So he lay, while the sun mounted high and baked him on the bare stones, but he did not find it hot.
And then, of a sudden, he stiffened and lay watching anxiously. For there, from out the Creux had come a boat—and another, and another, and another—four boat-loads of them again!
So they were coming, after all, and his hopes died sudden death.
Well—let them come and take him and have their will. He was not the first who had paid the price for what he had not done, and human nature must fall to pieces if hung too long on tenterhooks.
He watched them listlessly. He could crawl into his innermost cavern, of course, and could hold it against them all till the end of time, which in this case would be but a trifling span, for a man must eat to live. But what was the use? As well die quick as slow, since there could be but one end to it. And then, to his very great surprise, the boats crept slowly out of sight round the corner of Coupee Bay, and he lay wondering.
What could be the meaning of that? Why had they put in there? Why couldn’t they come on and finish the matter?
The sea was all deserted again. If he had not just happened to catch sight of them stealing across there, he would have felt sure they were not coming to-day.
Perhaps they were going to wait there till night, though why on earth they should wait there instead of at the Creux, was past his comprehension.
And then, after a time, to his amazement, he saw them all go crawling back the way they had come. One, two, three, four—yes, they were all there, and they crept slowly round Laches point and disappeared, and left him gaping.
It was past believing. It was altogether beyond him. He lay, with his eyes glued to the point round which they had gone, stupid with the wonder of it.
They had actually given it up—for to-day, at least, and gone back! He cudgelled his brains for the meaning of it all, till they grew dull and weary with futile thinking.
Perhaps Nance and the Vicar and the Senechal had prevailed after all! Perhaps something had turned up at last to prove to the Sark men their misjudgment! Perhaps—well, any way, it was good to be left alone.
He lay there, laxed with the over-strain of all this upsetting, but rejoicing placidly in this one more day of life.
He felt like one granted a day’s respite as he stands on the scaffold with the rope round his neck.
Never had the sun shone so brightly. Never had the silver sea danced so merrily. It might be the last he would see of them.
And the sun wheeled on towards Guernsey, and made his deliberate preparations for a setting beyond the ordinary; for the sun, you must know, takes a very special pride in showing the great cliffs of Sark what he can do in the way of transformation scenes and most transcendent colouring.
And Stephen Gard lay there under the ridge on L’Etat, with the wonder and beauty of it all in his face and in his heart, and said to himself that it was probably the last sunset he would ever see, and he was glad to have seen it at its best.