The Project Gutenberg eBook, Greatheart, by Ethel M. Dell
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Author: Ethel M. Dell
Release Date: September 18, 2004 [eBook #13497]
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK GREATHEART***
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ETHEL M. DELL
Author of the Hundredth Chance, The Lamp in the Desert,
The Swindler, etc.
"NOW MR. GREATHEART WAS A STRONG MAN."—The Pilgrims Progress.
I Dedicate This Book to A. G. C.
Friend of My Heart and to the Memory of All the Happy Days We have Spent
I. The Wanderer
II. The Looker-On
III. The Search
IV. The Magician
VII. The Broken Spell
VIII. Mr. Greatheart
IX. The Runaway Colt.
X. The House of Bondage
XII. The Wine of the Gods
XIII. Friendship in the Desert
XIV. The Purple Empress
XV. The Mountain Crest
XVI. The Second Draught
XVII. The Unknown Force
XVIII. The Escape of the Prisoner
XIX. The Cup of Bitterness
XX. The Vision of Greatheart
XXI. The Return
XXII. The Valley of the Shadow
XXIII. The Way Back
XXIV. The Lights of a City
XXV. The True Gold
XXVI. The Call of Apollo
XXVII. The Golden Maze
XXVIII. The Lesson
XXIX. The Captive
XXX. The Second Summons
I. Cinderella's Prince
II. Wedding Arrangements
IV. The New Home
V. The Watcher
VI. The Wrong Road
VII. Doubting Castle
VIII. THE VICTORY
IX. THE BURDEN
X. THE HOURS OF DARKNESS
XI. THE NET
XII. THE DIVINE SPARK
XIII. THE BROKEN HEART
XIV. THE WRATH OF THE GODS
XV. THE SAPPHIRE FOR FRIENDSHIP
XVI. THE OPEN DOOR
XVII. THE LION IN THE PATH
XVIII. THE TRUTH
XIX. THE FURNACE
XX. THE COMING OF GREATHEART
XXI. THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION
XXII. SPOKEN IN JEST
XXIII. THE KNIGHT IN DISGUISE
XXIV. THE MOUNTAIN SIDE
XXV. THE TRUSTY FRIEND
XXVI. THE LAST SUMMONS
XXVII. THE MOUNTAIN-TOP
XXIX. THE SEVENTH HEAVEN
Biddy Maloney stood at the window of her mistress's bedroom, and surveyedthe world with eyes of stern disapproval. There was nothing of the smartlady's maid about Biddy. She abominated smart lady's maids. A flyawayFrench cap and an apron barely reaching to the knees were to her the veryessence of flighty impropriety. There was just such a creature inattendance upon Lady Grace de Vigne who occupied the best suite of roomsin the hotel, and Biddy very strongly resented her existence. In her ownmind she despised her as a shameless hussy wholly devoid of all ideas of"dacency." Her resentment was partly due to the fact that the indecentone belonged to the party in possession of the best suite, which they hadoccupied some three weeks before Biddy and her party had appeared on thescene.
It was all Master Scott's fault, of course. He ought to have written toengage rooms sooner, but then to be sure the decision to migrate to thiswinter paradise in the Alps had been a sudden one. That had been SirEustace's fault. He was always so sudden in his ways.
Biddy sighed impatiently. Sir Eustace had always been hard to manage. Shehad never really conquered him even in the days when she had made himstand in the corner and go without sugar in his tea. She well rememberedthe shocking occasion on which he had flung sugar and basin together intothe fire so that the others might be made to share his enforcedabstinence. She believed he was equal to committing a similar act ofviolence if baulked even now. But he never was baulked. At thirty-five hereigned supreme in his own world. No one ever crossed him, unless it wereMaster Scott, and of course no one could be seriously angry with him,poor dear young man! He was so gentle and kind. A faint, maternal smilerelaxed Biddy's grim lips. She became aware that the white world belowwas a-flood with sunshine.
The snowy mountains that rose against the vivid blue were dream-like intheir beauty. Where the sun shone upon them, their purity was almost toodazzling to behold. It was a relief to rest the eyes upon the greatpatches of pine-woods that clothed some of the slopes.
"I wonder if Miss Isabel will be happy here," mused Biddy.
That to her mind was the only thing on earth that really mattered,practically the only thing for which she ever troubled her Maker. Her ownwants were all amalgamated in this one great desire of her heart—thather darling's poor torn spirit should be made happy. She had whollyceased to remember that she had ever wanted anything else. It was forMiss Isabel that she desired the best rooms, the best carriages,the best of everything. Even her love for Master Scott—poor dear youngman!—depended largely upon the faculty he possessed for consoling andinteresting Miss Isabel. Anyone who did that earned Biddy's undyingrespect and gratitude. Of the rest of the world—save for a passingdisapproval—she was scarcely aware. Nothing else mattered in the sameway. In fact nothing else really mattered at all.
Ah! A movement from the bed at last! Her quick ears, ever on the alert,warned her on the instant. She turned from the window with suchmother-love shining in her old brown face under its severe white cap asmade it as beautiful in its way as the paradise without.
"Why, Miss Isabel darlint, how you've slept then!" she said, in the soft,crooning voice which was kept for this one beloved being alone.
Two white arms were stretched wide outside the bed. Two dark eyes,mysteriously shadowed and sunken, looked up to hers.
"Has he gone already, Biddy?" a low voice asked.
"Only a little way, darlint. He's just round the corner," said Biddytenderly. "Will ye wait a minute while I give ye your tay?"
There was a spirit-kettle singing merrily in the room. She busied herselfabout it, her withered face intent over the task.
The white arms fell upon the blue travelling-rug that Biddy had spreadwith loving care outside the bed the night before to add to hermistress's comfort. "When did he go, Biddy?" the low voice asked, andthere was a furtive quality in the question as if it were designed fornone but Biddy's ears. "Did he—did he leave no message?"
"Ah, to be sure!" said Biddy, turning her face for a moment. "And thelikes of me to have forgotten it! He sent ye his best love, darlint, andye were to eat a fine breakfast before ye went out."
The sad eyes smiled at her from the bed, half-gratified,half-incredulous, like the eyes of a lonely child who listens to afairy-tale. "It was like him to think of that, Biddy. But—I wish he hadstayed a little longer. I must get up and go and find him."
"Hasn't he been with ye through the night?" asked Biddy, bent again toher task.
"Nearly all night long!" The answer came on a note of triumph, yet therewas also a note of challenge in it also.
"Then what more would ye have?" said Biddy wisely. "Leave him alone for abit, darlint! Husbands are better without their wives sometimes."
A low laugh came from the bed. "Oh, Biddy, I must tell him that! He wouldlove your bon-mots. Did he—did he say when he would be back?"
"That he did not," said Biddy, still absorbed over the kettle. "Butthere's nothing in that at all. Ye can't be always expecting a man togive account of himself. Now, mavourneen, I'll give ye your tay, andye'll be able to get up when ye feel like it. Ah! There's Master Scott!And would ye like him to come in and have a cup with ye?"
Three soft knocks had sounded on the door. The woman in the bed raisedherself, and her hair fell in glory around her, hair that at twenty-fivehad been raven-black, hair that at thirty-two was white as the snowoutside the window.
"Is that you, Stumpy dear? Come in! Come in!" she called.
Her voice was hollow and deep. She turned her face to the door—abeautiful, wasted face with hungry eyes that watched and waitedperpetually.
The door opened very quietly and unobtrusively, and a small,insignificant man came in. He was about the size of the average schoolboyof fifteen, and he walked with a slight limp, one leg being a trifleshorter than the other. Notwithstanding this defect, his generalappearance was one of extreme neatness, from his colourless but carefullytrained moustache and small trim beard to his well-shod feet. Hisclothes—-like his beard—fitted him perfectly.
His close-cropped hair was also colourless and grew somewhat far back onhis forehead. His pale grey eyes had a tired expression, as if they hadlooked too long or too earnestly upon the turmoil of life.
He came to the bedside and took the thin white hand outstretched to himon which a wedding ring hung loose. He walked without awkwardness; therewas even dignity in his carriage.
He bent to kiss the uplifted face. "Have you slept well, dear?"
Her arms reached up and clasped his neck. "Oh, Stumpy, yes! I have had alovely night. Basil has been with me. He has gone out now; but I am goingto look for him presently."
"Many happy returns of the day to ye, Master Scott!" put in Biddy ratherpointedly.
"Ah yes. It is your birthday. I had forgotten. Forgive me, Stumpydarling! You know I wish you always the very, very best." The clingingarms held him more closely,
"Thank you, Isabel." Scott's voice was as tired as his eyes, and yet ithad a certain quality of strength. "Of course it's a very importantoccasion. How are we going to celebrate it?"
"I have a present for you somewhere. Biddy, where is it?" Isabel's voicehad a note of impatience in it.
"It's here, darlint! It's here!" Biddy bustled up to the bed with aparcel.
Isabel took it from her and turned to Scott. "It's only a silly oldcigarette-case, dear, but I thought of it all myself. How old are younow, Stumpy?"
"I am thirty," he answered, smiling. "Thank you very much, dear. It'sjust the thing I wanted—only too good!"
"As if anything could be too good for you!" his sister said tenderly.
"Has Eustace remembered?"
"Oh yes. Eustace has given me a saddle, but as he didn't think I shouldwant it here, it is to be presented when we get home again." He sat downon the side of the bed, still inspecting the birthday offering.
"Haven't you had anything from anyone else?" Isabel asked, after amoment.
He shook his head. "Who else is there to bother about a minnow like me?"
"You're not a minnow, Scott. And didn't—didn't Basil give you anything?"
Scott's tired eyes looked at her with a sudden fixity. He said nothing;but a piteous look came into Isabel's face under his steady gaze, and shedropped her own as if ashamed.
"Whisht, Master Scott darlint, for the Lord's sake, don't ye go upsettingher!" warned Biddy in a sibilant whisper. "I had trouble enough lastnight. If it hadn't been for the draught, she wouldn't have slept at all,at all."
Scott did not look at her. "You should have called me," he said, andleaning forward took his sister's hand. "Isabel, wouldn't you like tocome out and see the skaters? There is some wonderful luging going ontoo."
She did not raise her eyes; her whole demeanour had changed. She seemedto droop as if all animation had gone; "I don't know," she saidlistlessly. "I think I would almost as soon stay here."
"Have your tay, darlint!" coaxed Biddy, on her other side.
"Eustace will be coming to look for you if you don't," said Scott.
She started at