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Janet Coombe stood on the hill above Plyn, looking down upon the harbour. Although the sun was already high in the heavens, the little town was still wrapped in an early morning mist. It clung to Plyn like a thin pale blanket, lending to the place a faint whisper of unreality as if the whole had been blessed by the touch of ghostly fingers. The tide was ebbing, the quiet waters escaped silently from the harbour and became one with the sea, unruffled and undisturbed. No straggling cloud, no hollow wind broke the calm beauty of the still white sky.
For one instant a gull hovered in the air, stretching his wide wings to the sun, then cried suddenly and dived, losing itself in the mist below. It seemed to Janet that this hillside was her own world, a small planet of strange clarity and understanding; where all troublous thoughts and queer wonderings of the heart became soothed and at rest.
The white mist buried the cares and doubts of daily life, and with them all vexatious duties and the dull ways of natural folk. Here on the hilltop was no mist, no place of shadows, but the warm comfort of the noon-day sun.
There was a freedom here belonging not to Plyn, a freedom that was part of the air and the sea; like the glad tossing of the leaves in autumn, and the shy fluttering wings of a bird. In Plyn it was needful to run at another's bidding, and from morn till night there were the cares and necessities of household work-helping here, helping there, encouraging those around you with a kindly word, and sinful it was to expect one in return. And now she was to become a woman, and step on to the threshold of a new life, so the preacher had told her. Maybe it would change her, and sorrow would come her way and joy also for that matter, but if she held an everlasting faith in God who is the Father of us all, in the end she would know peace and the sight of Heaven itself. It was best to follow these righteous words though it seemed that the road to Heaven was a hard long road, and there were many who fell by the way and perished for their sins.
The preacher spoke truth indeed, but with never a word of the lovable things that clung about the heart. God alone is worthy of great love. Here on the hill the solemn sheep slept alongside of one another in the chill nights, the mother protected her young ones from the stealthy fox who steals in the shadow of the hedge-even the tall trees drew together in the evening for comfort's sake. Yet none of these things know the love for God, said the preacher.
It might happen that he did not know the truth of every bird, beast and flower, and that they too were immortal as well as human kind.
Janet knelt beside the stream, and touched a pale forgotten primrose that grew wistfully near the water's edge. A blackbird called from the branch above her head, and flew away, scattering the white blossom on her hair. The flaming gorse bushes breathed in the sun, filling the air with a rich sweet scent, a medley of honey and fresh dew.
It was Janet Coombe's wedding day. Even now her mother would be preparing the feast for the guests that were to come, and her sisters laying her fine wedding gown upon the bed with longing awesome hands. Soon the bells would peal over to Lanoc Church, and she and Cousin Thomas, her dear husband that was to be, would stand before the Altar and be made one in the eyes of God. Thomas's eyes would be lowered with beseeming reverence, and he would hearken to the good words of the preacher; but Janet knew her eyes would escape to the glint of pure light that shone through the Church window, and her heart would travel out across the sunbeam to the silent hills.
The wedding service would seem dim and unreal, like the town of Plyn in the morning mist, and try as she could, she would not be able to listen when she herself was elsewhere. It was the sinful soul in her that came not at the preacher's bidding; sinful and wayward as it had always been, since the days when she had been no more than a mite of a child, way back at her mother's knee.
For her sisters had attended school good and proper, and had learnt to sew and to read, but Janet was forever playing truant, away on the beach beyond the harbour. She would stand on the high crumbling cliffs, inside the ruin of the old Castle, and watch the brown sails of the Penlivy luggers that glittered on the far horizon.
"Please God, make me a lad afore I'm grown," she would pray, and her no larger than a boot, with curls hanging round her neck. Her mother would scold her and beat her, and chide her for a great lump of a boy with heathenish ways, but it was all of no avail. Her mother might have spared the rod for the good it did her.