He had a vague idea that heaven would be something like that—tenderly soft and beautiful, and glowing with radiances of unearthly splendour, which whispered to weary hearts of the peace and joy that lay beyond, and gently called them home to rest.
His theology was, without doubt, of the most elemental and objective, and would not have carried him any great lengths in these days; but, for the time being, at all events, it lifted its possessor to a plane of thought above his usual, and tended to quietness and peace of mind.
The sky right away into the east was glowing softly with the wonders of the sunset, and there the delicate tones changed almost momentarily. As his eye followed the tender grace of their transformations, with a delight which he could neither have expressed nor explained, it once more lighted suddenly upon that which he had been looking for so anxiously all day long, and brought him to earth like a broken bird.
Once more a boat had come round the point of Les Laches, and this time it was speeding towards him as fast as a sail that was as flat almost as a board, and looked to him no more than a thin white cone, could bring it.
So they were coming, after all, and this wonderful sunset might be his last indeed;—and all the tender beauty of the fleecy clouds thinned and paled, and the glory faded as though it had all been but a glorious bubble, and that sharp point of white, speeding across the darkening sea, had pricked it.
But why on earth were they coming now? They had missed the ebb, and it was hours yet to next half-ebb, and they could not hope to land. The white waves were boiling all along the ledges, and the sea for twenty feet out was a surging dapple of foam laced with seething white bubbles. It would be more than any man’s life was worth to try and get ashore on L’Etat for many an hour yet.
And there was only one boat! What had become of all the others—of the threatened invasion in force? He sat and watched it in gloomy wonder.
The boat came racing on. As she cleared Breniere her white sail turned to red gold, and the sea below grew purple. There was something white in her bows. He got up heavily, doggedly, forced to it against his will, and walked along the ridge to the eastern point which commanded the landing-place on that side.
There was, without doubt, something white in the bows of the boat, and as he stood gazing at it, it took, to his dazed imagination, the strange form of Nance waving joyful hands to him.
He drew his hands across his eyes. The storm had been sore on them.
The bristling waves of the Race burst in sheets of spray under the glancing bows, but the white spray and the white figure and the pointed white sail were all ablaze in the last rays of the sun, and they all swam before him as if his head was going round.
She came round Quette d’Amont with a fine sweep, like one bound on business of which she had no reason to be ashamed, and dropped her sail and lay in the shelter of the rock.