By the end of the second day, Long Ede was up and active again. He went about with a dazed look in his eyes. He was counting, counting to himself, always counting. The Gaffer watched him furtively.
Since his recovery, though his lips moved frequently, Long Ede had scarcely uttered a word. But towards noon on the fourth day he said an extraordinary thing.
“There’s that sleeping-bag I took with me the other night. I wonder if ’tis on the roof still. It will be froze pretty stiff by this. You might nip up and see, Snipe, and”—he paused—“if you find it, stow it up yonder on Bill’s hammock.”
The Gaffer opened his mouth, but shut it again without speaking. The Snipe went up the ladder.
A minute passed; and then they heard a cry from the roof—a cry that fetched them all trembling, choking, weeping, cheering, to the foot of the ladder.
“Boys! boys!—the Sun!”
Months later—it was June, and even George Lashman had recovered his strength—the Snipe came running with news of the whaling fleet. And on the beach, as they watched the vessels come to anchor, Long Ede told the Gaffer his story. “It was a hall—a hallu—what d’ye call it, I reckon. I was crazed, eh?” The Gaffer’s eyes wandered from a brambling hopping about the lichen-covered boulders, and away to the sea-fowl wheeling above the ships: and then came into his mind a tale he had read once in “The Turkish Spy.” “I wouldn’t say just that,” he answered slowly.
“Anyway,” said Long Ede, “I believe the Lord sent a miracle to us to save us all.”
“I wouldn’t say just that, either,” the Gaffer objected. “I doubt it was meant just for you and me, and the rest were presairved, as you might say incidentally.”
A late hansom came swinging round the corner into Lennox Gardens, cutting it so fine that the near wheel ground against the kerb and jolted the driver in his little seat. The jingle of bells might have warned me; but the horse’s hoofs came noiselessly on the half-frozen snow, which lay just deep enough to hide where the pavement ended and the road began; and, moreover, I was listening to the violins behind the first-floor windows of the house opposite. They were playing the “Wiener Blut.”
As it was, I had time enough and no more to skip back and get my toes out of the way. The cabby cursed me. I cursed him back so promptly and effectively that he had to turn in his seat for another shot. The windows of the house opposite let fall their light across his red and astonished face. I laughed, and gave him another volley. My head was hot, though my feet and hands were cold; and I felt equal to cursing down any cabman within the four-mile radius. That second volley finished him. He turned to his reins again and was borne away defeated; the red eyes of his lamps peering back at me like an angry ferret’s.