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Title: Where Deep Seas Moan
Author: Robin, E. Gallienne
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 "Where Deep Seas Moan" ***

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



  WHERE
  DEEP SEAS
  MOAN.


  BY
  E. GALLIENNE-ROBIN


  GUERNSEY:
  FREDERICK CLARKE.
  Printer and Publisher.


  MCMVII.



"Where Deep Seas Moan."



CHAPTER I.


The autumn wind blew in great gusts over the rocky island of
Guernsey, and in the country parishes rushed up hill and down dale,
leaving not a lane undisturbed by its vagaries. It rattled the
leafless trees which grew at the back of Colomberie Farm, whose deep
brown-thatched roof rested against the lichened red tiles of the
barn adjoining. Surrounded on all sides by green fields outside its
charming garden, Colomberie looked the picture of comfort; and its
cheery interior laughed the wind to scorn as the curtains were drawn
across the kitchen window, and the _crâsset_ was lit at the side of
the wide hearth. But the wind had its revenge, for it blew across
the country roads pretty young Blaisette, the daughter of
Colomberie, who was going out to spend the evening; and who
struggled with all her healthy vigour against the impertinent
buffetting of the bleak north-wester. When she disappeared into a
sheltered hollow, the wind, hushed and non-plussed for a minute,
paused to meditate further mischief; then, with regathered rage, it
tore across country, and boomed, with sullen roar, into a valley
shut in by brackened and heather-covered hills.

Here, a granite-built house, sheltered under the rocky cliff, had an
air of stern and unkempt loneliness; and there was something
sinister about the watermill, whose dingy wheel, green with disuse,
was close against the side of the building. Yet there was prosperity
to be read in the large open barn stacked high with corn and hay, in
the many cows that fed in the meadow below the hill, and in the
horses that stamped impatiently in the stable.

The master of Orvillière Farm was Dominic Le Mierre, a bachelor, a
hard worker, and a more than respectable member of the parish of
Saint Pierre du Bois. It seemed that he did not mind the boisterous
wind this evening as he ate his supper hurriedly in the gloomy
kitchen, whose windows shook at every touch of the blast.

Over the hills, and once more across country, the howling wind made
its way, past the old church of Saint Pierre du Bois, past the lanes
to Torteval parish, and along the high road to Pleinmont, where it
had full play over a wide moorland district, dotted with low masses
of gorze and groups of boulders.

Here, too, was just one little cottage to shake and grip and freeze
with biting draughts. It stood in a slight hollow on the summit of a
cliff overlooking Rocquaine Bay. Its mossy thatched roof overhung
tiny latticed windows, whose panes were golden red from the light of
the fire of dried sea-weed and furze heaped up on the hearth of
stone raised above the earthen sanded floor.

Round the fire a group of girls was gathered; for the most part they
were just homely, pleasant creatures, but two stood out distinctly
from the rest; one, by reason of her beauty, the other, because of
her original and perhaps, forbidding, personality. The beautiful
one, Blaisette Simon, of Colomberie Farm, was small and plump and
very fair, with cheeks of a rosebud pink and lips full and ripe for
kisses. The round innocence of her blue eyes looked away all sense
from the men, so it was said, and she had lovers by the dozen. Added
to her beauty was the attraction of a very desirable little fortune
which she had already inherited from her mother, who was dead; and
by and bye, _Mess_' Simon would leave her the farm and all his
money, for she was an only child. She was disposed to be friendly
with Ellenor, again an only child, the one treasure of Jean and
Marie Cartier, of Les Casquets Cottage.

People wondered what Blaisette saw in the dark scowling girl, who
was reserved and offhand with people in general; and probably
Blaisette herself was puzzled as to _why_ she sought Ellenor so
constantly. The girls were a distinct contrast, not only in
character, but in appearance.

Ellenor was tall and angular, with a certain nobility and
haughtiness of carriage inherited from her fisherman father. Her
sallow skin, sombre grey eyes and heavy mouth, looked the
personification of night beside the sunny beauty of Blaisette's blue
eyes and yellow hair. The girl of the cottage was an excellent foil
to the girl of Colomberie Farm. Did Blaisette realize, all
unconsciously, the use of this to her as she went forward
triumphantly in her victorious path as the belle of two parishes?

But to return to the group round the fire.

All at once, by common consent, as it appeared, the girls rose and
crowded round the entrance. Ellenor lifted the latch, and, flinging
the door wide open, she stood on the threshold and looked out into
the inky blackness of the night. The wind howled and moaned as it
entered the kitchen; and a flash of lightning tore open, for one
second, the darkness of the sky. After the crash of thunder that
followed, Blaisette cried in an awestruck voice,

"Surely now, Ellenor, you will not go!"

"Not go!" echoed the girl of the cottage, "not go! but this is the
very weather to go in! Now, perhaps, you will all believe I fear
nothing! and if there was need for it I would go bareheaded to Saint
Peter Port in this deluge!" and she pointed to the sheets of rain
which swept over the moorland.

Then a small, insignificant voice, coming from a woman who sat in
the hearth corner, spoke irritably.

"You know, Ellenor, if your father was here, he would not let you
play such tricks!"

Ellenor faced her mother with rebellion in every feature of her
face.

"The girls have dared me to go to the Haunted House on this very
night, and I'll go, mother, if I have to face the devil himself."

Mrs. Cartier sighed.

"Well, you must do as you please, it seems you always do!"

Without further words, Ellenor coiled tighter the thick hair that
looked too heavy for her small head, stuck through it a dull gold
pin, and stepped out into the small garden.

"It has stopped raining," she said sarcastically, "so who will go a
little way, to see I don't cheat, but go, in reality, to the Haunted
House?"

After a minute's hesitation, two or three of the girls followed her,
but Blaisette, with a pretty pout, returned to the _jonquière_ by
the hearth. Ellenor walked rapidly up the steep path to the summit
of the cliff, then plunged into the darkness of the moorland.
Winding in and out amongst gorze bushes, she reached at last a large
patch of grass. She turned round to the girls who were huddling
close to her.

"There! in two minutes I'll be to the Haunted House. Listen to the
sea! We're close to the edge of the cliffs. Come, quick, let's run,
who knows if I can burst open the door, if I won't see the devil. I
would wish it, for my part! There'd be a chance to tell him what one
thinks of him."

Her words wandered away into the night, for the girls, with cries of
horror, had fled as if evil spirits pursued them.

With a mocking laugh, Ellenor hurried on, then gradually she
slackened her pace. At last, she groped her way forward with
outstretched hands, for it was horribly dark. Presently she touched
the rough stone wall of some building and stopped and listened. Not
a sound but the wild roar of the waves below the cliffs and the
gradual lulling of the wind. She groped along the wall, till her
hands fell a little lower, to a different surface. It was a short
wooden door. She pushed against it, gently, but it did not yield.
She felt it across and up and down. There was no latch and she could
find no keyhole. Again she pushed, this time with all her strength.
Jerking suddenly, the door opened inwards, and Ellenor, leaning
against it, fell forward over the high threshold into pitch
darkness. She felt a blinding blow and a sickening pain, and then
she lost consciousness.

When she came to herself she was first aware of a heavily beamed
cobwebbed roof, of a dim lantern beside her, of the stifling
nearness of kegs and bales and boxes, and then of a very familiar
figure kneeling beside her on one knee.

The man's face that peered into hers was handsome in a heavy
undeveloped way. Eyes as grey as hers and as sombre scowled from
underneath dark brows and a dark thatch of hair. His sullen mouth,
set in a hard angry line, was the finest feature of a clean-shaven
face.

"You little fool!" he half whispered, "what on earth, or in hell,
has made you come meddling here, I'd like to know! I've nearly
killed you!"

With his coarse pocket handkerchief he mopped up the blood that was
flowing from a cut on her head.

"How did you nearly kill me?" she asked, "what harm have I done?"

"You've come sneaking in here, and in this darkness, and I hit you
when you banged open the door. It seems you were falling over the
doorstep. You're pretty pale, my girl, but I believe I know your
face. Aren't you from Les Casquets?"

"I'm Ellenor Cartier, yes. And you--you're Monsieur Le Mierre, from
Orvillière."

He scowled and looked for a minute as if he meditated another
blow--then he swore roundly in the Norman-French that he and all the
islanders spoke.

"How the devil did you know me in this darkness! You're a witch, it
seems, and it isn't the first time I've thought it. You are not a
beauty, my girl. But come, tell me, how did you recognize me?"

"I've seen you to church, to St. Pierre du Bois, but you were all
dressed up then; and I've seen you driving to the market of a
Saturday morning sometimes."

He laughed and bent a little closer. Her eyes were like stars as
they were lifted to his face. And she did not appear to fear him in
the very least.

"Well, it's a joke, isn't it, the difference between Dominic Le
Mierre of a Sunday and Dominic Le Mierre in this place, my clothes
all wet with sea-water. And now, tell me, witch, why do you think
I'm here, in the Haunted House?"

"I couldn't say, I'm sure."

He was silent, staring hard into the candid, fearless eyes; then
impulsively he cried,

"I believe I can trust you! But, I warn you, if you let out why I'm
here, I'll kill you."

"You can trust me. I'd be killed before I'd let out."

A soft shadow darkened the clearness of her eyes: her long eyelashes
fell before his puzzled stare.

"But why, bah! it appears you're not afraid of me, then! Very well.
I'll tell you. It is the best way out of the difficulty. But sit up
against this barrel, and drink a little brandy. I've stopped the
bleeding in your head with a black enough cobweb."

Ellenor tried to raise herself up, but loss of blood had made her
giddy, and Dominic put his arm round her and steadied her roughly,
but not unkindly. Her dark head rested a second against his blue
jerseyed shoulder, and once more she lifted her eyes to his. With
brusque and evidently totally unpremeditated passion he kissed her
red lips.

"There! didn't I say you are a witch! I could laugh at myself for
this--I, Le Mierre, of one of the oldest families of St. Pierre du
Bois to be kissing a girl like you, a girl who carries fish to
market, tramp, tramp, all the way in the rain or in the sun! And,
moreover, I, Le Mierre, oh, so respectable and fine of a Sunday,
pulling a long face in my pew, and yet, behold, here I am a
smuggler, keeping guard over brandy and lace and silks! And why the
devil did I kiss you, for it isn't that you are a pretty girl or
enticing, eh?"

The girl trembled and turned away her head.

"Perhaps I am not pretty, but you've kissed me for all that, and
better still, you've told me your secret. I think it's a mean thing
to be a smuggler: but I'd die before I'd tell anyone _you_ was a
smuggler. That I promise you!"

"Good! And why are you ready to promise me so quick? I'm inclined to
be afraid you'll let out, after all. I've been a fool to trust you."

He grasped her arm roughly and knitting his brows was buried in
thought again. But she broke in on his silence, with blazing eyes of
such beauty that he understood why he had kissed her.

"Not a bit of it, Monsieur Le Mierre! A man is not a fool to trust a
girl who ... likes ... him!"

"But, that's all very well! How is it you like me? You've never
spoken to me before."

"I've seen you to church; and one can like people without speaking
to them."

He laughed. "Perhaps _you_ can, but I can't! Well, the job's done
now, so I suppose I'll have to trust you. Next time you see me to
church, you won't believe it's me you've really seen here. But you
must be off--or else the other chaps will catch you. Look here, I'm
sorry I've made your head bleed! and you'll have to tell a pack of
lies to explain why there's a cut under your hair. Are you afraid
to tell lies, eh?"

"Not to keep you safe."

"Well, you're no coward I must say. And now, stop a bit, how much
money do you expect me to give you to keep a still tongue in your
head?"

"Money! not a double!"

"Bah, I can't believe it, and if ever you need it to help your
father and mother, you come to me. But quick, you must go, it seems
to me I hear somebody coming. There, you're over the step, run,
quick, it _is_ the men, coming up the cliff!"

When she had disappeared into the darkness, Le Mierre muttered to
himself, "I'm _ensorcelai_, that's certain, for I've never found out
what brought the girl here at all!"



CHAPTER II.


It was winter, always a time for enjoyment in the days of old
Guernsey, when evening after evening, people met together at the
_Veilles_, to knit and sing and to tell stories of witchcraft and
weird tales of the sea.

Colomberie Farm was glowing with warmth and light, and swarming with
company on the evening of the twenty-first of December, for it was
the special festival of _longue veille_. The spotless wooden table
in the middle of the sanded floor was piled high with woollen goods
of every kind, which had been knitted by men and women at former
_veilles_. The dark blue of "jerseys" and "guernseys" were an
effective background for stacks of white woollen stockings and
scarlet caps.

"My good," said Mrs. Cartier, of Les Casquets Cottage, "there's
never yet bin so many things for the Christmas Eve market! It's that
we must have worked well! What do you say, mesdames?"

A torrent of agreement, poured out in Norman-French, swallowed up
her small pipe; and Mesdames from all the countryside gathered
closer round the table to inspect the good work and pack it up for
transmission to market. Mesdames were comely and rosy, excellent and
thrifty housewives, delighted at the thought of the gold and silver
that the warm cosy garments represented.

The men of the company stood idly by, flirting and smoking and
provoking giggles and pretty foolish speeches from the girls, who
queened it openly on these occasions. Even the elderly men, seated
on wooden stools in the deep recess of the wide chimney, turned
their withered nut-cracker faces from the glow of the _vraicq_ fire,
to smile leniently on "les jeunes gens."

A few serious groups of born story-tellers and eager listeners sat
on the floor where the flickering light of the _crâsset_ shadowed
and then brightened the healthy beauty of the girls and the warm tan
of fishermen's faces. Everybody was happy, and gaiety and laughter
held the night.

But to one girl, joy meant so much that she had crept away with it
to the dark staircase, spiral and stone, that rose from the wide
entry to the top of the house. She sat on the third step from the
floor, and from her position she commanded a full view of half the
kitchen. Her eyes, deep and dark with excitement, yet almost
blinding in their gaze of rapture, rested on the face of Dominic Le
Mierre who sat on the _jonquière_ in the corner of the hearth. He
was alone and appeared to be absorbed in watching the group of
story-tellers under the _crâsset_. His sombre handsome face wore an
expression of extreme boredom. He had said, a few moments ago to
Ellenor Cartier, the girl on the stairs, that he detested the
_veilles_, but that he was bound to be present, as master of
Orvillière Farm. He had added, moreover, a remark that had flooded
Ellenor's heart with the joy that had caused her to creep away by
herself into the darkness.

It was her presence, he assured her, with a stare into her trusting
eyes, that drew him to Colomberie Farm to-night, otherwise he would
have been out fishing beyond Pleinmont Point. Dominic had chuckled
to himself many times during the past months when he reviewed his
position towards Ellenor. Since the meeting in the Haunted House, he
had seen her not a few times, and he had rivetted round her a chain
which linked her closely to himself. He had exerted the masterful
fascination which was his to bring her completely under his power.
Love is a stronger motive than even hate. He made Ellenor love him
that he might be sure she would keep secret his dealings with
smugglers. He felt absolutely certain that if once she cared for him
she would be loyal, even to death. Therefore he fanned the flame of
the liking she had openly avowed into a wide spreading blaze, which
might burn up her peace and contentment, for all he cared, he said
to himself, with a derisive laugh.

In spite of scorn and derision, however, he felt an interest in her
which was quite foreign to his selfish and exploiting nature. With
admirable perseverance he crushed every rising of this interest and
stamped it under foot. But it proved strangely unconquerable, and it
rose again and again, vital and conflicting, to taunt him with its
indestructibility. He certainly could not have told himself why he
liked to meet this girl so often on the sly and why he liked to kiss
her red lips and make her eyes shine into his. But the fact that he
_did_ like the meetings and _did_ look forward to the kisses, was
quite a dominant factor in his life. Still, these things were apart:
ambition, money, reputation were more to the master of Orvillière
Farm than all the girls in creation. He had not the slightest
intention of marrying a peasant girl, but he did intend to have a
rich well-born wife--a pretty one, if possible.

As he sat on the _jonquière_, he watched keenly, in a business-like
spirit, the gay gestures and pretty dimples of Blaisette Simon, who
was the most eager listener of the story-telling group. He had often
thought of her as a possible wife. But she was such a universal
flirt, that, hitherto, he had received no special encouragement.
To-night, however, he felt inclined to exert the full power of
attraction which he was quite capable of appreciating and using. All
women, whether they avow it or not, love to find their master and
bend to him; and Dominic was of the very essence of virility.
Indeed, one outspoken girl of Torteval parish said she would rather
be beaten by Le Mierre than be kissed by a man all gentleness and
kindness.

In a few minutes, Blaisette had left the story-tellers and joined
Dominic on the _jonquière_. She had not the faintest idea how it was
she had risen to go to him, but his welcome was of the most
delightful, his voice was tender and deep, his eye spoke eloquently
of her beauty. Blaisette had never known him in such a compelling
mood. Her foolish, weak little head was turned; his gross flattery
was nectar to her greedy vanity. He was generally so taciturn, so
cold, so aloof. And Blaisette plumed herself on being the cause of
this wonderful unbending of his. By supper time they had advanced
into the thick of a serious flirtation: and more than one person
remarked on the absorbed couple on the _jonquière_.

Of course Ellenor saw it all, at first with unconcern, then with
growing alarm. The rapture died out of her face, which stiffened
into tragic lines of misery and jealousy. Every blush and pretty
gesture of Blaisette's called forth a new expression in the large
clear eyes of the watcher on the stairs. Hitherto it had not entered
into her head that Dominic might make her his wife; but, likewise,
she had never yet pictured a Madame Orvillière who would take up the
master's time and prevent the stolen meetings that were so dear to
her. Now, as she watched Dominic's marked attentions to Blaisette,
as she saw him, more than once, lay his hand on hers, she realized
the meaning of the scene in the chimney corner. He would marry the
rich girl. She turned sick and giddy with jealousy. Rising, she
groped her way into the garden, and, without cloak or hat, she ran
down the quiet lanes and along the high road to the moorland of
Pleinmont, where her little home received her with its homely air of
comfort. She crept up to her attic bedroom, and when her father and
mother returned home, she would give no account of her sudden
disappearance from the _veille_.

"I've brought your cloak and hat," whined Mrs. Cartier, "you must be
mad to go home without them! But, there, one never knows what you
will do next."

"Leave the girl alone," broke in the father's voice, "she was tired
out, she had done the best part of the packing up--it was Blaisette
herself told us that. And, Monsieur Le Mierre, he said you were a
hard-working girl and would make a good servant, if I'd let you go
out. He laughed when he said this, did Monsieur, and it's my belief
he'll marry Blaisette before long. It looks as if they meant to keep
company. Well, good-night, my girl! I must be off fishing in an
hour!"

Christmas Day, not in the least typical, dawned over the heights of
Pleinmont in pale gold and soft grey; and the hours that followed
were mild and cloudy as those of a day in Spring. The inmates of Les
Casquets Cottage ate their humble Christmas dinner of a small piece
of beef and a rough kind of raisin pudding; then Jean and his wife
composed themselves to the unusual luxury of an afternoon sleep.
Ellenor was too restless to stay at home. She wandered over the
cliffs and insensibly she made, at last, for the Haunted House.

She threw herself on the grass at the back of the grim, gaunt
building, and she tried to collect the miserable, wandering thoughts
which were forever haunting her--thoughts of Dominic and Blaisette.
All at once, a musical whistle startled her, and Le Mierre himself
came up the cliff, a fish basket slung over his shoulder.

"You here, Ellenor!" he cried, sitting down beside her, "on
Christmas Day and all alone! Where, then, are all your beaux?"

"You know quite well I've got none, and don't want none, Monsieur,"
she replied sulkily.

"Come, come, do you expect me to believe that of a pretty girl like
you?"

"Pretty!" she echoed scornfully, "it's your Blaisette Simon that's
as pretty as a wax doll. It isn't me, Monsieur, with my black
looks!"

He laughed and put his arm round her. At his touch she trembled and
a lovely colour rose in her pale face. Then, with slow, and as if
involuntary, movement, her head nestled against his shoulder.

"That's right!" he said, "now you are a sensible girl. Let's be
happy while we can. So you call Blaisette _mine_, do you! What a
foolish Ellenor to be jealous of her. She's quite different from
you, can't you see that she doesn't set a man's blood on fire like
you do, witch?"

"That's all very well, Monsieur, but you told father to the _veille_
that I would make a good servant and he thought perhaps you would
wish to engage me for when you marry Blaisette, and I saw you with
her on the _jonquière_!"

"Well, _sorcière_, is it that I must speak only to you? And what if
I _do_ marry Blaisette?"

With a quick look into his amused eyes, she lifted her head from his
shoulder and withdrew from his careless embrace. But it was only for
a moment. In abandonment of grief and devotion she flung herself
against his breast.

"I don't care," she sobbed, "if you marry Blaisette! I don't care
if, even, I come to be your servant, but, for the sake of God, love
me the best."

He smiled triumphantly over her hidden face and lightly kissed her
dark hair.

"Good, there you shew sense! But, tell me, you can't be really
jealous if you're willing for me to marry Blaisette? Why, you might
even let out about what goes on in this Haunted House, just to vex
me. And how do I know you won't do it, even yet?"

"I'd die first!" she cried, looking up proudly.

"That's settled then! And now let me tell you a secret, just to
reward you. I am not even thinking of marriage with Blaisette Simon.
Come, how many kisses will you give me for that piece of news?"

So heaven opened for Ellenor, and the rest of Christmas Day was
spent in going over and over again every word he had said to her
behind the Haunted House. She was unusually amiable at home, and her
father, who was devoted to her, rejoiced in the sunshine of her
ready smiles and bright ways.

This mood lasted but a few days. On New Year's Day she went to
Colomberie Farm to help in the kitchen, for there was much to be
done in the way of preparing refreshments for the constant string of
guests who came to bring greetings and presents to the pretty
Blaisette, the rich, desirable heiress.

Ellenor's duty was to take fresh relays of cake and wine into the
best parlour: and towards the end of the afternoon, when it was
dusk, and the lamps were not yet lit, she entered the room suddenly,
intent on business. There were only two people seated by the fire.
One was Blaisette, a vision of dainty prettiness in a new blue gown;
the other was Dominic Le Mierre.

He held the girl's hand in his. He was bending forward to kiss her
as Ellenor entered the room. From the heaven of the last few days,
she fell into a hell of jealousy and bitter hatred of Blaisette. At
once she turned and fled from the room. It was all very well to
speak of his marriage with another girl, when she herself was in his
arms. It was another thing to see him kiss the pink and white face
of her rival. She could not bear it. Once more she rushed from
Colomberie Farm in bitter despair and unreasoning grief.



CHAPTER III.


It was Spring. Dominic Le Mierre still played a double game and
there was no talk of an engagement between Blaisette and himself. He
met Ellenor secretly; and was often at Colomberie Farm, where he was
a welcome visitor, not only to the daughter, but to the father, who
valued the advice and skill of the master of Orvillière in all
things pertaining to the management of the farm. Now, in the
springtime, the countryside was stirring into new life, and masters
and men alike were full of enthusiasm over the tilling of the soil
and the expectation of good crops to come. Monsieur Le Mierre had
sent round word to his neighbours that on a certain day in March he
would hold the working festival of _La Grand' Querrue_, or _The
Grand Plough_. That meant the combination of these neighbours into a
band of all day workers, for the purpose of deeply trenching a
certain field in preparation for the cultivation of parsnips. The
large expensive plough to be used was the joint property of Le
Mierre and his richer neighbours, and it was, naturally, available
for each in turn. Every master brought his men and his horses and
bullocks to the fray, and at seven o'clock in the morning the work
and jollity began.

The field to be ploughed lay at the base of cliffs covered with the
tender grass and golden gorze bushes of early Spring. Deep purple
scentless violets clustered in sheltered nooks, where granite,
ivy-covered boulders rose grimly along the slopes and little ravines
of the cliffs. Primroses, many of them milk white, starred the
grass; and wild blue hyacinths grew tall and graceful in damp
patches shaded by stunted trees. But the special field in question
lay bare to the sky, surrounded by low hedges, and of a rich red
brown colour.

Six bullocks and sixteen horses drew the large plough, and Dominic
Le Mierre was captain of the team. He looked his very best, for the
work drew out the strength and will of the man. The pose of his
body, the skill of his movements, the carriage of his head, marked
him as the typical worker of the fields, a very king of farmers. His
energy and vitality inspired the other men, and no one could believe
it was time for _mi-matin_ when ten o'clock chimed out from the
church behind the cliffs. But when the spell of work was broken, the
men found they were very hungry, and fell upon the bread and butter,
cheese and strong coffee, with tremendous appetites. These good
things were brought down in large baskets from Orvillière; and the
men scattered in little groups as they ate and drank, discussed
farming, or looked out over the wide sea just beyond the field, and
wondered if fishing would pay this year.

Suddenly Le Mierre gave the call for a return to work, and again the
glorious ploughing went forward till noon. Then the cattle were
unharnessed and allowed to feed, two men being left in charge of
them. The rest of the workers climbed the hill to Orvillière, where
a substantial dinner was provided. There was cabbage soup, a
_pâlette_ or big boiled ham, a piece of pork, a round of beef and
other things loved of Guernseymen, not forgetting copious draughts
of island cider. Two o'clock saw the men once more at the ploughing,
and the afternoon dragged a little till four o'clock, when the
housekeeper and the maids from Orvillière appeared, bringing each
her large basket of _mirelevée_. This meant tea and currant cake,
and probably cider. A halt was called. Once more the men grouped
themselves into unconscious picturesquesness, and ate and drank to
their fill. But at this _al fresco_ meal a delightful air of
familiarity and coquetry made itself felt by the presence of the
rosy maidens from Orvillière; above all by the appearance of
Blaisette Simon, who brought down a special batch of cakes, made and
cooked by herself. Le Mierre was at her side at once and a pretty
flirtation sprang up, for the master was in an excellent temper and
the girl was marvellously taken by the handsome power and devilry of
the captain of the work. Never had she seen him look half so well,
she said to herself. Ah, if he proposed, she would not feel inclined
to refuse him! She leant over the hedge and looked out to sea, and
he stood close beside her, his blue jerseyed shoulder brushing the
stray gold of her hair. Lovers they seemed, even if lovers in
reality they were not.

So thought Ellenor Cartier as she watched them from the little cove
below the field. She stood, a solitary figure against the sky, on
the rough arm of a little harbour where she waited for the return of
her father from fishing. She had been watching for the red sail of
his boat since three o'clock, but she had turned many times to send
hungry, lingering looks at the field, above all at the prominent
figure of Le Mierre. When Blaisette came, in the glory of a new gown
and a pink sunbonnet, it seemed to Ellenor that life was harder than
she could bear, for she was shut out from the _Grand Plough_. Her
father had not been asked to help, he was too much beneath the rank
of Le Mierre; therefore no excuse could be framed to admit her into
the enchanted field. Jealousy sharpened her eyesight, she thought
she could see the white hand of Blaisette slip through Dominic's
arm. It was too much. She turned away and looked out to sea, blinded
by tears.

The red sail of Cartier's boat fluttered in the breeze that blew
from the land, and with swift grace the little craft came into
harbour. Ellenor dashed the tears from her eyes and smiled down at
the men in the boat as they fastened it to a hook in the breakwater
and climbed up beside her. Her father was her friend, her refuge,
her comfort; and something of his influence over her seemed to
belong to the other man, his mate. Perrin Corbet was tall and
angular, without the slightest pretention to good looks, but with a
fund of good nature and humour in his grey eyes, and when he smiled
back at Ellenor a shy tenderness glorified his plain face into
something far beyond mere beauty of feature.

The men and Ellenor crossed the sandy cove and climbed the winding
cliff path which led directly past the _Grand Plough_. Jean and
Perrin lingered to watch the splendid action of Le Mierre, as, once
more, he led the line of animals: but Ellenor walked on and never
even glanced to see if Blaisette were still in the field. She did
not wait for the men and kept a little ahead of them as she mounted
the cliff to the moorland above. Her head was bent, her arms hung
down listlessly.

Suddenly, round a bend in the path, a number of children appeared in
evident high glee. They stopped when they reached the men and
explained, all speaking at once, that they were going to see _La
Grand' Querrue_. Perrin, who loved children, listened patiently to
the shrill little voices and patted the innocent faces.

"But we can't go on yet!" exclaimed the eldest of the group, "we are
waiting for little Marie, she stopped to tie up her shoe. Ah, there
she is!"

Perrin looked up and saw that Ellenor had lifted little Marie in her
arms and was bringing her to the other children. The golden haired
baby nestled her head against the girl's breast: and her chubby arm
was thrown round Ellenor's neck. The two made a sweet picture. The
girl's sombre face was softened by contrast with the lovely little
head pressed confidingly against her. The eternal wonder of mother
and child is seen whenever a woman has a baby in her arms, and
though Perrin could not have explained the thrill that swept over
him, he knew in his heart that the sight of the two together moved
him to an intense longing, an intense reverence. In his nature was
none of the coarse fibre which so often marks the men whose lives
are all action, danger and privation. When Ellenor kissed little
Marie and put her down with a gentleness unusual to herself,
Perrin's thoughts rang of what she would be as a mother. His heart
throbbed suddenly as he dared to drag to light a long-hidden
secret--kept hitherto from himself. He loved her. He had loved her
from childhood, when he, a big clumsy boy, had taken her part, and
fought her battles, at the parish school. He wanted her for his
wife. He wanted her for the mother of his children.

Ah, what a picture rose before him as his thoughts painted rapidly!
A little cottage on the moorland; a rose red _vraic_ fire; Ellenor
seated in a low chair, beside her a cradle; on her lap, a little
baby, with wide sad eyes like hers. He saw himself enter the cottage
and fling his net into a corner; he felt her kiss on his lips,
and....

"Wake up, Corbet! Not a word have you spoken since we left those
children--and what with you as glum as a fish and Ellenor gone in
front, its precious dull for me!"

Cartier slapped his friend on the back, and Perrin exerted himself
to chat and laugh. Then, all at once, Jean broke into the talk of
parish gossip.

"Look here, _mon gars_, I'm not happy about Ellenor. She is unhappy,
worse and worse each day; and so bad tempered. You know she never
gets on with her mother, poor girl; but now, even at me she snaps,
and, God knows, I love her well, and she loves me."

Perrin was silent.

"Does she treat you properly?" went on Cartier.

"Well, to tell you the truth, she is not very polite at times, but I
would not blame her. She always looks so sad, and, as you say, worse
than ever just now. Perhaps she's _ensorchelai_, who can say!"

"I've thought of that--perhaps I'll get her to tell me. Well, this
is your way--so à bientôt, Perrin, à bientôt!"

Corbet made his way to his home, a cottage not far from the
outskirts of the moorland at whose edge stood the Haunted House. He
lived with his mother, a widow and an invalid. She hardly ever left
the cottage, but she made it a palace of happiness to her son. Her
lovely placid old face brooded over his every want and his every
look. She lived the life of a saint and had brought up her son to
fear God and none else. Perrin's religious life was a deep reality
to him: he never spoke of it, but in it he moved, at home, in the
conscious joy of the presence of God.

Every night, when his mother had gone to bed in her tiny attic, he
knelt long beside the _jonquière_ in the corner of the hearth: and
every night he prayed for Ellenor, naming her softly after the
beloved word "mother."

But this night. _Ellenor_ was first on his lips. Why was she
unhappy? Why was she so unkind to the father she loved? Ah, if one
could see right through her dark eyes into her sorrowful heart, one
might have a chance of comforting her! But, as it was, one felt
useless and blundering.

His head bent lower. Broken words came from his lips. A deep
mysterious silence held the man in awe. It was as though One stood
beside him while he prayed. And to that One he spoke of Ellenor.

At that very hour she was running quickly along the high road to
Orvillière. The moon, full and soft as pearl, rode high in the
cloudless sky. The stars glinted like silver fires. But the beauty
of the night was lost upon Ellenor. It seemed to her as if she would
never reach her destination. At last, at last, she was at the top of
the valley which sloped to the farm! As she ran down hill, she could
hear the sound of music and the ring of laughter. The _Grand Plough_
supper, the _finale_ of the day's work and feasting, was evidently
in full swing. When she reached the house she crept up to one of the
windows and peered in. The hired fiddler and man with the flute and
the man with the "serpent" sat on the _jonquière_. The kitchen was
full of people, eating and drinking round a long table covered with
great pieces of meat and puddings of every description.

At the head of the table was Dominic Le Mierre, evidently the worse
for drink, which, however had not made him idiotic, but which had
maddened him into wild and extravagant excitement. Beside him was
Blaisette Simon, dressed in a quaint muslin gown which accentuated
her childlike and piquante beauty. Her father, easy-going Mess'
Simon, looked on smilingly at the orgie around him, and seemed not
in the least disturbed when Dominic drew his arms round Blaisette
and kissed her repeatedly. She gave an affected little scream and
pretended to be shocked, but Dominic laughed all the louder, and
cried to all the guests to drink her health.

And all the while, Ellenor looked on with wide eyes of jealousy. In
the presence of Dominic she forgot all goodness, all restraint, she
only longed passionately to be in the place of Blaisette. Not in the
least knowing what she did, she opened the house door and entered
the kitchen. At first she was not noticed, so great was the noise
and misrule. Suddenly Blaisette caught sight of her, and pointed her
out to Dominic with a foolish giggle.

"I've been told she's mad after you," she whispered, "and it seems
it's true since she has forced her way into here!"

Dominic was not only furious, but fearful of disclosures. He rose
unsteadily to his feet, and pointed at Ellenor.

"Be off with you!" he cried, "how dare you come here, you
_impudante_!"

The girl of Les Casquets Cottage stood as if turned to stone. She
did not know what she had expected when she entered the room.
Blind, mad impulse had moved her to a mad act. But this was like
death to her, this harsh voice, this volley of rough words. When she
did not move, Dominic reeled down the room, and taking her by the
shoulders, he pushed her into the entrance hall and locked the
kitchen door.

When she came to herself, she never dreamt of blaming Dominic.

"It's all _her_ fault!" she said to herself, climbing the hill
swiftly, "it's every bit her fault; and as sure's as she's alive,
I'll pay her out!"



CHAPTER IV.


The sudden appearance of Ellenor at the Grand Plough supper was
talked of all over the countryside; and the story of it soon
penetrated to Les Casquets Cottage. Mrs. Cartier made her usual
futile remark that "one never knew what the girl would do next," and
whined and canted about the matter for days together. Jean was very
angry at Ellenor's want of proper pride in thrusting herself where
she was not considered good enough to enter; but neither parent
guessed at the real state of affairs.

Le Mierre managed to waylay Ellenor some days after _La Grand'
Querrue_, and a few careless kisses and slighting remarks of
Blaisette bound the girl of the cottage closer to him than ever. As
for Dominic, he told himself that he could not and would not give up
the stolen meetings with Ellenor. They were far too exciting, for
the girl was one to set a man on fire, with her passionate
demonstrations of love, and her wild, untamed nature. Thus the
Spring passed, and the long days of Summer gladdened workers and
idlers alike.

It was June, and Perrin Corbet was busy day and night at the
fishing. He and Cartier put away a good bit of money, but they
never entrusted it to safer keeping than certain old purses locked
up in their cottage homes. Each man toiled, not to save merely, but
to keep a sum of money put by for those he cared for. If Perrin had
hopes of nearer relationship to Cartier, he was doomed to
disappointment. He had begun to court Ellenor persistently, and she,
as persistently, shunned him.

One evening, as he was returning from Rocquaine Bay after a long
day's fishing, he met Ellenor in a shady lane. She had been milking
and carried on her arm the large shining can which it was her pride
to keep like silver.

"What's the matter, Ellenor?" he said at once, "you look as white as
death! Is it you are ill?"

She laughed mockingly.

"Have you ever known me to be ill! Surely this warm weather is
enough to make one look white! And far from being ill, I am much
amused at what I have seen just now. Will I tell you about it?"

"My good, yes, tell me, I am only too pleased if you talk to me.
Shall we go up to Les Casquets together? I was going there to see
your father."

As they walked side by side she began to speak rapidly.

"Well, this amusing thing I have seen! Listen! I was at the top of
the valley that leads to Orvillière Farm this morning when, all at
once, I saw a cart coming along. In it was a big chest made of oak
and carved all over; and besides there was a box covered with
leather and all over brass nails. Of course one knew at once what
that meant! In the chest and in the box there was the linen for the
house of some woman who was soon to be married, and it was being
taken to the house of the bridegroom. Sure enough, it seems I was
right, for tied to the cart behind was the cow the father of the
bride would give! Then, close to the cart, on the side, there was a
girl I knew. She was the nearest woman relation of Blaisette Simon,
and she was carrying a looking glass. I knew what all those things
meant--a marriage soon to take place. So I looked again, and I saw
that the man who was leading the cart was Dominic Le Mierre, the
master of Orvillière, and he turned down the hill that leads to the
farm. He didn't see me--him--he was chatting and laughing with the
girl cousin of Blaisette, and telling her not to let the looking
glass fall, or that would be bad luck. Now, Perrin Corbet, tell me,
what do you think all that means?"

She breathed quickly and turned her face away from him.

"Means!" echoed the fisherman, "of course it means only one thing,
that there will soon be a wedding, that the bride will be Blaisette
Simon and the bridegroom will be Dominic Le Mierre. But why do you
ask me? You said you knew yourself what it meant when you saw the
chest in the cart!"

"Bah, don't be so stupid and tease me like that! There might be some
mistake. And what do I care if she does marry him?"

"I wonder you haven't heard it talked of before, Ellenor, for all
Torteval has said long ago they would make a match."

"Well, let people chat as much as they like! _He_ don't care for
her, that I know. It's only her money he's after. She is a silly
little fool, all pink and white and yellow hair."

"Perhaps! But all we men can see that she is a very pretty girl. And
how do you know he don't care for her, eh?"

"How dare you to question me like this! Never mind how I know, but I
do."

"Well, my girl, I can tell you all about it. It would seem that Le
Mierre has been making a fool of you. All Torteval knows it. And
there's times and times I've seen you together; and him making love
to you."

"You're a sneak and a liar! So you've spied on us, Perrin Corbet,
have you?"

The fisherman was absolutely unmoved by her rudeness. His love was
beyond and above any feeling of even proper pride.

"I've not spied on you at all, but it wasn't my fault if you didn't
see me; and you never gave me a chance of telling you all this
before. He's sure and certain to marry Blaisette. It's as good as if
she was his wife now you've seen the cart taking the linen to
Orvillière. Don't be vexed with me. It's for your good I speak. You
know how I love you, Ellenor."

"Bah, who cares for your love! I was a fool to tell you the amusing
thing I've seen. And I tell you, once more, he don't love Blaisette
Simon."

"Well, have it your own way! I've nothing more to say about the
marriage. But I've a mind to go to warn Blaisette about her husband
to be."

Ellenor turned on Perrin a look of wild terror and anger.

"If I could, I'd kill you, because I hate you so! You would go to
tell Blaisette that you've seen me and him together!"

"I would do no such thing. But I would wish to warn her that Dominic
is mixed up with smugglers."

A dead silence was at last broken by Ellenor's husky words.

"How do you know he's mixed up with smugglers?"

"Listen to my tale this time," he said, "but it isn't at all
amusing. One night I was off the point of the cliffs below the
Haunted House. I was in my boat, fishing for _bream_. It was full
moon, but me and my boat were in shadow. None could see us. By and
bye--I saw a long, narrow boat shoot out from a cave not far off
from me. In it were three or four black looking foreigners. They
pushed their boat close under the cliffs and waited, full an hour.
Then, by and bye, down came Le Mierre and another man with bundles
of silk, or what looked like it ... and the fellow in the boat got
up and caught hold of the bundles and went off with them like the
very devil. Le Mierre and his man were up the cliff again before I
could whistle to them that I was by. I've meant to tell Le Mierre
some day; and it seems to me now's the time for him and his girl to
know."

"And what good would that be, I'd like to be told! He'd only do his
best to pay you out for being a sneak."

"I've thought, too, of letting the constables of the parish know of
it," pursued Corbet quietly.

"And a fine row there'd be! Do you think you, a poor fisherman,
would be believed when you went to tell tales of him, a rich farmer!
Bah, you must be mad, Perrin Corbet."

Now the fisherman had all the island reverence for his betters. He
really spoke to ease his mind; but he was very far from longing to
deliver up Dominic to justice, in spite of the pricking of his
conscience, which whispered to him that he was like an accomplice in
a crime if he did not tell of the smuggling business. He was silent
now, and Ellenor began to speak again.

"If you take my advice you won't meddle with Monsieur Le Mierre at
all. Are you forgetting that his family has always been well known
for its wizards and witches? Bah, Perrin, have you so soon forgotten
how the grandfather of Monsieur used to throw black powder on people
if they offended him, and then they would be taken ill all of a
sudden? And over and over again, at the _Sabbat des Sorciers_ of a
Friday night on Catiôroc Hill, the very mother of Dominic has been
seen, dancing with all the rest!"

Perrin stopped short and whistled.

"Well, you won't hardly believe me, but I had quite forgotten! Of
course now I remember all you say. No, no, I can't meddle with him.
His whole family has always been known to have dealings with the
devil. Well, here we are to Les Casquets, let's go in and perhaps
your mother will give me a cup of tea."

"Go in by yourself, if you like! As for me, I'm off, à bientôt,
Perrin!"

Ellenor walked slowly in the direction which would lead her furthest
away from the cottage. She wound in and out of low, prickly gorze
bushes covering the moorland till she reached Pleinmont Point, then
she ran down a gently sloping grass valley till she got to the sea.
She had an appointment with Dominic at Pezerie, the bottom of the
valley which skirted the rocky coast. It was blowing hard, and yet a
dense mist hung over the sea. Once, like a ghost, a boat with a
velvety brown sail, flitted across the Pezerie outlook. A bell
tolled from Hanois Lighthouse.

Ellenor shivered, and cruel forebodings took hold of her. Then, all
at once, it was brilliant sunshine in her heart, for Dominic came
running down the valley and clasped her in his arms. With sobs and
passionate words of reproach and love, she asked him if it was true
he was going to marry Blaisette.

"Little silly child!" he said, with a laugh, "of course it is not
true! There was no thought of _my_ marriage when I led the cart. I
was just helping the cousin of Blaisette; one does not always
exactly keep to old customs."

Then she told him of Perrin and the smuggling; and he called her a
clever _garce_ for stopping Corbet's mouth. He was in the gayest and
most fascinating of moods, and Ellenor was in a heaven of joy, for
his caresses and words had never before been so tender. It was late
before they parted. He could not see her again for a few days, he
explained, as he had special business on hand.

The next day, when Ellenor was knitting outside Les Casquets, a
messenger arrived from Orvillière. He brought an invitation to Jean
Cartier and to his wife and daughter, to attend the wedding of
Monsieur Dominic Le Mierre and Mademoiselle Blaisette Simon.

She stood up straight and tall to receive the blow. She did not
flinch. Only her face was grey as ashes; and her large eyes looked
like those of a hunted animal, as she accepted the invitation for
her parents and herself.

The wedding was fixed for that day week, and all the parish, indeed
the two parishes of Saint Pierre du Bois and Torteval, were wild
with excitement. Hundreds of people were invited; and for days
before the ceremony the water lanes and marshes were visited by
bands of young people eager to gather the _gllajeurs_, or wild marsh
iris, to strew before the bride and bridegroom when they would leave
the church.

It was a lovely morning when Dominic stood before the altar in the
old church of Saint Pierre du Bois and vowed to love and cherish
fair Blaisette, a picture of sweet gentleness, and pretty coquetry
in her fair white bridal gown. But the sun was black and the sky was
lead to Ellenor, as she watched the bride and bridegroom walk down
the aisle together, man and wife, arm in arm. She could have touched
the bride, so close she stood to her as she passed; and Dominic's
eyes fell upon her with a stony stare. For a maddening moment,
Ellenor thought she would die. Then, her proud spirit re-asserted
itself. She would go through the day carrying aloft her banner of
self-respect. She would march to battle as if to the sound of music.
As she made this resolution, a murmur of almost horror reached her
from outside the church. She hastened to the porch in time to see
that Blaisette was crying.

"What is it?" she whispered to Perrin Corbet, who, all unnoticed,
had kept close to her during the ceremony.

"It's that she has remembered suddenly she came to the church a
different way from what she does on Sundays. And of course we know
it's dreadful bad luck, poor girl! It's certain there'll be
something happen before the year is out."

A gleam of joy lit up Ellenor's pale face.

"Come along, Perrin, let's be off to Orvillière--there's not too
much time before dinner."

Corbet looked at her doubtfully.

"But, aren't you going to put on a different gown?"

"And, pray, _impudant_, why, I'd like to know! This one is silk, and
what more do you want?"

"It's the colour I don't like! Scarlet for a day like this! You
ought to be in white."

But Ellenor only laughed at him. Not she give up her scarlet gown
made of silk that Dominic had given her one night in the Haunted
House!

Orvillière Farm was gay, outside and in, with garlands and crowns of
flowers; and in the kitchen and in the field beside the house,
tables were laid for the customary dinner of roast beef and mutton,
plum pudding and _gâche à corînthe_. Cider flowed liberally; and,
after dinner, the guests were in fitting mood for the games that
followed till tea-time. Then all the evening long, dancing waxed
fast and furious, with intervals for songs. Dominic delighted the
company by giving Ellenor a sounding kiss when she chose him for her
partner in--

    "Saluez, messieurs et dames,
    Ah! mon beau laurier!"

and all the company then shouted in chorus--

    "Entr'embrassez-vous par le jeu d'amourette,
    Entr'embrassez-vous par le jeu d'amour."

But it is certain Ellenor would not have dared to choose the
bridegroom had he not been half drunk. Perrin Corbet, a sober man
himself, looked on in disgust; and glanced at Blaisette to see how
she took it. But she was giggling as usual, and drinking mulled wine
from one of the new wedding cups.

At five in the morning the wedding party broke up; and all the
guests said that Ellenor Cartier was a shameless girl. Perrin heard
and clenched his fist.



CHAPTER V.


"Quick! get up, Ellenor, you must have overslept yourself!" cried
Jean Cartier one morning in August, as he woke his daughter with a
loud knocking on the partition between the attic bedrooms of the
cottage.

"It's all right, father," the girl called in reply, "I've been up
there's a long time, but I am putting the roses round my hat. The
breakfast will be ready as soon as you're down."

Jean dressed in particularly old clothes, and Mrs. Cartier chose out
the shabbiest skirt she possessed, for they were preparing for a day
of hard work on the beach. But, to their surprise, when they came
down to breakfast, Ellenor wore a pretty gown of dark red stuff. She
explained, carelessly, that indeed _she_ would not make herself a
fright before all the countryside; and if the gown was spoilt, well,
it couldn't be helped. Her parents said nothing, for Ellenor's
temper was more uncertain than ever, and they dreaded an outbreak;
but Mrs. Cartier had her suspicions.

After breakfast the three started for Rocquaine Bay, where a lively
scene was being played, for it was the time of _vraicing_ or
sea-weed harvest. Lines of carts were ranged above high-water mark,
and the patient horses were decked with flowers. The beach and sands
swarmed with people all smiling and gay, and for the most part
wearing nosegays. Rich and poor from two parishes chatted, laughed
and worked hard with sickles at cutting the _vraic scié_ from the
low rocks. Very soon, the beach was dotted with heaps of sea-weed,
each marked by a pebble, bearing the owner's name in chalk. The more
adventurous waded across the _cols_ or causeways to rocks at some
distance from the shore and found rich stores of golden weed.
Amongst these adventurous spirits was Ellenor. She had persuaded one
of the farmers to take her on his horse to a high group of rocks,
hidden from the beach by Rocquaine Tower, and here she worked
undisturbed, and in full possession of a wonderful growth of
_vraic_.

She took off her hat, and her hair curled about her forehead in damp
little rings, for the sun was scorching. A dusky red glowed in her
tan cheeks; her eyes, shining with excitement and the joy of work,
followed the skilled movements of the sickle she swung to and fro,
and she was entirely absorbed in gathering in the precious _vraic_.
But, all at once, she paused. She heard, distinctly, the splash of
horse's feet. Someone was coming to interrupt her and share her
harvest. She would not have it! She had first thought of these
rocks! She would fight for her rights!

The splashing came nearer. She did not turn round. A scrambling
sound followed; then she heard heavy steps mount the rocks.

"Ellenor," said a well-known voice, "what luck to find you quite
alone here!"

It was Dominic Le Mierre, and it was the first time the two had met
alone since his wedding day. He took her hand and smiled into her
eyes, which filled with tears.

"You cheated me," she said, "you told me you were not going to marry
her."

He laughed and stooped to kiss her.

"You silly girl! If I had told you I'd never have got so many kisses
from you, and you wouldn't have liked that, eh! What difference does
this marriage make to you and me, I'd like to know! Besides, don't
pretend to be so good all of a sudden. Didn't you choose me at my
wedding feast, and didn't I kiss you before everybody? Not that I
remember it too well, for I had had a little drop, but I've been
told of it since."

"Ah, I was mad that night--mad with jealousy!"

"Go on being mad!" he cried, "how well you look in that red gown,
though it's a common rag besides the fine clothes of my
milk-and-water wife. Bah, what a fool she is! Don't you know I
married her for money and for her good family? But she is like a
silly baby. Her pretty face doesn't touch me. She might stare at me
for ever with her eyes of blue china, and my blood would lie quiet
like a stagnant pond. As for you, witch, your eyes burn into me and
set me in a blaze. And I vow you'll have to meet me pretty often.
Where shall we agree to see each other to-morrow night?"

"Nowhere," she replied sulkily.

"I like that! What new trick are you up to now, pretending you don't
want to meet me?"

"I _do_ want to meet you!" she cried passionately, "but I've got a
little bit of pride left, and I'm decided not to meet a married man
on the sly!"

He scowled and crushed her hands in his.

"You know your character is gone as it is. You're talked of all over
the parishes, people say you're mad after me--so, I'd just like to
know what difference not meeting me will make."

"I'm decided not to do it."

"Very well, my fine lady, we'll see about that. Ah, you little fool,
you've wasted the time and now I must go back, my horse is already
up to his knees in water. And how will _you_ get back, I'd like to
know!"

"Perrin Corbet is coming to fetch me. Look, here he is."

A quarter of an hour later, all the _vraicqueurs_ were gathered
together on the beach to eat their meal in common. Every woman had
brought _gâche_, biscuits and special _vraicquing_ cakes: while the
rich farmers had provided a plentiful supply of cider which had been
brought down in little barrels swung to the carts. It was a merry
time, and Blaisette Le Mierre was looked upon as the queen of the
feast. Very few spoke to Ellenor, for she was shunned as a marked
character. Only Perrin paid her every attention, and saw that she
had everything of the best. As for Dominic, it appeared as if he did
not even see her: and people said he had been persecuted and waylaid
by Miss Ellenor, for it was evident he did not care a straw for such
a girl.

After the meal, some of the men carted away the _vraic_ to the farms
over the cliffs, where it would be used to enrich the land. Others,
with the help of the women, spread out the sea-weed, which was
stored in heaps on the beach to dry. This, later on, would be used
for fuel, and would give out its peculiar pungent smell, so dear
and memory-stirring to all Channel Islanders.

So the _vraicquing_ festival ended; and that night Ellenor sobbed
herself to sleep, a passionate weary creature, too proud to bend to
God and turn to goodness.

It was November; and one evening as Perrin Corbet was crossing a
hill on his return home from fishing, he thought he heard a low
moaning. He stopped and listened. Was it the cry of a sea-gull
flying into shelter from the storm which was approaching? Was it,
perhaps, the spirit of some drowned fisherman haunting his house?
No--it was the voice of a living woman in distress! He waited, and
gradually traced the sound to a huge cromlech on the hill. He
stopped at the entrance.

"It is I, Perrin Corbet!" he said quietly, "is anyone in trouble?"

"Yes, yes!" answered an eager voice, "come in and speak to
me--Ellenor."

"My dear girl," went on the fisherman's even voice, "what are you
doing here?"

"I've been hiding, there's an hour, from Dominic Le Mierre. Ah, it
is no use, I must tell you all, for you never scold me and look
black at me, like all the rest do. I said I wouldn't meet him now
he's married, but the more I keep out of his way, the more it seems
he finds me out."

"Then you don't care for him no more, like all Torteval said you
did?"

"Care for him! Care! I love him with all my soul!"

"And him such a black character, and a smuggler! There's times and
times I've seen him again to the cliffs with queer fellows; and
others have seen him, too. But nobody likes to give him up to the
constables, except me, and I've settled it that I'll tell what he
is after. He deserves it, the way he treats you. And it will be a
fine way of disgracing him. I'll risk that he'll bewitch me."

A dead silence followed his words. Then Ellenor's hand stole into
his, and Ellenor's voice said softly,

"Perrin, is it you love me yet?"

He lifted her hand and kissed it.

"I love you better than even my mother. I love you next best to
God."

"And yet, Perrin, I am not a good girl."

"Don't dare to say that to me! You _are_ good when you are not
thinking of that scoundrel. It's him that has made people speak
about you like they do! But, listen, Ellenor, if you was the
blackest of the black, I'd love you, because it's you, and because I
was made to love you, once and for ever."

She burst into a passion of tears.

"That's how I love him! He's the blackest of the black--a liar, a
smuggler, a cheat to his wife and to me, too fond of his glass,
cruel to the poor, mad for money, pretending to be pious of a
Sunday; and yet, yet, I love him, because it's him, and because I
was made to love him, once and for ever."

"My God! how you hurt me!" cried poor Perrin, clasping her hand
closer in his.

She cried quietly for a little while, and Corbet did not try to
check her tears. His tender love made him wise and gentle as his own
mother. At last she was quite still, and presently she said,

"Perrin, if you love me, I'll be your wife some day."

"Do you really mean it? It seems too good to be true. I can't take
it in, as you see. And yet if it does come to pass, there'll be no
man prouder than me in the whole of Guernsey!"

"But, if I am to be your wife, there'll be a condition."

"Condition! You can make a hundred, dear Ellenor."

"I don't know if you'll agree to this one, however!"

"Of course I will! I promise you beforehand."

"Promise! Promise! Quickly!"

He laughed gaily, wild with joy at her sweet mood and at the fair
prospect the future held for him.

"I promise I'll agree gladly to your condition, whatever it is."

"Then listen to it. You have promised you'll never give up Monsieur
Le Mierre to the constables."

Perrin was silent for a long time; then he said, in a voice hoarse
with emotion,

"It seems I am a very stupid chap, and it takes me a little while to
see what a woman is driving at. But though you are too clever for
me, Ellenor, and caught me in a fine trap, I can make out the
reason, the only reason, why you will be my wife. It is to save Le
Mierre from disgrace."

"Yes," she replied, "it is; and there is yet one more reason. I
can't live to Les Casquets any longer. I'm too unhappy. Mother is
always telling me what people say about me; no other tune do I hear
all day long."

"Well, it's quite plain you don't care a _double_ for me; but,
still, I can take care of you, give you a home and thus stop the
wagging of all the tongues in the parish. But, Ellenor, there is one
thing I must speak about. I am willing to know you don't love me;
willing to know you've given your heart to another man, and him a
scoundrel. But, I couldn't stand it if you had meetings with him
when you will be my wife, the daughter of my dear old mother. I'd
kill you, I believe. God forgive me, if such a thing happened."

"You needn't be afraid," she said in a dreary, colourless voice,
"since now I am always getting out of his way. There is left a
little pride in me yet. I can't bring such disgrace on my father.
But every day I cry because I can't see him."

"Well, I am satisfied! After all we know what each other means. And
now, when will it be, this wedding of ours?"

He tried to speak gaily, poor Perrin, but it was sad work. He
succeeded at last in persuading her to agree to be married on
Christmas Day: and then, fearful that she would change her mind, he
said he would take her home at once, for it was getting late.

As they descended the hill and crossed the bay, Perrin pointed out
the gleaming of a light on Lihou, an islet within a stone's throw of
Guernsey.

"It seems that Le Mierre is living there just now to work at the
iodine. His wife is with him. She is very delicate, it would appear,
and not very happy, poor pretty Blaisette!"

"Does he beat her?"

"So people say. I can believe anything bad of Le Mierre."

"It is not surprising. How bad I must be to love such a man! Perrin,
why didn't God let me--_make_ me, love you instead?"

Was this sad gentle voice in reality Ellenor's? Was this nestling
hand hers? Did it really creep through his arm?

"My girl, we must not dictate to God about what He does! I confess I
don't understand half He lets happen to us. But I couldn't question
it."

"Poor Perrin!" she went on softly, "to care for me, of all the girls
in the two parishes."

"I wouldn't change you for the Queen on her throne?"

He caught her to his breast and folded her to his heart. In the
heaven of his faithful love she felt, at least, safe from her own
lurid passion, and at rest from the biting remarks of her little
world.



CHAPTER VI.


It was the night of Christmas Eve and the snow fell thick and fast.
This weather, so unusual in the Channel Isles, had delayed Perrin
Corbet in the little town of Saint Pierre Port, and it was past ten
o'clock when he reached home. His mother had gone to bed, but not
before she had prepared her son's supper and left the little kitchen
the picture of comfort. After his meal, Perrin turned the lamp low,
lit his pipe, and sat down in his mother's arm-chair before the
_vraicq_ fire. The wind moaned in the huge chimney, with a cradling
sound, but Perrin was not in the least inclined to sleep. To-morrow
would be his wedding day. He could not realize it; he could not
believe he would so soon reach the height of joy. He tried to
picture to-morrow. Ellenor, in the white gown she had described to
him, would stand before the altar, and he, her devoted lover, would
take her hand and declare, before God and before the world, that she
was to be his wife.

Then, the rest of the day would be spent in quiet joy at Les
Casquets Cottage, with his mother as the only guest of the Cartiers.
He pictured the moment when he would say, taking out his watch,
"Now, mother, now, Ellenor, it is time for us to go home."

He would light the lantern, and with those two women, so dear, so
precious, he would return to this very cottage, henceforth to be a
palace to him, since Ellenor, his queen, would be his wife. He would
deal so tenderly with her, for she had suffered much, his poor
Ellenor! He would never reproach her if she seemed to fret after
Dominic. She could not uproot, all at once, such a deep love. He
would lead her gently back to the ways of religion which she had
deserted. He would remind her, one quiet evening, that she was of
those who were admitted to The Holy Supper of the Lord, for had she
not been confirmed at the same time as he had? And, please God, she
would listen to him. Perhaps, in days to come, she would learn to
love him a little. Perhaps that joy would be his when baby hands
clasped his rough brown fingers and a rosy baby mouth kissed his
adoring lips!

His pipe was out; and his head was bent as he dreamed of the morrow,
his wedding day. For a moment, the wind had ceased its moaning and a
deep stillness enfolded the cottage.

Suddenly, a sharp tap rang through the kitchen. Perrin started, his
dreams scattered. He listened, breathless, his island blood frozen,
his Celtic temperament at once calling up visions of the
supernatural.

Again the tap sounded on the window; and this time, a familiar voice
re-assured Perrin.

"Let me in, Corbet, quick, I bring bad news."

In a moment Cartier stood in the kitchen and cried breathlessly,

"Have you seen Ellenor? She hasn't been home since early this
afternoon!"

The ruddy colour left Perrin's tanned face.

"My God, no, I haven't seen her! What, then, can have happened?"

Then, with graphic, trembling words, Jean told how Ellenor had gone
to Saint Pierre to buy some finery for her wedding bonnet; how, hour
after hour, when the snow was thick and the wind howled over the
moorland, she had been anxiously looked for; how, at last, in
despair, he had said to his wife that he would go to Perrin, for
they must be off to look for Ellenor all the way to Saint Pierre
Port.

At once, Corbet went upstairs, and, waking his mother, told her the
story of his girl's mysterious disappearance.

"We'll go round to Les Casquets and bring Mrs. Cartier over here,
mother. She's a poor creature, and she can't be left alone. Who can
tell when Cartier and I will be back!"

It was two o'clock before the men started to walk to Saint Pierre
Port. It was brilliant moonlight at four o'clock, and the gusts of
snow had died away with the wind; but the men searched, in vain, for
any trace of Ellenor. As soon as it was dawn, the two parishes were
roused, and those who were kind helped to look for the missing girl.
The rest shrugged their shoulders and said that Christmas Day was
not meant to be wasted in such a search, for such a queer wild girl
as Ellenor Cartier. At last a child found in a hedge a paper bag: it
contained a spray of artificial flowers, a few drenched roses. The
child's mother guessed this must be the finery Ellenor had gone to
buy, for everyone knew the pitiful story by now. But the hedge was
ominously near Rocquaine Bay. What did this mean?

After three days of minute search, the band of men gave up in
despair; and Jean and Perrin went back to the routine of daily work
in dogged and patient despair. The fisherman wondered if Le Mierre
had heard the news, shut up in Lihou Island, where his wife lay very
ill of small-pox, which was raging in different parts of Guernsey.
Finally Jean unburdened his mind to his friend and talked with him
of Ellenor's infatuation for Dominic. Would it be that she had
drowned herself to be rid of the torture of her life?

Perrin was haunted perpetually by this idea: it was with him by day
and by night. He went about like a man who was half asleep, and
people began to complain that he did not even nod to his
acquaintances when he met them. So the Christmas season passed and
it was the last day of the Old Year. The cold and the snow
disappeared, and the weather was mild and calm as Perrin rowed
homewards about four o'clock in the afternoon. He had been to pull
up his lobster pots which had been put down not far from Lihou
island. Buried in thought, he did not notice how close he was rowing
to the reef of rocks off the north of the island, till a loud cry
startled him and he saw that someone was signalling to him from a
jutting rock close to his boat. It was a woman. It was Ellenor
Cartier.

Mad with joy, Perrin brought his boat into a tiny creek, moored it
and scrambled up the rocks to the girl's side.

"Don't come near me!" she cried, "for the sake of your mother! I am
minding Blaisette. She is ill, dreadfully, dreadfully ill. If she
gets well, the doctor says it will be a miracle. But even _he_ is
afraid to come much. Since Christmas Eve he hasn't been here. It was
then I came, just after his visit."

She had gradually edged away from Perrin, and now placed herself
behind a boulder. Over its edge her pale face looked sadly at her
lover.

"Do you know," she went on, "perhaps you won't believe me, but till
I saw you just now in your boat, I didn't even feel sorry I left you
on Christmas Eve. Are you very angry with me?"

"I couldn't be angry with you, my darling! Even now, it seems I
can't believe you're alive. We found your white roses, all wet and
spoilt, in a hedge close to Rocquaine Bay; and, ah, how we feared,
your father and me ... But, Ellenor, tell me, how is it you came
here? And how was it you were on the rocks just when my boat
passed."

"I was on the rocks to try to see if I could let one of you men know
we want food, and to tell the doctor he _must_ come again. I've
given her all the medicine he left. It would be no use for me to go
over to Rocquaine at low tide, because not a soul would help me; all
would run away from me."

"Set your heart at rest, my Ellenor. I'll go for all you want. But,
quick, tell me, how is it you came here?"

She buried her face in her hands, and broke into bitter weeping. And
Perrin could not clasp her in his arms. Presently she spoke, in a
low voice, full of anguish.

"It was like this. On Christmas Eve, when I was coming back from
Saint Pierre Port, I met Monsieur Le Mierre. He stopped me and
wanted me to go back to the town with him. I had nearly decided to
do as he wished. It was no use, I couldn't say 'No.' There was long
I hadn't seen him; and he was so handsome and tall. And, and, I
believe he loves me true, whatever happens! But, just as I said I'd
go back with him, I thought of Blaisette, her that I hated and yet
her that I pitied. And I asked him who was with her on lonely Lihou
Isle. Him, he only laughed, and said she was all right; he'd be back
before midnight. But there wasn't a soul in Guernsey would go to
mind her, for love or money, so it was no use bothering, he said,
and again he laughed. And then I was frightened. He seemed like the
devil, so cruel about his poor wife. And, all of a sudden, I thought
only of her, and I told him _I'd_ go to mind her, not for love or
money, but because I was _so_ sorry, oh, so sorry, for her!"

"My brave girl! My own sweetheart!" Perrin cried, stretching out
eloquent hands to the sad, pale face.

"Listen, there's more yet to tell! I don't know how I got back to
Saint Pierre du Bois, it was snowing fast and yet faster; but, at
last I was to L'Erée. I forgot all about everything except poor
Blaisette. I threw away the roses for my wedding bonnet. I got to
the beach before the tide was quite down. The sea was black. The sky
was black. Just here and there was a dreadful line of white, where
the waves were breaking over the rocks. And on Lihou Isle not a
light was to be seen. I shivered when I thought of Blaisette in the
dark, ill with small-pox of a Christmas Eve."

Perrin ground his teeth.

"Damn that brute! He's not fit for hell itself."

She drew a long breath.

"Listen, Perrin, I've not finished! I began to cross the rocks and
found myself on the causeway at last, but I was deep in water. The
horrible waves, like black walls, was all around me. The wind pushed
me on every side. The snow was falling thicker and thicker. But at
last, at last, I was to Lihou. I climbed the beach, ran across the
grass, and, pushing open a door in the wall of the garden--we all
know the farm well, eh, Perrin? I went up the steps to the house. I
opened the door. The house was like ice. In the kitchen was a poor
little bit of fire. I made it up; and then I tried to get courage to
go upstairs.... Well, somehow I was in the bedroom. I had taken a
candle with me. I can't tell you how she looked. It would make you
wish you could kill _him_. She looked at me with her poor glazed
eyes. Her lips were black with fever. She cried, in a voice like a
thread, for water, water!"

"God in heaven! and you love this brute yet?"

She hid her face for a moment.

"Hush, I've not finished! I did my best for her, poor Blaisette. For
a minute she knew me and she tried to thank me; and very soon she
fell asleep."

"And he came back at midnight?"

"No, not till the middle of Christmas Day; and then he was half
drunk. Since then he has hardly been near the house; but he has not
left Lihou. He has been about the stables, and come into the kitchen
to get his meals once or twice; and he is drinking, drinking all the
time. I can see he is afraid of the small-pox, and afraid of death.
And yet, I believe, I am sure, he loves me yet; only I will not
speak to him nor look at him, because of _her_, lying upstairs all
unconscious."

Perrin stared at her, aghast. Was it possible a woman could love,
actually love, the devil! Bah, it seemed so!

"Look here," he cried, almost in a rude voice, "he loves you so much
that he lets you run the risk of getting the small-pox! Very well!
I'm decided what to do. I'll go back to tell my mother I am coming
here to look after you twice a day, perhaps more, and I'll give
_him_ a piece of my mind. My mother will go to Les Casquets. I'll
stop the mouths of the two parishes, so will my mother and your
parents, or I'll know why. Now, go back, and I'll be off for the
doctor and for food."

"Wait, just a minute, Perrin! There is something more I must say, to
cast it off my mind. It is all my fault that Blaisette has the
small-pox. It was me that went to the witch to Saint Pierre Port to
cast a spell on my rival the day after the _Grand' Querrue_. I
didn't tell no names, but that's why she's bad, and oh, Perrin, it's
all my fault."

"Yes, I suppose it's that, in a way. But it's my belief there's
another reason for her sickness. You remember she came the wrong way
to church on her wedding day? Ah, we all know what _that_
means--trouble--as sure as her name is Blaisette. But I must be
off!"

In a few hours Perrin returned with a store of food and the
unwilling doctor, who was obliged to go up to see the patient he
dreaded so horribly, for Perrin took him by the arm and did not
leave him till he had landed him in the sick room. Then the
fisherman sought out Le Mierre, and the coward and scoundrel tried
to hold his own. But Perrin's threats of appeal to the Royal Court
awed him into a promise to give out money to pay for the expenses of
his wife's illness. Corbet, himself utterly fearless of disease,
frightened the drunkard into further dread of the house: and Ellenor
had it all her own way. But it was of no avail. Pretty, frail
Blaisette could not battle with a terrible illness, neglected at the
very first; and two days after Perrin came to Lihou, she died,
without a look or a sign.

There was no thought of taking her poor body across to the other
island for burial in the sweet quiet churchyard of Saint Pierre du
Bois. She was laid to rest in a grave dug hastily in a corner beside
a dark boulder. No hymns were sung over her. Only the grey sea
moaned and the wind sighed, as her rough coffin was lowered into the
grave. No messenger, mounted on a black horse, bore the news of her
death from house to house, up and down the two parishes. Only a poor
fisherman repeated the sad tidings as he trudged, first to
Colomberie Farm and then to Orvillière, where Dominic's aunt kept
house in state while her graceless nephew was away. No _Messieurs_
of distinguished Torteval families were honoured bearers, but a good
man and a bad man had carried her coffin to the dark place of
burial. No weird feasting followed the unconsecrated ceremony: only
Dominic took refuge from sickening terror in a drunken bout.

But Perrin stood long beside her grave: and prayed for the poor
little woman so soon to be left alone in the island, henceforth to
be haunted by her sad spirit.

An hour after Blaisette's burial, Ellenor fainted while she was
making preparations for leaving the house. Perrin, guessing what
would follow, rowed her across to the main island, as soon as she
was able. His mother had returned to her home, and Jean and poor
weak Mrs. Cartier prepared to nurse their child through an attack of
small-pox. The doctor shook his head. It was a particularly bad
case, he said, and it was doubtful if he could save Ellenor.



CHAPTER VII.


"So you've made up your mind to lose her, Perrin?" said Mrs. Corbet,
as she and her son were at supper one spring evening.

"Yes, there is nothing else to be done. Ellenor isn't a girl to
treat me like that just for a bit of fun. At first, when she was
just well of the small-pox, she was very kind to me. But when I
spoke of our wedding day that had been put off and asked her if she
wouldn't tell me it would be soon again, she turned away and didn't
say another word for a long time."

"And you left her alone, I hope?"

"Indeed, but, no! I begged and prayed of her to speak to me, till
she turned round. She looked white and tired. She was crying, but
she was vexed, too. She told me, quite sharp, to leave her alone.
She said she wasn't going to marry nobody, and she must have been
mad to promise to be my wife before. And then she said she was glad
she'd had the small-pox, because it had put off the wedding."

"Perrin, my son, you are far too good for her, and far too simple!
If you'd have left her then and there, it's my belief she'd have
come looking after me the very next day, just to see what you'd told
me. And if you'd have seemed you didn't care _she'd_ have cared a
good bit more than she does."

The fisherman shook his head.

"No, it isn't like what you think. It's like this--Ellenor only
cares for one man, and that's the master of Orvillière."

Mrs. Corbet shrugged her shoulders.

"Well, well, she must be _ensorchelai_ herself to love him that's
such a devil and has so much to do with the Prince of devils. Bah,
it was only yesterday I was told of some of Le Mierre's doings! It
was Judie Roussel, and _she_ heard it from one of the maids at
Orvillière. Just you listen to me, Perrin Corbet, and see what you
think of it!--Le Mierre, he wanted a bit of fun, him, and you may
depend it wasn't nothing good, so he fetched some of his fine
friends to go to the Vale. But they wasn't going to walk, them, no
such thing! They makes up their minds they'll use the horse of Le
Mierre's neighbour, Langlois. They find a good strong white one in a
meadow. What do they do but all jump on his back and be off! Wait a
bit! He begins to gallop and to gallop, over hedges and brambles;
they couldn't stop him, and and when he gets nearly to the Vale, he
throws them off his back in a fine muddy place, and then he's out of
sight in a minute. And yet, would you believe it, Langlois swore the
white horse had been in the meadow all the time! Of course it was
the _devil_ that was the gallopping white horse! And he must be on
pretty good terms with Le Mierre to play off such a joke with him,
eh, Perrin!"

"I can't say, mother, I'm sure, and, in case even he is good friends
with the devil, it's all the worse for the girl that loves him."

"Bah! I've no patience with Ellenor. Le Mierre is a bad man. She
knows that as well as you and me do, and yet ... she loves him.
Well, well, women are poor fools. But, come, Perrin, isn't there any
other girl that would do except Ellenor? There's hundreds nicer than
her, and hundreds prettier--specially now."

"If she won't have me, I'll never marry. That's the end of it,
mother."

Mrs. Corbet sighed as she heaped up the supper things for Perrin to
wash. Such a good, kind son as he was, and to be made a fool of by a
self-willed girl like Ellenor!

"It seems I haven't seen Le Mierre for a long time," she went on.

"He's been away ever since his wife's death. It was said everywhere,
in the two parishes and even to Saint Pierre Port that he went off
because of poor Blaisette. She came again and again to Orvillière
like a white sea-gull, crying and flapping her wings against his
bedroom window. Her spirit can't rest it seems, because of his
wickedness. But, now, I've been told this very day, that he's back
to Guernsey: and some there are who say he's been making love to
girls in Jersey."

"If only he'd had brought one back as his wife, that foolish Ellenor
of yours would have stopped hankering after him!"

"I don't believe he'll marry her, because she is poor and of no
family: _besides_ ..."

"You may well say _besides_, poor girl! But, come, my son, I am
tired, I must go to bed."

Rumour was quite correct in giving one of the reasons for Le
Mierre's departure to Jersey. He told everyone how he was bothered
by the spirit of Blaisette; but he did not add that abject terror of
small-pox made him decide to spend some months with well-to-do
relations in Jersey, which was quite exempt from the horrible
disease.

It was just before Lent when he came home to find a very bleak
springtime keeping back the flowers in his garden at Orvillière.
With relief, after the first night, he told his housekeeper that the
spirit of Blaisette had gone, evidently for good. The woman, a
devout Roman Catholic, muttered behind his back.

"She's got enough to do, praying for you in Purgatory, poor soul, if
she's allowed to think of such a black heart as yours! The Blessed
Angels and Saints know how it would discourage her to come back to
see you as bad as ever, and it's _my_ belief, worse!"

The tragic death of Blaisette had almost canonized her: and she, who
had been in life, a pretty weak doll, was enshrined in all hearts as
a martyr to her husband's brutality. So often does death enrich and
enlarge our limited outlook.

It was the evening of the first Sunday in Lent. Jean Cartier, his
wife, Mrs. Corbet and Perrin had been to church at Saint Pierre du
Bois. It was dark as they entered the parish of Torteval, and Jean
said in an anxious voice,

"I suppose Ellenor has left Les Casquets by now?"

His wife nudged him as if to say he had betrayed a secret: but it
was too late. Mrs. Corbet's gentle voice asked, in great curiosity,
where Ellenor was going at this time of night.

"To _Les Brandons_, on Pleinmont," said Jean bluntly. "We didn't
like it. But as for me, I've not got the heart to refuse her
nothing, since we nearly lost her with the small-pox--poor child!"

The women echoed his deep sigh: and Perrin said quickly,

"Look here! I'm off to _Les Brandons_ too! Then I can look after
her! Don't wait up for me, mother."

"Very well. But, tell me, Jean. Will Le Mierre be there? Has she met
him since his return from Jersey?"

"He will be there, for certain," broke in Perrin. "And, for certain,
she has not see him yet. She told me so herself. _Adi, then, toute
la compagnie._"

He swung along and was soon out of sight. The high road of Torteval
was thronged with people who, for the most part, carried lanterns.
He hurried past, not speaking to a soul. Presently he had reached
his home, and, turning sharply round the corner of the little
garden, he found himself in a lane which ended in a cart rut and
brought him out to the moorland of Pleinmont and close to the
Haunted House.

The sky was thick with stars, which flashed like silver bonfires in
the blackness of the night. A fresh breeze swept over the gorze
bushes of the moorland and blew into yellow and red streamers the
sheet of flame that rose from a huge bonfire which was built in a
direct line inland from the Haunted House. The sea, below the
precipitous cliffs, moaned and sighed, and, far off, in the
distance, could be heard the murmur of the deep seas. Shouts of
laughter and merry voices, scraps of folk song and impromptu
dancing, came from the throng of people scattered over the moorland
and gathered round the bonfire.

Most of the girls of the company wore masks, rough, crude affairs,
which, however, effectually concealed their faces. These masked
girls were to take part in a special feature of _Les Brandons_, and
were inspected curiously by the men present who were to be chosen as
partners by these _faux visages_.

Perrin Corbet moved quietly, almost stealthily, about amongst the
people, evidently intent on finding some particular person. All at
once he stopped close to the huge bonfire, and stared, with knitted
brows, at Dominic Le Mierre, who swaggered in and out amongst the
girls, tapping one on the cheek, chucking another under the chin,
and pulling the long curls of a young creature in her teens. In the
fitful and flickering light, the master of Orvillière looked like a
sea-king, so stalwart, so wicked, so magnetic. It was quite plain to
Perrin Corbet that he was more than a little the worse for drink;
and he watched him closely, and followed him as near as he dared
without being observed.

At ten o'clock, and at a given signal, the masked girls went up to
the group of men to choose partners. Perrin edged close to Dominic
Le Mierre and scrutinized painfully the girl who laid her hand on
the "jerseyed" arm of the master. She was of middle height and
extremely thin. Her emaciated hand trembled; it looked almost
discoloured in the uncertain light. The border of her face that
could be seen round the mask was ghastly in its whiteness. She wore
a close fitting bonnet which hid all trace of her hair.

With partially glazed eyes, Dominic peered at her.

"You don't look much of a beauty!" he cried, "but I'll soon see who
you are, my girl!"

When the masks had all chosen, a circle was formed round the
bonfire, the men holding their partners tightly by the hand. Faster
and faster flew the circle till the masked faces shewed like a black
band, while the outside throng of people cheered and clapped, and
encouraged the dancers to madder whirling. Then, suddenly, as by one
impulse, the circle was broken up, and a new spectacle was provided
for the onlookers.

Each girl seized her partner by the hand and together they leapt
across the flaming bonfire. Wild excitement was the order of the
night. It was the festival of the rude, primitive elements of human
nature. It was a pageant of black shadow and brilliant light. It
answered to the spirit of the bleak moorland, to the steeps of the
cliffs, to the mystery of the sea.

Only one man in the whole throng was utterly unmoved by the
abandonment around him. Perrin kept his deep set, keen eyes fixed on
Dominic and his partner. He watched them leap with perfect skill,
across the roaring flame of the bonfire. He saw the master bend
down, and once more peer into the white face of the girl. He
followed, very stealthily, the two, as they drew apart into a
shadowed place, where, nevertheless, the light from the bonfire
could reach and bring their faces into relief. He watched the girl
unfasten her mask and throw it on the grass. He drew a deep breath.
Her face was pitifully ugly. It was covered with the pits and dents
and scars that small-pox had left. The skin was coarse and rough and
of a yellowish white. Her eyes were dim and red and bleared. Her
eyebrows and lashes were gone. Her expression was like that of a
furtive, crouching creature who dreaded the lash.

And it came.

"Who are you, I'd like to know!" cried the master in a towering
rage, "that has dared to choose me only to cheat me. Do you know,
woman, that you are as ugly as sin!"

He seized her bonnet and dragged it off. Then he burst into a brutal
laugh.

"Almost bald, the old crone! I'll pay you out for this trick. Who
the devil are you? Quick, out with it, or else I'll call the other
fellows in to help me to find out!"

Perrin moved quite close behind the master, who was too angry to
notice him. The girl lifted her eyes to Dominic. She spoke quietly.

"I am Ellenor Cartier."

"I might have guessed it, fool that I am! And you are a greater to
think I would even look at you _now_! You must be quite mad. All I
ever cared for in you was your devilry, and your eyes that used to
set me all on fire with love. And now you look like a scared rabbit,
a white, pinched thing! And your eyes are hideous! And your hair is
gone! How dare you cheat me, you ugly creature!"

She had clasped her hands together; and gazed at him in
stupefaction.

Suddenly, he turned on his heel and cried in a loud, far-carrying
voice--

"Come here, you men, all of you, and help me to throw the witch,
Ellenor Cartier, into the bonfire! She's too devilish ugly to live."

The lower sort of the throng laughed uproariously, and turned to
stare at the poor girl. But cries of "Shame! shame!" rent the air.
Perrin stepped forward, and, with a well-planted blow and a skilful
twist of his leg, he threw Dominic to the ground.

"See to the drunken brute!" he cried.

Then he turned to the trembling girl.

"Come, Ellenor," he said, with tender reverence, "come with me, I
will take you home."

He led her to his mother, who took her up to her own attic and
helped her to get into bed, for the girl shivered with cold one
minute and was in a fever the next. Perrin, meanwhile, went off to
Les Casquets to tell her people that she was safe; and he gave Jean
the story of the evening, for fear he should hear it from
strangers. When he came back to the cottage, Mrs. Corbet was in the
kitchen.

"She's asleep at last! But she's cried till I thought she would die.
I asked her how it was she made herself in such a state; and then
she told me all the tale. Silly girl! the very way to upset any man,
and still more, Le Mierre, to show how ugly she is now before all
them people. And, besides, it was all like play acting, to my mind!"

"Oh, no, not like that, mother!"

"Wait a bit, wait a bit, till you hears all! It seems, she told me,
that she planned she'd do this, there's weeks ago, while Le Mierre
was yet to Jersey, and she had heard he was making love to girls
there."

"But why?"

"Well, listen! She's a strange creature, not like others! It's _my_
belief she comes from those fairies that built _Les Casquets_. You
remember Perrin?"

"No, tell me."

"Well, once my great-grandfather was on the beach to Portelet, and
he saw, a long, long way off a big ship. It came nearer and nearer,
and it was so big that great-grandfather expected to see it smashed
on hidden rocks. But, lo and behold, the ship got smaller and at
last, bah, it looked like the toy of a child, and it ran in on the
sand, close to great-grandfather. Out of the boat stepped a little
chap, and would you believe it, the boat was turned into the
blade-bone of a sheep, all tangled in sea-weed."

"Quick, what happened?"

"Have patience, my son, and don't hurry an old woman. Well,
great-grandfather asked the little chap where he was going and what
was his name. And all he would say was "_Je vais cheminant_." But
he stopped to Guernsey after all and he married a girl from near
here--and it was him built _Les Casquets_. There! _that's_ where she
gets her queer ways, Ellenor!"

"And now tell me about her plan."

"Well, it seems she thought, foolish girl, she'd find out, for sure,
if Le Mierre really loves her or only her looks. And she couldn't
think of no better way than this mad one. She can't know much of men
and their ways, her!"

"It's the best thing that could have happened, if only it makes her
see Le Mierre in his true colours."

"Well, we must hope for the best. And, look here, Perrin! Nothing he
could do before, no wickedness, no cruelty, could make her leave off
caring! But we women, if our looks are held up to scorn--well!--that's
the worst of all. So who can tell what may happen! Come, I must make
her and give her a cup of tea. She told me she hadn't eaten or drank
all day."



CHAPTER VIII.


It was a wild wet night in March. Dominic Le Mierre had just
finished supper, and he sat by the fire in the kitchen of
Orvillière; he was in a particularly good mood, owing to the
excellence of the tobacco he was smoking. As he puffed at his second
pipe he congratulated himself on his long acquaintance with
Frenchmen, who had no scruples in giving him whole packages of this
excellent tobacco; and no conditions attached except the fun of
helping to hide it in the caves below the Haunted House, till it
could be conveyed to Brittany!

Then he laughed aloud at the idea of the countryside about this very
Haunted House. He had added two or three ghost tales to those
current; and, though he believed firmly in every weird story of the
two parishes, he had not felt a single scruple in inventing others
to terrify people from the spot. His love of lawlessness and danger
was infinitely stronger than his inherited faith in the
supernatural. The Haunted House brought to his mind the festival of
_Les Brandons_, when the dreaded place had lost its horror for the
time being, owing to the safety that is supposed to lie in numbers.
He chuckled as he remembered what a fool he had made of Ellenor.
Bah! Once and for all he had done with her! Who cared to look at her
now, fright that she was! And how dared that pious idiot of a
fisherman throw him down before all the company! Ah! he would soon
teach him better manners! he would thrash him well next time they
met!

So he plotted and thought and smoked, and the night wind howled and
the rain beat against the windows. All at once, he got up, and from
the rack fastened across the beamed ceiling he took an old black
book, his friend and evil counsellor, the _Grand-Mêle_ which had
been in his family for generations. It was a book of magic,
containing spells to be used on every conceivable occasion, and
Dominic Le Mierre was past-master in the black art. Turning over the
pages with knitted brows, he searched for a spell to be used against
Perrin Corbet. At last he found it.

"Ah, it is quite easy to draw blood, and it need be but a drop!" he
muttered, "scratch his hand with my knife and it is done! Then, he
will walk in his sleep to the Haunted House. There I will meet him!
Ah, Perrin Corbet, it will be your turn to be down on the ground! I
will see him to-morrow, and the spell will work for the night.
_Bon_, nothing could be better!"

He took up his pipe again and smoked in full contentment. A sudden
stillness had fallen over the wild night. It seemed to Dominic that
he could hear the moan of the sea. He listened. His blood crept at
the weird stillness.

Hark! Hush! What was that?

The wild sad cry of a sea-gull. Nearer and nearer it came, and
Dominic's eyes were fixed in horror upon the uncurtained window.
The sea-gull came at last quite close, with wilder, sadder cries. It
flapped its wings and circled round and round the casement. Dominic
was cold and stiff with terror. He knew who the sea-gull was, but
what did it mean? Some dreadful thing was drawing near Orvillière.

"Blaisette!" he cried, "I know you well enough! Why do you come
here?"

Wilder, more despairing grew the cries. Closer and closer the bird
drew to the panes, striking them with a twang like the sound of wild
music.

With a curse the master roused himself from the freezing spell. He
took his loaded gun from its place over the chimney piece. He fired.
One of the panes of glass was broken. Outside, on the cobbled yard,
the gull lay dead, its glazed eyes fixed on the house.

With a laugh of triumph, Dominic re-lighted his pipe and sat down
again by the fire. He had just settled once more to the reading of
_Grand-Mêle_ when a very tempest of wind and hail shook the house,
and in the midst of it, a low, sharp knock fell on the house door.

This time, the master was not under a spell. He recognized the
knock. In an instant he was in the entrance hall and had flung open
the door. A rough, unkempt fisherman stood on the threshold.

"You must come at once, Monsieur," he cried, "there's been great
luck! A lot of brandy has been brought, unexpected. It's to the cave
below the Haunted House. We could have got it up the cliffs alone.
But we all agreed that you must have your share in the fun."

"Quick! where did the stuff come from?"

"From France, from les Messieurs ----."

"_Bon!_ Will you wait for me?"

"No, my horse is here--tied to the gate. He's impatient, him! I'll
be off to tell the rest you're coming."

"I'll ride too," and Dominic slammed the door, and hurried to the
back of the house where his horses were stabled for the night. He
chose out a fleet white one that was used to wild rushes through the
dark. Before he mounted, he fastened a pistol to the saddle; but he
laughed as he did this, it was such a useless precaution. Never once
yet had the excisemen appeared within miles of the Haunted House.
With a dark lantern swinging from the saddle bow, he rode out of the
farmyard and cantered up the hill. Then, urging the white mare to
her swiftest pace, he flew through steep lanes, past Torteval
Church, and along the high road to Pleinmont.

The rain poured in torrents. The wind roared and howled. Several
times the mare paused, trembling. But Dominic lashed her on, and in
pain and terror she tore across the moorland, striking fire from the
stones as she flew. He reined her in at last and fastened her to a
hook in the side wall of the Haunted House. He laughed as he thought
what a help she would be in keeping all comers away, for she seemed
to shed a white dim light from her drenched skin, and her loud
breathing might easily be taken for groans.

He scrambled down the face of the cliff. Fortunately, the wind blew
in from the sea, and in safety he reached a large cave, brilliant
with the light of many torches. His boon companions, the roughest
gangs of the two parishes, greeted him with shouts and jests, and an
hour of drinking and feasting followed. Then, with no little
difficulty, kegs of brandy were hauled up the cliffs and deposited
in the Haunted House. With wonderful skill, the men worked almost
all the while in the dark, only using lanterns when it was
absolutely necessary. At last, all the kegs were stowed away. The
men scattered to fetch their horses from various sheds belonging to
friendly people, and the master of Orvillière was left alone.

He looked carefully round at the precious kegs stowed half way up
the walls. Ah--what was that! One of the barrels leaked! Brandy,
velvety fragrant brandy was oozing out on the earthen floor! He
knelt down and caught a few drops in his hand. It was superfine, the
best stuff he had ever tasted. Greedily he drank again and again
from his hand. But that process was too slow. Catching up a hatchet,
he enlarged the leak, and throwing himself flat on the ground, he
lapped the golden spirit that filled him with ecstasy. At last, he
had had enough. He fumbled at the leak, making futile efforts to
stop it. But he was too drunk to know what he was about. He had just
sense enough to darken his lantern, to reel out of the Haunted House
and fling himself on the drenched grass beside his shivering mare.
Presently his debauch turned into a heavy sleep, and the hours
passed. Suddenly he woke and sat up. He heard, quite distinctly, the
sharp click of a horse's hoof. It had rung through his drunken sleep
like a knell. He had dreamt he heard again the passing bell that had
tolled for Blaisette.

All at once the click passed into a smothered sound of pounding and
slushing. The horse had left the high road and must be on the
moorland!

Sobered, Le Mierre leapt to his feet, unloosened the mare and jumped
on her back. He turned her inland and urged her forward. But,
trembling in every limb, the mare refused to move. Nearer and nearer
came the pounding of the horse. It stopped. A lantern flashed out.
Le Mierre saw the figure of a well known exciseman riding a powerful
black horse. A voice cried above the howling of the wind.

"Give yourself up, and all will be well! I've looked for you far and
wide. At last I find you. Come, Le Mierre, don't be a fool about
this. It will only be a fine, and perhaps not even that, if you give
up the other chaps."

But the master of Orvillière was not to be reasoned with. He was in
a towering rage. He wrenched the pistol from the saddle. He fired it
at the exciseman. It missed him. But he, too, lost his temper. In an
instant he was beside Le Mierre and had dragged the pistol away and
flung it against the house. Dominic, beside himself and unnerved
with the night's carouse, grappled with the exciseman and tried to
throttle him.

A terrible struggle. A wild pounding of hoofs. Cries and oaths. The
fall of the lantern. Gusts of rain, and wind that shrieked as if an
agony of warning. Then, the mare broke away at last, in a frenzy of
terror, and made straight for the edge of the cliffs behind the
Haunted House.

Not one word came from Dominic Le Mierre as the mare stumbled, fell,
and, with a horrible, almost human cry, rolled over and over down
the precipitous height.

The exciseman dismounted, groped for the lantern, lit it, and fought
his way half down the cliff, at the risk of his life, as the wind
had changed and was blowing out to sea. But there was not a sign of
the mare and her rider.

At the earliest streak of dawn, the two parishes were roused, and
long and careful search went on for days. But it was all in vain.
Somewhere, in the deep seas, perhaps, the body of the master was at
rest, but, after "life's fitful fever," did he, indeed "sleep well?"

Orvillière Farm was shut up. The finding of the dead gull, with a
red wound in its white breast, proved conclusively that foul play
and magic had been at work on the night of the storm. The servant
and the housekeeper had been all the evening at a wedding feast, and
when they returned at five o'clock next morning they found excited
groups of people all about the farm, and they heard the story of the
death of Dominic Le Mierre.

No one would dream of living henceforth at Orvillière. It was
haunted. People who were compelled to pass through the valley at
nightfall, saw flickering lights moving from window to window of the
farm, and heard the sudden firing of a gun, and the plaintive cry of
a wounded bird.

The wind sighed about the lonely spot. The moan of the sea
penetrated to the solitary farm. But no human creature wept for the
departed soul of the master of Orvillière. All shuddered at his end.
Two prayed, in defiance of their scruples, for his wicked, wild
soul. And these were only an old woman and her fisherman son.



CHAPTER IX.


It was a still, beautiful evening in summer. Perrin Corbet was free
till ten o'clock, when he would go fishing with Jean Cartier. It was
very lonely now in the cottage, for Perrin's mother was dead, and he
spent very little time at home. This special evening he decided to
make a pilgrimage to the churchyard of St. Pierre du Bois where his
mother was buried. Her grave was close to the church in a place of
long grass and overshadowing trees. As Perrin entered the churchyard
he saw that a woman was bending over the grave: he knew at once who
it was, and his heart beat quicker. It was so long since he had seen
her and spoken with her!

When he was quite close, she turned round, and he saw that she had
been crying. On the grave she had put a rude cross of _immortelles_.

"Ellenor," he said quietly, "I did not expect to see you. I thought
you were yet in Sark."

"I came back this morning by the early cutter. I was longing to get
back home."

"And we have been longing for you to come back! It is kind of you to
put flowers here. Ah, it is always a woman who thinks of those
things! We are such stupid creatures, we men! She who lies here so
often said that to me. I miss her more and more, Ellenor."

"Poor Perrin!" she said softly, and for one long moment she looked
into the faithful face bent over his mother's grave; then she turned
away with a bitter sigh. Perrin lifted his head; not a thing she
did, not a movement, not a sigh of hers ever escaped him.

"What is it?" he asked, in his low, kind voice, "are you fretting
still?"

"No, no, but it seems I can't forget quickly all that has passed."

She covered her face with her hands and shuddered. Perrin touched
her arm.

"Come and sit in the church porch," he said, "and tell me all about
it."

Still with her hands covering her face, she let him lead her to the
old stone seat in the grey porch. Presently, with an evident effort,
her hands fell from her face, and she clasped them in her lap.

"I am selfish," she said, "never once have I told you how sorry I
was to hear of your mother's death, it seems I could only think of
myself."

"I have understood all the time. I knew you would be sad for me.
But, of course, you could not help thinking most of yourself and of
what you have lost."

"Ah, how it hurts to hear you say that! Tell me, am I _very_ ugly! I
know I will get the truth from you."

"Ugly!" he repeated, "_ugly_, to me you are the prettiest woman in
Guernsey. Your hair, all growing again in dear little dark rings,
like the curls of a baby! Your eyes once more beautiful with long
eyelashes; your sad mouth! Ah, Ellenor, how can I speak to you like
this quietly! I love you more than ever! But I know it is useless!
Did you think I meant your _looks_ when I spoke of what you had
lost? Oh, no, I mean something else."

"What is it you mean?"

"That you have lost him you love, Dominic Le Mierre."

For a long while Ellenor did not speak: then she said wearily,

"But it seems to me I don't love him any more. It seems he killed my
love the night of _Les Brandons_. It was awful when he died. And all
I could think of was to get away from Guernsey and all the people I
knew. In Sark, I forgot about him a little. But now I'm back, it
seems I can't think of nothing else. I am so frightened of him.
Perhaps, some day, when I'm going by the road to Orvillière, he'll
come back from the dead and laugh and jeer at me. Because, as for
him, he didn't love me no more after _Les Brandons_. No, I don't care
for him now. But I've no heart left, I am only tired, and oh, so
frightened of _him_!"

She looked at Perrin like a child asking for protection, and in an
instant his strong arm was round her. She drew a deep sigh of relief
and smiled a little.

"Let me take of you, my own girl," he said, "I won't bother you to
try to love me. Please God, that will come in time."

"Yes, please take care of poor me, poor wicked, stupid me," she
whispered, "you're such a good man. I'm so safe with you. There's
nobody in all the world I'd trust like you, Perrin."

He drew her head down to his breast, and the still evening breathed
a benediction over the woman who had sinned and suffered and over
the man who had loved her throughout with a tender reverence which
is the very heart of the divinest love.


THE END.





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