“We’ll get the rain,” said Joanna sagely.
“I don’t care if we do,” said Martin.
“You haven’t brought your overcoat.”
“Never mind that.”
“I do mind.”
His robust appearance—his broad back and shoulders, thick vigorous neck and swarthy skin—only magnified his pathos in her eyes. It was pitiful that this great thing should be so frail.... He could pick her up with both hands on her waist, and hold her up before him, the big Joanna—and yet she must take care of him.
An hour’s walking brought them to the end of the Ness—to a strange forsaken country of coastguard stations and lonely taverns and shingle tracks. The lighthouse stood only a few feet above the sea, at the end of the point, and immediately before it the water dropped to sinister, glaucous depths.
“Well, it ain’t much to see,” said Joanna.
“It’s wonderful,” said Martin—“it’s terrible.”
He stood looking out to sea, into the Channel streaked with green and grey, as if he would draw France out of the southward fogs. He felt half-way to France ... here on the end of this lonely crane, with water each side of him and ahead, and behind him the shingle which was the uttermost of Kent.
“Joanna—don’t you feel it, too?”
“Yes—maybe I do. It’s queer and lonesome—I’m glad I’ve got you, Martin.”
She suddenly came close to him and put out her arms, hiding her face against his heart.
“Child—what is it?”
“I dunno. Maybe it’s this place, but I feel scared. Oh, Martin, you’ll never leave me? You’ll always be good to me?...”
“I ... oh, my own precious thing.”
He held her close to him and they both trembled—she with her first fear of those undefinable forces and associations which go to make the mystery of place, he with the passion of his faithfulness, of his vows of devotion, too fierce and sacrificial even to express.
“Let’s go and have tea,” she said, suddenly disengaging herself, “I’ll get the creeps if we stop out here on the beach much longer—reckon I’ve got ’em now, and I never was the one to be silly like that. I told you it was a tedious hole.”
They went to the Britannia, on the eastern side of the bill. The inn looked surprised to see them, but agreed to put the kettle on. They sat together in a little queer, dim room, smelling of tar and fish, and bright with the flames of wreckwood. Joanna had soon lost her fears—she talked animatedly, telling him of the progress of her spring wheat; of the dead owl that had fallen out of the beams of Brenzett church during morning prayers last Sunday, of the shocking way they had managed their lambing at Beggar’s Bush, of King Edward’s Coronation that was coming off in June.
“I know of something else that’s coming off in June,” said Martin.