Pearl Of Pearl Island - novelonlinefull.com
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"I discouraged the imposition, certainly. But I don't suppose Johnnie could have done much--except with your sixpence."
"He's a queer clever boy, is Johnnie. He certainly said it wasn't going to keep fine."
"Yet you gave him fivepence for seeing--or saying he saw--two crows and three crows, because two crows mean good luck and three crows mean----"
"You talk as if you believed his nonsense, Hennie," broke in Margaret.
"Perhaps I do--to some extent. He certainly declined to pledge himself to a fine day, and it remains to be seen if the rest of his--"
"--Humbug," suggested Graeme.
"We'll say predictions, since we're in a superst.i.tious land,--come true. I shouldn't be a bit surprised. Thunderstorms are not, as a rule, deadly, and it is conceivable that they may, at times, even be means of grace. Would you mind piling some more gorse on that fire, Mr. Graeme? A counter-illumination is cheerful when the heavens without are all black and blazing. What a joke it would be if we had to stop here all night!"--she said it with intention, and Graeme understood and blessed her.
"We'll hope it won't come to that," he said, as lightly as he could make it. "But, if it should, we could make ourselves fairly comfortable. Robinson Crusoes up to date!"
"No--Swiss Family Robinsons!" was Margaret's quota to the lightening of gloom. "The way everything turned up just when that interesting family required it struck me as marvellous even when I was a child."
"You always were of an acutely enquiring--not to say doubting--disposition, my dear, ever since I knew you," said Miss Penny.
"I always liked to get at the true truth of things, and humbug always annoyed me."
"No wonder you found Mr. Pixley a trial, dear," said Miss Penny.
"You don't mean to cast stones of doubt at that shining pillar of the law and society, Miss Penny?" said Graeme, tempted to enlarge on so congenial a subject.
"Mr. Pixley does not appeal to me--nor I to him. I like him just as much as he likes me. And that's just that much,"--with a snap of the fingers.
"I'm afraid you and I are in the same boat," said Graeme enjoyably.
"I shouldn't be a bit surprised,--and for the same reason. We both like--"
"What shall we do for provisions, Mr. Graeme, if the storm continues?"
asked Margaret, and Miss Penny smiled knowingly.
"I suggest husbanding those we have. It can't surely last long."
"Mrs. Carre was telling us the other night that once no steamer could get to Sark from Guernsey for three weeks," chirped Miss Penny. "If a steamer couldn't get to Sark, how should a small boat get to Brecqhou--Q.E.D.?"
"Gracious!" cried Margaret in dismay.
"Mr. Graeme would have to catch rabbits for us--and fish. And I believe there are potatoes growing outside there. Our clothing will be in rags, Meg. Mr. Graeme will be a wild man of the woods, and all our portraits will appear in the ill.u.s.trated papers. The Outcasts of Brecqhou. Marooned on an Uninhabited Island. Three Weeks Alone."
"I'm off for a look round," said Graeme. "If that boat should be waiting for us, somewhere down below, it would be too stupid for us to be waiting for it up here," and he turned up his coat collar and pulled his cap over his brows.
"You'll get soaked," said Margaret. "Please take this, it will help a little," and she jumped up and thrust her golfing cloak into his hands. He seemed about to refuse, then thanked her hastily, and threw it over his shoulders and went out.
The wind caught him and whirled him along towards Beleme cliffs. He tacked to the south and made a slant for the place where they had landed. As soon as he was out of sight of the house he drew the hood of the cloak over his head and rejoiced in it.
To be wearing her cloak brought Margaret appreciably nearer. Possibly that hood had even been over her head, had touched her shining hair, her fair soft cheek. He pressed it to his face, to his lips, and the hot blood danced in his veins at his temerity. The gale bellowed outside and drove him staggering, but inside the hood was the uplifting warmth and glow of personal contact with the beloved. Her very mantle was sacred to him. He fancied he could detect in it a subtle intimation of herself. He hugged it close, and leaned back upon the gale, and drifted towards the southern cliffs.
One glance at the black rocks below,--now hidden by the rushing fury of the surges, now outstanding gaunt and grim, with creamy cascades pouring back into the roaring welter below,--showed him how impossible it would have been for any boat to approach there.
He plunged on through the ma.s.ses of dripping ragwort towards the eastern cliff, and stood absorbed by the grim fury of the Gouliot Race. The driven waves split on the western point of Brecqhou and came rocketing along the ragged black rocks on either side in wild bursts of foam. The Gouliot Pa.s.sage was roaring with the noise of many waters, and boiling and seething like a gigantic pot. The sea was white with beaten spume for half a mile each way, and up through the tumbling marbled surface great black coils of water came writhing and bubbling from their tribulation on the hidden rocks below. The black fangs of the Gouliots were grimmer than ever. The long line of scoured granite cliffs on either side looked like great bald-headed eagles peering out hungrily for their prey.
There were no boats at the anchorage in Havre Gosselin. He learned afterwards that they had all run to the shelter of Creux Harbour on the other side of the island. He breasted the gale and headed for the house.
"I'm very much afraid we're stuck for the night," he said, as they looked up enquiringly on his entrance. "There's not a sign of a boat, and I'm quite sure no boat could face that sea. Sark looks like an outcast island--the very end of the world."
"Then we'll make ourselves comfortable here," said Miss Penny. "We began to fear you'd been blown over the cliffs. Is there plenty of wood in the house?"
"I'll go and get some more," and he came back with a great armful of broken driftwood, and went again for as much gorse as he could carry in a rude wooden fork he found near the stack.
"You must be soaked through and through," said Margaret.
"Bit damp, but your cloak was a great help," and he piled gorse and chunks of wood on the fire till its roaring almost drowned the noise of the storm outside.
"Well, I call this absolutely ripping," said Miss Penny exuberantly, as they sat by the fire of many-coloured flames, after a slender cup of tea and as hearty a meal as Graeme would allow them in view of possible contingencies. "Do please smoke, Mr. Graeme. It just needs a whiff of tobacco to complete our enjoyment."
"Sark," she added, leaning back with her hands clasped behind her head, "when no one knows you're there, is just heavenly. No letters, no telegrams, no intrusion of the commonplace outside world! Those are distinctly heavenly attributes, you know--"
It was truly extraordinary how, with nothing more than a very general intention thereto, she played into his hands at times. Here now was a very simple question he had been wanting to put to Miss Brandt for days past. For the answer to it might shed light in several directions. But he had been loth to force matters, and had quietly waited such opportunity as might arise in a natural way without undue obtrusion of the doubt that was in his mind.
"'Peace--perfect peace!' as Adam Black used to sigh," he said. "And by the way"--turning to Margaret--"speaking of letters, I have often wondered at times if you ever received two that I sent you concerning Lady Elspeth--just about the time she was called away to Scotland?"
She looked back at him with surprise, and his question was answered and his doubt solved before ever she opened her lips.
"About Lady Elspeth? No,--I certainly never got them."
"H'm!" he nodded thoughtfully. "The first I feared might have gone astray through some stupidity of the post-office. But the second I dropped into your letter-box myself. Moreover--"
"I never got them,"--with a charming touch of colour.
"Moreover----?" said Miss Penny expectantly, with a dancing light in her eyes.
"Well," he said, after a pause, "to tell you the whole story, Mr.
Pixley a.s.sured me that you had had them and had handed them on to him."
"Mr. Pixley said that?" and Margaret sat up, with very much more than a touch of colour in her face now. In fact it was militantly red and vastly indignant.
"Yes. I--well, I called upon him at his office just to find out if--well, if you were ill or anything like that, you know. And among other interesting information he told me that, and cut off my head with his gla.s.ses and threw my remains out into the street;" at which Margaret smiled through her indignation.
"Mr. Pixley," said Miss Penny emphatically, "is a--a Johnnie Vautrin on a larger scale. Had he any other interesting items of information for you, Mr. Graeme?"
"Well--yes, he had. But I can estimate them now at their proper value, and it can rest there."