Pearl Of Pearl Island - novelonlinefull.com
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"In spite of the fact that we are aliens?"
"Oh, it is not so bad as that. We ab-sorbed you by conquest and so you are really a part of us. We are all one family now."
"And such a marriage would be perfectly legal and una.s.sailable?"
"I shall marry you more firmly than if you were married in Cant-er-bury Cath-edral," laughed the Vicar.
"That should suffice. But why more firmly? How improve on perfection?"
"I will tell you," said the Vicar, with increased enjoyment, as he leaned forward and tapped Graeme's knee. "It is this way.--If you are married in Cant-er-bury Cath-edral you can be divorced,--n'est-ce pas?
Oui! Eh bien!--If you are married in my church of Sark you can never be divorced. C'est ca! It is the old Norman law."
"We will be married in your church of Sark," said Graeme, with conviction.
"That is right. I shall marry you so that you shall never be able to get away from one another."
"Please G.o.d, we'll never want to!"
"Ah yes! Of course. C'est ca!"
"We have never had a case of the kind, as far as I know. Certainly not in my time," said the Seigneur, smiling quizzically across the tea-table at Graeme. "But you gentlemen of the pen are allowed a certain amount of license in such matters, are you not?"
"We sometimes take it, anyhow. But one likes to stick as close to fact as possible."
They were sitting in the shady corner in front of the Seigneurie, with four dogs basking in the sun beyond, and beyond them the shaven lawns and motionless trees, the leafy green tunnel that led to the lane, and a lovely glimpse into the enclosed gardens through the ancient gateway whose stones had known the saints of old.
Graeme had put a certain proposition to the Lord of the Island, nominally in connection with the story he was busy upon, but in reality of vital concern to the larger story in which Margaret and he were writing the history of their lives.
"Sark, you know, is a portion of the British Empire, or perhaps I should say the British Empire belongs to Sark, but we are not under British law. We are a law unto ourselves here," said the Seigneur.
"And the authority of a British Court would carry no weight with you?
In the case I have put to you, if the Court of Chancery ordered you to surrender the young lady, you would refuse to do so?"
"I could refuse to do so. What I actually would do might depend on circ.u.mstances."
"I see," said Graeme musingly, and decided that the Seigneur's goodwill was worthy of every possible cultivation both by himself and Margaret. For he did not look like one who would help a friend into trouble.
"I've been thinking a good deal about it, and I really don't see any reason why we should wait,"--said Graeme, looking at Margaret.
And Miss Penny said "Hear! Hear!" so energetically that Margaret laughed merrily.
"We are both of one mind in the matter, an life is all too short at its longest, and most especially when it offers you all its very best with both hands--"
"Hear! _Hear_!" said Miss Penny.
"And time is fleeting," concluded the orator.
"And that kettle is boiling over again," and Miss Penny jumped up and ran to the rescue.
They were spending a long day in Grande Greve--the spot that had special claims upon their liking since their landing there after that memorable trip to Brecqhou. They had brought a full day's rations, prepared with solicitous discrimination by Graeme himself, and a kettle, and a great round tin can of fresh water from the well at Dixcart, and a smaller one of milk.
So high were their spirits that they had even scoffed at Johnnie Vautrin's intimation that he had seen a magpie that morning, and it had flown over their house. But magpie or no magpie they were bent on enjoyment, and they left Johnnie and Marielihou muttering black spells into the hawthorn hedge, and went off with the dogs down the scented lanes, through the valley where the blue-bells draped the hillsides in such ma.s.ses that they walked as it were between a blue heaven and a blue earth, and so by the meadow-paths to the Coupee.
Their descent of the rough path down the side of the Coupee with all this impedimenta had not been without incident, but eventually every thing and person had been got to the bottom in safety.
Then, while the dogs raced in the lip of the tide and Scamp filled the bay with his barkings, the girls had disappeared among the tumbled rocks under the cliff, and Graeme had sought seclusion at the other end of the bay. And presently they had met again on the gleaming stretch of sand; he in orthodox tight-fitting dark-blue elastic web which set off his long limbs and broad shoulders to great advantage; Hennie Penny in pale blue, her somewhat plump figure redeemed by the merry face which recognised all its owner's deficiencies and more than made up for them all; Margaret, tall, slim, shapely, revealing fresh graces with every movement,--a sea-G.o.ddess in pale pink--a sight to set the heart of a marble statue plunging with delight.
Hennie Penny persisted in wearing an unbecoming cap like a sponge-bag, which subjected her to comment.
Margaret's crowning glory was coiled in thick plaits on top of her head, and if it got wet it got wet and she heeded it not.
Both girls had draped themselves in long towels for the walk down to the water, and Graeme's heart sang with joy at the surpa.s.sing beauty of this radiant girl who had given her heart and herself and her life into his keeping.
Dainty clothing counts for much in a girl's appearance. Not every girl shows to advantage in bathing costume. But when she does, she knows it, and the hearts of men are her stepping-stones.
Hennie Penny was a cautious swimmer. She preferred depths soundable at any moment by the dropping of a foot, and if the foot did not instantly touch bottom she fell into a panic and screamed, which added not a little to the hilarity of their bathes.
Margaret and Graeme, however, were both at home in the water. They delighted to set their faces to the open and breast steadily out to sea, rejoicing in the conquest of the waves. But he always watched over her with solicitous care, for there are currents, and cross-currents, and treacherous undertows round those coasts, and the wary swimmer is the wiser man.
And the dogs always swam with them, Punch lunging boldly ahead with the ease and grace of a seal, looking round now and again to see if they were coming, and turning the moment they turned. While Scamp, away in the rear, thrashed along spasmodically, with a yelp for every stroke, but would not be left out of it. The sight of his anxious little face and twisting nose more than once set Margaret laughing, so that she had to turn on her back and float till she got over it, greatly to the small dog's satisfaction.
Full of life and the mighty joy of it, they found the going unusually easy that day. The water was like the kiss of new life, crisp, tonic, vitalising. There was no more than a breath of wind, no more than a ruffle on the backs of the long blue rollers that came sweeping slowly in out of the West.
Graeme, as he glanced round in his long side-strokes at the lovely eager face gemmed with sparkling water-jewels, took full deep breaths of delight and grat.i.tude to the All-Goodness that had vouchsafed him such a prize.
The kiss of the life-giving water had induced a tender flush of colour in the soft white neck, as though the pink of her bathing-suit had spread upwards. He could see the pulsing blue veins in neck and temple as she rose to her stroke. A tiny tendril of water-darkened hair lifted and fell on her neck like a filament of seaweed on a polished rock. Her eyes were very bright, and seemed larger than usual with the strenuous joy of it all. The wonder of her beauty absorbed him. He could hardly turn his face from it. He would have been content to go on swimming so for ever.
But, glancing past the sweet face one time, he saw that they had gone farther than he knew, and Scamp had turned long since and was yelping towards the sh.o.r.e.
"Better turn now," he said quietly, and she floated for a moment's rest, then turned and they headed for the sh.o.r.e, and Punch pa.s.sed them noiselessly.
They ploughed along in good cheer for a time, and then, of a sudden, it seemed to him that they were making but poor progress.
He fixed his eyes on a rock on the sh.o.r.e and swam steadily on.
They had been opposite it. Twenty strokes, and the rock, instead of facing them, had swung slowly to the north. They were making less than no progress. They were drifting. They were in the grip of a current that was carrying them towards the black fangs of Pointe la Joue.
A cold sweat broke out among the sea-drops on his brow. Pointe la Joue is an ill place to land, even if they could make it, and the chances were that the current would carry them past.
How to tell her without undue upsetting? A panic might bring disaster.
He looked round at her. The bright face was high and resolute. She was not aware of the danger, but from that look on her face he did not think she would go to pieces when he told her.