Martel lost patience and wind. Unless he could end the matter quickly his chance would be gone. He did his best to close and finish it, but his opponent knew better, and avoided him warily. They had both received punishment. Hamon took it for Rachel’s sake, Martel for his sins. His brain was becoming confused with Hamon’s quick turns and shrewd blows, and he could not see as clearly as at first. At times it seemed to him that there were two men fighting him. He must end it while he had the strength, and he bent to the task with desperate fury. Then, as he was rushing on his foe like a bull, with all his hatred boiling in his head, all went suddenly dark, and he was lying unconscious with his face on the trodden grass, and George Hamon stood over him, with his fists still clenched, all battered and bleeding, and breathing like a spent horse, but happier than he had been for many a day.
Martel lay so still that a fear began to grow in Hamon that he was dead. He had caught him deftly on the temple as he came on. He had heard of men being killed by a blow like that. He knelt and turned the other gingerly over, and felt his heart beating. And then the black eyes opened on him and the whites of them gleamed viciously in the moonlight, and Hamon stood up, and, after a moment’s consideration, strode away and kicked about in the bracken till he found the other’s knife. Then he picked up his jacket, and went back to the cottage with the knife in one hand and his jacket in the other, and went inside and bolted the door, which was not a custom in Sercq.
HOW MARTEL RAISED THE CLAMEUR BUT FOUND NO RELIEF
George Hamon slept heavily that night while Nature repaired damages. In the morning he had his head in a bucket of water from the well, when he heard footsteps coming up the steep way from the shore, and as he shook the drops out of his swollen eyes he saw that it was Philip Carre come in from his fishing.
“Hello, George—!” and Carre stopped and stared at his face, and knew at once that what he had feared had come to pass.—“He’s back then?”
“It feels like it.”
“Where did you meet?”
“He came in here in the middle of the night. We fought on Longue Pointe.”
“Where is he now?”
“I left him in the grass with his wits out.”
“She’ll have no peace till he’s dead and buried,” said Carre gloomily.
Then they heard heavy footsteps in the narrow way between the hedges, and both turned quickly with the same thought in their minds. But it was only Philip Tanquerel coming down to see to his lobster pots, and at sight of Hamon’s face he grinned knowingly and drawled, “Bin falling out o’ bed, George?”
“Yes. Fell on top of the Frenchman.”
“Fell heavy, seems to me. He’s back then? I doubted he’d come if he wanted to.”
Then more steps between the hedges, and Martel himself turned the corner and came straight for the cottage.