She forced him to look once more at the top of the boat-house.
“They were right!” she proclaimed, her voice gaining in strength and intensity. “They were neither drunk nor reckless. They steered as straight as human hand could guide a tiller, for Fentolin’s light! And there they are, calling and calling at the bottom of the sea—my three boys and my man. Do you know for whom they call?”
Mr. Fentolin shrank back in his chair.
“Take this woman away!” he ordered the fishermen. “Do you hear? Take her away; she is mad!”
They looked towards him, but not one of them moved. Mr. Fentolin raised his whistle to his lips, and blew it.
“Meekins!” he cried. “Where are you, Meekins?”
He turned his head and saw at once that Meekins was powerless. Five or six of the fishermen had gathered around him. There were at least thirty of them about, sinewy, powerful men. The only person who moved towards Mr. Fentolin’s carriage was Jacob, the coast guardsman.
“Mr. Fentolin, sir,” he said, “the lads have got your bully safe. It’s a year and more that Hannah Cox has been about the village with some story about two lights on a stormy night. It’s true what she says—that her man and boys lie drowned. There’s William Green, besides, and a nephew of my own—John Kallender. And Philip Green —he was saved. He swore by all that was holy that he steered straight for the light when his boat struck, and that as he swam for shore, five minutes later, he saw the light reappear in another place. It’s a strange story. What have you to say, sir, about that?”
He pointed straight to the wire-encircled globe which towered on its slender support above the boat-house. Mr. Fentolin looked at it and looked back at the coast guardsman. The brain of a Machiavelli could scarcely have invented a plausible reply.
“The light was never lit there,” he said. “It was simply to help me in some electrical experiments.”
Then, for the first time in their lives, those who were looking on saw Mr. Fentolin apart from his carriage. Without any haste but with amazing strength, Hannah Cox leaned over, and, with her arms around his middle, lifted him sheer up into the air. She carried him, clasped in her arms, a weird, struggling object, to the clumsy boat that lay always at the top of the beach. She dropped him into the bottom, took her seat, and unshipped the oars. For one moment the coast guardsman hesitated; then he obeyed her look. He gave the boat a push which sent it grinding down the pebbles into the sea. The woman began to work at the oars. Every now and then she looked over her shoulder at that thin line of white surf which they were all the time approaching.
“What are you doing, woman?” Mr. Fentolin demanded hoarsely. “Listen! It was an accident that your people were drowned. I’ll give you an annuity. I’ll make you rich for life—rich! Do you understand what that means?”