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Studies in love and in terror   By: (1868-1947)

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STUDIES IN LOVE AND IN TERROR

BY

MRS. BELLOC LOWNDES

(Marie Adelaide Belloc Lowndes)

Short Story Index Reprint Series

BOOKS FOR LIBRARIES PRESS FREEPORT, NEW YORK

First Published 1913

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

CONTENTS

PAGE

PRICE OF ADMIRALTY 1

THE CHILD 99

ST. CATHERINE'S EVE 131

THE WOMAN FROM PURGATORY 187

WHY THEY MARRIED 227

PRICE OF ADMIRALTY

"O mort, vieux capitaine, il est temps! levons l'ancre! Ce pays nous ennuie, O mort! Appareillons!"

I

Claire de Wissant, wife of Jacques de Wissant, Mayor of Falaise, stood in the morning sunlight, graceful with a proud, instinctive grace of poise and gesture, on a wind blown path close to the edge of the cliff.

At some little distance to her left rose the sloping, mansard roofs of the Pavillon de Wissant, the charming country house to which her husband had brought her, a seventeen year old bride, ten long years ago.

She was now gazing eagerly out to sea, shielding her grey, heavy lidded eyes with her right hand. From her left hand hung a steel chain, to which was attached a small key.

A hot haze lay heavily over the great sweep of deep blue waters. It blotted out the low grey line on the horizon which, on the majority of each year's days, reminds the citizens of Falaise how near England is to France.

Jacques de Wissant had rejoiced in the entente cordiale , if only because it brought such a stream of tourists to the old seaport town of which he was now Mayor. But his beautiful wife thought of the English as gallant foes rather than as friends. Was she not great granddaughter to that admiral who at Trafalgar, when both his legs were shattered by chain shot, bade his men place him in a barrel of bran that he might go on commanding, in the hour of defeat, to the end?

And yet as Claire stood there, her eyes sweeping the sea for an as yet invisible craft, her heart seemed to beat rhythmically to the last verse of a noble English poem which the governess of her twin daughters had made them recite to her that very morning. How did it run? Aloud she murmured:

"Yet this inconstancy is such, As you too shall adore "

and then she stopped, her quivering lips refusing to form the two concluding lines.

To Claire de Wissant, that moving cry from a man's soul was not dulled by familiarity, or hackneyed by common usage, and just now it found an intolerably faithful echo in her sad, rebellious heart, intensifying the anguish born of a secret and very bitter renunciation.

With an abrupt, restless movement she turned and walked on till her way along the path was barred by a curious obstacle. This was a small red brick tower, built within a few feet of the edge of the cliff. It was an ugly blot on the beautiful stretch of down, all the uglier that the bricks and tiles had not yet had time to lose their hardness of line and colour in the salt wind.

On the cliff side, the small circular building, open to wind, sky and sea, formed the unnatural apex of a natural stairway which led steeply, almost vertically, down to a deep land locked cove below. The irregular steps carved by nature out of the chalk had been strengthened, and a rough protection added by means of knotted ropes fixed on either side of the dangerous descent.

In the days when the steps had started sheer from a cleft in the cliff path, Jacques de Wissant had never used this way of reaching a spot which till last year had been his property, and his favourite bathing place; and he had also, in those same quiet days which now seemed so long ago, forbidden his daughters to use that giddy way. But Claire was a fearless woman; and she had always preferred the dangerous, ladder like stairs which seemed, when gazed at from below, to hang 'twixt sky and sea... Continue reading book >>




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