Puslapio vaizdai
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was not arranging life now; she was destroying it. Her eyes blazed at him, and she said:

"You know what's wrong well enough."

"There's no harm in looking at a maid," said David, cautiously. "Her 's different."

And Mary, stung beyond endurance, cried:

"Then take her!" and went back as swiftly as she had come, with the word "different" sticking in her heart like a sword.

She

Of course Lizzie was different. was almost a visitor; she would have been a visitor if she had not been a relative. She was Mary's first cousin, come from London, a place which Mary saw vaguely as larger than Plymouth, filled with vast crowds of people in muslin and highheeled shoes, buying picture post-cards, and drinking inordinate quantities of ginger-beer. Lizzie had come from this place for a holiday. She worked in a shop in Oxford Street, and wore brown boots every day and a silk sport-jacket. She had several muslin frocks, left over from sales, and she had brought large hats, unsuitable for windy cliffs, and ribbons that Mary rejoiced to know would have the color taken out of them by the sea.

Lizzie would have told you that she meant no harm, a phrase which prepares the conscience for an unearned repose after the harm has happened; but she generally did a little just to keep her hand in, and because, if other girls want to keep their young men, they ought to look sharp about it.

Mary had n't looked sharp. David came in on the evening of Lizzie's arrival. Lizzie, who had been previously told about David, looked at him, during the course of an hour or two, perhaps three times. David was an extremely goodlooking young fellow, but he did not know that, possibly because Mary, who was quite used to his appearance, did not know it either. The first time Lizzie looked at him it occurred to David that he was handsome; the second time that Lizzie

looked at him he wondered if by any chance he could be clever, too; and the third time she looked at him he hoped that Mary had n't seen.

Mary had seen every time, but she supposed that London ways might be different and Lizzie might not mean any harm by it. She never supposed anything at all about David. She took for granted that he would dislike everything in Lizzie that differed from Trelinnock, and yet, since she was Mary's cousin, he would consent to overlook the objects of his dislike. They would include, Mary supposed, an affected voice, very movable, provocative eyes, a great deal of wholly unnecessary conversation, and an appalling ignorance of the simplest natural laws.

When Lizzie asked David how many tides there are in a day, Mary colored with shame and confusion for her. She did not dream that David was pleased at being asked idiotic questions, or that men in general enjoy imparting what they know to conversational young women with provocative eyes, whose knowledge, however circumscribed in one direction, is quite sufficient in another.

But Mary learned this lesson; she learned very silently and reluctantly half a dozen other lessons in the course of a few weeks, and all she asked while she was learning them was that neither her father nor her mother might see the accumulation of her knowledge. The farm was some distance out of the village, so that the prying eyes and sharp tongues of neighboring gossips could be kept at bay; but those tender spies of love in her par ents' hearts, how long could she mislead them by artificial laughter or hide from them the traces of her secret tears?

David fell into the habit of bringing his friend the blacksmith up to the farm, and the four young people behaved as much like visitors as Mary would consent to behave. They went for walks on the cliff, and made expeditions to neighboring coves and villages. Mary had never seen so much of the country in her life as she saw with Lizzie, and it confirmed in her the desire to remain at Trelinnock and

keep everybody else out of it, including bathe; Mary believed that she had a serelatives.

Mary felt she could have borne it if Lizzie had been worth David, but Lizzie was worth no man's love. She was as light and cold as foam. She had told Mary things that Mary had never dreamed any woman thought, far less did.

Trelinnock was no better than other places, but it was more limited, and it had no edges. You were good or bad in Trelinnock, and all Trelinnock knew which you were, and acted accordingly. Lizzie lived upon edges, and it was in the light of a fresh edge that she considered David. She was going to go as far as she could with David, and then she would return to London and leave Mary with what was left of David's heart. There would not be very much left of it, and what there was would be broken. That was the last of the lessons Mary learned from Lizzie.

David did not come to Tremayne Farm the evening after Mary had been on the cliff. There was a good deal of conjecture as to why he did n't come, but Farmer Tremayne had heard that Job Oldcastle, the most ancient fisherman at Windyhazle, had died that morning, and it was settled that probably David was employed upon his coffin.

"Death," said Farmer Tremayne, with a chuckle, "won't wait 's long as a maid. Mind that, Mary!" And Mary, looking across at Lizzie, minded it.

IT was a day when the whole of summer was let loose upon the air. The sea lay stretched out under the sky, a smooth, unbroken mirror of pale blue. The air shimmered and danced with the heat, and every breath of it was filled with meadowsweet, honeysuckle, and the tonic wildness of the sea.

The farm-work was over, and Lizzie and Mary set off toward the cliffs. Mary had heard that morning that her aunt was in trouble with a sick cow; it was a fourmile walk to her aunt's farm.

"I reckon," she said to Lizzie, "I'll be back an hour after sunset."

Lizzie was going down to the strand to

cret arrangement to meet David at the strand. Their ways parted on the edge of the cliff.

"My," said Lizzie, "the air is just like scent! It is reely. I often wonder, Mary, you don't buy any scent. Men like it. It was only last night that David said to me, 'You 're as sweet as a flower.' did reely."

He

Mary stood quite still at the cliff's edge. ""T is all sweet here," she said quietly. "We don't need glass bottles for to hold it. 'T is all clean sweet."

"No," said Lizzie, scornfully; "nor, with your knowledge of the sun and the tide, you don't need watches to tell you the time. All the same, it's a pretty thing to wear on your wrist, and it pays to wear pretty things and take a little trouble over yourself. I only tell you for your own good, Mary. Lor'! the strand 's a long way off; I never can get there in this heat. Is n't there a shorter way down by the cliffs? David said, if you knew them, there was many a short cut."

"There is a way," said Mary; her voice sounded strange and hoarse in her ears. "There is a nearer way," she said,—and then twenty years of conscience broke through her reluctant lips,-"but the cliffs are mortal' dangerous an' all."

Lizzie tossed her head.

"Who 's afraid?" she said airily. "I'll tease David about them; he wanted me to promise not to try to get down without him with me he did reely. But catch me promising a man anything! As long as you'll not promise, they do; the moment you begin, they stop. I know men.”

Mary did not dispute her cousin's knowledge; she took her boots off without speaking, and slung them together by their laces round her neck.

"You don't find me taking my boots off," said Lizzie; "my feet are n't as tough as yours, and the Lord only knows how I'd get them on again. Are you coming, too? I thought you 'd got to go and help that aunt of yours about a sick cow. I must say you do funny things in the country; no wonder you can't dress properly."

"I'll see you down-along," said Mary, briefly. She led the way by a grassy path to the heathery verge. The slope looked easy, and was possible for the sure-footed. Half-way down it changed abruptly into a sheer drop of ironstone rock; one could not see the edge until one was upon it.

Mary began to descend very methodically and slowly. She never left a foothold until she had found and tested the one beneath it; as the slope grew steeper, she laid her hands lightly, without trusting her weight, on bracken and heather. She heard Lizzie laughing above her.

"Lor'!" her cousin cried, "you are a cautious, slow cat, Mary! I shall be down in half the time you take over it.".

Mary looked up above her at the brown boots, with high heels, and once more her conscience shook the words out of her. "You'd best take off they boots!" she shouted up; but even as her words left her lips, she saw Lizzie's eyes change to startled horror. The smooth, grassy slope was as slippery as ice, and the brown boots had no grip; she found herself moving without volition, swiftly and still more swiftly over the short, dry grass. In a flash she was on a level with Mary, and then past her. She began to clutch wildly at the bracken and heather; tufts of them came off in her hands. She screamed spasmodically, like a toy doll. She was not really frightened at first, but she screamed. hilariously, ceaselessly.

Mary stood firm in her foothold and, leaning forward, saw the drop beneath and the murmurous, blue water moving to the cliff's edge, softly back and forth, with scarcely a ripple. Then Lizzie's scrambling rush changed to a fall; her body turned right over, and she saw what was beneath her. A sound came from her that seemed to shake the cliffs; it rang across from side to side, a horrible, tormented sound.

Mary caught a glimpse of her face turned upward. Her mouth was wide open, and her eyes were blind with fear. They glared up at Mary, blind blue eyes, horribly fixed and intent. And then her hair shone, and she turned over and over, while her screams were shaken out of her

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short, convulsive sounds, trailing into silence.

Mary still looked. There was a ledge of rock before her on which she crept on hands and knees; from there she saw the body tossed like a bounding stone into the gulf, and Lizzie's waving hands, full of grass and heather, flung up toward the sky. Mary saw no more than that, but she heard a muffled sound of blows when the body struck rock-iron rock; and then all the earth was like a pause. Even the sea was still. Gulls circled noiselessly over the cove. Perhaps they saw some

thing, but Mary only saw the smooth, blue mirror of the sea, and heard nothing but the soft whisper of it as it lipped the rocks beneath.

It was a great relief to Mary that there were no more cries. She climbed up to the summit of the cliff and turned her back upon the sea. There was no one in sight. She sat down on a clump of heather and put on her boots. It seemed to her as if she had just had a dream, a shocking, iniquitous, involuntary dream. As soon as she had fastened her boots she hastened to her aunt's farm, but she need not have hastened. Ten minutes had been enough to cover a fallen life.

The cow was worse, and Mary boiled the kettle and laid fomentations on the moaning beast, and as the day darkened slowly, she lit a lantern and hung it over the stall.

She

Its

"You 'm praperly knowledgable with cows, Mary," said her aunt, approvingly. "If you 'l bide to bed, I 'll watch with her till morning," Mary promised. wanted to be alone with the cow. agonized eyes turned to her appealingly. The fitful light, the long, dark shadows, the sweet-scented hay, and the dire need of ministering to physical pain worked like an anodyne in Mary. She no longer saw the wavering, helpless hands in which the heather and the earth still lay, nor heard the screams louder and louder in her brain, reverberating like the sound of a deep bell when an hour has struck. The troubled breathing of the beast beside her eased her heart. It was alive, and she was

helping it, and all her life until that day she had been helping what was alive. Then she heard a tap on the stable window, saw David's face in the shadow, and heard him say:

"Where be your cousin Lizzie?" He asked her twice before her lips would move to answer him.

"I dun not know," said Mary, hoarsely. "I dun not know, David."

"Where did you see her last?" asked David. Beads of perspiration stood on his brow, his eyes were wild and hungry. Mary's heart beat against her side like some plunging bird.

"I saw her last upon the cliff-side," she said. ""T were after work was over, and the sun was full high; happen 't was three o'clock."

"God help her, then!" said David, passionately. "O Mary, I do believe her 's over them iron cliffs! Her 's not been seen upon the strand nor in the village nor any gate."

"If 't is so," said Mary, slowly, "the dawn tide will bring her in, David."

"Iss," said David, heavily. "I'll go down and meet the sea, Mary."

The cow cried out, and Mary turned back to her. She could speak better to David without looking at him.

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"You be a praper sorrowful man, David," she said gently. ""T is a dreadful thing that have come to 'e."

""T is all of that," said David, heavily, "and 't is kind of 'e to take it so, Mary. Happen we 'll forget them words in the orchard?"

"Happen we'll forget them," she repeated without tears; and David left her and went down to meet the sea.

The tide brought Lizzie in at dawn, and laid her broken and mauled and bitterly disfigured under the fringe of the black rock where the surf had flung her.

David never told any one that half her hair, half the wonderful gold plaits he had so marveled at, was false. Even David knew that they were false.

He buried them reverently and deeply under the heather, and there he buried with them all his moments of romance, and

turned back forever to Mary and to faithfulness.

In a year they were married, just as they had always arranged to be. But the village said her cousin's death had "overtaken" Mary. She was changed from that day. She had always been a woman of few words, but they had come from a serene and satisfied cheerfulness and they had carried with them a sense of solid peace; now they were fewer than ever, and her eyes were strange while she uttered them. They seemed to be looking at something that was not there, and hearing something which had no sound.

After her marriage Mary and David went to live in Trelinnock. David was afraid Mary would miss the cliffs and the sea, and every Sunday he took her out to Tremayne Farm and home by the cliffs. Mary made no protest, but she went by his side like a sleep-walker, with fixed and sightless eyes.

Once when they sat on the edge of the heather above a grassy slope David dislodged a stone and would have thrown it down, but Mary gave a scream and caught his hand back. It was a strange, shrill scream, like a wild bird's, and her face suddenly grew white and crumpled. For a moment David saw her youth dead in her eyes-dead and transfixed, like a live thing turned to stone.

"Dun not throw it down, David!" she gasped. "Dun not throw it down! 'T would fall into the sea."

David gazed at her, and then he said. curiously, in a sharp, high voice:

"Mary, if 't were a body that fell, them rocks would strike at it praperly hard. 'T would crush a human head in like an egg-shell, if 't were struck down on they."

Mary's lips moved, and her eyes darkened till they looked as black as wet iron

stone.

"Surely 't is hard," she said, with sudden fierceness-"'t is mortal hard to fall on they; but 't is not so hard, David, as to fall on a fickle heart."

"Mary," whispered David-"Mary-" Then he turned his head away, and asked her no more questions.

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