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   Chapter 6 No.6

The Moon Rock By Arthur J. Rees Characters: 6716

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


With a face grimly immobile as the carved head of a heathen god, Thalassa stood at the front door watching the departure of Sisily and her aunt until the car was lost to sight in a dip of the moors. Then with a glance at the leaping water at the foot of the cliffs, grey and mysterious in the gloaming, he turned and went inside the house.

It was his evening duty to prepare the lamps which lighted up the old house on the cliffs. Sisily generally helped him in that tedious duty, but she was gone, and for the future he must do it alone.

The lamps were kept in a little lowbrowed room off the stone kitchen. There Thalassa betook himself. Robert Turold disliked the dark, and a great array of lamps awaited him: large ones for the rooms, small ones for the passages and staircase. Thalassa set to work with a will, filling them with oil, trimming the wicks, and polishing the glasses with a piece of chamois leather.

As he filled and trimmed and polished he sang to himself an old sea song:

"The devil and me, we went away to sea,

In the old brig 'Lizbeth-Jane'-"

His voice was gruff and harsh, and the melody, such as it was, did nothing to relax his expression, which remained grim and secret as ever.

Each lamp he lit as he finished it, and their gathered strength gushed in a flood of yellow light on his crafty brown face and deep-set eyes. He placed several of the lamps on a tray, carefully lowered the wicks, and carried them to their allotted places, returning for others until only half a dozen small lamps remained. These he gathered on the tray and took upstairs.

Night had fallen; the wind was rising without, and seemed to rustle and whistle in the draughty passages of the old house. Thalassa placed one lamp at the head of the stairs, and others in the niches of the passage, where they flickered feebly and diffused a feeble light. Halfway down the passage he paused before a closed door. It was the room in which Sisily's mother had died. With an expressionless face he went in and left the last lamp burning dimly on the mantelpiece, like a votary candle on an altar of the dead. Issuing forth again he cast a look around him and walked to Robert Turold's study at the end of the passage. The door was closed, but he opened it and entered.

Robert Turold was busily engaged writing at a large table by the light of a swinging lamp. He looked up from his papers as Thalassa entered, and thoughtfully watched him as he trimmed the lamp and tended the fire. With these duties completed Thalassa still lingered, as though he expected his master to speak.

"What's the glass like to-night, Thalassa?" remarked Robert Turold absently.

The allusion was to a weather glass which hung in the hall downstairs. As a topic of conversation it was as useful to master and servant as the weather is to most English people. That is to say, it helped them when they were wordbound.

"Going down fast," replied Thalassa.

"Then I suppose we are in for another rough night."

"The glass is always going down in Cornwall, and we are always in for another rough night," responded the servitor curtly. "Are you going to stay much longer in the forsaken hole?"

"Not much longer," replied his master in a mild tone.

"It is, perhaps, a dreary spot to you, but not to me-no, never to me. The last link in my long search h

as been found here-hidden away in this little out-of-the-way Cornish place. Think of that, Thalassa! I shall be Lord Turrald."

"I don't see what good it will do you," retorted the man austerely. "You've spent a mint of money over it. I suppose that's your own affair, though. But what's to come next? That's what I want to know."

"When I leave Cornwall-"

"You mean we, don't you?" Thalassa interrupted.

"Of course I mean you as well as myself," Robert Turold replied almost humbly. "I should be sorry to part with you, Thalassa, you must be well aware of that. It is my intention to purchase a portion of the family estate at Great Missenden, which is at present in the market, and spend the remainder of my life in the place which once belonged to my ancestors. That has been the dream of my life, and I shall soon be able to carry it out."

A silence fell between them upon this statement, and Robert Turold's eyes turned towards his papers again. But Thalassa stood watching him, as though he had something on his mind still. He brought it out abruptly-

"And what about your daughter?"

"My daughter is going to London with my sister for a prolonged visit," said Robert Turold hurriedly. "She needs womanly training and other advantages which I, in my preoccupations, have been unable to bestow upon her. It is greatly to her advantage to go."

Robert Turold gave this explanation with averted face, in a tone which sounded almost apologetic. The relative positions between them seemed curiously reversed. It was as though Thalassa were the master, and the other the man.

"Oh, that's it, is it?" Thalassa turned a cautious yet penetrating eye upon his master. "Well, she's your own daughter, so I suppose you know what's the best for her." He spoke indifferently, but there was an odd note in his voice. He picked up his tray, and carelessly added: "For my part I shall be glad to get out of Cornwall. It's a savage place, only fit for savages and seagulls. There's the wind rising again."

A violent gust shook the house, and rattled the window-panes of the room. It was the eyrie in which the deceased artist had painted his pictures, with two large windows which looked over the cliff. Again the gale sprang at the house, and smote the windows with spectral blows. Downstairs, a door slammed sharply.

"Damn the wind!" exclaimed Thalassa peevishly. "There's no keeping it out. I'm going downstairs to lock up now. You'll have your supper up here, I suppose?"

"Yes. I have a lot of work to do before I go to bed."

Thalassa left the room without further speech, and Robert Turold began rummaging among his papers with a hand which trembled slightly. The table was littered with parchments, old books, and some sheets of newly written foolscap. He picked up his pen and plunged it into a brass inkstand, then paused in thought. His face was perturbed and uneasy. It may be that he was reviewing the events of the day, wondering, perhaps, whether he had paid too high a price for the attainment of his ambition. For it he had sacrificed his daughter and the woman who now slept in the churchyard near by, indifferent to it all. Nothing could restore to him the secret he had divulged that afternoon.

A shade of apprehension deepened on his downcast face. Then he frowned impatiently, and plunged into his writing again.

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