Page:In the Roar of the Sea.djvu/126

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

the dark—he had the "new-take" wall as a guide. What the coast-guard did not suspect was that this "new-take" had been made for the very purpose of serving as a guide by which the smugglers could find their course in the blackest of winter's nights; moreover, in the fiercest storm the wall served as a shelter, under lea of which they might approach their cave. Coppinger was without a lantern. He doubted if one would avail him, in his quest; moreover, the night was lightening, as the moon rode higher.

The smuggler captain stood for a moment on the edge of the cliffs to consider what course he should adopt to find Judith. If she had reached the summit, it was possible enough that she had lost her way and had rambled inland among lanes and across fields, pixy-led. In that case it was a hopeless task to search for her; moreover, there would be no particular necessity for him to do so, as, sooner or later, she must reach a cottage or a farm, where she could learn her direction. But if she had gone too near the edge, or if, in her ascent, her foot had slipped, then he must search the shore. The tide was ebbing now, and left a margin on which he could walk. This was the course he must adopt. He did not descend by the track to the chimney, as the creeping down of the latter could be effected in absolute darkness only with extreme risk; but he bent his way over the down skirting the crescent indentation of the cove to the donkey-path, which was now, as he knew, unwatched. By that he swiftly and easily descended to the beach. Along the shore he crept carefully toward that portion which was overhung by the precipice along which the way ran from the mouth of the shaft. The night was mending, or at all events seemed better. The moon, as it mounted, cast a glimmer through the least opaque portions of the driving clouds. Coppinger looked up, and could see the ragged fringe of down torn with gullies, and thrust up into prongs, black as ink against the gray of the half-translucent vapors. And near at hand was the long dorsal ridge that concealed the entrance to the cave, sloping rapidly upward and stretching away before him into shadow.

Coppinger mused. If one were to fall from above, would he drop between the cliff and this curtain, or would he strike and be projected over it on to the