far beyond low water mark, and against which the sea
beat in fury when the tide was in; and keeping on
its inner side; crept along until they reached the
entrance of a cave. Not a word was spoken.
Their instructions had been precise—for
Lambert, who was born and had spent his earliest years
there, knew every spot of the ground. They took
their shoes off, and walking upon the hard sand which
formed the ground, entered the pitchy darkness.
Lambert going first, and knowing that a sound would
be fatal—for they would have little chance
in that narrow passage—he turned every
angle as accurately as if it had been daylight, and
the officers holding, one behind the other, followed
stealthily along. Soon their path widened, and
a glimmering light allowed them that the cavern was
tenanted, or had been so. A few paces more, and
they stopped. Some large masses of fallen rock
here almost blocked up the path, leaving an opening
so narrow as to require stooping to enter. Cautiously
peeping through some spaces between the rocks, the
agent and his myrmidons gazed upon a scene Salvator
would have loved to paint. The cavern here expanded
into a semicircular hall, stalactites hanging from
its roof nearly to the ground. Here and there
a niche and recess which seemed done by human art,
but which in fact was Nature’s handiwork, was
seen, and every point of spar, from the lofty roof
to the stalagmites below, was glittering in the light
of a huge fire of brushwood fed by Curly Tom.
A small rill of water trickled from a fissure in the
rock above, and wound its way through the sand towards
the sea. It was the very beau-ideal of a robber’s
cave. Its existence was known to few: only
accessible at low water, the entrance had escaped notice,
and the few that did find it were discouraged on entering
by the long and tortuous way which led to this chamber,
and did not track it far. The smoke found vent
above, as the fire burnt clear and bright, and did
not incommode the watchers.
Horace Hunter was pacing the cave with unsteady step,
and with delight the officers saw that he was more
than half intoxicated. No one could have recognized
in the bloated countenance and reckless air of the
hunted man, the gay and handsome young farmer of seven
years before. There was still the same manly
form and intelligent features, but the rich brown
hair that then curled round his open brow, now wild
and matted, only added to the desperate appearance
of his sunken eyes and overhanging brows. Drink
did not make him merry. On the contrary he was
more bitter then than ever. Gloomy and ferocious
as he had become since his sister’s shame had
been known to him, when he drank he only brooded heavier
upon it; and the hope of a more complete revenge only
restrained him then from some desperate act of violence.
As he walked to and fro, chafing with inward passion,
he might have been compared to a caged wild beast,
hungry and with food in sight, yet unattainable.
‘A curse upon you, Tom!’ said he.
’Would you roast us alive, this hot night?
Leave the fire alone and bring your hang-dog face here!’