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Pearl Of Pearl Island Part 24

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"It was Mr. Black's enthusiasm for Sark at that Whitefriars' dinner that put it into my head when--when we were wondering where to go. I remember now," said Margaret.

"It was Black's enthusiasm for Sark that put it into _my_ head when _I_ was wondering where to go," said Graeme.

"There you are, you see," said Miss Penny. "I knew you must have had some common inspiration."

"I am greatly indebted to Black. He's one of the finest fellows I know. He's done me more than one good turn, but I shall always count Sark his chiefest achievement," said Graeme heartily.

XVIII



The wind howled round the house, and whuffled in the chimney, and sent spurts of sweet-scented smoke to mingle with the fuller flavour of Graeme's tobacco. The walls were bare plaster, discoloured with age and careless usage. The chairs were common kitchen chairs, and the table a plain deal one. But the driftwood burned with flames whose forked tongues sang silently but eloquently of wanderings under many skies, of rainbow isles in sunny seas, of vivid golden days and the black wonders of tropic nights, of storms and calms, and all the untold mysteries of the pitiless sea.

But to two at least of the party--and perhaps even to three--that bare room was radiant beyond any they had ever known.

Orange and amber lightening into sunshine, purple into heliotrope, tender greens and lucent blues, burning crimson and fiery red, were the flames of the driftwood, and in these surely the imagination may find its happiest auguries. For if the dancing flames, out of their chastened knowledge, sang only of the past, in the minds of their watchers they were singing of futures brighter and more glowing than anything the past had ever known. And so, to two at least of them,--and perhaps to three,--never surely was there room so radiant as that bare room in that empty house on Brecqhou.

Miss Penny had the high endowment of a large heart, a wide imagination, and sentiment sufficient for a high-cla.s.s girls'

boarding-school.

She found herself for the moment out of place, yet she could not remove herself without too obvious an intention. She did the next best thing. She settled herself on her chair in a corner, slipped off her shoes, sat on her feet, and went to sleep.

Margaret, indeed, glanced at her suspiciously once or twice, without moving her head by so much as a hair's-breadth. But she seemed really and truly asleep, and for a moment Margaret was amazed that anyone could think of sleep in that enchanted room. But then she remembered that it was different--Hennie was Hennie, and she was she, and it was for her that the crystal ball of life had opened of a sudden and shown the radiance within.

How long they sat in silence before the rainbow fire she never knew.

Hennie was snoring gently--purring as one might say--in the most genuinely ingenuous fashion.

Graeme, in the riot of happy possibilities evoked by the disclosure of Mr. Pixley's perfidy, would have been content to sit there for ever, since Margaret was at his side. It was enough to know that she was there. He did not need to turn his head to enjoy the sight of her with gross material vision. Every tight-strung fibre of his being told him of her nearness, in ways compared with which sight and sound and touch are gross and feeble travesties of communication. Their spirits surely reached out and touched in that silent communion before the rainbow fire.

There were many things he wanted to ask her now. But they could wait, they could wait. The Doubting Castles he had built in his despair had had no foundations. He was building anew already, and now with rosy hope and golden faith, and the topstones of his building mingled with the stars.

He woke of a sudden to a sense of lack of consideration for her in his own enjoyment. Doubtless she was tired out, and was only kept from following Miss Penny's example by his cra.s.s stupidity in sitting there in that stolid fashion.

"Pray forgive me!" he said, as he rose quietly. "You must be tired, too. I will take the other room and you can join Miss Penny."

"I'm not the least tired. I never felt more awake in my life. Surely the wind has fallen."

He went to the door and opened it and looked out.

"It is only a lull. It will probably blow up again stronger than ever," and as he turned he found her at his elbow.

"Let us go outside," she said, and he could have taken her into his arms. Instead, he tiptoed across the room and got her cloak, and placed it on her shoulders with a new, vast sense of proprietorship.

He knew just how she felt. Even that room of rare delights was not large enough just then for her and for him. The whole wide world, and the illimitable heights of the heavens, could scarce contain that which was in them. Their hearts were full, and that which was in them was that of which G.o.d is the ultimate perfection. And in their ears, in the gaps of the storm, was the roaring thunder of the great white waves as they tore along the black sides of Brecqhou.

"Tell me more about those letters," she said briefly. "What did you write?"

"I wrote, nominally, to inform you of Lady Elspeth's sudden call to Scotland, but actually to tell you how sorely I regretted the sudden break in our acquaintance which had become to me so very great a delight."

"And when you got no answer?"

"I waited and waited, and then I had a sudden fear that you might be ill. And to satisfy myself I called on Mr. Pixley at his office. He told me you were quite well, that you had had my letters, and had handed them to him."

"Anything more?"

"Yes,--he said you were shortly to marry his son."

"That is what he wished,--and that is why I am here."

"Thank G.o.d! Then I may tell you, Margaret. I had been building castles and you were mistress of them all and of my whole heart. When Mr.

Pixley knocked them into dust I came here to fight it out by myself, and a black time I had. Then G.o.d, in His goodness, put it into your heart to come too. Will you marry me, Margaret?"

"Yes, Jock."

And there, in the lull of the gale, in the lee of the lonely house on Brecqhou, they plighted their troth with no more need of feeble words, for their hearts had gone out to one another.

And all along the gaunt black rocks the great waves, which a moment before had been growling in dull agony, roared a mighty chorus of delight, and rolled it up the sloping seams of Longue Pointe, and flashed it on in thunderous bursts of foam from Bec-du-Nez to L'Etac.

And Miss Henrietta Penny, awakening about this time, and finding herself alone, laughed happily to herself, and sighed just once, and said from her heart, "G.o.d bless them!"--and did not go to sleep again, though to look at her you would never have known it, save for the fact that she no longer purred in her sleep,--for the woman has yet to be born who ever pleaded guilty to actual snoring.

XIX

Graeme slept that night just as much as might have been expected under the circ.u.mstances, and that was not one wink. Nevertheless, when morning came, he felt as strong and joyous as a young G.o.d. New life had come to him in the night, and he felt equal to the conquering of worlds. For love is life, and the strength and the joy of it.

He was out with the dawn, to a gray rushing morning full of the sounds of sea and wind. He drew a canful of water from the well, and had such a wash as no soap and a handkerchief would permit of. Then he drew another canful and left it outside the door of the ladies' room, and strode off to Beleme to see if the boats had got back to their anchorage. But the little bay was a scene of storm and strife, a wild confusion of raging seas and stubborn rocks, the fruits of the conflict flying up the cliffs in spongy gouts of spume, and dappling the waters far and wide with fantasies of troubled marbling,--and there was not a boat to be seen.

But the sight of the great white seas roaring up the Sark headlands, as far as he could see on either hand, was one never to be forgotten.

It was worth the price they had paid, even though it spelt a further term of captivity, and he turned back to his duties with that new glad glow in his heart which was no longer simply hope but the full and gracious a.s.surance of loftiest attainment.

He had seen potatoes growing in a plot near the house. So, after lighting a fire in the kitchen and setting the kettle to boil, he rooted about till he found the remains of a spade and set himself to unaccustomed labours.

When Miss Penny came out of her room, freshfaced and comely coiffured, she found a ring of potatoes roasting in the ashes and the kettle boiling, and Graeme came in, bright-eyed and wind-whipped, wiping his hands on a very damp handkerchief.

"I am so glad, Mr. Graeme," she said, with sparkling eyes and face, and hearty outstretched hand.

"Margaret has told you?"

"Of course Margaret has told me. Am I not her keeper, and haven't I been hoping for this since ever I saw you?"

"That is very good of you. I thought, perhaps--"

"Thought it might take me by surprise, I suppose--and perhaps that I might take it badly? Not a bit! It fulfils my very highest hopes. And I can a.s.sure you you have got a prize. There are not many girls like Margaret Brandt."

"Don't I know it? I have known it from the very first time I met her--at that blessed Whitefriars' dinner."

"I think you will make her very happy."

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Pearl Of Pearl Island Part 24 summary

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