And as he ate he thought, slowly and ruminatingly, and with many pauses, when his jaws stopped working to give his mind freer play, but still very much to the purpose, and as soon as he had done he set out to put his project into execution.
Just beyond the Coupee he met Gard hurrying towards Sark, and the state of Gard’s nose and eye, and his torn coat, caught his eye at once.
“What’s this about Tom Hamon?” asked Gard hastily.
“His wife has just told me so. But how did it happen?”
“They’re going to find out at school-house at two o’clock. Any that saw him last night are to be there. You’d better be there.”
“I’m going now.”
“All right,” said Peter, and went on his way into Little Sark.
His way took him to La Closerie. But he was not anxious to meet Mrs. Tom, so he hung about behind the hedges till Nance happened to come out of the house, and then he whistled softly and beckoned to her to come to him.
Her face was very pale and troubled, and he saw she had been crying.
“I want to speak to you,” he said.
“What is it?”
“Come round here. It’s important.”
“What is it?” she asked wearily again, when she had joined him behind the green dyke.
“It’s this, Nance. You—you know I want you. I’ve always wanted you—”
“Oh—don’t!” she cried, with protesting hand. “This is no time. Peter Mauger, for—”
“Wait a bit! Here’s how it is. Doctor says Tom was killed by some one beating his head in with a hammer or something of the kind. Now who beat his head in? Who would be most likely to beat his head in? Not me, for we were mates. Some one that hated him. Some one that he was always quarrelling with—” Her face had grown so white that there was no colour even in the trembling lips. She stared at him with terrified eyes.
“You know who I mean,” he said. “If it wasn’t him that did it I don’t know who it was.”
“It wasn’t,” she jerked vehemently.
“You’d wish so, of course. But—Look here!—I’m pretty sure they met again last night after—”
“Yes, they met, and Tom tried to fight him—”
“And he’s gone up at once, as soon as he heard that Tom was found, to tell them all about it.”
“Aw!”—decidedly crestfallen at the wind being taken out of his sails in this fashion. “I—I thought—maybe I could help him—”
“Oh you did, did you?”—plucking up heart at sight of his discomfiture. “And how were you going to help him?”
“If he’s gone to make a clean breast of it it’s all up, of course. If he’d kept it to himself—”
“He might have run away, you mean?”
“Safest for him, maybe. Up above Coupee there’s a stone with blood on it. And I picked up this beside it,” and he hauled out the button and the bit of blue cloth he had found. “I thought, maybe if he knew about these he might think it safest to go.”