As we walked, buffeted by the wind blowing in from the sea, Julia discoursed of the caretaker of Sea-Strand Cottage. "That, mark my words, is a thoroughly bad woman," she declared. "She wouldn't be such a forbidding-looking creature unless she was wicked. It wouldn't be fair on the part of the Almighty to have made her so. I consider her aspect thoroughly sinister."
There came to her, confusedly, some echo of an ancient fable some vision of Io goaded by the gadfly or of Ariadne roaming the lone sea-strand. It brought with it all the sense of her own intention and desire; she too might have been, for the hour, some far-off harassed heroine only with a part to play for which she knew, exactly, no inspiring precedent.
"It was the advertisement of Sea-Strand Cottage which brought me to Starbay," he said. "But when I saw the place, I " "You didn't like it! No more did I!" Julia said. "However, the caretaker seemed a comfortable sort of body, and I was assured an excellent cook," the man continued.
The swan, however, by no means monopolizes the honour of concealing the heroine's form. In a Finnish tale from OEsterbotten, a dead father appears in dreams to his three sons, commanding them to watch singly by night the geese on the sea-strand. The two elder are so frightened by the darkness that they scamper home.
And we have had perhaps more than enough of the pseudo Mrs Ragg. Julia and I decided we had had enough also of Sea-Strand Cottage. We took up our abode temporarily at the Royal George. Our new-made friend for after this adventure we could but look on him as a friend had lived there for a month and could recommend it.
To the S. and E. lies a saline sand-flat, partially overflowed by high tides: here are the wells of bitter water, and the filth and garbage make the spot truly offensive. Northwards the sea-strand has become a huge cemetery, crowded with graves whose dimensions explain the Somali legend that once there were giants in the land: tradition assigns to it the name of Bunder Abbas.
However, he being a man and we being women, he had his way. We returned with him at once to Sea-Strand Cottage, the only concession he made to our fears being to take a policeman with him, to wait outside the house in case he should be wanted. "The lonely situation has worked upon your nerves.
I roused myself from my abstraction to hear Julia mentioning to the strange man the name of Sea-Strand Cottage as our abode, and describing in her exaggerated fashion its location and appearance. "At the utmost end of Everywhere, and looking like secret assassination, nothing less, when you get there," my sister was saying. The man, as it happened, knew the place well.
Then forth from the salt sea to the mainland they dragged the fleet ship high up on the sands, laying long sleepers thereunder, and they builded an altar on the sea-strand, and lit fire thereon, scattering above white barley-flour in sacrifice, and, standing around the altar, they prayed as the God commanded.
So the old man sat up and said: "What hast thou seen?" Said Hallblithe: "I have seen the peaks and cliffs of the far-off mountains; and below them are hills green with grass and dark with woods, and thence stretch soft green meadows down to the sea-strand, which is fair and smooth, and yellow." "Sawest thou the skerry?" said the Sea-eagle.