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- BEATRICE - 10/60 -


hand. This was a bait Beatrice could not resist. She might dread or even detest Mr. Davies, but she loved his books, and if she quarrelled with him her well of knowledge would simply run dry, for there were no circulating libraries at Bryngelly, and if there had been she could not have afforded to subscribe to them. So she remained on good terms with him, and even smiled at his futile attempts to keep pace with her studies. Poor man, reading did not come naturally to him; he was much better at cutting leaves. He studied the /Times/ and certain religious works, that was all. But he wrestled manfully with many a detested tome, in order to be able to say something to Beatrice about it, and the worst of it was that Beatrice always saw through it, and showed him that she did. It was not kind, perhaps, but youth is cruel.

And so the years wore on, till at length Beatrice knew that a crisis was at hand. Even the tardiest and most retiring lover must come to the point at last, if he is in earnest, and Owen Davies was very much in earnest. Of late, to her dismay, he had so far come out of his shell as to allow himself to be nominated a member of the school council. Of course she knew that this was only to give him more opportunities of seeing her. As a member of the council, he could visit the school of which she was mistress as often as he chose, and indeed he soon learned to take a lively interest in village education. About twice a week he would come in just as the school was breaking up and offer to walk home with her, seeking for a favourable opportunity to propose. Hitherto she had always warded off this last event, but she knew that it must happen. Not that she was actually afraid of the man himself; he was too much afraid of her for that. What she did fear was the outburst of wrath from her father and sister when they learned that she had refused Owen Davies. It never occurred to her that Elizabeth might be playing a hand of her own in the matter.

From all of which it will be clear, if indeed it has not become so already, that Beatrice Granger was a somewhat ill-regulated young woman, born to bring trouble on herself and all connected with her. Had she been otherwise, she would have taken her good fortune and married Owen Davies, in which case her history need never have been written.

CHAPTER VII

A MATRIMONIAL TALE

Before Geoffrey Bingham dropped off into a troubled sleep on that eventful night of storm, he learned that the girl who had saved his life at the risk and almost at the cost of her own was out of danger, and in his own and more reticent way he thanked Providence as heartily as did Owen Davies. Then he went to sleep.

When he woke, feeling very sick and so stiff and sore that he could scarcely move, the broad daylight was streaming through the blinds. The place was perfectly quiet, for the doctor's assistant who had brought him back to life, and who lay upon a couch at the further end of the room, slept the sleep of youth and complete exhaustion. Only an eight-day clock on the mantelpiece ticked in that solemn and aggressive way which clocks affect in the stillness. Geoffrey strained his eyes to make out the time, and finally discovered that it wanted a few minutes to six o'clock. Then he fell to wondering how Miss Granger was, and to repeating in his own mind every scene of their adventure, till the last, when they were whirled out of the canoe in the embrace of that white-crested billow.

He remembered nothing after that, nothing but a rushing sound and a vision of foam. He shuddered a little as he thought of it, for his nerves were shaken; it is not pleasant to have been so very near the End and the Beginning; and then his heart went out with renewed gratitude towards the girl who had restored him to life and light and hope. Just at this moment he thought that he heard a sound of sobbing outside the window. He listened; the sound went on. He tried to rise, only to find that he was too stiff to manage it. So, as a last resource, he called the doctor.

"What is the matter?" answered that young gentleman, jumping up with the alacrity of one accustomed to be suddenly awakened. "Do you feel queer?"

"Yes, I do rather," answered Geoffrey, "but it isn't that. There is somebody crying outside here."

The doctor put on his coat, and, going to the window, drew the blind.

"Why, so there is," he said. "It's a little girl with yellow hair and without a hat."

"A little girl," answered Geoffrey. "Why, it must be Effie, my daughter. Please let her in."

"All right. Cover yourself up, and I can do that through the window; it isn't five feet from the ground." Accordingly he opened the window, and addressing the little girl, asked her what her name was.

"Effie," she sobbed in answer, "Effie Bingham. I've come to look for daddie."

"All right, my dear, don't cry so; your daddie is here. Come and let me lift you in."

Another moment and there appeared through the open window the very sweetest little face and form that ever a girl of six was blessed with. For the face was pink and white, and in it were set two beautiful dark eyes, which, contrasting with the golden hair, made the child a sight to see. But alas! just now the cheeks were stained with tears, and round the large dark eyes were rings almost as dark. Nor was this all. The little dress was hooked awry, on one tiny foot all drenched with dew there was no boot, and on the yellow curls no hat.

"Oh! daddie, daddie," cried the child, catching sight of him and struggling to reach her father's arms, "you isn't dead, is you, daddie?"

"No, my love, no," answered her father, kissing her. "Why should you think that I was dead? Didn't your mother tell you that I was safe?"

"Oh! daddie," she answered, "they came and said that you was drownded, and I cried and wished that I was drownded too. Then mother came home at last and said that you were better, and was cross with me because I went on crying and wanted to come to you. But I did go on crying. I cried nearly all night, and when it got light I did dress myself, all but one shoe and my hat, which I could not find, and I got out of the house to look for you."

"And how did you find me, my poor little dear?"

"Oh, I heard mother say you was at the Vicarage, so I waited till I saw a man, and asked him which way to go, and he did tell me to walk along the cliff till I saw a long white house, and then when he saw that I had no shoe he wanted to take me home, but I ran away till I got here. But the blinds were down, so I did think that you were dead, daddie dear, and I cried till that gentleman opened the window."

After that Geoffrey began to scold her for running away, but she did not seem to mind it much, for she sat upon the edge of the couch, her little face resting against his own, a very pretty sight to see.

"You must go back to Mrs. Jones, Effie, and tell your mother where you have been."

"I can't, daddie, I've only got one shoe," she answered, pouting.

"But you came with only one shoe."

"Yes, daddie, but I wanted to come and I don't want to go back. Tell me how you was drownded."

He laughed at her logic and gave way to her, for this little daughter was very near to his heart, nearer than anything else in the world. So he told her how he was "drownded" and how a lady had saved his life.

Effie listened with wide set eyes, and then said that she wanted to see the lady, which she presently did. At that moment there came a knock at the door, and Mr. Granger entered, accompanied by Dr. Chambers.

"How do you do, sir?" said the former. "I must introduce myself, seeing that you are not likely to remember me. When last I saw you, you looked as dead as a beached dog-fish. My name's Granger, the Reverend J. Granger, Vicar of Bryngelly, one of the very worst livings on this coast, and that's saying a great deal."

"I am sure, Mr. Granger, I'm under a deep debt of gratitude to you for your hospitality, and under a still deeper one to your daughter, but I hope to thank her personally for that."

"Never speak of it," said the clergyman. "Hot water and blankets don't cost much, and you will have to pay for the brandy and the doctor. How is he, doctor?"

"He is getting on very well indeed, Mr. Granger. But I daresay you find yourself rather stiff, Mr. Bingham. I see your head is pretty badly bruised."

"Yes," he answered, laughing, "and so is my body. Shall I be able to go home to-day?"

"I think so," said the doctor, "but not before this evening. You had better keep quiet till then. You will be glad to hear that Miss Beatrice is getting on very well. Hers was a wonderful recovery, the most wonderful I ever saw. I had quite given her up, though I should have kept on the treatment for another hour. You ought to be grateful to Miss Beatrice, Mr. Bingham. But for her you would not have been here."

"I am most grateful," he answered earnestly. "Shall I be able to see her to-day?"

"Yes, I think so, some time this afternoon, say at three o'clock. Is that your little daughter? What a lovely child she is. Well, I will look in again about twelve. All that you require to do now is to keep quiet and rub in some arnica."

About an hour afterwards the servant girl brought Geoffrey some breakfast of tea and toast. He felt quite hungry, but when it came to the pinch he could not eat much. Effie, who was starving, made up for this deficiency, however; she ate all the toast and a couple of slices of bread and butter after it. Scarcely had they finished, when her father observed a shade of anxiety come upon his little daughter's face.

"What is it, Effie?" he asked.


BEATRICE - 10/60

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