It was on July 12th that the end came. The fine weather, after lasting for six weeks, had broken up two days before into light thunderstorms, which did not clear the air as usual. Ky Jago (short for Caiaphas), across the way, prophesied a big thunderstorm to come, but allowed he might be mistaken when on the morning of the 12th the rain came down in sheets. This torrential rain lasted until two in the afternoon, when the sky cleared and a pleasant northwesterly draught played up the valley. At six o’clock Ky Jago, who, in default of the Thatcher, was making shift to cover up Farmer Sprague’s ricks, observed dense clouds massing themselves over the sea and rolling up slowly against the wind, and decided that the big storm would happen after all. At nine in the evening it broke.
It broke with such fury that the Stranger, with the black bottle under his arm, paused on the threshold as much as to ask his father, “Shall I go?” But the old man was clamouring for drink, and he went. He was half-way down the hill when with a crack the heavens opened and the white jagged lightning fairly hissed by him. Crack followed crack, flash and peal together, or so quick on each other, that no mortal could distinguish the rattle of one discharge from the bursting explosion of the other. No such tempest, he decided, could last for long, and he fled down to the Ring of Bells for shelter until the worst should be over. He waited there perhaps twenty minutes, and still the infernal din grew worse instead of better, until his anxiety for the old man forced him out in the teeth of it and up the hill, where the gutters had overflowed upon the roadway, and the waters raced over his ankles. The first thing he saw at the top in one lurid instant was the entire Jago family gathered by their garden gate—six of them—and all bareheaded under the deluge.
The next flash revealed why they were there. Against the round-house opposite a ladder rested, and above it on the steep roof clung a man—his father. He had clamped his small ladder into the thatch, and as the heaven opened and shut, now silhouetting the round-house, now wrapping it in white flames—they saw him climbing up, and still up, towards the cross at the top.
“Help, there!” shouted the Stranger. “Come down! O help, you!—we must get him down!” The women and children screamed. A fresh explosion drowned shout and screams.
Jago and the Stranger reached the ladder together. The Stranger mounted first; but as he did so, the watchers in one blinding moment saw the old Thatcher’s hand go up and grip the cross. The shutters of darkness came to with a roar, but above it rose a shrill, a terribly human cry.
“Dave!” cried the voice. “Ted!”
Silence followed, and then a heavy thud. They waited for the next flash. It came. There was no one on the roof of the round-house, but a broken stump where the cross had been.