HOW HE LIVED THROUGH THE GREAT STORM
It was a fortunate thing for Gard that the storm—the great storm from which, for many a year afterwards, local events in Sark dated—came when it did; two days after Bernel’s visit and the replenishment of his larder. For if he had been caught bare he must have starved.
Eight whole days it lasted, with only two slight abatements which, while they raised his hopes only to dash them, still served him mightily.
During the first days he spent much of his time crouched in the lee of his bee-hive, watching the terrific play of the waves on his own rock and on the Sark headlands.
He wondered if any other man had seen such a storm under such conditions. For he was practically at sea on a rock; in the midst of the turmoil, yet absolutely unaffected by it.
On shipboard, thought of one’s ship and possible consequences had always interfered with fullest enjoyment of Nature’s paroxysms. It was impossible to detach one’s thoughts completely and view matters entirely from the outside. But here—he was sure his rock had suffered many an equal torment—there was nothing to come between him and the elemental frenzy. Nothing but—as the days of it ran on—a growing solicitude as to what he was going to live on if it continued much longer.
Never was Sark rabbit so completely demolished as was that one that Nance had cooked and sent him. Before he had done with it he cracked the very bones he had thrown away, for the sake of what was in them, and finally chewed the softer parts of the bones themselves to cheat himself into the belief that he was eating.
That was after he had devoured every crumb of his bread, and finished his three fishes to the extreme points of their tails.
He was, I said, in the very midst of the turmoil yet unaffected by it. But that was not so in some respects.
Bodily, as we have seen, the storm bore hardly upon him, since rabbit-bones and fish-tails can hardly be looked upon as a nutritious or inviting dietary.
But mentally and spiritually the mighty elemental upheaval was wholly crushing and uplifting.
As he cowered, with humming head, under the fierce unremitting rush of the gale, and felt the great stones of his shelter tremble in it, and watched the huge green hills of water, with their roaring white crests, go sweeping past to crash in thunder on the cliffs of Sark, he felt smaller than he had ever felt before—and that, as a rule, and if it come not of self-abnegation through a man’s own sin or folly, is entirely to his good; possibly in the other case also.
To feel infinitely small and helpless in the hands of an Infinitely Great is a spiritual education to any man, and it was so to this man.