And the Vicar could only tighten his pale lips, and smooth her hair with his thin white hand, as she writhed on the ground at his side. For he could but think she was right. They were good shots, the Sark men, and it needs but one bullet to kill a man.
If Nance had looked a moment longer she might have seen Gard slip down from the ridge to the wall, but the bombardment of the shelter, which gave him his chance, made an end of her hopes, and her face was hidden in the turf.
The Vicar’s sight was not keen enough to see clearly what was passing. But when the men landed on the rock, and overran it in their search, he could not fail to see their figures on the ridge against the sky, and an exclamation of surprise roused Nance.
“What is it?” she jerked.
“They have landed over there. They seem to be searching the rock.”
“Then—” and she sat up suddenly and gazed intently across at L’Etat, and then sprang to her feet, a new creature. “For, see you, Mr Cachemaille,” she cried, “if they had killed him they would not be searching for him, nenni-gia!”
“That is true, child,” said the Vicar hopefully, and then, less hopefully, “but where shall a man hide on L’Etat?”
“Ah now! I remember. Just as I was leaving him last night, he told me—”
“As you were leaving him—last night?” and the old man gazed at her as though he doubted his ears or her right senses.
“But yes,” she cried impatiently. “I swam across there last night to see if Bernel was there and to take him some food. But you are not to tell that to any one. And he told me—”
“You swam across?—to L’Etat?”
“Yes, yes! We have done it many times, and, besides, I had the bladders—”
The Vicar shook his head helplessly. She forgot to explain so much that he did not understand. But he grasped at one thread.
“Ah, my poor Bernel! He is drowned,” she said, with a heave of the breast, but with her eyes intent on L’Etat. “I wanted him to take the bladders, but he would not; and it was the first night after the storm, you see, and the waves were big still, and he never got to L’Etat, and he never came back; so, you see—”
“Truly, you are being sorely tried, my child. But your brother was a better swimmer than most. May we not hope—”
But she shook her head, intent on the doings on the rock, and full, for the moment, of the hope she could draw from Gard’s hint about a hiding-place of which she knew nothing. For if she and Bernel had never discovered it, how should these others? And obviously they were searching, for they prowled about the rock like ants, and poked here and there, and wandered on and came back. And if they still sought they had not yet found; and so there was a new spring of hope in her heart.
“Yes, truly, they are searching,” she murmured, and forgot the Vicar and all else.