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- BEATRICE - 2/60 -
that her father was not a gentleman.
"Oh," he said, taking off his hat in the direction of the canoe. "Isn't it a little risky, Miss Granger, for you to be canoeing alone in this mist?"
"Yes," she answered frankly, "but I am used to it; I go out canoeing in all possible weathers. It is my amusement, and after all the risk does not matter much," she added, more to herself than to him.
While he was wondering what she meant by that dark saying, she went on quickly:
"Do you know, Mr. Bingham, I think that you are in more danger than I am. It must be getting near seven o'clock, and the tide is high at a quarter to eight. Unless I am mistaken there is by now nearly half a mile of deep water between you and the shore."
"My word!" he said. "I forgot all about the tide. What between the shooting and looking for that curlew, and the mist, it never occurred to me that it was getting late. I suppose I must swim for it, that is all."
"No, no," she answered earnestly, "it is very dangerous swimming here; the place is full of sharp rocks, and there is a tremendous current."
"Well, then, what is to be done? Will your canoe carry two? If so, perhaps you would kindly put me ashore?"
"Yes," she said, "it is a double canoe. But I dare not take you ashore here; there are too many rocks, and it is impossible to see the ripple on them in this mist. We should sink the canoe. No, you must get in and I must paddle you home to Bryngelly, that's all. Now that I know where I am I think that I can find the way."
"Really," he said, "you are very good."
"Not at all," she answered, "you see I must go myself anyhow, so I shall be glad of your help. It is nearly five miles by water, you know, and not a pleasant night."
There was truth in this. Geoffrey was perfectly prepared to risk a swim to the shore on his own account, but he did not at all like the idea of leaving this young lady to find her own way back to Bryngelly through the mist and gathering darkness, and in that frail canoe. He would not have liked it if she had been a man, for he knew that there was great risk in such a voyage. So after making one more fruitless suggestion that they should try and reach the shore, taking the chance of rocks, sunken or otherwise, and then walk home, to which Beatrice would not consent, he accepted her offer.
"At the least you will allow me to paddle," he said, as she skilfully brought the canoe right under his rock, which the tide was now high enough to allow her to do.
"If you like," she answered doubtfully. "My hands are a little sore, and, of course," with a glance at his broad shoulders, "you are much stronger. But if you are not used to it I dare say that I should get on as well as you."
"Nonsense," he said sharply. "I will not allow you to paddle me for five miles."
She yielded without another word, and very gingerly shifted her seat so that her back was towards the bow of the canoe, leaving him to occupy the paddling place opposite to her.
Then he handed her his gun, which, together with the dead birds, she carefully stowed in the bottom of the frail craft. Next, with great caution, he slid down the rock till his feet rested in the canoe.
"Be careful or you will upset us," she said, leaning forward and stretching out her hand for him to support himself by.
Then it was, as he took it, that he for the first time really saw her face, with the mist drops hanging to the bent eyelashes, and knew how beautiful it was.
A CONFESSION OF FAITH
"Are you ready?" he said, recovering himself from the pleasing shock of this serge-draped vision of the mist.
"Yes," said Beatrice. "You must head straight out to sea for a little --not too far, for if we get beyond the shelter of Rumball Point we might founder in the rollers--there are always rollers there--then steer to the left. I will tell you when. And, Mr. Bingham, please be careful of the paddle; it has been spliced, and won't bear rough usage."
"All right," he answered, and they started gaily enough, the light canoe gliding swiftly forward beneath his sturdy strokes.
Beatrice was leaning back with her head bent a little forward, so that he could only see her chin and the sweet curve of the lips above it. But she could see all his face as it swayed towards her with each motion of the paddle, and she watched it with interest. It was a new type of face to her, so strong and manly, and yet so gentle about the mouth--almost too gentle she thought. What made him marry Lady Honoria? Beatrice wondered; she did not look particularly gentle, though she was such a graceful woman.
And thus they went on for some time, each wondering about the other and at heart admiring the other, which was not strange, for they were a very proper pair, but saying no word till at last, after about a quarter of an hour's hard paddling, Geoffrey paused to rest.
"Do you do much of this kind of thing, Miss Granger?" he said with a gasp, "because it is rather hard work."
She laughed. "Ah," she said, "I thought you would scarcely go on paddling at that rate. Yes, I canoe a great deal in the summer time. It is my way of taking exercise, and I can swim well, so I am not afraid of an upset. At least it has been my way for the last two years since a lady who was staying here gave me the canoe when she went away. Before that I used to row in a boat--that is, before I went to college."
"College? What college? Girton?"
"Oh, no, nothing half so grand. It was a college where you get certificates that you are qualified to be a mistress in a Board school. I wish it had been Girton."
"Do you?"--you are too good for that, he was going to add, but changed it to--"I think you were as well away. I don't care about the Girton stamp; those of them whom I have known are so hard."
"So much the better for them," she answered. "I should like to be hard as a stone; a stone cannot feel. Don't you think that women ought to learn, then?"
"Do you?" he asked.
"Have you learnt anything?"
"I have taught myself a little and picked up something at the college. But I have no real knowledge, only a smattering of things."
"What do you know--French and German?"
"Yes, I know something of it."
"I can read it fairly, but I am not a Greek scholar."
"No, I gave them up. There is no human nature about mathematics. They work everything to a fixed conclusion that must result. Life is not like that; what ought to be a square comes out a right angle, and /x/ always equals an unknown quantity, which is never ascertained till you are dead."
"Good gracious!" thought Geoffrey to himself between the strokes of the paddle, "what an extraordinary girl. A flesh-and-blood blue- stocking, and a lovely one into the bargain. At any rate I will bowl her out this time."
"Perhaps you have read law too?" he said with suppressed sarcasm.
"I have read some," she answered calmly. "I like law, especially Equity law; it is so subtle, and there is such a mass of it built upon such a small foundation. It is like an overgrown mushroom, and the top will fall off one day, however hard the lawyers try to prop it up. Perhaps you can tell me----"
"No, I'm sure I cannot," he answered. "I'm not a Chancery man. I am Common law, and /I/ don't take all knowledge for /my/ province. You positively alarm me, Miss Granger. I wonder that the canoe does not sink beneath so much learning."
"Do I?" she answered sweetly. "I am glad that I have lived to frighten somebody. I meant that I like Equity to study; but if I were a barrister, I would be Common law, because there is so much more life and struggle about it. Existence is not worth having unless one is struggling with something and trying to overcome it."
"Dear me, what a reposeful prospect," said Geoffrey, aghast. He had certainly never met such a woman as this before.
"Repose is only good when it is earned," went on the fair philosopher, "and in order to fit one to earn some more, otherwise it becomes idleness, and that is misery. Fancy being idle when one has such a little time to live. The only thing to do is to work and stifle thought. I suppose that you have a large practice, Mr. Bingham?"
"You should not ask a barrister that question," he answered, laughing; "it is like looking at the pictures which an artist has turned to the
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