Puslapio vaizdai

innocence or despair at the failure of experience to reach the consciousness of youth.

"I wonder if you would like to be confirmed this year," she suggested, giving up the problems of this world to touch upon the lighter ones of the next. "You may wait until you are fifteen if you prefer to wait. You know what confirmation means, don't you?"

"Oh, yes," said Joy, lightly—"going to the other service and being able to be a godmother. I should like to be nearly everybody's godmother in Lynton. I don't think I need wait till I'm fifteen, do you?"

"I don't know," said Mrs. Featherstone, thoughtfully. "Confirmation means strengthening. I suppose you are ready to be confirmed when you wish very heartily to have your religion strengthened and are prepared to do your best to strengthen it. You do wish that, don't you?"

Joy stopped twirling, and opened Fidget's loose-box. She had found a carrot on the harness-board and gave it to Fidget.

Fidget tossed her head as if alarmed, pretending that she had never seen a carrot before and believed it to be poisonous; but at last she took it with extreme caution and munched it with delicate precision; then she rested her wet mouth affectionately on Joy's shoulder.

Joy had a curious feeling rather like Fidget's about the carrot. Did she really want religion? Might n't it be embarking on something which would prevent the taste of something else? But, like Fidget, in the end she took the carrot. After all, she had always liked what she knew of God, and why should n't she like even more what she

did n't know? Presumably, religion was that which taught you more.

"There is the breakfast-bell," said Mrs. Featherstone. "Shut the loosebox door carefully, and wash your hands. You can certainly be confirmed at the next confirmation if you like." This was all the advice that Mrs. Featherstone gave her daughter to fortify her to meet the problems of this life and the next.


They were all assembled about the door to see Joy mount Fidget. Nicolas, with Ajax crammed in a bag under one arm, had ridden Moonlighter over with some difficulty, and deposited Ajax, who was half suffocated with what he had succeeded in biting out of the bag, at her feet.

"O Nicolas!" she gasped, "how angelic of you! I must n't kiss you, because I 'm fourteen, but I can kiss Ajax. Isn't he too heavenly?"

"Oh, I see," said Nicolas, drawing back against Moonlighter and turning rather red and stiff.

Joy knew by his voice that he hadn't liked it. She had guessed he would not, and hiding Ajax in a cloud of her long hair, she kept her face away from Nicolas so that she should n't see how much he minded. Nicolas never liked any one's seeing that he minded; and then she heard Maude say;

"But you can still kiss me, Nicolas." A moment's comfort seized Joy's heart. Would n't this friendly substitution do? She looked up quickly, and saw that it had n't.

Nicolas bent his head politely, and went through the form of kissing the cheek forced upon his reluctant notice; but his gray eyes looked very cold, and his whole expression resembled Jacob's


"Joy did n't think about happiness. She let her spirit out on the back of speed"

when, "Lo! in the morning he found it was Leah."

as well. Her paces were easy and intelligent, her response like lightning.

"Come here, and I'll put you up," She recognized immediately that the he said shortly to Joy.

She pressed Ajax into Archie's willing arms, embraced her mother, and met her father's eyes, which appeared as usual to have seen something wrong and to be reserving it for future censure. He never had things out with them at the time, as their mother did. Then she slipped her slim foot into Nicolas's hand and sprang up to Fidget's back.

It was a perilous and delicious height. Riding Fidget was utterly unlike riding the children's two ponies, CatchMe and Merryweather; they were quick goers, with the perverse and mischievous pony hearts, hard mouths and unresponsive intelligence.

Fidget was like having all your own nerves under you, and somebody else's

light figure on her back had the hands and seat of a born rider, and would give her the sympathy she needed.

She danced about a little in the drive, hunched her back, and sidled like a crab, and then, tossing her head, set out down the dangerous path as carefully as if she were walking on a tight rope.

Mrs. Featherstone looked on with assured and confident eyes. Then she moved quickly to Moonlighter's side and said in an undertone, "Take care of her, Nicolas." Aloud she said, "You'll be back to tea at five o'clock sharp."

Nicolas touched his hat and nodded. He knew what she meant, and he forgave her what he had to forgive her for the sake of her trust in him.

"Really, my dear," said Mr. Featherstone, coldly, "I should have thought that even you would have noticed that young Pennant is no longer a child. I very much dislike to see a big girl like Joy riding about the country alone with him. It looks bad, very bad indeed, and is enough to start a scandal. Besides, I 'm not sure that it's even safe."

"Oh, Fidget's perfectly safe," said Mrs. Featherstone; "Joy knows how to ride."

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"I was n't referring to the horse,' said Mr. Featherstone, "but to the young man. You might at least have sent a groom with them."

"She's all right with Nicolas," said Mrs. Featherstone, thoughtfully. "But I'm not at all sure that Nicolas is all right with her. However, poor boy, a groom could hardly remedy that state of things."

Mr. Featherstone's eyebrows shot up into his hair with annoyance.

"What an extraordinary assertion to make, Angelica!" he said coldly. "But if you have brought Joy up to be forward, I cannot say that I feel at all surprised. One thing I must insist upon, however. These unchape roned rides must not continue."

"They won't," replied Mrs. Featherstone; "Nicolas goes back to Winchester to-morrow."

Mr. Featherstone frowned heavily and backed into the house. He could find no fault with his wife's acquiescence in his orders, and yet as usual she had evaded the spirit of them. It was as if her submission was accidental, and might at any time spring away from him like the rebellious branches of a tree.

It was a wonderful ride. They went down and down into the depths of

Lynmouth, and across the foaming torrent which rages through the main street of the village, and then they climbed up out of it, on to the top of the world.

As far as the eye could see the moor stretched before them, broad and rimless, into the high clear sky. The gorse-bushes ran here and there like spilt gold.

Moonlighter was a powerful black horse; he suited his paces to Fidget's with gentlemanly consideration. He knew better than to disobey the will that was on his back.

Neither Nicolas nor Joy talked very much at first. Nicolas was thinking hard of what he meant to say to Joy and of what he intended not to say to her; and Joy was alive in a world of her own. She felt very grown up because she was on Fidget's back, and yet she did not want to be any more grown up than that. She wanted not to give up her earlier consciousness.

It was joy enough to share the life of the climbing hedges, to pick out the giant foxgloves in lonely corners, to watch for the honeysuckle, flung like a network of embroidery over the tops of the low walls, or to surprise a flock of pink ragged-robins in a ditch, side by side with low forget-me-nots. She feared that something would interrupt her dreaming, because Nicolas was so very silent and sat so stern and still on his big horse, as if there was a storm in his mind. Nicolas was always very still in a storm; you hardly knew that he was fighting until he had finished fighting.

She glanced at him from time to time, and thought how old and handsome he was. His well-knit, erect figure was so like what Nicolas was inside, as straight as a die and as hard

and unbreakable as a sycamore. His gray eyes, under thick, fair brows, had the sparkling fighter's spirit in them; his mouth, well shaped and a little too thin, was the mouth of a boy who had learned very early how to control himself and others.

He could be very gentle when he felt deeply and very implacable when he did not feel. Few people touched his heart, and nobody but Joy had ever touched his imagination.

Nicolas would have been a romantic figure to Joy if she had not known him so well. She thought of this as she glanced at him, and knew that, after all, he was only Nicolas.

He was the sharer of a hundred childish adventures; she had seen him naughty and punished, dirty and red with temper, and the picture of dejection and cleanliness in church on Sundays. He was just the same as when they had been cut off by the tide, when she was eight and he was twelve, and he had not told her about it; but made her race with him across the dwindling sands, and she had thought he was so unkind to make her run when she was tired. He had forced her on against her will, but without panic, until they reached the dangerous corner, when she saw the waves running closer and closer to the cliff'sedge; and then he had lifted her in his arms and staggered through them into safety, and only for that minute, when the cold water struck and dragged at them, had he let her know, because he could n't help it, that there was any danger.

He had got much older suddenly while he was away at school, and his voice had changed; but Nicolas had n't changed. He had n't, perhaps, changed enough.

When they got on to the moors, Fidget and Moonlighter sniffed the keen and eager air, and thrilled to meet it. It became difficult, and then impossible, to hold them in, they let themselves out on the grass, galloping with stretched necks and flying hoofs. The sharp air ran through them and over them, till their riders felt like runaway giants. The horses raced side by side with the wind, the soft turf vanishing under them, and the open moor before them.

It was a swift, enchanting hour. Nicolas never forgot it; it was his most perfect moment of human happiness. Everything he wanted was near him and still attainable, with his own will and hand to guide it.

Joy did n't think about happiness. She let her spirit out on the back of speed. No speed. No emotion shadowed her free, untroubled consciousness. She thought of nothing but the air and their passage through it. Now at last she knew what it felt like to be a bird. Fidget moved under her as easy and swift as wings. The air sang in her ears and whipped against her cheeks. She wanted to go on forever and to forget that she was ever human and a girl; and Nicolas stopped her.

"It 's time we pulled up," he shouted; "there are rabbit-holes."

She looked at him reproachfully. Of course it was perfectly true that there there were rabbit-holes, and they pulled up.

"Jolly, was n't it?" said Nicolas. He was smiling now. The gallop had disposed of his temper; at least Joy thought it was the gallop. She did not know it was her face. Nicolas let his eyes rest on her with brotherly approval.

"You ride Fidget well," he said.

Behind his brotherly approval and scant praise his heart was at her feet.

It amazed and delighted him to watch her untroubled beauty. The hair that hung below her waist was the color of ripe corn, her eyes, beautifully set with chiseled lids, were of the deep, unshadowed blue of a gentian; her lashes were long and very dark, and her level, thin, black eyebrows made her skin look as white and soft as a cloud. Her features were small and delicately finished; a dimple came and went at the corner of her red, tip-tilted lips; her chin was a little pointed and had an eager air. But behind her beauty, giving it a life that no mere loveliness of line and color could give, was the gentleness of her heart.

There was neither pride nor tyranny in those soft eyes and curving lips; only a deep sincerity and an immense well of eagerness to love and to be loved.

Nicolas was not a poetic person, but as he looked at her he remembered a line of a poem which seemed descriptive of Joy,

A heart at leisure from itself, to soothe and sympathise.

Joy had that leisure.

Nicolas knew that it was the rarest thing in the world to find beauty without vanity, charm without selfishness, a being so lovable and yet so humble in its loving, and he longed passionately for Joy to remain what she was, not to be spoilt by undiscriminating praise or blunted by adoration, even his own adoration; and above all he did not mean to take advantage of the fact that whatever you asked of Joy she gave.

valley," he said rather drily, turning Moonlighter's head toward a rough grass path. "We 'd better leave the horses here and lunch. It's too rough a road to take them down the valley."

The Doone Inn was a low, gray house set four square on the moor, close to a water-course. A fringe of thin trees did very little to shelter it in the winter from the roaring moor winds, and the hills above it shut out the light of the sun.

But in summer it was a green and fragrant spot, moss-covered and shady, with the tinkling of water always in the air, and above it the shadows racing over the purple hills.

Nicolas lifted Joy off Fidget and took both horses away to look after them himself, while Joy made friends with the landlady over a string of yellow ducklings.

Featherstone and Pennant were familiar names to Mrs. Palmer. She gave them the best she had and spoke to them in the high, soft Devon drawl, affectionately and at length. It puzzled Joy a little because she spoke as if they were older and belonged to each other; but fortunately Nicolas, though he got very red, did n't seem to mind.

When Mrs. Palmer had left them to themselves, they had bacon and eggs, fruit and clotted cream, saffron cakes, and home-made cider, and survived it. Nicolas told her all sorts of interesting things he must have found out on purpose-real historic stories of the Doones and their dark doings.

"I wish there were some of them left," Joy said with a little sigh when he had finished.

"Why do you?" asked Nicolas. "They had bad blood and were the terror of the country-side. Men like "This is the Doone Inn above the that should be stamped out. That's

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