HOW HE CAME INTO AN UNKNOWN PLACE
Having lodged his eggs in a ledge under the big slab, Gard stole away to learn, if he could, if he had the rock all to himself.
He wanted water, and he wanted his bottle of cognac and the tin dipper; for puffins’ eggs, while not unpalatable beaten up with cognac, are of a flavour calculated to exercise the strongest stomach when eaten raw.
He feared the men would have made away with all his small possessions, but he could only try. So he stole like a shadow round the crown of the ridge and along towards the shelter, standing at times motionless for whole minutes till the rush of the waves below should pass and give him chance of hearing.
But on L’Etat the sound of many waters never ceases night or day, and the night wind hummed among the stones of the shelter, and, as it happened, John Drillot had just lurched over in avoidance of a lump of rock which was intruding on his comfort, and in so doing had lodged his heavy boot in Peter Vaudin’s ribs, and so their sonorous duet was stilled, and neither of them was very sound asleep, when Gard, after listening anxiously and hearing nothing, dropped on his hands and knees and felt cautiously inside.
Peter felt the blind hand groping in the dark, and was wide awake in an instant. He hurled himself at the intruder, as well as a man could who had been lying back against the wall half asleep a moment before; and Gard turned and sped away along the side of the ridge, with Peter at his heels and John Drillot thundering ponderously in the rear.
“What is’t, Peter boy?” shouted John.
“It’s him. This way!” yelled Peter, out of the dimness in front, as he stumbled and staggered along the ragged inadequacies of the ridge.
If Gard had had time for consideration, he would have led them a chase elsewhere first, but, in the sudden upsetting of lighting on what he had persuaded himself was not there, he lost his head and made straight for cover.
Peter Vaudin was at the base of the rock wall as he wriggled silently under the big slab, and it was only by a violent jerk that he got his foot clear of Peter’s grip. And Peter, strung to the occasion, kept his hand on the spot where the foot had disappeared, and waited a moment for John Drillot to come up before he followed it.
“Gone in here,” he jerked, as he climbed cautiously up.
“Can’t have gone far, then,” panted John. “Sure it was him?”
“Had him by the foot, but he got loose. Here we are,” as he poked about, and came at last on the hole below the slab. “Come on, John ... can’t be far away.... Big hole”—as he kicked about down below—“no bottom, far as I can see.”
“Best wait for daylight, to see where we’re getting.”
“Oui gia! Man doux, it’s not me’s going down here till I know what’s below.”