The shore, with the fresh, monotonous plash of the waves, when the tide served, was his favourite resort. He could stand still and look out over the expanse of ripples, or wander on, as he pleased, watching the sea-gulls float along-
“As though life’s
only call and care
Were graceful motion.”
There had been a somewhat noisy luncheon, for Edward Harewood, a midshipman in the Channel Fleet, which was hovering in the offing, had come over on a day’s leave with Horner, a messmate whose parents lived in the town. He was a big lad, a year older than Gerald, and as soon as a little awe of Uncle Clement and Aunt Cherry had worn off, he showed himself of the original Harewood type, directing himself chiefly to what he meant to be teasing Gerald about Vale Leston and Penbeacon.
“All the grouse there were on the bit of moor are snapped up.”
“Very likely,” said Gerald coolly.
“Those precious surveyors and engineers that Walsh brings down can give an account of them! As soon as you come of age, you’ll have to double your staff of keepers, I can tell you.”
“Guardians of ferae naturae,” said Gerald.
“I thought your father did all that was required in that line,” said Clement.
“Not since duffers and land-lubbers have been marauding over Penbeacon-aye, and elsewhere. What would you say to an engineer poaching away one of the august house of Vanderkist?”
“The awful cad! I’d soon show him what I thought of his cheek,” cried Adrian, with a flourish of his knife.
“Ha, ha! I bet that he will be shooting over Ironbeam Park long before you are of age.”
“I shall shoot him, then,” cried Adrian.
“Not improbably there will be nothing else to shoot by that time,” quietly said Gerald.
“I shall have a keeper in every lodge, and bring up four or five hundred pheasants every year,” boasted the little baronet, quite alive to the pride of possession, though he had never seen Ironbeam in his life.
Edward laughed a “Don’t you wish you may get it,” and the others, who knew very well the futility of the poor boy’s expectations, even if Gerald’s augury were not fulfilled, hastened to turn away the conversation to plans for the afternoon. Anna asked the visitor if he would ride out with her and Gerald to Clipstone or to the moor, and was relieved when he declined, saying he had promised to meet Horner.
“You will come in to tea at five?” said his aunt, “and bring him if you like.”
“Thanks awfully, but we hardly can. We have to start from the quay at six sharp.”
All had gone their several ways, and Clement, after the heat of the day, was pacing towards a secluded cove out of an inner bay which lay nearer than Anscombe Cove, but was not much frequented. However, he smelt tobacco, and heard sounds of boyish glee, and presently saw Adrian and Fergus Merrifield, bare-legged, digging in the mud.