And the Solitary went back to his shelter, secure in the knowledge that the tide was on the rise, and half-ebb would not be till well on into next day. And he thought of Nance, and of Bernel, and of all the whole matter again; white thoughts and black thoughts, but chiefly white because of Nance, and Nance was a fact, while the black thoughts were shadows confusing as the mist.
He could only devoutly hope and pray that a clean wind might come and put the shadows to flight and let the sun of truth shine through.
HOW HE SAW STRANGE SIGHTS
Living thus face to face with Nature, and drawn through lack of other occupation into unusually intimate association with her, Gard found his lonely rock a centre of strange and novel experience.
Situated as he was, even small things forced themselves largely upon his observation and wrought themselves into his memory. He found it good to lose himself for a time in these visible and tangible actualities, rather than in useless efforts after an understanding of the mystery of which he was the victim and centre.
He had given over much time to pondering the subject of Tom Hamon’s death, but had come no nearer any reasonable solution of it. That hideous doubt as to himself in the matter recurred at times, but he always hastened to dissipate it by some other interest more practical and palpable, lest it should bring him to ultimate belief in its possibility, and so to madness.
And so he spent hours watching that wonderful roaring cauldron on the south stack where his water pools were. Other hours in study of the social and domestic economies of gulls and cormorants. He saw families of awkward little fawn-coloured squawkers force their way out of their shells under his very eves, while indignant mothers told him what they thought of him from a safe distance.
He bathed regularly in the heat of the day, but always after careful inspection of his chosen pool, and one day fled in haste up the black rocks at sight of the tip of a long, quivering, flesh-coloured tentacle coming curling round a rock in the close neighbourhood of the pool in which he was basking.
That monster under the rock gave him many a bad dream. It seemed to him the incarnation of evil, and those horrible, bulging, merciless eyes stuck like burrs in his memory.
One day, when he had been watching the cauldron, and filling his tin dipper at the freshwater pools, as he came to descend the black wall leading to the valley of rocks, he witnessed a little tragedy.
Down below, on the edge of the pool where the octopus dwelt, a silly young cormorant was standing gazing into the water, so fascinated with something it saw there that it forgot even to jerk its head in search of understanding.
Gard stood and watched. He saw a tiny pale worm-like thing come creeping up the black rock on which the cormorant squatted. The cormorant saw it too, and he was hungry, as all cormorants always are, even after a full meal. So presently he made a jab at it with his curved beak, and in a moment the pale worm had twisted itself tightly round his silly neck, and dragged him screaming and fluttering under the water.