But behind all the broken chatter, in every mind was the grim question, “Who is it, then, that is doing these things amongst us?” And there was a feeling of mighty discomfort abroad.
All the same, they cheered vigorously as the boat came speeding back, and they saw Gard sitting between Nance and the Senechal, and crowded round as it ran up the shingle, and would have lifted him out and carried him shoulder-high through the tunnel and up the road, if he would have had it.
They saw how his imprisonment on the rock—“Ma fe, think of it!—all through that storm, too!”—had told upon him. His cheeks were hollow, and his eyes sunken, and he looked very weary—“and, man doux, no wonder, after eighteen days on L’Etat!”—though their friendly shouts had put a touch of colour in his face and a spark in his eyes for the moment.
“Now, away home, all of you!” ordered the Senechal. “We’ve all had enough to think about for one day. To-morrow we will see what is to be done.”
“Too much!” croaked one old crone, who had something of a reputation among her neighbours. “What I want to know is—who killed Peter Mauger?”
And that was the question that occupied most minds in Sark that night.
HOW THEY LAID TRAPS FOR THE DEVIL
The Doctor insisted on taking care of Gard. He took him into his own house at Dixcart, and began at once a course of treatment based on common-sense and the then most scientific attainment, and calculated to repair the waste of the Rock and build him up anew in the shortest time compatible with an efficient and permanent cure.
Even when Gard felt quite himself again and would have returned to his work, the genial autocrat would not hear of it.
“Just you stop here, my boy,” he ordered. “An experience such as you have had needs some getting over. You can stand a good rest and some fattening up, and those —— mines must wait.”
Meanwhile, the Island was in a smoulder of suspicion and superstition.
No one had yet ventured openly to point the finger at any reasonably possible doer of deeds so dark. Behind carefully closed doors of a night, indeed, here and there a whisper suggested that the Frenchwoman might be at the bottom of it all. But the mistake that had already been made, and the consequences that came so terribly near to completing it beyond repair, made them all cautious of open speech or action.
Gard’s story explained the mystery of the dead stranger and relieved the public mind to that extent.
The Senechal was disposed to agree with his views on the matter.
“I never heard of those caves on L’Etat,” he said musingly, as they sat over their pipes one night; “and I’m sure no one else knew of them. But there was much free-trading round here in the old times, and I’ve no doubt many a Customs man disappeared and was never heard of again, just like this one. All the Islands felt very sore about the new regulations, and our people stick at nothing when their blood is up.”