They called for him at the hotel about eleven o’clock, and went joking through the sunny lanes of Petit Dixcart, crossed the brook that runs out of Hart’s-Tongue Valley, and followed it by the winding path along the side of the cliff, among the gorse and ferns, down into the bay.
They had a right merry bathe with no grave casualties. Miss Penny, indeed, got out of her depth twice, to the extent of quite two inches, and shrieked for help, which Charles Svendt gallantly hastened to render; while Graeme and Margaret swam across from head to head, watched enviously by the paddlers in shallow waters.
They went home by the climbing path up the hillside, rested on The Quarter-deck while Charles Svendt got his breath back, and so, by the old Dixcart hotel, and the new one nestling among its flowers and trees, and up the Valley, to the Vicarage.
The Vicar was basking in the shade of the trees in front of the house.
“Ah-ha—Mr. and Mrs. Graeme! Good-morning! You are none the worse for being married? Non?” as he shook hands joyously all round, with both hands at once.
“Not a bit,” laughed Graeme. “We’re all as happy as sandboys.”
“Comment donc—sandboys? What is that?”
“Happy little boys who dispense with clothes and paddle all day in the sand and water.”
“Ah—you have been bathing! What energie! And you danced till—?”
“About four o’clock, I suppose. The sun was just thinking of rising as we were thinking of retiring.”
“But it is marvellous! And you are not tired?”
“The bathe has freshened us all up,” said Margaret.
Then Mrs. Vicar came out at sound of their voices, and felicitated them, and begged them to rest a while in the shade. But they were all hungry, and Charles Svendt laughingly asserted that he had swallowed so much salt-water, in rescuing Miss Penny from a watery grave, that his constitution absolutely needed a tiny tot of whisky, or the consequences might be serious.
So they went laughingly on their way, and Charles tried his best to get Miss Penny to go and show him the way to the Bel-Air, pleading absolute confusion still as to the points of the compass and the lie of the land.
He was to lunch with them at the Red House, but insisted on going home first to straighten up and make himself presentable. So they led him to the Avenue, and set his face straight down it, and bade him follow his nose and turn neither to the right hand nor to the left, and then they turned off through the fields by their own short-cut, and went merrily home.
PART THE SIXTH
Graeme was just finishing a beautiful knot in his tie, when he heard hasty feet crossing the verandah to the open front door. There was some unknown quantity in them that gave him sudden start.