The Altar Steps eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 477 pages of information about The Altar Steps.



One wild night in late October of the year before he would be thirteen, Mark was lying awake hoping, as on such nights he always hoped, to hear somebody shout “A wreck!  A wreck!” A different Mark from that one who used to lie trembling in Lima Street lest he should hear a shout of “Fire! or Thieves!”

And then it happened!  It happened as a hundred times he had imagined its happening, so exactly that he could hardly believe for a moment he was not dreaming.  There was the flash of a lanthorn on the ceiling, a thunderous, knocking on the Vicarage door.  Mark leapt out of bed; flinging open his window through which the wind rushed in like a flight of angry birds, he heard voices below in the garden shouting “Parson!  Parson!  Parson Trehawke!  There’s a brig driving in fast toward Church Cove.”  He did not wait to hear more, but dashed along the passage to rouse first his grandfather, then his mother, and then Emma, the Vicar’s old cook.

“And you must get soup ready,” he cried, standing over the old woman in his flannel pyjamas and waving his arms excitedly, while downstairs the cuckoo popped in and out of his door in the clock twelve times.  Emma blinked at him in terror, and Mark pulled off all the bedclothes to convince the old woman that he was not playing a practical joke.  Then he rushed back to his own room and began to dress for dear life.

“Mother,” he shouted, while he was dressing, “the Captain can sleep in my bed, if he isn’t drowned, can’t he?”

“Darling, do you really want to go down to the sea on such a night?”

“Oh, mother,” he gasped, “I’m practically dressed.  And you will see that Emma has lots of hot soup ready, won’t you?  Because it’ll be much better to bring all the crew back here.  I don’t think they’d want to walk all that way over Pendhu to Nancepean after they’d been wrecked, do you?”

“Well, you must ask grandfather first before you make arrangements for his house.”

“Grandfather’s simply tearing into his clothes; Ernie Hockin and Joe Dunstan have both got lanthorns, and I’ll carry ours, so if one blows out we shall be all right.  Oh, mother, the wind’s simply shrieking through the trees.  Can you hear it?”

“Yes, dearest, I certainly can.  I think you’d better shut your windows.  It’s blowing everything about in your room most uncomfortably.”

Mark’s soul expanded in gratitude to God when he found himself neither in a dream nor in a story, but actually, and without any possibility of self-deception hurrying down the drive toward the sea beside Ernie and Joe, who had come from the village to warn the Vicar of the wreck and were wearing oilskins and sou’westers, thus striking the keynote as it were of the night’s adventure.  At first in the shelter of the holm-oaks the storm seemed far away overhead; but when they turned

Project Gutenberg
The Altar Steps from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.