Tetherstones - Ethel M. Dell - ebook

Tetherstones ebook

Ethel M. Dell

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First published in 1923, this is a magnificent story about an ill-treated but fiercely proud heroine. A young lady meets a mysterious stranger at a farm called Tetherstones, where Druids in ancient times used to perform their human sacrifices. The master of Tetherstones is a large brute of a man, more gladiator than farmer, and the heroine finds herself strangely attracted by him. Is a new start possible for either one of them or will the past win out? A tale of tempestuous, unfolding love absolutely thrilling. Ethel May Dell Savage (1881-1939) was a British author known by her pen name Ethel M. Dell. She wrote over 30 popular romance novels and numerous of short stories between 1911-1939. Her stories were romantic in nature, often set in India and other old British colonies, and were considered quite racy for the time.

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Contents

PART I

CHAPTER I. THE MACHINE

CHAPTER II. THE BREAK-DOWN

CHAPTER III. A BUSINESS PROPOSITION

CHAPTER IV. THE ACCUSER

CHAPTER V. THE HOLIDAY

CHAPTER VI. THE CAPTURE

CHAPTER VII. ROGER

CHAPTER VIII. THE ROAD TO NOWHERE

CHAPTER IX. THE LIONS’ DEN

PART II

CHAPTER I. THE STRANGERS

CHAPTER II. ROGER’S MASTER

CHAPTER III. THE BEAST

CHAPTER IV. REBELS

CHAPTER V. MR. DERMOT

CHAPTER VI. MAGGIE

CHAPTER VII. THE PATH THROUGH THE WILDERNESS

CHAPTER VIII. THE STONES

CHAPTER IX. THE LETTER

CHAPTER X. REVELATION

CHAPTER XI. FAILURE

CHAPTER XII. THE FIRES OF HELL

CHAPTER XIII. ESCAPE

PART III

CHAPTER I. THE VICTIM

CHAPTER II. THE BARGAIN

CHAPTER III. THE TURN OF THE TIDE

CHAPTER IV. RUTH

CHAPTER V. THE EXILE

CHAPTER VI. THE CHAIN

CHAPTER VII. THE MESSAGE

CHAPTER VIII. THE MIRACLE

CHAPTER IX. THE INVALID

CHAPTER X. THE WOMAN’S RIGHT

CHAPTER XI. THE PERFECT GIFT

CHAPTER XII. THE PARTING

PART IV

CHAPTER I. THE LAND OF EXILE

CHAPTER II. THE NIGHTMARE

CHAPTER III. THE AWAKENING

CHAPTER IV. THE VICTORY

CHAPTER V. THE VISION

CHAPTER VI. THE INQUISITOR

CHAPTER VII. FAIR PLAY

CHAPTER VIII. THE PLACE OF SACRIFICE

CHAPTER IX. WHERE THE GIANT HARE-BELLS GROW

PART I

CHAPTER I. THE MACHINE

Twelve deep notes sounded from the clock-tower of the Cathedral, and the Bishop’s secretary dropped her hands from her typewriter and turned her face to the open window with a quick sigh. The Bishop’s garden lay sleeping in the sunshine–the pure white of lilies and royal blue of delphiniums mingling together as the wrought silks on the fringe of an altar-cloth. The age-worn stone of the Cathedral rose beyond it, and the arch of the cloisters gave a glimpse of the quiet burial-ground within. A great cluster of purple stone-crop rioted over one corner of the arch, and the secretary’s tired eyes rested upon it with a touch of wistfulness as though the splendour of it were somewhat overwhelming. She herself was so slight, so insignificant, so altogether negligible a quality, a being wholly out of place in the midst of such glorious surroundings. But yet she loved them, and her happiest hours were those she spent with her little sketching-block in various corners of that wonderful garden. It was only that the purple flower seemed somehow to be the symbol to her of all that was out of reach. Her youth was slipping from her, and she had never lived.

The tired lines about the brown eyes were growing daily more marked. The little tender curve about the lips was becoming a droop. The brown hair that grew so softly about her forehead gleamed unexpectedly white here and there.

“Yes, I’m getting old,” said Frances Thorold. “Old and tired and dull.” She stretched up her arms with a sudden movement, and for a second her hands were clenched. Then they fell to her sides.

“I suppose we are all slaves,” she said, “of one kind or another. But only the rebels know it.”

She turned again to her work, and for a space only the sharp click of the machine disturbed the summer silence. It had an unmistakably indignant sound as though its manipulator were out of sympathy with the words so deftly printed on the white page. The secretary’s mouth became very firm as she proceeded, the brown eyes narrowed and grew hard.

Suddenly she lettered an impatient exclamation and looked up. “Oh, these platitudes!” she said. “How are they going to help men and women to live?”

For a moment she had almost a desperate look, and then abruptly she laughed.

“Perhaps it isn’t all your fault,” she said to the manuscript by her side, “that you give us stones for bread. You have lived on them all your life and don’t know the difference.”

“How do you know?” said a voice at the window.

The secretary gave a start. Her eyes met the eyes of a man who stood against the clematis-covered window-frame looking in upon her–a careless, lounging figure as supremely at ease as a cat stretched in the sunshine.

He marked her brief confusion with a smile. “Do tell me how you know!” he said.

Her eyes fenced with his for a moment, then were proudly lowered. It was as if she drew a veil over her face.

“His lordship is not here,” she remarked in a tone that was strictly official.

“So I have already observed,” rejoined the new-comer, with his easy tolerance that was somehow quite distinct from familiarity. “In fact, at the present moment, I believe his lordship is in the thick of an argument with the Dean as to whether Shakespeare or Bacon wrote the Bible. It’s rather an important point, you know. Have you any theories on the subject, might one ask?”

A little quiver that could hardly be described as a smile passed over the secretary’s thin features, but her eyes remained upon her work.

“I don’t go in for theories,” she said, “or arguments. I am far too busy.”

“By Jove!” he commented. “How you hate it!”

She raised her brows very slightly,–delicate brows, one of them a shade more tilted than the other, giving a quaint look of humour to a face that seldom smiled.

“I hate nothing,” she said with precision, “I have no time.”

“By Jove!” he said again, and chuckled as at some hidden joke.

The exasperating click of the typewriter put an end to all discussion, but it did not dislodge the intruder as was obviously intended. He merely propped himself against the grey stone-work of the window and took out his cigarette-case. His eyes dwelt with artistic appreciation upon the stately glories of the old garden, the arch of the cloisters against the summer blue, the wealth of purple flower adorning it. His face had the lines and the weather-tan of the man who has travelled far and wide, has looked upon the wonders of life and death with a certain cynical amusement, and returned almost to the starting-point with very little of value in his pack.

As the click of the typewriter persisted, he turned from his deliberate survey and gave his attention to a calm study of the woman seated behind it. His gaze was speculative, faintly humorous. There was something in that face of passive severity that aroused his curiosity. An insignificant type, it was true; but behind the insignificance there lurked something unusual that drew his interest. He wondered how long she would manage to ignore him.

On and on clicked the typewriter. The typist’s lips were firmly closed, her eyes resolutely fixed upon her work. The watcher summoned his own resolution to wait upon opportunity, meditatively smoking the while.

Opportunity came at the end of some minutes of persistent clicking that might well have exasperated the most patient. The end of the page was reached, and there came a check. The secretary reached a thin, nervous hand for another sheet.

“Still more platitudes?” queried the man who leaned against the window-frame.

It would not have greatly surprised him had she made no response, but the sudden flashing upwards of her eyes came as a revelation. He straightened himself, almost as if he expected a blow.

“I am sorry,” said the secretary very evenly, her eyes unswervingly upon him, “but you are disturbing me. I must ask you to go away.”

He stood looking at her in frank astonishment. No woman had ever made him so simple and so compelling a request before. This from the secretary, the insignificant adjunct, the wholly undesirable and unknown etcetera of his uncle’s household! There certainly was more here than met the eye!

He collected himself with an unwonted feeling of being at a disadvantage and instantly determined to save the situation at all costs. He leaned towards her, meeting the grave insistence of her look with a disarming smile. “Miss–Thorold, I haven’t offended you?”

“No,” said Frances Thorold briefly. “I am busy, that’s all.”

Her tone was official rather than ungracious, her eyes questioning rather than hostile, her whole attitude too impersonal for resentment. And yet it aroused resentment in the man. His smile vanished.

“I am sorry,” he said stiffly, “to have appeared intrusive. That was not my intention. I only spoke to you because I heard your voice and imagined the hour for recreation had arrived. Pray accept my apologies!”

The firm lips relaxed a little, and a short sigh came through them. “There is no need for apology,” she said. “No one apologizes to–a machine. But it has got to keep working, and it mustn’t be interrupted.”

“You can’t work all day!” he protested.

She nodded. “I can. I do. And why not? It’s what I’m here for.”

Her voice had a note of challenge. Her eyes had gone beyond him. They rested upon the wealth of purple flower that crowned the coping of the cloister-arch in the hot sunshine, and again they held that wistful look as of baffled longing for the unattainable.

The man’s eyes were upon her. They saw the longing. His anger passed.

“No machine will go for ever,” he said, “if left to itself. The very best of them need occasional rest for adjustment and lubrication. Otherwise they run down and wear out before their time.”

He was aware of the gleam of appreciation that crossed her intent face, and for the first time he marked the wary lines about her eyes. Then he met them again, and knew that he had scored a point.

She spoke in her brisk, official voice, returning to her work. “No doubt you are right. I shall have to oil it one of these days–when I have time.”

“I shouldn’t leave it too long,” he said. “Take an engineer’s advice! It’s poor economy–may lead to a break-down in the end.”

She adjusted the fresh page with deft care. “Thank you Mr. Rotherby. I shall remember your advice.”

“And take it?” suggested Rotherby. Then, as she did not reply, “It may be dry bread, but it’s better than stones, anyway.”

He got what he angled for. She threw him a fleeting smile, and in a moment he caught the charm which up till then had eluded him.

It faded almost instantly as a picture fades from a screen. Only the official mask remained. Yet as he turned to depart, the gleam of satisfaction lingered in his eyes. He had made his small bid for amusement, and he had not bid in vain.

The monotonous clicking of the typewriter continued through the summer silence as the secretary pursued her task with erect head and compressed lips. With machine-like precision she tapped out the long, learned sentences, reading them mechanically, transmitting them with well-trained accuracy, aloof, uncritical, uninterested. She did not lift her eyes from her work again for a full hour.

Page after page was covered and laid aside. The Cathedral clock chimed and struck again. Then, in a quarter of an hour, there came the booming of a heavy gong through the house. Frances Thorold finished her sentence and ceased to work.

Her hands fell upon her lap, and for the moment her whole frame relaxed. She sat inert, as one utterly exhausted, her eyes closed, her head bowed.

Then, very sharply, as though at a word of rebuke, she straightened herself and began to set in order the fruits of her morning’s work. She had laboured for five hours without a break, save for the brief interlude of Montague Rotherby’s interruption.

At the opening of the door she rose to her feet, but continued her task without turning. The Bishop of Burminster had a well-known objection to any forms of deference from inferiors. He expressed it now as he came forward to the table at which she had worked for so long.

“Why do you rise, Miss Thorold? Pray continue your task. You waste time by these observances.”

She straightened the last page and made quiet reply. “I think I have finished my task for this morning, my lord. In any case it is luncheon-time.”

“You have finished?” He took up the pile of typescript with eagerness, but in a moment tossed it down again with exasperation. “You call that finished!”

“For this morning,” repeated Frances Thorold, in her quiet, unmoved voice. “It is a lengthy, and a difficult, piece of work. But I hope to finish it to-night.”

“It must be finished to-night,” said the Bishop with decision. “It is essential that it should be handed to me for revision by nine o’clock. Kindly make a note of this, Miss Thorold! I must say I am disappointed by your rate of progress. I had hoped that work so purely mechanical would have taken far less time.”

He spoke with curt impatience, but no shade of feeling showed upon his secretary’s face. She said nothing whatever in reply.

The Bishop, lean, ascetic, forbidding of aspect, pulled at his clean-shaven chin with an irritable gesture. He had a bundle of letters in his hand which he flapped down upon the table before her.

“I had hoped for better things,” he said. “There are these to be answered, and when is time to be found for them if your whole day is to be occupied in the typing of my treatise–a very simple piece of work, mere, rough copy, after all, which will have to be done again from beginning to end after my revision?”

“I will take your notes upon those this afternoon,” said Frances. “I will have them ready for your signature in time to catch the midnight post.”

“Absurd!” said the Bishop. “They must go before then.”

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