“Aye!” she answered, looking down upon him as he lay doubled up at the bottom of the boat. “I know what it means to be rich—better than you, maybe. Not to let the gold and silver pieces fall through your fingers, or to live in a great house and be waited upon by servants who desert you in the hour of need. That isn’t being rich. It’s rich to feel the touch of the one you love, to see the faces around of those you’ve given birth to, to move on through the days and nights towards the end, with them around; not to know the chill loneliness of an empty life. I am a poor woman, Mr. Fentolin, and it’s your hand that made me so, and not all the miracles that the Bible ever told of can make me rich again.”
“You are a fool!” he shrieked. “You can buy forgetfulness! The memory of everything passes.”
“I may be a fool,” she retorted grimly, “and you the wise man; but this day we’ll both know the truth.”
There was a little murmur from the shore, where the fishermen stood in a long line.
“Bring him back, missus,” Jacob called out. “You’ve scared him enough. Bring him back. We’ll leave him to the law.”
They were close to the line of surf now; they had passed it, indeed, a little on the left, and the boat was drifting. She stood up, straight and stern, and her face, as she looked towards the land, was lit with the fire of the prophetess.
“Aye,” she cried, “we’ll leave him to the law—to the law of God!”
Then they saw her stoop down, and once more with that almost superhuman strength which seemed to belong to her for those few moments, she lifted the strange object who lay cowering there, high above her head. From the shore they realised what was going to happen, and a great shout arose. She stood on the side of the boat and jumped, holding her burden tightly in her arms. So they went down and disappeared.
Half a dozen of the younger fishermen were in the water even before the grim spectacle was ended; another ran for a boat that was moored a little way down the beach. But from the first the search was useless. Only Jacob, who was a person afflicted with many superstitions, wiped the sweat from his forehead as he leaned over the bow of his boat and looked down into that fathomless space.
“I heard her singing, her or her wraith,” he swore afterwards. “I’ll never forget the moment I looked down and down, and the water seemed to grow clearer, and I saw her walking there at the bottom among the rocks, with him over her back, singing as she went, looking everywhere for George and the boys!”
But if indeed his eyes were touched with fire at that moment, no one else in the world saw anything more of Miles Fentolin.