"Are you ready?" he said, recovering himself from the pleasing
shock of this serge-draped vision of the mist.
"Yes," said Beatrice. "You must head straight out to sea for a
little —not too far, for if we get beyond the shelter of Rumball
Point we might founder in the rollers—there are always rollers
there—then steer to the left. I will tell you when. And, Mr.
Bingham, please be careful of the paddle; it has been spliced, and
won't bear rough usage."
"All right," he answered, and they started gaily enough, the
light canoe gliding swiftly forward beneath his sturdy strokes.
Beatrice was leaning back with her head bent a little forward,
so that he could only see her chin and the sweet curve of the lips
above it. But she could see all his face as it swayed towards her
with each motion of the paddle, and she watched it with interest.
It was a new type of face to her, so strong and manly, and yet so
gentle about the mouth—almost too gentle she thought. What made him
marry Lady Honoria? Beatrice wondered; she did not look
particularly gentle, though she was such a graceful woman.
And thus they went on for some time, each wondering about the
other and at heart admiring the other, which was not strange, for
they were a very proper pair, but saying no word till at last,
after about a quarter of an hour's hard paddling, Geoffrey paused
"Do you do much of this kind of thing, Miss Granger?" he said
with a gasp, "because it is rather hard work."
She laughed. "Ah," she said, "I thought you would scarcely go on
paddling at that rate. Yes, I canoe a great deal in the summer
time. It is my way of taking exercise, and I can swim well, so I am
not afraid of an upset. At least it has been my way for the last
two years since a lady who was staying here gave me the canoe when
she went away. Before that I used to row in a boat—that is, before
I went to college."
"College? What college? Girton?"
"Oh, no, nothing half so grand. It was a college where you get
certificates that you are qualified to be a mistress in a Board
school. I wish it had been Girton."
"Do you?"—you are too good for that, he was going to add, but
changed it to—"I think you were as well away. I don't care about
the Girton stamp; those of them whom I have known are so hard."
"So much the better for them," she answered. "I should like to
be hard as a stone; a stone cannot feel. Don't you think that women
ought to learn, then?"
"Do you?" he asked.
"Have you learnt anything?"
"I have taught myself a little and picked up something at the
college. But I have no real knowledge, only a smattering of
"What do you know—French and German?"
"Yes, I know something of it."
"I can read it fairly, but I am not a Greek scholar."
"No, I gave them up. There is no human nature about mathematics.
They work everything to a fixed conclusion that must result. Life
is not like that; what ought to be a square comes out a right
angle, and x always equals an unknown quantity, which is
never ascertained till you are dead."
"Good gracious!" thought Geoffrey to himself between the strokes
of the paddle, "what an extraordinary girl. A flesh-and-blood blue-
stocking, and a lovely one into the bargain. At any rate I will
bowl her out this time."
"Perhaps you have read law too?" he said with suppressed
"I have read some," she answered calmly. "I like law, especially
Equity law; it is so subtle, and there is such a mass of it built
upon such a small foundation. It is like an overgrown mushroom, and
the top will fall off one day, however hard the lawyers try to prop
it up. Perhaps you can tell me——"
"No, I'm sure I cannot," he answered. "I'm not a Chancery man. I
am Common law, and I don't take all knowledge for
my province. You positively alarm me, Miss Granger. I
wonder that the canoe does not sink beneath so much learning."
"Do I?" she answered sweetly. "I am glad that I have lived to
frighten somebody. I meant that I like Equity to study; but if I
were a barrister, I would be Common law, because there is so much
more life and struggle about it. Existence is not worth having
unless one is struggling with something and trying to overcome
"Dear me, what a reposeful prospect," said Geoffrey, aghast. He
had certainly never met such a woman as this before.
"Repose is only good when it is earned," went on the fair
philosopher, "and in order to fit one to earn some more, otherwise
it becomes idleness, and that is misery. Fancy being idle when one
has such a little time to live. The only thing to do is to work and
stifle thought. I suppose that you have a large practice, Mr.
"You should not ask a barrister that question," he answered,
laughing; "it is like looking at the pictures which an artist has
turned to the wall. No, to be frank, I have not. I have only taken
to practising in earnest during the last two years. Before I was a
barrister in name, and that is all."
"Then why did you suddenly begin to work?"
"Because I lost my prospects, Miss Granger—from necessity, in
"Oh, I beg your pardon!" she said, with a blush, which of course
he could not see. "I did not mean to be rude. But it is very lucky
for you, is it not?"
"Indeed! Some people don't think so. Why is it lucky?"
"Because you will now rise and become a great man, and that is
more than being a rich man."
"And why do you think that I shall become a great man?" he
asked, stopping paddling in his astonishment and looking at the dim
form before him.
"Oh! because it is written on your face," she answered
Her words rang true; there was no flattery or artifice in them.
Geoffrey felt that the girl was saying just what she thought.
"So you study physiognomy as well," he said. "Well, Miss
Granger, it is rather odd, considering all things, but I will say
to you what I have never said to any one before. I believe that you
are right. I shall rise. If I live I feel that I have it in
At this point it possibly occurred to Beatrice that, considering
the exceeding brevity of their acquaintance, they were drifting
into somewhat confidential conversation. At any rate, she quickly
changed the topic.
"I am afraid you are growing tired," she said; "but we must be
getting on. It will soon be quite dark and we have still a long way
to go. Look there," and she pointed seaward.
He looked. The whole bank of mist was breaking up and bearing
down on them in enormous billows of vapour. Presently, these were
rolling over them, so darkening the heavy air that, though the pair
were within four feet of each other, they could scarcely see one
another's faces. As yet they felt no wind. The dense weight of mist
choked the keen, impelling air.
"I think the weather is breaking; we are going to have a storm,"
said Beatrice, a little anxiously.
Scarcely were the words out of her mouth when the mist passed
away from them, and from all the seaward expanse of ocean. Not a
wrack of it was left, and in its place the strong sea-breath beat
upon their faces. Far in the west the angry disc of the sun was
sinking into the foam. A great red ray shot from its bent edge and
lay upon the awakened waters, like a path of fire. The ominous
light fell full upon the little boat and full upon Beatrice's lips.
Then it passed on and lost itself in the deep mists which still
swathed the coast.
"Oh, how beautiful it is!" she cried, raising herself and
pointing to the glory of the dying sun.
"It is beautiful indeed!" he answered, but he looked, not at the
sunset, but at the woman's face before him, glowing like a saint's
in its golden aureole. For this also was most beautiful—so
beautiful that it stirred him strangely.
"It is like——" she began, and broke off suddenly.
"What is it like?" he asked.
"It is like finding truth at last," she answered, speaking as
much to herself as to him. "Why, one might make an allegory out of
it. We wander in mist and darkness shaping a vague course for home.
And then suddenly the mists are blown away, glory fills the air,
and there is no more doubt, only before us is a splendour making
all things clear and lighting us over a deathless sea. It sounds
rather too grand," she added, with a charming little laugh; "but
there is something in it somewhere, if only I could express myself.
As she spoke a heavy storm-cloud rolled over the vanishing rim
of the sun. For a moment the light struggled with the eclipsing
cloud, turning its dull edge to the hue of copper, but the cloud
was too strong and the light vanished, leaving the sea in
"Well," he said, "your allegory would have a dismal end if you
worked it out. It is getting as dark as pitch, and there's a good
deal in that, if only I could express
Beatrice dropped poetry, and came down to facts in a way that
was very commendable.
"There is a squall coming up, Mr. Bingham," she said; "you must
paddle as hard as you can. I do not think we are more than two
miles from Bryngelly, and if we are lucky we may get there before
the weather breaks."
"Yes, if we are lucky," he said grimly, as he bent
himself to the work. "But the question is where to paddle to—it's
so dark. Had not we better run for the shore?"
"We are in the middle of the bay now," she answered, "and almost
as far from the nearest land as we are from Bryngelly, besides it
is all rocks. No, you must go straight on. You will see the Poise
light beyond Coed presently. You know Coed is four miles on the
other side of Bryngelly, so when you see it head to the left."
He obeyed her, and they neither of them spoke any more for some
time. Indeed the rising wind made conversation difficult, and so
far as Geoffrey was concerned he had little breath left to spare
for words. He was a strong man, but the unaccustomed labour was
beginning to tell on him, and his hands were blistering. For ten
minutes or so he paddled on through a darkness which was now almost
total, wondering where on earth he was wending, for it was quite
impossible to see. For all he knew to the contrary, he might be
circling round and round. He had only one thing to direct him, the
sweep of the continually rising wind and the wash of the gathering
waves. So long as these struck the canoe, which now began to roll
ominously, on the starboard side, he must, he thought, be keeping a
right course. But in the turmoil of the rising gale and the
confusion of the night, this was no very satisfactory guide. At
length, however, a broad and brilliant flash sprung out across the
sea, almost straight ahead of him. It was the Poise light.
He altered his course a little and paddled steadily on. And now
the squall was breaking. Fortunately, it was not a very heavy one,
or their frail craft must have sunk and they with it. But it was
quite serious enough to put them in great danger. The canoe rose to
the waves like a feather, but she was broadside on, and rise as she
would they began to ship a little water. And they had not seen the
worst of it. The weather was still thickening.
Still he held on, though his heart sank within him, while
Beatrice said nothing. Presently a big wave came; he could just see
its white crest gleaming through the gloom, then it was on them.
The canoe rose to it gallantly; it seemed to curl right over her,
making the craft roll till Geoffrey thought that the end had come.
But she rode it out, not, however, without shipping more than a
bucket of water. Without saying a word, Beatrice took the cloth cap
from her head and, leaning forward, began to bale as best she
could, and that was not very well.
"This will not do," he called. "I must keep her head to the sea
or we shall be swamped."
"Yes," she answered, "keep her head up. We are in great
He glanced to his right; another white sea was heaving down on
him; he could just see its glittering crest. With all his force he
dug the paddle into the water; the canoe answered to it; she came
round just in time to ride out the wave with safety, but the paddle
snapped. It was already sprung, and the weight he put upon
it was more than it could bear. Right in two it broke, some nine
inches above that blade which at the moment was buried in the
water. He felt it go, and despair took hold of him.
"Great heavens!" he cried, "the paddle is broken."
"You must use the other blade," she said; "paddle first one side
and then on the other, and keep her head on."
"Till we sink," he answered.
"No, till we are saved—never talk of sinking."
The girl's courage shamed him, and he obeyed her instructions as
best he could. By dint of continually shifting what remained of the
paddle from one side of the canoe to the other, he did manage to
keep her head on to the waves that were now rolling in apace. But
in their hearts they both wondered how long this would last.
"Have you got any cartridges?" she asked presently.
"Yes, in my coat pocket," he answered.
"Give me two, if you can manage it," she said.
In an interval between the coming of two seas he contrived to
slip his hand into a pocket and transfer the cartridges. Apparently
she knew something of the working of a gun, for presently there was
a flash and a report, quickly followed by another.
"Give me some more cartridges," she cried. He did so, but
"It is no use," she said at length, "the cartridges are wet. I
cannot get the empty cases out. But perhaps they may have seen or
heard them. Old Edward is sure to be watching for me. You had
better throw the rest into the sea if you can manage it," she added
by way of an afterthought; "we may have to swim presently."
To Geoffrey this seemed very probable, and whenever he got a
chance he acted on the hint till at length he was rid of all his
cartridges. Just then it began to rain in torrents. Though it was
not warm the perspiration was streaming from him at every pore, and
the rain beating on his face refreshed him somewhat; also with the
rain the wind dropped a little.
But he was becoming tired out and he knew it. Soon he would no
longer be able to keep the canoe straight, and then they must be
swamped, and in all human probability drowned. So this was to be
the end of his life and its ambitions. Before another hour had run
its course, he would be rolling to and fro in the arms of that
angry sea. What would his wife Honoria say when she heard the news,
he wondered? Perhaps it would shock her into some show of feeling.
And Effie, his dear little six-year-old daughter? Well, thank God,
she was too young to feel his loss for long. By the time that she
was a woman she would almost have forgotten that she ever had a
father. But how would she get on without him to guide her? Her
mother did not love children, and a growing girl would continually
remind her of her growing years. He could not tell; he could only
hope for the best.
And for himself! What would become of him after the short sharp
struggle for life? Should he find endless sleep, or what? He was a
Christian, and his life had not been worse than that of other men.
Indeed, though he would have been the last to think it, he had some
redeeming virtues. But now at the end the spiritual horizon was as
dark as it had been at the beginning. There before him were the
Gates of Death, but not yet would they roll aside and show the
traveller what lay beyond their frowning face. How could he tell?
Perhaps they would not open at all. Perhaps he now bade his last
farewell to consciousness, to earth and sky and sea and love and
all lovely things. Well, that might be better than some prospects.
At that moment Geoffrey Bingham, in the last agony of doubt, would
gladly have exchanged his hopes of life beyond for a certainty of
eternal sleep. That faith which enables some of us to tread this
awful way with an utter confidence is not a wide prerogative, and,
as yet, at any rate, it was not his, though the time might come
when he would attain it. There are not very many, even among those
without reproach, who can lay them down in the arms of Death,
knowing most certainly that when the veil is rent away the
countenance that they shall see will be that of the blessed
Guardian of Mankind. Alas! he could not be altogether sure, and
where doubt exists, hope is but a pin-pricked bladder. He sighed
heavily, murmured a little formula of prayer that had been on his
lips most nights during thirty years—he had learnt it as a child at
his mother's knee—and then, while the tempest roared around him,
gathered up his strength to meet the end which seemed inevitable.
At any rate he would die like a man.
Then came a reaction. His vital forces rose again. He no longer
felt fearful, he only wondered with a strange impersonal wonder, as
a man wonders about the vital affairs of another. Then from
wondering about himself he began to wonder about the girl who sat
opposite to him. With the rain came a little lightning, and by the
first flash he saw her clearly. Her beautiful face was set, and as
she bent forward searching the darkness with her wide eyes, it
wore, he thought, an almost defiant air.
The canoe twisted round somewhat. He dug his broken paddle into
the water and once more brought her head on to the sea. Then he
"Are you afraid?" he asked of Beatrice.
"No," she answered, "I am not afraid."
"Do you know that we shall probably be drowned?"
"Yes, I know it. They say the death is easy. I brought you here.
Forgive me that. I should have tried to row you ashore as you
"Never mind me; a man must meet his fate some day. Do not think
of me. But I can't keep her head on much longer. You had better say
Beatrice bent forward till her head was quite near his own. The
wind had blown some of her hair loose, and though he did not seem
to notice it at the time, he remembered afterwards that a lock of
it struck him on the face.
"I cannot pray," she said; "I have nothing to pray to. I am not
The words struck him like a blow. It seemed so awful to think of
this proud and brilliant woman, now balanced on the verge of what
she believed to be utter annihilation. Even the courage that
induced her at such a moment to confess her hopeless state seemed
"Try," he said with a gasp.
"No," she answered, "I do not fear to die. Death cannot be worse
than life is for most of us. I have not prayed for years, not
since—well, never mind. I am not a coward. It would be cowardly to
pray now because I may be wrong. If there is a God who knows all,
He will understand that."
Geoffrey said no more, but laboured at the broken paddle
gallantly and with an ever-failing strength. The lightning had
passed away and the darkness was very great, for the hurrying
clouds hid the starlight. Presently a sound arose above the turmoil
of the storm, a crashing thunderous sound towards which the send of
the sea gradually bore them. The sound came from the waves that
beat upon the Bryngelly reef.
"Where are we drifting to?" he cried.
"Into the breakers, where we shall be lost," she answered
calmly. "Give up paddling, it is of no use, and try to take off
your coat. I have loosened my skirt. Perhaps we can swim
He thought to himself that in the dark and breakers such an
event was not probable, but he said nothing, and addressed himself
to the task of getting rid of his coat and waistcoat—no easy one in
that confined space. Meanwhile the canoe was whirling round and
round like a walnut shell upon a flooded gutter. For some distance
before the waves broke upon the reef and rocks they swept in
towards them with a steady foamless swell. On reaching the
shallows, however, they pushed their white shoulders high into the
air, curved up and fell in thunder on the reef.
The canoe rode towards the breakers, sucked upon its course by a
"Good-bye," called Geoffrey to Beatrice, as stretching out his
wet hand he found her own and took it, for companionship makes
death a little easier.
"Good-bye," she cried, clinging to his hand. "Oh, why did I
bring you into this?"
For in their last extremity this woman thought rather of her
companion in peril than of herself.
One more turn, then suddenly the canoe beneath them was lifted
like a straw and tossed high into the air. A mighty mass of water
boiled up beneath it and around it. Then the foam rushed in, and
vaguely Geoffrey knew that they were wrapped in the curve of a
A swift and mighty rush of water. Crash!—and his senses left