The woman wades out to meet the boat. She sees and screams, and chokes. The wives on the beach groan in sympathy.
The body is lifted carefully out and laid on the cool grey stones, and the woman stands looking at it as a tiger may look at her slaughtered mate.
“Stand back! Stand back!” cries the Senechal to the thronging crowd; and to the Constable, “Keep them back, you, Elie Guille!” to which Elie Guille growls, “Par made, but that’s not easy, see you!”
The Doctor straightens up from his brief examination, and says a word to the Senechal, and to the men about him.
A rough stretcher is made out of a couple of oars and a sail, and the sombre procession passes through the gloomy old tunnel into the Creux Road, and wends its way up to the school-house for proper inquiry to be made as to how Tom Hamon came by his death.
And close behind the stretcher walks the dark-faced woman, with her eyes like coals of fire, and her dress dragged open as though to stop her from choking.
“Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu!” she says in perpetual iteration, through her clenched teeth. But to look at her face and eyes you might think it was rather the devil she was calling on.
For, ungracious as their lives had been in many respects, yet this violent breaking of the yoke has left the survivor sore and wounded, and furious to vent her rage on whom at present she knows not.
She is not allowed inside the school-house—hastily cleared of its usual occupants, who dodge about among the crowd outside, enjoying the unlooked-for holiday with gusto in spite of its gruesome origin—and so she prowls about outside, and the neighbours talk and she hears this, that, and the other, and presently, with bitter, black face and rage in her heart, she goes off home to find out Stephen Gard if she can, and accuse him to his face of the murder of her husband.
HOW PETER’S DIPLOMACY CAME TO NOUGHT
Peter Mauger had kept himself carefully beyond the range of Julie’s wild black eyes. In the state she was in there was no knowing what she might do or say. And the words even of a mad woman sometimes stick like burrs. He began to breathe more freely when she whirled away home.
The Senechal and Constable came out of the school-house at last with very grave faces.
“The Doctor says his head was staved in with the blows of some round blunt thing like a mallet,” said the Senechal to the gaping crowd, “and we must hold a proper inquiry. Any of you who saw Tom Hamon last night will be here at two o’clock to tell us all you know. Tell any others who know anything about it that they must be here too,” and he went back into the school-house, and the buzzing crowd dispersed, with plenty to buzz about now in truth.
Peter Mauger went thoughtfully home. He had had no breakfast, and was feeling the need of it, and he had something in his mind that he wanted to think out.