Still, it was all there, and now it all came back to him through the hopeful twinkling eyes of those innumerable stars.
“Have courage and hope!” they sang; and though all his little world, save those two or three who knew him best, was against him, he stood there with his face turned up to the stars, and believed in his heart that all would yet be well.
And when at last he turned back to things of earth, he found the stars still twinkling in the sea, as though they would not let him go even though he gave up looking at them. They gleamed and glanced in the smooth-rolling waves till the deep seemed sown with phosphorescence, as on that night in Grand Greve; the night Nance came upon him so suddenly in the dark and he went on with her to get Grannie’s medicine.
Was it possible that that blessed night, that terrible night, was barely forty-eight hours old? So much had happened since then, such incredible things! It seemed weeks ago. It seemed like a dream; horrid, fantastic, wonderfully sweet.
Within that tiny span of hours he had come to the knowledge of Nance’s love for him. Oh those sweet, frank kisses! If he had died last night; if the hot heads in their madness had killed him to balance Tom Hamon’s account—still he would have lived: for Nance had kissed him.
And within the half of that short span he had been judged a murderer, had had to flee for his life, and would, without a doubt, have lost it but for Nance.
She had undertaken a mighty risk for him—for him! And she had shown him that she loved him, for she had kissed him with her heart in her lips.
And, grateful as he was for all the rest, it was still the recollection of those sweet kisses that he thought of most.
So “Hope! Hope!” sang the stars, and his heart was high because his conscience was clean and Nance had kissed him.
When at last he crawled into his burrow, his fire was only white ashes, and he would not trouble to relight it.
He broke off a piece of bread, and ate it slowly, and thought of Nance, and promised himself the larger breakfast. Then he rolled himself in his cloak, and slept more soundly than an alderman after a civic feast.
HOW NANCE SENT FOOD AND HOPE TO HIM
Next morning, when he crawled out of his burrow, Gard found everything swathed in dense white mist. Upon which he promptly lit his fire, and in due course enjoyed a more satisfying meal than he had eaten since he landed on the rock.
Then he decided to take advantage of the screening mist to explore such parts of his prison-house as were not available to him at other times. So he walked along the ridge, secure from observation since he could not himself see down to the water from it, though the rushings and roarings along the black ledges below never ceased.