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“'But, Nick, you know I like you, awfully, even though you are good,' she whispered,
her eyes filling with tears"
why I want to be a soldier, because "I don't think I like them because you know how to stamp out a pest they 're bad,” she explained; “only, if then. Do you know, Joy, I believe they ’re bad, you see, it 's very dreadyou like people better when they 'reful for them-is n't it?-and cuts them wicked. Do you? It 's most unfair off everything that 's nice. They 're if you do.”
outlaws and have n't any real homes, Joy paused reflectively over her and people don't love them; so you 're dancing yellow cider. Nicolas was sorry for them, are n't you? Sorrier good. He would never be anything than if they 'd just been happy and else but good. Conscientious, honest good; and I suppose being sorry, as daylight, and self-controlled, he Nicolas, makes you fonder of them could n't have broken any law that he somehow, does n't it?" did n't think worth breaking for a "It does n't seem quite fair to me, higher one, and he had no pity on said Nicolas, flushing a little, "to care sinners or on weaklings. He had more for people who have made a never in his life said that he did n't hideous mess of things than for those mean to do what he had done.
who have n't." That was it, perhaps: he had no Joy sighed a little. She could n't pity. Joy could n't help liking the explain exactly what she meant. The sinners for whom Nicolas had no pity. father of the prodigal son must have
experienced the same difficulty when cut off short as he shut the garden-gate the righteous home-staying son ob- to go to the station, and only resumed jected to the fatted calf.
when he opened it on his return for the “If you 're noble,” she said consid- holidays. It was very interesting, of eringly, “you 've got everything; and course, but it was n't exactly what if you are n't noble, you 're ashamed Joy wanted. She would have liked and have n't got anything, either. It best to go back into the child world must be so awful to be ashamed." and talk about romance and Doones
“Knowing you 're straight is n't and things that never happened. everything,” said Nicolas, stubbornly; Nicolas was making her feel grown a "a man wants more than that." He up again, and as if she were riding sounded somehow as if he had been Fidget high up over every one's heads. very much hurt. Joy stretched her She wanted to be a child with a hand out to him and laid it close to his free consciousness, but Nicolas would arm, on the table.
not let her be a child. He dragged her “But, Nick, you know I like you, into his responsible world, where awfully, even though you are good," she found herself forced to be his she whispered, her eyes filling with equal, and share his difficulties and tears. It was dreadful, suddenly in discoveries. the midst of cider and Devonshire He was the head of his house. cream, on her birthday, to discover Prime ministers may sometimes feel that Nicolas was unhappy and that important, but never as important she had made him unhappy, though as Nicolas. They cannot believe she did n't know why.
their mistakes to be so irretrievable, Nicolas did not touch her hand; or their efforts so instinct with the very he took his arm off the table resolutely, wind of fate. They are not young and stuck his hands into his pockets, enough to be sure they are indispenbut not as if he wanted to quarrel. sable.
“Oh, I know,” he said quickly—“I Nicolas described his house master know it 's quite all right, old girl. I to Joy. He was anxious that she think we'd better be moving." Only should make no mistake about his it took almost five minutes before it house master, and not think he was was all right, and even then it was silly about him or thought him a hero. different.
Still, that was what he did think him. They went to see if the horses were They both wanted the same things. getting on well with their food, and They wanted a house they could be crossed the stream by stepping-stones. proud of, not particularly a “swotter's Nicolas took her hand now, of his own house” (“swotting" was working hard accord, to help her over the stream, at books, Nicolas explained), nor even but dropped it quickly on the other a house that carried off all the school side.
honors at games, although games were He began to tell her all about his tremendously important; but a decent school. It was a great compliment to house, a house they could depend on, Joy, for Nicolas never breathed a without a rotten spot. word of his school-life at home or to Nicolas spoke mysteriously to Joy any one else. His life might have been about a thing called “tone." Tone
was what they wanted most; Nicolas think if he were expelled, how awful had fought for that thing called “tone,” it would be for him!” fought hard, and for years against “It would n't matter a curse about great obstacles, and then they'd got him," said Nicolas, grimly. "Rotters it. They really had got it. "It was don't count. It would be a jolly a decent house,” Nicolas explained. good thing all round. You don't “I'd have liked you to know any of understand.” our chaps," and
“I could, if you then suddenly
explained,” cried they lost it.
Joy. But NicoA fellow with
las shook his a great deal of
head; he either influence and
could n't or popularity, aw
would n't exfully good at
plain. He only games, did n't
said darkly: care a hang
“Well, I 'll find about “tone"; he
him out one of was no end of a
these days, and slacker and so
then we'll see. clever they could
I'm not going to n't get hold of
have my house anything against
mucked up behim. Yet they
cause of him." knew. They
Joy tried to reknew he was go
sign herself to ing through the
Nicolas's righthouse like poison,
eousness, backed like rat poison,
by that of his undermining its
house master; "tone," and if
but her mind they could only
clung obstinately spot him break
to the lost sheep, ing any twopen
and left the nineny-ha'penny "Its precipitous sides leaned over them dark
ty and nine just rule, the house
persons to shift master could
for themselves. sack him on the spot, and then "What 's his name, Nicolas?" she they 'd be safe again, and Nicolas asked aloud. She remembered that could go off to Sandhurst with a Lord Tennyson had remarked “More quiet mind.
things are wrought by prayer than “But he would n't be safe,” said this world dreams of,” and it occurred Joy, stopping short in the precipitous to her that the salvation of this undownward path that looked over the fortunately black sheep might be one Doone Valley, purple and dark and of them. deep beneath them, "O Nicolas,
Nicolas would not like her to pray
for him, but if she knew his name, she could possibly be. "I don't think you could pray for him without Nicolas would ask me what I 'd mind, Nick.” being put to the trouble of knowing He drew a quick breath before he anything about it.
spoke, as if what she said had either But Nicolas said abruptly;
pleased him very much or hurt him “Oh, I could n't tell you his name, , very much, she was n't quite sure of course; that would be giving him which. away."
"Then,” he said, flushing deeply, "But I shall never meet him," Joy and keeping his eyes still carefully explained.
turned away from her face, "if I 'm “You might,” replied Nicolas, and not to kiss you again,
not to kiss you again, will you promise he added under his breath, "but I me that you won't let any one else hope to God you never will!"
kiss you?” They stood now in the wildest part It was such a curious question that of the Doone Valley; its precipitous Joy kept quite still for a moment,
a sides leaned over them dark and for thinking it over.
thinking it over. It was very odd midable even on a summer's day. that on her fourteenth birthday kisses
Joy pictured to herself the frozen should assume so tremendous an winter and John Ridd flying over the importance. mountains on his skees to rescue Lorna, “Do you mean never in the world?” starved and freezing in the valley. she asked anxiously. John Ridd was enormously big and Nicolas smiled a little, a very strong and very kind except, of course, tender smile that made him look to Doones. It seemed as if very gentler than she had ever seen him strong men had to be unkind to some look, except when he was playing body. Joy sank down upon a patch with Rosemary.
. of heather and did not want to talk "I should like that, I'm afraid," he or think of any one but Doones.
said; "but I 'm not going to ask it. Nicolas lay at her feet, turning a What I want to ask is, that you won't little swath of grass into a ring. He let any one else till I get back from had very neat, quick fingers.
India. If I have any luck, I 'll pass “Look here,” he said after a long for Sandhurst this summer, spend a pause, “will you promise me some- year there, and three in India. That thing, Joy?”
will be four years, Joy. Could you, do “Anything?" asked Joy.
you think, promise for four years?" "Well, I could hardly ask you that, "You don't mean uncles or the boys, said Nicolas in a low voice, his eyes do you?" Joy asked conscientiously. bent on the ring. "That would n't Mother had said she was to kiss the
“ be fair, would it, to make you promise boys; but Nicolas might be more in the dark? I 'll tell you what it is particular even than mother. first. You won't mind my asking you, “No, I don't mind relations," said will you?"
Nicolas, with the little smile again, He spoke with unaccustomed diffi- "only no one else. Promise?" dence, which made Joy feel as if she "I promise,” said Joy, quietly. were nearly a hundred years old.
Then Nicolas looked at her. It "No," she said, wondering what it was a long, tender, searching look, scrupulously unpassionate, as if he with Julia, whom Joy adored. Julia were taking her face into his heart and was seventeen and really grown up, keeping it there forever.
but she could run like a hare and had The curious part of it was that no nonsense about her, though she was though he looked away and began talk- said to be the prettiest girl in Devon. ing of nothing in particular directly Ajax had behaved extremely well, afterward, it seemed to Joy that no
and knew her again, or appeared to, matter how hard she tried after that, when Joy knelt before him on the she could n't feel quite like a little girl floor. again.
Rosemary flung her arms round Nicolas had dropped the grass ring Joy's neck and half strangled her he was making, near her on the ground, with welcome. and though Joy looked at it and saw There was a huge birthday cake, that it was finished, she did not pick with fourteen ridiculous pink candles it up; and as for Nicolas, although on it, and Nicolas put one in his he had taken such pains with it, he pocket, because he said you never seemed to have forgotten all about it. knew when a candle would n't come
They went all over the valley, and in handy. found traces of old and crumbled It was a most successful tea party, houses. Nicolas remembered fresh and and even after the Pennants had gone awful tales of robbers and revenges home the birthday was n't over. till it was time to go home. They Joy was to go down to dinner for talked a great deal about Lorna Doone, the first time.
the first time. It was ten o'clock but Nicolas said that he preferred fair before she went to bed. Maude was heroines himself, and that in general already asleep. he thought all the girls in books were Joy had asked if Maude might n't beasts.
come down to dinner, too, and when They found the horses fresh and mother had said “Yes," and even ready for a start, and Mrs. Palmer father had agreed that she might if it gave them the heartiest farewell, was understood that it was n't to and wished them unitedly a long life start a precedent, Maude said she and a future like a summer's day, and would n't come down, after all. HowNicolas shook hands with her and ever, she agreed to eat Joy's dessert thanked her.
if it was brought up to her afterward; Then they rode off till they came and she had eaten it. to the turf, and galloped a splendid, Mrs. Featherstone came in when breathless gallop again. Only Joy Joy was in bed, and the candle out. A did n't like it so much as she had in big full moon like a silver lamp was the morning; it seemed somehow less climbing above the Rock and pouring visionary and more as if they belonged light over the little bare room. to the earth.
"You're a happy girl?” Mrs. They arrived home exactly at five Featherstone asked as she bent over o'clock. Joy had never had to think Joy. She did not usually ask such of the time at all; she knew Nicolas intimate personal questions. would remember.
“Yes,” said Joy; "only, Mummy, I All the other Pennants were there, don't feel exactly the way I did."