“He’s quite right. What was all the noise about?”
“That wass the shooting.”
“Before that. You all seemed to be howling at once.”
“That wass the sneezing. It iss full of sneezing down there,” and his red eyes still showed the effect of it.
It was a long time before they heard the laboured sounds of Trevna’s coming. But at last his legs wriggled out, then his body, then with a lurch he hauled up to the mouth of the tunnel that which he had brought with him. And at sight of it they all started back against the sides of the well, with various cries but equal amazement.
“O mon Gyu!” cried Peter Vaudin.
“Thousand devils!” cried John Drillot.
“Heavens an’ earth!” gasped Evan Morgan.
John Trevna gazed open-mouthed, for he had little breath left in him.
And from the black mouth of the tunnel the strange and terrible figure of the dead man looked quietly down at them and filled them with amazement.
Trevna’s heavy charge had blown in the top of the skull. The shrunken yellow face wore the gaunt eager look of one who had died the slow death of starvation. It seemed to be trying to get at them to bite and rend them.
Peter Vaudin was the first to climb the wall behind him, but the rest were close at his heels, and hustled him up through the crack under the slab.
Peter struck down towards the landing-place the moment he had wriggled through.
“Stop then, Peter,” called John Drillot, in a low insistent voice, lest that dreadful thing below should hear him.
“Not me! I’ve had enough, John Drillot. That is not what we came for ... and I had hold of its leg last night,” and he shivered at the recollection, and the thought that it might have turned on him and gripped him with its grisly hands.
“I don’t know what it is,” began John Drillot, “but—”
“It’s the man I shot inside there,” said Trevna.
“That man hass peen det a hundert years,” said Morgan.
“All the same, he was running about last night,” said Peter, “and I had hold of his leg”—with another shiver.
“He’s dead enough now, anyway,” said Drillot.
“Eh b’en! leave him where he is, and let’s get away. I’ve heard say there were ghosts on L’Etat, and now I know it. No good comes of meddling with these things.”
“But we ought to take him with us.”
“Take him with us!” almost shrieked Peter. “And let him loose on Sark! Why then?”
“Whatever he was last night, he’s dead enough now.... Will you help me to get him up, John Trevna?”
“Iss, sure! He’s got my belt.”
“Not in my boat, John Drillot,” cried Peter. “Not in my boat. I’ve had enough of him, pardi!” and he set off at speed for the boat.
“Don’t be a fool, Peter. You, Evan Morgan, run down and stop him going. Come on, John Trevna,” and after peering cautiously down to make sure the dead man had not moved, they dropped into the well again.