Tom had been a bully at home, but outside he was on jovial terms with his fellows—except only himself. He had to acknowledge to himself the seeming justice of the popular feeling. If any man in Sark might, with some show of reason, have been suspected of the killing of Tom Hamon, it was himself.
Once, by reason of overmuch groping in the dark, an awful doubt came upon him—was it possible that, in some horrible wandering of the mind, of which he remembered nothing, he had actually done this thing? Done it unconsciously, in some over-boiling of hot blood into the brain, which in its explosion had blotted out every memory of what had passed?
It was a hideous idea, born of over-strain and overmuch groping after non-existent threads in a blind alley.
He tried to get outside himself, and follow Stephen Gard that night and see if that terrible thing could have been possible to him.
But he followed himself from point to point, and from moment to moment, and accounted for himself to himself without any lapse whatever; unless, indeed, his brain had played him false and he had gone out of the house again after going into it, and followed Tom and struck him down.
With what? The Doctor said with some blunt instrument like a hammer. Where could he have obtained it? What had he done with it?
The idea, while it lasted, was horrible. But he shook it off at last and called himself a fool for his pains. He had never harboured thought of murder in his life. He had detested Tom, but he had never gone the length of wishing him dead. The whole idea was absurd.
All these things he thought over as, his first essential labours completed, he lay under the screen of the ridge and watched the sun dropping towards Guernsey in a miracle of eventide glories.
Below him, the long slow seas rocketted along the ragged black base of his rock with mighty roarings and tumultuous bursts of foam, and on the ledges the gulls and cormorants squabbled and shrieked, and took long circling flights without fluttering a wing, to show what gulls could do, or skimmed darkly just above the waves and into them, to show that cormorants were never satisfied. And now and again wild flights of red-billed puffins swept up from the water and settled out of his sight at the eastern end of the rock, and he promised himself to look them up some other day if opportunity offered.
From the constant tumult of the seas about his rock, except just at low water, he saw little fear of being taken by surprise, even if his presence there became known. Twice only in the twenty-four hours did it seem possible for any one to effect a landing there, and at those times he promised himself to be on the alert.
He lay there till the sun had gone, and the pale green and amber, and the crimson and gold of his going had slowly passed from sea and sky, and left them grey and cold; till a single light shone out on Sark, which he knew must be in one of the miners’ cottages, and many lights twinkled in Guernsey; till beneath him he could no longer see the sea, but only the white foam fury as it boiled along the rocks. Then he crept away to his burrow, rejoicing in the thought of the companionship of a fire and hot food.