Suddenly Zachary rose, brushed past me without seeing, and ran downstairs.
Some hours later I went out on the path leading to the cove. It was pitch-black; the riding light of the Pied Witch was still there, looking no bigger than a firefly. Then from in front I heard sobbing—a man’s sobs; no sound is quite so dreadful. Zachary Pearse got up out of the bank not ten paces off.
I had no heart to go after him, and sat down in the hedge. There was something subtly akin to her in the fresh darkness of the young night; the soft bank, the scent of honeysuckle, the touch of the ferns and brambles. Death comes to all of us, and when it’s over it’s over; but this blind business—of those left behind!
A little later the ship whistled twice; her starboard light gleamed faintly—and that was all....
“Torquay, 30th October.
....Do you remember the letters I wrote you from Moor Farm nearly three years ago? To-day I rode over there. I stopped at Brixham on the way for lunch, and walked down to the quay. There had been a shower—but the sun was out again, shining on the sea, the brown-red sails, and the rampart of slate roofs.
A trawler was lying there, which had evidently been in a collision. The spiky-bearded, thin-lipped fellow in torn blue jersey and sea-boots who was superintending the repairs, said to me a little proudly:
“Bane in collision, zurr; like to zee over her?” Then suddenly screwing up his little blue eyes, he added:
“Why, I remembers yu. Steered yu along o’ the young lady in this yer very craft.”
It was Prawle, Zachary Pearse’s henchman.
“Yes,” he went on, “that’s the cutter.”
“And Captain Pearse?”
He leant his back against the quay, and spat. “He was a pra-aper man; I never zane none like ’en.”
“Did you do any good out there?”
Prawle gave me a sharp glance.
“Gude? No, t’was arrm we done, vrom ztart to finish—had trouble all the time. What a man cude du, the skipper did. When yu caan’t du right, zome calls it ‘Providence’! ‘Tis all my eye an’ Betty Martin! What I zay es, ‘tis these times, there’s such a dale o’ folk, a dale of puzzivantin’ fellers; the world’s to small.”
With these words there flashed across me a vision of Drake crushed into our modern life by the shrinkage of the world; Drake caught in the meshes of red tape, electric wires, and all the lofty appliances of our civilization. Does a type survive its age; live on into times that have no room for it? The blood is there—and sometimes there’s a throw-back.... All fancy! Eh?
“So,” I said, “you failed?”
“I wudden’ goo for to zay that, zurr—’tis an ugly word. Da-am!” he added, staring at his boots, “’twas thru me tu. We were along among the haythen, and I mus’ nades goo for to break me leg. The capt’n he wudden’ lave me. ‘One Devon man,’ he says to me, ‘don’ lave anotherr.’ We werr six days where we shuld ha’ been tu; when we got back to the ship a cruiser had got her for gun-runnin’.”