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   Chapter 24 PATCHES OF BLUE

The Hermit of Far End By Margaret Pedler Characters: 8112

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


Elisabeth frowned a little as she perused the letter which she had that morning received from Sara. It contained the information that rooms in her name had been booked at the Cliff Hotel, and further, that Sara was much disappointed that it would be impossible to arrange for her to meet Garth Trent, as he was leaving home on the Wednesday prior to her arrival.

Trent's departure was the last thing Elisabeth desired. Above all things, she wanted to meet the man whom she regarded as the stumbling-block in the path of her son, for if it were possible that anything might yet be done to further the desire of Tim's heart, it could only be if Elisabeth, as the dea ex machina, were acquainted with all the pieces in the game.

She must know what manner of man it was who had succeeded in winning Sara's heart before she could hope to combat his influence, and, if the feet of clay were there, she must see them herself before she could point them out to Sara's love-illusioned eyes. Should she fail of making Trent's acquaintance, she would be fighting in the dark.

Elisabeth pondered the matter for some time. Finally, she dispatched a telegram, prepaying a reply, to the proprietor of the Cliff Hotel, and a few hours later she announced to her husband that she proposed antedating her visit to Monkshaven by three days.

"I shall go down the day after to-morrow-on Monday," she said.

"Then I'd better send a wire to Sara," suggested Geoffrey.

"No, don't do that. I intend taking her by surprise." Elisabeth smiled and dimpled like a child in the possession of a secret. "I shall go down there just in time for dinner, and write to Sara the same evening."

Major Durward laughed with indulgent amusement.

"What an absurd lady you are still, Beth!" he exclaimed, his honest face beaming adoration. "No one would take you to be the mother of a grown-up son!"

"Wouldn't they?" For a moment Elisabeth's eyes-veiled, enigmatical as ever-rested on Tim's distant figure, where he stood deep in the discussion of some knotty point with the head gardener. Then they came back to her husband's face, and she laughed lightly. "Everybody doesn't see me through the rose-coloured spectacles that you do, dearest."

"There are no 'rose-coloured spectacles' about it," protested Geoffrey energetically. "No one on earth would take you for a day more than thirty-if it weren't for the solid fact of Tim's six feet of bone and muscle!"

Elisabeth jumped up and kissed her husband impulsively.

"Geoffrey, you're a great dear," she declared warmly. "Now I must run off and tell Fanchette to pack my things."

So it came about that on the following Tuesday, Sara, to her astonishment and delight, received a letter from Elisabeth announcing her arrival at the Cliff Hotel.

"Why, Elisabeth is already here!" she exclaimed, addressing the family at Sunnyside collectively. "She came last night."

Selwyn looked up from his correspondence with a kindly smile.

"That's good. You will be able, after all, to bring off the projected meeting between Mrs. Durward and your hermit-who, by the way, seems to have deserted his shell nowadays," he added, twinkling.

And Sara, blissfully unaware that in this instance Elisabeth had abrogated to herself the rights of destiny, responded smilingly-

"Yes. Fate has actually arranged things quite satisfactorily for once."

Half an hour later she presented herself at the Cliff Hotel, and was conducted upstairs to Mrs. Durward's sitting-room on the first floor.

Elisabeth welcomed her with all her wonted charm and sweetness. There was a shade of gravity in her manner as she spoke of Sara's engagement, but no hint of annoyance. She dwelt solely on Tim's disappointment and her own, exhibiting no bitterness, but only a rather wistful regret that another had succeeded where Tim had failed.

"And now," she said, drawing Sara out on to the balcony, where she had been sitting prior to the latter's arrival, "and now, tell me about the lucky man."

Sara found it a little difficult to

describe the man she loved to the mother of the man she didn't love, but finally, by dint of skilful questioning, Elisabeth elicited the information she sought.

"Forty-three!" she exclaimed, as Sara vouchsafed his age. "But that's much too old for you, my dear!"

Sara shook her head.

"Not a bit," she smiled back.

"It seems so to me," persisted Elisabeth, regarding her with judicial eyes. "Somehow you convey such an impression of youth. You always remind me of spring. You are so slim and straight and vital-like a young sapling. However, perhaps Mr. Trent also has the faculty of youth. Youth isn't a matter of years, after all," she added contemplatively.

"Now go on," she commanded, after a moment. "Tell me what he looks like."

Sara laughed and plunged into a description of Garth's personal appearance.

"And he's got queer eyes-tawny-coloured like a dog's," she wound up, "with a quaint little patch of blue close to each of the pupils."

Elisabeth leaned forward, and beneath the soft laces of her gown the rise and fall of her breast quickened perceptibly.

"Patches of blue?" she repeated.

"Yes-it sounds as though the colours had run, doesn't it?" pursued Sara, laughing a little. "But it's really rather effective."

"And did you say his name was Trent-Garth Trent?" asked Elisabeth. She had gone a little grey about the mouth, and she moistened her lips with her tongue before speaking. There was a tone of incredulity in her voice.

"Yes. It's not a beautiful name, is it?" smiled Sara.

"It's rather a curious one," agreed Elisabeth with an effort. "I'm really quite longing to meet this odd man with the patchwork eyes and the funny name."

"You shall see him to-day," Sara promised. "Audrey Maynard is giving a picnic in Haven Woods, and Garth will be there. You will come with us, won't you?"

"I think I must," replied Elisabeth. "Although"-negligently-"picnics are not much in my line."

"Oh, Audrey's picnics aren't like other people's," rejoined Sara reassuringly. "She runs them just as she runs everything else, on lines of combined perfection and informality! The lunch will be the production of a French chef, and the company a few carefully selected intimates."

"Very well, I'll come-if you're sure Mrs. Maynard won't object to the introduction of a complete stranger."

Sara regarded her affectionately.

"Have you ever met any one who 'objected' to you yet?" she asked with some amusement.

Elisabeth made no answer. Instead, she pointed to the Monk's Cliff, where the grey stone of Far End gleamed in the sunlight against its dark background of trees.

"Who lives there?" she asked. Sara's eyes followed the direction of her hand, and she smiled.

"I'm going to live there," she answered. "That's Garth's home."

"Oh-h!" Elisabeth drew a quick breath. "It's a grim-looking place," she added, after a moment. "Rather lonely, I should imagine."

"Garth is fond of solitude," replied Sara simply, and she missed the swift, searching glance instantly leveled at her by the hyacinth eyes.

When at length she took her departure, it was with a promise to return later on with Molly and Dr. Selwyn, so that they could all four walk out to Haven Woods together-since the doctor had undertaken to get through his morning's rounds in time to join the picnicking party.

Elisabeth accompanied her visitor to the head of the stairs, and then, returning to her room, stepped out on to the balcony once more. For a long time she stood leaning against the balustrade, gazing thoughtfully across the bay to that lonely house on the slope of the cliff.

"Garth Trent!" she murmured. "Trent! . . . And eyes with patches of blue in them! . . . Heavens! Can it possibly be? Can it be?"

There was a curious quality in her voice, a blending of incredulity and distaste, and yet something that savoured of satisfaction-almost of triumph.

Across her mental vision flitted a memory of just such eyes-gay, laughing, love-lit eyes, out of which the laughter had been suddenly dashed.

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