The dancers looked; the few sober men by the fire turned and looked also.
“’Tis Ruby Tresidder!” cried one of the girls; “‘Wudn’ be i’ thy shoon, Young Zeb, for summatt.”
Zeb shook his wits together and dashed off towards the spot, twenty yards away, where Ruby stood holding the lantern high, its ray full on her face. As she started she kicked off her clogs, turned, and ran for her life.
Then, in an instant, a new game began upon the sands. Young Zeb, waving his kerchief and pursuing the flying lantern, was turned, baffled, intercepted—here, there, and everywhere—by the dancers, who scattered over the beach with shouts and peals of laughter, slipping in between him and his quarry. The elders by the fire held their sides and cheered the sport. Twice Zeb was tripped up by a mischievous boot, floundered and went sprawling; and the roar was loud and long. Twice he picked himself up and started again after the lantern, that zigzagged now along the fringe of the waves, now up towards the bonfire, now off along the dark shadow of the cliffs.
Ruby could hardly sift her emotions when she found herself panting and doubling in flight. The chase had started without her will or dissent; had suddenly sprung, as it were, out of the ground. She only knew that she was very angry with Zeb; that she longed desperately to elude him; and that he must catch her soon, for her breath and strength were ebbing.
What happened in the end she kept in her dreams till she died. Somehow she had dropped the lantern and was running up from the sea towards the fire, with Zeb’s feet pounding behind her, and her soul possessed with the dread to feel his grasp upon her shoulders. As it fell, Old Zeb leapt up to his feet with excitement, and opened his mouth wide to cheer.
But no voice came for three seconds: and when he spoke this was what he said—
“Good Lord, deliver us!”
She saw his gaze pass over her shoulder; and then heard these words come slowly, one by one, like dropping stones. His face was like a ghost’s in the bonfire’s light, and he muttered again—“From battle and murder, and from sudden death—Good Lord, deliver us!”
She could not understand at first; thought it must have something to do with Young Zeb, whose arms were binding hers, and whose breath was hot on her neck. She felt his grasp relax, and faced about.
Full in front, standing out as the faint moon showed them, motionless, as if suspended against the black sky, rose the masts, yards, and square-sails of a full-rigged ship.
The men and women must have stood a whole minute—dumb as stones—before there came that long curdling shriek for which they waited. The great masts quivered for a second against the darkness; then heaved, lurched, and reeled down, crashing on the Raney.