“But, these repairs?” Taffy interrupted: “You’ll be wanting hands.”
“Why, o’ course.”
“And a foreman—a clerk of the works—”
While Mendarva was telling his tale, over a hill two miles to the westward a small donkey-cart crawled for a minute against the sky-line and disappeared beyond the ridge which hid the towans. An old man trudged at the donkey’s head; and a young woman sat in the cart with a bundle in her arms.
The old man trudged along so deep in thought that when the donkey without rhyme or reason came to a halt, half-way down the hill, he too halted, and stood pulling a wisp of grey side-whiskers.
“Look here,” he said. “You ent goin’ to tell? That’s your las’ word, is it?”
The young woman looked down on the bundle and nodded her head.
“There, that’ll do. If you weant, you weant; I’ve tek’n ’ee back, an’ us must fit and make the best o’t. The cheeld’ll never be good for much—born lame like that. But ’twas to be, I s’pose.”
Lizzie sat dumb, but hugged the bundle closer.
“’Tis like a judgment. If your mother’d been spared, ‘twudn’ have happened. But ’twas to be, I s’pose. The Lord’s ways be past findin’ out.”
He woke up and struck the donkey across the rump.
“Gwan you! Gee up! What d’ee mean by stoppin’ like that?”
THE SERVICE OF THE LAMP.
The Chief Engineer of the Trinity House was a man of few words. He and Taffy had spent the afternoon clambering about the rocks below the light-house, peering into its foundations. Here and there, where weed coated the rocks and made foothold slippery, he took the hand which Taffy held out. Now and then he paused for a pinch of snuff. The round of inspection finished, he took an extraordinarily long pinch.
“What’s your opinion?” he asked, cocking his head on one side and examining the young man much as he had examined the light-house. “You have one, I suppose?”
“Yes, sir; but of course it doesn’t count for much.”
“I asked for it.”
“Well, then, I think, sir, we have wasted a year’s work; and if we go on tinkering we shall waste more.”
“Pull it down and rebuild, you say?”
“Yes, sir; but not on the same rock.”
“This rock was ill-chosen. You see, sir, just here a ridge of elvan crops up through the slate; the rock, out yonder, is good elvan, and that is why the sea has made an island of it, wearing away the softer stuff inshore. The mischief here lies in the rock, not in the light-house.”
“The sea has weakened our base?”
“Partly: but the light-house has done more. In a strong gale the foundations begin to work, and in the chafing the rock gets the worst of it.”
“What about concrete?”
“You might fill up the sockets with concrete; but I doubt, sir, if the case would hold for any time. The rock is a mere shell in places, especially on the north-western side.”