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innocence or despair at the failure of did n't know? Presumably, religion experience to reach the consciousness was that which taught you more. of youth.
"There is the breakfast-bell," said "I wonder if you would like to be Mrs. Featherstone. “Shut the looseconfirmed this year," she suggested, box door carefully, and wash your giving up the problems of this world to hands.
hands. You can certainly be contouch upon the lighter ones of the firmed at the next confirmation if you next. “You may wait until you are like." This was all the advice that fifteen if you prefer to wait. You' Mrs. Featherstone gave her daughter know what confirmation means, don't to fortify her to meet the problems of you?”
this life and the next. “Oh, yes,” said Joy, lightly—“going to the other service and being able to
III be a godmother. I should like to be They were all assembled about the nearly everybody's godmother in Lyn- door to see Joy mount Fidget. Nicoton. I don't think I need wait till las, with Ajax crammed in a bag under I'm fifteen, do you?"
one arm, had ridden Moonlighter over “I don't know,” said Mrs. Feather with some difficulty, and deposited stone, thoughtfully. “Confirmation Ajax, who was half suffocated with means strengthening. I suppose you what he had succeeded in biting out of are ready to be confirmed when you the bag, at her feet. wish very heartily to have your relig- “O Nicolas!" she gasped, “how ion strengthened and are prepared to angelic of you! I must n't kiss you, do your best to strengthen it. You do because I 'm fourteen, but I can kiss wish that, don't you?"
Ajax. Is n't he too heavenly?" Joy stopped twirling, and opened "Oh, I see," said Nicolas, drawing Fidget's loose-box. She had found a back against Moonlighter and turning carrot on the harness-board and gave rather red and stiff. it to Fidget.
Joy knew by his voice that he had n't Fidget tossed her head as if alarmed, liked it. She had guessed he would pretending that she had never seen a not, and hiding Ajax in a cloud of her carrot before and believed it to be long hair, she kept her face away from poisonous; but at last she took it with Nicolas so that she should n't see extreme caution and munched it with how much he minded.
how much he minded. Nicolas never delicate precision; then she rested her liked any one's seeing that he minded; wet mouth affectionately on Joy's and then she heard Maude say; shoulder.
"But you can still kiss me, Nicolas." Joy had a curious feeling rather like A moment's comfort seized Joy's Fidget's about the carrot. Did she heart. Would n't this friendly subreally want religion? Might n't it be stitution do? She looked up quickly, embarking on something which would and saw that it had n't. prevent the taste of something else? Nicolas bent his head politely, and But, like Fidget, in the end she took went through the form of kissing the the carrot. After all, she had always cheek forced upon his reluctant notice; liked what she knew of God, and why but his gray eyes looked very cold, and should n't she like even more what she his whole expression resembled Jacob's
when, "Lo! in the morning he found as well. Her paces were easy and it was Leah."
intelligent, her response like lightning. “Come here, and I 'll put you up,” She recognized immediately that the he said shortly to Joy.
light figure on her back had the hands She pressed Ajax into Archie's will- and seat of a born rider, and would ing arms, embraced her mother, and give her the sympathy she needed.
, met her father's eyes, which appeared She danced about a little in the as usual to have seen something wrong drive, hunched her back, and sidled and to be reserving it for future cen- like a crab, and then, tossing her head, sure. He never had things out with set out down the dangerous path as them at the time, as their mother did. carefully as if she were walking on a Then she slipped her slim foot into tight rope. Nicolas's hand and sprang up to Mrs. Featherstone looked on with Fidget's back.
assured and confident eyes. Then It was a perilous and delicious height. she moved quickly to Moonlighter's Riding Fidget was utterly unlike rid- side and said in an undertone, "Take ing the children's two ponies, Catch- care of her, Nicolas." Aloud she Me and Merryweather; they were said, “You 'll be back to tea at five quick goers, with the perverse and o'clock sharp. ” mischievous pony hearts, hard mouths Nicolas touched his hat and nodded. and unresponsive intelligence.
He knew what she meant, and he forFidget was like having all your own gave her what he had to forgive her for nerves under you, and somebody else's the sake of her trust in him.
“Really, my dear,” said Mr. Feather- Lynmouth, and across the foaming stone, coldly, “I should have thought torrent which rages through the main that even you would have noticed street of the village, and then they that young Pennant is no longer a climbed up out of it, on to the top of child. I very much dislike to see a the world. big girl like Joy riding about the coun- As far as the eye could see the moor try alone with him. It looks bad, very stretched before them, broad and rimbad indeed, and is enough to start a less, into the high clear sky. The scandal. Besides, I 'm not sure that gorse-bushes ran here and there like it's even safe."
spilt gold. “Oh, Fidget's perfectly safe,” said Moonlighter was a powerful black Mrs. Featherstone; “Joy knows how to horse; he suited his paces to Fidget's ride.”
with gentlemanly consideration. He “I was n't referring to the horse,' knew better than to disobey the will said Mr. Featherstone, “but to the that was on his back. young man. You might at least have Neither Nicolas nor Joy talked very sent a groom with them."
much at first. Nicolas was thinking "She 's all right with Nicolas," hard of what he meant to say to Joy said Mrs. Featherstone, thoughtfully. and of what he intended not to say to "But I'm not at all sure that Nicolas her; and Joy was alive in a world of is all right with her. However, poor her own.
her own. She felt very grown up boy, a groom could hardly remedy that because she was on Fidget's back, and state of things.”
yet she did not want to be any more Mr. Featherstone's eyebrows shot grown up than that. She wanted not up into his hair with annoyance. to give up her earlier consciousness.
"What an extraordinary assertion It was joy enough to share the life to make, Angelica!" he said coldly. of the climbing hedges, to pick out the “But if you have brought Joy up to giant foxgloves in lonely corners, to be forward, I cannot say that I feel watch for the honeysuckle, flung like at all surprised. One thing I must in- a network of embroidery over the tops sist upon, however. These unchape of the low walls, or to surprise a flock roned rides must not continue." of pink ragged-robins in a ditch, side
“They won't,” replied Mrs. Feather- by side with low forget-me-nots. She stone; “Nicolas goes back to Win- feared that something would interrupt chester to-morrow."
her dreaming, because Nicolas was Mr. Featherstone frowned heavily so very silent and sat so stern and still and backed into the house. He could on his big horse, as if there was a storm find no fault with his wife's acquies- in his mind. Nicolas was always cence in his orders, and yet as usual very still in a storm; you hardly knew she had evaded the spirit of them. It that he was fighting until he had was as if her submission was acciden- finished fighting. tal, and might at any time spring away She glanced at him from time to from him like the rebellious branches time, and thought how old and handof a tree.
some he was. His well-knit, erect It was a wonderful ride. They went figure was so like what Nicolas was down and down into the depths of inside, as straight as a die and as hard and unbreakable as a sycamore. His When they got on to the moors, gray eyes, under thick, fair brows, had Fidget and Moonlighter sniffed the the sparkling fighter's spirit in them; keen and eager air, and thrilled to his mouth, well shaped and a little too meet it. It became difficult, and then thin, was the mouth of a boy who had impossible, to hold them in, they let learned very early how to control themselves out on the grass, galloping himself and others.
with stretched necks and flying hoofs. He could be very gentle when he The sharp air ran through them and felt deeply and very implacable when over them, till their riders felt like he did not feel. Few people touched runaway giants. The horses raced his heart, and nobody but Joy had side by side with the wind, the soft ever touched his imagination.
turf vanishing under them, and the Nicolas would have been a roman
open moor before them. tic figure to Joy if she had not known It was a swift, enchanting hour. him so well. She thought of this as Nicolas never forgot it; it was his she glanced at him, and knew that most perfect moment of human happiafter all, he was only Nicolas.
ness. Everything he wanted was He was the sharer of a hundred near him and still attainable, with his childish adventures; she had seen him own will and hand to guide it. naughty and punished, dirty and red Joy did n't think about happiness. with temper, and the picture of dejec- She let her spirit out on the back of tion and cleanliness in church on speed. No emotion shadowed her Sundays. He was just the same as free, untroubled consciousness. She when they had been cut off by the thought of nothing but the air and tide, when she was eight and he was their passage through it. Now at twelve, and he had not told her about last she knew what it felt like to be it; but made her race with him across a bird. Fidget moved under her as the dwindling sands, and she had easy and swift as wings. The air sang thought he was so unkind to make her in her ears and whipped against her run when she was tired. He had forced cheeks. She wanted to go on forever her on against her will, but without and to forget that she was ever human panic, until they reached the danger- and a girl; and Nicolas stopped her. ous corner, when she saw the waves "It's time we pulled up,” he running closer and closer to the cliff's- shouted; "there are rabbit-holes.” edge; and then he had lifted her in his She looked at him reproachfully. arms and staggered through them into Of course it was perfectly true that safety, and only for that minute, when there were rabbit-holes, and they the cold water struck and dragged at pulled up. them, had he let her know, because “Jolly, was n't it?” said Nicolas. he could n't help it, that there was He was smiling now. The gallop had any danger.
disposed of his temper; at least Joy He had got much older suddenly thought it was the gallop. She did while he was away at school, and his not know it was her face. Nicolas voice had changed; but Nicolas let his eyes rest on her with brotherly had n't changed. He had n't, per approval. haps, changed enough.
"You ride Fidget well," he said. Behind his brotherly approval and valley," he said rather drily, turning scant praise his heart was at her feet. Moonlighter's head toward a rough
It amazed and delighted him to grass path. "We'd better leave the watch her untroubled beauty. The horses here and lunch. It's too rough hair that hung below her waist was the a road to take them down the valley." color of ripe corn, her eyes, beautifully The Doone Inn was a low, gray set with chiseled lids, were of the deep, house set four square on the moor, unshadowed blue of a gentian; her close to a water-course. A fringe of lashes were long and very dark, and thin trees did very little to shelter it her level, thin, black eyebrows made in the winter from the roaring moor her skin look as white and soft as a winds, and the hills above it shut out cloud. Her features were small and the light of the sun. delicately finished; a dimple came and But in summer it was a green and went at the corner of her red, tip-tilted fragrant spot, moss-covered and shady, lips; her chin was a little pointed and with the tinkling of water always in had an eager air. But behind her the air, and above it the shadows racbeauty, giving it a life that no mere ing over the purple hills. loveliness of line and color could give, Nicolas lifted Joy off Fidget and was the gentleness of her heart. took both horses away to look after
There was neither pride nor tyranny them himself, while Joy made friends in those soft eyes and curving lips; with the landlady over a string of only a deep sincerity and an immense yellow ducklings. well of eagerness to love and to be Featherstone and Pennant were loved.
familiar names to Mrs. Palmer. She Nicolas was not a poetic person, but gave them the best she had and spoke as he looked at her he remembered a to them in the high, soft Devon drawl, line of a poem which seemed descrip- affectionately and at length. tive of Joy,
zled Joy a little because she spoke as if
they were older and belonged to each A heart at leisure from itself, to soothe other; but fortunately Nicolas, though and sympathise.
he got very red, did n't seem to mind.
When Mrs. Palmer had left them to Joy had that leisure.
themselves, they had bacon and eggs, Nicolas knew that it was the rarest fruit and clotted cream, saffron cakes, thing in the world to find beauty and home-made cider, and survived it. without vanity, charm without selfish- Nicolas told her all sorts of interestness, a being so lovable and yet so ing things he must have found out on humble in its loving, and he longed purpose-real historic stories of the passionately for Joy to remain what Doones and their dark doings. she was, not to be spoilt by undiscrimi- “I wish there were some of them nating praise or blunted by adoration, left," Joy said with a little sigh when even his own adoration; and above all he had finished. he did not mean to take advantage “Why do you?” asked Nicolas.
” of the fact that whatever you asked “They had bad blood and were the of Joy she gave.
terror of the country-side. Men like “This is the Doone Inn above the that should be stamped out. That 's