“Many a green isle needs must be . . . ”—SHELLEY.
The boat had given up its search, and returned to shore. The hunt had wound back up the coombe in a body, and thence homeward in the failing light over the heather, breaking up into small parties as their ways parted, and calling good nights after the best run of the season. But Miss Sally and Parson Chichester sat talking in the best parlour at Inistow, and still sat on while the level sunset shone blood-red through the geraniums on the window-ledge, and faded and gave place to twilight.
They had heard the children’s story; had turned it inside out and upside down, cross-questioning them both; and had ended by dismissing them for the time. To-morrow, Miss Sally promised, Farmer Tossell should be as good as his word, and ride them over to Culvercoombe, where perhaps she might have a few more questions to put to them. For the present she and Mr. Chichester had enough to talk over.
The interview had lasted a good hour, and Arthur Miles was glad to regain his liberty. The boy’s manner had been polite enough, but constrained. He had stripped and shown the mark on his shoulder; he had answered all questions truthfully, and Miss Sally’s readily—with the Parson he had been less at home—but he had managed to convey the impression that he found the whole business something of a bore; and, indeed, he asked himself, Where was the point of it? If only, instead of asking questions, they would take him to the Island now! . . .
But when he would have followed Tilda from the room, she took hold of him, pushed him out, and closing the door upon him, turned back and walked up to the two elders where they sat.
“You mus’n’ judge Arthur Miles by to-day,” she pleaded, meeting the amused, expectant twinkle in Miss Sally’s eye. “’E didn’t show at ’is best—along of ’im.”
She nodded towards the Parson.
“Eh, to be sure,” said Mr. Chichester, “what you may call my locus standi in this affair is just nothing at all. If the child had demanded my right to be putting questions to him, ’faith, I don’t know what I could have answered.”
“It ain’t that at all,” said Tilda, after considering awhile. “It’s your bein’ a clergyman. ’E’s shy of clergymen. If ever you’d seen Glasson you wouldn’ wonder at it, neither.”
“I’d like to persuade him that the clergy are not all Glassons. Perhaps you might ask him to give me a chance, next time?”
“Oh, you?” Tilda answered, turning in the doorway and nodding gravely. “You’re all right, o’ course. W’y, you sit a hoss a’most well enough for a circus!”
“That child is a brick,” laughed Miss Sally as the door closed.
“At this moment,” said Mr. Chichester, “I should be the last man in the world to dispute it. Her testimonial was not, perhaps, unsolicited; still, I never dreamed of one that tickled my secret vanity so happily. I begin to believe her story, and even to understand how she has carried through this amazing anabasis. Shall we have the horses saddled?”