“If you must know—yes.”
“And when—when this happened, she stopped the supplies?”
“Well, then, I didn’t know it. She never told me.”
“She never told me.”
“You don’t say—”
“I do. I never knew it until too late.”
“Well, now, I’m going to fight you. I don’t swallow being called a liar. But I tell you this first, that I’m damned sorry. I never guessed that it injured your prospects.”
At another time, in another mood, Taffy might have remembered that George was George, and heir to Sir Harry’s nature. As it was, the apology threw oil on the flame.
“You cur! Do you think it was that? And you are Honoria’s husband!” He advanced with an ugly laugh. “For the last time, put up your fists.”
They had been standing within two yards of each other; and even so, shouted at the pitch of their voices to make themselves heard above the gale. As Taffy took a step forward George lifted his whip. His left hand held the bridle on which the reluctant mare was dragging, and the action was merely instinctive, to guard against sudden attack.
But as he did so his face and uplifted arm were suddenly painted clear against the darkness. The mare plunged more wildly than ever. Taffy dropped his hands and swung round. Behind him, the black contour of the hill, the whole sky welled up a pale blue light which gathered brightness while he stared. The very stones on the beach at his feet shone separate and distinct.
“What is it?” George gasped.
“A ship on the rocks! Quick, man! Will the mare reach to Innis?”
“She’ll have to.” George wheeled her round. She was fagged out with two long gallops after hounds that day, but for the moment sheer terror made her lively enough.
“Ride, then! Call up the coast-guard. By the flare she must be somewhere off the creek here. Ride!”
A clatter of hoofs answered him as the mare pounded up the lane.
THE WRECK OF THE “SAMARITAN.”
Taffy stood for a moment listening. He judged the wreck to be somewhere on the near side of the light-house, between it and the mouth of the creek; that was, if she had already struck. If not, the gale and the set of the tide together would be sweeping her eastward, perhaps right across the mouth of the creek. And if he could discover this his course would be to run back, intercept the coast-guard, and send him around by the upper bridge.
He waited for a second signal to guide him—a flare or a rocket: but none came. The beach lay in the lew of the weather, deep in the hills’ hollow and trebly land-locked by the windings of the creek, but above him the sky kept its screaming as though the bare ridges of the headland were being shelled by artillery.