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   Chapter 13 DISILLUSION

The Hermit of Far End By Margaret Pedler Characters: 8049

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

"Letters are unsatisfactory things at the best of times, and what we all want is to have you with us again for a little while. I am sure you must have had a surfeit of the simple life by this time, so come to us and be luxurious and exotic in London for a change. Don't disappoint us, Sara!

"Yours ever affectionately,


Sara, seated at the open window of her room, re-read the last paragraph of the letter which the morning's post had brought her, and then let it fall again on to her lap, whilst she stared with sombre eyes across the bay to where the Monk's Cliff reared itself, stark and menacing, against the sky.

April had slipped into May, and the blue waters of the Channel flickered with a myriad dancing points of light reflected from an unclouded sun. The trees had clothed themselves anew in pale young green, and the whole atmosphere was redolent of spring-spring as she reaches her maturity before she steps aside to let the summer in.

Sara frowned a little. She was out of tune with the harmony of things. You need happiness in your heart to be at one with the eager pulsing of new life, the reaching out towards fulfillment that is the essential quality of spring. Whereas Sara's heart was empty of happiness and hopes, and of all the joyous beginnings that are the glorious appanage of youth. There could be no beginnings for her, because she had already reached the end-reached it with such a stupefying suddenness that for a time she had been hardly conscious of pain, but only of a fierce, intolerable resentment and of a pride-that "devil's own pride" which Patrick had told her was the Tennant heritage-which had been wounded to the quick.

Garth had taken that pride of hers and ground it under his heel. He had played at love, and she had been fool enough to mistake love's simulacrum for the real thing. Or, if there had been any genuine spark of love kindling the fire of passion that had blazed about her for one brief moment, then he had since chosen deliberately to disavow it.

He had indicated his intention unmistakably. Since the day of the luncheon party at Greenacres he had shunned meeting her whenever possible, and, on the one or two occasions when an encounter had been unavoidable, his manner had been frigidly indifferent and impersonal.

Outwardly she had repaid him in full measure-indifference for indifference, ice for ice, gallantly matching her woman's pride against his deliberate apathy, but inwardly she writhed at the remembrance of that day on the island, when, in the stress of her terror for his safety, she had let him see into the very heart of her.

Well, it was over now, and done with. The brief vision of love which had given a new, transcendent significance to the whole of life, had faded swiftly into bleak darkness, its memory marred by that bitterest of all knowledge to a woman-the knowledge that she had been willing to give her love, to make the great surrender, and that it had not been required of her. All that remained was to draw a veil as decently as might be over the forgettable humiliation.

The strain of the last fortnight had left its mark on her. The angles of her face seemed to have become more sharply defined, and her eyes were too brilliant and held a look of restlessness. But her lips closed as firmly as ever, a courageous scarlet line, denying the power of fate to thrust her under.

The Book of Garth-the book of love-was closed, but there were many other volumes in life's library, and Sara did not propose to go through the probable remaining fifty or sixty years of her existence uselessly bewailing a dead past. She would face life, gamely, whatever it might bring, and as she had already sustained one of the hardest blows ever likely to befall her, she would probably make a success of it.

But, unquestionably, she would be glad to get away from Monkshaven for a time, to have leisure to readjust her outlook on life, free from the ceaseless reminders that the place held for her.


re in Monkshaven, it seemed as though Garth's personality informed the very air she breathed. The great cliff where he had his dwelling frowned at her from across the bay whenever she looked out of her window, his name was constantly on the lips of those who made up her little circle of friends, and every day she was haunted by the fear of meeting him. Or, worse than all else, should that fear materialize, the torment of the almost hostile relationship which had replaced their former friendship had to be endured.

The invitation to join the Durwards in London had come at an opportune moment, offering, as it did, a way of escape from the embarrassments inseparable from the situation. Moreover, amid the distractions and bustle of the great city it would be easier to forget for a little her burden of pain and humiliation. There is so much time for thinking-and for remembering-in the leisurely tranquillity of country life.

Sara would have accepted the invitation without hesitation, but that there seemed to her certain reasons why her absence from Sunnyside just now was inadvisable-reasons based on her loyalty to Doctor Dick and the trust he had reposed in her.

For the last few weeks she had been perplexed and not a little worried concerning Molly's apparent accession to comparative wealth. Certain small extravagances in which the latter had recently indulged must have been, Sara knew, beyond the narrow limits of her purse, and inquiry had elicited from Selwyn the fact that she had received no addition to her usual allowance.

Molly herself had light-heartedly evaded all efforts to gain her confidence, and Sara had refrained from putting any direct question, since, after all, she was not the girl's guardian, and her interference might very well be resented.

She was uneasily conscious that for some reason or other Molly was in a state of tension, alternating between abnormally high spirits and the depths of depression, and the recollection of that unpleasant little episode of her indebtedness to Lester Kent lingered disagreeably in Sara's mind.

She had seen the man once, in Oldhampton High Street-Molly, at that time still clothed in penitence, had pointed him out to her-and she had received an unpleasing impression of a lean, hatchet face with deep-set, dense-brown eyes, and of a mouth like that of a bird of prey.

She felt reluctant to go away and leave things altogether to chance, and finally, unable to come to any decision, she carried Elisabeth's letter down to Selwyn's study and explained the position.

His face clouded over at the prospect of her departure.

"We shall miss you abominably," he declared. "But of course"-ruefully-"I can quite understand Mrs. Durward's wanting you to go back to them for a time, and I suppose we must resign ourselves to being unselfish. Only you must promise to come back again-you mustn't desert us altogether."

She laughed.

"You needn't be afraid of that. I shall turn up again like the proverbial bad penny."

"All the same, make it a promise," he urged.

"I promise, then, you distrustful man! But about Molly?"

"I don't think you need worry about her." Selwyn laughed a little. "The sudden accession to wealth is accounted for. It seems that she has sold a picture."

"Oh! So that's the explanation, is it?" Sara felt unaccountably relieved.

"Yes-though goodness knows how she has beguiled any one into buying one of her daubs!"

"Oh, they're quite good, really, Doctor Dick. It's only that Futurist Art doesn't appeal to you."

"Not exactly! She showed me one of her paintings the other day. It looked like a bad motor-bus accident in a crowded street, and she told me that it represented the physical atmosphere of a woman who had just been jilted."

Sara laughed suddenly and hysterically.

"How-how awfully funny!" she said in an odd, choked voice. Then, fearful of losing her self-command, she added hastily: "I'll write and tell Elisabeth that I'll come, then." And fled out of the room.

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