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man to have such a daughter, and I am not sure that we do not derive some lustre of a humble kind from his presence in the house. But seriously, I wonder at your short-sightedness, when you know the troubles we have had through getting new men from nobody knows where."
Neigh, perceiving that the breeze in the atmosphere might ultimately intensify to a palpable black squall, seemed to think it would be well to take leave of his uncle and aunt as soon as he conveniently could ; nevertheless, he was much less discomposed by the situation than by the active cause which had led to it. When Mrs. Doncastle arose, her husband said he was going to speak to Chickerel for a minute or two, and Neigh followed his aunt upstairs.
Presently Doncastle joined them. "I have been talking to Chickerel," he said. “It is a very curious affair—this marriage of his daughter and Lord Mountclere. The whole situation is the most astounding I have ever met with. The man is quite ill about the news. He has shown me a letter which has just reached him from his son on the same subject. Lord Mountclere's brother and this young man have actually gone off together to try to prevent the wedding, and Chickerel has asked to be allowed to go himself, if he can get soon enough to the station to catch the night mail. Of course he may go if he wishes.”
“What a funny thing !" said the lady, with a wretchedly factitious smile. “ The times have taken a strange turn when the angry parent of the comedy, who goes post-haste to prevent the undutiful daughter's rash marriage, is a gentleman from below stairs, and the unworthy lover a peer of the realm !”
Neigh spoke for almost the first time. “I don't blame Chickerel in objecting to Lord Mountclere. I should object to him myself if I had a daughter. I never liked him."
“Why?" said Mrs. Doncastle, lifting her eyelids as if the act were a heavy task.
“For reasons which don't generally appear.”
“ Yes," said Mr. Doncastle in a low tone. “ Still, we must not believe all we hear.”
“Is Chickerel going ?” said Neigh.
After a few further words Neigh mentioned that he was unable to stay longer that evening, and left them. When he had reached the outside of the door he walked a little way up the pavement and back again, as if reluctant to lose sight of the street; finally standing under a lamp-post whence he could command a view of Mr. Doncastle's front. Presently a man came out in a great-coat and with a small bag in his hand; Neigh, at once recognising the person as Chickerel, went up to him.
“Mr. Doncastle tells me you are going on a sudden journey. At what time does your train leave ?” Neigh asked.
“I go by the ten o'clock, sir: I hope it is a third-class," said Chickerel ;
" though I am afraid it may not be."
“It is as much as you will do to get to the station," said Neigh, turning the face of his watch to the light. “Here, come into my cab-I am driving that way."
“Thank you, sir,” said Chickerel.
Neigh called a cab at the first opportunity, and they entered and drove along together. Neither spoke during the journey. When they were driving up to the station entrance Neigh looked again to see the hour.
“ You have not a minute to lose,” he said, in great anxiety. your journey will be expensive : instead of walking from Anglebury to Knollsea, you had better drive-above all, don't lose time. Take this from me, since the emergency is great." He handed something to Chickerel folded
small. The butler took it without enquiry, and stepped out hastily.
“I sincerely hope Well, good-night, Chickerel," continued Neigh, ending his words abruptly. The cab containing him drove again towards the station-gates, leaving Chickerel standing on the kerb.
He passed through the booking-office, and looked at the paper Neigh had put into his hand. It was a five-pound note.
Chickerel mused on the circumstance as be took his ticket and got into the train.
CHAPTER XLV. THE RAILWAY—THE SEA- THE SHORE BEYOND. By this time Sol and the Honourable Edgar Mountclere had gone far on their journey. Lychworth Court, Mountclere's destination, though several miles from Knollsea, was most easily accessible by the same route as that to the village, the latter being the place for which Sol was bound. From the few words that passed between them on the way, Mountclere became more stubborn than ever in a belief that this was a carefully-laid trap of the fair Ethelberta's to ensnare his brother without revealing to him her family ties, which it therefore behoved him to make clear with the utmost force of representation before the fatal union had been contracted. Being himself the viscount's only remaining brother and near relative, the disinterestedness of his motives may be left to imagination; that there was much real excuse for his conduct must, however, be borne in mind. Whether his attempt would prevent the union was another question : he believed that, conjoined with his personal influence over the viscount, and the importation of Sol as a firebrand to throw between the betrothed pair, it might do so.
About half an hour before sunset the two individuals, linked by their differences, reached the point of railway at which the branch to Sandbourne left the main line. They bad taken tickets for Sandboume, intending to go thence to Knollsea by the steamer that plied between the two places during the summer months—making this a short and direct route. But it occurred to Mountclere on the way that, summer being over, the steamer might possibly have left off running, the wind might be too high for a small boat, and no large one might be at hand for hire : therefore it would be safer to go by train to Anglebury, and the remaining sixteen miles by driving over the hills, even at a great loss of time.
Accident, however, determined otherwise. They were in the station at the junction, enquiring of an official if the Speed well had ceased to run, when a countryman who had just come up from Sandbourne stated that, though the Speedwell had left off for the year, there was that day another steamer at Sandbourne. This steamer would of necessity return to Knollsea that evening, partly because several people from that place had been on board, and also because the Knollsea folk were waiting for groceries and draperies from London : there was not an ounce of tea or a hundred-weight of coal in the village, owing to the recent winds, which had detained the provision parcels at Sandbourne, and kept the colliers up Channel, until the change of weather this day. To introduce necessaries by a round-about land journey was not easy when they had been ordered by the other and habitual route. The boat returned at six o'clock.
So on they went to Sandbourne, driving off to the pier directly they reached that place, for it was getting towards night. The steamer was there, as the man had told them, much to the relief of Sol, who, being extremely anxious to enter Knollsea before a late hour, had known that this was the only way in which it could be done. Some unforeseen incident delayed the boat, and they walked up
and down the pier to wait. The prospect was gloomy enough. The wind was north-east; the sea along shore was a chalky green, though comparatively calm, this part of the coast forming a shelter from wind in its present quarter. The clouds had different velocities, and some of them shone with a coppery glare, produced by rays from the west which did not enter the inferior atmosphere at all. It was reflected on the distant waves in patches, with an effect as if the waters were at those particular spots stained with blood. This departed, and what daylight was left to the earth came from strange and unusual quarters of the heavens. The zenith would be bright, as if that were the place of the sun; then all overhead would close, and a whiteness in the east would give the appearance of morning ; while a bank as thick as a wall barricaded the west, which looked as if it had no acquaintance with sunsets, and would blush red no more.
“Any other passengers ?" shouted the master of the steamboat. “ We must be off: it may be a dirty night.”
Sol and Mountclere went on board, and the pier receded in the dusk.
“Shall we have any difficulty in getting into Knollsea Bay ?” said Mountclere.
"Not if the wind keeps where it is for another hour or two."
“My little children be left alone. Your mis’ess is in a bad way, tooisn't she, skipper?"
“Yes." “And you've got the doctor from Sandbourne aboard, to tend her?” “ Yes." “Then you'll be sure to put into Knollsea, if you
?" “ Yes.
Don't be alarmed, ma'am. We'll do what we can. one must boast."
The skipper's remark was the result of an observation that the wind bad at last flown to the east, the single point of the compass whence it could affect Knollsea Bay. The result of this change was soon perceptible. About midway in their transit the land elbowed out to a bold chalk promontory; beyond this stretched a vertical wall of the same cliff, in a line parallel with their course. In fair weather it was possible and customary to steer close along under this hoary façade for the distance of a mile, there being six fathoms of water within a few boats' lengths of the precipice. But it was an ugly spot at the best of times, landward no less than seaward, the cliff rounding off at the top in vegetation, like a forehead with low-grown hair, no defined edge being provided as a warning to unwary pedestrians on the downs above.
As the wind sprung up stronger, white figures could be discerned at the water level, rising and falling against the black band of shaggy weed that formed a sort of skirting to the base of the wall. They were the first-fruits of the new east blast, which shaved the face of the cliff like a razor-gatherings of foam in the shape of heads, shoulders, and arms, of snowy whiteness, apparently struggling to rise from the deeps, and ever sinking back to their old levels again. They reminded an observer of . à drowning scene in a picture of the Deluge. At some points the face of rock was hollowed into gaping caverns, and the water began to thunder into these with a leap that was only topped by the rebound seaward again. The vessel's head was kept a little further to sea, but beyond that everything went on as usual.
The precipice was still in view, and farther on several huge columns of rock stood detached from the mass behind. Two of these were particularly noticeable in the grey air-one vertical, stout and square; the other slender and tapering. They were individualised as husband and wife by the coast men. The waves leapt up their sides like a pack of hounds; this, bowever, though fearful in its boisterousness, was nothing to the terrible games that sometimes went on round the knees of those giants in stone. Yet it was sufficient to cause the course of the frail steamboat to be altered yet a little more- from south-west-by-south to south-bywest-to give the breakers a still wider berth.
“I wish we had gone by land, sir; 'twould have been surer play,” said Sol to Mountclere, a cat-and-dog friendship having arisen between them.
“ Yes,” said Mountclere. “Knollsea is an abominable place to get into with an east wind blowing, they say."
Another circumstance conspired to make their landing more difficult, which Mountclere knew nothing of. With the wind easterly, the highest sea prevailed in Knollsea Bay from the slackening of flood-tide to the first hour of ebb. At that time the water outside stood without a current, and ridges and hollows chased each other towards the beach unchecked. When the tide was setting strong up or down channel its flow across the mouth of the bay thrust aside, to some extent, the landward plunge of the waves. We glance for a moment at the state of affairs on the land they were nearing.
This was the time of year to know the truth about the inner nature and character of Knollsea ; for to see Knollsea with its summer smile on was to see a courtier before a king; Knollsea was not to be known by such simple means. The half-dozen detached villas used as lodging. houses in the summer, standing aloof from the cots of the permanent race, rose in the dusk of this gusty evening, empty, silent, damp, and dark as tombs. The gravel walks leading to them were invaded by leaves and tufts of grass. As the darkness thickened the wind increased, and each blast raked the iron railings before the houses till they hummed as if in a song of derision. Certainly it seemed absurd at this time of year that human beings should expect comfort in a precinct capable of such moods as these.
However, one of the houses looked cheerful, and that was the dwelling to which Ethelberta had gone. Its gay external colours might as well have been black for anything that could be seen of them now, but an unblinded window revealed inside it a room bright and warm. It was illuminated by firelight only. Within, Ethelberta appeared against the curtains, close to the glass. She was watching through a binocular a faint light which had become visible in the direction of the bluff far away over the bay.
“Here is the Spruce at last, I think,” she said to her sister, who was by the fire. “I hope they will be able to land the things I have ordered. They are on board, I know."
The wind continued to rise till at length something from the lungs of the gale alighted like a feather upon the pane, and remained there sticking. Seeing the substance, Ethelberta opened the window to secure it. The fire roared and the pictures kicked the walls; she closed the sash, and brought to the light a crisp fragment of foam.
“How suddenly the sea must have risen,” said Picotee.
The servant entered the room. “Please, mis'ess says she is afraid you won't have your things to-night, 'm. They say the steamer can't land, and mis'ess wants to know if she can do anything."
“It is of no consequence,” said Ethelberta. They will come som: time, unless they go to the bottom.”
The girl left the room. “Shall we go down to the shore and set what the night is like?” said Ethelberta. “ This is the last opportunity I shall have."
“Is it right for us to go, considering you are to be married to morrow?” said Picotee, who had small affection for nature in this mood.