“This wicked man is making Phil show him the way to the Boutiques,” cried Carette, and the wicked man chuckled, and so did Jeanne Falla.
They passed the cottages at La Vauroque. The women and children crowded the doors.
“What is it then, Carette?” they cried. “Where is he taking him?”
“He is making him show him the way to the Boutiques,” cried Carette, crumpling her pretty face into hideous grimaces by way of explanation.
“Oh, my good!” cried the women, and the procession passed on along the road that led past Dos d’Ane. The steamy haze lay thicker here. The wind drove it past in slow coils, but its skirts seemed to cling to the heather and bracken as though reluctant to loose its hold on the Island.
They passed down a rough rock path with ragged yellow sides, and stood suddenly looking out, as it seemed, on death.
In front and all around—a fathomless void of mist, which curled slowly past in thin white whorls. The only solid thing—the raw yellow path on which they stood. It stretched precariously out into the void and seemed to rest on nothing. From somewhere down below came the hoarse low growl of sea on rock. Otherwise the stillness of death.—The Coupee!
Sorely trying to stranger nerves at best of times was that wonderful narrow bone of a neck which joins Little Sercq to Sercq,—six hundred feet long, three hundred feet high, four feet wide at its widest at that time, and in places less, and with nothing between the crumbling edges of the path and the growling death below but ragged falls of rock, almost sheer on the one side and little better on the other. On a clear day the unaccustomed eye swam with the welter of the surf below on both sides at once; the unaccustomed brain reeled at thought of so precarious a passage; and the unaccustomed body, unless tenanted by a fool, or possessed of nerves beyond the ordinary or of no nerves at all, turned as a rule at the sight and thanked God for the feel of solid rock behind, or else went humbly down on hands and knees and so crossed in safety with lowered crest.
To the eyes of the rat-faced man the path seemed but a wavering line in the wavering mist. His hand gripped the boy’s shoulder, grateful for something solid to hang on to. And gripped it the harder when Carette skipped past them and disappeared along that knife-edge of a dancing path.
“Come on!” said the boy,—the first words he had spoken.
But the preventive man’s eyes were still fixed in horror on the place where the girl had vanished.
“Come on!” said the boy again, and shook himself free, and went on along the path.
“Aren’t you coming?” he asked,—a shadow in the mist.
But the preventive man was feeling cautiously backwards for solid rock.
“Then I can’t show you the Boutiques,” said the boy, and passed out of sight into the mist.