Jake was a boy of imagination, though one would never have thought it to look at his jolly rubicund face and small sturdy form. The very gaiters on his stout calves, spruce and workmanlike, would have precluded any such idea. His master, Sir Francis Orsden-the son of one of whose gamekeepers he was--would never, though a young man of imagination himself, have guessed in Jake a kindred spirit. Yet, when Sir Francis played on the organ in the little church at Leighway, and Jake blew for him, it was odds which of the two brought the more inspiration to his task. Sir Francis would practise there occasionally, and bring the boy with him, because Jake was dogged and strong of muscle, and not easily tired. He never knew what secret goad to endurance the small rascal possessed in his imagination. The business in hand-blowing was to watch a plummet's rise and fall: you pumped for the fall and slackened for the rise. That was the hard prose of it; but Jake knew a better way. He would imagine himself blowing up a fire with a bellows. When a full organ was needed, he had to blow like the devil to keep the plummet down, and then the fire roared under his efforts; otherwise, a gentle purring glow was easily stimulated. At another .time he would be filling a bucket at a well for a succession of thirsty horses, and would so nicely time the allowance for each that the bucket was descending again on the very point of its being sucked dry. Or he would be the landlord of the Bit and Halter, dozing over his parlour fire, nodding, nodding down in little jerks, and then recovering himself with an indrawn rising sigh. Sometimes, when the music was very liquid, he would work a beer engine-one or two good pulls, and then the upward flow through the syphon; sometimes he would fish, and, getting a bite, pull in. These make-believes greatly ameliorated the tedium of his office by importing a sense of personal responsibility into it. It was not so much the music he had to keep going as his fancy of the moment.
One morning he was blowing for his master--and pretending, rather gruesomely, to be an exhausted swimmer struggling for a few strokes, and then relaxing and drifting until agonised convulsively to fresh efforts-when he became aware of a young lady standing by him and amusedly watching his labours. Jake ducked, even in the process of pumping, and Miss Kennett put a finger to her lips. She was quite a popular young lady among the villagers, whom she treated on terms of sociability which her father would strongly have disapproved had he known. There was nothing of Touchstone's rosy Audrey about Miss Kennett, but there was a good deal of the graceful and graceless rebel. Grievance, mutely felt, had thrown her into another camp than that of her order.
Sir Francis played on, unconscious of his listener; until presently, with a whispered ' Give it me, Jacob,' the young lady appropriated the pump-handle and began herself to inflate the lungs of the music. The change did not make for success; her strokes, femininely short and quick, raced against the rising plummet, and presently gave out altogether at a critical moment of full pressure. The wind went from the pipes in a dismal whine; Miss Kennett sat back on the pump-handle in a fit of helpless laughter, and Sir Francis came dodging round the organ in a fume.
'Great Scott!' he exclaimed; and the asperity in his face melted into an amiable grin.
'My mistake,' said Audrey. 'Do go on !'
' How did you know I was here ?'
'I didn't; butT heard some one grinding the organ, and came in to see'.
'Jake,' said his master, 'Miss Kennett is going to blow for me, so you can cut along'.
The boy touched his forehead, secured his cap, and departed.
'A good youngster,' said Sir Francis.
' I love him,' said Audrey.
' Ah !' sighed the young Baronet, ' lucky Jake !'
'Frank, don't be tiresome. Do you really want me to blow for you? No, not for ever. I know you are going to say it, and it would simply be sillyi If I am going to stop here, you must talk sense'.
' I have hardly said anything yet,' 'Well, don't say it. Sit down and play/ 'I don't want to play: I want to be serious. Why am I so obnoxious to you, Audrey ?' 'Now I shall go.'
'No. Do be patient. Really, you know, you have never yet said, in so many words, why you won't marry me.'
'Yes I have.* It is because I couldn't possibly call myself Audrey Orsden of Audley.'
'Well, if you will be flippant.'
She stood looking at him a moment. 'I didn't mean to be flippant, Frank-nothing but kind. Shall we go a walk together? It's such a lovely morning. Only you must promise.'
' I think I know what you mean by kind, Audrey*- kind in forbearing. Very well, I will promise'.
He stowed his music away, and they went out together-out through the green and shadowed churchyard, with its old headboards and epitaphs. There was one to a merry maid dead at sixteen, whose thoughtless laughter had served some mortuary rhymster for a theme on the perishableness of sweet things, with an earnest recommendation to the Christian to be wise while he might-as if wisdom lay in melancholy. There was a fine opportunity for drawing a moral; but Sir Francis did not draw it. Perhaps he thought he would rather have marriage as a jest than no wife at all.
Soon they were outside the village and making for the free Downs. Audrey was always at her best and frankest on the Downs.
'I had wanted to speak to you,' said her companion. ' Is it really true that our friend the Baron's man has been arrested in connexion with this horrible affair?'
' Yes, it is quite true. Poor Baron ! I am not allowed to know much about it all; but it seems that everything points to this Louis being the culprit. He went out on the afternoon of the murder with the express purpose of seeking Annie, and did not come home till long afterwards. The police have 'It must be awkward for you all, having the Baron for a guest'.
'It is, in a way; but we can't very well ask him to go elsewhere while his man is in peril. He offered; but papa wouldn't hear of it. He said the best thing for them both was to go on playing chess'.
'He's all right. Why shouldn't he be?'
'I don't know. Only he struck me as being upset about something on that day we shot together.' 'Well, he doesn't give me his confidence, you know'.
'No, I know. Poor Audrey V
'Why do you call me poor Audrey?' asked the girl angrily. ' I don't want your pity, or anybody's.'
'You don't want anything of mine, I'm sure; and yet it's all there for your acceptance-every bit'.
'Is this keeping your promise? No, I don't. I want what I want, and it's nothing that you can give me'.
' Not my whole love and submission, Audrey ?'
She flounced her shoulder, and seemed as if about to leave him, but suddenly thought better of it, and faced him resolutely.
' It's that, Frank, though you don't seem to understand it. I don't want any man's submission! I want his mastership, if I want him at all.' Her eyes softened, and she looked at him pityingly. ' I hate to pain you, you dear; but I can't marry you. You have a thousand good qualities; you are gentle and true and just and honourable, and you have a mind to put my poor little organ to shame. Why you should possibly want me, I can't tell; but I'm very sure of one thing--that I am wise in disappointing you. We should be the brass and the earthenware pots, Frank, and you would be the one to be broke. I know it. You are a poet, and I am the very worst of prose. You have a right to despise me, and I have a right--not to despise you, but to see what you are not-from my point of view'.
'That is to say, a sportsman'.
' You know I could never pretend to any sympathy with your real tastes-books and music and musty old prints, and all that sort of thing'.
He laughed. 'Well, I shall try again'.
His persistence goaded her to cruelty.
' If you want to know the truth, I like a man to be a man, as my brother is'.
His face twitched and sobered. 'And T am not one.'
' Why do you make me say these things ?' she cried resentfully. 'You drive me to it, and then take credit, I suppose, for your larger nature'.
'I take credit for nothing,' said he. 'My account with you is all on the debit side. Audrey, dear, please forgive me for having broken my word. It shall be the last time'.
'I believe it has been the first,' she said, with a rather quivering lip. 'I will say that for you, Frank. Your word is your bond. Now do let us talk about something else. I came out to get rid of all that horrible atmosphere, of police, and detectives, and suspicions about everybody and everything, and this is my reward. The inquest is taking place this very day, and how glad I shall be when the whole sick business is over, and the poor thing decently buried, words can't say. Now, one, two, three, and let us race for that clump'.