Romany Of The Snows by Gilbert Parker
The Pilot of Belle Amour
He lived in a hut on a jutting crag of the Cliff of the King. You could get to it by a hard climb up a precipitous pathway, or by a ladder of ropes which swung from his cottage door down the cliff-side to the sands. The bay that washed the sands was called Belle Amour. The cliff was huge, sombre; it had a terrible granite moroseness. If you travelled back from its edge until you stood within the very heart of Labrador, you would add step upon step of barrenness and austerity.
Only at seasons did the bay share the gloom of the cliff. When out of its shadow it was, in summer, very bright and playful, sometimes boisterous, often idle, coquetting with the sands. There was a great difference between the cliff and the bay: the cliff was only as it appeared, but the bay was a shameless hypocrite. For under one shoulder it hid a range of reefs, and, at a spot where the shadows of the cliff never reached it, and the sun played with a grim kind of joy, a long needle of rock ran up at an angle under the water, waiting to pierce irresistibly the adventurous ship that, in some mad moment, should creep to its shores.
The man was more like the cliff than the bay: stern, powerful, brooding. His only companions were the Indians, who in summer-time came and went, getting stores of him, which he in turn got from a post of the Hudson's Bay Company, seventy miles up the coast. At one time the Company, impressed by the number of skins brought to them by the pilot, and the stores he bought of them, had thought of establishing a post at Belle Amour; but they saw that his dealings with them were fair and that he had small gain, and they decided to use him as an unofficial agent, and reap what profit was to be had as things stood. Kenyon, the Company's agent, who had the Post, was keen to know why Gaspard the pilot lived at Belle Amour. No white man sojourned near him, and he saw no one save now and then a priest who travelled silently among the Indians, or some fisherman, hunter, or woodsman, who, for pleasure or from pure adventure, ran into the bay and tasted the hospitality tucked away on a ledge of the Cliff of the King.
To Kenyon, Gaspard was unresponsive, however adroit the catechism. Father Corraine also, who sometimes stepped across the dark threshold of Gaspard's hut, would have, for the man's soul's sake, dug out the heart of his secret; but Gaspard, open with food, fire, blanket, and tireless attendance, closed like the doors of a dungeon when the priest would have read him. At the name of good Ste. Anne he would make the sacred gesture, and would take a blessing when the priest passed from his hut to go again into the wilds; but when pressed to disclose his mind and history, he would always say: "M'sieu', I have nothing to confess." After a number of years the priest ceased to ask him, and he remained with the secret of his life, inscrutable and silent.
Being vigilant, one would have seen, however, that he lived in some land of memory or anticipation, beyond his life of daily toil and usual dealing. The hut seemed to have been built at a point where east and west and south the great gulf could be seen and watched. It seemed almost ludicrous that a man should call himself a pilot on a coast and at a bay where a pilot was scarce needed once a year. But he was known as Gaspard the pilot, and on those rare occasions when a vessel did anchor in the bay, he performed his duties with such a certainty as to leave unguessed how many deathtraps crouched near that shore. At such times, however, Gaspard seemed to look twenty years younger. A light would come into his face, a stalwart kind of pride sit on him, though beneath there lurked a strange, sardonic look in his deep eyes--such a grim furtiveness as though he should say: "If I but twist my finger we are all for the fishes." But he kept his secret and waited. He never seemed to tire of looking down the gulf, as though expecting some ship. If one appeared and passed on, he merely nodded his head, hung up his glass, returned to his work, or, sitting by the door, talked to himself in low, strange tones. If one came near, making as if it would enter the bay, a hungry joy possessed him. If a storm was on, the joy was the greater. No pilot ever ventured to a ship on such rough seas as Gaspard ventured for small profit or glory.
Behind it all lay his secret. There came one day a man who discovered it.
It was Pierre, the half-breed adventurer. There was no point in all the wild northland which Pierre had not touched. He loved it as he loved the game of life. He never said so of it, but he never said so of the game of life, and he played it with a deep subterranean joy. He had had his way with the musk-ox in the Arctic Circle; with the white bear at the foot of Alaskan Hills; with the seal in Baffin's Bay; with the puma on the slope of the Pacific; and now at last he had come upon the trail of Labrador. Its sternness, its moodiness pleased him. He smiled at it the comprehending smile of the man who has fingered the nerves and the heart of men and things. As a traveller, wandering through a prison, looks upon its grim cells and dungeons with the eye of unembarrassed freedom, finding no direful significance in the clank of its iron, so Pierre travelled down with a handful of Indians through the hard fastnesses of that country, and, at last, alone, came upon the bay of Belle Amour.
There was in him some antique touch of refinement and temperament which, in all his evil days and deeds and moments of shy nobility, could find its way into the souls of men with whom the world had had an awkward hour. He was a man of little speech, but he had that rare persuasive penetration which unlocked the doors of trouble, despair, and tragedy. Men who would never have confessed to a priest confessed to him. In his every fibre was the granite of the Indian nature, which looked upon punishment with stoic satisfaction.
In the heart of Labrador he had heard of Gaspard, and had travelled to that point in the compass where he could find him. One day when the sun was fighting hard to make a pathway of light in front of Gaspard's hut, Pierre rounded a corner of the cliff and fronted Gaspard as he sat there, his eyes idling gloomily with the sea. They said little to each other-- in new lands hospitality has not need of speech. When Gaspard and Pierre looked each other in the eyes they knew that one word between them was as a hundred with other men. The heart knows its confessor, and the confessor knows the shadowed eye that broods upon some ghostly secret; and when these are face to face there comes a merciless concision of understanding.
"From where away?" said Gaspard, as he handed some tobacco to Pierre.
"From Hudson's Bay, down the Red Wolf Plains, along the hills, across the coast country, here."
"Why?" Gaspard eyed Pierre's small kit with curiosity; then flung up a piercing, furtive look. Pierre shrugged his shoulders.
"Adventure, adventure," he answered. "The land"--he pointed north, west, and east--"is all mine. I am the citizen of every village and every camp of the great north."
The old man turned his head towards a spot up the shore of Belle Amour, before he turned to Pierre again, with a strange look, and said: "Where do you go?"
Pierre followed his gaze to that point in the shore, felt the undercurrent of vague meaning in his voice, guessed what was his cue, and said: "Somewhere, sometime; but now only Belle Amour. I have had a long travel. I have found an open door. I will stay--if you please--hein? If you please?"
Gaspard brooded. "It is lonely," he replied. "This day it is all bright; the sun shines and the little gay waves crinkle to the shore. But, mon Dieu! sometimes it is all black and ugly with storm. The waves come grinding, booming in along the gridiron rocks"--he smiled a grim smile--"break through the teeth of the reefs, and split with a roar of hell upon the cliff. And all the time, and all the time,"--his voice got low with a kind of devilish joy,--"there is a finger--Jesu! you should see that finger of the devil stretch up from the bowels of the earth, waiting, waiting for something to come out of the storm. And then--and then you can hear a wild laugh come out of the land, come up from the sea, come down from the sky--all waiting, waiting for something! No, no, you would not stay here."
Pierre looked again to that point in the shore towards which Gaspard's eyes had been cast. The sun was shining hard just then, and the stern, sharp rocks, tumbling awkwardly back into the waste behind, had an insolent harshness. Day perched garishly there. Yet now and then the staring light was broken by sudden and deep shadows--great fissures in the rocks and lanes between. These gave Pierre a suggestion, though why, he could not say. He knew that when men live lives of patient, gloomy vigilance, they generally have something to watch and guard. Why should Gaspard remain here year after year? His occupation was nominally a pilot in a bay rarely touched by vessels, and then only for shelter. A pilot need not take his daily life with such brooding seriousness. In body he was like flexible metal, all cord and muscle. He gave the impression of bigness, though he was small in stature. Yet, as Pierre studied him, he saw something that made him guess the man had had about him one day a woman, perhaps a child; no man could carry that look unless. If a woman has looked at you from day to day, something of her, some reflection of her face, passes to yours and stays there; and if a child has held your hand long, or hung about your knees, it gives you a kind of gentle wariness as you step about your home.
Pierre knew that a man will cherish with a deep, eternal purpose a memory of a woman or a child, when, no matter how compelling his cue to remember where a man is concerned, he will yield it up in the end to time. Certain speculations arranged themselves definitely in Pierre's mind: there was a woman, maybe a child once; there was some sorrowful mystery about them; there was a point in the shore that had held the old man's eyes strangely; there was the bay with that fantastic "finger of the devil" stretching up from the bowels of the world. Behind the symbol lay the Thing what was it?
Long time he looked out upon the gulf, then his eyes drew into the bay and stayed there, seeing mechanically, as a hundred fancies went through his mind. There were reefs of which the old man had spoken. He could guess from the colour and movement of the water where they were. The finger of the devil--was it not real? A finger of rock, waiting as the old man said--for what?
Gaspard touched his shoulder. He rose and went with him into the gloomy cabin. They ate and drank in silence. When the meal was finished they sat smoking till night fell. Then the pilot lit a fire, and drew his rough chair to the door. Though it was only late summer, it was cold in the shade of the cliff. Long time they sat. Now and again Pierre intercepted the quick, elusive glance of his silent host. Once the pilot took the pipe from his mouth, and leaned his hands on his knees as if about to speak. But he did not.
Pierre saw that the time was ripe for speech. So he said, as though he knew something: "It is a long time since it happened?"
Gaspard, brooding, answered: "Yes, a long time--too long." Then, as if suddenly awakened to the strangeness of the question, he added, in a startled way: " What do you know? Tell me quick what you know."
"I know nothing except what comes to me here, pilot,"--Pierre touched his forehead," but there is a thing--I am not sure what. There was a woman-- perhaps a child; there is something on the shore; there is a hidden point of rock in the bay; and you are waiting for a ship--for the ship, and it does not come--isn't that so?"
Gaspard got to his feet, and peered into Pierre's immobile face. Their eyes met.
"Mon Dieu!" said the pilot, his hand catching the smoke away from between them, "you are a droll man; you have a wonderful mind. You are cold like ice, and still there is in you a look of fire."
"Sit down," answered Pierre quietly, "and tell me all. Perhaps I could think it out little by little; but it might take too long--and what is the good?"
Slowly Gaspard obeyed. Both hands rested on his knees, and he stared abstractedly into the fire. Pierre thrust forward the tobacco-bag. His hand lifted, took the tobacco, and then his eyes came keenly to Pierre's. He was about to speak. . . . "Fill your pipe first," said the half-breed coolly. The old man did so abstractedly. When the pipe was lighted, Pierre said: "Now!"
"I have never told the story, never--not even to Pere Corraine. But I know, I have it here"--he put his hand to his forehead, as did Pierre-- "that you will be silent." Pierre nodded.
"She was fine to see. Her eyes were black as beads; and when she laugh it was all music. I was so happy! We lived on the island of the Aux Coudres, far up there at Quebec. It was a wild place. There were smugglers and others there--maybe pirates. But she was like a saint of God among all. I was lucky man. I was pilot, and took ships out to sea, and brought them in safe up the gulf. It is not all easy, for there are mad places. Once or twice when a wild storm was on I could not land at Cap Martin, and was carried out to sea and over to France. . . . Well, that was not so bad; there was plenty to eat and drink, nothing to do. But when I marry it was differen'. I was afraid of being carried away and leave my wife--the belle Mamette--alone long time. You see, I was young, and she was ver' beautiful."
He paused and caught his hand over his mouth as though to stop a sound: the lines of his face deepened. Presently he puffed his pipe so hard that the smoke and the sparks hid him in a cloud through which he spoke. "When the child was born--Holy Mother! have you ever felt the hand of your own child in yours, and looked at the mother, as she lies there all pale and shining between the quilts?"
He paused. Pierre's eyes dropped to the floor. Gaspard continued: "Well, it is a great thing, and the babe was born quick one day when we were all alone. A thing like that gives you wonder. Then I could not bear to go away with the ships, and at last I said: 'One month, and then the ice fills the gulf, and there will be no more ships for the winter. That will be the last for me. I will be pilot no more-no.' She was ver' happy, and a laugh ran over her little white teeth. Mon Dieu, I stop that laugh pretty quick--in fine way!"
He seemed for an instant to forget his great trouble, and his face went to warm sunshine like a boy's; but it was as sun playing on a scarred fortress. Presently the light faded out of his face and left it like iron smouldering from the bellows.
"Well," he said, "you see there was a ship to go almost the last of the season, and I said to my wife, 'Mamette, it is the last time I shall be pilot. You must come with me and bring the child, and they will put us off at Father Point, and then we will come back slow to the village on the good Ste. Anne and live there ver' quiet.' When I say that to her she laugh back at me and say, 'Beau! beau!' and she laugh in the child's eyes, and speak--nom de Dieu! she speak so gentle and light--and say to the child: 'Would you like go with your father a pretty journey down the gulf?' And the little child laugh back at her, and shake its soft brown hair over its head. They were both so glad to go. I went to the captain of the ship. I say to him, 'I will take my wife and my little child, and when we come to Father Point we will go ashore.' Bien, the captain laugh big, and it was all right. That was long time ago--long time."
He paused again, threw his head back with a despairing toss, his chin dropped on his breast, his hands clasped between his knees, and his pipe, laid beside him on the bench, was forgotten.
Pierre quietly put some wood upon the fire, opened his kit, drew out from it a little flask of rum and laid it upon the bench beside the pipe. A long time passed. At last Gaspard roused himself with a long sigh, turned and picked up the pipe, but, seeing the flask of rum, lifted it, and took one long swallow before he began to fill and light his pipe. There came into his voice something of iron hardness as he continued his story.
"Alors, we went into the boat. As we travelled down the gulf a great storm came out of the north. We thought it would pass, but it stayed on. When we got to the last place where the pilot could land, the waves were running like hills to the shore, and no boat could live between the ship and the point. For myself, it was nothing--I am a strong man and a great swimmer. But when a man has a wife and a child, it is differen'. So the ship went on out into the ocean with us. Well, we laugh a little, and think what a great brain I had when I say to my wife: 'Come and bring the child for the last voyage of Gaspard the pilot.' You see, there we were on board the ship, everything ver' good, plenty to eat, much to drink, to smoke, all the time. The sailors, they were ver' funny, and to see them take my child, my little Babette, and play with her as she roll on the deck--merci, it was gran'! So I say to my wife:
"'This will be bon voyage for all.' But a woman, she has not the mind like a man. When a man laugh in the sun and think nothing of evil, a woman laugh too, but there come a little quick sob to her lips. You ask her why, and she cannot tell. She know that something will happen. A man has great idee, a woman great sight. So my wife, she turn her face away all sad from me then, and she was right--she was right!
"One day in the ocean we pass a ship--only two days out. The ship signal us. I say to my wife: 'Ha, ha! now we can go back, maybe, to the good Ste. Anne.' Well, the ships come close together, and the captain of the other ship he have something importan' with ours. He ask if there will be chance of pilot into the gulf, because it is the first time that he visit Quebec. The captain swing round and call to me. I go up. I bring my wife and my little Babette; and that was how we sail back to the great gulf.
"When my wife step on board that ship I see her face get pale, and something strange in her eyes. I ask her why; she do not know, but she hug Babette close to her breast with a kind of fear. A long, low, black ship, it could run through every sea. Soon the captain come to me and say: 'You know the coast, the north coast of the gulf, from Labrador to Quebec?' I tell him yes. 'Well,' he say, 'do you know of a bay where few ships enter safe?' I think a moment and I tell him of Belle Amour. Then he say, ver' quick: 'That is the place; we will go to the bay of Belle Amour.' He was ver' kind to my face; he give my wife and child good berth, plenty to eat and drink, and once more I laugh; but my wife--there was in her face something I not understan'. It is not easy to understan' a woman. We got to the bay. I had pride: I was young. I was the best pilot in the St. Lawrence, and I took in the ship between the reefs of the bay, where they run like a gridiron, and I laugh when I swing the ship all ver' quick to the right, after we pass the reefs, and make a curve round--something. The captain pull me up and ask why. But I never tell him that. I not know why I never tell him. But the good God put the thought into my head, and I keep it to this hour, and it never leave me, never--never!"
He slowly rubbed his hands up and down his knees, took another sip of rum, and went on:
"I brought the ship close up to the shore, and we go to anchor. All that night I see the light of a fire on the shore. So I slide down and swim to the shore. Under a little arch of rocks something was going on. I could not tell, but I know from the sound that they are to bury something. Then, all at once, it come to me--this is a pirate ship! I come closer and closer to the light, and then I see a dreadful thing. There was the captain and the mate, and another. They turn quick upon two other men--two sailors--and kill them. Then they take the bodies and wound them round some casks in a great hole, and cover it all up. I understan'. It is the old legend that a dead body will keep gold all to itself, so that no one shall find it. Mon Dieu!"--his voice dropped low and shook in his throat--"I give one little cry at the sight, and then they see me. There were three. They were armed; they sprang upon me and tied me. Then they fling me beside the fire, and they cover up the hole with the gold and the bodies.
"When that was done they take me back to the ship, then with pistols at my head they make me pilot the ship out into the bay again. As we went they make a chart of the place. We travel along the coast for one day; and then a great storm of snow come, and the captain say to me: 'Steer us into harbour.' When we are at anchor, they take me and my wife, and little child and put us ashore alone, with a storm and the bare rocks and the dreadful night, and leave us there, that we shall never tell the secret of the gold. That night my wife and my child die in the snow."
Here his voice became strained and slow. "After a long time I work my way to an Injin camp. For months I was a child in strength, all my flesh gone. When the spring come I went and dug a deeper grave for my wife, and p'tite Babette, and leave them there, where they had died. But I come to the bay of Belle Amour, because I knew some day the man with the devil's heart would come back for his gold, and then would arrive my time--the hour of God!"
He paused. "The hour of God," he repeated slowly. "I have waited twenty years, but he has not come; yet I know that he will come. I feel it here"--he touched his forehead; "I know it here"--he tapped his heart. "Once where my heart was, there is only one thing, and it is hate, and I know--I know--that he will come. And when he comes--" He raised his arm high above his head, laughed wildly, paused, let the hand drop, and then fell to staring into the fire.
Pierre again placed the flask of rum between his fingers. But Gaspard put it down, caught his arms together across his breast, and never turned his face from the fire. Midnight came, and still they sat there silent. No man had a greater gift in waiting than Pierre. Many a time his life had been a swivel, upon which the comedies and tragedies of others had turned. He neither loved nor feared men: sometimes he pitied them. He pitied Gaspard. He knew what it is to have the heartstrings stretched out, one by one, by the hand of a Gorgon, while the feet are chained to the rocking world.
Not till the darkest hour of the morning did the two leave their silent watch and go to bed. The sun had crept stealthily to the door of the but before they rose again. Pierre laid his hand upon Gaspard's shoulder as they travelled out into the morning, and said: "My friend, I understand. Your secret is safe with me; you shall take me to the place where the gold is buried, but it shall wait there until the time is ripe. What is gold to me? Nothing. To find gold--that is the trick of any fool. To win it or to earn it is the only game. Let the bodies rot about the gold. You and I will wait. I have many friends in the northland, but there is no face in any tent door looking for me. You are alone: well, I will stay with you. Who can tell--perhaps it is near at hand--the hour of God!"
The huge hard hand of Gaspard swallowed the small hand of Pierre, and, in a voice scarcely above a whisper, he answered: "You shall be my comrade. I have told you all, as I have never told it to my God. I do not fear you about the gold--it is all cursed. You are not like other men; I will trust you. Some time you also have had the throat of a man in your fingers, and watched the life spring out of his eyes, and leave them all empty. When men feel like that, what is gold--what is anything! There is food in the bay and on the hills.
"We will live together, you and I. Come and I will show you the place of hell."
Together they journeyed down the crag and along the beach to the place where the gold, the grim god of this world, was fortressed and bastioned by its victims.
The days went on; the weeks and months ambled by. Still the two lived together. Little speech passed between them, save that speech of comrades, who use more the sign than the tongue. It seemed to Pierre after a time that Gaspard's wrongs were almost his own. Yet with this difference: he must stand by and let the avenger be the executioner; he must be the spectator merely.
Sometimes he went inland and brought back moose, caribou, and the skins of other animals, thus assisting Gaspard in his dealings with the great Company. But again there were days when he did nothing but lie on the skins at the hut's door, or saunter in the shadows and the sunlight. Not since he had come to Gaspard had a ship passed the bay or sought to anchor in it.
But there came a day. It was the early summer. The snow had shrunk from the ardent sun, and had swilled away to the gulf, leaving the tender grass showing. The moss on the rocks had changed from brown to green, and the vagrant birds had fluttered back from the south. The winter's furs had been carried away in the early spring to the Company's post, by a detachment of coureurs de bois. There was little left to do. This morning they sat in the sun looking out upon the gulf. Presently Gaspard rose and went into the hut. Pierre's eyes still lazily scanned the water. As he looked he saw a vessel rounding a point in the distance. Suppose this was the ship of the pirate and murderer? The fancy diverted him. His eyes drew away from the indistinct craft--first to the reefs, and then to that spot where the colossal needle stretched up under the water. It was as Pierre speculated. Brigond, the French pirate, who had hidden his gold at such shameless cost, was, after twenty years in the galleys at Toulon, come back to find his treasure. He had doubted little that he would find it. The lonely spot, the superstition concerning dead bodies, the supposed doom of Gaspard, all ran in his favour. His little craft came on, manned by as vile a mob as ever mutinied or built a wrecker's fire.
When the ship got within a short distance of the bay, Pierre rose and called. Gaspard came to the door. "There's work to do, pilot," he said. Gaspard felt the thrill of his voice, and flashed a look out to the gulf. He raised his hands with a gasp. "I feel it," he said: "it is the hour of God!"
He started to the rope ladder of the cliff, then wheeled suddenly and came back to Pierre. "You must not come," he said. "Stay here and watch; you shall see great things." His voice had a round, deep tone. He caught both Pierre's hands in his and added: "It is for my wife and child; I have no fear. Adieu, my friend! When you see the good Pere Corraine say to him--but no, it is no matter--there is One greater!"
Once again he caught Pierre hard by the shoulder, then ran to the cliff and swung down the ladder. All at once there shot through Pierre's body an impulse, and his eyes lighted with excitement. He sprang towards the cliff. "Gaspard, come back!" he called; then paused, and, with an enigmatical smile, shrugged his shoulders, drew back, and waited.
The vessel was hove to outside the bay, as if hesitating. Brigond was considering whether it were better, with his scant chart, to attempt the bay, or to take small boats and make for the shore. He remembered the reefs, but he did not know of the needle of rock. Presently he saw Gaspard's boat coming. "Someone who knows the bay," he said; "I see a hut on the cliff."
"Hello, who are you?" Brigond called down as Gaspard drew alongside.
"A Hudson's Bay Company's man," answered Gaspard.
"How many are there of you?"
"Can you pilot us in?"
"I know the way."
Gaspard remembered Brigond, and he veiled his eyes lest the hate he felt should reveal him. No one could have recognised him as the young pilot of twenty years before. Then his face was cheerful and bright, and in his eye was the fire of youth. Now a thick beard and furrowing lines hid all the look of the past. His voice, too, was desolate and distant.
Brigond clapped him on the shoulder. "How long have you lived off there?" he asked, as he jerked his finger towards the shore.
"A good many years."
"Did anything strange ever happen there?" Gaspard felt his heart contract again, as it did when Brigond's hand touched his shoulder.
"Nothing strange is known."
A vicious joy came into Brigond's face. His fingers opened and shut. "Safe, by the holy heaven!" he grunted.
"'By the holy heaven!'" repeated Gaspard, under his breath.
They walked forward. Almost as they did so there came a big puff of wind across the bay: one of those sudden currents that run in from the ocean and the gulf stream. Gaspard saw, and smiled. In a moment the vessel's nose was towards the bay, and she sailed in, dipping a shoulder to the sudden foam. On she came past reef and bar, a pretty tumbril to the slaughter. The spray feathered up to her sails, the sun caught her on deck and beam; she was running dead for the needle of rock.
Brigond stood at Gaspard's side. All at once Gaspard made the sacred gesture and said, in a low tone, as if only to himself: "Pardon, mon capitaine, mon Jesu!" Then he turned triumphantly, fiercely, upon Brigond. The pirate was startled. "What's the matter?" he said.
Not Gaspard, but the needle rock replied. There was a sudden shock; the vessel stood still and shivered; lurched, swung shoulder downwards, reeled and struggled. Instantly she began to sink.
"The boats! lower the boats!" cried Brigond. "This cursed fool has run us on a rock!"
The waves, running high, now swept over the deck. Brigond started aft, but Gaspard sprang before him. "Stand back!" he called. "Where you are you die!"
Brigond, wild with terror and rage, ran at him. Gaspard caught him as he came. With vast strength he lifted him and dashed him to the deck. "Die there, murderer!" he cried.
Brigond crouched upon the deck, looking at him with fearful eyes. "Who- are you?" he asked.
"I am Gaspard the pilot. I have waited for you twenty years. Up there, in the snow, my wife and child died. Here, in this bay, you die."
There was noise and racketing behind them, but they two heard nothing. The one was alone with his terror, the other with his soul. Once, twice, thrice, the vessel heaved, then went suddenly still.
Gaspard understood. One look at his victim, then he made the sacred gesture again, and folded his arms. Pierre, from the height of the cliff, looking down, saw the vessel dip at the bow, and then the waters divided and swallowed it up.
"Gaspard should have lived," he said. "But--who can tell! Perhaps Mamette was waiting for him."