She could wait for the girl as she came up the side of the Head, and push her down again or crush her with a lump of rock.
But that might mean reprisals on the part of the Islanders. She had had experience of the way in which they resented any ill done to one of their number by an outsider. She had no wish to join Gard on his rock.
It would be better to hold the girl up to the scorn and contempt of the neighbours; that would punish her. And by setting the men on Gard’s track again, that would punish him and her too.
And so she restrained the natural violence of her temper, which would have run to rocks and bodily injury, and waited in the bracken till Nance came stumbling along in the half-light. Then up she sprang, with an unexpectedness that for the moment took Nance’s breath and set her heart pounding with dreadful certainties of ghosts.
“So this is how you go to visit your fancy monsieur on the rock, is it, little Nance? And with nothing on but that! Oh shame! What will the neighbours say when they hear how you swim across to him, and you will not dare deny it?”
But Nance, relieved in her mind on the score of ghosts, and regaining her composure with her breath, simply turned her back on her and proceeded as if she were not there.
“And he is there still!” screamed Julie, dancing round with rage to keep face to face with her. “I was sure of it, though those fools could not find him. I’ll see that he’s found or starved out, b’en sur! Yes, if I have to go myself and see to it. As for you—shameless one!—it’s the last time you’ll swim across there, yes indeed!”—and she raved on and on, as only an angry woman with a grievance can.
Nance slipped her dress over her head and, under cover of it, dropped off her wet undergarment, coolly wrung it out, put on her cloak and walked away, Julie raging alongside with wild words that tumbled over one another in their haste.
Nance walked to the highest point behind Breniere, and waved her white garment a dozen times to let Gard know she was safe, and then turned and set off home through the waist-high bracken and the great cushions of gorse. And close alongside her went Julie, raging and raving the worse for her silence; for there is nothing so galling to an angry soul as to find its most venomous shafts fall harmless from the triple mail of quiet self-possession.
So they came through the other cottages to La Closerie, but the neighbours were all asleep, and those who woke at the sound of her violence, turned over and said, “It’s only that mad Frenchwoman in one of her tantrums. Why, in Heaven’s name, can’t she go to sleep, like other folks?”
Nance went into her own house and quietly closed the door. Julie hammered on it with her fists, as she would dearly have liked to hammer on Nance’s face, and then cursed herself off into her own place, slamming the door with such violence as to waken all the fowls and set all the pigs grunting in their sleep.