The Shadow of the East (Chapter 7, page 1 of 26)


Previous Page
Next Page

Chapter 7

On an afternoon in early September eighteen months after her marriage Gillian was driving across the park toward the little village of Craven that, old world and quite unspoiled, clustered round a tiny Norman church two miles distant from the Towers. She leaned back in the victoria, her hands clasped in her lap, preoccupied and thoughtful. A scented heap of deep crimson roses and carnations lay at her feet; beside her, in contrast to her listless attitude, Mouston sat up tense and watchful, his sharp muzzle thrust forward, his black nose twitching eagerly at the distracting agitating smells borne on the warm air tempting him from monotonous inactivity to a soul satisfying scamper over the short cropped grass but, conscious of the dignity of his position, ignoring them with a gravity of demeanour that was almost comical.

Once or twice when his wrinkling nostrils caught some particularly attractive odour his pads kneaded the cushions vigorously and a snarly gurgle rose in his throat. But no other sign of restlessness escaped him--it was patience bred of experience. For miles around he was a well-known figure, sitting grave and motionless on his accustomed side of the victoria as it rolled through the country lanes. To the villagers of Craven, all directly or indirectly dependent on the estate, he was welcome in that he was inseparable from the gentle tender-hearted girl whom they worshipped, but their welcome was a qualified one that never descended to the familiar; his strange appearance and disdainful aloofness made him an object of curiosity to be viewed with most safety from a respectful distance; time had not accustomed them to him and tales of his uncanny understanding filtering through, richly embroidered, to the village from the house, did not tend to lessen the awe with which he was regarded. They marvelled, without comprehension, at the partiality of his mistress; he was the "black French devil" to more households than that of Major, the gamekeeper, an "unorranary brute" to those of less gifted imagination.

To Mouston Gillian's periodical visits to the village were a tedium endured for the sake of the coveted seat beside her.

The passing of a herd of deer, feeding intently and--save for one or two more timid hinds who started nervously--too used to the carriage to heed its approach, roused the poodle, as always, to a high pitch of excitement; they were old enemies and his annoyance gave vent to a sharp yelp as he sidled close to Gillian and endeavoured to attract her attention with an insistent paw. But for once she was heedless of the hints of her dumb companion, and, whining, he slunk back into his own corner, curling up on the seat with his forepaws brushing the mass of scented blossom. And ignorant of the pleading brown eyes fixed pathetically on her, Gillian followed the train of her own troubled thoughts. For eighteen months she had been Barry Craven's wife, for eighteen months she had endeavoured to fulfill her share of the contract they had made--and to herself she admitted failure.

Previous Page
Next Page


Rate This Book

Current Rating: 2.8/5 (190 votes cast)



Review This Book or Post a Comment