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The Buccaneer Farmer by Harold Bindloss

Part 2 out of 6

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dogs are holding them at the top of the force."

A few minutes afterwards he scrambled over a pile of fallen stones,
shouted to Tom, and began to run, for he understood what had happened.
The broken wall marked the boundary of the Mireside heaf and the sheep
were now on familiar ground. It was his business to drive them to the
farm, but they were trying to turn off to look for shelter among the
crags. At the force, where the Bleatarn beck leaps in linked falls to the
valley, one could get down between the water and the rocks; on the other
side, a path about a foot wide led across the face of a precipice. In
daylight, if the stones were dry, a man with steady nerves could use the
path, but when slab and scree were packed with snow nothing but a
Herdwick could cross it safely. The dogs knew this and were trying to
hold the flock.

When the men came up they saw an indistinct, woolly mass on the other
side of the beck. The mass was not level but slanted sharply, and the
sheep at the bottom sent down showers of stones as they surged to and
fro, with heads turned to the dogs. It was obvious that they did not mean
to go down the ghyll, and Herdwicks born among the crags can climb where
no dog can follow.

"The dogs canna turn them," gasped Tom. "They'll be away ower Eel Scar;
they're brekkin' noo."

The flock began to open out and three or four sheep straggled forward,
but Kit's bob-tailed dog slid down a snowy slab and fell upon the first.
The sheep ran back, but the others stood and Kit saw the dog could not
stop them long. The Herdwicks knew the advantage was theirs on ground
like this.

Jumping from a boulder, he fell into the swollen beck and made his way up
the nearly perpendicular slab. At the top he found a dangerous ledge and
advanced upon the sheep, which had their backs to the stream. Twining his
fingers in a lamb's wool, he picked up the animal and balancing himself
precariously threw it as far as he could. It fell into the beck and
scrambled out on the other side, where the track led down the ghyll. The
effort had cost him much, for his heart beat and he gasped for breath,
but he doubted if he had done enough. Dragging another lamb from the
flock, he hurled it into the water, and then his foot slipped and he
rolled down the slab and fell in the snow.

He got up, badly shaken, and saw that his plan had worked. Sheep will
follow a leader and the flock was straggling down the ghyll behind the
lambs. Kit recrossed the beck and descended cautiously, keeping close to
the rocks. The ghyll is a rough climb in daylight, and summer tourists,
trying to cross the fells, often turn back at the bottom. There is no
path and one scrambles over large, sharp stones, some of which are loose
and fall at a touch. In places, banks of treacherous gravel drop to the
beck, which plunges over ledges into deep, spray-veiled pools. Now the
stones were slippery with snow, the wind raged, and mist and tossing
flakes hid the ground a few yards ahead.

Somehow he got down, but he was exhausted and breathless when he
reached the bottom, where he was forced to wait before he could whistle
to his dog. He heard its bark and stumbling forward, found the flock
bunched together in a hollow. Then he sat down in the snow while Tom
counted the sheep.

"They're aw here," said the shepherd. "A better job than I thowt we'd
mak! Weel, let's gan on."

Kit was tired, and bruised by his fall, but he went forward behind the
dogs. His troubles were over, for a broad smooth path led along the
hill-foot to Mireside.



The morning was dark, and although the gale had dropped, a raw, cold
wind blew up the valley past Mireside farm, where three or four farmers'
traps and some rusty bicycles stood beneath the projecting roof of a
barn. The bleating of sheep rose from a boggy pasture by the beck, and
lights twinkled as men with lanterns moved about in the gloom. Now and
then somebody shouted and dogs barked as a flock of Herdwicks was driven
to the pens.

In the flagged kitchen, Mrs. Railton and Lucy bustled about by the light
of a lamp and the glow of the fire. The table was covered with used
plates and cups. The men outside had breakfasted, but one or two more
might come and Mrs. Railton wondered when Kit would arrive. She had lain
awake for the most part of the night, thinking about him and the strayed
Herdwicks while she listened to the gale. Now and then Lucy went to the
door and looked up the dale to the glimmering line of foam that marked
the spot where Bleatarn beck came down. A path followed the water-side,
but she could not see men or sheep in the gloom, and if Kit did not come
soon he would be too late.

Railton sat gloomily by the fire. He had had rheumatic fever, and the
damp cold racked his aching joints; besides, there was nothing for him to
do. He had called in his neighbors to value his flock, but he knew, to a
few pounds, what their judgment would be. Hayes Would presently arrive,
and Railton would be asked to pay, or give security for, the shortage,
which was impossible. Hayes knew this and meant to break his lease.
Perhaps the hardest thing was that the shortage was small; if the next
lambing season were good, he could pay. But Hayes would not wait.

Although Railton was too proud to beg for help from his neighbors, he had
gone to the bank. Osborn, however, used the same bank, and it looked as
if Hayes had given the manager a hint, because he refused a loan. Askew
had offered a hundred pounds, but this was not enough, and even if Kit
arrived with the sheep from Swinset, Railton could not find the rest of
the money. However, the arrival of the Herdwicks would make a difference,
and he did not altogether give up hope. By and by he tried to get up, and
sitting down again with a groan, beckoned his wife.

"Martha, you might gan to door."

Mrs. Railton, knowing what he meant, went to the porch. It was
lighter outside and the hillside was growing distinct. She thought
something moved on the path beside the beck, and turned to her
daughter, who had followed.

"What's yon by the water, Lucy?"

Lucy was silent for a few moments and then said quietly, "I think
it's sheep!"

She watched the path. The mist made a puzzling background and her eyes
were getting dazzled; but there was something. Then she heard a chair jar
on the flags and glanced at Railton, who leaned forward.

"Weel?" he said. "Canna you speak? Is neabody coming yet?"

Lucy threw another glance up the dale and her heart beat. An
indistinct row of small dark objects moved along the path, with two
tall figures behind.

"Kit's coming down the beck; he's brought the Herdwicks!" she cried.

"Canny lad!" said Railton, and leaning back limply, wiped his face.
His forehead was wet with sweat, for he was weak and the suspense had
been keen.

The sheep vanished behind a wall, and Lucy began to put fresh food on the
table. Mrs. Railton hung a kettle on a hook above the fire, and then
turned with a start as a girl came into the porch.

"Miss Osborn!" she exclaimed.

Grace advanced calmly, although there was some color in her face, because
she knew the others were surprised that she had come.

"Is Mr. Hayes here?" she asked.

"Mayhappen he's at the pens," Lucy replied. "I thought I heard his car."

"Then I missed him at the cross-roads," said Grace. "I was going to
Allerby, and my father asked me to give him a note when he stopped at
Lawson's." She hesitated, and then resumed impulsively: "Perhaps I
oughtn't to have come on; but I wanted to do so."

They knew what she meant, but nobody answered, and Grace sat down on a
bench by the table.

"Will you give the note to Mr. Hayes? Has Kit Askew brought the
Swinset sheep?"

"He's coming now," said Lucy, picking up the note, and Grace's
eyes sparkled.

"I knew he would bring them; I told him he must."

Lucy went out and Grace asked Railton about his pains. While they talked
somebody shouted outside, and the old man, getting up with an effort,
hobbled to the door.

"Hoad on; dinna close t' pen," a man called. "Here's Kit and t' lot
fra Swinset."

Three of four more shouted and Grace, who had followed Railton, thought
there was a note of triumph in their cries. Then dogs began to bark,
somebody opened a gate, and a flock of Herdwicks, leaping out with wet
fleeces shaking, and hoofs clicking on stone, ran across a shallow pool
where the beck had overflowed.

A few minutes afterwards, Kit came in. He looked tired, his face was
rather haggard, and his clothes were wet. Tom, the shepherd, followed and
sat down by the fire.

"It was nea an easy job, but we manished it," he said. "Swinset sheep is
thief sheep, but they're none a match for Kit's oad dog."

Kit stopped abruptly as he crossed the floor and his heart beat. "Ah!" he
said. "Miss Osborn?"

Grace smiled as she got up and gave him her hand. "Well done! Have you
brought them all? But of course you have!"

"They're in the pen," Kit answered, with some embarrassment.

Then Railton stood up, leaning awkwardly on his stick.

"I've misdoubted your new-fashioned plans, and ken that I was wrang.
There's nea ither lad in aw t' dale could ha' browt Herdwicks doon
Bleatarn ghyll last neet. Weel, t' oad ways for t' oad men, but I'se
niver deny again that the young and new are good."

He sat down and while Mrs. Railton began to bustle about the table Grace
stole away. She knew she ought not to have come, and had done so with a
feeling of rebellion against her father's harshness, although she tried
to persuade herself that Hayes was most to blame. Now she was glad the
note made a pretext for the visit; she had shown the Railtons her
sympathy and had thanked Kit. After all, he had perhaps gone to look for
the sheep because she told him; she rather hoped he had, and rejoiced
with the others at his success.

Grace admitted that she liked Kit Askew. He was resolute but modest, and
had just done a bold deed by which he had nothing to gain. Railton's
praise had moved her, because she knew the dalesfolk's reserve and that
the farmer would not, without good grounds, have spoken as he did.
Moreover, she knew the fells, and it was something of an exploit to bring
the sheep from Swinset in the storm. Kit was, of course, a farmer's son,
but he was plucky and generous; besides, she approved his steady look,
well-balanced, muscular figure, and clean brown skin. Then she blushed
and began to wonder what she would say about her visit to Mireside when
she went home.

In the meantime, Kit ate his breakfast, and soon afterwards Peter Askew
came in and began to talk to Railton. Until the valuation was agreed upon
there was nothing for them to do, and it was some time before the men
returned from the pens. They were plain farmers with rather hard, brown
faces, and stood about the fire in half-embarrassed silence while Hayes
sat down at the table and opened his pocket-book.

"We have made up the tally," he began, and Railton interrupted.

"Counting in the lambs and ewes fra Swinset?"

"They are counted," Hayes replied. "I'll give you particulars of the
different lots."

He read out some figures and then turned to the group by the fire. "I
think we are all agreed?"

"Aw, yis," said one. "It's as near as yan can mak' it, withoot sending
flock to auction."

Hayes turned to Railton. "Are you satisfied?"

"We willunt fratch. Mayhappen two or three lots would fetch anither pound
or two, but we'll ca' it fair."

"Then we must thank these gentlemen," said Hayes, who shut his
pocket-book and took out a document. "As there is some other business and
they have given us some time, we need not keep them."

The men looked at one another and Peter Askew said, "If Railton doesn't
mind, we'd sooner stop."

"Stop if you like," Railton agreed. "You've got me a just reckoning and
you're neebors aw."

"It's not necessary," Hayes objected. "The business we have to transact
is private."

"They ken it," Railton replied in a stubborn voice. "I've bid them stop
and the hoose is mine until Mr. Osborn turns me oot."

"Very well. You know the sum due to the landlord. Are you ready to pay?"

"I canna pay. It's weel you ken."

"Then, can you give security for the debt?"

"I canna and wadn't give it if I could. There's ways a cliver agent can
run up a reckoning, and when you want Mireside I'll have to gan."

"Then, I'm afraid we shall be forced to break the lease and take measures
to recover the sum due."

"Hoad on a minute!" said one of the group, who turned to Railton. "Would
you like to stop?"

"I would like; I've lived at Mireside sin' I was born. There's another
thing: it's none too good a time for a sale o' farming stock, and when
I've paid Osborn, I'll need some money to mak' anither start. Then
may-happen a dry spring wold put me straight."

"It ought to; you're not much behind," Peter agreed. "Weel, you ken I'm
generally willing to back my judgment, and noo it seems there's others
think like me."

"In a sense, the lease does not run out yet," Kit interposed. "It has
rather reached the half-term, because by our custom Railton is entitled
to take it up again for an equal period if he and the landlord agree
about the necessary adjustment. Our leases really cover a double term."

Hayes turned to him with an ironical smile. "Do you know much about
tenant law?" he asked.

"No," said Kit, rather dryly. "I made some studies when I could get the
books, but they didn't take me far. In fact, I imagine that in this
neighborhood there's very little law and much precedent, which has
generally been interpreted for the landlord's advantage. There are old
Barony laws and Manor rights, and my notion is that nobody knows exactly
how he stands. But we'll let this go. If Railton pays his fine, you will
have some trouble to get rid of him."

Hayes agreed and Railton looked up with a puzzled air.

"But I canna pay," he said dully.

The farmer who had interrupted Hayes took out a bulky envelope and
crossed the floor.

"Well," he said, "I think you're wrang. Your friends have been talking
aboot the thing and wadn't like t' see you gan." He gave Railton the
envelope, adding: "It's a loan."

Railton's hand shook as he took out a bundle of bank-notes. "You're good
neebors," he said in a strained voice. "But I dinna think I ought to tak'
your money. There's a risk."

"Not much risk in backing an honest man," the other rejoined, and taking
the notes from Railton gave them to Hayes. "Noo, if you'll count these--"

Hayes' face was inscrutable as he flicked over the notes. "The total's
correct. It's an awkward bundle; a check would have been simpler."

"A check has the drawback that it must be signed," Kit remarked with a
meaning smile. "We're modest folk, and nobody was anxious to write
himself down the leader."

"I see!" said Hayes. "I don't know if you're modest; but you're certainly

"Anyhow, we're aw in this," said one of the others.

"So it seems. I hope you won't lose your money," Hayes rejoined dryly and
took out a fountain pen. "Well, here's your receipt, Mr. Railton. I don't
think there is anything more to be said."

He put the receipt on the table and when he went away a farmer laughed.

"O'ad Hayes is quiet and cunning as a hill fox, but my lease has some
time to go and he canna put us aw oot."

Railton tried to thank them, while Mrs. Railton smiled with tears in her
eyes, but the dales folk dislike emotion and as soon as it was possible
the visitors went away.

An hour or two afterwards Grace heard about the matter from the sick wife
of a farmer, whom she had gone to see, and when she went home thought she
had better not confess that she had taken Hayes' note to Mireside. When
Osborn joined his wife and daughter at the tea-table in the hall after
some disappointing shooting, his remarks about his tenants were
rancorous. Grace thought it prudent not to talk and left the table as
soon as she could. When she had gone, Osborn frowned and getting up
savagely kicked a log in the grate.

"I got a nasty knock this morning," he said. "It's not so much that I
mind letting Railton stop; I hate to feel I've been baffled and made the
victim of a plot."

"After all, wasn't it rather Hayes's idea than yours that Railton ought
to go?" Mrs. Osborn ventured.

"It was; there's some comfort in that! You don't like Hayes much."

"I don't know that I dislike him. I'm not sure I trust him."

"Well," said Osborn thoughtfully, "I sometimes feel he's keenest about my
interests when they don't clash with his, and this last affair was a
pretty good example of nepotism. For all that, his nephew would have been
a better tenant and have paid a higher rent." He paused and knitted his
brows angrily as he resumed: "However, it's done with, and one can't
blame Railton for holding on to his lease. What I hate to feel is, the
others plotted to baffle me. The land is mine, but I'd sooner get on well
with my tenants."

"One cannot, so to speak, have it both ways," Mrs. Osborn remarked

"Oh, I know what you mean! But I don't think I'm a harsh landlord. If
money was not quite so scarce, I might be generous. In fact, I don't
know that I'd have agreed to turning Railton out if it hadn't been for
Gerald's confounded debts and his allowance at Woolwich. That's a
fresh expense."

Mrs. Osborn thought the expense did not count for much by comparison with
her husband's extravagance; but he had been rather patient and she must
not go too far.

"Well," she said, "you have got Railton's fine."

"It is not a large sum," Osborn answered with a frown. "I need the money,
but in a sense I'd sooner it had not been paid. Anyhow, I'd sooner it had
not been paid like that. The others' confounded organized opposition
annoys me."

"They were forced to subscribe to a fund if they wanted to help."

"Just so; but they probably wouldn't have thought about subscribing if
Askew hadn't suggested it. They're an independent lot and believe in
standing on their own feet. For a time after I got Tarnside, they used a
sensible, give-and-take attitude; it's only recently they've met with
stupid, sullen suspicion."

"Perhaps it was rather a mistake to give Bell the coal yards' lease."

"The coal yards had nothing to do with it," Osborn declared. "The
trouble began earlier, and I've grounds for believing it began at
Ashness. If I was rich enough, I'd buy the Askews out. They know I've no
power over them and take advantage of the situation. The old man was a
bad example for the others, but his son, with his raw communistic
notions, is dangerous. If I could get rid of the meddling fool somehow,
it would be a keen relief."

He came back to the table and picked up a cup of tea. Then, grumbling
that it had gone cold, he put it down noisily and went out.



Soon after the reckoning at Mireside, the snow melted off the fells and
for a month dark rain clouds from the sea rolled up the dale. They broke
upon the hill tops in heavy showers, gray mist drifted about the wet
slopes, the becks roared in the ghylls, and threads of foam that wavered
in the wind streaked the crags. In the bottom of the valley it was never
really light, water flowed across the roads, and the low-standing
farmsteads reeked with damp.

All this was not unusual and the dalesfolk would have borne it patiently
had fuel not been short. Large fires were needed to dry the moisture that
condensed in the flagged kitchens and soaked the thick walls, but coal
could not be got at a price the house-wives were willing to pay. Some
would have had to stint their families in food had they bought on Bell's
terms, and the rest struggled, for the common cause, against the mould
that gathered on clothing and spoiled the meal. They grumbled, but their
resolution hardened as the strain got worse, while Bell waited rather
anxiously for them to give way.

His yards were full and more coal was coming in, but he saw that if he
let the farmers beat him his power to overcharge them another time would
be gone. The new combine was dangerous, since the cooperative plan might
be extended to the purchase of chemical manures, seed, and lime. In the
meantime, there was plenty of peat, stacked so that it would escape much
damage, on Malton Head; but Askew and his friends could not get it down.
Carts could not be used on the fells and the clumsy wooden sledges the
farmers called stone-boats would not run across the boggy moor. The few
loads Kit brought down at the cost of heavy labor were carried off by
anxious house-wives as soon as they arrived.

The weather was helping the monopolist, but he could not tell if a change
to frost would be an advantage or not. Although it would make the need
for coal felt keenly, it might simplify the transport of peat. When Bell
thought about it, and the colliery company's bills came in, he felt
disturbed, but he was stubborn and would not lower his price yet.

At length the rain stopped, and after a heavy fall of snow keen frost
began. The white fells glittered in cold sunshine that only touched the
bottom of the dale for an hour or two. The ice on the tarn was covered,
so that skating was impossible, and Thorn, feeling the need for
amusement, had a few sledges made. He had learned something about
winter sports in Switzerland, and one afternoon stood with a party of
young men and women at the top of Malton Head. They had practised with
a pair of skis farther down the hill, where one or two were sliding on
a small Swiss luge, but Thorn wanted to find a long run for his
Canadian-pattern toboggan.

Grace stood near him; her face touched with warm color and her eyes
sparkling as she looked about. She did not altogether approve of Alan
Thorn, but she was young and vigorous and enjoyed the sport. Besides, she
loved the high fells and now they looked majestic in the pale sunshine.
They were not all white; dark rocks with glittering veins edged the
snowfield, and the scarred face of Force Crag ran down where the shoulder
of the moor broke off four hundred feet below. Where the sun did not
strike, the snow was a curious delicate gray, and the bottom of the dale
was colored an ethereal blue. The pale-gray riband, winding in a graceful
curve round the crag, marked the old green road that was sometimes used
for bringing down dry fern, and Grace's face got thoughtful as she noted
a row of men and horses some distance off. She imagined they were Askew
and his helpers.

In the meantime, Thorn studied her with artistic satisfaction. He had an
eye for female beauty and the girl looked very well in her rather shabby
furs. Her pose was light and graceful, her figure finely modeled, and he
liked the glow the cold had brought to her skin. Moreover, he liked her
joyous confidence when they tried the luge on a risky slide. She was as
steady-nerved and plucky as a man, and was marked by a fine
fastidiousness that did not characterize other girls he knew.

"I think this is about the best spot we have seen," he said. "The drop
is steep but regular, although I expect we'll be breathless when we get
to the bottom. Would you like to try? If not, perhaps somebody else
will come."

He looked at the others, and they looked at the white declivity. It was
much longer than any they had gone down, and a girl laughed.

"To begin with, we'll watch you. I was upset on the last slide and it's
rather a long way to roll down to the dale."

Grace lay down on a cushion with her head just behind the toboggan's
curved front; Thorn found room farther back, with his legs in the snow,
and amidst some laughter and joking the others pushed; them off. The
surface was hard, and for a time the toboggan ran smoothly and steadily;
then the pace got faster, and showers of snow flew up like spray. It beat
into Grace's eyes and whipped her face, until she bent her head in the
shelter of the curled front.

The sharp hiss the steel runners made was louder, the wind began to
scream, and she got something of a shock when she cautiously looked up.
It was hard to see through the snowy spray, but the top of the crag
looked ominously near. Glancing down hill with smarting eyes, she thought
the slope, which, from the top, had seemed to fall evenly to the dale,
was also inclined towards the crag. She could not see much of the latter,
but there was a fringe of dark rock where the white declivity broke off.

"Aren't we getting too near?" she shouted.

"Nearer than I thought," Thorn gasped. "Not sure I can swing the sledge.
Can you get back and help?"

Grace braced herself. Alan's nerve was good, but there was a disturbed
note in his voice; besides he would not have asked her help unless it was
needed. Wriggling back cautiously, she got level with Thorn, although
there was not much room for them side by side. Her feet and the seam of
her short dress brushed in the snow and tore up the surface. She felt the
looser stuff beneath foam about her gaiters, but this was an advantage.
The drag would help to stop the sledge, and if she could put an extra
pressure on one side, to some extent direct it. Still they were going
very fast and at first she was nearly pulled off. She tightened her grasp
with her hands until she felt her gloves split, and then risked another
glance ahead.

The rocks were very close, but the sledge had passed the top, and she
could see a few yards down the dark side as they followed the curving
edge of the crag. The sledge was now running nearly straight down the
hill, but the curve bent in towards them, and she could not tell if they
would shoot past the widest spot or plunge over.

"Perhaps you had better let go," Thorn said hoarsely.

Grace shook her head. If she dropped off, it was uncertain whether she
would stop until she had rolled some distance; perhaps she might not stop
before she reached the edge of the crag. Anyhow, she did not mean to let
go, and tried to catch the snow with her toes in an effort to help Thorn
to steer the sledge. It swerved a little but rushed on again, and she saw
that the edge of the rock curved in yet. She doubted if they were far
enough off to get past the bend.

Then she saw that Thorn had slipped farther back in order to increase the
drag of his legs. His face was dark with blood and she heard his heavy
breathing as he tried to change their course. She helped all she could
while the snow rolled across her dress, and then for a moment lifted her
head. Powdered snow beat into her face and nearly blinded her, but she
thought there was now an unbroken slant in front. They must have passed
the middle of the bend, although Thorn was between her and the side on
which it lay and she was not sure yet. She remembered with horrible
distinctness how she had once stood at the bottom of the crag and seen a
stone that rolled over the top smash upon the rocks.

"Try again!" Thorn gasped. "Swing her to the right!"

Grace let her body slip back. The thrust and drag were telling, for the
sledge had swerved, and then there came a few seconds of keen suspense.
After this she heard Thorn draw a labored breath and felt his hand on
her waist.

"We're past. Hitch yourself up before you're pulled off," he said.

With some trouble Grace got back to her place and lay still, while her
heart thumped painfully and something rang in her ears. The reaction had
begun and she knew she could not move if Thorn wanted help again. It
looked, however, as if he did not, and some moments afterwards she saw
that the way was clear ahead. She wondered whether they would stop before
they reached the bottom of the dale and how far it was. The round
sheepfold in the first field looked no larger than a finger ring. She was
getting numb and the rush of bitter air took away her breath.

"Hold tight!" Thorn shouted presently and she noted that the hillside
broke off not far in front.

Since there were no crags near the spot, it was obvious that they had
come to an extra steep pitch, the brow of which prevented her from seeing
the bottom. Next moment the sledge seemed to leave the ground and leap
forward. Grace thought that for some yards they traveled through the air,
and then the hiss of the runners that had suddenly stopped became a
scream. The speed was bewildering and a haze of fine snow streamed past.
By and by, however, this began to thin, the speed slackened, and Thorn
gave a warning shout. She felt him try to turn the sledge, but they were
going too fast; the light frame canted and turned over, and they rolled
off into the snow. When Grace got up and shook herself, fifty yards lower
down, she saw Thorn standing by the righted sledge. He came to meet her
as she toiled back and his eyes sparkled.

"By George!" he said, "you are fine. You're a thorough sport!"

Grace colored. The compliment was obviously frank and not premeditated;
perhaps she deserved it, but she did not want Thorn to praise her. His
manners were good, but somehow he often jarred. He had not, within her
memory, said anything that could justly offend her, and although he was a
neighbor and there were no secrets in the dale, she had not known him do
a shabby thing. Yet, on the whole, he rather repelled than attracted her.
She studied him as he came down the hill.

He was a big, handsome man, and it was, of course, ridiculous to dislike
him because he was older than she and was getting fat. He was an amusing
talker and a good sportsman, but now and then one got a hint of hardness
and cunning. Somehow, so to speak, he did not ring true.

"I held on because I thought I might fall over the crag if I let go," she
said with a laugh. "Then as I did hold on, it was merely prudent to try
to steer the sledge."

"Oh, yes," Thorn agreed. "But the important thing is you saw this and
didn't lose your nerve. Anyhow, if you had lost it, I couldn't have
blamed you; I blame myself for my confounded thoughtlessness that let you
run the risk. In fact, I'm dreadfully sorry and don't mind owning that I
got a fright."

Grace noted that he was rather shaken, and felt vaguely disturbed. She
had seen him following the foxhounds among the crags, for they hunt on
foot in the rugged dales, and knew his steadiness and pluck. He had not
been afraid for himself, and she did not want him to be afraid for her.

"After all," she said, "the hill seemed to run down evenly when we stood
at the top. If the little slant towards the crag deceived you, it
deceived me."

"I know more about tobogganing and oughtn't to have been deceived. It
hurts to feel I didn't take proper care of you."

"It really doesn't matter," Grace replied with a smile, and Thorn gave
her a steady look.

"Oh, but it does matter! You ought to see that!"

"I don't see it," Grace insisted quietly, although her heart beat. "You
were not accountable, and we got down quite safe. Let's talk about
something else."

Thorn's eyes rested on her for another moment, and then he made a sign of
acquiescence and they went back up the hill. At the top he marked a new
line for the next day's sport, and then as the sun was getting low the
party started home by the old stone-boat road. Near the bottom they
overtook the Askews, and one or two others walking at their horses' heads
as they cautiously descended a steep pitch. Grace noted that although
they were not bringing much peat there was a risk of the sledges running
down upon the teams.

"You have not got on very fast," she said to Peter.

"If we're no verra careful, we'll gan faster than we like."

"I suppose that's why you're only taking half a load?"

"Just that," Peter agreed. "It wadn't suit for load to run ower the team.
Better safe than sorry, though it's a terrible loss o' time."

"Then, why don't you look for an easier way down?"

"There's only the oad green road. Fellside's ower steep for horses."

"Well, if I can think of a better way I'll tell you," Grace replied,
smiling, and hurried on after the others.

They left her at the Tarnside gate and she stopped abruptly as she went
up the drive. It had obviously taken Askew a long time to bring down half
a load because of the risk to his horses; but she had found a better
plan. It was not needful to use horses, after they had pulled the sledges
up. The latter could be heavily loaded and left to run down alone. She
must tell Kit Askew when she saw him next, but she did not reflect that
it was curious she meant to tell Kit and not Peter.



Although the air was bracingly keen the afternoon was calm and the
scattered clouds scarcely moved across the sky. The snow in the valley
shone a delicate gray, and soft lights and shadows rested on the hills. A
peak that rose above the edge of the lofty moor gleamed pale-yellow
against a background of deep blue. Grace noted the tranquil beauty of the
landscape, but hesitated now and then as she climbed the steep road out
of the dale.

She had come to meet Kit Askew, and now she reviewed her reasons for
doing so they did not look very sound. In fact, if Kit approved the plan
she meant to suggest, she would perhaps be meddling unjustifiably with
her father's business. After all, however, it was really not his
business. He had allowed himself to be persuaded to help Hayes and the
latter's accomplice, Bell, without quite understanding what this
implied. Her plan would prevent his doing an injustice he did not really
mean to do.

She suspected that there was a touch of sophistry about her arguments,
but would not own that she had come because she wanted to meet Kit. It
was necessary that she should meet him; yet when she stopped at a gate
and heard the tramp of horses' feet behind, her color came and went. For
all that, she looked very calm, when Kit pulled up his team, and went
forward to open the gate. He made an abrupt movement as he recognized
her, but his eyes shone with satisfaction.

"I suppose you are going for some peat," she said.

Kit said he was, and added that Peter and two or three neighbors were
loading the stone-boats on the moor.

"Then, I wonder whether you could let me have a small quantity when you
come down?"

"You can have a load if you want."

Grace laughed. "Two or three basketsful would be enough, and I don't want
them for myself. I went to see Mrs. Waite and found her old father
crippled by rheumatism. The kitchen was cold and damp, but she had a very
little fire. She said her coal was nearly gone and she had got no peat."

"Thank you for telling me; I didn't know," said Kit. "I'll take her a
sack as I go down the dale." He paused and hesitated, with his hand on
the open gate. "But it's rather cold. Am I keeping you?"

Grace noted with some satisfaction that he did not seem to think it
remarkable she had met him at the lonely spot.

"Oh, no," she said. "I am going up the hill. I like the view from the
crag and sometimes go to watch the sunset. When it shines over the
shoulder of the Pike it throws wonderful lights on the snow."

Kit agreed, and after he started his horses they went on together. By and
by Grace resumed: "When I met you yesterday, your father said the sledges
often ran down too fast and you could not put up a proper load."

"That is a drawback. You see, there's plenty peat cut; the trouble is to
bring it down. After the heavy rain, we couldn't drag the stone-boats
across the boggy moor, and although the snow has made this easy, it
hasn't helped much otherwise. If we put up a big load, there's some
danger of the sledges overtaking and knocking down the horses where the
track is steep."

"And you can't see a way of getting over the difficulty?"

Kit said he could not and Grace's eyes twinkled.

"Then I can. I'll show you a way, if you're not too proud to take advice
from a girl."

"Certainly not," Kit said, smiling. "I don't know why you think
I'm proud."

"Then perhaps you're obstinate; some of the dalesfolk are."

"We're slow. We like to try things properly; and then, perhaps we
stick to them longer than is needful if we find them good. But
caution's prudent."

"You're very cautious now," Grace rejoined. "You don't seem curious about
my plan. Are you afraid it isn't practical?"

"No," said Kit, rather earnestly; "since it's yours, it's no doubt
good." Then he pulled himself up and added with a twinkle: "But I
haven't heard it yet."

"Well, while your difficulty is that the peat comes down too fast, I
think it does not go fast enough. You are afraid about your horses, but
you needn't use them. The stone-boats would run down alone. Do you
understand now?"

Kit started. "I expect you have found the way, Miss Osborn, and we owe
you some thanks. In fact, you're cleverer than the lot!"

"The admission doesn't seem to hurt you," Grace rejoined. "But I imagine
to feel you had to make it was something of a shock."

"No," said Kit, with a laugh she liked. "We're often dull and our
womenfolk have helped us much. But somehow I did not expect--"

He stopped, and Grace gave him a level glance.

"You mean you did not expect help from me?"

"Well," he said, "I suppose I did mean something like that"

"Then I'm glad you owned it, because it allows me to clear the ground. I
don't want poor people to be cold in winter in order that Bell may get
rich. Neither does my father want it--you must believe this! He doesn't
know all that goes on; Hayes hides things from him. There is no reason I
shouldn't help you to spoil _Bell's_ plot."

Kit was silent for a few moments. The girl had pluck and he liked her
frankness. She was trying to persuade herself Osborn was not unjust, and,
although he imagined she found it hard, he did not mean to make it
harder. One must respect her staunchness.

"Bell is our real antagonist and he's an awkward man to beat," he said.
"However, the hint you have given us ought to be useful. I'll look for a
way down when we get to the top."

Grace warned him about the inclination of the hillside to the rocks and
stopped at the bottom of the crag.

"I think I'll go across the hill and watch the first sledge come down, if
you're not too long," she said and paused for a moment. "Perhaps you
needn't tell the others it was my plan."

Kit said he would not do so and was strangely satisfied as he went on
with his horses. He understood her hesitation; it was delightful to feel
that she had given him her confidence and they shared a secret. At the
top, he found the others had loaded the sledges and were ready to start.
Since the dales folk are conservative, he had expected some opposition to
his plan, but they listened attentively and an old man supported him.

"I mind hearing my father say that yan hard winter after a wet back end
o' year, they let peat run doon t' fell. What has been done yance can be
done again."

Kit said nothing; for the other, by using a favorite motto, had banished
his companions' dislike of novelties.

"It was deeun no' so long sin'," another remarked. "In my time, they
browt slate doon on t' stane-boats across the Fleet-pike scree. Pushed
them off at top and let them go."

There was some further talk and when they resolved to make the experiment
Kit went down the hill. He said he wanted to see how the first sledge
crossed an awkward pitch, but it counted for much that he saw a small
figure below. Grace looked satisfied with his excuse for joining her and
they waited for a time while the men above moved the first load to the
edge. The sunshine had gone and it was getting cold; the shadows in the
dale had faded from blue to dusky gray and the frost was keen. All was
very quiet, but now and then distant voices and the musical rattle of
chains came down through the nipping air.

"It will be dark before they're ready if they're not quick," said Kit,
and Grace looked up the hill.

"I think they're starting the sledge. If there had been nobody about, I
would have liked to come down with the peat. You can't imagine how
exciting it is."

They watched the sledge slip over the brow of the descent. It got larger
as it came down, but it did not run as fast as the toboggan. One could
see it rock and swerve, shaking off loose peats, where the ground was
broken, and Grace glanced at the steep pitch Kit had come to watch.

"It will go down there with a splendid rush, but I don't think it will
upset," she said. "My plan is going to work."

The sledge got nearer. They saw the snow fly up about its front and heard
the scream the runners made. There was something fascinating about its
smooth but fast descent, and as it approached the top of the dip they
moved back rather unwillingly to let it pass. When it was nearly level
with them it slowed on the changing incline and Grace noted that there
was a narrow space between the back of the frame and the peat. She gave
Kit a quick look as she said, "If one wanted, I think one could jump on."

"Let's try!" said Kit impulsively, and they ran forward.

He reached the sledge first, and throwing himself down held out his hand
to Grace, who fell upon the runner log. Kit pulled her up and although
the light was going saw her face glow after the effort she had made. Her
eyes sparkled with excitement, but Kit felt half embarrassed because he
did not know whether he had persuaded her to venture on an undignified
adventure or she had persuaded him. It was a relief to hear her laugh.

"This is rather ridiculous, and I don't know if we can hold on," she said
as she tried to grasp the shaking peat.

The sledge ran faster and lurched violently as it plunged over the edge
of the steep drop. A shower of peat fell on them, the speed got furious,
and they heard the runners scream, but they were sheltered from the rush
of wind and could not see ahead. After a few moments Grace looked up with
twinkling eyes.

"You could drop off if you liked. Are you, sorry you came?"

"No," said Kit. "I came because I wanted, and now I'm here I'll stop."

"I really think you mean to be nice," Grace rejoined with amusement and
Kit understood; she saw he did not mean to admit that she had suggested
the adventure, but this was not important. It was something of an
adventure for a girl like Miss Osborn, although her having embarked on it
gave him a delightful feeling of partnership in a harmless folly.

"I hope there's nothing in the way," he said. "We're going very fast and
Hindbeck farm can't be far off. I ought to have looked before we jumped."

"It is too late now," Grace answered with an excited laugh. "I imagine
you're not as cautious as you think; but we won't talk. It's hard to hold
on and I haven't much breath."

Kit moved nearer and, seizing the edge of the frame, put his arm round
her waist. She did not seem to resent this, and for a time they sped down
hill with their feet plowing through the snow. Kit did not care how long
the swift rush lasted, but by and by he began to get anxious. The sledge
had gone a long way since they jumped on, and the hillside was steep to
the bottom, where it met the Hindbeck pastures. While he wondered whether
Grace would slide far and get shaken if he made her let go, the sledge
tilted up. It stopped with a violent shock, he heard stones fall, and was
thrown off amidst a shower of peat. When he got up Grace was sitting in
the snow some distance off and he ran towards her. She had lost her small
fur cap and her hair was loose, but to his relief she laughed.

"Oh," she said, "it really was ridiculous! But the plan will work. The
peat will run down!"

"That is so," Kit agreed, with a breathless chuckle. "I think it would
have run into the Hindbeck kitchen but for the wall."

"Then it was a wall that stopped us. It felt like a rock."

"Come and see," said Kit, holding out his hand to help her up.

"I think," she said, "I'd rather you looked for my hat."

He went off and it was two or three minutes before he found the hat among
the scattered peat. When he came back it was nearly dark, but Grace's
hair was no longer untidy, and the snow that had smeared her clothes had
gone. She walked with him to where the sledge rested on a pile of stones,
and looking through the gap, they saw a woman with a lantern cross a
narrow pasture between them and a house.

"What's t' matter?" the woman shouted and turned round. "Janet, gan on
and see what's brokken t' wa'."

Another figure came out of the gloom and Grace looked at Kit.

"I don't know who Janet is, but I do know Mrs. Creighton. She talks," she
said. "If you'll stop and explain matters, I'll go down the lonning. It
was a glorious adventure! Good-night!"

She stole away round the corner of the wall and Kit, who understood that
he was, so to speak, to cover her retreat, waited until the two women
came up. The one who carried the lantern was fat and homely; the other
was slender and looked like Janet Bell.

"It's Kit, an' stane-boat stucken in t' wa'!" said the first as she held
up the light "But where's team? An' hoo did you get here? There's nea
road this way."

Kit laughed. "It's lucky I left the horses at the top. This is a new plan
for bringing down the peat and it certainly works, although next time we
must try to stop a little sooner."

Mrs. Creighton asked him some questions before she understood what had
happened. He was in the light, because she had put the lantern on the
wall, and although he could not see her companion's face, he suspected
from Janet's quietness that she was studying him.

"Then you left the others on the moor," the girl remarked.

"I did," said Kit. "We sent the stone-boat off by itself, and it was
half-way down when I jumped on."

"Then none of the men came with you?"

"No," said Kit, who felt annoyed because he saw Janet suspected
something. "I went down to watch the sledge and see if we had hit the
best track."

"It's strange!" said Janet. "I thought there was somebody else when I
first came out. Still, of course, it was nearly dark."

Kit was puzzled because he could not tell how much Janet had really seen,
and thought the situation needed careful handling. If she knew Miss
Osborn had been with him, it would be a mistake to make the thing look
significant by pretending that she had not; but it was possible that
Janet did not know. Then Grace had hinted that she did not want their
adventure talked about.

"I don't expect you could see very well if you had just come out from the
light in the kitchen," he replied. "Anyhow, none of the men came with me
and I must go back and tell them not to send off another lot. We'll see
about mending your wall to-morrow, Mrs. Creighton."

He went off to a gate that opened into the lonning. This was the wisest
plan, because he did not want to talk to Janet. He was half afraid of
her, but not because he thought she sympathized with her father's plots;
it was known that Bell and his daughter quarreled. The girl was a
dangerous coquette and had tactfully hinted that she rather approved Kit.
This had alarmed Kit, who knew she was clever and resolute.

When he reached the lane he stopped abruptly as he remembered something,
and took out his pipe, although he did not mean to smoke. He must be
cautious, since he was not sure if Janet had gone in. Striking a match,
he held it between his hands as if he were going to light his pipe and
stooped in the shelter of a wall.

The light shone on the ground and he knitted his brows as he saw sharp
footsteps in the snow. The farm people did not wear boots that would
leave marks like these; moreover, the footsteps would lead anybody who
thought it worth while to follow them to the spot where the sledge upset.
Kit threw down the match, and frowned as he went on again.



Bright moonlight sparkled on the snow when Kit left Ashness to post some
letters he had written ordering new machines. He was young, but since he
came home Peter had allowed much of the business of the farm to fall into
his hands. Kit's judgment was sound; he had studied modern methods at the
agricultural college and was progressive without being rash. For the most
part, his experiments had paid, and Peter sometimes thought the lad's
talents were wasted in the quiet dale. Kit had ability, particularly for
management. Then, although he was rather reserved, people trusted him and
often asked his advice.

Peter knew Kit was satisfied to stay at Ashness; but, for all that, if
the lad felt he wanted a wider field for his energies later, he would not
stand in his way. The time might come when he must let him go, for Peter
had a brother who had got rich in America and was willing to give his
nephew a start. Indeed, Adam had written again not long since, asking if
Peter was going to send him. It was a relief when Kit laughed and
declared that he did not mean to leave Ashness yet.

When he passed Allerby mill Kit looked about. Icicles covered the idle
wheel, a snow cornice hung over the flagged roof, and water splashed
softly in the half-frozen race. Farther on, the snowy road was
checkered by the shadows of hedges and bare trees. Low roofs, touched
by hoar-frost, rose behind the trunks, and here and there a gleam of
yellow light shone out. The road, however, was empty, as Kit was
relieved to note.

He had once or twice recently, when he went to the post in the evening,
met Janet Bell coming from the little shop in the village. In fact, the
thing began to look significant. Kit was sorry for Janet, because Bell's
rule was harsh and his neighbors extended their dislike for him to his
family. All the same, Kit did not trust the girl and would sooner she
left him alone. He might be taking too much for granted, but romantic
pity was a treacherous guide; Janet was pretty and clever, and he was
human. He had thought about changing the time he went to the post, but
felt it would be cowardly. Besides, he was occupied all day and letters
could not be written until the outside work was done, while a postman
called at Allerby early in the morning.

There was, however, nobody about and for a minute or two Kit went on at a
quick pace. He passed Bell's house, and then hesitated with a frown as a
figure he thought he knew came round a bend in front. Close by, the tall
hedgerow was broken by a stile, from which a path led across a field and
joined the road farther on. He was in the moonlight and if he vanished
the thing would look too marked. Moreover, there would be something
ridiculous about his running away.

Kit went forward, wondering whether Janet had noted his hesitation, and
she stopped him near a big ash-tree. The shadow of the branches made a
black, open pattern on the snow and a belt of gloom lay behind the wide
trunk. Kit would sooner Janet had stopped in the moonlight, since the
villagers often went to the shop and post in the evening, and his
standing in the shadow gave a hint of secrecy to the accidental meeting.
He thought it strange that Janet did not see this.

"You were walking fast," she said. "I believe you'd have gone by if I
hadn't spoken."

"The frost is sharp enough to make one move briskly and I've something to
do when I get back."

"Busy lad!" said Janet, in a mocking voice. "You're always in a hurry,
Kit I suppose Peter works you hard?"

"He says I work him harder than he likes," Kit replied, smiling. "Perhaps
the truth is he lets me have my way."

"You're lucky," Janet remarked with a sigh. "It's nice to be able
to do what you like. There's only one way at the Mill house, and
that's father's. But I suppose you agree with him that women's
ideas don't count?"

"I daresay their ideas are as sound as ours, but I don't know much about
it. We have no women except old Bella and the dairymaid at Ashness."

"And you never miss them? In that big, lonely house!"

Kit mused for a moment. Sometimes, particularly on summer evenings when
they did not light the lamps and the shadows of the fells rested on the
old building, Ashness was lonely and drearily quiet. He had thought now
and then the difference would be marked if a woman's laugh rang through
the dim rooms and a graceful figure sat by the hearth. Still, his
imagination had not pictured Janet there.

"Oh, well," he said, "we're out all day and when we come home there are
letters to write and books to read."

"Letters and books!" said Janet. "Kit, I wonder if you're quite alive."
Then she laughed, provocatively. "Anyhow, you don't seem to know when
you're given a chance of being nice."

Kit did not answer and wished she would let him go. He felt awkward and
thought Janet knew this, for she resumed: "However, one mustn't expect
too much and you want to get back. It's a habit of yours. You were in a
hurry to get away the last time I saw you, when the stone-boat broke
Creighton's wall."

"I'd been at work since morning in the snow."

"And Miss Osborn was waiting for you in the lonning?"

"No," said Kit sharply; "she was not."

"Anyhow she was with you, before she stole away."

"She didn't steal away," Kit began indignantly, but hesitated. Now he
came to think about it, Grace had gone as quietly as possible.

"You mean Miss Osborn does nothing undignified? For all that, she didn't
want Mrs. Creighton to see her. I don't suppose Osborn would be pleased
to know his daughter and you went for moonlight walks on the fells."

Kit knew Osborn would not like it, and since the dales folk are fond of
gossip saw he must stop the story going round.

"I had not gone for a walk with Miss Osborn. I met her as I came down
from the moor. She didn't know I was coming."

"So she wasn't waiting for you?" Janet remarked, with a hint of mockery.
She stopped, and putting her hand on Kit's arm, pushed him nearer the
hedgerow as a man and woman came round a neighboring corner.

Kit was annoyed, but he waited and watched the people as they passed. The
shadow was not very dark and he thought the woman give him a curious
glance. He knew her and imagined that she knew him. When the people went
through a gate Janet laughed.

"That was very unlucky, Kit! Old Nanny's fond of talking; I'm afraid your
character is gone."

Kit frowned. He did not see much humor in the situation, although Janet
was amused.

"Oh," she said, "you are dull! I expect you couldn't be nice if you
tried. But we were talking about Miss Osborn. You were not riding on the
stone-boat when you met her. I don't suppose you could have stopped it."

"No," said Kit, shortly, "I was not."

"But I saw you and somebody else hardly a minute after the stone-boat hit
the wall."

"You saw _me_."

"I did," said Janet. "The snow was sticking to your clothes as if you
had fallen, and you looked angry when Mrs. Creighton put the lantern
on the wall." She paused for a moment, and went on: "I begin to see;
you did come down on the stone-boat and Miss Osborn came with you. You
were both thrown off by the upset at the wall. Well, if you persuaded
her to join you in an adventure like that, it looks as if you were
pretty good friends."

Kit said nothing. In a sense, Miss Osborn had persuaded him, and it was
difficult to explain that both had really given way to a rash impulse.
Somewhat to his surprise, Janet gently touched his arm.

"Be careful, Kit! I wouldn't like to see you hurt. Miss Osborn's friends
are not your kind of folk; she only wants to amuse herself when they are
not about."

"That's ridiculous," Kit declared. "Miss Osborn is not amusing
herself with me."

"Perhaps you ought to know," Janet rejoined with some dryness. "Now I
come to think of it, you're not always very bright. Anyhow, when she
finds the game tiresome, she'll soon get rid of you."

"I meet Miss Osborn now and then and sometimes she stops and speaks. That
is all," Kit said sternly.

"I imagine it's enough," Janet remarked. "Well, I don't want to see you
made to look a fool; you're rather a good sort, Kit, if you're not very
clever. Be careful and remember you have been warned."

She gave him a friendly nod and went off, but after a few moments turned
and looked back. Kit was walking down the road with swift angry strides.
Janet smiled, but when she entered the mill-house kitchen her face was
flushed. Soon after she sat down by the fire, Bell came in and leaned
against the table with an angry frown.

"There's two mair trucks o' coal, and I canna find room for t' stuff," he
said. "Yards is full and I only sold three or four car loads last week."

Janet knew silence was prudent when her father was disturbed, but he had
given her a lead. Kit was a fool, and although she doubted if he were as
dull as he pretended, she was angry with him. Anyhow, it might be
possible to stop his ridiculous infatuation for Miss Osborn.

"You can't sell coal when the Askews are giving peat away," she said.

"Looks like that," Bell agreed. "I'd ha' broke the others before noo if I
hadn't had Peter and Kit against me. Hooiver, if I canna sell coal, I
canna pay the rent and landlord will have to do something. Mayhappen it
will be easier for him if he kens the Askews started the plot. Osborn's
none too fond of them."

"He wouldn't like them any better if he knew what I know," Janet remarked
with a malicious smile.

"What do you ken about them?" Bell asked scornfully.

"I don't imagine Osborn wants Kit for his son-in-law."

Bell started and then laughed harshly.

"Old wives' crack! Kit's not such a fool!"

"You know best," said Janet. "If you like, I'll tell you what I've seen."

She did so and Bell's mean face got thoughtful. On the whole, Janet did
not exaggerate much, although she now and then made a rather unwarranted
implication. She threw a fresh light on matters the gossips already
talked about; among others were Grace's visit to Mireside the morning
Railton's sheep were counted and her meeting with Kit before he went to
look for the Herdwicks. When she stopped Bell knitted his brows.

"If it was used right, I might mak' some use o' this," he
observed. "We'll see what Osborn says about coal yards and the
alterations at mill."

He went to his office and Janet sat quietly by the fire. Her plot would
work; Miss Osborn should not have Kit.

Bell made some calculations. His money was getting short; he had bills to
pay, and his stock of coal was large. He could not hold it much longer,
and since the Askews were bringing down large quantities of peat, there
was no ground for imagining the dalesfolk would give way. It looked as if
he must meet them and he wrote a notice that coal would be delivered by
the trailer lurry at a reduction of two-and-six a ton.

When he had put this in an envelope for the printers, Bell knitted his
brows. Although his neighbors would sooner burn coal than peat, he was
not sure the reduction would stimulate the demand for the former and he
must look for relief in some other direction. He paid a high rent for
the yards and the landlord ought to help. Osborn would, no doubt, be
reluctant, but he might be forced. Bell's lease of the mill would soon
run out; nobody else could pay as much as he paid, and he would demand
certain expensive alterations. Furthermore, Osborn did not like the
Askews, and Bell imagined he saw how to strike a blow at Kit; Janet had
shown him the way. It would be some satisfaction to punish the
meddlesome fellow.

Two days afterwards the notice was fixed on the gateposts, but a week
went by without its attracting fresh customers. Then a bill from the
colliery arrived and Bell put down his price another two-and-six. For a
day or two, no orders came in, and he resolved to wait until the week was
out and then, if needful, get Hayes to arrange for a meeting with Osborn.

On the last evening of the week, a number of the co-operators met in the
kitchen at Ashness and for a time talked about the weather and the price
of sheep. Askew let them talk and Kit was too preoccupied to give them a
lead. He had been thoughtful since he met Janet Bell, for she had
banished the self-deception he had unconsciously used and thrown a new
and disturbing light on his friendship with Grace. Ridiculous as it was
in many ways, he was falling in love with Grace Osborn. Moreover, he had
met her an hour since and she had talked with a friendly confidence that
made his heart beat. The girl liked and trusted him, and although he
durst not look for more, this in itself was much. It was plain that he
ought to conquer his infatuation, but he doubted if he could.

Listening to the others mechanically, he was silent and absorbed until
one asked, "Weel, what's to be done aboot coal noo? Are we gan t' buy?"

"I dinna ken," said another. "My womenfolk are grumelling an' it's
lang sin' we had good light bread, but they're none for letting Bell
have his way."

"He's come doon five shillings, and we've peat enough to fall back on if
he puts up price again," somebody else remarked. "Hooiver, I reckon he's
forced to sell and we might get anither half-croon off if we wait."

Peter took his pipe from his mouth. "It's a kittle point. T' womenfolk
have been patient and Bell canna rob us much if we buy from him noo. Aw
t' same, we can beat him doon some shillings if we hoad on."

"Then hoad on and break the grasping skinflint!" said one of the
younger men.

"I doot if we can break him and wadn't say it's wise to try. If he'll
come down anither shilling, I think we might tak' his coal. That wad be a
just price and we ought to be satisfied."

"Let him smart!" urged the other. "He's robbed us lang enough."

"Well," said Peter thoughtfully, "I dinna ken if that's a reason for
robbing him, and it's sometimes safer no to push your enemy over hard
when he's willing to give in. You must choose. If you hoad on and
force him to sell at a big loss, the fight can only end in yan o' two
ways. He'll mak' you pay top price for cattle food, lime, and patent
manures; or you'll drive him oot o' dale. You must reckon if you're
strong enough."

"We'll hear what Kit says," one of the rest remarked.

Kit's mood was hardly normal. He was not often rash, but he felt sore and
rebellious and this had a stronger influence than he knew. Miss Osborn
liked him, but her father's rank and traditions were daunting obstacles.
Kit felt this was unjust, and raw passions and prejudices that he was, as
a rule, too sensible to indulge, got the mastery.

"My father is right," he said. "We have started a fight with Bell; he's a
dangerous man to rouse and will make us pay, unless we beat him. Besides,
he has made some pay already. Old rheumatic men and young children
starved by half-empty grates when the snow stopped us getting the peat,
and you have seen the profits you worked hard for melt before the price
Bell charged for cattle-meal. He's been getting greedier, until he
imagined he could rob us as he liked, and since he has forced us into the
quarrel, my notion is we ought to fight it out."

Peter looked surprised, but did not speak, and there was silence for a
few moments. Then one said:

"I'm with Kit. We'll hoad on until Bell comes doon seven-and-six. If he
does, we'll talk aboot it again."

After some argument, the rest agreed, and when they went away Peter
turned to his son.

"Mayhappen you've sent them t' right road, but I dinna ken! I'm none fond
o' fratching, unless I'm forced."

"We are forced," Kit answered moodily.

Peter gave him a keen glance and then spread out his hands.

"It's possible. For aw that, it wadn't ha' done much harm to give t' man
his chance o' makin' peace."

Kit did not answer, but went out, and Askew sat by the fire with a
thoughtful look. Something had happened to the lad, and Peter wondered
what it was. He felt vaguely disturbed, but could see no light.



Soon after the farmers met at Ashness, Bell, feeling sore and resentful,
sat one evening in the Tarnside library. Osborn, after fixing a time for
his visit, had kept him waiting twenty minutes, and Bell had come to
think himself a man of a little importance. The spacious library was very
cold and the end of a small log smouldered among the ashes in the grate.
Bell knew he had been brought into the library because it was Osborn's
business room; but the latter might have ordered the fire to be made up.

His neglect rankled, although Bell had something else to think about. He
had lowered his price for coal another shilling, without attracting
buyers, and now admitted that the dales folks' resistance was getting
dangerous. To some extent, the Askews were accountable for this, but
Osborn got a large share of the profit Bell had hoped to make. One did
not pay a high rent for nothing. By and by Bell looked at Hayes, who
stood by the hearth.

"The next time I come to Tarnside Mr. Osborn will wait for me," he

Hayes made a warning gesture, there were steps in the passage, and Osborn
came in. He sat down at the end of the table and looked at his watch.

"I can give you about a quarter of an hour," he said. "Perhaps we had
better begin."

The big room was nearly dark, but the men sat in the light a shaded
lamp threw across the table. Osborn looked half bored and half
impatient, Hayes was urbanely inscrutable, while Bell's mean face was
marked by greed.

"Mr. Bell finds his stock of coal accumulating faster than he likes,"
said Hayes. "He must pay on delivery, and since his customers have
combined against him, feels he's entitled to some relief."

"I don't see how that is my business," Osborn rejoined. "Bell might get
over the difficulty by lowering his price."

"I've putten it doon," Bell broke in. "The price I can sell at is fixed
by my rent."

"To some extent, the argument is logical," said Hayes.

"Then am I to understand that Mr. Bell expects me to reduce his rent?"

"Not to begin with," Hayes answered, giving Bell a warning glance. "He
imagines he might gain his object almost as well if we stopped Askew
cutting peat."

"You cannot stop him. The peat is his."

"We might embarrass him. While the snow lasts, it saves some awkward
labor to cross Creighton's field and use his lonning. A tenant is not
entitled to grant a way-leave."

"Allowing a friend to use the lane for a week or two can hardly be called
a way-leave."

"Well, although Askew owns the moor, it's doubtful if he is entitled
to remove peat for sale, unless by arrangement with the lord of the
manor. I have seen Sir Gordon's agent and he is not unwilling to
dispute the point."

"At my cost?" said Osborn with a sarcastic smile. "Enforcing the old
manorial rights, which nobody knows much about, would be an expensive
business, and I have no money to risk. However, if Bell is willing to pay
the lawyers--"

"I'll pay nowt but rent. It's high enough," Bell declared.

Osborn shrugged. "Very well! It would cost too much to try to frighten
Askew off. He's confoundedly shrewd and obstinate."

Bell was silent for a few moments, but his face got hard as he fixed his
eyes on Osborn.

"There's another matter. T' mill lease will soon fall in and I canna tak'
it on again, unless I get the repairs and improvements done. Mr. Hayes
has t' list."

The agent took out the list with some builders' and millwrights'
estimates, and Osborn frowned as he studied the documents. It was obvious
that Bell meant to use pressure.

"I don't like to be threatened," he replied.

"It's not a threat," said Bell, with a cunning smile. "If I'm to lose my
money at coal yards, I must earn some at mill, but unless I get t'
repairs and new machines, mill willunt pay to run." He paused and
studying Osborn's face resumed: "There'll be nea peace for either o' us
while the Askews gan aboot makin' trouble."

"I suppose that is so, to some extent," Osborn agreed.

"Then is it fair to leave me to fratch wi' them? After aw, they're mair
your enemies than mine."

"I don't understand you; I have no coal to sell."

Bell looked up with a sour grin. "There's worse ways o' hurting a proud
man than touching his pocket. If you dinna ken what's going on, it's time
you watched young Kit. I'll say nea mair, but aw t 'oad wives are
cracking and you can ask Mr. Hayes. He kens!"

Osborn's face got red, but he gave Bell a haughty look.

"Anything that touches me personally is my private concern--and we are
talking about the lease of the mill. I cannot make all the improvements
you ask for, but perhaps something can be done. When we have studied the
matter Mr. Hayes will let you know."

Bell got up and when he went out Osborn turned to Hayes. "What did the
fellow mean? He said you knew!"

"It's dangerous ground and I frankly wish he'd told you to ask somebody
else. However, there is some gossip--"

"Go on," said Osborn sternly. "Whom are they gossiping about?"

"Miss Osborn, since you insist."

Osborn clenched his fist and the veins rose on his forehead as he said,
"And young Askew?"

Hayes made a sign of agreement and Osborn, getting up, walked across
the floor. He came back with a savage sparkle in his eyes and stood in
front of Hayes.

"Tell me what you know."

With a pretense of reluctance, Hayes obeyed. He told Osborn about
Grace's visit to Railton's and hinted that she had gone to find out if
Kit had brought the sheep. Then he narrated their meeting in the dark
near Creighton's farm and stated his grounds for imagining she had
ridden down the hill on the first load of peat. Hayes was tactful and
apologetic, but he made it plain that the girl was in Kit's confidence
and had known his plans.

Osborn stopped him with a savage gesture. His face was deeply flushed and
his voice was hoarse as he said: "That is enough. The thing looks
impossible! I must try to find out what foundation there is for the
ridiculous tale."

"I shall be relieved if you do find it is ridiculous," said Hayes, who
went off soon afterwards.

For some minutes Osborn leaned against the mantel with his hands
clenched, for he had got a shock. He admitted that the Osborns had some
faults, but they were the Tarnside Osborns and had ruled the dale for a
very long time. It was something to spring from such a stock, and the
wilful girl had disgraced them all. Osborn had suspected Grace of holding
dangerous modern views, but it was unthinkably humiliating that she had
engaged in a flirtation with a farmer's son.

He had declared the thing impossible, but he feared it was true. Hayes
had been very clear about her visit to Railton's, and her coming down
Malton Head on Askew's sledge was ominous. She must have been strongly
attracted by Kit since she had done a thing like that. Besides, she
had obviously sympathized with, and perhaps helped, his plans. This
was treachery, because it was a tradition of the Osborns that they
stood together.

By and by he heard voices in the hall and braced himself. He must go down
to receive his guests and was glad that they had come, since he did not
want to tell his wife about the matter yet; in fact, he did not think he
would talk to Grace. The thing was humiliating, and there was a
possibility that Hayes had been mistaken. Osborn resolved to watch the
girl and then insist on a reckoning if she gave him grounds for doing so.

He went down and carried out his hospitable duties. Next morning he
arranged for a day's shooting; the snow had nearly gone and there were a
few pheasants left in Redmire wood. The party started early, taking their
lunch, and in the afternoon Grace left Tarnside and walked down the dale.
She had no particular object, but the day was fine and she wondered
whether Kit had brought all the peat from Malton Head.

There was no wind and the frost was not keen. Gray clouds trailed across
the sky that was touched with yellow in the west, and soft, elusive
lights played about the dale. Patches of snow on the fellsides gleamed
and faded; mossy belts glowed vivid green, red berries in the hedgerows
shone among withered leaves and fern, and then the light passed on and
left the valley dim. Something in its calm beauty reacted on the girl and
made her thoughtful. She loved the dale and felt that she might be happy
there if it were not for her father's poverty and overbearing

After all, they were not really poor; they had enough to satisfy their
needs. Their clinging to out-of-date traditions caused the strain. One
gained nothing by pretending to be rich and important; there was no
logical reason for trying to live like one's ancestors, and the effort
cost the Osborns much. It meant stern private economy, public
ostentation, and many small deceits. Grace was getting tired of this
pretense; she wanted something simpler and dignified. For the most part,
the dalesfolk looked happy and she had come to envy them. They had their
troubles, but they were troubles all mankind must bear, and they had joys
one did not properly value at Tarnside: human fellowship and sympathy,
and freedom to follow their bent. A shepherd's daughter, for example,
could marry whom she liked and was not forced to accept a husband who had
wealth enough to satisfy her parents.

Grace blushed as she thought of Alan Thorn and contrasted him with Kit.
She did not want to marry yet; but perhaps, if Kit were not a working
farmer's son--She pulled herself up, with a smile, for it looked as if
she had not broken free from the family traditions. After all, it did not
matter if Kit were a farmer's son. He was honest and generous; he had a
well-modeled figure, bright eyes, and a clean brown skin. But since Kit
was not her lover, she was indulging in idle sentiment; and then she
admitted that he might love her, although she did not yet love him.
Indeed, if she must be honest, the thing was possible--she had seen his
face brighten and remarked his satisfaction when they met.

Then she stopped abruptly as she saw him coming down the road. There was
a path across a field close by, but it would be admitting too much if she
tried to avoid him, and she went on. Kit came up, dressed in rough
working clothes, with muddy leggings, and a hedge stick in his hand. Two
dogs ran before him and it looked as if he had been driving sheep. Grace
was very calm when he took off his cap and he thought the hint of
stateliness he sometimes noted was rather marked. It did not daunt him;
he, felt it was proper Grace should look like that. She noted that he was
hot and breathless.

"I saw you as I was bringing the sheep down Burton ghyll," he said.

"Then you must have good eyes," Grace remarked. "It's a long way, and I
don't wear conspicuous clothes."

Kit laughed. "I'd have known you much farther off. There's nobody in the
dale who walks like you."

Grace gave him a quiet glance that he met without embarrassment. She saw
that he had not meant to offer her a cheap compliment; yet the compliment
was justified. A dancing master had told her that she walked and carried
herself well.

"But where are the sheep?" she asked.

"I left them in the field at the beckfoot," he answered with a touch of
awkwardness. "We can bring them down afterwards; I remembered I wanted
something at Allerby."

Grace turned her head to hide a smile. It was obvious that he had
remembered he wanted to go to Allerby when he saw her.

"Oh, well," she said, "I am going part of the way. However, I mustn't
stop you if you want to get back to the sheep."

"It isn't at all important," Kit declared. Then he paused and Grace
thought he was studying his old and rather muddy clothes. "But, of
course," he resumed, "it's possible you'd sooner go on alone."

She laughed. "Don't be ridiculous, Mr. Askew! I think you know what I
mean. I didn't want to keep you from your work."

He looked relieved. "Yes. Although I'm not very clever at this sort
of thing, I generally do know what you mean. I can't tell if it's
strange or not."

"It certainly is not worth while puzzling about. I expect I'm rather
obvious--for that matter, so are you."

"Frankness often saves you some trouble and I don't know if it gives your
opponent the advantage some folks imagine. However, it's not our rule in
the dale to say all we feel."

"It's not Bell's, for example. How is the coal campaign getting on?"

"Well," said Kit, thoughtfully, "so far as that goes, I believe we have
beaten him. There's a new notice that lowers the price seven-and-six
altogether, and last night we advised folks to buy. But I don't know if
the fight's over. Bell may find another way of putting on the screw."

"I hope he will give it up," Grace replied. "I tried to help, because I
felt I must; but of course you see I can't help again."

Kit made a sign of understanding. "Yes; you showed us how to bring the
peat down. Now I don't know what to say. It's awkward ground."

They were silent for some time afterwards, for both had said enough and
knew that Osborn's resentment must be reckoned on. It made them feel like
accomplices and drew them together. They were young and not given to
looking far ahead, but they saw the threat that the friendship both
valued might be broken off.

By and by three or four reports rang through the calm air and Grace came
near to stopping, but did not. She had forgotten Osborn was shooting in
Redmire wood and she and Kit must pass its edge. For all that, she could
not turn back. Kit would guess why she did so; it would be an awkward
admission that she was afraid of being seen with him by Osborn or his
friends. She was afraid, but she was proud, and went on, hoping that Kit
had not noted her hesitation. He had not, but was puzzled by her resolute
and half-defiant look.

The guns were silent when they came to the wood, which rolled down the
hillside below the road. Here and there a white birch trunk and a yellow
patch of oak leaves shone among the dark firs; the beech hedge was
covered by withered brown foliage. A belt of grass ran between the wood
and road and Grace took the little path along its edge. Her feet made no
noise and her tweed dress harmonized with the subdued coloring of dead
leaves and trunks. The light was not good and she thought she would not
be visible a short distance off; besides the sportsmen might be at the
other side of the wood. She hoped they were, since she vaguely perceived
that if Osborn saw her it would force a crisis she was not yet ready to
meet. Then her thoughts were disturbed, for somebody in the wood shouted:
"Mark cock flying low to right!"

A gunshot rang out close by and a small brown bird, skimming the top of
the hedge, fluttered awkwardly across the road. Next moment dry twigs
rustled and a young man leaped on to the grass with a smoking gun in his
hand. As he threw it to his shoulder, Kit ran forward and struck the
barrel. There was a flash and while the echoes of the report rolled
across the wood a little puff of smoke floated about the men. Grace stood
still, trembling, for she knew she had run some risk of being shot.

"Why don't you look before you shoot?" Kit shouted in a strange, hoarse
voice. "You've no business to use a gun on a public road. It's lucky I
was quick."

"That is so; my fault!" gasped the other, who took off his cap as he
turned to Grace. "Very sorry, Miss Osborn; didn't see you. Wanted to get
the woodcock. Hope you're not startled much."

Grace forced a smile. She had physical courage and was shaken rather by
what she saw in Kit's face than the risk she had run. Kit looked
strangely white and strained. He had obviously got a bad shock, but she
thought he would not have looked like that had he saved anybody else from
the other's gun.

"My dress is hard to see against the trees. You really needn't be
disturbed," she said.

The young man renewed his confused apologies, and when he pushed through
the hedge and they went on again Grace looked at Kit. He had not got his
color back, his lips were set and his gaze was fixed. The shock had
broken his control and brought her enlightenment. He loved her, but she
needed time and quietness to grapple with the situation. Her heart beat
and her nerves tingled; she could not see the line she ought to take. Yet
he must be thanked.

"You were very quick," she said as calmly as possible although she was
conscious of a curious pride in him. "Somehow I knew if there was need
for quickness you would act like that. I believe I was stupid enough to
stand still until you jumped. Well, of course, you know I thank you--"

She stopped, for Kit, who turned his head for a moment turned it back and
looked straight in front. He durst not trust himself to speak, and they
went on silently.



When Grace and Kit had gone a short distance they heard voices and a
rattle of sticks in the wood, but the noise got fainter and she imagined
the beaters were moving the other way. Ferrars, who shot at the woodcock,
had probably not had time to tell Osborn about his carelessness, and it
looked as if nobody else had been posted near the road. This was
something of a relief, but Grace felt anxious. A gate not far off led to
a drive in the wood, and she thought she had heard Osborn's voice.

She kept on the belt of grass, which got narrower, so that the path ran
close to the hedge. On the opposite side, a clump of silver-firs threw
a shadow across the road, and a patch of pale-yellow sky shone behind
an opening in the trees. The stiff fir-branches cut sharply against the
glow, but where she and Kit were the light was dim. For all that, she
stopped abruptly when a man came out of the wood and turned, as if to
look up the road. It was Osborn and she thought she knew for whom he
was looking.

Grace's judgment failed her. She pushed Kit towards the beech hedge and
they stepped into a small hollow among the withered leaves. Kit like
Grace, had not had time for thought, but as Osborn, looking straight in
front, went past, he felt he had done wrong. For one thing, it was rather
shabby to hide and his doing so reflected on his companion. The feeling
got stronger as Osborn went up the road, and Kit was sorry he had given
way to a cowardly impulse. Yet since he had hidden, he must wait.

After a few moments, Grace turned her head and Kit saw her face was
flushed. It was obvious that she felt much as he felt. She had prompted
him to hide, but she had done so in sudden alarm and he ought to have
kept cool and thought for both, particularly since it was getting plain
that Osborn was looking for them. The latter stopped, hesitated, and came
back, and Grace turned sharply to Kit. Her look was strained, but he got
a hint of haughtiness and resolve. He made a sign that he understood, and
knew he had done well when he moved back from the hedge. A moment's
hesitation would have cost him the girl's respect. They waited in the
road and Kit's heart beat fast, but not with fear.

Osborn stopped a yard or two off and looked at them with sternly
controlled rage.

"It's obvious that I passed you just now," he said.

"You did; I ought to have stopped you," Kit agreed. "For a moment, it did
not strike me that you were looking for Miss Osborn."

Osborn glanced at the hollow in the hedge. "It's curious you stopped at a
spot where there was not much chance of your being seen."

Grace turned, as if she meant to speak, but Kit resumed: "After all, I
don't know that you are entitled to question what I do on a public road."

"Certainly not," said Osborn, with forced quietness. "I have, however, a
right to question my daughter's choice of her acquaintances, and it looks
as if I had some grounds for using my authority." He paused and turned to
Grace. "Your mother is waiting for you. You had better go home."

Grace hesitated, glancing at Kit. It was her fault that they had hidden
and she would have waited had she thought he wanted her. Kit's face,
however, was hard and inscrutable, and with something of an effort she
went away. It was a relief to Kit that she had gone; he had meant to
keep her out of the quarrel and now he was ready to talk to Osborn.

"The matter doesn't end here," the latter remarked. "There's something to
be said that your father ought to know. I am going to Ashness and expect
you to come with me."

"You must wait. I have some sheep at the beckfoot and it will take me
half an hour to drive them home," Kit said coolly.

Osborn looked at him with savage surprise. It was unthinkable that he
should be forced to wait while the fellow went for his sheep, but he saw
that Kit was not to be moved and tried to control his anger.

"Very well. I will meet you at Ashness in half an hour."

Kit braced himself as he went up the road. In a sense, he was not afraid
of Osborn, but he had now to meet a crisis that he ought to have seen
must come. In fact, he had seen it, and had, rather weakly, tried to
cheat himself and put things off. He loved Grace, and Osborn would never
approve. Kit knew Osborn's pride and admitted that his anger was,
perhaps, not altogether unwarranted. For that matter, he doubted if Grace
knew how far his rash hopes had led him. Then he thrilled as he
remembered that when she pushed him back to the hedge, and afterwards
when they left their hiding place, something had hinted that she did know
and acknowledge him her lover.

In the meantime, it was a relief to drive the sheep down the dale; he
could not think while he was occupied and thought was disturbing. He put
the sheep into a field and overtook Osborn as he went up the farm lonning
in the dark. A lamp burned in the kitchen, and when they went in Peter
got up and put his pipe on the table. He looked at them with some
surprise, but waited without embarrassment. Indeed, Kit thought his
father was curiously dignified.

"Mr. Osborn has something to say he wants you to hear," Kit remarked.
"Although the thing's really my business, I agreed."

Osborn refused the chair Peter indicated and stood in a stiff pose. His
face was red and he looked rather ridiculously savage.

"I found your son and my daughter hiding from me in the hedge at Redmire
wood," he said. "I imagine I'm entitled to ask for an explanation."

"Hiding?" said Peter, who turned to Kit. "That was wrong."

"It was wrong," Kit admitted. "I told Mr. Osborn so. In fact, I must have
lost my head when I made a mistake like this. Since I had the honor of
Miss Osborn's acquaintance--"

"Who presented you to my daughter?" Osborn interrupted.

"Nobody," Kit admitted, with some embarrassment. "The day the otter
hounds were hunting the alder pool Miss Osborn wanted to cross the
stepping stones. Some of them were covered and I--"

"Ah!" said Osborn. "Then the thing began as long since as that?" He
turned to Peter. "The girl is young and foolishly proud of being
unconventional, or she would have known that she could make use of your
son's help without an obligation to speak to him again. It's obvious that
he has worked on her rebellious humor until she forgot what is due to
herself and her parents."

"Stop a bit," said Peter. "She was doing her parents no discredit by
speaking to my son."

"No discredit!" Osborn exclaimed, losing his self control. "When I find
her and the fellow skulking out of sight, like a farm hand and a

Kit raised his head and his eyes sparkled. "In a sense, I am a farm hand;
but it would be better if you kept your hard words for me."

"There are verra good dairymaids; modest, hardworking lasses,"
Peter remarked.

"It's rather late to play the part of a rustic cavalier, if that is what
you meant," Osborn said to Kit with a sneer, and then turned to Peter. "I
am forced to own that the girl deserves some blame. Although she's
impulsive and unconventional, she ought to have seen it was ridiculous to
let your son imagine they could be friends."

"You think that was ridiculous?"

"Of course," said Osborn, with haughty surprise. "The absurdity of the
thing is obvious."

"Weel," said Peter dryly, "I reckon they might be friends without much
harm, though I wadn't have them gan farther. Although the lass is yours,
the lad is mine."

Osborn laughed scornfully. "If I understand you, your attitude is
humorous. But do you wish me to believe you didn't know what was going
on? You have made my tenants dissatisfied and plotted against me, and
now, no doubt, you saw another means."

"Stop," said Peter, with stern quietness. "We have not been good neebors,
though I dinna ken that's much fault o' mine; but if you thowt I'd use a
foolish girl to hurt a man I didn't like, you're varra wrang. Hooiver,
you came for an explanation, and I want one, too." He turned to Kit. "You
had better tell us why you kept up Miss Osborn's acquaintance withoot her
father's consent."

"Very well," said Kit, standing very straight and holding up his head. "I
met Miss Osborn, so to speak, by accident, and afterwards we sometimes
talked. Her beauty and talent were plain to me at first, but it was some
time before I knew I loved her, and then it was too late. I knew my
folly--it was a folly I couldn't conquer, and now I think I never shall.
Well, I suppose I hoped that some day things might change."

"Do you imply that Grace knew what you hoped?" Osborn asked.

"No," said Kit, quietly. "I gave her no hint. It was plain that she was
willing we should meet and talk like friends. This was not wrong."

"Not wrong that my daughter should meet you secretly!" Osborn exclaimed
with sudden rage. "Are you foolish enough to imagine you and a member of
my family could meet like equals?"

"I have not pretended to be Miss Osborn's equal. But the inequality I
acknowledge is not what you mean."

Osborn shrugged with scornful impatience. "Pshaw! We'll let that go. You
said you hoped things might change. Do you think any change of fortune
could give you the tastes and feelings of a gentleman? Make you a proper
husband for my daughter? You know the thing's impossible."

Kit colored and hesitated, and Peter signed him to be quiet.

"These meetings must be stopped. I'm as much against such a match as I
think you are."

"Ah," said Osborn, who looked puzzled, "you hinted something of the kind!
I don't know that your point of view's important, but I can't

"My meaning's no varra hard to see," Peter answered. "The lass is bonny
and, so far as I ken, weel-meaning and kind; but she has been badly browt
up at an extravagant hoose. She'll not can help her husband, except
mayhappen to waste, and she has niver learned to work and gan withoot.
Weel, it seems we are agreed. Miss Osborn is no the lass I would welcome
for my son's wife."

Osborn looked at him with frank surprise. Then he said, "We'll make an
end," and turned to Kit. "If you speak to my daughter again, she will be
forbidden to leave the Tarnside grounds; if you write to her, your
letter will be burned. She cannot resist my control for the next three or
four years. There's nothing more to be said."

He went out and Peter, who walked to the porch with him, came back and
looked quietly at Kit.

"A proud and foolish man, but he's hit hard!" he said. "Mayhappen it
will hurt, my lad, but you must be done wi' this. Osborn's daughter is
none for you."

Kit looked straight in front, with his hands clenched. "So it seems, for
some years. It does hurt. I cannot give her up."

Peter lighted his pipe and there was silence for a few minutes. Then as
Kit did not move he remarked: "I ken something o' what you're feeling; aw
t' same you've got to fratch. There's nowt against the lass except that
she's Osborn's child, but she's none o' our kind and it's sense and
custom that like gans to like."

"It would be easier if I could get away. I can't stop in the dale,
knowing she's about and I mustn't see her."

Peter went into the next room and opened an old desk. He had for some
time expected that the moment he now shrank from would come and his heart
was sore, but he knew his son's steadfast character and meant to save him
pain. Going back he gave Kit his brother's last letter.

"Mayhappen it's better that you should gan," he said quietly.

Kit read the letter and looked up with a strained expression. "I never
thought I'd want to leave Ashness and I feel a selfish brute! All the
same it would be a relief."

"Just that!" said Peter. "I'll miss you when you've gone, but it's no'
my part to stand in your way. We'll write Adam to-morrow and tell him
you'll come."

Kit crossed the floor and put his hand on his father's arm. "Thanks;
I think I know what this means to you. It will cost me something; but
I must go."

He went out and Peter sat still, looking gloomily at the fire. He felt
old and knew he would be very lonely soon. The fire burned low and the
kitchen got cold, but Kit did not come back and when Peter heard his
housekeeper's clogs on the stones outside he got up and crossed the
floor, to get his hat. Old Bella was curious and he did not want to talk,
but there was something to be done in the barn and when his heart was
sore it was a relief to work.




It was about four o'clock in the afternoon and Kit Askew lounged in a
chair on the bridge-deck as the _Rio Negro_ steamed slowly across the
long swell of the Caribbean. The wrinkled undulations sparkled with
reflected light in a dazzling pattern of blue and silver, and then faded
to green and purple in the shadow of the ship. A wave of snowy foam
curled up as the bows went down and the throb of the propeller quickened
as the poop swung against the sky. Then the lurching hull steadied and
the clang of engines resumed its measured beat.

The _Rio Negro_ was old and ugly, with short iron masts from which clumsy
derricks hung, tall, upright funnel, and blistered, gray paint. Her boats
were dirty and stained by soot, and a belt of rust at her waterline
hinted at neglect, but no barnacles and weed marred the smoothness of the
plates below. Her antifouling paint was clean, and her lines beneath the
swell of quarter and bows were fine. In fact, the _Rio Negro_ was faster
than she looked when she carried her regular load of two thousand tons
and her under-water body was hidden. She traded in the Gulf of Mexico and
the Caribbean, and at certain ports Customs officials carefully
scrutinized her papers. At others, they smiled and allowed her captain
privileges that strangers did not get.

Kit wore spotless white clothes, a black-silk belt, and a Panama hat of
the expensive kind the Indians weave, holding the fine material under
water. A glass occupied a socket in his chair, and when the _Rio Negro_
rolled a lump of ice tinkled against its rim; a box of choice cigars lay
on the deck. Kit, however, was not smoking, but drowsily pondered the
life he had led for the last three years. He was thinner and looked older
than when he left Ashness. He had lost something of his frankness and
his raw enthusiasm had gone. His face was quieter and his mouth set in a
firm line.

He remembered his surprise when he first met his uncle at a luxurious
Florida hotel. Adam Askew wore loose white clothes, a well-cut Tuxedo

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