“Lie quiet or you shall drown,” she cried. “Do you hear? Lie quiet and you are safe! See!” and she held his right hand while Bernel took his left and the man found himself no longer sinking, and they struck out for the shingle.
Others of the miners had run down with ropes, but ropes were useless in that deep gulf. Nance and Bernel were doing the only thing possible, and Gard saw that they were all right now that the man had ceased to struggle.
He picked up Bernel’s things, and Nance’s, with a curious feeling of delight and a touch of shyness, her sun-bonnet, her little linen jacket, her woollen skirt, her neat little wooden sabots, and ran swiftly with them to the shaft at the head of the gulf.
They would make for the adit, he thought, and so gain the shaft and come up by the ladders, if, indeed, John Thomas was in any state to climb ladders.
“Bring some brandy,” he shouted to one of the men, and ran on. Nance was more to him than all the miners in Sark, and it was not brandy she would be wanting, he knew, but her clothes.
And, since a man needs both his hands to go down almost perpendicular ladders, he left at the top all that she would not instantly need and took only the little jacket and the woollen skirt. These he rolled into a bundle as he ran, and gripped in his teeth as he began the descent, and rejoiced all the way down in this close intimacy with her clothing. Indeed, on one of the stages, when he stopped for a moment’s breathing, he kissed the little garments devoutly, and then laughed shamefacedly at himself for his foolishness, and glanced round quickly lest any should have witnessed it.
So down, down, till he came to the level, and crept along the adit to the shore.
They had dragged John Thomas up on to the shingle, and he lay there half-dead and fuller of water than was his custom.
Nance looked up quickly at the sound of Gard’s feet, and the paled-brown of her face flushed red at sight of him, and then a grateful gleam lighted it as he dropped her things into her hand and bent over John Thomas, who was showing signs of life in a dazed and water-logged fashion.
“You did splendidly, you two,” he said to Bernel. “It’s a grand thing to save a man’s life, even if it’s only John Thomas,” for John Thomas had found this land of free spirits too much for him, and had become a soaker and an indifferent workman.
“He’ll be all right after a bit,” he added. “I told them to send down some brandy,” at which John Thomas groaned heavily to show his extremity. “As soon as it comes, Bernel, you help Nance up the ladders. Then run home both of you. Your things are at the top, Bernel. And here comes the brandy. Now, up you go! Do you think you can manage the ladders?” he asked Nance.
“I’ll manage them,” and they crept away into the darkness of the adit, and Nance thought she had never been in such a hideous place in her life.