And then of a sudden he sprang back with a cry,—great strange cry.
“My God! My God! it is he himself!—Rachel!” and he reeled sideways against the wall.
“Who?” I asked. And he looked very strangely at me, and said—
“Your father,—Paul Martel,” and I deemed him crazy.
“My poor Rachel!” he groaned. “We must hide it. She must not know. She must never know. My God! Why did I blab it out?”
“Uncle George!” I said soothingly, and laid my hand on his shoulder, for I made sure his wound had upset his brain.
“Give me time, Phil. I am not crazy. Give me time. Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!” and he sat down heavily with his head in his hands.
And we, not understanding anything of the matter, but still much startled at the strangeness of his words and bearing, nevertheless found the size of our hunger at sight of the basket he had brought, and fell to on its contents, and ate ravenously.
HOW WE HEARD STRANGE NEWS
“Whatever is it all, Phil?” whispered Carette as we ate.
“There has evidently been fighting outside, and he has got a knock on the head, and his wits are astray.” But that strange thing he had said ran in my head, and made such play there that I began to be troubled about it.
You must remember I had never heard the name of Paul Martel, and of my father I knew nothing save that he was dead. So that this strange word of George Hamon’s was to me but empty vapouring brought on by that blow on the head. But against that there was the tremendous fact which had so exercised my mind, that this man Torode had spared my life at risk of his own, when every other soul that could have perilled him had been slaughtered in cold blood.
If—the awful import of that little word!—if there was—if there could be, any sense in George Hamon’s words, the puzzle of Torode’s strange treatment of me was explained. I saw that clearly enough, but yet the whole matter held no sense of reality to me. It was all as obscure and shadowy as the dim cross-lights in which we sat, and ate because we were starving.
Torode lay like a log, breathing slowly, but with no other sign of life. George Hamon presently knelt beside him again and gazed long into his face, and then examined his wound carefully. Then he stood up and signed to us to follow him, and we went along the cleft to the water-cave, and sat down there in the dim green light that filtered through the water.
“Mon gars,” he said very gravely, “I have done you a wrong. I ought to have kept it to myself. It was the suddenness of it that upset me. I told you no living man besides myself knew of this place, and that was because I believed this man dead—dead this twenty years. He was partner with me in the free-trading for a time, until we fell out—”
“You said just now that he was my father,” I broke in, and eyed him closely to see if his wits were still astray. “What did you mean?”