“Mr. Gard!”—in a sharp whisper.
“Nance! What is it, dear? Anything wrong?”
“I want you—quick.”
“One minute!” and he hastily threw on his things and joined her outside.
“What is it, Nance?” he asked anxiously, wondering what new complication had arisen.
“I’ll tell you as we go. Come!” and they were speeding noiselessly down the road to the Coupee.
There she took his hand, as once before, to lead him safely across, and her hand, he perceived, was trembling violently.
They were half way along the narrow path when the hollow way in front leading up into Little Sark resounded suddenly with the tramp of heavy feet.
“Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu!” panted Nance, and he could feel her turn and look round like a hunted animal.
“Quick!” she whispered. “Behind here! and oh, grip tight!” and she knelt and crawled on hands and knees round the base of the nearest pinnacle.
In those days the pinnacles which buttress the Coupee were considerably higher and bulkier than they are now, and along their rugged flanks the adventurous or sorely-pressed might find precarious footing. But it was a nerve-racking experience even in the day-time when the eye could guide the foot. Now, in the ebon-black night, it was past thinking of.
Dazed by the suddenness and strangeness of the whole matter, and without an inkling of what it all meant, Gard clung like a fly to the bare rock and tried his hardest not to think of the sheer three hundred feet that lay between him and the black beach below.
In grim and menacing silence, save for the crunch of their heavy feet on the crumbling pathway, the men went past, a dozen or more, as it seemed to Gard. When the sound of them had died in the hollow on the Sark side, Nance whispered, “Quick now! quick!”
They crawled back into the roadway, and she took his hand in hers again which shook more than ever, and they sped away into Little Sark.
“Now tell me, Nance. What is it all about?” he panted, as she nipped through an opening in a green bank and led the way towards the eastern cliffs over by the Pot.
“Oh—it’s you they want,” she gasped, and he stopped instantly and stood, as though he would turn and go back.
“It is no use,” she jerked emphatically, between breaths, and dragged impatiently at his arm. “You don’t know our Sark men.... They do things first and are sorry after.... Bernel heard them planning it all.... The men from Sark were to meet these ones, and then—”
“But,” he said angrily, “running away looks like—”
“No, no! Not here.... And it is only for a time. The truth will come out, but it would be too late if they had got you.”
“What would they have done with me?”
“Oh—terrible things. They are madmen when they are angry.”
He had yielded to her will, and they were speeding swiftly along the downs. The path was quite invisible to him. He tripped and stumbled at times on tangled roots of gorse and bracken, but she kept on swiftly and unerringly, as though the night were light about her.