I let her get right to the gate, then, from my knees, launched myself onto her, and she went down against the bars in a heap, bruising her face badly. But Carette was all my thought. Before the woman knew what had struck her, I had her hands tied behind her with twisted strips of her own apron, and had gagged her with a bunch of the same, and had the key in the lock, and Carette was free.
The woman was dazed still with her fall. We bound her feet with a strip of blanket and laid her on the bed, locked the gate again behind us, and sped down the rocky way till a gap let us out into the open. Then swiftly among the humps of rock, hand in hand, down the slope, towards the shell beach where the boat lay. I had left it close under the last of the high ground, and had drawn it well up out of reach of the tide, as I believed. But there was no boat there. The beach lay shining in the sun, bare and white, and my heart gave a jerk of dismay.
“There it is!” panted Carette, pointing the opposite way along the shore. And there, among a tumbled heap of rocks, whose heads just showed above the water, I saw my boat mopping and mowing at me in the grip of the tide.
I ran along to the nearest point on the beach, calling over my shoulder to Carette, “If they come after you, take to the water; I will pick you up,”—and dashed in, as we used to do in the olden days, till the water tripped me up, and then swam my fastest for the boat, and thanked God that swimming came so natural to me.
I had the boat back to the beach and Carette aboard within a few minutes, and we each took an oar and pulled for Brecqhou with exultant hearts. We thought our perils were past—and they were but just beginning.
For as we cleared the eastern point which juts out into the sea, and opened Jethou and the dark channel between the two islands, our eyes lighted together on a boat which was just about to turn the corner into the Herm roadstead. Another minute and it would have been gone, and we should have been free.
I stopped rowing and made to back in again out of sight, but it was not to be. They sighted us at the same moment, and in an instant were tugging at their oars to get their boat round, while we bent and pulled for our lives.
Fortunately for us, the tide was running swiftly between the islands, and the time it took them to get round gave us a start. Moreover, their course, till they got clear of the land, was set thick with perils, and they had to go cautiously, while nothing but clear sea lay between us and Brecqhou.
HOW I HELD THE NARROW WAY
And so, once again I was pulling for dear life, and now indeed for more than life, with death, and more than death, coming on astern in venomous jerks and vicious leaps.
Carette’s soft hands were not equal to work of this kind, and she saw it. There were but the two oars in the boat. I bade her hand me hers, and she did it instantly, sliding it along to my rowlock and losing but a single stroke.