Here was his chance! Here was the head and front of the offence, past, present, and future! If she had never come into the family there would have been no Nance, no Bernel, no selling of the farm, maybe. A movement of the arms, the crooking of a finger, and things would be even between them.
But—it would still be he who would have to pay—as always!
All through he had been the sufferer, and if he did this thing he must suffer still more—always he who must pay.
The man who hesitates is lost, or saved. When the contemplator of evil deeds begins also to contemplate consequences, reason is beginning to resume her sway.
Then he heard heavy footsteps and voices. His father and Stephen Gard.
Another chance! Gard he hated. There was a bruise on his right jaw still. And the old man!—he had cut him out of his inheritance by going crazy over those cursed mines.
“I’m sorry you have gone so far,” Gard was saying as they passed. “If you had consulted me I should have advised against it. Mining is always more or less of a speculation. I would never, if I could help it, let any man put more into a mine than he can afford to lose.”
“If you know a thing’s a good thing you want all you can get out of it,” said old Tom stoutly.
“Yes, if—” and they passed into the house, while Tom in the hedge was considering which of them he would soonest see dead.
Now they were all inside together. A full charge of small shot might do considerable and satisfactory damage.
But thought of the certain consequences to himself welled coldly up in him again, and he slunk noiselessly away, cursing himself for leaving undone the work he had come out to do.
On the common above the Pot, a terrified white scut rose almost under his feet and sped along in front of him. He blew it into rags, and was so ashamed of his prowess that he kicked the remnants into the gorse and went home empty-handed.
HOW OLD TOM FOUND THE SILVER HEART
One of the first things Stephen Gard had seen to, when he got matters into his own hands, was the safeguarding of the mines from ever-possible irruption of the sea. The great steam pumps kept the workings reasonably clear of drainage water, but no earthly power could drain the sea if it once got in.
The central shafts had sunk far below sea-level. The lateral galleries had, in some cases, run out seawards and were now extending far under the sea itself.
From the whirling coils of the tides and races round the coast, he judged that the sea-bed was as seamed and broken and full of faults as the visible cliffs ashore.
In bad weather, the men in those submarine galleries and the outbranching tunnels could hear the crash of the waves above their heads, and the rolling and grinding of the mighty boulders with which they disported.