AUTHOR OF "WHAT'S BRED IN THE BONE," "TENTS OP SHEM," "IN ALL SHADES," ETC.
With over Three Hundred and Fifty Illustrations In Silhouette
FRANCIS CARRUTHERS GOULD
ALEC CARRUTHERS GOULD
CHICAGO AND NEW YORK:
I. A CORNISH LANDLORD
III. FACE TO FACE
IV. TYRREL'S REMORSE
V. A STRANGE DELUSION VI. PURE ACCIDENT
VII. PERIL BY LAND
VIII. SAFE AT LAST
IX. MEDICAL OPINION
X. A BOLD ATTEMPT
XI. BUSINESS IS BUSINESS
XII. A HARD BARGAIN
XIII. ANGEL AND DEVIL
XIV. AT ARM'S LENGTH
XV. ST. MICHAEL DOES BATTLE
A CORNISH LANDLORD.
"Then you don't care for the place yourself, Tyrrel?" Eustace Le Neve said, musingly, as he gazed in front of him with a comprehensive glance at the long gray moor and the wide expanse of black and stormy water.
"It's bleak, of course; bleak and cold, I grant you; all this upland plateau about the Lizard promontory seems bleak and cold everywhere; but to my mind it has a certain wild and weird picturesqueness of its own for all that. It aims at gloominess. I confess in its own way I don't dislike it."
"For my part," Tyrrel answered, clinching his hand hard as he spoke, and knitting his brow despondently, "I simply hate it. If I wasn't the landlord here, to be perfectly frank with you, I'd never come near Penmorgan. I do it for conscience' sake, to be among my own people. That's my only reason. I disapprove of absenteeism; and now the land's mine, why, I must put up with it, I suppose, and live upon it in spite of myself. But I do it against the grain. The whole place, if I tell you the truth, is simply detestable to me."
He leaned on his stick as he spoke, and looked down gloomily at the heather. A handsome young man, Walter Tyrrel, of the true Cornish type—tall, dark, poetical-looking, with pensive eyes and a thick black mustache, which gave dignity and character to his otherwise almost too delicately feminine features. And he stood on the open moor just a hundred yards outside his own front door at Penmorgan, on the Lizard peninsula, looking westward down a great wedge-shaped gap in the solid serpentine rock to a broad belt of sea beyond without a ship or a sail on it. The view was indeed, as Eustace Le Neve admitted, a somewhat bleak and dreary one. For miles, as far as the eye could reach, on either side, nothing was to be seen but one vast heather- clad upland, just varied at the dip by bare ledges of dark rock and a single gray glimpse of tossing sea between them. A little farther on, to be sure, winding round the cliff path, one could open up a glorious prospect on either hand over the rocky islets of Kynance and Mullion Cove, with Mounts Bay and Penzance and the Land's End in the distance. That was a magnificent site—if only his ancestors had had the sense to see it. But Penmorgan House, like most other Cornish landlords' houses, had been carefully placed—for shelter's sake, no doubt—in a seaward hollow where the view was most restricted; and the outlook one got from it, over black moor and blacker rocks, was certainly by no means of a cheerful character. Eustace Le Neve himself, most cheery and sanguine of men, just home from his South American railway-laying, and with the luxuriant vegetation of the Argentine still fresh in his mind, was forced to admit, as he looked about him, that the position of his friend's house on that rolling brown moor was far from a smiling one.
"You used to come here when you were a boy, though," he objected, after a pause, with a glance at the great breakers that curled in upon the cove; "and you must surely have found it pleasant enough then, what with the bathing and the fishing and the shooting and the boating, and all the delights of the sea and the country."
Walter Tyrrel nodded his head. It was clear the subject was extremely distasteful to him.
"Yes—till I was twelve or thirteen," he said, slowly, as one who grudges assent, "in my uncle's time, I liked it well enough, no doubt. Boys don't realize the full terror of sea or cliff, you know, and are perfectly happy swimming and climbing. I used to be amphibious in those days, like a seal or an otter—in the water half my time; and I scrambled over the rocks—great heavens, it makes me giddy now just to THINK where I scrambled. But when I was about thirteen years old"—his face grew graver still—"a change seemed to come over me, and I began . . . well, I began to hate Penmorgan. I've hated it ever since. I shall always hate it. I learned what it all meant, I suppose—rocks, wrecks, and accidents. I saw how dull and gloomy it was, and I couldn't bear coming down here. I came as seldom as I dared, till my uncle died last year and left it to me. And then there was no help for it. I HAD to come down. It's a landlord's business, I consider, to live among his tenants and look after the welfare of the soil, committed to his charge by his queen and country. He holds it in trust, strictly speaking, for the nation. So I felt I must come and live here. But I hate it, all the same. I hate it! I hate it!"
He said it so energetically, and with such strange earnestness in his voice, that Eustace Le Neve, scanning his face as he spoke, felt sure there must be some good reason for his friend's dislike of his ancestral home, and forebore (like a man) to question him further. Perhaps, he thought, it was connected in Tyrrel's mind with some painful memory, some episode in his history he would gladly forget; though, to be sure, when one comes to think of it, at thirteen such episodes are rare and improbable. A man doesn't, as a rule, get crossed in love at that early age; nor does he generally form lasting and abiding antipathies. And indeed, for the matter of that, Penmorgan was quite gloomy enough in itself, in all conscience, to account for his dislike—a lonely and gaunt-looking granite-built house, standing bare and square on the edge of a black moor, under shelter of a rocky dip, in a treeless country. It must have been a terrible change for a bachelor about town, like Walter Tyrrel, to come down at twenty-eight from his luxurious club and his snug chambers in St. James' to the isolation and desolation of that wild Cornish manor-house. But the Tyrrels, he knew, were all built like that; Le Neve had been with three of the family at Rugby; and conscience was their stumbling- block. When once a Tyrrel was convinced his duty lay anywhere, no consideration on earth would keep him from doing it.
"Let's take a stroll down by the shore," Le Neve suggested, carelessly, after a short pause, slipping his arm through his friend's.
"Your cliffs, at least, must be fine; they look grand and massive; and after three years of broiling on a South American line, this fresh sou'wester's just the thing, to my mind, to blow the cobwebs out of one."
He was a breezy-looking young man, this new-comer from beyond the sea —a son of the Vikings, Tyrrel's contemporary in age, but very unlike him in form and features; for Eustace Le Neve was fair and big-built, a florid young giant, with tawny beard, mustache, and whiskers, which he cut in a becoming Vandyke point of artistic carelessness. There was more of the artist than of the engineer, indeed, about his frank and engaging English face—a face which made one like him as soon as one looked at him. It was impossible to do otherwise. Exuberant vitality was the keynote of the man's being. And he was candidly open, too. He impressed one at first sight, by some nameless instinct, with a certain well-founded friendly confidence. A lovable soul, if ever there was one, equally liked at once by men and women.
"Our cliffs are fine," Walter Tyrrel answered, grudgingly, in the tone of one who, against his will, admits an adverse point he sees no chance of gainsaying. "They're black, and repellant, and iron-bound, and dangerous, but they're certainly magnificent. I don't deny it. Come and see them, by all means. They're the only lions we have to show a stranger in this part of Cornwall, so you'd better make the most of them."
And he took, as if mechanically, the winding path that led down the gap toward the frowning cove in the wall of cliff before them.
Eustace Le Neve was a little surprised at this unexpected course, for he himself would naturally have made rather for the top of the promontory, whence they were certain to obtain a much finer and more extensive view; but he had only arrived at Penmorgan the evening before, so he bowed at once to his companion's more mature experience of Cornish scenery. They threaded their way through the gully, for it was little more—a great water-worn rent in the dark serpentine rocks, with the sea at its lower end—picking their path as they went along huge granite boulders or across fallen stones, till they reached a small beach of firm white sand, on whose even floor the waves were rolling in and curling over magnificently. It was a curious place, Eustace thought, rather dreary than beautiful. On either side rose black cliffs, towering sheer into the air, and shutting out overhead all but a narrow cleft of murky sky. Around, the sea dashed itself in angry white foam against broken stacks and tiny weed-clad skerries. At the end of the first point a solitary islet, just separated from the mainland by a channel of seething water, jutted above into the waves, with hanging tresses of blue and yellow seaweed. Tyrrel pointed to it with one hand. "That's Michael's Crag," he said, laconically. "You've seen it before, no doubt, in half a dozen pictures. It's shaped exactly like St. Michael's Mount in miniature. A marine painter fellow down here's forever taking its portrait."
Le Neve gazed around him with a certain slight shudder of unspoken disapprobation. This place didn't suit his sunny nature. It was even blacker and more dismal than the brown moorland above it. Tyrrel caught the dissatisfaction in his companion's eye before Le Neve had time to frame it in words.
"Well, you don't think much of it?" he said, inquiringly.
"I can't say I do," Le Neve answered, with apologetic frankness. "I suppose South America has spoilt me for this sort of thing. But it's not to my taste. I call it gloomy, without being even impressive."
"Gloomy," Tyrrel answered; "oh, yes, gloomy, certainly. But impressive; well, yes. For myself, I think so. To me, it's all terribly, unspeakably, ineffably impressive. I come here every day, and sit close on the sands, and look out upon the sea by the edge of the breakers. It's the only place on this awful coast one feels perfectly safe in. You can't tumble over here, or...roll anything down to do harm to anybody."
A steep cliff path led up the sheer face of the rock to southward. It was a difficult path, a mere foothold on the ledges; but its difficulty at once attracted the engineer's attention. "Let's go up that way!" he said, waving his hand toward it carelessly. "The view from on top there must be infinitely finer."
"I believe it is," Tyrrel replied, in an unconcerned voice, like one who retails vague hearsay evidence. "I haven't seen it myself since I was a boy of thirteen. I never go along the top of the cliffs on any account."
Le Neve gazed down on him, astonished. "You BELIEVE it is!" he exclaimed, unable to conceal his surprise and wonder. "You never go up there! Why, Walter, how odd of you! I was reading up the Guidebook this morning before breakfast, and it says the walk from this point on the Penmorgan estate to Kynance Cove is the most magnificent bit of wild cliff scenery anywhere in Cornwall."
"So I'm told," Tyrrel answered, unmoved. "And I remember, as a boy, I thought it very fine. But that was long since. I never go by it."
"Why not?" Le Neve cried.
Tyrrel shrugged his shoulders and shook himself impatiently. "I don't know." he answered, in a testy sort of voice. "I don't like the cliff top... It's so dangerous, don't you know? So unsafe. So unstable. The rocks go off so sheer, and stones topple over so easily."
Le Neve laughed a little laugh of half-disguised contempt. He was moving over toward the path up the cliff side as they spoke. "Why, you used to be a first-class climber at school," he said, attempting it, "especially when you were a little chap. I remember you could scramble up trees like a monkey. What fun we had once in the doctor's orchard! And as to the cliffs, you needn't go so near you have to tumble over them. It seems ridiculous for a landowner not to know a bit of scenery on his own estate that's celebrated and talked about all over England."
"I'm not afraid of tumbling over, for myself," Tyrrel answered, a little nettled by his friend's frank tone of amusement. "I don't feel myself so useful to my queen and country that I rate my own life at too high a figure. It's the people below I'm chiefly concerned about. There's always someone wandering and scrambling about these cliffs, don't you see?—fishermen, tourists, geologists. If you let a loose stone go, it may fall upon them and crush them."
The engineer looked back upon him with a somewhat puzzled expression. "Well, that's carrying conscience a point too far," he said, with one strong hand on the rock and one sure foot in the first convenient cranny. "If we're not to climb cliffs for fear of showering down stones on those who stand below, we won't dare to walk or ride or drive or put to sea for fear of running over or colliding against somebody. We shall have to stop all our trains and keep all our steamers in harbor. There's nothing in this world quite free from risk. We've got to take it and lump it. You know the old joke about those dangerous beds—so many people die in them. Won't you break your rule just for once, and come up on top here to see the view with me?"
Tyrrel shook his head firmly. "Not to-day," he answered, with a quiet smile. "Not by that path, at any rate. It's too risky for my taste. The stones are so loose. And it overhangs the road the quarrymen go to the cave by."
Le Neve had now made good his foothold up the first four or five steps. "Well, you've no objection to my going, at any rate?" he said, with a wave of one hand, in his cheerful good-humor. "You don't put a veto on your friends here, do you?"
"Oh, not the least objection," Tyrrel answered, hurriedly, watching him climb, none the less, with nervous interest. "It's...it's a purely personal and individual feeling. Besides," he added, after a pause," I can stop below here, if need be, and warn the quarrymen."
"I'll be back in ten minutes," Le Neve shouted from the cliff.
"No, don't hurry," his host shouted back. "Take your own time, it's safest. Once you get to the top you'd better walk along the whole cliff path to Kynance. They tell me its splendid; the view's so wide; and you can easily get back across the moor by lunch-time. Only, mind about the edge, and whatever you do, let no stones roll over."
"All right," Le Neve made answer, clinging close to a point of rock. "I'll do no damage. It's opening out beautifully on every side now. I can see round the corner to St. Michael's Mount; and the point at the end there must be Tol-Pedn-Penwith."
It was a stiff, hot climb to the top of the cliff; but as soon as he reached it, Eustace Le Neve gazed about him, enchanted at the outlook. He was not in love with Cornwall, as far as he'd seen it yet; and to say the truth, except in a few broken seaward glens, that high and barren inland plateau has little in it to attract or interest anyone, least of all a traveler fresh from the rich luxuriance of South American vegetation. But the view that burst suddenly upon Eustace Le Neve's eye as he gained the summit of that precipitous serpentine bluff fairly took his breath away. It was a rich and varied one. To the north and west loomed headland after headland, walled in by steep crags, and stretching away in purple perspective toward Marazion, St. Michael's Mount, and the Penzance district. To the south and east huge masses of fallen rock lay tossed in wild confusion over Kynance Cove and the neighboring bays, with the bare boss of the Rill and the Rearing Horse in the foreground. Le Neve stood and looked with open eyes of delight. It was the first beautiful view he had seen since he came to Cornwall; but this at least was beautiful, almost enough so to compensate for his first acute disappointment at the barrenness and gloom of the Lizard scenery.
For some minutes he could only stand with open eyes and gaze delighted at the glorious prospect. Cliffs, sea, and rocks all blended with one another in solemn harmony. Even the blackness of the great crags and the scorched air of the brown and water-logged moorland in the rear now ceased to oppress him. They fell into their proper place in one consistent and well-blended picture. But, after awhile, impelled by a desire to look down upon the next little bay beyond—for the coast is indented with endless coves and headlands—the engineer walked on along the top by a coastguard's path that threaded its way, marked by whitened stones, round the points and gullies. As he did so, he happened to notice on the very crest of the ridge that overlooked the rock they called St. Michael's Crag a tall figure of a man silhouetted in dark outline against the pale gray skyline. From the very first moment Eustace Le Neve set eyes upon that striking figure this man exerted upon him some nameless attraction. Even at this distance the engineer could see he had a certain indefinite air of dignity and distinction; and he poised himself lightly on the very edge of the cliff in a way that would no doubt have made Walter Tyrrel shudder with fear and alarm. Yet there was something about that poise quite unearthly and uncanny; the man stood so airily on his high rocky perch that he reminded Le Neve at once of nothing so much as of Giovanni da Bologna's Mercury in the Bargello at Florence; he seemed to spurn the earth as if about to spring from it with a bound; his feet were as if freed from the common bond of gravity.
It was a figure that belonged naturally to the Cornish moorland.
Le Neve advanced along the path till he nearly reached the summit where the man was standing. The point itself was a rugged tor, or little group of bare and weather-worn rocks, overlooking the sea and St. Michael's Crag below it. As the engineer drew near he saw the stranger was not alone. Under shelter of the rocks a girl lay stretched at length on a loose camel's-hair rug; her head was hatless; in her hand she held, half open, a volume of poetry. She looked up as Eustace passed, and he noted at a glance that she was dark and pretty. The Cornish type once more; bright black eyes, glossy brown hair, a rich complexion, a soft and rounded beauty.
"Cleer," the father said, warningly, in a modulated voice, as the young man approached, "don't let your hat blow away, dear; it's close by the path there."
The girl he called Cleer darted forward and picked it up, with a little blush of confusion. Eustace Le Neve raised his hat, by way of excuse for disturbing her, and was about to pass on, but the view down into the bay below, with the jagged and pointed crag islanded in white foam, held him spellbound for a moment. He paused and gazed at it. "This is a lovely lookout, sir," he said, after a second's silence, as if to apologize for his intrusion, turning round to the stranger, who still stood poised like a statue on the natural pedestal of lichen- covered rock beside him. "A lovely lookout and a wonderful bit of wild coast scenery."
"Yes," the stranger answered, in a voice as full of dignity as his presence and his mien. "It's the grandest spot along the Cornish coast. From here you can see in one view St. Michael's Mount, St. Michael's Crag, St. Michael's Church, and St. Michael's Promontory. The whole of this country, indeed, just teems with St. Michael."
"Which is St. Michael's Promontory?" the young man asked, with a side glance at Cleer, as they called the daughter. He wasn't sorry indeed for the chance of having a second look at her.
"Why Land's End, of course," the dignified stranger answered at once, descending from his perch as he spoke, with a light spring more like a boy's than a mature man's. "You must surely know those famous lines in 'Lycidas' about 'The fable of Bellerus old, Where the Great Vision of the guarded mount Looks towards Namancos and Bayona's hold; Look homeward, angel, now, and melt with ruth.'"
"Yes, I KNOW them, of course," Eustace answered with ingenuous shyness; "but as so often happens with poetry, to say the truth, I'm afraid I attached no very definite idea to them. The music so easily obscures the sense; though the moment you suggest it, I see they can't possibly mean anyone but St. Michael."
"My father's very much interested in the antiquities of Cornwall," the girl Cleer put in, looking up at him somewhat timidly; "so he naturally knows all these things, and perhaps he expects others to know them unreasonably."
"We've every ground for knowing them," the father went on, glancing down at her with tender affection. "We're Cornish to the backbone— Cornish born and bred, if ever there were Cornishmen. Every man of my ancestors was a Tre, Pol, or Pen, to the tenth generation backward; and I'm descended from the Bassets, too—the Bassets of Tehidy. You must have heard of the Bassets in Cornish history. They owned St. Michael's Mount before these new-fangled St. Aubyn people."
"It's Lord St. Levan's now, isn't it?" Le Neve put in, anxious to show off his knowledge of the local aristocracy.
"Yes, they've made him Lord St. Levan," the dignified stranger answered, with an almost imperceptible curl of his delicate lower lip. "They've made him Lord St. Levan. The queen can make one anything. He was plain Sir John St. Aubyn before that, you know; his family bought the Mount from my ancestors—the Bassets of Tehidy. They're new people at Marazion—new people altogether. They've only been there since 1660."
Le Neve smiled a quiet smile. That seemed to him in his innocence a fairly decent antiquity as things go nowadays. But the dignified stranger appeared to think so little of it that his new acquaintance abstained from making note or comment on it. He waited half a moment to see whether Cleer would speak again; he wanted to hear that pleasant voice once more; but as she held her peace, he merely raised his hat, and accepting the dismissal, continued his walk round the cliffs alone. Yet, somehow, the rest of the way, the figure of that statuesque stranger haunted him. He looked back once or twice. The descendant of the Bassets of Tehidy had now resumed his high pedestal upon the airy tor, and was gazing away seaward, like the mystic Great Vision of his own Miltonic quotation, toward the Spanish coast, wrapped round in a loose cloak of most poetic dimensions. Le Neve wondered who he was, and what errand could have brought him there.
At the point called the Rill, he diverged from the path a bit, to get that beautiful glimpse down into the rock-strewn cove and smooth white sands at Kynance. A coastguard with brush and pail was busy as he passed by renewing the whitewash on the landmark boulders that point the path on dark nights to the stumbling wayfarer. Le Neve paused and spoke to him. "That's a fine-looking man, my friend, the gentleman on the tor there," he said, after a few commonplaces. "Do you happen to know his name? Is he spending the summer about here?"
The man stopped in his work and looked up. His eye lighted with pleasure on the dignified stranger. "Yes; he's one of the right sort, sir," he answered, with a sort of proprietary pride in the distinguished figure. "A real old Cornish gentleman of the good old days, he is, if ever you see one. That's Trevennack of Trevennack; and Miss Cleer's his daughter. Fine old crusted Cornish names, every one of them; I'm a Cornishman myself, and I know them well, the whole grand lot of them. The Trevennacks and the Bassets, they was all one, time gone by; they owned St. Michael's Mount, and Penzance, and Marazion, and Mullion here. They owned Penmorgan, too, afore the Tyrrels bought it up. Michael Basset Trevennack, that's the gentleman's full name; the eldest son of the eldest son is always a Michael, to keep up the memory of the times gone by, when they was Guardians of the Mount and St. Michael's Constables. And the lady's Miss Cleer, after St. Cleer of Cornwall—her that gives her name still to St. Cleer by Liskeard."
"And do they live here?" Le Neve asked, much interested in the intelligent local tone of the man's conversation.
"Lord bless you, no, sir. They don't live nowhere. They're in the service, don't you see. They lives in Malta or Gibraltar, or wherever the Admiralty sends him. He's an Admiralty man, he is, connected with the Vittling Yard. I was in the navy myself, on the good old Billy Ruffun, afore I was put in the Coastguards, and I knowed him well when we was both together on the Mediterranean Station. Always the same grand old Cornish gentleman, with them gracious manners, so haughty like, an' yet so condescending, wherever they put him. A gentleman born. No gentleman on earth more THE gentleman all round than Trevennack of Trevennack."
"Then he's staying down here on a visit?" Le Neve went on, curiously, peering over the edge of the cliffs, as he spoke, to observe the cormorants.
"Don't you go too nigh, sir," the coastguard put in, warningly. "She's slippery just there. Yes, they're staying down in Oliver's lodgings at Gunwalloe. He's on leave, that's where it is. Every three or four years he gets leave from the Vittling and comes home to England; and then he always ups and runs down to the Lizard, and wanders about on the cliffs by himself like this, with Miss Cleer to keep him company. He's a chip of the old rock, he is—Cornish granite to the core, as the saying goes; and he can't be happy away from it. You'll see him any day standing like that on the very edge of the cliff, looking across over the water, as if he was a coastguard hisself, and always sort o' perched on the highest bit of rock he can come nigh anywhere."
"He looks an able man," Le Neve went on, still regarding the stranger, poised now as before on the very summit of the tor, with his cloak wrapped around him.
"Able? I believe you! Why, he's the very heart and soul, the brains and senses of the Vittling Department. The navy'd starve if it wasn't for him. He's a Companion of St. Michael and St. George, Mr. Trevennack is. 'Tain't every one as is a Companion of St. Michael and St. George. The queen made him that herself for his management of the Vittling." "It's a strange place for a man in his position to spend his holiday," Le Neve went on, reflectively. "You'd think, coming back so seldom, he'd want to see something of London, Brighton, Scarborough, Scotland."
The coastguard looked up, and held his brush idle in one hand with a mysterious air. "Not when you come to know his history," he answered, gazing hard at him.
"Oh, there's a history to him, is there?" Le Neve answered, not surprised. "Well, he certainly has the look of it."
The coastguard nodded his head and dropped his voice still lower. "Yes, there's a history to him," he replied. "And that's why you'll always see Trevennack of Trevennack on the top of the cliff, and never at the bottom.—Thank'ee very kindly, sir; it ain't often we gets a chance of a good cigar at Kynance.—Well, it must be fifteen year now —or maybe sixteen—I don't mind the right time—Trevennack came down in old Squire Tyrrel's days, him as is buried at Mullion Church town, and stopped at Gunwalloe, same as he might be stopping there in his lodgings nowadays. He had his only son with him, too, a fine-looking young gentleman, they say, for his age, for I wasn't here then—I was serving my time under Admiral De Horsey on the good old Billy Ruffun— the very picture of Miss Cleer, and twelve year old or thereabouts; and they called him Master Michael, the same as they always call the eldest boy of the Trevennacks of Trevennack. Aye, and one day they two, father and son, were a-strolling on the beach under the cliffs by Penmorgan—mind them stones on the edge, sir; they're powerful loose— don't you drop none over—when, just as you might loosen them pebbles there with your foot, over came a shower o' small bits from the cliff on top, and as sure as you're livin', hit the two on 'em right so, sir. Mr. Trevennack himself, he wasn't much hurt—just bruised a bit on the forehead, for he was wearing a Scotch cap; but Master Michael, well, it caught him right on the top of the head, and afore they knowed what it was, it smashed his skull in. Aye, that it did, sir, just so; it smashed the boy's skull in. They carried him home, and cut the bone out, and trepanned him; but bless you, it wa'n't no good; he lingered on for a night, and then, afore morning, he died, insensible."
"What a terrible story!" Le Neve exclaimed, with a face of horror, recoiling instinctively from the edge of the cliff that had wrought this evil. "Aye, you may well say so. It was rough on him," the coastguard went on, with the calm criticism of his kind. "His only son—and all in a minute like, as you may term it—such a promising young gentleman! It was rough, terrible rough on him. So from that day to this, whenever Trevennack has a holiday, down he comes here to Gunwalloe, and walks about the cliffs, and looks across upon the rocks by Penmorgan Point, or stands on the top of Michael's Crag, just over against the spot where his boy was hurted. An' he never wants to go nowhere else in all England, but just to stand like that on the very edge of the cliff, and look over from atop, and brood, and think about it."
As the man spoke, it flashed across Le Neve's mind at once that Trevennack's voice had quivered with a strange thrill of emotion as he uttered that line, no doubt pregnant with meaning for him. "Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth." He was thinking of his own boy, most likely, not of the poet's feigned Lycidas.
"He'll stand like that for hours," the coastguard went on confidentially, "musing like to himself, with Miss Cleer by his side, reading in her book or doing her knitting or something. But you couldn't get him, for love or money, to go BELOW the cliffs, no, not if you was to kill him. He's AFRAID of going below—that's where it is; he always thinks something's sure to tumble from the top on him. Natural enough, too, after all that's been. He likes to get as high as ever he can in the air, where he can see all around him, and be certain there ain't anyone above to let anything drop as might hurt him. Michael's Crag's where he likes best to stand, on the top there by the Horse; he always chooses them spots. In Malta it was San Mickayly; and in Gibraltar it was the summit of Europa Point, by the edge of the Twelve Apostles' battery."
"How curious!" Le Neve exclaimed. "It's just the other way on now, with my friend Mr. Tyrrel. I'm stopping at Penmorgan, but Mr. Tyrrel won't go on TOP of the cliffs for anything. He says he's afraid he might let something drop by accident on the people below him."
The coastguard grew suddenly graver. "Like enough," he said, stroking his chin. "Like enough; and right, too, for him, sir. You see, he's a Tyrrel, and he's bound to be cautious.'
"Why so?" Le Neve asked, somewhat puzzled. "Why a Tyrrel more than the rest of us?"
The man hesitated and stared hard at him.
"Well, it's like this, sir," he answered at last, with the shamefaced air of the intelligent laboring man who confesses to a superstition. "We Cornish are old-fashioned, and we has our ideas. The Tyrrels are new people like, in Cornwall, as we say; they came in only with Cromwell's folk, when he fought the Grenvilles; but it's well beknown in the county bad luck goes with them. You see, they're descended from that Sir Walter Tyrrel you'll read about in the history books, him as killed King William Rufious in the New Forest. You'll hear all about it at Rufious' Stone, where the king was killed; Sir Walter, he drew, and he aimed at a deer, and the king was standing by; and the bullet, it glanced aside—or maybe it was afore bullets, and then it'd be an arrow; but anyhow, one or t'other, it hit the king, and he fell, and died there. The stone's standing to this day on the place where he fell, and I've seen it, and read of it when I was in hospital at Netley. But Sir Walter, he got clear away, and ran across to France; and ever since that time they've called the eldest son of the Tyrrels Walter, same as they've called the eldest son of the Trevennacks Michael. But they say every Walter Tyrrel that's born into the world is bound, sooner or later, to kill his man unintentional. So he do right to avoid going too near the cliffs, I say. We shouldn't tempt Providence. And the Tyrrels is all a conscientious people."
FACE TO FACE.
When Eustace Le Neve returned to lunch at Penmorgan that day he was silent to his host about Trevennack of Trevennack. To say the truth, he was so much attracted by Miss Cleer's appearance that he didn't feel inclined to mention having met her. But he wanted to meet her again for all that, and hoped he would do so. Perhaps Tyrrel might know the family, and ask them round to dine some night. At any rate, society is rare at the Lizard. Sooner or later, he felt sure, he'd knock up against the mysterious stranger somewhere. And that involved the probability of knocking up against the mysterious stranger's beautiful daughter.
Next morning after breakfast, however, he made a vigorous effort to induce Walter Tyrrel to mount the cliff and look at the view from Penmorgan Point toward the Rill and Kynance. It was absurd, he said truly, for the proprietor of such an estate never to have seen the most beautiful spot in it. But Tyrrel was obdurate. On the point of actually mounting the cliff itself he wouldn't yield one jot or tittle. Only, after much persuasion, he consented at last to cross the headland by the fields at the back and come out at the tor above St. Michael's Crag, provided always Eustace would promise he'd neither go near the edge himself nor try to induce his friend to approach it.
Satisfied with this lame compromise—for he really wished his host to enjoy that glorious view—Eustace Le Neve turned up the valley behind the house, with Walter Tyrrel by his side, and after traversing several fields, through gaps in the stone walls, led out his companion at last to the tor on the headland.
As they approached it from behind, the engineer observed, not without a faint thrill of pleasure, that Trevennack's stately figure stood upright as before upon the wind-swept pile of fissured rocks, and that Cleer sat reading under its shelter to leeward. But by her side this morning sat also an elder lady, whom Eustace instinctively recognized as her mother—a graceful, dignified lady, with silvery white hair and black Cornish eyes, and features not untinged by the mellowing, hallowing air of a great sorrow.
Le Neve raised his hat as they drew near, with a pleased smile of welcome, and Trevennack and his daughter both bowed in return. "A glorious morning!" the engineer said, drinking in to the full the lovely golden haze that flooded and half-obscured the Land's End district; and Trevennack assented gravely. "The crag stands up well in this sunshine against the dark water behind," he said, waving one gracious hand toward the island at his foot, and poising lighter than ever.
"Oh, take care!" Walter Tyrrel cried, looking up at him, on tenterhooks. It's so dangerous up there! You might tumble any minute."
"I never tumble," Trevennack made answer with solemn gravity, spreading one hand on either side as if to balance himself like an acrobat. But he descended as he spoke and took his place beside them.
Tyrrel looked at the view and looked at the pretty girl. It was evident he was quite as much struck by the one as by the other. Indeed, of the two, Cleer seemed to attract the larger share of his attention. For some minutes they stood and talked, all five of them together, without further introduction than their common admiration for that exquisite bay, in which Trevennack appeared to take an almost proprietary interest. It gratified him, obviously, a Cornish man, that these strangers (as he thought them) should be so favorably impressed by his native county. But Tyrrel all the while looked ill at ease, though he sidled away as far as possible from the edge of the cliff, and sat down near Cleer at a safe distance from the precipice. He was silent and preoccupied. That mattered but little, however, as the rest did all the talking, especially Trevennack, who turned out to be indeed a perfect treasure-house of Cornish antiquities and Cornish folk-lore.
"I generally stand below, on top of Michael's Crag," he said to Eustace, pointing it out, "when the tide allows it; but when it's high, as it is now, such a roaring and seething scour sets through the channel between the rock and the mainland that no swimmer could stem it; and then I come up here, and look down from above upon it. It's the finest point on all our Cornish coast, this point we stand on. It has the widest view, the purest air, the hardest rock, the highest and most fantastic tor of any of them."
"My husband's quite an enthusiast for this particular place," Mrs. Trevennack interposed, watching his face as she spoke with a certain anxious and ill-disguised wifely solicitude.
"He's come here for years. It has many associations for us."
"Some painful and some happy," Cleer added, half aloud; and Tyrrel, nodding assent, looked at her as if expecting some marked recognition.
"You should see it in the pilchard season," her father went on, turning suddenly to Eustace with much animation in his voice. "That's the time for Cornwall—a month or so later than now—you should see it then, for picturesqueness and variety. 'When the corn is in the shock,' says our Cornish rhyme, 'Then the fish are off the rock'—and the rock's St. Michael's. The HUER, as we call him, for he gives the hue and cry from the hill-top lookout when the fish are coming, he stands on Michael's Crag just below there, as I stand myself so often, and when he sights the shoals by the ripple on the water, he motions to the boats which way to go for the pilchards. Then the rowers in the lurkers, as we call our seine-boats, surround the shoal with a tuck- net, or drag the seine into Mullion Cove, all alive with a mass of shimmering silver. The jowsters come down with their carts on to the beach, and hawk them about round the neighborhood—I've seen them twelve a penny; while in the curing-houses they're bulking them and pressing them as if for dear life, to send away to Genoa, Leghorn, and Naples. That's where all our fish go—to the Catholic south. 'The Pope and the Pilchards,' says our Cornish toast; for it's the Friday fast that makes our only market."
"You can see them on St. George's Island in Looe Harbor," Cleer put in quite innocently. "They're like a sea of silver there—on St. George's Island."
"My dear," her father corrected with that grave, old-fashioned courtesy which the coast-guard had noted and described as at once so haughty and yet so condescending, "how often I've begged of you NOT to call it St. George's Island! It's St. Nicholas' and St. Michael's—one may as well be correct—and till a very recent date a chapel to St. Michael actually stood there upon the rocky top; it was only destroyed, you remember, at the time of the Reformation."
"Everybody CALLS it St. George's now," Cleer answered, with girlish persistence. And her father looked round at her sharply, with an impatient snap of the fingers, while Mrs. Trevennack's eye was fixed on him now more carefully and more earnestly, Tyrrel observed, than ever.
"I wonder why it is," Eustace Le Neve interposed, to spare Cleer's feelings, "that so many high places, tops of mountains and so forth, seem always to be dedicated to St. Michael in particular? He seems to love such airy sites. There's St. Michael's Mount here, you know, and Mont St. Michel in Normandy; and at Le Puy, in Auvergne, there's a St. Michael's Rock, and at ever so many other places I can't remember this minute."
Trevennack was in his element. The question just suited him. He smiled a curious smile of superior knowledge. "You've come to the right place for information," he said, blandly, turning round to the engineer. "I'm a Companion of St. Michael and St. George myself, and my family, as I told you, once owned St. Michael's Mount; so, for that and various other reasons, I've made a special study of St. Michael the Archangel, and all that pertains to him." And then he went on to give a long and learned disquisition, which Le Neve and Walter Tyrrel only partially followed, about the connection between St. Michael and the Celtic race, as well as about the archangel's peculiar love for high and airy situations. Most of the time, indeed, Le Neve was more concerned in watching Cleer Trevennack's eyes, as her father spoke, than in listening to the civil servant's profound dissertation. He gathered, however, from the part he caught, that St. Michael the Archangel had been from early days a very important and powerful Cornish personage, and that he clung to high places on the tors and rocks because he had to fight and subdue the Prince of the Air, whom he always destroyed at last on some pointed pinnacle. And now that he came to think of it, Eustace vaguely recollected he had always seen St. Michael, in pictures or stained glass windows, delineated just so —with drawn sword and warrior's mien—in the act of triumphing over his dragon-like enemy on the airy summit of some tall jagged crag or rock-bound precipice.
As for Mrs. Trevennack, she watched her husband every moment he spoke with a close and watchful care, which Le Neve hardly noticed, but which didn't for a minute escape Walter Tyrrel's more piercing and observant scrutiny.
At last, as the amateur lecturer was beginning to grow somewhat prolix, a cormorant below created a slight diversion for awhile by settling in his flight on the very highest point of Michael's Crag, and proceeding to preen his glittering feathers in the full golden flood of that bright August sunlight.
With irrepressible boyish instinct Le Neve took up a stone, and was just on the point of aiming it (quite without reason) at the bird on the pinnacle.
But before he could let it go, the two other men, moved as if by a single impulse, had sprung forward with a bound, and in the self-same tone and in the self-same words cried out with one accord, in a wildly excited voice, "For God's sake, don't throw! You don't know how dangerous it is!"
Le Neve let his hand drop flat, and allowed the stone to fall from it. As he did so the two others stood back a pace, as if guarding him, but kept their hands still ready to seize the engineer's arm if he made the slightest attempt at motion. Eustace felt they were watching him as one might watch a madman. For a moment they were silent. Trevennack was the first to speak. His voice had an earnest and solemn ring in it, like a reproving angel's. "How can you tell what precious life may be passing below?" he said, with stern emphasis, fixing Le Neve with his reproachful eye. "The stone might fall short. It might drop out of sight. You might kill whomsoever it struck, unseen. And then"—he drank in a deep breath, gasping—"you would know you were a murderer."
Walter Tyrrel drew himself up at the words like one stung. "No, no! not a murderer!" he cried; "not quite as bad as a murderer! It wouldn't be murder, surely. It would be accidental homicide— unintentional, unwilled—a terrible result of most culpable carelessness, of course; but it wouldn't be quite murder; don't call it murder. I can't allow that. Not that name by any means. . . .Though to the end of your life, Eustace, if you were to kill a man so, you'd never cease to regret it and mourn over it daily; you'd never cease to repent your guilty carelessness in sackcloth and ashes."
He spoke so seriously, so earnestly, with such depth of personal feeling, that Trevennack, starting back, stood and gazed at him slowly with those terrible eyes, like one who awakens by degrees from a painful dream to some awful reality. Tyrrel winced before his scrutiny. For a moment the elder man just looked at him and stared. Then he took one step forward. "Sir," he said, in a very low voice, half broken with emotion, "I had a dear son of my own once; a very dear, dear son. He was killed by such an ACCIDENT on this very spot. No wonder I remember it."
Mrs. Trevennack and Cleer both gave a start of surprise. The man's words astonished them; for never before, during fifteen long years, had that unhappy father alluded in any way in overt words to his son's tragic end. He had brooded and mused over it in his crushed and wounded spirit; he had revisited the scene of his loss whenever opportunity permitted him; he had made of his sorrow a cherished and petted daily companion; but he had stored it up deep in his own inmost heart, never uttering a word of it even to his wife or daughter. The two women knew Michael Trevennack must be profoundly moved, indeed, so to tear open the half-healed wound in his tortured bosom before two casual strangers.
But Tyrrel, too, gave a start as he spoke, and looked hard at the careworn face of that unhappy man. "Then you're Mr. Trevennack!" he exclaimed, all aghast. "Mr. Trevennack of the Admiralty!"
And the dignified stranger answered, bowing his head very low, "Yes, you've guessed me right. I'm Michael Trevennack."
With scarcely a word of reply Walter Tyrrel turned and strode away from the spot. "I must go now," he muttered faintly, looking at his watch with some feigned surprise, as a feeble excuse. "I've an appointment at home." He hadn't the courage to stay. His heart misgave him. Once fairly round the corner he fled like a wounded creature, too deeply hurt even to cry. Eustace Le Neve, raising his hat, hastened after him, all mute wonder. For several hundred yards they walked on side by side across the open heathy moor. Then, as they passed the first wall, Tyrrel paused for a moment and spoke. "NOT a murderer!" he cried in his anguish; "oh, no, not quite as bad as a murderer, surely, Eustace; but still, a culpable homicide. Oh, God, how terrible."
And even as he disappeared across the moor to eastward, Trevennack, far behind, seized his wife's arm spasmodically, and clutching it tight in his iron grip, murmured low in a voice of supreme conviction, "Do you see what that means, Lucy? I can read it all now. It was HE who rolled down that cursed stone. It was HE who killed our boy. And I can guess who he is. He must be Tyrrel of Penmorgan."
Cleer didn't hear the words. She was below, gazing after them.
The two young men walked back, without interchanging another word, to the gate of the manor-house. Tyrrel opened it with a swing. Then, once within his own grounds, and free from prying eyes, he sat down forthwith upon a little craggy cliff that overhung the carriage-drive, buried his face in his hands, and, to Le Neve's intense astonishment, cried long and silently. He let himself go with a rush; that's the Cornish nature. Eustace Le Neve sat by his side, not daring to speak, but in mute sympathy with his sorrow. For many minutes neither uttered a sound. At last Tyrrel looked up, and in an agony of remorse, turned round to his companion. "Of course you understand," he said.
And Eustace answered reverently, "Yes, I think I understand. Having come so near doing the same thing myself, I sympathize with you."
Tyrrel paused a moment again. His face was like marble. Then he added, in a tone of the profoundest anguish, "Till this minute, Eustace, I've never told anybody. And if it hadn't been forced out of me by that poor man's tortured and broken-hearted face, I wouldn't have told you now. But could I look at him to-day and not break down before him?"
"How did it all happen?" Le Neve asked, leaning forward and clasping his friend's arm with a brotherly gesture.
Tyrrel answered with a deep sigh, "Like this. I'll make a clean breast of it all at last. I've bottled it up too long. I'll tell you now, Eustace.
"Nearly sixteen years ago I was staying down here at Penmorgan with my uncle. The Trevennacks, as I learned afterward, were in lodgings at Gunwalloe. But, so far as I can remember at present, I never even saw them. To the best of my belief I never set eyes on Michael Trevennack himself before this very morning. If I'd known who he was, you may be pretty sure I'd have cut off my right hand before I'd allowed myself to speak to him.
"Well, one day that year I was strolling along the top of the cliff by Michael's Crag, with my uncle beside me, who owned Penmorgan. I was but a boy then, and I walked by the edge more than once, very carelessly. My uncle knew the cliffs, though, and how dangerous they were; he knew men might any time be walking below, digging launces in the sand, or getting lobworms for their lines, or hunting serpentine to polish, or looking for sea-bird's eggs among the half-way ledges. Time after time he called out to me, 'Walter, my boy, take care; don't go so near the edge, you'll tumble over presently.' And time after time I answered him back, like a boy that I was, 'Oh, I'm all right, uncle. No fear about me. I can take care of myself. These cliffs don't crumble. They're a deal too solid.'
"At last, when he saw it was no good warning me that way any longer, he turned round to me rather sharply—he was a Tyrrel, you see, and conscientious, as we all of us are—it runs in the blood somehow—'If you don't mind for yourself, at least mind for others. Who can say who may be walking underneath those rocks? If you let a loose stone fall you may commit manslaughter.'
"I laughed, and thought ill of him. He was such a fidget! I was only a boy. I considered him absurdly and unnecessarily particular. He had stalked on a yard or two in front. I loitered behind, and out of pure boyish deviltry, as I was just above Michael's Crag, I loosened some stones with my foot and showered them over deliberately. Oh, heavens, I feel it yet; how they rattled and rumbled!
"My uncle wasn't looking. He walked on and left me behind. He didn't see me push them. He didn't see them fall. He didn't hear them rattle. But as they reached the bottom I heard myself—or thought I heard—a vague cry below. A cry as of some one wounded. I was frightened at that; I didn't dare to look down, but ran on to my uncle. Not till some hours after did I know the whole truth, for we walked along the cliffs all the way to Kynance, and then returned inland by the road to the Lizard.
"That afternoon, late, there was commotion at Penmorgan. The servants brought us word how a bit of the cliff near Michael's Crag had foundered unawares, and struck two people who were walking below—a Mr. Trevennack, in lodgings at Gunwalloe, and his boy Michael. The father wasn't much hurt, they said; but the son—oh, Eustace! the son was dangerously wounded. ... I listened in terror.... He lived out the night, and died next morning."
Tyrrel leaned back in agony as he spoke, and looked utterly crushed. It was an awful memory. Le Neve hardly knew what to say, the man's remorse was so poignant. After all those years the boy's thoughtless act seemed to weigh like a millstone round the grown man's neck. Eustace held his peace, and felt for him. By and by Tyrrel went on again, rocking himself to and fro on his rough seat as he spoke. "For fifteen years," he said, piteously, "I've borne this burden in my heart, and never told anybody. I tell it now first of all men to you. You're the only soul on earth who shares my secret."
"Then your uncle didn't suspect it?" Eustace asked, all breathless.
Walter Tyrrel shook his head. "On the contrary," he answered, "he said to me next day, 'How glad I am Walter, my boy, I called you away from the cliff that moment! It was quite providential. For if you'd loosened a stone, and then this thing had happened, we'd both of us have believed it was YOU that did it?' I was too frightened and appalled to tell him it WAS I. I thought they'd hang me. But from that day to this—Eustace, Eustace, believe me—I've never ceased to think of it! I've never forgiven myself!"
"Yet it was an accident after all," Le Neve said, trying to comfort him.
"No, no; not quite. I should have been warned in time. I should have obeyed my uncle. But what would you have? It's the luck of the Tyrrels."
He spoke plaintively. Le Neve pulled a piece of grass and began biting it to hide his confusion. How near he might have come to doing the same thing himself. He thanked his stars it wasn't he. He thanked his stars he hadn't let that stone drop from the cliff that morning.
Tyrrel was the first to break the solemn silence. "You can understand now," he said, with an impatient gesture, "why I hate Penmorgan. I've hated it ever since. I shall always hate it. It seems like a mute reminder of that awful day. In my uncle's time I never came near it. But as soon as it was my own I felt I must live upon it; and now, this terror of meeting Trevennack some day has made life one long burden to me. Sooner or later I felt sure I should run against him. They told me how he came down here from time to time to see where his son died, and I knew I should meet him. Now you can understand, too, why I hate the top of the cliffs so much, and WILL walk at the bottom. I had two good reasons for that. One I've told you already; the other was the fear of coming across Trevennack."
Le Neve turned to him compassionately. "My dear fellow," he said, "you take it too much to heart. It was so long ago, and you were only a child. The... the accident might happen to any boy any day."
"Yes, yes," Tyrrel answered, passionately. I know all that. I try, so, to console myself. But then I've wrecked that unhappy man's life for him."
"He has his daughter still," Le Neve put in, vaguely. It was all he could think of to say by way of consolation; and to him, Cleer Trevennack would have made up for anything.
A strange shade passed over Tyrrel's face. Eustace noted it instinctively. Something within seemed to move that Cornish heart. "Yes, he has his daughter still," the Squire of Penmorgan answered, with a vacant air. "But for me, that only makes things still worse than before.... How can she pardon my act? What can she ever think of me?"
Le Neve turned sharply round upon him. There was some undercurrent in the tone in which he spoke that suggested far more than the mere words themselves might perhaps have conveyed to him. "What do you mean?" he asked, all eager, in a quick, low voice. "You've met Miss Trevennack before? You've seen her? You've spoken to her?"
For a second Tyrrel hesitated; then, with a burst, he spoke out. "I may as well tell you all," he cried, "now I've told you so much. Yes, I've met her before, I've seen her, I've spoken to her."
"But she didn't seem to recognize you," Le Neve objected, taken aback.
Tyrrel shook his head despondently. "That's the worst of it all," he answered, with a very sad sigh. "She didn't even remember me.... She was so much to me; and to her—why, to HER, Eustace—I was less than nothing."
"And you knew who she was when you saw her just now?" Le Neve asked, greatly puzzled.
"Yes and no. Not exactly. I knew she was the person I'd seen and talked with, but I'd never heard her name, nor connected her in any way with Michael Trevennack. If I had, things would be different. It's a terrible Nemesis. I'll tell you how it happened. I may as well tell all. But the worst point of the whole to me in this crushing blow is to learn that that girl is Michael Trevennack's daughter."
"Where and when did you meet her then?" Le Neve asked, growing curious.
"Quite casually, once only, some time since, in a railway carnage. It must be two years ago now, and I was going from Bath to Bournemouth. She traveled with me in the same compartment as far as Temple Combe, and I talked all the way with her; I can remember every word of it.... Eustace, it's foolish of me to acknowledge it, perhaps, but in those two short hours I fell madly in love with her. Her face has lived with me ever since; I've longed to meet her, But I was stupidly afraid to ask her name before she got out of the train; and I had no clue at all to her home or her relations. Yet, a thousand times since I've said to myself, 'If ever I marry I'll marry that girl who went in the carriage from Bath to Temple Combe with me.' I've cherished her memory from that day to this. You mayn't believe, I dare say, in love at first sight; but this I can swear to you was a genuine case of it."
"I can believe in it very well," Le Neve answered, most truthfully, "now I've seen Miss Trevennack."
Tyrrel looked at him, and smiled sadly. "Well, when I saw her again this morning," he went on, after a short pause, "my heart came up into my mouth. I said to myself, with a bound, 'It's she! It's she! At last I've found her.' And it dashed my best hopes to the ground at once to see she didn't even remember having met me."
Le Neve looked at him shyly. "Walter," he said, after a short struggle, "I'm not surprised you fell in love with her. And shall I tell you why? I fell in love with her myself, too, the moment I saw her."
Tyrrel turned to him without one word of reproach. "Well, we're no rivals now," he answered, generously. "Even if she would have me—even if she loved me well—how could I ask her to take—her brother's murderer?"
Le Neve drew a long breath. He hadn't thought of that before. But had it been other wise, he couldn't help feeling that the master of Penmorgan would have been a formidable rival for a penniless engineer just home from South America.
For already Eustace Le Neve was dimly aware, in his own sanguine mind, that he meant to woo and win that beautiful Cleer Trevennack.
A STRANGE DELUSION.
Trevennack and his wife sat alone that night in their bare rooms at Gunwalloe. Cleer had gone out to see some girls of her acquaintance who were lodging close by in a fisherman's house; and the husband and wife were left for a few hours by themselves together.
"Michael," Mrs. Trevennack began, as soon as they were alone, rising up from her chair and coming over toward him tenderly, "I was horribly afraid you were going to break out before those two young men on the cliff to-day. I saw you were just on the very brink of it. But you resisted bravely. Thank you so much for that. You're a dear good fellow. I was so pleased with you and so proud of you."
"Break out about our poor boy?" Trevennack asked, with a dreamy air, passing his bronzed hand wearily across his high white forehead.
His wife seated herself sideways upon the arm of his chair, and bent over him as he sat, with wifely confidence. "No, no, dear," she said, taking his hand in hers and soothing it with her soft palm. "About— YOU know—well, of course, that other thing."
At the mere hint, Trevennack leaned back and drew himself up proudly to his full height, like a soldier. He looked majestic as he sat there—every inch a St. Michael. "Well, it's hard to keep such a secret," he answered, laying his free hand on his breast, "hard to keep such a secret; and I own, when they were talking about it, I longed to tell them. But for Cleer's sake I refrained, Lucy. For Cleer's sake I always refrain. You're quite right about that. I know, of course, for Cleer's sake I must keep it locked up in my own heart forever."
The silver-haired lady bent over him again, both caressingly and proudly. "Michael, dear Michael," she said, with a soft thrill in her voice, "I love you and honor you for it. I can FEEL what it costs you. My darling, I know how hard you have to fight against it. I could see you fighting against it to-day; and I was proud of the way you struggled with it, single-handed, till you gained the victory."
Trevennack drew himself up still more haughtily than before. "And who should struggle against the devil," he said, "single-handed as you say, and gain the victory at last, if not I, myself, Lucy?"
He said it like some great one. His wife soothed his hand again and repressed a sigh. She was a great-hearted lady, that brave wife and mother, who bore her own trouble without a word spoken to anyone; but she must sigh, at least, sometimes; it was such a relief to her pent- up feelings. "Who indeed?" she said, acquiescent. "Who indeed, if not you? And I love you best when you conquer so, Michael."
Trevennack looked down upon her with a strange tender look on his face, in which gentleness and condescension were curiously mingled. "Yes," he answered, musing; "for dear Cleer's sake I will always keep my peace about it. I'll say not a word. I'll never tell anybody. And yet it's hard to keep it in; very hard, indeed. I have to bind myself round, as it were, with bonds of iron. The secret will almost out of itself at times. As this morning, for example, when that young fellow wanted to know why St. Michael always clung to such airy pinnacles. How jauntily he talked about it, as if the reason for the selection were a matter of no moment! How little he seemed to think of the Prince of the Archangels!"
"But for Cleer's sake, darling, you kept it in," Mrs. Trevennack said, coaxingly; "and for Cleer's sake you'll keep it in still—I know you will; now won't you?"
Trevennack looked the picture of embodied self-restraint. His back was rigid. "For Cleer's sake I'll keep it in," he said, firmly. "I know how important it is for her. Never in this world have I breathed a word of it to any living soul but you; and never in this world I will. The rest wouldn't understand. They'd say it was madness."
"They would," his wife assented very gravely and earnestly. "And that would be so bad for Cleer's future prospects. People would think you were out of your mind; and you know how chary young men are nowadays of marrying a girl when they believe or even suspect there's insanity in the family. You can talk of it as much and as often as you like to ME, dear Michael. I think that does you good. It acts as a safety- valve. It keeps you from bottling your secret up in your own heart too long, and brooding over it, and worrying yourself. I like you to talk to ME of it whenever you feel inclined. But for heaven's sake, darling, to nobody else. Not a hint of it for worlds. The consequences might be terrible."
Trevennack rose and stood at his full height, with his heels on the edge of the low cottage fender. "You can trust me, Lucy," he said, in a very soft tone, with grave and conscious dignity. "You can trust me to hold my tongue. I know how much depends upon it."
The beautiful lady with the silvery hair sat and gazed on him admiringly. She knew she could trust him; she knew he would keep it in. But she knew at the same time how desperate a struggle the effort cost him; and visionary though he was, she loved and admired him for it.
There was an eloquent silence. Then, after a while, Trevennack spoke again, more tenderly and regretfully. "That man did it!" he said, with slow emphasis. "I saw by his face at once he did it. He killed our poor boy. I could read it in his look. I'm sure it was he. And besides, I have news of it, certain news—from elsewhere," and he looked up significantly.
"Michael!" Mrs. Trevennack said, drawing close to him with an appealing gesture, and gazing hard into his eyes; "it's a long time since. He was a boy at the time. He did it carelessly, no doubt; but not guiltily, culpably. For Cleer's sake, there, too—oh, forgive him, forgive him!" She clasped her hands tight; she looked up at him tearfully.
"It was the devil's work," her husband answered, with a faint frown on his high forehead, "and my task in life, Lucy, is to fight down the devil."
"Fight him down in your own heart, then, dear," Mrs. Trevennack said, gently. "Remember, we all may fall. Lucifer did—and he was once an archangel. Fight him down in your own heart when he suggests hateful thoughts to you. For I know what you felt when it came over you instinctively that that young man had done it. You wanted to fly straight at his throat, dear Michael—you wanted to fly at his throat, and fling him over the precipice."
"I did," Trevennack answered, making no pretense of denial. "But for Cleer's sake I refrained. And for Cleer's sake, if you wish it, I'll try to forgive him."
Mrs. Trevennack pressed his hand. Tears stood in her dim eyes. She, too, had a terrible battle to fight all the days of her life, and she fought it valiantly. "Michael," she said, with an effort, "try to avoid that young man. Try to avoid him, I implore you. Don't go near him in the future. If you see him too often, I'm afraid what the result for you both may be. You control yourself wonderfully, dear; you control yourself, I know; and I'm grateful to you for it. But if you see too much of him, I dread an outbreak. It may get the better of you. And then—think of Cleer! Avoid him! Avoid him!"
For only that silver-headed woman of all people on earth knew the terrible truth, that Michael Trevennack's was a hopeless case of suppressed insanity. Well suppressed, indeed, and kept firmly in check for his daughter's sake, and by his brave wife's aid; but insanity, none the less, of the profoundest monomaniacal pattern, for all that. All day long, and every day, in his dealings with the outer world, he kept down his monomania. An able and trusted government servant, he never allowed it for one moment to interfere with his public duties. To his wife alone he let out what he thought the inmost and deepest secret of his real existence—that he was the Archangel Michael. To no one else did he ever allow a glimpse of the truth, as he thought it, to appear. He knew the world would call it madness; and he didn't wish the stigma of inherited insanity to cling to his Cleer.
Not even Cleer herself for a moment suspected it.
Trevennack was wise enough and cunning enough, as madmen often are, to keep his own counsel, for good and sufficient reason.
During the next week or so, as chance would have it, Cleer Trevennack fell in more than once on her walks with Eustace Le Neve and Walter Tyrrel. They had picked up acquaintance in an irregular way, to be sure; but Cleer hadn't happened to be close by when her father uttered those strange words to his wife, "It was he who did it; it was he who killed our boy"; nor did she notice particularly the marked abruptness of Tyrrel's departure on that unfortunate occasion. So she had no such objection to meeting the two young men as Trevennack himself not unnaturally displayed; she regarded his evident avoidance of Walter Tyrrel as merely one of "Papa's fancies." To Cleer, Papa's fancies were mysterious but very familiar entities; and Tyrrel and Le Neve were simply two interesting and intelligent young men—the squire of the village and a friend on a visit to him. Indeed, to be quite confidential, it was the visitor who occupied the larger share of Cleer's attention. He was so good-looking and so nice. His open face and pink and white complexion had attracted her fancy from the very first; and the more she saw of him the more she liked him.
They met often—quite by accident, of course—on the moor and elsewhere. Tyrrel, for his part, shrank somewhat timidly from the sister of the boy, for his share in whose death he so bitterly reproached himself; yet he couldn't quite drag himself off whenever he found himself in Cleer's presence. She bound him as by a spell. He was profoundly attracted to her. There was something about the pretty Cornish girl so frank, so confiding, in one word, so magnetic, that when once he came near her he couldn't tear himself away as he felt he ought to. Yet he could see very well, none the less, it was for Eustace Le Neve that she watched most eagerly, with the natural interest of a budding girl in the man who takes her pure maiden fancy. Tyrrel allowed with a sigh that this was well indeed; for how could he ever dream, now he knew who she was, of marrying young Michael Trevennack's sister?
One afternoon the two friends were returning from a long ramble across the open moor, when, near a little knoll of bare and weathered rock that rose from a circling belt of Cornish heath, they saw Cleer by herself, propped against the huge boulders, with her eyes fixed intently on a paper-covered novel. She looked up and smiled as they approached; and the young men, turning aside from their ill-marked path, came over and stood by her. They talked for awhile about the ordinary nothings of society small-talk, till by degrees Cleer chanced accidentally to bring the conversation round to something that had happened to her mother and herself a year or two since in Malta. Le Neve snatched at the word; for he was eager to learn all he could about the Trevennacks' movements, so deeply had Cleer already impressed her image on his susceptible nature.
"And when do you go back there?" he asked, somewhat anxiously. "I suppose your father's leave is for a week or two only."
"Oh, dear, no; we don't go back at all, thank heaven," Cleer answered, with a sunny smile. "I can't bear exile, Mr. Le Neve, and I never cared one bit for living in Malta. But this year, fortunately, papa's going to be transferred for a permanence to England; he's to have charge of a department that has something or other to do with provisioning the Channel Squadron; I don't quite understand what; but anyhow, he'll have to be running about between Portsmouth and Plymouth, and I don't know where else; and mamma and I will have to take a house for ourselves in London."
Le Neve's face showed his pleasure. "That's well," he answered, briskly. "Then you won't be quite lost! I mean, there'll be some chance at least when you go away from here of one's seeing you sometimes."
A bright red spot rose deep on Cleer's cheek through the dark olive- brown skin. "How kind of you to say so," she answered, looking down. "I'm sure mamma'll be very pleased, indeed, if you'll take the trouble to call." Then, to hide her confusion, she went on hastily, "And are YOU going to be in England, too? I thought I understood the other day from your friend you had something to do with a railway in South America."
"Oh, that's all over now," Le Neve answered, with a wave, well pleased she should ask him about his whereabouts so cordially. "I was only employed in the construction of the line, you know; I've nothing at all to do with its maintenance and working, and now the track's laid, my work there's finished. But as to stopping in England,—ah—that's quite another thing. An engineer's, you know, is a roving life. He's here to-day and there to-morrow. I must go, I suppose, wherever work may take me. And there isn't much stirring in the markets just now in the way of engineering."
"I hope you'll get something at home," Cleer said, simply, with a blush, and then blamed herself for saying it. She blushed again at the thought. She looked prettiest when she blushed. Walter Tyrrel, a little behind, stood and admired her all the while. But Eustace was flattered she should think of wanting him to remain in England.
"Thank you," he said, somewhat timidly, for her bashfulness made him a trifle bashful in return. "I should like to very much—for more reasons than one;" and he looked at her meaningly. "I'm getting tired, in some ways, of life abroad. I'd much prefer to come back now and settle down in England."
Cleer rose as he spoke. His frank admiration made her feel self- conscious. She thought this conversation had gone quite far enough for them both for the present. After all, she knew so little of him, though he was really very nice, and he looked at her so kindly! But perhaps it would be better to go and hunt up papa. "I think I ought to be moving now," she said, with a delicious little flush on her smooth, dark cheek. "My father'll be waiting for me." And she set her face across the moor in the opposite direction from the gate of Penmorgan.
"We may come with you, mayn't we?" Eustace asked, with just an undertone of wistfulness.
But Tyrrel darted a warning glance at him. He, at least, couldn't go to confront once more that poor dead boy's father.
"I must hurry home," he said, feebly, consulting his watch with an abstracted air. "It's getting so late. But don't let me prevent YOU from accompanying Miss Trevennack."
Cleer shrank away, a little alarmed. She wasn't quite sure whether it would be perfectly right for her to walk about alone on the moorland with only ONE young man, though she wouldn't have minded the two, for there is safety in numbers. "Oh, no," she said, half frightened, in that composite tone which is at once an entreaty and a positive command. "Don't mind me, Mr. Le Neve. I'm quite accustomed to strolling by myself round the cliff. I wouldn't make you miss your dinner for worlds. And besides, papa's not far off. He went away from me, rambling."
The two young men, accepting their dismissal in the sense in which it was intended, saluted her deferentially, and turned away on their own road. But Cleer took the path to Michael's Crag, by the gully.
From the foot of the crag you can't see the summit. Its own shoulders and the loose rocks of the foreground hide it. But Cleer was pretty certain her father must be there; for he was mostly to be found, when tide permitted it, perched up on the highest pinnacle of his namesake skerry, looking out upon the waters with a pre-occupied glance from that airy citadel. The waves in the narrow channel that separate the crag from the opposite mainland were running high and boisterous, but Cleer had a sure foot, and could leap, light as a gazelle, from rock to rock. Not for nothing was she Michael Trevennack's daughter, well trained from her babyhood to high and airy climbs. She chose an easy spot where it was possible to spring across by a series of boulders, arranged accidentally like stepping-stones; and in a minute she was standing on the main crag itself, a huge beetling mass of detached serpentine pushed boldly out as the advance-guard of the land into the assailing waves, and tapering at its top into a pyramidal steeple.
The face of the crag was wet with spray in places; but Cleer didn't mind spray; she was accustomed to the sea in all its moods and tempers. She clambered up the steep side—a sheer wall of bare rock, lightly clad here and there with sparse drapery of green sapphire, or clumps of purple sea-aster, rooted firm in the crannies. Its front was yellow with great patches of lichen, and on the peaks, overhead, the gulls perched, chattering, or launched themselves in long curves upon the evening air. Cleer paused half way up to draw breath and admire the familiar scene. Often as she had gone there before, she could never help gazing with enchanted eyes on those brilliantly colored pinnacles, on that deep green sea, on those angry white breakers that dashed in ceaseless assault against the solid black wall of rock all round her. Then she started once more on her climb up the uncertain path, a mere foothold in the crannies, clinging close with her tiny hands as she went to every jutting corner or weather-worn rock, and every woody stem of weather-beaten sea plants.
At last, panting and hot, she reached the sharp top, expecting to find Trevennack at his accustomed post on the very tallest pinnacle of the craggy little islet. But, to her immense surprise, her father wasn't there. His absence disquieted her. Cleer stood up on the fissured mass of orange-lichened rock that crowned the very summit, dispossessing the gulls who flapped round her as she mounted it; then, shading her eyes with her hand, she looked down in every direction to see if she could descry that missing figure in some nook of the crag. He was nowhere visible. "Father!" she cried aloud, at the top of her voice; "father! father! father!" But the only answer to her cry was the sound of the sea on the base, and the loud noise of the gulls, as they screamed and fluttered in angry surprise over their accustomed breeding-grounds.
Alarmed and irresolute, Cleer sat down on the rock, and facing landwards for awhile, waved her handkerchief to and fro to attract, if possible, her father's attention. Then she scanned the opposite cliffs, beyond the gap or chasm that separated her from the mainland; but she could nowhere see him. He must have forgotten her and gone home to dinner alone, she fancied now, for it was nearly seven o'clock. Nothing remained but to climb down again and follow him. It was getting full late to be out by herself on the island. And tide was coming in, and the surf was getting strong—Atlantic swell from the gale at sea yesterday.
Painfully and toilsomely she clambered down the steep path, making her foothold good, step by step, in the slippery crannies, rendered still more dangerous in places by the sticky spray and the brine that dashed over them from the seething channel. It was harder coming down, a good deal, than going up, and she was accustomed to her father's hand to guide her—to fit her light foot on the little ledges by the way, or to lift her down over the steepest bits with unfailing tenderness. So she found it rather difficult to descend by herself—both difficult and tedious. At last, however, after one or two nasty slips, and a false step or so on the way that ended in her grazing the tender skin on those white little fingers, Cleer reached the base of the crag, and stood face to face with the final problem of crossing the chasm that divided the islet from the opposite mainland.
Then for the first time the truth was borne in upon her with a sudden rush that she couldn't get back—she was imprisoned on the island. She had crossed over at almost the last moment possible. The sea now quite covered two or three of her stepping-stones; fierce surf broke over the rest with each advancing billow, and rendered the task of jumping from one to the other impracticable even for a strong and sure-footed man, far more for a slight girl of Cleer's height and figure.
In a moment the little prisoner took in the full horror of the situation. It was now about half tide, and seven o'clock in the evening. High water would therefore fall between ten and eleven; and it must be nearly two in the morning, she calculated hastily, before the sea had gone down enough to let her cross over in safety. Even then, in the dark, she dared hardly face those treacherous stepping- stones. She must stop there till day broke, if she meant to get ashore again without unnecessary hazard.
Cleer was a Trevennack, and therefore brave; but the notion of stopping alone on that desolate island, thronged with gulls and cormorants, in the open air, through all those long dark hours till morning dawned, fairly frightened and appalled her. For a minute or two she crouched and cowered in silence. Then, overcome by terror, she climbed up once more to the first platform of rock, above the reach of the spray, and shouted with all her might, "Father! father! father!"
But 'tis a lonely coast, that wild stretch by the Lizard. Not a soul was within earshot. Cleer sat there still, or stood on top of the crag, for many minutes together, shouting and waving her handkerchief for dear life itself; but not a soul heard her. She might have died there unnoticed; not a creature came near to help or deliver her. The gulls and the cormorants alone stared at her and wondered.
Meanwhile, tide kept flowing with incredible rapidity. The gale in the Atlantic had raised an unwonted swell; and though there was now little wind, the breakers kept thundering in upon the firm, sandy beach with a deafening roar that drowned Cleer's poor voice completely. To add to her misfortunes, fog began to drift slowly with the breeze from seaward. It was getting dark too, and the rocks were damp. Overhead the gulls screamed loud as they flapped and circled above her.
In an agony of despair, Cleer sat down all unnerved on the topmost crag. She began to cry to herself. It was all up now. She knew she must stop there alone till morning.
PERIL BY LAND.
The Trevennacks dined in their lodgings at Gunwalloe at half-past seven. But in the rough open-air life of summer visitors on the Cornish coast, meals as a rule are very movable feasts; and Michael Trevennack wasn't particularly alarmed when he reached home that evening to find Cleer hadn't returned before him. They had missed one another, somehow, among the tangled paths that led down the gully; an easy enough thing to do between those big boulders and bramble-bushes; and it was a quarter to eight before Trevennack began to feel alarmed at Cleer's prolonged absence. By that time, however, he grew thoroughly frightened; and, reproaching himself bitterly for having let his daughter stray out of his sight in the first place, he hurried back, with his wife, at the top of his speed along the cliff path to the Penmorgan headland.
It's half an hour's walk from Gunwalloe to Michael's Crag; and by the time Trevennack reached the mouth of the gully the sands were almost covered; so for the first time in fifteen years he was forced to take the path right under the cliff to the now comparatively distant island, round whose base a whole waste of angry sea surged sullenly. On the way they met a few workmen who, in answer to their inquiries, could give them no news, but who turned back to aid in the search for the missing young lady. When they got opposite Michael's Crag, a wide belt of black water, all encumbered with broken masses of sharp rock, some above and some below the surface, now separated them by fifty yards or more from the island. It was growing dark fast, for these were the closing days of August twilight; and dense fog had drifted in, half obliterating everything. They could barely descry the dim outline of the pyramidal rock in its lower half; its upper part was wholly shrouded in thick mist and drizzle.
With a wild cry of despair, Trevennack raised his voice, and shouted aloud, "Cleer, Cleer! where are you?"
That clarion voice, as of his namesake angel, though raised against the wind, could be heard above even the thud of the fierce breakers that pounded the sand. On the highest peak above, where she sat, cold and shivering, Cleer heard it, and jumped up. "Here! here! father!" she cried out, with a terrible effort, descending at the same time down the sheer face of the cliff as far as the dashing spray and fierce wild waves would allow her.
No other ear caught the sound of that answering cry; but Trevennack's keen senses, preternaturally awakened by the gravity of the crisis, detected the faint ring of her girlish voice through the thunder of the surf. "She's there!" he cried, frantically, waving his hands above his head. "She's there! She's there! We must get across and save her."
For a second Mrs. Trevennack doubted whether he was really right, or whether this was only one of poor Michael's hallucinations. But the next moment, with another cry, Cleer waved her handkerchief in return, and let it fall from her hand. It came, carried on the light breeze, and dropped in the water before their very eyes, half way across the channel.
Frenzied at the sight, Trevennack tore off his coat, and would have plunged into the sea, then and there, to rescue her. But the workmen held him back. "No, no, sir; you mustn't," they said. "No harm can't come to the young lady if she stops there. She've only got to sit on them rocks there till morning, and the tide'll leave her high and dry right enough, as it always do. But nobody couldn't live in such a sea as that—not Tim o' Truro. The waves 'u'd dash him up afore he knowed where he was, and smash him all to pieces on the side o' the island."
Trevennack tried to break from them, but the men held him hard. Their resistance angered him. He chafed under their restraint. How dare these rough fellows lay hands like that on the Prince of the Archangels and a superior officer in Her Majesty's Civil Service? But with the self-restraint that was habitual to him, he managed to refrain, even so, from disclosing his identity. He only struggled ineffectually, instead of blasting them with his hot breath, or clutching his strong arms round their bare throats and choking them. As he stood there and hesitated, half undecided how to act, of a sudden a sharp cry arose from behind. Trevennack turned and looked. Through the dark and the fog he could just dimly descry two men hurrying up, with ropes and life buoys. As they neared him, he started in unspeakable horror. For one of them, indeed, was only Eustace Le Neve; but the other—the other was that devil Walter Tyrrel, who, he felt sure in his own heart, had killed their dear Michael. And it was his task in life to fight and conquer devils.
For a minute he longed to leap upon him and trample him under foot, as long ago he had trampled his old enemy, Satan. What was the fellow doing here now? What business had he with Cleer? Was he always to be in at the death of a Trevennack?
But true to her trust, the silver-haired lady clutched his arm with tender watchfulness. "For Cleer's sake, dear Michael!" she whispered low in his ear; "for Cleer's sake—say nothing; don't speak to him, don't notice him!"
The distracted father drew back a step, out of reach of the spray. "But Lucy," he cried low to her, "only think! only remember! If I cared to go on the cliff and just spread my wings, I could fly across and save her—so instantly, so easily!"
His wife held his hand hard. That touch always soothed him. "If you did, Michael," she said gently, with her feminine tact, "they'd all declare you were mad, and had no wings to fly with. And Cleer's in no immediate danger just now, I feel sure. Don't try, there's a dear man. That's right! Oh, thank you."
Reassured by her calm confidence, Trevennack fell back yet another step on the sands, and watched the men aloof. Walter Tyrrel turned to him. His heart was in his mouth. He spoke in short, sharp sentences. "The coastguard's wife told us," he said. "We've come down to get her off. I've sent word direct to the Lizard lifeboat. But I'm afraid it won't come. They daren't venture out. Sea runs too high, and these rocks are too dangerous."
As he spoke, he tore off his coat, tied a rope round his waist, flung his boots on the sand, and girded himself rapidly with an inflated life-buoy. Then, before the men could seize him or prevent the rash attempt, he had dashed into the great waves that curled and thundered on the beach, and was struggling hard with the sea in a life and death contest. Eustace Le Neve held the rope, and tried to aid him in his endeavors. He had meant to plunge in himself, but Walter Tyrrel was beforehand with him. He was no match in a race against time for the fiery and impetuous Cornish temperament. It wasn't long, however, before the breakers proved themselves more than equal foes for Walter Tyrrel. In another minute he was pounded and pummeled on the unseen rocks under water by the great curling billows. They seized him resistlessly on their crests, tumbled him over like a child, and dashed him, bruised and bleeding, one limp bundle of flesh, against the jagged and pointed summits of the submerged boulders.
With all his might, Eustace Le Neve held on to the rope; then, in coat and boots as he stood, he plunged into the waves and lifted Walter Tyrrel in his strong arms landward. He was a bigger built and more powerful man than his host, and his huge limbs battled harder with the gigantic waves. But even so, in that swirling flood, it was touch and go with him. The breakers lifted him off his feet, tossed him to and fro in their trough, flung him down again forcibly against the sharp- edged rocks, and tried to float off his half unconscious burden. But Le Neve persevered in spite of them, scrambling and tottering as he went, over wet and slippery reefs, with Tyrrel still clasped in his arms, and pressed tight to his breast, till he landed him safe at last on the firm sand beside him.
The squire was far too beaten and bruised by the rocks to make a second attempt against those resistless breakers. Indeed, Le Neve brought him ashore more dead than alive, bleeding from a dozen wounds on the face and hands, and with the breath almost failing in his battered body. They laid him down on the beach, while the fishermen crowded round him, admiring his pluck, though they deprecated his foolhardiness, for they "knowed the squire couldn't never live ag'in it." But Le Neve, still full of the reckless courage of youth, and health, and strength, and manhood, keenly alive now to the peril of Cleer's lonely situation, never heeded their forebodings. He dashed in once more, just as he stood, clothes and all, in the wild and desperate attempt to stem that fierce flood and swim across to the island.