“Then every one would have the right to say he’d done it, and he didn’t. He knew no more about it than you did.”
“I didn’t know anything about it.”
“Well, neither did he, and he’s not the kind to run away.”
“Aw, well—I done my best. You’ll remember that, Nance. You know what the Sark men are. He’d be safest away. You tell him I say so,” and he pouched his discounted piece of evidence and turned and went, leaving Nance with a heavy heart.
For, as Peter said, she knew what the Sark men were—a law unto themselves, and slow to move out of the deep-cut grooves of the past, but, once stirred to boiling point, capable of going to any lengths without consideration of consequences.
And therein lay Gard’s peril.
HOW THE SARK MEN FELT ABOUT IT
Every soul in the Island that could by any means get there, was in or outside the school-house, mostly outside, long before the clock struck two. Never in their lives had they hurried thither like that before.
A barricade of forms had been made across the room. Within it, at the school-master’s table, sat the Senechal, Philip Guille, and the Doctor, and old Mr. Cachemaille, the Vicar, ageing rapidly since the tragic death of his good friend, the late Seigneur; beside them stood the Prevot and the Greffier, behind them lay the body of Tom Hamon covered with a sheet.
It was a perfect day, with a cloudless blue sky and blazing sun, and all the windows were opened wide. Those inside dripped with perspiration, but felt cold chills below their blue guernseys each time they looked at that stark figure with the upturned feet beneath the cold white sheet.
Outside the barricade stood Elie Guille, the Constable, and his understudy Abraham Baker, the Vingtenier, to keep order and call the witnesses.
The Seigneur, Mr. Le Pelley, was away or he would undoubtedly have been there too. In his absence the Senechal conducted the proceedings.
In the front row of school-desks, scored with the deep-cut initials of generations of Sark boys, sat the dead man’s widow, tense and quivering, her eyes consuming fires in deep black wells, her face livid, her hands clenched still as though waiting for something to rend.
More than one of the men who sat beside her at the desk found, with a grim smile, his own name looking up at him out of the maltreated board. And one nudged his neighbour and pointed to the name of Tom Hamon, cut deeper than any of the others and with the N upside down.
Very briefly the Senechal stated that they were there to find out, if they could, how Tom Hamon came by his death, and added very gravely, in a deep silence, that after a most careful examination of the body the Doctor was of opinion that death had been caused, not by the fall from the Coupee, which accounted for the dreadful bruises, but by violent blows on the head with a hammer or some sueh thing prior to the fall. They wanted to find out all about it.