Part 1 out of 7
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The Obstacle Race
By Ethel M. Dell
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK
TO MY DEAR "HALF-SISTER,"
WITH MY LOVE
"So run, that ye may obtain."--_I Corinthians 9:24_
Give me the ready brain and steadfast face
To dare the hazard and to run the race,
The high heart that no scathing word can stay
O'erleaping obstacles that bar the way,
The sportsman's soul that, failing at the end,
Can smile upon the victory of a friend,
And to my judges make this one protest,--
A poor performance but--I did my best!
I.--BETTER THAN LONDON
V.--THE GREAT MAN
I.--THE WAND OF OFFICE
III.--A DRAWN BATTLE
IV.--A POINT OF HONOUR
V.--THE WAY TO HAPPINESS
VIII.--THE HONOURS OF WAR
I.--BIRDS OF A FEATHER
V.--THE DRIVING FORCE
VI.--THE SISTER OF MERCY
I.--THE FREE GIFT
VI.--COALS OF FIRE
VIII.--OUT OF THE NIGHT
IX.--THE FREE PARDON
X.--THE LAST FENCE
THE OBSTACLE RACE
BETTER THAN LONDON
A long, green wave ran up, gleaming like curved glass in the sunlight,
and broke in a million sparkles against a shelf of shingle. Above the
shingle rose the soft cliffs, clothed with scrubby grass and crowned
"Columbus," said the stranger, "this is just the place for us."
Columbus wagged a cheery tail and expressed complete agreement. He was
watching a small crab hurrying among the stones with a funny frown
between his brows. He was not quite sure of the nature or capabilities of
these creatures, and till he knew more he deemed it advisable to let them
pass without interference. A canny Scot was Columbus, and it was very
seldom indeed that anyone ever got the better of him. He was also a
gentleman to the backbone, and no word his mistress uttered, however
casual, ever passed unacknowledged by him. He always laughed when she
laughed, however obscure the joke.
He smiled now, since she was obviously pleased, but without taking his
sharp little eyes off the object of his interest. Suddenly the scuttling
crab disappeared and he started up with a whine. In a moment he was
scratching in the shingle in eager search, flinging showers of stones
over his companion in the process.
She protested, seizing him by his wiry tail to make him desist.
"Columbus! Don't! You're burying me alive! Do sit down and be sensible,
or I'll never be wrecked on a desert island with you again!"
Columbus subsided, not very willingly, dropping with a grunt into the
hole he had made. His mistress released him, and took out a gold
"I wonder what I shall do when I've finished these," she mused. "The
simple life doesn't include luxuries of this sort. Only three left,
Columbus! After that, your missis'll starve."
She lighted a cigarette with a faint pucker on her wide brow. Her eyes
looked out over the empty, tumbling sea--grey eyes very level in their
regard under black brows that were absolutely straight and inclined to be
rather heavily accentuated.
"Yes, I wish I'd asked Muff for a few before I came away," was the
outcome of her reflections. "By this time tomorrow I shan't have one
left. Just think of that, my Christopher, and be thankful that you're
just a dog to whom one rat tastes very like another!"
Columbus sneezed protestingly. Whatever his taste in rats,
Cigarette smoke did not appeal to him. His mistress's fondness for it
was her only failing in his eyes.
She went on reflectively, her eyes upon the sky-line. "I shall have to
take in washing to eke out a modest living in cigarettes and chocolates.
I can't subsist on Mr. Rickett's Woodbines, that's quite certain. I
wonder if there's a pawnshop anywhere near."
Her voice was low and peculiarly soft; she uttered her words with
something of a drawl. Her hands were clasped about her knees, delicate
hands that yet looked capable. The lips that held the cigarette were
delicately moulded also, but they had considerable character.
"If I were Lady Joanna Farringmore, I suppose I should say something
rather naughty in French, Columbus, to relieve my feelings. But you and I
don't talk French, do we? And we have struck the worthy Lady Jo and all
her crowd off our visiting-list for some time to come. I don't suppose
any of them will miss us much, do you, old chap? They'll just go on round
and round in the old eternal waltz and never realize that it leads to
nowhere." She stretched out her arms suddenly towards the horizon; then
turned and lay down by Columbus on the shingle. "Oh, I'm glad we've cut
adrift, aren't you? Even without cigarettes, it's better than London."
Again Columbus signified his agreement by kissing her hair, in a rather
gingerly fashion on account of the smoke; after which, as she seemed to
have nothing further to say, he got up, shook himself, and trotted off to
explore the crannies in the cliffs.
His mistress pillowed her dark head on her arm, and lay still, with the
sea singing along the ridge of shingle below her. She finished her
cigarette and seemed to doze. A brisk wind was blowing from the shore,
but the beach itself was sheltered. The sunlight poured over her in a
warm flood. It was a perfect day in May.
Suddenly a curious thing happened. A small stone from nowhere fell with a
smart tap upon her uncovered head! She started, surprised into full
consciousness, and looked around. The shore stretched empty behind her.
There was no sign of life among the grass-grown cliffs, save where
Columbus some little distance away was digging industriously at the root
of a small bush. She searched the fringe of flaming gorse that overhung
the top of the cliff immediately behind her, but quite in vain. Some sea
gulls soared wailing overhead, but no other intruder appeared to disturb
the solitude. She gave up the search and lay down again. Perhaps the wind
had done it, though it did not seem very likely.
The tide was rising, and she would have to move soon in any case. She
would enjoy another ten minutes of her delicious sun-bath ere she
returned for the midday meal that Mrs. Rickett was preparing in the
little thatched cottage next to the forge.
Again she stretched herself luxuriously. Yes, it was better than London;
the soft splashing of waves was better than the laughter of a hundred
voices, better than the roar of a thousand wheels, better than the voice
of a million concerts ... Again reverie merged into drowsy absence of
thought. How exquisite the sunshine was!...
It fell upon her dark cheek this time with a sharp sting and bounced
off on to her hand--a round black stone dropped from nowhere but with
strangely accurate aim. She sprang up abruptly. This was getting
beyond a joke.
Columbus was still rooting beneath the distant bush. Most certainly he
was not the offender. Some boy was hiding somewhere among the humps and
clefts that constituted the rough surface of the cliff. She picked up her
walking-stick with a certain tightening of the lips. She would teach that
boy a lesson if she caught him unawares.
Grimly she set her face to the cliff and to the narrow, winding passage
by which she had descended to the shore. Her dreams were wholly
scattered! Her cheek still smarted from the blow. She left the sea
without a backward glance. She sent forth a shrill whistle to Columbus as
she began to climb the slippery path of stones. She was convinced that
it was from this that her assailant had gathered his weapons.
With springing steps she mounted, looking sharply to right and left as
she did so! And in a moment, turning inwards from the sea, she caught
sight of a movement among some straggling bushes a few yards to one side
of the path.
Without an instant's hesitation she swung herself up the steep
incline, climbing with a rapidity that swiftly cut off the landward
line of retreat. She would give her assailant a fright for his pains
if nothing better.
And then just as she reached the level, very sharply she stopped. It was
as if a hand had caught her back. For suddenly there rose up before her a
figure so strange that for a moment she felt almost like a scared child.
It sprang from the bushes and stood facing her like an animal at bay--a
short creature neither man nor boy, misshapen, grotesquely humped,
possessing long thin arms of almost baboon-like proportions. The head
was sunken into the shoulders. It was flung back and the face
upraised--and it was the face that made her pause, for it was the most
pathetic sight she had ever looked upon. It was the face of a lad of two
or three and twenty, but drawn in lines so painful, so hollowed, so
piteous, that fear melted into compassion at the sight. The dark eyes
that stared upwards had a frightened look mingled with a certain
defiance. He stood barefooted on the edge of the cliff, clenching and
unclenching his bony hands, with the air of a culprit awaiting sentence.
There was a decided pause before his victim spoke. She found some
difficulty in grappling with the situation, but she had no intention of
turning her back upon it. She felt it must be tackled with resolution.
After a moment she spoke, with as much sternness as she could muster,
"Why did you throw those stones?"
He backed at the sound of her voice, and she had an instant of sickening
fear, for there was a drop of twenty feet behind him on the shingle. But
he must have seen her look, for he stopped himself on the brink, and
stood there doggedly.
"Don't stand there!" she said quickly. "I'm not going to hurt you."
He lowered his head, and looked at her from under drawn brows. "Yes, you
are," he said gruffly. "You're going to beat me with that stick."
The shrewdness of this surmise struck her as not without humour. She
smiled, and, turning, flung the stick straight down to the path below.
"Now!" she said.
He came forward, not very willingly, and stood within a couple of yards
of her, still looking as if he expected some sort of chastisement.
She faced him, and the last of her fear departed. Though he was so
terribly deformed that he looked like some dreadful beast reared on its
hind legs there was that about the face, sullen though it was, that
stirred her deepest feelings.
She did her best to conceal the fact, however. "Tell me why you threw
those stones!" she said.
"Because I wanted to hit you," he returned with disconcerting
She looked at him steadily. "How very unkind of you!" she said.
His eyes gleamed with a smouldering resentment. "No, it wasn't. I didn't
want you there. Dicky is coming soon, and he likes it best when there is
no one there."
She noticed that though there was scant courtesy in his speech, it was by
no means the rough talk of the fisher-folk. It fired her curiosity. "And
who is Dicky?" she said.
"Who are you?" he retorted rudely.
She smiled again. "You are not very polite, are you? But I don't
mind telling you if you want to know. My name is Juliet Moore. Now
tell me yours!"
He looked at her doubtfully. "Juliet is a name out of a book," he said.
She laughed, a low, soft laugh that woke an answering glimmer of
amusement in his sullen face. "How clever of you to know that!" she said.
"No, I'm not clever." Tersely he contradicted her. "Old Swag at The Three
Tuns says I'm the village idiot."
"What a horrid old man!" she exclaimed almost involuntarily.
He nodded his heavy head. "Yes, I knocked him down the other day, and
kicked him for it. Dicky caned me afterwards,--I'm not supposed to go to
The Three Tuns--but I was glad I'd done it all the same."
"Well, who is Dicky?" she asked again. Her interest was growing.
He glared at her with sudden suspicion. "What do you want to know for?"
"Because I think he must be rather a brave man," she said.
The suspicion vanished. His eyes shown. "Oh, Dicky isn't afraid of
anything," he declared with pride. "He's my brother. He knows--heaps of
things. He's a man."
"You are fond of him," said Juliet, with her friendly smile.
The boy's face lighted up. "He's the only person I love in the world," he
said, "except Mrs. Rickett's baby."
"Mrs. Rickett's baby!" She checked a quick desire to laugh that caught
her unawares. "You are fond of babies then?"
"No, I'm not. I like dogs. I don't like babies--except Mrs. Rickett's
and he's such a jolly little cuss." He smiled over the words, and again
she felt a deep compassion. Somehow his face seemed almost sadder when
"I am staying with Mrs. Rickett," she said. "But I only came yesterday,
and I haven't made the baby's acquaintance yet. I must get myself
introduced. You haven't told me your name yet, you know. Mayn't I hear
what it is? I've told you mine."
He looked at her with renewed suspicion. "Hasn't anybody told you about
Me yet?" he said.
"No, of course not. Why, I don't know anybody except Mr. and Mrs.
Rickett. And it's much more interesting to hear it from yourself."
"Is it?" He hesitated a little longer, but was finally disarmed by the
kindness of her smile. "My name is Robin."
"Oh, that's a nice name," Juliet said. "And you live here? What do you
do all day?"
"I don't know," he said vaguely. "I can mend fishing-nets, and I can help
Dicky in the garden. And I look after Mrs. Rickett's baby sometimes when
she's busy. What do you do?" suddenly resuming his attitude of suspicion.
She made a slight gesture of the hands. "Nothing at all worth doing, I am
afraid," she said. "I can't mend nets. I don't garden. And I've never
looked after a baby in my life."
He stared at her. "Where do you come from?" he asked curiously.
"From London." She met his curiosity with absolute candour. "And I'm
tired of it. I'm very tired of it. So I've come here for a change. I'm
going to like this much better."
"Better than London!" He gazed, incredulous.
"Oh, much better." Juliet spoke with absolute confidence. "Ah, here is
Columbus! He likes it better too."
She turned to greet her companion who now came hastening up to view the
He sniffed round Robin who bent awkwardly and laid a fondling hand upon
him. "I like your dog," he said.
"That's right," said Juliet kindly. "We are both staying at the
Ricketts', so when you come to see the baby, I hope you will come to see
us too. I must go now, or I shall be late for lunch. Good-bye!"
The boy lifted himself again with a slow, ungainly movement, and raised a
hand to his forehead in wholly unexpected salute.
She smiled and turned to depart, but he spoke again, arresting her.
She looked back. "Yes? What is it?"
He shuffled his bare feet in the grass in embarrassment and murmured
something she could not hear.
"What is it?" she said again, encouragingly, as if she were addressing a
He lifted his dark eyes to hers in sudden appeal. "I say," he said, with
obvious effort, "if--if you meet Dicky, you--you won't tell him
She checked the struggling words with a very kindly gesture. "Oh, no, of
course not! I'm not that sort of person. But the next time you want to
get rid of me, just come and tell me so, and I'll go away at once."
The gentleness of her speech uttered in that soft slow voice of hers
had a curious effect upon her hearer. To her surprise, his eyes filled
"I shan't want to get rid of you! You're kind! I like you!" he
"Oh, thank you very much!" said Juliet, feeling oddly moved herself. "In
that case, we are friends. Good-bye! Come and see me soon!"
She smiled upon him, and departed, picking up her stick from the path
and turning to wave to him as she continued the ascent.
From the top of the cliff she looked back, and saw that he was
still standing--a squat, fantastic figure like a goblin out of a
fairy-tale--outlined against the shining sea behind him, a blot
upon the blue.
Again she waved to him and he lifted one of his long arms and saluted her
again in answer--stood at the salute till she turned away.
"Poor boy!" she murmured compassionately. "Poor ruined child! Columbus,
we must be kind to him."
And Columbus looked up with knowing little eyes and wagged a smiling
tail. He had taken to the lad himself.
"Lor' bless you!" said Mrs. Rickett. "There's some folks as thinks young
Robin is the plague of the neighbourhood, but there ain't no harm in the
lad if he's let alone. It's when them little varmints of village boys,
sets on to him and teases him as he ain't safe. But let him be, and he's
as quiet as a lamb. O' course if they great hulking fools on the shore
goes and takes him into The Three Tuns, you can't expect him to behave
respectable. But as I always says, let him alone and there's no vice in
him. Why, I've seen him go away into a corner and cry like a baby at a
sharp word from his brother Dick. He sets such store by him."
"I noticed that," said Juliet. "In fact he told me that Dicky and your
baby were the only two people in the world that he loved."
"Did he now? Well, did you ever?" Mrs. Rickett's weather-beaten
countenance softened as it were in spite of itself. "He always did take
to my Freddy, right from the very first. And Freddy's just the same. Soon
as ever he catches sight of Robin, he's all in a fever like to get to
him. Mr. Fielding from the Court, he were in here the other day and he
see 'em together. 'Your baby's got funny taste, Mrs. Rickett,' he says
and laughs. And I says to him, 'There's a many worse than poor young
Robin, sir,' I says. 'And in our own village too.' You see, Mr. Fielding
he's one of them gentlemen as likes to have the managing of other folks'
affairs and he's always been on to Dick to have poor Robin put away. But
Dick won't hear of it, and I don't blame him. For, as I say, there's no
harm in the lad if he's treated proper, and he'd break his heart if they
was to send him away. And he's that devoted to Dick too--well, there, it
fair makes me cry sometimes to see him. He'll sit and wait for him by the
hour together, like a dog he will."
"Was he born like that?" asked Juliet, as her informant paused for
Mrs. Rickett pursed her lips. "Well, you see, miss, he were a twin, and
he never did thrive from the very earliest. But he wasn't a hunchback,
not like he is now, at first. The poor mother died when they was born,
and p'raps it were a good thing, for she'd have grieved terrible if she
could have seen what he were a-going to grow into. For she was a lady
born and bred, married beneath her, you know. Nor she didn't have any
such life of it either. He were a sea-captain--a funny, Frenchy-looking
fellow with a frightful temper. He never come home for twelve years after
Dick were born. She used to teach at the village school, and make her
living that way. Very sweet in her ways she were. Everyone liked her.
There's them as says Mr. Fielding was in love with her. He didn't marry,
you know, till long after. She used to sing too, and such a pretty voice
she'd got. I used to think she was like an angel when I was a child. And
so she were. Whether she'd have married Mr. Fielding or not I don't know.
There's some as thinks she would. They were very friendly together. And
then, quite sudden-like, when everyone thought he'd been dead for years,
her husband come home again. I'll never forget it if I lives to be a
hundred. I was only a bit of a girl then. It's more'n twenty years ago,
you know, miss. I were just tidying up a bit in the school-house after
school were over, and she were looking at some copybooks, when suddenly
he marched in at the door, and, 'Hullo, Olive!' he says. She got up, and
she was as white as a sheet. She didn't say one word. And he just come up
to her, and took hold of her and kissed her and kissed her. It was horrid
to see him, fair turned me up," said Mrs. Rickett graphically. "And I'll
never forget her face when he let her go. She looked as if she'd had her
death blow. And so she had, miss. For she was never the same again. The
man was a beast, as anyone could see, and he hadn't improved in them
twelve years. He were a hard drinker, and he used to torment her to drink
with him, used to knock young Dick about too, something cruel. Dick were
only a lad of twelve, but he says to me once, 'I'll kill that man,' he
says. 'I'll kill him.' Mr. Fielding he went abroad as soon as the husband
turned up, and he didn't know what goings-on there were. There's some as
says she made him go, and I shouldn't wonder but what there was something
in it. For if ever any poor soul suffered martyrdom, it was that woman.
I'll never forget the change in her, never as long as I live. She kept up
for a long time, but she looked awful, and then at last when her time
drew near she broke down and used to cry and cry when anyone spoke to
her. O' course we all knew as she wouldn't get over it. Her spirit was
quite broke, and when the babies came she hadn't a chance. It happened
very quick at the last, and her husband weren't there. He were down at
The Three Tuns, and when they went to fetch him he laughed in their faces
and went on drinking. Oh, it was cruel." Mrs. Rickett wiped away some
indignant tears. "Not as she wanted him--never even mentioned his name.
She only asked for Dick, and he was with her just at the end. He was only
a lad of thirteen, miss, but he was a man grown from that night on. She
begged him to look after the babies, and he promised her he would. And
then she just lay holding his hand till she died. He seemed dazed-like
when they told him she were gone, and just went straight out without a
word. No one ever saw young Dick break down after that. He's got a will
"And the horrible husband?" asked Juliet, now thoroughly interested in
Mrs. Rickett's favourite tragedy.
"I were coming to him," said Mrs. Rickett, with obvious relish. "The
husband stayed at The Three Tuns till closing time, then he went out
roaring drunk, took the cliff-path by mistake, and went over the cliff in
the dark. The tide was up, and he was drowned. And a great pity it didn't
happen a little bit sooner, says I! The nasty coarse hulking brute! I'd
have learned him a thing or two if he'd belonged to me." Again,
vindictively, Mrs. Rickett wiped her eyes. "Believe me, miss, there's no
martyrdom so bad as getting married to the wrong man. I've seen it once
and again, and I knows."
"I quite agree with you," said Juliet. "But tell me some more! Who took
the poor babies?"
"Oh, Mrs. Cross at the lodge took them. Mr. Fielding provided for 'em,
and he helped young Dick along too. He's been very good to them always.
He had young Jack trained, and now he's his chauffeur and making a very
good living. The worst of Jack is, he ain't over steady, got too much of
his father in him to please me. He's always after some girl--two or
three at a time sometimes. No harm in the lad, I daresay. But he's wild,
you know. Dick finds him rather a handful very often. Robin can't abide
him, which perhaps isn't much to be wondered at, seeing as it was mostly
Jack's fault that he is such a poor cripple. He was always sickly. It's
often the way with twins, you know. All the strength goes to one. But he
always had to do what Jack did as a little one, and Jack led him into all
sorts of mischief, till one day when they were about ten they went off
bird's-nesting along the cliffs High Shale Point way, and only Jack come
back late at night to say his brother had gone over the cliff. Dick tore
off with some of the chaps from the shore. It were dark and windy, and
they all said it was no use, but Dick insisted upon going down the face
of the cliff on a rope to find him. And find him at last he did on a
ledge about a hundred feet down. He was so badly hurt that he thought
he'd broke his back, and he didn't dare move him till morning, but just
stayed there with him all night long. Oh, it was a dreadful business." A
large tear splashed unchecked on to Mrs. Rickett's apron. "An ill-fated
family, as you might say. They got 'em up in the morning o' course, but
poor little Robin was very bad. He was on his back for nearly a year
after, and then, when he began to get about again, them humps came and he
grew crooked. Mr. Fielding were away at the time, hunting somewhere in
the wilds of Africa, and when he came home he were shocked to see the
lad. He had the very best doctors in the land to see him, but they all
said there was nothing to be done. The spine had got twisted, or
something of that nature, and he'd begun to have queer giddy fits too as
made 'em say the brain were affected, which it really weren't, miss, for
he's as sane as you or me, only simple you know, just a bit simple. They
said, all of 'em, as how he'd never live to grow up. He'd get them
abscies at the base of the skull, and they'd reach his brain and he'd go
raving mad and die. And the squire--that's Mr. Fielding--was all for
putting him away there and then. But Dick, he'd nursed him all through,
and he wouldn't hear of it. 'The boy's mine,' he says, 'and I'm going to
look after him.' Mr. Fielding was very cross with him, but that didn't
make no difference. You see, Dick had got fond of him, and as for Robin,
why, he just worshipped Dick. So there it was left, and Dick gave up all
his prospects to keep the boy with him. He were reading for the law, you
see, but he gave it all up and turned schoolmaster, so as he could live
here and take care of young Robin."
"Turned schoolmaster!" Juliet repeated the words. "He's something of a
"Oh, no," said Mrs. Rickett. "It's only the village school, miss. Mr.
Fielding got him the post. They're an unruly set of varmints here, but he
keeps order among 'em. He's quite clever, as you might say, but no, he
ain't a scholard. He goes in for games, you know, football and the like,
tries to teach 'em to play like gentlemen, which he never will, for
they're a low lot, them shore people, and that dirty! Well, he makes 'em
bathe every day in the summer whether they likes it or whether they
don't. Oh, he does his best to civilize 'em, and all them fisher chaps
thinks a deal of him too. They've got a club in the village what Mr.
Fielding built for 'em, and he goes along there and gives 'em musical
evenings and jollies 'em generally. They'll do anything for him, bless
you. But he tells 'em off pretty straight sometimes. They'll take it from
him, you see, because they respects him."
"I thought the parson always did that sort of thing," said Juliet.
Mrs. Rickett uttered a brief, expressive snort. "He ain't much
use--except for the church. He's old, you see, and he don't understand
'em. And he's scared at them chaps what works the lead mines over at High
Shale. It's all in this parish, you know. And they are a horrid rough
lot, a deal worse than the fisher-folk. But Dick he don't mind 'em. And
he can do anything with 'em too, plays his banjo and sings and makes 'em
laugh. The mines belong to the Farringmore family, you know--Lord
Wilchester owns 'em. But he never comes near, and a' course the men gets
discontented and difficult. And they're a nasty drinking lot too. Why,
the manager--that's Mr. Ashcott--he's at his wit's end sometimes. But
Dick--oh, Dick can always handle 'em, knows 'em inside and out, and their
wives too. Yes, he's very clever is Dick. But he's thrown away in this
place. It's a pity, you know. If it weren't for Robin, it's my belief
that he'd be a great man. He's a born leader. But he's never had a
chance, and it don't look like as if he ever will now, poor fellow!"
Mrs. Rickett ended mournfully and picked up Juliet's empty plate.
"How old is he?" asked Juliet.
"Oh, he's a lot past thirty now, getting too old to turn his hand to
anything new. Mr. Fielding he's always on to him about it, but it don't
make no difference. He'll never take up any other work while Robin lives.
And Robin is stronger nor what he used to be, all thanks to Dick's care.
He's just sacrificed everything to that boy, you know. It don't seem
hardly right, do it?"
"I don't know," Juliet said slowly. "Some sacrifices are worth while."
Mrs. Rickett looked a little puzzled. There was something about
this young lodger of hers that she could not quite fathom, but
since she 'liked the looks of her' she did not regard this fact as
a serious drawback.
"Well, there's some folks as thinks one way and some another," she
conceded. "My husband always says as there's quite a lot of good in Robin
if he's treated decent. He's often round here at the forge. That's how he
come to get so fond of my Freddy. You ain't seen Freddy yet, miss. He's a
bit shy like with strangers, but he soon gets over it."
"You must bring him in to see me," said Juliet.
Mrs. Rickett beamed. "I will, miss, I will. I'll bring him in with the
pudding. P'raps if you was to give him a little bit he wouldn't be shy.
He's very fond of gingerbread pudding."
"I wish I were!" sighed Juliet, as her landlady's portly form
disappeared. "I shall certainly have to have a cigarette after it, and
then there will only be one left! Oh, dear, why was I brought up among
the flesh-pots?" She broke off with a sudden irresistible laugh, and
rising went to the window. Someone was sauntering down the road on the
other side of the high privet hedge. There came to her a whiff of
cigarette-smoke wafted on the sea-breeze. She leaned forth, and at the
gap by the gate caught a glimpse of a trim young man in blue serge
wearing a white linen hat. She scarcely saw his face as he passed, but
she had a fleeting vision of the cigarette.
"I wonder where you get them from," she murmured wistfully. "I believe I
could get to like that brand, and they can't be as expensive as mine."
The door opened behind her, and she turned back smiling to greet the
ginger pudding and Freddy.
The scent of the gorse in the evening dew was as incense offered to the
stars. To Juliet, wandering forth in the twilight after supper with
Columbus, the exquisite fragrance was almost intoxicating. It seemed to
drug the senses. She went along the path at the top of the cliff as one
in a dream.
The sea was like a dream-sea also, silver under the stars, barely
rippling against the shingle, immensely and mysteriously calm. She went
on and on, scarcely feeling the ground beneath her feet, moving through
an atmosphere of pure magic, all her pulses thrilling to the wonder of
Suddenly, from somewhere not far distant among the gorse bushes, there
came a sound. She stopped, and it seemed to her that all the world
stopped with her to hear the first soft trill of a nightingale through
the tender dusk. It went into silence, but it left her heart throbbing
strangely. Surely--surely there was magic all around her! That bird-voice
in the silence thrilled her through and through. She stood spell-bound,
waiting for the enchanted music to fill her soul. There followed a few
liquid notes, and then there came a far-off, flute-like call, gradually
swelling, gradually drawing nearer, so pure, so wild, so full of ecstasy,
that she almost felt as if it were more than she could bear. It broke at
last in a crystal shower of song, and she turned and looked out over the
glittering sea and asked herself if it could be real. It was as if a
spirit had called to her out of the summer night.
Then Columbus came careering along the path in fevered search of her, and
quite suddenly, like the closing of a lid, the magic sounds vanished into
a deep silence.
"Oh, Columbus!" his mistress murmured reproachfully. "You've stopped
Columbus responded by planting his paws against her, and giving her a
vigorous push. There was decidedly more of common sense than poetry in
his composition. The passion for exploring which had earned him his name
was his main characteristic, and he wanted to get as far as possible
before the time arrived to turn back.
She yielded to his persuasion, and walked on up the path with her face to
the shimmering sea. For some reason she felt divinely happy, as if she
had drunk of the wine of the gods. It had been so wonderful--that song of
starlight and of Spring.
It was very warm, and she wore neither hat nor wrap. If she had come out
in a bathing-dress, no one would have known, she reflected. But in this
she was wrong, for presently, as she sauntered along, she became aware of
a faint scent other than the wonderful cocoa-nut perfume of the gorse
bushes--a scent that made her aware of the presence of another human
being in that magic place.
She looked about for him with a faint smile on her lips, but the
cliff-path ran empty before her, ascending in a series of fairly stiff
climbs to the brow of High Shale Point. Columbus hurried along ahead of
her as if he had made up his mind to reach the top at all costs. But
Juliet had no intention of mounting to the summit of the frowning cliff
that night. She had a vagrant desire to track that elusive scent, but
even that, it seemed was not to be satisfied, and at length she stopped
again and sent a summoning whistle after Columbus.
It was almost at the same moment that there came from behind her a sound
that shattered all the fairy romance of the night at a blow. She turned
sharply, and immediately, like a fiendish chorus, it came again spreading
and echoing along the cliffs--the yelling of drunken laughter.
Several men were coming along the path that she had travelled. She saw
them vaguely in the dimness a little way below her, and realized that her
retreat in that direction was cut off. Swiftly she considered the
position, for there was no time to be lost. To pursue the path would be
to go farther and farther away from the village and civilization, but for
the moment she saw no other course. On one hand the gorse bushes made a
practically impenetrable rampart, and on the other the cliff overhung the
shore which at that point was nearly two hundred feet below. From where
she stood, no way of escape presented itself, and she turned in despair
to follow the path a little farther. But as she did so, she heard another
wild shout from behind her, and it flashed upon her with a stab of dismay
that her light dress had betrayed her. She had been sighted by the
intruders, and they were pursuing her. She heard the stamp and scuffle of
running feet that were not too sure of their stability, and with the
sound something very like panic entered into Juliet. Her heart jolted
within her, and the impulse to flee like a hunted hare was for a second
almost too urgent to be withstood. That she did withstand it was a matter
for life-long thankfulness in her estimation. The temptation was great,
but she did not spring from the stock that runs away. She pulled herself
up sharply with burning cheeks, and deliberately turned and waited.
They came up the path, yelling like hounds on a scent, while she stood
perfectly erect and motionless, facing them. There were five of them,
hulking youths all inflamed by drink if not actually tipsy, and they came
around her with shouts of idiotic laughter and incoherent joking,
evidently taking her for a village girl.
She stood her ground with her back to the cliff-edge, not yielding an
inch, contempt in every line. "Will you kindly go your way," she said,
"and allow me to go mine?"
They responded with yells of derision, and one young man, emboldened by
the jeers of his companions, came close to her and leered into her face
of rigid disdain. "I'm damned if I won't have a kiss first!" he swore,
and flung a rough arm about her.
Juliet moved then with the fierce suddenness of a wild thing trapped. She
wrenched herself from him in furious disgust.
"You hound!" she began to say. But the word was never fully uttered, for
as it sprang to her lips, it went into a desperate cry. The ground had
given way beneath her feet, and she fell straight backwards over that
awful edge. For the fraction of an instant she saw the stars in the deep
blue sky above her, then, like the snap of a spring, they vanished into
It was a darkness that spread and spread like an endless sea, submerging
all things. No light could penetrate it; only a few vague sounds and
impressions somehow filtered through. And then--how it happened she had
not the faintest notion--she was aware of someone lifting her out of the
depth that had received her, and there came again to her nostrils that
subtle aroma of cigarette-smoke that had mingled with the scent of the
gorse. She came to herself gasping, but for some reason she dared not
look up. That single glimpse of the wheeling universe seemed to have
sealed her vision.
Then a voice spoke. "I say, do open your eyes, if you don't mind! You're
really not dead. You've only had a tumble."
That voice awoke her quite effectually. The mixture of entreaty and
common sense it contained strangely stirred her curiosity. She opened her
eyes wide upon the speaker.
"Hullo!" she said faintly.
He was kneeling by her side, looking closely into her face, and the first
thing that struck her was the extreme brightness of his eyes. They shone
like black onyx.
He responded at once, his voice very low and rapid. "It's perfectly all
right. You needn't be afraid. I was just in time to catch you. There's an
easier way down close by, but you wouldn't see it in this light. Feeling
better now? Like to sit up?"
She awoke to the fact that she was propped against his knee. She sat up,
still gasping a little, but shrank as she realized the narrowness of the
ledge upon which she was resting.
He thrust out a protecting arm in front of her. "It's all right. You're
absolutely safe. Don't shiver like that! You couldn't go over if you
tried. Don't look if it makes you giddy!"
She looked again into his face, and again was struck by the amazing
keenness of his eyes.
"How did you get here?" she said.
"Oh, it's easy enough when you know the way. I was just coming to help
you when you came over. You didn't hear me shout?"
"No. They were all making such a horrid noise." She suppressed a shudder.
"Have they gone now?"
"Yes, the brutes! They scooted. I'm going after them directly."
"Oh, please don't!" she said hastily. "Not for the world! I don't want to
be left alone here. I've had enough of it."
She tried to smile with the words, but it was rather a trembling attempt.
He abandoned his intention at once.
"All right. It'll keep. Look here, shall I help you up? You'll feel
better on the top."
"I think I had better stay here for a minute," Juliet said. "I--I'm
afraid I shall make an idiot of myself if I don't."
"No, you won't. You'll be all right." He thrust an abrupt arm around her
shoulders, gripping them hard to still her trembling. "Lean against me!
I've got you quite safe."
She relaxed with a murmur of thanks. There was something intensely
reassuring about that firm grip. She sat quite motionless for a space
with closed eyes, gradually regaining her self-command.
In the end a snuffle and whine from above aroused her. She sat up
with a start.
"Oh, Columbus! Don't let him fall over!"
Her companion laughed a little. "Let's get back to him then! Don't look
down! Keep your face to the cliff! And remember I've got hold of you! You
She struggled blindly to her feet, helped by his arm behind her; but,
though she did not look down, she was seized immediately by an
overwhelming giddiness that made her totter back against him.
"I'm dreadfully sorry," she said, almost in tears. "I can't help it. I'm
He held her up with unfailing steadiness. "All right! All right!" he
said. "Don't get frightened! Move along slowly with me! Keep your face to
the cliff, and you'll come to some steps! That's the way! Yes, we've got
to get round that jutting-out bit. It's perfectly safe. Keep your head!
It's quite easy on the other side."
It might be perfectly safe for a practised climber, but Juliet's heart
was in her mouth when she reached the projecting corner of cliff where
the ledge narrowed to a bare eighteen inches and the rock bulged outwards
as if to push off all trespassers.
She came to a standstill, clinging desperately to the unyielding stone.
"I can't possibly do it," she said helplessly.
"Yes, you can. You've got to." Quick as lightning came the words. "Go on
and don't be silly! Of course you can do it! A child could."
He loosened her clutching fingers with the words, and pushed her onwards.
She went, driven by a force such as she had never encountered before.
She heard the soft wash of the sea far below her above the sickening
thudding of her heart as she crept forward round that terrible bend. She
heard with an acuteness that made her marvel the long sweet note of the
nightingale swelling among the bushes above. She also heard a watch
ticking with amazing loudness close to her ear, and was aware of a very
firm hand that grasped her shoulder, impelling her forward. There was no
resisting that steady pressure. She crept on step by step because she
could not do otherwise; and when she had rounded that awful corner at
last and would fain have stopped to rest after the ordeal, she found that
she must needs go on, for he would not suffer any pause.
He had followed her so closely that his hold upon her had never varied.
There seemed to her to be something electric in the very touch of his
fingers. She was fully conscious of the fact that she moved by a strength
outside her own.
"Go on!" he said. "Go on! There's Columbus waiting for you. Can you see
the steps? They're close here. They're a bit rough, I'm afraid. I made
them myself. But you'll manage them."
She came to the steps. The path had widened somewhat, and the dreadful
sense of sheer depth below her was less insistent. Nevertheless, the way
was far from easy, the steps being little more than deep notches in the
cliff. It slanted inwards here however, and she set herself to achieve
the ascent with more assurance.
Her guide came immediately behind her. She felt his hand touch her at
every step she took. Just at the last, realizing the nearness of the
summit and safety, she tried to hasten, and in a moment slipped. He
grabbed her instantly, but she could not recover her footing though she
made a frantic effort to do so. She sprawled against the cliff, clutching
madly at some tufts of grass and weed above her, while the man behind her
gripped and held her there.
"Don't struggle!" he said. "You're all right. You won't fall. Let go of
that stuff and hang on to me!"
"I can't!" she said. "I can't!"
"Let go of that stuff and hang on to me!" he said again, and the words
were short and sharp. "Left hand first! Put your arm round my neck, and
then get round and hang on with the other! It's only a few feet more. I
can manage it."
They were the most definite instructions she had ever received in her
life, and the most difficult to obey. She hung, clinging with both hands,
still vainly seeking a foothold, desperately afraid to relinquish her
hold and trust herself unreservedly to his single-handed strength. But,
as he waited, it came to her that it was the only thing to do. With a
gasp she freed one hand at length and reaching back as he held her she
thrust it over his shoulder.
"Now the other hand, please!" he said.
She did not know how she did it. It was like loosing her grip upon life
itself. Yet after a few seconds of torturing irresolution she obeyed him,
abandoning her last hold and hanging to him in palpitating apprehension.
He put forth his full strength then. She felt the strain of his
muscles as he gathered her up with one arm. With the other hand, had
she but known it, he was grasping only the naked rock. Yet he moved
as if absolutely sure of himself. He drew a deep hard breath, and
began to mount.
It was only a few feet to the top as he had said, but the climb seemed
to her unending. She was conscious throughout that his endurance was
being put to the utmost test, and only by the most complete passivity
could she help him.
But he never faltered, and finally--just when she had begun to wonder if
this awful nightmare of danger could ever cease--she found herself set
down upon the dewy grass that covered the top of the cliff. The scent of
the gorse bushes came again to her and the far sweet call of the
nightingale. And she realized that the danger was past and she was back
once more in the magic region of her summer dreams from which she had
been so rudely flung. She saw again the shimmering, wonderful sea and the
ever-brightening stars. One of them hung, a golden globe of light like a
beacon on the dim horizon.
Then Columbus came pushing and nuzzling against her, full of tender
enquiries and congratulations; and something that she did not fully
understand made her turn and clasp him closely with a sudden rush of
tears. The danger was over, all over. And never till this moment had she
realized how amazingly sweet was life.
She covered her emotion with the most herculean efforts at gaiety. She
laughed very shakily at the solicitude expressed by Columbus, and told
him tremulously how absurd and ridiculous he was to make such a fuss
After this, feeling a little better, she ventured a glance at her
companion. He was on his feet and wiping his forehead--a man of medium
height and no great breadth of shoulder, but evidently well knit and
athletic. Becoming by some means aware of her attention, he put away his
handkerchief and turned towards her. She saw his eyes gleam under black,
mobile brows that seemed to denote a considerable sense of humour. The
whole of his face held an astonishing amount of vitality, but the lips
were straight and rather hard, so clean-cut as to be almost ascetic. He
looked to her like a man who would suffer to the utmost, but never lose
his self-control. And she thought she read a pride more than ordinary in
the cast of his features--a man capable of practically anything save the
asking or receiving of favours.
Then he spoke, and curiously all criticism vanished. "I had better
introduce myself," he said. "I'm afraid I've been unpardonably rude. My
name is Green."
Green! The word darted at her like an imp of mischief. The romantic
dropped to the prosaic with a suddenness that provoked in her an almost
irresistible desire to laugh.
She controlled it swiftly, but she was fully aware that she had not
hidden it as she rose to her feet and offered her hand to her cavalier.
"How do you do, Mr. Green? My name is Moore--Miss Moore. Will you allow
me to thank you for saving my life?"
Her voice throbbed a little; tears and laughter were almost equally near
the surface at that moment. She was extremely disgusted with herself for
her lack of composure.
Then again, as his hand grasped hers, she forgot to criticize. "I say,
please don't!" he said. "I wouldn't have missed it for anything. It
was jolly plucky of you to stand your ground with those hooligans from
"But I didn't stand my ground," she pointed out. "I went over. It was a
most undignified proceeding, wasn't it?"
"No, it wasn't," he declared. "You did it awfully well. I wish I'd been
nearer to you, but I couldn't possibly get up in time."
"Oh, I think you were more useful where you were," she said "thank you
all the same. I must have gone clean to the bottom otherwise. I
thought I had."
She caught back an involuntary shudder, and in a moment the hand that
held hers closed unceremoniously and drew her further from the edge of
"You are sure you are none the worse, now?" he said. "Not giddy or
"No, not anything," she said.
But she was glad of his hold none the less, and he seemed to know it, for
he kept her hand firmly clasped.
"You must let me see you back," he said. "Where are you staying?"
"At Mrs. Rickett's," she told him. "The village smithy, you know."
"I know," he said. "Down at Little Shale, you mean. You've come some way,
"It was such a lovely night," she said, "and Columbus wanted a walk. I
got led on, I didn't know I was likely to meet anyone."
"It's the short cut to High Shale," he said. "There is always the chance
of meeting these fellows along here. You'd be safer going the other way."
"But I like the furze bushes and the nightingale," she said
regretfully, "and the exquisite wildness of it. It is not nearly so
nice the other way."
He laughed. "No, but it's safer. Come this way as much as you like in the
morning, but go the other way at night!"
He turned with the words, and began to lead her down the path. She went
with him as one who responds instinctively to a power unquestioned. The
magic of the night was closing about her again. She heard the voice of
the nightingale thrilling through the silence.
"This is the most wonderful place I have ever seen," she said at last in
a tone of awe.
"Is it?" he said.
His lack of enthusiasm surprised her. "Don't you think so too?" she said.
"Doesn't it seem wonderful to you?"
He glanced out to sea for a moment. "You see I live here," he said. "Yes,
it's quite a beautiful place. But it isn't always like this. It's
primitive. It can be savage. You wouldn't like it always."
"I'm thinking of settling down here all the same," said Juliet.
He stopped short in the path. "Are you really?"
She nodded with a smile. "You seem surprised. Why shouldn't I? Isn't
there room for one more?"
"Oh, plenty of room," he said, and walked on again as abruptly as he
The path became wider and more level, and he relinquished her hand. "You
won't stay," he said with conviction.
"I wonder," said Juliet.
"Of course you won't!" A hint of vehemence crept into his speech. "When
the nightingales have left off singing, and the wild roses are over,
"You seem very sure of that," said Juliet.
"Yes, I am sure." He spoke uncompromisingly, almost contemptuously,
"You evidently don't stay here because you like it," she said.
"My work is here," he returned noncommittally. She wondered a little, but
something held her back from pursuing the matter. She walked several
paces in silence. Then, "I wish I could find work here," she said, in her
slow deep voice. "It would do me a lot of good."
"Would it?" He turned towards her. "But that isn't what you came for--not
to find work, I mean?"
"Well, no--not primarily." She made the admission almost guiltily. "But I
think everyone ought to be able to earn a livelihood, don't you?"
"It's safer certainly," he said. "But it isn't everyone that is
qualified for it."
"No?" Her voice was whimsical. "And you think I shall seek in vain for
any suitable niche here?"
"It depends upon what your capabilities are," he said.
"My capabilities!" She laughed, a soft, low laugh. "Columbus! What are my
They had reached a railing and a gate across the path leading down to
the village. Columbus, waiting to go through, wriggled in a manner that
expressed his entire ignorance on the subject. Juliet leaned against the
gate with her face to the western sky.
"My capabilities!" she mused. "Let me see! What can I do?" She looked at
her companion with a smile. "I am afraid I shall have to refer you to
Lady Joanna Farringmore. She can tell you--exactly."
He made a slight movement of surprise. "You know the Farringmore family?"
She raised her brows a little. "Yes. Do you?"
"By hearsay only. Lord Wilchester owns the High Shale Mines. I have never
met any of them." He spoke without enthusiasm.
"And never want to?" she suggested. "I quite understand. I am very tired
of them myself just now--most especially of Lady Joanna. But perhaps it
is rather bad taste to say so, as I have been brought up as her companion
"And now you have left her?" he said.
"Yes I have left her. I have disapproved of her for some time," Juliet
spoke thoughtfully. "She is very unconventional, you know. And I--well,
at heart I fancy I must be rather a prude. Anyhow, I disapproved, more
and more strongly, and at last I came away."
"That was rather brave of you," he commented.
"Oh, it wasn't much of a sacrifice. I've got a little money--enough to
keep me from starvation; but not enough to buy me cigarettes--at least
not the kind I like." Juliet's smile was one of friendly confidence. "I
think it's about my only real vice, and I've never been used to inferior
ones. Do you mind telling me where you get yours?"
He smiled back at her as he felt for his cigarette-case. "You had better
try one and make sure you like them before you get any."
"Oh, I know I should like them," she said, "thank you very much.
No, don't give me one! I feel as if I've begged for it. But just
tell me where you get them, and if they're not too expensive I'll
buy some to try."
He held the open cigarette-case in front of her. "Won't you honour me by
accepting one?" he said.
She hesitated, and then in a moment very charmingly she yielded. "Thank
you--Mr. Green. I seem to have accepted a good deal from you to-night.
Thank you very much."
He made her a slight bow. "It has been my privilege to serve you," he
said. "I hope I may have further opportunities of being of use. I can get
you these cigarettes at any time if you like them. But they are not
"Not!" Her face fell. "How disappointing!"
"Not from my point of view," he said. "There's no difficulty about it. I
can get them for you if you will allow me."
He struck a match for her, and kindled a cigarette for himself also.
Juliet inhaled a deep breath. "They are lovely," she said. "I knew I
should like them when you went past Mrs. Rickett's smoking one."
He looked at her with amusement. "When was that?"
"When I was waiting for that dreadful ginger pudding at lunch--I
mean dinner." She paused. "No, that's horrid of me. Please consider
"Why shouldn't you say it if you think it?" he asked.
"Because it's unkind. Mrs. Rickett is the soul of goodness. And I am
going to learn to like her ginger pudding--and her dumplings--and
everything that is hers."
"How heroic of you! I wonder if you will succeed."
"Of course I shall succeed," Juliet spoke with confidence as she turned
to pass through the gate. "I am going to cultivate a contented mind here.
And when I go back to Lady Jo--if I ever do--I shall be proof against
He reached forward to open the gate. "I think you will probably go back
long before the contented mind has begun to sprout," he said.
She laughed as she walked on down the path. "But it has begun already. I
haven't felt so cheerful for a long time."
"That isn't real contentment," he pointed out. "It's your spirit of
adventure enjoying itself. Wait till you begin to be bored!"
"How extremely analytical!" she remarked. "I am not going to be bored. My
spirit of adventure is not at all an enterprising one. I assure you I
didn't enjoy that tumble over the cliff in the least. I am a very quiet
person by nature." She began to laugh. "You must have noticed I wasn't
very intrepid in the face of danger. I seem to remember your telling me
not to be silly."
"I hoped you had forgiven and forgotten that," he said.
"Neither one nor the other," she answered, checking her mirth. "I think
you would have been absolutely justified in using even stronger language
under the circumstances. You wouldn't have saved me if you hadn't
"Very brutal, you mean. No, I ought to have managed better. I will next
time." He spoke with a smile, but there was a hint of seriousness in
"When will that be?" said Juliet.
"I don't know. But I can make the way down much easier. The steps are a
simple matter, and I have often thought a charge of gunpowder would
improve that bit where the rock hangs over. If I hadn't wanted to keep
the place to myself I should have done it long ago. It certainly is
dangerous now to anyone who doesn't know."
Juliet came to a sudden halt in the path. "Oh, you are an engineer!" she
said. "I hope you will not spoil your favourite eyrie just because I may
some day fall over into it again. The chance is a very remote one, I
assure you. Now, please don't come any farther with me! It has only just
dawned on me that your way probably lies in the direction of the mines.
I shouldn't have let you come so far if I had realized it sooner."
He looked momentarily surprised. "But I do live in this direction," he
said. "In any case, I hope you will allow me to see you safely back."
"But there is no need," she protested. "We are practically there. Do you
really live this way?"
"Yes. Quite close to the worthy Mrs. Rickett too. I am not an engineer. I
am the village schoolmaster."
He announced the fact with absolute directness. It was Juliet's turn to
look surprised. She almost gasped.
"Yes, I. Why not?" He met her look of astonishment with a smile. "Have I
given you a shock?"
She recovered herself with an answering smile. "No, of course not. I
might have guessed. I wonder I didn't."
"But how could you guess?" he questioned. "Have I the manners of a
"No," she said again. "No, of course not. Only--I have been hearing a
good deal about you to-day; not in your capacity of schoolmaster, but
"Ah!" he said sharply, and just for a moment she thought he was either
embarrassed or annoyed, but whatever the feeling he covered it instantly.
"You have talked to my brother Robin?"
"Yes," she said. "He is the only person I have talked to besides Mrs.
Rickett. We met on the shore."
"I hope he behaved himself," he said. "You weren't afraid of him, I
"No; poor lad! Why should I be?" Juliet spoke very gently, very
pitifully. "I have a feeling that Robin and I are going to be
friends," she said.
"You are very good," he said, in a low voice. "He hasn't many friends,
poor chap. But he's very faithful to those he's got. Most people are so
revolted by his appearance that they never get any farther. And he's shy
too--very naturally. How did he come to speak to you?"
She hesitated. "It was I who spoke first," she said, in a moment.
"Really! What made you do that?"
She hesitated again.
He looked at her with sudden attention. "He did something that made you
speak. What was it, please?"
His tone was peremptory, almost curt, Juliet hesitated no longer.
"Do you mind if I don't answer that question?" she said.
"He will tell me if you don't," he returned, with a certain hardness that
made her wonder if he were angered by her refusal.
"That wouldn't be fair of you," she said gently, "when I specially don't
want you to know."
"You don't want me to know?" he said.
"I should tell you myself if I did," she pointed out.
"I see." He reflected for a moment; then: "Will you promise to tell me if
he ever does it again?" he said.
Juliet laughed with a feeling of almost inordinate relief. "Yes,
certainly. I know he never will."
"Then that's the end of that," he said.
"Thank you," said Juliet.
They had reached the road that turned up to the village, and the light
from a large lamp some distance up the hill shone down upon them.
"That is where Mr. Fielding lives," said Green, as they walked towards
it. "Those are his lodge-gates. No doubt you have heard of him too. He is
the great man of the place. He owns it, in fact."
"Yes, I have heard of him," said Juliet. "Is he a nice man?"
He made an almost imperceptible movement of the shoulders. "I am very
much indebted to him," he said.
"I see," said Juliet.
They reached the cottage-gate that led to the blacksmith's humble abode,
and a smell of rank tobacco, floating forth, announced the fact that he
was smoking his pipe in the porch.
Juliet paused and held out her hand. "Good-bye!" she said.
His grasp was strong and very steady. "Good-bye," he said, "I hope you'll
find what you're looking for."
He stooped to pat Columbus, then opened the gate for her.
Instantly there was a stir in the porch as of some large animal awaking.
"That you, Mr. Green?" called a deep bass voice. "Come in! Come in!"
But Green remained outside. "Not to-night, thanks," he called back. "I've
got some work to do. Good-night!"
The gate closed behind her, and Juliet walked up the path with Columbus
trotting sedately by her side. She heard her escort's departing footsteps
as she went, and wondered when they would meet again.
THE GREAT MAN
The church at Little Shale was very ancient and picturesque. It stood
almost opposite to the lodge-gates of Shale Court, the abode of the great
Mr. Fielding. Two cracked bells hung in its crumbling square tower,
disturbing once a week the jackdaws that built in the ivy. Just once a
week ever since the Dark Ages, was Juliet's reflection as she dutifully
obeyed the somewhat querulous-sounding summons on the following day. She
could not picture their ringing for any bridal festivity, though it
seemed possible that they might sometimes toll for the dead.
Two incredibly old yew-trees mounted guard on each side of the gate and
another of immense size overhung the porch. The path was lined by
grave-stones that all looked as if they were tottering to a fall.
An old clergyman in a cassock that was brown with age hurried past her as
she walked up the path. She thought he matched his surroundings as he
disappeared at a trot round the corner of the church. Then from behind
her came the hoot of a motor-horn, and she glanced back to see a closed
car that glittered at every angle swoop through the open gates and swerve
round to the churchyard. She wanted to stop and see its occupants alight,
but decorum prompted her to pass on, and she entered the church, which
smelt of the mould of centuries, and paused inside.
It was a plain little place with plastered walls, and green glass
windows, and one large square pew under the pulpit. The other pews were
modern and very bare, occupied sparsely by villagers who all had their
faces turned over their shoulders and were craning to watch the door.
No one looked at her, however, and Juliet, after brief hesitation, sat
down in a chair close to the porch. The entrance of the Court party was
evidently something of an event, and she determined to get a good view.
Footsteps came up the path, and on the very verge of the porch a voice
spoke--a woman's voice, unmodulated, arrogant.
"Oh, really, Edward! I don't see why your village schoolmaster should be
asked to lunch every Sunday, however immaculate he may be. I object on
The words were scarcely uttered before the notes of the organ swelled
suddenly through the church. Juliet sent a quick look towards it, and saw
the black cropped head of the man in question as he sat at the
instrument. It occupied one side of the chancel and a crowd of village
children congregated in the side pews immediately outside and under the
eye of the organist. Juliet felt an indignant flush rise in her cheeks.
She was certain that that remark had been audible all over the church,
and she resented it with almost unreasonable vehemence.
Then with a sweep of feathers and laces the speaker entered, and
Juliet raised her eyes to regard her. She saw a young woman,
delicate-looking, with a pretty, insolent face and expensive clothes,
walk past, and was aware for a moment of a haughty stare that seemed
to question her right to be there. Then her own attention passed to
the man who entered in her wake.
He was tall, middle-aged, handsome in a somewhat ordinary style, but
Juliet thought his mouth wore the most unpleasant expression she had ever
seen. It was drawn down at the corners in a sneering curve, and a decided
frown knitted his brows. He walked with the suggestion of a swagger, as
if ready to challenge any who should dispute his right to the place and
everyone in it.
His wife entered the great square pew, but he strode on to the chancel,
tapped the organist unceremoniously on the shoulder and spoke to him.
Juliet watched the result with a curiosity she could not restrain. The
black head turned sharply. She caught a momentary glimpse of Green's
energetic profile as he spoke briefly and emphatically and immediately
returned to his instrument. The squire marched back to his pew still
frowning, and the voluntary continued. He played with assurance but
somewhat mechanically, and she presently realized that he was keeping a
sharp eye on the schoolchildren at the same time. The service was a
lengthy one and they needed supervision. They fidgeted and whispered
unceasingly. A lady whom she took to be the Vicar's daughter sat near
them, but it was quite obvious that she had no control over them. During
the sermon, which was a very sleepy affair, Green left the organ and went
and sat amongst them.
Then indeed a profound quiet reigned and Juliet became so drowsy that
it took her utmost resolution to stay awake. Most of the congregation
slept unrestrainedly. It was certainly a hot morning, and the service
When it was over at last, she stepped out under the yew-trees and
wondered why she had not made her escape before. She was the first to
leave the church, and wandering down the path through the hot, chequered
sunlight she saw the shining car drawn up at the gate, and a young
chauffeur waiting at the door. She glanced at him as she passed, and was
surprised for a second to find him gazing at her with a curious
intentness. He lowered his eyes the moment they met hers, and she passed
on, wondering what there was about her to excite his interest.
Columbus was waiting with pathetic patience to be taken for a walk,
and overpoweringly hot though it was she had not the heart to keep him
any longer. But she could not face the full blaze of noon on the
shore, and she turned back up the shady church lane with a vague
memory of having seen a stile at the entrance of a wood somewhere
along its winding length.
The church-goers had dispersed by that time, but at the gate of the
schoolhouse which was a few yards above the church she saw a group of
boys waiting clamorously, and just as she found her stile she saw Green
come out dressed in flannels with a bath-towel round his neck. The boys
swarmed all about him like a crowd of excited puppies, and Juliet turned
into the wood with a smile. So he had refused the squire's invitation to
luncheon! She was very glad of that.
The green glades of the wood received her; she wandered forward with a
delightful sense of well-being. The thought of London came to her--the
heat and the dust and the fumes of petrol--the chattering crowds under
the parched trees--the kaleidoscopic glitter of fashion at its crudest
and most amazing. She knew exactly what they were all doing at that
precise moment. She visualized the shifting, restless feverish throng
with a vividness that embraced every detail. And she turned her face up
to the tree-tops and revelled in her solitude. Only last week she had
been in that seething whirlpool, borne helplessly hither and thither like
driftwood, caught here or flung there by any chance current. Only last
week she had felt the sudden drawing of the vortex, sucking her down
with appalling swiftness. Only last week! And to-day she was free. She
had awakened to the danger almost at the eleventh hour, and she had
escaped. Thank God she had escaped in time!
She suddenly wished that she had remembered to utter her thanksgiving
during that very monotonous service instead of going to sleep. But
somehow it seemed just as appropriate out here under the glorious
beeches. She sat down on a mossy root and drank in the sweetness with a
deep content. Columbus was busy trying to unearth a wood-louse that had
eluded him in a tuft of grass. She watched him lazily.
He persevered for a long time, till in fact the tuft of grass was
practically demolished, and then at last, failing in his quest, he
relinquished the search, and with a deep sigh lay down by her side.
She laid a caressing hand upon him, and ruffled his grizzled hair. "I'd
be lonely without you, Columbus," she said.
Columbus smiled at the compliment and snapped inconsequently at a fly. "I
wish we had brought some lunch with us," remarked his mistress. "Then we
needn't have gone back. Why didn't you think of it, Columbus?"
Columbus couldn't say really, but he wriggled his nose into the caressing
hand and gave her to understand that lunch really didn't matter. Then
very suddenly he extricated it again and uttered a growl that might have
risen from the heart of a lion.
Juliet looked up. Someone was coming along the winding path through the
wood. She grasped Columbus by the collar, for he had a disconcerting
habit of barking round the legs of intruders if not wholly satisfied as
to their respectability. The next moment a figure came in sight, and she
recognized the squire.
He was walking quickly, impatiently, flicking to and fro with a stick as
he came. The frown still drew his forehead, and she saw at a first glance
that he was annoyed.
He did not see her at first, not in fact until he was close upon her.
Then, as Columbus tactlessly repeated his growl, he started and his look
fell upon her.
Juliet had had no intention of speaking, but his eyes held so direct a
question that she found herself compelled to do so. "I hope we are not
trespassing," she said.
He put his hand to his hat with a jerk. "You are not, madam," he said. "I
am not so sure of the dog."
His voice was not unpleasant, but no smile accompanied his words. At
close quarters she saw that he was older than she had at first believed
him to be. He was well on in the fifties.
She drew Columbus nearer to her. "I won't let him hunt," she said.
"He will probably get shot if he does," remarked Mr. Fielding, and was
gone without further ceremony.
Juliet put her arms around her favourite and kissed him between his
pricked ears. "What a sweet man, Columbus!" she murmured. "I think we
must cultivate him, don't you?"
She wondered why he was going back towards the church lane at that hour,
for it was past one o'clock and time for her to be wending her own way
back to the village. She gave him ample opportunity to clear the wood,
however, before she moved. She was determined that she and Columbus would
be more discreet next time.
Mrs. Rickett's midday meal was fixed for half-past-one. She was not
looking forward to it with any great relish, for her prophetic soul
warned her that it would not be of a very dainty order, but not for
worlds would she have had the good woman know it. Besides, she had one
She got up when she judged it safe, and began to walk back. But, nearing
the stile, the sound of voices made her pause. Two men were evidently
standing there, and she realized with something like dismay that the way
was blocked. She waited for a moment or two, then decided to put a bold
face on it and pursue her course. Mrs. Rickett's dinner certainly would
not improve by keeping.
She pressed on therefore, and as she drew nearer, she recognized the
squire's voice, raised on a note of irritation.
"Oh, don't be a fool, my good fellow! I shouldn't ask you if I didn't
really want you."
The answer came instantly, and though it sounded curt it had a ring
of humour. "Thank you, sir. And I shouldn't refuse if I really
wanted to come."
There was a second's silence; then the squire's voice again, loud and
explosive: "Confound you then! Do the other thing!"
It was at this point that Juliet rounded a curve in the path and came
within sight of the stile.
Green was standing facing her, and she saw his instant glance of
recognition. Mr. Fielding had his back to her, and the younger man laid a
hand upon his arm and drew him aside.
Fielding turned sharply. He looked her up and down with a resentful stare
as she mounted the stile, and Juliet flushed in spite of the most
Green came forward instantly and offered a hand to assist her. "Good
morning, Miss Moore! Exploring in another direction to-day?" he said.
She took the proffered hand, feeling absurdly embarrassed by the
squire's presence. Green was bareheaded, and his hair shone wet in the
strong sunlight. His manner was absolutely easy and assured. She met his
smiling look with an odd feeling of gratitude, as if he had ranged
himself on her side against something formidable.
"I am afraid I haven't been very fortunate in my choice to-day either,"
she said somewhat ruefully, as she descended.
He laughed. "We all trespass in these woods. It's a time-honoured custom,
isn't it, Mr. Fielding? The pheasants are quite used to it."
Juliet did not glance in the squire's direction. She felt that she had
done all that was necessary in that quarter, and that any further
overture would but meet with a churlish response.
But to her astonishment he took the initiative. "I am afraid I wasn't too
hospitable just now," he said. "It's this fellow's fault. Dick, it's up
to you to apologize on my behalf."
Juliet looked at him then in amazement, and saw that the dour visage was
actually smiling at her--such a smile as transformed it completely.
"If Miss Moore will permit me," said Mr. Green, with a bow, "I will
introduce you to her. You will then be _en rapport_ and in a position to
apologize for yourself."
"Pedagogue!" said the squire.
And Juliet laughed for the first time. "If anyone apologizes it should be
me," she said.
"I!" murmured Green. "With more apologies!"
The squire turned on him. "Green, I'll punch your head for you directly,
you unspeakable pedant! What should you take him for, Miss Moore? A very
high priest or a very low comedian?"
Juliet felt her breath somewhat taken away by this sudden admission to
intimacy. She looked at Green whose dark eyes laughed straight back at
her, and found it impossible to stand upon ceremony.
"I really don't know," she said. "I haven't had time to place him yet.
But it's a little difficult to be quite impartial as he saved my life
"What?" said the squire. "That sounds romantic. What made him do that?"
"Allow me!" interposed Green, pulling the bath-towel from his neck, and
rapidly winding it into a noose. "It happened yesterday evening. I was
having a quiet smoke in a favourite corner of mine on a ledge about
twenty feet down High Shale Cliff where it begins to get steep, when
Miss Moore, attracted by the scent of my cigarette,--that's right, isn't
it?"--he flung her an audacious challenge with uplifted brows--"when
Miss Moore attracted as I say, by the alluring scent of my cigarette,
fell over the edge and joined me. My gallantry consisted in detaining
her there, after this somewhat abrupt introduction, that's all. Oh yes,
and in bullying her afterwards to climb up again when she didn't want
to. I was an awful brute last night, wasn't I? Really, I think it's
uncommonly generous of you to have anything at all to say to me this
morning, Miss Moore."
"So do I," said Mr. Fielding. "If it were possible to treat such a
buffoon as you seriously, she wouldn't. I hope you are none the worse for
the adventure, Miss Moore."
"No, really I am not," said Juliet. "And I am still feeling very
grateful." She smiled at the squire. "Good-bye! I must be getting back to
Mrs. Rickett's or the dumplings will be cold."
She whistled Columbus to her and departed, still wondering at the
transformation which Green had wrought in the squire. It had not occurred
to her that there could be anything really pleasant hidden behind that
grim exterior. It was evident that the younger man knew how to hold his
own. And again she was glad, quite unreasonably glad, that he had stuck
to his refusal to lunch at the Court.
"May I come and see you?" said Robin.
Juliet, seated under an apple-tree in the tiny orchard that ran beside
the road, looked up from her book and saw his thin face peering at her
through the hedge. She smiled at him very kindly from under her
"Of course!" she said. "Come in by all means!"
She expected him to go round to the gate, but he surprised her by going
down on all fours and crawling through a gap in the privet. He looked
like a monstrous baboon shuffling towards her. When through, he stood up
again, a shaggy lock of hair falling across his forehead, and looked at
her with eyes that seemed to burn in their deep hollows like distant
lamps at night.
He stopped, several paces from her. "Sure you don't mind me?" he said.
"Quiet sure," said Juliet, with quiet sincerity. "I am very pleased to
see you. Wait while I fetch another chair!"
She would have risen with the words, but he stopped her with a gesture
almost violent. "No--no--no!" He nearly shouted the words. "Don't get up!
Don't go! I don't want a chair."
Juliet remained seated. "Just as you like," she said, smiling at him.
"But I don't think the grass is dry enough to sit on."
He looked contemptuous. "It won't hurt me. I hate chairs. I'll do
as I like."
But he still stood, glowering at her uncertainly near the hedge.
"Come along then!" said Juliet kindly. "Come and sit down near me! Why
He came slowly, and let himself down with awkward, lumbering movements by
her side. His face was darkly sullen. "I don't see any harm in it," he
grumbled, "if you don't mind."
"Of course I don't mind!" she said. "I am pleased. As you see, I have no
He lifted his heavy eyes to hers. "You'd pack me off fast enough
if you had."
"No, I shouldn't. Don't be silly, Robin!" She smiled down upon him. "You
are going to stay and have tea with me, aren't you?"
He smiled rather doubtfully in answer. "I'd like to. I don't know if I
"Why shouldn't you?" she questioned.
He folded his long arms about his knees, and murmured something
Juliet looked at her watch. "Mrs. Rickett has promised to bring it in
another quarter-of-an-hour, and we will ask her to bring out Freddy too,
shall we? You'll like that."
The boy's face brightened a little. He did not speak for a moment or two;
then he reached forth a claw-like hand and tentatively fingered her
dress. "I don't want Freddy--when I've got you," he muttered.
"Oh, don't you? How kind!" said Juliet.
Again his dark eyes lifted. "It's you that's kind," he said. "I've never
seen anyone like you before." His brow clouded again as he looked at her.
"You're quite as much a lady as Mrs. Fielding," he said. "But you don't
call me a 'hideous abortion'."
"I should think not!" Juliet moved impulsively and laid her hand upon his
humped shoulder. "Don't listen to such things, Robin! Put them out of
your head! They are not true."
He rested his chin upon her hand, looking up at her dumbly. Her heart
stirred within her. The pathos of those eyes was more than she could meet
unmoved. Their protest made her think of an animal in pain.
"It doesn't do to take things too seriously, Robin," she said
gently. "There are people in the world who will say unkind things of
anybody. It's just because they are thoughtless generally. It
doesn't do to listen."
"No one ever said anything unkind about you," he said.
"Oh, didn't they?" Juliet smiled. "Do you know, Robin, I shouldn't wonder
if there are plenty of them saying unkind things about me this very
moment--that is, if they are thinking about me at all."
He glanced around him savagely. "Where? I'd like to hear 'em! I'd
"No--no!" said Juliet, restraining him. "And it's no one here either. But
you've got to realize that it doesn't really matter what people say.
They'll always talk, you know. Everyone does. It's the way of the world,
and we can't get away from it."
Robin looked unconvinced. "I'd kill anyone who said anything bad about
you anyway," he said.
"I don't think you ought to talk like that," said Juliet, in her
"Why not?" His eyes suddenly glowered again.
But she answered him with absolute calmness. "Because if you mean it,
it's wrong--very wrong. And if you don't mean it, it's just foolish."
"Oh!" said Robin. He edged himself nearer to her. "I like you," he said.
"Talk some more! I like your voice."
"What shall I talk about?" she asked.
"Tell me about London!" he said.
"Oh, London! My dear boy, you'd hate London. It's all noise and crowds
and dust. The streets are crammed with cars and people and there is never
any peace. It's like a great wheel that is never still."
"What do the people do?" he asked.
"They just tear about from morning till night, and very often from night
till morning. Everyone is always trying to be first and to be a little
smarter than anyone else. They think they enjoy it." Juliet drew a sudden
hard breath. "But they really don't. It's such a whirl, such a strain,
like always running at top speed in a race and never getting there. Yes,
it's just that--a sort of obstacle race, and the obstacles always getting
higher and higher and higher." She stopped and uttered a deep slow sigh.
"Well, I've done with it, Robin. I'm not going to get over any more. I've
dropped out. I'm going to grow old in comfort."
Robin was listening with deep interest. "Is that why you came here?"
"Yes. I was tired out and rather scared. I got away just in time--only
just in time."
Something in her voice, low though it was, made him draw nearer still,
"Are you-hiding from someone?" he said.
"Oh, not exactly." She patted his shoulder gently. "No one would take the
trouble to come and look for me," she said. "They're all much too busy
with their own affairs."
His eyes sought hers again. "You're not frightened then any more?"
She smiled at him. "No, not a bit. I've got over that, and I'm beginning
to enjoy myself."
"Shall you stay here always?" he questioned.
"I don't know, Robin. I'm not going to look ahead. I'm just going to make
the best of the present. Don't you think that's the best way?"
He made a wry face. "I suppose it is--if you don't know what's coming."
"But no one knows that," said Juliet.
He glanced at her. His fingers, clasped about his knees, tugged
restlessly at each other. "I know what's going to happen to me," he said,
after a moment. "I'm going to get into a row--with Dicky."
"Oh, is that it?" said Juliet. "I knew there was something the matter."
He nodded, and suddenly she saw his chin quiver. "I hate a row with
Dicky," he said miserably.
Her heart went out to him, he looked so forlorn. "Why don't you go and
tell him you're sorry?" she said gently.
"Not--sorry," articulated Robin, with a sniff.
The matter presented difficulties. Juliet tried to hedge. "What have you
"Quarrelling," said Robin.
"What! With Dick?"
"No." Again he glanced at her, and wiped a hasty hand across his eyes.
"Dick!" he repeated, as if in derision at her colossal ignorance.
"Well, but who then?" she questioned. "That is--of course don't tell me
if you'd rather not!"
"Don't mind," said Robin. "I'll tell you anything. It was--Jack." He
suddenly turned to her fully with blazing eyes. "I--hate--Jack!" he said
"Jack! But who is Jack? Oh, I remember!" Juliet abruptly recalled the
young chauffeur at the churchyard gate. "He is your other brother, isn't
he? I'd forgotten him."
"He's--a beast!" said Robin. "I hate him."
His look challenged reproof. Juliet wisely made none. "Isn't he kind to
you?" she said.
"It wasn't that!" blurted out Robin. "It--it--was what he
said--about--about--" He suddenly stopped, closed his lips and sat
savagely biting them.
"About what?" asked Juliet, bewildered.
Robin sat mute.
"I should forget it if I were you," she said sensibly. "People often do
and say things they don't mean. It doesn't pay to be too sensitive. Let's
forget it, shall we?"
"I can't," said Robin. "Dicky's angry." He paused, then continued with an
effort. "He said I wasn't to come here, said--said he'd punish me if I
did. He called me back, and I wouldn't go. He--" He suddenly broke off,
and crept close to her like a frightened dog--"he's coming now!" he
The catch of the gate had clicked, and Columbus who had accepted Robin
without question, bustled forward to investigate.
He came back almost immediately, wearing a satisfied look, and as he
settled down again by Juliet's side, Green appeared on the path that led
to the apple-trees.
Robin pressed closer to Juliet. She could feel him trembling.
Instinctively she laid her hand upon him as Green drew near.
"Have you come to see me or to look for Robin?" she said.
Green's look was enigmatical. It comprehended them both at a single
glance. She wondered if he were really angry, but if so, he had himself
under complete control.
"I have brought you a box of cigarettes to go on with, Miss Moore," he
said, and produced his offering with a smile.
"How very kind of you!" said Juliet. She sat up with a quick flush of
embarrassment. "How did you manage to get them so soon? You must have had
them by you."
"I had," said Green. "But I can spare you these with pleasure. It's awful
to be without a smoke, isn't it?"
Juliet smiled. "These will last me for ages. I am being very economical
now. Please will you tell me how much they are?"
"Half-a-crown," he said.
"Oh, please!" she protested. "Let us be honest!"
"Exactly," he said. "It's all they cost me. I get them through a friend."
"But perhaps your friend wouldn't care for me to have them at that
price," objected Juliet.
"Yes, he would. It's all right," Green dismissed the matter with an
airiness that was curiously final. "Don't bother about paying me now,
please! I'd rather have it later. Robin, get up!"
He addressed his young brother so suddenly and so peremptorily that
Juliet was momentarily startled. Then very swiftly she intervened.
"Mr. Green, please, don't--be angry with Robin!"
His look flashed straight down to her. His eyes were still smiling, yet
very strangely they compelled her own. He stooped unexpectedly after an