Tregarthen's Wifeby Fred. M. White
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There are no poppies in the garden of sleep, though, if you come there in the season of the year, there are many flowers. And these flowers are born when you and I talk of yesterday's snowstorm, and the children's twelfthcake is still a fleeting, unstable joy. Then Tregarthen Island is gay with flowers, great beds of them. There are daffodils and narcissus knee deep, and violets fragrant and richly purple under the cactus hedges. And they nod and droop and flourish to the booming plunge of the Atlantic surges.
Where is it? What matters it? Not so many leagues from Tintagel, for they tell tales of King Arthur, and there is a deep apple orchard in the heart of the island where Lancelot slew the dragon whose teeth were flaming swords. And the gladioli flourish there in scarlet profusion.
The island of Tregarthen is a long, green, luscious slice from the mainland, some eight miles long by five in width. It is sheltered from the east and north by granite walls rising sheer and grim for a thousand feet and its music is the Atlantic thunder and the scream of innumerable sea-fowl. There are gardens in the sea-pools, there are wide stretches of sands golden as Aphrodite's hair, and the sky is fused into a blue so clear and ambient that the eye turns from it with an ecstasy of pure delight. You shall see presently what manner of place this kingdom by the sea is.
"Miriam," the princess said, "Miriam, this is paradise."
Miriam hoped that no harm had come to the small, black box. The remark was inconsequent, as the princess pointed out in her clear high voice. What did it matter if the Trevose fisherman who had brought them across was a little clumsy? Had Miriam noticed what a splendid torso he had, and what a picture he made with his blue eyes and brown skin, seared and tanned, and his white beard?
The princess stood watching the landing of her boxes. She could not have been anything else but a princess, of course, she was dressed so beautifully. Nobody in these parts had ever seen such dresses before, not even the travelled ones who had known great cities like Plymouth and Exeter.
She was tall and fair, with eyes as blue as the bounding sea, and hair as golden as the sands she trod. She carried herself imperiously as the daughter of a conquering race, and there were diamonds on her fingers and in the coral of her ears. A woman learned in the mysteries of the toilette would have told you that that heather-mixture coat and skirt, engirt by a silver buckled belt, could only have come from Paris. The same wise woman would have added that the princess was American and very rich. In which the wise woman would have been absolutely correct. To mortals she was known as Mary Blenkiron, only daughter of the late Cyrus K. Blenkiron of Pittsburg, Pa., who, as all the world knows, died two years ago—in 1885—after a heartbreaking financial duel with Zeus Z. Duncknew, in which he lost four million dollars, dying a comparative pauper with a mere ten million dollars or so. Thus do some men make failures of their lives.
Mary was something more than an heiress and an exceedingly beautiful girl. She was good, she was clever, headstrong of course, and fond of her own way. Other girls besides heiresses have been known to show the same weakness. And what manner of girl Mary Blenkiron was, you will see for yourself presently.
Between the girl and her companion there was contrast enough. Miriam Murch owned to fifty, to save the trouble of explaining that she was ten years less; and though she was thin and gaunt and brown, her skin was unwrinkled and healthy. There was a suspicion of down on her upper lip; her mouth was wide and humorous; and it was only when you came to look into those wonderful brown eyes of hers that you forgot to feel that here was a woman who ought to have been born a man.
Here was a girl who had started twenty years ago, with one of the first typewriters, to carve her way to fortune. At forty she was the absolute owner of three flourishing daily papers, all of which she had built up for herself. A busy, happy, shrewd, kindly, hard-working woman whose only grievance was that she could not enter Congress, and run for the Presidency. But this calumny might have been, and probably was, a libel of Mary Blenkiron's.
Michael Hawkes, the boatman, was staring in blank astonishment at a crisp piece of paper Mary had placed in the desert of his huge brown palm.
"I'm no scholar," he said defiantly. "What's a man want with book learning so long as he can count the cod and mackerel?"
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