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   Chapter 10 THE ISLE

Anna of the Five Towns By Arnold Bennett Characters: 60959

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


About this time Anna was not seeing very much of Henry Mynors. At twenty a man is rash in love, and again, perhaps, at fifty; a man of middle-age enamoured of a young girl is capable of sublime follies. But the man of thirty who loves for the first time is usually the embodiment of cautious discretion. He does not fall in love with a violent descent, but rather lets himself gently down, continually testing the rope. His social value, especially if he have achieved worldly success, is at its highest, and, without conceit, he is aware of it. He has lost many illusions concerning women; he has seen more than one friend wrecked in the sea of foolish marriage; he knows the joys of a bachelor's freedom, without having wearied of them; he perceives risks where the youth perceives only ecstasy, and the oldster only a blissful release from solitude. Instead of searching, he is sought for; accordingly he is selfish and exacting. All these things, combine to tranquillize passion at thirty. Mynors was in love with Anna, and his love had its ardent moments; but in the main it was a temperate affection, an affection that walked circumspectly, with its eyes open, careful of its dignity, too proud to seem in a hurry; if, by impulse, it chanced now and then to leap forward, the involuntary movement was mastered and checked. Mynors called at Manor Terrace once a week, never on the same day of the week, nor without discussing business with the miser. Occasionally he accompanied Anna from school or chapel. Such methods were precisely to Anna's taste. Like him, she loved prudence and decorum, preferring to make haste slowly. Since the Revival, they had only once talked together intimately; on that sole occasion Henry had suggested to her that she might care to join Mrs. Sutton's class, which met on Monday nights; she accepted the hint with pleasure, and found a well of spiritual inspiration in Mrs. Sutton's modest and simple yet fervent homilies. Mynors was not guilty of blowing both hot and cold. She was sure of him. She waited calmly for events, existing, as her habit was, in the future.

The future, then, meant the Isle of Man. Anna dreamed of an enchanted isle and hours of unimaginable rapture. For a whole week after Mrs. Sutton had won Ephraim's consent, her vision never stooped to practical details. Then Beatrice called to see her; it was the morning after the treat, and Anna was brushing her muddy frock; she wore a large white apron, and held a cloth-brush in her hand as she opened the door.

'You're busy?' said Beatrice.

'Yes,' said Anna, 'but come in. Come into the kitchen-do you mind?'

Beatrice was covered from neck to heel with a long mackintosh, which she threw off when entering the kitchen.

'Anyone else in the house?' she asked.

'No,' said Anna, smiling, as Beatrice seated herself, with a sigh of content, on the table.

'Well, let's talk, then.' Beatrice drew from her pocket the indispensable chocolates and offered them to Anna. 'I say, wasn't last night perfectly awful? Henry got wet through in the end, and mother made him stop at our house, as he was at the trouble to take me home. Did you see him go down this morning?'

'No; why?' said Anna, stiffly.

'Oh-no reason. Only I thought perhaps you did. I simply can't tell you how glad I am that you're coming with us to the Isle of Man; we shall have rare fun. We go every year, you know-to Port Erin, a lovely little fishing village. All the fishermen know us there. Last year Henry hired a yacht for the fortnight, and we all went mackerel-fishing, every day; except sometimes Pa. Now and then Pa had a tendency to go fiddling in caves and things. I do hope it will be fine weather again by then, don't you?'

'I'm looking forward to it, I can tell you,' Anna said. 'What day are we supposed to start?'

'Saturday week.'

'So soon?' Anna was surprised at the proximity of the event.

'Yes; and quite late enough, too. We should start earlier, only the Dad always makes out he can't. Men always pretend to be so frightfully busy, and I believe it's all put on.' Beatrice continued to chat about the holiday, and then of a sudden she asked: 'What are you going to wear?'

'Wear!' Anna repeated; and added, with hesitation: 'I suppose one will want some new clothes?'

'Well, just a few! Now let me advise you. Take a blue serge skirt. Sea-water won't harm it, and if it's dark enough it will look well to any mortal blouse. Secondly, you can't have too many blouses; they're always useful at the seaside. Plain straw-hats are my tip. A coat for nights, and thick boots. There! Of course no one ever dresses at Port Erin. It isn't like Llandudno, and all that sort of thing. You don't have to meet your young man on the pier, because there isn't a pier.'

There was a pause. Anna did not know what to say. At length she ventured: 'I'm not much for clothes, as I dare say you've noticed.'

'I think you always look nice, my dear,' Beatrice responded. Nothing was said as to Anna's wealth, no reference made as to the discrepancy between that and the style of her garments. By a fiction, there was supposed to be no discrepancy.

'Do you make your own frocks?' Beatrice asked, later.

'Yes.'

'Do you know I thought you did. But they do you great credit. There's few people can make a plain frock look decent.'

This conversation brought Anna with a shock to the level of earth. She perceived-only too well-a point which she had not hitherto fairly faced in her idyllic meditations: that her father was still a factor in the case. Since Mrs. Sutton's visit both Anna and the miser avoided the subject of the holiday. 'You can't have too many blouses.' Did Beatrice, then, have blouses by the dozen? A coat, a serge skirt, straw hats (how many?)-the catalogue frightened her. She began to suspect that she would not be able to go to the Isle of Man.

'About me going with Suttons to the Isle of Man?' she accosted her father, in the afternoon, outwardly calm, but with secret trembling.

'Well?' he exclaimed savagely.

'I shall want some money-a little.' She would have given much not to have added that 'little,' but it came out of itself.

'It's a waste o' time and money-that's what I call it. I can't think why Suttons asked ye. Ye aren't ill, are ye?' His savagery changed to sullenness.

'No, father; but as it's arranged, I suppose I shall have to go.'

'Well, I'm none so set up with the idea mysen.'

'Shan't you be all right with Agnes?'

'Oh, yes. I shall be all right. I don't want much. I've no fads and fal-lals. How long art going to be away?'

'I don't know. Didn't Mrs. Sutton tell you? You arranged it.'

'That I didna'. Her said nowt to me.'

'Well, anyhow I shall want some clothes.'

'What for? Art naked?'

'I must have some money.' Her voice shook. She was getting near tears.

'Well, thou's gotten thy own money, hast na'?'

'All I want is that you shall let me have some of my own money. There's forty odd pounds now in the bank.'

'Oh!' he repeated, sneering, 'all ye want is as I shall let thee have some o' thy own money. And there's forty odd pound i' the bank. Oh!'

'Will you give me my cheque-book out of the bureau? And I'll draw a cheque; I know how to.' She had conquered the instinct to cry, and unwillingly her tones became somewhat peremptory. Ephraim seized the chance.

'No, I won't give ye the cheque-book out o' th' bureau,' he said flatly. 'And I'll thank ye for less sauce.'

That finished the episode. Proudly she took an oath with herself not to re-open the question, and resolved to write a note to Mrs. Sutton saying that on consideration she found it impossible to go to the Isle of Man.

The next morning there came to Anna a letter from the secretary of a limited company enclosing a post-office order for ten pounds. Some weeks previously her father had discovered an error of that amount in the deduction of income-tax from the dividend paid by this company, and had instructed Anna to demand the sum. She had obeyed, and then forgotten the affair. Here was the answer. Desperate at the thought of missing the holiday, she cashed the order, bought and made her clothes in secret, and then, two days before the arranged date of departure told her father what she had done. He was enraged; but since his anger was too illogical to be rendered effectively coherent in words, he had the wit to keep silence. With bitterness Anna reflected that she owed her holiday to the merest accident-for if the remittance had arrived a little earlier or a little later, or in the form of a cheque, she could not have utilised it.

It was an incredible day, the following Saturday, a warm and benign day of earliest autumn. The Suttons, in a hired cab, called for Anna at half-past eight, on the way to the main line station at Shawport. Anna's tin box was flung on to the roof of the cab amid the trunks and portmanteaux already there.

'Why should not Agnes ride with us to the station?' Beatrice suggested.

'Nay, nay; there's no room,' said Tellwright, who stood at the door, impelled by an unacknowledged awe of Mrs. Sutton thus to give official sanction to Anna's departure.

'Yes, yes,' Mrs. Sutton exclaimed. 'Let the little thing come, Mr. Tellwright.'

Agnes, far more excited than any of the rest, seized her straw hat, and slipping the elastic under her small chin, sprang into the cab, and found a haven between Mr. Sutton's short, fat legs. The driver drew his whip smartly across the aged neck of the cream mare. They were off. What a rumbling, jolting, delicious journey, down the first hill, up Duck Bank, through the market-place, and down the steep declivity of Oldcastle Street! Silent and shy, Agnes smiled ecstatically at the others. Anna answered remarks in a dream. She was conscious only of present happiness and happy expectation. All bitterness had disappeared. At least thirty thousand Bursley folk were not going to the Isle of Man that day-their preoccupied and cheerless faces swam in a continuous stream past the cab window-and Anna sympathised with every unit of them. Her spirit overflowed with universal compassion. What haste and exquisite confusion at the station! The train was signalled, and the porter, crossing the line with the luggage, ran his truck perilously under the very buffers of the incoming engine. Mynors was awaiting them, admirably attired as a tourist. He had got the tickets, and secured a private compartment in the through-coach for Liverpool; and he found time to arrange with the cabman to drive Agnes home on the box-seat. Certainly there was none like Mynors. From the footboard of the carriage Anna bent down to kiss Agnes. The child had been laughing and chattering. Suddenly, as Anna's lips touched hers, she burst into tears, sobbed passionately as though overtaken by some terrible and unexpected misfortune. Tears stood also in Anna's eyes. The sisters had never been parted before.

'Poor little thing!' Mrs. Sutton murmured; and Beatrice told her father to give Agnes a shilling to buy chocolates at Stevenson's in St. Luke's Square, that being the best shop. The shilling fell between the footboard and the platform. A scream from Beatrice! The attendant porter promised to rescue the shilling in due course. The engine whistled, the silver-mounted guard asserted his authority, Mynors leaped in, and amid laughter and tears the brief and unique joy of Anna's life began.

In a moment, so it seemed, the train was thundering through the mile of solid rock which ends at Lime Street Station, Liverpool. Thenceforward, till she fell asleep that night, Anna existed in a state of blissful bewilderment, stupefied by an overdose of novel and wondrous sensations. They lunched in amazing magnificence at the Bear's Paw, and then walked through the crowded and prodigious streets to Prince's landing-stage. The luggage had disappeared by some mysterious agency-Mynors said that they would find it safe at Douglas; but Anna could not banish the fear that her tin box had gone for ever.

The great, wavy river, churned by thousands of keels; the monstrous steamer-the 'Mona's Isle'-whose side rose like solid wall out of the water; the vistas of its decks; its vast saloons, story under story, solid and palatial (could all this float?); its high bridge; its hawsers as thick as trees; its funnels like sloping towers; the multitudes of passengers; the whistles, hoots, cries; the far-stretching panorama of wharves and docks; the squat ferry-craft carrying horses and carts, and no one looking twice at the feat-it was all too much, too astonishing, too lovely. She had not guessed at this.

'They call Liverpool the slum of Europe,' said Mynors.

'How can you!' she exclaimed, shocked.

Beatrice, seeing her radiant and rapt face, walked to and fro with Anna, proud of the effect produced on her friend's inexperience by these sights. One might have thought that Beatrice had built Liverpool and created its trade by her own efforts.

Suddenly the landing-stage and all the people on it moved away bodily from the ship; there was green water between; a tremor like that of an earthquake ran along the deck; handkerchiefs were waved. The voyage had commenced. Mynors found chairs for all the Suttons, and tucked them up on the lee-side of a deck-house; but Anna did not stir. They passed New Brighton, Seaforth, and the Crosby and Formby lightships.

'Come and view the ship,' said Mynors, at her side. 'Suppose we go round and inspect things a bit?'

'It's a very big one, isn't it?' she asked.

'Pretty big,' he said; 'of course not as big as the Atlantic liners-I wonder we didn't meet one in the river-but still pretty big. Three hundred and twenty feet over all. I sailed on her last year on her maiden voyage. She was packed, and the weather very bad.'

'Will it be rough to-day?' Anna inquired timidly.

'Not if it keeps like this,' he laughed. 'You don't feel queer, do you?'

'Oh, no. It's as firm as a house. No one could be ill with this?'

'Couldn't they?' he exclaimed. 'Beatrice could be.'

They descended into the ship, and he explained all its internal economy, with a knowledge that seemed to her encyclop?dic. They stayed a long time watching the engines, so Titanic, ruthless, and deliberate; even the smell of the oil was pleasant to Anna. When they came on deck again the ship was at sea. For the first time Anna beheld the ocean. A strong breeze blew from prow to stern, yet the sea was absolutely calm, the unruffled mirror of effulgent sunlight. The steamer moved alone on the waters, exultantly, leaving behind it an endless track of white froth in the green, and the shadow of its smoke. The sun, the salt breeze, the living water, the proud gaiety of the ship, produced a feeling of intense, inexplicable joy, a profound satisfaction with the present, and a negligence of past and future. To exist was enough, then. As Anna and Henry leaned over the starboard quarter and watched the torrent of foam rush madly and ceaselessly from under the paddle-box to be swallowed up in the white wake, the spectacle of the wild torrent almost hypnotised them, destroying thought and reason, and all sense of their relation to other things. With difficulty Anna raised her eyes, and perceived the dim receding line of the Lancashire coast.

'Shall we get quite out of sight of land?' she asked.

'Yes, for a little while, about half an hour or so. Just as much out of sight of land as if we were in the middle of the Atlantic.'

'I can scarcely believe it.'

'Believe what?'

'Oh! The idea of that-of being out of sight of land-nothing but sea.'

When at last it occurred to them to reconnoitre the Suttons, they found all three still in their deck-chairs, enwrapped and languid. Mr. Sutton and Beatrice were apparently dozing. This part of the deck was occupied by somnolent, basking figures.

'Don't wake them,' Mrs. Sutton enjoined, whispering out of her hood. Anna glanced curiously at Beatrice's yellow face.

'Go away, do,' Beatrice exclaimed, opening her eyes and shutting them again, wearily.

So they went away, and discovered two empty deck-chairs on the fore-deck. Anna was innocently vain of her immunity from malaise. Mynors appeared to appoint himself little errands about the deck, returning frequently to his chair. 'Look over there. Can you see anything?'

Anna ran to the rail, with the infantile idea of getting nearer, and Mynors followed, laughing. What looked like a small slate-coloured cloud lay on the horizon.

'I seem to see something,' she said.

'That is the Isle of Man.'

By insensible gradations the contours of the land grew clearer in the afternoon haze.

'How far are we off now?'

'Perhaps twenty miles.'

Twenty miles of uninterrupted flatness, and the ship steadily invading that separating solitude, yard by yard, furlong by furlong! The conception awed her. There, a morsel in the waste of the deep, a speck under the infinite sunlight, lay the island, mysterious, enticing, enchanted, a glinting jewel on, the sea's bosom, a remote entity fraught with strange secrets. It was all unspeakable.

'Anna, you have covered yourself with glory,' said Mrs. Sutton, when they were in the diminutive and absurd train which by breathless plunges annihilates the sixteen miles between Douglas and Port Erin in sixty-five minutes.

'Have I?' she answered. 'How?'

'By not being ill.'

'That's always the beginner's luck,' said Beatrice, pale and dishevelled. They all relapsed into the silence of fatigue. It was growing dusk when the train stopped at the tiny terminus. The station was a hive of bustling activity, the arrival of this train being the daily event at that end of the world. Mynors and the Suttons were greeted familiarly by several sailors, and one of these, Tom Kelly, a tall, middle-aged man, with grey beard, small grey eyes, a wrinkled skin of red mahogany, and an enormous fist, was introduced to Anna. He raised his cap, and shook hands. She was touched by the sad, kind look on his face, the melancholy impress of the sea. Then they drove to their lodging, and here again the party was welcomed as being old and tried friends. A fire was burning in the parlour. Throwing herself down in front of it, Mrs. Sutton breathed, 'At last! Oh, for some tea.' Through the window, Anna had a glimpse of a deeply indented bay at the foot of cliffs below them, with a bold headland to the right. Fishing vessels with flat red sails seemed to hang undecided just outside the bay. From cottage chimneys beneath the road blue smoke softly ascended.

All went early to bed, for the weariness of Mr. and Mrs. Sutton seemed to communicate itself to the three young people, who might otherwise have gone forth into the village in search of adventures. Anna and Beatrice shared a room. Each inspected the other's clothes, and Beatrice made Anna try on the new serge skirt. Through the thin wall came the sound of Mr. and Mrs. Sutton talking, a high voice, then a bass reply, in continual alternation. Beatrice said that these two always discussed the day's doings in such manner. In a few moments Beatrice was snoring; she had the subdued but steady and serious snore characteristic of some muscular men. Anna felt no inclination to sleep. She lived again hour by hour through the day, and beneath Beatrice's snore her ear caught the undertone of the sea.

The next morning was as lovely as the last. It was Sunday, and every activity of the village was stilled. Sea and land were equally folded in a sunlit calm. During breakfast-a meal abundant in fresh herrings, fresh eggs and fresh rolls, eaten with the window wide open-Anna was puzzled by the singular amenity of her friends to one another and to her. They were as polite as though they had been strangers; they chatted amiably, were full of goodwill, and as anxious to give happiness as to enjoy it. She thought at first, so unusual was it to her as a feature of domestic privacy, that this demeanour was affected, or at any rate a somewhat exaggerated punctilio due to her presence; but she soon came to see that she was mistaken. After breakfast Mr. Sutton suggested that they should attend the Wesleyan Chapel on the hill leading to the Chasms. Here they met the sailors of the night before, arrayed now in marvellous blue Melton coats with velveteen collars. Tom Kelly walked back with them to the beach, and showed them the yacht 'Fay' which Mynors had arranged to hire for mackerel-fishing; it lay on the sands speckless in new white paint. All the afternoon they dozed on the cliffs, doing nothing whatever, for this Sunday was tacitly regarded, not as part of the holiday, but as a preparation for the holiday; all felt that the holiday, with its proper exertions and appointed delights, would really begin on Monday morning.

'Let us go for a walk,' said Mynors, after tea, to Beatrice and Anna. They stood at the gate of the lodging-house. The old people were resting within.

'You two go,' Beatrice replied, looking at Anna. 'You know I hate walking, Henry. I'll stop with mother and dad.'

Throughout the day Anna had been conscious of the fact that all the Suttons showed a tendency, slight but perceptible, to treat Henry and herself as a pair desirous of opportunities for being alone together. She did not like it. She flushed under the passing glance with which Beatrice accompanied the words: 'You two go.' Nevertheless, when Mynors placidly remarked: 'Very well,' and his eyes sought hers for a consent, she could not refuse it. One part of her nature would have preferred to find an excuse for staying at home; but another, and a stronger, part insisted on seizing this offered joy.

They walked straight up out of the village toward the high coast-range which stretches peak after peak from Port Erin to Peel. The stony and devious lanes wound about the bleak hillside, passing here and there small, solitary cottages of whitewashed stone, with children, fowls, and dogs at the doors, all embowered in huge fuchsia trees. Presently they had surmounted the limit of habitation and were on the naked flank of Bradda, following a narrow track which crept upwards amid short mossy turf of the most vivid green. Nothing seemed to flourish on this exposed height except bracken, sheep, and boulders that, from a distance, resembled sheep; there was no tree, scarcely a shrub; the immense contours, stark, grim, and unrelieved, rose in melancholy and defiant majesty against the sky: the hand of man could coax no harvest from these smooth but obdurate slopes; they had never relented, and they would never relent. The spirit was braced by the thought that here, to the furthest eternity of civilisation more and more intricate, simple and strong souls would always find solace and repose.

Mynors bore to the left for a while, striking across the moor in the direction of the sea. Then he said:

'Look down, now.'

The little bay lay like an oblong swimming-bath five hundred feet below them. The surface of the water was like glass; the strand, with its phalanx of boats drawn up in Sabbath tidiness, glittered like marble in the living light, and over this marble black dots moved slowly to and fro; behind the boats were the houses-dolls' houses-each with a curling wisp of smoke; further away the railway and the high road ran out in a black and white line to Port St. Mary; the sea, a pale grey, encompassed all; the southern sky had a faint sapphire tinge, rising to delicate azure. The sight of this haven at rest, shut in by the restful sea and by great moveless hills, a calm within a calm, aroused profound emotion.

'It's lovely,' said Anna, as they stood gazing. Tears came to her eyes and hung there. She wondered that scenery should cause tears, felt ashamed, and turned her face so that Mynors should not see. But he had seen.

'Shall we go on to the top?' he suggested, and they set their faces northwards to climb still higher. At length they stood on the rocky summit of Bradda, seven hundred feet from the sea. The Hill of the Night Watch lifted above them to the north, but on east, south, and west, the prospect was bounded only by the ocean. The coast-line was revealed for thirty miles, from Peel to Castletown. Far to the east was Castletown Bay, large, shallow and inhospitable, its floor strewn with a thousand unseen wrecks; the lighthouse at Scarlet Point flashed dimly in the dusk; thence the beach curved nearer in an immense arc, without a sign of life, to the little cove of Port St. Mary, and jutted out again into a tongue of land at the end of which lay the Calf of Man with its single white cottage and cart-track. The dangerous Calf Sound, where the vexed tide is forced to run nine hours one way and three the other, seemed like a grey ribbon, and the Chicken Rock like a tiny pencil on a vast slate. Port Erin was hidden under their feet. They looked westward. The darkening sky was a labyrinth of purple and crimson scarves drawn pellucid, as though by the finger of God, across a sheet of pure saffron. These decadent tints of the sunset faded in every direction to the same soft azure which filled the south, and one star twinkled in the illimitable field. Thirty miles off, on the horizon, could be discerned the Mourne Mountains of Ireland.

'See!' Mynors exclaimed, touching her arm.

The huge disc of the moon was rising in the east, and as this mild lamp passed up the sky, the sense of universal quiescence increased. Lovely, Anna had said. It was the loveliest sight her eyes had ever beheld, a panorama of pure beauty transcending all imagined visions. It overwhelmed her, thrilled her to the heart, this revelation of the loveliness of the world. Her thoughts went back to Hanbridge and Bursley and her life there; and all the remembered scenes, bathed in the glow of a new ideal, seemed to lose their pain. It was as if she had never been really unhappy, as if there was no real unhappiness on the whole earth. She perceived that the monotony, the austerity, the melancholy of her existence had been sweet and beautiful of its kind, and she recalled, with a sort of rapture, hours of companionship with the beloved Agnes, when her father was equable and pacific. Nothing was ugly nor mean. Beauty was everywhere, in everything.

In silence they began to descend, perforce walking quickly because of the steep gradient. At the first cottage they saw a little girl in a mob-cap playing with two kittens.

'How like Agnes!' Mynors said.

'Yes. I was just thinking so,' Anna answered.

'I thought of her up on the hill,' he continued. 'She will miss you, won't she?'

'I know she cried herself to sleep last night. You mightn't guess it, but she is extremely sensitive.'

'Not guess it? Why not? I am sure she is. Do you know-I am very fond of your sister. She's a simply delightful child. And there's a lot in her, too. She's so quick and bright, and somehow like a little woman.'

'She's exactly like a woman sometimes,' Anna agreed. 'Sometimes I fancy she's a great deal older than I am.'

'Older than any of us,' he corrected.

'I'm glad you like her,' Anna said, content. 'She thinks all the world of you.' And she added: 'My word, wouldn't she be vexed if she knew I had told you that!'

This appreciation of Agnes brought them into closer intimacy, and they talked the more easily of other things.

'It will freeze to-night,' Mynors said; and then, suddenly looking at her in the twilight: 'You are feeling chill.'

'Oh, no!' she protested.

'But you are. Put this muffler round your neck.' He took a muffler from his pocket.

'Oh, no, really! You will need it yourself.' She drew a little away from him, as if to avoid the muffler.

'Please take it.'

She did so, and thanked him, tying it loosely and untidily round her throat. That feeling of the untidiness of the muffler, of its being something strange to her skin, something with the rough virtue of masculinity, which no one could detect in the gloom, was in itself pleasant.

'I wager Mrs. Sutton has a good fire burning when we get in,' he said.

She thought with joyous anticipation of the warm, bright, sitting-room, the supper, and the vivacious good-natured conversation. Though the walk was nearly at an end, other delights were in store. Of the holiday, thirteen complete days yet remained, each to be as happy as the one now closing. It was an age! At last they entered the human cosiness of the village. As they walked up the steps of their lodging and he opened the door for her, she quickly drew off the muffler and returned it to him with a word of thanks.

On Monday morning, when Beatrice and Anna came downstairs, they found the breakfast odorously cooling on the table, and nobody in the room.

'Where are they all, I wonder. Any letters?' Beatrice said.

'There's your mother, out on the front-and Mr. Mynors too.'

Beatrice threw up the window, and called: 'Come along, Henry; come along, mother. Everything's going cold.'

'Is it?' Mynors cheerfully replied. 'Come out here, both of you, and begin the day properly with a dose of ozone.'

'I loathe cold bacon,' said Beatrice, glancing at the table, and they went out into the road, where Mrs. Sutton kissed them with as much fervour as if they had arrived from a long journey.

'You look pale, Anna,' she remarked.

'Do I?' said Anna, 'I don't feel pale.'

'It's that long walk last night,' Beatrice put in. 'Henry always goes too far.'

'I don't--' Anna began; but at that moment Mr. Sutton, lumbering and ponderous, joined the party.

'Henry,' he said, without greeting anyone, 'hast noticed those half-finished houses down the road yonder by the "Falcon"? I've been having a chat with Kelly, and he tells me the fellow that was building them has gone bankrupt, and they're at a stand-still. The Receiver wants to sell 'em. In fact Kelly says they're going cheap. I believe they'd be a good spec.'

'Eh, dear!' Mrs. Sutton interrupted him. 'Father, I wish you would leave your specs alone when you're on your holiday.'

'Now, missis!' he affectionately protested, and continued: 'They're fairly well built, seemingly, and the rafters are on the roof. Anna,' he turned to her quickly, as if counting on her sympathy, 'you must come with me and look at 'em after breakfast. Happen they might suit your father-or you. I know y

our father's fond of a good spec.'

She assented with a ready smile. This was the beginning of a fancy which the Alderman always afterwards showed for Anna.

After breakfast Mrs. Sutton, Beatrice, and Anna arranged to go shopping:

'Father-brass,' Mrs. Sutton ejaculated in two monosyllables to her husband.

'How much will content ye?' he asked mildly.

'Give me five or ten pounds to go on with.'

He opened the left-hand front pocket of his trousers-a pocket which fastened with a button; and leaning back in his chair drew out a fat purse, and passed it to his wife with a preoccupied air. She helped herself, and then Beatrice intercepted the purse and lightened it of half a sovereign.

'Pocket-money,' Beatrice said; 'I'm ruined.'

The Alderman's eyes requested Anna to observe how he was robbed. At last the purse was safely buttoned up again.

Mrs. Sutton's purchases of food at the three principal shops of the village seemed startlingly profuse to Anna, but gradually she became accustomed to the scale, and to the amazing habit of always buying the very best of everything, from beefsteak to grapes. Anna calculated that the housekeeping could not cost less than six pounds a week for the five. At Manor Terrace three people existed on a pound. With her half-sovereign Beatrice bought a belt and a pair of sand-shoes, and some cigarettes for Henry. Mrs. Sutton bought a pipe with a nickel cap, such as is used by sailors. When they returned to the house, Mr. Sutton and Henry were smoking on the front. All five walked in a row down to the harbour, the Alderman giving an arm each to Beatrice and Anna. Near the 'Falcon' the procession had to be stopped in order to view the unfinished houses. Tom Kelly had a cabin partly excavated out of the rock behind the little quay. Here they found him entangled amid nets, sails, and oars. All crowded into the cabin and shook hands with its owner, who remarked with severity on their pallid faces, and insisted that a change of complexion must be brought about. Mynors offered him his tobacco-pouch, but on seeing the light colour of the tobacco he shook his head and refused it, at the same time taking from within his jersey a lump of something that resembled leather.

'Give him this, Henry,' Mrs. Sutton whispered, handing Mynors the pipe which she had bought.

'Mrs. Sutton wishes you to accept this,' said Mynors.

'Eh, thank ye,' he exclaimed. 'There's a leddy that knows my taste.' He cut some shreds from his plug with a clasp-knife and charged and lighted the pipe, filling the cabin with asphyxiating fumes.

'I don't know how you can smoke such horrid, nasty stuff,' said Beatrice, coughing.

He laughed condescendingly at Beatrice's petulant manner. 'That stuff of Henry's is boy's tobacco,' he said shortly.

It was decided that they should go fishing in the 'Fay.' There was a light southerly breeze, a cloudy sky, and smooth water. Under charge of young Tom Kelly, a sheepish lad of sixteen, with his father's smile, they all got into an inconceivably small dinghy, loading it down till it was almost awash. Old Tom himself helped Anna to embark, told her where to tread, and forced her gently into a seat at the stern. No one else seemed to be disturbed, but Anna was in a state of desperate fear. She had never committed herself to a boat before, and the little waves spat up against the sides in a most alarming way as young Tom jerked the dinghy along with the short sculls. She went white, and clung in silence fiercely to the gunwale. In a few moments they were tied up to the 'Fay,' which seemed very big and safe in comparison with the dinghy. They clambered on board, and in the deep well of the two-ton yacht Anna contrived to collect her wits. She was reassured by the painted legend in the well, 'Licensed to carry eleven.' Young Tom and Henry busied themselves with ropes, and suddenly a huge white sail began to ascend the mast; it flapped like thunder in the gentle breeze. Tom pulled up the anchor, curling the chain round and round on the forward deck, and then Anna noticed that, although the wind was scarcely perceptible, they were gliding quickly past the embankment. Henry was at the tiller. The next minute Tom had set the jib, and by this time the 'Fay' was approaching the breakwater at a great pace. There was no rolling or pitching, but simply a smooth, swift progression over the calm surface. Anna thought it the ideal of locomotion. As soon as they were beyond the breakwater and the sails caught the breeze from the Sound, the 'Fay' lay over as if shot, and a little column of green water flung itself on the lee coaming of the well. Anna screamed as she saw the water and felt the angle of the floor suddenly change, but when everyone laughed, she laughed too. Henry, noticing the whiteness of her knuckles as she gripped the coaming, explained the disconcerting phenomena. Anna tried to be at ease, but she was not. She could not for a long time dismiss the suspicion that all these people were foolishly blind to a peril which she alone had the sagacity to perceive.

They cruised about while Tom prepared the lines. The short waves chopped cheerfully against the carvel sides of the yacht; the clouds were breaking at a hundred points; the sea grew lighter in tone; gaiety was in the air; no one could possibly be indisposed in that innocuous weather. At length the lines were ready, but Tom said the yacht was making at least a knot too much for serious fishing, so Henry took a reef in the mainsail, showing Anna how to tie the short strings. The Alderman, lying on the fore-deck, was placidly smoking. The lines were thrown out astern, and Mrs. Sutton and Beatrice each took one. But they had no success; young Tom said it was because the sun had appeared.

'Caught anything?' Mr. Sutton inquired at intervals. After a time he said:

'Suppose Anna and I have a try?'

It was agreed.

'What must I do?' asked Anna, brave now.

'You just hold the line-so. And if you feel a little jerk-jerk, that's a mackerel.' These were the instructions of Beatrice. Anna was becoming excited. She had not held the line ten seconds before she cried out:

'I've got one.'

'Nonsense,' said Beatrice. 'Everyone thinks at first that the motion of the waves against the line is a fish.'

'Well,' said Henry, giving the tiller to young Tom. 'Let's haul in and see, anyway.' Before doing so he held the line for a moment, testing it, and winked at Anna. While Anna and Henry were hauling in, the Alderman, dropping his pipe, began also to haul in his own line with great fury.

'Got one, father?' Mrs. Sutton asked.

'Ay!'

Both lines came in together, and on each was a pounder. Anna saw her fish gleam and flash like silver in the clear water as it neared the surface. Henry held the line short, letting the mackerel plunge and jerk, and then seized and unhooked the catch.

'How cruel!' Anna cried, startled at the nearness of the two fish as they sprang about in an old sugar box at her feet. Young Tom laughed loud at her exclamation. 'They cairn't feel, miss,' he sniggered. Anna wondered that a mouth so soft and kind could utter such heartless words.

In an hour the united efforts of the party had caught nine mackerel; it was not a multitude, but the sun, in perfecting the weather, had spoilt the sport. Anna had ceased to commiserate the captured fish. She was obliged, however, to avert her head when Tom cut some skin from the side of one of the mackerel to provide fresh bait; this device seemed to her the extremest refinement of cruelty. Beatrice grew ominously silent and inert, and Mrs. Sutton glanced first at her daughter and then at her husband; the latter nodded.

'We'd happen better be getting back, Henry,' said the Alderman.

The 'Fay' swept home like a bird. They were at the quay, and Kelly was dragging them one by one from the black dinghy on to what the Alderman called terra-firma. Henry had the fish on a string.

'How many did ye catch, Miss Tellwright?' Kelly asked benevolently.

'I caught four,' Anna replied. Never before had she felt so proud, elated, and boisterous. Never had the blood so wildly danced in her veins. She looked at her short blue skirt which showed three inches of ankle, put forward her brown-shod foot like a vain coquette, and darted a covert look at Henry. When he caught it she laughed instead of blushing.

'Ye're doing well,' Tom Kelly approved. 'Ye'll make a famous mackerel-fisher.'

Five of the mackerel were given to young Tom, the other four preceded a fowl in the menu of dinner. They were called Anna's mackerel, and all the diners agreed that better mackerel had never been lured out of the Irish Sea.

In the afternoon the Alderman and his wife slept as usual, Mr. Sutton with a bandanna handkerchief over his face. The rest went out immediately; the invitation of the sun and the sea was far too persuasive to be resisted.

'I'm going to paint,' said Beatrice, with a resolute mien. 'I want to paint Bradda Head frightfully. I tried last year, but I got it too dark, somehow. I've improved since then. What are you going to do?'

'We'll come and watch you,' said Henry.

'Oh, no, you won't. At least you won't; you're such a critic. Anna can if she likes.'

'What! And me be left all afternoon by myself?'

'Well, suppose you go with him, Anna, just to keep him from being bored?'

Anna hesitated. Once more she had the uncomfortable suspicion that Mynors and herself were being manoeuvred.

'Look here,' said Mynors to Beatrice. 'Have you decided absolutely to paint?'

'Absolutely.' The finality of the answer seemed to have a touch of resentment.

'Then'-he turned to Anna-'let's go and get that dinghy and row about the bay. Eh?'

She could offer no rational objection, and they were soon putting off from the jetty, impelled seaward by a mighty push from Kelly's arm. It was very hot. Mynors wore white flannels. He removed his coat, and turned up his sleeves, showing thick, hairy arms. He sculled in a manner almost dramatic, and the dinghy shot about like a water-spider on a brook. Anna had nothing to do except to sit still and enjoy. Everything was drowned in dazzling sunlight, and both Henry and Anna could feel the process of tanning on their faces. The bay shimmered with a million diamond points; it was impossible to keep the eyes open without frowning, and soon Anna could see the beads of sweat on Henry's crimson brow.

'Warm?' she said. This was the first word of conversation. He merely smiled in reply. Presently they were at the other side of the bay, in a cave whose sandy and rock-strewn floor trembled clear under a fathom of blue water. They landed on a jutting rock; Henry pushed his straw hat back, and wiped his forehead. 'Glorious! glorious!' he exclaimed. 'Do you swim? No? You should get Beatrice to teach you. I swam out here this morning at seven o'clock. It was chilly enough then. Oh! I forgot, I told you at breakfast.'

She could see him in the translucent water, swimming with long, powerful strokes. Dozens of boats were moving lazily in the bay, each with a cargo of parasols.

'There's a good deal of the sunshade afloat,' he remarked. 'Why haven't you got one? You'll get as brown as Tom Kelly.'

'That's what I want,' she said.

'Look at yourself in the water there,' he said, pointing to a little pool left on the top of the rock by the tide. She did so, and saw two fiery cheeks, and a forehead divided by a horizontal line into halves of white and crimson; the tip of the nose was blistered.

'Isn't it disgraceful?' he suggested.

'Why,' she exclaimed, 'they'll never know me when I get home!'

It was in such wise that they talked, endlessly exchanging trifles of comment. Anna thought to herself: 'Is this love-making?' It could not be, she decided; but she infinitely preferred it so. She was content. She wished for nothing better than this apparently frivolous and irresponsible dalliance. She felt that if Mynors were to be tender, sentimental, and serious, she would become wretchedly self-conscious.

They re-embarked, and, skirting the shore, gradually came round to the beach. Up above them, on the cliffs, they could discern the industrious figure of Beatrice, with easel and sketching-umbrella, and all the panoply of the earnest amateur.

'Do you sketch?' she asked him.

'Not I!' he said scornfully.

'Don't you believe in that sort of thing, then?'

'It's all right for professional artists,' he said; 'people who can paint. But-- Well, I suppose it's harmless for the amateurs-finds them something to do.'

'I wish I could paint, anyway,' she retorted.

'I'm glad you can't,' he insisted.

When they got back to the cliffs, towards tea-time, Beatrice was still painting, but in a new spot. She seemed entirely absorbed in her work, and did not hear their approach.

'Let's creep up and surprise her,' Mynors whispered. 'You go first, and put your hands over her eyes.'

'Oh!' exclaimed Beatrice, blindfolded; 'how horrid you are, Henry! I know who it is-I know who it is.'

'You just don't, then,' said Henry, now in front of her. Anna removed her hands.

'Well, you told her to do it, I'm sure of that. And I was getting on so splendidly! I shan't do another stroke now.'

'That's right,' said Henry. 'You've wasted quite enough time as it is.'

Beatrice pouted. She was evidently annoyed with both of them. She looked from one to the other, jealous of their mutual understanding and agreement. Mr. and Mrs. Sutton issued from the house, and the five stood chatting till tea was ready; but the shadow remained on Beatrice's face. Mynors made several attempts to laugh it away, and at dusk these two went for a stroll to Port St. Mary. They returned in a state of deep intimacy. During supper Beatrice was consciously and elaborately angelic, and there was that in her voice and eyes, when sometimes she addressed Mynors, which almost persuaded Anna that he might once have loved his cousin. At night, in the bedroom, Anna imagined that she could detect in Beatrice's attitude the least shade of condescension. She felt hurt, and despised herself for feeling hurt.

So the days passed, without much variety, for the Suttons were not addicted to excursions. Anna was profoundly happy; she had forgotten care. She agreed to every suggestion for amusement; each moment had its pleasure, and this pleasure was quite independent of the thing done; it sprang from all activities and idlenesses. She was at special pains to fraternise with Mr. Sutton. He made an interesting companion, full of facts about strata, outcrops, and breaks, his sole weakness being the habit of quoting extremely sentimental scraps of verse when walking by the sea-shore. He frankly enjoyed Anna's attention to him, and took pride in her society. Mrs. Sutton, that simple heart, devoted herself to the attainment of absolute quiescence. She had come for a rest, and she achieved her purpose. Her kindliness became for the time passive instead of active. Beatrice was a changing quantity in the domestic equation. Plainly her parents had spoiled their only child, and she had frequent fits of petulance, particularly with Mynors; but her energy and spirits atoned well for these. As for Mynors, he behaved exactly as on the first Monday. He spent many hours alone with Anna-(Beatrice appeared to insist on leaving them together, even while showing a faint resentment at the loneliness thus entailed on herself)-and his attitude was such as Anna, ignorant of the ways of brothers, deemed a brother might adopt.

On the second Monday an incident occurred. In the afternoon Mr. Sutton had asked Beatrice to go with him to Port St. Mary, and she had refused on the plea that the light was of a suitable grey for painting. Mr. Sutton had slipped off alone, unseen by Anna and Henry, who had meant to accompany him in place of Beatrice. Before tea, while Anna, Beatrice and Henry were awaiting the meal in the parlour, Mynors referred to the matter.

'I hope you've done some decent work this afternoon,' he said to Beatrice.

'I haven't,' she replied shortly; 'I haven't done a stroke.'

'But you said you were going to paint hard!'

'Well, I didn't.'

'Then why couldn't you have gone to Port St. Mary, instead of breaking your fond father's heart by a refusal?'

'He didn't want me, really.'

Anna interjected: 'I think he did, Bee.'

'You know you're very self-willed, not to say selfish,' Mynors said.

'No, I'm not,' Beatrice protested seriously. 'Am I, Anna?'

'Well--' Anna tried to think of a diplomatic pronouncement. Beatrice took offence at the hesitation.

'Oh! You two are bound to agree, of course. You're as thick as thieves.'

She gazed steadily out of the window, and there was a silence. Mynors' lip curled.

'Oh! There's the loveliest yacht just coming into the bay,' Beatrice cried suddenly, in a tone of affected enthusiasm. 'I'm going out to sketch it.' She snatched up her hat and sketching-block, and ran hastily from the room. The other two saw her sitting on the grass, sharpening a pencil. The yacht, a large and luxurious craft, had evidently come to anchor for the night.

Mrs. Sutton arrived from her bedroom, and then Mr. Sutton also came in. Tea was served. Mynors called to Beatrice through the window and received no reply. Then Mrs. Sutton summoned her.

'Go on with your tea,' Beatrice shouted, without turning her head. 'Don't wait for me. I'm bound to finish this now.'

'Fetch her, Anna dear,' said Mrs. Sutton after another interval. Anna rose to obey, half-fearful.

'Aren't you coming in, Bee?' She stood by the sketcher's side, and observed nothing but a few meaningless lines on the block.

'Didn't you hear what I said to mother?'

Anna retired in discomfiture.

Tea was finished. They went out, but kept at a discreet distance from the artist, who continued to use her pencil until dusk had fallen. Then they returned to the sitting-room, where a fire had been lighted, and Beatrice at length followed. As the others sat in a circle round the fire, Beatrice, who occupied the sofa in solitude, gave a shiver.

'Beatrice, you've taken cold,' said her mother, sitting out there like that.'

'Oh, nonsense, mother-what a fidget you are!'

'A fidget I certainly am not, my darling, and that you know very well. As you've had no tea, you shall have some gruel at once, and go to bed and get warm.'

'Oh no, mother!' But Mrs. Sutton was resolved, and in half an hour she had taken Beatrice to bed and tucked her up.

When Anna went to the bedroom Beatrice was awake.

'Can't you sleep?' she inquired kindly.

'No,' said Beatrice, in a feeble voice, 'I'm restless, somehow.'

'I wonder if it's influenza,' said Mrs. Sutton, on the following morning, when she learnt from Anna that Beatrice had had a bad night, and would take breakfast in bed. She carried the invalid's food upstairs herself. 'I hope it isn't influenza,' she said later. 'The girl is very hot.'

'You haven't a clinical thermometer?' Mynors suggested.

'Go, see if you can buy one at the little chemist's,' she replied eagerly. In a few minutes he came back with the instrument.

'She's at over a hundred,' Mrs. Sutton reported, having used the thermometer. 'What do you say, father? Shall we send for a doctor? I'm not so set up with doctors as a general rule,' she added, as if in defence, to Anna. 'I brought Beatrice through measles and scarlet fever without a doctor-we never used to think of having a doctor in those days for ordinary ailments; but influenza-that's different. Eh, I dread it; you never know how it will end. And poor Beatrice had such a bad attack last Martinmas.'

'If you like, I'll run for a doctor now,' said Mynors.

'Let be till to-morrow,' the Alderman decided. 'We'll see how she goes on. Happen it's nothing but a cold.'

'Yes,' assented Mrs. Sutton; 'it's no use crying out before you're hurt.'

Anna was struck by the placidity with which they covered their apprehension. Towards noon, Beatrice, who said that she felt better, insisted on rising. A fire was lighted at once in the parlour, and she sat in front of it till tea-time, when she was obliged to go to bed again. On the Wednesday morning, after a night which had been almost sleepless for both girls, her temperature stood at 103°, and Henry fetched the doctor, who pronounced it a case of influenza, severe, demanding very careful treatment. Instantly the normal movement of the household was changed. The sickroom became a mysterious centre round which everything revolved, and the parlour, without the alteration of a single chair, took on a deserted, forlorn appearance. Meals were eaten like the passover, with loins girded for any sudden summons. Mrs. Sutton and Anna, as nurses, grew important in the eyes of the men, who instinctively effaced themselves, existing only like messenger-boys whose business it is to await a call. Yet there was no alarm, flurry, nor excitement. In the evening the doctor returned. The patient's temperature had not fallen. It was part of the treatment that a medicine should be administered every two hours with absolute regularity, and Mrs. Sutton said that she should sit up through the night.

'I shall do that,' said Anna.

'Nay, I won't hear of it,' Mrs. Sutton replied, smiling.

But the three men (the doctor had remained to chat in the parlour), recognising Anna's capacity and reliability, and perhaps impressed also by her business-like appearance as, arrayed in a white apron, she stood with firm lips before them, gave a unanimous decision against Mrs. Sutton.

'We'st have you ill next, lass,' said the Alderman to his wife; 'and that'll never do.'

'Well,' Mrs. Sutton surrendered, 'if I can leave her to anyone, it's Anna.'

Mynors smiled appreciatively.

On the Thursday morning there was still no sign of recovery. The temperature was 104°, and the patient slightly delirious. Anna left the sickroom at eight o'clock to preside at breakfast, and Mrs. Sutton took her place.

'You look tired, my dear,' said the Alderman affectionately.

'I feel perfectly well,' she replied with cheerfulness.

'And you aren't afraid of catching it?' Mynors asked.

'Afraid?' she said; 'there's no fear of me catching it.'

'How do you know?'

'I know, that's all. I'm never ill.'

'That's the right way to keep well,' the Alderman remarked.

The quiet admiration of these two men was very pleasant to her. She felt that she had established herself for ever in their esteem. After breakfast, in obedience to them, she slept for several hours on Mrs. Sutton's bed. In the afternoon Beatrice was worse. The doctor called, and found her temperature at 105°.

'This can't last,' he remarked briefly.

'Well, Doctor,' Mr. Sutton said, 'it's i' your hands.'

'Nay,' Mrs. Sutton murmured with a smile, 'I've left it with God. It's with Him.'

This was the first and only word of religion, except grace at table, that Anna heard from the Suttons during her stay in the Isle of Man. She had feared lest vocal piety might form a prominent feature of their daily life, but her fear had proved groundless. She, too, from reason rather than instinct, had tried to pray for Beatrice's recovery. She had, however, found much more satisfaction in the activity of nursing.

Again that night she sat up, and on the Friday morning Beatrice was better. At noon all immediate danger was past; the patient slept; her temperature was almost correct. Anna went to bed in the afternoon and slept soundly till supper-time, when she awoke very hungry. For the first time in three days Beatrice could be left alone. The other four had supper together, cheerful and relieved after the tension.

'She'll be as right as a trivet in a few days,' said the Alderman.

'A few weeks,' said Mrs. Sutton.

'Of course,' said Mynors, 'you'll stay on here, now?'

'We shall stay until Beatrice is quite fit to travel,' Mr. Sutton answered. 'I might have to run over to th' Five Towns for a day or two middle of next week, but I can come back immediately.'

'Well, I must go tomorrow,' Mynors sighed.

'Surely you can stay over Sunday, Henry?'

'No; I've no one to take my place at school.'

'And I must go to-morrow, too,' said Anna suddenly.

'Fiddle-de-dee, Anna!' the Alderman protested.

'I must,' she insisted. 'Father will expect me. You know I came for a fortnight. Besides, there's Agnes.'

'Agnes will be all right.'

'I must go.' They saw that she was fixed.

'Won't a short walk do you good?' Mynors suggested to her, with singular gravity, after supper. 'You've not been outside for two days.'

She looked inquiringly at Mrs. Sutton.

'Yes, take her, Henry; she'll sleep better for it. Eh, Anna, but it's a shame to send you home with those rings round your eyes.'

She went upstairs for a jacket. Beatrice was awake. 'Anna,' she exclaimed in a weak voice, without any preface, 'I was awfully silly and cross the other afternoon, before all this business. Just now, when you came into the room, I was feeling quite ashamed.'

'Oh! Bee!' she answered, bending over her, 'what nonsense! Now go off to sleep at once.' She was very happy. Beatrice, victim of a temperament which had the childishness and the impulsiveness of the artist without his higher and sterner traits, sank back in facile content.

The night was still and very dark. When Anna and Mynors got outside they could distinguish neither the sky nor the sea; but the faint, restless murmur of the sea came up the cliffs. Only the lights of the houses disclosed the direction of the road.

'Suppose we go down to the jetty, and then along as far as the breakwater?' he said, and she concurred. 'Won't you take my muffler-again?' he added, pulling this ever-present article from his pocket.

'No, thanks,' she said, almost coldly, 'it's really quite warm.' She regarded the offer of the muffler as an indiscretion-his sole indiscretion during their acquaintance. As they walked down the hill to the shore she though how Beatrice's illness had sharply interrupted their relations. If she had come to the Isle of Man with a vague idea that he would possibly propose to her, the expectation was disappointed; but she felt no disappointment. She felt that events had lifted her to a higher plane than that of love-making. She was filled with the proud satisfaction of a duty accomplished. She did not seek to minimise to herself the fact that she had been of real value to her friends in the last few days, had probably saved Mrs. Sutton from illness, had certainly laid them all under an obligation. Their gratitude, unexpressed, but patent on each face, gave her infinite pleasure. She had won their respect by the manner in which she had risen to the height of an emergency that demanded more than devotion. She had proved, not merely to them but to herself, that she could be calm under stress, and could exert moral force when occasion needed. Such were the joyous and exultant reflections which passed through her brain-unnaturally active in the factitious wakefulness caused by excessive fatigue. She was in an extremely nervous and excitable condition-and never guessed it, fancying indeed that her emotions were exceptionally tranquil that night. She had not begun to realise the crisis through which she had just lived.

The uneven road to the ruined breakwater was quite deserted. Having reached the limit of the path, they stood side by side, solitary, silent, gazing at the black and gently heaving surface of the sea. The eye was foiled by the intense gloom; the ear could make nothing of the strange night-noises of the bay and the ocean beyond; but the imagination was stimulated by the appeal of all this mystery and darkness. Never had the water seemed so wonderful, terrible, and austere.

'We are going away to-morrow,' he said at length.

Anna started and shook with apprehension at the tremor in his voice. She had read that a woman was always well warned by her instincts when a man meant to propose to her. But here was the proposal imminent, and she had not suspected. In a flash of insight she perceived that the very event which had separated them for three days had also impelled the lover forward in his course. It was the thought of her vigils, her fortitude, her compassion, that had fanned the flame. She was not surprised, only made uncomfortable, when he took her hand.

'Anna,' he said, 'it's no use making a long story of it. I'm tremendously in love with you; you know I am.'

He stepped back, still holding her hand. She could say nothing.

'Well?' he ventured. 'Didn't you know?'

'I thought-I thought,' she murmured stupidly, 'I thought you liked me.'

'I can't tell you how I admire you. I'm not going to praise you to your face, but I simply never met anyone like you. From the very first moment I saw you, it was the same. It's something in your face, Anna-- Anna, will you be my wife?'

The actual question was put in a precise, polite, somewhat conventional tone. To Anna he was never more himself than at that moment.

She could not speak; she could not analyse her feelings; she could not even think. She was adrift. At last she stammered: 'We've only known each other--'

'Oh, dear,' he exclaimed masterfully, 'what does that matter? If it had been a dozen years instead of one, that would have made no difference.' She drew her hand timidly away, but he took it again. She felt that he dominated her and would decide for her. 'Say yes.'

'Yes,' she said.

She saw pictures of her career as his wife, and resolved that one of the first acts of her freedom should be to release Agnes from the more ignominious of her father's tyrannies.

They walked home almost in silence. She was engaged, then. Yet she experienced no new sensation. She felt as she had felt on the way down, except that she was sorely perturbed. There was no ineffable rapture, no ecstatic bliss. Suddenly the prospect of happiness swept over her like a flood.

At the gate she wished to make a request to him, but hesitated, because she could not bring herself to use his Christian name. It was proper for her to use his Christian name, however, and she would do so, or perish.

'Henry,' she said, 'don't tell anyone here.' He merely kissed her once more. She went straight upstairs.

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