Of his adventures on the road the story is equally silent, as I warned you. But the small figure comes into view again, a week later, on the hillside of the coombe above his home. And when he saw the sea and the white beach glittering beneath him, he did not stop, even for a moment, but reeled down the hill. The child was just a living skeleton; he had neither hat, coat, nor waistcoat; one foot only was shod, the other had worn through the stocking, and ugly red blisters showed on the sole as he ran. His face was far whiter than his shirt, save for a blue welt or two and some ugly red scratches; and his gaunt eyes were full of hunger and yearning, and his lips happily babbling the curses that the ships’ captains had taught him.
He reeled down the hill to the cottage. The tenant was a newcomer to the town, and had lately been appointed musketry-instructor to the battery above. He was in the garden pruning the rose-tree, but did not particularly notice the boy. And the boy passed without turning his head.
The tide on the beach was far out and just beginning to flow. There was the same dull plash on the pebbles, the same twinkle as the sun struck across the ripples. The sun was sinking; in ten minutes it would be behind the hill.
No one knows what the waves said to Kit. But he flung himself among them with a choking cry, and drank the brine and tossed it over his head, and shoulders and chest, and lay down and let the small waves play over him, and cried and laughed aloud till the sun went down.
Then he clambered on to a rock, some way above them, and lay down to watch the water rise; and watching it, fell asleep; and sleeping, had his wish, and went out to the wide seas.
Judge between me and my guest, the stranger within my gates, the man whom in his extremity I clothed and fed.
I remember well the time of his coming, for it happened at the end of five days and nights during which the year passed from strength to age; in the interval between the swallow’s departure and the redwing’s coming; when the tortoise in my garden crept into his winter quarters, and the equinox was on us, with an east wind that parched the blood in the trees, so that their leaves for once knew no gradations of red and yellow, but turned at a stroke to brown, and crackled like tin-foil.
At five o’clock in the morning of the sixth day I looked out. The wind still whistled across the sky, but now without the obstruction of any cloud. Full in front of my window Sirius flashed with a whiteness that pierced the eye. A little to the right, the whole constellation of Orion was suspended clear over a wedge-like gap in the coast, wherein the sea could be guessed rather than seen. And, travelling yet further, the eye fell on two brilliant lights, the one set high above the other—the one steady and a fiery red, the other yellow and blazing intermittently—the one Aldebaran, the other revolving on the lighthouse top, fifteen miles away.