The story was a long one, and not by any means told consecutively or without interruption, and all the time those eyes were upon her, one yellow the other green, with the effect she knew so well of old in childish days, of repulsion yet compulsion, of terror yet attraction, as if irresistibly binding a reluctant will. Several times Peregrine was called off to speak to some one outside the door, and at noon he begged permission for his friends to dine with them, saying that there was no other place where the dinner could be taken to them comfortably in this storm.
“It was between the night and day,
When the Fairy King has power,
That I sunk down in a sinful fray,
And ’twixt life and death was snatched away
To the joyless Elfin bower.”
This motto was almost the account that the twisted figure, with queer contortions of face, yet delicate feet and hands, and dainty utterance, might have been expected to give, when Anne asked him, “Was it you, really?”
“I—or my double?” he asked. “When?”
She told him, and he seemed amazed.
“So you were there? Well, you shall hear. You know how things stood with me—your mother, my good spirit, dead, my uncle away, my father bent on driving me to utter desperation, and Martha Browning laying her great red hands on me—”
“Oh, sir, she really loved you, and is far wiser and more tolerant than you thought her.”
“I know,” he smiled grimly. “She buried the huge Scot that was killed in the great smuggling fray under the Protector, with all honours, in our family vault, and had a long-winded sermon preached on my untimely end. Ha! ha!” with his mocking laugh.
“Don’t, sir! If you had seen your father then! Why did no one come forward and explain?”
“Mayhap there were none at hand who knew, or wished to meddle with the law,” he said. “Well, things were beyond all bearing at home, and you were going away, and would not so much as look at me. Now, one of the few sports my father did not look askance at was fishing, and he would endure my being out at night with, as he thought, poor man, old Pete Perring, who was as stern a Puritan as himself; but I had livelier friends, and more adventurous. They had connections with French free-traders for brandy and silks, and when they found I was one with them, my French tongue was a boon to them, till I came to have a good many friends among the Norman fishermen, and to know the snug hiding-places about the coast. So at last I made up my mind to be off with them, and make my way to my uncle in Muscovy. I had raised money enough at play and on the jewels one picks up in an envoy’s service, and there was one good angel whom I meant to take with me if I could secure her and bind her wings. Now you know with what hopes I saw you gathering flowers alone that morning.”