“Where is he—my grandfather? And what has been doing outside, and when can we get out?”
“He is away to Peter Port, but he had to go by way of Jersey, and by night, to avoid their look-out boats. He has got there all right, for there is fighting on Herm. We heard the sound of the guns, and the Herm men are getting back there as fast as they can go.”
“What day is this?”
“To-day is Thursday.”
“Thursday!” echoed Carette. “And we came in here on Tuesday! Is it Thursday of this week or Thursday of next week, Uncle George?”
“This week,” he said with surprise, for he could not possibly understand how completely we had lost count of time. “Torode came across himself with four big boat-loads of rascals, with carronades in their boats, too, and they have turned the Island upside down in search of you. He thought, you see, without doubt, that if he could lay hands on you there was no one else could swear to anything but hearsay. But the Peter Port men will take your grandfather’s word for it, as they would take no one else’s. And that word concerning John Ozanne and his men would set them in a flame if anything could. He was very loth to go, but he saw it was the surest way of ending the matter. So he slipped away with Krok in the dark, and they were to swim out to a boat off Les Laches and make their way by Jersey. Now, if you have eaten, we will get out to the light.”
“Dieu merci!” said Carette heartfully.
“And what about him?” I asked, nodding towards the wounded man.
“He must wait. Can he eat?”
“I have dropped brandy down his throat two or three times, and he seems to swallow it.”
“We will give him some more, and decide afterwards. Mon Dieu! But I wish Philip was here.”
“Would you tell him?”
“Surely! But not your mother, Phil,” he said anxiously, and I knew again how truly he loved her. “She must not know. She must never know.”
“What about Aunt Jeanne?” I asked.
He shook his head. “The fewer that know the better.” So we dropped some more brandy and water into the wounded man’s mouth, and gathered our few belongings, and crept down the tunnel after Uncle George.
Oh, the blessedness of the sweet salt sunlit air, as we stood in the water-worn chasm and blinked at the light, while Uncle George carefully closed his door. We took long deep draughts of it, and felt uplifted and almost light-headed.
“It is resurrection,” said Carette; and as we climbed out of the cleft and took our way quickly among the great gorse cushions along Eperquerie, the dull sound of firing on Herm came to us on the west wind.
HOW A STORM CAME OUT OF THE WEST
“Thank God, you have escaped them!” was my mother’s grateful greeting as we came into Belfontaine. “But you have suffered! You are starving?”