FIRST PERIOD: THE LOSS OF THE DIAMOND (1848)
19. CHAPTER XIX
I caught at his arm, and tried to speak to him, and failed as I
had failed when I tried before. He went on, following the
footsteps down and down to where the rocks and the sand joined.
The South Spit was just awash with the flowing tide;
the waters heaved over the hidden face of the Shivering Sand.
Now this way and now that, with an obstinate patience that was
dreadful to see, Sergeant Cuff tried the boot in the footsteps,
and always found it pointing the same way--straight TO the rocks.
Hunt as he might, no sign could he find anywhere of the footsteps
walking FROM them.
He gave it up at last. Still keeping silence, he looked
again at me; and then he looked out at the waters before us,
heaving in deeper and deeper over the quicksand.
I looked where he looked--and I saw his thought in his face.
A dreadful dumb trembling crawled all over me on a sudden.
I fell upon my knees on the beach.
"She has been back at the hiding-place," I heard the Sergeant say to himself.
"Some fatal accident has happened to her on those rocks."
The girl's altered looks, and words, and actions--the numbed, deadened way
in which she listened to me, and spoke to me--when I had found her sweeping
the corridor but a few hours since, rose up in my mind, and warned me,
even as the Sergeant spoke, that his guess was wide of the dreadful truth.
I tried to tell him of the fear that had frozen me up. I tried to say,
"The death she has died, Sergeant, was a death of her own seeking."
No! the words wouldn't come. The dumb trembling held me in its grip.
I couldn't feel the driving rain. I couldn't see the rising tide.
As in the vision of a dream, the poor lost creature came back before me.
I saw her again as I had seen her in the past time--on the morning
when I went to fetch her into the house. I heard her again, telling me
that the Shivering Sand seemed to draw her to it against her will,
and wondering whether her grave was waiting for her THERE. The horror
of it struck at me, in some unfathomable way, through my own child.
My girl was just her age. My girl, tried as Rosanna was tried,
might have lived that miserable life, and died this dreadful