“Will you stop and have supper with us, George?” asked my grandfather.
“Yes, I will. It’s a treat to sup in company;” and my mother busied herself over the pots at the fire.
I had often wondered why Uncle George had never married. He was such a good fellow, honest as the day, and always ready to help anybody in any way. And yet, ever since his mother died, and that must have been ten years ago at least, he had lived all alone in his house at La Vauroque, though he had prospered in various ways, and was reputed well to do. He lived very simply—made his own coffee of morning, and for the rest depended on an old neighbour woman, who came in each day and cooked his meals and kept the house clean. Yes, I had often wondered why, and not until this night did I begin to understand.
Long afterwards, when he was telling me of other matters, it did not greatly surprise me to learn that he had waited all these years in hopes of my mother coming round to him at last. And the wall of division that stood between them and stirred him to bitterness at times—not against her, but against what he counted her foolish obstinacy—was the fact that long ago my father had gone down to the sea and never come back, as many and many an Island man had done since ever time began. But she had her own rigid notions of right and wrong, narrow perhaps, but of her very self, and she would not marry him, though his affection never wavered, even when he felt her foolishness the most.
It was strange, perhaps, that I should jump to sudden understanding of the matter when all my thoughts just then were of my own concerns. But love, I think, if somewhat selfish, is a mighty quickener of the understanding, and even though all one’s thoughts are upon one object, a fellow-feeling opens one’s eyes to the signs elsewhere.
We talked much of the matter of my going, that night over the supper-table, or my grandfather and George Hamon did, while my mother and Krok and I listened. And wonderful stories Uncle George told of the profits some folks had made in the privateering—tens of thousands of pounds to the owners in a single fortunate cruise, and hundreds to every seaman.
But my mother warmed to the matter not at all. She sat gazing silently into the fire, and thought, maybe, of those who lost, and of those whose shares came only to the last cold plunge into the tumbling graveyard of the sea. While as for me, in my own mind I saw visions of stirring deeds, and wealth and fame, and Carette seemed nearer to me than ever she had been since she went to Peter Port.
HOW I WENT TO SEE TORODE OF HERM
The next morning found me running in under La Givaude for the landing-place on Brecqhou, where my boat could lie safely in spite of the rising tide.
I was in the best of spirits, for low spirits come of having nothing to do, or not knowing what to do or how to do it. My next step was settled, lead where it might. I was going privateering, and now I was going to see Carette, and I intended to let her know that I was going and why, so that there should be no mistake about it while I was away.