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Literary Adventures

This page will take you into pieces of literature that are carefully selected for their great content at the literary, scientific, or philosophical level. A short selection will be presented in full. A long one will be divided into sections that will be refreshed regularly. Emphasis and highlights are mostly ours, not made by the original author.

Here is our current selection:

Jamaica Inn (1916) by Daphne du Maurier


A SILENCE had fallen upon the room. Although the fire burnt steady as ever, there was a chill in the air that had not been there before. Each waited for the other to speak, and Mary heard Francis Davey swallow once. At length she looked into his face, and saw what she expected ; the pale, steadfast eyes staring at her across the table, cold no longer, but burning in the white mask of his face like living things at last. She knew now what he would have her know, but still she said nothing ; she clung to ignorance as a source of protection, playing for time as the only ally in her favour.

His eyes compelled her to speak, and she continued to warm her hands at the fire, forcing a smile. "You are pleased to be mysterious tonight, Mr. Davey."

He did not answer at once ; she heard him swallow again, and then he leant forward in his chair, with an abrupt change of subject.

"You lost your confidence in me today before I came," he said. "You went to my desk and found the drawing ; you were disturbed. No, I did not see you ; I am no key-hole watcher ; but I saw that the paper had been moved. You said to yourself, as you have said before. 'What manner of man is this vicar of Altarnun ? ' and when you heard my footsteps on the path you crouched in your chair there, before the fire, rather than look upon my face. Don't shrink from me, Mary Yellan ; there is no longer any need for pretence between us, and we can be frank with one another, you and I."

Mary turned to him, and then away again ; there was a message in his eyes she feared to read. "I am very sorry I went to your desk," she said ; "such an action was unforgivable, and I don't yet know how I came to it. As for the drawing, I am ignorant of such things, and whether it be good or bad I cannot say."

"Never mind if it be good or bad, the point was that it frightened you ? "

"Yes, Mr. Davey, it did."

"You said to yourself again, 'This man is a freak of nature, and his world is not my world.' You were right there, Mary Yellan. I live in the past, when men were not so humble as they are today. Oh, not your heroes of history in doublet and hose and narrow-pointed shoes--they were never my friends--but long ago in the beginning of time, when the rivers and the sea were one, and the old gods walked the hills."

He rose from his chair and stood before the fire, a lean black figure with white hair and eyes, and his voice was gentle now, as she had known it first.

"Were you a student, you would understand," he said, "but you are a woman, living already in the nineteenth century, and because of this my language is strange to you. Yes, I am a freak in nature and a freak in time. I do not belong here, and I was born with a grudge against the age, and a grudge against mankind. Peace is very hard to find in the nineteenth century. The silence is gone, even on the hills. I thought to find it in the Christian Church, but the dogma sickened me, and the whole foundation is built upon a fairy-tale. Christ Himself is a figurehead, a puppet thing created by man himself.

"However, we can talk of these things later, when the heat and turmoil of pursuit is not upon us. We have eternity before us. One thing at least, we have no traps or baggage, but can travel light, as they travelled of old."

Mary looked up at him, her hands gripping the sides of her chair.

"I don't understand you, Mr. Davey."

"Why, yes, you understand me very well. You know by now that I killed the landlord of Jamaica Inn, and his wife too ; nor would the pedlar have lived had I known of his existence. You have pieced the story together in your own mind while I talked to you just now. You know that it was I who directed every move made by your uncle, and that he was a leader in name alone. I have sat here at night, with him in your chair there and the map of Cornwall spread out on the table before us. Joss Merlyn, the terror of the countryside, twisting his hat in his hands and touching his forelock when I spoke to him. He was like a child in the game, powerless without my orders, a poor blustering bully that hardly knew his right hand from his left. His vanity was like a bond between us, and the greater his notoriety amongst his companions the better was he pleased. We were successful, and he served me well ; no other man knew the secret of our partnership.

"You were the block, Mary Yellan, against which we stubbed our toes. With your wide enquiring eyes and your gallant inquisitive head you came amongst us, and I knew that the end was near. In any case, we had played the game to its limit and the time had come to make an end. How you pestered me with your courage and your conscience, and how I admired you for it ! Of course you must hear me in the empty guest-room at the inn, and must creep down to the kitchen and see the rope upon the beam : that was your first challenge.

"And then you steal out upon the moor after your uncle, who had tryst with me on Roughtor, and, losing him in the darkness, stumble upon myself and make me confidant. Well, I became your friend, did I not, and gave you good advice ? Which, believe me, could not have been bettered by a magistrate himself. Your uncle knew nothing of our strange alliance, nor would he have understood. He brought his own death upon himself, by disobedience. I knew something of your determination, and that you would betray him at the first excuse. Therefore, he should give you none, and time alone would quiet your suspicions. But your uncle must drink himself to madness on Christmas Eve, and, blundering like a savage and a fool, set the whole country in a blaze. I knew then he had betrayed himself, and with the rope around his neck would play his last card and name me master. Therefore he had to die, Mary Yellan, and your aunt, who was his shadow ; and, had you been at Jamaica Inn last night when I passed by, you too--- No, you would not have died."

He leant down to her, and, taking her two hands, he pulled her to her feet, so that she stood level with him, looking in his eyes.

"No," he repeated, "you would not have died. You would have come with me then as you will come tonight."

She stared back at him, watching his eyes. They told her nothing--they were clear and cold as they had been before--but his grip upon her wrists was firm and held no promise of release.

"You are wrong," she said ; "you would have killed me then as you will kill me now. I am not coming with you, Mr. Davey."

"Death to dishonour ? " he said, smiling, the thin line breaking the mask of his face. "I face you with no such problem. You have gained your knowledge of the world from old books, Mary, where the bad man wears a tail beneath his cloak and breathes fire through his nostrils. You have proved yourself a dangerous opponent, and I prefer you by my side ; there, that is a tribute. You are young, and you have a certain grace which I should hate to destroy. Besides, in time we will take up the threads of our first friendship, which has gone astray tonight."

"You are right to treat me as a child and a fool, Mr. Davey," said Mary. "I have been both since I stumbled against your horse that November evening. Any friendship we may have shared was a mockery and a dishonour, and you gave me counsel with the blood of an innocent man scarce dry upon your hands. My uncle at least was honest ; drunk or sober, he blurted his crimes to the four winds, and dreamt of them by night--to his terror. But you--you wear the garments of a priest of God to shield you from suspicion ; you hide behind the Cross. You talk to me of friendship ... "

"Your revolt and your disgust please me the more, Mary Yellan," he replied. "There is a dash of fire about you that the women of old possessed. Your companionship is not a thing to be thrown aside. Come, let us leave religion out of our discussion. When you know me better we will return to it, and I will tell you how I sought refuge from myself in Christianity, and found it to be built upon hatred, and jealousy, and greed--all the man-made attributes of civilisation, while the old pagan barbarism was naked and clean.

"I have had my soul sickened. . . . Poor Mary, with your feet fast in the nineteenth century and your bewildered faun face looking up to mine, who admit myself a freak of nature and a shame upon your little world. Are you ready ? Your cloak hangs in the hall, and I am waiting."

She backed to the wall, her eyes upon the clock ; but he still held her wrists and tightened his grip upon them.

"Understand me," he said gently, "the house is empty, you know that, and the pitiful vulgarity of screams would be heard by no one. The good Hannah is in her cottage by her own fireside, the other side of the church. I am stronger than you would suppose. A poor white ferret looks frail enough and misleads you, doesn't he ?--but your uncle knew my strength. I don't want to hurt you, Mary Yellan, or spoil that trace of beauty you possess, for the sake of quiet ; but that I shall have to do if you withstand me. Come, where is that spirit of adventure which you have made your own ? Where is your courage, and your gallantry ?"

She saw by the clock that he must have overstepped already his margin of time and had little in reserve. He concealed his impatience well, but it was there, in the flicker of his eye and the tightening of his lips. It was half-past eight, and by now Jem would have spoken with the blacksmith at Warleggan. Twelve miles lay between them perhaps, but no more. And Jem was not the fool that Mary herself had been. She thought rapidly, weighing the chances of failure and success. If she went now with Francis Davey she would be a drag upon him, and a brake on his speed : that was inevitable, and he must have gambled upon it. The chase would follow hard upon his heels, and her presence would betray him in the end. Should she refuse to go, why then there would be a knife in her heart at best, for he would not encumber himself with a wounded companion, for all his flattery.

Gallant he had called her, and possessed with the spirit of adventure. Well, he should see what distance her courage took her, and that she could gamble with her life as well as he. If he were insane--and this she believed him to be--why, then his insanity would bring about his destruction ; if he were not mad, she would be that same stumbling block she had been to him from the beginning, with her girl's wits matched against his brains. She had the right upon her side, and faith in God, and he was an outcast in a hell of his own creation.

She smiled then, and looked into his eyes, having made her decision.

"I'll come with you, Mr. Davey," she said, "but you'll find me a thorn in the flesh and a stone in your path. You will regret it in the end."

"Come as enemy or friend, that does not matter to me," he told her. "You shall be the millstone round my neck, and I'll like you the better for it. You'll soon cast your mannerisms aside, and all your poor trappings of civilisation that you sucked into your system as a child. I'll teach you to live, Mary Yellan, as men and women have not lived for four thousand years or more."

"You'll find me no companion on your road, Mr. Davey."

"Roads ? Who spoke of roads ? We go by the moors and the hills, and tread granite and heather as the Druids did before us."

She could have laughed in his face, but he turned to the door and held it open for her, and she bowed to him, mocking, as she passed into the passage. She was filled with the wild spirit of adventure, and she had no fear of him, and no fear of the night. Nothing mattered now, because the man she loved was free and had no stain of blood upon him. She could love him without shame, and cry it aloud had she the mind ; she knew what he had done for her, and that he would come to her again. In fancy she heard him ride upon the road in their pursuit, and she heard his challenge, and his triumphant cry.

She followed Francis Davey to the stable where the horses were saddled, and this was a sight for which she was ill prepared.

"Do you not mean to take the trap ?" she said.

"Are you not great enough encumbrance already, without further baggage ?" he replied. "No, Mary, we must travel light and free. You can ride ; every woman born in a farm can ride ; and I shall hold your rein. Speed I cannot promise you, alas, for the cob has been worked today and will begrudge us more ; as for the grey, he is lame, as you know, and will make poor mileage for us. Ah, Restless, this departure is half your fault, did you but know it ; when you cast your nail in the heather you betrayed your master. You must carry a woman on your back as penance."

The night was dark, with a raw dampness in the air and a chill wind. The sky was overcast with low-flying cloud, and the moon was blotted out. There would be no light upon the way, and the horses would travel unseen. It seemed as though the first cast was against Mary, and the night itself favoured the vicar of Altarnun. She climbed into the saddle, wondering whether a shout and a wild cry for help would rouse the sleeping village, but even as the thought flashed through her mind she felt his hand upon her foot, placing it in the stirrup, and, looking down upon him, she saw the gleam of steel beneath his cape, and he lifted his head and smiled.

"That were a fool's trick, Mary," he said. "They go to bed early in Altarnun, and by the time they were astir and rubbing their eyes I should be away on the moor yonder, and you--you would be lying on your face, with the long wet grass for pillow, and your youth and beauty spoilt. Come now ; if your hands and feet are cold, the ride will warm them, and Restless will carry you well."

She said nothing, but took the reins in her hands. She had gone too far now in her game of chance, and must play it to the finish.

He mounted the bay cob, with the grey attached to him by a leading rein, and they set out upon their fantastic journey like two pilgrims.

As they passed the silent church, shadowed and enclosed, and left it behind them, the vicar flourished his black shovel-hat and bared his head.

"You should have heard me preach," he said softly. "They sat there in the stalls like sheep, even as I drew them, with their mouths agape and their souls asleep. The church was a roof above their heads, with four walls of stone, and because it had been blessed at the beginning by human hands they thought it holy. They do not know that beneath the foundation-stone lie the bones of their pagan ancestors, and the old granite altars where sacrifice was held long before Christ died upon His cross. I have stood in the church at midnight, Mary, and listened to the silence ; there is a murmur in the air and a whisper of unrest that is bred deep in the soil and has no knowledge of the church and Altarnun."

His words found echo in her mind, and carried her away, back to the dark passage at Jamaica Inn. She remembered how she had stood there with her uncle dead upon the ground, and there was a sense of horror and fear about the walls that was born of an old cause. His death was nothing, was only a repetition of what had been before, long ago in time, when the hill where Jamaica stood today was bare but for heather and stone. She remembered how she had shivered, as though touched by a cold, inhuman hand ; and she shivered now, looking at Francis Davey with his white hair and eyes ; eyes that had looked upon the past.

They came to the fringe of moor and the rough track leading to the ford, and then beyond this and across the stream to the great black heart of the moor, where there were no tracks and no paths, but only the coarse tufted grass and the dead heather. Ever and again the horses stumbled on the stones, or sank in the soft ground bordering the marshes, but Francis Davey found his way like a hawk in the air, hovering an instant and brooding upon the grass beneath him, then swerving again and plunging to the hard ground.

The tors rose up around them and hid the world behind, and the two horses were lost between the tumbling hills. Side by side they picked their path through the dead bracken with short, uncanny stride.

Mary's hopes began to falter, and she looked over her shoulder at the black hills that dwarfed her. The miles stretched between her and Warleggan, and already North Hill belonged to another world. There was an old magic in these moors that made them inaccessible, spacing them to eternity. Francis Davey knew their secret, and cut through the darkness like a blind man in his home.

"Where are we bound ?" she said at length, and he turned to her, smiling beneath his shovel-hat, and pointed to the north.

"The time will come whenn officers of the law will walk the coasts of Cornwall," he said. "I told you that on our last journey, when you rode with me from Launceston. But tonight and tomorrow we shall meet no such interference ; only the gulls and the wild birds haunt the cliffs from Boscastle to Hartland. The Atlantic has been my friend before ; savage perhaps and more ruthless than I intended, but my friend nevertheless. You have heard of ships, Mary Yellan, I believe, though of late you would not speak of them ; and a ship it will be that shall carry us from Cornwall."

"So we are to leave England, are we, Mr. Davey ? "

"What else would you suggest ? After today the vicar of Altarnun must cast himself adrift from Holy Church and become a fugitive again. You shall see Spain, Mary, and Africa, and learn something of the sun ; you shall feel desert sand under your feet, if you will. I care little where we go ; you shall make the choice. Why do you smile and shake your head ? "

"I smile because everything you say is fantastic, Mr. Davey, and impossible. You know as well as I do that I shall run from you at the first chance, and at the first village perhaps. I came with you tonight because you would have killed me otherwise, but in daylight, within sight and sound of men and women, you will be as powerless as I am now."

"As you will, Mary Yellan. I am prepared for the risk. You forget, in your happy confidence, that the north coast of Cornwall bears no relation to the south. You come from Helford, you told me, where the pleasant lanes wind by the side the river, and where your villages touch one another string upon string, and there are cottages upon the road. This north coast is hardly so hospitable, as you will find. It is as lonely and untravelled as these moors themselves, and never a man's face shall you look upon but mine until we come to the haven that I have in mind."

"Let me grant you that, then," said Mary, with a bluster born of fear ; "let me grant even that the sea is reached, and we upon your waiting ship, with the coast behind us. Name any country as you please, Africa or Spain, and do you think that I should follow you there and not expose you, a murderer of men ?"

"You will have forgotten it by then, Mary Yellan."

"Forgotten that you killed my mother's sister ?"

"Yes, and more besides. Forgotten the moors, and Jamaica Inn, and your own little blundering feet that stumbled across my path. Forgotten your tears on the high road from Launceston, and the young man who caused them."

"You are pleased to be personal, Mr. Davey."

"I am pleased to have touched you on the raw. Oh, don't bite your lip and frown. I can guess your thoughts. I told you before, I have heard confessions in my day, and I know the dreams of women better than you do yourself. There I have the advantage of the landlord's brother."

He smiled again, the thin line breaking in his face, and she turned away so that she could not see the eyes that degraded her.

They rode on in silence, and after a while it seemed to Mary that the darkness of the night became intensified and the air closer, nor could she see the hills around her as she had before. The horses picked their way delicately, and now and again stopped in their tracks and snorted, as though in fear, uncertain of their steps. The ground was soggy now and treacherous, and, though Mary could no longer see the land on either side, she knew by the feel of the soft, yielding grass that they were encompassed by marshes.

This accounted for the horses' fear, and she glanced at her companion to discover his mood. He leant forward in his saddle, straining his eyes to the darkness that every moment became thicker and harder to penetrate, and she saw by his tense profile and his thin mouth tightclosed like a trap that he was concentrating every nerve upon their passage, fraught suddenly with a new danger. The nervousness of her horse communicated itself to the rider, and Mary thought of these same marshes as she had seen them in the broad light of day, the brown tufted grass swaying to the wind, and, beyond, the tall, thin reeds quivering and rustling at the merest breath, crowded together and moving as one force, while beneath them the black water waited in silence. She knew how the people of the moors themselves could go astray and falter in their step, so that he who walked with confidence one moment could stumble the next, and sink without warning. Francis Davey knew the moors, but even he was not infallible, and might lose his way.

A brook burbled and made song ; a brook could be heard running over stones for a mile or more ; but the water of the marshes made no sound. The first slip could be the last. Her nerves were strung to expectation, and half-consciously she made preparations to fling herself from the saddle should her horse stagger suddenly and with sickening plunge grope like a blind tiling in the strangling weeds. She heard her companion swallow, and the little trick put an edge upon her fear. He peered to right and left, his hat in his hand to better his sight, and already the moisture glistened in his hair and clung to his garments. Mary watched the damp mist rise from the low ground. She smelt the sour and rotting tang of reeds. And then, in front of them, barring their further progress, rolled a great bank of fog out of the night, a white wall that stifled every scent and sound.

Francis Davey drew rein, and the two horses obeyed him instantly, trembling and snorting, the steam from their flanks merging with the mist.

They waited awhile, for a moorland fog can roll away as suddenly as it comes, but this time there was no thin clearing of the air and no dissolving threads. It hung about them like a spider's web.

Then Francis Davey turned to Mary ; like a ghost he looked beside her, with the fog on his lashes and his hair, and his white mask face inscrutable as ever.

"The gods have gone against me after all," he said. "I know these fogs of old, and this one will not lift for several hours. To continue now amongst the marshes would be worse madness than to return. We must wait for the dawn."

She said nothing ; her first hopes returning to her again ; but even as the thought came to her she remembered that fog baffled pursuit,and was an enemy to the hunter as well as the hunted.

"Where are we ?" she asked, and as she spoke he took her rein once more, and urged the horses to the left, away from the low ground, until the yielding grass gave place to firmer heather and loose stones, while the white fog moved with them step by step.

"There will be rest for you after all, Mary Yellan," he said, "and a cave for your shelter and granite for your bed. Tomorrow may bring the world to you again, but tonight you shall sleep on Roughtor."

The horses bent to the strain, and they climbed slowly and ponderously out of the mist to the black hills beyond.

Later, Mary sat shrouded in her cloak like a phantom figure, with her back against a hollow stone. Her knees were drawn to her chin, with her arms clasped tight around them, but, even so, the raw air found its way between the folds of her cloak and lapped her skin. The great jagged summit of the tor lifted its face to the sky like a crown above the mist, and below them the clouds hung solid and unchanged, a massive wall defying penetration.

The air was pure here, and crystal-clear, disdaining knowledge of the world below, where living things must grope and stumble in the mist. There was a wind here that whispered in the stones and stirred the heather ; there was a breath, keen as a knife and cold, that blew upon the surface of the altar slabs and echoed in the caves. These sounds mingled with one another and became like a little clamour in the air.

Then they would droop again, and fall away, and an old dead silence come upon the place. The horses stood against a boulder for shelter, their heads together for company, but even they were restless and uneasy, turning now and again towards their master. He sat apart, a few yards distant from his companion, and sometimes she felt his eyes upon her in consideration, weighing the chances of success. She was ever watchful, ever ready for attack ; and when he moved suddenly, or turned upon his slab of stone, her hands unclasped themselves from her knees and waited, her fists clenched.

He had bade her sleep, but sleep would never come to her tonight.

Should it creep to her insidiously, she would fight against it, beat it away with her hands and strive to overcome it, even as she must overcome her enemy. She knew that sleep might take her suddenly, before she was aware ; and later she would wake with the touch of his cold hands upon her throat and his pale face above her. She would see the short white hair frame his face like a halo, and the still, expressionless eyes glow with a light that she had known before. This was his kingdom here, alone in the silence, with the great twisted peaks of granite to shield him and the white mist below to shroud him. Once she heard him clear his throat as though to speak ; and she thought how far removed they were from any sphere of life, two beings flung together in eternity, and that this was a nightmare, with no day to follow it, so that soon she must lose herself and merge into his shadow.

He said nothing ; and out of the silence came the whisper of the wind again. It rose and fell, making a moan upon the stones. This was a new wind, with a sob and a cry behind it, a wind that came from nowhere, bound from no shore. It rose from the stones themselves, and from the earth beneath the stones ; it sang in the hollow caves and in the crevices of rock, at first a sigh and then a lamentation. It played upon the air like a chorus from the dead.

Mary drew her cloak around her, and pulled the hood about her ears to muffle the sound, but even as she did so the wind increased, tugging at her hair, and a little ripple of draught ran screaming to the cave behind her.

There was no source to the disturbance ; for below the tor the heavy fog clung to the ground, obstinate as ever, with never a breath of air to roll away the clouds. Here on the summit the wind fretted and wept, whispering of fear, sobbing old memories of bloodshed and despair, and there was a wild, lost note that echoed in the granite high above Mary's head, on the very peak of Roughtor, as though the gods themselves stood there with their great heads lifted to the sky. In her fancy she could hear the whisper of a thousand voices and the tramping of a thousand feet, and she could see the stones turning to men beside her. Their faces were inhuman, older than time, carved and rugged like the granite ; and they spoke in a tongue she could not understand, and their hands and feet were curved like the claws of a bird.

They turned their stone eyes upon her, and looked through her and beyond, heeding her not, and she knew she was like a leaf in the wind, tossed hither and thither to no ultimate purpose, while they lived and endured, monsters of antiquity.

They came towards her, shoulder to shoulder, neither seeing nor hearing her, but moving like blind things to her destruction ; and she cried suddenly, and started to her feet, every nerve in her body throbbing and alive.

The wind dropped, and was no more than a breath upon her hair ; the slabs of granite stood beyond her, dark and immobile, as they had done before, and Francis Davey watched her, his chin upon his hands.

"You fell asleep," he said ; and she told him no, doubting her own statement, her mind still grappling with the dream that was no dream.

"You are tired, yet you persist in watching for the dawn," he said. "It is barely midnight now, and there are long hours to wait. Give way to nature, Mary Yellan, and relax. Do you think I want to harm you ?"

"I think nothing, but I cannot sleep."

"You are chilled, crouched there in your cloak with a stone behind your head. I am little better myself, but there is no draught here from a crevice in the rock. We would do well if we gave our warmth to one another."

"No, I am not cold."

"I make the suggestion because I understand something of the night," he said ; "the coldest hour comes before the dawn. You are unwise to sit alone. Come and lean against me, back to back, and sleep then if you will. I have neither the mind nor the desire to touch you."

She shook her head in reply, and pressed her hands together beneath her cloak. She could not see his face, for he sat in shadow, with his profile turned to her, but she knew that he was smiling in the darkness, and mocked her for her fear. She was cold, as he had said, and her body craved for warmth, but she would not go to him for protection. Her hands were numb now, and her feet had lost all feeling, and it was as though the granite had become part of her and held her close. Her brain kept falling on and off into a dream, and he walked into it, a giant, fantastic figure with white hair and eyes, who touched her throat and whispered in her ear. She came to a new world, peopled with his kind, who barred her progress with outstretched arms ; and then she would wake again, stung to reality by the chill wind on her face, and nothing had changed, neither the darkness nor the mist, nor the night itself, and only sixty seconds gone in time.

Sometimes she walked with him in Spain, and he picked her monstrous flowers with purple heads, smiling on her the while ; and when she would have thrown them from her they clung about her skirt like tendrils, creeping to her neck, fastening upon her with poisonous, deadly grip.

Or she would ride beside him in a coach, squat and black like a beetle, and the walls closed in upon them both, squeezing them together, pressing the life and the breath from their bodies until they were flat, and broken, and destroyed, and lay against one another, poised into eternity, like two slabs of granite.

She woke from this last dream to certainty, feeling his hand upon her mouth, and this time it was no hallucination of her wandering mind, but grim reality. She would have struggled with him, but he held her fast, speaking harshly in her ear and bidding her be still.

He forced her hands behind her back and bound them, neither hastily nor brutally, but with cool and calm deliberation, using his own belt. The strapping was efficient but not painful, and he ran his finger under the belt to satisfy himself that it would not chafe her skin.

She watched him helplessly, feeling his eyes with her own, as though by doing so she might anticipate a message from his brain.

Then he took a handkerchief from the pocket of his coat and folded it, and placed it in her mouth, knotting it behind her head, so that speech or cry was now impossible, and she must lie there, waiting for the next move in the game. When he had done this he helped her to her feet, for her legs were free and she could walk, and he led her a little way beyond the granite boulders to the slope of the hill. "I have to do this, Mary, for both our sakes," he said. "When we set forth last night upon this expedition I reckoned without the mist. If I lose now, it will be because of it. Listen to this, and you will understand why I have bound you, and why your silence may save us yet."

He stood on the edge of the hill, holding her arm, and pointed downwards to the white mist below. "Listen," he said again. "Your ears may be sharper than mine."

She knew now she must have slept longer than she thought, for the darkness had broken above their heads and morning had come. The clouds were low, and straggled across the sky as though interwoven with the mist, while to the east a faint glow heralded the pale, reluctant sun.

The fog was with them still, and hid the moors below like a white blanket. She followed the direction of his hand, and could see nothing but mist and the soaking stems of heather. Then she listened, as he had bade her, and far away, from beneath the mist, there came a sound between a cry and a call, like a summons in the air. It was too faint at first to distinguish, and the tone was strangely pitched, unlike a human voice, unlike the shouting of men. It came nearer, rending the air with some excitement, and Francis Davey turned to Mary, the fog still white on his lashes and his hair.

"Do you know what it is ?" he said.

She stared back at him, and shook her head, nor could she have told him had speech been possible. She had never heard the sound before. He smiled then, a slow grim smile that cut into his face like a wound.

"I heard once, and I had forgotten it, that the squire of North Hill keeps bloodhounds in his kennels. It is a pity for both of us, Mary, that I did not remember."

She understood ; and with a sudden comprehension of that distant eager clamour she looked up at her companion, horror in her eyes, and from him to the two horses standing patiently as ever by the slabs of stone.

"Yes," he said, following her glance, "we must let them loose and drive them down to the moors below. They can serve us no longer now, and would only bring the pack upon us. Poor Restless, you would betray me once again."

She watched him, sick at heart, as he released the horses and led them to the steep slope of the hill. Then he bent to the ground, gathering stones in his hands, and rained blow after blow upon their flanks, so that they slipped and stumbled amongst the wet bracken on the hillside ; and then, when his onslaught continued and their instinct jogged them to action, they fled, snorting with terror, down the steep slope of the tor, dislodging boulders and earth in their descent, and so plunged out of sight into the white mists below. The baying of the hounds came nearer now, deep-pitched and persistent, and Francis Davey ran to Mary, stripping himself of his long black coat that hung about his knees and throwing his hat into the heather.

"Come," he said. "Friend or enemy, we share a common danger now."

They scrambled up the hill amongst the boulders and the slabs of granite, he with his arm about her, for her bound hands made progress difficult ; and they waded in and out of crevice and rock, knee-deep in soaking bracken and black heather, climbing ever higher and higher to the great peak of Roughtor. Here, on the very summit, the granite was monstrously shaped, tortured and twisted into the semblance of a roof, and Mary lay beneath the great stone slab, breathless, and bleeding from her scratches, while he climbed above her, gaining foothold in the hollows of the stone. He reached down to her, and, though she shook her head and made sign that she could climb no further, he bent and dragged her to her feet again, cutting at the belt that bound her and tearing the handkerchief from her mouth.

"Save yourself, then, if you can," he shouted, his eyes burning in his pale face, his white halo of hair blowing in the wind. She clung to a table of stone some ten feet from the ground, panting and exhausted, while he climbed above her and beyond, his lean black figure like a leech on the smooth surface of the rock. The baying of the hounds was unearthly and inhuman, coming as it did from the blanket of fog below, and the chorus was joined now by the cries and the shouting of men, a turmoil of excitement that filled the air with sound and was the more terrible because it was unseen. The clouds moved swiftly across the sky, and the yellow glow of the sun swam into view above a breath of mist. The mist parted and dissolved. It rose from the ground in a twisting column of smoke, to be caught up in the passing clouds, and the land that it had covered for so long stared up at the sky pallid and new-born. Mary looked down upon the sloping hillside ; and there were little dots of men standing knee-deep in the heather, the light of the sun shining upon them, while the yelping hounds, crimson-brown against the grey stone, ran before them like rats amongst the boulders.

They came fast upon the trail, fifty men or more, shouting and pointing to the great tablets of stone ; and, as they drew near, the clamour of the hounds echoed in the crevices and whined in the caves.

The clouds dissolved as the mist had done, and a patch of sky, larger than a man's hand, showed blue above their heads.

Somebody shouted again, and a man who knelt in the heather, scarcely fifty yards from Mary, lifted his gun to his shoulder and fired.

The shot spat against the granite boulder without touching her, and when he rose to his feet she saw that the man was Jem, and he had not seen her.

He fired again, and this time the shot whistled close to her ear and she felt the breath of its passing upon her face.

The hounds were worming in and out amidst the bracken, and one of them leapt at the jutting rock beneath her, his great muzzle snuffling the stone. Then Jem fired once more ; and, looking beyond her, Mary saw the tall black figure of Francis Davey outlined against the sky, standing upon a wide slab like an altar, high above her head. He stood for a moment poised like a statue, his hair blowing in the wind ; and then he flung out his arms as a bird throws his wings for flight, and drooped suddenly and fell ; down from his granite peak to the wet dank heather and the little crumbling stones.


NSB Cosmic Center Image

N.S.B. Cosmic Center

NSB Cosmic Center Image