Jeanne of the Marshes eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 227 pages of information about Jeanne of the Marshes.

CHAPTER VI

With the coming of dawn the storm passed away northwards, across a sea snow-flecked and still panting with its fury, and leaving behind many traces of its violence, even upon these waste and empty places.  A lurid sunrise gave little promise of better weather, but by six o’clock the wind had fallen, and the full tide was swelling the creeks.  On a sand-bank, far down amongst the marshes, Jeanne stood hatless, with her hair streaming in the breeze, her face turned seaward, her eyes full of an unexpected joy.  Everywhere she saw traces of the havoc wrought in the night.  The tall rushes lay broken and prostrate upon the ground; the beach was strewn with timber from the breaking up of an ancient wreck.  Eyes more accustomed than hers to the outline of the country could have seen inland dismantled cottages and unroofed sheds, groups of still frightened and restive cattle, a snapped flagstaff, a fallen tree.  But Jeanne knew none of these things.  Her face was turned towards the ocean and the rising sun.  She felt the sting of the sea wind upon her cheeks, all the nameless exhilaration of the early morning sweetness.  Far out seaward the long breakers, snow-flecked and white crested, came rolling in with a long, monotonous murmur toward the land.  Above, the grey sky was changing into blue.  Almost directly over her head, rising higher and higher in little circles, a lark was singing.  Jeanne half closed her eyes and stood still, engrossed by the unexpected beauty of her surroundings.  Then suddenly a voice came travelling to her from across the marshes.

She turned round unwillingly, and with a vague feeling of irritation against this interruption, which seemed to her so inopportune, and in turning round she realized at once that her period of absorption must have lasted a good deal longer than she had had any idea of.  She had walked straight across the marshes towards the little hillock on which she stood, but the way by which she had come was no longer visible.  The swelling tide had circled round through some unseen channel, and was creeping now into the land by many creeks and narrow ways.  She herself was upon an island, cut off from the dry land by a smoothly flowing tidal way more than twenty yards across.  Along it a man in a flat-bottomed boat was punting his way towards her.  She stood and waited for him, admiring his height, and the long powerful strokes with which he propelled his clumsy craft.  He was very tall, and against the flat background his height seemed almost abnormal.  As soon as he had attracted her attention he ceased to shout, and devoted all his attention to reaching her quickly.  Nevertheless, the salt water was within a few feet of her when he drove his pole into the bottom, and brought the punt to a momentary standstill.  She looked down at him, smiling.

“Shall I get in?” she asked.

“Unless you are thinking of swimming back,” he answered drily, “it would be as well.”

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Jeanne of the Marshes from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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