Pearl Of Pearl Island - novelonlinefull.com
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"Come out, dear. I want you."
"Half a jiff, old girl. Give a fellow a chance with his back hair. You had first tub this morning, remember." At which Graeme's eyes twinkled in unison with Margaret's.
"There's a gentleman waiting to see you, dear," said Margaret, to prevent any further revelations.
"A _what_?"--and there followed a clatter of falling implements as though a sudden start had sent them flying. "Wretch!--to upset one like that! It's that big brown dog, I suppose. I know you, my child!"
Then the blind whirled up and a merry face, in a cloud of dishevelled hair, looked out, a pair of horrified eyes rested momentarily on Graeme, and the blind rattled down again with something that sounded like a m.u.f.fled feminine objurgation.
And presently the inner door opened and Miss Penny came forth demurely, and bowed distantly in the direction of Margaret and Graeme.
She was of average height but inclined to plumpness, and so looked smaller than Margaret; and she had no great pretensions to beauty, Graeme thought--but then he was bia.s.sed for life and incapable of free and impartial judgment--save such as might be found in a very frank face given to much laughter, a rather wide mouth and nice white teeth, abundant dark hair and a pair of challenging brown eyes which now, getting over their first confusion--and finding herself at all events fully dressed, wherein she had the advantage of him--rested with much appreciation on the young man in front of her.
The salt water was still in his hair, and the discrepancies in his hasty attire were but partly hidden by the damp towel round his neck.
Nevertheless he was very good to look upon. His moustache showed crisp against the healthy brown of his face; his hair, short as it was, had a natural ripple which sea-water could not reduce; and his eyes were br.i.m.m.i.n.g with the new joy of life and repressed laughter. Miss Penny liked the looks of him.
"Margaret Brandt, I will never forgive you as long as I live," said she emphatically.
"All right, dear! This is Mr. Bogey-man whose rooms we have appropriated. He wished to be introduced to the other malefactor. Miss Henrietta Penny--Mr. John Graeme! Mr. Graeme and I have met before."
If Mr. John Graeme had had more experience of women, the flash that shot across from the brown eyes to the dark blue ones might have told him stories--for instance, that his name and would-have-been standing towards her friend were not entirely unknown to Miss Penny; that, for a brief half second, she wondered--doubted--and instantly chid herself for such a thought in connection with Margaret Brandt.
But Margaret herself, being a woman, caught the momentary challenge and repelled it steadily.
"I am very pleased to meet you, Miss Penny--in such a place, and in such company. I have heard of you from Miss Brandt," said Graeme.
"Never till five minutes ago," laughed Margaret.
"Yes, if you will pardon me--once before, at Lady Elspeth Gordon's.
Unless I am mistaken, Miss Penny had just been across to Dublin to take a degree which Cambridge ungallantly declined to confer upon her."
"Quite right!" said Miss Penny. "M.A. They're misogynists at Cambridge."
"Will you oblige me by informing Miss Penny, Mr. Graeme, that this meeting is purely accidental? I caught a spark in her eye and I know what it means. Had you the very slightest idea that we were coming to Sark?"
"Not the remotest. When I saw you standing in the hedge there, with the morning glories all about you, I first doubted my eyes, then I thought you a vision--"
"And do you think it possible that I knew of you being here?"
"I am certain you did not. n.o.body knows. I left no address, and I told no one where I was going. I have not had a letter since I left London.
I have been buried alive in this heavenly little place."
"There now, Mademoiselle," said Margaret, with a bow. "Are you satisfied now?"
"I was satisfied before you opened your mouth, my dear. The possibility inevitably suggested itself, but it was stillborn. Has not our friendship pa.s.sed its seventh birthday?"
"Thank you, dear. But the coincidence of our coming to bury ourselves in Sark, and Mr. Graeme's coming to bury himself in Sark, was almost unbelievable."
"Not at all," said Miss Penny. "If you could both trace back you would probably find the same original spring of action--a chance word from some common friend, or some article you have both read. Then, when circ.u.mstances loosed the spring, you both shot in the same direction.
What was it loosed your spring, Mr. Graeme?"
"Well,--I wanted to get away out of things. I'm busy on a book, you see, and I'd heard of Sark--"
"Same here!" said Miss Penny--"less the book. We wanted to get away out of things--and people, and we'd heard of Sark, and here we are.
Was it you suggested Sark, or I, Meg?"
"I'm sure I don't know, dear. You, I should think."
"I will take all the credit of it."
Just then Mrs. Carre, who had been down to John Philip's for bread, turned in out of the road with a loaf under each arm. At sight of all her guests fraternising, her face lit up with a broad smile, and Scamp, who had whirled in after her, twisted himself into hieroglyphics of delight and rent the air with his expression of it, and then launched himself at Punch and taxed him with perfidy in going off to bathe without him.
"Ah, you have med friends with the leddies," she said to Graeme.
"Scamp! Bad beast, be qui-et! A couche!"
"I'm doing my best, Mrs. Carre."
"That iss very nice."
"Very nice, indeed!" And Miss Penny a.s.serted afterwards that he was looking at Margaret all the time.
"I told them you were a nice quiet gentleman and wouldn't disturb them at all," said Mrs. Carre.
"I'll do my very best not to. So far the disturbance has been all on their side, but I'm standing it very well, you see. You'll let me show you the sights, won't you?" he said to Miss Brandt. "I've been here a month, you see, and I know it all like a book. I've done nothing but moon about since I came--"
"I thought you were busy on a book," said Miss Penny.
"Er--well, you see, you have to do a lot of thinking before you start writing. I've been thinking," and perhaps more than one of them had a fairly shrewd suspicion as to the line his thoughts had taken.
"Now, if I don't cut away and dress, and get my breakfast and clear out, I shall be in the way of the ladies, and Mrs. Carre will never forgive me," he said. "I do hope you will include me in your plans for the day."
His bow included them both, and he sped off up the path through the high hedge, with the two dogs racing alongside.
"Meg, my child, we will go for a little walk," said Miss Penny.
The salt Sark air is uplifting at all times. The sea-water has a crisp effervescence of its own which tones and braces mind and body alike.
Add to these the wonder of Margaret's unexpected presence there and, if the gift of large imagination be yours, you may possibly arrive--within a hundred miles or so--of the state of John Graeme's feelings as he raced up that path and bounded up the stairs of the Red House four at a time.
He looked out of the wide-open window across the fields, while the dogs, as usual, took the opportunity of appeasing their thirst at his water-jug,--for water lies at the bottom of deep cool wells in Sark, and sensible dogs take their chances when they offer.
Was this the room he had left an hour ago in the fresh of the dawn--a man whose gray future was just beginning to lift its bruised head out of the shadows?
Were those gleaming emerald fields the dim wastes he had sped across with his dumb companion, feeling as friendly towards him as towards anything on earth?
Were those trees over there, with the glow of spring-gold in their tender green leaves, the gloomy guardians of the churchyard where ghosts walked of a night?