“THE FOG LIFTS”
When Ronnie came to himself, emerging quite suddenly from a long, confused dream, which had held many voices, many happenings over which he had exercised no control and which were too indefinite to be remembered, he found himself sitting on a seat, on the esplanade at Hazelbeach.
A crisp, wintry feeling was in the air; but the sun was brilliant, and the high ground behind, sheltered the sea-front from wind.
He was muffled in his fur coat, and felt quite warm.
The first thing he consciously noticed was the sparkling of the ripple on the calm water.
There is something particularly reviving and inspiriting about sunshine on the gaily moving sea. The effect is produced with so little apparent effort. The sun just shines; the water just moves; and lo, hosts of sparkling diamonds!
Ronnie watched it in silence for some time, before giving any sign that he actually saw it.
He was anxious carefully to take his bearings, without appearing to do so.
Helen sat beside him on the seat. She kept up a flow of conversation, in the kind, cheerful, intelligent voice in which you talk to a child who has to be kept happy and amused.
Ronnie let her go on talking in that voice, while he took his bearings.
He glanced at her, furtively, once; then turned his eyes seaward again.
Helen, also, was wearing a fur coat, and a pretty grey fur toque on her soft hair. Her face seemed thinner than it used to be; but the sea breeze and sunshine had brought a bright colour to her cheeks.
Ronnie’s eyes left the ripples, and wandered cautiously up and down the shore.
The beach was deserted. No moving figures dotted the esplanade. Helen and he would have been alone, had it not been for one tiresome man who sat reading on the next seat to theirs. He looked like a superior valet or upper footman, in a bowler and a black morning coat. He was just out of earshot; but his presence prevented Ronnie from feeling himself alone with Helen, and increased the careful caution with which he took his bearings.
At last he felt the moment had arrived to stop Helen’s well-meant attempts at amusing him.
The man on the other seat was a dozen yards off to the right. Helen sat quite close to him on the left. He turned his back on the other seat and looked earnestly into his wife’s face.
“Helen,” he said, quietly, “how did we get here?”
“We motored, darling. It isn’t very far across country, though to get here by train we should have to go up to town and down again.”
“When did we come?”
“Yesterday. Ronnie, do look at those funny little wooden houses just beyond us on the esplanade. They take the place of bathing-machines, or bathing-tents, in summer. They can be hired just for the morning, or you can engage one for the whole time of your visit, and furnish it comfortably. Don’t you think it is quite a good idea? And people give them such grand names. I saw one called ‘Woodstock,’ and another ‘Highcombe House.’ If we took one, we should have to call it ’The Grange.’”