She therefore, being covetous of continued contentment, turned the conversation to less controversial subjects; and, after passing notice of the fair weather, the brightness of the geraniums and kindred trivialities, successfully incited Mary to talk of Brockhurst, Sir Richard Calmady's famous place in the north of the county, where prior to his retirement to his native town of Marychurch, upon a generous pension her father, Lomas Fisher, had for many years occupied the post of second gardener.
The whole glinting expanse of the Haven was visible right up to the town of Marychurch gathered about its long-backed Abbey, whose tower, tall and in effect almost spectral, showed against the purple ridges of forest and moorland beyond.
Certain it is, however, that no doubts of this description troubled the mind of Thomas Clarkson Verity, when, in the closing decade of the eighteenth century, he purchased the house at Deadham Hard, known as Tandy's Castle, overlooking the deep and comparatively narrow channel by which the Rivers Arne and Wilner, after crossing the tide-flats and salt-marsh of Marychurch Haven, make their swift united exit into Marychurch Bay.
Realizing it, as he sat in the somewhat stuffy first-class carriage, on that brief hour's journey from Southampton to Marychurch, he had laughed out loud, hunching up his shoulders saucily, in a sudden outburst of irrepressible and boyish glee.
The Honourable Augustus and Mrs. Cowden, and Felicia Verity, not without last words, adjurations, commands and fussings, started on their twelve-mile drive home to Paulton Lacy about six o'clock. A little later Dr. McCabe conveyed himself, and his brogue, away in an ancient hired landau to catch the evening train from Marychurch to Stourmouth.
Thought and vision followed their own impulse, wandering back and forth between the low-caste eating-house in the sweltering heat and perfumed stenches of the oriental, tropic seaport; and the stone-built English inn here on Marychurch Haven overlooking the desolate waste of sand-hills, the dark reed-beds and chill gleaming tides.
And such did it remain until a good eighty years later, when it was visited by a youthful namesake and great-great nephew, under circumstances not altogether unworthy of record. The four-twenty down train rumbled into Marychurch station, and Tom Verity stepped out of a rather frousty first-class carriage on to the platform.
By the time Miss Verity reached Marychurch the rain amounted to a veritable downpour. Driven by the southwesterly wind, it swept in sheets over the low-lying country, the pallid waters, drab mud-flats, dingy grey-green salt-marsh, and rusty brown reed-beds of the estuary. The dusty road, running alongside this last through the hamlets of Horny Cross and Lampit, grew hourly deeper in gritty mud.
Hearing which infectiously gay but quite unexpected sound, Miss Bilson stopped dead in the middle both of a nectarine and a sentence. "What is the matter, Damaris?" she exclaimed. "I was explaining our difficulty in securing sufficient conveyances for some of our party to and from Marychurch station. I really do not see any cause for amusement in what I said."
And in this last connection, as he reflected, much was to be said for the geographical position of Marychurch; since if river mists and white dullness of sea fog, drifting in from the Channel, were to hand, so, also, in their season, were fresh run salmon, snipe, wood-cock, flocks of wild duck, of plover and other savoury fowl.