Part 2 out of 7
"Probably he went there on account of his wife's health," suggested
Elisabeth. "He says she is an invalid."
"Oh, well"--Geoffrey yielded unwillingly--"I suppose you'll go, Sara.
But if the experiment isn't a success you must come back to us at
once. Is that a bargain?"
"Promise," commanded Geoffrey. "Or"--firmly--"I'm hanged if we let you
go at all."
"Very well," agreed Sara meekly. "I'll promise."
"I hope the experiment will be an utter failure," observed Tim, later
on, when he and Sara were alone together. He spoke with an oddly curt
--almost inimical--inflection in his voice.
"Now that's unkind of you, Tim," she protested smilingly. "I thought
you were a good enough pal not to want to chortle over me--as I know
Geoffrey will--should the thing turn out a frost!"
"Well, I'm not, then," he returned roughly.
The churlish tones were so unlike Tim that Sara looked up at him in
some amazement. He was staring down at her with a strange, /awakened/
expression in his eyes; his face was very white and his mouth working.
With a sudden apprehension of what was impending, she sprang up,
stretching out her hand as though to ward it off.
"No--no, Tim. It isn't--don't say it's that----"
He caught her hand and held it between both his.
"But it /is/ that," he said, speaking very fast, the serenity of his
face all broken up by the surge of emotion that had gripped him. "It
is that. I love you. I didn't know it till you spoke of going away.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" She broke in hastily. "Don't say any more,
In the silence that followed the two young faces peered at each other
--the one desperate with love, the other full of infinite regret and
"It's no use, then?" said Tim dully. "You don't care?"
"I'm afraid I don't--not like that. I thought we were friends--just
friends, Tim," she urged.
Tim lifted his head, and she saw that somehow, in the last few
minutes, he had grown suddenly older. His gay, smiling mouth had set
itself sternly; the beautiful boyish face had become a man's.
"I thought so, too," he said gently. "But I know now that what I feel
for you isn't friendship. It's"--with a short, grim laugh--"something
much more than that. Tell me, Sara--will there ever be any chance for
She hesitated. She was so genuinely fond of him that she hated to give
him pain. Looking at him, standing before her in his splendid young
manhood, she wondered irritably why she /didn't/ love him. He was pre-
He caught eagerly at her hesitation.
"Don't answer me now!" he said swiftly. "I'll wait--give me a chance.
I can't take no . . . I won't take it!" he went on masterfully. "I
love you!" Impetuously he slipped his strong young arms about her and
kissed her on the mouth.
The previous moment she had been all softness and regret, but now, at
the sudden passion in his voice, something within her recoiled
violently, repudiating the claim his love had made upon her.
Sara was the last woman in the world to be taken by storm. She was too
individual, her sense of personal independence too strongly developed,
for her ever to be swept off her feet by a passion to which her own
heart offered no response. Instead, it roused her to a definite
consciousness of opposition, and she drew herself away from Tim's
eager arms with a decision there was no mistaking.
"I'm sorry, Tim," she said quietly. "But it's no good pretending I'm
in love with you. I'm not."
He looked at her with moody, dissatisfied eyes.
"I've spoken too soon," he said. "I should have waited. Only I was
"Yes." He spoke uncertainly. "I've had a feeling that if I let you go,
you'll meet some man down there, at Monkshaven, who'll want to marry
you . . . And I shall lose you! . . . Oh, Sara! I don't ask you to say
you love me--yet. Say that you'll marry me . . . I'd teach you the
rest--you'd learn to love me."
But that fierce, unpremeditated kiss--the first lover's kiss that she
had known--had endowed her with a sudden clarity of vision.
"No," she answered steadily. "I don't know much about love, Tim, but
I'm very sure it's no use trying to manufacture it to order, and--
listen, Tim, dear," the pain in his face making her suddenly all
tenderness again--"if I married you, and afterwards you /couldn't/
teach me as you think you could, we should only be wretched together."
"I could never be wretched if you were my wife," he answered doggedly.
"I've love enough for two."
She shook her head.
"No, Tim. Don't let's spoil a good friendship by turning it into a
He smiled rather grimly.
"I'm afraid it's too late to prevent that," he said drily. "But I
won't worry you any more now, dear. Only--I'm not going to accept your
answer as final."
"I wish you would," she urged.
He looked at her curiously. "No man who loves you, Sara, is going to
give you up very easily," he averred. Then, after a moment: "you'll
let me write to you sometimes?"
She nodded soberly.
"Yes--but not love-letters, Tim."
He lifted her hands and kissed first one and then the other. Then,
with his head well up and his shoulders squared, he went away.
But the sea-blue eyes that had been wont to look out on the world so
gaily had suddenly lost their care-free bravery. They were the eyes of
a man who has looked for the first time into the radiant, sorrowful
face of Love, and read therein all the possibilities--the glory and
the pain and the supreme happiness--which Love holds.
And Sara, standing alone and regretful that the friend had been lost
in the lover, never guessed that Tim's love was a thread which was
destined to cross and re-cross those other threads held by the fingers
of Fate until it had tangled the whole fabric of her life.
THE MAN IN THE TRAIN
"Oldhampton! Oldhampton! Change here for Motchley and Monkshaven!"
It was with a sigh of relief that Sara, in obedience to the warning
raucously intoned by a hurrying porter, vacated her seat in the
railway compartment in which she had travelled from Fallowdene. Her
companions on the journey had been an elderly spinster and her maid,
and as the former had insisted upon the exclusion of every breath of
outside air, Sara felt half-suffocated by the time they ran into
Oldhampton Junction. The Monkshaven train was already standing in the
station, and, commissioning a porter to transfer her luggage, she
sauntered leisurely along the platform, searching vainly for an empty
compartment, where the regulation of the supply of oxygen would not
depend upon the caprice of an old maid.
The train appeared to be very full, but at last she espied a first-
class smoking carriage which boasted but a single occupant--a man in
the far corner, half-hidden behind the newspaper he was holding--and,
tipping her porter, she stepped into the compartment and busied
herself bestowing her hand-baggage in the rack.
The man in the corner abruptly lowered his newspaper.
"This be a smoker," he remarked significantly.
Sara turned at the sound of his voice. The unwelcoming tones made it
abundantly clear that the remainder of his thought ran: "And you've no
business to get into it." A spark of amusement lit itself in her eyes.
"The railway company indicate as much on the window," she replied
placidly, with a glance towards the /Smoking Carriage/ label pasted
against the pane.
There came no response, unless an irritated crackling of newspaper
could be regarded as such--and the next moment, to the accompaniment
of much banging of doors and a final shout of: "Stand away there!" the
train began to move slowly out of the station.
Sara sat down with a sigh of relief that she had escaped her former
travelling companions, with their unpleasant predilection for a
vitiated atmosphere, and her thoughts wandered idly to the
consideration of the man in the corner, to whom she was obviously an
equally unwelcome fellow-passenger.
He had retired once more behind his newspaper, and practically all
that was offered for her contemplation consisted of a pair of knee-
breeches and well-cut leather leggings and two strong-looking, sun-
tanned hands. These latter intrigued Sara considerably--their long,
sensitive fingers and short, well-kept nails according curiously with
their sunburnt suggestion of great physical strength and an outdoor
life. She wished their owner would see fit to lower his newspaper once
more, since her momentary glimpse of his face had supplied her with
but little idea of his personality. And the hands, so full of
contradictory suggestion, aroused her interest.
As though in response to her thoughts, the newspaper suddenly crackled
down on to its owner's knees.
"I have every intention of smoking," he announced aggressively. "This
is a smoking carriage."
Sara, supported by the recollection of a dainty little gold and enamel
affair in her hand-bag, filled with some very special Russian
cigarettes, smiled amiably.
"I know it is," she replied in unruffled tones. "That's why I got in.
I, too, have every intention of smoking."
He stared at her in silence for a moment, then, without further
comment, produced a pipe and tobacco pouch from the depths of a
pocket, and proceeded to fill the former, carefully pressing down the
tobacco with the tip of one of those slender, capable-looking fingers.
Sara observed him quickly. As he lounged there indolently in his
corner, she was aware of a subtle combination of strength and fine
tempering in the long, supple lines of his limbs--something that
suggested the quality of steel, hard, yet pliant. He had a lean, hard-
bitten face, tanned by exposure to the sun and wind, and the clean-
shaven lips met with a curious suggestion of bitter reticence in their
firm closing. His hair was brown--"plain brown" as Sara mentally
characterized it--but it had a redeeming kink in it and the crispness
of splendid vitality. The eyes beneath the straight, rather frowning
brows were hazel, and, even in the brief space of time occupied by the
inimical colloquy of a few moments ago, Sara had been struck by the
peculiar intensity of their regard--an odd depth and brilliance only
occasionally to be met with, and then preferably in those eyes which
are a somewhat light grey in colour and ringed round the outer edge of
the iris with a deeper tint.
The flare of a match roused her from her half-idle, half-interested
contemplation of her fellow-passenger, and, as he lit his pipe, she
was sharply conscious that his oddly luminous eyes were regarding her
with a glint of irony in their depths.
Instantly she recalled his hostile reception of her entrance into the
compartment, and the defiantly given explanation she had tendered in
Very deliberately she extracted her cigarette-case from her bag and
selected a cigarette, only to discover that she had not supplied
herself with a matchbox. She hunted assiduously amongst the assortment
of odds and ends the bag contained, but in vain, and finally, a little
nettled that her companion made no attempt to supply the obvious
deficiency, she looked up to find that he was once more, to all
appearances, completely absorbed in his newspaper.
Sara regarded him with indignation; in her own mind she was perfectly
convinced that he was aware of her quandary and had no mind to help
her out of it. Evidently he had not forgiven her intrusion into his
"Boor!" she ejaculated mentally. Then, aloud, and with considerable
"Could you oblige me with a match?"
With no show of alacrity, and with complete indifference of manner, he
produced a matchbox and handed it to her, immediately reverting to his
newspaper as though considerably bored by the interruption.
Sara flushed, and, having lit her cigarette, tendered him his matchbox
with an icy little word of thanks.
Apparently, however, he was quite unashamed of his churlishness, for
he accepted the box without troubling to raise his eyes from the page
he was reading, and the remainder of the journey to Monkshaven was
accomplished in an atmosphere that bristled with hostility.
As the train slowed up into the station, it became evident to Sara
that Monkshaven was also the destination of her travelling companion,
for he proceeded with great deliberation to fold up his newspaper and
to hoist his suit-case down from the rack. It did not seem to occur to
him to proffer his service to Sara, who was struggling with her own
hand-luggage, and the instant the train came to a standstill he
opened the door of the compartment, stopped out on to the platform,
and marched away.
A gleam of amusement crossed her face.
"I wonder who he is?" she reflected, as she followed in the wake of a
porter in search of her trunks. "He certainly needs a lesson in
Within herself she registered a vindictive vow that, should the
circumstances of her residence in Monkshaven afford the opportunity,
she would endeavour to give him one.
Monkshaven was but a tiny little station, and it was soon apparent
that no conveyance of any kind had been sent to meet her.
"No, there would be none," opined the porter of whom she inquired.
"Dr. Selwyn keeps naught but a little pony-trap, and he's most times
using it himself. But there's a 'bus from the Cliff Hotel meets all
trains, miss, and"--with pride--"there's a station keb."
In a few minutes Sara was the proud--and thankful--occupant of the
"station keb," and, after bumping over the cobbles with which the
station yard was paved, she found herself being driven in leisurely
fashion through the high street of the little town, whilst her driver,
sitting sideways on his box, indicated the points of interest with his
whip as they went along.
Presently the cab turned out of the town and began the ascent of a
steep hill, and as they climbed the winding road, Sara found that she
could glimpse the sea, rippling greyly beyond the town, and tufted
with little bunches of spume whipped into being by the keen March
wind. The town itself spread out before her, an assemblage of red and
grey tiled roofs sloping downwards to the curve of the bay, while, on
the right, a bold promontory thrust itself into the sea, grimly
resisting the perpetual onslaught of the wave. Through the waning
light of the winter's afternoon, Sara could discern the outline of a
house limned against the dark background of woods that crowned it.
Linked to the jutting headland, a long range of sea-washed cliffs
stretched as far as the eyes could reach.
"That be Monk's Cliff," vouchsafed the driver conversationally. "Bit
of a lonesome place for folks to choose to live at, ain't it?"
"Who lives there?" asked Sara with interest.
"Gentleman of the name of Trent--queer kind of bloke he must be, too,
if all's true they say of 'im. He's lived there a matter of ten years
or more--lives by 'imself with just a man and his wife to do for 'im.
Far End, they calls the 'ouse."
"Far End," repeated Sara. The name conveyed an odd sense of remoteness
and inaccessibility. It seemed peculiarly appropriate to a house built
thus on the very edge of the mainland.
Her eyes rested musingly on the bleak promontory. It would be a fit
abode, she thought, for some recluse, determined to eschew the society
of his fellow-men; here he could dwell, solitary and apart, surrounded
on three sides by the grey, dividing sea, and protected on the fourth
by the steep untempting climb that lay betwixt the town and the lonely
house on the cliff.
" 'Ere you are, miss. This is Dr. Selwyn's."
The voice of her Jehu roused her from her reflections to find that the
cab had stopped in front of a white-painted wooden gate bearing the
legend, "Sunnyside," painted in black letters across its topmost bar.
"I'll take the keb round to the stable-yard, miss; it'll be more
convenient-like for the luggage," added the man, with a mildly
disapproving glance towards the narrow tiled path leading from the
gate to the house-door.
Sara nodded, and, having paid him his fare, made her way through the
white gateway and along the path.
There seemed a curious absence of life about the place. No sound of
voices broke the silence, and, although the front door stood
invitingly open, there was no sign of any one hovering in the
background ready to receive her.
Vaguely chilled--since, of course, they must be expecting her--she
rang the bell. It clanged noisily through the house but failed to
produce any more important result than the dislodging of some dust
from a ledge above which the bell-wire ran. Sara watched it fall and
lie on the floor in a little patch of fine, greyish powder.
The hall, of which the open door gave view, though of considerable
dimensions, was poorly furnished. The wide expanse of colour-washed
wall was broken only by a hat-stand, on which hung a large assortment
of masculine hats and coats, all of them looking considerably the
worse for wear, and by two straight-backed chairs placed with
praiseworthy exactitude at equal distances apart from the aforesaid
rather overburdened piece of furniture. The floor was covered with
linoleum of which the black and white chess-board pattern had long
since retrogressed with usage into an uninspiring blur. A couple of
threadbare rugs completed a somewhat depressing "interior."
Sara rang the bell a second time, on this occasion with an irritable
force that produced clangour enough, one would have thought, to awaken
the dead. It served, at all events, to arouse the living, for
presently heavy footsteps could be heard descending the stairs, and,
finally, a middle-aged maidservant, whose cap had obviously been
assumed in haste, appeared, confronting Sara with an air of suspicion
that seemed rather to suggest that she might have come after the
"The doctor's out," she announced somewhat truculently. Then, before
Sara had time to formulate any reply, she added, a thought more
graciously: "Maybe you're a stranger to these parts. Surgery hour's
not till six o'clock."
She was evidently fully prepared for Sara to accept this as a
dismissal, and looked considerably astonished when the latter queried
"Then can I see Miss Selwyn, please? I understand Mrs. Selwyn is an
"You're right there. The mistress isn't up for seeing visitors. And
Miss Molly, she's not home--she's away to Oldhampton."
"But--but----" stammered Sara. "They're expecting me, surely? I'm Miss
Tennant," she added by way of explanation."
"Miss Tennant! Sakes alive!" The woman threw up her hands, staring at
Sara with an almost comic expression, halting midway between
bewilderment and horror. "If that isn't just the way of them," she
went on indignantly, "never mentioning that 'twas to-day you were
coming--and no sheets aired to your bed and all! The master, he never
so much as named it to me, nor Miss Molly neither. But please to come
in, miss--" her outraged sense of hospitality infusing a certain
limited cordiality into her tones.
The woman led the way into a sitting-room that opened off the hall,
standing aside for Sara to pass in, then, muttering half-inaudibly,
"You'll be liking a cup of tea, I expect," she disappeared into the
back regions of the house, whence a distant clattering of china
shortly gave indication that the proffered refreshment was in course
Sara seated herself in a somewhat battered armchair and proceeded to
take stock of the room in which she found herself. It tallied
accurately with what the hall had led her to expect. Most of the
furniture had been good of its kind at one time, but it was now all
reduced to a drab level of shabbiness. There were a few genuine
antiques amongst it--a couple of camel-backed Chippendale chairs, a
grandfather's clock, and some fine old bits of silver--which Sara's
eye, accustomed to the rare and beautiful furnishings of Barrow Court,
singled out at once from the olla podrida of incongruous modern stuff.
These alone had survived the general condition of disrepair; but, even
so, the silver had a neglected appearance and stood badly in need of
This latter criticism might have been leveled with equal justice at
almost everything in the room, and Sara, mindful of her reception,
reflected that in such an oddly conducted household, where the advent
of an expected, and obviously much-needed, paying guest could be
completely overlooked, it was hardly probable that smaller details of
house-management would receive their meed of attention.
Instead of depressing her, however, the forlorn aspect of the room
assisted to raise her spirits. It looked as though there might very
well be a niche in such a household that she could fill. Mentally she
proceeded to make a tour of the room, duster in hand, and she had just
reached the point where, in imagination, she was about to place a
great bowl of flowers in the middle desert of the table, when the
elderly Abigail re-appeared and dumped a tea-tray down in front of
Sara made a wry face over the tea. It tasted flat, and she could well
imagine the long-boiling kettle from which the water with which it had
been made was poured.
"I'm sure that tea's beastly!"
A masculine voice sounded abruptly from the doorway, and, looking up,
Sara beheld a tall, eager-faced man, wearing a loose shabby coat and
carrying in one hand a professional-looking doctor's bag. The bag,
however, was the only professional-looking thing about him. For the
rest, he might have been taken to be either an impoverished country
squire and sportsman, or a Roman Catholic dignitary, according to
whether you assessed him by his broad, well-knit figure and weather-
beaten complexion, puckered with wrinkles born of jolly laughter, or
by the somewhat austere and controlled set of his mouth and by the
ardent luminous grey eyes, with their touch of the visionary and
Sara set down her cup hastily.
"And I'm sure you're Dr. Selwyn," she said, a flicker of amusement at
his unconventional greeting in her voice.
"Right!" he answered, shaking hands. "How are you, Miss Tennant? It
was plucky of you to decide to risk us after all, and I hope--" with a
slight grimace--"you won't find we are any worse than I depicted. I
was very sorry I had to be out when you came," he went on genially,
"but I expect Molly has looked after you all right? By the way"--
glancing round him in some perplexity--"where /is/ Molly?"
"I understood," replied Sara tranquilly, "that she had gone in to
Dr. Selwyn's expression was not unlike that of a puppy caught in the
unlawful possession of his master's slipper.
"What did I warn you?" he exclaimed with a rueful laugh. "We're quite
a hopeless household, I'm afraid. And Molly's the most absent-minded
of beings. I expect she has clean forgotten that you were coming
to-day. She's by way of being an artist--art-student, rather"--
correcting himself with a smile. "You know the kind of thing--black
carpets and Futurist colour schemes in dress. So you must try and
forgive her. She's only seventeen. But Jane--I hope Jane did the
honours properly? She is our stand-by in all emergencies."
Sara's eyes danced.
"I'm afraid I came upon Jane entirely in the light of an unpleasant
surprise," she responded mildly.
"What! Do you mean to say she wasn't prepared for you? Oh, but this is
scandalous! What must you think of us all?" he strode across the room
and pealed the bell, and, when Jane appeared in answer to the summons,
demanded wrathfully why nothing was in readiness for Miss Tennant's
Jane surveyed him with the immovable calm of the old family servant,
her arms akimbo.
"And how should it be?" she wanted to know. "Seeing that neither you
nor Miss Molly named it to me that the young lady was coming to-day?"
"But I asked Miss Molly to make arrangements," protested Selwyn
"And did you expect her to do so, sir, may I ask?" inquired Jane with
"Do you mean to tell me that Miss Molly gave you no orders about
preparing a room?" countered the doctor, skillfully avoiding the point
"No, sir, she didn't. And if I'm kep' here talking much longer, there
won't /be/ one prepared, neither! 'Tis no use crying over spilt milk.
Let me get on with the airing of my sheets, and do you talk to the
young lady whiles I see to it."
And Jane departed forthwith about her business.
"Jane Crab," observed Selwyn, twinkling, "has been with us five-and-
twenty years. I had better do as she tells me." He threw a doleful
glance at the unappetizing tea in Sara's cup. "I positively dare not
order you fresh tea--in the circumstances. Jane would probably
retaliate with an ultimatum involving a rigid choice between tea and
the preparation of your room, accompanied by a pithy summary of the
capabilities of one pair of hands."
"Wouldn't you like some tea yourself?" hazarded Sara.
"I should--very much. But I see no prospect of getting any while Jane
maintains her present attitude of mind."
"Then--if you will show me the kitchen--/I'll/ make some," announced
Selwyn regarded her with a pitying smile.
"You don't know Jane," he said. "Trespassers in the kitchen are not--
"And Jane doesn't know /me/," replied Sara firmly.
"On your own head be it, then," retorted the doctor, and led the way
to the sacrosanct domain presided over by Jane Crab.
How Sara managed it Selwyn never knew, but she contrived to invade
Jane's kitchen and perform the office of tea-making without offending
her in the very least. Nay, more, by some occult process known only to
herself, she succeeded in winning Jane's capacious heart, and from
that moment onwards, the autocrat of the kitchen became her devoted
satellite; and later, when Sara started to make drastic changes in the
slip-shod arrangements of the house, her most willing ally.
"Miss Tennant's the only body in the place as has got some sense in
her head," she was heard to observe on more than one occasion.
THE SKELETON IN SELWYN'S CUPBOARD
After tea, Selwyn escorted Sara upstairs and introduced her to his
wife. Mrs. Selwyn was a slender, colourless woman, possessing the
remnants of what must at one time have been an ineffective kind of
prettiness. She was a determinedly chronic invalid, and rarely left
the rooms which had been set aside for her use to join the other
members of the family downstairs.
"The stairs try my heart, you see," she told Sara, with the martyred
air peculiar to the hypochondriac--the genuine sufferer rarely has it.
"It is, of course, a great deprivation to me, and I don't think either
Dick"--with an inimical glance at her husband--"or Molly come up to
see me as often as they might. Stairs are no difficulty to /them/."
Selwyn, who invariably ran up to see his wife immediately on his
return from no matter how long or how tiring a round of professional
visits, bit his lip.
"I come as often as I can, Minnie," he said patiently. "You must
remember my time is not my own."
"No, dear, of course not. And I expect that outside patients are much
more interesting to visit than one's own wife," with a disagreeable
"They mean bread-and-butter, anyway," said Selwyn bluntly.
"Of course they do." She turned to Sara. "Dick always thinks in terms
of bread-and-butter, Miss Tennant," she said sneeringly. "But money
means little enough to any one with my poor health. Beyond procuring
me a few alleviations, there is nothing it can do for me."
Sara was privately of the opinion that it had done a good deal for
her. Looking round the luxuriously furnished room with its blazing
fire, and then at Mrs. Selwyn herself, elegantly clad in a rest-gown
of rich silk, she could better understand the poverty-stricken
appearance of the rest of the house, Dick's shabby clothes, and his
willingness to receive a paying guest whose contribution towards the
housekeeping might augment his slender income.
Here, then, was where his hard-earned guineas went--to keep in luxury
this petulant, complaining woman whose entire thoughts were centred
about her own bodily comfort, and whom Patrick Lovell, with his lucid
recognition of values, would have contemptuously described as "a
parasite woman, m'dear--the kind of female I've no use for."
"Oh, Dick"--Mrs. Selwyn had been turning over the pages of a price-
list that was lying on her knee--"I see the World's Store have just
brought out a new kind of adjustable reading-table. It's a much
lighter make than the one I have. I think I should find it easier to
Selwyn's face clouded.
"How much does it cost, dear?" he asked nervously. "These mechanical
contrivances are very expensive, you know."
"Oh, this one isn't. It's only five guineas."
"Five guineas is rather a lot of money, Minnie," he said gravely.
"Couldn't you manage with the table you have for a bit longer?"
Mrs. Selwyn tossed the price-list pettishly on to the floor.
"Of, of course!" she declared. "That's always the way. 'Can't I manage
with what I have? Can't I make do with this, that, and the other?' I
believe you grudge every penny you spend on me!" she wound up
A dull red crept into Selwyn's face.
"You know it's not that, Minnie," he replied in a painfully controlled
voice. "It's simply that I /can't afford/ these things. I give you
everything I can. If I were only a rich man, you should have
everything you want."
"Perhaps if you were to work a little more intelligently you'd make
more money," she retorted. "If only you'd keep your brains for the use
of people who can /pay/--and pay well--I shouldn't be deprived of
every little comfort I ask for! Instead of that, you've got half the
poor of Monkshaven on your hands--and if you think they can't afford
to pay, you simply don't send in a bill. Oh, /I/ know!"--sitting up
excitedly in her chair, a patch of angry scarlet staining each cheek
--"I hear what goes on--even shut away from the world as I am. It's
just to curry popularity--you get all the praise, and I suffer for it!
/I/ have to go without what I want--"
"Oh, hush! Hush!" Selwyn tried ineffectually to stem the torrent of
"No, I won't hush! It's 'Doctor Dick this,' and 'Doctor Dick that'--
oh, yes, you see, I know their name for you, these slum patients of
yours!--but it's Doctor Dick's wife who really foots the bills--by
going without what she needs!"
"Minnie, be quiet!" Selwyn broke in sternly. "Remember Miss Tennant is
But she had got beyond the stage when the presence of a third person,
even that of an absolute stranger, could be depended upon to exercise
any restraining effect.
"Well, since Miss Tenant's going to live here, the sooner she knows
how things stand the better! She won't be here long without seeing how
I'm treated"--her voice rising hysterically--"set on one side, and
denied even the few small pleasures my health permits----"
She broke off in a storm of angry weeping, and Sara retreated hastily
from the room, leaving husband and wife alone together.
She had barely regained the shabby sitting-room when the front door
opened and closed with a bang, and a gay voice could be heard
"Jane! Jane! Come here, my pretty Jane! I've brought home some shrimps
"Hold your noise, Miss Molly, now do!"
Sara could hear Jane's admonitory whisper, and there followed a
murmured colloquy, punctuated by exclamations and gusts of young
laughter, calling forth renewed remonstrance from Jane, and then the
door of the room was flung open, and Molly Selwyn sailed in and
overwhelmed Sara with apologies for her reception, or rather, for the
lack of it. She was quite charming in her penitence, waving dimpled,
deprecating hands, and appealing to Sara with a pair of liquid,
disarming, golden-brown eyes that earned her forgiveness on the spot.
She was a statuesque young creature, compact of large, soft, gracious
curves and swaying movements--with her nimbus of pale golden hair, and
curiously floating, undulating walk, rather reminding one of a stray
goddess. Always untidy with hooks lacking at important junctures, and
the trimmings of her hats usually pinned on with a casualness that
occasionally resulted in their deserting the hat altogether, she could
still never be other than delightful and irresistibly desirable to
Her red, curving mouth of a child, cleft chin, and dimpled, tapering
hands all promised a certain yieldingness of disposition--a tendency
to take always the line of least resistance--but it was a charming,
appealing kind of frailty which most people--the sterner sex,
certainly--would be very ready to condone.
It is a wonderful thing to be young. Molly poured herself out a cup of
hideously stewed tea and drank it joyously to an accompaniment of
shrimps and bread-and-butter, and when Sara uttered a mild protest,
she only laughed and declared that it was a wholesome and digestible
diet compared with some of the "studio teas" perpetrated by the
artists' colony at Oldhampton, of which she was a member.
She chattered away gaily to Sara, giving her vivacious thumb-nail
portraits of her future neighbours--the people Selwyn had described as
being "much nicer than ourselves."
"The Herricks and Audrey Maynard are our most intimate friends--I'm
sure you'll adore them. Mrs. Maynard is a widow, and if she weren't so
frightfully rich, Monkshaven would be perennially shocked at her. She
is ultra-fashionable, and smokes whenever she chooses, and swears when
ordinary language fails her--all of which things, of course, are
anathema to the select circles of Monkshaven. But then she's a
millionaire's widow, so instead of giving her the cold shoulder, every
one gushes round her and declares 'Mrs. Maynard is such a thoroughly
/modern/ type, you know!' "--Molly mimicked the sugar-and-vinegar
accents of the critics to perfection--"and privately Audrey shouts
with laughter at them, while publicly she continues to shock them for
the sheer joy of the thing."
"And who are the Herricks?" asked Sara, smiling. "Married people?"
"No." Molly shook her head. "Miles is a bachelor who lives with a
maiden aunt--Miss Lavinia. Or, rather, she lives with him and
housekeeps for him. 'The Lavender Lady,' I always call her, because
she's one of those delightful old-fashioned people who remind one of
dimity curtains, and pot-pourri, and little muslin bags of lavender.
Miles is a perfect pet, but he's lame, poor dear."
Sara waited with a curious eagerness for any description which might
seem to fit her recent fellow-traveller, but none came, and at last
she threw out a question in the hope of eliciting his name.
"He was horribly ungracious and rude," she added," and yet he didn't
look in the least the sort of man who would be like that. There was no
lack of breeding about him. He was just deliberately snubby--as though
I had no right to exist on the same planet with him--anyway"--laughing
--"not in the same railway compartment."
Molly nodded sagely.
"I believe I know whom you mean. Was he a lean, brown, grim-looking
individual, with the kind of eyes that almost make you jump when they
look at you suddenly?"
"That certainly describes them," admitted Sara, smiling faintly.
"Then it was the Hermit of Far End," announced Molly.
"The Hermit of Far End?"
"Yes. He's a queer, silent man who lives all by himself at a house
built almost on the edge of Monk's Cliff--you must have seen it as you
"Oh!" exclaimed Sara, with sudden enlightenment. "Then his name is
Trent. The cabman presented me with that information," she added, in
answer to Molly's look of surprise.
"Yes--Garth Trent. It's rather an odd name--sounds like a railway
collision, doesn't it? But it suits him somehow"--reflectively.
"Have you met him?" prompted Sara. It was odd how definite an interest
her brief encounter with him had aroused in her.
"Yes--once. He treated me"--giggling delightedly--"rather as if I
/wasn't there/! At least"--reminiscently--"he tried to."
"It doesn't sound as though he had succeeded?" suggested Sara, amused.
Molly looked at her solemnly.
"He told some one afterwards--Miles Herrick, the only man he ever
speaks to, I think, without compulsion--that I was 'the Delilah type
of woman, and ought to have been strangled at birth.' "
"He must be a charming person," commented Sara ironically.
"Oh, he's a woman-hater--in fact, I believe he has a grudge against
the world in general, but woman in particular. I expect"--shrewdly--
"he's been crossed in love."
At this moment Selwyn re-entered the room, his grave face clearing a
little as he caught sight of his daughter.
"Hullo, Molly mine! Got back, then?" he said, smiling. "Have you made
your peace with Miss Tennant, you scatterbrained young woman?"
"It's a hereditary taint, Dad--don't blame /me/!" retorted Molly with
lazy impudence, pulling his head down and kissing him on the top of
his ruffled hair.
"I pass," he submitted. "And who is it that's been crossed in love?"
"The Hermit of Far End."
"Oh"--turning to Sara--"so you have been discussing our local enigma?"
"Yes. I fancy I must have travelled down with him from Oldhampton. He
seemed rather a boorish individual."
"He would be. He doesn't like women."
"Monk's Cliff would appear to be an appropriate habitation for him,
then," commented Sara tartly.
They all laughed, and presently Selwyn suggested that his daughter
should run up and see her mother.
"She'll be hurt if you don't go up, kiddy," he said. "And try and be
very nice to her--she's a little tired and upset to-day."
When she had left the room he turned to Sara, a curious blending of
proud reluctance and regret in his eyes.
"I'm so sorry, Miss Tennant," he said simply, "that you should have
seen our worst side so soon after your arrival. You--you must try and
"Oh, please, please don't apologize," broke in Sara hastily. "I'm so
sorry I happened to be there just then. It was horrible for you."
He smiled at her wistfully.
"It's very kind of you to take it like that," he said. "After all"--
frankly--"you could not have remained with us very long without
finding out our particular skeleton in the cupboard. My wife's state
of health--or, rather, what she believes to be her state of health--is
a great grief to me. I've tried in every way to convince her that she
is not really so delicate as she imagines, but I've failed utterly."
Now that the ice was broken, he seemed to find relief in pouring out
the pitiful little tragedy of his home life.
"She is comparatively young, you know, Miss Tennant--only thirty-
seven, and she willfully leads the life of a confirmed invalid. It has
grown upon her gradually, this absorption in her health, and now,
practically speaking, Molly has no mother and I no wife."
"Oh, Doctor Dick"--the little nickname, that had its origin in his
slum patients' simple affection for the man who tended them, came
instinctively from her lips. It seemed, somehow, to fit itself to the
big, kindly man with the sternly rugged face and eyes of a saint. "Oh,
Doctor Dick, I'm so sorry--so very sorry!"
Perhaps something in the dainty, well-groomed air of the woman beside
him helped to accentuate the neglected appearance of the room, for he
looked round in an irritated kind of way, as though all at once
conscious of its deficiencies.
"And this--this, too," he muttered. "There's no one at the helm. . . .
The truth is, I ought never to have let you come here."
Sara shook her head.
"I've very glad I came," she said simply. "I think I'm going to be
very happy here."
"You've got grit," he replied quietly. "You'd make a success of your
life anywhere. I wish"--thoughtfully--"Molly had a little of that same
quality. Sometimes"--a worried frown gathered on his face--"I get
afraid for Molly. She's such a child . . . and no mother to hold the
"Doctor Dick, would you consider it impertinent if--if I laid my hands
on the reins--just now and then?"
He whirled round, his eyes shining with gratitude.
"Impertinent! I should be illimitably thankful! You can see how things
are--I am compelled to be out all my time, my wife hardly ever leaves
her own rooms, and Molly and the house affairs just get along as best
Then," said Sara, smiling, "I shall put my finger in the pie. I've--
I've no one to look after now, since Uncle Patrick died," she added.
"I think, Doctor Dick, I've found my job."
"It's absurd!" he exclaimed, regarding her with unfeigned delight.
"Here you come along, prepared, no doubt, to be treated as a 'guest,'
and the first thing I do is to shovel half my troubles on to your
shoulders. It's absurd--disgraceful! . . . But it's amazingly good!"
He held out his hand, and as Sara's slim fingers slid into his big
palm, he muttered a trifle huskily: "God bless you for it, my dear!"
Sara stood on the great headland known as Monk's Cliff, watching with
delight the white-topped billows hurling themselves against its mighty
base, only to break in a baulked fury of thunder and upflung spray.
She had climbed the steep ascent thither on more than one day of storm
and bluster, reveling in the buffeting of the gale and in the pungent
tang of brine from the spray-drenched air. The cry of the wind,
shrieking along the face of the sea-bitten cliff, reminded her of the
scream of the hurricane as it tore through the pinewoods at Barrow--
shaking their giant tops hither and thither as easily as a child's
finger might shake a Canterbury bell.
Something wild and untamed within her responded to the savage movement
of the scene, and she stood for a long time watching the expanse of
restless, wind-tossed waters, before turning reluctantly in the
direction of home. If for nothing else than for this gift of glorious
sea and cliff, she felt she could be content to pitch her tent in
Her way led past Far End, the solitary house perched on the sloping
side of the headland, and, as she approached, she became aware of a
curious change of character in the sound of the wind. She was
sheltered now from its fiercest onslaught, and it seemed to her that
it rose and fell, moaning in strange, broken cadences, almost like the
singing of a violin.
She paused a moment, thinking at first that this was due to the wind's
whining through some narrow passage betwixt the outbuildings of the
house, then, as the chromatic wailing broke suddenly into vibrating
harmonies, she realized that some one actually /was/ playing the
violin, and playing it remarkably well, too.
Instinctively she yielded to the fascination of it, and, drawing
nearer to the house, leaned against a sheltered wall, all her senses
subordinate to that of hearing.
Whoever the musician might be, he was a thorough master of his
instrument, and Sara listened with delight, recognizing some of the
haunting melodies of the wild Russian music which he was playing--
music that even in its moments of delirious joy seemed to hold always
an underlying /bourdon/ of tragedy and despair.
She started violently. Entirely absorbed in the music, she had failed
to observe a man, dressed in the style of an indoor servant, who had
appeared in the doorway of one of the outbuildings and who now
addressed her in peremptory tones.
"Hi, there! Don't you know you're trespassing?"
Jerked suddenly out of her dreamy enjoyment, Sara looked round
"I didn't know that Monk's Cliff was private property," she said after
"Nor is it, that I know of. But you're on the Far End estate now--this
is a private road," replied the man disagreeably. "You'll please to
take yourself off."
A faint flush of indignation crept up under the warm pallor of Sara's
skin. Then, a sudden thought striking her, she asked--
"Who is that playing the violin?"
Mentally she envisioned a pair of sensitive, virile hands, lean and
brown, with the short, well-kept nails that any violinist needs must
have--the contradictory hands which had aroused her interest on the
journey to Monkshaven.
"I don't hear no one playing," replied the man stolidly. She felt
certain he was lying, but he gave her no opportunity for further
interrogation, for he continued briskly--
"Come now, miss, please to move off from here. Trespassers aren't
Sara spoke with a quiet air of dignity.
"Certainly I'll go," she said. "I'm sorry. I had no idea that I was
The man's truculent manner softened, as, with the intuition of his
kind, he recognized in the composed little apology the utterance of
one of his "betters."
"Beggin' your pardon, miss," he said, with a considerable accession of
civility, "but it's as much as my place is worth to allow a trespasser
here on Far End."
"You're perfectly right to obey orders," she said, and bending her
steps towards the public road from which she had strayed to listen to
the unseen musician, she made her way homewards.
"Your mysterious 'Hermit' is nothing if not thorough," she told Doctor
Dick and Molly on her return. "I trespassed on to the Far End property
to-day, and was ignominiously ordered off by a rather aggressive
person, who, I suppose, is Mr. Trent's servant."
"That would be Judson," nodded Selwyn. "I've attended him once or
twice professionally. The fellow's all right, but he's under strict
orders, I believe, to allow no trespassers."
"So it seems," returned Sara. "By the way, who is the violinist at Far
End? Is it the 'Hermit' himself?"
"It's rumoured that he does play," said Molly. "But no one has ever
been privileged to hear him."
"Their loss, then," commented Sara shortly. "I should say he is a
Molly nodded, an expression of impish amusement in her eyes.
"On the sole occasion I met him, I asked him why no one was ever
allowed to hear him play," she said, chuckling. "I even suggested that
he might contribute a solo to the charity concert we were getting up
at the time!"
"And what did he say?" asked Sara, smiling.
"Told me that there was no need for a man to exhibit his soul to the
public! So I asked him what he meant, and he said that if I understood
anything about music I would know, and that if I didn't, it was a
waste of his time trying to explain. Do /you/ know what he meant?"
"Yes," said Sara slowly, "I think I do." And recalling the passionate
appeal and sadness of the music she had heard that afternoon, she was
conscious of a sudden quick sense of pity for the solitary hermit of
Far End. He was /afraid/--afraid to play to any one, lest he should
reveal some inward bitterness of his soul to those who listened!
The following day, Molly carried Sara off to Rose Cottage to make the
acquaintance of "the Lavender Lady" and her nephew.
Miss Herrick--or Miss Lavinia, as she was invariably addressed--looked
exactly as though she had just stepped out of the early part of last
century. She wore a gown of some soft, silky material, sprigged with
heliotrope, and round her neck a fichu of cobwebby lace, fastened at
the breast with a cameo brooch of old Italian workmanship. A
coquettish little lace cap adorned the silver-grey hair, and the face
beneath the cap was just what you would have expected to find it--soft
and very gentle, its porcelain pink and white a little faded, the
pretty old eyes a misty, lavender blue.
She was alone when the two girls arrived, and greeted Sara with a
humorous little smile.
"How kind of you to come, Miss Tennant! We've been all agog to meet
you, Miles and I. In a tiny place like Monkshaven, you see, every one
knows every one else's business, so of course we have been hearing of
"Then you might have come to Sunnyside to investigate me personally,"
replied Sara, smiling back.
Miss Lavinia's face sobered suddenly, a shadow falling across her kind
"Miles is--rather difficult about calling," she said hesitatingly.
"You will understand--his lameness makes him a little self-conscious
with strangers," she explained.
Sara looked distressed.
"Oh! Perhaps it would have been better if I had not come?" she
suggested hastily. "Shall I run away and leave Molly here?"
Miss Lavinia flushed rose-pink.
"My dear, I hope Miles knows how to welcome a guest in his own house
as befits a Herrick," she said, with a delicious little air of old-
world dignity. "Indeed, it is an excellent thing for him to be dragged
out of his shell. Only, please--will you remember?--treat him exactly
as though he were not lame--never try to help him in any way. It is
that which hurts him so badly--when people make allowances for his
lameness. Just ignore it."
Sara nodded. She could understand that instinctive man's pride which
recoiled from any tolerant recognition of a physical handicap.
"Was his lameness caused by an accident?" she asked.
"It came through a very splendid deed." Little Miss Lavinia's eyes
glowed as she spoke. "He stopped a pair of runaway carriage-horses.
They had taken fright at a motor-lorry, and, when they bolted, the
coachman was thrown from the box, so that it looked as if nothing
could save the occupants of the carriage. Miles flung himself at the
horses' heads, and although, of course, he could not actually stop
them single-handed, he so impeded their progress that a second man,
who sprang forward to help, was able to bring them to a standstill."
"How plucky of him!" exclaimed Sara warmly. "You must be very proud of
your nephew, Miss Lavinia!"
"She is," interpolated Molly affectionately. "Aren't you, dear
Miss Lavinia smiled a trifle wistfully.
"Ah! My dear," she said sadly, "splendid things are done at such a
cost, and when they are over we are apt to forget the splendour and
remember only the heavy price. . . . My poor Miles was horribly
injured--he had been dragged for yards, clinging to the horses'
bridles--and for weeks we were not even sure if he would live. He has
lived--but he will walk lame to the end of his life."
The little instinctive silence which followed was broken by the sound
of voices in the hall outside, and, a minute later, Miles Herrick
himself came into the room, escorting a very fashionably attired and
distinctly attractive woman, whom Sara guessed at once to be Audrey
She was not in the least pretty, but the narrowest of narrow skirts in
vogue in the spring of 1914 made no secret of the fact that her figure
was almost perfect. Her face was small and thin and inclined to be
sallow, and beneath upward-slanting brows, to which art had
undoubtedly added something, glimmered a pair of greenish-grey eyes,
clear like rain. Nor was there any mistaking the fact that the rich
copper-colour of the hair swathed beneath the smart little hat had
come out of a bottle, and was in no way to be accredited to nature. It
was small wonder that primitive Monkshaven stood aghast at such
flagrant tampering with the obvious intentions of Providence.
But notwithstanding her up-to-date air of artificiality, there was
something immensely likeable about Audrey Maynard. Behind it all, Sara
sensed the real woman--clever, tactful, and generously warm-hearted.
Woman, when all is said and done, is frankly primitive in her
instincts, and the desire to attract--with all its odd manifestations
--is really but the outcome of her innate desire for home and a mate.
It is this which lies at the root of most of her little vanities and
weaknesses--and of all the big sacrifices of which she is capable as
well. So she may be forgiven the former, and trusted to fall short but
rarely of the latter when the crucial test comes.
"Miles and I have been--as usual--squabbling violently," announced
Mrs. Maynard. "Sugar, please--lots of it," she added, as Herrick
handed her her tea. "It was about the man who lives at Far End," she
continued in reply to the Lavender Lady's smiling query. "Miles has
been very irritating, and tried to smash all my suggested theories to
bits. He insists that the Hermit is quite a commonplace, harmless
"He must be at least forty," interposed Herrick mildly.
Audrey frowned him into silence and continued--
"Now that's so dull, when half Monkshaven believes him to be a villain
of the deepest dye, hiding from justice--or, possibly, a Bluebeard
with an unhappy wife imprisoned somewhere in that weird old house of
Sara listened with undignified interest. It was strange how the
enigmatical personality of the owner of Far End kept cropping up
across her path.
"And what is your own opinion, Mrs. Maynard?" she asked.
Audrey flashed her a keen glance from her rain-clear eyes.
"I think he's a--sphinx," she said slowly.
"The Sphinx was a lady," objected Herrick pertinently.
"Mr. Trent's a masculine re-incarnation of her, then," retorted Mrs.
Herrick smiled tolerantly. He was a tall, slenderly built man, with
whimsical brown eyes and the half-stern, half-sweet mouth of one who
has been through the mill of physical pain.
"/Homme incompris/," he suggested lightly. "Give the fellow his due--
he at least supplies the feminine half of Monkshaven with a topic of
Audrey took up the implied challenge with enthusiasm, and the two of
them wrangled comfortably together till tea was over. Then she
demanded a cigarette--and another cushion--and finally sent Miles in
search of some snapshots they had taken together and which he had
developed since last they had met. She treated him exactly as though
he suffered no handicap, demanding from him all the little services
she would have asked from a man who was physically perfect.
Sara herself, accustomed to anticipating every need of Patrick
Lovell's, would have been inclined to feel somewhat compunctious over
allowing a lame man to wait upon her, yet, as she watched the eager
way in which Miles responded to the visitor's behests, she realized
that in reality Audrey was behaving with supreme tact. She let Miles
feel himself a man as other men, not a mere "lame duck" to whom
indulgence must needs be granted.
And once, when her hair just brushed his cheek, as he stooped over her
to indicate some special point in one of the recently developed
photos, Sara surprised a sudden ardent light in his quiet brown eyes
that set her wondering whether possibly, the incessant sparring
between Herrick and the lively, impulsive woman who shocked half
Monkshaven, did not conceal something deeper than mere friendship.
THE UNWILLING HOST
It was one of those surprisingly warm days, holding a foretaste of
June's smiles, which March occasionally vouchsafes.
The sun blazed down out of a windless, cloudless sky, and Sara, making
her way leisurely through the straggling woods that intervened betwixt
the Selwyns' house and Monk's Cliff, felt the salt-laden air wafted
against her face, as warmly mellow as though summer were already come.
Molly had gone to Oldhampton--since the artists' colony there would be
certain to take advantage of this gift of a summer's day to arrange a
sketching party, and, as the morning's post had brought Sara a letter
from Elisabeth Durward which had occasioned her considerable turmoil
of spirit, she had followed her natural bent by seeking the solitude
of a lonely tramp in order to think the matter out.
From her earliest days at Barrow she had always carried the small
tangles of childhood to a remote corner of the pine-woods for
solution, and the habit had grown with her growth, so that now, when a
rather bigger tangle presented itself, she turned instinctively to the
solitude of the cliffs at Monkshaven, where the murmur of the sea was
borne in her ears, plaintively reminiscent of the sound of the wind in
her beloved pine trees.
Spring comes early in the sheltered, southern bay of Monkshaven, and
already the bracken was sending up pushful little shoots of young
green, curled like a baby's fist, while the primroses, bunched
together in clusters, thrust peering faces impertinently above the
green carpet of the woods. Sara stopped to pick a handful, tucking
them into her belt. Then, emerging from the woods, she breasted the
steep incline that led to the brow of the cliff.
A big boulder, half overgrown with moss and lichen, offered a tempting
resting-place, and flinging herself down on the yielding turf beside
it, she leaned back and drew out Elisabeth's letter.
She had sometimes wondered whether Elisabeth had any suspicion of the
fact that, before leaving Barrow, she had refused to marry Tim. The
friendship and understanding between mother and son was so deep that
it was very possible that Tim had taken her into his confidence. And
even if he had not, the eyesight of love is extraordinarily keen, and
Elisabeth would almost inevitably have divined that something was
amiss with his happiness.
If this were so, as Sara admitted to herself with a wry smile, there
was little doubt that she would look askance at the woman who had had
the temerity to refuse her beautiful Tim!
And now, although her letter contained no definite allusion to the
matter, reading between the lines, the conviction was borne in upon
Sara that Elisabeth knew all that there was to know, and had ranged
herself, heart and soul, on the side of her son.
It was obvious that she thought of the whole world in terms of Tim,
and, had she been a different type of woman, the simile of a hen with
one chick would have occurred to Sara's mind.
But there was nothing in the least hen-like about Elisabeth Durward.
Only, whenever Tim came near her, her face, with its strangely
inscrutable eyes, would irradiate with a sudden warmth and tenderness
of emotion that was akin to the exquisite rapture of a lover when the
beloved is near. To Sara, there seemed something a little frightening
--almost terrible--in her intense devotion to Tim.
The letter itself was charmingly written--expressing the hope that
Sara was happy and comfortable at Monkshaven, recalling their pleasant
time at Barrow together, and looking forward to other future visits
from her--"/which would be a fulfillment of happiness to us all/."
It was this last sentence, combined with one or two other phrases into
which much or little meaning might equally as easily be read, which
had aroused in Sara a certain uneasy instinct of apprehension. Dimly
she sensed a vague influence at work to strengthen the ties that bound
her to Barrow, and to all that Barrow signified.
She faced the question with characteristic frankness. Tim had his own
place in her heart--secure and unassailable. But it was not the place
in that sacred inner temple which is reserved for the one man, and she
recognized this with a limpid clearness of perception rather uncommon
in a girl of twenty. She also recognized that it was within the bounds
of possibility that the one man might never come to claim that place,
and that, if she gave Tim the answer he so ardently desired, they
would quite probably rub along together as well as most married folk--
better, perhaps, than a good many. But she was very sure that she
never intended to desecrate that inner temple by any lesser substitute
Thus she reasoned, with the untried confidence of youth, which is so
pathetically certain of itself and of its ultimate power to hold to
its ideals, ignorant of the overpowering influences which may develop
to push a man or woman this way or that, or of the pain that may turn
clear, definite thought into a welter of blind anguish, when the soul
in its agony snatches at any anodyne, true or false, which may seem to
A little irritably she folded up Elisabeth's letter. It was
disquieting in some ways--she could not quite explain why--and just
now she felt averse to wrestling with disturbing ideas. She only
wanted to lie still, basking in the tranquil peace of the afternoon,
and listen to the murmuring voice of the sea.
She closed her eyes indolently, and presently, lulled by the drowsy
rhythm of the waves breaking at the foot of the cliff, she fell
She woke with a start. An ominous drop of rain had splashed down on to
her cheek, and she sat up, broad awake in an instant and shivering a
little. It had turned much colder, and a wind had risen which
whispered round her of coming storm, while the blue sky of an hour ago
was hidden by heavy, platinum-coloured clouds massing up from the
Another and another raindrop fell, and, obeying their warning, Sara
sprang up and bent her steps in the direction of home. But she was too
late to avoid the storm which had been brewing, and before she had
gone a hundred yards it had begun to break in drifting scurries of
rain, driven before the wind.
She hurried on, hoping to gain the shelter of the woods before the
threatened deluge, but within ten minutes of the first heralding drops
it was upon her--a torrent of blinding rain, sweeping across the
upland like a wet sheet.
She looked about her desperately, in search of cover, and perceiving,
on the further side of a low stone wall, what she took to be a wooden
shelter for cattle, she quickened her steps to a run, and, nimbly
vaulting the wall, fled headlong into it.
It was not, however, the cattle shed she had supposed it, but a
roughly constructed summer-house, open on one side to the four winds
of heaven and with a wooden seat running round the remaining three.
Sara guessed immediately that she must have trespassed again on the
Far End property, but reflecting that neither its owner nor his lynx-
eyed servant was likely to be abroad in such a downpour as this, and
that, even if they were, and chanced to discover her, they could
hardly object to her taking refuge in this outlying shelter, she shook
the rain from her skirts and sat down to await the lifting of the
As always in such circumstances, the time seemed to pass inordinately
slowly, but in reality she had not been there more than a quarter of
an hour before she observed the figure of a man emerge from some
trees, a few hundred yards distant, and come towards her, and despite
the fact that he was wearing a raincoat, with the collar turned up to
his ears, and a tweed cap pulled well down over his head, she had no
difficulty in recognizing in the approaching figure her fellow-
traveller of the journey to Monkshaven.
Evidently he had not seen her, for she could hear him whistling softly
to himself as he approached, while with the fingers of one hand he
drummed on his chest as though beating out the rhythm of the melody he
was whistling--a wild, passionate refrain from Wieniawski's exquisite
/Legende/. It sounded curiously in harmony with the tempest that raged
For himself, he appeared to regard the storm with indifference--almost
to welcome it, for more than once Sara saw him raise his head as
though he were glad to feel the wind and rain beating against his
She drew back a little into the shadows of the summer-house, hoping he
might turn aside without observing her, since, from all accounts,
Garth Trent was hardly the type of man to welcome a trespasser upon
But he came straight on towards her, and an instant later she knew
that her presence was discovered, for he stopped abruptly and peered
through the driving rain in the direction of the summer-house. Then,
quickening his steps, he rapidly covered the intervening space and
halted on the threshold of the shelter.
"What the devil----" he began, then paused and stared down at her with
an odd glint of amusement in his eyes. "So it's you, is it?" he said
at last, with a short laugh.
Once again Sara was conscious of the extraordinary intensity of his
regard, and now, as a sudden ragged gleam of sunlight pierced the
clouds, falling athwart his face, she realized what it was that
induced it. In both eyes the clear hazel of the iris was broken by a
tiny, irregularly shaped patch of vivid blue, close to the pupil, and
its effect was to give that curious depth and intentness of expression
which Molly had tried to describe when she had said that Garth Trent's
were the kind of eyes which "make you jump if he looked at you
Sara almost jumped now; then, supported by her indignant recollection
of the man's churlishness on a former occasion, she bowed silently.
He continued to regard her with that lurking suggestion of amusement
at the back of his eyes, and she was annoyed to feel herself flushing
uncomfortably beneath his scrutiny. At last he spoke again.
"You seem to have a faculty for intrusion," he remarked drily.
Sara's eyes flashed.
"And you, a fancy for solitude," she retorted.
"Exactly." He bowed ironically. "Perhaps you would oblige me by
considering it?" And he drew politely aside as though to let her pass
out in front of him.
Sara cast a dismayed glance at the rain, which was still descending in
torrents. Then she turned to him indignantly.
"Do you mean that you're going to insist on my starting out in this
storm?" she demanded.
"Don't you know that you've no right to be here at all--that you're
trespassing?" he parried coolly.
"Of course I know it! But I didn't expect that any one in the world
would object to my trespassing in the circumstances!"
"You must not judge me by other people," he replied composedly. "I am
"You're not, indeed," agreed Sara warmly.
"And your tone implies 'thanks be,' " he supplemented with a faint
smile. "Oh, well," he went on ungraciously, "stay if you like--so long
as you don't expect me to stay with you."
Sara hastily disclaimed any such desire, and, lifting his cap, he
turned and strode away into the rain.
Another ten minutes crawled by, and still the rain came down as
persistently as though it intended never to cease again. Sara
fidgeted, and walked across impatiently to the open front of the
summer-house, staring up moodily at the heavy clouds. They showed no
signs of breaking, and she was just about to resume her weary waiting
on the seat within the shelter, when quick steps sounded to her left,
and Garth Trent reappeared, carrying an umbrella and with a man's
overcoat thrown over his arm.
"It's going to rain for a good two hours yet," he said abruptly.
"You'd better come up to the house."
Sara gazed at him in silent amazement; the invitation was so totally
unexpected that for the moment she had no answer ready.
"Unless," he added sneeringly, misinterpreting her silence, "you're
afraid of the proprieties?"
"I'm far more afraid of taking cold," she replied promptly, preparing
to evacuate the summer-house.
"Here, put this on," he said gruffly, holding out the coat he had
brought with him. "There's no object in getting any wetter than you
He helped her into the coat, buttoning it carefully under her chin,
his dexterous movements and quiet solicitude contrasting curiously
with the detachment of his manner whilst performing these small
services. He was so altogether business-like and unconcerned that Sara
felt not unlike a child being dressed by a conscientious but entirely
disinterested nurse. When he had fastened the last button of the long
coat, which came down to her heels, he unfurled the umbrella and held
it over her.
"Keep close to me, please," he said briefly, nor did he volunteer any
further remark until they had accomplished the journey to the house,
and were standing together in the old-fashioned hall which evidently
served him as a living room.
Here Trent relieved her of the coat, and while she stood warming her
feet at the huge log-fire, blazing half-way up the chimney, he rang
for his servant and issued orders for tea to be brought, as composedly
as though visitors of the feminine persuasion were a matter of
Sara, catching a glimpse of Judson's almost petrified face of
astonishment as he retreated to carry out his master's instructions,
and with a vivid recollection of her last encounter with him, almost
laughed out loud.
"Please sit down," said Trent. "And"--with a glance towards her feet--
"you had better take off those wet shoes."
There was something in his curt manner of giving orders--rather as
though he were a drill-sergeant, Sara reflected--that aroused her to
opposition. She held out her feet towards the blaze of the fire.
"No, thank you," she replied airily. "They'll dry like this."
As she spoke, she glanced up and encountered a sudden flash in his
eyes like the keen flicker of a sword-blade. Without vouchsafing any
answer, he knelt down beside her and began to unlace her shoes,
finally drawing them off and laying them sole upwards, in front of the
fire to dry. Then he passed his hand lightly over her stockinged feet.
"Wringing wet!" he remarked curtly. "Those silk absurdities must come
off as well."
Sara sprang up.
"No!" she said firmly. "They shall not!"
He looked at her, again with that glint of mocking amusement with
which he had first greeted her presence in his summer-house.
"You'd rather have a bad cold?" he suggested.
"Ever so much rather!" retorted Sara hardily.
He gave a short laugh, almost as though he could not help himself,
and, with a shrug of his shoulders, turned and marched out of the
Left alone, Sara glanced about her in some surprise at the evidences
of a cultivated taste and love of beauty which the room supplied. It
was not quite the sort of abode she would have associated with the
grim, misanthropic type of man she judged her host to be.
The old-fashioned note, struck by the huge oaken beams supporting the
ceiling and by the open hearth, had been retained throughout, and
every detail--the blue willow-pattern china on the old oak dresser,
the dimly lustrous pewter perched upon the chimney-piece, the silver
candle-sconces thrusting out curved, gleaming arms from the paneled
walls--was exquisite of its kind. It reminded her of the old hall at
Barrow, where she and Patrick had been wont to sit and yarn together
on winter evenings.
The place had a well-tended air, too, and Sara, who waged daily war
against the slovenly shabbiness prevalent at Sunnyside, was all at
once sensible of how desperately she had missed the quiet perfection
of the service at Barrow. The nostalgia for her old home--the
unquenchable, homesick longing for the /place/ that has held one's
happiness--rushed over her in a overwhelming flood.
Wishing she had never come to this house, which had so stirred old
memories, she got up restlessly, driven by a sudden impulse to escape,
just as the door opened to re-admit Garth Trent.
He gave her a swift, searching glance.
"Sit down again," he commanded. "There"--gravely depositing a towel
and a pair of men's woolen socks on the floor beside her--"dry your
feet and put those socks on."
He moved quickly away towards the window and remained there, with his
back turned studiously towards her, while she obeyed his instructions.
When she had hung two very damp black silk stockings on the fire-dogs
to dry, she flung a somewhat irritated glance at him over her
"You can come back," she said in a small voice.
He came, and stood staring down at the two woolly socks protruding
from beneath the short, tweed skirt. The suspicion of a smile curved
"They're several sizes too large," he observed. "Odd creatures you
women are," he went on suddenly, after a brief silence. "You shy
wildly at the idea of letting a man see the foot God gave you, but
you've no scruples at all about letting any one see the selfishness
that the devil's put into your hearts."
He spoke with a kind of savage contempt; it was as though the speech
were tinged with some bitter personal memory.
Sara's eyes surveyed him calmly.
"I've no intention of making an exhibit of my heart," she observed
"It's wiser not, probably," he retorted disagreeably, and at that
moment Judson came into the room and began to arrange the tea-table
beside his master's chair.
"Put it over there," directed Trent sharply, indicating with a gesture
that the table should be placed near his guest, and Judson, his face
manifesting rather more surprise than is compatible with the wooden
mask demanded of the well-trained servant, hastened to comply.
When he had readjusted the position of the tea-table, he moved quietly
about the room, drawing the curtains and lighting the candles in their
silver sconces, so that little pools of yellow light splashed down on
to the smooth surface of the oak floor--waxed and polished till it
gleamed like black ivory.
As he withdrew unobtrusively towards the door, Trent tossed him a
"I shall want the car round in a couple of hours--at six," he said,
and smiled straight into Sara's startled eyes.
THE HERMIT'S SHELL
Sara paused with the sugar-tongs poised above the Queen Anne bowl.
"Sugar?" she queried.
Trent regarded her seriously.
"One lump, please."
She handed him his cup and poured out another for herself. Then she
"I heard you order your car. Is this quite a suitable afternoon for
"More so than for walking," he retaliated. "I'm going to drive you
"At six o'clock?"
"At six o'clock."
"And suppose I wish to leave before then?"
He cast an expressive glance towards the windows, where the rain could
be heard beating relentlessly against the panes.
"It's quite up to you . . . to walk home."
Sara made a small grimace of disgust.
"Otherwise," she said tentatively, "I am going to stay here, whether I
will or no?"
"Yes. It's my birthday, and I'm proposing to make myself a present of
an hour or two of your society," he replied composedly.
Sara regarded him with curiosity. He had been openly displeased to
find her trespassing on his estate--which was only what current report
would have led her to expect--yet now he was evincing a desire for her
company, and, in addition, a very determined intention to secure it.
The man was an enigma!
"I'm surprised," she said lightly. "I gathered from a recent remark of
yours that you didn't think too highly of women."
"I don't," he replied with uncompromising directness.
"Perhaps I have a fancy to drop back for a brief space into the life I
have renounced," he suggested mockingly.
"Then you really are what they call you--a hermit?"
"I really am."
"And feminine society is taboo?"
"Entirely--as a rule." If, for an instant, the faintest of smiles
modified the grim closing of his lips, Sara failed to notice it.
The cold detachment of his answer irritated her. It was as though he
intended to remain, hermit-like, within his shell, and she had a
suspicion that behind this barricade he was laughing at her for her
ineffectual attempts to dig him out of it with a pin.
"I suppose some woman didn't fall into your arms just when you wanted
her to?" she hazarded.
She had not calculated the result of this thrust. His eyes blazed for
a moment. Then, a shade of contempt blending with the former cool
insouciance of his tone, he said quietly:
"You don't expect an answer to that question, do you?"
The snub was unmistakable, and Sara's cheeks burned. She felt heartily
ashamed of herself, and yet, incongruously, she was half inclined to
lay the blame for her impertinent speech on his shoulders. He had
almost challenged her to deal a blow that should crack that impervious
shell of his.
She glanced across at him beneath her lashes, and in an instant all
thought of personal dignity was wiped out by the look of profound pain
that she surprised in his face. Her shrewd question, uttered almost
unthinkingly in the cut-and-thrust of repartee, had got home somewhere
on an old wound.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" she exclaimed contritely.
She could only assume that he had not heard her low-voiced apology,
for, when he turned to her again, he addressed her exactly as though
she had not spoken.
"Try some of these little hot cakes," he said, tendering a plateful.
"They are quite one of Mrs. Judson's specialties."
With amazing swiftness he had reassumed his mask. The bright, hazel
eyes were entirely free from any hint of pain, and his voice held
nothing more than conventional politeness. Sara meekly accepted one of
the cakes in question, and for a little while the conversation ran on
Presently, when tea was over, he offered her a cigarette.
"I have not forgotten your tastes, you see," he said, smiling.
"I do smoke," she admitted. "But"--the confession came with a rush,
and she did not quite know what impelled her to make it--"I smoked--
that day in the train--out of sheer defiance."
"I was sure of it," he responded in amused tones. "But now"--striking
a match and holding it for her to light her cigarette--"you will smoke
because you really like it, and because it would be a friendly action
and condone the fact that you are being held a prisoner against your
"It is a very charming prison," she said, contemplating the harmony of
the room with satisfied eyes.
"You like it?" he asked eagerly.
She looked at him in surprise. What could it matter to him whether she
liked it or not?
"Why, of course, I like it," she replied. "Who wouldn't? You see," she
added a little wistfully, "I have no home of my own now, so I have to
enjoy other people's."
"I have no home, either," he said shortly.
"Is the house in which I live. One wants more than a few sticks of
furniture to make a home."
Sara was struck by the intense bitterness in his tone. Truly this man,
with his lightning changes from boorish incivility to whole-hearted
hospitality, from apparently impenetrable reserve to an almost
desperate outspokenness, was as incomprehensible as any sphinx.
She hastily steered the conversation towards a less dangerous channel,
and gradually they drifted into the discussion of art and music; and
Sara, not without some inward trepidation--remembering Molly's
experience--touched on his own musicianship.
"It was surely you I herd?" she queried a trifle hesitatingly. "You
were playing some Russian music that I knew. Your man ordered me off
the premises"--smiling a little--"so I didn't hear as much as I should
"Is that a hint?" he asked whimsically.
"A broad one. Please take it."
He hesitated a moment. Then--
"Very well," he said abruptly.
He rose and led the way into an adjoining room.
Like the hall they had just quitted, it was pleasantly illumined by
candles in silver sconces, and had evidently been arranged to serve
exclusively as a music-room, for it contained practically no furniture
beyond a couple of chairs, and a beautiful mahogany cabinet, of which
the doors stood open, revealing sliding shelves crammed full of
A grand piano was so placed that the light from either window or
candles would fall comfortably upon the music-desk; and on a stool
beside it rested a violin case.
Trent opened the case, and, lifting the violin from is cushiony bed of
padded satin, fingered it caressingly.
"Can you read accompaniments?" he asked, flashing the question at her
with his usual abruptness.
"Yes." Sara's answer came simply, minus the mock-modest tag: "A
little," or "I'll do my best," which most people seem to think it
incumbent on them to add, in the circumstances.
It is one of the mysteries of convention why, when you are perfectly
aware that you can do a thing, and do it well, you are expected to
depreciate your capability under penalty of being accounted
overburdened with conceit should you fail to do so.
"Good." Trent pulled out an armful of music from the cabinet and
looked through it rapidly.
"We'll have some of these." ("These" being several suites for violin
Sara's lips twitched. He was testing her rather highly, since the
pianoforte score of the suites in question was by no means easy. But,
thanks to the wisdom of Patrick Lovell, who had seen to it that she
studied under one of the finest masters of the day, she was not a
musician by temperament alone, but had also a surprisingly good
At the close of the second suite, Trent turned to her
enthusiastically, his face aglow. For the moment he was no longer the
hermit, aloof and enigmatical, but an eager comrade, spontaneously
appealing to a congenial spirit.
"That went splendidly, didn't it?" he exclaimed. "The pianoforte score
is a pretty stiff one, but I was sure"--smilingly--"from the downright
way you answered my question about accompaniments, that you'd prove
equal to it."
Sara smiled back at him.
"I didn't think it necessary to make any conventional professions of
modesty--to you," she said. "You don't--wrap things up much--
He leaned against the piano, looking down at her.
"No. Nothing I say can make things either better or worse for me, so I
have at least gained freedom from the conventions. That is one of my
"Compensations for what?" The question escaped her almost before she
was aware, and she waited for the snub which she felt would inevitably
follow her second indiscretion that afternoon.
But it did not come. Instead, he fenced adroitly.
"Compensation for the limitations of a hermit's life," he said
"The life is your own choice," she flashed back at him.
"Oh, no, we're not always given a choice, you know. This world isn't a
kind of sublimated children's party."
She regarded him thoughtfully.
"I think," she said gravely, "we always get back out of life just what
we put into it."
His mouth twisted ironically.
"That's a charming doctrine, but I'm afraid I can't subscribe to it. I
put in--all my capital. And I've drawn a blank."
His tone implied a kind of strange, numb acceptance of an inimical
destiny, and Sara was conscious of a rush of intense pity towards this
man whose implacably cynical outlook manifested itself in almost every
word he uttered. It was no mere pose on his part--of that she felt
assured--but something ingrained, grafted on to his very nature by the
happenings of life.
Rather girlishly she essayed to combat it.
"You're not at the end of life yet."
He smiled at her--a sudden, rare smile of extraordinary sweetness. Her
intention was so unmistakable--so touchingly ingenious, as are all
youth's attempts to heal a bitterness that lies beyond its ken.
"There are no more lucky dips left in life's tub for me, I'm afraid,"
he said gently.
Sara seized upon the opening afforded.
"Of course not--if you persist in keeping to the role of looker-on,"
He regarded her gravely.
"Unfortunately, I've no longer any right to dip my head into the tub.
Even if I chanced to draw a prize--I should only have to put it back
The quiet irrevocableness of his answer shook her optimism.
"I--don't understand," she said hesitatingly.
"No?"--his tones hardened suddenly. "It's just as well you shouldn't,
The abrupt alteration in his manner took her by surprise. All at once,
he seemed to have retreated into his shell, to have become again the
curt, ironic individual of their first meeting.
"I think," he went on, tranquilly ignoring the mixture of chagrin and
amazement in her face, "I think I hear the car coming round. You had
better put on your shoes and stockings again--they'll be dry now--and
then we can start. It's no longer raining."
Sara felt as though she had been suddenly relegated to a position of
utter unimportance. He was showing her that, as far as he was
concerned, she was a person of not the slightest consequence, treating
her like an inquisitive child. Their recent conversation, during which
his mantle of reserve had slipped a little aside, the music they had
shared, when for a brief time they had walked together in the pleasant
paths of mutual understanding, all seemed to have receded an immense
distance away. As she took her place in the car, she could almost have
believed that the incidents of the afternoon were a dream, and nothing
Trent sat silently beside her, his attention apparently concentrated
on the driving of the car. Once he asked her if she were warm enough,
and, upon her replying in the affirmative, lapsed again into silence.
Gaining security from his abstraction, Sara ventured to steal a side-
glance at his face. It was a curiously contradictory face, hard and
bitter-looking, yet the reckless mouth curved sensitively at the
corners, and the tolerant, humorous lines about the eyes seemed to
combat the impression of almost brutal force conveyed by the frowning
brows and square, dominant chin.
Always acutely sensible of temperament, Sara felt as though the man
beside her might be capable of any extreme of action. Whatever
decision he might adopt over any given matter, he would hold by it,
come what may, and she was aware of an odd reflex consciousness of
feminine inadequacy. To influence Garth Trent against his convictions
would be like trying to deflect the course of a river by laying a
straw across its track.
The primitive woman in her thrilled a little, responsively, and she
wondered whether or no her sex had played much part in his life. He
was a woman-hater--so Molly had told her--yet Sara could imagine him
in a very different role. Of one thing she was sure--that the woman
who was loved by Garth Trent would anchor in no placid back-water.
Life, for her, would hold something breathless, vital, exultant . . .
"Well, have you decided yet?"
The ironical voice broke sharply into the midst of her fugitive
thoughts, and Sara jumped violently, flushing scarlet as she found
Trent's eyes surveying her with a quietly quizzical expression.
"Decided what?" she asked defensively.
"Where to place me--whether among the sheep or the goats. You were
dissecting my character, weren't you?"
He waited for an answer, but Sara maintained an embarrassed silence.
He had divined the subject of her thoughts too nearly.
"The decision has gone against me, I see. Well, I'm not surprised.
I've certainly treated you with a rather rough-and-ready kind of
courtesy. You must try to pardon me. A hermit gets little practice at
entertaining angels unawares."
Sara, recovering her composure, regarded him placidly.
"You might find many opportunities for practice in Monkshaven," she
"In Monkshaven? Are you trying to suggest that I should ingratiate
myself with the leading lights of local society?"
He laughed as though genuinely amused.
"Perhaps you've not been here long enough yet to discover that the
amiable inhabitants of Monkshaven look upon me as a sort of cross
between a madman and a criminal who has eluded justice."
"Whose fault is that?"