Chapter VII. How an idler had the good fortune to be seen by a fisherman
On that very night, at the moment when the wind abated, Gilliatt had gone out with his nets, without, however, taking his famous old Dutch boat too far from the coast.
As he was returning with the rising tide, towards two o’clock in the afternoon, the sun was shining brightly, and he passed before the Beast’s Horn to reach the little bay of the Bû de la Rue. At that moment he fancied that he saw, in the projection of the “Gild-Holm-‘Ur” seat a shadow, which was not that of the rock. He steered his vessel nearer, and was able to perceive a man sitting in the “Gild-Holm-‘Ur.” The sea was already very high, the rock encircled by the waves, and escape entirely cut off. Gilliatt made signs to the man. The stranger remained motionless. Gilliatt drew nearer; the man was asleep.
He was attired in black. “He looks like a priest,” thought Gilliatt. He approached still nearer, and could distinguish the face of a young man.
The features were unknown to him.
The rock, happily, was peaked; there was a good depth. Gilliatt wore off, and succeeded in skirting the rocky wall. The tide raised the bark so high that Gilliatt, by standing upon the gunwale of the sloop, could touch the man’s feet. He raised himself upon the planking, and stretched out his hands. If he had fallen at that moment, it is doubtful if he would have risen again on the water; the waves were rolling in between the boat and the rock, and destruction would have been inevitable. He pulled the foot of the sleeping man. “Ho! there. What are you doing in this place?”
The man aroused, and muttered –
“I was looking about.”
He was now completely awake, and continued –
“I have just arrived in this part. I came this way on a pleasure trip. I have passed the night on the sea: the view from here seemed beautiful. I was weary, and fell asleep.”
“Ten minutes later, and you would have been drowned.”
Gilliatt kept the bark fast with his foot, clutched the rock with one hand, and stretched out the other to the stranger in black, who sprang quickly into the boat. He was a fine young man.
Gilliatt seized the tiller, and in two minutes his boat entered the bay of the Bû de la Rue.
The young man wore a round hat and a white cravat; and his long black frock-coat was buttoned up to the neck. He had fair hair, which he wore en couronne. He had a somewhat feminine cast of features, a clear eye, a grave manner.
Meanwhile the boat had touched the ground. Gilliatt passed the cable through the mooring-ring, then turned and perceived the young man holding out a sovereign in a very white hand.
Gilliatt moved the hand gently away.
There was a pause. The young man was the first to break the silence.
“You have saved me from death.”
“Perhaps,” replied Gilliatt.
The moorings were made fast, and they went ashore.
The stranger continued –
“I owe you my life, sir.”
This reply from Gilliatt was again followed by a pause.
“Do you belong to this parish?”
“No,” replied Gilliatt.
“To what parish, then?”
Gilliatt lifted up his right hand, pointed to the sky, and said –
“To that yonder.”
The young man bowed, and left him.
After walking a few paces, the stranger stopped, felt in his pocket, drew out a book, and returning towards Gilliatt, offered it to him.
“Permit me to make you a present of this.”
Gilliatt took the volume.
It was a Bible.
An instant after, Gilliatt, leaning upon the parapet, was following the young man with his eyes as he turned the angle of the path which led to St. Sampson.
By little and little he lowered his gaze, forgot all about the stranger – knew no more whether the “Gild-Holm-‘Ur” existed. Everything disappeared before him in the bottomless depth of a reverie.[Pg 79]
There was one abyss which swallowed up all his thought. This was Déruchette.
A voice calling him, aroused him from this dream.
“Ho there, Gilliatt!”
He recognised the voice and looked up.
“What is the matter, Sieur Landoys?”
It was, in fact, Sieur Landoys, who was passing along the road about one hundred paces from the Bû de la Rue in his phaeton, drawn by one little horse. He had stopped to hail Gilliatt, but he seemed hurried.
“There is news, Gilliatt.”
“Where is that?”
“At the Bravées.”
“What is it?”
“I am too far off to tell you the story.”
“Is Miss Déruchette going to be married?”
“No; but she had better look out for a husband.”
“What do you mean?”
“Go up to the house, and you will learn.”
And Sieur Landoys whipped on his horse.