“As I have informed you. It is a union to which we have been looking hopefully forward for some time past—a most excellent conjunction of hearts and fortunes. My ward possesses some means, as you are doubtless aware,”—with an insolent thrust of the pince-nez at the would-be suitor’s honour,—“and my son is also well provided for in that respect.”
“Then—I am afraid my visit is something in the nature of an intrusion.” Mr. Pixley bowed his fullest acquiescence in this very proper estimate of his position, and the pince-nez intimated that the way out lay just behind him and that the sooner he took advantage of it the better.
“I can only say, by way of apology,” added Graeme, “that I was wholly unaware of what you have just told me. I will wish you good-day, Mr. Pixley.”
Mr. Pixley and the pince-nez wafted him towards the door, and the lumpy cobbles of the courtyard outside seemed to him, for the moment, absolutely typical of life.
He went back home numbed and sore at heart. It was hard to believe this of Margaret Brandt.
And yet—he said to himself—it was wholly he who was to blame. He had deceived himself. He had wished to believe what he had so earnestly desired should be. Possibly he had closed his eyes to facts and indications which might have enlightened him if he had been on the look-out for them. Possibly—well, there!—he had played the fool unconsciously, and he was not the first. It only remained for him now to play the man.
He felt sore, and bruised, and run down, and for the moment somewhat at odds with life. He would get away from it all to some remote corner, to rest for a time and recover tone, and then to work. For work, after all, is the mighty healer and tonic, and when it is to one’s taste there are few wounds it cannot salve.
PART THE THIRD
Six o’clock next morning found Graeme on the deck of the Ibex as she threaded her way swiftly among the bristling black rocks that guard the coast of Guernsey.
Herm and Jethou lay sleeping in the eye of the sun. Beyond them lay a filmy blue whaleback of an island which he was told was Sark, and it was to Sark he was bound.
And wherefore Sark, when, within reasonable limits, all the wide world lay open to him?
Truly, it might not be easy to say. But this I know,—having so far learned the lesson of life, though missing much else—that at times, perhaps at all times, when we think our choice of ways our very own,—when we stand in doubt at the crossroads of life, and then decide on this path or that, and pride ourselves on the exercise of our high prerogative as free agents,—the result, when we look back, bears in upon our hearts the mighty fact that a higher mind than our own has been quietly at work, shaping our ends and moulding and rounding our lives. We may doubt it at times. We may take all the credit to ourselves for dangers passed and tiny victories won, but in due time the eyes of our understanding are opened—and we know.