HOW TWO FOUGHT IN THE DARK
When George Hamon told me the next part of the story of those early days, his enjoyment in the recalling of certain parts of it was undisguised. He told it with great gusto.
As he lay that night on the fern-bed in the cottage above the chasm, he thought of Rachel Carre, and what might have been if Martel’s father had only been properly drowned on the Hanois instead of marrying the Guernsey woman. Rachel and he might have come together, and he would have made her as happy as the day was long. And now—his life was empty, and Rachel’s was broken,—and all because of this wretched half-Frenchman, with his knowing ways and foreign beguilements. The girls had held him good-looking. Well, yes, he was good-looking in a way, but it passed his understanding why any Sercq girl should want to marry a foreigner while home lads were still to be had. He did not think there would be much marrying outside the Island for some time to come, but it was bitter hard that Rachel Carre should have had to suffer in order to teach them that lesson.
Gr-r-r! but he would like to have Monsieur Martel up before him just for ten minutes or so, with a clear field and no favour. Martel was strong and active, it was true, but there—he was a drinker, and a Frenchman at that, and drink doesn’t run to wind, and a Frenchman doesn’t run to fists. Very well—say twenty minutes then, and if he—George Hamon—did not make Monsieur Martel regret ever having come to Sercq, he would deserve all he got and would take it without a murmur.
He was full of such imaginings, when at last he fell asleep, and he dreamt that he and Martel met in a lonely place and fought. And so full of fight was he that he rolled off the fern-bed and woke with a bump on the floor, and regretted that it was only a dream. For he had just got Martel’s head comfortably under his left arm, and was paying him out in full for all he had made Rachel Carre suffer, when the bump of his fall put an end to it.
The following night he fell asleep at once, tired with a long day’s work in the fields. He woke with a start about midnight, with the impression of a sound in his ears, and lay listening doubtfully. Then he perceived that his ears had not deceived him. There was someone in the room,—or something,—and for a moment all the superstitions among which he had been bred crawled in his back hair and held his breath.
Then a hand dropped out of the darkness and touched his shoulder, and he sprang at the touch like a coiled spring.
It was Martel’s voice and usual exclamation, and in a moment Hamon had him by the throat and they were whirling over the floor, upsetting the table and scattering the chairs, and George Hamon’s heart was beating like a merry drum at feel of his enemy in the flesh.
But wrestling blindly in a dark room did not satisfy him. That which was in him craved more. He wanted to see what he was doing and the full effects of it.