But this night, as be stood there pulling slowly at his pipe and thinking of Nance, was one of the black nights.
Later on there would be a remnant of a moon, but as yet the sky above was an ebon vault without a star, and the gulfs at his feet were pits of darkness out of which rose the voices of the sea in solemn rhythmic cadence.
Down in Grande Greve, on his right, the waves rolled in almost without a sound, as though they feared to disturb the darkness. From the intervening moments he could tell how slowly they crept to their curve. Their fall was a soft sibilation, a long-drawn sigh. The ever-restless sea for once seemed falling to sleep.
And then, as he listened into the darkness, a tiny elfish glimmer flickered in the void below, flickered and was gone, and he rubbed his eyes for playing him tricks. But the next wave broke slowly round the wide curve of the bay in a crescent of lambent flame, and a flood of soft, blue-green fire ran swelling up the beach and then with a sigh drew slowly back, and all was dark again. Again and again—each wave was a miracle of mystic beauty, and he stood there entranced long after his pipe had gone dead.
And as he stood gazing down at the wonder of it, his ear caught the sound of quick light footsteps coming towards him across the Coupee, and he marvelled at the intrepidity of this late traveller. If he had had to go across there that night, he would have gone step by step, with caution and a lantern; whereas here was no hesitation, but haste and assurance.
It was only when she had passed the last bastion, and was almost upon him, that he made out that it was a girl.
His heart gave a jump. She had been so much in his thought. Yet, even so, it was almost at a venture that he said—
And yet, again, he had learned to recognize her footsteps at the farm, and where the heart is given the senses are subtly acute, and she had slackened her pace somewhat as she drew near.
“Yes; I am going to the doctor.”
“Grannie is ill—in pain. He will give me something to ease her.” He had turned and was walking by her side.
“I am sorry. You will let me go with you?”
“There is no need at all—”
“No need, I know; but all the same it would be a pleasure to me to see you safely there and back.”
She hurried on without speaking. If there had been any light, and he had dared to peep inside the black sun-bonnet, he might perhaps have found the hint of a smile overlaying her anxiety on Grannie’s account.
By the ampler feel of things, and the easing of the slope, he knew they were out of the cutting, and presently they were passing Plaisance.
“If you would sooner I did not walk with you, I will fall behind; but I couldn’t stop here and think of you going on alone,” he said.
“That would be foolishness,” she said gently. “But there is really no need. I have no fears of ghosts or anything like that.”