It was called Two on the Downs, and had been written by Mr. Haggard, when in the first vigour of youth he had come to take up his ministry in Cuckmere thirty years since:
Two on the Downs
So we go
Up the hill to the sky,
Through the lane where the apple-blossoms blow
And the lovers pass us by.
Let them laugh at you and me,
Let them if they dare!
They’re almost as bad maybe—
What do we care?
On the brow!—
O, the world is wide!
And the wind and the waters blow and flow
In the sun on every side.
By the dew-pond windy-dark,
Take a gusty breath;
The gorse in glory,
The sunshine hoary
Upon the sea beneath._
Breathless with laughter and song,
The wind in her wilful hair a-blow,
Swinging along, along.
She and I, girl and boy,
Merrily arm in arm,
The lark above us,
And God to love us,
And keep our hearts from harm.
So we go,
Over Downs that are surging green,
Under the sky and the seas that lie
One brilliant morning in early June, some two months after she had brought the gypsy’s mare back to Putnam’s on the evening of the Polefax Meeting, Boy rose early and stood humming the lines as she dressed, to a simple little tune she had composed for them.
The words were in harmony with her mood and with the morning. In part they inspired, in part they determined her. As she began the song Boy was wondering whether she should begin to bathe. Her mind had resolved itself without effort as she ended.
There had been a week of summer; the tide would be high, and only a day or two back a coastguard at the Gap had told her that the water was warming fast.
She went to the window and looked out over the vast green sweep of the Paddock Close running away up the gorse-crowned hillside that rose like a rampart at the back.
It was early. The sun had risen, but the mist lay white as yet in the hollows and hung about the dripping trees. Earth and sky and sea called her.
The girl slipped into her riding-boots, put her jersey on, and over it her worn long-skirted coat, twisted her bathing gown and cap inside her towel, and walked across the loft, the old boards shaking beneath her swift feet.
At the top of the ladder she paused a moment and looked down.
The fan-tails strutted in the yard; Maudie licked herself on the ladder just out of the reach of Billy Bluff, who, tossing on his chain, greeted the girl with a volley of yelps, yaps, howls of triumph, petition, expectation and joy.
Maudie, less pleased, rose coldly, and descended the ladder. She knew by experience what to expect when that slight figure came tripping down the ladder.