He picked up Nance’s parcel with a feeling of reverence. It might have cost her her life, in spite of her bladders. Then he climbed cautiously to the ridge and peered over.
Sark lay basking in the sunshine, peaceful and placid, as if no son of hers had ever had an ill thought of his neighbour, much less sought his blood.
Not a boat was in sight, and the birds on the north slope seemed as undisturbed as their fellows on the south.
The invasion in force needed time perhaps to prepare and would be all the more conclusive when completed.
Meanwhile, he would eat and watch at the same time, for he felt as empty as a drum, and an empty man is not in the pinkest of condition for a fight.
Never in his life had he tasted bread so sweet!—and the strips of boiled bacon in between came surely from a most unusual pig—a porker of sorts, without a doubt, and of most extraordinary attainment in the nice balancing of lean and fat, and the induing of both with vital juices of the utmost strength and sweetness. Truly, a most celestial pig!—and he was very hungry.
Had he been a pagan he would most likely have offered a portion of his slim rations as thank-offering to his gods, for they had come to him at risk of a girl’s life. As it was, he ate them very thoughtfully to the very last crumb, and was grateful.
They had been wrapped in a piece of white linen, and then tied tightly in oiled cloth, and were hardly damped with sea-water. The piece of linen and the oiled cloth and the bits of cord he folded up carefully and put inside his coat.
They spoke of Nance. If they had drowned her she would have gone with them tied on to her head. He took them out again, and kissed them, and put them back.
Thank God, she had got through safely! Thank God! Thank God!
He shivered in the blaze of the sun as his eyes rested on the waves of the Race, bristling up against the run of the tide as usual, and he thought of what it might have meant to him this morning.
It had swallowed Bernel. In spite of his hopeful words to Nance, he feared the brave lad was gone. And it might have swallowed Nance. And if it had—it might as well have him, too. For it was only thought of Nance that made life bearable to him.
The sun wheeled his silvery dance along the waters; the day wore on;—and still no sign of the invaders. Sark looked as utterly deserted as it must have done in the lone days after the monks left it, when, for two hundred years, it was given over to the birds, till de Carteret and his merry men came across from Jersey and woke it up to life again.
And then, of a sudden, his heart kicked within him as if it would climb into his throat and choke him; for, round the distant point of the Laches, a boat had stolen out, and, as he watched it anxiously, there came another, and another, and another. They were coming!