PART THE FIRST
Note.—It would be impossible to depict the Sark of to-day without using the names native to the Island. All such names here employed, however, are used without any reference whatever to any actual persons who may happen to bear similar names in Sark. The characters are to be taken as types. The incidents are in many cases fact.
If you want murders, mysteries, or mud—pass on! This is a simple, straightforward love-story.
“Jock, my lad,” said Lady Elspeth softly, nodding her head very many times, in that very knowing way of hers which made her look like a Lord Chief Justice and a Fairy Godmother all in one, “I’ve found you out.”
And when the shrewd old soul of her looked him gently through and through in that fashion, he knew very much better than to attempt any evasion.
“Ah!” he said meekly, “I was afraid someone would, sooner or later. I’ve been living in constant dread of it. But it’s happened before, you know, between you and me. What is it this time, dear Lady Elspeth?”
“Here have I been imputing grace to you for your kindly attentions to a poor old woman whose race is nearly run, and setting you up above the rest of them therefor, and lo, my idol——”
“Ah!” he said again, with a reproving wag of the head, for he knew now what was coming,—“idols are perverse, camstairy things at best, you know, and a bit out of date too. And, besides,”—with a touch of remonstrance—“at your age and with your bringing-up——”
“Ay, ay, ye may be as insulting as ye choose, my laddie, and fling my age and my upbringing in my face like a very man——”
“There isn’t a face like it in all England, and as to——”
“I prefer ye to say Britain, as I’ve told ye before. Your bit England is only a portion of the kingdom, and in very many respects the poorest portion, notably in brains and manners and beauty. But ye cannot draw me off like that, my laddie, whether it’s meant for a compliment or no. I was just about telling you you were a fraud——”
“You hadn’t got quite that length, you know, but——”
“Will I prove it to you? Haven’t you been coming here as regular as the milkman for a month past——”
“Oh, come now!—Only once a day. I’ve an idea milkie comes twice, and besides——”
“And what did ye come for, my lad?” with an emphatic nod and a menacing shake of the frail white hand, pricelessly jewelled above, comfortably black-silk-mittened below. “Tell me that now! What did ye come for?”
“To see the dearest old lady in England—Britain, I mean. And—”
“Yes?—And?—” and she watched him, with her head a little on one side and her eyes shining brightly, like an expectant motherly robin hopping on treasure trove.
He smiled back at her and said nothing. He knew she knew without his telling.