Her companion only laughed a little wildly.
“There will be no going back to-night,” she said. “You must come with me. Set your feet down boldly. If you are afraid, take this.”
She handed her a small electric torch.
“It’s one of those new-fangled things for making light in the darkness,” she remarked. “It’s no use to me, for if I could not see I could feel. For us who live here, ’tis but an instinct to find our way, in darkness or in light, across the land where we were born. But if you are nervous, press the knob and you will see.”
Jeanne took the torch with a little sigh of relief.
“Go on,” she said. “I don’t mind so much now I have this.”
Nevertheless, as they moved along she found it sufficiently alarming. The top of the bank was but a few feet wide. The west wind, which came roaring down across the great open spaces, with nothing to check or divide its strength, was sometimes strong enough to blow them off their balance. On either side of the dyke was the water, black and silent. Here and there the torch light showed them a fishing-smack or a catboat, high and dry a few hours ago, now floating on the bosom of the full tide. They came to a stile, and Jeanne’s courage once more failed her.
“I cannot climb over this,” she said. “I shall fall directly I lift up my feet.”
Kate turned round with a little laugh of contempt. Jeanne felt herself suddenly lifted in a pair of strong arms. Before she knew where she was she was on the other side. Breathless she followed her guide, who came to a full stop a few yards farther on.
“Turn on your light,” Kate ordered. “Look down on the left. There should be a punt there.”
Jeanne turned on the torch. A great flat-bottomed boat, shapeless and unwieldy, was just below. Kate stepped lightly down the steep bank, and with one foot on the side of the punt, held out her hand to Jeanne.
“Come,” she said. “Step carefully.”
“But what are we going to do?” Jeanne asked. “You are not going in that?”
“Why not?” Kate laughed. “It is a few strokes only. We are going to cross to the ridges.”
Jeanne followed her. Somehow or other she found it hard to disobey her guide. None the less she was afraid. She stepped tremblingly down into the punt, and sat upon the broad wet seat. Kate, without a moment’s hesitation, took up the great pole and began pushing her way across the creek. The tide was almost at its height, but even then the current was so strong that they went across almost sideways, and Jeanne heard her companion’s breath grow shorter and shorter, as with powerful strokes she did her best to guide and propel the clumsy craft.
“We are going out toward the sea,” Jeanne faltered. “It is getting wider and wider.”
She flashed her torch across the dark waters. They could not see the bank which they had left or the ridges to which they were making.