_Miss Cayley's adventures_ (1899)
by Grant Allen
THE ADVENTURE OF THE IMPROMPTU MOUNTAINEER
THE explosion and evaporation of Dr. Fortescue-
Langley (with whom were amalgamated the Comte de
Laroche-sur-Loiret, Mr. Higginson the courier, and
whatever else that versatile gentleman chose to
call himself) entailed many results of varying
In the first place, Mrs. Evelegh ordered a Great
Manitou. That, however, mattered little to the
firm,' as I loved to call us (because it shocked
dear Elsie so); for, of course, after all her
kindness we couldn't accept our commission on her
purchase, so that she got her machine cheap for L15
from the maker. But, in the second place--I
declare I am beginning to write like a woman of
business--she decided to run over to England for
the summer to see her boy at Portsmouth, being
certain now that the discoloration of her bangle
depended more on the presence of sulphur in the
india-rubber bottle than on the passing state of
her astral body. 'Tis an abrupt descent from the
inner self to a hot-water bottle, I admit; but Mrs.
Evelegh took the plunge with grace, like a sensible
woman. Dr. Fortescue-Langley been annihilated for
her at one blow: she returned forthwith to common-
sense and England.
'What will you do with the chalet while you're
away?' Lady Georgina asked, when she announced her
intention. 'You can't shut it up to take care of
itself. Every blessed thing in the place will go
to rack and ruin. Shutting up a house means
spoiling it for ever. Why, I've got a cottage of
my own that I let for the summer in the best part
of Surrey--a pretty little place, now vacant, for
which, by the way, I want a tenant, if you happen
to know of one: and when it's left empty for a
month or two----'
'Perhaps it would do for me?' Mrs. Evelegh
suggested, jumping at it. 'I'm looking out for a
furnished house for the summer, within easy reach
of Portsmouth and London, for myself and Oliver.'
Lady Georgina seized her arm, with a face of
blank horror. 'My dear,' she cried. 'For you! I
wouldn't dream of letting it to you. A nasty,
damp, cold, unwholesome house, on stiff clay soil,
with detestable drains, in the deadliest part of
the Weald of Surrey,--why, you and your boy would
catch your deaths of rheumatism.'
'Is it the one I saw advertised in the _Times_
this morning, I wonder?' Mrs. Evelegh inquired in a
placid voice. '"Charming furnished house on
Holmesdale Common; six bedrooms, four reception-
rooms; splendid views; pure air; picturesque
surroundings; exceptionally situated." I thought
of writing about it.'
'That's it!' Lady Georgina exclaimed, with a
demonstrative wave of her hand. I drew up the
advertisement myself. Exceptionally situated! I
should just think it was! Why, my dear, I wouldn't
let you rent the place for worlds; a horrid, poky
little hole, stuck down in the bottom of a boggy
hollow, as damp as Devonshire, with the paper
peeling off the walls, so that I had to take my
choice between giving it up myself ten years ago,
or removing to the cemetery; and I've let it ever
since to City men with large families. Nothing
would induce me to allow you and your boy to expose
yourself to such risks.' For Lady Georgina had
taken quite a fancy to Mrs. Evelegh. 'But what I
was just going to say was this: you can't shut your
house up; it'll all go mouldy. Houses always go
mouldy, shut up in summer. And you can't leave it
to your servants; I know the baggages; no
conscience--no conscience; they'll ask their entire
families to come and stop with them en bloc, and
turn your place into a perfect piggery. Why, when
I went away from my house in town one autumn,
didn't I leave a policeman and his wife in charge--
a most respectable man--only he happened to be an
Irishman. And what was the consequence? My dear,
I assure you, I came back unexpectedly from poor
dear Kynaston's one day at a moment's notice--
having quarrelled with him over Home Rule or
Education or something--poor dear Kynaston's what
they call a Liberal, I believe--got at by that man
Rosebery--and there didn't I find all the
O'Flanagans, and O'Flahertys, and O'Flynns in the
neighbourhood camping out in my drawing-room; with
a strong detachment of O'Donohues, and O'Dohertys,
and O'Driscolls lying around loose in possession of
the library? Never leave a house to the servants,
my dear! It's positively suicidal. Put in a
responsible caretaker of whom you know something
like , Lois here, for instance.'
'Lois!' Mrs. Evelegh echoed. 'Dear me, that's
just the very thing. What a capital idea! I never
thought of Lois! She and Elsie might stop on here,
with Ursula and the gardener.'
I protested that if we did it was our clear duty
to pay a small rent; but Mrs. Evelegh brushed that
aside. 'You've robbed yourselves over the
bicycle,' she insisted, 'and I'm delighted to let
you have it. It's I who ought to pay, for you'll
keep the house dry for me.'
I remembered Mr. Hitchcock--'Mutual advantage:
benefits you, benefits me'--and made no bones about
it. So in the end Mrs. Evelegh set off for England
with Cecile, leaving Elsie and me in charge of
Ursula, the gardener, and the chalet.
As for Lady Georgina, having by this time
completed her 'cure' at Schlangenbad (complexion as
usual; no guinea yellower), she telegraphed for
Gretchen--'I can't do without the idiot'--and hung
round Lucerne, apparently for no other purpose but
to send people up the Brunig on the hunt for our
wonderful new machines, and so put money in our
pockets. She was much amused when I told her that
Aunt Susan (who lived, you will remember, in
respectable indigence at Blackheath) had written to
expostulate with me on my 'unladylike' conduct in
becoming a bicycle commission agent. 'Unladylike!'
the Cantankerous Old Lady exclaimed, with warmth.
'What does the woman mean? Has she got no
gumption? It's "ladylike," I suppose, to be a
companion, or a governess, or a music-teacher, or
something else in the black-thread-glove way, in
London; but not to sell bicycles for a good round
commission. My dear, between you and me, I don't
see it. If you had a brother, now, he might sell
cycles, or corner wheat, or rig the share market,
or do anything else he pleased, in these days, and
nobody'd think the worse of him--as long as he made
money; and it's my opinion that what is sauce for
the goose can't be far out for the gander--and
vice-versa. Besides which, what's the use of
trying to be ladylike? You are a lady, child, and
you couldn't help being one; why trouble to be like
what nature made you? Tell Aunt Susan from me to
put that in her pipe and smoke it!'
I did tell Aunt Susan by letter, giving Lady
Georgina's authority for the statement; and I
really believe it had a consoling effect upon her;
for Aunt Susan is one of those innocent-minded
people who cherish a profound respect for the
opinions and ideas of a Lady of Title. Especially
where questions of delicacy are concerned. It
calmed her to think that though I, an officer's
daughter, had declined upon trade, I was mixing at
least with the Best People!
We had a lovely time at the chalet--two girls
alone, messing just as we pleased in the kitchen,
and learning from Ursula how to concoct pot-au-feu
in the most approved Swiss fashion. We pottered,
as we women love to potter, half the day long; the
other half we spent in riding our cycles about the
eternal hills, and ensnaring the flies whom Lady
Georgina dutifully sent up to us. She was our
decoy duck: and, in virtue of her handle, she
decoyed to a marvel. Indeed, I sold so many
Manitous that I began to entertain a deep respect
for my own commercial faculties. As for Mr. Cyrus
W. Hitchcock, he wrote to me from Frankfort: 'The
world continues to revolve on its axis, the
Manitou, and the machine is booming. Orders romp
in daily. When you ventilated the suggestion of an
agency at Limburg, I concluded at a glance you had
the material of a first-class business woman about
you; but I reckon I did not know what a traveller
meant till you started on the road. I am now
enlarging and altering this factory, to meet
increased demands. Branch offices at Berlin,
Hamburg, Crefeld, and Dusseldorf. Inspect our
stock before dealing elsewhere. A liberal discount
allowed to the trade. Two hundred agents wanted in
all towns of Germany. If they were every one of
them like you, miss--well, I guess I would hire the
town of Frankfort for my business premises.'
One morning, after we had spent about a week at
the chalet by ourselves, I was surprised to see a
young man with a knapsack on his back walking up
the garden path towards our cottage. 'Quick,
quick, Elsie!' I cried, being in a mischievous
mood. 'Come here with the opera-glass! There's a
Man in the offing!'
'A what?' Elsie exclaimed, shocked as usual at my
'A Man,' I answered, squeezing her arm. 'A Man!
A real live Man! A specimen of the masculine
gender in the human being! Man, ahoy! He has come
at last--the lodestar of our existence!'
Next minute, I was sorry I spoke; for as the man
drew nearer, I perceived that he was endowed with
very long legs and a languidly poetical bearing.
That supercilious smile--that enticing moustache!
Could it be?--yes, it was--not a doubt of it--Harold
I grew grave at once; Harold Tillington and the
situation were serious. 'What can he want here?' I
exclaimed, drawing back.
'Who is it?' Elsie asked; for, being a woman, she
read at once in my altered demeanour the fact that
the Man was not unknown to me.
'Lady Georgina's nephew,' I answered, with a
tell-tale cheek, I fear. 'You remember I mentioned
to you that I had met him at Schlangenbad. But
this is really too bad of that wicked old Lady
Georgina. She has told him where we lived and sent
him up to see us.'
'Perhaps,' Elsie put in, 'he wants to charter a
I glanced at Elsie sideways. I had an
uncomfortable suspicion that she said it slyly,
like one who knew he wanted nothing of the sort.
But at any rate, I brushed the suggestion aside
frankly. 'Nonsense,' I answered. He wants me,
not a bicycle.'
He came up to us, waving his hat. He did look
handsome! 'Well, Miss Cayley,' he cried from afar,
'I have tracked you to your lair! I have found out
where you abide! What a beautiful spot! And how
well you're looking!'
This is an unexpected----' I paused. He thought
I was going to say, 'pleasure,' but I finished it,
'intrusion.' His face fell. 'How did you know we
were at Lungern, Mr. Tillington?'
'My respected relative,' he answered, laughing.
'She mentioned--casually--' his eyes met mine--
'that you were stopping in a chalet. And as I was
on my way back to the diplomatic mill, I thought I
might just as well walk over the Grimsel and the
Furca, and then on to the Gotthard. The Court is
at Monza. So it occurred to me .... that in
passing .... I might venture to drop in and say
how-do-you-do to you.'
'Thank you,' I answered, severely--but my heart
spoke otherwise--'I do very well. And you, Mr.
'Badly,' he echoed. 'Badly, since you went away
I gazed at his dusty feet. 'You are tramping,' I
said, cruelly. 'I suppose you will get forward for
lunch to Meiringen?'
'I--I did not contemplate it.'
He grew bolder. 'No; to say the truth, I half
hoped I might stop and spend the day here with
'Elsie,' I remarked firmly, 'if Mr. Tillington
persists in planting himself upon us like this, one
of us must go and investigate the kitchen
Elsie rose like a lamb. I have an impression
that she gathered we wanted to be left alone.
He turned to me imploringly. 'Lois,' he cried,
stretching out his arms, with an appealing air, 'I
may stay, mayn't I?'
I tried to be stern; but I fear 'twas a feeble
pretence. 'We are two girls, alone in a house,' I
answered. 'Lady Georgina, as a matron of
experience, ought to have protected us. Merely to
give you lunch is almost irregular. (Good
diplomatic word, irregular.) Still, in these days,
I suppose you may stay, if you leave early in the
afternoon. That's the utmost I can do for you.'
'You are not gracious,' he cried, gazing at me
with a wistful look.
I did not dare to be gracious. 'Uninvited guests
must not quarrel with their welcome,' I answered
severely. Then the woman in me broke forth. 'But
indeed, Mr. Tillington, I am glad to see you.'
He leaned forward eagerly. 'So you are not angry
with me, Lois? I may call you Lois?'
I trembled and hesitated. 'I am not angry with
you. I--I like you too much to be ever angry with
you. And I am glad you came--just this once--to
see me .... Yes,--when we are alone--you may call
He tried to seize my hand. I withdrew it. 'Then
I may perhaps hope,' he began, that some day----'
I shook my head. 'No, no,' I said, regretfully.
You misunderstand me. I like you very much; and I
like to see you. But as long as you are rich and
have prospects like yours, I could never marry you.
My pride wouldn't let me. Take that as final.'
I looked away. He bent forward again. 'But if I
were poor?' he put in, eagerly.
I hesitated. Then my heart rose, and I gave way.
'If ever you are poor,' I faltered,--'penniless,
hunted, friendless--come to me, Harold, and I will
help and comfort you. But not till then. Not till
then, I implore you.'
He leant back and clasped his hands. 'You have
given me something to live for, dear Lois,' he
murmured. 'I will try to be poor---penniless,
hunted, friendless. To win you I will try. And
when that day arrives, I shall come to claim you.'
We sat for an hour and had a delicious talk--
about nothing. But we understood each other. Only
that artificial barrier divided us. At the end of
the hour, I heard Elsie coming back by judiciously
slow stages from the kitchen to the living-room,
through six feet of passage, discoursing audibly to
Ursula all the way, with a tardiness that did
honour to her heart and her understanding. Dear,
kind little Elsie! I believe she had never a tiny
romance of her own; yet her sympathy for others was
sweet to look upon.
We lunched at a small deal table in the veranda.
Around us rose the pinnacles. The scent of pines
and moist moss was in the air. Elsie had arranged
the flowers, and got ready the omelette, and cooked
the chicken cutlets, and prepared the junket. 'I
never thought I could do it alone without you,
Brownie; but I tried, and it all came right by
magic, somehow.' We laughed and talked
incessantly. Harold was in excellent cue; and
Elsie took to him. A livelier or merrier table
there wasn't in the twenty-two Cantons that day
than ours, under the sapphire sky, looking out on
the sun-smitten snows of the Jungfrau.
After lunch, Harold begged hard to be allowed to
stop for tea. I had misgivings, but I gave way--he
was such good company. One may as well be hanged
for a sheep as a lamb, says the wisdom of our
ancestors: and, after all, Mrs. Grundy was only
represented here by Elsie, the gentlest and least
censorious of her daughters. So he stopped and
chatted till four; when I made tea and insisted on
dismissing him. He meant to take the rough
mountain path over the screes from Lungern to
Meiringen, which ran right behind the chalet. I
feared lest he might be belated, and urged him to
'Thanks, I'm happier here,' he answered.
I was sternness itself. 'You promised me!' I
said, in a reproachful voice.
He rose instantly, and bowed. 'Your will is law
--even when it pronounces sentence of exile.'
Would we walk a little way with him? No, I
faltered; we would not. We would follow him with
the opera-glasses and wave him farewell when he
reached the Kulm. He shook our hands unwillingly,
and turned up the little path, looking handsomer
than ever. It led ascending through a fir-wood to
the rock-strewn hillside.
Once, a quarter of an hour later, we caught a
glimpse of him near a sharp turn in the road; after
that we waited in vain, with our eyes fixed on the
Kulm; not a sign could we discern of him. At last
I grew anxious. 'He ought to be there,' I cried,
'He ought,' Elsie answered.
I swept the slopes with the opera-glasses.
Anxiety and interest in him quickened my senses, I
suppose. 'Look, Elsie,' I burst out at last.
'Just take this glass and have a glance at those
birds, down the crag below the Kulm. Don't they
seem to be circling and behaving most oddly?'
Elsie gazed where I bid her. 'They're wheeling
round and round,' she answered, after a minute;
'and they certainly do look as if they were
'They seem to be frightened,' I suggested.
'It looks like it, Brownie,'
'Then he's fallen over a precipice!' I cried,
rising up; 'and he's lying there on a ledge by
their nest. Elsie, we must go to him!'
She clasped her hands and looked terrified. 'Oh,
Brownie, how dreadful!' she exclaimed. Her face
was deadly white. Mine burned like fire.
'Not a moment to lose!' I said, holding my
breath. 'Get out the rope and let us run to him!'
'Don't you think,' Elsie suggested, 'we had
better hurry down on our cycles to Lungern and call
some men from the village to help us? We are two
girls, and alone. What can we do to aid him?'
'No,' I answered, promptly, 'that won't do. It
would only lose time--and time may be precious.
You and I must go; I'll send Ursula off to bring up
guides from the village.'
Fortunately, we had a good long coil of new rope
in the house, which Mrs. Evelegh had provided in
case of accident. I slipped it on my arm, and set
out on foot; for the path was by far too rough for
cycles. I was sorry afterwards that I had not
taken Ursula, and sent Elsie to Lungern to rouse
the men; for she found the climbing hard, and I had
difficulty at times in dragging her up the steep
and stony pathway, almost a watercourse. However,
we persisted in the direction of the Kulm, tracking
Harold by his footprints; for he wore mountain
boots with sharp-headed nails, which made dints in
the moist soil, and scratched the smooth surface of
the rock where he trod on it.
We followed him thus for a mile or two, along the
regular path; then of a sudden, in an open part,
the trail failed us. I turned back, a few yards,
and looked close, with my eyes fixed on the spongy
soil, as keen as a hound that sniffs his way after
his quarry. 'He went off here, Elsie!' I said at
last, pulling up short by a spindle bush on the
'How do you know, Brownie?'
'Why, see, there are the marks of his stick; he
had a thick one, you remember, with a square iron
spike. These are its dints; I have been watching
them all the way along from the chalet.'
'But there are so many such marks!'
'Yes, I know; I can tell his from the older ones
made by the spikes of alpenstocks because Harold's
are fresher and sharper on the edge. They look so
much newer. See, here, he slipped on the rock; you
can know that scratch is recent by the clean way
it's traced, and the little glistening crystals
still left behind in it. Those other marks have
been wind-swept and washed by the rain. There are
no broken particles.'
'How on earth did you find that out, Brownie?'
How on earth did I find it out! I wondered
myself. But the emergency seemed somehow to teach
me something of the instinctive lore of hunters and
savages. I did not trouble to answer her. 'At
this bush, the tracks fail,' I went on; 'and, look,
he must have clutched at that branch and crushed
the broken leaves as the twigs slipped through his
fingers. He left the path here, then, and struck
off on a short cut of his own along the hillside,
lower down. Elsie we must follow him.'
She shrank from it; but I held her hand. It was
a more difficult task to track him now; for we had
no longer the path to guide us. However, I
explored the ground on my hands and knees, and soon
found marks of footsteps on the boggy patches, with
scratches on the rock where he had leapt from point
to point, or planted his stick to steady himself.
I tried to help Elsie along among the littered
boulders and the dwarf growth of wind-swept daphne:
but, poor child, it was too much for her: she sat
down after a few minutes upon the flat juniper
scrub and began to cry. What was I to do? My
anxiety was breathless. I couldn't leave her there
alone, and I couldn't forsake Harold. Yet I felt
every minute might now be critical. We were making
among wet whortleberry thicket and torn rock
towards the spot where I had seen the birds wheel
and circle, screaming. The only way left was to
encourage Elsie and make her feel the necessity for
instant action. 'He is alive still,' I exclaimed,
looking up; 'the birds are crying! If he were
dead, they would return to their nest--Elsie, we
must get to him!'
She rose, bewildered, and followed me. I held
her hand tight, and coaxed her to scramble over the
rocks where the scratches showed the way, or to
clamber at times over fallen trunks of huge
fir-trees. Yet it was hard work climbing; even
Harold's sure feet had slipped often on the wet and
slimy boulders, though, like most of Queen
Margherita's set, he was an expert mountaineer.
Then, at times, I lost the faint track, so that I
had to diverge and look close to find it. These
delays fretted me. 'See, a stone loosed from its
bed--he must have passed by here.... That twig is
newly snapped; no doubt he caught at it.... Ha,
the moss there has been crushed; a foot has gone
by. And the ants on that ant-hill, with their eggs
in their mouths--a man's tread has frightened
them.' So, by some instinctive sense, as if the
spirit of my savage ancestors revived within me, I
managed to recover the spoor again and again by a
miracle, till at last, round a corner by a defiant
cliff--with a terrible foreboding, my heart stood
still within me.
We had come to an end. A great projecting
buttress of crag rose sheer in front. Above lay
loose boulders. Below was a shrub-hung precipice.
The birds we had seen from home were still circling
They were a pair of peregrine hawks. Their nest
seemed to lie far below the broken scar, some sixty
or seventy feet beneath us.
'He is not dead!' I cried once more, with my
heart in my mouth. 'If he were, they would have
returned. He has fallen, and is lying, alive,
Elsie shrank back against the wall of rock. I
advanced on my hands and knees to the edge of the
precipice. It was not quite sheer, but it dropped
like a sea-cliff, with broken ledges.
I could see where Harold had slipped. He had
tried to climb round the crag that blocked the
road, and the ground at the edge of the precipice
had given way with him; it showed a recent founder
of a few inches. Then he clutched at a branch of
broom as he fell; but it slipped through his
fingers, cutting them; for there was blood on the
wiry stem. I knelt by the side of the cliff and
craned my head over. I scarcely dared to look. In
spite of the birds, my heart misgave me.
There, on a ledge deep below, he lay in a mass,
half raised on one arm. But not dead, I believed.
Harold!' I cried. 'Harold!'
He turned his face up and saw me; his eyes
lighted with joy. He shouted back something, but I
could not hear it.
I turned to Elsie. 'I must go down to him!'
Her tears rose again. 'Oh, Brownie!'
I unwound the coil of rope. The first thing was
to fasten it. I could not trust Elsie to hold it;
she was too weak and too frightened to bear my
weight: even if I wound it round her body, I feared
my mere mass might drag her over. I peered about
at the surroundings. No tree grew near; no rock
had a pinnacle sufficiently safe to depend upon.
But I found a plan soon. In the crag behind me was
a cleft, narrowing wedge-shape as it descended. I
tied the end of the rope round a stone, a good big
water-worn stone, rudely girdled with a groove near
the middle, which prevented it from slipping, then
I dropped it down the fissure till it jammed; after
which, I tried it to see if it would bear. It was
firm as the rock itself. I let the rope down by
it, and waited a moment to discover whether Harold
could climb. He shook his head, and took a
note-book with evident pain from his pocket. Then
he scribbled a few words, and pinned them to the
rope. I hauled it up. 'Can't move. Either
severely bruised and sprained, or else legs
There was no help for it, then. I must go to
My first idea was merely to glide down the rope
with my gloved hands, for I chanced to have my
dog-skin bicycling gloves in my pocket.
Fortunately, however, I did not carry out this
crude idea too hastily; for next instant it
occurred to me that I could not swarm up again. I
have had no practice in rope-climbing. Here was a
problem. But the moment suggested its own
solution. I began making knots, or rather nooses
or loops, in the rope at intervals of about
eighteen inches. 'What are they for?' Elsie asked,
looking on in wonder.
'Footholds, to climb up by.'
'But the ones above will pull out with your
'I don't think so. Still, to make sure, I shall
tie them with this string. I must get down to
I threaded a sufficient number of loops, trying
the length over the edge. Then I turned to Elsie,
who sat cowering, propped against the crag, 'You
must come and look over, and do as I wave to you.
Mind, dear, you must! Two lives depend upon it.'
'Brownie, I daren't? I shall turn giddy and fall
I smoothed her golden hair. 'Elsie, dear,' I
said gently, gazing into her blue eyes, 'you are a
woman. A woman can always be brave, where those
she loves are concerned; and I believe you love
me.' I led her, coaxingly, to the edge. 'Sit
there,' I said, in my quietest voice, so as not to
alarm her. 'You can lie at full length, if you
like, and only just peep over. But when I wave my
hand, remember, you must pull the rope up.'
She obeyed me like a child. I knew she loved me.
I gripped the rope and let myself down, not using
the loops to descend, but just sliding with hands
and knees, and allowing the knots to slacken my
pace. Half-way down, I will confess, the eerie
feeling of physical suspense was horrible. One
hung so in mid-air! The hawks flapped their wings.
But Harold was below; and a woman can always be
brave where those she loves--well, just that
moment, catching my breath, I knew I loved Harold.
I glided down swiftly. The air whizzed. At
last, on a narrow shelf of rock, I leant over him.
He seized my hand. 'I knew you would come!' he
cried. 'I felt sure you would find out. Though,
how you found out, Heaven only knows, you clever,
brave little woman!'
'Are you terribly hurt?' I asked, bending close.
His clothes were torn.
'I hardly know. I can't move. It may only be
'Can you climb by these nooses with my help?'
He shook his head. 'Oh, no. I couldn't climb at
all. I must be lifted, somehow. You had better go
back to Lungern and bring men to help you.'
'And leave you here alone! Never, Harold;
'Then what can we do?'
I reflected a moment. 'Lend me your pencil,' I
said. He pulled it out--his arms were almost
unhurt, fortunately. I scribbled a line to Elsie.
Tie my plaid to the rope and let it down.' Then I
waved to her to pull up again.
I was half surprised to find she obeyed the
signal, for she crouched there, white-faced and
open-mouthed, watching; but I have often observed
that women are almost always brave in the great
emergencies. She pinned on the plaid and let it
down with commendable quickness. I doubled it, and
tied firm knots in the four corners, so as to make
it into a sort of basket; then I fastened it at
each corner with a piece of the rope, crossed in
the middle, till it looked like one of the cages
they use in mills for letting down sacks with. As
soon as it was finished, I said, 'Now, just try to
crawl into it.'
He raised himself on his arms and crawled in with
difficulty. His legs dragged after him. I could
see he was in great pain. But still, he managed
I planted my foot in the first noose. 'You must
sit still,' I said, breathless. 'I am going back
to haul you up.'
'Are you strong enough, Lois?'
'With Elsie to help me, yes. I often stroked a
four at Girton.'
'I can trust you,' he answered. It thrilled me
that he said so.
I began my hazardous journey; I mounted the rope
by the nooses--one, two, three, four, counting them
as I mounted. I did not dare to look up or down as
I did so, lest I should grow giddy and fall, but
kept my eyes fixed firmly always on the one noose
in front of me. My brain swam: the rope swayed and
creaked. Twenty, thirty, forty! Foot after foot,
I slipped them in mechanically, taking up with me
the longer coil whose ends were attached to the
cage and Harold. My hands trembled; it was
ghastly, swinging there between earth and heaven.
Forty-five, forty-six, forty-seven--I knew there
were forty-eight of them. At last, after some
weeks, as it seemed, I reached the summit.
Tremulous and half dead, I prised myself over the
edge with my hands, and knelt once more on the hill
She was white, but attentive. 'What next,
Brownie?' Her voice quivered.
I looked about me. I was too faint and shaky
after my perilous ascent to be fit for work, but
there was no help for it. What could I use as a
pulley? Not a tree grew near; but the stone jammed
in the fissure might once more serve my purpose. I
tried it again. It had borne my weight; was it
strong enough to bear the precious weight of
Harold? I tugged at it, and thought so. I passed
the rope round it like a pulley, and then tied it
about my own waist. I had a happy thought: I could
use myself as a windlass. I turned on my feet for
a pivot. Elsie helped me to pull. 'Up you go!' I
cried, cheerily. We wound slowly, for fear of
shaking him. Bit by bit, I could feel the cage
rise gradually from the ground; its weight, taken
so, with living capstan and stone axle, was less
than I should have expected. But the pulley helped
us, and Elsie, spurred by need, put forth more
reserve of nervous strength than I could easily
have believed lay in that tiny body. I twisted
myself round and round, close to the edge, so as to
look over from time to time, but not at all
quickly, for fear of dizziness. The rope strained
and gave. It was a deadly ten minutes of suspense
and anxiety. Twice or thrice as I looked down I
saw a spasm of pain break over Harold's face; but
when I paused and glanced inquiringly, he motioned
me to go on with my venturesome task. There was no
turning back now. We had almost got him up when
the rope at the edge began to creak ominously.
It was straining at the point where it grated
against the brink of the precipice. My heart gave
a leap. If the rope broke, all was over.
With a sudden dart forward, I seized it with my
hands, below the part that gave; then--one fierce
little run back--and I brought him level with the
edge. He clutched at Elsie's hand. I turned
thrice round, to wind the slack about my body. The
taut rope cut deep into my flesh; but nothing
mattered now, except to save him. 'Catch the
cloak, Elsie!' I cried; 'catch it: pull him gently
in!' Elsie caught it and pulled him in, with
wonderful pluck and calmness. We hauled him over
the edge. He lay safe on the bank. Then we all
three broke down and cried like children together.
I took his hand in mine and held it in silence.
When we found words again I drew a deep breath,
and said, simply, 'How did you manage to do it?'
'I tried to clamber past the wall that barred the
way there by sheer force of stride--you know, my
legs are long--and I somehow overbalanced myself.
But I didn't exactly fall--if I had fallen, I must
have been killed; I rolled and slid down, clutching
at the weeds in the crannies as I slipped, and
stumbling over the projections, without quite
losing my foothold on the ledges, till I found
myself brought up short with a bump at the end of
'And you think no bones are broken?'
'I can't feel sure. It hurts me horribly to
move. I fancy just at first I must have fainted.
But I'm inclined to guess I'm only sprained and
bruised and sore all over. Why, you're as bad as
me, I believe. See, your dear hands are all torn
'How are we ever to get him back again, Brownie?'
Elsie put in. She was paler than ever now, and
prostrate with the after-effects of her unwonted
'You are a practical woman, Elsie,' I answered.
Stop with him here a minute or two. I'll climb up
the hillside and halloo for Ursula and the men from
I climbed and hallooed. In a few minutes, worn
out as I was, I had reached the path above and
attracted their attention. They hurried down to
where Harold lay, and, using my cage for a litter,
slung on a young fir-trunk, carried him back
between them across their shoulders to the village.
He pleaded hard to be allowed to remain at the
chalet, and Elsie joined her prayers to his; but,
there, I was adamant. It was not so much what
people might say that I minded, but a deeper
difficulty. For if once I nursed him through this
trouble, how could I or any woman in my place any
longer refuse him? So I passed him ruthlessly on
to Lungern (though my heart ached for it), and
telegraphed at once to his nearest relative, Lady
Georgina, to come up and take care of him.
He recovered rapidly. Though sore and shaken,
his worst hurts, it turned out, were sprains; and
in three or four days he was ready to go on again.
I called to see him before he left. I dreaded the
interview; for one's own heart is a hard enemy to
fight so long: but how could I let him go without
one word of farewell to him?
'After this, Lois,' he said, taking my hand in
his--and I was weak enough, for a moment, to let it
lie there--'you cannot say No to me!'
'Oh, how I longed to fling myself upon him and
cry out, 'No, Harold, I cannot! I love you too
dearly!' But his future and Marmaduke Ashurst's
half million restrained me: for his sake and for my
own I held myself in courageously. Though, indeed,
it needed some courage and self-control. I
withdrew my hand slowly. 'Do you remember,' I
said, 'you asked me that first day at Schlangenbad'
--it was an epoch to me now, that first day--
'whether I was mediaeval or modern? And I
answered, "Modern, I hope." And you said, "That's
well!"--You see, I don't forget the least things
you say to me. Well, because I am modern--my lips
trembled and belied me--'I can answer you No. I
can even now refuse you. The old-fashioned girl,
the mediaeval girl, would have held that because
she saved your life (if I did save your life, which
is a matter of opinion) she was bound to marry you.
But I am modern, and I see things differently. If
there were reasons at Schlangenbad which made it
impracticable for me to accept you--though my heart
pleaded hard--I do not deny it--those reasons
cannot have disappeared merely because you have
chosen to fall over a precipice, and I have pulled
you up again. My decision was founded, you see,
not on passing accidents of situation, but on
permanent considerations. Nothing has happened in
the last three days to affect those considerations.
We are still ourselves: you, rich; I, a penniless
adventuress. I could not accept you when you asked
me at Schlangenbad. On just the same grounds, I
cannot accept you now. I do not see how the
unessential fact that I made myself into a winch to
pull you up the cliff, and that I am still smarting
He looked me all over comically. 'How severe we
are!' he cried, in a bantering tone. 'And how
extremely Girtony! A System of Logic,
Ratiocinative and Inductive, by Lois Cayley! What
a pity we didn't take a professor's chair. My
child that isn't you! It's not yourself at all!
It's an attempt to be unnaturally and unfemininely
Logic fled. I broke down utterly. 'Harold,' I
cried, rising, 'I love you! I admit I love you!
But I will never marry you--while you have those
'I haven't got them yet!'
'Or the chance of inheriting them.'
He smothered my hand with kisses--for I withdrew
my face, 'If you admit you love me,' he cried,
quite joyously, 'then all is well. When once a
woman admits that, the rest is but a matter of
time--and, Lois, I can wait a thousand years for
'Not in my case,' I answered through my tears.
Not in my case, Harold! I am a modern woman, and
what I say I mean. I will renew my promise. If
ever you are poor and friendless, come to me; I am
yours. Till then, don't harrow me by asking me the
I tore myself away. At the hall door, Lady
Georgina intercepted me. She glanced at my red
eyes. 'Then you have taken him?' she cried,
seizing my hand.
I shook my head firmly. I could hardly speak.
No, Lady Georgina,' I answered, in a choking
voice. 'I have refused him again. I will not
stand in his way. I will not ruin his prospects.'
She drew hack and let her chin drop. 'Well, of
all the hard-hearted, cruel, obdurate young women I
ever saw in my born days, if you're not the very
I half ran from the house. I hurried home to the
chalet. There, I dashed into my own room, locked
the door behind me, flung myself wildly on my bed,
and, burying my face in my hands, had a good, long,
hard-hearted, cruel, obdurate cry--exactly like any
other mediaeval woman. It's all very well being
modern; but my experience is that, when it comes to
a man one loves--well, the Middle Ages are still
horribly strong within us.
(End of Chapter V)