She pointed with her finger to where the waves were breaking in a thin line of white, about fifty yards from the beach.
“It’s the cemetery, that,” she said, “the village cemetery, you know. I have three buried there: George, the eldest; James, the middle one; and David, the youngest. Three of them—that’s why I come. I can’t put flowers on their graves, but I can sit and watch and look through the sea, down among the rocks where their bodies are, and wonder.”
Hamel looked at her curiously. Her voice had grown lower and lower.
“It’s what you land folks don’t believe, perhaps,” she went on, “but it’s true. It’s only us who live near the sea who understand it. I am not an ignorant body, either. I was schoolmistress here before I married David Cox. They thought I’d done wrong to marry a fisherman, but I bore him brave sons, and I lived the life a woman craves for. No, I am not ignorant. I have fancies, perhaps—the Lord be praised for them!—and I tell you it’s true. You look at a spot in the sea and you see nothing—a gleam of blue, a fleck of white foam, one day; a gleam of green with a black line, another; and a grey little sob, the next, perhaps. But you go on looking. You look day by day and hour by hour, and the chasms of the sea will open, and their voices will come to you. Listen!”
She clutched his arm.
“Couldn’t you hear that?” she half whispered.
“‘The light!’ It was David’s voice! ‘The light!’” Hamel was speechless. The woman’s face was suddenly strangely transformed. Her mood, however, swiftly changed. She turned once more towards the hall.
“You’ll know him soon,” she went on, “the kindest man in these parts, they say. It’s not much that he gives away, but he’s a kind heart. You see that great post at the entrance to the river there?” she went on, pointing to it. “He had that set up and a lamp hung from there. Fentolin’s light, they call it. It was to save men’s lives. It was burning, they say, the night I lost my lads. Fentolin’s light!”
“They were wrecked?” he asked her gently.
“Wrecked,” she answered. “Bad steering it must have been. James would steer, and they say that he drank a bit. Bad steering! Yes, you’ll meet Squire Fentolin before long. He’s queer to look at—a small body but a great, kind heart. A miserable life, his, but it will be made up to him. It will be made up to him!”
She turned away. Her lips were moving all the time. She walked about a dozen steps, and then she returned.
“You’re Hamel’s son, the painter,” she said. “You’ll be welcome down here. He’ll have you to stay at the Hall—a brave place. Don’t let him be too kind to you. Sometimes kindness hurts.”
She passed on, walking with a curious, shambling gait, and soon she disappeared on her way to the village. Hamel watched her for a moment and then turned his head towards St. David’s Hall. He felt somehow that her abrupt departure was due to something which she had seen in that direction. He rose to his feet. His instinct had been a true one.