THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE RIVALS. A ROMANCE OF ILFRACOMBE. ' There are gayer and more fashionable watering places- than Ilfracombe, but there are none: that offer:such attractions to the lover of the beautiful. Nowhere does the sea break on such bold : rocks; nowhere. arc there such deep clear pools, such lovely seaweed, such treasures of sea-flowers and', anemones; nowhere such a shore to ramble on ana climb over, v; In point of drives and .excursions, inland and along the coast, there are few places like it; but ; its great glory is its sea and its rocks, its pools and its seaweeds. Such, ■too,'was Gerald Mayfield’s opinion ; and he appreciated, it. the more because he enjoyed the beauties and'hunted for the seaweed and the anemones with Maud 11 encage. .They were .not old acquaintances. ; It was but a fortnight since', they had arrived upon’ the but-' side ll of ithe coach front • Barnstaple together. - So pleasant had been that journey to the young man that he had at oned dcided to stay at the Grand Hotel, where - ' Maud and her mother were going to stop, instead of going into lodgings, as he before intended. - ' Gerald 1 Mayfield Ws ’junior partner in. the hoUse of Mayfield and Harper; Australian and Cape merchants. His father had been the head of the firm, and at his ddath, Gerald, who had just left college, came into thebusiness. He was now thirty, a tall, strongly-built man, with a quiet manner; Ndt ahandsome man, but with a good deal of character and resolution in his face. Until lie saw Maud Heneage he. had never been really in love.. He-had -always supposed that. he., should, .marry someday or other, but had gone -on leading a quiet club life, and had been but little in the society of women; •During this fortnight he had been almost continually with Maud, with sometimes ben mother as a companion, some-limes with a party of three or four others from the,hotel* occasionally by themselves, or rather chaperoned only by Mrs. Heneage, sitting on the rock in the distance reading. By the end of that time’ he loved her with all his heart,.but as yet.he had hardly even begun to wonder whether she would in time to come love him.
.Before breakfast Gerald always went for . his swim, walkings round to the cove, and coming back by the row-boat across to the pier. He was a strong swimmer, and his custom was to swim but through the mouth of the little inlet into the rougher water outside. One morning a bather went out just before him,- and swath steadily seaward. “ That fellow will Be getting into a mess/’ Gerald said to himself “The tide jjs funning up, antjlhe ,w}ll find a difficulty in getting' back again.” Keeping , a hundred yards qr so out, as was Bis custom, for about -ten minutes, Gelaldj turned .toward the mouth of the cove, not;having given a second thought to the swimmer who had preceedad him. Just as, he was opposite 'to the great rocks at the entrance’ he heard a shout far behind him. .He stopped to listen, and again the shout for “help” came distinctly to his ears.
“I thought tliat fob! would get into scrape,” he muttered, turning round and making off with a long, steady, even stroke in the direction of the man, whose head he could see nearly three hundred -yards out, giving a loud shout as he started to encourage him with the knowledge that help was coming, He arrived just in time ; the swimmer was UttOrJy exhausted, and had lost both pluck and presence ot mind. Once he disappeared altogether, and Gerald, who was still nearly 30 yards off, thought that he would too late. However, he came up rtgain, and splashed’ and struggled wildly for a, moment or two, but was just sinking when Gerald arrived. The latter caught him by the arm, and the man strove desperately to throw his arm round: him.
“ Keep quiet,” Gerald said sternly. “ If you struggle I’ll let you go.” There was no mistaking the firmness of the tone, or that the threat would be carried out. The man ceased to struggle at opce. “ That'S right,” Gerald said. “ Now lie on your back ; I’ll take you by the hair and tow, you in as easily as possible.” As he spoke he looked round and saw the boat coming put from ihe cove with its load of Bothers.He shouted at once, and an answeringnshout came back, and the boat’s head was turned towards them. * ’ ’ “ That’s all right ” he said cheerfully to theother. • “ Now I’ll tread water, and ,you cap ppt your, hand on my shoulder and keep your' mouth above water ppmfortatyly,; till, the boat comes up-” . With.the prospect of help close at hand!the mati're'gained hia courage; imd was soon’tfble'to dispehse withf Gerald’s
help and to support himself until' the; boat came up, and he was taHen on board. Gerald swam gently back, and by the time he reached the cove the man had already begun to dress. Gerald’s clothes lay close to where he was sitting, for at Ifracombe al fresco dressing is the rule, the two or three little wooden boxes on wheels being insufficient for a tithe of the bathers. As be approached, the man stood up and held out his hand.
“ I owe you my life,” he said “another few seconds and I should have gone under.” “ Yes; it was a near shave for you,” Gerald answered. “ But there was no difficulty in saving you ; it was not like jumping off a bridge for a shrieking woman, or into a sea when the ship is running before a gale. I saved your life certainly, but it was with no more trouble and risk than if I had „ been standing on shore, and had thrown you a rope.” “ I was a fool to swim out so far,” the man said ; “ but I have been out as far before. I suppose there was some sort of a tide, for after I turned I did seem to make any way toward shore.” “ To tell you the truth,” Gerald said, “ I thought you a fool when I saw you swimming out. One ought never to go far from shore at any of these watering places till one has found out all about the set of the tide. There, now you are dressed, I should advise you to run back at a sharp pace, for your lips are blue, and you look pinched all over, and drink a strong cup of coffee after you get in.” (To be continued. )
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