He felt himself, in that universal chaos, no more than a speck of helpless dust amid the whirling wheels of Nature’s inexplicable machinery, and clung the tighter to the simple fundamental facts of which his heart was sure—behind and above all this was God, who held all these things in His hand. And over there in Sark was Nance, the very thought of whom was like a coal of fire in his heart, which all the gales that ever blew, and all the soddened soaking of ceaseless rain from above and ceaseless spray from below, could not even dim.
For long-continued and relentless buffeting such as this tells upon any man, no matter what his strength of mind or body to begin with; and a perpetually soaked body is apt in time to sodden the soul, unless it have something superhuman to cling to, as this man had in his simple trust in God and the girl he loved.
In all those stressful days, so far as he could see, the tides—which in those parts rise and fall some forty feet, as you may see by the scoured bases of the towering cliffs—seemed always at the full, the westerly gale driving in the waters remorselessly and piling them up against the land without cessation, and as though bent on its destruction.
Great gouts of clotted foam flew over his head in clouds, and plastered his rock with shivering sponges. The sheets of spray from his south-west rocks lashed him incessantly. His shelter was as wet inside as out, as he was himself.
He felt empty and hungry at times, but never thirsty; his skin absorbed moisture enough and to spare. But, chilled and clammed and starving, on the fifth day when he had crawled into his wet burrow for such small relief as it might offer from the ceaseless flailing without, he broached his bottle of cognac and drank a little, and found himself the better of it.
On the evening of the third day his hopes had risen with a slight slackening of the turmoil. He was not sure if the gale had really abated, or if it was only that he was growing accustomed to it. But under that belief, and the compulsion of a growling stomach, he crawled precariously round to the eastern end of the rock where the puffins had their holes, lying flat when the great gusts snatched at him as though they were bent on hurling him into the water, and gliding on again in the intervals. And there, with a piece of his firewood he managed to extort half-a-dozen eggs from fiercely expostulating parents. The end of his stick was bitten to fragments, but he got his eggs, and was amazed at the size of them compared with that of their producers.
The sight of the great wall of tumbled rocks on his right, and the sudden remembrance of his previous passage over it, set him wondering if it might not be possible to find better shelter in some of those fissures across which he had had to swing himself by the hands on the previous occasion. For this was the leeward side of the island, and the huge bulk of it rose like a protecting shoulder between him and the gale, whereas his bee-hive, on the exposed flank of the rock, got the full force of it. So he scooped a hole in the friable black soil and deposited his eggs in it and crawled along to the wall.