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- Michael's Crag - 10/19 -
For he knew he was insane, in his inmost soul, almost as well as he knew his name was Michael the Archangel.
On the island, meanwhile, Eustace Le Neve and Cleer Trevennack sat watching out the weary night, and longing for the dawn to make the way back possible. At least, Cleer did, for as to Eustace, in spite of rain and fog and cold and darkness, he was by no means insensible to the unwonted pleasure of so long a tete-a-tete, in such romantic circumstances, with the beautiful Cornish girl. To be sure the waves roared, and the drizzle dripped, and the seabirds flapped all round them. But many waters will not quench love. Cleer was by his side, holding his hand in hers in the dark for pure company's sake, because she was so frightened; and as the night wore on they talked at last of many things. They were prisoners there for five mortal hours or so, alone, together; and they might as well make the best of it by being sociable with one another.
There could be no denying, however, that it was cold and damp and dark and uncomfortable. The rain came beating down upon them, as they sat there side by side on that exposed rock. The spray from the breakers blew in with the night wind; the light breeze struck chill on their wet clothes and faces. After awhile Eustace began a slow tour of inspection over the crag, seeking some cave or rock shelter, some projecting ledge of stone on the leeward side that might screen their backs at least from the driving showers. Cleer couldn't be left alone; she clung to his hand as he felt his way about the islet, with uncertain steps, through the gloom and fog. Once he steadied himself on a jutting piece of the rock as he supposed, when to his immense surprise--wh'r'r'r--it rose from under his hand, with a shrill cry of alarm, and fluttered wildly seaward. It was some sleeping gull, no doubt, disturbed unexpectedly in its accustomed resting-place. Eustace staggered and almost fell. Cleer supported him with her arm. He accepted her aid gratefully. They stumbled on in the dark once more, lighting now and again for a minute or two one of his six precious matches--he had no more in his case--and exploring as well as they might the whole broken surface of that fissured pinnacle. "I'm so glad you smoke, Mr. Le Neve," Cleer said, simply, as he lit one. "For if you didn't, you know, we'd have been left here all night in utter darkness."
At last, in a nook formed by the weathered joints, Eustace found a rugged niche, somewhat dryer than the rest, and laid Cleer gently down in it, on a natural spring seat of tufted rock-plants. Then he settled down beside her, with what cheerfulness he could muster up, and taking off his wet coat, spread it on top across the cleft, like a tent roof, to shelter them. It was no time, indeed, to stand upon ceremony. Cleer recognized as much, and nestled close to his side, like a sensible girl as she was, so as to keep warm by mere company; while Eustace, still holding her hand, just to assure her of his presence, placed himself in such an attitude, leaning before her and above her, as to protect her as far as possible from the drizzling rainfall through the gap in front of them. There they sat till morning, talking gradually of many things, and growing more and more confidential, in spite of cold and wet, as they learnt more and more, with each passing hour, of each other's standpoint. There are some situations where you get to know people better in a few half-hours together than you could get to know them in months upon months of mere drawing-room acquaintance. And this was one of them. Before morning dawned, Eustace Le Neve and Cleer Trevennack felt just as if they had known one another quite well for years. They were old and trusted friends already. Old friends--and even something more than that. Though no word of love was spoken between them, each knew of what the other was thinking. Eustace felt Cleer loved him; Cleer felt Eustace loved her. And in spite of rain and cold and fog and darkness they were almost happy--before dawn came to interrupt their strange tete-a-tete on the islet.
As soon as day broke Eustace looked out from their eyrie on the fissured peak, and down upon the troubled belt of water below. The sea was now ebbing, and the passage between the rock and the mainland though still full (for it was never dry even at spring-tide low water) was fairly passable by this time over the natural bridge of stepping- stones. He clambered down the side, giving his hand to Cleer from ledge to ledge as he went. The fog had lifted a little, and on the opposite headland they could just dimly descry the weary watchers looking eagerly out for them. Eustace put his hands to his mouth, and gave a loud halloo. The sound of the breakers was less deafening now; his voice carried to the mainland. Trevennack, who had sat under a tarpaulin through the livelong night, watching and waiting with anxious heart for the morning, raised an answering shout, and waved his hat in his hand frantically. St. Michael's Crag had not betrayed its trust. That was the motto of the Trevennacks--"Stand fast, St. Michael's!"--under the crest of the rocky islet, castled and mured, flamboyant. Eustace reached the bottom of the rock, and, wading in the water himself, or jumping into the deepest parts, helped Cleer across the stepping-stones. Meanwhile, the party on the cliff had hurried down by the gully path; and a minute later Cleer was in her mother's arms, while Trevennack held her hand, inarticulate with joy, and bent over her eagerly.
"Oh, mother," Cleer cried, in her simple girlish naivete, "Mr. Le Neve's been so kind to me! I don't know how I should ever have got through the night without him. It was so good of him to come. He's been SUCH a help to me."
The father and mother both looked into her eyes--a single searching glance--and understood perfectly. They grasped Le Neve's hand. Tears rolled down their cheeks. Not a word was spoken, but in a certain silent way all four understood one another.
"Where's Tyrrel?" Eustace asked.
And Mrs. Trevennack answered, "Carried home, severely hurt. He was bruised on the rocks. But we hope not dangerously. The doctor's been to see him, we hear, and finds no bones broken. Still, he's terribly battered about, in those fearful waves, and it must be weeks, they tell us, before he can quite recover."
But Cleer, as was natural, thought more of the man who had struggled through and reached her than of the man who had failed in the attempt, though he suffered all the more for it. This is a world of the successful. In it, as in most other planets I have visited, people make a deal more fuss over the smallest success than over the noblest failure.
It was no moment for delay. Eustace turned on his way at once, and ran up to Penmorgan. And the Trevennacks returned, very wet and cold, in the dim gray dawn to their rooms at Gunwalloe.
As soon as they were alone--Cleer put safely to bed--Trevennack looked at his wife. "Lucy," he said, slowly, in a disappointed tone, "after this, of course, come what may, they must marry."
"They must," his wife answered. "There's no other way left. And fortunately, dear, I could see from the very first, Cleer likes him, and he likes her."
The father paused a moment. It wasn't quite the match he had hoped for a Trevennack of Trevennack. Then he added, very fervently, "Thank God it was HIM--not that other man, Tyrrel! Thank God, the first one fell in the water and was hurt. What should we ever have done--oh, what should we have done, Lucy, if she'd been cut off all night long on that lonely crag face to face with the man who murdered our dear boy Michael?"
Mrs. Trevennack drew a long breath. Then she spoke earnestly once more. "Dear heart," she said, looking deep into his clear brown eyes, "now remember, more than ever, Cleer's future is at stake. For Cleer's sake, more than ever, keep a guard on yourself, Michael; watch word and deed, do nothing foolish."
"You can trust me!" Trevennack answered, drawing himself up to his full height, and looking proudly before him. "Cleer's future is at stake. Cleer has a lover now. Till Cleer is married, I'll give you my sacred promise no living soul shall ever know in any way she's an archangel's daughter."
From that day forth, by some unspoken compact, it was "Eustace" and "Cleer," wherever they met, between them. Le Neve began it, by coming round in the afternoon of that self-same day, as soon as he'd slept off the first effects of his fatigue and chill, to inquire of Mrs. Trevennack "how Cleer was getting on" after her night's exposure. And Mrs. Trevennack accepted the frank usurpation in very good part, as indeed was no wonder, for Cleer had wanted to know half an hour before whether "Eustace" had yet been round to ask after her. The form of speech told all. There was no formal engagement, and none of the party knew exactly how or when they began to take it for granted; but from that evening on Michael's Crag it was a tacitly accepted fact between Le Neve and the Trevennacks that Eustace was to marry Cleer as soon as he could get a permanent appointment anywhere.
Engineering, however, is an overstocked profession. In that particular it closely resembles most other callings.
The holidays passed away, and Walter Tyrrel recovered, and the Trevennacks returned to town for the head of the house to take up his new position in the Admiralty service; but Eustace Le Neve heard of no opening anywhere for an energetic young man with South American experience. Those three years he had passed out of England, indeed, had made him lose touch with other members of his craft. People shrugged their shoulders when they heard of him, and opined, with a chilly smile, he was the sort of young man who ought to go to the colonies. That's the easiest way of shelving all similar questions. The colonies are popularly regarded in England as the predestined dumping-ground for all the fools and failures of the mother-country. So Eustace settled down in lodgings in London, not far from the Trevennacks, and spent more of his time, it must be confessed, in going round to see Cleer than in perfecting himself in the knowledge of his chosen art. Not that he failed to try every chance that lay open to him--he had far too much energy to sit idle in his chair and let the stream of promotion flow by unattempted; but chances were few and applicants were many, and month after month passed away to his chagrin without the clever young engineer finding an appointment anywhere. Meanwhile, his little nest-egg of South-American savings was rapidly disappearing; and though Tyrrel, who had influence with railway men, exerted himself to the utmost on his friend's behalf-- partly for Cleer's sake, and partly for Eustace's own--Le Neve saw his balance growing daily smaller, and began to be seriously alarmed at last, not merely for his future prospects of employment and marriage, but even for his immediate chance of a modest livelihood.
Nor was Mrs. Trevennack, for her part, entirely free from sundry
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