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- Michael's Crag - 4/19 -
Trevennack's voice had quivered with a strange thrill of emotion as he uttered that line, no doubt pregnant with meaning for him. "Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth." He was thinking of his own boy, most likely, not of the poet's feigned Lycidas.
"He'll stand like that for hours," the coastguard went on confidentially, "musing like to himself, with Miss Cleer by his side, reading in her book or doing her knitting or something. But you couldn't get him, for love or money, to go BELOW the cliffs, no, not if you was to kill him. He's AFRAID of going below--that's where it is; he always thinks something's sure to tumble from the top on him. Natural enough, too, after all that's been. He likes to get as high as ever he can in the air, where he can see all around him, and be certain there ain't anyone above to let anything drop as might hurt him. Michael's Crag's where he likes best to stand, on the top there by the Horse; he always chooses them spots. In Malta it was San Mickayly; and in Gibraltar it was the summit of Europa Point, by the edge of the Twelve Apostles' battery."
"How curious!" Le Neve exclaimed. "It's just the other way on now, with my friend Mr. Tyrrel. I'm stopping at Penmorgan, but Mr. Tyrrel won't go on TOP of the cliffs for anything. He says he's afraid he might let something drop by accident on the people below him."
The coastguard grew suddenly graver. "Like enough," he said, stroking his chin. "Like enough; and right, too, for him, sir. You see, he's a Tyrrel, and he's bound to be cautious.'
"Why so?" Le Neve asked, somewhat puzzled. "Why a Tyrrel more than the rest of us?"
The man hesitated and stared hard at him.
"Well, it's like this, sir," he answered at last, with the shamefaced air of the intelligent laboring man who confesses to a superstition. "We Cornish are old-fashioned, and we has our ideas. The Tyrrels are new people like, in Cornwall, as we say; they came in only with Cromwell's folk, when he fought the Grenvilles; but it's well beknown in the county bad luck goes with them. You see, they're descended from that Sir Walter Tyrrel you'll read about in the history books, him as killed King William Rufious in the New Forest. You'll hear all about it at Rufious' Stone, where the king was killed; Sir Walter, he drew, and he aimed at a deer, and the king was standing by; and the bullet, it glanced aside--or maybe it was afore bullets, and then it'd be an arrow; but anyhow, one or t'other, it hit the king, and he fell, and died there. The stone's standing to this day on the place where he fell, and I've seen it, and read of it when I was in hospital at Netley. But Sir Walter, he got clear away, and ran across to France; and ever since that time they've called the eldest son of the Tyrrels Walter, same as they've called the eldest son of the Trevennacks Michael. But they say every Walter Tyrrel that's born into the world is bound, sooner or later, to kill his man unintentional. So he do right to avoid going too near the cliffs, I say. We shouldn't tempt Providence. And the Tyrrels is all a conscientious people."
FACE TO FACE.
When Eustace Le Neve returned to lunch at Penmorgan that day he was silent to his host about Trevennack of Trevennack. To say the truth, he was so much attracted by Miss Cleer's appearance that he didn't feel inclined to mention having met her. But he wanted to meet her again for all that, and hoped he would do so. Perhaps Tyrrel might know the family, and ask them round to dine some night. At any rate, society is rare at the Lizard. Sooner or later, he felt sure, he'd knock up against the mysterious stranger somewhere. And that involved the probability of knocking up against the mysterious stranger's beautiful daughter.
Next morning after breakfast, however, he made a vigorous effort to induce Walter Tyrrel to mount the cliff and look at the view from Penmorgan Point toward the Rill and Kynance. It was absurd, he said truly, for the proprietor of such an estate never to have seen the most beautiful spot in it. But Tyrrel was obdurate. On the point of actually mounting the cliff itself he wouldn't yield one jot or tittle. Only, after much persuasion, he consented at last to cross the headland by the fields at the back and come out at the tor above St. Michael's Crag, provided always Eustace would promise he'd neither go near the edge himself nor try to induce his friend to approach it.
Satisfied with this lame compromise--for he really wished his host to enjoy that glorious view--Eustace Le Neve turned up the valley behind the house, with Walter Tyrrel by his side, and after traversing several fields, through gaps in the stone walls, led out his companion at last to the tor on the headland.
As they approached it from behind, the engineer observed, not without a faint thrill of pleasure, that Trevennack's stately figure stood upright as before upon the wind-swept pile of fissured rocks, and that Cleer sat reading under its shelter to leeward. But by her side this morning sat also an elder lady, whom Eustace instinctively recognized as her mother--a graceful, dignified lady, with silvery white hair and black Cornish eyes, and features not untinged by the mellowing, hallowing air of a great sorrow.
Le Neve raised his hat as they drew near, with a pleased smile of welcome, and Trevennack and his daughter both bowed in return. "A glorious morning!" the engineer said, drinking in to the full the lovely golden haze that flooded and half-obscured the Land's End district; and Trevennack assented gravely. "The crag stands up well in this sunshine against the dark water behind," he said, waving one gracious hand toward the island at his foot, and poising lighter than ever.
"Oh, take care!" Walter Tyrrel cried, looking up at him, on tenterhooks. It's so dangerous up there! You might tumble any minute."
"_I_ never tumble," Trevennack made answer with solemn gravity, spreading one hand on either side as if to balance himself like an acrobat. But he descended as he spoke and took his place beside them.
Tyrrel looked at the view and looked at the pretty girl. It was evident he was quite as much struck by the one as by the other. Indeed, of the two, Cleer seemed to attract the larger share of his attention. For some minutes they stood and talked, all five of them together, without further introduction than their common admiration for that exquisite bay, in which Trevennack appeared to take an almost proprietary interest. It gratified him, obviously, a Cornish man, that these strangers (as he thought them) should be so favorably impressed by his native county. But Tyrrel all the while looked ill at ease, though he sidled away as far as possible from the edge of the cliff, and sat down near Cleer at a safe distance from the precipice. He was silent and preoccupied. That mattered but little, however, as the rest did all the talking, especially Trevennack, who turned out to be indeed a perfect treasure-house of Cornish antiquities and Cornish folk-lore.
"I generally stand below, on top of Michael's Crag," he said to Eustace, pointing it out, "when the tide allows it; but when it's high, as it is now, such a roaring and seething scour sets through the channel between the rock and the mainland that no swimmer could stem it; and then I come up here, and look down from above upon it. It's the finest point on all our Cornish coast, this point we stand on. It has the widest view, the purest air, the hardest rock, the highest and most fantastic tor of any of them."
"My husband's quite an enthusiast for this particular place," Mrs. Trevennack interposed, watching his face as she spoke with a certain anxious and ill-disguised wifely solicitude.
"He's come here for years. It has many associations for us."
"Some painful and some happy," Cleer added, half aloud; and Tyrrel, nodding assent, looked at her as if expecting some marked recognition.
"You should see it in the pilchard season," her father went on, turning suddenly to Eustace with much animation in his voice. "That's the time for Cornwall--a month or so later than now--you should see it then, for picturesqueness and variety. 'When the corn is in the shock,' says our Cornish rhyme, 'Then the fish are off the rock'--and the rock's St. Michael's. The HUER, as we call him, for he gives the hue and cry from the hill-top lookout when the fish are coming, he stands on Michael's Crag just below there, as I stand myself so often, and when he sights the shoals by the ripple on the water, he motions to the boats which way to go for the pilchards. Then the rowers in the lurkers, as we call our seine-boats, surround the shoal with a tuck- net, or drag the seine into Mullion Cove, all alive with a mass of shimmering silver. The jowsters come down with their carts on to the beach, and hawk them about round the neighborhood--I've seen them twelve a penny; while in the curing-houses they're bulking them and pressing them as if for dear life, to send away to Genoa, Leghorn, and Naples. That's where all our fish go--to the Catholic south. 'The Pope and the Pilchards,' says our Cornish toast; for it's the Friday fast that makes our only market."
"You can see them on St. George's Island in Looe Harbor," Cleer put in quite innocently. "They're like a sea of silver there--on St. George's Island."
"My dear," her father corrected with that grave, old-fashioned courtesy which the coast-guard had noted and described as at once so haughty and yet so condescending, "how often I've begged of you NOT to call it St. George's Island! It's St. Nicholas' and St. Michael's--one may as well be correct--and till a very recent date a chapel to St. Michael actually stood there upon the rocky top; it was only destroyed, you remember, at the time of the Reformation."
"Everybody CALLS it St. George's now," Cleer answered, with girlish persistence. And her father looked round at her sharply, with an impatient snap of the fingers, while Mrs. Trevennack's eye was fixed on him now more carefully and more earnestly, Tyrrel observed, than ever.
"I wonder why it is," Eustace Le Neve interposed, to spare Cleer's feelings, "that so many high places, tops of mountains and so forth, seem always to be dedicated to St. Michael in particular? He seems to love such airy sites. There's St. Michael's Mount here, you know, and Mont St. Michel in Normandy; and at Le Puy, in Auvergne, there's a St. Michael's Rock, and at ever so many other places I can't remember this minute."
Trevennack was in his element. The question just suited him. He smiled a curious smile of superior knowledge. "You've come to the right place for information," he said, blandly, turning round to the engineer. "I'm a Companion of St. Michael and St. George myself, and my family,
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