MoboReader > Horror > The Brother of Daphne


The Brother of Daphne By Dornford Yates Characters: 32680

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

"This," said Berry, "is all right. By which I mean-"

We assured him we knew what he meant, and that no explanation was necessary.

"All right," he said at last. "There. I've said it again now. You're quite sure you do know what I mean? Because, if you've the least hesitation-"

"Will you be quiet?" said Daphne.


It was a beautiful August morning. After a roaring season in town, we had, all five-Berry, Daphne, Jonah, Jill, and myself-girded our jaded loins, packed, crawled into the car, and rolled down to Cornwall, there to build up the wasted tissues, go to bed at ten, and forget that there were such things as theatres and ballrooms.

We took a couple of days coming down by road, and our run was not without incident.

I wish cyclists would not hang on behind.

In Kingston a monger's boy, with some fish that were patently feeling the heat, took hold of the cape-hood. I spoke with him after a little.

"The use of this hood," I said, "for heavy and bulky packages involves risk of injury to passengers, and is prohibited. Didn't you know that?"

He regarded me with a seraphic smile, nearly lost his life by getting into a tram-line, and said I ought to know better than to talk to the man at the wheel.

"Friend," said I, "I perceive you are a humorist. Lo, here in this car are already three humorists. Under these unfortunate circumstances, I have no alternative but to ask you to withdraw."

It was just then that the near hind tyre burst exactly under him.

We gave him half a sovereign towards buying a new bicycle, but I believe he will always think we did it on purpose.

It had been arranged that we should spend the night at Salisbury and push on to Cornwall on the following day. We made the Cathedral city soon after five and slipped out to see Stonehenge. There were a few other people there, and one or two of them turned to watch our arrival. Berry left the car and went straight to the nearest-a fat tradesman, wearing a new imitation panama and a huge calabash.

"Can you tell me if this is Stoke Poges?" we heard him say. The rest of us alighted and walked hurriedly away in the opposite direction. Clearly my brother-in-law was in a certain mood and no fit companion for the sensitive. Memories of the unutterable torment, to which on like occasions we had been mercilessly subjected, by reason of Berry's most shameless behaviour among strangers, rose up before us. The fact that he called after us caused Daphne to break into a run.

Our luck was out. When we had completed the circle of the cromlechs, we came suddenly upon him. More to our dismay than surprise he had become the centre of a little knot of excursionists, who were listening to him eagerly. As we appeared:

"Ah," he said to the interested company, "here is my Aunt! She'll tell you. Aunt Daphne, wasn't it here that father lost the string bag?"

"Wretched fool!" said Daphne under her breath, turning hurriedly in the direction of the car.

Berry watched her retreat, and turned to his listeners with a sigh.

"I'm afraid I've gone and upset her now," he said. "I oughtn't to have reminded her of the untoward incident. It was the only string bag they had, and it was an awful blow to her. It upset him, too, terribly. Never the same man again. In fact, from that day he began to go wrong-criminally, I mean."

The little group grew closer to him than ever. Like a fool, I stayed to hear more.

"Yes," Berry went on, "in less than a month he was up at the Old Bailey, under the Merchandise Marks Act, for selling Gruyere cheese with too big holes in it. Five years his sentence was. Let's see, he ought to be coming out in about-oh, about-When does father come out, Cousin Albert?"

The excursionists gazed greedily at me-the felon's son. I approached Berry and laid a hand upon his arm. Then I turned to the little group.

"This fellow," I said, "has got us into trouble before. Those of you who have motor-cars will understand me when I refer to the great difficulty of securing a really trustworthy chauffeur. Now, this man is honest and a most careful driver, but when he is, so to speak, off duty, he is so unfortunate as to suffer from delusions, usually connected with crime and the administration of the criminal law. While we were having lunch at Whitchurch only this afternoon, he went off to the police-station and tried to give himself up for the Hounslow murder, didn't you?"

"Yes, sir," faltered Berry.

"And all the time," I went on, "I'm not at all satisfied myself that he did murder the woman, although things certainly looked rather black-"

"I did!" said Berry fiercely.

The crowd of excursionists recoiled, and a small boy in a green flannel blazer burst into tears.

"Any way," I said, "there isn't anything like enough evidence against you, so we won't argue it. Now, then, we want to be going. Come along."

"Half a shake, sir," said Berry, feeling in his pockets. "You know that knife-"

The company began nervously to disperse. Some exhorted one another to observe some feature of the cromlechs which was only visible from some point of vantage on the side other to that on which we stood. Others agreed that they had no idea that it was so late, and the fat tradesman gave a forced shiver and announced that he must have left his coat behind "that big one."

"I'll get it for you, sir," said Berry, opening his knife.

I was forced to admit that Stonehenge looked far more impressive when apparently deserted, than with one or two tourists, however genial and guileless, in a high holiday humour in the foreground. At the same time, as we walked back to the car, I felt that I owed it to myself to lodge a grave protest against the indecent and involving methods my brother-in-law had seen fit to employ.

"After all," I concluded, "the fellow's your brother, and even if his panama wasn't a real one, that's no reason why he should be made to do the hundred in about twelve seconds. He wasn't in strict training either. You could see that. Besides, why rope me in? For yourself, if you must play the comic idiot-"

"He wasn't in the picture," said Berry. "None of them were. That kid's blazer absolutely killed the grass for miles around. Didn't you see how brown it had gone? That," he added coolly, "is the worst of having an artistic eye. One must pay for these things."

After spending the night at Salisbury, we pushed on to the Cornish coast. It was not until we were within three miles of our village that we lost the way. When we found it again, we were seven miles off. That is the worst of a car. However.

Stern is a place, where the coast-line is a great glory. The cliffs rise there, tall, dark, majestic-grave, too, especially grave. When the sky is grey, they frown always, and even the warm rays of the setting sun but serve to light their grand solemnity. Very different is the changing sea at their foot. At times it will ripple all day, agog with smiling; anon, provoked by an idle breeze's banter, you shall see it black with rage. In the morning, maybe, it will sleep placidly enough in the sunshine, but at eventide the wind has ruffled its temper, so that it mutters and heaves with anger, breathing forth threatenings. Yet the next dawn finds it alive with mischievous merriment and splitting its sides with laughter, to think how it has duped you the night before. The great grave cliffs and the shifting sea, and, beyond, woodland and pastures and deep meadows, where the cows low in the evenings, while the elms tower above them, their leaves unshaken by the wind-it is not difficult to grow fond of Stern.

And now we were sitting on the cliffs in the heat of the morning sun, half a mile from the village and another from the places where it was best to bathe.

After a while:

"Aren't you glad I made you come here?" said Daphne triumphantly.

I sat up and stared at her sorrowfully.

"Well?" she said defiantly.

"You have taken my breath away," I said, "Kindly return it, and I will deal with you and your interrogatories."

"I suppose you're going to say it was you-"

"It was. I did. I have. But for me you would not. You are. I took the rooms. I drove the car nearly the whole way down. I got you all here. I sent the luggage on in advance."

"With the result that it got here two days after we did, and I had to wear the same tie three days running, and go down to bathe in patent-leather boots, thanks very much," said Berry.

Beyond saying that I was not responsible for the crass and purblind idiocy of railway officials, I ignored this expression of ingratitude and continued to deal with Daphne.

"You know," I said, "there are times when I tremble for you. Only yesterday, just before dinner, I trembled for you like anything."

"It's the heat," said my target, as if explaining something.

"And my reward is covert reflections upon my sanity. Need I say more?"

"No," said everybody.

"Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your kind attention. The next performance will be at four o'clock this afternoon, underneath the promenade pier."

I relapsed into comfortable silence and sank back into the bracken. My sister got up from the clump of heather in which she was ensconced, crossed to where I was, took my pipe out of my mouth and kissed me.

"Sorry, old boy," she said; "you're not such a bad sort, really."

"Dear love," said I, "what have you left behind?"

"My bathing-dress, darling."

In spite of the fact that I returned to the hotel and got it, they were positively rude about the bathing-cove I selected.

"Bathe there?" sneered Berry, as we looked down upon it, all smiling in the sun, from the top of the cliffs.

"Thanks awfully, I simply love the flints, don't you, Jill? Personally, my doctor bled me just before I came away. But don't let me stop you others. Lead on, brother-lead the way to the shambles!"

Of course, Daphne took up the running.

"My dear boy, look at the seaweed on the rocks! Why, we should slip and break our legs before we'd taken two steps!"

"That's all right," said Berry. "We have between us three shirts. Torn into strips, they will make excellent bandages, while for a splint-"

"The cove," I said, "is ideal. Its sand is a field of lilies, its sea perfumed, its boulders sweet-smelling cushions."

"Of course," said Berry. "Why do you tarry? Forward, friends all! This way to the drug department. To the lions, O Christians! For myself, if I start at once, I shall be able to get back with the coastguard's ambulance before you've been lying there more than an hour or two, and I can wire for your relatives at the same time."

"Anybody would think the place was an oubliette," said I. "As a matter of fact, the path down is an easy one, there are no flints, and there is a singular paucity of seaweed of any description. On the other hand, the sun is hot, the sand is soft, and I have already selected that rock, in the seclusion of whose shade I shall prepare myself for the waves. Sorry it's too dangerous for you. I'll write about some bathing-machines to-night. Do you like them with red or green doors?"

Without waiting for their reply, which would probably have been of the caustic and provocative type, I turned down the path I had not trodden for some three years. At one of the bends I looked up and saw them moving north along the coast-line.

I had the cove to myself, and was soon in my bathing-dress. The water was magnificent. I swam out about forty yards, and turned just in time to see Berry & Co. disappear in the distance, apparently descending into a neighbouring cove. After a rest on a rock, I set out to swim round and join them. It was further than I thought, and I was glad to wade out of the water and lie down on the sand in the sun. No sign of the others, by the way. But hereabouts the coast was very ragged. It must have been the next cove they were making for.

"Quite still, please," said somebody, and the next moment a camera clicked.

"You might have given me time to moisten the lips," said I.

"I doubt if it would have done any good."

"Thanks, very much. By the way, I suppose you're The Daily Glass? How did you find me out?"

"Rumour travels apace, sir."

"And I had been congratulating myself on eluding the Press since breakfast. Well, well! Only this morning-"

"Dry up!"

I apostrophized the sea.

"I don't want to have to report the chap," I said, "but if-"

The camera clicked again.

"I'm not sure this isn't an assault," I said. "That it is a trespass, I know. Who are your solicitors? And may I take it that they will accept service?" (Here I rolled over and leaned on my elbow.) "You do look fit. Just move your heel out of that pool-there's an anemone going to mistake it for a piece of alabaster. That's right! Oh, but, Mermaid, do tell me how you keep your hair so nice when you're bathing?"

"Like it?"

"I love it."

"I simply don't put my head under."

"A most dangerous practice, believe me."

"It's worth the risk."

"I belive it is."

She was sitting on a low slab of rock, clad in a bathing-costume of plain dark blue, and fashioned just like my own. Her dark hair was parted in the middle and divided at the back into two long, thick plaits which were turned up and hair-pinned round the top of her head. Her features were beautiful and her eyes big and dark as her hair. Her figure was slim and graceful, and her arms and hands and feet were very shapely. One brown knee was crossed over the other, and her left hand held the camera.

"I do have luck, you know," I said.

"What luck?"

"Well, honestly, it's a great pleasure to meet you like this, when I might have spent all day talking with my silly crowd and never have known of your existence. Don't be afraid. I merely mean that I am enjoying your society, and I'm glad I came round the corner. I'm not in love with you, and I don't want never to leave your side again, but-oh, you understand, Mermaid, don't you? You look as if you could if you liked."

My companion stared out to sea with a faint smile on her lips. I flung out an arm with a gesture of despair.

"Oh, if you knew how sick I am of the girl about town, the girl of to-day, who won't be natural herself, and won't let you be natural either, who is always bored, and who has no use for anyone who isn't forever making mock love to her, or-Why on earth can't a man tell a woman he likes her company, and mean it, without the woman thinking he wants to kiss her, or marry her, or something?"

I broke off and looked at her.

"Go on," she said. "You interest me."

"Oh, Heavens," I said falteringly. "Why have you got such big eyes?"

At this, to my discomfiture, she broke into peals of merriment.

"Before you looked at me like that, I was really enjoying your company without wanting to kiss you."


"Besides your eyes, there's your-Look here, it isn't fair."

"That'll do. I'll race you to that rock out there."

She was in the water first, but I beat her easily. We swam back together, and she took her seat on the slab, while I stretched myself on the sand by her side.

"You're a very singular man," she said after a while.

"I have been told so of many."

"And rather dull."

I sat up.

"Don't say you want me to make love to you!"

"Not much!" This emphatically.

"Ah, glad of a change, I suppose."

There was a silence, while she eyed me suspiciously. At length:

"I shall ask you to leave my cove if you're not careful," she said.

"Mermaid," I said, "I apologize. I was unaware that I had the honour to speak to the lady of the manor."

"Well, if you didn't really know who I was-- But you mustn't be dull."

I drew her attention to a sailing ship in the distance. "Now, that," I said, "is what I call a really good ship."


"Barque, I mean. It must be-"

"About five thousand tons"

"Burthen. Exactly. By the way, I never know what that really means unless it means that, if you wanted to lift it, you couldn't."

"Try displacement."

"Thank you. It was off just such an one that I was cast away two years ago come Michaelmas. We were just standing by in the offing, when she sterruck with a grinding crash. There was a matter of seventy souls aboard, and I s

hall never forget the look on the captain's face as the ship's cat stole his place in the stern-sheets of the jolly-boat. I was thrown up on a desert island, I was. You ought to have seen me milking the goats on Spyglass Hill."

"Did you wear a goatskin cap?"

"Did I not! And two muskets. But my snake belt was the great thing. You see-"

"Which reminds me-I think it's about time I got civilized again."

"Not yet, Mermaid," I pleaded; "the sun is yet high."

"You don't suppose I'm going to stay here all day, do you? We're not on your precious island now."

"I only wish we were. I had my loaf of bread and jug of wine all right, but the one thing I wanted, Mermaid, was-"

"A woman to keep him company without thinking he wanted to kiss her, or marry her, or something. Whatever's that?"

I jumped to my feet and looked towards where she was pointing.

"It looks rather like-forgive me-a chemise."

"Good Heavens!"

Before I had time to move, she rushed into the surf and secured the floating garment, made another dart at something else, and was knocked down by a roller. I had her on her feet in a moment, but she dashed the water out of her eves and looked wildly to and fro over the sea.

"What is it, Mermaid?"

She tried to stamp her foot; but the four inches of water in which she was standing were against her.

"Can't you see, idiot? This is mine-this chemise-so's this shoe. The tide's come up into my cave while I've been making a fool of myself talking to you, and all my things are gone. There's the other shoe."

"All right-I'll get it."

I got it, and one stocking, but though I swam about till I was tired, and even climbed on to the rock, now almost submerged, to which we had raced, I could see nothing else. I returned temporarily exhausted to the cove. She waded out to meet me.

"Tell me exactly where your cave is," I said, as I handed her the flotsam.

She showed me, and, after a moment or two's rest, I swam out and round to the mouth, only to find the water too high to enter. I did try, but a wave lifted me up to the roof, and I only saved a broken head at the expense of a nasty cut on the back of my hand.

She was anxiously awaiting me, and listened to my report without a word. When I had finished, she deliberately wrung the last atom of water out of the derelict stocking, smoothed it out carefully by the side of the chemise in the sun, laid herself down on the sand, and burst into tears.

I tried to comfort her. I patted her shoulder and took her hand in mine.

"Don't worry, Mermaid dear," I said. "Trust me-I'll think of something. I know. I'll swim round to my cove and dress, and then go and get you some fresh clothes before anyone's the wiser. See? I'll go now," I added, getting up and licking the blood off my hand. "You wait here and-"

I broke off abruptly, and one of the more violent expletives, indicative of combined horror and amazement, escaped my lips before I could stop it.

"What is it?" wailed the Mermaid.

On the crest of a wave, some thirty yards from the shore, danced my grey hat. Beyond it, a little to the right, was something which might be a shirt.

Stammering incoherent sentences, I staggered into the water and swam for the hat. When I had caught it, I went on to get the shirt. I would have gone on round the headland to my cove, only the shirt was not my shirt. It was Berry's! Yes, it was-had his name on it and all. And not ten yards away floated Daphne's straw hat. For the next two minutes I was in imminent danger of drowning. At last I began to swim feebly, blindly back. When I reached the shore, I fell on my knees in the surf and laughed till the eighth wave knocked me head over heels and the ninth broke into my open jaws and choked me. The next moment the girl caught me by the arm, and I stumbled out and lay down on the dry sand with the shirt clasped to my breast. My hat had gone again ages ago. Then I looked at the girl kneeling anxiously by my side, and began to laugh again. She sat back on her heels, with one hand to her lips and a scared expression on her face.

"He's mad," she said, half to herself, "mad! Must have been stung by a jelly-fish or something. I've heard-"

I cut her short.

"Mermaid dear, I'm as sane as you are, only-"

"Only what?"

"Everybody's doing it"-she recoiled-"doing it! Listen to me. True, that is your chemise. True, that out there is my hat-there it is. But here is Berry's shirt, and miles out there is Daphne's straw hat. If I'd stayed long enough, I've no doubt I should have seen Jonah's trousers and Jill's chemisette, which means or mean-whichever you like-that...."

Hurriedly I explained, and then fell again into uproarious laughter. This time she joined me in my mirth. At length:

"But, after all," she said, "it doesn't make it any better for me, because I'm all alone, while you're a party."

"I admit it has been said that Unity is Strength," said I, "but I don't know that that exactly applies-"

"And I can't walk home like this, even with that on." She indicated the chemise.

"Certainly not with that on: it'd only make it more indec-"

"More what?"

"Er-unusual. Indeed, it would."

She regarded me suspiciously. Then:

"What about you?"

"Me? How d'you mean?" I said uneasily.

"Well, couldn't you slip back to the hotel somehow? Quite quietly, I mean, and-"

"I could slip all right," said I. "The short grass on the top of the cliffs would help me there. But, my dear girl, how on earth can I do anything quietly in this dress?"

"Everybody will be-"

"Just finishing lunch or sitting on the terrace. Thanks very much."

"There's a back door."

"I never thought of that. Splendid! Leading to the kitchen, of course. They'd never notice me there. And I could just drop in at the office for the key of my room, and see if there were any letters on the way up, and-- My dear girl, how can I? I admit I've a good deal of nerve, but there is a limit. I know one can do most things nowadays, but-"

"But this is a special occasion."

"You seem to want to make it one."

"And it can't be helped. This sort of modesty's out of date."

"Not my date."

"Besides, everybody'd understand."

"I know they would. That's just what I'm afraid of."

"Well, we must do something, and if you-"

Suddenly there fell upon our ears the scrambling, clattering noise which invariably accompanies the descent of anybody rash enough to enter a Cornish cove with undue haste in leather-soled shoes. The Mermaid darted behind a rock, and I advanced gratefully up the foreshore to the fringe of stones. The noise grew louder, and the slips more frequent, until there was one long one, and then a thud. Up rose a fat oath. After a moment or two, there limped into sight-oh, blessed spectacle!-one of the hotel porters, conventionally hatless and coatless.

"Ah!" said I.

"The coastguard you sent hailed me, sir, across the fields yonder. Said something had happened-he didn't know what-but he heard the word 'hotel.' You see, you shouting to him from here, and he being up on top, he couldn't hear anything else rightly, so I came straight down."

"Why didn't he come down himself when-er-when I shouted?"

"He was taking a telegram to the post office sir. Said he told you so; but I suppose you didn't hear."

Berry's coastguard. Berry's porter.

I told him that my clothes had been washed away, and that the mermaid was in the same plight. I gave him implicit instructions and, with her assistance, the numbers of our respective rooms. He wrote it all down. He was to get some clothes for me himself, and enlist the services of a chambermaid for my companion.

"Be as quick as you can," I said, as he turned to go. "You're sure you'll know this cove again? They're all rather alike."

"That's all right, sir."

The next moment he was half-way up the path. If he had looked back, he would have beheld the singular and doubtless pleasing spectacle of the Mermaid and myself doing the real Argentine tango along the stretch of yellow sand.

She did not see the blood on my hand for a minute or two. Then:

"My dear lad, what have you done to your hand?"

"Cut on the rocks," I said laconically. "Nothing of any consequence, I assure you. I shall be able to proceed home."

"After attention. Let me look at it."

And so it came about that, when the boots returned, my left hand was bound up with a strip of chemise, and the bandage was tied with the pale-pink ribbon that had lately lain upon the Mermaid's shoulder.

We received him delightedly. The Mermaid's garments had been placed by the thoughtful chambermaid in a little dressing-case. Mine were tied together with a piece of string, after the manner of costumes at Nathan's. But they were all right.

The girl started to dress behind a rock, and I told the fellow to wait at the foot of the path. "I have reason," I said, "reason to believe that there are others even now in the same or self-same plight as that in which you found us. Therefore remain within call. Don't investigate for yourself. This is my show. But don't go."

He promised.

Half an hour later he was once more on his way to the hotel with a note from me for Daphne's maid, and the promise of half a sovereign, while the Mermaid and I stood at the top of the path which led down to the cove where the rest of my party were chafing in exasperated idleness-with the exception of Berry, that is. Prior to our arrival, he had been hovering about on the top of the cliff, but the instant he descried us, and while we were yet a great way off, he had retired precipitately, and was now busy rejoining the others with Agag's walk and a profusion of embryo profanity. He explained afterwards that if he had been wearing his own bathing-dress, instead of a green and red striped one-his own was being mended-he should have remained, but that he did not like to be seen wearing the colours of the Redruth Rangers before he had been elected.

After waiting a minute or two to compose ourselves and settle finally our plan of action, we followed gaily in Berry's wake.

I was just saying in a clear voice that, perhaps, it was rather soon after lunch to bathe again, when we came upon them the other side of a large rock. One and all they sprawled easily on the sand in the hot sunshine, as if care were a thing of the past-forgotten, never known.

This was no more than I had expected of them. All of us hate to be caught bending. Berry especially. That artist was busily fashioning a miniature rampart of sand. He looked up at my greeting, and rose to his feet.

I introduced them all to the Mermaid.

"We made friends at lunch," I explained, "over the lobsters."

Jonah winced.

"And then, as we wanted a walk, we thought we'd come along to fetch you back to tea."

There was a polite murmur of appreciation.

"I must say," I went on, "it is glorious. I almost wish I'd given up my lunch, too."

The Mermaid stiffened, but none of the others noticed the error.

I felt myself colouring like a fool.

"Aren't you going to bathe again?" said Berry.

There was the note of eagerness in his voice, and I saw a vision of Berry in my clothes striding triumphantly homewards.

"I don't think so," I said carelessly. "Rather too soon after lunch. But I'm going to take off my coat and sit down in the sun."

After all, he couldn't do much with a coat.

The Mermaid was already seated between Daphne and Jill, talking vivaciously. Jonah pretended to be asleep. After a furtive glance at the top of the cliff, Berry resumed his building operations with awful deliberation.

After a while:

"Well, if you aren't going to bathe any more, aren't you going to dress?" said I.

"And leave this beauty spot?" said Berry. "Shame, shame on you, brother! Go your ways if you will. 'Then wander forth the sons of Belial.' You'll just be in time. But leave us here in peace. I have almost evolved a post-futurist picture which will revolutionize the artistic world. I shall call it 'The Passing of a Bathe: a Fantasy. It will present to the minds of all who have not seen it, what they would have rejected for lunch if they had. To get the true effect, no one must see it."

"But if some one does?"

"I shall have already left the country."

This was too much for Daphne, and she asked Jonah to come and help her to get some mussels. They walked away together.

"What on earth does she want mussels for?" said I.

"The garden paths," said Berry. "Our cobbles aren't wearing at all well."

I turned to the Mermaid. She was chattering away to Jill, with her back towards me. Over her shoulder, Jill's grey eyes regarded me wistfully. I made a rapid calculation. Yes, the porter ought to have arrived by now. I had told him to keep out of sight till I called him.

I waited until Daphne and Jonah came strolling back empty-handed. They had forgotten about the mussels. Daphne's brows were knitted, and Jonah was looking ruefully at the sun. It was getting on for half-past three. One could guess that much.

I rose and picked up my coat. "I say, aren't you ever going to dress any more?" I said.

Daphne swallowed before replying, and with the tail of my eye I saw Berry start and wreck six inches of architecture. Then:

"Presently," said my big sister. "You two go on and order a big tea at the farm, and by the time it's ready-"

"You can't have tea like that," I said. "There'll be a row."

In the dead silence that followed this remark, the Mermaid rose and brushed the sand from her dress.

I went up to Daphne and kissed her.

"Don't think I'm not proud of you, darling, and Jill looks lovely, too, but they wouldn't stand it, you know."

No one stirred except the Mermaid, and she, obedient to the instructions I had given her, strolled naturally enough towards the path up the cliff. The other four were looking at me straitly-I could feel their gaze-wondering whether, whether I knew.

I shaded my eyes with my hand and stared seawards.

"Do dress," I said absently.

"We shall dress when we want to," said Daphne sharply.

I turned to see the Mermaiden reach the path. A good start is everything.

"If you really mean that," I said slowly, "I'll send your other clothes back again." Then I raised my voice:

"Porter!" I cried.

"Sir!" came from above us.

"Behold, now-"

I let the rest of the quotation go, as I wanted to rejoin the mermaid, looking as she had last seen me. Berry said afterwards that Jonah gained on me while the sand lasted, but the loose stones at the foot of the path were my salvation.

As I passed the porter, I told him to say that a square meal would be awaiting them at the farm. We ordered it generously enough, but, despite our hunger, the Mermaid and I decided to have our own tea at the hotel. Thither we set out to walk through the fields. Suddenly she stopped as we were crossing a deep lane.

"I don't know why you're here," she said.

"Try and think, Mermaid."

"You'd better go and have another bathe."

"Now, Mermaid, you know-"

"Afterwards you'll be wishing you had given up your tea, if you don't."

"I knew we should have this," I said.

"Well, it wasn't very polite of you, was it?"

"It wouldn't have been."

"She eyed me scornfully for a moment. Then:

"I'm disappointed in you," she said.

"You'll be more so in a moment," said I.


"You're not going to have a change, after all."

"Don't say you're going to make-"

"Love to you? Yes, I am."

She looked me up and down for a moment.

"And this is the man," she said slowly-"this is the man"

"Who said he was not in love with you, and that he didn't want never to leave your side again. Yes, it is. I might have known better than to say a thing like that. All the same, it wasn't meant for a challenge, Mermaiden."

She looked at me with a mischievous smile. "And now-"

I broke off and took her small, brown hand. Up went the dark eyebrows.

"I shouldn't like you to think that I thought you wanted to kiss me," she said.

"I think nothing," said I. "But one thing I know."

"And that is?"

"That it would be a crime if I didn't. The very stones would cry out."

"I don't think they would."

"I'm afraid they might," said I.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top