He was mightily glad the beast was dead, however. It had been a blot on Nature’s handiwork, and the very thought of it a horror.
The strenuous interlude of the storm, which, to the lonely one exposed to its fullest fury, had seemed interminable—every shivering day the length of many, and the black howling nights longer still—had had the effect of relaxing somewhat his own oversight over himself and his precautions against being seen.
L’Etat in a furious sou’-wester is a sight worth seeing. Possibly some telescope had been brought to bear on the foam-swept rock when he, secure in the general bouleversement and cramped with hunger, had turned the forbidden corner with no thought in his mind but eggs.
Possibly again, it was sheer carelessness on his part, born once more of the security of the storm and the recent non-necessity for concealment.
However it came about, what happened was that, as he stood in the valley of rocks examining his dead monster, he became suddenly aware that a fishing-boat had crept round the open end of the valley, and that it seemed to him much closer in than he had ever seen one before.
He dropped prone among the boulders at once, but whether he had been seen he could not tell—could only vituperate his own carelessness, and hope that nothing worse might come of it.
He lay there a very long time, and when at last he ventured to crawl to the rocks at the seaward opening, the boat was away on the usual fishing-grounds busy with its own concerns, and he persuaded himself that its somewhat unusual course had been accidental. The incident, however, braced him to his former caution, and he went no more abroad without first carefully inspecting the surrounding waters from the ridge.
They would be certain to come that night, he felt sure, either Nance or Bernel, perhaps both. Yes, he thought most likely they would both come. They would, without doubt, be wondering how he had fared during the storm, and would be making provision for him.
Perhaps Nance was cooking for him at that very moment, and thinking of him as he was of her.
In the certain expectation of their coming, he decided he would not go to sleep at all that night, but would crawl down to the landing-place to welcome them.
He wondered if that mad woman Julie had given up watching them, and, if not, if they would be able to circumvent her again. In any case, he hoped that if only one of them came it might be Nance. He fairly ached for the sight and sound of her—and the feel of her little hand, and a warm frank kiss from the lips that knew no guile.
The sufferings of the storm became as nothing to him in this large hope and expectation of her coming.
The intervening hours dragged slowly. It would be half-ebb soon after dark, he thought; and he crept up to the ridge and gazed anxiously over at the Race between him and Breniere, to see if it showed any unusual symptoms after the storm.