Pearl Of Pearl Island - novelonlinefull.com
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"Surely! Why not? It's perfectly safe. There was a wooden railing at this side, but it fell over about a fortnight ago, and at present the good folks of Little Sark and Big Sark are discussing who ought to put up a new one. I happened to be sitting over there when it fell. A party of visitors came down the cutting here, and one was just going to lean on the railing, to look down into the gulf there, when he had the sense to try it first with his foot and it went with a crash, and they got a scare and went back to the hotel to eat lobsters. It was really useless as protection, but it made one feel safer to have it there."
"It's horrible," said Miss Penny emphatically.
"Safe as London Bridge, if you'll only believe it. It's a good four feet wide. The school children used to trot over when it was not more than two and a half."
"And none of them fell over?"
"Never a one. Why should they?"
"Meg, my dear," said Miss Penny, with a sudden flash of incongruity,"
this is truly a _very_ great change from Melgrave Square."
"It is," laughed Margaret. "Are you coming, Hennie?"
"I'll--I'll risk it if Mr. Graeme will personally conduct me. He's in charge of us, you know."
"Certainly!" and he held out his hand to her, and then looked at Margaret. "Will you please wait here till I come back for you?" And catching, as he thought, a sign of mutiny in her face,--"Although it's perfectly safe it's perhaps just as well to have company the first time you cross."
"Very well," she said, and Miss Penny clung convulsively to the strong unwavering hand while she gingerly trod the narrow way, and the dogs raced half-way to meet them.
"Go _away_!" she shrieked, and the dogs turned on their pivots and sped back.
"Now, you see!" he said, when she stood safe on the rounded shoulder of Little Sark. "Where was the trouble?"
"It's perfectly easy, Meg," cried Miss Penny, uplifted with her accomplishment.
He wondered whether she would vouchsafe him her hand or attempt the pa.s.sage alone. But she put her hand into his without hesitation, and thenceforth and for ever the Coupee held for him a touch of sacred glamour. For the soft hand throbbed in his, and every throb thrilled right up into his heart and set it dancing to some such tune as that which sang in David when he danced before the Ark. But his hand was firm, and his head was steady, for that which he held in charge was the dearest thing in life to him.
Three hundred blessed feet was the span of the Coupee. How fervently he wished them three thousand--ay, three million! For every step accorded him a throb, and heart-throbs such as these are among the precious things of life.
Neither of them spoke one word. Common-places were very much out of place, and the things that were in his heart he might not speak--yet.
"Didn't I say so?" cried Miss Penny, as they stepped ash.o.r.e on Little Sark. "It's as easy as winking."
"I never said it wasn't," said Margaret, with a deep breath. "But I doubt if you'd have come across alone, my child."
"It was certainly pleasanter to have something to hold on to," said Miss Penny.
And Graeme thought so too.
Little Sark provides ample opportunity for the adventurous scrambler, and Graeme, having tested the novel sensation of those delicious heart-thrills, was eager for more.
They prowled round the old silver mines, and sat on the great rocks at Port Gorey which had in those olden times served for a jetty, while he told them how Peter Le Pelley had mortgaged the island to further his quest after the silver, and how a whole ship-load of it sank within a stone's throw of the place where they sat, and with it the Seigneur's hopes and fortunes.
They peered into the old houses and down the disused shafts, lined now with matted growth of ivy and clinging ferns,--the bottomless pits into which the Le Pelley heritage had disappeared. Then he took them for mild refection to Mrs. Mollet's cottage; and after a rest,--and with their gracious permission, a pipe,--he led them across to the wild south walls of the island, with their great chasms and fissures and tumbled strata, their ma.s.sive pinnacles, and deep narrow inlets and tunnels where the waves champed and roared in everlasting darkness.
The dogs harried the rabbits untiringly, Punch in long lithe bounds that were a joy to behold; Scamp in panting hysterics which gave over-ample warning of his coming and precluded all possibilities of capture.
Graeme led them down the face of the cliff fronting L'Etac, the great rock island that was once a part of Little Sark itself.
"Once upon a time there was a Coupee across here," he said. "Some time our Coupee will disappear and Little Sark will be an island also."
"Not before we get back, I hope," said Miss Penny.
"Not before we get back, _I_ hope," said Graeme, for would he not hold Margaret's hand again on the homeward journey?
Down the cliff, along white saw-teeth of upturned veins of quartz, with Margaret's hand in his, then back for Miss Penny, till they sat looking down into a deep dark basin, almost circular: lined with the most lovely pink and heliotrope corallines: studded with anemones, brown and red and green: every point and ledge decked with delicately-fronded sea-ferns and mosses: and the whole overhung with threatening ma.s.ses of rock.
"Venus's Bath," he told them. "Those round stones at the bottom have churned about in there for hundreds of years, I suppose. The tide fills it each time, as you will see presently, but the stones cannot get out and they've helped to make their own prison-house,--wherein I perceive a moral. It's a delicious plunge from that rock."
"You bathe here?" asked Margaret.
"I and the dogs bathe here at times. There's one other thing you must see, and I think you may see it to-day. The tide is right, and the wind is right, and there's a good sea on."
They waited till the long waves came swirling up over the rocks and filled the basin and set the great round stones at the bottom grinding angrily. Then off again along the splintered face of the cliff, one by one, that is two by two over the difficult bits, till he had them seated among some ragged boulders with the waves foaming white below them, and swooking and plunking in hidden hollow places.
The wind was rising, and the crash of the seas on the rocks made speech impossible. He pointed suddenly along the cliff face, and not twenty yards away, with a hiss and a roar, a furious spout of water shot up into the air a rocket of white foam, a hundred feet high, and fell with a crash over the rocks and into the sea.
Twenty times they watched it roar up into the sky, and then they crawled back up the face of the cliff, wind-whipped and rosy-faced, and with the taste of salt in their mouths.
"That is a fine sight," said Margaret, with sparkling eyes and diamond drops in her wind-blown hair. He thought he had never seen her so absolutely lovely before. He had certainly never seen anyone to compare with her.
"That's the Souffleur--the blow-hole. There's a bigger one still in Saignie Bay, we'll look it up if the wind gets round to the north-west. I'm glad you've seen this one. It was just a chance."
"I'm blow-holed all to rags, and, Meg, your hair is absolutely disgraceful," said Miss Penny. So differently may different eyes regard the same object, especially when the heart has a say in it. He would have given all he was worth for an offered lock of that wind-blown hair.
As Margaret turned she caught his eye, perhaps caught something of what was in it.
"Am I as bad as all that?" she laughed in rosy confusion.
"You're"--he began impetuously, but caught himself in time.--"You're all right. When you go to see the Souffleur you must expect to get a bit blown."
"It's worth it," she said. "And I'm sure we're much obliged to you for taking us. We could never have got there alone."
"We'd never have got to Little Sark, to say nothing of the Souffleur,"
said Miss Penny very emphatically.
"And now perhaps you'll forgive me for making you buy those shoes."
"My, yes! They're great," said Miss Penny, looking critically at her feet. "But decidedly they're not beautiful."
They loitered homewards, chatting discursively of many things, in a way that made for intimacy. Miss Penny and Graeme, indeed, still did most of the actual speaking, as he remembered afterwards, but Margaret was in no way outside their talk, and if she did not say much it is probable that she listened and thought none the less.