By George A. Birmingham
Copyright, 1912, By George H. Doran Company
To M. E. M., M. S. R., D. P., and L. K. The vision of whose tents I have panned about the bay.
The summer term ended in a blaze of glory for Frank Mannix. It was a generally accepted opinion in the school that his brilliant catch in the long field—a catch which disposed of the Uppingham captain—had been the decisive factor in winning the most important of matches. And the victory was particularly gratifying, for Haileybury had been defeated for five years previously. There was no doubt at all that the sixty not out made by Mannix in the first innings rendered victory possible in the "cock house" match, and that his performance as a bowler, first change, in the second innings, secured the coveted trophy, a silver cup, for Edmonstone House. These feats were duly recorded by Mr. Dupre, the house master, in a neat speech which he made at a feast given in the classroom to celebrate the glory of the house. When the plates of the eleven were finally cleared of cherry tart and tumblers were refilled with the most innocuous claret cup, Mr. Dupre rose to his feet
He chronicled the virtues and successes of the hero of the hour. The catch in the Uppingham match was touched on—a dangerous bat that Uppingham captain. The sixty not out in the house match had been rewarded with a presentation bat bearing a silver shield on the back of it. No boy in the house, so Mr. Dupre said, grudged the sixpence which had been stopped from his pocket money to pay for the bat. Then, passing to graver matters, Mr. Dupre spoke warmly of the tone of the house, that indefinable quality which in the eyes of a faithful schoolmaster is more precious than rubies. It was Mannix, prefect and member of the lower sixth, who more than any one else deserved credit for the fact that Edmonstone stood second to no house in the school in the matter of tone. The listening eleven, and the other prefects who, though not members of the victorious eleven, had been invited to the feast, cheered vigorously. They understood what tone meant though Mr. Dupre did not define it. They knew that it was mainly owing to the determined attitude of Mannix that young Latimer, who collected beetles and kept tame white mice, had been induced to wash himself properly and to use a clothes brush on the legs of his trousers. Latimer's appearance in the old days before Mannix took him in hand had lowered the tone of the house. Mannix' own appearance—though Mr. Dupre did not mention this—added the weight of example to his precepts. His taste in ties was acknowledged. No member of the school eleven knotted a crimson sash round his waist with more admired precision. Nor was the success of the hero confined to the playing fields and the dormitory. Mr. Dupre noted the fact that Mannix had added other laurels to the crown of the house's glory by winning the head master's prize for Greek iambics.
Mr. Dupre sat down. Mannix himself, blushing but pleasurably conscious that his honours were deserved, rose to his feet. As President of the Literary Society and a debater of formidable quality, he was well able to make a speech. He chose instead to sing a song. It was one, so he informed his audience, which Mr. Dupre had composed specially for the occasion. The tune indeed was old. Every one would recognise it at once and join in the chorus. The words, and he, Frank Mannix, hoped they would dwell in the memory of those who sang them, were Mr. Dupre's own. The eleven, the prefects and Mr. Dupre himself joined with uproarious tunefulness in a chorus which went tolerably trippingly to the air of "Here's to the Maiden of Bashful Fifteen."
"Here's to the House, Edmonstone House. Floreat semper Edmonstone House."
Mannix trolled the words out in a clear tenor voice. One after another of the eleven, even Fenton, the slow bowler who had no ear for music, picked them up. The noise flowed through the doors and windows of the classroom. It reached the distant dormitory and stimulated small boys in pyjamas to thrills of envious excitement It was Mannix again, Mannix at his greatest and best, who half an hour later stood up in his place. With an air of authority which became him well he raised his hand and stilled the babbling voices of the enthusiastic eleven. Then, pitching on a note which brought the tune well within the compass of even Fenton's growling bass, he began the school songs,
"Adsis musa canentibus Laeta voce canentibus Longos clara per annos Haileyburia floreat."
House feeling, local patriotism to the tune of "The Maiden of Bashful Fifteen," was well enough. Behind it, deep in the swelling heart of Mannix, lay a wider thing, a kind of imperialism, a devotion to the school itself. Far across the dim quadrangle rang the words "Haileyburia Floreat." It was Mannix's greatest moment
Three days later the school broke up. Excited farewells were said by boys eagerly pressing into the brakes which bore them to the Hertford station. Mannix, one of the earliest to depart, went off from the midst of a group of admirers. It was understood by his friends that he was to spend the summer fishing in the west of Ireland—salmon fishing. There would be grouse shooting too. Mannix had mentioned casually a salmon rod and a new gun. Happy Mannix!
The west of Ireland is a remote region, wild no doubt, half barbarous perhaps. Even Mr. Dupre, who knew almost all things knowable, admitted, as he shook hands with his favorite pupil, that he knew the west of Ireland only by repute. But Mannix might be relied on to sustain in those far regions the honour of the school. Small boys, born hero-worshippers, gathered in groups to await the brakes which should carry them to less splendid summer sports, and spoke to each other in confidence of the salmon which Mannix would catch and the multitude of grouse which would fall before the explosions of his gun.
Edward Mannix, Esq., M. P., father of the fortunate Frank, holds the office of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of the War Office, a position of great importance at all times, but particularly so under the circumstances under which Mannix held it. His chief, Lord Tolerton, Secretary of State for War, was incapacitated by the possession of a marquisate from sitting in the House of Commons. It was the duty, the very onerous duty, of Mr. Edward Mannix to explain to the representatives of the people who did not agree with him in politics that the army, under Lord Torrington's administration, was adequately armed and intelligently drilled. The strain overwhelmed him, and his doctor ordered him to take mud baths at Schlangenbad. Mrs. Mannix behaved as a good wife should under such circumstances. She lifted every care, not directly connected with the army, from her husband's mind. The beginning of Frank's holidays synchronised with the close of the parliamentary session. She arranged that Frank should spend the holidays with Sir Lucius Lentaigne in Rosnacree. She had every right to demand that her son should be allowed to catch the salmon and shoot the grouse of Sir Lucius. Lady Lentaigne, who died young, was Mrs. Mannix's sister. Sir Lucius was therefore Frank's uncle. Edward Mannix, M. P., worried by Lord Torrington and threatened by his doctor, acquiesced in the arrangement. He ordered a fishing rod and a gun for Frank. He sent the boy a ten-pound note and then departed, pleasantly fussed over by his wife, to seek new vigour in the mud of Germany.
Frank Mannix, seventeen years old, prefect and hero, stretched himself with calm satisfaction in a corner of a smoking carriage in the Irish night mail. Above him on the rack were his gun-case, his fishing-rod, neatly tied into its waterproof cover, and a brown kit-bag. He smoked a nice Egyptian cigarette, puffing out from time to time large fragrant clouds from mouth and nostrils. His fingers, the fingers of the hand which was not occupied with the cigarette, occasionally caressed his upper lip. A fine down could be distinctly felt there. In a good light it could even be seen. Since the middle of the Easter term he had found it necessary to shave his chin and desirable to stimulate the growth upon his upper lip with occasional applications of brilliantine. He was thoroughly satisfied with the brown tweed suit which he wore, a pleasant change of attire after the black coats and grey trousers enjoined by the school authorities. He liked the look of a Burberry gabardine which lay beside him on the seat. There was a suggestion of sport about it; yet it in no way transgressed the line of good taste. Frank Mannix was aware that his ties had set a lofty standard to the school. He felt sure that his instinctive good taste had not deserted him in choosing the brown suit and the gabardine.
Of his boots he was a little doubtful. Their brown was aggressive; but that, so the gentleman in Harrod's Stores who sold them had assured him, would pass away in time. Aggressiveness of colour is inevitable in new brown boots.
At Rugby he lit a second cigarette and commented on the warmth of the night to an elderly gentleman who entered the carriage from the corridor. The elderly gentleman was uncommunicative and merely growled in reply. Mannix offered him a match. The gentleman growled again and lit his cigar from his own matchbox. Mannix arrived at the conclusion that he must be, for some reason, in a bad temper. He watched him for a while and then decided further that he was, if not an actual "bounder," at all events "bad form." The elderly gentleman had a red, blotched face, a thick neck, and swollen hands, with hair on the backs of them. He wore a shabby coat, creased under the arms, and trousers which bagged badly at the knees. Mannix, had the elderly gentleman happened to be a small boy in Edmonstone House, would have felt it his duty to impart to him something of the indefinable quality of tone.
Shortly before reaching Crewe, the old gentleman having smoked three cigars with fierce vigour, left the carriage. Mannix, feeling disinclined for more tobacco, went to sleep. At Holyhead he was wakened from a deep and dreamless slumber. A porter took his kit-bag and wanted to relieve him also of the gun-case, the fishing-rod, and the gabardine. But Mannix, even in his condition of half awakened giddiness clung to these. He followed the porter across a stretch of wooden pier, got involved in a crowd of other passengers at the steamer's gangway, and was hustled by the elderly gentleman who had smoked the three cigars. He still seemed to be in a bad temper. After hustling Mannix, he swore, pushed a porter aside and forced his way across the gangway. Mannix, now almost completely awake, resented this behaviour very much and decided that the elderly gentleman was not in any real sense of the word a gentleman, but simply a cad.
Indignation, though a passion of a harassing nature, does not actually prevent sleep in a man of seventeen years of age who is in good general health. Mannix coiled himself up on one of the sofas which line the corridors of the Irish mail steamers. He was dimly conscious of seeing the old gentleman who had hustled him trip over the gun case which lay at the side of the sofa. Then he fell asleep. He was wakened—it seemed to him rather less than five minutes later—by a steward who told him that the steamer was rapidly approaching Kingstown Pier. He got up and sought for means to wash. It is impossible for a self-respecting man who has been brought up at an English public school to begin the day in good humour unless he is able to wash himself thoroughly. But the designer of the steamers of this particular line did not properly appreciate the fact He provided a meagre supply of basins for the passengers, many of whom, in consequence, land at Kingstown Pier in irritable moods, Frank Mannix was one of them.
The elderly gentleman, who appeared less than ever a gentleman at five o'clock in the morning, was another. Mannix retained, in spite of his sleepiness and his sensation of grime, a slight amount of self-control. He was moderately grateful to an obsequious sailor who relieved him of his kit bag. He carried, as he had the night before, his own gun-case and fishing-rod. The elderly gentleman, who carried nothing, had no self-control whatever. He swore at the overburdened sailor who took his things ashore for him. Mannix proceeded in his turn to cross the gangway and was unceremoniously pushed from behind by the elderly gentleman. He protested with frigid politeness.
"Don't dawdle, boy, don't dawdle," said the elderly gentleman.
"Don't hustle," said Mannix. "This isn't a football scrimmage."
In order to say this effectively he stopped in the middle of the gangway and turned round.
"Damn it all," said the elderly gentleman, "go on and don't try to be insolent."
Mannix was a prefect. He had, moreover, disposed of the captain of the Uppingham eleven by a brilliant catch in the long field at a critical moment of an important match. He had been praised in public by no less a person than Mr. Dupre for his excellent influence on the tone of Edmonstone House. He was not prepared to be sworn at and insulted by a red-faced man with hairy hands at five o'clock in the morning. He flushed hotly and replied, "Damn it all, sir, don't be an infernal cad." The elderly gentleman pushed him again, this time with some violence. Mannix stumbled, got his fishing-rod entangled in the rail of the gangway, swung half round and then fell sideways on the pier. The fishing-rod, plainly broken in pieces, remained in his hand. The gun-case bumped along the pier and was picked up by a porter. Mannix was extremely angry. A tall lady, apparently connected with the offensive red-faced gentleman, observed in perfectly audible tones that schoolboys ought not to be allowed to travel without some one in charge of them. Mannix's anger rose to boiling point at this addition of calculated insult to deliberate injury. He struggled to his feet, intending then and there to speak some plain truths to his assailant. He was immediately aware of a pain in his ankle. A pain so sharp as to make walking quite impossible. The sailor who carried his bag sympathised with him and helped him into the train. He felt the injured ankle carefully and came to the conclusion that it was sprained.
Between Kingstown and Dublin Mannix arranged plans for handing over his assailant to the police. That seemed to him the most dignified form of revenge open to him. He was fully determined to take it. Unfortunately his train carried him, slowly indeed, but inexorably, to the station from which another train, the one in which he was to travel westwards to Rosnacree, took its departure. The elderly gentleman and the lady with the insolent manner, whose destination was Dublin itself, had left Kingstown in a different train. Mannix saw no more of them and so was unable to get them handcuffed.
Two porters helped him along the platform at Broadstone Station and settled him in a corner of the breakfast carriage of the westward going mail. A very sympathetic attendant offered to find out whether there was a doctor in the train. It turned out that there was not. The sympathetic attendant, with the help of a young ticket-collector in a neat uniform offered to do the best he could for his ankle. The cook joined them, leaving a quantity of bacon hissing in his pan. He was a man of some surgical knowledge.
"It's hot water," he said, "that's best for the like of that."
"It could be," said the ticket-collector, "that it's broke on him."
"Cold water," said Mannix firmly.
"With a sup of whiskey in it," said the attendant
"If it's broke," said the ticket-collector, "and you go putting whiskey and water on it it's likely that the young gentleman will be lame for life."
"Maybe now," said the cook derisively, "you'd be in favour of soda water with the squeeze of a lemon in it."
"I would not," said the ticket-collector, "but a drop of sweet oil the way the joint would be kept supple."
"Get a jug of cold water," said Mannix, "and something that will do for a bandage."
The attendant, with a glance at the cook, compromised the matter. He brought a basin full of lukewarm water and a table napkin. The cook wrapped the soaked napkin round the ankle. The ticket-collector tied it in its place with a piece of string. The attendant coaxed the sock over the bulky bandage. The new brown boot could by no means be persuaded to go on. It was packed by the attendant in the kit bag.
"It's my opinion," said the ticket-collector, "that you'd get damages out of the steamboat company if you was to process them."
Mannix did not want to attack the steamboat company. He felt vindictive, but his anger was all di-rected against the man who had injured him.
"There was a fellow I knew one time," said the ticket-collector, "that got L200 out of this company, and he wasn't as bad as you nor near it."
"I remember that well," said the attendant "It was his elbow he dislocated, and him getting out at the wrong side of the carriage."
"He'd have got more," said the ticket-collector. "He'd have got L500 instead of L200 if so be he'd have gone into the court, but that's what he couldn't do, by reason of the fact that he happened to be travelling without a ticket when the accident came on him."
He gazed thoughtfully out of the window as he spoke.
"It might have been that," said the attendant, "which was the cause of his getting out at the wrong side of the carriage."
"He tried it," said the ticket-collector, still looking straight in front of him, "because he hadn't a ticket."
No one spoke for a minute. The story of the fraudulent traveller who secured L200 in damages was an affecting one. At length the cook broke the silence.
"The young gentleman here," he said, "has his ticket right enough surely."
"He may have," said the ticket-collector.
"I have," said Mannix, fumbling in his pocket "Here it is."
"I'm obliged to you," said the ticket-collector. "It was it I wanted to see."
"Then why didn't you ask me for it?" said Mannix.
"He wouldn't do the like," said the attendant, "and you with maybe a broken leg."
"I would not," said the ticket-collector. "It would be a queer thing for me to be bothering you about a ticket, and me just after tying a bit of cord round as nasty a leg as ever I seen."
"But when you wanted to see the ticket—" said Mannix.
"I drew down the subject of tickets," said the collector, "the way you'd offer me a look at yours, if so be you had one, but as for asking you for it and you in pain, it's what I wouldn't do."
There are travellers, cantankerous people, who complain that Irish railway officials are not civil. Perhaps English porters and guards may excel them in the plausible lip service which anticipates a tip. But in the Irishman there is a natural delicacy of feeling which expresses itself in lofty kinds of courtesy. An Englishman, compelled by a sense of duty to see the ticket of a passenger, would have asked for it with callous bluntness. The Irishman, knowing that his victim was in pain, approached the subject of tickets obliquely, hinting by means of an anecdote of great interest, that people have from time to time been known to defraud railway companies.
Rosnacree House, the home of Sir Lucius Lentaigne and his ancestors since the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes brought the family to Ireland in search of religious freedom, stands high on a wooded slope above the southern shore of a great bay. From the dining-room windows, so carefully have vistas been cut through the trees, there is a broad prospect of sea and shore. For eight miles the bay stretches north to the range of hills which bound it. For five or six miles westward its waters are dotted over with islands. There are, the people say, three hundred and sixty-five of them, so that a fisher-man with a taste for exploration, could such a one be found, might land on a different island every day for a whole year. Long promontories, some of them to be reckoned with the three hundred and sixty-five islands when the tide is high, run far out from the mainland. Narrow channels, winding bewilderingly, eat their way for miles among the sea-saturate fields of the eastward lying plain. The people, dwelling with pardonable pride upon the peculiarities of their coast line, say that any one who walked from the north to the south side of the bay, keeping resolutely along the high-tide mark, would travel altogether 200 miles. He would reach after his way-faring a spot which, measured on the map, would be just eight miles distant from the point of his departure. Sir Lucius, who loved his home, while he sometimes affects to despise it, says that he believes this estimate of the extent of the sea's meanderings to be approximately correct, but adds that he has never yet met any one with courage enough to attempt the walk. You do, in fact, come suddenly on salt-water channels in the midst of fields at long distances from the sea, and find cockles on stretches of mud where you might expect frog spawn or black slugs. Therefore, it is quite likely that the high-tide line would really, if it were stretched out straight, reach right across Ireland and far put into St. George's Channel.
In Rosnacree House, along with Sir Lucius, lives Juliet Lentaigne, his maiden sister, elderly, intellectual, dominating, the competent mistress of a sufficient staff of servants. She lived there in her girlhood. She returned to live there after the death of Lady Lentaigne. Priscilla, Sir Lucius' only child, comes to Rosnacree House for such holidays as are granted by a famous Dublin school. She was sent to the school at the age of eleven because she rebelled against her aunt. Having reached the age of fifteen she rebels more effectively, whenever the coming of holidays affords opportunity.
Being a young woman of energy, determination and skill in rebellion, she made an assault upon her Aunt Juliet's authority on the very first morning of her summer holidays. She began at breakfast time.
"Father," she said, "I may go to meet Cousin Frank at the train, mayn't I?"
"Certainly," said Sir Lucius.
It was right that some one should meet Frank Mannix on his arrival. Sir Lucius did not want to do so himself. A youth of seventeen is a troublesome guest, difficult to deal with. He is neither man enough to associate on quite equal terms with grown men nor boy enough to be turned loose to play according to his own devices. Sir Lucius did not look forward to the task of entertaining his nephew. He was pleased that Priscilla should take some part, even a small part, of the business off his hands.
Priscilla glanced triumphantly at her aunt.
"There is no possible objection," said Miss Lentaigne, "to your meeting your cousin at the train, but if you are to do so you cannot spend the morning in your boat."
Priscilla thought she could.
"I'm only going as far as Delginish to bathe," she said. "I'll be back in lots of time."
"Be sure you are," said Sir Lucius.
"After being out in the boat," said Miss Lentaigne, "you will be both dirty and untidy, certainly not fit to meet your cousin at the train."
Priscilla, who had a good deal of experience of boats, knew that her aunt's fears were well founded. But she had not yet reached the age at which a girl thinks it desirable to be clean, tidy and well dressed when she goes to meet a strange cousin. She treated Miss Lentaigne's opposition as beneath contempt.
"I must bathe," she said, "It's the first day of the hols."
"Holidays," said Miss Lentaigne.
"Sylvia Courtney," said Priscilla, "who won the prize for English literature at school calls them 'hols.'"
"That," said Sir Lucius, "settles it. The authority of any one who wins a first prize in English literature——"
"And besides," said Priscilla, "she said it, hols that is, to Miss Pettigrew when she was asking when they began. She didn't object."
Miss Lentaigne poured out her second cup of tea in silence. Against Miss Pettigrew's tacit approval of the word there was no arguing. Miss Pettigrew, the head of a great educational establishment, does more than win, she awards prizes in English literature.
Priscilla, released from the tedium of the breakfast table, sped down the long avenue on her bicycle. Across the handle bars was tied a bundle, her towel and scarlet bathing dress. From the back of the saddle, wobbling perilously, hung a much larger bundle, a new lug sail, the fruit of hours and hours of toilsome needlework on the wet days of the Christmas "hols."
From the gate at the end of the avenue the road runs straight and steep into the village. At the lower end of the village is the harbour, with its long, dilapidated quay. This is the centre of the village life. Here are, occasionally, small coasting steamers laden with coal or flour, and heavy brigantines or topsail schooners which have felt their way from distant English ports round a wildly inhospitable stretch of coast. Here, almost always, are the bluff-bowed hookers from the outer islands, seeking cargoes of flour and yellow Indian meal, bringing in exchange fish, dried or fresh, and sometimes turf for winter fuel. Here are smaller boats from nearer islands which have come in on the morning tide carrying men and women bent on marketing, which will spread brown sails in the evening and bear their passengers home again. Here at her red buoy lies Sir Lucius' smartly varnished pleasure boat, the Tortoise, reckoned "giddy" in spite of her name by staid, cautious island folk; but able, with her centre board and high peaked gunter lug to sail round and round any other boat in the bay. Here, brilliantly green, lies Priscilla's boat, the Blue Wanderer, a name appropriate two years ago when she was blue, less appropriate last year, when Peter Walsh made a mistake in buying paint, and grieved Priscilla greatly by turning out the Blue Wanderer a sober grey. This year, though the name still sticks to her, it is less suitable still, for Priscilla, buying the paint herself at Easter time, ordained that the Blue Wanderer should be green.
Above the quay, at the far side of the fair green, stands Brannigan's shop, a convenient and catholic establishment. To the left of the door as you enter, is the shop of a publican, equipped with a bar and a sheltering partition for modest drinkers. To the right, if you turn that way, is a counter at which you can buy anything, from galvanised iron rowlocks to biscuits and jam. On the low window sills of both windows sit rows of men who for the most part earn an honest living by watching the tide go in and out and by making comments on the boats which approach or leave the quay. It is difficult to find out who pays them for doing these things, but it is plain that some one does, for they are not men of funded property, and yet they live, live comfortably, drink, smoke, eat occasionally and are sufficiently clothed. Of only one among them can it be said with certainty that he is in receipt of regular pay from anybody. Peter Walsh earns five shillings a week by watching over the Tortoise and the Blue Wanderer.
Priscilla leaped off her bicycle at the door of Bran-nigan's shop. The men on the window sills took no notice of her. They were absorbed in watching the operation of warping round the head of a small steamer which lay far down the quay. The captain had run out a hawser and made the end of it fast to a buoy at the far side of the fair-way. A donkey-engine on the steamer's deck was clanking vigorously, hauling in the hawser, swinging the head of the steamer round, a slow but deeply interesting manoeuvre. "Peter Walsh," said Priscilla, "is that you?" "It is, Miss," said Peter, "and it's proud and pleased I am to see you home again." "Is the Blue Wanderer ready for me?" "She is, Miss. The minute you like to step into her she's there for you. There's a new pair of rowlocks and I've a nice bit of rope for a halyard for the little lug. Is it it you have tied on the bicycle?"
"It is," said Priscilla, "and it's a good sail, half as big again as the old one."
"I'd be glad now," said Peter, "if you'd make that same halyard fast to the cleat on the windward side any time you might be using the sail."
"Do you think I'm a fool, Peter?"
"I do not, Miss; but sure you know as well as I do that the mast that's in her isn't over and above strong, and I wouldn't like anything would happen."
"There's no wind any way."
"There is not; but I wouldn't say but there might be at the turn of the tide."
"Haul her up to the slip," said Priscilla. "I'll be back again long before the tide turns."
The steamer swung slowly round. The rattle of her donkey-engine was plainly audible. The warp made fast to the buoy dipped into the water, strained taut dripping, and then dipped again. Suddenly the captain on the bridge shouted. The engine stopped abruptly. The warp sagged deep into the water. A small boat with one man in her appeared close under the steamer's bows, went foul of the warp and lay heavily listed while one of her oars fell into the water and drifted away.
"That's a nice sort of fool to be out in a boat by himself," said Priscilla.
"He was damn near having to swim for it," said Peter, as the boat righted herself and slipped over the warp.
"Who is he?"
"I don't rightly know who he is," said Peter, "but he paid four pounds for the use of Flanagan's old boat for a fortnight, so I'm thinking he has very little sense."
"He has none," said Priscilla. "Look at him now."
The man, deprived of one of his oars, was pushing his way along the steamer's side towards the quay. The captain was swearing heartily at him from the bridge.
"Anyhow," said Priscilla, "I haven't time to stay here and see him drown, though of course it would be interesting. I'm going to bathe and I have to get back again in time to meet the train."
Peter Walsh laid the Blue Wanderer alongside the slip. He laced the new lug to its yard, made fast the tack and hoisted it, gazing critically at it as it rose. Then he stepped out of the boat. Priscilla flung her bathing-dress and towel on board and took her seat in the stern.
"You'll find the tiller under the floor board, Miss. With the little air of wind there is from the south you'll slip down to Delginish easy enough if it's there you're thinking of going."
"Shove her head round now, Peter, and give her a push off. I'll get way on her when I'm out a bit from the slip."
The sail flapped, bellied, flapped again, finally swung over to starboard. Priscilla settled herself in the stern with the sheet in her hand.
"The tide's under you, Miss," said Peter Walsh, "You'll slip out easy enough."
The Blue Wanderer, urged by the faint southerly breeze, slid along. The water was scarcely rippled by the wind but the tide ran strongly. One buoy after another was passed. A large black boat lay alongside the quay, loaded heavily with gravel. The owner leaned over his gunwale and greeted Priscilla. She replied with friendly familiarity.
"How are you, Kinsella? How's Jimmy and the baby? I expect the baby's grown a lot."
"You're looking fine yourself, Miss," said Joseph Antony Kinsella. "The baby and the rest of them is doing grand, thanks be to God."
The Blue Wanderer slipped past. She reached one and then another of the perches which mark the channel into the harbour. The breeze freshened slightly. Little wavelets formed under the Blue Wandere's bow and curled outwards from her sides, spreading slowly and then fading away in her wake. Priscilla drew a biscuit from her pocket and munched it contentedly.
Right ahead of her lay the little island of Delginish with a sharply shelving gravel shore. On the northern side of it stood two warning red perches. There were rocks inside them, rocks which were covered at full tide and half tide, but pushed up their brown sea-weedy backs when the tide was low. Priscilla put down her tiller, hauled on her sheet and slipped in through a narrow passage. She rounded the eastern corner of the island and ran her boat ashore in a little bay. She lowered the sail, slipped off her shoes and stockings and pushed the boat out. A few yards from the shore, she dropped her anchor and waited till the boat swung shorewards again to the length of her anchor rope. Then, with her bathing-dress in her hand she waded to the land. The tide was falling. Priscilla had been caught more than once by an ebbing tide with a boat left high and dry. It was not an easy matter to push the Blue Wanderer down a stretch of stony beach. Precautions had to be taken to keep her afloat.
A few minutes later, a brilliant scarlet figure, she was wading out again, knee deep, waist deep. Then with a joyful plunge she swam forward through the sun-warmed water. She came abreast of the corner of her bay, the eastern point of Delginish, turned on her back and splashed deliciously, sending columns of glistening foam high into the air. Standing upright with outspread hands and head thrown back, she trod water, gazing straight up into the sky. She lay motionless on her back, totally immersed save for eyes, nostrils and mouth. A noise of oars roused her. She rolled over, swam a stroke or two, and saw Flanagan's old boat come swiftly down the channel. The stranger, who had courted disaster by fouling the steamer's warp, tugged unskilfully at his oars. He headed for the island. Priscilla shouted to him.
"Keep out," she said. "You're going straight for the rocks."
The young man in the boat turned round and stared at her.
"Pull your right oar," said Priscilla.
The young man pulled both oars hard, missed the water with his right and fell backwards to the bottom of the boat. His two feet stuck up ridiculously. Priscilla laughed. The boat, swept forward by the tide, grounded softly on the sea wrack which covered the rocks.
"There you are, now," said Priscilla. "Why didn't you do what I told you?"
The young man struggled to his feet, seized an oar and began to push violently.
"That's no use," said Priscilla, swimming close under the rocks. "You'll have to hop out or you'll be stuck there till the tide rises, and that won't be till swell on in the afternoon."
The young man eyed the water doubtfully. Then he spoke for the first time.
"Is it very deep?" he said.
"Where you are," said Priscilla, "it's quite shallow, but if you step over the edge of the rock there's six foot of water and more."
The young man sat down and began to unlace his boots.
"If you wait to do that," said Priscilla, "you'll be high and dry altogether. Never mind your boots. Hop out and shove."
He stepped cautiously over the side of his boat, seized his gunwale and shoved. The boat slipped off the rock, stern first. The young man staggered, loosed his hold on her and then stood gaping helplessly, ankle deep in water perched on a very slippery rock, while the boat slipped away from him, stemming the tide as long as the impulse of his push lasted.
"What shall I do now?" he asked.
"Stand where you are," said Priscilla. "She'll drift down to you again. I'll give her a shove so that she'll come right up to you."
She swam after the boat and laid a hand on her gunwale. Then, kicking and splashing, guided her back to the young man on the rock. He climbed on board.
"Where do you suppose you're going?" asked Priscilla.
"To an island," said the young man.
"If one island is the same to you as another," said Priscilla, "and you haven't any particular one in your mind, I'd advise you to stop at this one."
"But I have."
The young man looked at her suspiciously and then took his oars.
"I hope your island is quite near," said Priscilla, "For if it isn't you're not likely to get there. Were you ever in a boat before?"
The young man pulled a few strokes and got his boat into the channel beyond the red perches.
"I think," said Priscilla, "that you might say 'thank you,' Only for me you'd have been left stranded on that rock till the tide rose again and floated you off somewhere between four and five o'clock this afternoon."
"Thank you," said the young man, "thank you very much indeed."
"But where are you going?"
The question seemed to frighten him. He began to row with desperate energy. In a few minutes he was far down the channel Priscilla watched him. Then she swam to her bay, pushed the Blue Wanderer a little further from the shore and landed.
The island of Delginish is a pleasant spot on a warm day. Above its gravel beach rises a slope of coarse short grass, woven through with wild thyme and yellow crowtoe. Sea-pinks cluster on the fringe of grass and delicate groups of fairy-flax are bright-blue in stony places. Red centaury and yellow bed-straw and white bladder campion flourish. Tiny wild roses, clinging to the ground, fleck the green with spots of vivid white. The sun reaches every yard of the shadeless surface of the island. Here and there grey rocks peep up, climbed over, mellowed by olive green stonecrops. Priscilla, glowing from her bath, lay full stretch among the flowers, drawing deep breaths of scented air and gazing at the sky. But nothing was further from her mind than soulful sentimentalising over the beauties of nature. She was puzzling about the young man who had left her, endeavoring to arrive at some theory of who he was and what he could be doing in Rosnacree. After awhile she turned over on her side, fumbled in her pocket and drew out two more biscuits in crumbly fragments. She munched them contentedly.
At eleven o'clock she raised herself slowly on one elbow and looked round. The tide had nearly reached its lowest, and the Blue Wanderer lay half in, half out of the water; her stern perched high, her bow with the useless anchor rope depending from it, dipped deep. Priscilla realised that she had no time to lose. She put her shoulder to the stern of the boat and pushed, springing on board as the boat floated. The Blue Wanderer, even with her new lug sail, does not work well to windward. It is possible by very careful steering to make a little by tacking if the breeze is good and the tide is running favourably. With a light wind and in the slack water of the ebb the most that can be done is not to go to leeward. Priscilla, with the necessity of meeting a train present in her mind, unstepped the mast and took her oars. In twenty minutes she was alongside the slip where Peter Walsh stood waiting for her.
"I was talking to Joseph Anthony Kinsella," he said, "since you were out—him that lives beyond in Inishbawn."
"Were you?" said Priscilla. "I saw him in his boat as I was going out, with a big load of gravel on board. He says the baby's all right."
"It may be," said Peter. "Any way, he said nothing to the contrary when he was with me. It wasn't the baby we were speaking of. Will you mind yourself now, Miss. That slip is terribly slippery at low tide on account of the green weed that does be growing on it Take care but you might fall."
The warning came a little too late. Priscilla stepped from the boat and immediately fell forward on her hands and knees. When she rose there was a large, damp green patch on the front of her dress.
"Will you look at that, now?" said Peter. "Didn't I tell you to go easy? Are you hurted, Miss?"
"If it wasn't the new baby you were talking about," said Priscilla, "what was it?"
"Joseph Anthony Kinsella is just after telling me that he's seen that young fellow that has Flanagan's old boat out beyond among the islands."
"Which island? I asked him, but he wouldn't tell me."
"Joseph Anthony didn't rightly know, but it's his belief that he's on Ilaunglos, or Ardilaun, or one of them to the north of Carrowbee."
"He can't be living there, then. There isn't a house on any of those islands."
"Joseph Anthony was saying that he might maybe have a tent with him and be sleeping in it the same as the tinkers would. I've heard of the like."
"Did he see the tent?"
"He did not; but there could be a tent without his seeing it. What I seen myself was the things the young fellow bought in Brannigan's and put into Flanagan's old boat. He had a can of paraffin oil with a cork drove into the neck of it, and he'd two loaves of bread done up in brown paper, and he'd a couple of tins that might be meat of one kind or another, and along with them he had a pound of tea and maybe two of sugar. I misdoubted when I saw him carrying them down the quay, but it was some kind of a picnic he was out for. Them kind of fellows has very little sense."
"I expect," said Priscilla, "that he'll be drowned before long, and then they'll find some papers on his body that'll tell us who he is. I must be off now, Peter, or I'll be late for the train."
"You're time enough, Miss. Sure them trains is never punctual."
"They are not," said Priscilla, "except on the days when you happen to be late for them. Then they make a point of being up to the minute just to score off you."
The train, as Priscilla prophesied, was strictly punctual. It was drawn up at the platform when she leaped off her bicycle in front of the station. As she passed through the gate she came face to face with Frank Mannix supported by the station master and the guard.
"Hullo!" she said. "You're my cousin Frank, I suppose. You look rather sick."
Frank gazed at her.
"Are you Priscilla?" he asked.
He had formed no very definite mental picture of his cousin beforehand. Little girls of fifteen years of age are not creatures of great interest to prefects who have made remarkable catches in the long field and look forward to establishing their manhood among the salmon and the grouse. So far as he had thought of Priscilla at all he had placed her in the background, a trim, unobtrusive maiden, who came down to dessert after dinner and was kept under proper control at other times by a governess. It shocked him a little to see a girl in a tousled blue cotton frock, with a green stain on the front of it, with a tangle of damp fair hair hanging round her head in shining strings, with unabashed fearless eyes which looked at him with a certain shrewd merriment.
"You look wobbly," said Priscilla. "Can't you walk by yourself?"
"I've met with an accident," said Frank.
"That's all right. I was afraid just at first that you might be the sort that collapsed altogether after being seasick. Some people do, you know, and they're never much good for anything. I'm glad you're not one of them. Accidents are different of course. Nobody can ever be quite sure of not meeting an accident."
She glanced at the stain on the front of her dress as she spoke. It was the result of an accident.
"I've sprained my ankle," said Frank.
"It's my belief," said the guard, "that the young gentleman's leg is broke on him. That's what the ticket-collector was after telling me at the junction any way."
"Would you like me to cut off your sock?" said Priscilla. "The station-master's wife would lend me a pair of scissors. She's sure to have a pair. Almost everybody has."
"No, I wouldn't," said Frank.
There had been trouble enough in getting the sock on over the damp table napkin. He had no wish to have it taken off again unnecessarily.
"All right," said Priscilla, "I won't if you'd rather not of course; but it's the proper thing to do for a sprained ankle. Sylvia Courtney told me so and she attended a course of Ambulance lectures last term and learnt all about first aid on the battle-field. I wanted to go to those lectures frightfully, but Aunt Juliet wouldn't let me. Rather rot I thought it at the time, but I saw afterwards that she couldn't possibly on account of her principles."
Frank, following Priscilla's rapid thought with difficulty, supposed that Ambulance lectures, dealing necessarily with the human body, might be considered by some people slightly unsuitable for young girls, and that Aunt Juliet was a lady who set a high value on propriety. Priscilla offered a different explanation.
"Christian Science," she said. "That's Aunt Juliet's latest. There's always something. Can you sit on a car?"
"Oh yes," said Frank. "If I was once up I could sit well enough."
"Let you make your mind easy about getting up," said the station-master. "We'll have you on the side of the car in two twos."
They hoisted him up, Priscilla giving advice and directions while they did so. Then she took her bicycle from a porter who held it for her.
"The donkey-trap will bring your luggage," she said. "It will be all right."
She turned to the coachman.
"Drive easy now, James," she said, "and mind you don't let the cob shy when you come to the new drain that they're digging outside the court house. There's nothing worse for a broken bone than a sudden jar. That's another thing that was in the Ambulance lectures."
The car started. Priscilla rode alongside, keeping within speaking distance of Frank.
"But my ankle's not broken," he said.
"It may be. Anyhow I expect a jar is just as bad for a sprain. Very likely the lecturer said so and Sylvia Courtney forgot to tell me. Pretty rotten luck this, for you, Cousin Frank, on account of the fishing. You can't possibly fish and the river's in splendid order. Father said so yesterday. But perhaps Aunt Juliet will be able to cure you. She thinks she can cure anything."
"I shall be all right," said Frank, "when I can rest my leg a bit—I don't think it's really bad I daresay at the end of a week——"
"If Aunt Juliet cures you at all she'll do it quicker than that. She had Father out of bed the day after he got influenza last Easter hols. He very nearly died afterwards on account of having to travel up to Dublin to go to a nursing home when his temperature was 400 and something, but Aunt Juliet said he was perfectly well all the time; so she may be able to fix up that ankle of yours."
They have, so it is understood, tried experiments in vegetarianism at Haileybury; but Christian Science is not yet part of the regular curriculum even on the modern side. Frank Mannix had only the vaguest idea of what Miss Lentaigne's beliefs were. He knew nothing at all about her methods. Priscilla's account of them was not very encouraging.
"All I want," he said, "is simply to rest my ankle."
"Do you think," said Priscilla, "that you could sit in a boat? That's mine, the green one beside the slip. If you turn your head you'll see her. But perhaps it hurts you to turn your head. If it does you'd better not try. The boat will be there all the same even if you don't see her."
They were passing the quay while she spoke, and Priscilla, who was a little behind at the moment, pointed to the Blue Wanderer. Frank discovered one of the disadvantages of an Irish car. The view of the passengers, even if each one is alone on his side, is confined almost entirely to objects on one side of the road. Only by twisting his neck in a most uncomfortable way can any one see what lies directly behind him. Frank made the effort and was unimpressed by the appearance of the Blue Wanderer. She was exceedingly unlike the shining outriggers in which he had sometimes rowed on the upper reaches of the Thames during earlier summer holidays.
"I expect," said Priscilla, "that the salt water will be jolly good for your ankle, in reality, though Aunt Juliet will say it wont She's bound to say that, of course, on account of her principles. All the same it may. Peter Walsh was telling me the other day that it's perfectly splendid for rheumatism. I shouldn't wonder a bit if sprained ankles and rheumatism are much the same sort of thing, only with different names. But of course we can't go this afternoon. Aunt Juliet will demand to have first shy at you. If she fails we may manage to sneak off to-morrow morning. But perhaps you don't care for boats, Cousin Frank."
"I like boats very much."
He spoke in a slightly patronising tone, as an elderly gentleman might confess to a fondness for chocolates in order to please a small nephew. He felt it necessary to make it quite clear to Priscilla that he had not come to Rosnacree to be her playmate and companion. He had come to fish salmon in company with her father and such other grown men as might from time to time present themselves. Nursery games in stumpy green boats were not consonant with his dignity. He did not want to hurt Priscilla's feelings, but he was anxious that she should understand his position. She seemed unimpressed.
"That's all right," she said. "I'll row you. You can sit in the stern and let your legs dangle over in the water. I've often done that when Peter Walsh has been rowing. It's quite a jolly thing to do."
It was a thing which Frank Mannix was quite determined not to do. The suggestion that he should behave in such a way struck him as "cheeky" in a very high degree. A lower schoolboy in Edmondstone House, if he had ventured to speak in such a way, would have been beaten with a fives bat. But Priscilla was a girl and, as Frank understood, girls are not beaten. He answered her with kindly condescension.
"Perhaps we'll be able to manage it some day," he said, "before I leave."
They arrived at Rosnacree House and Frank was helped up the steps by the butler and the coachman. Sir Lucius expressed the greatest regret when he heard of his nephew's accident.
"It's too bad," he said, "too bad, and the river in such fine condition after a fortnight's rain. I was looking forward to seeing you get into your first salmon. But cheer up, Frank, I daresay it won't turn out to be very tedious. We'll have you hobbling along in a week or a fortnight. We've a good while before us yet. I'll get up O'Hara this afternoon, our local practitioner. Not a bad fellow at all, though he drinks a bit. Still he'll know what to do with a sprained ankle. Oh! by the way perhaps——"
Sir Lucius' sentence ended abruptly. His sister entered the room. She greeted Frank and inquired whether he had enjoyed his journey. The story of the accident was told to her. It was evident at once that she took a keen interest in the sprained ankle. Priscilla, describing the scene afterwards to Rose, the under housemaid, said that Miss Lentaigne's eyes gleamed and sparkled with joy. Every one in the household had for many weeks carefully refrained from illness or disability of any kind. If Miss Lentaigne's eyes really did sparkle they expressed a perfectly natural delight. There is nothing more trying than to possess a power of healing and to find no opportunity for exercising it.
"Perhaps," she said, "Frank and I may have a little talk together after luncheon."
Sir Lucius was a man of hospitable instincts with high old-fashioned ideas of the courtesy due by a host to his guest He did not think it quite fair to subject Frank to a course of Christian Science. But he was also very much afraid of his sister, whom he recognised as his intellectual superior. He cleared his throat and made a nervous protest on Frank's behalf.
"I'm not sure, Juliet," he said, "I'm really not at all sure that your theory quite applies to sprains, especially ankles."
Miss Lentaigne smiled very gently. Her face expressed a tolerant patience with the crude ideas entertained by her brother.
"Of course," Sir Lucius went on, "there's a great deal in your idea. I've always said so. In the case of any internal disease, nerves you know, and that kind of thing where there's nothing actually visible, I'm sure it works out admirably, quite admirably, but with a sprained ankle! Come now, Juliet, there's the swelling you know. You can't deny the swelling. Hang it all, you can measure the swelling with a tape. Is your ankle much swelled, Frank?"
"A good deal. But it's not worth making a fuss about. It'll be all right."
Miss Lentaigne smiled again. In her opinion it was all right already. There was not really any swelling, although Frank, in his ignorance, might honestly think there was. She hoped, after luncheon, to convince him of these pleasant truths.
Sir Lucius was a coward at heart. He was exceedingly sorry for his nephew, but he made no further effort to save him from the ministrations of Miss Lentaigne. Nor did he venture to mention the name of O'Hara, the excellent, though occasionally inebriate, local practitioner. Frank, as yet unaware of the full beauty of the scientific Christian method of dealing with illness, was very polite to Miss Lentaigne during luncheon. He talked to her about Parliament and its doings as a subject likely to interest her, assuming the air of a man who knows the inner secrets of the Cabinet. He did, in fact, know a good deal about the habits and manners of our legislators, having picked up details of an interesting kind from his father. Miss Lentaigne was greatly delighted with him. So was Priscilla, who winked three times at her father when neither Frank nor her aunt was looking at her. Sir Lucius was uneasy. He feared that his nephew was likely to turn out a prig, a kind of boy which he held in particular abhorrence.
When luncheon was over he said that he intended to take his rod and go up the river for the afternoon. He invited Priscilla to go with him and carry his landing net. Frank, preceded by Miss Lentaigne, was conducted by the butler to a hammock chair agreeably placed under the shade of a lime tree on the lawn. When Sir Lucius and Priscilla, laden with fishing gear, passed him, he was still making himself politely agreeable to Miss Lentaigne. Priscilla winked at him. He returned the salutation with a stare which was intended to convince her that winking was a particularly vicious kind of bad form. Miss Lentaigne, as Priscilla noticed, sat with two treatises on Christian Science in her hand.
Priscilla, returning without her father at half past six o'clock, found Frank sitting alone under the lime tree. He was in a singularly chastened mood and inclined to be companionable and friendly, even with a girl of no more than fifteen years old.
"I say, Priscilla," he said, "is that old aunt of yours quite mad?"
There was something in the way he expressed himself which delighted Priscilla. He had reverted to the phraseology of an undignified schoolboy of the lower fifth. The veneer of grown manhood, even the polish of a prefect, had, as it were, peeled off him during the afternoon.
"Not at all," said Priscilla. "She's frightfully clever, what's called intellectual. You know the sort of thing. How's your ankle?"
"She says it isn't sprained. But, blow it all, it's swelled the size of the calf of your leg."
He did not mean Priscilla's leg particularly; but with a slight lift of an already short skirt she surveyed her own calf curiously. She wanted to know exactly how thick Frank's injured ankle was.
"Then she didn't cure it?"
"Cure it!" said Frank, "I should think not. She simply kept on telling me I only thought it was sprained. I never heard such rot talked in all my life. How do you stand it at all?"
"That's nothing," said Priscilla. "We're quite glad she's taken to Christian Science; though she did nearly kill poor father. Before that she was all for teetotallity—that's not quite the right word, but you know the thing I mean, drinking nothing but lemonade, either homemade or the kind that fizzes. I didn't mind that a bit for I like lemonade, both sorts, but father simply hated it. He told me he'd rather go up to that nursing home in Dublin every time he feels ill than live through another six months on lemonade. Before that she was frightfully keen on a thing called uric acid. Do you know what that is, Cousin Frank?" "No," he said, "I don't. How did it take her?" "She wouldn't give us anything to eat," said Priscilla, "except queer sort of mashes which she said were made of nuts and biscuits and things. I got quite thin and as weak as a cat." "I wonder you stuck it out." "Oh, it didn't last long. None of them do, you know. That's our great consolation; though we rather hope the Christian Science will on account of its doing us no particular harm. She doesn't mind what we eat or drink, which is a great comfort. She can't you know, according to her principles, because when there's no such thing as being sick it can't matter how much whipped cream or anything of that sort you eat just before you go to bed at night. She didn't like it a bit when I got up on Christmas night and foraged out nearly a quarter of a cold plum pudding. She was just going up to bed and she caught me. She wanted awfully to stop me eating it, but she couldn't without giving the whole show away, so I ate it before her very eyes. That's the beauty of Christian Science." "But I say, Priscilla, weren't you sick?" "Not a bit When Father heard about it next morning he said he thought there must be something in Aunt Juliet's theory after all. He has stuck to that ever since, though he says it doesn't apply to influenza. She had a great idea about fresh air one time, and got up a carpenter to take the window frames, windows and all, clean out of my room. I used to have to borrow hairpins from Rose—she's the under housemaid and a great friend of mine—so as to fasten the bedclothes on to the mattress. Otherwise they blew away during the night, while I was asleep. That was one of the worst times we ever had, though I don't think Father minded it so much. He used to go out and smoke in the harness room. But I hated it worse than anything except the uric acid. You never knew where your clothes would be in the morning if it was the least stormy, and my hair used to blow into soup and tea and things, which made it frightfully sticky."
"Do you think," said Frank, "that she'll leave me alone now? Or will she want to have another go at me to-morrow?"
"Sure to," said Priscilla, "unless you give in that your ankle is quite well."
"But I can't walk."
"That won't matter in the least. She'll say you can. Aunt Juliet is tremendously determined. Poor Rose—I told you she is the under housemaid, didn't I? She is any way. Poor Rose once got a swelled face on account of a tooth that she wouldn't have out. Aunt Juliet kept at her, reading little bits out of books and kind of praying, in passages and pantries and places, wherever she met Rose. That went on for more than a week. Then Rose got Dr. O'Hara to haul the tooth and the swelling went down. Aunt Juliet said it was Christian Science cured her. And of course it may have been. You never can tell really what it is that cures people."
"I wonder," said Frank, "if I could manage to get down to the boat to-morrow. You said something about a boat, didn't you, Priscilla? Is it far?"
"I'll work that all right for you. As it just happens, luckily enough there's an old bath-chair in a corner of the hay-loft. I came across it last hols when I was looking for a bicycle pump I lost. I was rather disappointed at the time, not thinking that the old chair would be any use, whereas I wanted the pump. Now it turns out to be exactly what we want, which shows that well directed labour is never really wasted. The front-wheel is a bit groggy, but I daresay it'll hold all right as far as the quay. I'll go round after dinner to-night and fish it out I can wheel you quite easily, for it's all down hill."
Frank had not intended when he left England to go about the country in a bath-chair with a groggy front-wheel. For a moment he hesitated. A wild fear struck him of what the Uppingham captain—that dangerous bat whose innings his brilliant catch had cut short—might say and think if he saw the vehicle. But the Uppingham captain was not likely to be in Rosnacree. Christian Science was a more threatening danger. He pictured to himself the stare of amazement on the countenance of Mr. Dupre and the sniggering face of young Latimer who collected beetles and hated washing. But Mr. Dupre, Latimer and the members of the house eleven, were, no doubt, far off.
Miss Lentaigne was very near at hand. He accepted Priscilla's offer.
"Right," she said. "I'll settle the chair, if I have to tie it together with my hair ribbon. It's nice to think of that old chair coming in useful in the end. It must have been in the loft for ages and ages. Sylvia Courtney told me that her mother says anything will come in useful if you only keep it long enough; but I don't know whether that's true. I don't think it can be, quite, for I tried it once with a used up exercise-book and it didn't seem to be the slightest good even after years and years, though it got most frightfully tattered. Still it may be true. You never can tell about things of that sort, and Sylvia Courtney says her mother is extremely wise; so she may be quite right.
"Christian Science," said Frank bitterly, "wouldn't be of any use if you kept it for centuries. What's the use of saying a thing isn't swelled when it is?"
A night's rest restored self-respect to Frank Mannix. He felt when his clothes were brought to him in the morning by a respectful footman that he had to some extent sacrificed his dignity in his confidential talk with Priscilla the day before. He had committed himself to the bath-chair and the boating expedition, and he had too high a sense of personal honour to back out of an engagement definitely made. But he determined to keep Priscilla at a distance. He would go with her, would to some extent join in her childish sports; but it must be on the distinct understanding that he did so as a grown man who condescends to play games with an amusing child. With this idea in his mind he dressed himself very carefully in a suit a cricket flannels. The garments were in themselves suitable for boating as he understood the sport. They were also likely, he thought, to impress Priscilla. The white flannel coat, bound round its edges with crimson silk, was at Hailey-bury part of a uniform set apart for the sole use of members of the first eleven who had actually got their colours. The crimson sash round his waist was a badge of the same high office. Small boys, who played cricket on the house pitches in the Little Side ground, bowed in awed humility before a member of the first eleven when he appeared before them in all his glory and felt elated if they were allowed to walk across the quadrangle with any one who wore the sacred vestments. Frank had little doubt that Priscilla, who was to be his companion for the day would realise the greatness of her privileges.
But Priscilla seemed curiously unimpressed. She met him in the breakfast room before either Sir Lucius or Miss Lentaigne came down.
"Great Scot! Cousin Frank," she said, "you are a howler!"
Frank drew himself up; but realised even as he did so that he must make some reply to Priscilla. It was impossible to pretend not to know that she was speaking about his clothes.
"An old suit of flannels," he said with elaborate carelessness. "I hope you didn't expect me to be grand."
"I never saw anything grander in my life," said Priscilla. "I thought Sylvia Courtney's summer Sunday hat was swankey; but it's simply not in it with your coat I suppose that belt thing is real silk."
"School colours," said Frank.
"Oh! Ours are blue and dark yellow. I have them on a hockey blouse."
The bath-chair turned out to be rather more dilapidated and disreputable than Frank expected. The front-wheel—bound to its place with string, not hair ribbon—seemed very likely indeed to come off. He eyed it doubtfully.
"If you're afraid," said Priscilla, "that it will dirty your beautiful white trousers, I'll give it a rub-over with my pocket-handcher. But I don't think that'll be much use really. You'll be filthy from head to foot in any case before we get home."
Frank, limping with as much dignity as possible, sat down in the chair. He got out his cigarette case and asked Priscilla not to start until he had lit his cigarette.
"You don't object to the smell, I hope," he said politely.
"Not a bit I'd smoke myself only I don't like it. I tried once—Sylvia Courtney was shocked. That's rather the sort she is—but it seemed to me to have a nasty taste. You're sure you like it, Cousin Frank? Don't do it simply because you think you ought."
Priscilla pushed the bath-chair from behind. Frank guided the shaky front wheel by means of a long handle. They went down the avenue at an extremely rapid pace, Priscilla moving in a kind of jaunty canter. When they reached the gate Frank's cigarette had gone out. There was a pause while he lit it again. Then he asked Priscilla to go a little less quickly. He wished his approach to the public street of the village to be as little grotesque as possible.
"By the way," said Priscilla, "have you any money?"
"Certainly. How much do you want?"
"That depends. I have eightpence, which ought to be enough unless you want something very expensive to drink."
"Why should we take anything to drink? We said at breakfast that we'd be back for luncheon."
"We won't," said Priscilla, "nor we won't for tea. Lucky if we are for dinner."
"But Miss Lentaigne said she'd expect us. If we stay out she won't like it."
"Let her dis.," said Priscilla. "Now what do you want to drink? I always have lemon flavoured soda. It's less sticky than regular lemonade. Stone ginger beer is better than either, of course, but Brannigan doesn't keep it, I can't imagine why not."
"If we're going to stay out," said Frank, "I'll have beer, lager for choice."
"Right. Lager is twopence. Lemon flavoured soda twopence if we bring back the bottles. That will leave fourpence for biscuits which ought to be enough."
Fourpence worth of biscuits seemed to Frank an insufficient supply of food for two people who are to be on the sea for the whole day. He saw, besides, an opportunity of asserting once for all his position of superiority. He made up his mind to tip Priscilla. He fumbled in his pocket for a coin.
"You get quite a lot of biscuits for fourpence," said Priscilla, "if you go in for plain arrowroot. Of course they're rather dull, but then you get very few of the better sorts. Take macaroons, for instance. They're nearly a halfpenny each in Brannigan's. Sheer robbery, I call it."
Frank, determined to do the thing handsomely if he did it at all, passed half a crown to Priscilla over the back of the bath chair.
"My dear child," he said, "buy macaroons by all means if you like them. Buy as many as you want."
Priscilla received the half-crown without any appearance of shame.
"If you're prepared to lash out money in that way," she said, "we may as well have a tongue. Brannigan has small ones at one and sixpence. Brawn of course is cheaper, but then if you have brawn you want a tin-opener. The tongues are in glass jars which you can break with a stone or a rowlock. The lids are supposed to come off quite easily if you jab a knife through them, but they don't really. All that happens is a sort of fizz of air and the lid sticks on as tight as ever. Things hardly ever do what they're supposed to according to science, which makes me think that science is rather rot, though, of course, it may have its uses only that I don't know them."
Priscilla wheeled the bath-chair for some distance along the road without speaking. Then she asked another question.
"Which would you rather have, the tongue or a tin of Californian peaches. They're one and sixpence too, so we can't have both, for it would be a pity to miss the chance of one and fourpence worth of macaroons. I don't remember ever having so many at one time before. Though of course they're not really so many when there are two of us to eat them."
"I'll give you another one and sixpence," said Frank, "and then you'll be able to get the peaches too if you want them. I rather bar those tinned fruits myself. They have no flavour."
On Saturday evenings, when prefects and all self-respecting members of the upper and middle schools have tea in their studies, Frank was accustomed to eat tinned lobsters and sometimes tinned salmon, but he knew that superiority to such forms of food was one of the marks of a grown man. He hoped, by speaking slightingly of the Californian peaches, to impress Priscilla with the idea that he was a sort of uncle of hers. The luncheon was involving him in considerable expense, but he did not grudge the money if it produced the effect he desired. Unfortunately it did not.
"Well have a gorgeous bust," said Priscilla. "I shouldn't wonder if Brannigan got some kind of fit when we spend all that in his shop at once. He's not accustomed to millionaires."
Frank, not being able to find a shilling and a sixpence in his pocket, handed over another half crown. Priscilla promised to give him his change. She stopped the bath-chair at the door of Brannigan's shop. The men of leisure who sat on the window sills stared curiously at Frank. Young gentlemen dressed in white flannels and wheeled in bath-chairs are rare in Rosnacree. Frank felt embarrassed and annoyed.
"Excuse me half a mo.," said Priscilla. "I'll just speak a word to Peter Walsh and then do the shopping. Peter, you're to get the sails on the Tortoise at once."
She spoke with such decisive authority that Peter Walsh felt quite certain that she had no right to give the order.
"Is it the Tortoise, Miss?"
"Didn't I say the Tortoise. Go and get the sails at once."
"I don't know," said Peter, "whether would your da be pleased with me if I sent you out in the Tortoise. Sure you know——"
"Mr. Mannix and I," said Priscilla, "are going out for the day in the Tortoise."
Peter Walsh took a long look at Frank. He was apparently far from satisfied with the result of his inspection.
"Of course if the young gentleman in the perambulator is going with you, Miss—the Tortoise is a giddy kind of a boat, your honour, and without you'd be used to her or the like of her—but sure if you're satisfied—but what it is, the master gave orders that Miss Priscilla wasn't to go out in the Tortoise without either himself or me would be along with her."
Frank was painfully aware that he was not used to the Tortoise or to any boat the least like her. He had never in his life been to sea in a sailing boat for the management of which he was in any way responsible. He was, in fact, entirely ignorant of the art of boat sailing. But the men who sat on the window sills of Brannigan's shop, battered sea dogs every one of them, had their eyes fixed on him. It would be deeply humiliating to have to own up before them that he knew nothing about boats. Sir Lucius's order applied, very properly, to Priscilla who was a child. Peter Walsh looked as if he thought that Frank also ought to be treated as a child. This was intolerable. The day seemed very calm. It was difficult to think that there could be any real risk in going out in the Tortoise. Priscilla nudged him sharply with her elbow. Frank yielded to temptation.
"Miss Lentaigne," he said, "will be quite safe with me."
He spoke with lordly self-confidence, calculated, he thought, to impress the impudent loafers on the window sills and to reduce Peter Walsh to prompt submission. Having spoken he felt unreasonably angry with Priscilla who was grinning.
Peter Walsh ambled down to the quay. He climbed over the dredger, which was lying alongside, and dropped from her into a small water-logged punt. In this he ferried himself out to the Tortoise. Priscilla bounded into Brannigan's shop. The sea dogs on the window sills eyed Frank and shook their heads. It was painfully evident that his self-confident tone had not imposed on them.
"There's not much wind any way," said one of them, "and what there is will be dropping with the ebb."
"It'll work round to the west with the flood," said another. "With the weather we're having now it'll follow the sun."
Priscilla came out of the shop laden with parcels which she placed one by one on Frank's lap.
"Beer and lemonade," she said. "The beast was out of lemon flavoured soda, so I had to get lemonade instead, but your lager's all right. You don't mind drinking out of the bottle, do you, Cousin Frank? You can have the bailing tin of course, if you like, but it's rather salty. Macaroons and cocoanut creams. They turned out to be the same price, so I thought I might as well get a mixture. The cocoanut creams are lighter, so one gets more of them for the money. Tongue. I told him not to put paper on the tongue. I always think brown paper is rather a nuisance in a boat. It gets so soppy when it's the least wet. There's no use having more of it than we can help. Peaches. He hadn't any of the small one and sixpenny tins, so I had to spend your other shilling to make up the half-crown for the big one. I hope you don't mind. We shall be able to finish it all right I expect. Oh, bother! I forgot that the peaches require a tin-opener. Have you a knife? If you have we may be able to manage by hammering it along through the lid of the tin with a rowlock."
Frank had a knife, but he set some value on it He did not want to have it reduced to the condition of a coarse toothed saw by being hammered through a tin with a rowlock. He hesitated.
"All right," said Priscilla, "if you'd rather not have it used I'll go and try to stick Brannigan for the loan of a tin-opener. He may not care for lending it, because things like tin-openers generally drop overboard and then of course he wouldn't get it back. But he'll hardly be able to refuse it I offer to deposit the safety pin in my tie as a hostage. It looks exactly as if it is gold, and, if it was, would be worth far more than any tin-opener."
She went into the shop again. It was nearly ten minutes before she came out. Frank was seriously annoyed by a number of small children who crowded round the bath-chair and made remarks about his appearance. He tried to buy them off with macaroons, but the plan failed, as a similar one did in the case of the Anglo-Saxon king and the Danes. The children, like the Norse pirates, returned almost immediately in increased numbers. Then Priscilla appeared.
"I thought I should have had a frightful rag with Brannigan over the tin-opener," she said, "but he was quite nice about it. He said he'd lend it with pleasure and didn't care whether I left him the safety pin or not. The only trouble was that he couldn't find one. He said that he had a gross of them somewhere, but he didn't know where they'd been put. In the end it was Mrs. Brannigan who found them in an old biscuit tin under some oilskins. That's what delayed me."
Peter Walsh was hoisting a sail, a gunter lug, on the Tortoise. He paused in his work now and then to cast a glance ashore at Frank. Priscilla wheeled the bath-chair down to the slip and hailed Peter.
"Hurry up now," she said, "and get the foresail on her. Don't keep us here all day."
Peter pulled on the foresail halyards with some appearance of vigour. He slipped the mooring rope and ran the Tortoise alongside the slip, towing the water logged punt behind her.
"Joseph Antony Kinsella," said Peter, "was in this morning on the flood tide and he was telling me he came across that young fellow again near Illaunglos."
"Was he talking to him?" said Priscilla.
"He was not beyond passing the time of day or the like of that for Joseph Antony had a load of gravel and he couldn't be wasting his time. But the young fellow was in Flanagan's old boat and it was Joseph Antony's opinion that he was trying to learn himself how to row her."
"He'd need to. But if that's all that passed between them I don't see that we're much further on towards knowing what that man is doing here."
"Joseph Antony did say," said Peter, "that the young gentleman was as simple and innocent as a child and one that wouldn't be likely to be doing any harm."
"You can't be sure of that."
"You cannot, Miss. There's a terrible lot of fellows going round the country these times, sent out by the government that would be glad enough to be interfering with the people and maybe taking the land away from them. You'd never know who might be at such work and who mightn't, but Joseph Antony did say that the fellow in Flanagan's old boat hadn't the look of it. He's too innocent like."
"Hop you out now, Peter," said Priscilla, "and help Mr. Mannix down into the boat. He has a sprained ankle and can't walk by himself. Be careful of him!"
The task of getting Frank into the Tortoise was not an easy one for the slip was nearly as slimy as when Priscilla fell on it the day before. Peter, with his arm round Frank's waist, proceeded very cautiously.
"Settle him down on the starboard side of the centre-board case," said Priscilla. "We'll carry the boom to port on the run out."
"You will," said Peter, "for the wind's in the east, but you'll have to jibe her at the stone perch if you're going down the channel."
"I'm not going down the channel. I mean to stand across to Rossmore and then go into the bay beyond." Priscilla stepped into the boat and took the tiller.
"Did I hear you say, Miss, that you're thinking of going on to Inishbawn?"
"You did not hear me say anything about Inishbawn; but I may go there all the same if I've time. I want to see the Kinsellas' new baby."
"If you'll take my advice, Miss," said Peter, "you'll not go next nor nigh Inishbawn."
"And why not?"
"Joseph Antony Kinsella was telling me this morning that it's alive with rats, such rats nobody ever seen. They have the island pretty near eat away."
"Talk sense," said Priscilla.
"They came out on the tide swimming," said Peter, "like as it might be a shoal of mackerel, and you think there'd be no end to them climbing up over the stones and eating all before them."
"Shove her bow round, Peter; and keep that rat story of yours for the young man in Flanagan's boat. Hell believe it if he's as innocent as you say."
Peter shoved out the Tortoise. The wind caught the sail. Priscilla paid out the main sheet and let the boom swing forward. Peter shouted a last warning from the slip.
"Joseph Antony was telling me," he said, "that they're terrible fierce, worser than any rats ever he seen."
The Tortoise slipped along and was soon beyond the reach of his voice. She passed the heavy hookers at the quay side, left buoy after buoy behind her, bobbed cheerfully through a tide race at the stone perch, and stood out, the wind right behind her, for Rossmore Head.
Rosnacree Bay is a broad stretch of water, but those who go down to it in boats are singularly at the mercy of the tides. Save for certain channels the water everywhere is shallow. At some remote period, it seems, the ocean broke in and submerged a tract of low land between the mountains which bound the north and south shores of the bay. What once were round hillocks rising from boggy pasture land are now islands, sloping eastwards to the water as they once sloped eastwards to green fields, but torn and chafed into steep bluffs where the sea beats on their western sides.
But the ocean's conquest is incomplete. Its empire is disputed still. The very violence of the assault has checked its advance by piling up a mighty breakwater of boulders right across the mouth of the bay. Gathered upon sullenly firm based rocks these great round stones roll and roar and crash when the full force of the Atlantic billows comes foaming against them. They save the islands east of them. There are gaps in the breakwater, and the sea rushes through these, but it is tamed of its ferocity, humiliated from the grandeur of its strength so that it wanders, puzzled, bewildered, through the waterways among the islands. The land asserts itself. Things which belong to the land approach with contemptuous familiarity the very verges of their mighty foe. On the edges of the water the islanders build their hayricks, redolent of rural life, and set up their stacks of brown turf. Geese and ducks, whose natural play places are muddy pools and inland streams, swim through the salt water in the sheltered bays below the cottages. Pigs, driven down to the shore to root among the rotting seaweed, splash knee deep in the sea. At the time of high spring tides, in March and at the end of September, the water flows in oily curves or splashes muddily against the very thresholds of the cottages. It penetrates the brine-soaked soil and wells turn brackish. It wanders far inland through winding straits. The wayfarer, stepping across what seems to be a ditch at the end of a field far from the sea wonders to hear brown wrack crackle under his feet.
A few hours later the land asserts itself again. The sea draws back sullenly at first. Soon its retreat becomes a very flight. The narrow ways between the islands, calm an hour before, are like swift rivers. Through the cleft gaps in the breakwater of boulders the sea goes back from its adventurous wanderings to the ocean outside; but not as in other places, where a deep felt homing impulse draws tired water to the voluminous mother bosom of the Atlantic. Here, even on the calmest days, steep wavelets curl and break over each other, like fugitives driven to desperate flight by some maddening fear, prepared, so great is the terror behind them, to trample on their own comrades in the race for security. One after another all over the bay the wrack-clad backs of rocks appear. Long swathes of brown slimy weed, tugging at submerged roots, lie writhing on the surface of the ebbing streams. The islands grow larger. Confused heaps of round boulders appear under their western bluffs. Cormorants perch in flocks on shining stones, stretching out their narrow wings, peering through tiny black eyes at the withdrawal of the sea. On the eastern shores of every island, stretches of pebble-strewn mud widen rapidly. The boats below the cottages lie dejected, mutely re-reproachful of the anchors which have held them back from following the departed waters. Soft green banks appear here and there, broaden, join one another, until whole stretches of the bay, miles of it, show this pale sea grass instead of water. Only the few deep channels remain, with their foolish stranded buoys and their high useless perches, to witness to the fact that at evening time the sea will claim its own again.
Very wonderful are the changes of the bay. The southwest wind sweeps rain over it in slanting drifts. The islands show dimly grey amid a welter of grey water, breaking angrily in short, petulant seas, which buffet boats confusedly and put the helmsmen's skill to a high test. Or chilly, curling mists wrap islands and promontories from sight. Terns, circling somewhere up above, cry to each other shrilly. Gulls flit suddenly into sight and out of sight again, uttering sorrowful wails. Now and again cormorants, low flying with a rushing noise, break the oily surface of the water with every swift downward flapping of their wings. Then the boatman needs something more than skill, must rely upon an inborn instinct for locality if he is not to find himself embayed and aground in some strange land-locked corner far from his home. Or, in the splendid summer days the islands seem poised a foot or two above the glistening water. The white terns hover and plunge, re-emerge amid the joyful callings of their fellows, each with some tiny silver fish to feed to the yellow chicks which gape to them from the short, coarse grass among the rocks. Curlews call to each other from island to island, and high answering calls come from the sea-saturated fields of the mainland. Small broad billed guillemots and puffins float at ease upon the water, swelling with obvious pride as they display the flocks of little ones which swim with infantile solemnity around them. Gulls cluster and splash noisily over shoals of fry. Then boats drift lazily along; piled high perhaps with brown turf, store of winter fuel for some home; or bearing stolid cattle from the cropped pasturage of one island to the untouched grass of another; or, paddled, noisily, carry a crowd of boys and girls home from school, mightily enriched no doubt with knowledge only to be obtained when the water is calm enough for children's sea-going in the summer days.
On such days all the drama of the flowing and ebbing tides may be watched with ever increasing wonder and delight The sea is caught by the islands and goes whirling down the channels. It is turned backwards by some stray spit of land and set beating against some other current of the same tide which has taken a different way and reached the same point in strong opposite flow. The little glistening wavelets leap to meet each other, like lovers reunited whose mouths are hungry for the pressure of glad greetings. There are places where the water eddies round and round, where smooth eager lips, rising from the whirlpools, seem as if they reached up for something to kiss, and are sucked down again into the depths with voiceless passion. Foot by foot the water gains on the rocks beside the channels, on the fringes of the boulders, on the stony shores, and covers the stretches of mud:
The moving waters at their priestlike task Of pale ablution round earth's human shore. But they do not escape without defilement On the surface of the tide, when it ebbs from the mudbanks, there gathers an iridescent slime. Tiny particles of floating sand catch and reflect the light Fragments of dead weed, black or brown, are borne along. The tide has stolen across the beaches below the cottages and carried away the garbage cast there. It has passed where a little while before the cattle strayed, and passing has been stained. Here is no breaking of clear green waves against black defiant rocks, no tumultuous pitched battle between the ocean, inspired by the supreme passion of the tide, and the sullen resistance of unyielding cliffs. Instead a dubious sea wanders in and out amid scenes which the experience of many centuries has not made familiar to it.
It was into this shining bay that the Tortoise sped, her white sails bellied with the pleasant wind. Priscilla exulted, with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes.
Frank, yielding a little to the fascination of the sailing, was yet ill at ease. His conscience troubled him, the acutely sensitive conscience of a prefect who had been responsible for the tone of Edmondstone House. He feared that he had done wrong in going with Priscilla in the Tortoise, wrong of a particularly flagrant kind. He thought of himself as a man of responsibility placed in the position of trust. Had he been guilty of a breach of trust? It seemed remotely unlikely, so cheerful and sparkling was the sea, that any accident could possibly occur. But with what feelings could he face a broken and reproachful father should anything happen and Priscilla be drowned? The blame would justly rest on him. The fault would be entirely his.