3. CHAPTER III
Early as it was, we found the fisherman's wife astir in her kitchen.
On my presentation by Betteredge, good Mrs. Yolland performed
a social ceremony, strictly reserved (as I afterwards learnt)
for strangers of distinction. She put a bottle of Dutch gin and a couple
of clean pipes on the table, and opened the conversation by saying,
"What news from London, sir?"
Before I could find an answer to this immensely comprehensive question,
an apparition advanced towards me, out of a dark corner of the kitchen.
A wan, wild, haggard girl, with remarkably beautiful hair, and with a fierce
keenness in her eyes, came limping up on a crutch to the table at which I
was sitting, and looked at me as if I was an object of mingled interest
and horror, which it quite fascinated her to see.
"Mr. Betteredge," she said, without taking her eyes off me,
"mention his name again, if you please."
"This gentleman's name," answered Betteredge (with a strong
emphasis on GENTLEMAN), "is Mr. Franklin Blake."
The girl turned her back on me, and suddenly left the room.
Good Mrs. Yolland--as I believe--made some apologies for her
daughter's odd behaviour, and Betteredge (probably) translated them
into polite English. I speak of this in complete uncertainty.
My attention was absorbed in following the sound of the girl's crutch.
Thump-thump, up the wooden stairs; thump-thump across the room
above our heads; thump-thump down the stairs again--and there
stood the apparition at the open door, with a letter in its hand,
beckoning me out!
I left more apologies in course of delivery behind me, and followed
this strange creature--limping on before me, faster and faster--
down the slope of the beach. She led me behind some boats,
out of sight and hearing of the few people in the fishing-village,
and then stopped, and faced me for the first time.
"Stand there," she said, "I want to look at you."