Then he shook hands with both little gentlemen and moved away towards the Rue des Tres Pigeons. Presently some one touched his arm. He looked round. It was Ranulph.
"I stood near," said Ranulph; "I chanced to hear what you said to them. You've been a friend to me today—and these eleven years past. You knew about my father, all the time."
Before replying Detricand glanced round to see that no one was listening.
"Look you, monsieur, a man must keep some decencies in his life, or cut his own throat. What a ruffian I'd be to do you or your father harm! I'm silent, of course. Let your mind rest about me. But there's the baker Carcaud—"
"The baker?" asked Ranulph dumfounded. "I thought he was tied to a rock and left to drown, by Rullecour's orders."
"I had him set free after Rullecour had gone on to the town. He got away to France."
Ranulph's anxiety deepened. "He might come back, and then if anything happened to him—"
"He'd try and make things happen to others, eh? But there's little danger of his coming back. They know he's a traitor, and he knows he'd be hung. If he's alive he'll stay where he is. Cheer up! Take my word, Olivier Delagarde has only himself to fear." He put out his hand. "Good-bye. If ever I can do anything for you, if you ever want to find me, come or send to—no, I'll write it," he suddenly added, and scribbling something on a piece of paper he handed it over.
They parted with another handshake, Detricand making his way into the Rue d'Egypte, and towards the Place du Vier Prison.
Ranulph stood looking dazedly at the crowd before him, misery, revolt, and bitterness in his heart. This French adventurer, Detricand, after years of riotous living, could pick up the threads of life again with a laugh and no shame, while he felt himself going down, down, down, with no hope of ever rising again.
As he stood buried in his reflections the town crier entered the Vier Marchi, and, going to La Pyramide, took his place upon the steps, and in a loud voice began reading a proclamation.
It was to the effect that the great Fishing Company trading to Gaspe needed twenty Jersiais to go out and replace a number of the company's officers and men who had been drowned in a gale off the rock called Perch. To these twenty, if they went at once, good pay would be given. But they must be men of intelligence and vigour, of well-known character.
The critical moment in Maitre Ranulph's life came now. Here he was penned up in a little island, chained to a criminal having the fame of a martyr. It was not to be borne. Why not leave it all behind? Why not let his father shift for himself, abide his own fate? Why not leave him the home, what money he had laid by, and go-go-go where he could forget, go where he could breathe. Surely self-preservation, that was the first law; surely no known code of human practice called upon him to share the daily crimes of any living soul—it was a daily repetition of his crime for this traitor to carry on the atrocious lie of patriotism.
He would go. It was his right.
Taking a few steps towards the officer of the company standing by the crier, he was about to speak. Some one touched him.
He turned and saw Carterette. She had divined his intention, and though she was in the dark as to the motive, she saw that he meant to go to Gaspe. Her heart seemed to contract till the pain of it hurt her; then, as a new thought flashed into her mind, it was freed again and began pounding hard against her breast. She must prevent him from leaving Jersey, from leaving her. What she might feel personally would have no effect upon him; she would appeal to him from a different stand-point.
"You must not go," she said. "You must not leave your father alone, Maitre Ranulph."
For a minute he did not reply. Through his dark wretchedness one thought pierced its way: this girl was his good friend.
"Then I'll take him with me," he said.
"He would die in the awful cold," she answered. "Nannin-gia, you must stay."
"Eh ben, I will think!" he said presently, with an air of heavy resignation, and, turning, walked away. Her eyes followed him. As she went back to her booth she smiled: he had come one step her way. He would not go.
When Detricand left the Vier Marchi he made his way along the Rue d'Egypte to the house of M. de Mauprat. The front door was open, and a nice savour of boiling fruit came from within. He knocked, and instantly Guida appeared, her sleeves rolled back to her elbows, her fingers stained with the rich red of the blackberries on the fire.
A curious shade of disappointment came into her face when she saw who it was. It was clear to Detricand that she expected some one else; it was also clear that his coming gave no especial pleasure to her, though she looked at him with interest. She had thought of him more than once since that day when the famous letter from France to the chevalier was read. She had instinctively compared him, this roystering, notorious fellow, with Philip d'Avranche, Philip the brave, the ambitious, the conquering. She was sure that Philip had never over-drunk himself in his life; and now, looking into the face of Detricand, she could tell that he had been drinking again. One thing was apparent, however: he was better dressed than she ever remembered seeing him, better pulled together, and bearing himself with an air of purpose.
"I've fetched back your handkerchief—you tied up my head with it, you know," he said, taking it from his pocket. "I'm going away, and I wanted to thank you."
"Will you not come in, monsieur?" she said.
He readily entered the kitchen, still holding the handkerchief in his hand, but he did not give it to her. "Where will you sit?" she said, looking round. "I'm very busy. You mustn't mind my working," she added, going to the brass bashin at the fire. "This preserve will spoil if I don't watch it."
He seated himself on the veille, and nodded his head. "I like this," he said. "I'm fond of kitchens. I always was. When I was fifteen I was sent away from home because I liked the stables and the kitchen too well. Also I fell in love with the cook."
Guida flushed, frowned, her lips tightened, then presently a look of amusement broke over her face, and she burst out laughing.
"Why do you tell me these things?" she said. "Excuse me, monsieur, but why do you always tell unpleasant things about yourself? People think ill of you, and otherwise they might think—better."
"I don't want them to think better till I am better," he answered. "The only way I can prevent myself becoming a sneak is by blabbing my faults. Now, I was drunk last night—very, very drunk."
A look of disgust came into her face.
"Why do you relate this sort of thing to me, monsieur? Do—do I remind you of the cook at home, or of an oyster-girl in Jersey?"
She was flushing, but her voice was clear and vibrant, the look of the eyes direct and fearless. How dared he hold her handkerchief like that!
"I tell you them," he answered slowly, looking at the handkerchief in his hand, then raising his eyes to hers with whimsical gravity, "because I want you to ask me never to drink again."
She looked at him scarce comprehending, yet feeling a deep compliment somewhere, for this man was a gentleman by birth, and his manner was respectful, and had always been respectful to her.
"Why do you want me to ask you that?" she said. "Because I'm going to France to join the war of the Vendee, and—"
"With the Comte de Tournay?" she interrupted. He nodded his head. "And if I thought I was keeping a promise to—to you, I'd not break it. Will you ask me to promise?" he persisted, watching her intently.
"Why, of course," she answered kindly, almost gently; the compliment was so real, he could not be all bad.
"Then say my name, and ask me," he said.
"Leave out the monsieur," he interrupted.
"Yves Savary dit Detricand, will you promise me, Guida Landresse—"
"De Landresse," he interposed courteously.
"—Guida Landresse de Landresse, that you will never again drink wine to excess, and that you will never do anything that"—she paused confused. "That you would not wish me to do," he said in a low voice.
"That I should not wish you to do," she repeated in a half-embarrassed way.
"On my honour I promise," he said slowly.
A strange feeling came over her. She had suddenly, in some indirect, allusive way, become interested in a man's life. Yet she had done nothing, and in truth she cared nothing. They stood looking at each other, she slightly embarrassed, he hopeful and eager, when suddenly a step sounded without, a voice called "Guida!" and as Guida coloured and Detricand turned towards the door, Philip d'Avranche entered impetuously.
He stopped short on seeing Detricand. They knew each other slightly, and they bowed. Philip frowned. He saw that something had occurred between the two. Detricand on his part realised the significance of that familiar "Guida!" called from outside. He took up his cap.
"It is greeting and good-bye, I am just off for France," he said.
Philip eyed him coldly, and not a little maliciously, for he knew Detricand's reputation well, the signs of a hard life were thick on him, and he did not like to think of Guida being alone with him.
"France should offer a wide field for your talents just now," he answered drily; "they seem wasted here." Detricand's eye flashed, but he answered coolly: "It wasn't talent that brought me here, but a boy's folly; it's not talent that's kept me from starving here, I'm afraid, but the ingenuity of the desperate."
"Why stay here? The world was wide, and France but a step away. You would not have needed talents there. You would no doubt have been rewarded by the Court which sent you and Rullecour to ravage Jersey—"
"The proper order is Rullecour and me, monsieur." Detricand seemed suddenly to have got back a manner to which he had been long a stranger. His temper became imperturbable, and this was not lost on Philip; his manner had a balanced serenity, while Philip himself had no such perfect control; which made him the more impatient. Presently Detricand added in a composed and nonchalant tone:
"I've no doubt there were those at Court who'd have clothed me in purple and fine linen, and given me wine and milk, but it was my whim to work in the galleys here, as it were."
"Then I trust you've enjoyed your Botany Bay," answered Philip mockingly. "You've been your own jailer, you could lay the strokes on heavy or light." He moved to the veille, and sat down. Guida busied herself at the fireplace, but listened intently.
"I've certainly been my own enemy, whether the strokes were heavy or light," replied Detricand, lifting a shoulder ironically.
"And a friend to Jersey at the same time, eh?" was the sneering reply.
Detricand was in the humour to tell the truth even to this man who hated him. He was giving himself the luxury of auricular confession. But Philip did not see that when once such a man has stood in his own pillory, sat in his own stocks, voluntarily paid the piper, he will take no after insult.
Detricand still would not be tempted out of his composure. "No," he answered, "I've been an enemy to Jersey too, both by act and example; but people here have been kind enough to forget the act, and the example I set is not unique."
"You've never thought that you've outstayed your welcome, eh?"
"As to that, every country is free to whoever wills, if one cares to pay the entrance fee and can endure the entertainment. One hasn't to apologise for living in a country. You probably get no better treatment than you deserve, and no worse. One thing balances another."
The man's cool impeachment and defence of himself irritated Philip, the more so because Guida was present, and this gentlemanly vagrant had him at advantage.
"You paid no entrance fee here; you stole in through a hole in the wall. You should have been hanged."
"Monsieur d'Avranche!" said Guida reproachfully, turning round from the fire.
Detricand's answer came biting and dry. "You are an officer of your King, as was I. You should know that hanging the invaders of Jersey would have been butchery. We were soldiers of France; we had the distinction of being prisoners of war, monsieur."
This shot went home. Philip had been touched in that nerve called military honour. He got to his feet. "You are right," he answered with reluctant frankness. "Our grudge is not individual, it is against France, and we'll pay it soon with good interest, monsieur."
"The individual grudge will not be lost sight of in the general, I hope?" rejoined Detricand with cool suggestion, his clear, persistent grey eye looking straight into Philip's.
"I shall do you that honour," said Philip with mistaken disdain.
Detricand bowed low. "You will always find me in the suite of the Prince of Vaufontaine, monsieur, and ready to be so distinguished by you." Turning to Guida, he added: "Mademoiselle will perhaps do me the honour to notice me again one day?" then, with a mocking nod to Philip, he left the house.
Guida and Philip stood looking after him in silence for a minute. Suddenly Guida said to herself: "My handkerchief—why did he take my handkerchief? He put it in his pocket again."
Philip turned on her impatiently.
"What was that adventurer saying to you, Guida? In the suite of the Prince of Vaufontaine, my faith! What did he come here for?"
Guida looked at him in surprise. She scarcely grasped the significance of the question. Before she had time to consider, he pressed it again, and without hesitation she told him all that had happened—it was so very little, of course—between Detricand and herself. She omitted nothing save that Detricand had carried off the handkerchief, and she could not have told, if she had been asked, why she did not speak of it.
Philip raged inwardly. He saw the meaning of the whole situation from Detricand's stand-point, but he was wise enough from his own stand-point to keep it to himself; and so both of them reserved something, she from no motive that she knew, he from an ulterior one. He was angry too: angry at Detricand, angry at Guida for her very innocence, and because she had caught and held even the slight line of association Detricand had thrown.
In any case, Detricand was going to-morrow, and to-day-to-day should decide all between Guida and himself. Used to bold moves, in this affair of love he was living up to his custom; and the encounter with Detricand here added the last touch to his resolution, nerved him to follow his strong impulse to set all upon one hazard. A month ago he had told Guida that he loved her; to-day there should be a still more daring venture. A thing not captured by a forlorn hope seemed not worth having. The girl had seized his emotions from the first moment, and had held them. To him she was the most original creature he had ever met, the most natural, the most humorous of temper, the most sincere. She had no duplicity, no guile, no arts.
He said to himself that he knew his own mind always. He believed in inspirations, and he would back his knowledge, his inspiration, by an irretrievable move. Yesterday had come an important message from his commander. That had decided him. To-day Guida should hear a message beyond all others in importance.
"Won't you come into the garden?" he said presently.
"A moment—a moment," she answered him lightly, for the frown had passed from his face, and he was his old buoyant self again. "I'm to make an end to this bashin of berries first," she added. So saying, she waved him away with a little air of tyranny; and he perched himself boyishly on the big chair in the corner, and with idle impatience began playing with the flax on the spinning-wheel near by. Then he took to humming a ditty the Jersey housewife used to sing as she spun, while Guida disposed of the sweet-smelling fruit. Suddenly she stopped and stamped her foot.
"No, no, that's not right, stupid sailor-man," she said, and she sang a verse at him over the last details of her work:
"Spin, spin, belle Mergaton! The moon wheels full, and the tide flows high, And your wedding-gown you must put it on Ere the night hath no moon in the sky— Gigoton Mergaton, spin!"
She paused. He was entranced. He had never heard her sing, and the full, beautiful notes of her contralto voice thrilled him like organ music. His look devoured her, her song captured him.
"Please go on," he said, "I never heard it that way." She was embarrassed yet delighted by his praise, and she threw into the next verse a deep weirdness:
"Spin, spin, belle Mergaton! Your gown shall be stitched ere the old moon fade: The age of a moon shall your hands spin on, Or a wife in her shroud shall be laid— Gigoton Mergaton, spin!"
"Yes, yes, that's it!" he exclaimed with gay ardour. "That's it. Sing on. There are two more verses."
"I'll only sing one," she answered, with a little air of wilfulness.
"Spin, spin, belle Mergaton! The Little Good Folk the spell they have cast; By your work well done while the moon hath shone, Ye shall cleave unto joy at last— Gigoton Mergaton, spin!"
As she sang the last verse she seemed in a dream, and her rich voice, rising with the spirit of the concluding lines, poured out the notes like a bird drunk with the air of spring.
"Guida," he cried, springing to his feet, "when you sing like that it seems to me I live in a world that has nothing to do with the sordid business of life, with my dull trade—with getting the weather-gauge or sailing in triple line. You're a planet all by yourself, Mistress Guida! Are you ready to come into the garden?"
"Yes, yes, in a minute," she answered. "You go out to the big apple- tree, and I'll come in a minute." The apple-tree was in the farthest corner of the large garden. Near it was the summer-house where Guida and her mother used to sit and read, Guida on the three-legged stool, her mother on the low, wide seat covered with ferns. This spot Guida used to "flourish" with flowers. The vines, too, crept through the rough latticework, and all together made the place a bower, secluded and serene. The water of the little stream outside the hedge made music too.
Philip placed himself on the bench beneath the appletree. What a change was all this, he thought to himself, from the staring hot stones of Malta, the squalor of Constantinople, the frigid cliffs of Spitzbergen, the noisome tropical forests of the Indies! This was Arcady. It was peace, it was content. His life was sure to be varied and perhaps stormy—here would be the true change, the spirit of all this. Of course he would have two sides to his life like most men: that lived before the world, and that of the home. He would have the fight for fame. He would have to use, not duplicity, but diplomacy, to play a kind of game; but this other side to his life, the side of love and home, should be simple, direct—all genuine and strong and true. In this way he would have a wonderful career.
He heard Guida's footstep now, and standing up he parted the apple boughs for her entrance. She was dressed all in white, without a touch of colour save in the wild rose at her throat and the pretty red shoes with the broad buckles which the Chevalier had given her. Her face, too, had colour—the soft, warm tint of the peach-blossom—and her auburn hair was like an aureole.
Philip's eyes gleamed. He stretched out both his hands in greeting and tenderness. "Guida—sweetheart!" he said.
She laughed up at him mischievously, and put her hands behind her back.
"Ma fe, you are so very forward," she said, seating herself on the bench. "And you must not call me Guida, and you've no right to call me sweetheart."
"I know I've no right to call you anything, but to myself I always call you Guida, and sweetheart too, and I've liked to think that you would care to know my thoughts," he answered.
"Yes, I wish I knew your thoughts," she responded, looking up at him intently; "I should like to know every thought in your mind. . . . Do you know—you don't mind my saying just what I think?—I find myself feeling that there's something in you that I never touch; I mean, that a friend ought to touch, if it's a real friendship. You appear to be so frank, and I know you are frank and good and true, and yet I seem always to be hunting for something in your mind, and it slips away from me always—always. I suppose it's because we're two different beings, and no two beings can ever know each other in this world, not altogether. We're what the Chevalier calls 'separate entities.' I seem to understand his odd, wise talk better lately. He said the other day: 'Lonely we come into the world, and lonely we go out of it.' That's what I mean. It makes me shudder sometimes, that part of us which lives alone for ever. We go running on as happy as can be, like Biribi there in the garden, and all at once we stop short at a hedge, just as he does there—a hedge just too tall to look over and with no foothold for climbing. That's what I want so much; I want to look over the Hedge."
When she spoke like this to Philip, as she sometimes did, she seemed quite unconscious that he was a listener, it was rather as if he were part of her and thinking the same thoughts. To Philip she seemed wonderful. He had never bothered his head in that way about abstract things when he was her age, and he could not understand it in her. What was more, he could not have thought as she did if he had tried. She had that sort of mind which accepts no stereotyped reflection or idea; she worked things out for herself. Her words were her own, and not another's. She was not imitative, nor yet was she bizarre; she was individual, simple, inquiring.
"That's the thing that hurts most in life," she added presently; "that trying to find and not being able to—voila, what a child I am to babble so!" she broke off with a little laugh, which had, however, a plaintive note. There was a touch of undeveloped pathos in her character, for she had been left alone too young, been given responsibility too soon.
He felt he must say something, and in a sympathetic tone he replied:
"Yes, Guida, but after a while we stop trying to follow and see and find, and we walk in the old paths and take things as they are."
"Have you stopped?" she said to him wistfully. "Oh, no, not altogether," he replied, dropping his tones to tenderness, "for I've been trying to peep over a hedge this afternoon, and I haven't done it yet." "Have you?" she rejoined, then paused, for the look in his eyes embarrassed her. . . . "Why do you look at me like that?" she added tremulously.
"Guida," he said earnestly, leaning towards her, "a month ago I asked you if you would listen to me when I told you of my love, and you said you would. Well, sometimes when we have met since, I have told you the same story, and you've kept your promise and listened. Guida, I want to go on telling you the same story for a long time—even till you or I die."
"Do you—ah, then, do you?" she asked simply. "Do you really wish that?"
"It is the greatest wish of my life, and always will be," he added, taking her unresisting hands.
"I like to hear you say it," she answered simply, "and it cannot be wrong, can it? Is there any wrong in my listening to you? Yet why do I feel that it is not quite right?—sometimes I do feel that."
"One thing will make all right," he said eagerly; "one thing. I love you, Guida, love you devotedly. Do you—tell me if you love me? Do not fear to tell me, dearest, for then will come the thing that makes all right."
"I do not know," she responded, her heart beating fast, her eyes drooping before him; "but when you go from me, I am not happy till I see you again. When you are gone, I want to be alone that I may remember all you have said, and say it over to myself again. When I hear you speak I want to shut my eyes, I am so happy; and every word of mine seems clumsy when you talk to me; and I feel of how little account I am beside you. Is that love, Philip—Philip, do you think that is love?"
They were standing now. The fruit that hung above Guida's head was not fairer and sweeter than she. Philip drew her to him, and her eyes lifted to his.
"Is that love, Philip?" she repeated. "Tell me, for I do not know—it has all come so soon. You are wiser; do not deceive me; you understand, and I do not. Philip, do not let me deceive myself."
"As the Judgment of Life is before us, I believe you love me, Guida— though I don't deserve it," he answered with tender seriousness.
"And it is right that you should love me; that we should love each other, Philip?"
"It will be right soon," he said, "right for ever. Guida mine, I want you to marry me."
His arm tightened round her waist, as though he half feared she would fly from him. He was right; she made a motion backward, but he held her firmly, tenderly. "Marry—marry you, Philip!" she exclaimed in trembling dismay.
"Marry—yes, marry me, Guida. That will make all right; that will bind us together for ever. Have you never thought of that?"
"Oh, never, never!" she answered. It was true, she had never thought of that; there had not been time. Too much had come all at once. "Why should I? I cannot—cannot. Oh, it could not be—not at least for a long, long time, not for years and years, Philip."
"Guida," he answered gravely and persistently, "I want you to marry me— to-morrow."
She was overwhelmed. She could scarcely speak. "To-morrow—to-morrow, Philip? You are laughing at me. I could not—how could I marry you to-morrow?"
"Guida, dearest,"—he took her hands more tightly now—"you must indeed. The day after to-morrow my ship is going to Portsmouth for two months. Then we return again here, but I will not go now unless I go as your husband!"
"Oh, no, I could not—it is impossible, Philip! It is madness—it is wrong. My grandfather—"
"Your grandfather need not know, sweetheart."
"How can you say such wicked things, Philip?"
"My dearest, it is not necessary for him to know. I don't want any one to know until I come back from Portsmouth. Then I shall have a ship of my own—commander of the Araminta I shall be then. I have word from the Admiralty to that effect. But I dare not let them know that I am married until I get commissioned to my ship. The Admiralty has set its face against lieutenants marrying."
"Then do not marry, Philip. You ought not, you see."
Her pleading was like the beating of helpless wings against the bars of a golden cage.
"But I must marry you, Guida. A sailor's life is uncertain, and what I want I want now. When I come back from Portsmouth every one shall know, but if you love me—and I know you do—you must marry me to-morrow. Until I come back no one shall know about it except the clergyman, Mr. Dow of St. Michael's—I have seen him—and Shoreham, a brother officer of mine. Ah, you must, Guida, you must! Whatever is worth doing is better worth doing in the time one's own heart says. I want it more, a thousand times more, than I ever wanted anything in my life."
She looked at him in a troubled sort of way. Somehow she felt wiser than he at that moment, wiser and stronger, though she scarcely defined the feeling to herself, though she knew that in the end her brain would yield to her heart in this.
"Would it make you so much happier, Philip?" she said more kindly than joyfully, more in grave acquiescence than delighted belief.
"Yes, on my honour—supremely happy."
"You are afraid that otherwise, by some chance, you might lose me?" she said it tenderly, yet with a little pain.
"Yes, yes, that is it, Guida dearest," he replied. "I suppose women are different altogether from men," she answered. "I could have waited ever so long, believing that you would come again, and that I should never lose you. But men are different; I see, yes, I see that, Philip."
"We are more impetuous. We know, we sailors, that now-to-day-is our time; that to-morrow may be Fate's, and Fate is a fickle jade: she beckons you up with one hand to-day, and waves you down with the other to-morrow."
"Philip," she said, scarcely above a whisper, and putting her hands on his arms, as her head sank towards him, "I must be honest with you— I must be that or nothing at all. I do not feel as you do about it; I can't. I would much—much—rather everybody knew. And I feel it almost wrong that they do not." She paused a minute, her brow clouded slightly, then cleared again, and she went on bravely: "Philip, if—if I should, you must promise me that you will leave me as soon as ever we are married, and that you will not try to see me until you come again from Portsmouth. I am sure that is right, for the deception will not be so great. I should be better able then to tell the poor grandpethe. Will you promise me, Philip-dear? It—it is so hard for me. Ah, can't you understand?"
This hopeless everlasting cry of a woman's soul!
He clasped her close. "Yes, Guida, my beloved, I understand, and I promise you—I do promise you." Her head dropped on his breast, her arms ran round his neck. He raised her face; her eyes were closed; they were dropping tears. He tenderly kissed the tears away.
"Oh, give to me my gui-l'annee, I pray you, Monseigneur; The king's princess doth ride to-day, And I ride forth with her. Oh! I will ride the maid beside Till we come to the sea, Till my good ship receive my bride, And she sail far with me. Oh, donnez-moi ma gui-l'annee, Monseigneur, je vous prie!"
The singer was perched on a huge broad stone, which, lying athwart other tall perpendicular stones, made a kind of hut, approached by a pathway of upright narrow pillars, irregular and crude. Vast must have been the labour of man's hands to lift the massive table of rock upon the supporting shafts—relics of an age when they were the only architecture, the only national monuments; when savage ancestors in lion skins, with stone weapons, led by white-robed Druid priests, came solemnly here and left the mistletoe wreath upon these Houses of Death for their adored warriors.
Even the words sung by Shoreham on the rock carried on the ancient story, the sacred legend that he who wore in his breast this mistletoe got from the Druids' altar, bearing his bride forth by sea or land, should suffer no mischance; and for the bride herself, the morgen-gifn should fail not, but should attest richly the perfect bliss of the nuptial hours.
The light was almost gone from the day, though the last crimson petals had scarce dropped from the rose of sunset. Upon the sea beneath there was not a ripple; it was a lake of molten silver, shading into a leaden silence far away. The tide was high, and the ragged rocks of the Banc des Violets in the south and the Corbiore in the west were all but hidden.
Below the mound where the tuneful youth loitered was a path, leading down through the fields and into the highway. In this path walked lingeringly a man and a maid. Despite the peaceful, almost dormant life about them, the great event of their lives had just occurred, that which is at once a vast adventure and a simple testament of nature: they had been joined in marriage privately in the parish church of St. Michael's near by. As Shoreham's voice came down the cotil, the two looked up, then passed on out of view.
But still the voice followed them, and the man looked down at the maid, repeating the refrain of the song:
"Oh, give to me my gui-l'annee, Monseigneur, je vous prie!"
The maid looked up at the man tenderly, almost devoutly.
"I have no Druid's mistletoe from the Chapel of St. George, but I will give you—stoop down, Philip," she added softly, "I will give you the first kiss I have ever given to any man."
He stooped. She kissed him on the forehead, then upon the lips.
"Guida, my wife," Philip said, and drew her to his breast.
"My Philip," she answered softly. "Won't you say, 'Philip, my husband'?"
She shyly did as he asked in a voice no louder than a bee's. She was only seventeen.
Presently she looked up at him with a look a little abashed, a little anxious, yet tender withal.
"Philip," she said, "I wonder what we will think of this day a year from now—no, don't frown, Philip," she added. "You look at things so differently from me. To-day is everything to you; to-morrow is very much to me. It isn't that I am afraid, it is that thoughts of possibilities will come whether or no. If I couldn't tell you everything I feel I should be most unhappy. You see, I want to be able to do that, to tell you everything."
"Of course, of course," he said, not quite comprehending her, for his thoughts were always more material. He was revelling in the beauty of the girl before him, in her perfect outward self, in her unique personality. The more subtle, the deeper part of her, the searching soul never to be content with superficial reasons and the obvious cause, these he did not know—was he ever to know? It was the law of her nature that she was never to deceive herself, to pretend anything, nor to forgive pretence. To see things, to look beyond the Hedge, that was to be a passion with her; already it was nearly that.
"Of course," Philip continued, "you must tell me everything, and I'll understand. And as for what we'll think of this in another year, why, doesn't it hold to reason that we'll think it the best day of our lives— as it is, Guida?" He smiled at her, and touched her shining hair. "Evil can't come out of good, can it? And this is good, as good as anything in the world can be. . . . There, look into my eyes that way—just that way."
"Are you happy—very, very happy, Philip?" she asked, lingering on the words.
"Perfectly happy, Guida," he answered; and in truth he seemed so, his eyes were so bright, his face so eloquent, his bearing so buoyant.
"And you think we have done quite right, Philip?" she urged.
"Of course, of course we have. We are honourably disposing of our own fates. We love each other, we are married as surely as others are married. Where is the wrong? We have told no one, simply because for a couple of months it is best not to do so. The parson wouldn't have married us if there'd been anything wrong."
"Oh, it isn't what the clergyman might think that I mean; it's what we ourselves think down, down deep in our hearts. If you, Philip—if you say it is all right, I will believe that it is right, for you would never want your wife to have one single wrong thing like a dark spot on her life with you—would you? If it is all right to you, it must be all right for me, don't you see?"
He did see that, and it made him grave for an instant, it made him not quite so sure.
"If your mother were alive," he answered, "of course she should have known; but it isn't necessary for your grandfather to know. He talks; he couldn't keep it to himself even for a month. But we have been regularly married, we have a witness—Shoreham over there "he pointed towards the Druid's cromlech where the young man was perched—" and it only concerns us now—only you and me."
"Yet if anything happened to you during the next two months, Philip, and you did not come back!"
"My dearest, dearest Guida," he answered, taking her hands in his, and laughing boyishly, "in that case you will announce the marriage. Shoreham and the clergyman are witnesses; besides, there's the certificate which Mr. Dow will give you to-morrow; and, above all, there's the formal record on the parish register. There, sweetest interrogation mark in the world, there is the law and the gospel! Come, come, let us be gay, let this be the happiest hour we've yet had in all our lives."
"How can I be altogether gay, Philip, when we part now, and I shall not see you for two whole long months?"
"Mayn't I come to you for just a minute to-morrow morning, before I go?"
"No, no, no, you must not, indeed you must not. Remember your promise, remember that you are not to see me again until you come back from Portsmouth. Even this is not quite what we agreed, for you are still with me, and we've been married nearly half an hour!"
"Perhaps we were married a thousand years ago—I don't know," he answered, drawing her to him. "It's all a magnificent dream so far."
"You must go, you must keep your word. Don't break the first promise you ever made me, Philip."
She did not say it very reproachfully, for his look was ardent and worshipful, and she could not be even a little austere in her new joy.
"I am going," he answered. "We will go back to the town, I by the road, you by the shore, so no one will see us, and—"
"Philip," said Guida suddenly, "is it quite the same being married without banns?"
His laugh had again a youthful ring of delight. "Of course, just the same, my doubting fay," said he. "Don't be frightened about anything. Now promise me that—will you promise me?"
She looked at him a moment steadily, her eyes lingering on his face with great tenderness, and then she said:
"Yes, Philip, I will not trouble or question any longer. I will only believe that everything is all right. Say good-bye to me, Philip. I am happy now, but if—if you stay any longer—ah, please, please go, Philip!"
A moment afterwards Philip and Shoreham were entering the high road, waving their handkerchiefs to her as they went.
She had gone back to the Druid's cromlech where Philip's friend had sat, and with smiling lips and swimming eyes she watched the young men until they were lost to view.
Her eyes wandered over the sea. How immense it was, how mysterious, how it begot in one feelings both of love and of awe! At this moment she was not in sympathy with its wonderful calm. There had been times when she seemed of it, part of it, absorbed by it, till it flowed over her soul and wrapped her in a deep content. Now all was different. Mystery and the million happenings of life lay hidden in that far silver haze. On the brink of such a sea her mind seemed to be hovering now. Nothing was defined, nothing was clear. She was too agitated to think; life, being, was one wide, vague sensation, partly delight, partly trepidation. Everything had a bright tremulousness. This mystery was no dark cloud, it was a shaking, glittering mist, and yet there rose from it an air which made her pulse beat hard, her breath come with joyous lightness. She was growing to a new consciousness; a new glass, through which to see life, was quickly being adjusted to her inner sight.
Many a time, with her mother, she had sat upon the shore at St. Aubin's Bay, and looked out where white sails fluttered like the wings of restless doves. Nearer, maybe just beneath her, there had risen the keen singing of the saw, and she could see the white flash of the adze as it shaped the beams; the skeleton of a noble ship being covered with its flesh of wood, and veined with iron; the tall masts quivering to their places as the workmen hauled at the pulleys, singing snatches of patois rhymes. She had seen more than one ship launched, and a strange shiver of pleasure and of pain had gone through her; for as the water caught the graceful figure of the vessel, and the wind bellied out the sails, it seemed to her as if some ship of her own hopes were going out between the reefs to the open sea. What would her ship bring back again to her? Or would anything ever come back?
The books of adventure, poetry, history, and mythology she had read with her mother had quickened her mind, sharpened her intuition, had made her temperament still more sensitive—and her heart less peaceful. In her was almost every note of human feeling: home and duty, song and gaiety, daring and neighbourly kindness, love of sky and sea and air and orchards, of the good-smelling earth and wholesome animal life, and all the incidents, tragic, comic, or commonplace, of human existence.
How wonderful love was, she thought! How wonderful that so many millions who had loved had come and gone, and yet of all they felt they had spoken no word that laid bare the exact feeling to her or to any other. The barbarians who raised these very stones she sat on, they had loved and hated, and everything they had dared or suffered was recorded—but where? And who could know exactly what they felt?
She realised the almost keenest pain of life, that universal agony, the trying to speak, to reveal; and the proof, the hourly proof even the wisest and most gifted have, that what they feel they can never quite express, by sound, or by colour, or by the graven stone, or by the spoken word. . . . But life was good, ah yes! and all that might be revealed to her she would pray for; and Philip—her Philip—would help her to the revelation.
Her Philip! Her heart gave a great throb, for the knowledge that she was a wife came home to her with a pleasant shock. Her name was no longer Guida Landresse de Landresse, but Guida d'Avranche. She had gone from one tribe to another, she had been adopted, changed. A new life was begun.
She rose, slowly made her way down to the sea, and proceeded along the sands and shore-paths to the town. Presently a large vessel, with new sails, beautiful white hull, and gracious form, came slowly round a point. She shaded her eyes to look at it.
"Why, it's the boat Maitre Ranulph was to launch to-day," she said. Then she stopped suddenly. "Poor Ranulph—poor Ro!" she added gently. She knew that he cared for her—loved her. Where had he been these weeks past? She had not seen him once since that great day when they had visited the Ecrehos.
The house of Elie Mattingley the smuggler stood in the Rue d'Egypte, not far east of the Vier Prison. It had belonged to a jurat of repute, who parted with it to Mattingley not long before he died. There was no doubt as to the validity of the transfer, for the deed was duly registered au greffe, and it said: "In consideration of one livre turnois," etc. Possibly it was a libel against the departed jurat that he and Mattingley had had dealings unrecognised by customs law, crystallising at last into this legacy to the famous pirate-smuggler.
Unlike any other in the street, this house had a high stone wall in front, enclosing a small square paved with flat stones. In one corner was an ivy-covered well, with an antique iron gate, and the bucket, hanging on a hook inside the fern-grown hood, was an old wine-keg— appropriate emblem for a smuggler's house. In one corner, girdled by about five square feet of green earth, grew a pear tree, bearing large juicy pears, reserved for the use of a distinguished lodger, the Chevalier du Champsavoys de Beaumanoir.
In the summer the Chevalier always had his breakfast under this tree. Occasionally one other person breakfasted with him, even Savary dit Detricand, whom however he met less frequently than many people of the town, though they lived in the same house. Detricand was but a fitful lodger, absent at times for a month or so, and running up bills for food and wine, of which payment was never summarily demanded by Mattingley, for some day or other he always paid. When he did, he never questioned the bill, and, what was most important, whether he was sober or "warm as a thrush," he always treated Carterette with respect, though she was not unsparing with her tongue under slight temptation.
Despite their differences and the girl's tempers, when the day came for Detricand to leave for France, Carterette was unhappy. Several things had come at once: his going,—on whom should she lavish her good advice and biting candour now?—yesterday's business in the Vier Marchi with Olivier Delagarde, and the bitter change in Ranulph. Sorrowful reflections and as sorrowful curiosity devoured her.
All day she tortured herself. The late afternoon came, and she could bear it no longer—she would visit Guida. She was about to start, when the door in the garden wall opened and Olivier Delagarde entered. As he doffed his hat to her she thought she had never seen anything more beautiful than the smooth forehead, white hair, and long beard of the returned patriot. That was the first impression; but a closer scrutiny detected the furtive, watery eye, the unwholesome, drooping mouth, the vicious teeth, blackened and irregular. There was, too, something sinister in the yellow stockings, luridly contrasting with the black knickerbockers and rusty blue coat.
At first Carterette was inclined to run towards the prophet-like figure —it was Ranulph's father; next she drew back with dislike—his smile was leering malice under the guise of amiable mirth. But he was old, and he looked feeble, so her mind instantly changed again, and she offered him a seat on a bench beside the arched doorway with the superscription:
"Nor Poverty nor Riches, but Daily Bread Under Mine Own Fig Tree."
After the custom of the country, Carterette at once offered him refreshment, and brought him brandy—good old brandy was always to be got at the house of Elie Mattingley! As he drank she noticed a peculiar, uncanny twitching of the fingers and eyelids. The old man's eyes were continually shifting from place to place. He asked Carterette many questions. He had known the house years before—did the deep stream still run beneath it? Was the round hole still in the floor of the back room, from which water used to be drawn in old days? Carterette replied that it was M. Detricand's bedroom now, and you could plainly hear the stream running beneath the house. Did not the noise of the water worry poor M. Detricand then? And so it still went straight on to the sea— and, of course, much swifter after such a heavy rain as they had had the day before.
Carterette took him into every room in the house save her own and the Chevalier's. In the kitchen and in Detricand's bedroom Olivier Delagarde's eyes were very busy. He saw that the kitchen opened on the garden, which had a gate in the rear wall. He also saw that the lozenge- paned windows swung like doors, and were not securely fastened; and he tried the trap-door in Detricand's bedroom to see the water flowing beneath, just as it did when he was young—Yes, there it was running swiftly away to the sea! Then he babbled all the way to the door that led into the street; for now he would stay no longer.
When he had gone, Carterette sat wondering why it was that Ranulph's father should inspire her with such dislike. She knew that at this moment no man in Jersey was so popular as Olivier Delagarde. The longer she thought the more puzzled she became. No sooner had she got one theory than another forced her to move on. In the language of her people, she did not know on which foot to dance.
As she sat and thought, Detricand entered, loaded with parcels and bundles. These were mostly gifts for her father and herself; and for du Champsavoys there was a fine delft shaving-dish, shaped like a quartermoon to fit the neck. They were distributed, and by the time supper was over, it was quite dark. Then Detricand said his farewells, for it was ten o'clock, and he must be away at three, when his boat was to steal across to Brittany, and land him near to the outposts of the Royalist army under de la Rochejaquelein. There were letters to write and packing yet to do. He set to work gaily.
At last everything was done, and he was stooping over a bag to fasten it. The candle was in the window. Suddenly a hand—a long, skinny hand— reached softly out from behind a large press, and swallowed and crushed out the flame. Detricand raised his head quickly, astonished. There was no wind blowing—the candle had not even flickered when burning. But then, again, he had not heard a sound; perhaps that was because his foot was scraping the floor at the moment the light went out. He looked out of the window, but there was only starlight, and he could not see distinctly. Turning round he went to the door of the outer hall-way, opened it, and stepped into the garden. As he did so, a figure slipped from behind the press in the bedroom, swiftly raised the trap-door in the flooring, then, shadowed by the door leading into the hall-way, waited for him.
Presently his footstep was heard. He entered the hall, stood in the doorway of the bedroom for a moment, while he searched in his pockets for a light, then stepped inside.
Suddenly his attention was arrested. There was the sound of flowing water beneath his feet. This could always be heard in his room, but now how loud it was! Realising that the trap-door must be open, he listened for a second and was instantly conscious of some one in the room. He made a step towards the door, but it suddenly closed softly. He moved swiftly to the window, for the presence was near the door.
What did it mean? Who was it? Was there one, or more? Was murder intended? The silence, the weirdness, stopped his tongue—besides, what was the good of crying out? Whatever was to happen would happen at once. He struck a light, and held it up. As he did so some one or something rushed at him. What a fool he had been—the light had revealed his position! But at the same moment came the instinct to throw himself to one side; which he did as the rush came. In that one flash he had seen —a man's white beard.
Next instant there was a sharp sting in his right shoulder. The knife had missed his breast—the sudden swerving had saved him. Even as it struck, he threw himself on his assailant. Then came a struggle. The long fingers of the man with the white beard clove to the knife like a dead soldier's to the handle of a sword. Twice Detricand's hand was gashed slightly, and then he pinioned the wrist of his enemy, and tripped him up. The miscreant fell half across the opening in the floor. One foot, hanging down, almost touched the running water.
Detricand had his foe at his mercy. There was the first inclination to drop him into the stream, but that was put away as quickly as it came. He gave the wretch a sudden twist, pulling him clear of the hole, and wrenched the knife from his fingers at the same moment.
"Now, monsieur," said he, feeling for a light, "now we'll have a look at you."
The figure lay quiet beneath him. The nervous strength was gone, the body was limp, the breathing was laboured. The light flared. Detricand held it down, and there was revealed the haggard, malicious face of Olivier Delagarde.
"So, monsieur the traitor," said Detricand—" so you'd be a murderer too —eh?"
The old man mumbled an oath.
"Hand of the devil," continued Detricand, "was there ever a greater beast than you! I held my tongue about you these eleven years past, I held it yesterday and saved your paltry life, and you'd repay me by stabbing me in the dark—in a fine old-fashioned way too, with your trap-doors, and blown-out candle, and Italian tricks—"
He held the candle down near the white beard as though he would singe it.
"Come, sit up against the wall there and let me look at you."
Cringing, the old man drew himself over to the wall. Detricand, seating himself in a chair, held the candle up before him.
After a moment he said: "What I want to know is, how could a low-flying cormorant like you beget a gull of the cliffs like Maitre Ranulph?"
The old man did not answer, but sat blinking with malignant yet fearful eyes at Detricand, who continued: "What did you come back for? Why didn't you stay dead? Ranulph had a name as clean as a piece of paper from the mill, and he can't write it now without turning sick, because it's the same name as yours. You're the choice blackamoor of creation, aren't you? Now what have you got to say?"
"Let me go," whined the old man with the white beard. "Let me go, monsieur. Don't send me to prison."
Detricand stirred him with his foot, as one might a pile of dirt.
"Listen," said he. "In the Vier Marchi they're cutting off the ear of a man and nailing it to a post, because he ill-used a cow. What do you suppose they'd do to you, if I took you down there and told them it was through you Rullecour landed, and that you'd have seen them all murdered —eh, maitre cormorant?"
The old man crawled towards Detricand on his knees. "Let me go, let me go," he whined. "I was mad; I didn't know what I was doing; I've not been right in the head since I was in the Guiana prison."
At that moment it struck Detricand that the old man must have had some awful experience in prison, for now his eyes had the most painful terror, the most abject fear. He had never seen so craven a sight.
"What were you in prison for in Guiana, and what did they do to you there?" asked Detricand sternly. Again the old man shivered horribly, and tears streamed down his cheeks, as he whined piteously: "Oh no, no, no—for the mercy of Christ, no!" He threw up his hands as if to ward off a blow.
Detricand saw that this was not acting, that it was a supreme terror, an awful momentary aberration; for the traitor's eyes were wildly staring, the mouth was drawn in agony, the hands were now rigidly clutching an imaginary something, the body stiffened where it crouched.
Detricand understood now. The old man had been tied to a triangle and whipped—how horribly who might know? His mood towards the miserable creature changed: he spoke to him in a firm, quiet tone.
"There, there, you're not going to be hurt. Be quiet now, and you shall not be touched."
Then he stooped over, and quickly undoing the old man's waistcoat, he pulled down the coat and shirt and looked at his back. As far as he could see it was scarred as though by a red-hot iron, and the healed welts were like whipcords on the shrivelled skin. The old man whimpered yet, but he was growing quieter. Detricand lifted him up, and buttoning the shirt and straightening the coat again, he said:
"Now, you're to go home and sleep the sleep of the unjust, and you're to keep the sixth commandment, and you're to tell no more lies. You've made a shameful mess of your son's life, and you're to die now as soon as you can without attracting notice. You're to pray for an accident to take you out of the world: a wind to blow you over a cliff, a roof to fall on you, a boat to go down with you, a hole in the ground to swallow you up, a fever or a plague to end you in a day."
He opened the door to let him go; but suddenly catching his arms held him in a close grip. "Hark!" he said in a mysterious whisper.
There was only the weird sound of the running water through the open trap-door of the floor. He knew how superstitious was every Jerseyman, from highest to lowest, and he would work upon that weakness now.
"You hear that water running to the sea?" he said solemnly. "You tried to kill and drown me to-night. You've heard how when one man has drowned another an invisible stream follows the murderer wherever he goes, and he hears it, hour after hour, month after month, year after year, until suddenly one day it comes on him in a huge flood, and he is found, whether in the road, or in his bed, or at the table, or in the field, drowned, and dead?"
The old man shivered violently.
"You know Manon Moignard the witch? Well, if you don't do what I say— and I shall find out, mind you—she shall bewitch the flood on you. Be still . . . listen! That's the sound you'll hear every day of your life, if you break the promise you've got to make to me now."
He spoke the promise with ghostly deliberation, and the old man, all the desperado gone out of him, repeated it in a husky voice. Whereupon Detricand led him into the garden, saw him safe out on the road and watched him disappear. Then rubbing his fingers, as though to rid them of pollution, with an exclamation of disgust he went back to the house.
By another evening—that is, at the hour when Guida arrived home after her secret marriage with Philip d'Avranche—he saw the lights of the army of de la Rochejaquelein in the valley of the Vendee.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Adaptability was his greatest weapon in life He felt things, he did not study them If women hadn't memory, she answered, they wouldn't have much Lilt of existence lulling to sleep wisdom and tried experience Lonely we come into the world, and lonely we go out of it Never to be content with superficial reasons and the obvious
THE BATTLE OF THE STRONG
[A ROMANCE OF TWO KINGDOMS]
By Gilbert Parker
The night and morning after Guida's marriage came and went. The day drew on to the hour fixed for the going of the Narcissus. Guida had worked all forenoon with a feverish unrest, not trusting herself, though the temptation was sore, to go where she might see Philip's vessel lying in the tide-way. She had resolved that only at the moment fixed for sailing would she go to the shore; yet from her kitchen door she could see a wide acreage of blue water and a perfect sky; and out there was Noirmont Point, round which her husband's ship would go, and be lost to her vision thereafter.
The day wore on. She got her grandfather's dinner, saw him bestowed in the great arm-chair for his afternoon sleep, and, when her household work was done, settled herself at the spinning wheel.
The old man loved to have her spin and sing as he drowsed. To-day his eyes had followed her everywhere. He could not have told why it was, but somehow all at once he seemed to deeply realise her—her beauty, the joy of this innocent living intelligence moving through his home. She had always been necessary to him, but he had taken her presence as a matter of course. She had always been to him the most wonderful child ever given to comfort an old man's life, but now as he abstractedly took a pinch of snuff from the silver box and then forgot to put it to his nose, he seemed suddenly to get that clearness of sight, that perspective, from which he could see her as she really was. He took another pinch of snuff, and again forgot to put it to his nose, but brushed imaginary dust from his coat, as was his wont, and whispered to himself:
"Why now, why now, I had not thought she was so much a woman. Flowers of the sea, but what eyes, what carriage, and what an air! I had not thought—h'm—blind old bat that I am—I had not thought she was grown such a lady. It was only yesterday, surely but yesterday, since I rocked her to sleep. Francois de Mauprat"—he shook his head at himself—"you are growing old. Let me see—why, yes, she was born the day I sold the blue enamelled timepiece to his Highness the Duc de Mauban. The Duc was but putting the watch to his ear when a message comes to say the child there is born. 'Good,' says the Duc de Mauban, when he hears, 'give me the honour, de Mauprat,' says he, 'for the sake of old days in France, to offer a name to the brave innocent—for the sake of old associations,' says de Mauban. 'You knew my wife, de Mauprat,' says he; 'you knew the Duchesse Guida-Guidabaldine. She's been gone these ten years, alas! You were with me when we were married, de Mauprat,' says the Duc; 'I should care to return the compliment if you will allow me to offer a name, eh?' 'Duc,' said I, 'there is no honour I more desire for my grandchild.' 'Then let the name of Guidabaldine be somewhere among others she will carry, and—and I'll not forget her, de Mauprat, I'll not forget her.'... Eh, eh, I wonder—I wonder if he has forgotten the little Guidabaldine there? He sent her a golden cup for the christening, but I wonder— I wonder—if he has forgotten her since? So quick of tongue, so bright of eye, so light of foot, so sweet a face—if one could but be always young! When her grandmother, my wife, my Julie, when she was young—ah, she was fair, fairer than Guida, but not so tall—not quite so tall. Ah! . . . "
He was slipping away into sleep when he realised that Guida was singing
"Spin, spin, belle Mergaton! The moon wheels full, and the tide flows high, And your wedding-gown you must put it on Ere the night hath no moon in the sky— Gigoton Mergaton, spin!"
"I had never thought she was so much a woman," he said drowsily; "I— I wonder why—I never noticed it."
He roused himself again, brushed imaginary snuff from his coat, keeping time with his foot to the wheel as it went round. "I—I suppose she will wed soon. . . . I had forgotten. But she must marry well, she must marry well—she is the godchild of the Duc de Mauban. How the wheel goes round! I used to hear—her mother—sing that song, 'Gigoton, Mergaton spin-spin-spin.'" He was asleep.
Guida put by the wheel, and left the house. Passing through the Rue des Sablons, she came to the shore. It was high tide. This was the time that Philip's ship was to go. She had dressed herself with as much care as to what might please his eye as though she were going to meet him in person. Not without reason, for, though she could not see him from the land, she knew he could see her plainly through his telescope, if he chose.
She reached the shore. The time had come for him to go, but there was his ship at anchor in the tide-way still. Perhaps the Narcissus was not going; perhaps, after all, Philip was to remain! She laughed with pleasure at the thought of that. Her eyes wandered lovingly over the ship which was her husband's home upon the sea. Just such another vessel Philip would command. At a word from him those guns, like long, black, threatening arms thrust out, would strike for England with thunder and fire.
A bugle call came across the still water, clear, vibrant, and compelling. It represented power. Power—that was what Philip, with his ship, would stand for in the name of England. Danger—oh yes, there would be danger, but Heaven would be good to her; Philip should go safe through storm and war, and some day great honours would be done him. He should be an admiral, and more perhaps; he had said so. He was going to do it as much for her as for himself, and when he had done it, to be proud of it more for her than for himself; he had said so: she believed in him utterly. Since that day upon the Ecrehos it had never occurred to her not to believe him. Where she gave her faith she gave it wholly; where she withdrew it—
The bugle call sounded again. Perhaps that was the signal to set sail. No, a boat was putting out from the Narcissus. It was coming landward. As she watched its approach she heard a chorus of boisterous voices behind her. She turned and saw nearing the shore from the Rue d'Egypte a half-dozen sailors, singing cheerily:
"Get you on, get you on, get you on, Get you on to your fo'c'stle'ome; Leave your lassies, leave your beer, For the bugle what you 'ear Pipes you on to your fo'c'stle 'ome— 'Ome—'ome—'ome, Pipes you on to your fo'c'stle 'ome."
Guida drew near.
"The Narcissus is not leaving to-day?" she asked of the foremost sailor.
The man touched his cap. "Not to-day, lady."
"When does she leave?"
"Well, that's more nor I can say, lady, but the cap'n of the main-top, yander, 'e knows."
She approached the captain of the main-top. "When does the Narcissus leave?" she asked.
He looked her up and down, at first glance with something like boldness, but instantly he touched his hat.
"To-morrow, mistress—she leaves at 'igh tide tomorrow."
With an eye for a fee or a bribe, he drew a little away from the others, and said to her in a low tone: "Is there anything what I could do for you, mistress? P'r'aps you wanted some word carried aboard, lady?"
She hesitated an instant, then said: "No-no, thank you."
He still waited, however, rubbing his hand on his hip with mock bashfulness. There was an instant's pause, then she divined his meaning.
She took from her pocket a shilling. She had never given away so much money in her life before, but she seemed to feel instinctively that now she must give freely—now that she was the wife of an officer of the navy. Strange how these sailors to-day seemed so different to her from ever before—she felt as if they all belonged to her. She offered the shilling to the captain of the main-top. His eyes gloated, but he said with an affected surprise:
"No, I couldn't think of it, yer leddyship."
"Ah, but you will take it!" she said. "I—I have a r-relative"—she hesitated at the word—" in the navy."
"'Ave you now, yer leddyship?" he said. "Well, then, I'm proud to 'ave the shilling to drink 'is 'ealth, yer leddyship."
He touched his hat, and was about to turn away. "Stay a little," she said with bashful boldness. The joy of giving was rapidly growing to a vice. "Here's something for them," she added, nodding towards his fellows, and a second shilling came from her pocket. "Just as you say, yer leddyship," he said with owlish gravity; "but for my part I think they've 'ad enough. I don't 'old with temptin' the weak passions of man."
A moment afterwards the sailors were in the boat, rowing towards the Narcissus. Their song came back across the water:
". . . O you A.B. sailor-man, Wet your whistle while you can, For the piping of the bugle calls you 'ome! 'Ome—'ome—'ome, Calls you on to your fo'c'stle 'ome!"
The evening came down, and Guida sat in the kitchen doorway looking out over the sea, and wondering why Philip had sent her no message. Of course he would not come himself, he must not: he had promised her. But how much she would have liked to see him for just one minute, to feel his arms about her, to hear him say good-bye once more. Yet she loved him the better for not coming.
By and by she became very restless. She would have been almost happier if he had gone that day: he was within call of her, still they were not to see each other.
She walked up and down the garden, Biribi the dog by her side. Sitting down on the bench beneath the appletree, she recalled every word that Philip had said to her two days before. Every tone of his voice, every look he had given her, she went over in her thoughts. There is no reporting in the world so exact, so perfect, as that in a woman's mind, of the words, looks, and acts of her lover in the first days of mutual confession and understanding.
It can come but once, this dream, fantasy, illusion—call it what you will: it belongs to the birth hour of a new and powerful feeling; it is the first sunrise of the heart. What comes after may be the calmer joy of a more truthful, a less ideal emotion, but the transitory glory of the love and passion of youth shoots higher than all other glories into the sky of time. The splendour of youth is its madness, and the splendour of that madness is its unconquerable belief. And great is the strength of it, because violence alone can destroy it. It does not yield to time nor to decay, to the long wash of experience that wears away the stone, nor to disintegration. It is always broken into pieces at a blow. In the morning all is well, and ere the evening come the radiant temple is in ruins.
At night when Guida went to bed she could not sleep at first. Then came a drowsing, a floating between waking and sleeping, in which a hundred swift images of her short past flashed through her mind:
A butterfly darting in the white haze of a dusty road, and the cap of the careless lad that struck it down.... Berry-picking along the hedges beyond the quarries of Mont Mado, and washing her hands in the strange green pools at the bottom of the quarries. . . . Stooping to a stream and saying of it to a lad: "Ro, won't it never come back?" . . . From the front doorway watching a poor criminal shrink beneath the lash with which he was being flogged from the Vier Marchi to the Vier Prison. . . Seeing a procession of bride and bridegroom with young men and women gay in ribbons and pretty cottons, calling from house to house to receive the good wishes of their friends, and drinking cinnamon wine and mulled cider—the frolic, the gaiety of it all. Now, in a room full of people, she was standing on a veille flourished with posies of broom and wildflowers, and Philip was there beside her, and he was holding her hand, and they were waiting and waiting for some one who never came. Nobody took any notice of her and Philip, she thought; they stood there waiting and waiting—why, there was M. Savary dit Detricand in the doorway, waving a handkerchief at her, and saying: "I've found it—I've found it!"—and she awoke with a start.
Her heart was beating hard, and for a moment she was dazed; but presently she went to sleep again, and dreamed once more.
This time she was on a great warship, in a storm which was driving towards a rocky shore. The sea was washing over the deck. She recognised the shore: it was the cliff at Plemont in the north of Jersey, and behind the ship lay the awful Paternosters. They were drifting, drifting on the wall of rock. High above on the land there was a solitary stone hut. The ship came nearer and nearer. The storm increased in strength. In the midst of the violence she looked up and saw a man standing in the doorway of the hut. He turned his face towards her: it was Ranulph Delagarde, and he had a rope in his hand. He saw her and called to her, making ready to throw the rope, but suddenly some one drew her back. She cried aloud, and then all grew black. . . .
And then, again, she knew she was in a small, dark cabin of the ship. She could hear the storm breaking over the deck. Now the ship struck. She could feel her grinding upon the rocks. She seemed to be sinking, sinking—There was a knocking, knocking at the door of the cabin, and a voice calling to her—how far away it seemed! . . . Was she dying, was she drowning? The words of a nursery rhyme rang in her ears distinctly, keeping time to the knocking. She wondered who should be singing a nursery rhyme on a sinking ship:
"La main morte, La main morte, Tapp' a la porte, Tapp' a la porte."
She shuddered. Why should the dead hand tap at her door? Yet there it was tapping louder, louder. . . . She struggled, she tried to cry out, then suddenly she grew quiet, and the tapping got fainter and fainter—her eyes opened: she was awake.
For an instant she did not know where she was. Was it a dream still? For there was a tapping, tapping at her door—no, it was at the window. A shiver ran through her from head to foot. Her heart almost stopped beating. Some one was calling to her.
It was Philip's voice. Her cheek had been cold the moment before; now she felt the blood tingling in her face. She slid to the floor, threw a shawl round her, and went to the casement.
The tapping began again. For a moment she could not open the window. She was trembling from head to foot. Philip's voice reassured her a little.
"Guida, Guida, open the window a moment."
She hesitated. She could not—no—she could not do it. He tapped still louder.
"Guida, don't you hear me?" he asked.
She undid the catch, but she had hardly the courage even yet. He heard her now, and pressed the window a little. Then she opened it slowly, and her white face showed.
"O Philip," she said breathlessly, "why have you frightened me so?"
He caught her hand in his own. "Come out into the garden, sweetheart," he said, and he kissed the hand. "Put on a dress and your slippers and come," he urged again.
"Philip," she said, "O Philip, I cannot! It is too late. It is midnight. Do not ask me. Why, why did you come?"
"Because I wanted to speak with you for one minute. I have only a little while. Please come outside and say good-bye to me again. We are sailing to-morrow—there's no doubt about it this time."
"O Philip," she answered, her voice quivering, "how can I? Say good-bye to me here, now."
"No, no, Guida, you must come. I can't kiss you good-bye where you are."
"Must I come to you?" she said helplessly. "Well, then, Philip," she added, "go to the bench by the apple-tree, and I shall be there in a moment."
"Beloved!" he exclaimed ardently. She shut the window slowly.
For a moment he looked about him; then went lightly through the garden, and sat down on the bench under the apple-tree, near to the summer-house. At last he heard her footstep. He rose quickly to meet her, and as she came timidly to him, clasped her in his arms.
"Philip," she said, "this isn't right. You ought not to have come; you have broken your promise."
"Are you not glad to see me?"
"Oh, you know, you know that I'm glad to see you, but you shouldn't have come—hark! what's that?" They both held their breath, for there was a sound outside the garden wall. Clac-clac! clac-clac!—a strange, uncanny footstep. It seemed to be hurrying away—clac-clac! clac-clac!
"Ah, I know," whispered Guida: "it is Dormy Jamais. How foolish of me to be afraid!"
"Of course, of course," said Philip—"Dormy Jamais, the man who never sleeps."
"Philip—if he saw us!"
"Foolish child, the garden wall is too high for that. Besides—"
"Besides, you are my wife, Guida!"
"No, no, Philip, no; not really so until all the world is told."
"My beloved Guida, what difference can that make?" She sighed and shook her head. "To me, Philip, it is only that which makes it right—that the whole world knows. Philip, I am so afraid of—of secrecy, and cheating."
"Nonsense-nonsense!" he answered. "Poor little wood-bird, you're frightened at nothing at all. Come and sit by me." He drew her close to him.
Her trembling presently grew less. Hundreds of glow-worms were shimmering in the hedge. The grass-hoppers were whirring in the mielles beyond; a flutter of wings went by overhead. The leaves were rustling gently; a fresh wind was coming up from the sea upon the soft, fragrant dusk.
They talked a little while in whispers, her hands in his, his voice soothing her, his low, hurried words giving her no time to think. But presently she shivered again, though her heart was throbbing hotly.
"Come into the summer-house, Guida; you are cold, you are shivering." He rose, with his arm round her waist, raising her gently at the same time.
"Oh no, Philip dear," she said, "I'm not really cold—I don't know what it is—"
"But indeed you are cold," he answered. "There's a stiff south-easter rising, and your hands are like ice. Come into the arbour for a minute. It's warm there, and then—then we'll say good-bye, sweetheart."
His arm round her, he drew her with him to the summer-house, talking to her tenderly all the time. There was reassurance, comfort, loving care in his very tones.
How brightly the stars shone, how clearly the music of the stream came over the hedge! With what lazy restfulness the distant All's well floated across the mielles from a ship at anchor in the tide-way, how like a slumber-song the wash of the sea rolled drowsily along the wind! How gracious the smell of the earth, drinking up the dew of the affluent air, which the sun, on the morrow, should turn into life-blood for the grass and trees and flowers!
Philip was gone. Before breakfast was set upon the table, Guida saw the Narcissus sail round Noirmont Point and disappear.
Her face had taken on a new expression since yesterday. An old touch of dreaminess, of vague anticipation was gone—that look which belongs to youth, which feels the confident charm of the unknown future. Life was revealed; but, together with joy, wonder and pain informed the revelation.
A marvel was upon her. Her life was linked to another's, she was a wife. She was no longer sole captain of herself. Philip would signal, and she must come until either he or she should die. He had taken her hand, and she must never let it go; the breath of his being must henceforth give her new and healthy life, or inbreed a fever which should corrode the heart and burn away the spirit. Young though she was, she realised it— but without defining it. The new-found knowledge was diffused in her character, expressed in her face.
Seldom had a day of Guida's life been so busy. It seemed to her that people came and went far more than usual. She talked, she laughed a little, she answered back the pleasantries of the seafaring folk who passed her doorway or her garden. She was attentive to her grandfather; exact with her household duties. But all the time she was thinking— thinking—thinking. Now and again she smiled, but at times too tears sprang to her eyes, to be quickly dried. More than once she drew in her breath with a quick, sibilant sound, as though some thought wounded her; and she flushed suddenly, then turned pale, then came to her natural colour again.
Among those who chanced to visit the cottage was Maitresse Aimable. She came to ask Guida to go with her and Jean to the island of Sark, twelve miles away, where Guida had never been. They would only be gone one night, and, as Maitresse Aimable said, the Sieur de Mauprat could very well make shift for once.
The invitation came to Guida like water to thirsty ground. She longed to get away from the town, to be where she could breathe; for all this day the earth seemed too small for breath: she gasped for the sea, to be alone there. To sail with Jean Touzel was practically to be alone, for Maitresse Aimable never talked; and Jean knew Guida's ways, knew when she wished to be quiet. In Jersey phrase, he saw beyond his spectacles— great brass-rimmed things, giving a droll, childlike kind of wisdom to his red rotund face.
Having issued her invitation, Maitresse Aimable smiled placidly and seemed about to leave, when, all at once, without any warning, she lowered herself like a vast crate upon the veille, and sat there looking at Guida.
At first the grave inquiry of her look startled Guida. She was beginning to know that sensitive fear assailing those tortured by a secret. How she loathed this secrecy! How guilty she now felt, where, indeed, no guilt was! She longed to call aloud her name, her new name, from the housetops.
The voice of Maitresse Aimable roused her. Her ponderous visitor had made a discovery which had yet been made by no other human being. Her own absurd romance, her ancient illusion, had taught her to know when love lay behind another woman's face. And after her fashion, Maitresse Aimable loved Jean Touzel as it is given to few to love.
"I was sixteen when I fell in love; you're seventeen—you," she said. "Ah bah, so it goes!"
Guida's face crimsoned. What—how much did Maitresse Aimable know? By what necromancy had this fat, silent fisher-wife learned the secret which was the heart of her life, the soul of her being—which was Philip? She was frightened, but danger made her cautious.
"Can you guess who it is?" she asked, without replying directly to the oblique charge.
"It is not Maitre Ranulph," answered her friendly inquisitor; "it is not that M'sieu' Detricand, the vaurien." Guida flushed with annoyance. "It is not that farmer Blampied, with fifty vergees, all potatoes; it is not M'sieu' Janvrin, that bat'd'lagoule of an ecrivain. Ah bah, so it goes!"
"Who is it, then?" persisted Guida. "Eh ben, that is the thing!"
"How can you tell that one is in love, Maitresse Aimable? "persisted Guida.
The other smiled with a torturing placidity, then opened her mouth; but nothing came of it. She watched Guida moving about the kitchen abstractedly. Her eye wandered to the racllyi, with its flitches of bacon, to the dreschiaux and the sanded floor, to the great Elizabethan oak chair, and at last back to Guida, as though through her the lost voice might be charmed up again.
The eyes of the two met now, fairly, firmly; and Guida was conscious of a look in the other's face which she had never seen before. Had then a new sight been given to herself? She saw and understood the look in Maitresse Aimable's face, and instantly knew it to be the same that was in her own.
With a sudden impulse she dropped the bashin she was polishing, and, going over quickly, she silently laid her cheek against her old friend's. She could feel the huge breast heave, she felt the vast face turn hot, she was conscious of a voice struggling back to life, and she heard it say at last:
"Gatd'en'ale, rosemary tea cures a cough, but nothing cures the love—ah bah, so it goes!"
"Do you love Jean?" whispered Guida, not showing her face, but longing to hear the experience of another who suffered that joy called love.
Maitresse Aimable's face grew hotter; she did not speak, but patted Guida's back with her heavy hand and nodded complacently.
"Have you always loved him?" asked Guida again, with an eager inquisition, akin to that of a wayside sinner turned chapel-going saint, hungry to hear what chanced to others when treading the primrose path.
Maitresse Aimable again nodded, and her arm drew closer about Guida. There was a slight pause, then came an unsophisticated question:
"Has Jean always loved you?"
A short silence, and then the voice said with the deliberate prudence of an unwilling witness:
"It is not the man who wears the wedding-ring." Then, as if she had been disloyal in even suggesting that Jean might hold her lightly, she added, almost eagerly—an enthusiasm tempered by the pathos of a half-truth:
"But my Jean always sleeps at home."
This larger excursion into speech gave her courage, and she said more; and even as Guida listened hungrily—so soon had come upon her the apprehensions and wavering moods of loving woman!—she was wondering to hear this creature, considered so dull by all, speak as though out of a watchful and capable mind. What further Maitresse Aimable said was proof that if she knew little and spake little, she knew that little well; and if she had gathered meagrely from life, she had at least winnowed out some small handfuls of grain from the straw and chaff. At last her sagacity impelled her to say:
"If a man's eyes won't see, elder-water can't make him; if he will—ah bah, glad and good!" Both arms went round Guida, and hugged her awkwardly.
Her voice came up but once more that morning. As she left Guida in the doorway, she said with a last effort:
"I will have one bead to pray for you, trejous." She showed her rosary, and, Huguenot though she was, Guida touched the bead reverently. "And if there is war, I will have two beads, trejous. A bi'tot—good-bye!"
Guida stood watching her from the doorway, and the last words of the fisher-wife kept repeating themselves through her brain: "And if there is war, I will have two beads, trejous."
So, Maitresse Aimable knew she loved Philip! How strange it was that one should read so truly without words spoken, or through seeing acts which reveal. She herself seemed to read Maitresse Aimable all at once—read her by virtue, and in the light, of true love, the primitive and consuming feeling in the breast of each for a man. Were not words necessary for speech after all? But here she stopped short suddenly; for if love might find and read love, why was it she needed speech of Philip? Why was it her spirit kept beating up against the hedge beyond which his inner self was, and, unable to see that beyond, needed reassurance by words, by promises and protestations?
All at once she was angry with herself for thinking thus concerning Philip. Of course Philip loved her deeply. Had she not seen the light of true love in his eyes, and felt the arms of love about her? Suddenly she shuddered and grew bitter, and a strange rebellion broke loose in her. Why had Philip failed to keep his promise not to see her again after the marriage, till he should return from Portsmouth? It was selfish, painfully, terribly selfish of him. Why, even though she had been foolish in her request—why had he not done as she wished? Was that love—was it love to break the first promise he had ever made to his wife?
Yet she excused him to herself. Men were different from women, and men did not understand what troubled a woman's heart and spirit; they were not shaken by the same gusts of emotion; they—they were not so fine; they did not think so deeply on what a woman, when she loves, thinks always, and acts upon according to her thought. If Philip were only here to resolve these fears, these perplexities, to quiet the storm in her! And yet, could he—could he? For now she felt that this storm was rooting up something very deep and radical in her. It frightened her, but for the moment she fought it passionately.