I said that I was hot and thirsty and tired and would be glad of a glass of milk.
Without a word she turned and left me standing there, and presently returned with a tumbler of milk which she placed on a deal table standing near me. To my remarks she replied in monosyllables, and stood impassively, her hands at her side, her eyes cast down, waiting for me to drink the milk and go. And when I had finished it and set the glass down and thanked her, she turned in silence and went back to that inner room from which she first came. And hot and tired as I had felt a few moments before, and desirous of an interval of rest in the cool shade, I was glad to be out in the burning sun once more, for the sight of that young woman had chilled my blood and made the heat out-of-doors seem grateful to me.
The sight of such a face in the midst of such surroundings had produced a shock of surprise, for it was noble in shape, the features all fine and the mouth most delicately chiselled, the eyes dark and beautiful, and the hair of a raven blackness. But it was a colourless face, and even the lips were pale. Strongest of all was the expression, which had frozen there, and was like the look of one on whom some unimaginable disaster or some hateful disillusionment had come, not to subdue nor soften, but to change all its sweet to sour, and its natural warmth to icy cold.
Health and pleasure resorts and all parasitic towns in fact, inland or on the sea, have no attractions for me and I was more than satisfied with a day or two of Sidmouth. Then one evening I heard for the first time of a place called Branscomb—a village near the sea, over by Beer and Seaton, near the mouth of the Axe, and the account my old host gave me seemed so attractive that on the following day I set out to find it. Further information about the unknown village came to me in a very agreeable way in the course of my tramp. A hotter walk I never walked—no, not even when travelling across a flat sunburnt treeless plain, nearer than Devon by many degrees to the equator. One wonders why that part of Devon which lies between the Exe and the Axe seems actually hotter than other regions which undoubtedly have a higher temperature. After some hours of walking with not a little of uphill and downhill, I began to find the heat well-nigh