The news of Rosanna's disappearance had, as it appeared, spread among the
out-of-door servants. They too had made their inquiries; and they had just laid
hands on a quick little imp, nicknamed "Duffy"--who was occasionally employed
in weeding the garden, and who had seen Rosanna Spearman as lately as half-
an-hour since. Duffy was certain that the girl had passed him in the fir-plantation,
not walking, but RUNNING, in the direction of the sea-shore.
"Does this boy know the coast hereabouts?" asked Sergeant Cuff.
"He has been born and bred on the coast," I answered.
"Duffy!" says the Sergeant, "do you want to earn a shilling? If you do, come along
with me. Keep the pony-chaise ready, Mr. Betteredge, till I come back."
He started for the Shivering Sand, at a rate that my legs (though well enough
preserved for my time of life) had no hope of matching. Little Duffy, as the way is
with the young savages in our parts when they are in high spirits, gave a howl,
and trotted off at the Sergeant's heels.
Here again, I find it impossible to give anything like a clear account of the state of
my mind in the interval after Sergeant Cuff had left us. A curious and stupefying
restlessness got possession of me. I did a dozen different needless things in and
out of the house, not one of which I can now remember. I don't even know how
long it was after the Sergeant had gone to the sands, when Duffy came running
back with a message for me. Sergeant Cuff had given the boy a leaf torn out of
his pocket-book, on which was written in pencil, "Send me one of Rosanna
Spearman's boots, and be quick about it."
I despatched the first woman-servant I could find to Rosanna's room; and I sent
the boy back to say that I myself would follow him with the boot.
This, I am well aware, was not the quickest way to take of obeying the directions
which I had received. But I was resolved to see for myself what new mystification
was going on before I trusted Rosanna's boot in the Sergeant's hands. My old
notion of screening the girl, if I could, seemed to have come back on me again, at
the eleventh hour. This state of feeling (to say nothing of the detective-fever)
hurried me off, as soon as I had got the boot, at the nearest approach to a run
which a man turned seventy can reasonably hope to make.
As I got near the shore, the clouds gathered black, and the rain came down,
drifting in great white sheets of water before the wind. I heard the thunder of the
sea on the sand-bank at the mouth of the bay. A little further on, I passed the boy
crouching for shelter under the lee of the sand hills. Then I saw the raging sea,
and the rollers tumbling in on the sand-bank, and the driven rain sweeping over
the waters like a flying garment, and the yellow wilderness of the beach with one
solitary black figure standing on it-- the figure of Sergeant Cuff.
He waved his hand towards the north, when he first saw me. "Keep on that side!"
he shouted. "And come on down here to me!"