quiet gentleman and wouldn't disturb them
at all," said Mrs. Carré.

"I'll do my very best not to. So far the disturbance has been all on
their side, but I'm standing it very well, you see. You'll let me show
you the sights, won't you?" he said to Miss Brandt. "I've been here a
month, you see, and I know it all like a book. I've done nothing but
moon about since I came--"

"I thought you were busy on a book," said Miss Penny.

"Er--well, you see, you have to do a lot of thinking before you start
writing. I've been thinking," and perhaps more than one of them had a
fairly shrewd suspicion as to the line his thoughts had taken.

"Now, if I don't cut away and dress, and get my breakfast and clear
out, I shall be in the way of the ladies, and Mrs. Carré will never
forgive me," he said. "I do hope you will include me in your plans for
the day."

His bow included them both, and he sped off up the path through the
high hedge, with the two dogs racing alongside.

"Meg, my child, we will go for a little walk," said Miss Penny.


V

The salt Sark air is uplifting at all times. The sea-water has a crisp
effervescence of its own which tones and braces mind and body alike.
Add to these the wonder of Margaret's unexpected presence there and,
if the gift of large imagination be yours, you may possibly
arrive--within a hundred miles or so--of the state of John Graeme's
feelings as he raced up that path and bounded up the stairs of the Red
House four at a time.

He looked out of the wide-open window across the fields, while the
dogs, as usual, took the opportunity of appeasing their thirst at his
water-jug,--for water lies at the bottom of deep cool wells in Sark,
and sensible dogs take their chances when they offer.

Was this the room he had left an hour ago in the fresh of the dawn--a
man whose gray future was just beginning to lift its bruised head out
of the shadows?

Were those gleaming emerald fields the dim wastes he had sped across
with his dumb companion, feeling as friendly towards him as towards
anything on earth?

Were those trees over there, with the glow of spring-gold in their
tender green leaves, the gloomy guardians of the churchyard where
ghosts walked of a night?

Was that streak of blue away beyond the uplands, with the purple film
along its rim, only the sea and a hint of Jersey, or was it a glimpse
of heaven?

Was he, in very truth, that John Graeme who, for thirty days past, had
been striving with all his might to root the thought of Margaret
Brandt out of his life--and succeeding not at all?

It was the face of a stranger--a stranger with new joy of life in his
sparkling eyes--that looked back at him out of the glass, as he plied
his brushes, and tied his neck-tie with a careful assiduity to which
the John Graeme of the past thirty days had been a stranger indeed.

It was amazing. It was almost past belief. Yet this was himself, and
there was the gap in the dark hedge--never dark again to him so long
as one twig of it lived--the gap where he had come upon her standing
like a goddess of the morning with the glories of the dawn all about
her. And somewhere not far away, under this same heavenly blue sky,
was Margaret. And there was no sign or hint of Jeremiah Pixley in her
atmosphere--nor of Charles Svendt.

What could it possibly all mean?

Miss Penny--Hennie Penny! What a delightfully ludicrous name! And what
a delightful creature she was!--Miss Penny, unless he had been
dreaming, had said they had come to get away from things--and people!
Now what did she mean by that--if she really had said it and he had
not been dreaming?

Was it possible Margaret had come to get away from Jeremiah Pixley and
Charles Svendt? On the face of it, it seemed not impossible, for
Graeme's only wonder was that she could ever have borne with them so
long.

His brain was in a whirl. The eyes of his understanding were as the
eyes of one immured for thirty days in a dark cell and then dragged
suddenly into the full blaze of the sun. If he had just drunk a magnum
of champagne he could not have felt more elevated, and he would
certainly have felt very different. For his eye was clear as a jewel,
and his hand was steady as a rock, though his heart had not yet
settled to its beat and the red blood danced in his veins like fire.

"Jock, my lad," he said to himself, as he got the knot of his tie to
his liking at last,--"keep a grip of yourself and go steady. Such a
thing is enough to throw any man a bit off the rails. Ca' canny, my
lad, ca' canny!"


VI

"Meg, I rather like young men with rippled hair," said Miss Hennie
Penny, as they passed the Carrefour and strolled between the dewy
hedges towards La Tour, with larks by the dozen bursting their hearts
in the freshness of the morning above them.

"Do you, dear? I thought you scorned young men?"

"As a class, yes!--Especially the Cambridge variety. But not in
particular. I make an exception in this case."

"So good of you!" murmured Margaret in her best company manner.

"Why did you never tell me how nice he was?"

"Tell you how nice he was? I don't remember ever discussing him with
you in any shape or form whatever."

"Not to say discussed exactly, but you can't deny that you've
mentioned him occasionally."

"So I have William Shakespeare and Alfred Tennyson--"

"And Charles Pixley!"

"That's quite different--"

"You're right, my dear. This is a horse of quite another colour. An
awfully decent colour too. I'm glad you appreciate it. He's as brown
as a gipsy and not an ounce of flab about him. Charles Pixley is
mostly flab--"

"Don't be rude, Hen. You don't know Charles. And do drop your school
slang--"

"Can't, my child. It's part of my holiday, so none of your pi-jaw! If
you want me to enjoy myself you must let me have my head. You can't
imagine how awfully good it tastes when you've been doing your best to
choke girls off it for a year or two. It's one of the outward and
visible signs of emancipation. This is another!" and she sprang up the
high turf bank of the orchard of La Tour and danced a breakdown on it,
and then jumped back into the road with ballooning skirts, to the
intense amazement of old Mrs. Hamon of Le Fort, who had just come
round the corner to draw sweet water from the La Tour well.

"People will think you're crazy," remonstrated Margaret.

"So I am, and you're my keeper, though it's supposed to be the other
way about. The air of Sark has got into my head. What a quaint bonnet
that old lady has! I wonder what colour it was in its infancy.
Good-morning, ma'am! Isn't this a glorious day?" And old Madame Hamon
murmured a word and passed hastily on lest worse should befall.

"Hennie, be sensible for a minute or two. I want you to consider
something seriously."

"Sensible, if you like, Chummie, for 'tis my nature to.
Serious?--Never! How could one, with those larks bursting themselves
in a sky like that? And did you ever see hedges like these in all your
life? What's it all about?--Ripply-Hair?"

"Yes. Don't you see how awkward the whole matter is--"

"Awkward for Charles Pixley maybe. I don't see that anybody else need
worry themselves thin about it."

"I'm not thinking of Mr. Pixley. It's--"

"Ripply-Hair? Well, that's all right! Jolly sight nicer to think about
him. I like his eyes too. There's something in them that seems to
invite one's confidence. Perhaps you haven't noticed it? If I had a
father-confessor--which, thank's-be, I haven't, and a jolly good thing
for him!--I should stipulate for him having eyes just like that.
Ripply hair too, I think. Yes. I should insist on his having hair just
like Mr. Graeme's."

They had strolled along past Le Fort till the road lost itself in a
field above Banquette, and there they came to an involuntary stand and
stood gazing.

Before them, the long, broken slopes of the Eperquerie swept down from
the heights to the sea, one vast blaze of flaming gorse--a tumultuous
torrent of solid sunshine stayed suddenly in its course. And, in below
the sunshine of the gorse, where rough Mother Earth should have been,
there lay instead a soft sunset cloud, the tender cream-yellow and
green of myriads of primroses and the just uncurling fronds of the
bracken--primroses in such unbroken sheets and masses as to give a
weird effect of remoteness and impalpability to that which was solid
and close at hand.

"Wonderful!" murmured Margaret.

"Glorious!" murmured Miss Penny. "Is it really old Mother Earth we're
looking at?"

"No, dear! It's a bit of the sky fallen down there and the sun has
rolled over it into the sea. See the bits of him in the wavelets! And
did you ever in your life see a green like that water below the
rocks?"

"Sky and sun above, sun and sky below!--with trimmings of liquid
emerald and sapphire, shot with white and gold. Meg, my child, this is
a long way from No. 1 Melgrave Square."

"A long, long way!" assented Margaret thoughtfully. And then, to take
advantage of her companion's comparative soberness through the
stirring of her feelings,--"Hennie, do you think we ought to stop?"

"Stop?" and Miss Penny fronted her squarely. "Stop? Why, we've only
just come. What's disgruntling you, Chummie?"

"Can't you see how awkward it is?"

"Well,--that depends--"

"No one would believe it was all pure accident."

"Perhaps it isn't," said Miss Penny oracularly.

"Why, what do you mean?" said Margaret, bristling in her turn.

"Oh, I'm imputing no guile, my child. I'm miles away up past that kind
of thing. What I mean is this--perhaps it was meant to be, and you
couldn't help yourselves. Now if that should be the case, it would be
flying in the face of Providence to go and upset it all. What are your
feelings towards him?"

"Feelings? I have no feelings--"

"Oh yes, you have, my child. You're not made of marble, though you can
look it when you try. Why, I have myself. I like him--the little I've
seen of him--and in spite of the fact that he caught me doing my hair,
which is enough to turn anyone against anyone. I shall probably like
him still more the better I get to know him. What have you against
him?"

"I've nothing whatever against him. I--"

"Then, my dear, we'll sit tight. If anyone should go it's he, since
he's been here a month, and we've only been one day. But if he goes it
will only be because you make him. You've no ill-will towards him?"

"I've no feeling at all about him, except that it's awkward his being
here."

"Then we'll just put the blame on Providence, and sit tight, as I said
before. I'll see you come to no harm, my child. I could make that
young man, or any young man, fly to the other end of the island by
simply looking at him."

"Think so, dear?" and Margaret, the issue being decided for her, came
back to equanimity.

"Sure!" said Miss Penny.


VII

He was sitting on the low stone wall that shut off the cobble-paved
forecourt from the road, with his back towards them, when they
sauntered through the open door after breakfast. He was smoking the
choice after-breakfast pipe of peace, legs dangling, back bent, hands
loosely clasped between his knees. He was very beautifully dressed as
regards tie and collar--for the rest, light tweeds and cap of the
same, and shoes which struck Miss Penny as flat. But these things she
only noticed later. At present all she saw was a square light-tweed
back, and a curl of fragrant smoke rising over its left shoulder.

Below him in the dust were his two friends,--Punch, gravely observant
of his every movement, and occasionally following the smoke with an
interested eye; Scamp, no less watchful, but panting like a motor-car,
and apparently exhausted with unrewarded scoutings up and down every
possible route for the day's programme.

In the hedge, on the opposite side of the road, sat a very small boy
bunched up into an odd little heap, out of which looked a long sharp
little face and a pair of black eyes as sharp as gimlets and as bright
as a rat's, and beside him sat a big black cat busy on its toilet,
which it interrupted in order to eye the ladies keenly when they
appeared.

"Now, see you here, my son," they heard from the other side of the
broad tweed back, "if you don't make it fine for the next thirty days
you and I will have words together. If you want it to rain, let it
rain in the night. Not a drop after four A.M., you understand. If you
turn it on after four in the morning there'll be another rupture of
diplomatic relations between you and me, same as there was last
night."

The small boy's beady eyes twinkled, and he squeaked a few words in
Sarkese.

"You have the advantage of me, Johnnie. And I've told you before it's
not polite to address a gentleman in a language he's not familiar
with, when you're perfectly acquainted with his own. The only word I
caught was 'Guyablle!' and that's not a word for young people like you
and me, though it may suit Marielihou. I'm very much afraid I'll have
to speak to the schoolmaster about you, after all, and to the Vicar
too, maybe. What? A Wesleyan, are you? Very well then, it's Monsieur
Bisson I must speak to."

Here the small boy, with his face crumpled up into a grin, pointed a
thin grimy finger past the young man, and he turned and saw the
ladies. He doffed his cap and jumped down and tapped out his pipe, and
the dogs sprang up expectant;--Punch, grave as ever but light on his
feet for instant start; Scamp twisting himself into figure-eights, and
rending the air with such yelps of delight that not a word could they
pass.

"Johnnie! Stop him!" shouted Graeme. The small boy in the hedge flung
out his arm with a sudden threatening gesture, and the circling Scamp
fled through the gateway and up the garden with a shriek of dismay,
and remained there yelping as if he had been struck.

"Odd that, isn't it?" said Graeme. "Johnnie's the only person that can
stop that small dog talking; and, what's more, he can do it a hundred
yards away. If the dog can see him that's enough, and yet they're good
enough friends as a rule. Look at Punch!"

The big brown fellow was standing eyeing the small boy with an odd
expression, intent, expectant, doubtful, with just a touch of
apprehension in it, and perhaps of latent anger.

"Can you do it with Punch?" asked Miss Penny.

The small boy shook his head. "Godzamin, he'd eat me if I tried," he
said, and lifted his eyes from the dog's, and the dog walked quietly
up to Margaret and pushed his great head under her hand.

"He's a fine fellow," she said, caressing him.

"A most gentlemanly dog," said Miss Penny. "His eyes are absolutely
poetical,--charged with thoughts too deep for words."

"Yes, he's dumb," said Graeme, stooping to pull a long brown ear.

"Really?" asked Margaret, looking into his face to make sure he was
not joking.

"We've been close friends for a month now, and I've never heard his
voice even in a whisper, nor has anyone else. I've an idea Johnnie
here has put a spell on him."

"Poor old fellow!" said Margaret, fondling the big brown head.

"Oh, he's quite happy--bold as a lion and graceful as a panther, and
Scamp talks more than enough for the two of them."

"And what a fine big cat you have, Johnnie!" said Miss Penny, and
stretched a friendly hand towards Marielihou. "What do you call it?"

"Marrlyou," growled Johnnie; and Marielihou bristled and spat at the
advancing white hand, which retired rapidly.

"The nasty beast!" said Miss Penny, and Marielihou glared at her with
eyes of scorching green fire.

"Marielihou is not good company for anyone but herself," said Graeme.
"Now, where would you like to go?"

"We were up that way before breakfast," said Miss Penny, nodding due
north.

"Been to the Coupée yet?"

"No, we've been nowhere except just along here. We were afraid of
getting lost or tumbling over the edges."

"Then you must see the Coupée at once. And we'll call at John Philip's
as we pass, to get you some shoes."

"Shoes?" and each stuck out a dainty brown boot and examined it
critically for inadequacies, and then looked up at him enquiringly.

"Yes, I know. They're delicious, but in Sark you must wear Sark
shoes--this kind of thing"--sticking up his own--"or you may come to a
sudden end. And, seeing that you're in my charge--"

"Oh?" said Margaret.

"Come along to John Philip's," said Miss Penny. And as they turned
down the road with Punch, the hedge opened and Scamp came wriggling
through, with white-eyed glances for Johnnie Vautrin and Marielihou
sitting in the bushes farther up.


VIII

Miss Penny and Graeme did most of the talking. Margaret was unusually
silent, pondering, perhaps, her friend's utterances of the early
morning, and still wondering at the strange turn of events that had so
unexpectedly thrown herself and John Graeme into such close
companionship that he could actually claim to be in charge of her, and
had proved it beyond question by making her buy a pair of shoes which
she considered anything but shapely.

Graeme understood and kept to his looking-glass promise.

His heart was dancing within him. It was impossible to keep the lilt
of it entirely out of his eyes. They were radiant with this
unlooked-for happiness.

It was Margaret's shadow that mingled with his own on the sunny
road--when it wasn't Miss Penny's. It was Margaret's pleated blue
skirt that swung beside him to a tune that set his pulses leaping.
Miss Penny's skirt was there too, indeed, but a thousand of it
flapping in a gale would not have quickened his pulse by half a beat.

And Miss Penny probably understood--some things, or parts of
things--or thought she did, and was extremely happy in that which was
vouchsafed to her. Oh, she knew, did Miss Penny! She had not, indeed,
had much--if put into a corner and made to confess to bare and
literal truth, not any--experience, that is personal and practical
experience, of such matters,--if, indeed, such matters are capable of
being brought to the test of such a word as practical. But she had
read much about them--in search of truth, and right and fitting books
to be admitted to the school library--and she knew all about it. And
here, unless she, Henrietta Penny, was very much mistaken, was a
veritable live love-affair budding and blossoming--at least she hoped
it would blossom--before her very eyes. Budding it undoubtedly was, on
one side at all events, and blossom it certainly should if she could
help it on; for he had ripply hair, and deep attractive eyes, and a
frank open face, and she liked him.

They were suddenly in the shade, threading a narrow cutting between
high gorse-topped banks of crumbly yellow rock. Then, without any
warning, the rock-walls fell away. They were out into the sunshine
again, and in front stretched a wavering rock path, the narrow crown
of a ridge whose sides sank sharply out of sight. From somewhere far
away below came the surge and rush of many waters.

"This is the Coupée," said Graeme, as the dogs raced across. "Over
there is Little Sark."

"It is grand!" said Margaret, gazing at the huge rock buttresses whose
loins came up through the white foam three hundred feet below.

"It's awful!" said Miss Penny. "You're never going across, Mr.
Graeme?" as he strolled on along the narrow ridge.

"Surely! Why not? It's perfectly safe. There was a wooden railing at
this side, but it fell over about a fortnight ago, and at present the
good folks of Little Sark and Big Sark are discussing who ought to put
up a new one. I happened to be sitting over there when it fell. A
party of visitors came down the cutting here, and one was just going
to lean on the railing, to look down into the gulf there, when he had
the sense to try it first with his foot and it went with a crash, and
they got a scare and went back to the hotel to eat lobsters. It was
really useless as protection, but it made one feel safer to have it
there."

"It's horrible," said Miss Penny emphatically.

"Safe as London Bridge, if you'll only believe it. It's a good four
feet wide. The school children used to trot over when it was not more
than two and a half."

"And none of them fell over?"

"Never a one. Why should they?"

"Meg, my dear," said Miss Penny, with a sudden flash of incongruity,"
this is truly a _very_ great change from Melgrave Square."

"It is," laughed Margaret. "Are you coming, Hennie?"

"I'll--I'll risk it if Mr. Graeme will personally conduct me. He's in
charge of us, you know."

"Certainly!" and he held out his hand to her, and then looked at
Margaret. "Will you please wait here till I come back for you?" And
catching, as he thought, a sign of mutiny in her face,--"Although it's
perfectly safe it's perhaps just as well to have company the first
time you cross."

"Very well," she said, and Miss Penny clung convulsively to the strong
unwavering hand while she gingerly trod the narrow way, and the dogs
raced half-way to meet them.

"Go _away_!" she shrieked, and the dogs turned on their pivots and
sped back.

"Now, you see!" he said, when she stood safe on the rounded shoulder
of Little Sark. "Where was the trouble?"

"It's perfectly easy, Meg," cried Miss Penny, uplifted with her
accomplishment.

He wondered whether she would vouchsafe him her hand or attempt the
passage alone. But she put her hand into his without hesitation, and
thenceforth and for ever the Coupée held for him a touch of sacred
glamour. For the soft hand throbbed in his, and every throb thrilled
right up into his heart and set it dancing to some such tune as that
which sang in David when he danced before the Ark. But his hand was
firm, and his head was steady, for that which he held in charge was
the dearest thing in life to him.

Three hundred blessed feet was the span of the Coupée. How fervently
he wished them three thousand--ay, three million! For every step
accorded him a throb, and heart-throbs such as these are among the
precious things of life.

Neither of them spoke one word. Common-places were very much out of
place, and the things that were in his heart he might not speak--yet.

"Didn't I say so?" cried Miss Penny, as they stepped ashore on Little
Sark. "It's as easy as winking."

"I never said it wasn't," said Margaret, with a deep breath. "But I
doubt if you'd have come across alone, my child."

"It was certainly pleasanter to have something to hold on to," said
Miss Penny.

And Graeme thought so too.


IX

Little Sark provides ample opportunity for the adventurous scrambler,
and Graeme, having tested the novel sensation of those delicious
heart-thrills, was eager for more.

They prowled round the old silver mines, and sat on the great rocks at
Port Gorey which had in those olden times served for a jetty, while he
told them how Peter Le Pelley had mortgaged the island to further his
quest after the silver, and how a whole ship-load of it sank within a
stone's throw of the place where they sat, and with it the Seigneur's
hopes and fortunes.

They peered into the old houses and down the disused shafts, lined now
with matted growth of ivy and clinging ferns,--the bottomless pits
into which the Le Pelley heritage had disappeared. Then he took them
for mild refection to Mrs. Mollet's cottage; and after a rest,--and
with their gracious permission, a pipe,--he led them across to the
wild south walls of the island, with their great chasms and fissures
and tumbled strata, their massive pinnacles, and deep narrow inlets
and tunnels where the waves champed and roared in everlasting
darkness.

The dogs harried the rabbits untiringly, Punch in long lithe bounds
that were a joy to behold; Scamp in panting hysterics which gave
over-ample warning of his coming and precluded all possibilities of
capture.

Graeme led them down the face of the cliff fronting L'Etac, the great
rock island that was once a part of Little Sark itself.

"Once upon a time there was a Coupée across here," he said. "Some time
our Coupée will disappear and Little Sark will be an island also."

"Not before we get back, I hope," said Miss Penny.

"Not before we get back, _I_ hope," said Graeme, for would he not hold
Margaret's hand again on the homeward journey?

Down the cliff, along white saw-teeth of upturned veins of quartz,
with Margaret's hand in his, then back for Miss Penny, till they sat
looking down into a deep dark basin, almost circular: lined with the
most lovely pink and heliotrope corallines: studded with anemones,
brown and red and green: every point and ledge decked with
delicately-fronded sea-ferns and mosses: and the whole overhung with
threatening masses of rock.

"Venus's Bath," he told them. "Those round stones at the bottom have
churned about in there for hundreds of years, I suppose. The tide
fills it each time, as you will see presently, but the stones cannot
get out and they've helped to make their own prison-house,--wherein I
perceive a moral. It's a delicious plunge from that rock."

"You bathe here?" asked Margaret.

"I and the dogs bathe here at times. There's one other thing you must
see, and I think you may see it to-day. The tide is right, and the
wind is right, and there's a good sea on."

They waited till the long waves came swirling up over the rocks and
filled the basin and set the great round stones at the bottom grinding
angrily. Then off again along the splintered face of the cliff, one by
one, that is two by two over the difficult bits, till he had them
seated among some ragged boulders with the waves foaming white below
them, and swooking and plunking in hidden hollow places.

The wind was rising, and the crash of the seas on the rocks made
speech impossible. He pointed suddenly along the cliff face, and not
twenty yards away, with a hiss and a roar, a furious spout of water
shot up into the air a rocket of white foam, a hundred feet high, and
fell with a crash over the rocks and into the sea.

Twenty times they watched it roar up into the sky, and then they
crawled back up the face of the cliff, wind-whipped and rosy-faced,
and with the taste of salt in their mouths.

"That is a fine sight," said Margaret, with sparkling eyes and diamond
drops in her wind-blown hair. He thought he had never seen her so
absolutely lovely before. He had certainly never seen anyone to
compare with her.

"That's the Souffleur--the blow-hole. There's a bigger one still in
Saignie Bay, we'll look it up if the wind gets round to the
north-west. I'm glad you've seen this one. It was just a chance."

"I'm blow-holed all to rags, and, Meg, your hair is absolutely
disgraceful," said Miss Penny. So differently may different eyes
regard the same object, especially when the heart has a say in it. He
would have given all he was worth for an offered lock of that
wind-blown hair.

As Margaret turned she caught his eye, perhaps caught something of
what was in it.

"Am I as bad as all that?" she laughed in rosy confusion.

"You're"--he began impetuously, but caught himself in time.--"You're
all right. When you go to see the Souffleur you must expect to get a
bit blown."

"It's worth it," she said. "And I'm sure we're much obliged to you for
taking us. We could never have got there alone."

"We'd never have got to Little Sark, to say nothing of the Souffleur,"
said Miss Penny very emphatically.

"And now perhaps you'll forgive me for making you buy those shoes."

"My, yes! They're great," said Miss Penny, looking critically at her
feet. "But decidedly they're not beautiful."


X

They loitered homewards, chatting discursively of many things, in a
way that made for intimacy. Miss Penny and Graeme, indeed, still did
most of the actual speaking, as he remembered afterwards, but Margaret
was in no way outside their talk, and if she did not say much it is
probable that she listened and thought none the less.

The Coupée afforded Graeme another all-too-short span of delight,
while Margaret's hand throbbed in his and she entrusted herself to his
protection.

He took them home by the Windmill, and through the fields and
hedge-gaps into the grounds of the Red House, and in his heart's eye
saw Margaret standing once more in the opening of the tall hedge with
the morning glory all about her--just as he would remember her all his
life.

"Time?" demanded Miss Penny, as they passed along the verandah.

"Half-past seven."

"Then you are half an hour late for your dinner. I propose that we ask
Mrs. Carré to serve us all together to-night," said Miss Penny, "or we
may all fare the worse."

"I shall be delighted," began Graeme exuberantly, "unless--" and he
snapped a glance at Miss Brandt.

"We shall be glad if you will join us," she said quickly.

"I will be there in two minutes," he said, and sped up the Red House
stairs to make ready.

"I hope to goodness he won't," said Miss Penny, as they passed through
the hedge. "Now don't you say a word to me, Margaret Brandt. It was
you invited him"

"Oh!"

"'We shall be glad if you will join us.' If that isn't an invitation
I'd like to know what it is. And I heard you say it with my own two
ears,--moi qui vous parle, as we say here."

"You know perfectly well that I could not possibly do anything else,
Hennie. I believe you just did it on purpose. I don't know what's come
over you."

"John Graeme. I like him. And after all he'd done for us--that Coupée,
and Venus's Bath, and the Souffleur, and he like to lose his dinner
over it all! What could a kind motherly person like me do but
suggest--simply suggest, in the vaguest manner possible--"

"Yes?--" as she stopped in a challenging way.

"I merely threw out the suggestion, I say, in the vaguest possible
way, that as we were nearly dying of hunger he should allow us to ask
Mrs. Carré to let us have our dinner half an hour earlier than
usual--"

"Oh!"

"And then you struck in, in your usual lordly fashion, and begged him
to join us. And I'm bound to say he took it very well, not to say
jumped at it."

"Hennie, you're a--"

"Yes, I know. And if I live I'll be a be-a, and perhaps more
besides,"--with a cryptic nod.

"Now, what do you mean by that?"

"Wait patiently, my child, and you'll see."

"I believe the Sark air is affecting your--whatever you've got inside
that giddy head of yours."

"Of course it is. That's what I came for, and to keep you out of
mischief, you infantile law-breaker."


XI

Graeme's two minutes were each set with considerably more than the
regulation sixty seconds--diamond seconds of glowing anticipation,
every one of them. And, to his credit, be it recorded that he allotted
several of them to the invocation of most fervent blessings on Miss
Penny, who, at the moment, was vigorously disclaiming any pretension
thereto.

But, quite soon enough for his hosts, as he considered them,--his
guests, according to Miss Penny,--he appeared at the cottage, bodily
and mentally prepared for the feast, and showing both in manner and
attire due sense of the honour conferred upon him.

It was a festive, and for one of them at all events, a
never-to-be-forgotten meal. The strong Sark air had got into all their
heads, and whatever prudish notions might have been working in
Margaret, she had bidden them to heel and took her pleasure as it
came.

Her mood, however, for the moment was receptive rather than
expressive. Miss Penny and Graeme still did most of the talking, and
Margaret sat and listened and laughed, not a little astonished at
finding herself in that galley.

"What is the penalty for aiding and abetting a criminal in an evasion
of the law, Mr. Graeme?" chirped Miss Penny one time, and took
Margaret's energetic below-table expostulation without a wince.

"It would depend, I should say, on the particular dye of criminal.
What has your friend been up to, Miss Penny? Is he a particularly
black specimen?"

"In the first place he's a she, and in the next place her complexion
has a decided tendency towards blonde. As to dye--I am in a position
to state on oath that she does not."

For a moment he was mystified, then his eye fell on Margaret's face,
full of glorious confusion at this base betrayal by her bosom friend.

"The Sark air does get into people's heads like that at times," he
said diplomatically. "It's just in the first few days. But you soon
get used to it. I felt just the same myself--losing faith in things
and thinking ill of my friends, and so on. You'll be quite all right
in a day or two, Miss Penny,"--with a touch of sympathetic
commiseration in his voice.

"Oh, I'm quite all right now," said Miss Penny enjoyably. "I thought
it only right and proper to let you know where you stand. At the
present moment you are as likely as not aiding and abetting a breaker
of the British laws and her accomplice. You may become involved in
serious complications, you see."

"If that means that I can be of any service in the matter I shall be
only too delighted,--if you will not look upon me as an intruder." He
spoke to Miss Penny but looked at Margaret.

"Ah-ha! Qualms of conscience----"

"Hennie is a little raised, Mr. Graeme," broke in Margaret. "Please
excuse her. A good night's rest will make her all right."

"Never felt better in my life," sparkled Miss Penny. "But seriously,
Mr. Graeme, it is only right you should understand, for we don't quite
know where we are ourselves, and I'm going to tell you even though
Margaret kicks all the skin off my leg in the process. In a
word,--we've bolted."

"Bolted?" he echoed, all aglow with hopeful interest.

"Yes--from Mr. Pixley and all his works. And as he had been
threatening to make us a Ward of Court, you see--well, there you are,
don't you know."

"I see," he said, and there was a new light in his eyes as he looked
at Margaret, and his soul danced within him again as David's before
the Ark.

"For reasons which seemed adequate to myself, Mr. Graeme,"--began
Margaret, in more sober explanation.

"They were, they were. I am sure of it," sang his heart. And his brain
asked eagerly, "Had Charles Svendt anything to do with it, I wonder?"

"--I thought it well to remove myself from the care of my guardian
Mr. Pixley----"

"Splendid girl! Splendid girl!" sang his heart.

"--And as I have still some of my time to serve----"

"How long, O Lord, how long?" chaunted his heart, with no sense of
impropriety, for it was sounding pæans of joyful hope.

"--You see----" said Margaret.

"I see."

"Do you think they could make me go back to him?" she asked anxiously.

"To Mr. Pixley? Certainly not--that is if your reasons for leaving him
seemed adequate to the Court, as I am sure they would."

She offered no explanation on this point. All that she left unsaid,
and that he would have given much to hear, seemed dancing just inside
Miss Penny's sparkling eyes, and as like as not to come dancing out at
any moment.

"You see," said Graeme, "I happen to have been making some enquiries
from a legal friend on that very point----"

"Oh!" said Margaret, and Miss Penny's eyes danced carmagnoles.

"In connection with a story, you know. One likes to get one's legal
points all right. In any case, as I was just about to tell Miss Penny
for the benefit of her criminal friend, there would be lots of red
tape to unwind before they could do anything, and this little isle of
Sark is the quaintest place in the world in the matter of its own old
observances and their integrity, and the rejection of new ideas. Mr.
Pixley does not know you are here, of course?"

"Not much, or he'd have been over by special boat long since," said
Miss Penny. "We managed it splendidly."

"And how long?" began Graeme, in pursuance of his train of thought,
but stopped short at sound of the words, since they bore distant
resemblance to a curiosity which seemed to himself impertinent.

But Miss Penny knew no such compunctions. She did not want to miss one
jot or tittle of her enjoyment of the situation.

"About six months," said she quickly.

"Well, I should think we"--how delightful to him that "we," and how
Miss Penny rejoiced in it!--"could hold them at bay for that length of
time. The machinery of the law is slow and cumbersome at best, and in
this case, I imagine, it would not be difficult to put a few
additional spokes in its wheels."

If his face was anything to go by there were many more questions he
would have liked to put--judicial questions, you understand, for a
fuller comprehension of the case. But he would not venture them yet.
He had got ample food for reflection for the moment, and his hopes
stood high.

Never for him had there been a dinner equal to that one. Better ones
he had partaken of in plenty. But the full board and the quality of
the faring are not the only things, nor by any means the chief things,
that go to the making of a feast.

The nearest approach to it had been that dinner with the Whitefriars,
at which he first met Margaret Brandt, and that did not come within
measurable distance of this one.



XII

"Will you be pleased to tek your dinner with the leddies again
to-night?" asked Mrs. Carré, as she gave Graeme his breakfast next
morning.

"I would be delighted," he said doubtfully. "But are you quite sure
they would wish it, Mrs. Carré."

"But you did get on all right with them," she said, eyeing him
wonderingly. "They are very nice leddies, I am sure."

"Oh, we got on first rate. We didn't quarrel over the food or fall out
in any way. But----"

"Well then?"

"Will it be any easier for you?" he asked thoughtfully.

"Well, of course, it will be once setting instead of twice, and that
iss easier----"

"Then suppose you put it to them on that ground, Mrs. Carré, solely on
that ground, you understand. And if they are agreeable, I--well, I
shall not raise any objections."

And so, presently, Mrs. Carré said to the ladies, "You did get on all
right with the gentleman last night, yes?"

"Oh, quite, Mrs. Carré," sparkled Miss Penny.

"I wass wondering if it would please you to dine all at once together
again each night. You see, it would save me the trouble of setting
twice. I did ask him and he said he didn't mind if you didn't. He iss
a very nice quiet gentleman, I am sure."

"I'm sure it's very good of him," said Miss Penny. "By all means serve
us all at once together, Mrs. Carré. I guess we can stand it if he
can."

"That iss all right then," said Mrs. Carré, and the common evening
meal became an institution--to Graeme's vast enjoyment.


XIII

When the girls went into their room after breakfast to put on their
hats and scrambling shoes, they saw Graeme sitting on the low stone
wall, as usual, smoking his after-breakfast pipe, and they caught a
part of the conversation in progress between him and Johnny Vautrin.

"I see five crows 's mawnin'," they heard in Johnnie's sepulchral
voice.

"Really, now! Catch any?"

"There wuss five crows."

"Ah--five? That's an odd number! And what special ill-luck do you
infer from five crows, Johnnie?"

"Someone's goan to be sick," said Johnnie, with joyous anticipation.

"Dear me! That's what five crows mean, is it?"

"Ouaie!"

"They didn't go into particulars, I suppose,--as to who it is likely
to be, for instance, and the exact nature of the seizure?"

"They flew over to church there and settled in black trees."

"Vicar, maybe, since they went that way."

"Mebbe!"--hopefully.

"Well, well! Perhaps if we gave him a hint he might take some
precautions."

"Couldn' tek nauthen 'd be any use 'gainst crows. Go'zamin, they
knows!"

"You're just a confirmed old croaker, Johnnie."

"A'n't!" said Johnnie.

"Where's our old friend Marielihou?"

"She's a-busy," said Johnnie, wriggling uncomfortably.

"Ah,--killing something, I presume. Is it going to keep fine for the
next three or four weeks?"

"I don' think."

"You don't, you little rascal?"

"You might do your best for us, Johnnie," said Miss Penny, as they
came through the gap in the wall. "And if it keeps fine all the time
I'll give you--let me see, I'll give you a shilling when we go away."

Johnnie's avidious little claw reached out eagerly.

"Godzamin!" said he. "Gimme it now, an' I'll do my best."

"Earn it, my child," said Miss Penny, and they went on up the road,
leaving Johnnie scowling in the hedge.

"Well, where would you like to go to-day?" asked Graeme. "Will you
leave yourselves in my hands again?"

"I'm sure we can't do better," said Miss Penny heartily. "Yesterday
was a day of days. What do you say, Meg?"

"It looks as though we were going to occupy a great deal of Mr.
Graeme's time," said Meg non-committally.

"It could not possibly be better occupied," he said exuberantly.

"And how about your story, Mr. Graeme? Is it at a standstill?" asked
Miss Penny.

"Not at all. It's getting on capitally."

"Why, when do you work at it?"

"Oh,--between times, and when the spirit moves me and I've got
nothing better to do."

"Is that how one writes books?"

"Sometimes. How do you feel about caves?"

"Ripping! If there's one thing we revel in it's caves, principally
because we know nothing about them."

"Then we'll break you in on Grève de la Ville. They're comparatively
easy, and another day we'll do the Boutiques and the Gouliots. Then we
can get a whole day full of caves by going round the island in a
boat--red caves and green caves and black caves and barking-dog
caves--all sorts and conditions of caves--caves studded all round with
anemones, and caves bristling with tiny jewelled sponges. Sark is just
a honeycomb of caves."

"Spiffing!" said Miss Penny. "If Mr. Pixley gets on our track we'll
play hide-and-seek in them with him."

"Then we ought to spend a day on Brecqhou--"

"A day on Brecqhou without a doubt!"

"And if we can get the boat from Guernsey to call for us at the
Eperquerie, and can get a boat there to put us aboard, we might manage
Alderney."

"Sounds a bit if-fy, but tempting thereby. Margaret, my dear, our work
is cut out for us."

"And Mr. Graeme's cut out from him, I'm afraid."

"Oh, not at all, I assure you. It's going ahead like steam," and they
began to descend into Grève de la Ville, the dogs as usual ranging the
cliff-sides after rabbits, disappearing altogether at times and then
flashing suddenly into view half a mile away among the gorse and
bracken.

Sark scrambling requires caution and constant asistance from the
practised to the unpractised hand, and Graeme omitted none of the
necessary precautions. Whereby Margaret's throbbing hand was much in
his,--so, indeed, was Miss Penny's, but that was quite another
matter,--and every convulsive grip of the little hand, though it was
caused by nothing more than the uncertainties of the way, set his
heart dancing and riveted the golden chains still more firmly round
it.

There are difficult bits in those caves in the Grève de la
Ville,--steep ascents, and black drops in sheer faith into unknown
depths, and tight squeezes past sloping shelves which seem on the
point of closing and cracking one like a nut; and when they crawled
out at last into a boulder-strewn plateau, open to the sea on one side
only, they sighed gratefully at the ample height and breadth of
things, and sank down on the shingle to breathe the free air and
sunshine.

He amused them by telling them how, the last time he was there, he
found an elderly gentleman sitting with his head in his hands, on that
exact spot. And how, at sight of the new-comer, he had come running to
him and fallen sobbing on his neck. He had been there for over an
hour seeking the way out, and not being able to find it, had got into
a panic.

"I wonder if you could find the place we came in, now?" said Graeme.
"Scamp, lie down, sir, and don't give me away!"

"Why, certainly, it's just there," said Miss Penny, jumping up
energetically and marching across, while the dogs grinned open-mouthed
at her lack of perception. For it wasn't there at all, and she
searched without avail, and at last sat down again saying, "Well, I
sympathise with your old gentleman, Mr. Graeme. If I was all alone
here, and unable to find that hole, I should go into hysterics, though
it's not a thing I'm given to. I suppose we did get in somehow."

"Obviously! And that's where the advantage of a guide comes in, you
see."

"I, for one, appreciate him highly, I can assure you. Where is that
wretched hole?"

"Here it is, you see. It's a tricky place. I shall never forget the
look of relief on that old fellow's face at sight of me. I believe he
thinks to this day that I saved his life. He stuck to me like a leech
all the way through the further caves and till we got back to the
entrance."

"We're not through them yet then?"

"Through? Bless me no, we're only just starting, but there's no use
hurrying. Tide's right, and we have plenty of time."

"I feel as if I'd been lost and found again," said Miss Penny. "If
Mr. Pixley comes along we'll induce him in here and leave him to find
his way out."

"It would take more than you to get Mr. Pixley in here, Hennie," said
Margaret quietly. "He'd never venture off the roads, even if he risked
his life in reaching Sark. He's much too careful of himself."

"He thinks a good deal more of himself than I do," said Miss Penny.
"With all deference to you, Meg, since he's a relative, I consider him
a jolly old humbug."


XIV

The days were packed with enjoyment for Graeme; not less for Miss
Penny; nor--illuminated and titillated with a conposed expectancy as
to whither all this might be leading her--for Margaret herself.

Graeme took the joyful burden of their proper entertainment entirely
on his own shoulders. He reaped in full now the harvest of his lonely
wanderings, and compared those former gloomy days with these golden
ones with a heart so jubilant that the light of it shone in his eyes
and in his face, and made him fairly radiant.

"That young man grows handsomer every day," was Miss Penny's
appreciative comment, in the privacy of hair-brushing.

Margaret expressed no opinion.

"I thought him uncommonly good-looking as soon as I set eyes on him,
but he's growing upon me. I do hope, for his sake, that I shan't fall
in love with him."

And at that a tiny gleam of a smile hovered for a moment in the curves
of Margaret's lips, behind the silken screen of her hair.

No trouble was too great for him if it added to their pleasure. He
provisioned their expeditions with lavish discrimination. He forgot
nothing,--not even the salt. He carried burdens and kindled fires for
the boiling of kettles, and saw to their comfort and more, in every
possible way. He assisted them up and down steep places, and
Margaret's hand grew accustomed to the steady strength of his. She
came to look for the helping hand whenever the ways grew difficult. At
times she--yes, actually, she caught herself grudging Hennie-Penny
what seemed to her too long an appropriation of it.

Never surely were the beauties of Sark seen under happier auspices, or
through eyes attuned to more lively appreciation. For love-lit eyes
see all things lovely, and no more perfect loveliness of sea and rock
and flower and sky may be found than such as go to the making of this
little isle of Sark.

He guided their more active energies through the anemone-studded and
sponge-fringed caves under the Gouliots; through the long
rough-polished, sea-scoured passages of the Boutiques; down the seamed
cliffs at Les Fontaines and Grande Grève; along the precarious tracks
and iron rings into Derrible; with the assistance of a rope, into Le
Pot. And for rest-times they spent long delightful afternoons sitting
among the blazing gorse cushions of the Eperquerie, and on that great
rock that elbows Tintageu into the waves, and looks down on the one
side on Port du Moulin and the Autelets, and on the other into Pegane
Bay and Port á la Jument.

This high perch had a peculiar fascination for Margaret. She could
have sat there day after day with perfect enjoyment. She never tired
of it all--the crisp green waters below, with their dazzling fringe of
foam round every gray rock and headland; the gold-tipped pinnacles of
the Autelets, with their fluttering halos of gulls and sea-pies and
cormorants, and their ridi-fringe of tawny seaweed and foamy lace; the
rounded slopes of the Eperquerie; the bold cliffs behind, with their
sprawling gray feet in the emerald sea, and their green and gold
shoulders humping up into the blue sky; beyond them the black Gouliot
rocks and foaming Race, and the long soft bulk of Brecqhou with its
seamy sides and black-mouthed caves.

And here one day they had a novel experience, and Margaret learned
something--got fullest proof, at all events, of something her heart
had already told her.

They were sitting in the sea-ward cleft of this great rock behind
Tintageu, one afternoon, and Graeme had just succeeded in getting the
kettle to boil by means of an armful of old gorse bushes, when,
straightening up for a rest, he said suddenly,--"Hello! Look at that
now!" and pointed out towards Guernsey.

And there they saw a low white cloud, lying on the sea as though it
had just dropped solidly out of the sky. Sea and sky were vivid vital
blue, the sun shone brilliantly, Guernsey, Jethou, and Herm gleamed
like jewels, and the white cloud lay between the upper and the nether
blue like the white ghost of a new-born island not yet invested with
the attributes of earth.

And, as they watched, it crept quickly along the blue-enamelled plain.
It swallowed up the southern cliffs of Guernsey. Its creeping nose was
level with the tall Doyle column. It crept on and on, till Castle
Cornet disappeared and Peter Port was lost to sight. On and on--Jethou
was gone, and bit by bit the long green and gold slopes of Herm were
conquered, and its long white spear of sand ran out of the low white
cloud. And still on, till all the outlying rocks and islands vanished,
and where had been the glow and colour of life was nothing now but
that strange pall-like cloud.

The blue of the sea in front had whitened, and suddenly the sentinel
rocks at the tail of Brecqhou disappeared, and the white cloud came
sweeping towards the watchers on the rock by Tintageu.

"We're in for it too," said Graeme, hastily emptying his kettle and
packing up the tea-things. "Seems to me we'd better get ashore."

But the cloud was on them, soft films of gauzy mist with the sun still
bright overhead. Then quickly-rolling folds of dense white cloud
blotted out everything but the path on which they stood. The gorse and
blue-bells and sea-pinks at their feet drooped suddenly wan and
colourless, as though stricken with mortal sickness, and wept sad
tears. They stood bewildered, while the pallid folds grew thicker and
thicker, lit from above with a strange spectral glare, and coiling
about them like the trailing garments of an army of ghosts. From the
unseen abysses all round came the growl and wash of wave on rock and
shingle, from the cliff above Pegane came the frightened bleat of a
lamb, and an invisible gull went squawking over their heads on his way
inland.

With an instinct for safer quarters, Miss Penny had started off
towards the path which led precariously across the narrow neck to the
mainland. The neck itself, with white clouds of mist billowing on
either side, and streaming raggedly across the path, looked fearsome
enough. She gave a startled cry and stood still.

"Stay here!" said Graeme to Margaret. "Don't move an inch!" and he
felt his way, foot by foot, towards the causeway.

And Margaret, who had been regarding it all simply as a curious
experience, felt suddenly very lonely and not very safe.

She heard him speak to Miss Penny, but she could not see two feet in
front of her.

Then, after what seemed a long time, she heard above her--

"Miss Brandt? Margaret? Oh, good God!"--and there was in his voice a
note that was new to her. Sharp and strident with keenest anxiety, it
set a sudden fire in her heart, for it was for her.

"I am here, Mr. Graeme," she cried, and he came plunging down to her
through the dripping gorse and bracken.

"Thank God!" he said fervently. "Why ever did you move?"

"I have not stirred."

"I must have got wrong. It is blinding. It will be safest to wait
here, I think. Will you hold on to my arm?"

And as she slipped her hand through it she felt it trembling--the arm
that had always been so strong and steadfast in her service--and she
knew that this too was for her.

"Where is Hennie?" she asked.

"She's all right. I made her sit down among the bushes and told her
she'd surely get smashed if she moved."

It was a good half-hour before the cloud drew off and they saw
Guernsey, Herm, and Jethou sparkling in the sun once more.

Then they crossed the narrow path over the neck, and Margaret was glad
they had not attempted it in the fog.

They picked up Miss Penny, damp but cheerful, and went home. For
everything was dripping, and the pleasures of camping out were over
for that day, but there were fires about that all the fogs that ever
had been could not begin to extinguish.


XV

As the girls sat basking in the window-seat for a few minutes after
breakfast one morning, they surprised a private conversation between
their cavalier and Master Johnnie Vautrin. Graeme, with his back to
them, sat smoking on the low stone wall. Johnnie was, as usual,
bunched up in the hedge opposite.

"Well, Johnnie?" they heard. "Seen any crows this morning?"

"Ouaie!"

"How many then, you wretched little croaker?"

"J'annéveu deu et j'annéveu troy."

"Ah now, it's not polite--as I've told you before--to talk to an
uneducated foreigner, in a language he does not understand. How many,
in such English as you have attained to, and what did they mean
according to your wizardry?"

"Pergui, you, too, are not polite! Your words are like
this"--measuring off an expanding half yard in the air,--"they are all
wind."

"Smart boy! How many crows did you see this morning?"

"First I saw two and then I saw three."

"Two and three make five. Croaker! Five crows mean someone's going to
be sick. And which way did they go this time?"

"Noh, noh! First it wass two, and when they had gone then it wass
three more."

"I see. And two black crows--what might they mean now?"

"Two crows they mean good luck."

"Clever boy! Continue! Three black crows mean----?"

"Three crows--they mean a marrying,--ouaie, Dame!"

"Ah, a marrying! That's better! That is very much better. It strikes
me, Johnnie, that two lucky crows are worth twopence, and three
marrying crows are worth threepence. And as luck would have it I've
got exactly five pennies in my pocket. Catch, bearer of good tidings!
Here you are--one, two, three, four, five! Well caught! Is it going to
keep fine?" and Marielihou stopped licking herself to look at Graeme,
and then went on again with an air of,--"I could tell you things if I
would, but it's not worth while,"--in her ugly green eyes.

"I don' think," said Johnnie, jumping at the chance of ill news.

"You don't, you little rascal? Here, give me back my hard-earned
pence! You're a little humbug."

"What's Johnnie been up to now?" asked Miss Penny, as she came out
into the open.

"He's giving me lessons in necromancy and the black art of crows. He
declines to pledge his honour on the continued brightness of the day."

"Oh, Johnnie! And we're going to Brecqhou!"

"I cann'd help."

"But you might send us on our way rejoicing."

"Gimme six pennies an' I will say it will be fine."

"I'm beginning to think you're of a grasping disposition, Johnnie. If
you don't take care you'll die rich."

"Go'zamin, I wu'n't mind."

Then Graeme came out again, with the hamper he had had packed in the
kitchen under his own supervision, and their cloaks, which, thanks to
Johnnie, he had picked off the nails in the passage, and they set off
for Havre Gosselin and Brecqhou.


XVI

"You'll not forget to come back for us about eight," Graeme shouted to
the boatmen, as they pushed off from the fretted black rock on which
their passengers had just made precarious landing.

"Nossir!" and they pulled away to their fishing.

"If it should be a fine sunset," he explained to the ladies, "the view
of the Sark cliffs from Belême there, opposite the Gouliots, is one of
the finest sights in the island."

The place they had landed was a rough ledge on the south side just
under the Pente-à-Fouaille, some distance past the Pirates' Cave, and
the ascent, though steep, was not so difficult as it looked. Graeme,
however, in his capacity of chaperon, insisted on convoying them
separately to the top--whereby he got holding Margaret's hand for the
space of sixty pulse-beats--and then went down again for the cloaks
and provisions.

Brecqhou, at the moment, was uninhabited. Its late occupant had thrown
up his post suddenly, and gone to live on Sark with his wife, and a
new caretaker had not yet been appointed. So they went straight to the
house, deposited their belongings in the sitting-room, and then
started out for a long ramble round the island.

First they struck west to Le Nesté, and scrambled among the rough
rocks of the Point, stepping cautiously over the gulls' nests which
lay thick all about, some with eggs and some with young.

The wonders of the sea-gardens in the rock-pools of Moie Batarde, and
the entrancing views of Herm and Jethou and Guernsey, gleaming across
the sapphire sea, with a magnificent range of snowy cloud-mountain
breasting slowly up the deep blue of the sky behind, and looking solid
enough to sit on, as Miss Penny said, absorbed them till midday.

Then they returned to the house, lit a fire of dried gorse, filled
their kettle at the well and set it to boil, and carried out a table
and chairs, for eating indoors was out of the question with such
beneficence of sunshine inviting them to the open.

All the afternoon was occupied with the wonders of the Creux-à-Vaches,
with its bold scarps and rounded slopes draped with ferns and
enamelled with flowers, and the crannies and indentations of the
northern side of the island. They sat for a time on Belême cliff
entranced with the wonderful view of the bold western headlands of
Sark, unrolled before them like a gigantic panorama from Bec-du-Nez to
the Moie de Bretagne,--a sight the like of which one might travel many
thousand miles and still not equal. And they promised themselves a
still finer view when the setting sun washed every cliff and crag and
cranny with living gold.

But as they turned to tramp through the ragwort and bracken towards
the house, intent on cups of tea, the sight of the western sky gave
them sudden start. The solid range of snow-white cloud-mountains had
climbed the heavens half-way to the zenith, and was stretching thin
white streamers still further afield. And its base in the west had
grown dark and threatening, with pallid wisps of cloud scudding up it
like flying scouts bearing ill tidings.

"Wind, I'm afraid," said Graeme, "and maybe thunder--"

And as he spoke a zigzag flash ripped open the dark screen, and a
crackling peal came rattling over the lead-coloured sea and bellowed
past them in long-drawn reverberations.

"Johnnie was right after all, the little monkey."

"I'm sorry now I didn't give him that sixpence," said Miss Penny.

"I don't suppose it would have made much difference--except to
Johnnie. However, I hope it will soon blow over. Good thing we've got
a shelter, and we can enjoy our tea while the elements settle matters
among themselves outside."

The storm broke over them before the kettle boiled. The rain thrashed
the house fiercely under the impulse of a wild south-west wind, which
grew wilder every minute, and the thunder bellowed about them as
though the very heavens were cracking.

"This is a trifle rough on inoffensive pilgrims," said Graeme. "I'm
really sorry to have got you into it."

"You didn't do it on purpose, did you, Mr. Graeme?" asked Miss Penny,
with pointed emphasis.

"I did not. I devoutly wish you were both safe home in the Rue Lucas."

"All in good time. Meanwhile, we might be worse off, and this tea is
going to be excellent. Margaret, my child, do you know that tea under
these conditions is infinitely preferable to tea in Melgrave Square,
under any conditions whatsoever?"

"It is certainly a change," said Margaret.

"And a very decided improvement. It's what some of my young friends
would call 'just awfully jolly decent,'" said Miss Penny.

"We're not out of the wood--that is to say, the island--yet,"
suggested Graeme.

"Or we shouldn't be here enjoying ourselves like this. Brecqhou is
sheer delight."

"On a fine day," said Margaret quietly.

"Or in a thunderstorm," asserted Miss Penny militantly. But Margaret
would not fight lest it should seem like casting reflections on their
present estate.

The thunder rolled over the wide waters with a majesty of utterance
novel to their unaccustomed city ears, the rain drew a storm-gray veil
over everything past the well, the wind waxed into hysterical fury,
tore at the roof and gables, and went shrieking on over Sark. And
above the rush of wind and rain, in the short pauses between the
thunder-peals, the hoarse roar of the waves along the black bastions
of Brecqhou grew louder and louder in their ears.

Graeme's face grew somewhat anxious, as he stood at the window and
peered westward as far as he could see, and found nothing but fury and
blackness there. He had a dim recollection of hearing of outer islands
such as this being cut off from the mainland for days at a time. He
could imagine what the sea must be like among the tumbled rocks below.
And he had seen the Race of the Gouliot in storm time once before, and
doubted much if any boat would face the whirl and rush of its piled-up
waters.

What on earth were they to do if the men could not get across for
them?

Suppose they had to pass the night there?

Good Heavens! Suppose they could not get across for days? What were
they to live on?--to come at once to the lowest but most pressing
necessity of the situation?

They had weather-proof shelter. Firing they could procure from the
interior woodwork of the house and outbuildings. And they had a small
amount of tea and sugar, and half a tin of condensed milk, and rather
more than half of the day's provisions, since they had contemplated
high tea before embarking again. He determined that, if the storm
showed no signs of abating, the high tea must be a low one, since its
constituents might possibly have to serve for to-morrow's breakfast
as well.

Both girls, their own perceptions strung tight by the electric state
of matters outside, noticed the touch of anxiety in his face as he
turned from the window, but both declined to show it.

"How's her head, Captain?" asked Miss Penny jovially.

"Dead on to a lee shore," he answered in her own humour. "But the
anchorage is good and we're not likely to drift."

"Come! That's something to be thankful for, under the circumstances.
Brecqhou banging broadside on to that big black Gouliot rock would be
a most unpleasant experience. How about the sunset cliffs of Sark?"

"They're very much under a cloud. I'm afraid we must pass them for
this time and choose a better. The cliffs indeed are there, but the
sun is much a-wanting."

"Hamlet without the ghost of a father or even a sun."

"Truly!" And looking at Margaret, he said earnestly, "I can't tell you
how sorry I am it has turned out this way."

"But it is no fault of yours, Mr. Graeme. No one could possibly have
foreseen such a breakdown in the weather, with such a glorious morning
as we had."

"After all, I'm not at all sure it isn't all Mr. Graeme's fault," said
Miss Penny musingly.

"As how?" he asked.

"Didn't you stop me giving Johnnie Vautrin six demanded pennies to
keep it fine all day?"

"I discouraged the imposition, certainly. But I don't suppose Johnnie
could have done much--except with your sixpence."

"He's a queer clever boy, is Johnnie. He certainly said it wasn't
going to keep fine."

"Little humbug!"

"Yet you gave him fivepence for seeing--or saying he saw--two crows
and three crows, because two crows mean good luck and three crows
mean----"

"You talk as if you believed his nonsense, Hennie," broke in Margaret.

"Perhaps I do--to some extent. He certainly declined to pledge himself
to a fine day, and it remains to be seen if the rest of his--"

"--Humbug," suggested Graeme.

"We'll say predictions, since we're in a superstitious land,--come
true. I shouldn't be a bit surprised. Thunderstorms are not, as a
rule, deadly, and it is conceivable that they may, at times, even be
means of grace. Would you mind piling some more gorse on that fire,
Mr. Graeme? A counter-illumination is cheerful when the heavens
without are all black and blazing. What a joke it would be if we had
to stop here all night!"--she said it with intention, and Graeme
understood and blessed her.

"We'll hope it won't come to that," he said, as lightly as he could
make it. "But, if it should, we could make ourselves fairly
comfortable. Robinson Crusoes up to date!"

"No--Swiss Family Robinsons!" was Margaret's quota to the lightening
of gloom. "The way everything turned up just when that interesting
family required it struck me as marvellous even when I was a child."

"You always were of an acutely enquiring--not to say
doubting--disposition, my dear, ever since I knew you," said Miss
Penny.

"I always liked to get at the true truth of things, and humbug always
annoyed me."

"No wonder you found Mr. Pixley a trial, dear," said Miss Penny.

"You don't mean to cast stones of doubt at that shining pillar of the
law and society, Miss Penny?" said Graeme, tempted to enlarge on so
congenial a subject.

"Mr. Pixley does not appeal to me--nor I to him. I like him just as
much as he likes me. And that's just that much,"--with a snap of the
fingers.

"I'm afraid you and I are in the same boat," said Graeme enjoyably.

"I shouldn't be a bit surprised,--and for the same reason. We both
like--"

"What shall we do for provisions, Mr. Graeme, if the storm continues?"
asked Margaret, and Miss Penny smiled knowingly.

"I suggest husbanding those we have. It can't surely last long."

"Mrs. Carré was telling us the other night that once no steamer could
get to Sark from Guernsey for three weeks," chirped Miss Penny. "If a
steamer couldn't get to Sark, how should a small boat get to
Brecqhou--Q.E.D.?"

"Gracious!" cried Margaret in dismay.

"Mr. Graeme would have to catch rabbits for us--and fish. And I
believe there are potatoes growing outside there. Our clothing will be
in rags, Meg. Mr. Graeme will be a wild man of the woods, and all our
portraits will appear in the illustrated papers. The Outcasts of
Brecqhou. Marooned on an Uninhabited Island. Three Weeks Alone."

"I'm off for a look round," said Graeme. "If that boat should be
waiting for us, somewhere down below, it would be too stupid for us to
be waiting for it up here," and he turned up his coat collar and
pulled his cap over his brows.

"You'll get soaked," said Margaret. "Please take this, it will help a
little," and she jumped up and thrust her golfing cloak into his
hands. He seemed about to refuse, then thanked her hastily, and threw
it over his shoulders and went out.

The wind caught him and whirled him along towards Belême cliffs. He
tacked to the south and made a slant for the place where they had
landed. As soon as he was out of sight of the house he drew the hood
of the cloak over his head and rejoiced in it.

To be wearing her cloak brought Margaret appreciably nearer. Possibly
that hood had even been over her head, had touched her shining hair,
her fair soft cheek. He pressed it to his face, to his lips, and the
hot blood danced in his veins at his temerity. The gale bellowed
outside and drove him staggering, but inside the hood was the
uplifting warmth and glow of personal contact with the beloved. Her
very mantle was sacred to him. He fancied he could detect in it a
subtle intimation of herself. He hugged it close, and leaned back upon
the gale, and drifted towards the southern cliffs.

One glance at the black rocks below,--now hidden by the rushing fury
of the surges, now outstanding gaunt and grim, with creamy cascades
pouring back into the roaring welter below,--showed him how impossible
it would have been for any boat to approach there.

He plunged on through the masses of dripping ragwort towards the
eastern cliff, and stood absorbed by the grim fury of the Gouliot
Race. The driven waves split on the western point of Brecqhou and came
rocketing along the ragged black rocks on either side in wild bursts
of foam. The Gouliot Passage was roaring with the noise of many
waters, and boiling and seething like a gigantic pot. The sea was
white with beaten spume for half a mile each way, and up through the
tumbling marbled surface great black coils of water came writhing and
bubbling from their tribulation on the hidden rocks below. The black
fangs of the Gouliots were grimmer than ever. The long line of scoured
granite cliffs on either side looked like great bald-headed eagles
peering out hungrily for their prey.

There were no boats at the anchorage in Havre Gosselin. He learned
afterwards that they had all run to the shelter of Creux Harbour on
the other side of the island. He breasted the gale and headed for the
house.

"I'm very much afraid we're stuck for the night," he said, as they
looked up enquiringly on his entrance. "There's not a sign of a boat,
and I'm quite sure no boat could face that sea. Sark looks like an
outcast island--the very end of the world."

"Then we'll make ourselves comfortable here," said Miss Penny. "We
began to fear you'd been blown over the cliffs. Is there plenty of
wood in the house?"

"I'll go and get some more," and he came back with a great armful of
broken driftwood, and went again for as much gorse as he could carry
in a rude wooden fork he found near the stack.

"You must be soaked through and through," said Margaret.

"Bit damp, but your cloak was a great help," and he piled gorse and
chunks of wood on the fire till its roaring almost drowned the noise
of the storm outside.


XVII

"Well, I call this absolutely ripping," said Miss Penny exuberantly,
as they sat by the fire of many-coloured flames, after a slender cup
of tea and as hearty a meal as Graeme would allow them in view of
possible contingencies. "Do please smoke, Mr. Graeme. It just needs a
whiff of tobacco to complete our enjoyment."

"Sark," she added, leaning back with her hands clasped behind her
head, "when no one knows you're there, is just heavenly. No letters,
no telegrams, no intrusion of the commonplace outside world! Those are
distinctly heavenly attributes, you know--"

It was truly extraordinary how, with nothing more than a very general
intention thereto, she played into his hands at times. Here now was a
very simple question he had been wanting to put to Miss Brandt for
days past. For the answer to it might shed light in several
directions. But he had been loth to force matters, and had quietly
waited such opportunity as might arise in a natural way without undue
obtrusion of the doubt that was in his mind.

"'Peace--perfect peace!' as Adam Black used to sigh," he said. "And
by the way"--turning to Margaret--"speaking of letters, I have often
wondered at times if you ever received two that I sent you concerning
Lady Elspeth--just about the time she was called away to Scotland?"

She looked back at him with surprise, and his question was answered
and his doubt solved before ever she opened her lips.

"About Lady Elspeth? No,--I certainly never got them."

"H'm!" he nodded thoughtfully. "The first I feared might have gone
astray through some stupidity of the post-office. But the second I
dropped into your letter-box myself. Moreover--"

"I never got them,"--with a charming touch of colour.

"Moreover----?" said Miss Penny expectantly, with a dancing light in
her eyes.

"Well," he said, after a pause, "to tell you the whole story, Mr.
Pixley assured me that you had had them and had handed them on to
him."

"Mr. Pixley said that?" and Margaret sat up, with very much more than
a touch of colour in her face now. In fact it was militantly red and
vastly indignant.

"Yes. I--well, I called upon him at his office just to find out
if--well, if you were ill or anything like that, you know. And among
other interesting information he told me that, and cut off my head
with his glasses and threw my remains out into the street;" at which
Margaret smiled through her indignation.

"Mr. Pixley," said Miss Penny emphatically, "is a--a Johnnie Vautrin
on a larger scale. Had he any other interesting items of information
for you, Mr. Graeme?"

"Well--yes, he had. But I can estimate them now at their proper value,
and it can rest there."

"It was Mr. Black's enthusiasm for Sark at that Whitefriars' dinner
that put it into my head when--when we were wondering where to go. I
remember now," said Margaret.

"It was Black's enthusiasm for Sark that put it into _my_ head when
_I_ was wondering where to go," said Graeme.

"There you are, you see," said Miss Penny. "I knew you must have had
some common inspiration."

"I am greatly indebted to Black. He's one of the finest fellows I
know. He's done me more than one good turn, but I shall always count
Sark his chiefest achievement," said Graeme heartily.


XVIII

The wind howled round the house, and whuffled in the chimney, and sent
spurts of sweet-scented smoke to mingle with the fuller flavour of
Graeme's tobacco. The walls were bare plaster, discoloured with age
and careless usage. The chairs were common kitchen chairs, and the
table a plain deal one. But the driftwood burned with flames whose
forked tongues sang silently but eloquently of wanderings under many
skies, of rainbow isles in sunny seas, of vivid golden days and the
black wonders of tropic nights, of storms and calms, and all the
untold mysteries of the pitiless sea.

But to two at least of the party--and perhaps even to three--that bare
room was radiant beyond any they had ever known.

Orange and amber lightening into sunshine, purple into heliotrope,
tender greens and lucent blues, burning crimson and fiery red, were
the flames of the driftwood, and in these surely the imagination may
find its happiest auguries. For if the dancing flames, out of their
chastened knowledge, sang only of the past, in the minds of their
watchers they were singing of futures brighter and more glowing than
anything the past had ever known. And so, to two at least of
them,--and perhaps to three,--never surely was there room so radiant
as that bare room in that empty house on Brecqhou.

Miss Penny had the high endowment of a large heart, a wide
imagination, and sentiment sufficient for a high-class girls'
boarding-school.

She found herself for the moment out of place, yet she could not
remove herself without too obvious an intention. She did the next best
thing. She settled herself on her chair in a corner, slipped off her
shoes, sat on her feet, and went to sleep.

Margaret, indeed, glanced at her suspiciously once or twice, without
moving her head by so much as a hair's-breadth. But she seemed really
and truly asleep, and for a moment Margaret was amazed that anyone
could think of sleep in that enchanted room. But then she remembered
that it was different--Hennie was Hennie, and she was she, and it was
for her that the crystal ball of life had opened of a sudden and shown
the radiance within.

How long they sat in silence before the rainbow fire she never knew.

Hennie was snoring gently--purring as one might say--in the most
genuinely ingenuous fashion.

Graeme, in the riot of happy possibilities evoked by the disclosure of
Mr. Pixley's perfidy, would have been content to sit there for ever,
since Margaret was at his side. It was enough to know that she was
there. He did not need to turn his head to enjoy the sight of her with
gross material vision. Every tight-strung fibre of his being told him
of her nearness, in ways compared with which sight and sound and touch
are gross and feeble travesties of communication. Their spirits surely
reached out and touched in that silent communion before the rainbow
fire.

There were many things he wanted to ask her now. But they could wait,
they could wait. The Doubting Castles he had built in his despair had
had no foundations. He was building anew already, and now with rosy
hope and golden faith, and the topstones of his building mingled with
the stars.

He woke of a sudden to a sense of lack of consideration for her in his
own enjoyment. Doubtless she was tired out, and was only kept from
following Miss Penny's example by his crass stupidity in sitting there
in that stolid fashion.

"Pray forgive me!" he said, as he rose quietly. "You must be tired,
too. I will take the other room and you can join Miss Penny."

"I'm not the least tired. I never felt more awake in my life. Surely
the wind has fallen."

He went to the door and opened it and looked out.

"It is only a lull. It will probably blow up again stronger than
ever," and as he turned he found her at his elbow.

"Let us go outside," she said, and he could have taken her into his
arms. Instead, he tiptoed across the room and got her cloak, and
placed it on her shoulders with a new, vast sense of proprietorship.

He knew just how she felt. Even that room of rare delights was not
large enough just then for her and for him. The whole wide world, and
the illimitable heights of the heavens, could scarce contain that
which was in them. Their hearts were full, and that which was in them
was that of which God is the ultimate perfection. And in their ears,
in the gaps of the storm, was the roaring thunder of the great white
waves as they tore along the black sides of Brecqhou.

"Tell me more about those letters," she said briefly. "What did you
write?"

"I wrote, nominally, to inform you of Lady Elspeth's sudden call to
Scotland, but actually to tell you how sorely I regretted the sudden
break in our acquaintance which had become to me so very great a
delight."

"And when you got no answer?"

"I waited and waited, and then I had a sudden fear that you might be
ill. And to satisfy myself I called on Mr. Pixley at his office. He
told me you were quite well, that you had had my letters, and had
handed them to him."

"Anything more?"

"Yes,--he said you were shortly to marry his son."

"That is what he wished,--and that is why I am here."

"Thank God! Then I may tell you, Margaret. I had been building castles
and you were mistress of them all and of my whole heart. When Mr.
Pixley knocked them into dust I came here to fight it out by myself,
and a black time I had. Then God, in His goodness, put it into your
heart to come too. Will you marry me, Margaret?"

"Yes, Jock."

And there, in the lull of the gale, in the lee of the lonely house on
Brecqhou, they plighted their troth with no more need of feeble words,
for their hearts had gone out to one another.

And all along the gaunt black rocks the great waves, which a moment
before had been growling in dull agony, roared a mighty chorus of
delight, and rolled it up the sloping seams of Longue Pointe, and
flashed it on in thunderous bursts of foam from Bec-du-Nez to L'Etac.

And Miss Henrietta Penny, awakening about this time, and finding
herself alone, laughed happily to herself, and sighed just once, and
said from her heart, "God bless them!"--and did not go to sleep again,
though to look at her you would never have known it, save for the fact
that she no longer purred in her sleep,--for the woman has yet to be
born who ever pleaded guilty to actual snoring.


XIX

Graeme slept that night just as much as might have been expected under
the circumstances, and that was not one wink. Nevertheless, when
morning came, he felt as strong and joyous as a young god. New life
had come to him in the night, and he felt equal to the conquering of
worlds. For love is life, and the strength and the joy of it.

He was out with the dawn, to a gray rushing morning full of the sounds
of sea and wind. He drew a canful of water from the well, and had such
a wash as no soap and a handkerchief would permit of. Then he drew
another canful and left it outside the door of the ladies' room, and
strode off to Belême to see if the boats had got back to their
anchorage. But the little bay was a scene of storm and strife, a wild
confusion of raging seas and stubborn rocks, the fruits of the
conflict flying up the cliffs in spongy gouts of spume, and dappling
the waters far and wide with fantasies of troubled marbling,--and
there was not a boat to be seen.

But the sight of the great white seas roaring up the Sark headlands,
as far as he could see on either hand, was one never to be forgotten.
It was worth the price they had paid, even though it spelt a further
term of captivity, and he turned back to his duties with that new glad
glow in his heart which was no longer simply hope but the full and
gracious assurance of loftiest attainment.

He had seen potatoes growing in a plot near the house. So, after
lighting a fire in the kitchen and setting the kettle to boil, he
rooted about till he found the remains of a spade and set himself to
unaccustomed labours.

When Miss Penny came out of her room, freshfaced and comely
coiffured, she found a ring of potatoes roasting in the ashes and the
kettle boiling, and Graeme came in, bright-eyed and wind-whipped,
wiping his hands on a very damp handkerchief.

"I am so glad, Mr. Graeme," she said, with sparkling eyes and face,
and hearty outstretched hand.

"Margaret has told you?"

"Of course Margaret has told me. Am I not her keeper, and haven't I
been hoping for this since ever I saw you?"

"That is very good of you. I thought, perhaps--"

"Thought it might take me by surprise, I suppose--and perhaps that I
might take it badly? Not a bit! It fulfils my very highest hopes. And
I can assure you you have got a prize. There are not many girls like
Margaret Brandt."

"Don't I know it? I have known it from the very first time I met
her--at that blessed Whitefriars' dinner."

"I think you will make her very happy."

"I promise you I will do my very best."

And then Margaret came into the kitchen and knew what was toward.

She looked like a queen and a princess and a goddess all in one, with
a flood of happy colour in her face and a glad glow in her eyes, and
no more hint of maidenly shyness about her than was right and natural.
And Miss Penny's eyes were misty of a sudden, as Graeme went quickly
up to her friend, and feasted his hungry eyes on her face for a
moment, and then bent and gallantly kissed her hand. For in both their
faces was the great glad light that is the very light of life, and
Miss Penny was wondering if, in some distant future time, it might
perchance be vouchsafed to her also to attain thereto.

"I hope you both slept well," he said gaily. "I've done my best in the
provisioning line. I know we've got plenty of salt, for one generally
forgets it and so I always put in two packets."

"You've done splendidly," said Miss Penny, tying up tea in a piece of
muslin and dropping it into the kettle.

"I'd have tried for a rabbit, but I wasn't sure if either of you could
skin it--"

"Ugh! Don't mention it!"

"And I knew I couldn't, so we'll have to put up with roasted potatoes
and imagine the rabbit. I've been told they do that in some parts of
Ireland,--hang up a bit of bacon in a corner and point at it with the
potato and so imagine the flavour."

"Potatoes are excellent faring--when there's nothing better to be
had," said Miss Penny, rooting in the basket. "However, here are three
of yesterday's sandwiches, slightly faded, and some biscuits--in good
condition, thanks to the tin. Come, we shan't absolutely starve!"

And they enjoyed that meal--two of them, at all events, and perhaps
three--as they had never enjoyed a meal before.

"And the weather?" asked Margaret.

"The blessed weather is just as it was; perhaps even a bit more
so,--the most glorious weather that ever was on land or sea!"

"But----" said Margaret, smiling at his effervescence.

"No, I'm afraid it can't last very much longer, and potatoes and salt
I know would begin to pall in time. After breakfast you shall see the
grandest sight of your lives,--and for the rest, we will live in
hope."



XX

And, after all, they saw what they had specially come to see--a sunset
from Belême cliff.

For the day remained gray and boisterous until late in the afternoon.
They had lunched--with less exuberance than they had breakfasted--on
potatoes and salt and a thin medicinal-tasting decoction made from
breakfast's tea-leaves; they were looking forward with no undue
eagerness to potato dinner without even the palliative of medicinal
tea; and even Miss Penny acknowledged that, choice being offered her,
she would give the preference to some other vegetable for a week to
come;--when, of a sudden, the gray veil of the west opened slowly,
like the lifting of an iron curtain, and let the light behind shine
through.

And the light was as they could imagine the light of heaven--a pure
lucent yellow as of the early primrose, but diaphanous and almost
transparent, as though this, which seemed to them light, was itself in
reality but an outer veil hiding the still greater glory behind. The
curtain lifted but a span, and the lower rim of it curved in a gentle
arch from the middle of Guernsey to the filmy line of Alderney. All
below the sharp-cut rim was the sea of heavenly primrose, with here
and there a floating purple island edged with gold. All above was
sombre plum-colour flushed with rose, the edges fraying in the wind,
and floating in thin rosy streamers up the dark sky above.

The sun, larger than they had ever seen him in their lives, dropped
gently like a great brass shield from behind the dark curtain into the
sea of primrose light, and the primrose flushed with crimson over
Guernsey and with tender green and blue over Alderney.

They hastened away to Belême cliff, and then they saw what they had
hoped to see, and more;--the mighty granite frontlets of Sark all
washed with living gold--- shining from their long conflict with the
waves, and gleaming, every one, like a jewel,--from Bec-du-Nez to Moie
de Bretagne. And, out in the dimness, behind which lay Jersey, there
suddenly appeared the perfect circle of a rainbow such as none of them
had ever dreamed of--a perfect orb of the living colours of the
Promise--resting bodily on the dark sea like a gigantic iridescent
soap-bubble, glowing and pulsing and throbbing under the level beams
of the setting sun.

"Wonderful!" murmured Margaret.

"I never saw more than half a bow before," whispered Miss Penny.

"Nor I," said Graeme. "But then, you see, nothing ever was as it is
now. Things happened last night."

At which Miss Penny smiled and murmured, "Of course! That accounts for
everything. The whole world is changed."

And they watched and watched, in breathless admiration, first the
cliffs, and then the bow, and then the sun, and then the cliffs and
bow again, till the last tiny rim of the sun sank behind the dark line
of Herm, and the bow went out with a snap, and the cliffs in front
grew gray and sank back into their sleep, as the shadows crept up out
of the sea.

And, presently, the primrose sea in the clouds lost its transparent
softness and flushed with rose and carmine. The tender greens and
blues in the north deepened, and the sky above glowed crimson right
into the far east. And the sea below was like a ripe plum with a
rippling bloom upon it, and then it answered to the glow "above and
became like burnished copper. And over it, from the south end of Sark,
came a dancing white sail, at sight of which Graeme leaped to his
feet.

"The show is over," he cried, "and here comes your highnesses'
carriage."

"I wouldn't have missed it for anything," said Margaret softly, with a
rapt face still.

"It was worth living on potatoes for a month for," said Miss Penny.
"All the same, I hope Mrs. Carré will have some dinner for us when we
get home."

The boat was heading for the Pente-à-Fouaille where they had landed
the day before, and they hurried to meet it, Graeme full of misgivings
as to the embarkation, for the waves were still roaring up the rocks
in bursts of foam, though the wind had fallen somewhat.

But the boatmen knew their business, and had brought an extra hand for
its safe accomplishment. They dropped the sail and pulled round a
corner of the black rock. Then, while two of them kept the boat from
destruction, the other stood and Graeme dropped the girls one by one
into his arms, and was a very thankful man when he tumbled in himself,
all in a heap, and wiped the big drops of sweat from his brow.

A stroke or two with the oars and they were plunging back through the
hissing white caps, but not, as he had expected, to Havre Gosselin.

"Where to?" he shouted to the blue-guernseyed stalwart nearest him.

"Grande Grève. We couldn' beach in Havre Gosselin, and mebbe the
leddies wouldn' like to climb the ladders," with a grin at the
leddies.

"Not much!" said Miss Penny. "Margaret, my dear, prepare yourself! I'm
going to be sick if this goes on much longer."

But before she had time to be sick they had rounded the shoulder of
Port-és-Saies, and their boat's nose ran up the soft sand of a low
tide in Grande Grève, and the green waves came curling exultantly in
over the stern. The men leaped out and hauled bravely, and in a moment
the girls were ashore.

"Couldn' get back nohow last night, sir. 'Twould a bin as much as our
lives were worth. Hope ye didn' starve," said the spokesman with
another genial grin.

"No, we didn't expect you. We dug potatoes and cooked them. Here you
are, and thanks for coming as soon as you could," and, from their
smiling faces, their reward without doubt covered not only that which
they had actually done but that also which they had unwittingly helped
to do.

The boat shoved off and made for its own anchorage, and Graeme led the
girls up the toilsome path to the Coupée.

It was after nine when they reached the cottage, and the first thing
they saw was Johnnie Vautrin sitting in the hedge opposite, with
Marielihou licking her lips alongside.

"I just seen seven crows," cried Johnnie gleefully.

"Little rascal! You dream crows," said Graeme, whose desires at the
moment ran to something more palatable and satisfying.

"And what do seven crows mean, Johnnie?" asked Margaret.

"Seven crows means everything's oll right!"

"Clever boy! You see just what you want to see," said Graeme, and then
Mrs. Carré appeared at the door of the cottage.

"Ah then, here you are!" she said, with a large welcoming smile. "And
the dinner I haf been keeping for you for an hour an' more."

"You're a good angel, Mrs. Carré," said Graeme gratefully. "We are a
bit late, aren't we? I hope you've put yesterday's dinner and to-day's
together. We've had nothing to eat to speak of for a month. What did
you think when we never turned up last night?"

"Oh, but I knew you would be all right. There iss a house on Brecqhou,
and there iss watter, and you had things to eat, and it was better on
Brecqhou last night than on the watter."

"It was," said Graeme heartily, and sped off up the garden for a
much-needed wash and brush-up.


XXI

"Now what would I like myself if I was in their place?" asked Miss
Penny of herself, while she rectified the omissions of the last two
days in the matter of Nature's cravings for a more varied diet than
Brecqhou afforded.

"Why, to be alone and free from the observation of Miss Hennie Penny,"
she promptly answered herself, and as promptly acted on it.

"Meg, my dear, I am aweary. I am not accustomed to playing Swiss
Family Robinson. By your leave, Monsieur and Mademoiselle, I will wish
you good-night and pleasant dreams," and she went off into the
bedroom.

"May she have as tactful a chaperone when her own time comes," said
Graeme, with a smile. "Do you think you would sleep better if you went
to bed at once or if you had a little walk first?"

"I am not the least bit sleepy," said Margaret.

"Then a stroll will do you good," and they went out into the night.
And Miss Penny, as she heard their feet on the cobbles, smiled to
herself a little wistfully.

Such a night of stars! The gale had swept the heavens and thinned the
upper air till the Milky Way was a wide white track strewn thick with
jewels, and the greater lights shone large and close. As they
sauntered in silence towards La Tour, their faces towards the stars
among which their full hearts were ranging in glorious companionship,
one of the lesser lights silently loosed its hold and dropped slowly
from zenith to horizon, in a fiery groove that momentarily eclipsed
all else.

And while Graeme was still pressing to his heart the soft arm that lay
in his, in silent enjoyment of the sight and at their sharing it,
another star swung loose, and another, and another, till the
glittering vault seemed laced with fiery trails and they stood in rapt
admiration.

"What a sight!" said Margaret softly. "I have never seen anything like
that before."

"Nor I. The very stars rejoice with us.... You have made me the
happiest man in all the world this day, Margaret. I can hardly believe
it is real ..."

"I am real," she said, with a low warm little laugh. "And I am happy.
Kiss me, Jock!" and he kissed her there under the falling stars, and
she him, in a way that left no doubt as to what was in them, and the
evening incense of the honeysuckle and hawthorn wafted fragrance all
about them.

There was still a tender touch of colour in the sky over the western
sea as they came out on the Eperquerie.

"When are you free, Margaret?" he asked,--the first word since they
kissed in the lane.

"I am twenty-one on New Year's Day."

"Six whole months! How can we possibly wait all that time?"

"Why should we?" she asked delightfully.

"Undoubtedly--why should we?" he said, on fire with her charming
readiness. "You are probably by this time ringed with legal pains and
penalties, but they are all less than nothing."

"What could they do?"

"I believe they clap the male malefactor into prison----"

"I will go with you."

"I'm not sure if there are any married cells."

"And how long would they keep us there?"

"Till, in their opinion, I had purged my contempt, I believe."

"And how long would that be?"

"I've no idea. It probably depends on circumstances. Do you know that,
until Lady Elspeth told me, I had rib idea that you had any money. It
was rather a blow to me."

"I don't see why."

"But I told our old friend that if--well, if, you understand--I should
insist on everything you had being settled on yourself."

"You and Lady Elspeth seem to have discussed matters pretty freely,"
she said, with a laugh.

"She's the dearest old lady in the world, and delights in mothering
me. She got me in a corner that afternoon, and taxed me with coming to
her house for reasons other than simply to see herself----"

"And you----?"

"I had to own up, of course, and then she crushed me by telling me
that you were an heiress, and that Mr. Pixley probably had views of
his own concerning you."

"Which he had, but they happened not to coincide with mine, and so I
came to Sark."

"Happy day! I see you yet, standing in the hedge by the Red House, and
I believing you a vision."

"I could hardly believe my eyes either. You seemed to come jumping
right out of the sky."

"I jumped right into heaven--the highest jump that ever was made."

"I was a bit put out at first, you know----"

"I know you were."

"I thought you had learned we were coming, and had followed us here."

"Whereas----" he laughed.

"Exactly!"



PART THE FIFTH


I

"But yes, I can marry you in the church," said the Vicar, blowing out
smoke, and laughing enjoyably across at Graeme, who sat in another
garden chair under the big trees in front of the Vicarage.

"In spite of the fact that we are aliens?"

"Oh, it is not so bad as that. We ab-sorbed you by conquest and so you
are really a part of us. We are all one family now."

"And such a marriage would be perfectly legal and unassailable?"

"I shall marry you more firmly than if you were married in
Cant-er-bury Cath-edral," laughed the Vicar.

"That should suffice. But why more firmly? How improve on perfection?"

"I will tell you," said the Vicar, with increased enjoyment, as he
leaned forward and tapped Graeme's knee. "It is this way.--If you are
married in Cant-er-bury Cath-edral you can be divorced,--n'est-ce pas?
Oui! Eh bien!--If you are married in my church of Sark you can never
be divorced. C'est ça! It is the old Norman law."

"We will be married in your church of Sark," said Graeme, with
conviction.

"That is right. I shall marry you so that you shall never be able to
get away from one another."

"Please God, we'll never want to!"

"Ah yes! Of course. C'est ça!"


II

"We have never had a case of the kind, as far as I know. Certainly not
in my time," said the Seigneur, smiling quizzically across the
tea-table at Graeme. "But you gentlemen of the pen are allowed a
certain amount of license in such matters, are you not?"

"We sometimes take it, anyhow. But one likes to stick as close to fact
as possible."

They were sitting in the shady corner in front of the Seigneurie, with
four dogs basking in the sun beyond, and beyond them the shaven lawns
and motionless trees, the leafy green tunnel that led to the lane, and
a lovely glimpse into the enclosed gardens through the ancient gateway
whose stones had known the saints of old.

Graeme had put a certain proposition to the Lord of the Island,
nominally in connection with the story he was busy upon, but in
reality of vital concern to the larger story in which Margaret and he
were writing the history of their lives.

"Sark, you know, is a portion of the British Empire, or perhaps I
should say the British Empire belongs to Sark, but we are not under
British law. We are a law unto ourselves here," said the Seigneur.

"And the authority of a British Court would carry no weight with you?
In the case I have put to you, if the Court of Chancery ordered you to
surrender the young lady, you would refuse to do so?"

"I could refuse to do so. What I actually would do might depend on
circumstances."

"I see," said Graeme musingly, and decided that the Seigneur's
goodwill was worthy of every possible cultivation both by himself and
Margaret. For he did not look like one who would help a friend into
trouble.


III

"I've been thinking a good deal about it, and I really don't see any
reason why we should wait,"--said Graeme, looking at Margaret.

And Miss Penny said "Hear! Hear!" so energetically that Margaret
laughed merrily.

"We are both of one mind in the matter, an life is all too short at
its longest, and most especially when it offers you all its very best
with both hands--"

"Hear! _Hear_!" said Miss Penny.

"And time is fleeting," concluded the orator.

"And that kettle is boiling over again," and Miss Penny jumped up and
ran to the rescue.

They were spending a long day in Grande Grève--the spot that had
special claims upon their liking since their landing there after that
memorable trip to Brecqhou. They had brought a full day's rations,
prepared with solicitous discrimination by Graeme himself, and a
kettle, and a great round tin can of fresh water from the well at
Dixcart, and a smaller one of milk.

So high were their spirits that they had even scoffed at Johnnie
Vautrin's intimation that he had seen a magpie that morning, and it
had flown over their house. But magpie or no magpie they were bent on
enjoyment, and they left Johnnie and Marielihou muttering black spells
into the hawthorn hedge, and went off with the dogs down the scented
lanes, through the valley where the blue-bells draped the hillsides in
such masses that they walked as it were between a blue heaven and a
blue earth, and so by the meadow-paths to the Coupée.

Their descent of the rough path down the side of the Coupée with all
this impedimenta had not been without incident, but eventually every
thing and person had been got to the bottom in safety.

Then, while the dogs raced in the lip of the tide and Scamp filled the
bay with his barkings, the girls had disappeared among the tumbled
rocks under the cliff, and Graeme had sought seclusion at the other
end of the bay. And presently they had met again on the gleaming
stretch of sand; he in orthodox tight-fitting dark-blue elastic web
which set off his long limbs and broad shoulders to great advantage;
Hennie Penny in pale blue, her somewhat plump figure redeemed by the
merry face which recognised all its owner's deficiencies and more than
made up for them all; Margaret, tall, slim, shapely, revealing fresh
graces with every movement,--a sea-goddess in pale pink--a sight to
set the heart of a marble statue plunging with delight.

Hennie Penny persisted in wearing an unbecoming cap like a sponge-bag,
which subjected her to comment.

Margaret's crowning glory was coiled in thick plaits on top of her
head, and if it got wet it got wet and she heeded it not.

Both girls had draped themselves in long towels for the walk down to
the water, and Graeme's heart sang with joy at the surpassing beauty
of this radiant girl who had given her heart and herself and her life
into his keeping.

Dainty clothing counts for much in a girl's appearance. Not every
girl shows to advantage in bathing costume. But when she does, she
knows it, and the hearts of men are her stepping-stones.

Hennie Penny was a cautious swimmer. She preferred depths soundable at
any moment by the dropping of a foot, and if the foot did not
instantly touch bottom she fell into a panic and screamed, which added
not a little to the hilarity of their bathes.

Margaret and Graeme, however, were both at home in the water. They
delighted to set their faces to the open and breast steadily out to
sea, rejoicing in the conquest of the waves. But he always watched
over her with solicitous care, for there are currents, and
cross-currents, and treacherous undertows round those coasts, and the
wary swimmer is the wiser man.

And the dogs always swam with them, Punch lunging boldly ahead with
the ease and grace of a seal, looking round now and again to see if
they were coming, and turning the moment they turned. While Scamp,
away in the rear, thrashed along spasmodically, with a yelp for every
stroke, but would not be left out of it. The sight of his anxious
little face and twisting nose more than once set Margaret laughing, so
that she had to turn on her back and float till she got over it,
greatly to the small dog's satisfaction.

Full of life and the mighty joy of it, they found the going unusually
easy that day. The water was like the kiss of new life, crisp, tonic,
vitalising. There was no more than a breath of wind, no more than a
ruffle on the backs of the long blue rollers that came sweeping slowly
in out of the West.

Graeme, as he glanced round in his long side-strokes at the lovely
eager face gemmed with sparkling water-jewels, took full deep breaths
of delight and gratitude to the All-Goodness that had vouchsafed him
such a prize.

The kiss of the life-giving water had induced a tender flush of colour
in the soft white neck, as though the pink of her bathing-suit had
spread upwards. He could see the pulsing blue veins in neck and temple
as she rose to her stroke. A tiny tendril of water-darkened hair
lifted and fell on her neck like a filament of seaweed on a polished
rock. Her eyes were very bright, and seemed larger than usual with the
strenuous joy of it all. The wonder of her beauty absorbed him. He
could hardly turn his face from it. He would have been content to go
on swimming so for ever.

But, glancing past the sweet face one time, he saw that they had gone
farther than he knew, and Scamp had turned long since and was yelping
towards the shore.

"Better turn now," he said quietly, and she floated for a moment's
rest, then turned and they headed for the shore, and Punch passed them
noiselessly.

They ploughed along in good cheer for a time, and then, of a sudden,
it seemed to him that they were making but poor progress.

He fixed his eyes on a rock on the shore and swam steadily on.

They had been opposite it. Twenty strokes, and the rock, instead of
facing them, had swung slowly to the north. They were making less than
no progress. They were drifting. They were in the grip of a current
that was carrying them towards the black fangs of Pointe la Joue.

A cold sweat broke out among the sea-drops on his brow. Pointe la Joue
is an ill place to land, even if they could make it, and the chances
were that the current would carry them past.

How to tell her without undue upsetting? A panic might bring disaster.

He looked round at her. The bright face was high and resolute. She was
not aware of the danger, but from that look on her face he did not
think she would go to pieces when he told her.

The rock he had been watching stood now at an angle to their course.

"Are you tired, Meg?" he asked.

"I'm all right."

"Turn on your back and float for a minute or two," and he set the
example, and Punch saw and came slipping back to them.

"We're in a cross current," he said quietly. "And we're making no
way--"

"I know. I was watching a rock on the shore. What's the best thing to
do?"

"We'll rest for a few minutes and then go with the tide round Pointe
la Joue. We can land in Vermandés. You're not cold, are you?"

"Not a bit."

When he lifted his head the Coupée was shortened to a span, and the
southern headland folded over it as he looked. They were drifting as
fast as a man could walk at his fastest. They were abreast the black
rocks of La Joue.

"Now, dearest, a little spurt and we shall be in the slack. If you get
tired, tell me," and they struck out vigorously on a shoreward slant
in the direction they were going.

There should have been a backwater round the corner of Vermandés. He
had counted on it. And there was one, but so swift was the rush of the
tide round the out-jutting rocks of La Joue, that for some minutes, as
they battled with the rough edge of it, it was touch and go with them.

At a word from her his arm would be at her service. But she fought
bravely on, and could admire Punch's graceful action even then. The
waves smacked her rudely in the face. Great writhing coils came
belching up from below and burst under her chin and almost swamped
her. One, as strong as a snake, rose suddenly under her, flung her off
her stroke, rolled her over, made her for a moment feel utterly
helpless.

"Jock!"

He had been watching her closely. His arm flashed out in front of her.

"Grip!" and she hung on to it and it felt like a bar of steel.

"Now!"--when she had recovered herself somewhat. "Grip the top of my
suit."--She hooked her fingers into it and he struck out through the
turmoil.

It was a tough little fight. She struck out vigorously behind to help
him. And, though the losing of the fight might mean tragedy and two
white bodies ragging forlornly along the black teeth of Little Sark,
she still had time to notice the mighty play of muscles in his back
and arms, and the swelling veins in his sunburnt neck, and the crisp
rippled hair above, and she rejoiced mightily in him. And--while
possible deaths lurked all about them--her soul grew large within her
at thought of the brave heart in front, and the strenuous will, and
the shapely body, and the powerful muscles--all battling for her--all
hers--and she theirs. What matter if they were beaten, if they but
went out together! What matter Death so long as he did not divide
them! So uplifted was she with the joy of him.

And then, with a final wrestle, they were in slack water, and she
loosed her hold and struck out alongside him.

And presently he was helping her carefully up a seamed black rock,
and the hand she gripped was shaking now, and she knew it was not for
himself.

"Thank God!" said Graeme fervently, as he sank down heavily beside
her, and panted while the water ran out of them, and Punch scrambled
up and lay quietly alongside. "Meg,--we were in peril."

"Jock," she said jerkily, for her heart was going now quicker than
usual, "I do not believe I would have minded--if we'd gone together."

"Ay--together, but, God be thanked, it did not come to that!"

They sat in silence for a time, finding themselves, while the green
seas swelled up to their feet, and sank out of sight below, and their
rock was laced with cascades of creamy foam.

"How shall we get back?" asked Margaret at last. "Hennie will be in
desperation. She will think we are drowned."

"We can climb the head and round into Grande Grève, but it would be
pretty rough on the feet. Or we can wait till the tide turns and swim
in again--"

"When will it turn?"

"It's full at noon," he said, studying the waters in front. "But how
that affects matters here none but a Sarkman could say. Tides here are
a law unto themselves, like the people."

"How would that do?" asked Margaret, as a black boat came slowly
round the rocks from Les Fontaines, sculled by an elderly fisherman.

"It is old Billy Mollet after his lobster-pots," and he stood up and
coo-eed to the new-comer, and waved his arms till Billy saw them and
stared hard and then turned leisurely their way.

"Guyablle!" said the old man, as he drew in. "What you doin' there
now?"

"Got carried out of Grande Grève by a current, Mr. Mollet. Will you
take us back in your boat?"

"Ay, ay!" and he brought the boat as near to the rock as he dared, and
his weather-stained old eyes settled hypnotically on the fairest
burden his old tub had ever carried, as Graeme handed her carefully
down and helped her to spring into the dancing craft, and then sprang
in himself with bleeding feet and shins, while Punch leaped lightly
after him and crawled under a thwart.

"Ye must ha' been well out for tide to catch ye," said Billy, with no
eyes for anything but the vision in clinging pink.

"Yes, we were too far out and couldn't get back."

"Tide runs round them rocks."

He dropped his oar into the rowlock and Graeme took the other, and in
five minutes they were speeding across the sands of Grande
Grève--Margaret to cover, Graeme to his pocket for Billy's reward.

Miss Penny had a driftwood fire roaring among the rocks, and the
kettle was boiling.

"Where on earth have you two been?" she cried, at sight of Margaret
skipping over the stones to her dressing-room, and got only the wave
of a white arm in reply.

And presently Graeme came along in easy piratical costume of shirt and
trousers and red sash, and sat down and lit a pipe.

"We went a bit farther than we intended," he explained, but did not
tell her how nearly they had gone out of bounds altogether.

"You'll enjoy a cup of tea. You look as if you'd been working hard."

"There is a bit of a current round that point."

"Ah, you should follow a good example and keep within touch of the
bottom. Here you are, Meg--fresh made for every customer. Help
yourself, Mr. Graeme. I've had mine, I couldn't wait. Tea never tastes
so good as when you're half full of salt-water, and I got right out of
my depth once and swallowed tons. I screamed to you two to come and
save me, but you never paid the slightest attention, and for all you
cared I might have been drowned five times over."

"One would have been quite once too many," said Graeme, holding out
his cup. "For then you couldn't have lighted that fire and made this
tea. And I'm half inclined to think we wouldn't be enjoying it a
quarter so much if a little blue corpse lay out there on the shining
sand, and we'd had to turn to and make it ourselves."

"Horrible!" said Miss Penny, with a little shiver. "With your little
blue corpses! It's all very well to joke about it, but I assure you,
for a minute or so, I thought I was done for. The bottom seemed to
have sunk, and I was just going after it when my foot came on a rock
and that helped me to kick ashore."

"A narrow escape," said Graeme, with a sympathetic wag of the head.
"You've no right to risk your life that way. We still need you. What
do you say to being bridesmaid at a Sark wedding?"

"It is the hope of my life," said Miss Penny, sparkling like Mars in a
clear evening sky.

"I really don't see any reason why we should wait"--said Graeme,
looking very earnestly at Margaret, and behind the look was the
thought, born of what they had just come through together, that life
spills many a full cup before the thirsty lips have tasted it. "What
do you say, Margaret?"

And she, knowing well what was in him, and being of the same mind,
said, "I am ready, Jock. When you will."

"I'll call on the Vicar to-morrow," he said joyfully. "It would be
such a pity to disappoint the hope of Miss Penny's life,"--as that
young person came back with the merry kettle.

"I am indebted to you," said Hennie Penny. "What about dresses, Meg?"


IV

It was that same night, as they were sauntering home from a starlight
ramble, that they came on Johnnie Vautrin crouched in the hedge with
Marielihou, and Marielihou had her hind leg bound up in a piece of
white rag.

"Hello, Johnnie! What's the matter with Marielihou?" asked Graeme. And
Marielihou turned her malevolent yellow-green eyes on him and looked
curses.

"Goderabetin! She've got hurt."

"Oh! How was that?"

"I d'n know. Wisht I knowed who done it;" and just then, as luck would
have it, old Tom Hamon came sauntering along in the gloaming, smoking
a contemplative pipe with long slow puffs.

And at sight of him Marielihou ruffled and swelled to twice her size,
and raked up most horrible and blood-curdling oaths from away down in
her inside into her black throat, and spat them out at him, as he came
up, in a fusillade that sounded like ripraps, and her eyes flamed
baleful fires.

"Cuss away, y'ould witch!" said old Tom, with a grin through his
pipe-stem. "How's the leg?" and Marielihou with a final volley
disappeared among the bushes, and Johnnie crawled after her.

"What on earth does he mean?" whispered Meg.

"Mr. Hamon has an idea that Marielihou and old Mme. Vautrin have
something in common. In fact I believe he goes so far as to say that
they are one and the same. Black magic, you know,--witchcraft, and all
that kind of thing."

"How horrid!"

"B'en!" chuckled old Tom again. "You find out how 'tis with th' old
witch. We know how 'tis with Marrlyou. 'Twere the silver bullet did
it. If sh' 'adn't jumped 'twould ha' gone through 'er 'ead," and he
went off chuckling through his pipe-stem.

And the next evening, as they were sauntering slowly through the
darkening lanes to the windmill, to see the life-lights flash out all
round the horizon, it happened that they met the doctor just turning
out of his gate.

"Hello, doctor! How's old Mme. Vautrin to-day?" asked Graeme.

"She's going on all right," said the doctor, with a touch of surprise.
"There seems a quite unusual amount of interest in that old lady all
of a sudden. How is it?"

"What is it's wrong with her?"

And the doctor eyed him curiously for a moment, and then said, "Well,
she says she hurt her leg ormering, slipped on a rock and got the hook
in it. But--Well, it's a bad leg anyway, and she won't go ormering or
anything else for a good long time to come."

Which matter, in the light of old Tom Hamon's silver bullets and
evident knowledge of Marielihou's injury, left them all very much
puzzled, though, as Graeme acknowledged, there might be nothing in it
after all.


V

It was just after the second lesson, the following Sunday, that the
Vicar stood up, tall and stately, his youthful face below the gray
hair all alight with the enjoyment of this unusual break in the even
tenour of his way, and soared into unaccustomed and very carefully
enunciated English.

"I pub-lish thee Banns of Marrr-i-ache between John Cor-rie Graeme of
Lonn-donn and Mar-garet Brandt of Lonn-donn. If any of you know cause,
or just im-ped-i-ment, why these two pair-sons should not be joined
to-gether in holy matri-mony, ye are to de-clare it. This is thee
first time of as-king."

Margaret and Miss Penny and Graeme heard it from their back seat
among the school-children, and found it good.

There were not very many visitors there. Such as there were felt a
momentary surprise at two English people choosing to get married in
Sark, though, if it had been put to them, they must have confessed
that there was no lovelier place in the world to be married in. They
also wondered what kind of people they were.

Some few of the habitants knew them and turned and grinned
encouragingly, though even they were not quite certain in their own
minds as to which of the two ladies was the one who was to be married.
The children all smiled as a matter of course and of nature.

And Margaret felt no shadow of regret at thought of the gauds and
fripperies of a fashionable wedding which would not be hers. In John
Graeme's true love she had the kernel. The rest was of small account
to her.

And that little church of Sark, plain walled and bare of ornament,
always exerted upon her a most profoundly deepening and uplifting
influence. It epitomised the life of the remote little island. Here
its people were baptized, confirmed, married, buried.

And here and there, on the otherwise naked walls, was a white marble
tablet to the memory of some who had gone down to the sea and never
returned. And these she had studied and mused upon with emotion the
first time she went there, for surely none could read them without
being deeply touched.

    "A la memoire de John William Falle, âgé de 37 ans, et de son
    fils William Slowley Falle, âgé de 17 ans, Fils et petit fils de
    William Falle, Ecr. de Beau Regard, Sercq. Qui furent noyés
    20'eme jour d'Avril 1903, durant la traversée de Guernsey a
    Sercq. 'Ta voie a été par la mer et tes sentiers dans les
    grosses eaux.'"

    "A la memoire de Pierre Le Pelley, Ecuyer, Seigneur de Serk,
    noyé près la Pointe du Nez, dans une Tempête, le 13 Mars, 1839,
    âgé de 40 ans. Son corps n'a pas été retrouvé; mais la mer
    rendra ses morts."

    "In memory of Eugène Grut Victor Cachemaille, second son of the
    Revd. J.L.V. Cachemaille, Vicar of Sark. Born Jan. 14, 1840, and
    lost at sea in command of the _Ariel_, which left London for
    Sydney, Feby. 1872, and was heard of no more. 'He was not, for
    God took him.'"

Yes, she would sooner be married in that solemn little church than in
Westminster Abbey, for there there would be mighty distractions, while
here there would be nought to come between her and God and the true
man to whom she was giving herself with a full heart.


VI

"This is the second time of asking."

"This is the third time of asking."

And so far none had discovered any just cause or impediment why John
Corrie Graeme and Margaret Brandt should not in due course be joined
together in holy matrimony.

On the occasion of the third asking, however, one in the congregation,
a casual visitor and in no way personally concerned in the matter,
found it of sufficient interest to make mention of it in a letter
home, and so unwittingly played his little part in the story.

Meanwhile, the glorious summer days between the askings were golden
days of ever-increasing delight to Graeme and Margaret, and of rich
enjoyment to Miss Penny.

Never was there more complaisant chaperone than Hennie Penny. For, you
see, she took no little credit to herself for having helped to bring
about their happiness, and the very least she could do was to further
it in every way in her power.

In her own quaint way she enjoyed their "lovering," as she called it,
almost as much as they did themselves. And that being so, they would
have felt it selfish on their part to deprive her of any portion of
her rightful share in it.

And that was how Miss Hennie Penny became so very knowing in such
matters, and also why she lived in a state of perpetual amazement at
the change that had come over her friend.

For Margaret, affianced to the man who had her whole heart, was a very
different being from Margaret harassed and worried by Mr. Pixley and
his schemes for her possession and possessions.

Charming and beautiful as she had always been, this new Margaret was
to the old as a radiant butterfly to its chrysalis,--as the glory of
the opening flower to the promise of the bud. And Hennie Penny's
quickened intelligence, projecting itself into the future, could
fathom heights and depths and greater glories still to come.

But even now, when they went along the lanes festooned as for a
wedding with honeysuckle and wild roses, the faces of those they met
lighted up at sight of them, and few but turned to look after them
when they had passed, and Miss Penny's truthful soul took none of the
silent homage to herself.

Margaret was supremely happy. She could not have hidden it if she had
tried. She made no attempt to do so. She gave herself up to the
rapturous enjoyment of their "lovering" with all the naïve abandon of
a delighted child. The little ties and tapes and conventions, which
trammel more or less all but the very simplest lives, fell from her,
snapped by the expansion of her love-exalted soul. She was back to the
simple elementals. She loved Jock, Jock loved her. They were happy as
the day was long. Why on earth should they not show it? If she had had
her way she would have had every soul in all the world as happy as
they two were.

"I feel like an elderly nurse with two very young children," said Miss
Penny to the pair of exuberants.

"O Wise Nurse! We shall never be so young again," laughed Graeme.

"But we are never going to grow any older inside," laughed Margaret.

"Never!" said Graeme, with the conviction of absolute knowledge, and
carolled softly--

    "O it's good to be young in the days of one's youth!
    Yes, in truth and in truth,
    It's the very best thing in the world to be young,
    To be young, to be young in one's youth."

"Very apropos!" said Miss Penny. "Did you make it on the spot?"

"In anticipation," he laughed. "It's the opening song in a very
charming comic opera I once committed. But it was too good for the
present frivolous age, and so I have to perform it myself."

"I would like to give all the children on the island--" began
Margaret.

"All the other children--" corrected Graeme.

"All the children--including Hennie and you and me--the jolliest feast
they've ever had in their lives, the day we are married."

"Of course we will, and the doctor shall get in an extra supply of
palliatives. They shall look back in after years and say--'Do you
remember that feast we had when the loveliest of all the angels came
down from heaven and was married to that delightful
Englishman?'--Briton, I ought to say! I do wish our dear old Lady
Elspeth could be here. How she would enjoy it!--'That feast,' they
will say, 'when we were all ill for a month after and the doctor died
of overwork.' They will date back to it as ancient peoples did to the
Flood. It will be a Great White Stone Day to generations to come. Let
us hope there will be no new white stones over yonder"--nodding in the
direction of the churchyard--"in commemoration of that great day."

"We will draw the line short of that," said Margaret seriously.

"We'll give them all the gâche they can eat--home-made, and such as
their constitutions are accustomed to,--and fruit and frivolities from
Guernsey. I'll go across the Saturday before--"

"_We_ will go across," said Margaret.

"Of course we will. We older children will go, and we'll take Nurse
with us,"--with a bow towards Hennie Penny,--"and we'll make a day of
it, and have ices again at that place in the Arcade, and then we'll go
round the shops and clear them out for the benefit of Sark."

"Ripping!" said Miss Penny.


VII

They had already made one trip to Guernsey, crossing by the early
Saturday boat and returning the same evening.

But that was a strictly business affair.

"We're feeling frightfully fossilised at having bought nothing, except
what we absolutely needed, for nearly a month," said Miss Penny. "From
that point of view I should imagine the Garden of Eden may have been
just a trifle slow--"

"Ah, you see, Mother Eve hadn't had the advantages of a superior
education," said Graeme.

"And there are some fripperies we simply _must_ have," said Miss
Penny, "even for a runaway wedding like this. You see, when we decided
to come here we had no idea how much farther we were going, and so we
couldn't possibly provide. Of course if we had known you were here--"

At which Margaret laughed.

"You would have provided accordingly," said Graeme. "Well, you must
put all the blame on to Mr. Pixley. I wonder what he would say if he
knew all about it."

"He would use language unadapted to prayer-meetings and public
platforms," said Miss Penny. "He can, you know, when he tries hard."

"I imagined so. It will be rather amusing to see what he'll do when he
finds out."

"He'll do the very nastiest thing that is open to him, whatever that
is, and poor Mrs. Pixley will have an exceedingly bad time. And he'll
probably have a fit on his own account."

"Oh, we can hardly expect him to be so kind as all that--"

"The only one I'm sorry for is Charles Svendt. He's really not half a
bad sort, in his way, you know," said Miss Penny.

"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid, under the circumstances, I can't squeeze
out any sympathy even for Charles Svendt."

Arrived at St. Peter Port, the ladies permitted him to attend them to
the door of the largest drapery establishment they could find, and
then told him he was at liberty to go and enjoy himself for a couple
of hours.

"Two hours? Good Heavens! What can you want in there for two hours?"

"Usual thing!" sparkled Miss Penny. "Tablecloths!"--with which cryptic
utterance he had to be satisfied.

"And where do we meet again--if ever?"

"Hauteville House--Victor Hugo's. It's part of your honeymoon--a bit
on account."

"And whereabouts is it?"

"No idea. If we can find it, you can. Au revoir!"

He went first to get his hair cut, since the practice of the tonsorial
art in Sark is still in the bowl-and-scissors stage.

Then he sought out a lawyer of repute, whose name he had got from the
Vicar, and gave him instructions for the drawing of a brief but
comprehensive deed of settlement of all Margaret's portion on herself
absolutely and entirely. While this important document was being
engrossed, he sought out the Rector of St. Peter Port, in George
Place, and in a short but pleasant interview was accepted as tenant of
the whole of the Red House in Sark for the month of July, with the
option of a longer stay if he chose.

Then back to the lawyer's, where he signed his deed, paid the fees,
and took it away with him.

After that, to fill in the time occupied elsewhere by the purchase of
mythical tablecloths, he rambled up and down the quaint
foreign-flavoured streets till he found a jeweller's shop of size, in
the Arcade, and decided, after careful inspection from the outside,
that it would answer all requirements.

For he had a ring and half a ring to buy for Margaret, and he thought
he would buy one also for Hennie Penny, as a pleasant reminder of
their good days in Sark.

So utterly unconventional had their proceedings been, so thoroughly
had the spirit of the remote little island possessed them, and so
all-sufficient had they been to one another, that the thought of an
engagement ring had troubled his mind as little as the lack of it had
troubled Margaret's. But the absolute necessity of a wedding ring had
reminded him of his lapse, and now he would repair it on a scale
remotely commensurate with his feelings. Remotely, because, if his
pocket had borne any relation to his feelings, he would have bought up
the whole shop and lavished its contents upon her, though he knew that
the simple golden circlet would far outweigh all else in her mind.

He was waiting placidly for them in the shade of the dark trees of
Hauteville, when they came panting up the steep way, flushed with
victory and the joys of purchase after long abstinence.

"Well, has the proprietor of that big shop retired with a competence?"
he asked, as he threw away the end of his cigar.

"Can you lend us our boat-fares home?" gasped Miss Penny.

"So bad as all that? I can't say yet. I've not begun my own purchases.
We'll see when I'm through. If I'm cleaned out too we'll offer to work
our passages."

"You can pawn your watch. Meg and I haven't got one between us. We
left them at home on purpose."

"Thoughtful of you. Now let us into the treasure-house."

They enjoyed the wonders of Hauteville immensely,--objectively, the
wonderful carved work and the tapestries, the china and the
furniture,--the odd little bedroom with the bed on the floor, so that
the Master could roll out to his work at any moment of inspiration,
and the huge balconies, and the glass eyrie on the roof whence he
surveyed his wide horizons, and where, above the world, he
worked;--and subjectively, the whole quaint flavour and austere
literary atmosphere of the place.

"No wonder he produced masterpieces," said Graeme, delighting in it
all. "The view alone is an inspiration."

Then he took them up to Old Government House for lunch and a rest in
the garden, and then away to the Arcade to the jeweller's shop, which
proved adequate to all his demands;--for Margaret, a half-hoop of
diamonds which the jeweller, with an air of sincerity, assured them
were as fine stones as he had ever seen in the course of a long and
prosperous career. Which ring Margaret would thenceforth value before
all her others, though in the simple matter of intrinsic worth her
jewel-case could beat it hollow.--And a plain gold circlet which, when
she got it, would be more precious to her than all the rest put
together.--And for Miss Penny, in spite of her protestations, a
handsome signet ring which, when cornered, she chose in preference to
a more feminine jewel, and which was left to be engraved with her
family crest and motto.

"I have never adopted the habit of rings," she said, as they drifted
towards the ice-shop. "Chiefly, perhaps, because I never had any worth
wearing. But I've always thought I would like to wear a crest signet.
I shall prize this, Mr. Graeme, as the very greatest treasure I
have--"

"Until someone gives you a plain gold one, Hennie, and that will put
all the rest into the shade," said Margaret.

"Ah!" said Miss Penny.


VIII

Their journey home--that is, to Sark--that day was not entirely
without incident. For when they got down to the quay, Sark had
disappeared completely, and Herm and Jethou were no more than wan
ghosts of their natural selves, in a dense white mist.

"Ah-ha! Here is our old friend of Tintageu," said Graeme jovially.
"Well, I must confess to bearing him no ill-feeling--if he doesn't
land us on a rock this time. Going, captain?"

"Oh yess, we go. I think it will lift," said Captain Bichard.

"Don't run us on a rock anyway."

"I won'd run you on no rock. I coult smell my way across;" and they
started, feeling their way cautiously past Castle Cornet, into the
open, where black jaws lined with white teeth lie in wait for the
unwary.

And just as they got to the south of Jethou they saw a sight the like
of which none of them had ever seen before, nor, from the exclamations
about them, had any of the rest.

The mist in front was like a soft white curtain, and upon it, straight
ahead of their bows, appeared suddenly a mighty silver bow, not a
rainbow, because there was no rain and so there were no colours. But,
like the bow they had seen from Belême Cliff, this also was a perfect
circle, all but a tiny segment where it appeared to rest upon the sea,
and its only colour was a dazzling silvery sheen which waxed as they
watched it in breathless silence. Then it waned, bit by bit, till at
last it was gone, and only the white mist curtain remained.

"How very lovely!" murmured Margaret.

"A good omen for certain," said Miss Penny. "Even Johnnie Vautrin
couldn't make any ill news out of that. It was your wedding arch,
Meg."

"Well, that's the first time I ever saw a white rainbow," said Graeme
to the captain.

"First time I ever saw one myself, sir."

"Not very common then."

"Never heard of one before."

"We're evidently in luck."

"Mebbe, but we won't crow till we've made the Creux. Kip your eyes
skinned, lads!"

"Ay, ay, zur!" and the crew lined the bulwarks on their knees, with
their chins on the rail, their eyes peering into the puzzling veil in
front, and their ears alert for the wash of wave on rock.

They were going slow, hardly moving in fact at times, waiting to pick
up their course as any possible mark should come into view, with
muttered comments from the puzzled lookouts, and an occasional growl
of dissent from views propounded by the younger members, while the
passengers all stood in silent discomfort as though ready for
contingencies.

For the tides and currents in those seas are strange and gruesome.
Even as they lay, apparently motionless, with the sea as smooth as oil
all round them, there came a sudden turmoil, and they were in a wild
race of waters, with bubbling coils and swirls and frothing gouts of
foam from rocks that lay fathoms deep below.

"La Grune," growled one of the keen-eyed watchers, and was discounted
at once by doubtful growls from the rest.

Then a black ledge loomed through the mist and faded again before they
had more than a glimpse of it.

"Les Dents," ventured one.

"Hautes Boues,"--so divergent were their views.

A sound of waters and another dark loom of rock.

"Sercul," said one.

"L'Etac," said another.

Then the engine bell tanged sharply, and they went ahead. The captain
had seen more than the rest and knew where he was, and they all
breathed more freely. And presently, with a wide berth to the dangers
of the south-east coast, they nosed slowly in again, picked up La
Conchée without dissentients, and so into Creux Harbour in a way that
seemed to Graeme little short of marvellous.

"Fogs at sea are beastly--there is no other word for it--but all the
same I'm glad we saw the Wedding-Bow," said Miss Penny.


IX

They had fixed on the Wednesday following the last time of asking, for
their wedding-day. But when they came to discuss the matter with Mrs.
Carré, it was found that an alteration would be necessary.

"Ah, but that will not do," said their landlady, who was in high
feather at so unique an event taking place in her cottage, so to
speak, though, as a matter of fact, the festivities were to be carried
out within the ampler precincts of the Red House. "You see, old Mr.
Hamon he iss died very sudden--"

"Not old Tom surely?" asked Graeme.

"He iss old Tom's father, and they will bury him on Wednesday, and you
would not like to be married the sem day--"

"No, indeed," said Margaret. "We will wait."

"And, you see, all them that would be coming to the wedding would be
at the funeral, for efferybody belongs to efferybody else here."

"Must be a bit awkward at times," suggested Graeme.

"Oh noh!" with a touch of airy aloofness. "I haf been at a wedding and
a funeral and a baptism all in one week all among the sem people. And
I was at one young man's wedding one day last year and at his funeral
the same day the next week after."

"That was dreadful," said Margaret. "Do you think it would be safe to
fix it for the following Wednesday, Mrs. Carré?"

"Oh yes, I think! There iss no one very sick. Mr. Hamon he wass a very
old man and he died very sudden. He wass just knocking a nail in the
pigsty and he drop down and died."

"Poor old man!"

"He wass very old and he wass a good man. No one ever said any harm of
old Mr. Hamon."

"Then if no one else dies we'll say the following Wednesday," said
Graeme. "And if--well, if anything happens to prevent it, then we must
go across to Guernsey and get Mr. Lee to marry us."

"Oh, but that woult not do. We will keep them all alive till you are
married. It woult neffer do to disappoint them all when we are all
looking forward to it here."

"Very well then, see you all keep alive."

"And you will come to old Mr. Hamon's funeral?"

"H'm! I don't know. We'll see, Mrs. Carré. We'd sooner be at our own
wedding, you know, than at anybody else's funeral."

"They woult like it iff you woult. And he was a goot old man. They
tell me to ask if you woult be pleased to come."

"If they would like us to come we will come, Mrs. Carré," said
Margaret.

And so it came about that instead of kneeling before the altar that
Wednesday they stood by the graveside.


X

The Red House and the cottage were centres--nay, whirlpools--of mighty
activities for days beforehand.

Mrs. Carré insisted on cleaning down the Red House from top to bottom
for the home-coming of the bride, though, to Graeme's masculine
perceptions, its panelling of polished pitch pine from floor to
ceiling, in which you could see yourself as in a mirror, had always
appeared the very acme of cleanliness and comfort, with the additional
merit of a tendency towards churchwardly thoughts.

But when he ventured on a mild remonstrance anent the necessity for
so gigantic an upsetting, Mrs. Carré laughingly said, "Ach, you are
only a man. You woult neffer see"--and whirled her broom to the
endangerment of his head.

For Margaret's honeymoon--that, is, such of it as she had not enjoyed
before her marriage--was to consist of a change of residence from the
cottage, and a walk up the garden and through the hedge of gracious
Memories, to the wider--ah, how much wider!--as much wider and larger
and more beautiful as wifehood at its best is wider and larger and
more beautiful than maidenhood at its best--to the wider accommodation
of the Red House. And Mrs. Carré was determined that it should be
speckless and sweet, and fit in every way for the coming of so
beautiful a bride.

She had found them a young girl, Betsy Lefevre, a niece of her own, to
serve as handmaid during their occupancy of the house, but insisted
herself on acting as cook and general housekeeper. Miss Penny was to
reside at the cottage for a week after the wedding, but was to go up
the garden to her meals, and at the end of that time she was to join
them at the Red House as an honoured guest.

And the kitchen at the cottage, and the kitchen at the House, and
several other kitchens in the neighbourhood, were baking gâche enough
apparently to feed a regiment, and as the day approached, roasts of
beef and mutton, and hams and other substantial fare, were much in
evidence. And the kitchens were thronged with ladies in sun-bonnets,
which had originally been black but were now somewhat off-colour with
age and weather, and all the ladies' faces were as full of importance
as if they had been Cabinet ministers in the throes of a crisis.

Among these concentric energies, Margaret and Miss Penny completed
their own simple preparations, and Graeme busied himself with the
details of the children's feast which was to take place in an adjacent
field.

He went down to the harbour to meet the Tuesday morning's boat which
was to bring over the fruit and frivolities ordered from
Guernsey--strawberries enough to start a jam factory, grapes enough to
stock a greengrocer's shop, chocolates, sweets, Christmas crackers and
fancy biscuits, in what he hoped would prove sufficiency, but had his
doubts at times when he saw the eager expectancy with which he was
regarded by every youngster he met.

He was just starting out when Johnnie Vautrin hailed him from his lair
in the hedge.

"Heh, Mist' Graeme! I seen--"

"Better not, Johnnie!" he said, with a warning finger. "If it's
anything uncomfortable I'll come right over and jump on you and
Marrlyou."

"Goderabetin, you dassen't!"

"Oh, dassen't I? If you don't see everything good for this week, and
fine weather too, you little imp, I'll--"

"Qué-hou-hou!" croaked Johnnie, and Marielihou yawned and made a
futile attempt to wash behind her ears but found it discomforting to a
sore hind-leg, so gave it up and spat at him instead.

"And, moreover, I won't have you at my party."

"Hou-hou! I'm coming. Ma'm'zelle she ask me."

"I'll tell her to send you back-word."

"She wun't, she wun't. Where you goin'?"

"To the harbour, to see if all the good things have come for the other
little boys and girls."

"Oh la-la! Good things and bad things come by the boat. Sometime it'll
sink and drown 'em all."

"Little rascal!" and he waved his hand and went on.

"Late, isn't she, Carré?" he asked, as he leaned over the sea-wall
with the rest.

"She's late, sir."

"I hope nothing's happened to her. I'll never forgive her if she's
made an end of my sweet things for the kiddies."

"She'll come."

And she came. With a shrill peal she came round the Burons and made
for the harbour.

And Graeme, wedged into the corner of the iron railing where it looks
out to sea, to make sure at the earliest possible moment that that
which he had come to meet was there, met of a sudden more than he had
looked for.

"Well ... I'll be hanged!" he jerked to himself, and then began to
laugh internally.

For, standing on the upper deck of the small steamer, and looking,
somehow, very much out of place there, was a tall but portly young
gentleman, in a bowler hat and travelling coat and a monocle, whose
face showed none of the usual symptoms of the Sark lover. To judge
from his expression, the little island impressed him anything but
favourably. It offered him none of the relaxations and amusements to
which he was accustomed. It looked, on the face of it, an uncivilised
kind of a place, out of which a man might be ejected without ceremony
if he chose to make himself objectionable.

Graeme kept out of sight among the other crowders of the quay till the
bowler hat came bobbing up the gangway. Then he smote its owner so
jovially on the shoulder that his monocle shot the full length of its
cord and the hat came within an ace of tumbling overboard.

"Hello, Pixley! This _is_ good of you. You're just in time to give us
your blessing."

"Aw! Hello!" said Charles Svendt, agape at the too friendly greeting.
"That you, Graeme?"

"The worst half of me, my boy. Margaret's up at the house. You'll be
quite a surprise to her."

"Aw!" said Charles Svendt thoughtfully, as he readjusted his eyeglass.
"Demned queer place, this!" and he gazed round lugubriously.

"It is that, my boy. Queerer than you think, and queerer people."

"Aw! Is there any--aw--place to stop at?"

"Thinking of stopping over night? Oh yes, several very decent hotels."

"Aw! Which are you at yourself now?"

"I? Oh, I'm a resident. I've got a house here."

"Dooce you have! Well, now, where would you stop if you were me?"

"Well, if I were you I should stop at the Old Government House--"

"Right! Whereabouts is it?"

"It's over in Guernsey. Boat returns at five sharp."

"Aw! Quite so! Very good! But I've got--er--business here, don't you
know."

"Oh? Thinking of opening a branch here? Well, there's Stock's--but I
doubt if you'd fit in there--"

"Fit? Why not fit? Stocks are my line."

"I think I'd try the Bel-Air if I were you--"

"Which is nearest?" asked Charles Svendt, looking round
depreciatively.

"Bel-Air. Just along the tunnel there--"

"Good Lord! Along the tunnel--"

"Excuse me for a moment. I've got some things coming by this boat. I
must see to them," and Graeme sped away to attend to his frivolities.


XI

"And what special business brings you to Sark, Pixley?" asked Graeme,
as they passed through the tunnel of rock and climbed the steep way of
the Creux--its high banks masses of ferns, its hedges ablaze with
honeysuckle and roses, its trees interwoven into a thick canopy
overhead,--a living green tunnel shot with quivering sunbeams. All of
which was lost on Charles Svendt, whose chest was going like a
steam-pump and whose legs were quivering with the unusual strain.
Graeme regretted that he had not been landed on the ladders at Havre
Gosselin, where he himself came ashore. He would dearly have liked to
follow the portly one up those ladders and heard his comments.

In reply to Graeme's question he shook his head mutely and staggered
on--past the upper reaches, where the corded roots of the overhanging
trees came thrusting through the banks like twisting serpents; past
the wells of sweet water that lay dark and still below, and ran over
into the road, and trickled away down the sides in little streams; out
into the sunshine and the quickening of the breeze;--till he dropped
exhausted into a chair outside the door of the Bel-Air.

He sat there panting for close on five minutes, with unaccustomed
perspiration streaming down his red face, and then he said "Demn!"
and proceeded to mop himself up with his handkerchief.

Then he held up a finger to a distant waiter in the dining-room, and
when he came, murmured, "Whisky--soda--two," and fanned himself
vigorously till they came.

"Better?" asked Graeme, as they nodded and drank.

"Heap better! What a demnable place to get into!"

"There are one or two other entrances--"

"Better?"

"No, worse."

"Demn!"

"Now," he said presently, when his heart had got back to normal and he
had lit a cigarette. "Let's talk business. Am I in time?"

"For the wedding? Just in time. It's tomorrow."

"Aw--er--you know what I've come for, I suppose?"

"I can imagine, but you may as well save yourself useless trouble. You
can't do anything."

"Think not?"

"Sure. English--I should say, British--law doesn't run here, and
you've no _locus standi_ if it did."

"She's under age and her guardian objects. I represent him."

"He can object all he wants to, and you can represent him all you
want to. It won't make the slightest difference."

"I can appear at the ceremony and show cause why it should not
proceed."

"What cause?"

"Her guardian objects. The parson would hardly proceed in face of my
objection."

"I think you'll find he would. However, we'll go and ask him
presently. We'll pay a visit to the Seigneur also."

"Who's the Seigneur?"

"Lord Paramount of the island. His word goes. If he chooses, as he
probably will, to tell you to go also, you'll have to go."

"Demn'd if I will!"

"He'll see to that. He'll put the Sénéchal and the Greffier and the
Prévôt and the two constables and the Vingténier on to you, and bundle
you out like a sack of potatoes."

"Oh, come, Graeme! This is the twentieth century!"

"That's another of your little mistakes, my friend. I can't tell you
just exactly what year it is here, but it's somewhere between 1066
and, say, 1200 A.D."

"Afraid I don't quite catch on."

"Exactly! That's why you'll be off in this scene. We're under feudal
law here, with a mixture of Home Rule. We don't care twopence for your
English courts, and as for English lawyers, they're not much liked
here, I believe."

"Rum hole!" mused Charles Svendt.

"Rum hole to make yourself a nuisance in. Jolly place to be happy in."

"H'm!" And presently he asked, "Where are you stopping?"

"I'll go along and tell the girls you're here--"

"Girls?"

"Miss Penny came with Margaret--"

"Aw--Miss Penny!"

"You'd better have your lunch here. They'll give you lobsters fresh
from the kettle, and I'll stroll round later on and we'll get this
matter settled up. So long!" and he went away up the Avenue and across
the fields home.

And he went thoughtfully. It was annoying this man cropping up like
this at the eleventh hour. Nothing, he felt sure, would come of his
interference, but it might disturb Margaret and the general harmony of
to-morrow's proceedings.

Her wedding-day is a somewhat nervous time for a girl, under the best
of circumstances, he supposed. And though Margaret was as little given
to nerves as anyone he had ever met, the possibility of a public
attempt to stop her wedding might be fairly calculated to upset her.

Feudal as were the laws of the island, he could hardly knock Pixley on
the head, as would have happened in less anachronistic times. And so
he went thoughtfully.


XII

Margaret and Miss Penny were lying in long chairs on the verandah when
he came over the green wall into the Red House garden, by the same gap
as he had used that first morning when he came upon Margaret standing
in the hedge.

They were resting from labours, joyful, but none the less tiring.

"Jock, we were just wanting you!" said Margaret, sitting up. "Have all
the things come all right?"

"All come all right," and he wondered how she would take his next
announcement. "In fact more came than we expected."

"I guess we can use it all," said Miss Penny. "You've no idea of the
capacity of children. I know something about it, and these children
are more expansible even than school-girls."

"I was surprised to meet a gentleman down there who says he has come
across on purpose for the wedding."

"A gentleman--come for the wedding?" and both girls eyed him as
pictured terriers greet the word "Rats!"

"I'll give you three guesses."

"Mr. Pixley," said Miss Penny.

"Bull's-eye first shot! Clever girl!"

"Not really, Jock!" said Margaret, with a suspicion of dismay in her
voice.

"Well, Charles Svendt anyway--as representing the old man, he says."

"But what has he come for, and how did he get to know?"

"I didn't ask him. It was quite enough to see him there. He says he's
going to stop it,"--and Margaret's cheeks flamed,--"but I've assured
him that he can't, and I'll take jolly good care that he doesn't, if I
have to knock him on the head and drop him off the Coupée."

"It would be shameful of him if he tried," cried Miss Penny. "Just let
me have a talk with him, Mr. Graeme, and I'll make him wish he'd never
been born. He's really not such a bad sort, you know. Where is he?"

"I left him at the Bel-Air about to tackle lobsters. My idea is to
take him to the Vicar, then to the Seigneur. They both understand the
whole matter. I explained it fully when I told them we intended
getting married here. When they understand that this is the gentleman
who would like to occupy my place, and that he has no legal grounds
for interfering, I think they will open his eyes--"

"I do hope he won't make any trouble in the church," said Margaret,
with a little flutter.

"I'll promise you he won't."

"I'm sure he won't, if you can make it quite clear that it could not
possibly accomplish what, I suppose, his father sent him to try to
do," said Miss Penny. "Charles Pixley is no fool, though he has his
little peculiarities."

"It would be a wonder if he hadn't some, after his daddie," said
Graeme lightly. "I'm sorry he's come, Meg, but I'm certain you don't
need to worry about him. If I could have knocked him on the head and
dropped him in the sea and said nothing to nobody--"

"Don't be absurd, Jock," said Margaret, and her voice showed that the
matter was troubling her in spite of his assurances.

"After lunch I shall call for him and take him for a little walk. If
you'd seen him when he got to the Bel-Air after toiling up the Creux
Road! He was nearly in pieces. I'll trot him round to the Vicarage,
and then to the Seigneurie, and then I'll bring him here and turn him
over to you and Hennie Penny. He'll be as limp as a rag by that time,
and as wax in your hands."

Nevertheless, Margaret could not quite get rid of the feeling of
discomfort which the news of Charles Pixley's arrival had cast over
her, and Graeme anathematised that young man most fervently each time
he glanced at her face.


XIII

After lunch Graeme went back to the hotel, and found Pixley lolling on
the seat outside, in a much more contented frame of mind than on his
first arrival.

"You were right as to their lobsters, anyhow, Graeme," he said.
"They're almost worth coming all the way for."

"All right. Now if you're rested we'll go for a stroll, and I'll set
your mind at rest as to to-morrow. Then you'll be able to enjoy your
dinner in a proper frame of mind."

"How far is it?"

"Just up there and round the corner. We'll see the Vicar first and you
can try your hand on him."

The Vicar received them with jovial bonhomie.

"Ah-ha! The bridegroom cometh out of his chamber! And your friend? He
is the best man--no?"

"He's not quite made up his mind yet, Vicar. Perhaps you can persuade
him to it."

"But it is an honour--n'est-ce pas? To attend so beautiful a bride to
the altar--"

"Well, you see, the fact is--Mr. Pixley would have preferred reversing
the positions. He would like to have been bridegroom and me to be best
man."

"Ah--so! Well, it is not surprising--"

"Moreover, he would like to stop the wedding now if he could--"

"Ach, non! That is not possible," said the Vicar wrathfully, the
southern blood blazing in his face. "What would you do, my good sir,
and why?"

"Miss Brandt is my father's ward," said Pixley sturdily. "My father
objects to this marriage. He has sent me over to stop it."

"I understand," said the Vicar. "He wished his ward to marry you, but
Miss Brandt made her own choice, which she had a perfect right to do,
and, ma foi--" leaning back in his chair and regarding the two faces
in front of him, he did not finish his sentence in words, but
contented himself with cryptic nods whose meaning, we may hope, was
lost upon Charles Svendt's _amour propre_.

"And what would you do?" asked the Vicar presently.

"Well, if necessary, I can get up in the church and state that there
is just cause for stopping the marriage--"

"What just cause, I should ask you?"

"I have told you. My father--"

"I would not listen. I would order them to put you out--to carry you
out, if necessary, for making dis-turb-ance in my church. I would tell
them to sit on you in the churchyard till the wedding was over. What
good would you do? Ach, non! Be advised, my good sir, and re-linquish
any such in-tention. It will ac-complish nothing and only lead to your
own con-fusion."

"My father is applying to have Miss Brandt made a ward in Chancery--"

"By that time she will be Mrs. Graeme, and I am sure very happy,"
shrugged the Vicar. "Non--you can do nothing, and, if you will be
guided, you will not try."

And Charles Svendt lapsed into thoughtfulness.


XIV

"This is the Seigneurie," said Graeme, as they turned off the road,
through the latched gate, into the deep-shaded avenue.

The Seigneur came to them in the Long Drawing-Room, where once upon a
time the peacocks danced on the Queen's luncheon.

"Your time is getting short, Mr. Graeme," he said, with a quiet smile.
"I hear of great doings in preparation at St. Magloire"--which was the
official title of the Red House. "Have you given the doctor fair
warning?"

"Oh, we'll try to keep them within bounds, Seigneur. My friend, Mr.
Pixley here,"--the Seigneur made Mr. Pixley a seigneurial bow,--"has
it in his mind to stop the proceedings if he can--"

"Oh?" said the Seigneur, with a glower of surprise. "And why?"

"Well, you see," said Pixley, "Miss Brandt is under age. She is my
father's ward and he has other views for her--"

"Which obviously do not agree with Miss Brandt's."

"That is as it may be. But she is acting absolutely in opposition to
his expressed wishes in this matter, and until she is of age she is
under his authority."

"Just as far as he is in position to exert it, I presume."

"He is now applying to have her made a ward in Chancery, when, of
course, she will be under the jurisdiction of the court."

"If you come to me, Mr. Pixley, when Miss Brandt is a ward of court, I
will tell you now what my answer would be. I should tell you that your
English court has no jurisdiction here. Miss Brandt is out of bounds
and is quite free to do as she pleases. I have had the pleasure of
making her acquaintance and Mr. Graeme's, and I should be sorry--for
you--if you did anything to annoy them. In fact--" and he looked so
fixedly at Charles Svendt, while evidently revolving some extreme idea
in his mind, that that young gentleman's assurance fell several
degrees, and he found himself thinking of dungeons and deportation.

It was to Graeme, however, that the Seigneur turned.

"If you have any reason to fear annoyance in this matter, Mr. Graeme,
perhaps you will let me know as early as possible, and I will take
measures--"

"Thousand thanks, Seigneur! Mr. Pixley will, I hope, think better of
it. If not--well, I will send you word."


XV

Pixley was very silent as they walked back along the road to the Red
House.

The ladies had tea ready on the verandah.

"Well, Charles," said Margaret, as he bowed before them, and Graeme
nodded and smiled reassuringly at her over his back, "I won't pretend
that I'm glad to see you. Why did you undertake so foolish an errand?"

"Perhaps Mr. Pixley could hardly help himself," said Miss Penny,
sympathising somewhat with the awkwardness of his position.

"That is so," he said, with a grateful glance at her. "You see, the
governor is crazy wild over this matter. It was only Sunday night he
heard of it. A friend of young Greatorex wrote him that he'd heard
your banns put up, and Greatorex congratulated the governor after
church, and the governor nearly had a fit. He came over to my place
like a whirlwind and practically ordered me to come across instanter
and stop it. I may say," he said, looking at Margaret, "I tried to
reason with him. I told him he must know that if you'd gone that
length I was out of it, and nothing he could do would alter matters.
But he would not hear a word. He simply raved until I promised to come
over by first boat and see what could be done."

"You've only done your duty, Mr. Pixley," said Miss Penny. "But you
simply can't stop it, so is it any good making any trouble? Put it on
the highest grounds. You have had warmer feelings for Meg than she
could reciprocate. You can possibly make some disturbance at her
wedding, which would be painful to her and utterly useless to
yourself. Is it worth while?"

"No, I'm dem--er--hanged if it is! I see I can do no good, and I'll be
hammered if I'll play dog in the manger, even to oblige the governor.
It's a disappointment to me, you know,"--he was looking at Miss
Penny's bright face, surcharged with deepest sympathy.

"Of course it is," she said gently. "But a strong man bears his
disappointments without wincing. I think you're acting nobly."

"Say, Graeme, will you have me as best man?"

"Delighted, my dear fellow. Miss Penny has been breaking her heart at
thought of having no partner at the ceremony."

"Right! Then we'll say no more about it. How did you all come to meet
here? Put-up job?"

"Not a bit of it," said Graeme. "Pure coincidence--or Providence,
we'll say. You remember that Whitefriars' dinner, when Adam Black sat
opposite to us? He was just back from Sark, and he said, 'If ever you
want relief from your fellows--try Sark.' Well, later on, I had no
reason to believe there was anything between you and Margaret, and I
called on your father at his office. He sliced me into scraps with his
eye-glass and flung the bits out into Lincoln's Inn,"--at which
Charles Svendt grinned amusedly, as though he were familiar with the
process.--"I wanted to get away somewhere to piece up again. Sark came
into my head, and I came. A month later my landlady told me she had
let my rooms to two ladies, as she had understood I was only stopping
for a month, and I had to turn out and come up here. And, to my vast
amazement, the two ladies proved to be Margaret and Miss Penny. How is
that for coincidence?"

"I was standing in the hedge there," said Margaret, "early in the
morning of the day after we got here, and Jock came leaping over the
dyke there with a great brown dog, and stopped as if he'd been shot--"

"I thought you were a ghost, you see."

"And I couldn't believe my eyes. Then I asked him what he meant by
following us here, and it turned out that it was we who had followed
him, and turned him out of his cottage moreover."

"Deuced odd!" said Charles Svendt, screwing in his eye-glass and
regarding them comprehensively. "Almost makes one believe in--er--"

"Telepathy and that kind of thing," said Miss Penny.

"Er--exactly--just so, don't you know!" and his glance rested on her
with appreciation as upon a kindred soul.


XVI

Charles Svendt dined with them that evening, and in the process
developed heights and depths of genial common-sense which quite
surprised some among them.

They took him for a stroll up to the Eperquerie in the cool of the
gloaming, and showed him more shooting stars than ever he had seen in
his life, and a silver sickle of a moon, and a western sky still
smouldering with the afterglow of a crimson and amber sunset, and he
acknowledged that, from some points of view, Sark had advantages over
Throgmorton Street.

In the natural course of things, Margaret and Graeme walked together,
and since they could not go four abreast among the gorse cushions,
Charles Svendt and Miss Penny had to put up with one another, and
seemed to get on remarkably well. More than once Graeme squeezed
Margaret's arm within his own and chuckled, as he heard the animated
talk and laughter from the pair behind.

"I'm very glad he's taken a sensible view of the matter," said
Margaret.

"Oh, Charles Svendt is no fool, and he certainly would have been if
he'd done anything but what he has done. He saw that he could do no
good and might get into trouble. The Seigneur scowled dungeons and
gibbets at him, and he looked decidedly uncomfortable."

"I will tender the Seigneur my very best thanks the first time I see
him."

When the men had seen the ladies home, they strolled up the garden to
the Red House for a final smoke.

"Say, Graeme, I've been wondering what you'd have done if I'd played
mule and persisted in kicking up my heels in church. I asked Miss
Penny--and, by Jove, I tell you, that's about as sensible a girl as
I've met for a long time--"

"Miss Penny is an extremely clever girl and an exceptionally fine
character. Good family too. Her father was the Brigadier-General Penny
who was killed in Afghanistan."

"So?"

"She's an M.A., and she's worked like a slave to educate her brothers
and sisters, and they're all turning out well. I don't know any girl,
except Meg, of whom I think so highly as Hennie Penny."

"Henrietta?"

Graeme nodded.

"Well now," said Pixley presently. "As a matter of information, what
was in your mind to do if I'd gone on?"

"You'd never have got as far as the church, my boy."

"No? Why?"

"If the Seigneur hadn't stopped you, I would. But I'm inclined to
think he'd have seen to you all right."

"By Jove, he looked it! What would he have done?"

"Confined you as a harmless lunatic till the ceremony was over, I
should say, and then sent you home with the proverbial insect in your
ear."

"And if he hadn't?"

"Then I should have taken matters into my own hands and bottled you up
till you couldn't do any mischief. You could have hauled me before the
court here, and I'd probably have been fined one and eightpence. It
would have been worth the money, and cheap at the price, simply to see
the proceedings."

"It's an extraordinary place this."

"It's without exception the most delightful little place in the
world."

"Jolly nice house you've got here too. Think of stopping long?"

"Some months probably. The curious thing about Sark is that the longer
you stop the longer you want to stop. It grows on you. First week I
was here it seemed to me very small--felt afraid of walking fast lest
I should step over the edge, and all that kind of thing. Now that I've
been here a couple of months it is growing bigger every day. I'm not
sure that one could know Sark under a lifetime. We'll take you round
in a boat and show it you from the outside."

"I'll have to get back, I'm sorry to say. You see, I started at a
moment's notice. Things are duller than a ditch in the City, but I'd
no chance to make any arrangements for a stay. But I'll tell you what.
If you're stopping on here and like to send me an invitation for a
week or two, I'd come like a shot. I'll take a carriage up that road
from the harbour, though, next time. Jove! I felt like a convict on
the treadmill."

"You have the invitation now, my boy, and we'll be delighted to see
you whenever it suits you to come."

"That's very good of you. Miss Penny be stopping on with you?"

"As long as she will. She'd got a bit run down and it's done her a
heap of good."

"Well, if you'll show me how to go, I'll toddle off home now. I
haven't the remotest idea where my digs are."

And Graeme led him through the back fields among the tethered cows,
who stopped their slow chewing as they passed, and lay gazing after
them in blank astonishment, into the Avenue and so to the Bel-Air.

"I'll come round then a bit before eleven and we'll all go along
together," was Charles Svendt's parting word.

"Right! Au revoir!" and Graeme went home across the fields smiling
happily to himself.


XVII

When Graeme came swinging over the green dyke in the early morning,
with his towel round his neck and his two dogs racing in front, he
found the Seigneur sitting in a long chair in the verandah, with four
aristocratic dogs wandering about, who proceeded to intimate to Punch
and Scamp that they were rather low fisher-dogs and not of seigneurial
rank.

"Well, what about your would-be breaker of the peace?" asked the
Seigneur, with a smile.

"He's come to his senses. I was going to bring you word as soon as I
thought you'd be up. He's promised to be best man, and I'm hoping to
get him to play heavy father also and give the bride away."

"Capital!"

"He was very anxious last night to know what would have happened if,
as he put it, he'd persisted in playing mule and kicking up his heels
in church."

"We'd have tied his heels so that he couldn't kick much," said the
Seigneur, with his deep quizzical smile.

"That's what I told him. He seemed to think Sark a decidedly odd kind
of place. But he's getting to like it, and I've invited him to come
and visit us later on."

"That's all right as long as he behaves himself."

"Oh, he's a very decent chap. The only thing I had against him was
that he wanted to marry my wife."

"Then all the ways are smooth now?"

"All smooth now, thanks to your assistance!"

"Well, all happiness to you both!" said the Seigneur as he rose. "My
wife sends all good wishes"--for the Lady of the Manor lay sick in the
great house among the trees and he would not leave her.


XVIII

As Graeme proposed, they talk still of that wedding in Sark.

Everything went smoothly. The Vicar had coached himself, by wifely
tuition and much private repetition, into a certain familiarity with
the Wedding Service in English, but would still have been more at home
with it in French.

The church was more crowded than it had been within the memory of
woman. Margaret looked charming, and Miss Penny absolutely pretty.
Charles Svendt could hardly take his eyes off her, and caught himself
wondering what the dooce she had done to herself since last night.
For, by Jove! she's as pretty almost as Margaret herself--he said to
himself.

And if Jeremiah Pixley could have seen his son, in fatherly fashion
give away the bride that should have been his, he would without doubt
have had fits--if the first one had not been of such a character as to
obviate the necessity for any additional ones.

The habitants, old and young, had made holiday, donned their best as
if it were Sunday, and crowded the church as if it were all the
Sundays of the year rolled into one.

The Vicar had serious thoughts of improving so unique an occasion, but
wisely decided to confine himself to the intricacies of the English
language as displayed in The Form of the Solemnisation of Matrimony.

Mrs. Vicar presided at the harmonium, which had been specially tuned
for the occasion, and the choir enjoyed to the full their privileges
of position and observation and made ample use of them.

And when his friends knelt before the chancel rail,--to the exceeding
scandal of the Vicar and Mrs. Vicar and the choir and all who saw, and
to the vast enjoyment of Miss Penny and Charles Svendt and all the
other youngsters in the place,--Punch walked solemnly up the aisle and
stood behind them, with slow-swinging tail and a look of anticipation
on his gravely interested face, while outside, Scamp, in the hands of
some enterprising stickler for forms and ceremonies, rent the air with
sharp cries of disappointment.

But John Graeme's soul, uplifted mightily within him at this glorious
consummation of his hopes, and ranging high among the stars, saw none
of these things. He held Margaret's hand in his, and looked into her
radiant and blushing face, and vowed mighty vows for her happiness,
and thanked God fervently for bringing this great thing to pass.

And Margaret's eye caught the marble slab, placed in the side wall of
the chancel by the late Seigneur who built it, and prayed in her heart
that the temple of their two lives might equally be builded--"to the
Glory of God and with much care."


XIX

The small girls from the school, all specially arrayed in fancy white
pinafores with knots of pink ribbon, burst out of the church like a
merry bombshell while the less picturesque final ceremonies were being
completed. When Graeme and Margaret came smiling down the aisle, the
busy little maids were still vociferously strewing the path outside
with green rushes and wild iris, and as they passed, those who had
emptied their baskets ran back and picked up hasty armfuls of the
scattered flowers, and ran on in front and strewed them again, so that
for quite a long way their progress was one of gradually diminishing
splendour.

But past the gap in the road, which led across country to the Red
House, no flower-strewers came. For there the excited chatterers broke
and whirled through like a flight of sea-pies, and made straight for
the field of more substantial delights lest the boys should secure all
the best places.

The wedding-party, however, having disdained the use of carriages for
so short a distance, strolled quietly along the scented lanes, past
the Boys' School, and by the Carrefour, with no apprehension of the
feast beginning until they arrived, or of being relegated to back
seats if they were late.

The cottage and the Red House had been buzzing hives since dawn, Mrs.
Carré handling her forces and volunteers and supernumeraries with the
skill of a veteran, and with encouragement so shrill and animated that
it sounded like scolding, but was in reality only emphatic patois.

She had, indeed, left matters in the hands of certain tried elders
while she sped across the fields to the church for a few minutes, just
to see that everything there was done properly and in order. But she
was back in the thick of things before the wedding-party reached home,
and everything was ready and in apple-pie order for a merry-making
such as Sark had not seen for many a day.

First, the children were settled at their long tables in the field
behind the house, with good things enough in front of them, and active
assistants enough behind them, to keep them quiet for a good long time
to come.

Graeme and Margaret went round bidding them all enjoy themselves to
their fullest, which they cheerfully promised to do, and the eager
youngsters gave them back wish for wish, with one eye for them and one
for the unusual dainties on the tables.

"Hello, Johnnie!" said Graeme to that young man, gorging stolidly,
with a palpable interval between him and his neighbour on either hand,
but with no other visible signs of wizardry about him. "Getting on all
right?"

But there was no room for speech in Johnnie's mouth just then. He
winked one black eye solemnly and devoted himself to the business in
hand.

And Punch and Scamp, accepted favourites of the host and hostess, tore
to and fro in vain attempt to keep pace with all the attentions
lavished upon them by the guests as soon as their own desires had been
satisfied. They devoured everything that was offered and attainable
before it was withdrawn, and had no need to ask for more unless in the
matter of storage-room.

Everybody was very happy and very excited, for no such feast had been
in Sark within the memory of the oldest child present. And if Charles
Svendt's Stock-Exchange friends could have seen him--merrily circling
the tables and exhorting already distent youngsters to still greater
and greater exertions; poking them in the ribs to prove, against their
own better judgment, but in accordance with their inclinations, that
there was assuredly still room for more; bidding them "Mangez!
Mangez!" in the one word of French he could recall as specially
applicable at the moment--it is certain they would not have known him.

And Miss Penny, too, looked as if she had never enjoyed herself so
much in her life, and backed him up in all his endeavours right
heartily. And now and again, when Charles Svendt looked at her, he
said to himself, "By Jove, she's as good-looking a girl as I know, and
as clever as they make 'em!"

For there is no greater beautifier in the world than happiness, and
Hennie Penny was completely and quite unusually happy.

To the actual wedding-feast, Graeme had asked the Vicar and his wife,
and such of the neighbours as he had come to know personally,
especially not forgetting his very first friend in the island, whom he
still always called Count Tolstoi, and Mrs. De Carteret. For the rest,
he had given Mrs. Carré carte-blanche to invite whom she deemed well
among her friends, and she had exercised her privilege with judgment
and enjoyment.

The Sénéchal was there, and the Greffier, and the Prévôt and the
members of the Court, _ex officio_, so to speak, and the Wesleyan
minister who was on excellent terms with the Vicar, and the
Post-Master and his jovial white-haired father, who built the boats
and coffins for the community, and had supplied the tables for the
feast; and many more--a right goodly company of stalwart,
weather-browned men and pleasant-faced women, all vastly happy to be
assisting at so unusual an event as an English wedding.

They drank the health of the bride and bridegroom in the special
mulled wine thereto ordained by custom and prepared according to the
laws of the Medes and Persians. And Graeme, on behalf of himself and
his wife, assured them that there was no place in the world like Sark,
and that they had never enjoyed a wedding so much in all their lives,
and that if they had to be married a hundred times they could wish no
happier wedding than Sark had given them.

And of all that company, none beamed more brightly, nor enjoyed
himself more, than Charles Pixley, who, having come to curse, had, in
most approved fashion, stayed to bless, and had even beaten the
prophet's record by giving away to another the treasure he had desired
for himself.

In the usual course of things, after the feasting would have come
games and songs until dark. But that had been adjudged too much of an
ordeal by the ladies, and the onus of it was laid upon the youngsters
outside. While Margaret and Miss Penny rested from their labours, and
Mrs. Carré and her helpers cleared the rooms for the festivities of
the evening, and prepared the milder and more intermittent refections
necessary thereto, Graeme and Pixley and the Vicar and others set the
children to games and races, for which indeed their previous exertions
at the tables had not best fitted them, but which nevertheless, or
perhaps on that very account, were provocative of much laughter and
merriment.

Then, when it grew dark, and the reluctant youngsters had been cajoled
and dragged and packed off to bed, the hitherto-unprovided-for
section--the young men and maidens, all in their best and a trifle shy
to begin with--came flocking in for their share in the festivities,
and Orpheus and Terpsichore held the floor for the rest of the night.

And they did dance! Margaret and Miss Penny and Graeme and Pixley
thought they had seen dancing before, but dancing such as this it had
never been theirs to witness.

If it lacked anything in grace--and far be it from me to say so--it
more than made up for all by its inexhaustible energy and tireless
enjoyment. The men had brought their own music in the shape of a
concertina, which passed from hand to hand and with which they all
seemed on equally friendly terms.

Jokes, laughter, round dances, refreshments, interludes of smokings
and gigglings in the darkness of the verandah, occasional more
intellectual flights in the shape of songs and recitations,--mostly of
a somewhat lugubrious tendency, to judge by the faces of the auditors,
but being mostly in patois they were unintelligible to the British
foreigners,--more dances,--coats off now, to reduce the temperature of
the performers,--more refreshments, more dances,--dances with
broomsticks held between the partners, over which they slipped and
skipped to the tune of caustic comments by the onlookers,--dances
between caps laid on the floor and which must on no account be touched
by the dancers. And always the cry to the musician of the moment
was,--"Faster! Faster!"--and the race between Orpheus and
Terpsichore--between the music and the flying feet, grew still more
fast and furious.

Now Charles Svendt, as we know, did not look like a dancing man, but
dancing was one of the superficial accomplishments in which he
excelled.

Miss Penny, also, through much experience with girls, was lighter of
foot than she looked.

They stood for a time watching, and presently both their feet were
tapping to the quickstep of the rest.

"Let's have a shot at it," said Charles. "Will you?" and he looked
down at her.

"I'd love to," and in a moment they were whirling in the circle with
the rest, but with a grace that none there could rival,--gallant
dancers as the Sark boys and girls are.

"Delightful!" murmured Charles Svendt. "You dance like an angel, and
we fit splendidly," and Hennie Penny found a man's arm about her
decidedly and delightfully more inspiriting than all the arms of all
the schoolgirls in the world, and danced as she had never danced
before.

So swift and light and smooth and graceful was their flight that
before long the rest tailed off and all stood propped against the
walls to watch them.

"We've got the floor all to ourselves," murmured Miss Penny at last,
as she woke to the fact.

"We've licked them into fits on their own ground," he laughed in her
ear. "You can dance and no mistake. It's a treat to dance with a
really good dancer."

"I think we ought to stop. We're stopping their fun," said Hennie
Penny, and when he led her to a seat the rest of the room all clapped
their enjoyment.

Graeme and Margaret danced a round or two to endorse the festivities,
but they were not in it with Pixley and Hennie Penny, and they soon
dropped out and clapped heartily with the rest.

When Charles Svendt, later on, suggested another dance, Miss Penny
bade him go and dance with one of the Sark girls.

"But I don't want to dance with any of them. Besides, I don't know any
of 'em, and I couldn't talk to her if I did."

"Oh yes, you can. They all speak English."

"Do they now? It don't sound like it. Come on, Miss Penny. They
wouldn't enjoy it and I wouldn't enjoy it, and I never enjoyed
anything so much in my life as that last round."

So Hennie took pity on him, and they danced many times amid great
applause.

"Awfully good of you!" said Charles Svendt, as the dawn came peeping
in through the east windows and the open front door; and Mrs. Carré,
as Mistress of the Ceremonies, and a very tired one at that, bluffly
informed the company that it was time to go home.

"I've enjoyed it immensely," said Hennie Penny, and if her face was
any index to her feelings, there was no mistake about it.


XX

None of them will ever forget that great day.

Still less is any of them likely to forget the day that followed.

As dancing only ceased when the sun was about rising, before-breakfast
bathing was declared off for that day, and they arranged to meet later
on and stroll quietly down to Dixcart Bay during the morning and all
bathe together there. Charles Svendt laughingly prepared them for an
exhibition of incompetence by stating that his swimming wasn't a patch
on his dancing, but that he could get along. Miss Penny gaily gave him
points as to her own peculiar methods of swimming, which, as we know,
demanded instant and easy touch of sand or stone at any moment of the
halting progression. He confessed to a like prejudice in favour of
something solid within reach of his sinking capacity, and they agreed
to help one another.

They called for him at the hotel about eleven o'clock, and went joking
through the sunny lanes of Petit Dixcart, crossed the brook that runs
out of Hart's-Tongue Valley, and followed it by the winding path along
the side of the cliff, among the gorse and ferns, down into the bay.

They had a right merry bathe with no grave casualties. Miss Penny,
indeed, got out of her depth twice, to the extent of quite two inches,
and shrieked for help, which Charles Svendt gallantly hastened to
render; while Graeme and Margaret swam across from head to head,
watched enviously by the paddlers in shallow waters.

They went home by the climbing path up the hillside, rested on The
Quarter-deck while Charles Svendt got his breath back, and so, by the
old Dixcart hotel, and the new one nestling among its flowers and
trees, and up the Valley, to the Vicarage.

The Vicar was basking in the shade of the trees in front of the house.

"Ah-ha--Mr. and Mrs. Graeme! Good-morning! You are none the worse for
being married? Non?" as he shook hands joyously all round, with both
hands at once.

"Not a bit," laughed Graeme. "We're all as happy as sandboys."

"Comment donc--sandboys? What is that?"

"Happy little boys who dispense with clothes and paddle all day in the
sand and water."

"Ah--you have been bathing! What energie! And you danced till--?"

"About four o'clock, I suppose. The sun was just thinking of rising as
we were thinking of retiring."

"But it is marvellous! And you are not tired?"

"The bathe has freshened us all up," said Margaret.

Then Mrs. Vicar came out at sound of their voices, and felicitated
them, and begged them to rest a while in the shade. But they were all
hungry, and Charles Svendt laughingly asserted that he had swallowed
so much salt-water, in rescuing Miss Penny from a watery grave, that
his constitution absolutely needed a tiny tot of whisky, or the
consequences might be serious.

So they went laughingly on their way, and Charles tried his best to
get Miss Penny to go and show him the way to the Bel-Air, pleading
absolute confusion still as to the points of the compass and the lie
of the land.

He was to lunch with them at the Red House, but insisted on going home
first to straighten up and make himself presentable. So they led him
to the Avenue, and set his face straight down it, and bade him follow
his nose and turn neither to the right hand nor to the left, and then
they turned off through the fields by their own short-cut, and went
merrily home.



PART THE SIXTH


I

Graeme was just finishing a beautiful knot in his tie, when he heard
hasty feet crossing the verandah to the open front door. There was
some unknown quantity in them that gave him sudden start.

"Graeme!" sharp, hoarse,--a voice he did not recognise.

He ran hastily out of the east bedroom, which he was using as a
dressing-room.

"Hello there!" as he sprang down the stairs, "Why--Pixley? What's
wrong, man?"

For Charles Pixley was standing there, leaning in at the doorway,
looking as though he would fall headlong but for the supporting jamb.
He had a brown envelope in his hand and a crumpled pink telegram. His
face was white, and drawn, and haggard. His very figure seemed to have
shrunk in these few minutes. Never had Graeme seen so ghastly a change
in a man in so short a time.

Before Pixley could speak Miss Penny came hurrying along the path with
a face full of sympathetic anxiety.

"What is it?" she asked. "I saw Mr. Pixley pass, and his face
frightened me. Oh, what is wrong?"

Pixley glanced at her out of his woeful eyes, and at Margaret, who had
just come running down the stairs. He seemed to hesitate for a moment.
Then he groaned--

"You will have to know," and motioned them all into the dining-room
and shut the door.

"This "--jerking out the telegram--"was waiting for me," and he handed
it to Graeme, who smoothed it out and read, while Pixley dropped into
a chair.

"Pixley. Bel-Air. Sark.

"Zizel, Amadou, Zebu, Zeta. Eno."

"Code," said Pixley briefly. "Meanings underneath," and dropped his
head into his hands.

"Zizel," read Graeme slowly--"There is bad news. Amadou--your father.
Zebu--has bolted. Zeta--we fear the smash will be a bad one. Eno--?"

"My partner's initials--they certify the wire," said Pixley hoarsely.

And they looked soberly at one another and very pitifully at the
broken man before them.

"Don't take it too hard, Pixley," said Graeme quietly, laying a
friendly hand on the other's shoulder. "It may not be as bad as this
puts it. Codes are brutally bald things, you know"

The bowed head shook pitifully. He raised his white face and looked
round at them with a shocked shrinking in his eyes.

"God forgive him!" he jerked. "And God forgive me, for I have doubted
him at times! He was so--so--so demned good"--and Graeme's lips
twitched in spite of himself, so closely was the expression in accord
with his own feelings. But Pixley did not see the twitch, for he was
looking at Margaret and Hennie Penny, and he was saying with
vehemence--

"Will you believe me that I knew absolutely nothing of this? He never
discussed his affairs with me nor I mine with him, and we had no
business together except on purely business lines. If he had to buy or
sell he sent it my way, of course,--nothing more. You will believe me,
Graeme--"

"Every word, my boy--"

"We all believe it, Mr. Pixley," said Hennie Penny warmly.

"And I know it, Charles," said Margaret.

"It is very good of you all," he groaned. "I must get back at once,
Graeme. How soon is there a boat?"

"Five o'clock. You'll have to stop a night in Guernsey, which is a
nuisance."

Charles Svendt shook his head in dumb misery. It was crushing to be so
far away--thirty hours at least, and he gnashing within to be on the
spot and at work, learning the worst, seeing what could be done.

Then, with a preliminary knock on the door, Mrs. Carré came in with
brilliant lobsters and crisp lettuces for lunch, and, hungry as they
all were, their souls loathed the thought of eating.

"They are just out of the pot," beamed she, "and the lettuces were
growing not five min'ts ago. Ech!"--at sight of Pixley--"is he ill?"

"Mr. Pixley has just had bad news from home, Mrs. Carré," said Graeme.
"He will have to go by to-day's boat."

"Ach, but I am sorry! And him so happy yesterday and dancing the best
in the room," and her pleasant face clouded sympathetically.

"Meg, I'll go up to your room for a minute and finish my hair," said
Hennie Penny. "I ran out just as I was--"

"It was very kind of you," said Charles Svendt, and the general
sympathy seemed to comfort him somewhat.

"No good feeling too bad about it, old man, till you know all the
facts," said Graeme, when the girls had gone off upstairs.

"It hits me, Graeme. Not financially, as I said. But in every other
way it hits me hard.--Have you reached the point of seeing that it may
hit her too?"--and he nodded towards upstairs.

"I suppose there was a glimmering idea of the chance of that at the
back of my head somewhere, but we won't trouble about it just now. How
about your mother?"

Pixley shook his head dismally again. "It will be a terrible blow to
her. He was a bit hard and cold at home, you know, but she looked up
to him as immaculate. Yes, it will hit her very hard. As to money, of
course, she will be all right. I have plenty. But the talk and the
scandal--" and he groaned again at thought of it all.

"Send her over here for a time--or bring her yourself. We have heaps
of room here. Miss Penny is coming to stop with us next week. Your
mother was always fond of Margaret, I believe."

"She was--very fond of her.... That's a good thought of yours, Graeme.
Are you sure Margaret--?"


"Of course she would. She and Miss Penny will just take care of her,
and no word of the troubles will reach her. That's the thing to do,
and maybe you'll find things not as bad as you expect when you get
back."

But, from the look of him, Charles Svendt had small hope of matters
being anything but what he feared.

When the girls came down they made an apology of a meal, for, in spite
of their hunger, the stricken look of their friend took their
appetites away.

The thought that there might still lurk in their minds a suspicion
that he had had some knowledge of his father's position, when he came
across to stop their marriage, still troubled him.

"I do hope you will all believe me when I say that I knew absolutely
nothing of it all," he said, when they had finished an almost silent
meal. "When I said I had doubted him at times, I simply meant that his
everlasting and--and--well, very assertive philanthropies palled upon
me. It was a little difficult at times to believe in the genuineness
of it all, for we did not see very much of it at home, as you
know,"--he looked at Margaret, who nodded. "In business matters he
could be as hard as nails, and it was not easy to fit it all
together."

"Not one of us believes anything of the kind of you, old man. Just get
that right out of your head, once for all. We're only sorry for your
sake that the trouble has come, and I'm sure we all hope it will turn
out not so bad as you fear," said Graeme heartily.

"What about your mother, Charles?" said Margaret. "I'm afraid she will
feel this dreadfully. Hennie and I were talking about it upstairs, and
we were wondering if you could get her to come and stop with us for a
time--"

"You see!" said Graeme, with a smile at Pixley. And to Margaret--"I
suggested exactly the same thing while you were up doing your hair."

"It's awfully good of you all," said Charles. "If you're quite sure--"

"We're quite sure. Send her to us at once as soon as you reach home,
and Jock shall meet her in Guernsey."

"I think I'd perhaps better bring her across myself. I don't suppose
there will be much I can do when I've heard the worst--if they've got
to it yet. Things may be all tangled up, and it may take time. And for
ten days or so, until folks have had time to forget, the name of
Pixley won't be one to be proud of."

"Come if you can," said Graeme heartily. "You've seen nothing of Sark
yet."


II

They all went down to the harbour to see him off--as is the custom
when one's friends leave Sark. And when Charles Svendt had shaken
hands with Margaret and Miss Penny--and had found a touch of comfort
in the sympathetic droop of their faces--and had fancied Miss Penny's
bright eyes were at once brighter and mistier than usual--and had
thanked them again very humbly for all their kindness--he turned to
say good-bye to Graeme.

"Come away, man!" said Jock cheerfully. "I'm coming too. Meg's given
me a holiday, and I'm going to shake a free leg again in Guernsey--"

But Charles thought he saw through that.

"Don't you come on my account, Graeme"

"Not on your account at all, my boy, but the accounts of a good many
shopkeepers over there which I've got to straighten out at once, while
all the little differences are fresh in my mind. Something wrong in
nearly all of them--some over, some under--and I'm still a bit of a
business man though I do write books."

For, when Pixley went off to pack his portmanteau, Graeme had said to
his wife, "Meg dear, what do you think of my going across to Peter
Port with that young man? He'll have a bad black time all by himself.
He's holding himself in before us, but when he's alone it'll all come
back on him in a heap and he'll feel it."

And Margaret had said, "Yes, dear, go. You'll be a great comfort to
him. I am very very sorry for him."

The last flicker of the waving handkerchiefs above the sea-wall, and
their responsive wavings from the boat, had been abruptly cut by the
intervening bastion of Les Lâches, but Charles Svendt still leaned
with his arms on the rail and looked back as though he could pierce
the granite cliff and see the girls still standing there, and Graeme
stood patiently behind him.

He straightened up at last with a sigh.

"I'm glad I came," he said, "though if I'd had any idea what was going
to happen I'd have drowned myself first. It's when one's in
trouble"--as though this were a discovery of his own--"that one finds
out how kind people can be."

"Yes, trouble has its uses. I had a deuce of a time for the first few
weeks after I got here. Your dad had told me you and Margaret were to
be married very shortly, and it knocked life into a cocked-hat for
me--"

"That's what he would have liked. Do you know, Graeme, I've been
thinking that it's just possible your marriage helped to precipitate
matters with him. I don't know, of course; but if he has been juggling
her money in any way, he may have been counting on a marriage between
us to help straighten things. Then, when he heard nothing from me--"

"It's possible. But if it acted as quickly as all that, I'm afraid the
chances for Margaret's portion are pretty small."

"Gad! That would hurt me more than anything. I shall do everything in
my power--"

"I'm sure of it, my dear fellow. And you must understand that her
money--whatever it is--has never entered into our calculations in any
way. I knew nothing of it till Lady Elspeth Gordon told me, and I had
it all settled on her before the wedding took place. If it is gone we
can do without it."

And Charles Svendt, if he said nothing, thought all the more.


III

The two girls were standing in the outermost seaward corner of the
breakwater, as though they had never moved, when the _Assistance_ came
nosing round Les Lâches next morning, and made for the harbour. And to
Graeme, the sight of his wife, after a separation of eighteen hours,
was like a life-giving stream to a pilgrim of the desert, or the
blessing of light to a darkened soul. His heart swelled almost to
paining-point for very joy of her. He took deep breaths of gratitude
for this sweet crowning of his life. He wondered vaguely why he should
be so blest above all other men. He vowed his vows again and his eyes
were misty.

They saw him standing by the captain, and waved glad welcomes, and
presently, his glimpse into the depths of Margaret's eyes as he kissed
her, told him that he had been missed even as he had missed.

"I am glad I went with him," he said, as they climbed the steep Creux
Road. "It did him good to talk. He's feeling it terribly."

He did not tell them that they had got the previous day's papers in
St. Peter Port, and that their scathing comments on a peculiarly bad
failure, and on the remarkable contrast between the profession and the
practice of Jeremiah Pixley's life, had driven Charles Svendt almost
crazy. The wound was raw in their hearts. There was no need to turn
the knife in it.

"We shall see him back here with Mrs. Pixley before the middle of next
week, unless I'm very much mistaken," he said. "He says there's
nothing doing on the Stock Exchange, and he can fix things with his
partner to get away for a time, and it seems the wisest thing to do."

"I have liked Charles better this time than I ever did in my life
before," said Margaret. "And I am very very sorry for him and Mrs.
Pixley."

"He's not half a bad fellow," said Graeme heartily.

And perhaps, if it had been put to Miss Penny, she would have improved
even upon that.

"I hope you're not very set on being a rich woman, Meg," said Graeme,
when they were alone together.

"Oh, but I am," she said, with a smile which all the riches in the
world could not have bought from her, or brought to her.

"Yes, I know,"--and he gathered the smile with a kiss. "But in coarse
material wealth, I mean."

"I'm just as set on it as you are. I want just as much as will make
you happy. You mean Mr. Pixley has made away with it all?"

"I'm very much afraid so, but I guess we can get along all right
without it."

"Of course we can--splendidly. I'm a famous housekeeper and you'll be
a famous author. There couldn't be a better team. It will bring out
the very best that's in us."

"We can never come to actual want anyway, for my little bit--which, by
the way, Lady Elspeth once took the trouble to impress upon me was
just about enough to pay Mr. Pixley's servants' wages--is in Consols,
and they're not likely to crack up. And my last book brought me about
fifty pounds--"

"It ought to have brought you five thousand. I'm sure it was good
enough."

"Of course it was, but it takes time to work up to the five thousand
point. Some get there, I suppose. But I should imagine more starve off
at the fifty line."

"We could live like princes on a couple of hundred a year in Sark
here."

"It would pall on you in time, I'm afraid."

"You've been here twice as long as I have. Has it begun to pall on you
yet?"

"I don't think it would ever pall on me, if I lived here for a
century. But then I've got my work, you see."

"And I've got you, my dear. When you and Sark begin to pall I'll
promise to let you know. It's heavenly."

"Oh, I don't claim all that, you know. Don't expect _too_ much--"

"Will Charles be involved at all, do you think, Jock?"

"I don't think so. They had not much to do with one another in
business matters."

"I'm glad of that. Do you know"--with an introspective look in her
eyes--"I've an idea--"

"Hennie Penny?"

Margaret nodded.

"That would be capital. She'd make him an excellent wife."

"I'm sure she would. She's just what he needs. She's as good as gold,
and she has more genuine common-sense than anyone I know."

"Thousand thanks!"

"Oh, we're exceptions to all rules. But I do hope something--I mean
everything--may come of it. And we would all have reason to bless this
blessed little island all our days."

"Some of us will, anyway. It certainly shall not go unblest."


IV

On the Tuesday afternoon Graeme received a brief telegram from Charles
Pixley--"Crossing tonight." And Wednesday morning found them all on
the sea-wall awaiting the arrival of the steamer from Guernsey.

"There he is--in the front corner of the upper deck--keen to get here
as soon as possible, I should say. I know just how he feels," said
Graeme, with a laugh. "Looks a bit different from what he did the
first time he came."

"That's Mrs. Pixley on the side seat," said Margaret, and they waved
their welcomes.

There were two ladies on the side seat, and both stood up and waved
vigorously in reply.

"Why--who--?" began Margaret. And then--excitedly, "Jock--I believe
it's Lady Elspeth. I'm certain it is. It is. It is."

"Just like her! Hurrah for the Gordons!" and he sent them welcomes
which a world full of Pixleys alone could not have excited in him.

"Now this _is_ delightful," he said, as he sprang on board and rushed
at Lady Elspeth.

"All right, my boy! Don't shake my hand right off, if you can help it.
Here, you may give me a kiss, though it's contrary to the usages of my
country. We'll pretend I'm your mother again. Now say how do you do to
Mrs. Pixley. How's Margaret? I've got crows to pick with you young
people--"

"Make it seven, or it's unlucky," laughed Graeme.

"Eh? What?"

"Tell you later. We're great believers in crows here. Mrs. Pixley, I
am very glad indeed to see you here. Charles, old man, you've done
splendidly."

Charles wrung his hand in silence. His face was sober, with a latent
glow of expectation in it. When he had seen to the luggage he joined
the group on the quay, and it was Miss Penny who was the first to see
him coming.

"Welcome back to Sark!" she said cheerfully.

"I'm uncommonly glad to be here. Everybody all right? How's Mrs.
Carré?"

"Everybody's first-rate, especially Meg and Jock. Their spirits are
enough to inflate the island."

"It's good to be young," and the sober mask lifted slightly and let
the inner light shine through.


V

"Go to an hotel?" said Margaret indignantly, in reply to a suggestion
from Lady Elspeth. "Indeed you'll do nothing of the kind,"--and, as
the old lady hesitated still,--"If you do I'll never speak to you
again as long as I live."

"Oh well, I couldn't stand that--"

"Of course you couldn't. Neither could I. An hotel indeed!"--with
withering scorn--"And we with four empty bedrooms crying aloud at
night because two of their fellows are occupied and they are left out
in the cold! An hotel! I'd just like to see you!"

"My guidness! Is she often like this, Jock?"

"Oh, always! I thought you knew her. Why couldn't you warn me in
time?--No!" as Lady Elspeth attempted to speak--"It's too late now.
We're bound for life. There's no cutting the bond. The Vicar told us
so."

"You're both clean daft together," said the old lady, with dancing
eyes. "Well, I'll stop in one of your crying bedrooms--on conditions.
We'll talk about that later on. Where's the rest of the island, and
how do you get to it?"

"Old ladies and luggage ride. We youngsters walk. There's Charles
waiting for you at the carriage. There you are! Au revoir!"

As the young people breasted the steep, Pixley--forgetting entirely
his vow never to do it on foot again--unfolded to them Lady Elspeth's
idea, which simply was, that if the Red House could hold them all,--of
which she had her doubts, in spite of his assertions,--they should all
share expenses and such household duties as so large a party would
involve.

"You see--if you don't mind it, Mrs. Graeme,"--with an apologetic look
at Margaret,--"it will give the two old ladies something to do and
will leave us young folks freer to get about."

"It's a capital arrangement if the old ladies don't mind. Mrs. Carré
can get in another girl. It will keep them all busy seeing that we
have enough to eat. But they'll soon get used to looking forward two
or three days and ordering Friday's dinner on Tuesday."

"How long can you stop, old man?" asked Graeme.

"A fortnight--all being well," and there was a touch of soberness in
it as he said that. "There's really nothing doing, and Ormerod's a
good fellow and insisted on it."

"We can do heaps in a fortnight," said Miss Penny jubilantly. "However
did you manage to catch Lady Elspeth?"

"She's a grand old lady. I found her with my mother when I got there.
She'd been with her ever since--since the trouble. And when I proposed
bringing my mother she said at once that she was coming too. She had
crows to pick with you two, and so on. I expect she thought my mother
would feel things less if she was with her."

"She's an old dear," said Margaret. "They shall both have the very
best time we can give them."

"I shall take them conger-eeling," said Graeme,--"and to Venus's Bath"

"And down the Boutiques and the Gouliots"--suggested Margaret.

"And ormering in Grande Grève," laughed Miss Penny, who had spent a
day there on that alluring pursuit and had come home bruised and wet
and dirty.

"Oh, there's lots of fun in store for them," said Graeme, laughing
like a schoolboy out for a holiday. "And, as Hennie Penny says, we can
do heaps in a fortnight."


VI

Having made up their minds that there was no earthly reason why
Charles Pixley and Hennie Penny should not be as happy as they were
themselves, Margaret and Graeme saw to it that nothing should be
awanting in the way of opportunity.

Miss Penny's natural goodness of heart impelled her to the most
delicate consideration towards Mrs. Pixley. Hennie Penny, you see, had
come bravely through dire troubles of her own, and tribulation softens
the heart as it does the ormer. She anticipated the nervous old lady's
every want, soothed her bruised susceptibilities in a thousand hidden
ways, tended her as lovingly as an only daughter might have done,--and
all out of the sheer necessity of her heart, and with never a thought
of reward other than the satisfaction of her own desire for the
happiness of all about her.

Not that the others were one whit less considerate, but, in the
natural course of things, Miss Penny's heart and time were, perhaps, a
little more at liberty for outside service, and in Mrs. Pixley the
opportunity met her half-way.

It is safe to say that the old lady had never in her life been so much
made of. Margaret had always been gentle and sweet with her; but the
cold white light of Mr. Pixley's unco' guidness had always cast a
shadow upon the household, and Margaret had got from under it
whenever the chance offered.

"You are very good to me, my dear," Charles heard his mother say to
Hennie Penny, one day when they two were alone together and did not
know anyone was near. "If I had ever had a daughter I would have liked
her to be like you. How did you learn to be so thoughtful of other
people?"

"I think it must have been through having come through lots of
troubles of my own," said Hennie Penny simply.

"Troubles abound," said the tremulous old lady. "You have drawn the
sting of yours and kept only the honey," which saying astonished
Charles greatly. He had no idea his mother could say things like that.
She had had time to think plenty of them, indeed, but there had never
been room for more than one shining light in the household and that
had cast strong shadows.

Charles had gone quietly away smiling to himself, and had been in
cheerful spirits for the rest of the day.

The first night, when the ladies had gone chattering upstairs to make
sure that all the arrangements were in order, Graeme and Pixley sat
out on the verandah smoking a final pipe.

The ladies' voices floated through the open windows as they passed
from room to room, and Graeme laughed softly. "What's up?" asked
Pixley, gazing at him soberly.

"I was thinking of the changes here since the first night I slept in
this house all by myself, and heard ghosts creeping about and all
kinds of noises."

"Much jollier to hear _them_," said Charles, as Miss Penny's and
Margaret's laughter came floating down the softness of the night.

"Ay, indeed! Very much jollier," and they smoked and listened.

No word had so far passed between them as to the troubles that lay
behind. There had, indeed, been no opportunity until now, and Graeme
had no mind to broach the matter.

But Pixley had only been waiting till they could discuss things alone,
and the time had come.

"It will take them months to get to the bottom of things over there,"
he said quietly. "I saw the accountants, and they say everything's in
a dreadful mess. He must have been involved for years. It makes me
absolutely sick to think of it all, Graeme, and him--"

"I'm sure it must, old chap. Why think of it? It's done, and it can't
be undone, and everyone knows you had nothing to do with it."

"I know. Everyone is very kind, but I can't get rid of it. It's with
me all the time like a dirty shadow."

"We'll chase it away. No place like Sark for getting rid of bogeys and
worries."

"How things will come out it's impossible to say. I made special
enquiries into Margaret's affairs, and it's quite certain he's
tampered with her money, but they could not say yet to what extent. On
the other hand, certain of her securities are intact, so everything is
not gone. But what I wanted to say was this. I am determined that
Margaret shall not suffer, whatever may have happened. Any deficiency
I shall make good myself."

"My dear fellow, she would never hear of it."

"That's why I'm talking to you."

"Well, I won't hear of it either. As I told you before, it was a
trouble to me when I heard she had any money. Whatever she had I
settled on herself, and we can get on very well without it."

"All the same I'm not going to have her lose anything through
my--through him. Neither you nor she can stop me doing what I like
with my own money."

"We can refuse to touch it."

"That would be nonsense."

"Not half as bad as you crippling yourself for life to make good what
you'd never made away with."

"It wouldn't do that," said Charles quietly. "Ormerod's a long-headed
fellow, and we made some pretty good hits before the bottom dropped
out of things. You must let me have my own way in this matter, Graeme,
if it's only for my own peace of mind. I'm going to ask Miss Penny to
be my wife. Do you think--"

"My dear fellow," said Graeme, jumping up and shaking him heartily by
the hand, "that's the best bit of news I've heard since Meg said 'I
will' in the church there. She's an absolutely splendid girl, is
Hennie. Except Meg herself, I don't know any girl I admire so much.
She's as good and sweet as they make 'em, and for sound common-sense
she's a perfect gold mine."

"And you don't think--?"

"I've never heard a hint of anyone else. Like me to ask Meg? She'd be
sure to know. Girls talk of these things, you know."

"I don't know. Would it be quite--"

"Everything's fair in love and war,--proverbial, my boy. But I'm
pretty sure you've a clear field, and I congratulate you both with all
my heart. Come to think of it, she's been as dull as a ditch since you
went away"

"Really?"

"Fact! I was trying the other night to prove to her that she'd got
influenza coming on, or hay-fever, or something of the kind. She's as
different as chalk from cheese since eleven o'clock to-day. It's you,
I'll bet you a sovereign."

Charles did not respond to the offer. He sat smoking quietly and let
his thoughts run along brighter paths than they had done for days.


VII

At breakfast next morning Graeme soberly suggested to Lady Elspeth
that she should go conger-eeling with him that day. And the shrewd
brown eyes looked into his, and twinkled in response to the deep blue
and the brown ones opposite, and she said, "I mind I was just a wee
bit feather-headed myself for a while after I was married. I caught
congers before you were short-coated, my laddie, but I'm not going
catching them now."

"They are a bit rampageous when they're grown up," he admitted. "We
got one the other day about as thick round as one's leg, and it barked
like a dog and tried to bite."

"And does he make you go congering, my dear?" she asked Margaret.

"Make?" scoffed Graeme. "Make, forsooth? How little you know! I'd like
to see the man who could make that young person do anything but just
what she wishes. Why, she twists us all round her little finger
and----"

"Ay, ay! Well, discipline is good for the young, and you're just
nothing but a laddie in some things."

"I'm going to keep so all my life. So's Meg! Well, suppose we say
ormering then, if congering's too lively. Hennie Penny's an awful dab
at ormering. If you'd seen her the other night when she came home! A
tangle of vraic was an old lady's best cap in comparison--"

"And how many did I get, and how many did you get?" retorted Miss
Penny.

"I got six and you got seven--"

"Seventeen, and you stole four of your six from Meg."

"Oh well, I found the mushrooms, coming home, and they were worth a
pailful of ormers."

"You didn't beat them long enough. Ormers take a lot of beating," she
explained to Lady Elspeth.

"Thumping, she means. My mushrooms beat them hollow,--tender and
delicate and fragrant"--and he sniffed appreciatively as though he
could scent them still.--"Your ormers were like shoe-soles."

"And as to the mushrooms," continued Hennie Penny, "you'd never have
found them if I hadn't tumbled into them, and then you thought they
were toadstools."

"Oh well!--Who can't take a hook out of a whiting's mouth? Who was it
screamed when the lobster looked at her?"

"It nearly took a piece out of me."

"Who nearly upset the boat when a baby devilfish came up in the pot?
And it wasn't above that size!"

"I draw the line at devil-fish. They're no' canny."

"Do they generally go on like this?" asked Lady Elspeth of Margaret.

"All the time," said Margaret, with a matronly air. "They're just a
couple of children. I keep them out of mischief as well as I can, but
it's hard work at times."

"She's just every bit as bad, you know, when we're alone," said Miss
Penny. "But she's got her company manners on just now. You should see
her when she's bathing."

"Ah--yes! You should see her when she's bathing," said Graeme, with a
smack of the lips. "All the little waves and crabs and lobsters keep
bobbing up to have another look at her. In Venus's Bath the other
day--"

"Now, children, stop your fooling. Where shall we go to-day?" laughed
Margaret, and Lady Elspeth could hardly take her eyes off her, so
winsomely, so radiantly happy was she.

"We old folks will stay at home and talk to Mrs. Carré," said Lady
Elspeth. "You young ones can go off and do what you like."

"Oh no, you don't," said Graeme. "You didn't come here to loaf in a
verandah. When you come to Sark you've got to enjoy yourselves,
whether you want to or not. Suppose we take lunch along to the
Eperquerie, and the elders can bask and snooze, and we'll bathe three
times off that black ledge under Les Fontaines. And if the Seigneur's
out fishing perhaps he'll take some of us with him, those who don't
scream when the poor fish gets a hook in its throat. And you'll see
Margaret out on the loose. She always goes it when she's swimming."

"I hope you won't venture too far out, Charles," said Mrs. Pixley,
with visions of his limp body being carried home.

"Miss Penny and I are sensible people when we're bathing," said
Charles. "We don't lose our heads--"

"Nor any of the rest of you,--nor touch of the stones," laughed
Graeme.

"That's so," said Charles. "We like to know what's below us and that
it's not too far away."

"It's very wise," said Mrs. Pixley plaintively. "One hears of such
dreadful accidents. I'm very glad you're so sensible, my dear," to
Miss Penny.

"Oh, I'm dreadfully sensible at times, especially when I'm bathing.
But that's because I can only swim with one foot at the bottom."

"Any beach about there?" enquired Charles forethoughtfully.

"Nice little bit just round the corner, with a cave and all,--capital
place for children. Paddle by the hour without going in above your
ankles."

And so they wandered slowly up the scented lanes past the Seigneurie,
laden with the usual paraphernalia of a bathing-lunch, and came out on
the Eperquerie.

They established the old ladies in a gorsy nook, built a fireplace of
loose stones, and collected fuel, and laid the fire ready for the
match, which Lady Elspeth was to apply whenever they waved to her.

"If She isn't fast asleep," said Graeme.

Then they pointed out all the things that lay about, so that they
might take an intelligent interest in their surroundings,--Guernsey,
and Herm, and Jethou, and Alderney, and the Casquets, and the coast of
France, and the Seigneur in his boat, and then they trooped off like a
party of school-children.

And presently the old ladies saw them scrambling down the black,
scarped sides of the headland opposite, and then they disappeared
behind rocks and into crannies. Then a pink meteor flashed from the
black ledge, followed in an instant by a dark-blue one, and both went
breasting out to sea. And in front of the cave two less venturesome
figures beguiled the onlookers and themselves into the belief that
they were swimming, though they never went out of their depth and
sounded anxiously for it at every second stroke.

And up above, the larks trilled joyously, and the air was soft and
sweet as the air of heaven; and down below, the water was bluer than
the sky and clear as crystal, so that they could see the great white
rocks which lay away down in the depths, and they looked like
sea-monsters crawling after their prey. And the shouts of the swimmers
came mellowly up to them, and they could see their little limbs
jerking like the limbs of frogs.

"It is good to be here," said Lady Elspeth enjoyably.

"It is very very good to be here. I am very glad we came," said Mrs.
Pixley, with a sigh that was not all sadness.


VIII

Many such days of sheer delight they had, and kept the dark cloud
resolutely below their horizon. They accommodated their activities to
the limited powers of the elders, and took them wherever it was
reasonably possible for them to go. They chartered a boat for the day,
and took them and all the luncheon-things round from Creux Harbour to
Grande Grève, subjecting Charles to long-unaccustomed labours at the
oar. In the same way they introduced them to Dixcart Bay, and
Derrible, and Grêve de la Ville; and, choosing a fit day, they
circumnavigated the island again in three boat-loads, landing for
lunch on an even keel on Brenière, and penetrating into every
accessible cave they came to,--Mrs. Pixley enjoying the wonders in
fear and trembling, and breathing freely only when they were safely
out in the open once more. And Graeme and Margaret watched the
approximating of Hennie Penny and Charles with infinite delight. It
needed only a full understanding between these two to complete their
own great happiness.

But the dark cloud was there, though they might refuse to look at it,
and clouds below the horizon have a way of rising, especially dark
ones.

The post-office in Sark is a cottage, or the part of a cottage, turned
from private to public use. In former times the service was of a very
perfunctory character, Providence largely taking the place of
post-master while that official attended first to his fishing and then
to his duties, and any who had good and valid reason to expect a
letter came down to the mail-bag where it lay on the beach and went
through it for themselves.

The advent of visitors accustomed to more exact and business-like
methods, however, has done away with this Arcadian simplicity, and now
each day when the boat is in, all who prefer not to wait for the tardy
delivery at their own houses, collect gradually round the official
cottage, and in due course, and after the exercise of virtues, receive
their mail across the counter. And some tear their letters open at
once, regardless of spectators, and devour them on the spot, but the
wiser carry them home for private consumption. For one never knows for
certain what of heartbreak and disaster the most innocent-looking
envelope may contain.

Graeme and Margaret and Miss Penny, however, being in retreat, and
having cut the painter with the outside world, had not cultivated the
post-office until Charles and Lady Elspeth arrived. But, as Charles
had to keep more or less in touch with Throgmorton Street, they had
now got into the habit of calling with him for his letters, except
when the doing so interfered with the programme for the day. And many
an amusing, and sometimes touching, insight did they get there into
human nature. Graeme said it was worth while the trouble of going,
just to sit in the hedge opposite and watch people's faces, especially
the faces of those who tore open their letters and those who got none.

They were sitting so in the hedge one morning, quietly watching and
commenting silently, and by looks only, on the vagaries of the
letter-scramblers, and Charles had pushed into the crowded little room
to antedate the delivery by a few minutes if possible.

As he came out, with his letters in his hand, they all saw at a glance
that something had happened. His face, which had been gradually
relaxing to its old look of jovial good-fellowship and satisfaction
with the world, was tight and hard, and yet they saw that he had not
opened a letter. He turned up the road with a mere jerk of the head,
and they followed wondering, and all, as it came out afterwards, with
the same dim idea as to the possible cause of his upsetting.

He handed Margaret a couple of letters for Lady Elspeth, and made an
attempt at conversation as they went along, but the cloud they had
been keeping out of sight was visible now to all of them. Among the
unopened letters in his hand was one which disturbed him even before
he knew what was in it, and they could only wait, with troubled minds,
for developments.

Charles went straight to his room, as he usually did when business
matters claimed his attention, and from the look on his face Graeme
judged that the scramble, fixed for that day on account of a specially
low tide, round the Autelets, whose rock-pools and phosphorescent
seaweeds and beds of flourishing anemones were a perpetual delight,
would be off for the time being at all events.

But Pixley came down presently and intimated that he was ready, and
they trooped away, leaving the elders at home for a day's rest, since
rock-scrambling was outside their limits.

Their progress, however, was not the usual light-hearted saunter
enlivened by merry jokes and laughter. The lanes were fragrant as
ever, the air was full of larks and sunshine, but the cloud had risen
and overshadowed them, and Graeme guessed why Charles had come. There
was something he wanted to discuss with them alone, out of the hearing
of his mother and Lady Elspeth.

He was not surprised--when they had scrambled down into Port du
Moulin, and had passed through the arch, and were sitting on the rocks
above the first of the sea-gardens,--when Charles said, "There's
something I want to consult you about, and I couldn't do it at the
house, as I want it kept to ourselves. I got this, this morning. Will
you read it?" and he handed Graeme a letter. Graeme opened it and read
it out.


   "99A HIGH STREET, ALDERNEY.

   "MY DEAR CHARLES,--I will not at the moment attempt any
   explanation of the calamity which has befallen our house. If you
   knew all, you would not blame me as I fear you must be doing. Let
   me say, however, that I have every reason to hope that in course
   of time I may be able to redeem the position by making good all
   deficiencies and so clearing our name of reproach. To do so, I
   must get away--to Spain in the first instance, and for that I
   need your assistance. The end came unexpectedly and took me
   unawares, and I am almost penniless here. In asking your help, I
   do so the more confidently as, in the path I have indicated, lies
   the only hope of redemption. In assisting me you will not only be
   doing what a prosperous son might reasonably be expected to do
   for his father in his day of misfortune, but you will be acting
   for the general weal in putting me into a position to make good
   what I have all unwittingly become responsible for, and to that
   sacred end the remainder of my life shall be most solemnly
   dedicated.

   "I came here from Cherbourg, and am for the moment safe from
   oversight. As soon as you place me in position to do so, I shall
   get away and begin my new life-work, which I am earnestly
   desirous of doing at the earliest possible moment.

   "Address me as above--Revd. J. Peace.

   "Your affectionate FATHER."

Graeme kept the humorous wrinkles about his eyes and mouth in order
with difficulty as he read this very characteristic effusion, but
Margaret was the only one who saw it. Charles had kept his eyes
intently on the pool below, and Miss Penny had been regarding him
sympathetically.

"What do you make of it?" said Charles. "It makes me sick."

"He evidently needs your help," said Miss Penny.

"Yes, but have I the right to give it him? That's the question."

"He says----" began Graeme.

"Oh, he says!" growled Charles. "Trouble is, he's been saying for the
last twenty years, and it has all been a lie. This is probably all a
lie too. Not all"--he added grimly. "As I read it, he has got funds
stowed away somewhere and he's anxious to get to them."

"So that he may make restitution," urged Miss Penny.

"Yes, that's what he says," said Charles, in a tone that showed no
slightest tincture of conviction. "What would you do," he asked,
looking up at Graeme, "if you were in my place?"

Graeme filled his pipe thoughtfully.

"Let us look at it quietly all round," he said, and lit up and puffed
away contemplatively.

"From what he says,"--checking off his points on his fingers,--"if you
don't assist him, he may be taken, and the--the unpleasantness of the
situation be thereby increased.... I do not see that his punishment
would help anyone--except maybe as a deterrent, and that is
problematical.... I gather from this, as you do, that he has funds
awaiting him somewhere.... You have no great faith in his promises--"

"None," growled Charles.

"And I presume, as a business man, you would count a bird in the hand
worth several in the bush--in other words, you would sooner have what
he has stowed away--somewhere, than what he hopes to make some time--"

"Sight sooner!"

"Then, I should say, offer him such assistance as he needs to get
away, and, if you can see your way to it, a bit to live on afterwards,
on condition of his placing in your hands everything he has got stowed
away, so that you can pass it on to the receiver."

Charles shook his head. "I couldn't trust him."

"Then there's only one thing to do if he agrees, and that is to go
with him and bring the property back with you."

Charles groaned. "It may mean the Argentine. Spain's no place for
investments these days."

"It's rough on you, old man, but it's the best I can think of," said
Graeme.

"And supposing he tells me to go hang?"

"Then," said Graeme, with a shrug, "I don't see that you can help him.
I have no personal feeling against him whatever, but I cannot see how
you can help him except on some such lines as I've indicated. How does
it strike you, Meg?"

But Margaret shook her head. "I feel very much as you do. If he is
caught and punished it will only add to Mrs. Pixley's and Charles's
trouble, and benefit nobody. But he is very obstinate. He has
evidently planned out his future. I doubt if he'll turn from it."

"And you, Hennie?" asked Graeme.

"I think you should help him if you possibly can. It's horrible to
think of him hiding there and in fear of being caught--"

"Helping him in any case is against the law--"

"Blood is thicker than water," said Hennie Penny earnestly.

"--But if some present benefit was to come to his creditors I should
consider it right to do it, not otherwise."

"Suppose you go across, and see him, and talk it over with him, Mr.
Pixley?" said Hennie Penny.

"I suppose that's the only thing to be done," groaned Charles. "How do
you get there?"

"The _Courier_ would call here by arrangement--up at the Eperquerie,"
said Graeme. "She can't come in, of course. It means lying out in a
small boat and waiting for her. What do you say to us all going? In
fact, unless we do, how are we going to explain Charles's going to
Mrs. Pixley?"

Charles nodded.

"You could go and see him and we could talk it over again afterwards.
I'm inclined to think that he won't accept, you know."

"I don't believe he will, and it'll be a bit hard to refuse him any
help, if he really is on his beam ends."

"He wouldn't have written to you if he could have done without, you
may count upon that."

"Is he as safe there as he seems to think?" asked Charles.

"Yes, I think so. Safer probably than in Cherbourg. It's an
out-of-the-way place, from all accounts."

Discuss it as they would, they could not get beyond Graeme's proposal,
and so at last they went back home, decided on the visit to Alderney
on the morrow, but all feeling doubtful, and some of them distinctly
nervous, as to the outcome of it.


IX

The little party that lay in wait for the Alderney steamer in old Jack
Guille's boat off the Eperquerie, next morning, was eminently lacking
in the vivacity that usually distinguishes such parties when the sea
is smooth and the sky is blue. In fact, when they got on board, the
Captain decided in his own mind that they must all have quarrelled
before starting. There was no sign of anything of the kind about them
now, it is true, but that might just be their good manners. For
English people are not like the Sark and Guernsey folk, who, when they
do quarrel, let all the world know about it.

These four had apparently little to say to one another and less to
anyone else. If they had been going to a funeral they could hardly
have been more reserved.

And to something very like a funeral they were going, with the added
anxiety of very grave doubts as to the result of their visit.

They had had no difficulty in persuading the elder ladies that
Alderney was not for them. The steep path down to the Eperquerie
landing, and the tumbling about in a small boat until the steamer
came, did not greatly appeal to them. Moreover, Lady Elspeth's clear
eyes had noticed the signs of their clouding, in spite of their
efforts after naturalness, for to experienced eyes there is nothing so
unnatural as the attempt to be natural. If Mrs. Pixley noticed nothing
it was probably because her faculties had not yet fully recovered from
the shock to which they had been subjected. If she noticed she said
nothing, having no desire, perhaps, to add to the weight of her
already heavy burden.

"Now, my boy, what is it?" Lady Elspeth asked, when she had persuaded
Graeme to take her for a stroll in the evening, under plea of cramp
through overmuch sitting.

"Jeremiah Pixley is in Alderney and has written to Charles begging his
help to get on his way."

"Ah! And what are you going to do about it?".

Graeme outlined their ideas on the matter.

"He's an old rascal," said Lady Elspeth softly. "I doubt very much if
you'll get anything out of him."

"Can you suggest any better way of dealing with the matter?"

"I don't know that I can at the moment, but I doubt if you'll get any
satisfaction out of him. He'll stick to all he can, and his promise of
restitution is all bunkum, I should fear."

"And would you help him to get away in any case?"

"Personally, I think a course of penal servitude would be of the
greatest service to him. But, for Charles's sake and his mother's, the
sooner the whole matter is buried the better, and so I should be sorry
to hear of him being taken. It would only revive the scandal."

"That's just what we all feel;" and he saw that the problem of
Jeremiah Pixley was too much even for Lady Elspeth.

And so the party of four on the _Courier_ lacked vivacity, and found
no enjoyment in the lonely austerity of the Casquets or Ortach; and
the frowning southern cliffs of Alderney itself, as the steamer raced
up the Swinge to Braye Harbour, seemed to them but a poor copy of
their own little isle of Sark, lacking its gem-like qualities. But
then their minds were intent upon the business ahead and their outlook
was darkened.


X

"Would you like me to come up with you, Charles?" Graeme asked, as the
steamer rounded the breakwater.

"Yes, I'd like it," said Charles gloomily. "But I think I'd better go
alone. I don't believe anything's going to come of it."

"I'm afraid not--as far as we're concerned. You'll just have to keep a
stiff upper lip and stick to what you believe the right thing to do."
To which Charles replied only with a grim nod, and they went ashore.

"We'll walk up to the town with you," said Graeme, when they got
outside the harbour precincts. "When you've got as far as you can with
him, come down to the shore due West. You'll find us by that old fort
we saw from the boat;" and presently they branched off towards the
sea, while Charles went doggedly on into St. Anne on as miserable an
errand as ever son had.

He tramped on along the hot white road, till he found himself in the
sleepy little town, where the grass grew between the granite sets in
the roadways and a dreamy listlessness pervaded all things. He sought
out No. 99A High Street and knocked on the door.

It was opened by an elderly woman who seemed surprised at sight of a
visitor.

"Mr. Peace?" asked Charles, feeling thereby _particeps criminis_.

"He's inside. Will you come in?"

She opened a door off the passage, said, "A gentleman to see you;" and
Charles went in and closed the door behind him.

His father had started up from a couch where he had been lying. There
was a startled look in his eyes and his face was pale and worn, but a
touch of colour came back into his cheeks when he saw who his visitor
was.

He had shaved off his bit of side whisker. His face was grayer and
thinner and his body somewhat shrunken, even in these few days. He
wore a white tie, and his coat and waistcoat were of clerical cut. On
the table was a pair of gold spectacles and on the sideboard a soft
billycock hat. He looked the not-too-well-off country parson to the
life. The only outward and visible sign of the old Jeremiah was the
heavy gold pince-nez which lay between the top buttons of his
waistcoat, which he hauled out and fingered as of old the moment he
began to speak.

"Ah, Charles! This is good of you. I hardly expected a personal visit.
I was beginning to fear you had not got my letter, or that you had
decided not to answer it."

"It followed me to Sark."

"Ah! you are back in Sark?"

"I thought it well to take my mother there, to be out of things for a
time."

"Quite so, quite so! That was very thoughtful of you. This is a
terrible calamity that has befallen us. But, as I said in my letter, I
have every hope of being able to redeem matters if I can only get to
where that is possible."

"Where's that?"

"Well, in the first place to Spain--"

"And afterwards?"

Mr. Pixley hesitated. "Perhaps--for your own sake--it would be as well
you should not know--for the present, at all events. You may be asked
questions. If you don't know, you can truthfully say so."

"I gather that you have funds put away somewhere."

"If I can get to where I want to go, I can at all events make a fresh
start. And I am prepared to devote the rest of my life to the one
object I have named.... The last few years have been very wearying. I
have had trouble with my heart at times;" and he put his hand to his
side to emphasise it. "But if I can get quietly away I shall soon pull
round and be ready for work again, now that the strain is over."

"You know you're asking me to do what I've no right to do?" said
Charles gloomily.

"I know, my boy, and it is very bitter for me to have to ask it. But I
can't get away without your help, and the alternative is not pleasant
to think of--for either of us.... I do not ask more than I would
willingly have done for you if the positions were reversed.... On the
whole, I do not think I have been a bad father to you. Circumstances,
indeed, have been too strong for me at the end, but--"

"I am willing to do what you want--and more, on one condition."

"What is that? Anything in reason--"

"I will provide you with funds to get away, and I will send you three
hundred pounds each year--"

"Good lad!"

"On condition that you hand over to me all the property you've got
stowed away--"

"Damn!"

"So that I may hand it over to your creditors."

"Why not write at once to Scotland Yard and tell them where I am? But,
after all, I'm not sure that even your world would applaud so filial
an act as that."

"I'm prepared to make sacrifices myself to help right some of this
wrong--"

"I had to make many for you, my boy, before you were old enough to
understand it--before my own position was assured. Ay, and since too.
I would have flung it all up years ago but for you. I wanted you to be
set firmly on your feet before the crash came. It has been killing
work. I'm glad it's over--whatever the end may be. If you can't see
your way to help me, the end is obvious and close at hand. I have, I
think, something under two pounds in my pocket. If I'd waited to get
more I should not be here. The end came unexpectedly. Old Coxley
called for some securities which I had--which I couldn't give him at
the moment, and I had to go at once or not at all."

Charles stood up. He would have liked to tell him all he felt about
the matter. How the tampering with securities hit him more hardly than
almost anything could have done, since straight dealing in such
matters is the very first of Stock Exchange tenets. How, if he had
come to him, he would have strained himself to the utmost to set
things right.

But, facile talker as he was on matters that were of no account, he
found himself strangely tongue-tied here.

"Well?" he asked. "Will you let me help you?"

"As you will, my boy ... If you do, it offers me a chance--my only
chance. If you don't----" he shrugged his heavy shoulders meaningly.

"Do what I ask," urged Charles. "It is the only possible amends you
can make."

Mr. Pixley shook his head. "It is out of the question. I could do
nothing with three hundred a year----"

"You could live quietly on that in many places."

"I don't want simply to live. I want to work and redeem myself."

"You have worked hard enough and long enough," said Charles; and he
might have added, as was in his mind, "And it has all ended in this."

"I would like to help you," he said, as he moved slowly towards the
door, striving hard to keep the stiff upper lip Graeme had enjoined on
him. "But I don't think you should expect me to do what I know to be
wrong. I'll do what I said----"

Mr. Pixley shook his head. His face was gray, his lips pinched in.
Charles went out and closed the door behind him.

But he could not leave him so. He had known from the first that he
would have to help him, right or wrong.

He opened the door again quietly and went in. His father was sitting
at the table with his head in his hands. Charles laid down the money
he had, with Graeme's assistance, prepared, laid his hand on his
shoulder for a moment, and went quietly out again, and out of the
house.

It was a miserable business altogether. He never forgot that last
sight of him sitting at the mean little table in the mean little room
with his head in his hands.


XI

Charles went soberly down the green slopes towards the sea, and
presently discovered the dismantled fort they had seen from the
steamer as they ran up the Swinge that morning. And sitting on the
broken wall of a gun platform was a figure which he knew by the dress
to be Miss Penny.

She had evidently been on the look-out for him. She stood up and waved
her hand, and he waved his in reply, and plunged down the slope. His
heart was sore at what had just passed. It turned gratefully to one
whom he knew to be full of sympathy for him.

When he reached the foot of the hill, they were crossing the causeway
which led from the fort to the shore.

"Well, old man, you've got through with it?" said Graeme; and all
their faces showed the anxiety that was in them to know how he had
prospered.

He nodded. "Let's go back and sit there for a few minutes. I feel
like a whipped dog;" and they all went back to the fort, which, in its
dismantlement and ruin, whispered soothingly of the rest and peace
that sometimes lie beyond broken hopes and strenuous times.

"Well, how did you find him?" asked Graeme, as they seated themselves
on the broken wall again, with the fair blue plain of the sea dimpling
and dancing in front.

"Very broken, but as obstinate as ever," said Charles gloomily.
"Wouldn't listen to my proposal, says he's set on redeeming himself,
and so on. I offered him all I could, but it was no use. So I left
him--"

"You never did--" began Miss Penny, with a pained look on her face.

"I did. But I couldn't leave it so. I went back, and he was sitting
with his head in his hands.... I just gave him all I had brought and
came away.... I know it was all wrong--"

"It wasn't. You did quite right," said Miss Penny vehemently.

"I don't suppose any of us would have done differently when it came to
the point. I don't really see what else you could have done," said
Graeme.

"He reminded me of all he had done for me when I was a boy, and so on,
and told me that if I didn't help him there was no hope for him. I did
my best--"

"You have done quite right, Charles," said Margaret. "I do hope he
will get away all right."

As he gave them the details of his interview, their quiet sympathy
restored him by degrees to himself. The bruised, whipped soreness wore
off, to some extent at all events, and there remained chiefly a
feeling of thankfulness that the matter was over, and that, in doing
the only thing possible to him, if he offended against the law, he had
still done what commended itself to his own heart and to those whose
good opinion he chiefly valued.

If there were no signs of merriment about them as they wandered
quietly about the strand, if they still bore something of the aspect
of a funeral party, it was at all events the aspect of a party after
the funeral. Their corpse was laid, so far as they were concerned, and
their thoughts and hearts were more at liberty to turn to other
matters.

They have none of them ever cared greatly for Alderney, and they
always speak of it as a remote, unfriendly, melancholy, and slow
little place, lacking the gem-like beauty and joyous vitality of Sark.
But then one's outlook is always coloured by one's inlook, and an
overcast mind sees all things shadowed.

They lunched at the Scott Hotel, in the garden, and felt better than
they had done for two days when their feet once more trod the deck of
the _Courier_.

The southern cliffs were filmy blue in the distance, Ortach and the
Casquets were dim against the horizon, and Charles and Miss Penny
stood together in the stern looking back over the long straight track
of the boat, and thinking both of the lonely one in the mean little
house in St. Anne. Margaret and Graeme had stood watching for a time,
and had then stolen away forward. Their outlook was ahead, where Sark
was rising boldly out of the blue waters.

"I doubt if we'll ever hear anything more of him," said Charles, with
a sigh at thought of it all.

"You will always remember that you have done your duty by him. You
could not have done more."

"You have been very kind to me all through, very kind, all of you. And
you especially.... Hennie--will you marry me?"

And she looked up at him with a happy face, and said quietly, "Yes, I
will. I believe we can make one another very happy."

"I'm sure we can. Come along and tell the others;" and they also
turned from the past and went forward.



WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR.



Hearts in Exile._

With Photogravure Frontispiece by HAROLD COPPING. THIRD EDITION. Crown
8vo, cloth, 6s.

"Exceptionally powerful, vivid, and realistic.... Sketched with a
generous hand and bold touches, the characters hold trie reader's
sympathies throughout. The most graphic, vigorous, and lifelike
presentment of Russian administrative barbarity which we recollect to
have ever come across."--_Daily Telegraph_.



A Princess of Vascovy.

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6s.

"Mr. Oxenham tells a good exciting story with great swing and zest. It
seems almost unnecessary to recommend a story that is in every way
worthy of the pen that produced 'Barbe of Grand Bayou.' 'A Princess of
Vascovy' is just as picturesquely romantic and just as full of
incident and adventure as Mr. Oxenham's most famous
work."--_Athenaum_.



White Fire.

Red cloth, 2s. net; red leather, 2s. 6d. net.

"'White Fire' combines religion and adventure; but the date is modern,
and the admirable missionary and his undaunted wife and comrades
protect their converts in the South Seas from kidnappers and other
pests with the aid of Maxims and Winchester rifles. Mr. John Oxenham
has already proved his descriptive and analytic powers, and these
strong-hearted champions of morality are not less original than their
surroundings are romantic. A tidal wave is among the trials of the
hero's constancy. The illustrations by Mr. Grenville Manton are
good."--_Athenaum_.



Barbe of Grand Bayou.

Red cloth, 2s. net; red leather, 2s. 6d. net.

"There is a fascination about Mr. John Oxenham's books which grows
upon one. Barbe is a clean-cut, fine drawn character, human, alive,
womanly, real. Her history is so simply related, with such convincing
straightforwardness that one is bound to admit it could not have
happened otherwise. It had to be. The tribulations of the pair of
lovers are delightfully set forth with the art of the true story
teller. Quite one of the best books of the winter season; worth buying
and reading; not merely ordering from the library."--_Academy_.



Giant Circumstance.

Illustrated by CHARLES HORRELL.

THIRD EDITION. Crown 8vo, cloth, 6s.

"A hearty and manly book, written in telling style of which Mr.
Oxenham has proved himself a master."--_Times_.

"Told in Mr. Oxenham's usual spirited and vivid style. Those who
relish a good story well told will welcome 'Giant Circumstance,' and
will set it on a level with the best of Mr. Oxenham's
books."--_British Weekly._

"A good story--should prove popular."--_Athenæum_.

"Bright, healthy, and interesting, will strengthen his position in the
regard of readers who like a good story of the doings of wholesome
unexaggerated characters."--_Daily Telegraph_.



Rising Fortunes.

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6s.



Carette of Sark.

Illustrated. Crown 8vo, cloth, 6s.

"All who either know the Channel Islands or love a full-blooded,
exciting story, should speedily make the acquaintance of
Carette."--_Pall Mall Gazette_.

"No one who likes tales of adventure--and who does not--could wish for
a better tale than this. It is of Sark, in the beginning of last
century, when its people were peaceable and law-abiding, save on the
question of 'free trade' and when privateering was a legitimate
business; so naturally adventurers were more easily come by than in
conventional days like these. The youth who tells the tale, one Philip
Carré by name, comes by them all too easily for his liking. He is
scarcely out of one peril before he is into another, and quite
split-hairbreadth are his escapes from the Terrible Torode of Herm.
And it is all on account of Carette, charming Carette, the pride of
the island, and worth many dangers to win."--_Daily Chronicle_.





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