"Jean Le Marchant and Martin were lying sick on Brecqhou—"
"They are safe at Beaumanoir."
"Carette does not know about Helier yet."
"Better so for the present. We buried him yesterday on Brecqhou. She believed him dead long since, as did the others."
Carette jumped up out of the heather, at sound of our voices, and came running towards us.
"Oh, Phil!" she cried, and flung her arms about my neck before them all, and made me a very happy and satisfied man.
"You are wounded?" she cried, at sight of blood on my sleeve. "Oh, what is it?"
"It is only a trifle, and you have spoiled your sleeve."
"I will keep it so always. Dear stain!" and she bent and kissed the mark my blood had left.
I thanked the neighbours for coming so promptly to my help, and as we stood for a moment at the road leading to Dos d'Ane, where Abraham Guille would break off to get back to his work, my grandfather stopped them.
"Phil brings us strange and monstrous news," he said weightily. "It is well you should know, for we may need your neighbourly help again. John Ozanne's ship was sunk by the French, privateer, Main Rouge, and John Ozanne himself and such of his men as tried to save themselves were shot in the water as they swam for their lives, and that was cold-blooded murder. Phil here saw what was toward and saved his life by floating under a spar and sail. And this Main Rouge who did this thing is Torode of Herm—"
At which they broke into exclamations of astonishment. "He fought under both flags. No wonder he waxed so fat! He knows that Phil has his secret. I fear he will give us no rest, and it is well the matter should be known to others in case—you understand."
"He is preparing to leave Herm," I said. "They were loading the schooner all night long. I ought to have gone across to Peter Port to lay my information before them there, but, you understand, Carette was more important to me. But surely Sercq need fear nothing from Herm," I said, looking round on them.
"Ah, you don't know," said my grandfather. "We are but few here just now. So many are away—to the wars and the free-trading. How many men does Torode carry?"
"With those on Herm, sixty to eighty, I should say."
"He could harry us to his heart's content if he knew it;" and Abraham Guille went off soberly to Dos d'Ane, and the rest of us went on to our homes.
My grandfather was full of thought, and I saw that he was anxious on our account. And now that the excitement was over, my shoulder began to throb and shoot. Every movement was painful to it, and I felt suddenly worn out and very weary. Carette must have seen it in my face, for she said—
"Lean on me, Phil dear. Aunt Jeanne will doctor you as soon as we get there;" and I leaned on her, for the touch of her was very comforting to me, and my right arm was happy if my left was not, and I was content.
"Go on to Jeanne Falla, you two," said my grandfather, when we came to La Vauroque, "and ask her to see to your arm, Phil. She is a famous doctor. I must see George Hamon."
Aunt Jeanne cut away the sleeves of my coat and shirt, and saw to my wound with the tenderest care, and many a bitter word for the cause of it. The bullet had gone clean through the muscles and had probably grazed the bone, she thought, but had not broken it. She washed it, and bound it up with soft rags and simples of her own compounding, while Carette fetched and carried for her. Then she set my arm in a sling, and but for the fact that I had only one arm to use, and so felt very lopsided, and deadly tired, I was still in much greater content than two whole arms and the highest of spirits had ever found me.
I was also feeling very empty, though with no great appetite for food. But she insisted on my eating and drinking, and saw to it herself in her sharp, masterful way.
She was tying the sling behind my neck when my grandfather and George Hamon came in together.
Uncle George gave me very hearty greeting, and they complimented Aunt Jeanne on her handiwork, and then asked her advice, and all the while I was in fear lest some incautious word from one or the other should weight Carette's heart with over-sudden news of her brother's death.
"Jeanne Falla, we want your views," said my grandfather. "It is in my mind that Torode will come back for these two. Phil holds his life in his hand. What others know is hearsay, but Phil can swear to it. I cannot believe he will rest while Phil lives. He can bring sixty or eighty ruffians down on us, and I doubt if we can put thirty against them. What does your wit suggest?"
"Ma fe!" said Aunt Jeanne, "you are right. Torode will be after them, and they are not safe here. Can you not get them over to Peter Port, or to Jersey?"
"They are watching the ways," I said, for I was loth to start on any fresh voyaging now that Carette and home were to my hand. "Their boats were out all night on the look-out."
"We might get through one way or another, if we started at once," said my grandfather, looking doubtfully at me.
"I can't do another thing till I've had some rest," I said. "It is so long since I slept that I cannot remember when it was;" and indeed, what with want of food, and want of sleep, and loss of blood, now that the excitement was over I was feeling weary unto death.
"Then hide them," said Aunt Jeanne. "George Hamon knows hiding-places, I trow,"—at which Uncle George grinned knowingly. "And if Torode comes, swear they are safe in Peter Port. One does not cut gorse without gloves, and lies to such as Torode don't count. Bon Gyu, non!"
"That is right," said Uncle George, "and what I advised myself. Philip thinks we might hold them at arm's length, but—"
"It would mean many lives and to no purpose, may be, in the end," said Aunt Jeanne, shaking her head.
"I can hide them where none will ever find them," said Uncle George.
"Ma fe! it does not sound too tempting," said Carette.
"Since we are together, I am content," I said; for rest and the assurance of Carette's safety were the only things I cared about just then.
"Bien! So am I," said Carette. "When will you put us in the hole?"
"At once. Torode is not the man to waste time when so much is at stake."
"And how long will you keep us there?" she asked.
"That may depend on Torode," said Uncle George. "But no longer than is necessary."
"Ma fe, it may be days! We must take food—"
"There is a pie and a ham, and I made bread and gache to-day," said Aunt Jeanne, picking up a big basket and beginning to pack it with all she could think of and lay hands on.
"Water?" asked Carette.
"Plenty of water, both salt and fresh," said Uncle George.
"All the same, a can of milk won't hurt," said Aunt Jeanne. "Carette, ma fille, fill the biggest you can find."
"And Mistress Falla will give us two sacks of hay to soften the rocks," said Uncle George, "and a lantern and some candles, lest they get frightened of one another in the dark,"—which I knew could never happen. All the same, Carette asked, "Is it dark there all the time?"
"Not quite dark all the time, but a light is cheerful."
"Lend me a pipe, Uncle George," I said, and the good fellow emptied his pockets for me.
HOW WE WENT TO EARTH
So presently we set out, all laden to the extent of our powers, and went first to Belfontaine, since our way lay past it. And there my mother fell gratefully on Carette and me, as though she had feared she might never see either of us again, and I was well pleased to see the tender feeling that lay between these two who were dearest to me in all the world.
"Wherever George Hamon puts you you will be safe," said my mother, at which Uncle George's face shone happily, "and I hope it will not be for long."
"Not for long," nodded my grandfather, with assurance. "We must give Monsieur Torode business of his own to attend to nearer home. Once Peter Port knows all we know, his fat will be in the fire."
"And the sooner the better," said Carette.
"And Krok?" I asked, tardily enough, though not through lack of thought of him.
"Your grandfather thinks he must have broken a blood-vessel yesterday. He is in there."
And I went in, and found him sitting up in great excitement at all the talking. I shook him very heartily by the hand and clapped him on the back and told him how much we were indebted to him, and how it was his prompt warning that enabled me to get across to Herm before they set their patrol boats—and very briefly of what had passed and was toward, and so left him, content and cheerful.
My mother would have added to our supplies, but we had as much as we could carry, and enough, we thought, for the term of our probable imprisonment. So we bade her farewell, and went on across the fields, past La Moinerie towards the Eperquerie.
"We are going to the Boutiques," I said.
"My Boutiques," said Uncle George, with a laugh. And, instead of going on to that dark chasm whose steep black walls and upstanding boulders lead one precariously into the caves with which we were familiar, he turned aside to another narrower gash in the tumbled rocks, and we stood on the brink wondering where he would take us. For, well as we knew the nooks and crannies thereabouts, we had never found entrance here.
We stood looking down into the narrow chasm. The tide was still churning among its slabs and boulders, and the inner end showed no opening into the cliff, nothing but piles of rounded pebbles and stranded tangles of vraic. We thought he had made a mistake.
But he looked quietly down into the boiling pot below, and said, "We have still an hour to wait. The tide is higher than I thought." So we sat on the short salt turf and waited.
"Tiens!" said Carette, pointing suddenly. And looking, we saw three boats pull out from the channel between Herm and Jethou. One came past us towards the north-east, and Uncle George made us lie flat behind gorse cushions till it was out of sight round Bec du Nez, though by crawling a little way up the head we could see it lying watchfully about a mile away. Another went off round Little Sercq to stop any communication with Jersey. The third lay in the way between Sercq and Peter Port.
"M. Torode shuts the doors," said my grandfather tersely. "B'en! we will try in the dark."
Between the softness of the turf and the heat of the sun and my great weariness, I was just on the point of falling asleep, when Uncle George came back from a look at his cleft, and picked up his loads, and said, "Come!" and five minutes later we were standing behind him in the salt coolness of the little black chasm, among the slabs and boulders and the fresh sea pools. And still we saw no entrance.
But he went to the inner side of a great slab that lay wedged against the wall of the chasm, and, stooping there, dragged out rock after rock, cunningly piled so that the waves could not displace them, until a small opening was disclosed behind the leaning slab. It was no more than three feet high, and we had to creep in on our hands and knees, which my grandfather, from his size and stiffness, found no easy matter.
The tunnel led straight in for a space of twenty feet or so, and then struck upwards, with a very rough floor which made no easy crawling ground, and a roof set with ragged rocks for unwary heads. The little light that came in round the corner of the slab in the dark chasm very soon left us, and we crawled on in the dark, hoping, one of us at all events, that the road was not a long one. And suddenly we breathed more freely and found a welcome space above our heads.
Uncle George struck flint and steel and lit a candle, and we found ourselves in a long narrow chamber, which looked just a fault in the rocks, or the space out of which the softer stuff had sunk away. The roof we could not see, but from the slope of the walls on either side I thought they probably met at a point a great way up, and the narrow crack of a cave ran far beyond our sight.
"My Boutiques," said Uncle George, "and no man—no living man but myself has ever been here till now, so far as I know." And round the walls we saw a very large number of neatly piled kegs and packages, at which my grandfather said, "Ah ha, mon beau!" and Uncle George smiled cheerfully in the candle-light.
"The Great Boutiques lie over there," he said, pointing. "There are communications, high up along the cross shelves. But they need not trouble you. I am quite certain no man but myself knows them. So if you hear the waves tumbling about in the big cave you don't need to be frightened."
"And how far does this go?" asked my grandfather, trying to see the end.
"Right through the Eperquerie. It runs into a water cave there. Its mouth is below tide level, but sometimes the light comes through. If you want brandy, Phil, broach a keg. If you want more tobacco, open a package."
"And water?" asked Carette.
"About fifty yards along there on the right in a hollow place. You can't miss it."
"Keep your hearts up, my children," said my grandfather. "You will be quite safe here. Our work lies outside, and we must get back. George will come to you as soon as the way is clear. God be with you!"
"You are quite sure there are no ghosts about, Uncle George?" asked Carette in a half-scared whisper, for she was still a devout believer in all such things.
"I've never seen the ghost of one," said Uncle George, with a laugh. "Here, Phil! Take this!" and he handed me from his pocket an old flint-lock pistol, of which I knew he had a pair. "You won't need it, but it makes one feel bolder to carry it. If you see any ghosts, blaze away at them, and if you hit them we'll nail their bodies up outside to scare away the rest."
Then, still laughing, to cheer us, I think, they bade us good-bye and went off down the tunnel.
Carette was already spreading out the hay, which Uncle George and my grandfather had got through the narrow ways with difficulty. Their voices died away and we were alone, and I was so heavy that, from sitting on the hay, I rolled over on it, and was asleep before I lay flat.
HOW LOVE COULD SEE IN THE DARK
Carette says I slept through three days and nights, but that is only one of her little humours. When I woke, however, I was in infinitely better case than before, and as she herself was fast asleep she may have been so all the time.
It was quite dark. The candle had either burned out or she had extinguished it. But in the extraordinary silence of that still place I could hear her soft breathing not far away, and I lay a long time listening to it. It was so calm and regular and trustful, as though no harmful and threatening things were in the world, that it woke a new spirit of confident hope in me, and I lay and listened, and thought sweet warm thoughts of her.
It seemed a long time, and yet not one whit too long, before the soft breathing lost its evenness, and at last I could not hear it at all, and knew she was waking. And presently she stirred, and after a time she said softly—
"Phil ... are you awake?"
"Yes, my dear," I said, sitting up, and feeling first for her, for love of the feel of her, and then in my pockets for my flint and steel.
"How still it is, and how very dark!" she whispered.
"I'll soon see how you're looking;" and my sparks caught in the tinder and I lit a candle.
"You slept very sound," said she, blinking at the light.
"I had not slept for nearly ninety hours, and they had held more for me than any ninety weeks before. But it was rude of me to go off like that and leave you all alone."
"You could no more help it than I can help being very hungry. You have slept three days and three nights, I believe. I wonder George Hamon is not back for us."
"Let's look at the milk," I said, and tasted it and found it sweet.
"That's because the air here is so cool and even," said Carette.
"Well, I feel all the better, anyway, and so do you, I'll be bound. I'm beginning to think, you know, that we were over fearful perhaps, and that we need not have come hiding here at all."
"We'll know better when we hear what's going on outside. Your grandfather and George Hamon are not men to be over fearful, and they thought it well."
"That is so," I said, feeling better at that.
"I wonder if it is day or night, and how long we've really been in here?"
"Long enough to be hungry, anyway," I said, heartily ready to eat. And we fell to on Aunt Jeanne's ham and rabbit pie, Carette cutting up all I ate into small pieces with my knife, since we had forgotten to bring any other. We drank up the milk out of the big-bellied tin can, and never was there sweeter milk or sweeter can, for Carette had first drink. And then, lest it should get foul, we started off to find the fresh water to wash it out and bring back a supply.
There was no mistaking the hollow place where the fresh water was. The light of the lantern fell on many a narrow rift in the walls of rock on either side, all sharp cracks and fissures, with rough-toothed edges, as though the solid granite had been split with mighty hammer-strokes. The seams were all awry, and the lines and cracks were all sharp and straight, though running into one another and across in great confusion. And, of a sudden, in the midst of this tangle of straight clefts and sharp-pointed angles, we came on a little rounded niche where the wall was scooped out in a graceful curve from about our own height to the ground. It was all as smooth and softly rounded as if wrought by a mason's chisel, and as we stood looking at it with surprise, because it was so different from all the rest, a movement of the lantern showed us a greater wonder still. At our feet, in a smooth round basin, bubbled the spring, and looked so like a great dark eye looking up at us in a dumb fury that we both stood stark still staring back at it.
The dark water rushed up from below in coils and writhings like the up-leap of the tide in the Gouliot Pass, and our lantern set golden rings in it which floated brokenly from the centre to the sides, and gave to it a strange look of life and understanding. So strong was the pressure from below that the centre of the little pool seemed higher than the sides. It looked as though the pent-up force within was striving all the time to shoot up to the roof and any moment might succeed.
But the strangest thing of all was that with all this look of hidden power there was no sound, and no drop of water overflowed the hollow basin. The ground we stood on was a slab of solid rock and dry as bone,—no splash, no sound, no drop outside,—only the silent and powerful up-thrust of the water from below, the silent golden rings that tumbled to the sides of the basin, and the constant expectation of something more which never came.
It was Carette's quick understanding that named it.
"It is like Krok," she whispered, and the word was said. It was all as like Krok—not the outside man, but the inner Krok, dumb and powerful, silently doing his appointed work—as anything that could be imagined.
"Yes," I said. "It is like Krok. It is very wonderful—running like that all through, the ages—since the cave was made anyway—very wonderful."
She stooped to dip her hand and taste it, and then drew back.
"It looks as if it would bite," she said, and I took off the lid of the can and scooped up a draught and drank it.
"The sweetest water I ever tasted, and cold as ice. It is as good as the water at La Tour."
Then she drank also, and then she washed out the milk-can, but would not pour the dirty water back into the basin. "It would be an offence," she said simply, and I felt the same.
Then we left our can there and went on along the cleft, which grew narrower and narrower till we could only go singly. And so we came at last into a sound of waters in front, and going cautiously, found ourselves in a somewhat wider place, with dull waves tumbling hollowly at our feet.
Carette crept to my side, and I held the lantern up and out, but we could see only a rough, black-arched roof and ragged rock walls, and a welter of black waves which broke sullenly against the shelving path on which we stood, as though driven in there against their will.
"This is the water-cave Uncle George spoke of, but I don't see any light."
"Perhaps it's night outside," said Carette in a whisper. "Let us get back, Phil. I don't like this place. The waves look as if they were dead."
So we went back the way we had come, and she pressed still closer to me as we passed the little hollow in which the spring churned on, noiseless, and ceaseless, and untiring, and seemed to look up at us with a knowing eye as our lantern set the yellow gleams writhing and twisting in it. We watched it for a time, it looked so like breaking into sound every next moment. But no sound came, and we picked up our can and went on.
"I do wish I knew if it is to-day or to-morrow," said Carette.
"Without doubt it is to-day."
"I don't believe it, Phil. It's either to-morrow or the day after, or the day after that."
"But that milk would never have kept sweet."
"It would keep sweet a very long time here. The air is so fresh and cool."
"Well, even if it's to-morrow it's still to-day," I argued.
"I know. But what I want to know is—how long we've been in here, and it feels to me like days and days."
But it was impossible to say how long we had slept, and until we got some outside light on the matter we could not decide it.
So we gathered our beds into cushions and sat there side by side, and since our supply of candles was not a very large one, and I could feel her in the dark quite as well as in the light, I lit my pipe and put the lantern out. And bit by bit she began to tell me of the dreary days when they waited for news of me, and hope grew sick in them, but they would not let it die.
"Your mother was an angel and a saint, and a strong tower, Phil,—so sweet and good. How she made me long for a mother of my own!"
"You shall have a share of mine!"
"I've made sure of my share already. It made the ache easier just to be with her, and so I went often to Belfontaine, and she never failed me. She was always full of hope and confidence. 'He will come back to us, my dear,' she would say. 'And when we get him back we must try to keep him, though that is not easy in Sercq.'"
"But you know why I went, Carette."
"Don't go again, Phil. It is very hard on the women to have their men-folk go. All the fear and the heartache are ours."
"But it is for you we go—to win what we can for you."
"Ah, what is it all worth?—Just nothing at all. It's not what you bring in your hands, but what is in your hearts for us, Phil. Better a cottage on Sercq with our hearts together like this,"—and I could feel her sweet heart beating through as she nestled up against me with my right arm round her neck,—than all the plunder of Herm."
"Then I will never leave you again, my sweet," and I sealed that pledge in kisses. "But how we are to live—"
"Aunt Jeanne will tell you, and I will tell you now. We are to live at Beaumanoir. She says she is getting too old for the fanning, and must have help, and so—"
"So you have arranged it all among you, though for all you knew it was a dead man you were planning for."
"It kept our hearts alive to plan it, and, besides, we knew you were not dead. I think we would have felt it if you had been."
"A woman's heart is the most wonderful thing in the world and the most precious. But it may deceive itself. It believes a thing is because it wishes it to be sometimes, I think, and it won't believe a thing because it wishes it not to be."
"Well, that is as it should be, and you are talking like one of your grandfather's books, Phil," she said lightly, not guessing what was in my mind. For it had seemed to me that I ought to tell her of her brother's death, lest it should come upon her in a heap outside.
"Your father and brothers now," I asked. "Did you look to see them back?"
"Surely! Until my father and Martin came alone telling us the rest were gone. It was sore news indeed."
"Unless they saw them lying dead they may still live. You have thought them dead. But, dear, Helier was with me in the prison in England. He came there sorely wounded, and I helped to nurse him back to life. We escaped together and got home together—" Her hands had clasped in her excitement, and the white glimmer of her face was lifted hopefully to mine, and I hurried on to crush her hope before it grew of size to die hard.
"We got home together that morning they carried you off. He went to Aunt Jeanne's and I went home. When Krok burst in with the news about you, I hurried across to Brecqhou. On the shore of the bay was a boat, and in it Helier lay dead with a bullet through his head."
"Oh, Phil!" in a voice of anguish, for Helier had been her favourite.... "And who—?"
"Those who took you without doubt."
"Ah, the wretches! I wish—" And I was of the same mind.
"I could do nothing, for he was dead. So I took his boat and followed you to Herm. Those who followed me to Brecqhou buried him there. But if he had not come I could not have got to Herm before they set their watch boats. So he helped, you see, though he did not know it."
"My poor Helier!... They had muffled my head in a cloak so that I could neither hear nor see. I had just gone outside—"
"Your father and Martin were in a great state about you, but I could not wait to explain. Anything I could have said would only have added to their anxiety, and that was not as great as my own, for I had my own fears of what had happened and they knew nothing."
"Yes, yes. You could have done no other," and she fell silent for a time, refitting her thoughts of Helier, no doubt.
So far, the most striking things in our rock parlour had been the silence and the darkness, but before long we had noise and to spare.
First, a low harsh growling from the tunnel by which we had entered, and that was the returning tide churning among the shingle and boulders in the rock channels outside. Then it grew into a roar which rose and fell as the long western waves plunged into the Boutiques, and swelled and foamed along its echoing sides, and then sank back with a long weltering sob, and rose again higher than before, and knew no rest. We could hear it all so clearly that none could doubt the existence of passages between the two caves.
We sat and listened to it, and ate at times, but could not talk much for the uproar. But for me it was enough to sit with Carette inside my arm and close against my heart, and there was something in that long swelling roar and sighing sob which, after a while, set weights on the eyelids and the senses and disposed one to sleep. For a time we counted the coming of the larger wave, and then the countings grew confused and we fell asleep.
As a matter of fact we lost all count of time in that dark place. When we woke we ate again by lantern light, and though either one of us alone must have fallen into melancholy as black as the place, being together, and having that within us which made for glad hearts, we were very well content, though still hoping soon to be out again in the free air and sunshine.
My arm gave me little pain. Aunt Jeanne's simples had taken the fire out of the wound, and kept the muscles of an even temper. And whenever the bandages got dry and stiff Carette soaked them in fresh water and tied me up again, and seemed to like the doing of it.
Mindful of Uncle George's saying that the water-cave held light at times, we visited it again, and yet again, until coming down the sloping path one time, we saw the narrow roof above us and the rough walls on either side tinged with a faint soft light, and hastening down like children into a forbidden room, we found ourselves in a curious place.
The tide was very far out, and the black cave, in which we had hitherto seen only sulky waves tumbling unhappily, had become a wonder equal to those Krok used to open to us in the Gouliots.
We could now go quite a long way down the shelving side of the rock, and the water that lay below was no longer black but a beautiful living green, from the light which stole up through it by means of an archway at the farther end. The arch was under water, but the light streamed through it, soft and mellow and glowing, so that the whole place seemed to throb with gentle life. Outside I judged it was early morning, with the sun shining full on the sea above the archway.
And here we found what Krok had shown us in the Gouliots as their chiefest beauties,—the roof and walls were studded with anemones of every size and colour, green and crimson, and brown and pink, and lavender and white and orange; so completely was the rock clothed with them that it was not rock we saw, but masses and sheets and banks of the lovely clinging things, all closed up within themselves till the water should return, and shining like polished gems in the ghostly green light.
The boulders that strewed the sloping sides of the cave-floor were covered with them also, and in the glowing green water they were all in full bloom and waving their arms merrily to and fro in search of food.
There, too, a leprous thing with treacherous, gliding arms crawled after prey, and at sight of it Carette gripped my arm and murmured "Pieuvre," as though she feared it might hear her. She had always a very great horror of those creatures, though in speaking of them when they were not present she had at times assumed a boldness which she did not really feel. This, however, was a very small monster, and indeed they do not grow to any very great size with us.
This softly glowing place was very pleasant to us after the darkness and lantern light of the other cave. We sat for a long time, till the glow faded somewhat and the water began whuffling against the rock walls, and climbed them slowly till at last all the cave was dark again, and we groped back along the cleft to our sleeping-place with the sounds of great waters in our ears from the Boutiques.
After that we sought the sea-cave each time we woke, and whenever the light was in it we sat there, and ate, and talked of all we had done, and thought, and feared, and hoped, during those long months when we were apart. And once and again Carette fell on earlier times still, and we were boy and girl together under the Autelets and Tintageu, or swimming in Havre Gosselin, and trembling through the Gouliot caves behind Krok's tapping stick. And we talked of Aunt Jeanne's party, and our Riding Day, and Black Boy, and Gray Robin. And she told me much of the Miss Maugers, and their school, and her school-fellows. And at times she fell silent, and I knew she had sudden thought of her brother Helier. But, you see, she had so long thought of him as dead, that the fact that he had died later than she had supposed had not the power to cloud her greatly. And perhaps the fact that we were together, and going to part no more, was not without its effect on her spirits.
And I told her more fully than I had done of all that had happened to me on Herm, and on the French ship in the West Indies, and at Amperdoo, and of our escape into France in the preventive officers' boat, and of that last desperate pull across from Surtainville.
"But, mon Gyu, Phil, what a strange man!" she said of Torode. "Why should he let you live one time, and try his hardest to kill you another?"
"I do not know. I have puzzled over it to no purpose. Now I have given it up."
"He is perhaps mad," she suggested.
"He did not seem so, except in not making an end of me when he had the chance, and that truly was madness on his part."
The time was never long with us, for we were strangely set apart from time and its passage. We ate and slept, and talked and walked, just whenever the inclination came, and measurements of time we had none. But Aunt Jeanne's pie was finished and we were down to the ham bone, and what little bread and gache we had left was growing hard, and by that Carette said we had been there at least three days, and we looked for George Hamon's coming at any moment, except when the tunnel was growling and the Boutiques roaring and sobbing.
HOW LOVE FOUGHT DEATH IN THE DARK
I woke from a very sound sleep with a start, and lay with a creeping of the back and half asleep still, wondering what I had heard.
It was dark, with a blackness of darkness to be felt, and all was very still, which meant that the tide was out, so it was probably early morning. But it seemed to me that a sound unusual to the place lingered in my ear, and I lay with straining senses.
It was not such a sound, it seemed to me, as Carette might have made in her sleep or in wakening, but something altogether foreign and discordant.
Whether, in my sudden wakening, I had made some sound, I do not know, but there had been heavy silence since. And in that thick silence and darkness I became aware of another presence in the place besides our own,—by what faculty I know not, but something told me that we were not alone. My very hair bristled, but I had the sense to lie still, and there was in me a great agony of fear lest Carette should move and draw upon herself I knew not what.
Safety seemed to lie in silence, for I knew that other, whatever it was, was listening as I was.
I held my breath, but my heart was thumping so that it seemed impossible that it should not be heard. From the place where Carette lay I could not hear a sound, not even the sound of her breathing.
I think I must have burst soon if that state of matters had continued. Every drop of blood in my body seemed throbbing in my head just back of my ears, and all the rest of me was cold and tense with the strain. It was like waiting on a fearsome black day of thunder for the storm to break.
Then I heard a movement close to me where I lay on the ground, and, like the lightning out of the thundercloud, there came the click of steel on flint and I breathed soundlessly. It was, at all events, human.
And then my breath caught again. For the tiny lightning flash that came out of the flint lit, with one brief gleam, the face of the man to whom my death was as necessary as the breath of life,—whose presence there held most dreadful menace for us both,—Torode of Herm.
For one moment life stood still with me. For here, in this close darkness, were we three within arm's length of one another;—the man I had reason to fear and hate above any other on earth, and the price of whose life was my own, a price I would not pay; the woman whose life was dearer to me than my own, for whom I would gladly pay any price, even the utmost; and myself, by force of circumstances, the unwilling link that had brought them both there, and the menace to both their lives, for Torode came for me and Carette came with me.
The wheels of life began to turn for me again, and my hand felt stealthily along the ledge at my side, where George Hamon's pistol had lain ever since he gave it to me.
Thoughts surged in my brain like the long western waves in the Boutiques, all in a wild confusion. This man had spared my life. He had come to take it. Carette was at stake.
I knew what I had to do—if I could do it.
He struck again with the steel, and as he bent to blow the tinder into flame his eye caught the gleam of it on Aunt Jeanne's polished milk-can. I know not what he thought it. Possibly his nerves were overstrung with what he had been going through. With an oath he dropped the tinder, and snatched out a pistol, and fired in the direction of the can. And as the blaze lit up the great black bulk of him I stood up quickly and fired also,—and, before God, I think I was justified, for it was his life or ours.
The place bellowed with the shots, and the air was thick with smoke and the sharp smell of powder. No sound came from the floor, and I stood holding the pistol by the muzzle to strike him down again if he should rise. But he did not move, and my fears were not for him.
"Carette!" I cried. "Carette!"
And my love rose suddenly with a cry and fell sobbing into my arms.
"Oh, Phil! Phil! What is it? I thought you were dead."
"Dieu merci, it is he who is dead, I think. We will see," and I managed a light with my flint and steel and knelt down by the fallen man.
"Who is it?" asked Carette, breathless still.
"It is Monsieur Torode."
"Torode!" she gasped, and bent with me to make sure. "Bon Dieu, how came he here?"
"That I don't know. This seems not the hiding-place Uncle George supposed. I was wakened by his trying to strike a light, and I thought he was a ghost."
I hoped he was dead, and so an end to all our fears from him. But I found him still breathing, though but faintly, and he had not his senses. I dragged him across to my bed and sought for his wound, and found it at last in the head. Either the old pistol had cast high, or my sudden up-jump, or his down-bending, had upset my aim. For the shot had entered the side of his head at the back, just above the ear, and as I could find no hole whence it had issued it was probably in his head still. The wound had bled very little, but beyond his slow, heavy breathing he gave no sign of life.
On the floor, where he had fallen, I found a seaman's torch, which had been lighted but was now sodden with water. He had probably dropped it or dragged it in some pool as he made his way into the cave.
And, now that the hot anger and the fear of the man were out of me, and he lay under my hand helpless to do us further harm, I found myself ready to do what I could for him, since, unfortunately, he was not dead.
I took Uncle George at his word and broached one of his little kegs, and found it most excellent French cognac, and mixing some with water in the lid of the can, I prevailed on Carette to drink some too. We had both been not a little shaken by these happenings, and the fiery life in the spirit pulled us together and braced the slackened ropes. I dropped a little into Torode also, and it ran down his throat, but he showed no sign of appreciation, and I doubted the fine liquor was wasted.
Then, as there was no chance of sleep, I lit my pipe and found comfort in it, and regretted that Carette had no similar consolation of her own, though I do not take to women smoking as I have seen many of them do abroad. But there was not even a crust to eat, so we sat and talked in whispers of the very strange fate, or chance, or the leading of God, that had brought Torode to us in this remote place into which we had fled to escape him.
"But, Phil, however did he get here?" asked Carette. "For Uncle George said that no living man—?"
"It was that made me think him a ghost," I said, "until I heard his flint and steel, which no ghost needs."
"Did he come in the way we did?"
"He was standing just there when I woke. I'll go and look," and I crept away down the narrow way till I found myself against the piled stones which blocked it, and felt certain that no one had passed that way since George Hamon went out and closed the door behind him. I heard the in-coming tide gurgling in the channel outside, and returned to Carette much puzzled.
"He must have come by way of the Boutiques," I said, "for those stones have not been moved."
"And yet Uncle George seemed certain that no one besides himself knew of this place. 'No living man'—that is what he said."
"He'll be the more surprised when he comes," I said, and we left it there.
The sight of Monsieur Torode lying there like a dead man was not a cheerful one, so we left him and went to our usual place by the water-cave. And, when we came to the well, Carette said, "Ugh! it looks as if it knew all about it," and the bulging eye of the spring goggled furiously at us as we passed.
We had nothing to eat all that day, but drinks of water, mixed now and then with a little cognac. For myself it did not matter much, for I had my pipe, but I felt keenly for Carette. She would not admit that she was hungry, but during the afternoon she fell asleep leaning against me, and I sat very still lest I should waken her to her hunger. And her face as it lay against my arm was like the face of a saint, so sweet and pure and heedless of the world.
It was I awoke her after all.
I was pondering whether we should not make our way out by the tunnel, for if we stopped there much longer we should starve. And the idea had struck me all of a heap, that if any ill had befallen George Hamon or my grandfather we might wait in vain for their coming, when a shout came pealing down the long and narrow cleft of the cave—
"Carre! Phil Carre!"
I thought it was George Hamon's voice, and the start I gave woke Carette, and we set off for the rock parlour.
Before we got there the shouts had ceased, and in their place we heard a torrent of amazed oaths and knew that Uncle George had lighted on Torode.
"Dieu-de-dieu—de-dieu-de-dieu-de-dieu!" met us as we drew near. "What in the name of the holy St. Magloire is this?" cried he, as soon as he saw us. He had lit his lantern, his head was bound round with a bloody cloth and he was bending over the bed.
"We had a visitor," I said jauntily, for the sight of him was very cheering, even though he seemed all on his beam-ends, and maybe the sight of a basket he had dropped on the ground went no small way towards uplifting my spirits.
"Thousand devils!" he said furiously,—and I had never in my life seen him so before.—"A visitor!—Here! But it is not possible—"
I pointed to the wounded man. "It is Monsieur Torode from Herm. We had a discussion, and he got hurt."
"Torode!" he said, and knelt hastily, and held his lantern so that the light fell full on the dark face, and peered into it intently, while we stood wondering.
His eyes gleamed like venomous pointed tools. He stared long and hard. Then he did a strange thing. He put his hand under Torode's black moustache and folded it back off his mouth, and drew back himself to arm's length, and stared and stared, and we knew that some strange matter was toward.
And then of a sudden he sprang back with a cry,—great strange cry.
"My God! My God! it is he himself!—Rachel!" and he reeled sideways against the wall.
"Who?" I asked. And he looked very strangely at me, and said—
"Your father,—Paul Martel," and I deemed him crazy.
"My poor Rachel!" he groaned. "We must hide it. She must not know. She must never know. My God! Why did I blab it out?"
"Uncle George!" I said soothingly, and laid my hand on his shoulder, for I made sure his wound had upset his brain.
"Give me time, Phil. I am not crazy. Give me time. Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!" and he sat down heavily with his head in his hands.
And we, not understanding anything of the matter, but still much startled at the strangeness of his words and bearing, nevertheless found the size of our hunger at sight of the basket he had brought, and fell to on its contents, and ate ravenously.
HOW WE HEARD STRANGE NEWS
"Whatever is it all, Phil?" whispered Carette as we ate.
"There has evidently been fighting outside, and he has got a knock on the head, and his wits are astray." But that strange thing he had said ran in my head, and made such play there that I began to be troubled about it.
You must remember I had never heard the name of Paul Martel, and of my father I knew nothing save that he was dead. So that this strange word of George Hamon's was to me but empty vapouring brought on by that blow on the head. But against that there was the tremendous fact which had so exercised my mind, that this man Torode had spared my life at risk of his own, when every other soul that could have perilled him had been slaughtered in cold blood.
If—the awful import of that little word!—if there was—if there could be, any sense in George Hamon's words, the puzzle of Torode's strange treatment of me was explained. I saw that clearly enough, but yet the whole matter held no sense of reality to me. It was all as obscure and shadowy as the dim cross-lights in which we sat, and ate because we were starving.
Torode lay like a log, breathing slowly, but with no other sign of life. George Hamon presently knelt beside him again and gazed long into his face, and then examined his wound carefully. Then he stood up and signed to us to follow him, and we went along the cleft to the water-cave, and sat down there in the dim green light that filtered through the water.
"Mon gars," he said very gravely, "I have done you a wrong. I ought to have kept it to myself. It was the suddenness of it that upset me. I told you no living man besides myself knew of this place, and that was because I believed this man dead—dead this twenty years. He was partner with me in the free-trading for a time, until we fell out—"
"You said just now that he was my father," I broke in, and eyed him closely to see if his wits were still astray. "What did you mean?"
"It is true," he said gloomily. "I am sorry. It slipped out."
"But he is Torode, and you called him Martel, and I am Phil Carre."
"All that; but, all the same, it is true, mon gars. He is your father, Paul Martel."
"I have always been told my father was dead."
"We believed so. He went away twenty years ago, and never came back. We believed him dead—we wished him dead. He was better dead than alive."
"I don't understand," I said doggedly, still all in a maze. "You call him Martel, and say he is my father, but I am Phil Carre."
"Yes. We were sick of Martel, and sick of his name. We did not wish you to be weighted with it.... Now see, mon gars, I was in the wrong to slip it out, but—well, there it is—I was wrong. But, since it is done, and we must keep it to ourselves, I will tell you the rest. You are old enough to know. And Carette—eh bien! it is you yourself, and not your father—"
"Ma fe, one does not choose one's father," said Carette, and slipped her hand through my arm, and clung tightly to it through all the telling.
And George Hamon told us briefly that which I have set forth in the beginning of my story. We two talked of it many times afterwards, and it was at such odd times that he told me all the rest. And I think it like enough that you, who have read it all in the order in which I have written it, may long since have guessed that thing which had puzzled me so much—Torode's strange sparing of my life when he murdered all my comrades. But to me, who had never known anything of my father, and had grown to know myself only as Phil Carre, the whole matter was amazing, and upsetting beyond my power to tell.
"And what are we to do now, Uncle George?" I asked dispiritedly, for the sudden tumbling into one's life of a father whom all honest men must hate and loathe darkened all my sky like a thunder-cloud on a summer day.
"If he dies we will bury him here and in our three hearts, and no other must know. It would only break your mother's life again as it was broken once before."
"And if he lives?" I asked gloomily, and, unseemly though it might be, it was perhaps hardly strange that I could not bring myself to wish anything but that he might die.
"If he lives," said Uncle George, no whit less gloomily—and stopped in the slough.... "I do not know.... His life is forfeit ... and yet—you cannot give him up ... nor can I.... But perhaps he will die ..." he said hopefully.
"And I shall have killed him."
"Mon Dieu, yes!—I forgot.... But you did not know, and if you had not he would certainly have killed you ... and Carette also, without doubt."
"All the same—"
"Yes, I know," he nodded. "Well, we must wait and see. I wonder now what Philip would do,"—meaning my grandfather, in whose wisdom he had implicit faith, as all had who knew him. "I'm inclined to think he would give him up, you know. He would never loose him on the world again.... However, he may die."
"Where is he—my grandfather? And what has been doing outside, and when can we get out?"
"He is away to Peter Port, but he had to go by way of Jersey, and by night, to avoid their look-out boats. He has got there all right, for there is fighting on Herm. We heard the sound of the guns, and the Herm men are getting back there as fast as they can go."
"What day is this?"
"To-day is Thursday."
"Thursday!" echoed Carette. "And we came in here on Tuesday! Is it Thursday of this week or Thursday of next week, Uncle George?"
"This week," he said with surprise, for he could not possibly understand how completely we had lost count of time. "Torode came across himself with four big boat-loads of rascals, with carronades in their boats, too, and they have turned the Island upside down in search of you. He thought, you see, without doubt, that if he could lay hands on you there was no one else could swear to anything but hearsay. But the Peter Port men will take your grandfather's word for it, as they would take no one else's. And that word concerning John Ozanne and his men would set them in a flame if anything could. He was very loth to go, but he saw it was the surest way of ending the matter. So he slipped away with Krok in the dark, and they were to swim out to a boat off Les Laches and make their way by Jersey. Now, if you have eaten, we will get out to the light."
"Dieu merci!" said Carette heartfully.
"And what about him?" I asked, nodding towards the wounded man.
"He must wait. Can he eat?"
"I have dropped brandy down his throat two or three times, and he seems to swallow it."
"We will give him some more, and decide afterwards. Mon Dieu! But I wish Philip was here."
"Would you tell him?"
"Surely! But not your mother, Phil," he said anxiously, and I knew again how truly he loved her. "She must not know. She must never know."
"What about Aunt Jeanne?" I asked.
He shook his head. "The fewer that know the better." So we dropped some more brandy and water into the wounded man's mouth, and gathered our few belongings, and crept down the tunnel after Uncle George.
Oh, the blessedness of the sweet salt sunlit air, as we stood in the water-worn chasm and blinked at the light, while Uncle George carefully closed his door. We took long deep draughts of it, and felt uplifted and almost light-headed.
"It is resurrection," said Carette; and as we climbed out of the cleft and took our way quickly among the great gorse cushions along Eperquerie, the dull sound of firing on Herm came to us on the west wind.
HOW A STORM CAME OUT OF THE WEST
"Thank God, you have escaped them!" was my mother's grateful greeting as we came into Belfontaine. "But you have suffered! You are starving?"
"Not a bit, little mother," chirped Carette, as they kissed very warmly. "We have been quite happy, though, ma fe, it was as dark and still as the tomb, and there is a spring in there that is enough to frighten one into a fit. And George Hamon here is trying to make us believe this is only Thursday, and it is certain we have been in there at least a week."
"It is only Thursday," smiled my mother. "But the time must have seemed long in the dark and all by yourselves."
"Oh, we didn't mind being by ourselves, not a bit, and we never quarrelled once. But, ma fe, yes, it was dark, and so still. I could hear Phil's heart beat when I couldn't see him."
"You both look as if you had been seeing ghosts. Is it that your arm is paining you, Phil, mon gars?"
"Hardly at all. Carette saw to it."
"Bien! You are bleached for lack of sunshine, then."
"Mon Dieu, yes," said Carette. "I felt myself getting whiter every minute, and we were almost starving when Uncle George came. We had been days without food, you know, although you all say it is only Thursday;" and my mother smiled and began to spread the table, but we showed her it was only Carette's nonsense.
But if she was relieved on our account, she was still very anxious about her father.
"They are fighting over there, George," she said, looking anxiously out over the water to where Herm lay peacefully in the afternoon sunshine, and as we stood listening, the dull sound of guns came to us again. "That means that he got there all right?"
"Trust Philip to get there all right. And to come back all right too. I hope they'll make an end of them," said Uncle George stoutly.
"You can never tell what will happen when fighting's afoot," she sighed.
"He'll take care of himself. Don't you worry, Rachel."
"Shall I put a fresh bandage on your head? It is hurting you, I can see."
"No, no," he said hastily, and then, "Well, yes truly, it is hard and dry—if you will;" and she steeped his bandage in cold water and carefully bound up his head again. And all the time we were in mortal fear lest some chance word from one or the other should disclose that which was hidden in the cave, that which would blight her life again if it got out.
"Did they trouble you, mother?" I asked.
"The young Torode came with a party of his men and searched every corner of the place. And in reply to his questionings all I said was that you were gone. Then George and your grandfather came up and would have turned them out, and the young man and George fell out—"
"He drew a pistol on me and gave me this, and I knocked him down," said Uncle George. "And then the men dragged him away."
"It's well it was no worse," said my mother. "I do not like that young man;" and little she knew how small cause indeed she had to like him.
We went on along the cliffs to Beaumanoir to show ourselves to Aunt Jeanne, and ever and again the sound of the guns came to us on the wind, and more than once Uncle George stopped with his face turned that way, as though his thoughts were more there than here.
"Ah v'la! So here you are, my little ones. I hope you had a pleasant time in Jersey," cried Aunt Jeanne, as soon as she caught sight of us. "I have been risking my salvation by swearing through thick and thin that you went to Jersey on Tuesday. But that young Torode only scoffed at me. Bad manners to say the least of it, after eating one's gache and drinking one's cider, and nearly dancing holes in one's floor. I believe you're hungry, you two;" and she made for her cupboards.
"No truly, auntie," said Carette, "we have done nothing but eat and sleep since ever Uncle George shut us up in his hole. But, mon Dieu, you cannot imagine how dark and still it is in there. Each time we slept was a night, and each time we woke was a day, and we were there about three weeks."
"Ma fe, you look it," nodded Aunt Jeanne.
"And the father and Martin?" asked Carette.
"So so. Give them time. They have kept asking for you."
Uncle George was standing looking over at Herm again, and something of what was in his face was in Aunt Jeanne's, as she said to him—
"Ma fe, yes! But they are getting it hot over there. If you take my advice, George Hamon, you will muster all the men you can and have them ready."
"How then?" he said quickly. "You think—?"
"I think what you are thinking, my friend. If they are beaten over there—and they will be, unless the Guernsey men are bigger fools than they used to be—we may see some of them across here again and in a still worse temper. If they make a bolt at the last, they'll make for France, and ten to one they'll take a bite at us in passing. They came to stop trouble before, now they'll come to make it."
"It's what was in my mind. I'll see Amice Le Couteur at once."
"B'en! and give the word to all you see, George," she called after him. "And bid the women and children to the Gouliots if they hear they are coming—the upper chamber above the black rock. It won't be just hide-and-seek this time."
"Good idea!" Uncle George called back over his shoulder.
"Common sense," said Aunt Jeanne. "I'd undertake to hold the Gouliots against the lot of them if the tide was at flood."
"And you really think they may come across here again, Aunt Jeanne?" I asked.
"Ma fe, yes, I do. They were angry men before, but if the Guernsey men have smoked them out they'll be simply devils, and it's just as well to look ahead. How is that arm of yours?"
"The other one's all right. I can do my share."
"You'll be wanted if they come. I doubt if we can muster more than thirty men at most, and there may be more than that left of them, and madmen at that."
"We won't let them land."
"You can't close every door with thirty men, mon gars."
"One at the Coupee, if they make for Gorey. Three at Dos d'Ane. Three at Havre Gosselin. Half a dozen at the Creux—"
"Ta-ta! What about Eperquerie and Dixcart, my boy? Those are the open doors, and they know it just as well as you do. They're not going to climb one by one when they can come all in a heap. Mon Dieu, non!" she said, shaking her head ominously. "If they come there'll be rough work, and the readier we are for it the better."
Carette's face had shadowed at this gloomy talk, when she had been hoping that our troubles were over. And I could find little to reassure her, for it seemed to me more than likely that Aunt Jeanne's predictions would be fulfilled.
"I'll go along to Moie de Mouton and keep a look-out," I said.
"I also," said Carette, and we went off over the knoll together.
We sat in the short sweet grass of the headland, just as we had sat many a time when we were boy and girl, when life was all as bright as the inside of an ormer shell and we were friends with all the world.
The sun was dropping behind Herm into a dark bank of clouds which lay all along the western sky. Behind the clouds the heavens seemed ablaze with a mighty conflagration. Long level shafts of glowing gold streamed through the rifts, like a hot fire through the bars of a grate, and our faces and all the bold Sercq cliffs were dyed red. The sun himself looked like a fiery clot of blood. Everything was very still, as with a sense of expectation.
Tintageu, and the Platte, and Guillaumesse, and the gleaming Autelets, and La Grune, and on the other side the great black Gouliot rocks, and Moie Batarde, and the long dark side of Brecqhou all seemed straining with wide anxious eyes to learn what was coming. There was a dull growl of surf from below, and low harsh croakings and mewings from the gulls down in Port a la Jument. And we seemed to be all waiting for what should come out of Herm along the red path of the sun.
Carette shivered inside my arm.
"Cold, dearest?" I asked.
"My heart is heavy. Oh, but I wish it was the day after to-morrow, Phil."
"It will come. But we look like having a storm first. Those black clouds—"
"God's storms I do not mind. It is that black Herm—Hark!" and we heard the sound of guns again along the wind. "Do you think they will come here, Phil?"
"I think it quite likely, dear. But we are forearmed and we fight for our homes. If they come, they are a beaten crew bent only on mischief. We shall beat them again."
"You won't go and get yourself killed, Phil dear, just when you've come back to me?"
"That I won't. And when they've come and gone—" and I comforted her with warmer things than words. And Tintageu, and the black Gouliot rocks, and all the straining headlands seemed to look at us for a moment, and then turned and stared out anxiously at Herm.
And then I jumped up quickly, and stood for a moment staring as they stared.
"Tiens!—Yes—they are coming! Allons, ma cherie!" and we set off at a run for Beaumanoir to give the alarm. For, out of the shadow of Herm, half a dozen black objects had crept and were making straight for Sercq, and I understood that the look-out boats, and the boats of those who had hurried across from Sercq, had been left on the shell beach because the channel was probably blocked, and that the broken remnants of Herm had fled across the Island and were coming down to take a bite at us, as Aunt Jeanne had predicted.
A dozen of the neighbours, who had gathered about the gate of Beaumanoir, came running to meet us—the two Guilles from Dos d'Ane and Clos Bourel, Thomas De Carteret from La Vauroque, Thomas Godfray of Dixcart, and Henri Le Masurier from Grand Dixcart, Elie Guille from Le Carrefour, Jean Vaudin, and Pierre Le Feuvre, and Philippe Guille from La Genetiere. George Hamon and Amice Le Couteur, the Senechal, from La Tour, were just coming down the lane, and every man carried such arms as he could muster.
"They're coming!" I shouted, and Amice Le Couteur, panting with his haste from the north, took command in virtue of his office, since Peter Le Pelley, the Seigneur, was away in London.
"How many, Phil Carre?" he asked.
"I counted six boats, but they were too far off to see how many in them."
"So! Run on, you, Jean Vaudin and Abraham Guille, and tell us how they are heading. They won't try to land hereabouts. They may try Gorey, but not likely. They have tasted the Coupee already. All the same, you, Pierre, run and warn the folks on Little Sercq. They had better come over here. Then stop on the Coupee and let no man across. I have bidden the women and children to the Gouliots here. Thomas Hamon of Le Fort is collecting them. The rascals are most likely to try the Eperquerie or Dixcart. You, Elie Guille, see them all safely into the upper cave above the black rock, and sit in the mouth and let no one in. But I don't think you will be troubled. We shall beat them off. Now, my friends, to the Head and watch them, and let every man do his duty by Sercq this night!" And they moved off in a body to Moie de Mouton, while Carette and I went on into Beaumanoir, she to join Aunt Jeanne, I to find a weapon, which I was doubtful of finding at home.
"Must I go underground again, Phil?" asked Carette. "I would far sooner stop here and take the risk, if there is any."
"You must go with the rest, my dear. We may have our hands full. It will be a vast relief to know you are all safe out of sight. If any of these rascals should get past us they will spare no one. Their only idea in coming is to pay off scores because they are beaten. They will be very angry men."
Aunt Jeanne, as might have been expected, was packing baskets of food with immense energy.
"Ah, b'en!" she cried at sight of us. "Carry those baskets down to Saut de Juan, you two. I'll be with you in a minute."
"Give me something to fight with, Aunt Jeanne."
"There's my old man's cutlass, and there are his pistols, but, mon Dieu, they haven't been loaded this twenty years, and moreover there's no powder."
I strapped the cutlass round me and stuck the pistols in the belt.
"What about M. Le Marchant and Martin?" I asked.
"They are in the cellar. No one will find them. The Gouliots was too far for them."
Women and children were running past towards Saut de Juan, the women anxious for their men, the children racing and skipping as if it were a picnic. I handed over my basket to willing hands, at the head of the path that leads down by the side of the gulf to the Gouliots, and gave Carette a hearty kiss before them all, which set some of the women smiling in spite of their forebodings.
"Ah-ha!" chuckled one old crone. "Bind the faggot if it's only for the fire."
"Faggot without band is not complete," I laughed. "See you take care of my faggot, Mere Tanquerel, or I'll want to know why;" and I ran on along the heights to fetch my mother from Belfontaine.
As I came down the slope towards Port a la Jument I met her and George Hamon hurrying along, and her face was full of anxious surprise still, while Uncle George's had in it a rare tenderness for her which I well understood.
"I was just coming for you, mother," I said.
"It is good to be so well looked after," she smiled through her fears. "If only we knew that your grandfather was all right—"
"Philip will be here before long," said Uncle George confidently. "When he sees which way they've taken he will guess what they're up to and will bring on some of the Guernsey men. If we can't keep them at arm's length till then we're a set of lubbers."
"You'll be careful of yourselves," she said wistfully, as we stood at the top of the slope. "I—we can't spare either of you yet."
We promised every possible caution, and she went on to join the other women, while Uncle George and I ran across to the men standing in a dark clump on the Moie de Mouton.
HOW WE HELD OUR HOMES
There was no need to ask how the boats were heading. All eyes were fixed anxiously on them as they came straight for the north of the Island, and just as we came up Amice Le Couteur gave the word to move on to Eperquerie.
Stragglers from the more distant houses were coming up every few minutes. He left one to send them all on after us, and we straggled off past Belfontaine and Tintageu and the Autelets and Saignie Bay, and so into the road to the Common, and took our stand on the high ground above the Boutiques, and as we went Thomas Godfray loaded my pistols for me from his own flask.
The colours had long since faded out of the sky, and the bank of clouds in which the sun had set was creeping heavily up the west. Both sky and sea were gray and shadowy. The sea was flawed with dark blurrs of sudden squalls, and the waves broke harsh and white on La Grune and Bec du Nez.
The six boats came on with steady venom. They kept well out round Bec du Nez, and we ran across the broken ground to meet them on the other side of the Island, and lay down there by the Senechal's orders.
There was always the chance that they were making straight for the French coast. It would have been well for some of them if they had. That hope died as they turned inside the Pecheresse rock and came sweeping down towards Eperquerie landing.
We could see them better now, and estimate our chances. Three of the boats were of large size, holding ten to twelve men each, and carrying a small carronade in the bows. The others held six to eight, and they were all as evil and scowling a set as ever I set eyes on.
"They will try here," said Amice Le Couteur. "I will warn them once not to land, then do you be ready to fire. Take advantage of the rocks, and let no man expose himself unnecessarily."
They came thrashing along, with no show of order but much of the spirit that was in them. There is no dog so ready to snap at anything that offers as the one that is running from a fight. Their lust for mischief came up to us in hoarse growls and curses, and tightened our grip on our weapons.
The first boat ground on the shingle, and the next ran in alongside before the oars were unshipped, and the wind was thick with curses on their clumsiness. The landing between the rock is a narrow one, and no more than two could come in at once. The others had to wait outside.
The rascals were beginning to tumble ashore, when Amice Le Couteur stood up and cried, "Stop there! If you land it is at your peril. We will not have it."
Those who were landing turned their black faces upwards in surprise, for they had not seen us. But from one of the waiting boats behind, half a dozen shots rang out in a sudden blaze of light, and the Senechal fell back among us, and our men began a hot fire at the boats from behind their rocks.
I ran to M. Le Couteur, as I had no weapons but a cutlass and pistols, and these were only for close work. He was bleeding in the head and chest, but said he thought the wounds were not serious.
"See that some of them don't slip away to the Creux or Dixcart, while we're busy with the others here, Carre," he said, as I tied up his head with his own kerchief, and then dragged him down into a little hollow where no shots could reach him.
There was much cursing and shouting down below, and a satisfactory amount of groaning also, and our men fired and loaded without stopping and said no word. The landing-place and the rocks above were thick with smoke, which came swirling up in great coils, so that I could see nothing, though I could hear enough and to spare.
I scrambled down the side of Pignon, bending among the rocks lest they should see me, and so came out on to the larger rocks, inside which lies the landing-place. I was thus in the rear of the Herm men, with the open sea behind me, and a glance told me that the Senechal's fears were justified. The two boats that had pushed in were alone there, and I heard the sound of oars working lustily down the coast.
I turned and tumbled back the way I had come, scrambling and falling, cutting and bruising myself on the ragged rocks, and so up to our men.
"There are only two boats there," I shouted. "The rest are off for the Creux."
"Good lad!" cried George Hamon. "Off after them, Phil, and keep them in sight. Fire your pistol if they stop. We'll divide and follow, and we'll not be far behind;" and I ran on past Les Fontaines and Creux Belet.
I heard them pass Banquette as I stood in the gorse of the hillside, and followed them round to Greve de la Ville, where there was little chance of their landing, as the shore is not easy, and the climb not tempting.
From there I could have cut across into the Creux Road, and been at the harbour long before them, but I thought best to follow the cliffs and keep them in touch, lest they should try any tricks.
They had to keep well out round Moie a Navet, but they came in again under Grande Moie, and so we came down the coast, they below and I above, till I ran across country, back of the Cagnons, and dropped into Creux Road just above the tunnel, and there found George Hamon with a good company come straight by the road from La Tour, and still panting hard from their rush.
"Ah, here you are, mon gars!" said Uncle George. "And where are they?"
"Coming along. I saw them past Les Cagnons. How are they at Eperquerie?"
"We left them at it, but they're scotched there. Will they try here, or go on?"
"Dixcart, if they know their business. It'll be all hands to the pumps there, Uncle George. Four of us could hold the tunnel here against fifty."
"Yes, we'll get on by Les Laches and wait there and make sure. Do you stop here, Phil, with Godfray and De Carteret and Jean Drillot, until you are sure they have gone on, then come on and join us. Best barricade the tunnel with some of that timber."
He and the rest went on up the hillside to Les Laches, and we four set to work hauling and piling, till the seaward mouth of the tunnel leading from the road to the shore was barred against any possible entrance. And listening anxiously through our barrier, with the stillness of the tunnel behind us, we presently heard the sound of the toiling oars pass slowly on towards Dixcart. We waited till they died away, and then climbed the hill to Les Laches and sped across by the old ruins, with a wide berth to the great Creux at the head of Derrible Bay, and down over the Hog's Back into Dixcart Valley, where we knew, and they knew, their best chances lay. For in Dixcart the shore shelves gently, and the valley runs wide to the beach; fifty boats could land there in a line, and their crews could come up the sloping way by the streamlet ten abreast. It would be no easy place to defend if the enemy pushed his attack with persistence, and every man we had would be needed.
We tumbled into our men as they settled their plan of defence. We were twenty-one all told. Ten were to go along the Hog's Back cliff towards Pointe Chateau, where they would overlook the point of landing, if the enemy made straight for the valley. They were to begin firing the moment the boats touched shore, and then to draw back into the valley. The other ten were to lie in the bracken on the slope of the opposite hill, just where it gives on to the bay, and to pour in their fire before the enemy had recovered from his first dose. Then, if he came on, the two bands would meet him with volleys from both hillsides as he came into the valley, and again retiring along the hillsides, would continue to harass him till, at the head of the valley, if he got that far, the united bands would meet him hand to hand. We judged he might be about thirty strong, but hoped our first volleys might bring us about even.
Uncle George asked me to go with himself and the nine along Hog's Back. As I had no gun, and only one arm in full working order, I might be useful in carrying any change of orders to the other party.
There was no sound of their coming yet, but the pull round Derrible Pointe would account for that. So we stole silently along to our appointed places.
The night was very dark and squally, but on this side of the Island we were sheltered. On the other side the white waves would be roaring and gnashing up the black cliffs, but here in Dixcart they fell sadly on the shingle and drew back into the depths with long-drawn growls and hisses.
"V'la!" said Uncle George, as we lay on the cliff; and we heard the oars below in the bay, and all stood up ready.
They came in as close under the cliff as they dared, so close that we heard their voices clearly between the falling of the waves. And then, dimly, we saw the black bulks of their boats in the streaming surf as it ran back to the sea, and I started, for I could only see three, but could not be certain.
"Now!" said Uncle George, and our volley caught them full.
They roared curses, and began snapping back at us as each man found his musket. But a step back took us under cover, for a black cliff two hundred and fifty feet high, and hidden in the night, offered no mark for them, and from the face of the opposite hill our other volley crashed into the marks their own fire offered.
"Again!" said Uncle George, as soon as our men were ready, and our ten guns spoke once more.
They were sadly discomfited, and furiously angry down below there. But those who were not wounded had tumbled ashore, and they replied to our second volley with a more concerted fire. And in the flash Of their guns I, craning over the scarp of the hill, saw clearly but three boats.
"Only three boats," I whispered in George Hamon's ear. "I'm off to look for the other," and before he could stop me I was gone. For he needed all his men, and I believed I could manage alone.
Back across Hog's Back, past the old mill, through the fields by La Forge, and along the hill-path by Les Laches, and down the hill, slipping and stumbling, and into the Creux tunnel with only one fear—that I might arrive too late.
And I was only just in time. As I ran in I heard them on the seaward side hauling at the timbers of our barricade; and with my chest going like a pump, and my hands all shaking with excitement, I drew Peter Le Marchant's cutlass and sent it lancing through the openings wherever a body seemed to be.
Sudden oaths broke out, and the work stopped. I pulled out one of my pistols, shoved the muzzle through a hole and pulled the trigger, and still had wit enough to wonder what would happen if it burst, as Aunt Jeanne had hinted.
It did not burst, however, and the discharge provoked a further outburst of curses. I drew the other, and fired it likewise, and stood ready with my cutlass for the next assault. But they had hoped to break through unperceived, and possibly the violence of my attack misled them into a belief in numbers. They drew off along the shingle, and I leaned back against the side of the tunnel and panted for my life.
I heard a discussion going on, and presently they were at work at something, but I could not make out what.
I took advantage of the lull to strengthen my defences with some boats' masts and any odd timbers I could find and lift, till I thought it impossible that any man should get through.
But I was wrong. There came a sudden roar outside, and a shot of size came crashing through my barricade, sending pieces of it flying wildly. They had a carronade, and had had to shift the boat to the end of the shingle to get the mouth of the tunnel into the line of fire.
Then I began to fear. Men I could fight, but carronades were beyond me.
Still, even when they had knocked my barrier to pieces, the men must come at last. The great iron shot could not reach me round the corners, though flying timbers and splinters might. They would fire again and again till the way was clear, and then they would come in a heap, and I must do my best with my cutlass. And it was not unlikely that the sound of the heavy guns might catch the ears of others and bring me help. So I drew back out of the tunnel on the land side and waited.
A stumble over a piece of timber set me to the hurried building of a fresh barricade at this end, outside the mouth of the tunnel. If it only stopped them for minutes, the minutes might be enough. It would in any case hamper them, and I did not believe they could train their guns upon it. So I groped in the dark, and dragged, and piled, and found myself using the wounded arm without feeling any pain, but also without much strength, till I had a not-to-be-despised fence which would at least give me chance of a few blows before it could be rushed.
Five times they fired, and the inside of the tunnel crashed with the fragments of the outer barricade, and then it was evidently all down.
There was a brief lull while they gathered for the rush. Then they came all together full into my later defence.
I stabbed through it and hacked at one who tried to climb. But they were many and I was one. The barrier began to sag and give under their pressure. I stabbed wildly through and through, and got groans for payment. And then of a sudden I was aware of another fighting by my side. He had come unperceived by me, and he spoke no word, but thrust and smote wherever opportunity offered, and his coming gave me new strength.
And then, with a shout, others came pouring down the Creux Road, and I knew that all was well, and I fell spent in the roadway.
HOW WE RAN AGAINST THE LAW FOR THE SAKE OF A WOMAN
When I recovered sufficiently to take notice of things, I was sitting in the tunnel with my back against the wall, a big fire of broken wood was burning brightly, and men were carrying in others from the harbour. The carried men were bound, and the others were strangers to me.
A flask was put to my mouth, and I took a pull at it, and turned to find Krok smiling his content at my recovery.
"Was it you, Krok?" and I shook both his hands heartily, while he held the flask between his knees.
"And my grandfather?" I asked. "Is he hurt?" And Krok nodded and then shook his head.
"Hurt, but not badly?" and he nodded quickly.
"And these are Guernsey men?"
He nodded again, and one of them came up and asked, "Feeling better? You had a tough job here all alone. We came ashore on the other side, and were hurrying towards the firing lower down there when we heard the gun begin, and your friend here brought us down this road on the jump. He doesn't speak much, but he's got mighty good ears and sense."
"You were just in time. I was about done."
"Just in time is all right, but in fact it wouldn't have done to be much later."
"Can you tell me anything of my grandfather, Philip Carre?"
"Oh, you're young Phil Carre, who started all this business, are you?"
"I'm Phil Carre. What about my grandfather?"
"We had some warm work over there, and he got a shot through the leg. Not serious, I think. But we got the schooner and a lot of the rascals, and when we found the rest had come this way we came after them. But Torode himself got away. Maybe we'll find him here somewhere."
I had not given the man in George Hamon's cave a thought for hours past, but this sudden reminder brought my mind round to him, and me to my feet, with a jerk.
He was my father—I could not doubt it, though belief was horrible. He was a scoundrel beyond most. He lay there stricken by my hand. His life was sought by the law, and would certainly be forfeited if he was found. I must find George Hamon at once.
"Are they fighting still at Dixcart?" I asked the Guernsey man.
"There was firing over yonder as we came along," he said, pointing to the south-west. "But it is finished now."
"That was their chief attack. The Senechal was shot at Eperquerie. George Hamon is in charge at Dixcart. We had better see how they have fared."
"Allons! I know Hamon."
He left four of his comrades to guard the prisoners, and the rest of us set off by the way I had already passed twice that night, and came down over Hog's Back into Dixcart.
They heard us coming, and George Hamon's quick order to his men to stand by told me all was well, and a shout from myself set his mind at rest.
"Mon Dieu! Phil, my boy, but I'm glad to see you safe and sound. You've been on my mind since ever you left. Who are—Why—Krok—and Henri Tourtel? Nom d'Gyu! Where do you come from?"
"From Herm last. We came across after those black devils. Old Carre said they would take a bite at you as they passed. We landed on the other side, and scrambled up a deuce of a cliff, and got to the tunnel there just in the nick of time. Young Carre here was fighting a dozen of them and a carronade single-handed."
"Bon Gyu, Phil! We're well through with it. I oughtn't to have let you go alone, but you were gone before I knew, and we had all we could manage here. There are ten of them dead, and the rest are in our hands—about twenty, I think—and every man of them damaged. They fought like devils."
"Many of ours hurt?" I asked.
"We've not come out whole, but there's no one killed. Where's your grandfather?"
"Wounded on Herm, but not seriously, M. Tourtel says."
"Seen anything of Torode himself, Hamon?" asked Tourtel.
"Haven't you got him? Better look if he's among our lot. You would know him better than we would. They're all down yonder. I must go and see after Amice Le Couteur. We left him bleeding at Eperquerie. Get anything you want from our people, Tourtel. Krok, you come along with us;" and we set off over the hill past La Jaspellerie to get to La Vauroque.
"Phil, my son," he said in my ear, "your work is cut out for you this night. Are you good for it?"
"For her sake, and your grandfather's and your own, we must get him away at once—now. Tomorrow will be too late. We don't want him swinging in chains at Peter Port and all the old story raked up. I wish to God you had killed him!—Mon Dieu! I forgot—you're you and he's your father. All the same, it would have saved much trouble."
"What's to be done with him?"
"He may be dead—Mon Dieu! I keep forgetting. If he's alive you will take him away in my boat—"
"You want him to live?"
"I don't want to have killed him."
"Then you must get him to a doctor. You can't go to Guernsey, so that means Jersey—And afterwards—I don't know—you'll have to see what is best. Wait a moment,"—as we came to his house at La Vauroque. "You'll need money, and take what you can find to eat. I've got a bottle or two of wine somewhere. Before daylight you must be out of sight of Sercq."
"Where will you say I've gone?"
"Bidemme! I don't know ... You can trust old Krok?"
"Then, as soon as you have had the other patched up and settled somewhere in safety, you'd better leave him in Krok's care and get back here. And the sooner the better. The people in Guernsey will want your story from your own lips in this matter."
"How soon can we get into the cave?"
"Nom-de-Dieu, yes!... Voyons donc!—About two o'clock with a wet shirt. This wind will pile the water up, and the Race will be against us in the Gouliot. The sooner we're off the better."
He handed me a sum of money, packed into a basket all the eatables he could find and two bottles of wine, and lit a lantern, and we set off through the gusty night, past the deserted houses, past Beaumanoir all dark and dead, and so down into Havre Gosselin, where the waves were roaring white.
We drew in Uncle George's small boat by its ropes and got aboard his larger one, and tied the smaller to drag astern.
The west wind was still blowing strong, but it had slackened somewhat with the turn of the tide. But when we tried to breast the Gouliot passage with that heavy boat, we found it impossible. Three times we nosed inch by inch into the swirling black waters, which leaped and spat and bit at us with fierce white fangs, and three times we were swept away down past Pierre au Norman, drooping over our oars like broken men.
"Guyabble! This is no good!" gasped Uncle George, as we came whirling back the third time. "We must go round." So we drew in the oars, and hoisted a bit of our lug, and ran straight out past Les Dents, whose black heads were sheets of flying foam, to make a long tack round Brecqhou. Then, with the wind full on our port quarter, we made a quick, straight run for the Boutiques, and found ourselves not very far astray. Dropping the sail, and leaving Krok in charge, Uncle George and I pulled in the small boat to the channel into which his cave opened. It was still awash, but we could not wait. We dragged the boat up onto the shingle just showing at the head of the chasm, then wading out up to our shoulders to the leaning slab, we pulled down the rock screen and crawled into the tunnel.
The wounded man lay just as we had left him, breathing slowly and regularly, but showing no other sign of life. We dropped a little cognac into him, and took him by the shoulders and feet and carried him into the tunnel. How we got him through I cannot tell—inch by inch, shoving and hauling, till the sweat poured down us in that narrow place.
But we got him to the opening at last, and hauled the boat down and hoisted him in, soaked to the skin each one of us. Uncle George carefully closed his door, and we pulled out to Krok, waiting in the lugger.
"Mon Dieu! I have had enough of him," said Uncle George, worn out, I suppose, with all the night's doings. "If he dies, I shall not care much. He is better dead."
We laid him in the bottom of the boat and covered him with the mizzen sail.
"Keep well out round Bec du Nez," said Uncle George, "and run so for half an hour. Then run due east for two hours, and then make for Jersey. God keep you, my boy! It's a bitter duty, but you're doing the right thing."
He wrung my hand, and pushed off and disappeared in the darkness, and we ran up the lug and went thrashing out into Great Russel.
We turned and ran before the west wind straight for the French coast, till the sun rose and the cliffs of Sercq, about twelve miles away, gleamed as though they had but just been made—or had newly risen out of the sea. Then we turned to the south-west and made for Jersey.
As soon as it was light I saw Krok's eyes dwelling on our passenger with a very natural curiosity. Torode was unknown to him as to most of us, but there was a whole world of enquiry in his face as he sat looking down on the unconscious face below—studying it, pondering it, catching, I thought, at times half glimpses of the past in it.
I saw that I must tell him a part of the truth, at all events, for I should need much help from him. My mind had been running ahead of the boat, and trying the ways in front, and it seemed to me that Jersey was no safe refuge for a forfeited life.
Torode of Herm was a name known in all those coasts. The news of his treacheries and uprooting was bound to get there before long. Some long-headed busybody might stumble on our secret and undo us. My mind had been seeking a more solitary place, and, ranging to and fro, had lighted on the Ecrehou rocks, which I had visited once with my grandfather and Krok and had never forgotten.
"Do you know who this is, Krok?" I asked, and he raised his puzzled face and fixed his deep-set eyes on mine.
He shook his head, and sat, with his chin in his hands and his elbows on his knees, gazing down into the face below, and I sat watching him what time I could spare from my steering.
And at last he knelt down suddenly and did exactly as Uncle George had done—lifted the black moustache from off the unconscious man's mouth, and threw back his own head to study the result. Then I saw a wave of hot blood rush into his face and neck, and when it went it left his face gray. He looked at me with eyes full of wonder and pain, and then nodded his big head heavily.
"Who, then?" and he looked round in dumb impatience for something to write with, and quivered with excitement. But the ballast was bars of iron rescued from the sea, and there was nothing that would serve.
Then of a sudden he whipped out his knife, and with the point of it jerkily traced on the thwart where I sat, the word "FATHER," and pointed his knife at me.
"Yes," I nodded. "It is my father come back, when we all thought him dead. He comes in disgrace, and his life would be forfeited if they found him, so you and I are going to hide him for a time—till he is himself, and can go away again."
Krok nodded, and he was probably thinking of my mother, for his fist clenched and he shook it bitterly at the unconscious man.
Then he knelt again, and looked at his wound, and shook his head.
"It was I shot him, not knowing who he was. And so I must save his life, or have his blood on my hands."
From Krok's grim face I judged that the latter would have been most to his mind.
"I thought of trying the Ecrehous. We could build a shelter with some of the old stones, and he will be safer there than in Jersey. But I must get a doctor to him, or he'll slip through our hands."
Krok pondered all this, and then, pointing ahead to the bristle of rocks in front and to himself, and then to me and the wounded man and to Jersey, I understood that he would land on the Ecrehous and build the shelter, while I took the wounded man on to Jersey to find a doctor. And that chimed well with my ideas.
The sun had been up about three hours when we ran past the Dirouilles, with sharp eyes and a wide berth for outlying fragments, and edged cautiously in towards the Ecrehous. The sea was set so thick with rocks, some above and some below water, that we dropped our sail and felt our way in with the oars, and so came slowly past the Nipple to the islet, where once a chapel stood.
It was as lonely and likely a shelter for a shipwrecked soul as could be found, at once a hiding-place and a sanctuary. Sparse grass grew among the rocks, but no tree or shrub of any kind at that time. The ruins of the holy place alone spoke of man and his handiwork.
All around was the free breath of life,—which, at times, indeed, might sound more akin to rushing death,—and the sea and the voice of it; and the stark rocks sticking up through it like the fragments of a broken world. And above was the great dome of the sky—peaceful, pitiless, according to that which was within a man.
Krok scrambled ashore, and I handed him all that was left of our provisioning, then with a wave of the hand I turned and pulled clear of the traps and ran for Rozel Bay.
There was a little inn at the head of the bay, which had seen many a stranger sight than a wounded man. I had no difficulty in securing accommodation there, and the display of my money ensured me fullest service, such as it was. I told them plainly that the unconscious man was related to me, and that he had received his wound at my hands. I let them believe it was an accident, and that we came from the coast of France. They were full of rough sympathy, and when I had seen him put into a comfortable bed, and had dropped some more cognac into him, I started at once for St. Heliers to find a doctor.
There was no difficulty in that. I went to the first I was told of, and fell fortunately. I described the nature of the wound, so far as I knew it, and told him the bullet was still there. He got the necessary instruments and we drove back to Rozel in his two-wheeled gig. Dr. Le Gros wore a great blue cloak, and his manner was brusque, but cloak and manner covered a very kind heart. Moreover, he had had a very large experience in gun-shot wounds, and he was a man of much discretion.
As soon as he set eyes on the wound he rated me soundly for not having it seen to before, and I bore it meekly. His patient was his only concern. He did not ask a single question as to how it was caused, or where we came from. It seemed, however, to puzzle or annoy him. He pinched his lips and shook his head over it, and said angrily, "'Cre nom-de-Dieu! It should have been seen to before!"