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´╗┐Title: Fire Island - Being the Adventures of Uncertain Naturalists in an Unknown Track
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fire Island - Being the Adventures of Uncertain Naturalists in an Unknown Track" ***

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Fire Island, by George Manville Fenn.


This is good vintage Fenn, with dreadful situation following dreadful
situation, and the heroes (mostly) managing to get out of it somehow.
Right up to the last chapter the reader never knows how the problems
that throw themselves upon a little group of naturalists and the sailors
that brought them to the island on which all these frightening events
occur, will be solved.  NH





"Do I think it would be wise to put on a life-belt, Mr Lane?"


The words were shouted into the ear of one of the speakers, and yelled
back as, like others about the vessel, they clung to the side, now to be
raised high, now to be plunged down again, as the _Planet_, with only a
rag or two of storm canvas set, rode over a huge wave and seemed as if
turned into some new and ponderous kind of diving apparatus about to
seek the wonders at the bottom of the eastern seas.  But after her
tremendous plunge right into a hollow she rose again, shook off the
water which deluged the deck and staggered on.

Just then a dimly seen figure sidled up to the two speakers, held on
tightly, and shouted--

"I say, Mr Rimmer, isn't that man steering very wildly?"

"Who's to steer tamely, sir, in a sea like this?  Man has enough to do
to keep from being washed overboard."

The newcomer nodded and took a fresh grip of the top of the bulwark as a
sea came over the bows again, and swept along the deck, leaving them
breathless and panting, with the water streaming from oilskin and

"Don't you want to put on a life-belt, too?" shouted the first speaker,
as in the darkness of that terrible night his words seemed to be
snatched away as soon as uttered.

"Yes; it would be safer; where are they?"

"Bah!  Nonsense!  Look down there.  Suppose you had on a life-belt, what
could you do in such a sea?  You'd both be knocked to pieces or have the
breath choked out of you in five minutes.  Stick to the ship while you
can.  That's good advice."

"Is there any danger?" shouted the young man who was nearest the last

"Of course there is.  No one could be in such a tornado without being in

"But shall we be wrecked?" asked the fresh-comer.

"Heaven only knows, sir.  We're all amongst the islands and reefs, and
if one of them is in our way nothing can save us."

No words were spoken then for some time, and every man on board the
_Planet_ brig, which after a short stay at Singapore was off on a voyage
of discovery along the coast of New Guinea, clung to bulwark, shroud and
stay, or sheltered himself the best way he could from the waves which,
like the wind, seemed ready to pluck them from their hold.

Everything possible in the way of navigation had been done when the
frightful storm came on, after scant warning in the way of a falling
barometer.  Then nothing was left for the unfortunates on board but to
hold on and wait for the end of the hurricane as they were swept along
swiftly in its course.

Three days before, they had been sailing gently within sight of the
towering volcanoes of Java.  Now, as Mr Rimmer, the chief mate, said,
they were "anywhere," the wind having veered round as if blowing in a
vast circle, and all government of the brig being pretty well at an end.

Matters had been bad enough while it was daylight.  When darkness came
on the little hope which had remained was pretty well quenched; and
Oliver Lane began to think of the home in England that he might never
see again, and of how different the reality of the expedition was from
all that he had pictured in his rather vivid imagination.

When the trip was planned, and he obtained permission to join it through
the influence of his father, a famous naturalist, he saw himself sailing
amid glorious islands, with gorgeous tropical foliage hanging over seas
of intense blue, glittering like precious stones in the burning
sunshine; coral reefs seen through transparent water with their groves
of wondrous seaweeds, and fish of brilliant tints flashing their scale
armour as they swam here and there.  Then, too, his thoughts had run
riot over the shore trips among lands where the birds were dazzling in
colour, and the insects painted by nature's hand with hues impossible to
describe; but, instead of these delights to one of eager temperament,
they had encountered this fearful storm.  The captain and man after man
had been disabled, and for the rest as they tore onward through the
spray, mist and darkness, grim death seemed to be just ahead, for a
touch upon one of the many reefs which studded those seas meant instant
destruction, since no boat could have been lowered to live.

"Never say die," shouted Ezra Rimmer, the mate, in his ear.  "We may
ride it out."

Oliver Lane made no reply.  He was half stunned by the deafening roar,
and his mind after the many hours of suffering had grown confused; but
as the last comer twisted a line about his waist and secured it to the
belaying-pins close at hand, the mate went on shouting a few words from
time to time as he tried to make out their unfortunate companions.

"These storms end suddenly," he shouted.  "Don't understand 'em--
electricity or something to do with the volcanoes.  Keep a stout heart,
sir.  If we do have to die, I don't think it will be very bad.  Hold
tight whatever you do.  As aforesaid, `Never say die.'"

Oliver Lane turned his head to him and tried to make out the expression
on the face of a man who could speak so coolly about death.  But it was
too dark, and turning back to the companion who had joined them, he
reached his arm farther round the shroud he was clinging to and touched

The young man raised his drooping head.

"Where's Drew?" shouted Oliver Lane; but the wind bore away his words,
and he yelled out his question again.

"Cabin!" came back in a temporary cessation of the turmoil of roaring
wind, hissing spray, and creaking and groaning of the vessel's timbers.

Oliver Lane tried to ask another question, but the wind caught him full
in the face with such force that for a few moments he could only gasp
and try to recover his breath, while directly after the vessel gave so
tremendous a pitch and roll, he was jerked from his footing and hung by
his hands with the sensation of having his arms jerked from their

But the young Englishman had been engaged in similar struggles for
hours, and recovering himself he shouted, "Panton?"


"Is Drew hurt?"

"Yes.  So am I."

"So we are all, Mr Panton," yelled the mate.  "If we get through this
we shall all be covered with bruises, let alone broken ribs and other
bones--Yah!--Hold on."

The advice was not needed, for the two young men with him had suddenly
seen something grey loom up in front, and taught by experience that it
was a mass of foaming water, they clung for dear life, sheltering
themselves as well as they could beneath the bulwark as the wave curled
over and thundered along the deck with a hideous crashing din that
literally stunned them.  When it had passed over Oliver Lane shook his
head and tried with his smarting eyes to get rid of the water and make
out whether his companions were safe.

To his horror Arthur Panton was hanging from the belaying pin to which
he had lashed himself, with his head down and his hands close to his
feet, apparently lifeless, while the mate was gone.

It is good medicine for the mind to see others in peril, for it rouses
to action the best feelings in our nature and subdues the love of self.

In an instant Oliver had forgotten his own sufferings, and, holding on
by one hand, he tried to raise his companion to his old position, but
for a few moments in vain.  Then the reaction came, and the young man
made a brave effort to assist, and soon after he was upright and
clinging with his arms over the bulwark, gasping heavily to recover his

Oliver Lane's next movement was to help the mate, whom he could dimly
see lying across the deck half buried and wedged in amongst ropes,
gratings, and the smashed-up wreck of one of the boats, which had been
torn from the davits by the weight of the water.

He had to crawl to him, and then dragged away a great tangle of rope and
several pieces of broken woodwork before the mate moved.  Then he began
to struggle, dragged himself out by the help of Oliver Lane's hands, and
crawled back with him to the side, where he crouched down under the

"Nice lark this, sir," he groaned.

"Much hurt?" shouted Oliver Lane.

"Tidy," came back.  "Don't know yet, sir.  Hah!  Don't think I could
stand much more of it, nor the old _Planet_, neither."

These words were uttered during a temporary lull.  Then the wind came
along with a fiercer rush than ever, bearing with it a perfect deluge of
spray in great stinging, blinding drops torn from the surface of the
waves, and forcing all on board to shelter their faces from its

There was no more possibility of making one another heard for the
furious blast.  Every nerve and muscle had to be devoted to the task of
holding on, and in this way hour after hour of that awful night slowly
passed away till one and all of the crew strained their eyes, though
vainly, for the coming of the day.

"At last!" shouted the mate.

Oliver Lane looked up in his direction, so thoroughly exhausted and weak
that he could not comprehend the meaning of his companion's words.  Then
by slow degrees he began to realise that the wind was falling fast,
though the vessel was labouring as much as ever.

Then he managed to grasp the fact that it was some time since the deck
had been flooded by a wave, and with a faint gleam of hope crossing the
darkness which had enshrouded them, he said with an effort--

"Lulling a little?"

"Lulling?" cried the mate.  "You couldn't have talked to me like that a
couple of hours ago."

"Then we have escaped?"

"I don't know yet.  All that I know is that we are getting through the
storm, and the sooner it is daylight the better I shall be pleased."

Some hours passed.  The wind had died out and the sea was rapidly going
down, but a strange feeling of uneasiness had come upon the occupants of
the little vessel.  Visit after visit had been paid to the cabins, and
the watches which had been consulted and doubted were now acknowledged
to be trusty and truth-telling, for the chronometers supported their
evidence and announced that it was well on toward noon of the next day.
Though to all appearance it was midnight of the blackest, dense clouds
shutting out the sky, while the long-continued darkness had a singularly
depressing effect upon men worn out by their struggle with the storm.

Arthur Panton, the mineralogist of the little expedition, had pretty
well recovered from the battering he had received, and he at once gave
his opinion as to the cause of the darkness.

"I cannot speak learnedly upon the subject," he said, "but these
terrible storms, as Mr Rimmer says, do appear to be somehow connected
with electric disturbances, and often enough these latter seem to be
related to volcanic eruptions."

"And you think there is a volcanic eruption somewhere near?" asked Lane.

"I do not say somewhere near, for the wind may have brought this dense
blackness from hundreds of miles distant but certainly I should say that
one of the many volcanoes in this region is in eruption."

"If it were, sir, we should be having fine ashes coming down upon us,"
said the mate, gruffly, "and--"

"What's that?" cried Panton, holding up his hand.

"Thunder," said the mate, as a deep, apparently distant concussion was

"No, the explosion from some crater," said Panton.  "Hark!"

Another deep muttering report was heard, and soon after another and

"Only a bad thunderstorm," cried the mate.  "There, let's go and get
some food, gentlemen, and see how our friends are.  I daresay we shall
be having a deluge of rain before long, and then the sun will come out
and I can take an observation."

He led the way to the cabin, where the steward had prepared a meal and
retrimmed the lamps, going about with a scared look on his countenance,
and turning his eyes appealingly from one to the other as the
thunderlike reports kept on; but, getting no sympathy from those to whom
he appealed silently, for they were as nervous as himself, he sought his
opportunity and, following Oliver Lane into a corner, he began,--

"Oh, sir, the destruction's awful."

"But the ship is sound yet, and making no water."

"I mean my china and glass, sir," said the man, "I shan't have a whole
thing left."

"Never mind that if our lives are saved."

"No, sir, I don't; but will they be saved?"

"Oh, yes, I hope so."

"But it's so dark, sir.  Oh, why did I leave London with its safety and
its gas?  Why am I here, sir?  I want to know why I am here?"

"Because you were not a coward," said Lane.

"Eh?  You're not joking me, sir."

"No, I am serious."

"Then thank you, sir.  You're quite right.  That's it, I'm not a coward,
and I won't say another word."

The man nodded and smiled and went about his work, while Lane turned to
a young man of seven or eight and twenty, who sat evidently suffering
and looking pale and strange in the sickly light.

"I say, Lane," he said, "is this the end of the world?"

"Not to-day, Mr Drew," cried the mate: "Is no end to the world, it's

"To-day!  It's noon, and as black as night."

"Mr Rimmer thinks we are going to have a tremendous rain storm now,"
said Oliver Lane, wincing with pain as he sat down.

"Then it is going to be a rain of black ink."

"Oh, no, sir, heavy thunderstorm and then the light will come.  The
clouds look almost solid."

"But surely that cannot be thunder," cried Oliver Lane, excitedly.

"No need to, sir," said the mate, smiling.  "It makes itself heard
plainly enough.  By George!"

He sprang from the table and hurried out on deck, for a roar like that
of some terrific explosion close at hand was heard, and Lane and Panton
followed, expecting to see the lurid light of a fire or the flash of
lightning forerunning the next roar.

But all was blacker than ever, and the sailing lights and a ship's
lantern or two swung to and fro as the vessel rose and fell on the
unquiet sea.

"What do you make of it, Smith?" cried the mate to one of the watch.

"Can't make nothing on it at all, sir," said the man, taking off his cap
and scratching his head, while his face, like those of his companions'
had a peculiar scared aspect.  "'Tar'nt like a thunderstorm, cause there
ar'n't a drop o' lightning."

"_Bit_, matey," said one of the man's comrades.

"Get out," growled the first man, "how can it be a bit, Billy Wriggs,
when yer can't touch it?  I said a drop and I mean it."

"Don't argue," said the mate, sharply.  "Do you mean to say, all of you,
that you saw no flash?"

"Not a sign o' none, sir," said the first man.  "There?"

Another fearful detonation came with startling violence to their ears,
and as they stood upon the deck the report seemed to jar them all in a
dull, heavy way.

"Warn't no flash o' lightning there, sir."

"No, I saw no flash," said Oliver Lane, uneasily.

"No, there aren't been none, sir.  Lightning allus flickers and blinks
like, 'fore you hear any thunder at all."

"These dense black clouds might hide the flashes," said Lane.

"No," said Panton.  "I should say that a flash of lightning would pass
through any cloud.  I don't think it's thunder."

"What, then, a naval action going on?"

"No war," said the mate, "it must be thunder."

Another detonation, louder than any they had heard before, made the ship
literally quiver, and the men pressed together and turned their startled
faces towards the mate as if for help and protection.

"World's coming to a hend," muttered one of the men.

"If I was skipper here," said another, "I'd just 'bout ship and run for

"Where to?" said Wriggs.

"Can't run your ship out o' the world, matey," grumbled the first sailor
who had spoken, while the mate and the cabin passengers stood gazing in
the direction from which the detonations seemed to come, and tried to
pierce the dense blackness ahead.  "Sims to me as there's something
wrong in the works somewhere.  I never see anything like this afore."

"Nor you can't see nothing like it behind, matey," said Wriggs.  "It's
like playing at Blind Man's Buff shut up in a water tank."

Another awful roar, ten times as deafening as that of the loudest peal
of thunder, now struck them heavily--short, quick--sudden, but there was
no echoing reverberation or rolling sound as with thunder, and now
convinced that it could not be the effects of a thunderstorm, the mate
turned to his companion, and said,--

"It's a big volcano hard at it somewhere, gentlemen, and these are not
rain clouds shutting us in, but smoke."

"But what volcano can it be?" said Lane, as a peculiar nervous tremor
attacked him.

"You tell me whereabouts we are, and I'll tell you what burning mountain
that is.  If you can't tell me, I can't tell you.  Wait till the clouds
open, and I'll get an observation.  First thing, though, is to make sail
and get away."

He knew the folly of his remark as he spoke, for the wind had completely
dropped now, and it was noted as strange that no rush of air came after
each explosion.  There was the heavy concussion and then a terrible
stillness, the air being perfectly motionless, and this appearing the
more strange after the frightful tornado through which they had passed.
Silence absolute, and a darkness as thick as that of the great plague of
Egypt--a darkness that could be felt.  And now, making no headway
whatever, the vessel rolled heavily in the tossing waves, which boiled
round them as it were, as if there were some violent disturbance going
on far beneath the keel.

"I never see nought like this," whispered the first sailor Smith, as if
he were afraid of his words being heard.  "Ship's going it like a
dumpling in a pot."

"And I never felt anything like it, gentlemen," said the mate in a low
awe-stricken tone.  "But we mustn't show any white feathers, eh, Mr
Lane?  Ah, Mr Drew, come to give us your opinion?"

This to the gentleman they had left in the cabin.

"I have come to bring terrible news, Mr Rimmer," said the fresh-comer,
gravely.  "A few minutes after you had left the cabin, Captain White
rose suddenly upon his elbow.  `Fetch Mr Rimmer,' he said; `no: don't
leave me.  He can do no good.  It's all getting dark.  Tell Mr Rimmer
to do his best but I know he will.  Stay with me to the last, Mr Drew.'
I should have run and called for help, but it was all too plain, Mr
Rimmer.  He was dying, and directly after he sank back on his pillow,
gave me one sad look as if to say good-bye, and all was over."

The terrible silence seemed to be more profound at this announcement,
which came like a chill upon the little group already sufficiently

The silence was broken by the mate, who said, softly,--

"God be merciful to him, and take him unto His rest!  We've lost a good
captain, gentlemen, and I a very faithful old friend."

Another deafening roar came from ahead.  Away to the east it appeared to
be one minute--to the west, south, north, the next, for the needle of
the compass was all on the quiver, and appeared as if it followed a
wandering magnetic attraction in the air.

Silence again, all but the hissing and splashing of the troubled sea,
and the creaking of the beams as the brig rolled slowly from side to

The crew were all grouped together close by the mate, who had succeeded
to the command of the little vessel, and as he stood there gazing over
the side, thoughtfully, the three young men glanced at each other, and
then at the man who had their lives in charge.

At last the mate turned, and the light of one of the lanterns shone full
upon his haggard countenance.

"There's no doubt about it, gentlemen," he said, "we're near some
volcano in a terrible state of eruption, and there is nothing to be done
but wait.  I am perfectly helpless till we get light and a breath of
air.  Ah, here's a change.  There's no doubt now.  I was wrong; we have
got something to do."

For as he spoke the thick darkness suddenly became blacker; inasmuch as
before it was all overhead, now it appeared to have gradually settled
down upon the sea and obscured the light of the lanterns.  For plainly
enough there was the convincing proof of their being in the
neighbourhood of some volcanic disturbance in the mighty band which runs
through the Eastern Archipelago.  The air became suddenly full of a
thick, fine ash falling softly upon the deck, and to such an extent that
the gangways were thrown open and the crew were set to work to sweep the
powder off into the sea.

Here too, a strange effect was produced, for the ship gradually began to
roll less violently, the soft fine ash which fell being sufficiently
buoyant to float, and it became so thick that the rough waters were
quieted, and the surface was rapidly covered with a thick coating of
floating ash.

At first this dust settled softly down upon the deck, then it came down
more thickly, lodging on the yards and sails, every rope and stay, too,
taking its load till it was filled up so that it could bear no more, end
consequently every now and then avalanches of ash were started from on
high and came down with a soft rush and a heavy thud upon the deck.

This rapidly accumulated, and the men had to work harder and harder
shovelling it to the gangways where others threw it overboard, where it
fell silently and without a splash.

"Work away, everyone," cried the mate.  "It will soon be all down, and
then we shall get light."

But the fearsome detonations continued, and it was evident that at every
discharge fresh clouds of the volcanic dust were formed, and the
darkness remained as profound as ever.

"This can't go on," said Oliver Lane, in a husky whisper to his nearest
companion as they both paused breathless, dropping with perspiration,
choked, and blinded by the volcanic dust.

"I hope not," was the reply.  "It seems to fall more quickly than we
shovel it off."

"What's that?" cried Lane excitedly, and a low murmur full of horror and
despair, arose from the ship as men threw down shovel and broom and made
for the boats, for following close upon another of the awful explosions
there was a sudden rushing noise, evidently in the opposite direction,
and the vessel quivered from stem to stern as if it had suddenly, and
without warning, struck upon a rock.

So startling was the concussion that the immediate conclusion was that
she was going down, and it was not until a couple of similar concussions
had been suffered that it was realised that the blows were shocks
communicated through the water, which was once more in a fearful state
of disturbance.

"We're in for it now, gentlemen," said the mate, in awe-stricken tones.
"Look out!" he roared, directly after.

"Hold on everyone, rope and stays."

His words were hardly heard, for there was once more a deafening roar
apparently somewhere ahead, and almost simultaneously a heavy sea struck
them astern, making the vessel heel over as the wave swept the deck, and
as she recovered herself another and another deluged her, and for the
moment it seemed as if she must sink.

But the buoyant vessel rose again as the falling ashes were succeeded by
cinders which came rattling and crashing down, literally bombarding the
deck, while to add to the horror the black darkness began to give place
to a blood-red lurid glare.  Toward this they were now being drawn,
slowly at first, then faster and faster: as, after the three waves that
had struck the vessel, another came towering on astern, threatening to
engulf them, but plunging beneath the stern, lifting and bearing them
along upon its tremendous crest with a rush and deafening hissing roar.
Faster and faster, and on and toward the deep glow now right ahead.

Oliver Lane was clinging to the fore shrouds and awake to the fact that
his two friends, Panton and Drew, were at his side, for their faces
loomed out of the black darkness, lit up by the blood-red glow from
which now came a perceptible sense of heat.  The next moment they were
joined by the mate, who yelled to them, his voice plainly heard over the
hiss and roar,--

"Earthquake wave!  It's all over now."

He said no more, and they all clung there, with the vessel still
balanced accurately upon the huge crest and borne on at almost express

In his agony of despair and horror Lane now glanced to right and left to
see by the blood-red glow the rolling hill of water upon which he rode
spreading out to right and left, while from the clouds above it was as
if the whole of the firmament were casting down its stars in one great
shower of light as the fiery stones came rushing, hissing into the sea
and many of them crashing upon the doomed ship.

Death was upon them in its most awful form, and as the young man was
conscious of two hands gripping his arms, a voice close to his ear

"The end of all things, my lad; we can never live through this!"



As if to endorse these words there was once more a deafening explosion,
the blood-red glow toward which they were being driven suddenly flashed
out into a burst of light so dazzling that all present covered their
blinded eyes; a spurt of fiery blocks of incandescent stone curved over
and fell into the boiling sea, and as the occupants of the deck were
driven prostrate by the shock which followed, silence and darkness once
more reigned.

"Much hurt, sir?"

Oliver Lane heard those words quite plainly, and lay wondering who it
was that was hurt, and why he did not answer so kindly an inquiry.

Then, as a hand was laid upon his shoulder, he grasped the fact that it
was the mate who was speaking, and that he was the object of the
sailor's solicitude.

"I--I don't know," he said, making an effort to sit up, and succeeding.
"Whatever is the matter?  My head aches a good deal."

"No wonder, my lad, seeing how you were pitched against the mast.  But
you won't hurt now.  I doctored it as well as I could.  It bled pretty
freely, and that will keep the wound wholesome."

"Bled?" said the young fellow wonderingly, as he raised his hand, and
found that a thick bandage was round his forehead.

"Yes; we were all thrown down when she struck, but you got the worst of

"She struck?--the ship?  Then we have all been wrecked?"

"Well, yes," said the mate, giving his head a vicious kind of rub; "I
suppose we must call it a wreck.  Anyhow, we're ashore."

"And it isn't so dark?" said Oliver, rising to his feet and feeling so
giddy that he caught at the nearest rope to save himself from falling.

"No, it isn't so dark, for the clouds are passing away.  We shall have
daylight directly."


"No; it's quite late to-morrow afternoon," said the mate grimly.

"But I don't hear that thundering now?"

"No; it's all over seemingly, thank goodness," said the mate, as his
injured companion looked wonderingly up at the thick, blackened clouds
still hanging overhead, and listened quite expectant for the next
terrible detonation.  "I began to think we were going to be carried
along full speed into some awful fiery hole on the top of that wave, and
that when we struck the water was going on to put out the fire, and I
suppose it did."

"What?" cried Lane, looking round him, and then at the mate, to see if
he were in his right senses.

"Yes, you may look, Mr Lane," he said.  "I'm all right, only a bit
scared; I know what I'm saying, and as soon as it get's light enough
you'll see."

"But I don't understand."

"No, nor anybody else, sir, but Nature, who's been having a regular turn
up.  I s'pose you know that we were in for a great eruption?"

"Yes, of course."

"And somehow mixed up with the storm, there was an earthquake?"

"No, I did not grasp that, only that we were being carried toward a
burning mountain; but I don't see any glow from the volcano now."

"No; it's all out, and I ought to have said a sea-quake.  It seems to me
it was like this: a great place opened somewhere, out of which the flame
and smoke and thunderings came, till it had half spent its strength, and
then the sea mastered it, and ran into the great hole and put out the
fire, but it took all the sea to do it."

"I say, Mr Rimmer," exclaimed Oliver Lane, staring hard at the mate,
"did you get a heavy blow on the head when we came ashore?"

"No; I had all my trouble before the shock came that sent you down, I
mean when we struck I'm as clear as a bell now, sir, and know what I'm

"But the sea--I don't hear any waves now.  There are no breakers, the
deck is not flooded, and yet you say we are ashore?"

"You can't see any breakers, and they can't," said the mate, pointing to
a group dimly seen through the gloom clustered together and looking over
the vessel's side, "because it's as I tell you, the earth opened with
that eruption, and the seas all ran down the hole."

"Mr Rimmer!"

"That's right, sir.  We're ashore, but it's on the bottom of the sea."

"Nonsense!" cried Oliver Lane.

"Oh, very well, look over the side, then.  Where's the water?  I've been
looking and listening, and there isn't a drop to be heard; it's too dark
to see anything yet.  Now, listen again."

"I can hear nothing," said Oliver.

"No, not a splash, and the great volcano is put out.  That isn't smoke
which makes it so dark, but steam rising from the big hole in the

"Oh, impossible!" cried Lane.

"All right, sir, then make it possible by explaining it some other way.
But, as far as I can make out, our voyage is over, and we've got to walk
all the way home, and carry our traps."

"Wait till it gets light," said Lane confidently, "and you'll see that
you are wrong.  Who's that, Drew?"

"Yes.  Are you better?"

"Oh, yes, only a little giddy.  Where's Panton?"

"Over yonder.  I say, what do you think of this?  Isn't it awful!  You
know we are ashore."

"Mr Rimmer says we're on the bottom of the sea, with all the water run

"Well, it does seem like it, but that's impossible, of course.  We're
not in a lake."

"I don't know where we are gentlemen," said the mate, "only that I feel
like a fish out of water, and I'm quite in the dark."

"Wherever we are," said Drew, "we have been in the midst of an awful
natural convulsion, and if we can escape with life, I shall feel glad to
have been a witness of such a scene."

"I'm thinking about our poor ship, sir," said the mate.  "She's of more
consequence to me than Nature in convulsions.  Oh, if these clouds would
only rise and the light come so that we could see!"

"It is coming," cried Lane.  "It is certainly clearer over yonder.  How
still everything is!"


A long-drawn, piercing, and harsh cry from a distance.

"What's that?" cried Drew.

"Fish," said the mate, drily.  "Found there's no more water, and it's
going to die."

"Mr Rimmer," cried Lane, "what nonsense!"

"Nonsense?  Why, I've many a time heard fish sing out when they've been
dragged on board."

"That was a bird," said Lane, as he shaded his eyes to try and pierce
the gloom around them.  "There it goes again."

For the cry was repeated, and then answered from behind them, and
followed directly after by a piping whistle and a chirp.

"We're ashore with birds all about us," said Oliver Lane decisively.  We
were carried right in by that earthquake wave, and the water has retired
and left us stranded.

"Have it your own way, gentlemen," said the mate.  "It's all the same to
me whether my ship's left stranded at the bottom of a dry sea or right
away on land.  She's no use now--that's plain enough."

Just then the darkness closed in again, and save for the murmur of
voices in the obscurity, the stillness was terrible.  So utterly dark
did it become that anything a yard away was quite invisible, and once
more, suffering one and all from a sensation of dread against which it
was impossible to fight, the occupants of the deck stood waiting to
encounter whatever was next to come.

Oliver Lane was at the age when a youth begins to feel that he is about
to step into a fresh arena--that of manhood, but with a good deal that
is boyish to hold him back.  And in those moments, oppressed and
overcome as he was by the long-continued darkness, he felt a strong
disposition to search out a hand so as to cling to whoever was nearest,
but he mastered the desire, and then uttered a sigh of satisfaction, for
Drew, his companion, suddenly thrust a hand beneath his arm and pressed
towards him.

"Company's good," he whispered, "even if you're going to be hanged, they
say; let's keep together, Lane, for I'm not ashamed to say I'm in a
regular stew."

"So's everybody," said the mate frankly.  "I've been through a good deal
at sea, gentlemen, but this is about the most awful thing I ever did
encounter.  I wouldn't care if we were only able to see what was to
happen next."

A cheer broke out from the crew at that moment, for right overhead the
blackness opened, and a clear, bright ray of light shot down upon the
deck, quivered, faded, shot out again, and then rapidly grew broader and

"Blue sky!" yelled one of the sailors frantically as a patch appeared;
and in his intense excitement he dashed off into the rapid steps of a

"Bravo, my lads!" cried the mate, who was as excited as the men.  "Cheer
again.  Three cheers for the bit of blue!"

The men shouted till they were hoarse, paused, and then cheered again,
while Panton turned now to where his friends were standing with the
mate, and with the tears welling in his eyes, began to shake hands with
first one and then another, all reciprocating and beginning in their
hysterical delight to repeat the performance double-handed now, as the
light grew broader and clearer.  A soft, warm mellow glow, which grew
and grew till the huge dense steam clouds were seen to be rolling slowly
away in three directions, in the fourth--the north evidently, from the
direction of the golden rays of light--there was one vast bank of
vapour, at first black, then purple, and by degrees growing brighter,
till the men burst forth cheering wildly again at the mass of splendour
before them.  For far as eye could reach all was purple, orange, gold
and crimson of the most dazzling sheen, then darkness once more; for the
sun, of which they had a momentary glimpse, was blotted out by the
rolling masses of cloud which were floating away.

But it was the darkness of an evening in the tropics.  The light had
been, and sent hope and rest into their breasts, giving them the
knowledge of their position as they lay stranded upon an open plain with
the terrible convulsion of nature apparently at an end.



"One must eat and one must sleep," said Oliver Lane, "even if a fellow
has been knocked on the head and nearly killed."

Every one was of the same opinion; but though there were a few attempts
at jocularity, the mirth was forced, and all knew that they were trying
to hide the deep feelings of thankfulness in their hearts for their
safety, after passing through as terrible an ordeal as could fall to the
lot of man.

There was another reason, too, for the solemnity which soon prevailed;
the captain lay dead in the cabin--the man who not many hours before was
in full possession of health, and now sleeping calmly there, beyond
sharing the hopes and fears of those whom he had left behind.
Consequently, men went to and fro as if afraid of their steps being
heard, and for the most part conversed in whispers for some time, till
the question arose about keeping watch.

"There's only one thing to keep a watch for to-night," said the mate to

"If there are savages here, would they not have been drowned, Mr

"Perhaps--or burned to death.  Then there's nothing to watch for."

"Not for the wave that may come and carry us back to sea?"

"No; that would be too long a watch, sir.  Such an eruption as we have
encountered only comes once in a man's lifetime.  I'm in command now,
and I shall let every poor fellow have ten or a dozen hours' good sleep,
and I am so utterly done up that I shall take the same amount myself."

The consequence was that all through that natural darkness of night dead
silence reigned.

But not for ten or a dozen hours.  Before eight of them were passed,
Oliver Lane was awake and on deck, eager and excited with all a
naturalist's love of the wild world, to see what their novel
surroundings would be like.

The sun was shining brilliantly; low down in the east the sky was
golden, and as he raised his head above the hatchway, it was to gaze
over the bulwarks at a glorious vista of green waving trees, on many of
which were masses of scarlet and yellow blossom; birds were flying in
flocks, screaming and shrieking; while from the trees came melodious
pipings, and the trills of finches, mingled with deep-toned, organ-like
notes, and the listener felt his heart swell with thankfulness, and a
mist came before his eyes, as he felt how gloriously beautiful the world
seemed, after the black darkness and horrors through which he had

Then everything was matter-of-fact and ordinary again, for a voice
said,--"Hullo! you up?  Thought I was first."

"You, Drew?  I say, look here."  Sylvester Drew, botanist of the little
expedition, shaded his eyes from the horizontal sunbeams, and looked
round over the hatchway as he stood beside his companion, and kept on
uttering disconnected words,--"Beautiful--grand--Paradise--thank God!"
By one impulse they stepped on deck and went to the bulwarks, to stand
there and look around, astounded at the change.

From where they had obtained their first glimpse of their surroundings
they only saw the higher ground; now they were looking upon the level--a
scene of devastation.

For they were both gazing upon the track of the earthquake wave, and all
around them trees were lying torn-up by the roots, battered and stripped
of their leafage, some piled in inextricable confusion, others half
buried in mud.  Some again had soft white coral sand heaped over them.
Here, the surface had been swept bare to the dark rock which formed the
base of the island or continent upon which they had been cast; there,
mud lay in slimy waves, some of which were being disturbed at the
surface by something living writhing its way through the liquid soil.

"Might have given a fellow a call," said a voice, and Panton came up to
them.  "You fellows are as bad as schoolboys; must have first turn."

"Never thought of calling you," said Drew.

"Not surprised at you," said Panton to Oliver Lane, "you are only a
schoolboy yet; but you might have called me, Drew."

"Don't take any notice, Oliver, lad," said Drew.  "Panton always goes
badly till he has been oiled by his breakfast."

"My word!" cried Panton, as he grasped the scene around them.  "Look
here, Drew!  Look at the earth bared to its very bones.  Volcanic.  Look
at the tufa.  That's basalt there, and look where the great blocks of
coral are lying.  Why, they must have been swept in by the wave."

"Don't bother," said Drew.  "I want to make out what those trees are in
blossom.  They must be--"

"Oh, bother your trees and flowers!  Here, Oliver, lad, look at the
great pieces of scoria and pumice.  Why, that piece is smoking still.
These must be some of the fragments we saw falling yesterday."

"Can't look," said Oliver, "I want to know what those birds are, and
there's a great fish in that muddy pool yonder, and, if I'm not greatly
mistaken, that's a snake.  Here, quick!  Look amongst those trees.
There's a man--no, a boy--no.  I see now; it's alive, and--yes--it's
some kind of ape."

"Well, we can't go on fighting against each other, with every man for
his own particular subject," said Drew, "we must take our turns.  We've
been cast on a perfect naturalist's paradise, with the world turned
upside down, as if for our special advantage."

"Yes," said Panton; "we could not possibly have hit upon a place more
full of tempting objects."

"But what about our exploration in New Guinea?" said Oliver.

"This may be the western end of that island," said Panton.  "But where's
the volcano that has caused all this mischief?"

"Yonder," said Oliver, pointing, "behind the cloud."

The others looked at a dense curtain of mist which rose from the earth,
apparently to the skies, and hid everything in that quarter, the
desolation extending apparently for a couple of miles in the direction
of the curtain, beyond that the ground rose in a glorious slope of
uninjured verdure, and then came the great cloud of mist or smoke
shutting off the mountain, or whatever was beyond.

"But where is the sea?" said Oliver.

"All run down through a big hole into the earth, I say," said a deep
voice.  "Well, gentlemen, how are you?"

"Ah, Mr Rimmer, good morning," cried Oliver, shaking hands.  "How are
your hurts?"

"Oh, better my lad, and yours?"

"Only a bit stiff and achy.  But who's to think of injuries in such a
glorious place?"

"Glorious!" said the mate, screwing up his face.  "Look about you.
Everything's destroyed."

"Oh, yes," said Drew; "but in a month it will be all green again and as
beautiful as ever!"

"Except my poor brig," said the mate.  "Why, she's regularly planted
here in the mud and sand, and, unless she strikes root and grows young
vessels, she's done for."

"But where is the sea?" cried Oliver.

The mate looked round him and then pointed south-west.

"Yonder, if there is any," he said.

"How do you know?"

"Trees all standing in the other direction, and yes, there are others
out that way," he said, pointing.  "It's plain enough, the wave swept
right across this low level.  You can see how the trunks lie and how the
rocks and the shells have been borne along.  Far as I can make out the
wave has cleared a track about a dozen miles wide.  May be twenty.  Why,
you gentlemen seemed to be quite pleased."

"Why not?" cried Oliver.  "It's grand.  Look at the work cut out for us.
We want all the British Museum staff to help."

"Better have my crew, then, for there's nothing for us to do.  The
brig's fast settled down on an even keel.  I say, Mr Panton, kick me or
pinch me, please."

"What for?"

"Because I must be asleep and all this a dream.  No, it's real enough,"
he said, sadly; "wait till I get a glass."

He went back to the cabin and returned directly with a telescope.

"I'll go up to the main-top," he said, "and have a look round."

The three naturalists were too much taken up by the endless objects of
interest spread around them to pay much heed to his words, so that he
had mounted to the main-top and then to the topgallant masthead before
his words took their attention again, just too, as plainly enough they
could make a huge animal of the crocodile kind slowly crawling along the
edge of a pool about a quarter of a mile away.

"Here you are, gentlemen," the mate shouted.

"Yes, what is it?" cried Oliver, in answer to his hail.

"You can trace it all from here with the glass.  There is some sea

"So I suppose," said Panton drily.

"Lies about four miles away to the east-'ard, and the land's swept right
up to us, and then away north-west for a dozen miles, I should say, to
the sea on that side."

"Can you make out the mountain?"

"No; there's nothing but cloud to the norrard.  I expect it's there, and
not very far away."

"And how far-off is the nearest sea?" asked Oliver.

"'Bout four miles."

"And what do you make this out to be--an island?"

"Can't say, sir.  Island or peninsula.  Can't be mainland.  But I shall
be able to settle that before long."

He reached the deck just as the men were coming up from the forecastle,
and they were soon at work swabbing the planks, squaring yards, shaking
out the sails to dry, and getting the vessel in order just as if she
were at sea, while the cook and steward attended to their work as coolly
as if nothing had happened.

At mid-day the mate had taken his observations and marked down their
position on the chart just where the map showed a broad blank in the
Arafura Sea.

"But are you right?" said Oliver, as he followed the mate's pointing

"As right as my knowledge of navigation will let me be, sir," said the
mate quietly.  "That's where we are."

"But where is that?"

"Just nowhere, sir."


"We're very cunning, sir, and think we know the whole world and
everything there is; but now and then we find out that we are not so
clever as we thought, and that there is just a little more to learn.  I
said that we were nowhere just now, which isn't quite correct, because
we are here; but it strikes me that we're in a spot where no civilised
vessel ever was before."

"What, right on shore?" said Oliver, smiling.

"No, sir, I didn't mean that.  I meant no vessel ever touched here
before, or it would have been marked down in the chart.  Savages have
been, perhaps.  Maybe they're here still, but they have been frightened
into their holes by the eruption."

Oliver looked out of the open cabin window as if expecting to see a
party of the people coming, but he only made out something living in one
of the pools left by the flood wave.

"I'm very sorry, gentlemen, the captain and I undertook to cruise with
you along the New Guinea coast; but man proposes and--you know the rest.
Here we shall have to stay till some vessel comes in sight to take us
off, and to that end I propose that to-morrow morning we begin to make
expeditions to the coast, and set up a spar here and there with a bit of
bunting showing for a signal of distress."

"No, don't--that is--not yet," said Oliver, excitedly.  "No place that
you could have found would have equalled this."

"If we have no more eruptions," said Drew.

"And earthquake waves," added Panton.

"I think we have been most fortunate," cried Oliver.

"Oh, well, if you're satisfied, gentlemen," said the mate, "I'm sure I
am.  You mean to begin looking for your bits of stone and butterflies
then, here?"

"Of course," cried Oliver; "and we can live on board just as if we were
at sea."

"Oh, yes," said the mate drily; "and you'll always be able to find the
brig.  She won't stir just yet, and there's no need to lower down an
anchor.  Very well, then, gentlemen, so be it; and now, if you please,
we'll go down and make our way across yonder where those trees are
standing, and do our duty by our poor dead friend."

Silence fell upon the group at this, and an hour later the whole of the
crew were standing upon an eminence about a couple of miles from the
ship, where the earthquake wave had passed on, leaving the beautiful
trees and undergrowth uninjured, and save at the edge they had escaped
the storm.

Here in the wonderful solitude, where the sun's rays fell in silver rain
upon the newly turned black earth, the dead captain was laid to take his
long last sleep; and sad, but still lightened in heart, the party
returned to the _Planet_ to talk over their plans for the morrow, when
the first exploration of the unknown land was to commence.

Still weary from the shock and exertions of the past days, bed was
sought in pretty good time, and Oliver Lane lay in his berth close to
the open cabin window for some time in a half dreamy fashion, inhaling
the soft warm air, and fancying now and then that a puff of hot
sulphurous steam was wafted in through the window.  Then he listened to
a dull low singing and murmuring noise, quite plain now in the distance
as if steam was rising from the ground.  Anon came a loud splashing and
wallowing as of some large beast making its way through water, and this
was followed by a series of heavy blows apparently struck on the land or
liquid sand.  Gasping sighs, the smacking of lips, and then again hisses
and noises, which made the listener ask himself whether there could be
dangerous beasts about, and whether it was wise for the mate to have a
couple of stout planks laid from the gangway down to the sand in which
the brig was bedded.

But somehow these things ceased to trouble him.  The noises were
undoubtedly caused by fishes or crocodiles, which would not come on
board, and he dropped off to sleep, and then awoke, as if directly, to
lie staring at the dim cabin lamp against the roof, and wonder what was
the meaning of the heavy feeling of oppression from which he suffered.

"Was it a nightmare?" he asked himself.  Certainly there was something
upon his chest, and it was moving.  He could feel it plainly stirring
all over him, and he was about to give himself a violent wrench when
something passed between his eyes and the cabin lantern--something so
horrible that it froze all his faculties into a state of inaction.  For
he saw distinctly the glistening of burnished scales, and a serpent's
head at the end of an undulating neck, and directly after a forked
flickering tongue touched and played about his face.



"It's only a dream-nightmare; but how horribly real," said Oliver Lane
to himself, as a feeling of resignation came over him, and he lay there
waiting for his imagination to be darkened over by a deeper sleep.

For there was an utter cessation of all sense of fear, and in quite a
philosophical fashion, he began to think of how clear it all was, and
how his mind could occupy mentally the position of a spectator, and look
on at the vivid picture in which his body was playing so important a

"I know how it is," he thought; "I asked myself this afternoon whether
the writhing creatures I saw moving about in the mud were sea-snakes,
and directly after I began looking away among the trees, and wondering
whether there were any big boas among their branches.  One generally can
trace one's dreams."

And all the time the weight upon his chest increased, and the pressure
grew more suffocating, while the serpent's head played about his lips,
touching them from time to time with its moist, cool tongue.

He felt then that, in accordance with all he had read, the monster would
now begin to cover him with what the wild beast showman call "its
serlimer," and then proceed to swallow him slowly, till he lay like a
great knot somewhere down its distended body, while the reptile went to
sleep for a month.

"And that wouldn't do for me," thought Oliver, as he felt quite amused
at the thought.  "I want to be up and doing; so, as all these horrible
nightmare dreams come to an end, and as writers say, just at the most
intense moment--then I awoke, I think I've had enough of this, and that
it's time I did wake up."

At that moment a shudder ran through him, and he turned cold.  A deathly
dank perspiration broke from every pore, and he lay absolutely

He was awake.  He knew it well enough now.  No nightmare could be so
vivid, and in no dream was it possible for him who had it to, as it
were, stand aside from the sufferer, as he had imagined.  Yes, he was
wide awake, and this great reptile had nestled to him for the sake of
heat, after being half drowned by the flood.  For after undulating its
neck for a few moments longer, it lowered its crest, and in place of
seizing him with its widely distending jaws, let its head sink down upon
his throat and then lay as if enjoying the warmth from his body, and
about to settle off to sleep.

What to do?

It was plain enough; so long as he lay perfectly still there was nothing
to fear, for the reptile's visit was neither inimical nor in search of
food.  It had evidently glided up the plank slope and through the
gangway to escape from the chilling wet ground, then made its way into
the cabin and found the young man's berth pleasantly attractive.  But
Oliver felt that the slightest movement on his part might incense the
creature and rouse within it a feeling that it was being attacked and a
desire to crush its aggressor.

He knew well enough how wonderfully rapid the motions of a reptile were,
and that in all probability if he stirred he would the next moment, be
wrapped with lightning speed within its folds, and crushed to death.

The muscular strength of these creatures was, he knew, prodigious; even
an eel of two or three feet long could twine itself up in a knot that
was hard to master, hence a serpent of fifteen or twenty feet in length
would, he felt, crush him in an instant.

Oliver Lane lay sick with horror.  The weight upon his chest grew
unbearable, and the desire to cast it off stronger minute by minute, as
he lay motionless, with his oppressor quite invisible now.

Panton was in the berth above him, Drew upon the other side of the
cabin, and along the beams there were guns and rifles hanging ready for
use, while a faintly heard tread overhead told him that the watch was on
the alert.  But though help and means of defence were so near and ready,
they seemed to be too far-off to avail him much, and hence he still did
not stir.

Twenty or thirty feet he felt the creature must be, and of enormous
thickness.  They could not, then, be upon an isle, he thought, for such
a creature must be an inhabitant of the mainland.  But what could he do,
with the weight increasing now?  He could not possibly bear it much
longer, for the reptile must be far longer than he had first imagined--
forty feet at least.

At last, after vainly hoping that the serpent might grow restless and
leave him, he felt that he must make some effort, and determined to call
to his comrades for help.

But he hesitated, for what would be the consequences?  The monster would
be aroused by the noise and the first movement he made; and if it did
not attack him, it would seize Drew or Panton, who would wake up in
complete ignorance of the danger at hand.  They could not use their guns
there, in the narrow cabin, and the serpent would be master of the

No; he dare not call for them to help him, nor speak till some one came
into the cabin, for in all probability Mr Rimmer was on deck and would
come down soon.

A hundred wild thoughts flocked through Oliver Lane's brain, as he lay
there half-suffocated, and felt how hard it was to have escaped from the
terrible dangers of the volcanic eruption to find his end in the embrace
of a loathsome serpent.

At last his mind was made up to what seemed to be the only way of
escape.  He determined to try and collect his energies, and then, after
drawing a long deep breath, suddenly heave the monster off him on to the
cabin floor.  This he knew--if he were successful--would enrage it, but
at the same time it might make for the companion-way and escape on to
the deck--to attack the watch!

He hesitated at this for a few moments, but self-preservation is the
first law of nature, and the watch would hear the alarm and be able to
ascend the rigging, out of the creature's reach.

"I must do it," thought Oliver, "before I become too weak, for he's
sixty feet long if an inch," and beginning softly to draw in a deep
breath, he felt, to his horror, a slight gliding motion on the part of
the reptile, as if the heaving up were making it uncomfortable.

Oliver Lane lay motionless again, gathering force for his great effort.
His mind was now wonderfully active, and the serpent had grown to fully
a hundred feet long.  Feeling that it was sheer cowardice to be passive,
he was about to make a desperate effort to throw off his incubus, when
there was a shout on deck, answered by Mr Rimmer's voice, evidently in
a great state of excitement, but what was said could not be made out in
the cabin.  In fact, Oliver had his own business to mind, for at the
first sound from the deck the serpent raised its head, and he could see
its tongue quivering and gleaming in the light, and the neck wavering,
while the whole of its great length began to glide over him in different
directions, as if every fold was in motion.

The noise on deck increased; there was the sound of yells and shouts;
then came a crack, as if someone had struck the bulwark a heavy blow,
which was followed by the quick trampling of feet and the mate's voice
giving directions.

By this time the serpent's head had been lowered, and as the movement of
its body increased, Oliver knew that the reptile was gliding down from
the berth on to the cabin floor and to endorse this came the feeling of
the weight passing off from his chest.

"What is it?  What's the matter?" cried Panton, waking up, and, directly
after, Drew asked what was "up."

"Don't know," cried Panton.  "Where's Lane?  Hi!  Lane, old chap, wake
up!  There's something wrong on deck."

He made a movement to swing his legs out on to the floor and Oliver
tried hard to utter a word of warning, but he could not.  His tongue was
tied--the power to speak utterly gone; and he could only lie there,
feeling the last folds of the serpent glide out of his berth as his
friend lowered his bare feet, and then uttered a yell of horror, and
dragged them back again, just as, consequent upon his action, a quick
rustling sound was heard.

"What is it?" cried Drew, excitedly.

"Snake--serpent!" groaned Panton.  "I put my feet right upon its back."

"Ugh!" grunted Drew, drawing back his own feet as the quick rustling
sound went on.  "Look!  There it goes out of the door.  A monster.
Where's Lane?"

"Here!" sighed the young man in a voice which he did not know for his

"Look out!  Big snake!"

"I know it," panted Oliver.  "Woke up--on my chest."

"Here, get a gun, someone," cried Panton; "the brute must be in the
companion-way in ambush."

But no one stirred.

"I say, Lane, can't you reach a gun without getting out of bed?" said
Panton, in a piteous tone of voice.  "They're over on your side."

"Yes; as soon as I can get my breath," replied Oliver.  "I'm rather
giddy and stupid yet."

"I don't know about giddy," grumbled Drew.

"Then you think I am the other thing?" said Oliver, rather huskily.
"All right; but if you had had that great brute upon your chest this
last hour, you would be stupid."

"Oh, I beg your pardon, old fellow!" cried Drew hastily.  "I really
didn't know.  But, I say, what is going on upon deck?"

The answer came at once from Mr Rimmer, who hurried into the cabin.

"Here, gentlemen, for goodness' sake come on deck!" he cried, as he
snatched down a double gun.  "We've got a visitor there."

"Yes, I know--a great serpent," said Oliver.

"Eh!--how did you know?" cried the mate, as he examined the piece to see
if it was loaded.

"Lane has had it in bed with him."

"What!  That's nice!  Look sharp, gentlemen; bring your guns and I can
promise you some nice shooting, though it's rather dark.  The brute has
taken possession of the deck, and we've been hitting at it with
hand-spikes, but every crack only made him wag his tail and hiss at us.
There; hark at them; they must have got him into a corner."

For the shouts and the sound of blows came again, louder than ever.

"There, I'm off; but make haste; and mind how you shoot, for it's rather
dark--only starlight."

The young men hurriedly slipped on their trousers, and each took a
double gun and proceeded to load.

"Swan shot?" suggested Oliver.  "It's a huge brute."

"Never fired at a snake in my life," said Panton; "but I owe this brute
something for scaring me.  Ready?"

"Yes, ready," was the response; and they all stepped up on deck to go
cautiously forward with their pieces at full cock to where the noise and
confusion were still going on.

"Hi!  Look out!" cried Oliver, as they advanced, and, raising his piece,
he fired at something shadowy which he made out by the light of the
stars gliding slowly along beneath the bulwarks.

The gun flashed, and the report was followed by a loud hissing, and a
violent blow, as if some enormous whip had been lashed at the three, who
were thrown to the deck, their legs being swept from under them.

"Hi!--this way," cried the mate from forward.  "We've got him here."

They sprang up and hurried forward, Oliver recharging his piece with a
fresh cartridge as they went, but only in time to hear another report,
for the mate fired, and the men uttered a shout as a more violent
scuffling noise arose.

"That's settled him," cried the mate.  "Here, get the lanterns down;
we'll soon have him out of that.  Big one, isn't he?"

This to Oliver, who looked down at the deck to see, heaving and
throbbing as if there were plenty of life in it still, about seven or
eight feet of the tail part of a great serpent, the rest of the reptile
being down in the forecastle, into which it was making its way when the
mate gave it a shot.

"Yes, the brute!" cried Oliver excitedly.  "It woke me by crawling into
my berth."

"Well, he won't do that again.  Smith had a cut at him with an axe, and
I a shot.  Now, then, lay hold, some of you, and let's haul the beggar

The men hesitated, but the mate ejaculated and seized the tail, which
immediately twitched and threw him off, making everyone laugh.

"Oh, that's nothing," said the mate, taking a fresh grip.  "I know I
gave it a death wound.  Come along, lay hold, you're not afraid of a

Two of the men came up rather unwillingly, and, seizing hold together,
they gave a sharp drag and drew it out, writhing and twining still, and
beating its bleeding head upon the white deck.

"Shall I give it another shot?" cried Oliver excitedly.

"Waste of a good cartridge, sir," said the mate.  "It is nearly dead
now.  Muscular contractions, that's all."

"Ahoy!  Hi!  Look out!"

"Oh, murder!" shouted someone.

"Why didn't you speak sooner, mate?" cried another from where he lay
close up under the bulwarks.  For the wounded serpent had suddenly
lashed out with its tail, and flogged two of the men over with its
violent blows.

"I say, sir," said the first man, "hadn't I better cut his muscular
contractions off with a haxe afore he clears the deck?"

"No, no, Smith, don't do that," cried Oliver, "you would spoil its

"Well, sir, but if he don't, he'll spoil our'n," said the sitting man.

"That's a true word, Billy Wriggs," said Smith, in a grumbling tone, as
he began to rub himself.  "If I'd my way, I'd chuck the beggar

"What's the good o' that, matey, when there arn't no water?  You can't
drown sarpents in dry earth."

"Hi!  Look out!" shouted the men in a chorus, for the reptile began to
beat the deck again, as it twisted and twined and flogged about with its
muscular tail, which quivered and waved here and there, sending the men
flying.  One minute the creature was tied up in a knot, the next gliding
here and there, as if seeking a way to escape.

Gun after gun was raised to give it a shot, but its movements were so
eccentric, that the best marksman would have found it a difficult task
by daylight; there in the shadowy darkness it would have been

No one present had any hesitation about giving the brute a wide berth,
and at the end of a minute or two it uncoiled itself and lay in
undulations, showing its length pretty plainly.

"That was its flurry," said the mate, advancing now, and the men came
down from the shrouds, the top of the galley, and out of the boats where
they had taken refuge; "but perhaps we had better pitch it over the side
till morning."

A low murmur arose from the men.

"What's that?" cried the mate sharply.  "Are you afraid of the thing?"

"Well, sir, not exactly afraid," said Smith respectfully, "only you see
it arn't like handling a rope."


A tremendous shout or rather yell from away aft, and the sailor who had
taken refuge in that direction, now came running forward.

"What's the matter, Wriggs?" cried the mate.

"Seen his ghost, sir," groaned the man, who looked ghastly by the light
of the lanterns.

"What?" cried the mate, as the three naturalists headed the shout of
laughter which rose from the crew.

"Ah, you may laugh," grumbled the man, wiping the perspiration from his
face, "but there it is all twissen up by the wheel and it made a snap at
me as I got close up."

"You're a duffer," roared the mate.  "Look here, my lads, he has seen
the big hawser."

"No, sir," cried Wriggs, striking one hand heavily into the other, as a
burst of laughter arose.  "I see that there sarpent's sperrit twissen up
round the wheel and the binnacle, and if you don't believe me, go and
see.  Ah!  Look out: here it comes."

The man made a dash to get right forward out of the way, but, in his
excitement, tripped over the body of the serpent lying gently heaving
upon the deck, went headlong, yelling in his fear, and rolled over and
over to the side.

But little attention was paid to him, the men thinking of nothing else
but retreating, for from out of the gloom aft, and making a strange
rustling in its serpentine course, a reptile, largely magnified by dread
and the gloom, came gliding towards them with its crest raised about
eight inches from the planks.

For a moment or two, as the men hurried away, the little party from the
cabin stood staring in wonder.

"Run, gentlemen, run," shouted Smith.  "He'll be orfle savage.  T'ain't
a ghost, it's t'other half.  I knowed I cut him in two when I let go
with the haxe."

"I know," cried Oliver, excitedly.

"Yes, sir.  It's t'other half, sir," yelled Smith, who had swung himself
up on one of the stays, where he clung like a monkey.  "Shoot, sir,
shoot, or it'll grow out a noo head and tail and be worse and more
savager than ever."

"Yes," said Oliver to himself, "I'll shoot," and he fired both barrels
of his piece as soon as he had a chance.

The effect was instantaneous.  One moment the monster was writhing
itself into a knot, the next it had rapidly untwined, and was gliding
over the bulwarks, the later part rolling over rapidly, like a huge
piece of cable, dimly seen, as it was carried down by an anchor.

"That's him," cried Smith; "but you didn't kill him, sir, or he wouldn't
have got over the side like that.  It was best half on him.  My: what a

Oliver ran to the side, followed by his friends, but they could see
nothing below in the darkness, only hear the rustling noise of the beast
writhing farther and farther away, the sound ceasing at the end of a
minute, when they turned inboard.

"You didn't kill the other half," said Mr Rimmer, laughing.

"No, I wish I had," cried Oliver.  "That was the beast that startled me.
These things go in pairs, and the one you killed there was the second
one come in search of its mate.  Is it dead?" he continued, giving the
long lithe body of the reptile upon the deck a thrust with his foot.

The answer came from the serpent itself, for it began to glide along
under the bulwarks once more, making now, blindly enough, for the
gangway, and as no one seemed disposed to stop it, the creature
disappeared through the side and down the sloping planks to the earth.

"Look at that!" said Smith to one of his mates, as he lightly dropped on
deck, "young Mr Lane thinks that's another sarpent, but we knows
better, eh, lad?  I chopped that there beggar clean in half, and one bit
went forrard and t'other went aft."

"Yes, that's it," said Billy Wriggs, "and it was the head half as went

"Nay, it was the tail," said Smith.  "This here was the head bit."

"Now, what's the good o' bein' so orbstinit, mate," said Wriggs,
reproachfully.  "Think I don't know?  I tell yer it was the head bit as
went and twissened itsen round the binnacle and wheel, a-lying in wait
for us poor sailors to go there and take our trick, when he meant to
gobble us up.  Don't matter how long a sarpent is, he can't bite you
with his tail end."

"No; but he could sting with it; couldn't he?" said another man.

"Well, yes," said Smith, thoughtfully, "he might do summat o' that sort.
If so be as we finds him lying dead.  But I doubts it.  Them sort o'
beasts, mates, is full o' bad habits, and I shouldn't a bit wonder if
this here critter crawls right away into the woods and lay hisself
neatly together to make a fit, and then waits till it all grows together
again, like graftin'."

"Think so, mate?" said Wriggs.

"Ay, that I do.  Nat'ral hist'ry's the rummiest thing as I knows on, and
that there young Mr Lane, as is a nat'ralist by purfession, knows a
wonderful lot about it.  Talk about conjuring; why, that's nowhere.  I
see him one day take a drop out of a bucket o' water on a slip o' glass
and sets it on the cabin table."

"Why, you don't live in the cabin," growled one of the men.

"Yes, I do, mate, when he asts me to carry him in a bucket o' water, so
now then!  Well, matey, he goes then to a little m'ogany box and he
takes out a tool like a young spy-glass, and sets the slip under it, and
shoves his eye to one end and screws it about a bit, and then he says,
says he, `Now then Smith, would you like a peep into another world?'
`Yes, sir,' I says, `I should.'  `Then just clap yer hye here,' he says,
and I did, and there you could see right into a big sea, with a whacking
great brute lying in the bottom, like a sugar hogshead, with a lot o'
borcome structures got their heads in, and their long tails all waving
about outside.  He said it was a fusorior or something o' that kind, and
all in that drop o' water, as looked as clear as cryschal when he took
it out o' the bucket.  Ah, he can show you something, he can."

"I know," said Billy Wriggs, "it was a mykreescope."

"Dessay it was," said Smith.  "It might ha' been anything.  It's
wonderful what there is in nat're, my lads.  Pity though as a man's
hands and legs and arms don't grow again, as some things does."

"Tchah!  They don't," said Billy Wriggs.

"What?  Why, they do, lots of 'em.  Don't lobsters' claws grow again,
and lizards tails, and starfishes arms?  What yer got to say to that?
Mr Lane tells me that there's some kinds o' worms as when you cuts
their heads off they grows again, and their tails too.  There we are,
though--to-morrow morning."

The man was right, for day was breaking, and, after the manner of the
tropics, where there is scarcely any dawn, the sun soon rose to light up
the desolation around the ship, where the earthquake wave had swept
along, piling up sand and rock with heaps formed of torn-up trees, lying
near the pools of water which remained in the depressions of the sand.

"Swabs," cried Mr Rimmer, coming forward, and buckets of water being
fetched, the unpleasant stains left by the wounded serpents were soon
moved, though the shot marks remained.

While the men were cleansing the deck and removing the traces left by
the storm, a little party of three, all well armed, set off to try and
trace the serpents and to get a truthful knowledge of their size, the
darkness having given rather an exaggerated idea of their dimensions.
In addition, if found dead, it was proposed to skin them for specimens,
and to this end Smith accompanied them, declaring his willingness to
master his fear of the reptiles and help in any way.

Before leaving the ship they took a good look round, at what promised to
be a beautiful resting-place, as soon as the vegetation began to spring
again, as it was certain to do in that moist tropical heat.  Then taking
it for granted that the serpents would make for cover, the steps of the
little party were directed towards the nearest trees, a clump upon a
broad elevated spot which had escaped the devastations caused by the
wave and not many hundred yards from the ship.

"Seems rum, gentlemen," said Smith as they shouldered their guns, and
strode off with a wonderful feeling of elasticity and freedom, after
their long cooping up on board ship.

"What does?" said Oliver.

"The brig, sir.  Ups and downs in life we see.  Here was she built
ashore, launched and then goes on her voyages, and then all at once she
is launched again t'other way on, as you may say, and run up on land to
stay till she dies."

"Unless we dig a canal back to the sea and float her, Smith," said

"Zackly so, sir, but you'd want ten hundred thousand niggers to do the

"And the weekly wages bill would be rather big," said Drew.

"Look out," said Oliver, who was bending down and carefully examining
the ground.

"What for?" asked Panton, cocking his piece.

"The serpents.  Here is some dried blood."

"And here's a mark, sir," added Smith excitedly.  "One of the bits come
along here."

"Yes.  I can see another mark," cried Panton.  "Look."  He pointed to
what resembled the impression that would have been made by a large yard
laid in a patch of half-dried mud in a depression, for either going or
coming, a serpent had evidently passed along there.

The trees were close at hand now, and covered a far greater space than
they had imagined.  The spot was rugged too, with great masses of stone,
which showed amongst the trunks and undergrowths, while opposite to them
there was a black cavernous rift, as if the rock had been suddenly split
open, all of which had been previously hidden by the dense growth.

"This is going to prove a lovely place," said Oliver eagerly.

"Ah!  Too late.  Did you see it?"

For a bird had suddenly hopped into view over the top of a bush, and,
before the young naturalist could bring his gun to bear, darted out of
sight among the foliage, giving those who saw it the impression of a
vivid flash of fiery scarlet passing rapidly before their eyes.

"You're all right now," said Panton.  "There are plenty of birds."

"Yes, and so are you two," replied Oliver.  "Look at the rocks and

"Hi!  Gents, look out," cried the sailor.  "Here we are."

The gun-locks clicked as the man started back after pointing before him
at the narrow opening in the rocks, and upon Oliver carefully advancing,
there lay just visible some dozen feet within the gloomy rift, about ten
or a dozen inches of a serpent's tail, the reptile having taken refuge
in the cavernous place.

"Here's one of them evidently," said Oliver, holding his gun ready.

"Yes, sir, tail end of him."

Oliver laughed.

"Have it your own way.  But come along, Smith.  Here's a chance to
distinguish yourself.  Step forward and lay hold of the end, and pull
the thing out.  We'll cover you with our guns."

"You don't mean it, sir, do you?"

"Indeed, but I do."

"Well, sir, begging your pardon, as a man as wants to do his duty, it
ar'nt to be done."

"All right, I'm not your captain, but if you will not, I must!"

"No, no, you'd better not," cried Panton.

"Pooh, the brute's dead, or nearly so.  Will you go, Drew?"

"What, and pull that thing out of its hole?  No.  If it was a strange

"Yes, or some wonderful mineral, but a huge snake.  Ugh!"

"Hold my gun, Smith," said Oliver.  "I mean to have that fellow's skin,
but I expect he will be pretty heavy."

He handed his gun to the sailor, and stepped cautiously forward,
separating the tangle of creepers, which hung down from above, and
clambering over loose fragments of lava-like rock, found that he was at
the entrance of what was evidently a rift penetrating far into the
bowels of the earth, while a strange feeling of awe came over him, as he
now became aware of low hissing and muttering sounds, evidently from
somewhere far below.

"Quick's the word!" said the young man to himself, and stepping boldly
in he seized hold of the serpent's tail with both hands, and at his
touch galvanised it into life, for it gave a violent jerk, which dragged
him off his feet.  At the same moment, the loose blocks of stone beneath
him gave way, and to the horror of his companions, there was a rustling
sound as of an avalanche being set in motion, Oliver uttered a loud cry
as he disappeared; then came a hollow booming roar, a whispering echo,
and all was still.



"Lane!" shouted Panton, hurrying forward toward where his friend had

"Mind! take care!" yelled Drew.  "Here, you Smith, run back to the ship
for ropes and help."

"And leave him like that, sir?" cried the sailor.  "Not me; I'm a-going
after him, that's my job now."

The man stepped quickly forward to where Panton had paused, holding on
by a mass of lava, and peering into the huge rift.

"Hold on a moment, sir," cried the man, who had now set aside his dread
of the serpents, and placing his hand to his mouth, he sent forth a
tremendous "Mr Lane, ahoy!"

His voice echoed right away into the depths, and set some fragments of
stone falling with a low whispering sound but there was no reply.

"Mind!" cried Panton, excitedly, and seizing the sailor's arm, he jerked
him away so roughly, that the man caught his heel and fell backwards
over and over among the stones and creeping growth at the mouth of the
rift, while Panton himself beat a rapid retreat.

"I see him," grumbled Smith, "but I warn't going to him now," and he
rose to his knees, as the wounded serpent so rudely seized by Oliver
Lane glided by him, hissing loudly; "I say, never mind that thing now,
gents.  Come and help Mr Lane."

A couple of reports came close upon his words, for Drew had fired at the
escaping serpent, which now writhed in amongst the bushes, evidently in
its death throes.

"Why, here's t'other bit under me," said Smith, as he rose to his feet
and looked down at where, half hidden, the other serpent had crawled
back to its lair to die.  In fact the man had fallen upon it, and its
soft body had saved him from a severe contusion.

But somehow the horror of the reptile was gone in one far greater, and,
trembling with eager excitement, Smith began to make his way cautiously
inward again, stepping carefully on till a stone gave way, and fell
rattling down what was evidently a very steep slope.

"I shall have to go down," muttered the man, "I can't leave the poor lad
there.  Ah, that's right!" he cried as Panton's voice rang out,--"Ropes.
Bring ropes."

"Yes, I may as well have a rope round me," muttered Smith.  Then loudly,
"Mr Lane, ahoy!"

There was no answer, and he called again and again without avail.  Then
a thought striking him, he got out his matchbox, struck a light, lit
several, waited till the splints were well ablaze, and let them fall
down burning brightly, but revealing nothing.

"I can't stand this here," he muttered, and feeling his way cautiously,
he lowered himself down till he could get good foothold, and was in the
act of descending farther, when steps approached, and the mate's voice
was heard in company with Panton's.

"Here, one of you, run back for a lantern," cried the mate as he hurried
to the mouth of the chasm.  "Ahoy there, Mr Lane; Smith!"

"Ahoy it is, sir," came from below.

"Hold hard, my lad, and make this rope fast around you.  Know where Mr
Lane is?"

The man made no answer for a minute, as he caught and secured the rope
about him.

"No, sir, I can't make out, but I'm a-going to see," he muttered between
his teeth--"I mean feel, for we're having nothing but darkness this

"I'll send a lantern down after you directly, my lad.  Ready?"

"Ay, ay, sir.  Lower away."

"No, better wait for the light.  It is like pitch down there."

"Ay, 'tis, sir, but that poor lad's waiting for help."

"Yes, I know, my man, but you must try to see where he is.  Hi! anybody
coming with that light?"

"Yes, the man's coming," cried Drew.

"What's that?" said the mate, sharply, as he leaned over the yawning
hollow, rope in hand; "that peculiar odour?"

"What, that smell, sir?" said Smith.  "I dunno, sir, it's like as if
someone had been burning loocifers.  Why, of course, I struck some and
let 'em fall."

"Ah, that's better!" cried the mate, as a lantern was handed to him by
Panton; and, passing the free end of the rope through the handle, he ran
it along till it was all through, and he could let the light glide down
to the sailor.

"That's all right, sir.  Now, then, shall I climb or will you lower me

"Try both, we'll keep a good hold.  Heaven help him, I hope he has not
gone far.  Take hold here.  No, Mr Panton, let the men.  They are
better used to handling a rope.  Now, then lower away."

Smith began to descend with the lantern, and, as the mate and Panton
gazed down, they could dimly make out that below them was a wide jagged
crack, descending right away; while in front, a portion of the crack
through the stone ran forward at a gradual slope, forming a cavern.

"Keep a sharp look out, my lad.  Ah! mind! don't kick the stones down."

"Can't help it, sir.  It's all a big slope here, with the stones waiting
to go down with a jump."

Proof of this came directly, a touch sending pieces bounding and rushing
down in a way that must have been fatal to anyone below.

The mate uttered a low ejaculation, and Panton drew in his breath with a
peculiar hiss, as they heard the fragments go on bounding and rebounding
below in the awful darkness, while the peculiar odour which the mate had
noticed came up more strongly now.

"See him?" cried Mr Rimmer.

"No, sir.  Lower away."

"Lower away, my lads.  Here, you Tomlin, run back and get a couple more
lengths.  Quick."

The man darted off, and his comrades lowered away, while Panton and Drew
stood with their heads bent and eyes strained to catch a glimpse of
their friend in the dim light cast by the lantern now far below.

"It's all one slope, sir, right away down," cried Smith.

"Yes, can you make out the bottom?"

"No, sir.  Don't seem to be none.  Lower away."

"Ahoy.  Help!"

The cry was faint, but it sent a thrill through all gathered at the
mouth of the chasm.

"Ahoy!" roared Smith, as he violently agitated the rope.  "All right, my
lad, coming.  Aloft there with the line.  No, no, no, don't lower; haul.
I'm too low down now."

The men gave a cheer, and began to haul up till the mate checked them.

"That right?" he cried to the sailor.

"Little higher, sir.  Couple o' fathom.  He's on a bit of a shelf,
'cross a hole, and I shall have to swing to him."

"That do?" cried the mate in the midst of the breathless excitement.

"Yes, that's about it, sir.  Now, then, make fast.  I'm going to swing."


Then the lantern began to pass to and fro, like a pendulum, and at every
thrust given with his feet by the swinging man, the loose blocks of lava
and pumice went rumbling and crashing down, sending up whispering echoes
and telling of a depth that was absolutely profound.

"Can you manage?" shouted the mate.

"Yes, sir.  That was nearly it," came from below.  "This time does it."

They saw the light swing again a couple of hundred feet beneath them.
Then it was stationary, and every man's breath came with a catch, for
all at once the stones began to glide again; increasing their rush till
it grew tremendous, and the watchers felt that all was over, for the
light disappeared and the odour that ascended was stifling.

"Haul!  Haul!" came from below, sending a spasm of energy through all at
the mouth as they pulled in the rope.

"Steady, steady, my lads," cried the mate.  "Got him?" he shouted.

"Ay, ay!  Haul quick!" came in a stifled voice, and the mate and his
companions felt a chill run through them as they grasped the fact that
Smith was either exhausted or being overcome by the foul gas set at
liberty by the falling stones.

"Haul steady, my lads, and quick," said the mate, as he went down on one
knee.  "No; walk away with the rope."

His order was obeyed, and the next minute he was reaching down as the
dimly seen lantern came nearer and nearer, revealing Smith's ghastly
upturned face and the strange-looking figure he held.  Then, almost flat
upon his chest, the mate made a clutch, which was seconded by Drew,
Panton aiding, and Oliver Lane was lifted out of the chasm and borne
into the open sunshine, slowly followed by Smith, as the men cheered
about the peculiar-looking figure--for clothes, face, hair, Lane was
covered with finely-powdered sulphur, in a bed of which he had been

"Better get him back to the brig," said the mate.

"No, no!" cried Oliver, rousing himself.  "I shall be better directly; I
struck my head against a block of stone, or one of them struck me.  It
was so sudden.  They gave way all at once, and it was hardly a fall, but
a slide down.  I was stunned though for a few moments."

"A few moments!" cried the mate with a grim laugh.  "Why, my lad, we
were ever so long before we could make you answer."

Oliver looked at him wonderingly, and then turned and held out his hand
to Smith.

"Thank you," he said.  "It was very plucky of you to come down and fetch
me up."

"Oh, I dunno, sir," said the sailor in a half-abashed way.  "Course I
come down; anyone on us would.  But it arn't a nice place, is it?"

"Nice place!" cried Panton, who was full of eager interest as he
examined the fine sulphur clinging to his companion's clothes.  "Why it
must be one of the old vents of the mountain.  You can smell the gases

"You could smell 'em there, sir," said Smith gruffly.  "'Scaping orful.
Thought they'd be too much for me.  Felt as if I must let go."

"I'm better now," said Oliver, rising and drawing a long breath.  "I
say, Mr Rimmer, I'm very sorry to have given you all this trouble."

"Don't say a word about it, sir; but don't go tumbling into any more of
these holes."

"Not if I can help it," said Oliver, smiling.  "But the serpent--what
became of it?"

The mate laughed and shrugged his shoulders.

"We've got them both out here," said Drew.

"Both bits, sir?" asked Smith eagerly.

"Both nonsense, my man: both serpents!  There were two.  Here they are,
pretty well dead now."

Oliver forgot all about the sickening blow he had received, and his
narrow escape, in his eagerness to examine the reptiles which had caused
so much alarm, and his first steps were to ask the men to put a noose
around each, and draw them out into the open.

There was a little hesitation, but the men obeyed, and the two long
tapering creatures were soon after lying in the sun.

"Hadn't you better come and lie down for a bit?" said the mate.

"Oh, nonsense!" cried Oliver good-humouredly.  "Just for a crack on the
head?  I'm right enough, and I want to take the measurement of these
things before they are skinned."

"As you like," said the mate.  "Then we may go back."

"That looks as if I were very ungrateful," cried Oliver, "and I'm not,
Mr Rimmer, believe me."

"Believe you?  Why, of course I do, my lad," cried the mate, clapping
him warmly on the shoulder.

"And you don't want me to lie up for a thing like that, do you?"

"I want you to take care of yourself; that's all, sir.  There, don't
give us another fright.  I daresay you'll find plenty of other dangerous
places.  But what did you say, Mr Panton--that great hole was a vent of
the mountain?"

"Yes, undoubtedly."

"What mountain, sir?"

"The one that was in eruption."

"Yes, but we don't see one!"

"We see its effects," said Panton, "and I daresay we shall see it as
soon as that line of vapour begins to clear away."

He pointed to the long misty bank in the distance, which completely shut
off the view beyond the stretch of forest to the northward.

"Well then, gentlemen, as I have a great deal to do on board, I suppose
I may leave you?"

"Unless you'd like to stop and help skin Lane's snakes?"

"Not I," said the mate merrily.  "There, don't get into any more
trouble, please."

"We'll try not," said Panton; and after the men had neatly coiled up the
lines, they went back with the mate, all but Billy Wriggs, who offered
to stop and help skin the snakes.

"You don't mean it, do you, Billy?" whispered Smith.  "Thought you was
too skeered?"

"So I am, mate; but I want to be long o' you to see their games.  It's
unnatural like to be doin' dooty aboard a wessel as ain't in the water."

"But you won't touch one of they sarpents?"

"Well, I don't want to, mate; but it's all in yer day's work, yer know.
I thought you said it was only one in two halves?"

"So I did, mate--so I did--and so it ought to ha' been, 'cording to my
ideas, and the way I let go at it with a haxe.  But there, one never
knows, and it was in the dark now, warn't it?"

"Seventeen feet, five inches," said Oliver, just then, as he wound up
his measuring tape, "and sixteen feet, four--extreme lengths," as Panton
entered the sizes in Oliver's notebook for him.

"Hark at that now!" said Billy Wriggs in a hoarse whisper.  "Why, I
should ha' said as they was a hundred foot long apiece at least."

"And, arter all, they ain't much bigger than a couple o' worms."

Five minutes later the two men were hard at work skinning the reptiles;
the example set by Oliver in handling them shaming both into mastering
the repugnance they felt, and first one skin and then the other was
stretched over the limb of a tree to dry; while the bodies were dragged
to the cavernous chasm, and tossed down "to cook," as Smith put it.

Meanwhile Drew had been busy examining the trees and plants around; and
Panton had been fascinated, as it were, by the place, picking up
fragments of stone and sulphur-incrusted lava--when he was not listening
to a low hissing, gurgling sound, which told plainly enough that
volcanic action was still in progress, somewhere in the depths below.

"There!" cried Oliver.  "I'm ready.  Where next?"

"Are you fit to go on?" asked Drew.

"Fit?  Yes.  Let's get to a pool and have a wash, and then I'm ready for

"Some water over yonder, sir," said Smith, pointing to where the sun
flashed from a spot beyond the trees.

"Then let's get to it," said Oliver.  "What do you say to exploring
onward toward the mist bank?"

"I say yes, and let's go through it," cried Panton.  "I want to look at
the mountain.  What's the matter, Smith?  See anything?"

The man held up his hand.

"Hinjun, sir," he whispered.

"Eh!  Where?" cried Drew, cocking his piece.

"Just yonder, sir, past that lot of blocks like an old stone yard; I see
one o' their heads peeping over, and they've got a fire, cooking
something, I should say, for--phew! they can't want it to warm
themselves, for it's hot enough without."

They looked in the direction pointed out, and there, plainly enough, was
the light, fine, corkscrew-like wreath of a pale blue smoke, rising
slowly up beyond quite a wilderness of coral rock, swept there by the
earthquake wave.



"Tommy Smith, old matey," whispered Wriggs, "why warn't you and me born

"That 'ere's a question for your godfathers and godmothers, Billy, as
stood sponsors for you when you was born.  But what d'yer mean?"

"Why, so as to be like these here gents and have plenty o' money to
spend in tools o' all kinds."

"Ay, 'twould ha' been nicer, I dessay, matey."

"Course it would.  You see they allus has the right tackle for
everything, and a proper pocket or case to keep it in.  Look at Mr
Panton there, with that there young double-barrelled spy-glass of

"Ay, they've each got one-sidy sort o' little barnacle things as they
looks through to make bits o' stone and hinsecks seem big."

"Now, we wants to wash our hands, don't us?"

"Ay, we do, matey," said Smith, raising his to his nose.

"Mine smell a bit snakey and sarpentine, I must say."

"Steam or smoke?" said Drew.

"Both, I think," replied Panton, closing his glass.

"Then the savages has got the pot on and it's cooking," whispered Smith.
"I hope it don't mean a mate."

"Whatcher talking in that there Irish Paddy way?" grumbled Wriggs.
"Can't you say meat?"

"Course I can, old mighty clever, when I wants to.  I said mate."

"I know you did, Tommy, and it's Irish when you means cooking meat."

"Which I didn't mean nothing o' the sort, old lad, but mate.  I meant, I
hoped the savages hadn't got hold of one of our messmates and was
cooking he."

"What!  Canniballs?" whispered Wriggs, looking aghast.  "Why not?
There's plenty on 'em out in these 'ere parts, where the missionaries
ain't put a stopper on their little games, and made 'em eat short pig
i'stead o' long."

"Come, my lads, forward!" said Oliver, who seemed to have quite got over
his adventure.

"Beg pardon, sir," said Smith, "we ain't got no weepons 'cept our
jack-knives; had we better scummage up to 'em?"

"Skirmish?  Oh, no; there is nothing to mind."

"That's what the farmer said to the man about his big dog, sir, but the
dog took a bit out of the man's leg."

"But that wasn't a dog, Smith, it was a cat."

"What, out here, sir, 'long o' the savages?  Think o' their keeping

"No, no, you don't understand.  There are no savages here."

"Why, a-mussy me, sir, I see one looking over the stones yonder with my
own eyes."

"You saw a big, cat-like creature, with its round, dark head.  It must
have been a panther, or leopard, or something of that kind."

The sailor looked at him and scratched his ear.

"Mean it, sir?" he said.

"Of course I do.  Come along."

Oliver went on after his two companions, and the sailors followed.

"How about the canniballs, Tommy?" asked Billy Wriggs with a chuckle.

"Here, don't you spoil your figger-head by making them faces," said
Smith, shortly.  "I was right enough, so own up like a man."

"You says, says you, that it was canniballs as had got a pot on over a
fire, and that they was cooking one of our mates."

"Loin! how I do hate a man as 'zaggerates!  I only said I hoped it
warn't.  It's you as put the pot on."

"I didn't!"

"Yes, you did, old lad, and I dessay I was right arter all, 'cept as it
was only one canniball, and he'd got four legs 'stead o' two."

Billy Wriggs chuckled again, and then smelt his hands, looked disgusted,
and scooped up a little moist earth to rub them with.

"Look sharp, they're close up," said Smith, "and I want to see about
what fire there is, and how it come."

"I know; it's one o' they red hot stones as come down and it's set fire
to something."

A minute later they were within fifty yards of the rising vapours, when
Wriggs roared,--"Look out!" and began to run.

For there was a peculiar rushing noise close overhead, followed by a
duet of hoarse cries, and they had a glimpse of a couple of great,
heavily-billed birds, passing close to them in the direction of their

Oliver took a quick shot at one and missed, the smoke hiding the second
bird, and they passed on unharmed.

"Hornbills!" he cried, excitedly.  "Come, we shall be able to collect

"Hear that, mate?" whispered Smith, "hornbills, and can't they blow 'em

They stepped in among the stones and found the cat-like creature's lair
just beneath one of them, and plenty of proofs of how it lived, for
close around lay many of the brightly-coloured feathers it had stripped
from different birds.

"Evidently preyed upon these," said Oliver, eagerly, picking up some of
the feathers to examine.

"Hear that, Tommy?"


"Ain't it gammon?"

"No; nat'ral histry's all true, lad."

"But I never heard o' cats being religious.  I've heard o' their being
wicked and mischievous enough for anything."

"'Ligious!  Why, what have you got hold of now?"

"Nothing.  You heard him too.  He said as the cat prayed on them

"Get out.  Don't be a hignoramus.  Wild cats is beasts o' prey."

"He said beasts as pray, and I don't believe it."

"And I don't believe your head's properly stuffed, mate.  Yes, sir," he
continued, as Oliver spoke.  "You call?"

"I said if you want to wash your snakey hands, here's a good chance."

The sailor stepped down into a hollow, above which a little cloud of
vapour hung over a basin of beautifully blue water, enclosed by a fine
drab-coloured stone.  It was not above a foot deep, save in the centre,
where there was a little well-like hole, and a dozen feet across, while
at one side it brimmed over and rippled down and away in a tiny stream,
overhung by beautifully green ferns and water-plants, which were of the
most luxuriant growth.

"Looks good enough for a bath, gentlemen, when you've done," said Smith.

"Try your hands first," said Oliver.  "But wait a moment," and he took a
little case from his pocket, and from it a glass tube with a mercury

"Look at that!" whispered Billy Wriggs.  "Tools for everything, mate.
What's he going to do--taste it first?"

"I dunno," said Smith, watching Oliver Lane attentively, as the young
man plunged the mercury bulb in the water, and held it there for a few
moments, and then drew it out.

"Go on, my lads," he said.  "Like some soap?"

As he spoke he took a small metal box out of his pocket, and opened it
to display a neatly fitting cake of soap.

"Look at him," whispered Smith to his companion--"ay, tools for
everything.  Thank-ye, sir," he added as he took the soap, stepped down
close to the edge of the basin, and plunged in his hands, to withdraw
them with a shout of excitement.

"What's the matter?" said Drew, laughing.

"It's hot, sir.  Water's hot!"

"Well, my lad, it is a hot spring.  There's nothing surprising in that.
We're in a volcanic land."

"Are we, sir?" said the man, staring at him.  "And is this volcanic

"Of course."

"But where does it get hot, sir?"

"Down below."

"What! is there a fire underneath where we are standing?"

"Yes; deep down."

"Then where's the chimney, sir?"

"Out beyond that smoke and steam, I expect.  There, wash your hands.
It's not hot enough to scald your hard skin."

"No, sir; take a deal hotter water than that; but if you'll excuse me,
gents, I'll get away from here, please.  It don't feel safe."

"Give me the soap," said Lane, handing his gun to Panton.

"There, Smith, my lad, a man who comes to such a place as this mustn't
be frightened at everything fresh he sees."

"Oh, I'm not frightened, sir, not a bit," said the man.  "Am I, Billy?"

Wriggs grunted, and this might have meant anything.

"Only you see, sir," continued Smith, "it seems to me as it's a man's
dooty to try and take care of hisself."

"Of course," said Oliver Lane, as he laved his hands.  "What beautiful
soft, silky hot water.  We must come here and have a regular bathe.  It
is nicely shut in."

This to his companions, while Smith stood looking on in horror, and
turned to his messmate.

"Look at him, Billy!  Ain't it just awful?  Come away 'fore we gets let
through, and are boiled to rags."

"Hold yer tongue," growled Wriggs.  "You'll have the gents hear yer.
Ask 'em to let us go back."

"You'll have to analyse this water, Panton," said Lane, as he went on
with his washing.  "There must be a deal of alkali as well as carbonate
of lime in solution."

"Strikes me, mate, as it won't have us in slooshum?" whispered Smith.
"Don't ketch me slooshing myself in it."

The water assumed another shade of blue where Oliver Lane was washing,
while Panton chipped off the petrification formed round the basin, and
Drew examined some peculiar water-plants which grew just where the hot
water issued to form the little stream.

"Be a fortune for anyone if he had it upon his own land in England,"
said Panton.  "Can you see where the spring rises?"

"Yes, down here in the middle, there's quite a pipe.  This must be
similar to what we read about, connected with the geysers?" said Oliver.
"Here, you two, don't be so cowardly.  Come and wash.  Catch!"

He threw the soap to Wriggs, who caught it, let it slip from his
fingers, and it went down into the beautiful blue basin of water with a

"There, fetch it out!"

Accustomed to obey, Billy Wriggs stepped forward, plunged in his hands,
caught the soap, and kept his fingers beneath the surface.  "Why, it's
lovely, matey!" he cried reproachfully to Smith.  "Here, come on."

"Oh, very well," was the reply, and the sailor approached the basin.
"What's good for you's good for me, mate.  Who's afraid?  Well, I am!"

He was now kneeling, and was in the act of plunging in his hands, when
there was a low gurgling noise, and, as if by magic, the water in the
basin was sucked rapidly down the round central hole that had been
almost invisible, leaving the basin perfectly empty.

"Nearly lost the soap," said Billy Wriggs.

"And I ain't got the wash," cried Smith, in an ill-used tone.

"Beg pardon, sir, what time'll it be high water again?"

_Bang!  Roosh_!

"Murder!" yelled Smith, throwing himself backward and rolling over, for
with an explosion like that of steam, the water gushed up from the
central hole, playing some twenty feet up in the air, filling the basin
and deluging Wriggs before he could escape, and then dragging him back
towards the central hole, down which it began to run, while the man
roared lustily for help.



As soon as he could get upon his feet Smith ran as he supposed for his
life, but his messmate's call drew him back and he ran as quickly to his
help.  Too late though to render any assistance, for Drew, who was
nearest, leaned forward and caught Wriggs' hand, stopping his progress
toward the centre for the moment, and then his feet glided from beneath
him on the smooth, sloping tufa and he too went down, and had to be
aided by Oliver and Panton, who drew both out just as Smith reached the
edge of the basin.

"Why don't yer mind!" roared the latter, excitedly.  "Want to lie down
there in the hot water and drowned yerself?"

"No, matey, can't say as I do," growled Wriggs, shaking himself as he
edged farther and farther away.  "But this here's about the dangerousest
place as I was ever in as I knows on.  Been dowsed a good many times in
my life, but not like this here.  Got yourselves very wet, gentlemen?"

"Oh, no, only splashed," said Oliver.  "Here, you two had better get
back to the brig."

Smith looked at his messmate.

"Feared, mate?" he said.

"Eh?" replied Wriggs, rubbing his ear well.  "I dunno 'bout feared now.
I'm werry wet."

"Then go back and change your things," said Oliver.

Wriggs scratched his head now and hesitated.

"Beg pardon, sir, I couldn't help letting go, 'cause I thought we was
all going to be sucked down that hole, and yer couldn't tell whether yer
was coming up again; and though I'm a tidy swimmer, I never tried hot
water; but if so be as you don't mind, me and my mate'd rayther go on
along with you."

"But you're so wet, my lad."

"Well, sir, that'll only be a job for the sun to dry us, and it's been a
good wash for us and our duds too."

"Oh, if you don't mind," said Oliver; "I don't think it will hurt you.
What do you say, Wriggs?"

"I didn't say nothing, sir; I was only squeezing the hot water out o' my

"But do you mind being wet?"

"No, sir.  I was born aboard a canal boat, and often tumbled in and had
to be fished out by my father with the spitcher.  I rayther like it."

"That's right, Billy.  You don't want to go back, do you?"

"No, matey, I want to continue on my travels, and see this here cur'us
land; only if we air to have another adventer I should like it to be a
dry 'un, if it's all the same to the gents."

"Then come along," said Oliver, "you'll soon get dry."

"Oh, yes, sir," said Smith; "but if it's all the same to you, sir, I
should like to know how that there thing works."

"Ah! that's more than I can tell you," replied Oliver, looking at the
basin, which was once more clear blue, and as smooth as if it had never
been disturbed.  "It's a geyser, of course."

"Yes, sir," said Smith, as Oliver looked at him as if expecting he would
speak; "I thought it was some'at o' that sort."

"And such things are not uncommon in volcanic countries."

"Arn't they though, sir?" said Smith, with a puzzled expression.  "But
it warn't byling hot."

"Oh, no, not within some seventy degrees."

"Then how come it to byle over, sir?  Ain't that rather cur'us?"

"Yes, very curious indeed."

"Yes, sir, and this seems to be a rather cur'us place."

"Yes, Smith, and very grand and wonderful.  We have been extremely
fortunate to get ashore in such a naturalist's paradise."

"Paradise, sir?" said Smith, with rather a curious look.  "Well, sir, I
shouldn't have called it that."

"Look here," cried Oliver to his two companions, "shall we wait and see
if the geyser plays again?"

"Oh, no," said Drew, "I want to get forward.  We shall have plenty more
opportunities, and this forest ahead looks grand."

"Yes, come along," cried Panton, rising from chipping a piece of rock.
"Look here, this is evidently volcanic and full of iron.  The mountain
must be tremendous.  Do you think it is always shut in by those clouds?"

"No," said Drew; "depend upon it they are caused by the late eruption.
That tremendous roar was the end, and I fancy it was caused by the water
rushing in from the sea.  This is only the steam rising.  Here, Lane,
you have fallen into the right place and can fill the British Museum if
you are industrious."

They were now coming to the end of the barren tract made by the
earthquake wave sweeping the rock in places bare, in others covering the
surface with _debris_ of coral sand, rolled pebble and shell from the
sea; but before reaching the band of verdure which stood at the top of a
slope, they had to pass two or three depressions in which mud and water
still lay, and upon reaching one of these they found to their surprise
that it was _far_ more extensive than they had anticipated.  For there
before them stretched acres upon acres of a muddy lagoon, dotted with
islands, and evidently alive with fish swept in from the sea.

"Hi! look-ye there, Billy Wriggs!" cried Smith, excitedly.  "See that?"

"Course I can, matey; it's water."

"Well, I know that, stoopid, but look what's in it.  Over yonder on that
bank--there close alongside o' that lump o' white rock."

"What of it?" said Wriggs.  "Only a trunk of an old tree."

"Ay, four-legged 'un, with a head and tail, having a nap in the
sunshine.  Why, it's one o' them eft things as we used to ketch with a
worm in the ponds when we was boys."

"Get out!  You go and play tricks with some 'un else, matey," said
Wriggs, contemptuously.  "Think I don't know no better than that?"

"You are a clever one, Billy, and no mistake," growled Smith.  "I never
did see a chap more ready not to believe the truth.  If you hadn't been
born a Christian, mate, nobody wouldn't never have converted you, and
you'd ha' been a regular heathen savage all your days."

"Go it, matey!  Much more on it?  Let's have it all while you're about

"You shall, Billy, because a good talking to'll do you good, and knock
some o' the wanity out of you.  You see, you don't know everything."

"And you do, eh, Tommy?"

"Nay, not quite," said Smith, giving his head a roll; "but I do know as
that's one o' the same sort o' things as I used to see lying in the mud
as I was once going up to Calcutta.  That's a halligator, matey, on'y
some folks calls the big uns crockydiles, and the niggers out there
muggers, 'cause they've got such ugly mugs."

"What! do you mean to tell me as that log o' wood with the rough bark on
it's alive?"

"Yes, all alive O!"

"Get out," cried Wriggs, scrutinising the brute searchingly as it lay
about fifty yards away.  "That there's a trunk of a tree with all the
branches rubbed off.  Well, I never did!"

For at that moment the reptile crawled a little further from the water,
raised its head, and looked to right and left, and then subsided again
in the hot sunshine, sinking partially into the mud.

"Rummy sort o' tree that, eh, Billy?" said Smith.

"Sort o' tree!" cried Wriggs, in a tone of thorough disgust.  "Why, I
call it a himposition.  What does a thing mean by going on like that?  I
could ha' sweered as it warn't alive."

"Hold your row, the gents is a-going to shoot."

They stood watching, for Drew had been busy changing one of the
cartridges in his gun for another containing a ball.

"It's of no use to shoot it," said Oliver, "and I don't think you could
hit it in a vital place."

"I'm going to try," said Drew quietly, as Panton followed his example.

"Yes," said the latter, "if we are to stay in this island or whatever it
is, we can't afford to share the place with a creature like that.  These
things are very dangerous."

"Hist!  Tommy," whispered Wriggs, excitedly, "he can hear what they
says, and he don't believe they can hit him and hurt him.  Did yer see
him smile?"

"Well, I call it a laugh, matey.  Yes, they've got a nice open sort o'
countenance, them crockydiles.  What a time it must take'm to clean
their teeth of a morning!"

"Ay, and to pick 'em after dinner.  Would one o' them tackle a man?"

"Yes, or a cow either.  They've got a way of--I say, just look at him."

Wriggs was all attention, and the three naturalists as well; for, after
opening its mouth and displaying its tremendous gape, the reptile slowly
turned round so as to face toward the water from which it had crawled,
and then subsided, lying so close and still in the sand and mud that it
more than ever resembled the trunk of some old tree.

The position now for a shot was not so satisfactory, as it in all
probability meant the disappearance of the reptile at its first plunge;
but all the same Drew raised his piece and gave his companions a sharp
look, Panton raising his double gun as well for the next shot.

But Oliver held up his hand.

"Don't shoot," he whispered.  "I want to watch the brute for a few
minutes.  Let's see."

He had a reason for speaking; naturalist-like, he never lost an
opportunity for observing the habits of the different creatures he came
across, and he had noticed a couple of crane-like birds coming stalking
along from the far side of the bank on their long stilt-shaped legs.
Like everything the wrecked party had encountered, the birds seemed to
know no fear of man, acting as if they had never seen such a being
before.  Hence they were coming straight over to the side opposite to
the little party.

Oliver's little double glass was out in a moment, focussed and fixed
upon the objects, while, with all a naturalist's love of the beautiful,
he feasted upon the bright eyes, drooping crests, and lovely grey and
white plumage of the two birds which showed in every way their wonderful
adaptability for the life they led.

"Look here," said Panton, "we want to shoot that loathsome reptile."

"And I want to look at the cranes.  If you fire you'll scare them."

"Shoot them, then," said Drew.

"No, no, don't, or you'll startle the crocodile.  I don't want to shoot
them," said Oliver; "I want to study their habits a bit, and they'll go
into the water here close to us."

Just then the second crane, which was stalking gravely behind its
companion, stopped short, and uttered a warning cry.  It was too late.
Simultaneously, the crocodile, which had been cunningly watching the
bird; made a scythe-like blow with its tail, and swept the foremost,
broken and helpless, into the lagoon.  Then, springing up as the second
bird took flight, the reptile was making a rush for the water, when
Drew's gun spoke out, and Panton's followed with such good effect, that
the crocodile's progress was checked, and it swung itself round to lie
with its tail in the water, thrashing about, and raising a muddy spray,
which spread for far enough, spattering upon the water like so much
dirty rain.

"Just sarves you right, my smiling beauty," cried Smith, excitedly.
"Strikes me you won't break no more birds' legs for some time to come.
Hit him again, sir."

Drew's second barrel was fired as he spoke, for the reptile was
gradually working round, as if to plunge into the water, but the bullet
it now received in the side of the head checked it, and a fourth from
Panton made it sink down almost motionless, save that it made a few
feeble snaps with its jaws.

"And I'm precious glad on it," said Billy Wriggs, who had taken the most
intense interest in the affair.  "Like me to walk in and fetch out that
there bird, sir?" he continued, pointing to where the crane floated upon
the surface of the lagoon.

"I should like the bird," said Oliver, "but I don't think it would be
safe for you to wade in, Wriggs.  Perhaps it will float ashore."

"I'm so wet, sir, a drop more water won't hurt me."

"I was not thinking about your getting wet," replied Oliver, who was
intently watching the bird, which was apparently quite dead, "but of the
risk of your encountering another crocodile."

"What, in there, sir--in the water?"

"Yes, I daresay there are several about."

"Oh," said Wriggs, softly, "I didn't think of that," and he stood
scratching his head, and wrinkled up his face, as he looked at the
prostrate reptile.

"Didn't yer know as they was amphibilious animals, Bill," said Smith, in
a low voice.

"What's amphibilious animals?" growled Wriggs.

"Things as gets their living in the waters, and sleeps outside."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" said the sailor, thoughtfully.  "And what would
one o' they chaps do, if he was to meet my legs?  He couldn't hit out
with his tail in the water."

"No lad, he'd hoperate with his head."

"Then I don't think, Tommy, as we'll come here when we wants a swim,

"No lad.  Strikes me that--I say; look ye there!"

The appeal was needless, for every one was looking toward where the
light breeze and the spreading rings caused by the lashing of the
crocodile's tail had carried the dead crane, which Oliver was longing to
get as a specimen of bird life unknown, he believed, to science, for all
at once, there was a faint, rippling movement visible close to it, then
a violent agitation.  A long, lithe creature suddenly made a dart partly
out of the water, and quick as lightning, they saw its yellowish folds
wrapped round the bird, which was directly after borne down out of

"Sea-snake, I think," said Oliver, eagerly, in answer to his companions'
questioning looks.

"Hear that, Billy?" whispered Smith, giving his friend a nudge.

"Oh, yes, I hear," growled Wriggs; "says he thinks it's a snake, but it
warn't.  I see it, and it was a heel.  Didn't yer see how it tied itself
up in a knot round the long-legged bird?  I say, I mean to set a
night-line, and ketch that gentleman.  Heels is about the best fish to
eat as swims."

"But aren't you going to wade across and fetch the crocodile over,

"No, matey, I aren't.  'Cause why?  It's much safer ashore."



The lagoon was skirted, and after rather a toilsome ascent among rocks
half smothered in creepers, the edge of the forest was reached, and a
halt called under the shade of a great fig-tree, among whose small, ripe
fruits a flock of brilliant little scarlet and green lories were
feeding; and here, seated about on the great, projecting roots, the
party partook of a delicious meal, feasting their eyes at the same time
upon the prospect around.  For, from the elevation at which they now
were, they were able to look right over the low land that had been swept
by the vast wave, to where there was another slight elevation clothed
with trees.

As far as they could see, the low ground was spread with scattered
blocks of coral and lava, while here and there, little bright patches
told of shells that had been ground and polished thin by the action of
the waves, and now showed their glistening, pearly material.

Another look to the left across blocks of white coral, and over pools
slowly evaporating in the hot sunshine, showed the course the ship had
taken from where the sea beat against the reef-girdled shore.  It was
all plain enough; that was the edge of the land, with a belt of calm,
blue water, and beyond that, as far as eye could reach to right and
left, a barrier reef of coral, upon which the great billows curved over,
flashing in the sun, and crested with their soft, white foam.

"It seems beyond belief," said Oliver at last.  "Who could imagine that
our vessel could be borne right inland here and set down upon an even
keel almost uninjured?"

"And without the smallest chance of ever sailing the sea again," said
Panton, quietly.

"I say, look here, you two, we're not going to settle down here like so
many Robinson Crusoes, are we!" cried Drew.

"Only just so long, I say, as it will take us to make complete
collections of the natural history of the place," said Oliver, "for I
begin to be in hopes that the land is quite new, and that no one has
ever set foot upon it before."

"Then you think it is an island?" said Drew, who was eating with one
hand, collecting specimens of plants with the other.

"If he doesn't, I do," cried Panton, taking out a little bright steel
hammer and beginning to chip at a block of stone held fast by one of the
roots of the big tree under whose branches they were seated.  "Look at
this--slag.  I say that we are on a volcanic island, formed by a
mountain rising out of the sea and pouring out its streams of lava, and
throwing up its blocks and stones and cinders."

"What about the coral, then?  The place is covered with scattered

"Oh, those were carried in by the great wave," continued Panton.  "Once
an island like this is thrust up from the bottom of the sea, the coral
insects soon begin to be busy and build all round it.  Look at the reef

"Then you think the volcano is in the middle of the island?" said Drew,
taking out his pocket lens to examine a tiny blossom.

"That doesn't follow," said Panton, oracularly, as he chipped off a
fragment of lava, which fresh fracture glistened brightly.  "The
mountain may be just at the edge of the island, possibly on a cape.  I
should say this one is, and cut off from sight by that wall of mist,
which seems to be rising from a gulf extending right across.  What are
you men muttering there about tools?"

"Beg pardon, sir," said Smith, "I only said to my mate as you gents
seemed to have tools for everything."

"There," cried Oliver, "time's getting on, and I want to reach that
mist, get through, and see what the place is like on the other side.

For answer the others sprang up, all being eager to see more of the
country upon which they had been so singularly cast, and for the next
hour they were fighting their way through the dense forest, every cut
and slash they made with their pocket-knives to rid themselves of
creeper and thorn, destroying growth which was of intense interest to
Drew, while Panton damaged his shins over blocks of stone he longed to
chip, while dislodging insects and scaring birds and quadrupeds, of
which Oliver got but a glance.

They were constantly stopping to mop their faces, for the heat was
tremendous, and their progress very slow, but still they got on, some
open patch caused by the falling of a great tree rotted away by age, or
strangled by some creeper, giving them light and a breath of the soft
sea air overhead.

Everything here was beautifully green and fresh, the eruption having
left it unharmed, till, at the end of another tedious hour's work over
gradually rising ground full of jagged rifts and tumbled together
stones, which told of a convulsion of nature far back in some distant
age, when, in place of towering forest trees all must have been
absolutely bare and level.  Smith, who was in front, cutting and
slashing with his jack-knife, uttered a shout.

"Land ho!" he cried, for they were evidently nearly through the sea of
verdure, the sky showing beneath the huge branches.

"At last!" cried Oliver, who was panting with the exertion, while his
companions' faces were torn and bleeding.  "We must get Mr Rimmer to
let the men cut a way through here."

"Now then!" shouted Wriggs from somewhere ahead just then.  "None o'
them tricks.  D'yer hear?"

"Come, come, my man," said Drew, sternly, "keep to your work.  This is
no time for playing."

"All right, sir, but please speak to Tommy Smith.  Man don't want big
nuts chucked at his head."

"Who's a-chucking nuts?" cried Smith, indignantly, and he began to force
his way back into sight of his companions.

"Why, you did, and hit me just now."

"Sweer I didn't!" cried Smith.  "Here, hullo!  Drop that, will you?  Who
was that?"

A great nut, half as big as a man's head, had struck the speaker on the

"Why, there's someone up in that tree throwing at us!" said Drew.

"Yes, I see him," cried Wriggs, "that big tree, just where it's getting
light.  Here, I see you: leave off will yer?"

"It's the natives, sir," said Smith, in a warning voice.  "Get your guns
ready, they'll be shooting pysoned arrows directly."

"I see him plain, now, sir.  He's only a little black chap.  Yes,
there's two on 'em.  Well, upon my word, if they aren't two monkeys!"

Another big nut came with a crash through the branches and, before
Oliver could check him, Drew raised his gun and sent a shower of shot
peppering through the leaves over the heads of the two occupants of the
great tree, with the result that two large apes went swinging from bough
to bough, chattering indignantly, and disappearing at once.

"You shouldn't have done that," cried Oliver.  "I wanted to have a look
at the creatures."

"I daresay you'll have plenty more chances, for, if this proves to be an
island, they can't get away."

"But the fact of there being large creatures here, proves that it is not
an island," said Oliver.

"Not a bit of it," said Panton, oracularly.  "There are plenty of
islands peopled with animals, because they were occupants of continents
now submerged.  Look at Trinidad, for instance.  That was once the
north-east corner of North America, and all her flora and fauna are

"Oh, I say, don't be so horribly scientific," cried Oliver, "let's get
out into the open where we can breathe.  Look at the butterflies in that
sunshiny patch.  Really we have dropped into a land of wonders."

"And stinging insects and thorns," said Panton.  "I say, what was that
rustling away through the leaves?"

"Snake, sir, big 'un.  I see his tail wiggle," cried Smith.

"Better be careful," said Oliver, gravely, "there may be poisonous
snakes about the edge of the forest.  Ha!  What a relief!"

For he had suddenly stepped out through a dense curtain of a creeping
plant into the bright sunshine, to find that for some distance in front
the earth was clothed with a low, bush-like growth; then there was a
broad, blackish grey stretch of land, and again beyond that the veil of
vapour rising right across their way to right and left.

The little party stood out for a few minutes looking round, with the
portion of the island or peninsula they had left cut off now by the
forest which rose right behind them like a huge green ridge of verdure.
Then, full of excitement, they began to advance through the low bushes
toward the long line of white vapour slowly curling like a bank of
clouds, for the one desire now among all was to stand face to face with
the mountain which had partially burned up the face of the beautiful
tropic land.

It soon became evident that they were traversing a stretch of newly
springing up trees, for everything was of a young and tender green, but
after a time there was a parched, dried-up aspect; then they came upon
withered patches, and by degrees the vivid green gave place to a dull
parched-up drab and grey, every leaf and blade of grass being burned up
or scorched by heat and some destructive gas.

They hurried across this desolate band, for the wall of mist was but a
short distance in advance, and a curious feeling of eagerness attacked
the party, even to the two sailors.  For beyond that curtain was
evidently the centre of the mysterious volcanic force which had been
answerable for their presence there, and doubtless upon passing through
the vapour behind which it was hid, they would be able to grasp their
fate; whether a certain amount of journeying would bring them to the
habitations of men, or show them that they were shut up in some unknown

"Come along," said Drew, "and let's know the worst."

"The worst!" cried Oliver.  "You mean the best?"

"Well, we might be worse off," said Panton, laughing; "but be careful,
all of you.  This steam, or whatever it is, may be rising from some
great gulf, and mists are rather confusing.  Shall I lead?"

"By all means," said the others, and he stepped out for a few yards, and
then, to the surprise of Oliver, who was next, it was as if they had
entered the mist unconsciously, though it was thin to a degree, and the
only effect was to make Panton look magnified, so that twenty yards
farther on he had grown as it were into a giant.

Oliver looked back and saw that those who followed had the same aspect.

"Don't see any rift or chasm," said Panton; "but come cautiously, for
the ground feels soft and spongy."

His voice sounded distant and strange to Oliver, who said loudly,--

"Is it bog, or are we getting on volcanic soil?  I say, take care, the
ground's quite hot here."  For he was conscious now of a peculiar
reeking as of steam, but his voice sounded as if it had been thrown back
in his face, and, growing slightly uneasy, he turned round and called to
those behind him,--"Take care how you come."

He stopped short, for there was no one in sight, and, turning sharply,
the dim, giant-like figure which had represented Panton was invisible.

"Hi!  Panton, where are you?" he cried, in doubt now whether he had
turned completely round, and in his excitement he made a fresh step or
two, then, feeling that he might have gone wrong, he tried to return,
but only to become confused as he was conscious of the heat growing
stifling, of a strange ringing in his ears, and either of a peculiar
dimness of vision or the sudden thickening of the mist.

Then, with his heart beating heavily, he tried to raise his voice as he
shouted with all his might,--

"Panton!--Drew!  Where are you?"

There was a low hissing sound apparently rising from somewhere by his
feet, otherwise all was silent as the grave.



Oliver Lane's sensations were for the moment horrible.  He knew now that
the steamy vapour into which they had penetrated must be full of gas
perilous to human life--that the emanations from the volcanic soil were
asphyxiating, and he completely lost his head, and tottered feebly here
and there.

But in a few moments this passed off, for he made a desperate effort to
command himself, knowing full well that if he did not act his case was
hopeless.  His only chance was, he knew, to rush out through the mist
into pure air.  But which way?  He had lost all idea of the direction by
which he had come; he dare not stoop down, and try to trace his
foot-prints, because of the vapour being certainly more dense and
dangerous closer to the surface, and all that was feasible was to make a
rush, chancing whether it was forward into greater danger, to right or
left, hoping only that his instinct would lead him back by the way he

Strong now in his intention, he drew a hot stifling breath, set his
teeth and ran for a few yards; then staggered a few more, growing blind,
and feeling that his senses were fast leaving him.  Then his brain
throbbed, a peculiar trembling weakness came over him, and, almost
unconsciously, he tottered along a few steps more, reeled, and fell
heavily upon the ground.

His senses did not quite leave him, for he knew that he was trying to
crawl through what seemed to him to be something like soft liquid opal,
with its wonderfully bright tints before his eyes, bluish, golden,
creamy, fiery, and pale, then there was a darkening around them as if he
were crawling into shadow; and again, directly after, as it appeared, he
could see a bright glow, toward which he involuntarily struggled, for it
was an instinctive effort now to preserve his life.  And as he crawled
onward, the glow grew brighter, he could breathe more freely, and the
light gradually assumed the hue of bright sunshine, where he fell
passive beneath the dense foliage of a huge tree.

Everything was very dreamy now for a time.  His head throbbed and felt
confused, and a sickly, deathly sensation made his brain reel.  By
degrees this passed away, and he lay gazing at the strange opalescent
something through which he felt that he had passed, and by degrees he
realised that he was watching the great curtain of mist made glorious by
the sunshine, and easily understood now why, in his strange
semi-insensibility, this had seemed to be a liquid through which he had
crawled while breathing the strange mephitic air.

"Then I did go in the right direction," was his next thought, as he
still lay feeble and languid, and as if regaining his senses after
taking some powerful opiate.

He felt a kind of satisfaction at this, and luxuriously drew in great
draughts of soft warm air.  For it was a delight to breathe freely, and
lie there without making any exertion.  The trees were so green and
bright, and the flowers of such delicious tints, especially those he
could see climbing up and up, and spreading their wealth of blossoms in
one spot, till that was one lovely sheet of colour.

"It doesn't matter."

These words pretty well expressed Oliver Lane's thoughts for some time
before he attempted to move.  The past, save and except the dim memory
of his having been in some trouble in a mist and losing his way, had no
existence for him, and the young man lay there in a state of the most
intense egotism, utterly prostrate, but supremely content.

Then all at once there was a change.

He felt a sensation of discomfort, and his hand began to stray about
him, and he found that his double-barrelled gun, slung by a strap across
his shoulders, was beneath his back, and the lock was pressing against
his ribs.

He changed his position so as to lay the gun beside him, and the
movement shot an acute pain through his head.

It did more; it sent a pang of mental agony through his brain; and he
scrambled up to his knees, to bend down, pressing his hands to the sides
of his head as if to keep it from splitting apart as he recalled all
now, and stared wildly about him in search of his companions.

The sensation of selfish enjoyment had all passed away, and he was in
full possession of his faculties.

He had found his way back, then, out of the mist, but where were they?

No; he was wrong; he had not found his way back as he fancied at first,
for where they entered the land around was burned up and bare; here
everything was glorious with tropic growth; there were lovely
butterflies, inches across the wing, and metallic in tint; brightly
plumaged birds, too, were darting past his eyes.  He must have passed
right through the mist to the farther side and reached the place they

He involuntarily turned, and there, about a couple of miles away
apparently, and rising far up in the clear blue sky, with a huge
ball-like cloud suspended above the conical top, was the great volcano,
bare, stern, and repellent, without a scrap of verdure to relieve the
eye.  It stood up tremendous in height, and in his rapid glance Oliver
Lane could see how all round had been blackened, or charred into a
greyish ash-colour, save in two places, where broad blackish bands
reached from a chasm near the top of the crater, right down the sides,
till they were hidden by the tall trees still standing, and apparently
spreading from the gentle eminence upon which he knelt for about a mile.

Where, then, were his friends, he asked himself, and recovering his feet
now, he had to seize the nearest bough and hold on, for a sudden
giddiness assailed him, and he nearly fell.  But this passed off in a
few moments, and he stood looking round to see if they too had passed

But as far as he could see, he was alone in an open jungly spot, teeming
with all that was bright and beautiful in nature, and shut off from his
companions by the curtain of mist they had set out to pierce.

He hailed and hailed again as loudly as he could, and a faint cry
answered him, but a few repetitions made him aware of the fact that it
was only his own voice, echoed back from the mountain-side, and a
strange sense of loneliness and despair attacked him now.

For as he recalled his own adventure, it was evident to him that he had
had a very narrow escape from suffocation, the mist being evidently a
volcanic exhalation, rising from the earth in a long low portion
extending for miles in a curve, perhaps being the extent to which the
mountain had reached in some far-off time; in fact, there might have
been an old crater here only a little raised above the sea.

But he shook off the despondency, and fought back the idea that his
companions might have been overcome by the escaping gases, and forced
himself to believe that if they were not somewhere on his side hidden
from him by the trees, they had safely made their way back to the side
from which they had started.

He knew he had no grounds for all this, as they must necessarily have
been as much confused and overcome as he, but he came to the conclusion
which he wished to be true, and after mounting to the highest bit of
ground in his immediate neighbourhood, he hailed again and again,
listening patiently in the intervals for some reply.

There was a musical piping whistle twice, and once he was aware of a
curious grunting sound from some trees away to his right, and this was
repeated on his hailing again.  Then all was silent once more, and he
stood, now looking round, now watching the line of mist from which he
hoped to see his companions emerge.

There were moments when he felt convinced that they had reached the same
side as he, and he set to work hurrying here and there as fast as the
tangled growth of the pathless forest would allow, hailing from time to
time, but all in vain, and at last, dripping with perspiration, panting
and exhausted, he leaned against a tree.

He had something else to combat now besides weariness, a terrible
feeling of depression, for the thought would keep on coming with
constant recurrence that his friends had perished in the mist.

He mastered this thought as the feeling of exhaustion passed away, and
was ready to laugh at the sense of dread caused by his loneliness.  For,
as he told himself, it was probably all imagination respecting his
friends, and there was nothing to mind.  He was only separated from the
vessel by a comparatively short distance, and sooner or later an effort
would be made to reach him.  It might not be possible to pass through
the foul gases, but surely the long line of mist could be circumvented;
and he climbed to the highest point he could then find to try and see
its ends.

There was nothing to fear, for he had his gun, plenty of ammunition, and
a little provision left.  The place was wonderfully beautiful, and
offered a tempting number of objects to a naturalist, as soon as he
could make himself sufficiently calm to begin to investigate.

And it was in the above spirit, feeling quite certain that sooner or
later he would see a party coming in search of him, he began to examine,
turning his attention first towards the huge volcano, which rose up grim
and forbidding away to the north, with the globular cloud poised over
its highest part, which seemed as if cut right across in a slope.

Once he could turn his thoughts from the idea of peril, he began to be
interested and eager; for he was in the position so dear to a lover of
nature, there in a land surrounded by bird and insect forms for the most
part entirely fresh to him.

But there were other things to think of first.  Principally, there was
that important discovery to make whether they were surrounded by the
sea, and to try and find this out he sought a higher point than any he
had yet mounted, and, taking out his little glass, followed the face of
the mist till it reached the glittering waters of the sea, and then
tried to trace the coastline towards the volcano.

This he was able to do with pretty good success, but as his glass was
directed to the lower and eastern slope of the mountain, he found that
he was as wise as ever, for the base of the mighty cone completely shut
off all view in that direction.

Turning to the mist again, he followed its edge to the west as far as he
could reach, but the inequalities in the surface baulked him here, and
he could not make out the sea in that direction.

He closed his little glass and turned to the mist curtain, that
mysterious dim line glistening with opalescent colours, and determined
as a last resource to walk quietly as close to it as he could, before
the gases began to affect him, then to draw back a few yards, take a few
deep inspirations, so as to fully inflate his lungs, and then rush
straight through; for he argued to himself, if he could pass through
once unprepared and taken by surprise, he could certainly reverse the

In this spirit, and so as to get a little encouragement and inspiriting
for another task--in other words, so as to enjoy the feeling that a way
of retreat was open to him--he walked back toward the depression along
which the vapour rose, examining every step of the way, and noticing
that by degrees all growth ceased as he approached, and that the ground
gradually grew softer and then spongy to the tread, as if he were
walking over a bog.

The air remained very clear and good to breathe as he went on nearer and
nearer, seeing now that the fumes rose softly all along one jagged line
such as might have been formed by the earth opening right before him.
But there was no opening.  As far as he could penetrate the dim mist,
the earth looked perfectly level, but the vapour rose from it as it does
or appears to do from a swampy meadow on a fine autumn evening; and it
was evident to him that he might try and dash through without fear of
running headlong into some chasm.

Just then, as he stood gazing down at the bottom of the curtain, the
idea struck him that perhaps there had been a wide rift right across to
right and left; that it had been filled up by volcanic matter, and the
vapour was caused by this lava or hot liquid mud slowly cooling down.

Convinced that this must be so, he had full endorsement of the
correctness of his theory, for on lifting one foot to go on, he found
that the other was sinking slowly, and a little further investigation
showed him that a faint thread of vapour was rising from the spot where
his heel had been.

The meaning of this barren space, and the reason for the earth feeling
spongy, was plain enough now, and he knew that he was walking over so
much half-fluid volcanic pitch, whose surface was slightly hardened and
formed the elastic springy band.

If it gave way!

The thought was enough to make the stoutest shudder, and feeling now
that his safety lay in movement, he took a few more steps towards the
vapour, finding himself, before he was aware of the fact, and without
the slightest mistiness being visible, within its influence.

He started away in alarm, for he was suffering from a slight attack of
vertigo, which did not pass off for a minute or two, and he walked, or
rather staggered, back, with the tough elastic film over which he walked
now rising and falling with an undulatory motion beneath his feet.

"Only as a last resource," he muttered, as he breathed freely once more;
and he could not repress a shudder as he stepped once more on solid
ground, plainly enough marked by the abounding growth, and grasping
fully how horrible a quagmire of hot slime was hidden by the partially
hardened crust over which he had passed.

Turning his face now toward the mountain, he hesitated for a few
moments, and then determined, as the distance seemed so short, to try
and do something now he was there; and in the intent of climbing a few
hundred feet up its side so as to get a view beyond, he marked out what
seemed to be the most open way, and started for the foot of the great



It required no little steady determination to attack that ascent.
Oliver's nerves had been terribly shaken by that which he had gone
through.  The heat was intense beneath the trees, where hardly a breath
of air reached him, and it was impossible to keep off the sense of
loneliness and awe brought on by the knowledge that he was in the home
of Nature's most terrible forces, and that the huge mountain in front,
now looking so calm and majestic, might at any moment begin to belch
forth showers of white-hot stones and glowing scoria, as it poured
rivers of liquid lava down its sides.  At any moment too he knew that he
might step into some bottomless rift, or be overcome by gases, without
calculating such minor chances as losing his way in the pathless
wilderness through which he was struggling, or coming in contact with
some dangerous beast.

But he set his teeth and toiled on, dragging thorny creepers aside,
climbing over half-rotten tree-trunks, whose mouldering bark gave way,
and set at liberty myriads of virulent ants.  Once or twice he grasped
leaves which were worse than the home-growing nettle.  But he struggled
on, though, with the feeling growing stronger, that if he got through
the patch of forest before dark, it would be as much as he could manage,
for the difficulties increased at every step.

Suddenly he stopped short, and caught at the nearest tree-trunk to save
himself from falling, for the giddiness returned, and he stood panting,
trying to master the horrible sensation by drawing a deeper breath.
Then he clung more tightly to the tree, and knew what this sense of
vertigo meant; for it was no vapour that had overcome him, but the
sensation of the earth heaving beneath his feet, with a strange
quivering, as if some vast force were passing, and a dull muttering, as
of subterranean thunder, made the tree quiver in his grasp.

A few seconds later, as he waited for a repetition of the earth-tremor,
knowing now full well that he had for the first time experienced a
couple of earthquake shocks, there came from away in front a deep heavy
boom, following a strange rushing sound, evidently from the summit of
the volcano--the huge safety-valve from which the pent-up forces of the
earth escaped to the open air.

Oliver struggled forward a few yards into a clearer spot, where he could
just catch a glimpse of the crater of the mountain, and, as he had
expected, there was the great globe-like cloud riven into rags of
vapour, while dark-looking bodies were falling in various directions
about the summit.

As he gazed, the rain of falling fragments ceased, and the torn-up
flecks of cloud seemed to be drawn slowly together again by the currents
of air on high, first one and then another coalescing, as the tiny
globules of spilt mercury glide one into another, till all are taken up.
And it was so here, the mysterious attraction blended the flying
vapours into one great whole, which floated above the mouth of the
burning mountain.

"And I might have been somewhere on the slope, when that burst of stones
was falling," thought Oliver.  "Still, I might climb up a hundred times,
and no eruption occur.  I'm getting cowardly, instead of being
accustomed to the place."

He smiled to himself as he marked the top of the mountain, and aimed as
straight as he could for its side, before plunging again into the
bewildering maze of trees, whose wide-spreading foliage made all beneath
a subdued shade.

But a dozen steps had not been taken before he stopped short, with his
heart beating, and listened eagerly, for a distant shout had fallen upon
his ear, coming as he felt sure from behind him, and to the right.

Then there was utter silence for a few seconds, before a second shout
arose, to be heard plainly enough, but away to his left.

His heart sank again, and the hope died out.  That was no cry uttered by
one of his companions, but came from a savage, or some wild beast, which
he could not say, but he suspected that it must be from one of the apes
of which they had seen specimens that morning.

There it was again, rather a human cry, such as a boy might give vent to
in a wood, when calling to his fellows, and a few moments afterwards the
sound was repeated.

Whatever animals they were who called, they were answering each other,
and certainly coming nearer.

The remembrance of the strange-looking face he had seen peering through
the leaves directly after the great nut had struck Wriggs, came back to
Oliver as he resumed his arduous journey, now finding the way easier
where the bigger trees grew, now more toilsome where there was an
opening caused by the fall of some forest monarch, which had rent a
passage for the sunshine, with the consequence that a dense mass of
lower growth had sprung up.

In these openings, in spite of heat and weariness, the young naturalist
forgot all his troubles for a few brief moments in his wonder and
delight, till the knowledge that he must push on roused him once more to
action.  For there before him were in all their beauty the various
objects which he had come thousands of miles to seek.  Beetles with wing
cases as of burnished metal crawled over leaves and clung to stems;
grotesque locust-like creatures sprang through the air, through which
darted birds which in their full vigour and perfect plumage looked a
hundred times more beautiful than the dried specimens to which he was
accustomed in museums and private collections.  Here from a dry twig
darted a kingfisher of dazzling blue, not upon a fish, but upon a
beetle, which it bore off in triumph.  Away overhead, with a roar like a
distant train, sped a couple of rhinoceros hornbills, to be succeeded by
a flash of noisy, harsh-shrieking paroquets, all gorgeous in green,
yellow, crimson and blue, ready to look wonderingly at the intruder upon
their domain, and then begin busily climbing and swinging among the
twigs of a bough, whose hidden fruit they hunted out from among the

One tree close at hand was draped with a creeper of convolvulus-like
growth, hanging its trumpet-shaped flowers in every direction, ready for
a number of glittering gem-like birds to hover before them, and probe
the nectaries for honey or tiny insects, with their long curved bills.
So rapid in their movements were some of these, that their insect-like
buzzing flight was almost invisible to the watcher, till they hovered
before a blossom in the full sunshine, when their burnished, metallic
plumage, shot with purple, crimson, and gold, flashed in the sun's rays,
and literally dazzled the eye.

Oliver was in the home of the sun-birds, the brilliant little creatures
which answer in the old world to the humming-birds of the new, with
their crests and gorgets of vivid scales.

"It's grand, it's wonderful," he muttered, with a sigh.  "But I must get

He forced his way through these openings, with the birds so tame that he
could easily have knocked them down with a stick, or caught them with a
butterfly-net.  But leaving his collecting for a future time, he pressed
on, satisfied with the knowledge that he was in the midst of nature's
wonders, for the farther he progressed the more was he impressed with
the conviction that he and his companions had happened upon a place
which exceeded the most vivid paintings of his imagination, so rich did
it reveal itself in all they desired.

The progress he made was slower and slower, for he was nearly at the end
of his forces, and the matted-together tangle seemed in his weakness to
grow more dense.  Where there was opening enough overhead he could see
that the sun was sinking rapidly, and he knew that it would be dark
almost directly it had disappeared.

"It is hopeless," he said to himself; "I shall never get out to-night;"
and with the idea forced upon him that he must be on the look-out for a
resting-place, or an opening where he could light a fire, and, if
possible, at the foot of some tree, in whose branches he could make
himself a shelter, he still toiled on.

This proved to be a less difficult task, for before long, as he crept
beneath the tangle of a climbing cane-like palm, he saw that it was more
light ahead, and in a few minutes he reached one of the natural
clearings, close to a huge short-trunked, many-branched fig.  There was
dead wood in plenty, shelter, and fruit of two kinds close at hand,
while, greatest treasure of all, a tiny thread of water trickled among
some ancient, mossy fragments of volcanic rock, filling a little
basin-like pool with ample for his needs.  To this he at once bowed his
head and drank with avidity, sublimely unconscious of the fact that a
tiny, slight, necklace-like snake was gliding over the moistened rock
just overhead, and that a pair of bright gem eyes were watching his
every motion from the great fig-tree, where its branches rose in a
cluster from the trunk.

"Hah!" sighed Oliver, as he rose from his long deep drink.  "What a
paradise, but how awfully lonely!"

He noted then that the top of the mountain was in view, but apparently
no nearer; and setting to work he soon collected enough wood for a fire,
and lit it as a protection, before gathering some of the little figs and
some golden yellow fruits from a kind of passion-flower, both proving
agreeable to the palate.  These supplemented by the food he had in a
satchel, formed a respectable meal, which he ended as the last light
died out; while before him as he sat by his fire there was a great
glowing ball of light high up, one which resolved itself into the cloud,
evidently lit up by the glowing lava within the crater.

"A nice companion for a traveller," said Oliver, half aloud.  "Now,
then, for my cool lofty bedroom in the tree-fork.  I wonder whether I
shall sleep?"

His inner consciousness said immediately "No;" for as he made his way in
among the buttress-like roots of the tree to try and climb up, there
came from within a few feet of his face a deep-toned snarling roar.



"Aren't had a drop, sir.  Swear I aren't," cried Smith.

"Silence man, silence," said Panton, as he sat upon the burnt-up earth,
holding his head with both hands, while Wriggs staggered about close at
hand, laughing idiotically.

"But I can't, sir," cried Smith, in a whimpering tone.  "If I'd been
ashore somewhere and met mates, and we'd been standing treat to one
another, I wouldn't keer, but I'm sober as a hundred judges, that I am."

"Will you be silent, man?  I want to think," said Panton, as he rocked
himself to and fro.

"Yes, sir, d'reckly, sir, but don't you go thinking that of a man.  I
know I can't stand straight, for all the bones has gone out of my legs,
and soon as I move I go wobble-wobble like cold glue."

"Yes, yes, I know, I'm unsteady, too," said Panton impatiently.

"But is it fits, sir?  And do they take you like that?"

"No, no, my man, I suppose it's the gas."

"Gas, sir," cried Smith, looking round stupidly.  "What's it been
escaping again?  Gammon, sir: they aren't got no gas out here.  I say,
Billy Wriggs, don't make a hexibition of yourself.  Keep quiet, will

"I can't, mate.  It's a rum 'un, it is.  What have the guvnors been
givin' of us to drink?"

"I d'know, Billy.  But do stand still."

"I can't, mate, my legs will keep going and gettin' tangle up like one
along o' the other, and knocking themselves together."

"Then lie down afore I hits yer."

"You won't hit me, Tommy," said the man, with a silly laugh.

"Tell yer I shall.  You aggravate me so, doing that there."

"Will you two men leave off talking?" cried Panton, angrily.  "I can't
think.  Your words buzz in my brains like a swarm of bees.  Ah, I have
it now.  Where is Mr Lane?"

"Mr Lane, sir?" said Smith, feebly, as he looked round, and then with
his eyes staring and blank, he began to feel in his pockets.

"Yes, yes, man.  Where is he?"

"I d'know sir.  I aren't seen him.  Where's Mr Lane, Billy?  You got

Wriggs chuckled as if he had been asked the most ridiculously comic
question he had ever heard.

"I d'know, matey," he said.  "It's o' no use to ask me."

Smith lurched at him with his fists clenched, as if about to strike, but
the intention was stronger than the power, and resulted in the sailor
blundering up against his mate, and both going down together, and then
sitting up and staring at each other in a puzzled way as if they found
it impossible to comprehend their position.

At that moment Drew came staggering toward them out of the mist with his
gun over his shoulder and his head down as he gazed at the ground,
looking as if at any moment he would fall.

"Ah!" cried Panton, excitedly.  "I had quite forgotten you, Drew."

"Eh?" said the botanist, stopping short.  "Someone call?"

"Yes; I--Panton.  Come here."

"He's got it, too, Billy," said Smith.  "I say, what's the matter with
all on us?  Was it that water we drunk?"

"No, I aren't drunk!" cried Wriggs, suddenly dropping his good-tempered
idiotic manner.  "If you says I'm drunk, Tommy Smith, I shall hit yer.
Smell that!"

He placed a big tarry fist close under his messmate's nose, and then, as
if amused thereat, he began to laugh again.

"I never said such a word, Billy," said Smith, taking the big fist,
opening it out again, and clapping his hand into it loudly before
pumping it affectionately up and down.  "I said it was the wa--_tlat
tlat tlat_--Oh, I say, matey, I am thirsty."

"Eh?" said Drew, dreamingly, in answer to a question.  "Where's Lane?
Yes, where's Lane?"

"Ah!" cried Panton, starting up now, and looking wildly round.  "Yes, I
understand, I think.  It was the gas--the volcanic gas in that mist.
For heaven's sake rouse yourself, Drew.  Lane's in there still, and we
must fetch him out.  Here, all of you come and help."

He made for the pale, misty curtain before them, but only tottered a few
steps, and then fell heavily upon his face with a groan.

"He's deal worse than us is," said Smith, who was now beginning to think
more clearly.  "Billy, old man, it was that water we drank, and the
natives have been pysoning it to kill the fishes, and killed us

"Eh!  What!"

"Native savages been trying to pyson the fishes, and pysoned us instead,
matey.  I said it afore, Billy Wriggs--I says it again, and I'll go on
saying on it for a week if that'll do you any good."

"I'm all right, matey.  I'm all right, Tommy.  But what do the native
savages want to pyson the fishes for?  Never did the savages any harm."

"Billy Wriggs, you'd better get a noo head, mate, and send this one to
be cleaned."

"Ay!  You're right, mate, for this here one won't go at all.  Feels as
if some'un had been sifting sea-sand into the works.  But what had the
fishes done?"

"Nothing.  Pyson 'em to float atop, and ketch 'em to eat.  Now come and
help sooperior officers as have tumbled down all of a heap."

As he spoke, Smith rose from the ground to which he had fallen, and
reeled toward Panton and Drew, slowly, and as if he could only see them
dimly at a distance, while Wriggs followed his example, and came on in a
zigzag, idiotic way.

Suddenly Smith stood up erect, and uttered a hoarse cry, as he stared
wildly at his companions.

"Here!" he yelled.  "Help!  I know now.  Mr Lane.  He went in there
with us, and he aren't been out.  Come on!"

His strength and honest manly feeling had come back with the flash of
light which had illumined his brain, and rushing straight for the mist,
they saw him begin to grow bigger as if looked at through a magnifying
glass, increasing in size till he was monstrous, indistinct and blurred,
and then completely disappear.

The man's cry and subsequent action roused them, and all staggered after
him with their power of thinking clearly returning, and with it a
feeling of horror as they grasped the fact that two of their party were
now lost in the strange belt of vapour, whose fumes had so strangely
overcome them.

"We must help them," cried Panton wildly.  "Come on: follow me."

He started for the mist before them, but before he could reach it, Smith
staggered and reeled out, striking against him, and then catching his
breath as if he had been held under water, or as a man rises to the
surface after being nearly drowned.

"Stop!" he panted, with his eyes seeming to start out of his head.  "You
can't go.  A man can't breathe in there.  I'll try again, d'reckly,
gentlemen, but--but! oh, the poor, brave, handsome lad!  I--I--"

The big, strong, rough fellow's voice became indistinct, and the sobs
rose to his throat, nearly choking him in the weakness he vainly strove
to hide.

"Come, come," said Panton hoarsely, as he supported the man, Drew trying
hard the while to shake off the effects of the vapour and be of some

"He liked him, gents," growled Wriggs, an the strange intoxication
seemed now to have passed off.

"Yes," cried Smith, hysterically.  "Course I did, gentlemen, and I'm
going in again to try and fetch the poor lad out.  But," he continued
feebly, "you can't breathe in there, and it takes hold on yer somehow
and sucks the strength out of yer.  It's like when poor Joe Noble went
down in the hold among the foul air, and it killed him right off at

"There, hold up," said Panton, firmly now.  "I'll go this time."

"Yes, sir, and we'll go together and take hold of hands," cried Smith.

"Ay, all on us," growled Wriggs, "and take hold o' hands and fetch him
out afore we've done."

Drew said nothing, but as Wriggs caught hold of Smith's hand, he seized
Panton's, and, moved as if by one mind, they stepped quickly forward,
feeling at the end of a dozen paces that there was a difference in the
air they breathed, which grew thicker as their sight became less clear
and their motions more heavy.

But hand clenched hand with more convulsive violence, and in step they
kept on till first one and then another reeled and staggered, and it was
only by turning suddenly round and stumbling back over their track that
they were able to reach the free fresh air before, to a man, they
staggered and fell to the ground.

Panton was the first to speak.

"I'd try again," he groaned, "but I have not the strength."

"Ay, and I'd go, sir, but it's as I said!" cried Smith piteously.
"Think he can be alive yet?"

"Heaven only knows," sighed Panton, as he tried to sit up, but sank back
again, while Drew turned his face toward them and gazed at his
companions with a strangely vacant expression that in its helplessness
was pitiful to see.

"Tommy!" gasped Wriggs suddenly, as he lay flat on his face, "hit me,
will yer, matey--hit me hard.  That there feeling's come all over me
again, and I don't know what I'm a doing, or what I'm a saying.  It's
just as if I'd been struck silly and my legs had run away."

"Try--try again, Smith," groaned Panton.  "Give me your hand.  I think I
am stronger now."

"Not you, sir," replied the sailor.  "Here, hi!  Billy Wriggs, whatcher
doing on?"

For the man had slowly raised himself upon his feet again, and was
tottering toward the mist.

"I'm a-going, matey, to fetch that there young natooralist out o' yonder
if I dies for it: that's what I'm a-going to do."

He spoke in a low muttering growl, and the man's looks and actions as he
reeled and groped his way along were those of one stupefied by some
strong narcotic.

"But yer can't do it, lad," cried Smith, rising to his knees.  "Come

"I'm a-going to fetch out that there young natooralist," muttered
Wriggs, as he staggered on.

"But I tell yer yer can't," shouted Smith.

"Quick, let's try again," said Panton, struggling to his feet once more,
and now with Smith also erect and grasping his hand, they two came on in
Wriggs' track, just as Drew rolled over quite insensible.

They did not advance a dozen paces, for Wriggs, who had tottered on
strong in his determination to do that which his nature forbade, gave a
sudden lurch and fell heavily, head in advance, and the others knew that
he must be within the influence of the mephitic vapour.

It was hard work to think this, for, as Smith afterwards said, it was
like using your brain through so much solid wood; but in a blind
helpless fashion they tottered on, and, bending down, each caught one of
the man's ankles, and dragged him back by their weight more than by any
mechanical action of their own, each movement being a kind of fall
forward and the natural recovery.  The result was that step by step
Wriggs was dragged from where the vapour was inhaled till Drew was
reached, and they sank upon the bare burnt earth again, bewildered, and
lacking the power to think, as if the mists had gathered thickly in
their brains, and they could do nothing else but lie and wait for the
return of strength.



Hours passed, during which the little party lay utterly exhausted and
overcome, sunk in a deep sleep, which partook more of the nature of a
swoon.  They were only a few yards away from the mist, and in such a
position that, had a breeze arisen to waft it toward them, the
probabilities were that they would never have awakened more.

It was Panton who first slowly opened his eyes to look round and gaze
wonderingly at his companions, then at the golden mist, whose deeper
folds were orange and warm soft red.

For it was evening, and as he turned toward the sinking sun it was some
minutes before it occurred to him that it would be tropic night almost
directly after, and that his companions should be roused.  At the same
moment came the recollection of why they were there, but without the
strange confusion from which he had before suffered, the long sleep
having carried it off.

The others started into wakefulness at a touch, and stood staring at him

"Are you ready to try again?" he said in a low voice full of emotion.

"Yes," came spoken simultaneously.

"Then come on, we must find him now."

He took a step or two forward, and the others followed, but a moment
later Smith seized him by the arm.

"No, sir," he cried.  "It won't do, and I should be no man if I let you

"Loose my arm!" cried Panton, angrily.  "Recollect, sir, who you are!"

"I do, sir," said the man stoutly; "but you're not my officer, only a
passenger; and if our poor old captain was alive, or if Mr Rimmer was
here, he'd say I was quite right."

"What do you mean, sir?" cried Panton, whom the exposure to the mephitic
gases had left irritable and strange.

"I mean, sir, as it's my dooty to stop you from going to sartain death,
and you may say what you like, and call me what you like, but me and my
mate, Billy Wriggs, is going to stop you, so there."

"Such insolence!" cried Panton angrily.

"All right, sir.  You're going to do as I do, aren't you, Billy?"

"Course I am, Tommy.  And you give in, sir.  He's got a horful long head
has Tommy Smith, and what he says is right; we aren't going to let you

"Cowards!" cried Panton angrily.

"That's right, sir, you just go on like that a bit, and call us names.
It'll ease your mind ever so.  We don't mind, do we, Billy?"

"Not us," growled Wriggs.  "He's right, sir.  Give it to us."

"Brutes!" cried Panton, as the darkness began to approach with wonderful
speed.  "Here, Drew, we must go together.  We cannot desert our comrade
at a time like this."

"No," said Drew, "it would be the act of cowards if we could do
anything; but the men are right.  You cannot go."

"What?  You side with them?  Cowards!  Yes, worse.  How could we ever
face his friends unless we had striven to the last?"

"We have striven to the last, man.  Look!  In a few minutes it will be
black night, and to attempt to plunge into that horrible vapour would be
madness, weakened and overwrought as we are."

"I thought so," cried Panton.  "The poor fellow has but one who will
make a fight for him."

"Stop!" cried Drew, clinging to his arm.

"Let go!"

"I say you shall not."

"Let go, or take the consequences," cried Panton furiously, and he
raised his gun as if to strike at his companion with the butt.

"Here, Smith, Wriggs, help me, he is half mad.  He must not, he shall
not go alone!"

"Then come with me, cowards!" cried Panton.

"No, sir, we aren't a coming to see you die," said Smith quickly, as he
seized the hand which held the gun.  "Now, Billy, ketch hold behind."

The struggle began, but it was a vain one.  No one present was gifted
with much strength; but it was three to one, and as the darkness fell
the four shadowy forms looked dim and strange, writhing here and there,
Panton striving hard to free himself from the restraining hands as he
made a brave fight, but gradually growing weaker till, all at once,
Wriggs, who had retained his position behind during the struggle,
suddenly clasped his hands round the poor fellow's waist, and lifted him
right from the ground.

"That's got him," he growled.  "Now, Tommy, you get hold on his legs,
and we'll lie him down."

"Right!" cried Smith, and in this ignoble way Panton would the next
minute have been thrown down, had not a shout suddenly come out of the
gloom behind them.

The effect was magical.

Smith let go of Panton's legs, and Wriggs unclasped his hands to place
them to his mouth and give forth a tremendous yell.

"Ahoy!  Ship ahoy!" he cried.

"Ahoy!" came from very near at hand, followed by a couple more distant
calls, and another so faint as hardly to be heard.

"Ahoy!  Here away!" shouted Smith, and the next minute there were
footsteps, and a familiar voice said,--"Where are you?"

"Here!" cried Drew eagerly.

"Thank goodness!" cried Mr Rimmer.  "Found you at last.  I was afraid
something had happened to you, gentlemen.  Ahoy!"

His shout, intended to rally his followers, was echoed four times, and
as soon as he had replied he turned to the breathless party.

"Hallo, gentlemen, been running?" he cried.  "I didn't like to leave you
longer for fear anything might have gone wrong, so I came on with half a
dozen men.  How plaguey dark.  Hallo!  Where's Mr Lane?"

There was an ominous silence and Mr Rimmer repeated his question.

"Don't say anything has happened to the lad," he cried.

Then Drew spoke and told him all.

"What, and you stand there like that without making another try!" said
Mr Rimmer fiercely.

"There!  You hear?" cried Panton.  "I'll go with you, Mr Rimmer.  The
poor fellow must be saved."

"By acts, Mr Panton, not by talking," said the mate, sternly.  "This
way, my lads," he cried, as first one and then another of the _Planet's_
crew hurried to his side.  "Here's fresh work for you, I've found some
of the party, but young Mr Oliver Lane's missing.  Volunteers to find

"All on us, sir," came eagerly.

"That's right," said the mate.  "Now, then, which way did he go in?"

"Mr Rimmer, you don't know the danger!" cried Drew.

"No, sir, nor don't want to till after the job.  Now, then, point out
the nearest spot as far as you can recollect."

"I think I can guide you," said Panton.

"Hold hard, please, sir, just a moment," cried Smith.  "You don't know
what it is, sir, as you're going to do."

"Silence, sir! who spoke to you?" snapped the mate.  "Wait till your
advice is asked."

"Tommy Smith's quite right, sir," growled Wriggs.

"Silence, sir."

"Right, sir, but I stands by my mate," growled Wriggs.

"Now, then, Mr Panton, I am waiting.  Quick!"

"I cannot let you go into that terrible danger without making another
protest," cried Drew.  "Mr Rimmer, we have done everything that man
could do in the way of trying to save the poor lad's life."

"Possibly, Mr Drew, but I have not done all I mean to do.  Now, then,
Mr Panton, forward."

The gentleman addressed stepped forward at once, and with the mate and
the six men who had accompanied him close behind entered the curtain of
mist, invisible now save as increasing the darkness and shutting out the
sparkling stars.

"No, no, don't you go, Smith," cried Drew just then, as the sailor made
a movement to follow the others.

"But he'll think I'm scared, sir, if I don't go," cried Smith.

"Ay, I am coming, too, Tommy."

"No; it is utter madness," cried Drew.  "Stand here both of you, ready
to help them when they come out."

"Mean it, sir?" cried Smith.

"Yes, of course, man."

"Hear that, Billy.  Well, the mate didn't tell us to come arter him, and
they're safe to come back."

"Ay, they air--if they can," said Wriggs gruffly.

"Ah, if they can, mate.  That's a true word," cried Smith, "Hi!  Look
out.  They've had enough of it a'ready."

For at that moment one of the sailors ran staggering back through the
darkness and fell heavily.

"Help, someone, help!" came in the mate's voice, and by a tremendous
effort he too staggered out, half bearing, half supporting Panton, and
both falling heavily before they could be supported.

"Hi!  All of you this way!" roared Smith, but his words were evidently
not heard.  However, they were unnecessary, for first two together and
then three, the party of sailors tottered out overcome by the fumes,
only one of them being sufficiently master of himself to sit down and
hold his head; the others fell prone on the dry burnt ground.

"They'll believe us now," said Smith with a dry laugh.

"Man, man, don't talk.  Try and help them," cried Drew.  "Hah, look

"Can't, sir! too dark."

"Feel those men whether they have water-bottles with them; Mr Rimmer
here has."

"Right, sir.  Here's one."

"Give them water, then," cried Drew, setting the example and pouring
some of the cool fluid between the lips of first Panton, and then of the
mate.  But it was some minutes before it had the slightest effect, and
there was a time when it seemed as if a fresh calamity was to be added
to their other trouble.

But first one and then another began to mutter incoherently before
sinking into a heavy sleep, the mate, who was the most vigorous man
present, having the hardest fight of all, and when he did cease babbling
as he lay there in the darkness there was a coldness of hand and
weakness of pulse that was startling.

Then came a weary time of waiting in the darkness beneath the glittering
stars till all at once Smith suggested that he should light a fire.

"We don't want it to warm ourselves, sir," he said, "but it'll make the
place more cheery like and keep off the wild beasties if there are any

"Where are you going to get your wood from, matey?" growled Wriggs.

"Ah, I never thought o' that, mate.  There aren't none about here,
that's certain."

"And you don't want none," cried Wriggs, for suddenly the mist was lit
up by a bright glare of light and above it the globular-looking cloud
became illuminated as if from some burst of light below.  "That's good
enough to see by, aren't it?"

Drew rose to his feet to stand gazing wildly at the bright illumination
which showed plainly enough the overcome men lying in uneasy attitudes
as they had fallen.

The two sailors sprang to their feet, for there was a quivering motion
of the earth, whose surface heaved as does a cloth held at the corners
and shaken.  The next moment there was a tearing, splitting sound
running apparently toward them, and by the reflected light, there,
plainly enough, a rift could be seen opening slowly, more and more
widely, and evidently going straight for where Panton lay.

"Earthquake!" shouted Drew.  "Quick! help!!"  But the two men stood
shivering and helpless as if unable to stir, and the fate now of the
young geologist and the mate seemed to be sealed.



It was dull, heavy, slow-going Billy Wriggs who saved their lives.  One
moment he stood scratching his head, the next he had made a rush like a
bull, thrown himself down on his side, and somehow managing to get a
good grip of the mate's waistband, had swung him over towards Smith.

"Run him farder away," cried Wriggs, and he shuffled himself then to
Panton just as the rift opened widely.

There was a quick rustling sound, and a dull thud as Panton was gripped
hard--flesh as well as clothes, and swung over the sailor into
comparative safety.

But it was at the man's own expense, for he began to glide downward in a
slow, gradual way, first his legs, then his body, till only his chest
was visible as he dug his fingers into the ground and tried to hold on.

At such a time it might have been expected that the man would shriek out
in agony and despair, slowly subsiding as he was into a rift which
promised a death so horrible, that those who looked on were paralysed
for the moment beyond affording help; but Billy Wriggs' words did not
indicate suffering or terror, only a good-hearted friendly remembrance
of his messmate, for he shouted out as if by way of farewell,--

"Tommy, old mate, I leave yer my brass baccy-box."

The words galvanised Smith into action.  He had seized and dragged
Panton away in time, but as he saw his companion sinking into the crack
which grew slowly longer and wider, he stood with his eyes staring and
jaw dropped till the words "baccy-box" reached his ears.  Then he made a
rush to where Wriggs' head and shoulders only remained above ground,
stooped quickly, and seized him by his thin garment, and held on,
checking further descent and gazing wildly at his messmate, whose rugged
features upturned to the red glow of light appeared to be singularly
calm and placid.

"Steady, mate," he said mildly.  "Don't tear my shirt."

"Won't I!" cried Smith, savagely.  "Where's that theer box?"

"Breeches' pocket, mate."

"That's you all over," snarled Smith, as his hands got a better grip,
first one and then the other, and his voice sounded like an angry growl
between his set teeth.  "Promise--a chap--a box--and then--going to take
it with yer.  Yer would, would yer?  But yer just won't."

"Let me take my skin, then," cried Wriggs.  "Don't tear it all off," as
he winced beneath the savage grip which checked his descent.

"Nay I weant, mate," growled Smith.  "I wants it, too, and hold tight,
Billy, the deck's giving way.  Heave ho!"

Smith threw himself backward as he made a tremendous heave, and none too
soon, for a great patch of the earth at the side gave way where he
stood.  But he had thrown all a strong man's force into one mighty
effort, and as Drew stood trembling and helpless, he saw the two men
clasped in each other's arms, rolling over and over into safety, just as
a horrible fume rose from the rift which now ran on in a zigzag split,
like a flash of lightning in shape, and as rapid.  Then followed a sharp
report as of subterranean thunder and the earth closed again.

"Would yer bite--would yer bite!" grumbled Wriggs, as he stared at the

"Well, of all the onsartain dangerous places as ever I was in," said
Smith, in a low growl, "this here's about the worst."

"Ay, 'tis mate," said Wriggs.  "Sea's safest arter all.  I say, though,"
he continued as he softly rubbed himself about the ribs, "might ha' took
hold of a fellow a bit easier, Tommy.  You've made me feel all loose."

"Sarve yer right, chucking yerself down like that.  Why, if it hadn't
been for me, you'd ha' been nipped fast there.  Now, then, where's that
there 'bacco-box?  Hand over."

"Nay, I said I'd leave it to yer, mate.  I was making o' my will.  Going
to use it a bit longer, mate, but I'll give yer a quid."

"What an escape, my lads," panted Drew, who now came up and shook hands
with them both warmly.

"Well, it weer pretty close, sir," said Wriggs, as he went on gently
rubbing his sides.  "But I'm beginning to think as Tommy Smith had
better ha' left me alone.  His fingers is as hard as a brass statoo's.
But there, mate, I forgives yer.  How's the gents, sir?"

Drew shook his head, and after the mate and Panton had been carried some
little distance from where the earth had split open and re-closed, the
party seated themselves in a despondent state to watch the golden cloud
which hung high in air, like a huge ball of liquid fire, and lit up the
place while they waited for morn.

Panton and Mr Rimmer both seemed to be sleeping heavily, and one of the
sailors remained similarly affected, but their state did not appear now
to be so alarming after the past experience, and Drew contented himself
with satisfying himself from time to time that they were breathing
comfortably, while he waited and thought sadly about their young

"If I could only feel satisfied that we had done everything possible to
save him," he said to himself, for his conscience reproached him for
idling there when he might have perhaps schemed some way of dragging him
out from the mist.

Just about the time when his spirits were at the lowest ebb he became
conscious of the fact that the two sailors, Smith and Wriggs, were
engaged in an argument with one of the rescue party, and he listened to
what was said.

"Look-ye here," growled Smith, "what's the good o' you talking that way?
You see how it was; yer couldn't hardly breathe, and what yer could
breathe warn't fresh hair, but a rum sort o' stuff as comes out o' the
earth and knocks yer over 'fore you knows where you are.  I never felt
nowt like it, did you, Billy?"

"No; and never wants to smell it again.  Yer didn't feel it, yer smelt
it, lads, and then you was nowheres.  Say, Tommy."

"What is it?"

"Wonder what it's like down below, inside like.  You hauled me out 'fore
I'd half a chance to find out."

"Why didn't yer say yer wanted to see?  Then I'd ha' let yer go."

"Nay, you wouldn't, Tommy," said Wriggs, with a chuckle.  "Be too warm,
wouldn't it?"

"But what I was saying, mates, was as I don't think we tried hard enough
to find Mr Lane.  We ought to have done something."

"Ay; but how are you going to do it?" said Wriggs, shortly, just as the
man's words had gone like a pang through Drew's breast, making him feel
that even the men were judging him adversely.  "That's the worst o' you
clever ones: you says, says you, `We ought to do some'at,' but you don't
say what."

"That's a true word, Billy Wriggs," cried Smith, clapping his messmate
on the shoulder, "they don't say what.  Why, 'fore you chaps come, Mr
Panton and Mr Drew--"

"And Tommy Smith," growled Wriggs.

"Well, I did try a bit, mate, and so did you, till we couldn't do no
more.  I don't believe a hangel could ha' done more than Billy did."

"Oh, I say, mate," grumbled Wriggs, modestly.

"I says it again, `could ha' done more than Billy did.'  But it's like
this here, mates, the onpossible's just a bit too hard for a man to do,
and whether he likes it or whether he don't, he's got to put up with it,
and that's what clever people calls flossify."

"And quite rightly, my man," said Drew, coming close up.  "Smith and
Wriggs behaved like brave, true men, my lads."

"Easy, sir, please.  We only tried same as you did."

"You think, then, that we tried everything that was possible to save my

"Think, sir?  Why, Billy and me's sure on it, eh, Billy?"


"Hah!" ejaculated Drew, "you have done me good, my lads, for my heart
felt very sore and my conscience reproached me cruelly for not doing

"It's all right, sir," cried Smith, cheerily.  "You wait till the
morning comes, and then we shall see a way o' sarcumventing this gas, as
you calls it, and I daresay we shall find Mr Lane somewhere all right
on t'other side."

"If I could only feel that, I could rest till morning," said Drew.

"Then just you feel it, sir," said Smith.  "It's what I feels strong."

"So do I, sir, now," put in Wriggs.  "If Tommy Smith mays so, it's all

Drew tried to think that it was, but the pleasant, hopeful sensation
would not come, and he sat now with the men, now beside the mate and his
friend Panton, waiting for the morning, the first hints of its approach
being in the gradual paling of the golden light from the cloud over the
volcano, and the appearance of the softer, more natural glow, that came
in the east, bringing with it a more diffused light, and the hope that
rides in with the dazzling rays of a new day.



Oliver Lane's double gun gave forth two sharp clicks as his thumb
pressed back the cocks, and then, raising it to his shoulder, he waited,
with his eyes searching among the thick leaves of the fig-tree, and
trying to penetrate the orchids which clustered where the trunk forked
and sent forth a dozen or so of minor boughs.

But the snarling sound had ceased, and there was not the slightest
rustle among the leaves to indicate the spot where the animal was
hidden.  But in imagination he could see some big, lithe, cat-like
creature crouching there in the tree-fork, ready to spring, its head
looking flattened with the ears drawn down, teeth gleaming in a fierce
snarl, eyes flashing with green phosphorescent-like light, and sharp
claws alternately protruded and withdrawn.

All this was pictured by his active brain, but there was nothing visible
save a gleam here and there, where the light from a fire-fly shone
faintly from some leaf.

A minute passed, all eager watchfulness, and at the slightest rustle
indicating action on the part of the animal Lane would have drawn
trigger.  But all remained still, and the young man asked himself what
he had better do.

There were other trees about, but not one which offered such a
satisfactory lodging, so easy to reach.

"One oughtn't to mind a cat on the premises," he laughingly said to
himself at last.  "It would keep away nuisances, but this is too much of
a cat, and wants to have all the bed to itself."

He hesitated about firing into the tree to scare the beast, partly from
the idea that it might irritate it into springing and taking him at a
disadvantage, for as he stood there the light was behind him, so that he
must be plain to his invisible enemy; then, in the smoke, he would be
unable to make out his foe, and there would be no chance or time to take
aim with the second barrel, and he knew what the result would be--the
brute seizing him with teeth and claws, holding on fast while it tore
him with its hind legs, as a cat does a rat.

"A miserable end at the beginning of one's life," thought Lane.
"Discretion's the better part of valour," he muttered.  "I'll go back
and find another tree."

He stood for a few minutes longer, in the utter silence, listening for
some movement from his enemy, but there was none.  Then he began to hope
that it had stolen away, and he moved slightly--drawing back to go in
search of fresh lodgings.  But at the first step there was a savage
growl, such as might have been uttered by a magnified cat, and his
fingers moved to press the trigger, as he stood firm, with the butt of
the piece pressed to his shoulder, and his cheek against the stock.

The snarling ceased and all was dead silence again, while, oddly enough,
the old story of the Irish soldier came to Lane's mind:

"Please, sor, I've caught a Tartar prisoner."

"Bring him along, then."

"Please, sor, he won't come."

"Then come without him."

"Please, sor, he won't let me."

For, in spite of his excitement and its accompanying alarm, Lane could
not help smiling at his predicament.  He knew that if he beat a retreat
the beast would spring at him, and taking into consideration the fact
that he would be better off if he took the offensive and advanced, he at
once acted upon the latter course.

Taking a step forward, there was another savage snarl, and he aimed, as
nearly as he could guess, at the spot whence it came, and waited, but
the animal did not spring.

He moved forward again and there was another snarl--a pause--a slight
movement--another snarl and a scratching noise, which meant the tearing
at the bark of the trunk upon which the animal crouched.

"I must fire," thought Lane, and bending forward again, the snarling was
resumed and he drew trigger.

Almost simultaneously with the shot there was a fierce yell, and the
young man received a tremendous blow in the chest, which knocked him
backwards right amongst the thick growth; then came a loud rustling, the
sound of the animal dashing through the tangle of undergrowth, and then
all was still.

"Killed, or escaped wounded?" muttered: Lane, as he gathered himself up,
and stood with his gun ready to deliver the contents of the second
barrel.  But at the end of ten minutes or so there was no sound to break
the silence, save a peculiar rending, tearing noise at a distance,
followed by a rumbling boom, as of thunder under ground, and a sensation
as of the earth quivering beneath his feet.

This passed away, and feeling safe for the moment, Lane opened the
breech of his piece, threw away the empty cartridge, and replaced it
with one containing heavy shot before stepping up to the tree, and
climbing up the trunk easily enough by the help of the cable-like
parasite which enlaced its great buttresses.

He had not far to mount, for the main trunk ended about twelve feet from
the ground, and after a little feeling about amongst the dense orchid
growth, he soon found a position where he could sit astride, and support
his back in a comfortable half-reclining posture, perfectly safe from
all risk of falling, so that there was every prospect of a good night's

"I hope they will not fidget about me very much," he said to himself, as
he thought of his companions.  Then, utterly tired out, and with his
perceptions somewhat blunted by fatigue, he gave his friends the credit
of thinking that he would be able to take care of himself, and leaned

"Jolly," he muttered.  "Cheap, comfortable lodgings if it don't rain,
and the leopard, or whatever it was, does not come back to turn out this
trespasser.  Hah! how restful and nice.  Can't fall: but I'm not going
to cuddle this gun all night."

He began to feel about for a place where he could lay the gun down
safely, and at the end of a minute his hand touched something warm and
furry, which began to stir about and utter a whining, mewing noise.

He snatched away his hand in dread, then extended it again to begin
feeling his discovery.

"Pups!" he exclaimed.  "Kittens I mean!  Two of them; fine fat ones,
too.  They're harmless enough if their mother does not come back," and
going on patting and feeling the little animals, he fully realised now
the reason for their mother's ferocity, though he felt that it might
have been their father.

"No," he said, half aloud, "it must have been the mother, for she would
make her nursery somewhere in hiding, for fear that papa should want to
play Saturn, and eat his children up."

The cubs whined softly a little, and nestled their soft heads against
his hand.  Then they sank down in the nest-like hollow of a decayed limb
of the tree and went to sleep, while Oliver Lane found a tough vine-like
stem behind which he was able to tuck his piece safely.  And a few
moments after, regardless of volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, foul
gases, and ferocious beasts, the young naturalist went off fast asleep,
and did not stir till he heard, mingled with his dreams, the shrill
shrieking of a flock of paroquets, which were climbing about among the
smaller branches of the tree high overhead, and feasting upon the fast
ripening figs.



It took Oliver Lane some time to pass from a sound sleep gradually
through half-waking dreams to the full knowledge of his position, and
then, albeit somewhat cramped and stiff, feeling rested and bright, he
lay back listening to the calls and answers of the birds, and watching
them with a true naturalist's intense delight.  For there he was in the
very position he had longed to reach, right amongst nature's gems in
their own abode, full of life and vigour.  He had seen these birds
before, but as attractively-plumaged dry specimens.  Here they were
hanging, crawling, and climbing about, busy, with every feather in
motion, their eyes bright, and beaks and claws all abloom with colour.
Now their feathers were tightly pressed to their softly-curved bodies,
now standing almost on end, giving the birds a round, plump aspect that
was delightful when the sun gleamed through, and flashed from the golden
green, bright scarlet, or vivid blue, with which they had been painted
by nature's loving hand.  Others were entirely of a beautiful green, all
save their heads, which glowed with a peach bloom, while, again, others
bore the same leafy uniform, and, for decoration, a dark collar, and
long, pencil-like-produced feathers in their tails.

There was the gun close at hand.  Lane had but to take it from beneath
the creeper which held it fast; but, at this time, it never occurred to
him that he might secure two or three splendid specimens for the
collection he sought to make, so occupied was he by the action of the
flock in the tree.

It was all delightful to him to watch the soft, easy, deliberate way in
which the paroquets climbed with beak and claw, hooking on with the
former, and then raising one foot with its soft, clasping, yoke-toes to
take a firm hold before bringing up the other; then, holding on by both,
and swinging gently to and fro, the beak was set at liberty, and the
bird hung head downwards, to feast upon some luscious fig.

"If they only had a sweet note, instead of their harsh scream," thought
Lane, "what lovely creatures they would be."

He sat there watching them for about an hour, but far from satiated, for
there was always something fresh to see, and the birds were so tame,
that he often had them within a few feet of his head, some soft,
round-headed creature turning itself on one side to gaze at him with its
keen eye as if in wonder, before going on with its feeding, satisfied
that it would not be hurt.

Then the delightful scene came to an end with the climbing birds and the
foliage lit up by the horizontal rays of the sun, for, all at once,
there was a deafening explosion, and, shrieking loudly, the flock took
flight, while Lane sat there appalled, listening in expectation of
another report, the former having evidently come from the mountain; but,
as he listened, there was in place of the explosion, a loud hissing, and
then a loud, heavy pattering, accompanied and followed by thud after
thud, and he knew, though he could not see for the dense foliage, that a
volley of heavy stones and masses of pumice had been fired into the air,
to fall from various heights back to earth on the mountain slopes.

"Ah, I must go and see that," he said to himself, as he seized his gun.
"Not my department, but none the less interesting.  I wish Panton was

A soft, whining noise took his attention then, and, glancing beside him,
he saw that the cubs which had been his companions all night were
straining about, climbing over each other, and falling back, evidently
wanting their morning meal.

"And I suppose I have killed their mother," thought Lane, as he bent
over and patted the two furry animals.  "Poor little things!  I must
come back and get them, and take them with me to the ship, if I can
cross the belt of mist.  First of all, though, the mountain--I must go
up that as far as I can climb."

So, descending and shouldering his piece, he strode to where the ashes
of his fire lay and then brought his gun down to the present, for there
was a quick, rustling sound to his left, and he caught a glimpse of
glossy, spotted fur, as an animal passed amongst the dense undergrowth.
Then, before he had time to fire, had he felt so disposed, a huge,
lithe, cat-like creature bounded on to the trunk of the tree he had just
left, uttering a strange, purring cry, and disappeared in the orchids
which clustered about the fork.

"Then I did not shoot the mother," thought Lane.  "So much the better."

Then, as all was still and no danger to be apprehended there, he
shouldered his gun and strode off towards the more open ground, which he
reached at last, forgetful of everything but the intense desire to try
and ascend the cone-shaped mountain which stood before him, capped with
a dense pall of smoke and steam.

After tramping about an hour, the sight of trickling water down amongst
some stones suggested to him the fact that he had not broken his fast
that morning, so sitting down upon a block of stone, he brought out the
remains left in his wallet and ate them, stale as they were, as he
looked round him, finding that he had climbed to higher ground than he
expected; but though he looked eagerly toward the part where the ship
must have lain in the middle of the wave-swept plain, everything was cut
off by a dull, misty appearance.  Not the clearly marked band of sunny
haze he had seen from low down on the level therewith, but a foggy,
indistinct state of the atmosphere.

Away to his right, he feasted his eyes upon the enormous mass of stone
and ash which towered up in a beautifully regular curve, with apparently
nothing to hinder him from walking up the steep slope to the crater,
into which he felt an uncontrollable desire to gaze.

"I ought to get up to the top in two or three hours," he thought, as he
mentally mapped out his course, seeing nothing likely to hinder him but
rough blocks of stone dotted about in all directions.  Nothing in
themselves, but ominous of aspect when he took into consideration the
fact that they must have been hurled upward from the mountain, and
fallen back on the slope in all probability white-hot.

"One will have warning," he thought, "and there may be no more fall

Finishing his last mouthful, he took out an india-rubber cup, and
stooping down, filled it from the trickling course, raised it to his
lips, and then spurted out a mouthful in disgust, for it was hot,
bitter, salt, and had a most objectionable odour.

"Ugh!" he ejaculated, "mustn't depend on you."  Then giving another
glance round, he shouldered his gun, and commenced the ascent, leaving
all vegetation behind him, and soon finding that his way lay over loose
scoria and finely-powdered pumice, into which his feet sank at every

But as the difficulties and steepness of the ascent increased, so did
the desire to climb higher and see more of the volcano, and also more of
the country into which fate had brought him.  Once a few hundred feet
higher, he felt he would be able to set all doubts at rest as to whether
they were surrounded by the sea; and to get this proof Oliver Lane
pressed on.

After a time he got more into the knack of climbing without slipping
back so much, but the sun was getting higher, and its beams grew warm,
while he was conscious of a sensation as of heat striking upward from
the ashy substance of which the slope was composed, and at last, to
gratify his curiosity, and to clear away a doubt, Lane stooped down to
lay his hand flat upon the ash, and snatch it away again, for it was
quite hot.

For a moment or two after this, he hesitated, but there above him rose
the cone with its crest of smoke, and apparently nothing to hinder him
from climbing steadily to the top, and from thence getting a bird's-eye
view of the country round.

That was enough to start him on, and setting himself manfully to the
task, in less than half an hour he found that he had reached an
atmospheric band where the breeze blew pleasantly cool and invigorating.
The cloud over the summit of the cone had floated away, and all was
clear and bright as he resumed the ascent, feeling now that an hour
would bring him to the top, when all at once he fell upon his knees, and
then threw himself at full length.  For the mountain quivered beneath
his feet, and produced a giddy sensation as the surface rose and fell in
waves, whilst almost simultaneously there was a terrific roar, and he
saw a dense cloud driven out from above, and ascending to a tremendous
height, as if shot out by an internal explosion.

His first feeling was, that he must turn and rush down: his second, that
it would be madness to stir, for the side of the mountain was opening
and shutting in a network of fissures, and the next minute, the cloud
which he had seen blasted upwards proved itself not to be so much mist,
but a storm of ashes and scoria mingled with huge masses of rock, which
now curled over like a fountain, and were falling back in all

Oliver Lane tried to anchor himself to the shifting ashes as he lay
there, feeling that his last hour had come, for darkness was now added
to the other horrors, and the mountain-side was in strange quivering
motion, gaze wildly whichever way he would.

The fall of a mass of glowing cinders, so close that he could feel the
scorching heat against his cheek, roused Oliver Lane to the fact that it
was more dangerous to stay than to rush down-hill, running the gauntlet
of the falling shower; and, after a moment's hesitation, he turned and
ran for his life.  The white-hot stones and cinders fell around him as
he bounded down, having hard work to keep his footing, for at every leap
the loose scoria gave way as he alighted, and slipped with him in an
avalanche of dust and ashes from which he had to extricate himself.

Once he had pretty well dragged himself out when the ashes for far
enough round began to glide downward, the thick haze of volcanic dust
around adding to his confusion, while every step he took in his frantic
efforts to keep on the surface resulted in his sinking more deeply till
he was above his waist in the loose gliding stuff and awake to the fact
that it was scorchingly hot.

But all at once, as despair was beginning to enfold him in a tighter
hold than the ash and cinder, the gliding avalanche suddenly stopped,
and as it was not like the Alpine snow ready to adhere and be compressed
into ice, he was able to extricate himself and slide and roll down for
some distance further.

Then all at once he found that he was in the sunshine again, and that
the stones had ceased to fall and the mountain to quiver; while, as he
gazed upward, it was to see that the dark cloud was slowly floating
away, giving him a view of the edge of the crater where it was broken
down for some distance in the shape of a rugged V, and just at the
bottom, every now and then, there was a bright glow of fire visible.
The glow then sank completely out of sight, but only to rise up again,
and this was continued as the young naturalist watched, suggesting to
him the fact that the crater must be full of boiling lava which rose to
the edge in its ebullitions and then dropped below the rugged wall.

Ten minutes later the glowing stones which had fallen, looked black and
grey; the cloud was at a distance, and there was nothing to indicate
that the beautifully shaped mountain ever presented another aspect than
that of peace.

Oliver Lane stood looking up with the longing to ascend to the edge of
the crater growing strong once more, but he was fagged by his exertions,
bathed in perspiration, and aware of the fact that an intense glowing
heat rose from the surface all around him, while the air he breathed
seemed to produce a strange suffocating effect when he turned his face
from the wind which swept over the mountain slope.

In a few minutes he decided that it would be madness to persevere, and
that it would be wise to wait until the volcano was in a more quiescent
state, for at any minute there might come a fresh explosion from the
mouth from which he might not be able to escape so easily.

He looked longingly round to try and make out something of value to
report as to their position, but the mountain shut everything off in the
direction lying north, and he was reluctantly about to continue his
descent when he felt the stones beneath his feet tremble again.  Then
came a report like that of a huge cannon, and what seemed to be an
enormous rock shot upward for hundreds of feet, hung for a moment or two
in the clear air, and then fell back into the crater.

That was enough.  A burning thirst and a sensation of breathing
something which irritated his lungs, awakened him to the fact that he
must find water, and, regardless of the heat, he once more began to
hurry downward toward the level plain from which the mountain curved up
in so beautiful a cone.

Oliver Lane soon found that he was not returning upon his steps, and
though apparently not far from where he ascended, it was plain enough
that, even if they had not been obliterated by the falling ash and
cinders, the fragments flowed together again like sand.  A greater proof
still was afforded him in the fact that about a quarter of a mile lower
down his farther progress was checked by a rugged chasm running right
across his path, apparently cutting him off from the lower portion and
extending to right and left farther than he could see.

He approached it with caution, but found that he must not risk a near
approach, for he set the loose scoria in motion, and it trickled on
before him, and went over out of sight with a rush.

Anchoring himself as well as he could against a huge block of lava, he
paused to consider whether he should go to right or left, and then
shrank away with a shudder, and began to climb back as fast he could,
for, slight as had been his bearing upon the block, it had been
sufficient to start it off, and, to his horror, it went on gliding down
about twenty yards, and then dropped over the edge.

He stood listening, in the hope of hearing the block stop directly, as
proof of its being only a few feet down, and passable if he lowered
himself and then climbed the opposite edge; but a full minute elapsed
before he heard a dull, echoing roar, which continued for some time,
and, after a pause, was continued again and again, giving terrible
warning of the depth, and his own insignificance upon that mountain

He now had his first suggestion of panic--of how easily, in the face of
so much peril, anyone could lose his head, and rush into danger, instead
of escaping the risks by which he was surrounded.  For his strong
impulse now was to start into a run, and to begin to ascend the slope
diagonally.  But at the first dozen steps, he found he was loosening the
ashes, which began to glide toward the chasm faster and faster, and that
if he continued with so much energy, there would soon be a swift rush,
which would carry him with it into the awful gulf.

Warned by this, he stopped, and then proceeded cautiously, going nearly
parallel, but increasing his distance as far as was possible.

The intense heat of the sun combined with that which radiated from the
mountain-side was exhausting to a degree; his thirst grew almost
unbearable, and he fully realised the imprudence of which he had been
guilty in attempting the ascent alone.  The only thing now was to
extricate himself from his perilous position, and, after a halt or two
to collect himself and try to make out how much farther the rift
extended, during which he hesitated as to whether it would not be wiser
to go back and try the other way, he started onward again, slowly and
steadily, becoming conscious of a peculiar puff of stifling vapour,
which he felt sure must come from the gaping rift below.

And now the idea came to him that it was impossible that the chasm could
have been there when he ascended, but had opened during the fresh
eruption in which he had so nearly been overwhelmed.

At last, when his sufferings from the heat were growing unbearable, and
his head swam with the giddy sensation which supervened, the rift
appeared to close in about fifty yards further on.  He sheltered his
swimming eyes, and endeavoured to steady himself, as, with sinking
heart, he tried to make out whether this really were so, or only fancy.
But it seemed to be fact, and, pressing cautiously on, he lessened the
distance, and then stopped appalled, shrinkingly facing a way of escape
to the lower part of the mountain, but one terrible enough to make the
stoutest-hearted shiver.  For the chasm came to a sudden end, and
recommenced two or three yards farther on, leaving a jagged, narrow
strip of lava extending bridge-like from side to side.

"I dare not," he muttered, as he approached slowly, noting the shape,
and trying to make out how far down the mass of rock extended, so as to
see whether it would prove firm, or only be a crust which might give way
beneath his weight, and then--He shuddered, for he knew that whoever
ventured upon that narrow pathway did so facing a terrible death.

He looked wildly forward to see if the gap still went on to any
distance, and he could trace it till it was lost in a hot haze.

"I must do it," muttered Lane, for he felt that if he kept on longer
upon the upper edge, he must soon sink and perish from heat and

Knowing that if he stopped to think, he would grow less and less
disposed to venture, and taking one long eager look at the green trees
far below in the distance where there would be shelter and refreshing
water, he gathered himself together, and walked slowly and steadily over
the yielding ash and cinders to the beginning of the bridge.



Hope came with the first step, for it was upon hard slippery rock, and
gathering courage from this, the young naturalist kept one foot firm,
and stamped with the other to try whether the rock was brittle and
likely to give way.

But it seemed firm, and fixing his eyes upon the other side, Oliver drew
himself up erect and walked boldly on to the narrow bridge, profoundly
conscious of the fact that there, on either side where he dare not look,
the walls went down almost perpendicularly into a gulf too awful to
ponder on, even for a moment.

Onward slowly, step by step, with the glistening crisp bridge some yards
wide where he started, but as he went on, it grew narrower and narrower,
while the farther side of the gulf which had appeared so short a
distance away when he was high up and looking down, now looked far-off
to his swimming eyes.

The giddy feeling increased as he neared the middle, and then he stopped
short, and dropped upon his knees.  For suddenly, with the profound gulf
on either side, there came a loud resonant crack, and a piece of the
lava split away and fell.

Lane knew that he ought to have rushed onward now, literally bounding
across, but the horror of his position, as he felt that the frail bridge
was giving way beneath his feet unnerved him, and he could not stir, but
knelt there seeing the rock before him seem to rise and fall while he
listened for what seemed as if it would never come, the echoing roar
when the mass which had fallen struck below.  Even if the lava on which
he knelt had followed, he would not have stirred, only knelt there
gazing at the remainder of the bridge in front as it undulated, rising
and falling slowly, while the fume which arose from the chasm added to
the giddy swimming in his head.

At last!  A deafening, reverberating roar, and Lane clutched at a piece
of the rock, and closed his eyes, feeling that all was over, but opened
them again directly to see that the bridge before him was not
undulating, and he knew that it was an optical illusion due to the heat
and the giddiness from which he was suffering.

Nerving himself once more, he rose cautiously, and holding his gun
across him with both hands, as if it were a balancing pole, he stepped
cautiously forward a dozen steps or so, feeling the brittle, glassy rock
quiver beneath his weight; and then with the lower side, and safety, not
a dozen yards away, he was unable to contain himself, and springing
forward he nearly ran, ending by making one great bound and landing
safely as the whole mass over which he had passed gave one crashing
sound and fell.

Oliver Lane dropped on his knees a few yards from the edge he had left
behind, and gazed wildly at the broad opening till a terrific roar arose
from the depths below.

For some moments his senses must have left him, and he was hardly
himself when he rose to his feet and reeled and staggered downward.  But
this passed away; his consciousness fully returned, and no longer acting
upon the blind instinct which urged him to escape, he began to hurry on
more steadily toward where, far below, he could see the green trees, and
as his dry lips parted he, in imagination, saw clear, cool water waiting
to quench his awful thirst.

But during the next two hours his progress grew more and more
mechanical, and there were times when he went on down and down the loose
slope like one in a dream.  There, though far below, was the object
which guided him, a glistening thread of silver water from which the
sun's rays flashed, and down by which he fell at last to bathe his face
in its cool depths and drink as he had never drunk before.

It was as if he had imbibed new life when he finally drew away from the
water and lay gazing up at the mountain slope, and the summit whose
highest parts were hidden in the rounded cloud of smoke and steam which
rested there.  Danger was apparently absent, and Oliver Lane felt ready
to imagine he had exaggerated everything, and been ready to take alarm
without sufficient cause.  He was ready now, in the pleasant restful
feeling which came over him, to laugh at what he mentally called his
cowardice.  But this passed off in time, and he knew that he had not
only been in grave peril, but that even now his position was far from
free of danger, it would soon be night again, he was without food, and
that line of mist was like an impassable wall between him and his

As he arrived at this point in his musings, he tried to spring up,
knowing that he must make an energetic effort to regain them.

But there was very little spring in his motions, for though the cool
draught of water had been delicious, and reclining there restful to a
degree, the moment he stirred every joint moved as if its socket was
harsh and dry, so that he would not have been surprised had they all
creaked.  He began to walk with pain and difficulty, with his mind made
up as to what he should do.  For there below him to his right was the
long line of mist, and his object was to keep along parallel with it
till he could pass round the end, which must be somewhere toward the
shore, over which they had been carried inland.  Once there, he would be
able to reach his friends who ought, he felt, to have made some effort
to find him in a similar way to that which he now proposed trying

"And by the same rule," he said half aloud with a bitter laugh, as he
shifted his gun from one shoulder to the other, "I ought to have gone at
once to try and reach them instead of attempting such a mad adventure
all alone."

It was too late for repentance, and he tramped wearily on, trying to
make out in the lower ground upon which he gazed down to his right, the
dense forest and the huge fig-tree in which he had passed the night.  He
laughed the next minute as he saw the impossibility of his search, for
he looked down upon the rounded tops of hundreds of such trees rising
like islands out of a sea of golden green shot with orange in the glow
of the sinking sun.

Before long he found that he must be on the look-out for another
resting-place, and that as there would not be time to reach the band of
trees at the foot of the mountain, he must find some patch of rocks on
the slope along which he was painfully walking.  Then, finding that he
had left himself but little time, he halted by some greyish cindery
blocks whose bases were sunk in volcanic sand, and hungry and faint with
thirst, he threw himself down to lie looking up at the golden ball of
illumined steam floating above the top of the volcano high up in the
wonderfully transparent heavens till the light began to fade away, and
then suddenly went out, that is to say, seemed to go out; for, in spite
of hunger, thirst, and weariness, Oliver Lane's eyelids dropped to open
as sharply, directly, as it seemed to him, and he lay staring with
dilated eyes upward at the object he had last seen.

But it had changed, for the cloud, instead of looking golden and orange,
as it glowed, was now soft, flocculent and grey.

"There it is again," he said, excitedly then.  "I thought it was part of
my dream."



He was quite right; it was solid reality, and he was looking at the
broad back of a man standing a few yards away, with his hands to his
mouth, and who now sent forth a tremendous shout, which was answered
from a distance before the man turned, and stepped quickly to his side,
displaying the rugged features of Billy Wriggs.

"Ain't dead, are yer, sir?" he cried, sinking on one knee.  "Here, have
a drink."

He placed his water bottle in the young man's hand and watched him.

"No; dead man couldn't drink that how," he said softly.  "Go it, sir;
I'll fill it up again.  Take a reg'lar good deep swig.  Fine stuff,
water, when you're thirsty, so long as it aren't hot water, and all
bitter and salt.  Go it again, sir," he cried, as his rugged face
softened into a weak grin of satisfaction.  "Ahoy-a!  Ahoy!  This way."

This last was a tremendous roar through his hands, sent in the direction
of the forest below, and as soon as it was answered, the man turned
again to Lane.

"Only to think on it being me as found yer, sir.  I do call it luck.  I
come out o' the wood, and I says to myself, `I shouldn't wonder, Billy,
old man, if Muster Lane's over yonder, among them rocks, for it's just
the sorter place to make a roost on,' and I come along, and see yer fast
asleep, and here yer are, sir, not a bit dead, are yer?"

"No, no, I'm all right, Wriggs, only so stiff, I can hardly move."

"Course yer are, sir.  But never you mind about that.  You wait till
Tommy Smith comes up, and us two'll give yer a real 'poo, sir--none of
yer sham 'uns--and make yer jyntes as lissom as injy rubber.  Why, sir,
we begun to think you was a goner.  How did yer get here?"

"Tell me first how you got here."

"That's me as will, sir," cried the man with alacrity, as he keenly
watched Lane's efforts to rise, and lent him a hand.  "Yer see, we
couldn't get through that steam as runs all along across the low land."

"Was any one the worse for getting through?" cried Lane, eagerly, and
Billy Wriggs scratched his ear.

"Well, sir, yer see, none on us weren't none the wuss for getting
through, 'cause we didn't get through; but lots on us was all the wuss
for not getting through.  My heye!  Talk about too much grog when yer
ashore, it's nothing to it.  It's the tipsyest stuff I ever swallowed.
How did you manage, sir?"

"I--I don't know; I struggled through it, somehow, and then fell down

"Onsensible, course yer did, sir.  It knocks all the gumption out on yer
'fore yer knows where yer are.  Ahoy! mate!  This way, Tommy.  Here he

The trees below them had been parted, and, all scratched and bleeding,
Smith appeared, and as soon as he caught sight of Lane, he slapped his
legs heavily, turned round, and yelled aloud.

Then he ran up at a trot, grinning hugely.

"That's you, sir," he cried, "and I'm glad on it.  They said as we
should only find yer cold corpus, and `No,' I says, `if we finds his
corpus at all, it won't be cold but hot roast.  There's no getting cold
here.  But I knows better.  Too much stuff in him,' I says.  `He'll
sarcumwent all the trouble somehow.  Master Oliver Lane aren't the lad
to lie down and give up,' and I was right, warn't I, Billy?"

"Ay, mate, you was right this time."

"Course I was, Billy; but yer needn't ha' been in such a hurry to find
Mr Lane all to yerself.  But yer allus was a graspin' sort o' chap,

"You're another," growled Wriggs; "but don't stand hargeying there.
Here's Mr Lane that stiff he can't move hisself, and he wants us to
give him a real 'poo."

"Whatcher mean, mate?"

"Well, a shampoo, then."

"Hold on.  Don't you try them games, mate, for you was never cut out for
the work.  He thinks that's a joke, Mr Lane, sir.  But do you want your
jyntes rubbed a bit?"

"No, no, I shall be better directly," cried Oliver.  "Oh, yes, I can
walk.  Only a bit stiff.  Where are the others?"

"Coming through that bit o' wood, sir, where it's all thorns and
fish-hooks.  Mr Rimmer's there and your two messmates."

"But how did you get through the mist?"

"We didn't, sir.  We got a boat down to the shore, launched her and
rowed doo north for a bit, and then landed and come along hunting for
yer.  Why, that there mist goes right down the shore and out to sea,
where you can smell it as it comes bubbling up through the water."

"But how did you get a boat down?" cried Oliver.  "It must be a good two

"Nay, sir, seemed to us like a bad four mile," grumbled Wriggs.

"Yah! not it, Billy.  Oh, we did it, sir.  Took the littlest, and the
carpenter made a couple o' runners for it out of a spare yard, and so
long as we picked our way she come along beautiful.  Yer see we meant to
do it, and o' course we did it, and here we are."

"Ahoy!" yelled Wriggs again, and an answer was heard from close at hand,
as Panton suddenly came into sight.

"Found him?" he shouted, but he caught sight of his companion at the
same moment, and rushed, out of breath and streaming with perspiration,
to catch Lane's hands; his lips moved as he tried to speak, but not a
word would come.

"Ahoy!" yelled Wriggs again, and Smith followed his example after
turning his back to the two young men.

A minute later Drew came into sight, and then Mr Rimmer, and somehow,
he, too, seemed to be affected like Drew and Panton, for he could only
shake hands and try to speak, but not a word came.

"Lost all my wind," he cried, at last, but in a husky, choky voice.
"All right now, and jolly glad to see you again, sir.  Hang it, what's
the matter with my throat?  I know: it's those nuts I picked as we came
along.  Phew! how hot it is."

"Lane, old chap," whispered Panton, "we thought you'd left us in the

"That we did," said Drew, blinking his eyes, and then blowing his nose
very loudly.  "But, I say, are you all right!"

"Yes, only stiff and very hungry."

"Hungry?" cried the mate.  "Hi! who's got the prog bag?"

"Them two's got it, sir," said Wriggs.  "Here they come."  As he spoke a
couple more men came into sight, and deferring all farther questioning
till Lane's hunger had been appeased, they descended to where the
nearest water trickled amongst the rocks, and were soon all seated
enjoying an _al fresco_ meal, the rugged lava forming table and chairs,
and the abundant growth of ferns giving a charm to the verdant nook, and
sheltering them from the sun.

"Well, all I can say is," cried the mate, "that you've had a very narrow
escape, sir, and, thank heaven, we're all here to tell you so, for there
were moments when I thought that it was all over with us.  But, phew!
how hot it is."

"Yes," said Panton, "a steamy heat.  We ought to be getting back to the
boat.  It will be cooler towards the sea.  What's the matter, Drew?"

"I was examining these ferns.  How curious it is."

"What, their withering up so?" said Lane.  "Yes, I was noticing it.  Are
they sensitive plants?"

"Oh, no!" cried Drew, "those are the mimosa family.  But look here, you
can see them fade and droop as you watch them; I suppose it is in some
way due to our presence here."

"Watcher fidgeting about, Billy?" said Smith, just then.  "It's hot
enough without you playing the fool.  Shuffling about like a cat on hot

"That's just what is the matter with me, matey," grumbled Wriggs.  "Just
you put yer hand down here.  This here rock's as hot as a baker's oven."

"So's this here," said one of the men who had carried the provisions.
"Hadn't we better go 'fore there's roast man for brexfass?"

"Really, gentlemen, it's uncomfortably hot here," said Mr Rimmer, and
just then there was a peculiar tremor beneath them, and a shock as if
they were upon a thin crust which had received a sharp blow from

They all started to their feet, and the first disposition was to run.

"Don't leave your guns!" roared Panton, and each man snatched up his
piece.  The next moment they fell prostrate and clung to the nearest
rocks, for the earth began to sink beneath them, and the huge stones
upon which they had been seated a short time before glided away.

"Quick!" cried Lane, as the surface, which had been nearly level, now
hung down in a precipitous slope.  "This way!"

He set the example of climbing upward, and they reached a level spot
again just as there was a sharp crack, a deafening roar, and from out of
the vast chasm, which had opened, there was a rush of fire, and smoke
rose suddenly towards where they clustered.



The rush of smoke and fire passed away as rapidly as it had come, but
the slope newly made ran down to where the light of day was reflected
back from a dim mist which bore somewhat the aspect of disturbed water,
but the earth, being quiescent once more, no one displayed any desire to
make an examination of the opening, but at once gave it what the mate
called a wide berth.

"Let's get back to the boat," he said.  "You must be pretty well done
up, Mr Lane."

"Well, I am stiff," said Oliver, stooping to give one leg a rub, "but I
feel refreshed now, and I was thinking--"

He stopped short and gazed back at the mountain with its glistening
cloud cap and smooth slope of ashes dotted with blocks of lava and
pumice, the latter flashing in the sunshine, and the whole having an
alluring look which was tempting in the extreme.

"What were you thinking?" said Panton; "not of climbing up again?"

"Yes, I was thinking something of the kind.  It seems a shame, now we
are on the slope, not to go right up and see the crater and the view of
the whole island which we should get from there?"

The mate gave one of his ears a vexatious rub, and wrinkled up his
forehead as he turned to give Drew a comical look.

"Yes; what is it?" said that gentleman.

"Oh, nothing, sir," replied Mr Rimmer.  "I was only thanking my stars
that I wasn't born to be a naturalist.  For of all the unreasonable
people I ever met they're about the worst."

"Why?" said Oliver, innocently.

"Why, sir!" cried the mate; "here have you been missing all this time,
and by your own showing you've been nearly bitten by snakes and clawed
by a leopard, suffocated, swallowed up, stuck on a bit of a bridge
across a hole that goes down to the middle of the earth, and last of all
nearly scorched like a leaf in a fireplace by that puff which came at
us.  And now, as soon as you have had a bite and sup, you look as if
you'd like to tackle the mountain again."

"Of course, that's what I do feel," said Oliver, laughing.  "So do we

"I'll be hanged if I do!" cried Mr Rimmer.  "The brig isn't floating, I
know, but she stands up pretty solid, and I feel as if I shall not be
very comfortable till I'm standing upon her deck."

"But we've come on a voyage of discovery," said Panton.

"Yes, sir, that's right enough, but we seem to have begun wrong way on.
We want to discover things, and, instead, they keep discovering us.
It's just as if we'd no business here and the whole island was rising up
against us."

"But this is such an opportunity," pleaded Oliver.  "We are, as I said,
on the slope of the mountain, pretty well rested, and I think I may say
that we are all eager to go up."

"No, sir, I don't think you may say that," replied the mate, grimly.
"I'm pretty tired, and I've had a very anxious time lately."

"Well, we three are anxious to try the ascent."

"Oh, yes, I'm ready," cried Panton, eagerly.

"And so am I," cried Drew; but there was a want of earnestness in his
words.  "Let's start at once."

"Yes, gentlemen, back to the brig, please, and have a good rest.  We're
none of us fit to-day."

"But we must ascend this mountain."

"Of course, sir, if it will let us," said the mate; "but let's come
prepared.  I'm with you at any time, and I should like to do it, but
what I say is, let's go back to the brig and have a day or two's rest,
and while we're waiting make our plans and get a stock of food ready.
Then we shall want plenty of light, strong line and a bit of rope
ladder, and it would be wise to let the carpenter knock us up a light,
strong set of steps of ten or a dozen foot long, the same as the Alpine
gentlemen use.  Then we could start some afternoon."

"At daybreak, some morning," cried Oliver.

"Let me finish, sir," said the mate.  "Start some afternoon and carry a
spare sail and a hitcher or two in the boat.  Then we could get round
the mist, land, walk as far as we like that evening, and then light up
our fire, and set up a bit of a tent.  Next morning, after a good
night's rest, we could start fair, and do some work before the sun gets
hot; for the mountain will be quite warm enough without the sun.  There,
gentlemen, what do you say to my plan?"

"Carried unanimously," cried Drew, and Panton and Oliver remained silent
and ready to acquiesce, for the arrangement certainly promised well.

The next minute they were on their way back down to the lower ground,
where before reaching the forest patch below they came upon the remains
of a group of what must have been well-grown trees, which had been so
calcined that though the trunks retained their shape, they were so
fragile that a kick given by one of the men brought the first down in
powder which partly rose in a cloud, the remainder forming a heap of

This was the more curious from the fact that within twenty yards there
was a clump of vegetation evidently of greater age, growing in full
luxuriance.  But the reason was soon shown by Panton, who after a few
minutes' examination pointed to a narrow, jagged rift in the earth,
running for twenty or thirty yards, and whose sides upon their peering
down showed that fire must have rushed up with such intensity that in
places the rock was covered with a thick glaze, such as is seen upon

"Strikes me, Tommy Smith--" said Wriggs, after he and the other men had
had their turn at examining the earth crack.

"Well, what strikes yer, and whereabouts?" replied Smith, turning to
give his companions a wink as much as to say, "Hark at him and don't

"Hidees, Tommy," said Wriggs, "and they hits me in the head--hard."

"Well, then, matey, let 'em out again and tell us what they mean."

"Tommy, my lad, you're trying to be werry wise and to show off, but
don't do it, mate.  This here aren't a place for cutting jokes and
making fun o' your messmate.  What I says is--this here place aren't
safe, and the sooner we digs a canawl and takes the old _Planet_ out to
sea the better it'll be for all consarned."

"I knowed it," said Smith, oracularly.  "I felt sure as something werry
wise was a coming.  How many spades have we got aboard, mates?"

"Not none at all," said one of the men.

"No, not one," said Smith.  "I once heard some one may as it would take
a long time to cut through Primrose Hill with a mustard spoon, and I
can't help thinking as it would take as long to make our canal."

"Now, my lads, what are you doing?" cried the mate.

"Only just taking a sniff at the hole here, sir," replied Smith, rising
from his knees.

"Well, and what can you smell--sulphur?"

"No, sir, it's more of a brimstone smell, just as if somebody had been
burning matches down below in the back kitchen, sir.  Now, my lads,
forrard," he whispered, for the mate had turned and gone on after the

In a very short time the mountain was forgotten in the many objects of
interest encountered at the edge of the forest, each naturalist finding,
as he afterwards owned, ample specimens connected with his own especial
branch to last him for weeks of earnest study.  But at the suggestion of
the mate they pressed on, and, choosing the easiest line of route they
could find, they at last reached the shore where the boat lay upon the
coral and shell-sand high up out of reach of the tide.

She was soon launched, the party half lifting, half pushing, as they ran
on either side, and then as she floated, springing in and gliding off
over a lovely forest of coral and weed only a foot or two beneath the
boat's keel.  Every spray was clearly seen, for the water was perfectly
still and limpid in the lagoon, while a mile out the sea curled over in
great billows and broke with a dull, thunderous roar upon the barrier
reef which stretched north and south as far as eye could reach, but with
a quiet space here and there which told of openings in the coral rock,
gateways so to speak leading out into the open sea.

The sun beat down with tropical force, but the gentle breeze from the
ocean rendered the heat bearable, and a feeling of combined restfulness
and pleasure came over Oliver Lane as he watched the wondrous
transparent tints of the billows as their arches glistened in the
sunshine before striking the coral reef, and breaking into foam which
flashed and sparkled like freshly-cut gems.

Turning from this he could feast his eyes upon the brilliantly scaled
fish which glided in and out amongst the branching coral and bushy weed
which formed a miniature submarine forest of pink, blue, amber, scarlet,
and golden brown.  Gorgeous creatures were some of these fish when they
turned over a little on one side, displaying their armour of silver,
gold, and orange, often in vivid bands across steely blue or brilliant
green.  Twice over, long, lithe sharks were seen hurrying out of their
course, each of a dingy grey, with what Wriggs called a "shovel nose,"
and curious tail with the top of the fork continued far out beyond the
lower portion.

But there was the shore to take his attention, too, and to this he
turned eagerly as the shrieking and whistling of a flock of birds met
his ear, and he saw them flying along over the far-stretching grove of
cocoa-nut palms which curved up in a curious way from the very sand
where at certain times the sea must have nearly washed their roots.

"Hold hard a moment," cried Oliver, suddenly, and the men ceased rowing,
sitting with their oars balanced, and the boat silently gliding over the
smooth surface of the water, making a tiny shoal of fish flash out into
the sunshine from where the bows cut, and look like sparks of silver.

"What is it, sir?" said the mate.

"I want to know what that noise is.  Didn't you hear it, Drew?"

"Yes, I heard something which seemed to come from the trees there, but
it has stopped now."

"Men's oars in the rowlocks," said Panton.

"Oh, no.  It was not that," cried Oliver.  "It was just as if someone
was making a noise in a big brass tube.  Ah, there it goes."

Just then from out of the grove of palms about a hundred yards to their
right came softly and regularly just such a sound as he had described.

_Phoomp, phoomp, phoomp, phoom_, soft, clear, and musical, rising and
falling in a peculiar way, as if close at hand and then distant.

"Native brass band practising," said Drew, merrily.

"Puffs of steam from some volcanic blow hole."

"Music: must be," said the mate.  "There's an instrument called a
serpent.  Perhaps it's one of them playing itself."

"I don't know what it is," said Oliver.  "Shall we pull ashore and see?"

"No, no, not to-day," said the mate.  "Let's get back."

"There's a turtle just ahead, sir," said Smith, from the bows.

"A turtle?--a dove!" cried Oliver.  "Perhaps it was that."

"I meant a turtle souper, sir," said Smith, with a grin.  Then to the
mate, "If you'll steer for her, sir, I'll try and catch her, she's
asleep in the sunshine."

They all looked to where the olive green hued shell of the floating
reptile could be seen, and with two of the men dipping their oars gently
to keep the boat in motion, and Mr Rimmer steering, they softly
approached, while Smith leaned over the gunwale with his sleeves rolled
up over his brawny arms ready to get hold of one of the flippers.

"Hadn't you better try a boat-hook?" said Oliver, softly.

"Too late; let him try his own way, sir," whispered the mate.  "Turn it
over if you can, Smith."

The man dared not answer, but leaned out as far as he could, anchoring
himself by passing one leg under the thwart as they went on nearer and
nearer, every eye strained, lips parted, and a feeling of natural
history or cooking interest animating the different breasts.

"Got her!" cried Smith, suddenly, as he made a quick dip down and seized
one of the turtle's flippers with both hands.  "Hi! one on yer.  Help!"

Wriggs made a snatch at and caught the man's leg, as there was a sudden
tug and jerk, a tremendous splash, and then, as the boat rocked, Smith's
leg was dragged from its holding and he disappeared beneath the surface.

"Gone!" cried Wriggs, "and I did git tight hold on him, too."

"Pull!" shouted the mate, and as the oars dipped sharply the boat
followed a little wave of water, which ran along in front, and out of
which Smith's head suddenly appeared, and directly after his bands
grasped the gunwale of the boat.

"Where's the turtle?" cried Oliver, laughing.

"I did get a hold on her, sir," panted Smith; "but she went off like a
steamer, and dragged me underneath.  Ah! there she goes," he continued,
as he looked toward where the little wave showed that the turtle was
swimming rapidly through the troubled water.

"Here, quick, in with you!" cried Oliver, excitedly, as Smith made a
jump and climbed--or rather tumbled in--over the side, and none too
soon, for the back fin of a shark suddenly appeared a few yards away,
and as the man slowly subsided into the boat there was a gleam of creamy
white in the water, and a dull thud up against the bows.

"The brute!" cried the mate, as the shark glided out of sight, and then
displayed its back fin again above water.  "A warning that against

"Yes, and a very narrow escape!" cried Panton.

"Sarves me right, sir," said Smith, standing up in the bows to wring
himself as much as he could without stripping.  "Comes o' trying to make
turtle soup of t'other thing."

"Pull away, my lads," said the mate, smiling.

"If it's all the same to you, sir," said Wriggs, "mightn't us try and
ketch that Jack shark for trying to kill our mate?"

"Oh, yes! if you can do so, by all means; but not to-day.  Now,
gentlemen, look just ahead.  What do you say to that?"

"It's where the mist bank runs into the sea," cried Lane, excitedly; for
there, to their right, the vapour rose up among the cocoa-nut trees
which just there seemed to be half dead, while all around the boat the
clear water was in a state of ebullition, tiny globules of gas running
up from below, and breaking on the surface.

"Runs right away to the reef," cried Panton.

"Ay, sir, and perhaps far enough beyond," said the mate.  "Pull hard, my
lads, and let's get through."

"The coral seems to be all dead," said Drew, "and there are no weeds."

"Not a sign of fish either," said Lane, whose face was over the side.
"Plenty of great clam shells, but they are gaping open, and the
occupants dead--ah!"

He drew his head back sharply, for he had been suddenly seized with a
catching of the breath.

"Get a sniff of it, sir?" said Smith, who was now close by.

"I breathed it, too," said Drew, "but the gas does not seem to be so
powerful here above the water."

"No," said Panton.  "I could just make out a crack or two through the
coral.  We're clear now."

"Yes," said the mate, looking back at the effervescing water, "and the
bottom is alive again."

He was right, for the peculiar display of animal and vegetable growth
was plain to see once more.  Great sea slugs crawled about on the bottom
with gigantic starfish, and actiniae of vivid colours spread their
tentacled blossoms.

"Best way this of getting through the mist, eh, Lane?" cried Panton.

"But there is no mist over the sea," said Lane.

"No, I suppose the passage through water makes the gas invisible," said
Panton.  "Isn't this somewhere near where we started, Mr Rimmer?"

"No, sir, 'bout a mile farther on.  Keep a look-out and you'll see the
opening in the cocoa-nut grove, and the marks of the boat's keel upon
the sand."

They were not long in reaching the spot, and there the boat was run
right up over the soft beach in among the tall stems of the nearest
cocoanuts, and carefully made fast.

"But suppose savages come and find it?" suggested Oliver.

"Strikes me, Mr Lane," said the mate, "that we're the only savages
here.  Now, gentlemen, who says a drink of cocoa-nut milk, and then
we'll make haste back to the brig."

There was ample store swinging overhead, and after a couple of tries, a
man succeeded in climbing one of the tall, spar-like trees, and shaking
down ample for their light lunch.  A couple of hours later they had
traversed the wave-swept plain, and reached the brig, where they were
heartily welcomed by the portion of the crew left in charge.

"But what's the matter?" cried the mate.  "You all look white about the

"Had a bit of a scare, sir," said one of the men.  "All at wonst, it was
just as if the brig was an old cow a trying to get on her legs.  For she
was heaved up, shook herself a bit, and then settled down again, just as
she was before."

"Not quite, my lad," said Wriggs.  "Speak the truth whatever yer does.
She's got a cant to port since we went away."

He was quite right, the _Planet's_ deck was no longer level, but had a
slope, and the masts, instead of being perpendicular, slanted slightly
towards the horizon.

"Yes, Tommy Smith.  Wet as you are," whispered Wriggs, solemnly, "I must
tell yer the truth, it's as they say quite dangerous to be safe."



The strangeness of their position grew hourly to the crew of the
_Planet_ brig, and again and again the mate proposed plans for
extricating themselves.

"It will take time," he said, "but it would be far better than
attempting the trip in open boats.  I have had it over with the
carpenter, and he thinks that we could build a small lugger--decked--of
about the size of one of the Cornish mackerel craft.  What do you
gentlemen say to that?"

"I say it's a capital idea," said Oliver, and his companions endorsed
his opinion.

"So I thought," said the mate.  "It will take a long time to tear up
enough of the old brig, and to get the material down to the shore, but
we shall all work with a will.  I thought that we might make a hut under
the cocoa-nut trees just opposite one of the openings in the reef, and
as you agree that it's a good plan, I propose beginning at once.  Then
we could sail east, west, or north, to one of the settlements."

"But what's the hurry?" said Oliver.

"Eh?  Hurry?  Why, we're wrecked, sir, and I want to get afloat again."

"But we don't," cried Oliver.  "We could not be in a better place for
our studies, and we shall want you to let us have the men to go with us
upon expeditions and carry our collections."

"But isn't it rather too cool to sit down patiently here with our ship

"I haven't found the place very cool, Mr Rimmer," said Panton, smiling.

"I didn't mean that kind of coolness," said the mate, heartily.  "But it
fidgets me about my vessel.  See how she's canted over.  I should not be
surprised to find her some day sunk out of sight."

"But you couldn't find her if she was sunk out of sight," said Drew,

"No, no, of course not.  How you gents do catch me up."

"Look here, Mr Rimmer, don't you worry," cried Oliver.  "Let the vessel
be for a bit while we collect.  When we have exhausted the place we will
all join you heart and soul in any plan to get away; but, dangerous as
the island is, I don't want to leave it yet."

"Nor I," said Panton.

"Nor I," cried Drew.

"All right then, gentlemen.  Then we'll stay as we are for the present,
only something must be done about fresh provisions."

"I'll start at once shooting, and we can eat all the birds I kill.  I
only want the skins."

"And I daresay I can collect a good deal of fruit and some form of
vegetables that may be useful," said Drew.

"That's good, gentlemen.  But first of all, I think we ought to do some

"Good," said Panton.  "Why not net one of the big pools?"

"First reason, because we have no drag-net, sir.  Second, because there
are things in those pools that would tear any net to pieces and take the
men who used it as bait."

"Yes, there are crocodiles, I know."

"Yes, sir, and a kind of sea-serpent thing in plenty."

"What!" cried Panton, with a laugh.

"Oh, I don't mean sea captains' sea-serpents, sir; but fellows of five,
six, or seven feet long.  There are plenty of them out in these seas,
and some are poisonous, too.  No, I don't think we'll try the pools, for
did we catch any fish I'm afraid they'd be sickly and unwholesome.  I
propose getting the lines and going to the shore, rowing out to one of
those patches of rock just at the opening of the reef; and trying our
luck there."

"I'm ready," said Oliver, "and we might perhaps get hold of a turtle.
We ought to slip a noose round one of the flippers if we see one again."

"That's right, sir, we will.  A good turtle would be worth having now."

"When do you propose going?" asked Panton.

"To-day, if you are all willing," said the mate.

"I'm willing enough if the others are," cried Oliver, "for it will be a
treat to examine the strange tropical fish."

"What about bait?" asked Drew.

"Oh, a bit or two of salt meat will do to begin with," said the mate.
"I daresay we can catch one or two with that.  Then we shall be all
right.  There is no better bait than a bit of fresh fish to tempt

"Plenty of shell fish, too, in the lagoon," suggested Oliver.

"Of course, I had forgotten them.  An hour's time?  Will that do?"

"Capitally," they cried.

"Then I'll go and see about the tackle and some bait for ourselves."

In less than the suggested time the little party, with four of the
sailors to help row and carry the provisions out, and any fish they
might catch, back to the ship, were on their way to the shore.

It was a couple of weeks since Oliver's return, and the eagerness to
ascend the mountain was as strong with him as ever; but the attempt had
been put off for the present, and in the interval plenty of collecting
had been going on, and the mate had enough to do to make things what he
called snug.

They passed a couple of pools on the way, and it was evident that they
were rapidly drying up, for the shrinking of the water was visible at
the edges, and the presence of crocodiles plain enough.

"Will not these places be very offensive when they dry and the fish
die?" said Drew, quickly.

"No, sir, the crocs won't leave any fish to die, and before long they'll
begin travelling down to the sea."

The shore was reached at last, and all eagerly laid the cocoa-nuts under
contribution, the cool, sub-acid milk being most refreshing.  Then the
boat was run down over the sand by the sailors, launched, and they put
off across the calm lagoon, only pausing twice for a few of the soft
molluscs to be fished up to act as bait.

A quarter of an hour later the boat was made fast to a mass of coral
upon a bare patch of fairly level rock some fifty feet across.  It was
close to an opening in the reef, where the tide came rushing in and the
water was roughened and disturbed, beside possessing the advantage for
the fisherman of going down at once quite deep, where they could throw
out their lines right into the opening.

Three of these were soon rigged up and baited by the men, Smith devoting
himself to Oliver Lane, who stood ready to throw out his lead sinker.

"Aren't you going to fish too, Mr Rammer?" he asked.

"Not if you can get any, my lad; I'm going to lash this big shark hook
on to the end of a long pole and gaff all you catch."

Oliver laughed.

"You don't expect that I'm going to catch anything big enough for you to
want a hook like that to haul it out?"

"Why not?  We haven't come to catch sprats, sir.  Strikes me that if the
fish bite, you'll find you get hold of some thumpers.  I've fished in
these waters before, and I remember what sort of sport I had out in
Fiji.  Ready?"

"Yes," said Lane, who had just covered his hook with the tough
mussel-like mollusc he had drawn out of a shell.

"Throw in just out yonder, then, right in the opening of the reef where
the waves come in."

Oliver gave his lead a swing and brought it heavily in contact with
Smith's head.

"That aren't fish, sir, that's foul," grumbled the man.

"I beg your pardon, Smith," cried Oliver, confusedly.

"My fault p'raps, sir.  Try again.  All right: line's laid in rings so
that it'll run out."

Oliver gave the lead another swing and loosed it with so good an aim
that it fell twenty yards away right in the swift current rushing
through the opening in the reef.

"First in," he cried.  "Look sharp, you two."

"Mind, sir, quick!" cried Smith, as the line began to run out rapidly,
and the man seized the end so as to check it.

"Precious deep," said Oliver, catching at the line in turn, and in an
instant feeling a ring tighten round and cut into his wrist.  "Why I've
hooked one already--a monster.  Here, Smith, come and pull."

"Quick! all of you: lie down!" shouted the mate, excitedly, and he set
the example.

"What is it, what's the matter?" cried Panton.

"You're to hold me," said Oliver.  "I've got hold of a whale, and it
will tug me off the rock.  Help, please, it's cutting into my arm."

"Never mind the fish," cried the mate, angrily.  "Don't you see?  Lie
close all of you and they may pass us."

He pointed as he spoke, and the little party now saw the cause of his
excitement, for half a mile away, just coming round a point masked by a
clump of cocoa palms, was a large canoe with outrigger, upon which three
or four men were perched so as to help balance their vessel, which,
crowded with blacks, was literally racing along a short distance from
the reef, impelled by its wide-spreading matting sail.

"Friends," said Panton, excitedly.

"If we were on board our brig and at sea," said the mate, "but as a
shipwrecked party they are foes."



Those were exciting moments, especially for Oliver Lane, who, as he lay
there with arm outstretched, was very slowly and painfully dragged over
the coral rock toward the sea.  Every one's attention was so taken up by
the great canoe, that for the moment he was forgotten, and, in spite of
his suffering, he felt that he must not yell out for help, for fear of
being heard.  But just as his position was growing dangerous as well as
exciting, Smith saw his peril, and throwing out one hand, took a grip of
the line.

"Hadn't I better cut him adrift, sir?" he whispered, huskily.

"No, no, hold on fast," replied Oliver.  "That's better.  I'll hold, as

For the help relieved his wrist from the strain that was cutting into
the flesh.

"Don't you leave go, sir," said Smith, hoarsely.  "I can't hold him all

"Silence there!" said the mate.  "Sound travels across the water."

"I don't see that it matters much," said Panton, softly.  "They must see
us, for they're evidently coming straight for this opening into the

"I don't know," replied the mate.  "If they are, they may be friendly,
but if they are not, we haven't so much as a gun with us, and these
mop-headed beggars are a terribly bloodthirsty lot.  They think nothing
of knocking a man on the head, and eating him."

"Raw?" said Panton.

"No, no, they make a kind of stone oven, and roast him first."

"Oh, murder!" sighed Wriggs.  "Just as if a man was a pig."

"Will you be silent, sir, and lie still?  You too, Mr Lane, and that
man with you.  What is the matter?"

"We're being dragged overboard, sir," grumbled Smith.  "Got a whale, or
some'at o' that kind;" for Oliver was silent, his teeth were set, and he
had all his work to do holding on to the line.

"Don't speak and don't move more than you can help," whispered the mate.
"I want you all to lie here as if you were so much of the coral reef.
Now then, Smith, get your knife out and cut the line."

"What, and let that there critter go, sir?  He's a fine 'un, maybe it's

"Silence.  Out with your knife."

"Can't, sir.  If I let's go with one hand, it'll take Mr Lane out to
sea.  It's all we can do to hold on."

"Mr Drew, you're nearest.  Keep flat down and crawl to where you can
reach the line and cut it through."

Drew made no reply, but as he lay there flat on his face, he took out
his knife, opened it, and began to creep along the dozen yards or so
toward where Lane and Smith lay perspiring in the sunshine, now getting
a few moments' rest, now fighting hard to hold the great fish as it
tugged and dragged vigorously in its efforts to escape.

"Sims a pity, sims a pity," muttered Smith.  "Better take a hold, too.
Phew!  Look at that!"

For there was a tremendous whirlpool-like swirl in the disturbed water,
and a jerk that promised to dislocate their arms.

At the same moment Drew was reaching out to cut the line, but, just as
his blade touched the stout cord in front of Lane's hand, the tension

"He's coming in shore to see who it is has got hold of the line,"
whispered Smith.

"No: gone.  Broke away," said Lane, huskily, and then they lay
motionless, watching the on-coming canoe, as it rushed over the sea a
couple of hundred yards or so from where the great billows curled over
upon the coral reef.  Now it would be plainly visible with the dancing
outrigger, upon which the nearly naked blacks were seated, riding up and
down as if upon a see-saw, now it would be hidden by a crest of
sparkling spray, which flew up as a larger wave than ordinary struck the
reef.  The speed at which it was going was tremendous, and so clear was
the view at times that the little party on the rocks could make out the
great gummed heads of the savages, and see the water glance from the
paddles of those who steered.

Freed entirely from the strain of the fish dragging at the line, Oliver
Lane now had leisure to watch the great canoe, and he at once began to
count the number of the enemy, making them to be either thirty-nine or
forty powerful-looking blacks, several of whom had ugly-looking clubs,
while others bore spears or bows and arrows.

On they came toward the opening in the great reef; and as they
approached, the canoe was steered farther out, evidently so that she
could be headed for the passage and sail through.  And as Oliver Lane
watched he began to wonder what would be his next adventure--whether the
savages would be friendly, or if they would attack the small party who
were unarmed.

They were not long in doubt, for at the speed at which the canoe sailed,
she was soon in a position for heading in, and all the time the party on
the rock lay wondering that the savages made no sign.  Some of them, if
they had seen the party, would certainly have gesticulated, pointed, or
made some show of being surprised, but they sailed on just at the edge
of the troubled water, made a sweep round, and then, just as Lane felt
sure that the enemy would come rushing through the opening with the
fierce tide, and float on into the calm water of the lagoon, the mate

"It was to keep from being swept in by the rush of water.  They're going
right on south."

"Hooroar!" muttered Wriggs.  "I sha'n't be meat to-day."

"They wouldn't ha' touched you, Billy," whispered Smith, softly.  "Too

"Think they'll turn back, Mr Rimmer?" said Oliver, after a few minutes'
relief from the mental strain.

"I'm sure they will, sir," said the mate, harshly, "if you will persist
in talking."

Smith gave his mouth a pat with his open hand, and winked at Wriggs,
while the mate went on more softly,--

"You do not consider how sound is carried over the water.  There! did
you hear the creaking of their bamboo mast and the crackling of the
matting sail?"

These sounds were clear enough for a few moments, but the boom of the
breakers smothered them directly, and the party lay watching the canoe
as it glided on rapidly south till it was quite evident there was no
intention of landing, the savages shaping their course so as to pass
round the great point a mile or two distant, and as if meaning to make
for the west.

Then by degrees the long, slight vessel with its matting sail grew more
and more indistinct as it passed into the silvery haze caused by the
waves breaking upon the reef; but not until he felt perfectly certain
that they were safe, did the mate give the word for the fishing to begin

"This puts another face upon our position, gentlemen," he said.  "They
did not see us this time, but once they know that there is a vessel
ashore inland, they'll be after it like wasps at a plum, and we shall
have our work cut out to keep them off."

"They must come from the shore north of the volcano," said Lane.  "Don't
you think so, Mr Rimmer?"

"No, sir, I don't, because I fancy that this must be an island, and if
it is, and plays up such games as we have seen, no savages would stay
upon it.  But we shall see as soon as we have had our expedition."

"Which we ought to have been having to-day," said Panton, "instead of
coming fishing."

"If we had been up north to-day, those gentlemen might have seen us,"
said the mate.

"And if they had," said Drew, who was holding his hook for one of the
men to bait, "it strikes me that we should have had no more fishing."

"Well, as we have come fishing, gentlemen, let's see if we can't take
back a good bagful for the hungry lads at the brig."

"Ready for another go, Mr Lane, sir?" said Smith.

"Oh, yes, I'm ready, but we don't want such a big one this time,"
replied Oliver, and once more he threw in the lead, a fresh one, for the
great fish they had hooked had broken away, carrying with it hooks,
snooding, and all.

Three lines were soon in now, and the party of fishers waited full of
expectancy for the first bite, but for some time there was no sign.

"Haul in, sir, and let's see if the bait's all right," said Smith.

Oliver followed the suggestion, and dragged in the hook perfectly bare.

"Something's had that," he said.

"Mine's gone too," cried Panton, who had followed suit, and directly
after Drew found that his bait was also gone.

Fresh baits were put on, and they threw into the rushing water again,
watching their lines as they were swept to and fro by the coming and
retiring waves.

"Seems as if there only was one fish, Lane," said Panton, "and you've
given him such a dose of hook and lead, that he has gone for good."

The words were hardly out of the young geologist's lips, before he felt
a sharp tug.

"Here's one!" he cried, and beginning to haul in fast, he soon had a
bright silvery fish of eight or ten pounds' weight splashing and darting
about at the top of the water.

"Dinner for one," said Drew.

"Good for half a dozen, I should say," cried the mate, laughing.
"That's right, sir, don't stop to play him.  Haul him in quick."

"Murder!" cried Panton.  "Look at that."

For as he was drawing in the fast tiring fish level with the surface,
there was a sudden gleam of gold, silver, and green, a rush and a check,
as a long twining creature suddenly seized the fish, and quick as
lightning, wrapped itself round and round it in a knot, doubling the
weight, and adding to the resistance by lashing round and round with a
flattened tail, whose effect was like that of a screw propeller

"Eel!  Snake!  Whatever is it?" came from different voices, as Panton
ceased dragging on his fish.

"Go on!  Have him out," cried the mate.

"No, no, steady," said Oliver.  "I think it's a sea snake, and I believe
that some of these creatures are poisonous."

"But it wouldn't bite out of water," cried Drew.

"I wouldn't chance it," said Oliver.  "Shake and jerk your line, and it
may let go."

Panton followed the advice, and after a few sharp snatches he shook off
the creature, but the fish was gone as well.

"Taken the hook?" asked the mate.

"No, that's all right."

"I've got one," cried Drew, and a fresh struggle began, while Panton was
busied in rebaiting.  A few moments later, a bright golden-striped fish
was at the top of the water.  "Look here, this is something like.  I
mean to--Oh!"

For just as he had his captive about twenty feet from where he stood, a
great wide-jawed sharkish-looking creature sprang out of the water,
describing an arc, seized Drew's fish, and was gone.

"Oh, I say," he cried, "we shall never get a dinner like this."

"Follow my example," said Oliver quietly.  "I have one now, a heavy one,
too.  Nothing like the first I got hold of though," he continued as he
hauled away.  "But it's a fine fellow."

"Haul in as quickly as you can," said the mate.  "Don't lose this one."

"Just what I am doing," said Oliver between his teeth, as he hauled away
rapidly, and soon had the head of another of the silvery fishes above
water.  "Now, Smith, be ready.  Eh?  Well, you, Mr Rimmer, with that
hook.  Now then, gaff him."

"Gaffed," said the mate, for instantaneously there was another rush in
the water, a splash, and Oliver drew out the head of his prize, the rest
having been bitten off as cleanly as a pair of scissors would go through
a sprat, just below its gills.

The young man turned a comically chagrined face to his unfortunate

"I say, this is fishing with a vengeance," cried Panton.

"Starvation sport," said the mate.

"Tommy, old lad," whispered Wriggs, "I have gone fishing as a boy, and
ketched all manner o' things, heels, gudgeons, roach and dace, and one
day I ketched a 'normous jack, as weighed almost a pound.  I ketched him
with a wurrum, I did, but I never seed no fishing like this here."

"Nobody never said you did, mate," growled Smith.

"Well, we did not come here to catch fish for the big ones to eat," said
the mate.  "Have another try, and you must be sharper.  Look here, Mr
Lane--No, no, don't take that head off," he cried, "that will make a
splendid bait.  Throw it in as it is."

Oliver nodded, threw out the hook and lead again, and saw that the bait
must have fallen into a shoal right out in the opening, for there was a
tremendous splashing instantly, a drag, and he was fast into another,
evidently much larger fish.

"Now then, bravo, haul away, my lad," cried the mate.  "You must have
this one.  Ah!  Gone!"

"No, not yet," said Lane, who was hauling away, for a huge fish had
dashed at his captive but struck it sidewise, driving it away instead of
getting a good grip, and in a few moments the prisoner was close in, but
followed by the enemy, which made another dash, its head and shoulders
flashing out of the water, close up to the rock.  Then it curved over
and showed its glittering back and half-moon shaped tail, as it plunged
down again, while Lane had his captive well out upon the rock, looking
the strangest two-headed monster imaginable, for the hook was fast in
its jaws, with the head used for a bait close up alongside, held tightly
in place by the beaten-out end of the shank of the line.

"Well done: a fifteen pounder," cried the mate, as the captive was
secured, the sailors hurriedly getting it into the biscuit bag they had
brought, for fear that it should leap from the rock back into the sea.

Five minutes after Drew hooked another fish, but it was carried off by a
pursuer and the hook was drawn in bare.  Almost at the same moment
Panton struck another and then stamped about the rock in a rage, for
before he could get it to the land it was seized by a monster, there was
a tug, a snap, and hook, snood, and lead were all gone.

"We must rig up some different tackle, gentlemen," said the mate.  "You
want larger hooks, with twisted wire and swivels.  Got him again, Mr

"Yes, and--ah, there's another of those sea snake things.  Yes, he has
carried it off.  My word!  How strong they are."

"All right, try again, sir.  Use that fish's head once more."

"But it's so knocked about.  Never mind: stick it on, Smith."

"Stuck on it is, sir," said the man, and it was thrown in, but some
minutes elapsed before it was taken, and then not until it was being
dragged in, when a fish seized it, was hooked fast, and another struggle
commenced, during which, as a snake dashed at it, Oliver gave the line a
snatch and baulked the creature.  But, quick as lightning, it was at it
again, seized it with its teeth, and was in the act of constricting it,
when the maddened fish made a tremendous leap out of the water, dragging
the writhing snake with it, and again escaping its coils, while, as
Oliver made another snatch, he drew the two right out on to the rock,
running a few paces so as to get his captive right into the middle.

The effect was that the snake was dislodged, and a panic set in as the
creature, which was fully six feet long and thick in proportion, began
to travel about over the surface of the rock with a rapid serpentine
motion, everyone giving way till it reached the side and glided into the
water once more.

"Why didn't yer get hold of his tail, Billy?" cried Smith.  "Yer might
ha' stopped it.  Dessay them sort's as good eating as heels."

"I should, Tommy, only I thought you wanted to have a mate.  But I never
see no fishing like this afore."

"Look here, Mr Rimmer," cried Oliver, just then, and he pointed to the
large handsome fish he had taken, showing that a half-moon shaped piece
had been bitten clean out of its back by the sea snake.  "Do you think
this will be good now."

"I should not like to venture upon it," replied the mate, and, after the
bitten piece had been cut thoroughly out, the rest was utilised for
making attractive bait, with which they had more or less sport--enough
though to enable them to take back full sixty pounds of good fish to the
brig, but not until the boat had been run ashore and carefully secured
and hidden in the cocoa-nut grove.



That evening and the next day were devoted to careful investigation of
the shores, three parties being formed and sent out well armed, to see
whether the crew of the canoe had landed farther to the south, or round
on the western coast.  The orders were that if the enemy was discovered,
the search parties were not to show themselves if they could avoid it,
but to fall back at once to the ship and report what they had seen.

Those who stayed behind had the duty of doing everything possible in the
way of putting the brig in a state of defence.  The superintendence of
this task was undertaken by the mate, Oliver giving up the expedition,
which he would have liked to join, so as to stay and help Mr Rimmer.

They worked hard together.  Wriggs and Smith, who both volunteered to
stay as soon as they knew that Oliver was not going, toiling away till
it was felt that nothing more could be done; and the conclusion was come
to that, unless an attacking party of savages came provided with some
form of ladder, they would be unable to mount to the deck.  The bobstay
having been removed, the gangways fortified, all this, with the
commanding position the defenders would occupy, rendered the brig a
thoroughly strong little fort, almost impregnable so long as the enemy
did not think of enlisting fire in their service when they made their

"Plenty of guns, plenty of ammunition, water and provisions in
abundance, and enough British pluck to fight, I don't think we shall
hurt much, Mr Lane.  But let's hope that they will not come."

As sunset neared, first one and then the other search parties came back
with the same report--that they had examined the offing from the highest
points they could reach, and also from the shore; but there was no sign
of any canoe or of the blacks having landed.

The next day the search was repeated, and again upon the following day,
from the end of the mist bank right round the coast; but they were alone
upon the strange land, and it was evident that the savages in the canoe
must have been journeying right away to some distant spot, and in all
probability they would never be seen again.

This being so, it was resolved to combine in one expedition the search
for the savages on the other side of the mist and the ascent of the
mountain, from up whose slope it was hoped that the glasses would sweep
the shore all round, proving whether there was a native village, and at
the same time setting at rest the question of their being upon island or

The opportunity was favourable, for, though the soft steamy cloud
floated over the land as before, shutting them off from the mountain
slope, the volcano had been for days perfectly quiet--there had been no
explosions, no subterranean rumblings or shocks, everything pointed to
the fact that the eruption was at an end, and the mountain settling down
into a state of quiescence.

"I should like to go with you very much," said the mate.  "I've had a
short ladder knocked together for mounting steep bits and making a
bridge over rifts and cracks, and I have a kind of longing to see what a
crater is like."

"Well, you are coming, of course," said Oliver.

"No, I'm going to stay and take care of my ship.  Why, if I went with
you I should take it as a matter of course that a canoe would land close
to our boat, and the savages come straight across to the brig and
plunder her.  It would be sure to happen if I went away."

"Nonsense!" cried Oliver, laughing.

"Ah! you may call it so, young gentleman, but I know how these things
will happen.  No, I stop by my ship, and if the beggars do come, the men
and I will make a stiff fight of it till you folk come back to help me
drive them to their canoe."

No persuasion would alter the mate's plans, but he eagerly forwarded
those of the naturalists, and arranged for Smith and Wriggs to bear them
company, even offering two more men, but Panton was of opinion that the
smaller their number was the more likely they were to be successful, and
the next morning they started--a well armed party, Wriggs and Smith
carrying a ladder and little tent, the others the food and water.

Then in due time the boat was reached and rowed along the lagoon till
the end of the mist and the effervescent water were passed, and at last,
a good mile farther than the attempt had been before, they put ashore,
drew up their boat in the cocoa-nut grove which went on far as eye could
reach, and, with the men shouldering the traps after the boat had been
hidden, they started over fresh ground for the slope.

The route was plain enough if they could follow it, for there, high
above them, was the balloon-like cloud of steam and smoke floating over
the crater, the only mist in the pure blue sky, and looking dazzling in
the sunshine as a film of silver.

"I don't see why we cannot easily do it," said Panton, as he shifted his
gun from one shoulder to the other.  "What we have to do is to avoid the
thick forest and make at once for the slope of cinders and ashes.  Then
we can zigzag up.  It looks no distance to the top, and we could do it
easily to-night."

But the mate's plan was considered the best: to get some distance up and
pitch their tent at the edge of the forest at its highest point, and
then have their good night's rest and start upward as soon as it was

They carried out this idea, skirting round the dense patch of forest,
and getting above it to the open ground, where they had to wind in and
out among rifts and blocks of lava which formed a wilderness below the
ash slope.  Then, going close to the forest edge, they soon found water,
a couple of little sources bubbling out from among the rocks, and oddly
enough within a few yards of each other, one being delicious, cool, and
sweet, the other so hot that they could hardly immerse their hands, and
when it was tasted it was bitter and salt to a degree.

While the two men set up the tent and made a fire to boil the kettle, a
short expedition was made by the three young naturalists, it being a
settled thing that there was to be no collecting next day, but every
nerve was to be strained to reach the mountain top.

The ash slope ran up rapidly from where they stood, as they shouldered
their guns and looked about them, and naturally feeling that they would
have enough of that the next morning they turned down among the lava
blocks for a short distance and then paused before plunging into the
forest below.

From where they stood they were high enough to see that there was not so
much as a bush above; all was grey, desolate, and strange, and the
wonder to them was that the trees beneath them had not been burned up in
one or other of the eruptions which must have taken place.  Possibly,
they felt, the sea winds had had some effect upon the falling ashes and
hot steamy emanations and driven them from the forest, but it was a
problem that they could not explain, and it was given up for the instant
and left for future discussion.

There were other things to see that hot late afternoon, each full of
wonder and beauty, and appealing to one or other of the party, each man
finding enough to satisfy even his great desire for knowledge; and in
turn, and with plenty of tolerance for each other's branch of study,
they paused to examine incrustations of sulphur, glorious orchids, and
bird and beetle, gorgeous in colour, wonderful in make.

But nothing was collected, only noted for future exploration, and,
growing faint, hot, and weary after an hour's walking at the edge of the
forest, they turned to retrace their steps, when Panton stepped upward
for a few yards to try the edge of a little slope of fine ash--for the
heat there was intense.

To his surprise the ashes into which he plunged his hands were quite
cool, and yet the air around was at times almost suffocating.

"Must be a downward draught from the mountain top," said Panton at last,
and then he looked sharply round, for Oliver had suddenly cocked his

"What is it?" asked the others.

"Look out.  There's something or somebody tracking us just inside the
trees.  I've seen the leaves move several times, but always thought it
was the wind."

"Hallo!  Hark!" cried Drew, excitedly.  "Don't you hear?"

It was nearly sunset, and the little party knew that they had about an
hour's walk before they could reach camp.  The darkness was fast
approaching, but they stopped short to listen.

In vain for a few minutes, and they were about to start again, when the
sound that had arrested Drew's attention was heard plainly now by all--a
long, low, piteous cry as of some one in agony, and in the great
solitude of the mountain-side the cry was repeated, sending a chill of
horror through the bravest there.



"Must be one of the men," said Oliver, excitedly.  "Come on."

"But that thing you saw below there among the trees?"

"We can't stop about that.  It's some kind of great cat.  I'll try

He raised his gun and fired quickly in among the trees to scare the
creature, whatever it might be, and there came in response a snarling
yell, followed by a crashing, as of the animal bounding away through the

Directly after there came from high up a second report, as if from a
minor explosion of the volcano, but it was evidently only the echo of
the gun.

There was another sound though, which was far more startling and
awe-inspiring, and made the three young men draw together and stand
gazing upward, waiting to find which direction would be the safest in
which to flee.

For, directly after the echo, there was a strange whispering noise as of
cinders sliding one over the other a long distance away and right up
towards the crater above their heads.

As naturalists they knew on the instant what this meant, and it struck
all in the same way--that it resembled the falling of a little hard
granulated ice in a mountain--the starting of an avalanche.  And as the
ash and cinder, with the vitrified blocks of stone, lay loose on the
mighty slope, they felt that it was quite possible for the firing of the
gun to have caused an avalanche of another kind.

In a few seconds they knew that this was the case, for the whispering
rapidly increased into a loud rustling, which soon became a rush, and
directly after increased to a roar; and now, for the first time, they
began to realise how vast the mountain was in its height and extent, for
the rushing sound went on and on, gathering in force, and at last Drew
exclaimed, as he gazed upward at an indistinct mist apparently
travelling down towards them,--

"Come on; we shall be swept away."

"No, no," cried Panton and Oliver, almost in a breath; "We may be as
safe here as anywhere.  Perhaps we should rush into more danger."

And now the warm, ruddy glow of the setting sun was obscured by rising
clouds, which they at once grasped were dust; a semi-darkness came on,
and through this they had a glimpse of the mountain-side all in motion
and threatening to overwhelm them where they stood.

It was hard work to master the feeling of panic which impelled them to
run for their lives, but fortunately they had strength of mind enough to
stand fast while the tumult increased, and, joining hands, they kept
their places with hearts throbbing, half-suffocated by the dust which
now shut them in, while, with a furious roar, the avalanche of cinder,
stones, and ashes swept by, not twenty yards from where they stood, and
subsided amidst the cracking of boughs and tearing up of trees at the
edge of the forest.

It was like the dying sighs of some monster, the sound they heard
directly after growing fainter and fainter, till there was the mere
whisper made by trickling ashes, then even that subsided, and they stood
in a cloud of dust, listening while it slowly rolled away.  At last, as
they gazed downward, there, below them, to the right, was a huge opening
torn into the forest, with broken limbs, prostrate trunks, and great
mop-like roots standing up out from a slope of grey cinders and calcined

"What an escape," muttered Oliver.  "Warning: we must not fire again
near the mountain."

"Hark!" cried Panton.  "There it is again."

For, from a distance, came a long, low, mournful shout, and directly
after it was repeated, and they made out that it was the familiar
sea-going _Ahoy_.

"It's only one of the men," said Oliver, and, putting his hand to his
mouth, he was about to answer, but Panton checked him.

"Will it bring down another fall?" he whispered.

"No, no.  There can be little fear of that now," said Oliver.  "All the
loose dusty stuff must have come down," and he hailed loudly; but his
cry had, apparently, no effect, for it was not answered.

"Come on," said Panton, after a few moments' pause in the awful silence,
which seemed to be far more terrible now, after the fall; and in the
gathering darkness they started off, with the edge of the forest on
their right to guide them.  But the first part of their journey was not
easy, for they had to climb and struggle through the ash and cinders,
which had fallen, for a space of quite a couple of hundred yards before
they were upon firm ground.

Then, as they stopped for a few moments to regain their breath, there
was the mournful, despairing _Ahoy_! again, but though they answered
several times over, there was no response till they had tramped on
amidst increasing difficulties for quite a quarter of an hour--that
which had been comparatively easy in broad daylight, growing more and
more painful and toilsome as the darkness deepened.

Then, all at once, after a response to the mournful _Ahoy_, there came a
hail in quite a different tone.

"Ahoy!  Where away?"

"All right!  Where are you?" cried Oliver.

"Here you are, sir.  Here you are," came from not a hundred yards away,
and directly after they met Wriggs.

"It's you, then, who has been hailing," cried Oliver.  "Why didn't you
answer when we shouted?"

"Did yer shout, sir?  Never heerd yer till just now.  Thought I should
never hear no one again.  Got lost and skeered.  But I've found you at

"Found us, yes, of course.  What made you leave Smith and come after

"Didn't, sir.  He left me and lost hisself, and I couldn't find him.  It
was soon after we'd lit a fire.  He went off to get some more wood and
there was an end of him."

"What, Smith gone?"

"Yes, sir.  He's swallowed up in some hole or another, or else eat up by
wild beasts.  I couldn't find him nowhere, and I couldn't stand it alone
there among them sarpents."

"Serpents?  What, near our camp?" said Drew, who began to think of their
adventure in the cabin.

"Yes, sir," said Wriggs, who was all of a tremble from exertion and
dread.  "I stood it as long as I could, with 'em hissing all round me,
and then I felt as though if I stopped alone much longer I should go off
my chump."


"Go raving mad, sir, so I shoved some more stuff on the fire, and as
soon as it began to blaze and crackle there was a bigger hissing than
ever, and the serpents all came rushing at me, and I ran for my life and
to try and find you."

"Come along," cried Panton.  "We must get back and find Smith."

"You never will, sir," said Wriggs, dolefully.  "Poor old Tommy's gone.
I expect it was the snakes.  They must have smelt as it was we who
skinned their mates.  I had a narrow escape from 'em."

"Did you see them?" asked Oliver.

"Well, sir, I didn't zackly see 'em, but I could hear 'em all about me

"Then you are not sure they were snakes?"

"Not sure, sir?  Why, that I am.  Nothing else couldn't keep on hissing
at you but snakes and sarpents.  Oh, lor! it's a horful lonesome place,
I was a shivering all down my back.  Why, not long ago, while I was
coming along hailing of yer, I heard a mountain come sliding down like
thunder, and shooting loads o' stones."

"You've been scared, Wriggs," said Oliver, as he hurried the man back.
"Tell me again."

"What, 'bout being scared, sir?"

"Nonsense, we mustn't be scared at a noise; I mean about Smith wandering

"Aren't nowt to tell, sir, only as he went to get some more wood, and
the sarpents caught him.  Swaller a feller up whole, don't they, sir?"

"Serpents do swallow their food whole," said Oliver.

"Ah, that accounts for his not answering when I shouted.  Of course, I
couldn't hear him or him me if he was swallowed down into some long
thing's inside."

"There, that will do," said Oliver, impatiently.  "I say, Panton, are we
going right?"

"Must be; the edge of the wood is below us on the right."

"But everything looks so different."

"Yes, looks dark," said Drew.  "But we ought to be pretty close to the
place now."

"I'm afraid we've turned up too much among the rocks.  It will be
horrible to be lost now.  I wish we had not come," said Panton.  "We
ought to be resting ready for our work to-morrow."

"All right: we've passed the opening into the forest," cried Oliver.

"How do you know?"

"Look back a little, and you'll see the gleam of the fire.  There,

For, as they stopped and glanced back, there was a sudden blaze of light
from some fifty yards below them, as if the fire had fallen together and
flashed up.

"I thought we couldn't be far away," continued Oliver.

"Look, look, sir," whispered Wriggs, stopping short, and catching the
young man's arm.

"What at?  The fire?  Yes, I see it."

"No, sir, close to it.  There, it's a-moving.  Tommy Smith's ghost."

"Ahoy, ghost!" shouted Oliver, as he caught sight of the figure.

"Ahoy it is, sir," came in stentorian tones.  "Seen anything o' poor
Billy Wriggs, sir?  He's wanished."

"Mussy on me, Tommy," shouted Wriggs, running forward to grasp his
comrade's hand, "I thought you was a dead 'un."

"Not so bad as that, messmet," said Smith shaking hands heartily, "but I
had a nasty tumble down into a sort o' crack place, and it reg'lar
stunned me for a bit, and when I come back you was gone."

"But did you hear 'em?" said Wriggs, in a husky whisper.

"Who's 'em?" said Smith.


"What, a-hissin' like mad?"


"'Tarn't serpents, Billy, it's some hot water holes clost by here, and
every now and then they spits steam.  Fust time I heerd it I thought it
was a cat."

Half an hour later all were sleeping soundly, only one having his
slumber disturbed by dreams, and that was Wriggs, who had turned over on
his back, and in imagination saw himself surrounded by huge snakes, all
in two pieces.  They rose up and hissed at him while he struggled to get
away, but seemed to be held down by something invisible; but the most
horrible part of his dream was that some of the serpents hissed at him
with their heads, and others stood up on the part where they had been
divided, and hissed at him with the points of their tails.



The sun was shining upon the globular mist which floated high up over
the top of the mountain when Panton woke and roused his companions, and
while the men raked up the embers, added wood to get the kettle to boil,
the three young companions walked to the spring for a bathe, by way of
preparation for an arduous day's work.  Here they found, deep down in a
crack among the rocks, quite an extensive pool, into which the hot
spring flowed, and a journey of thirty or forty yards among the rocks,
exposed to the air, was sufficient to temper its heat into a pleasant
warmth, whose effects were delicious, giving to the skin, as it did,
consequent upon the salts it contained, a soft, silky feeling, which
tempted them to stay in longer.

"It wouldn't do," said Panton, withdrawing himself from the seductive
influence of the bath.  "It would be enervating, I'm sure."

"Yes, let's dress," cried Oliver, and soon after they were making a
hearty meal, gazing up at the great slope they had to surmount, and
noting as they ate, the sinuous lines which appeared here and there upon
the mountain-side, and which they knew, from experience, to be cracks.

"Must dodge all of them, if we can," said Panton with his mouth full.
"If not, Smith must lay the ladder across for a bridge."

"But, I say, Lane," said Drew, after gazing upward for some time in
silence, "didn't you lay it on a bit too thick when we found you?"

"Yes," said Panton, "about the difficulty of the climb.  Why, it looks
nothing.  Only a hot tiring walk.  I say, we ought to be peeping down
into the crater in an hour's time."

"Yes, we ought to be," said Oliver, drily.  "Look sharp, my lads, eat
all you can, and then let's start.  The tent can stay as it is till we
come back.  We'll take nothing but some food and our bottles of water.
You carry the ladder, Wriggs, and you that long pole and the ropes,

"Ay, ay, sir," said the men in duet, and a quarter of an hour later
Oliver, as having been pioneer, took the lead, and leaving the rugged
rocky ground they planted their feet upon the slope and began to climb.

"Don't seem to get much nearer the top," said Drew at the end of two
hours, when he had proposed that they should halt for a few minutes to
admire the prospect, in which Panton at once began to take a great deal
of interest.

"No, we haven't reached the top yet," said Oliver, drily.

"What a view!" cried Drew.  "Oughtn't we soon to see the brig?"

"No," replied Oliver; "if we cannot see the mountain from the vessel,
how can we expect to see the vessel from the mountain?  Ready to go on?"

"Yes, directly," said Panton.  "You can see the ocean, though, and the
surf on the barrier reef.  But I don't see any sign of savages."

"Phew!  What's that?" cried Drew, suddenly.

"Puff of hot air from the mountain, or else from some crack.  There must
be one near."

Oliver looked round and upward, but no inequality was visible, and they
climbed slowly and steadily up for some hundred yards before Panton, who
was now first, stopped short.

"I say, look here!" he cried.  "We're done, and must go back."

Oliver joined him, and then gazed away to the west.

"This is the great crack I told you about," he said, "but it is much
narrower here."

"And not so deep, eh?" said Panton, with a slight sneer.

"That I can't say," replied Oliver; "deep enough if you could look
straight down.  Here, Smith, let's have the ladder.  Will it reach?"

The two men came up with the light ladder and pushed it across to find
that it was long enough to act as a bridge with a couple of feet to

"But it looks too risky," said Drew, while the two sailors glanced at
each other and scratched their heads as they wondered whether one of
them would be sent forward to try the ladder's strength.

"Yes, it looks risky," said Oliver, coolly, "but we have to do it."

"No, no," said Panton warmly, "it is too bad.  I was disposed to chaff
you, Lane, because you threw the hatchet a little about your adventures.
It would be madness to cross that horrible rift."

"Hear, hear," said Smith, in an undertone.

"As aforesaid," said Wriggs.

"We're going across there," said Lane, coolly.  "It's the nearest way up
and only needs care."

"But, oh! poof!" exclaimed Drew, "you can smell a horrible reek coming

"Yes, that's what we keep getting puffs of as we climb.  Give me the end
of that coil of line, Smith."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Will it bear me?"

"Half a dozen o' your sort, sir.  It's quite noo."

"Good," said Oliver, securing the end tightly about his chest.

"Then you're going to venture?" said Panton.

"Of course, and you're all coming, too.  But you'll hold the line and if
the ladder breaks or I slip off, you'll hang on and drag me out?"

"Of course.  But--"

"Never mind the buts," said Oliver, smiling, and just then, piqued by
his companion's banter, he would have crossed had the danger been far

"I say," cried Drew, "won't the sides crumble in from under the ladder?"

"Not likely," said Oliver, coolly; "there's a little ash at the edges,
but just below it is solid lava rock."

"Yes, that's so; and this is a huge crack formed in the cooling," said

"Ready!" cried Oliver.  "Hold the rope so that there is no drag upon me,
but be ready to tighten."

No one spoke, and Oliver walked to the ladder, placed one foot upon a
round, leaned forward, and looked down.

"You can see here," he said, without turning his head, "it goes down
till all is black darkness.  Now then, let the rope slide through your
finger.  Ready?"

"Yes, all right."

Then, to the horror of all, instead of going down upon hands and knees,
and crawling across, Oliver stepped boldly on upright from round to
round, till he reached the centre, where he stopped short, for the
slight poles of the ladder had given and given, sinking lower, till it
seemed as if they must break.  Oliver knew it well, and had stopped
short, expecting to feel the check of the rope, which grew moist in the
hands which involuntarily tightened around it.  The party in safety
watched with starting eyes, and breath held till, after a pause of some
seconds, which appeared to be prolonged into minutes, the bending ladder
began to spring and creak again, as, with his balance regained, Oliver
stepped on, round by round, and then reached the other side.  Only about
a dozen feet, but to all it seemed like a horrible, long journey of the
greatest peril.

"Lane, lad," cried Panton, excitedly, as soon as his friend was over,
"what madness to go like that!"

"Shouldn't have thought me a coward and a boaster, then," said Oliver,
sitting down about three yards from the edge of the chasm, and
unfastening the rope from about his chest.  "But it isn't safe to come
like that; I nearly lost my balance, the ladder bends so.  Besides, it
will bear you better if you distribute your weight and come on all

"It's not safe even to do that," said Drew, sharply.

"As aforesaid," grumbled Wriggs.

"Oh, yes," said Oliver, smiling, "you can fasten the rope around you
Alpine fashion, and I shall hold one end; the others will hold the
second end, so that we shall all have you safely enough."

"All right," said Drew, shortly, and he made a loop, passed it over his
head and shoulders, tightened it, and advanced.

"Now then, draw in the line."

This was done, and with Oliver sitting with his heels firmly against a
projection of the rock, and hauling in foot by foot, and the others
giving, Drew went down on hands and knees, gripped the sides of the
ladder, and crawled across, the wood cracking a good deal, but not
bending nearly so much.

"There," said Oliver, as Drew unfastened the rope, "now you can help me
hold, and Panton can come over."

"I'm going to walk across," said Panton, firmly.

"No, you are not, man," cried Oliver; "you will crawl.  We must run no
risks to-day."

Panton grumbled, but obeyed, crawling across in safety after coming to a
standstill in the middle and losing his nerve as he gazed down between
the rounds.

Then Wriggs came, and Smith was left to run as much risk as Oliver, for
he had only rope holders on the farther side, but he went across boldly
enough and without hesitation, the rope being steadily gathered in, and
when he was over he took a good grip of the ladder and drew it across as

"I beg your pardon, Lane," said Panton, in a voice that only his
companion could hear.  "It was only banter, but I ought to have known

"All right, old fellow," cried his companion.  "There, say no more."

The sun was growing intensely hot now, as Smith shouldered the ladder,
and they once more started up the slope, which rapidly grew steeper, so
stiff indeed was the ascent that Oliver, who led, after trying the
zigzag approach and finding it too difficult, bore away to the east,
making the ascent more gradual, and as if the intention was to form a
corkscrew-like path round the upper part of the mountain.

"We've done wrong," he said, after a couple of hours' struggle upwards,
"we ought to have gone to the west, and then by this time we should have
been in the shade instead of roasting here."

They had paused to have a bit of lunch and rest, for the heat was
intense now, and the cracks or rifts in the mountain slope more
frequent, but they were not half the width of that which had been just
crossed, and as the party had grown more confident they took each in
turn readily enough.

"We must make the best of it now," said Panton, "and I can't help
thinking that we are doing right."

"Why?" asked Drew.

"It seems to me that it would be impossible to get up to the crater edge
on account of these horrible hot gases which rise from the cracks.  We
had better aim at getting round to the other side, and looking out from
there as high up as we can climb.  We shall know then whether the place
is an island.  What do you say, Lane?"

"The same as you do.  I've been thinking so for an hour.  You see, the
ashes get looser as we climb higher, and the mountain steeper.  What
looked easy enough from below proves to be difficult in the extreme, and
if we go much higher I feel sure that we shall set loose a regular
avalanche and begin sliding down altogether."

A quarter of an hour later they started off again somewhat refreshed,
but suffering terribly from the volcanic heat radiating from the ashes
as well as from that from the sun, but they pressed on steadily, rising
higher and gradually getting round the north slope, though the farther
they tramped over the yielding ashes, the more they were impressed by
the fact that the mountain was ten times greater than they had imagined
it from below.

At last, late on in the afternoon, Oliver stopped short.

"We must get back before dark," he said.  "Those chasms have to be
passed.  What do you say, shall we go now?"

His proposal was agreed to at once, and they turned to have a good look
round.  Above them towered the truncated cone looking precisely as it
did from the place where they had started that morning, and, while
Oliver adjusted his glass, Panton took out a pocket-compass, and Drew, a
watch-like aneroid barometer.

"I can see nothing but the barrier reef just as it was when we started.
Where are we now?" said Oliver.  "Nearly north-east, are we not? and
sea, sea, sea, everywhere, nothing but sea in this direction."

"We are looking due north," said Panton, as the needle of his compass
grew steady.

"What, have we after all got round to the other side?"

"Seems so."

"Then the place is an island."

"Unless it joins the mainland somewhere west," said Panton.

"As far as I can see there is no land north or west.  If we are on the
northern side now we must be able to see it at this height.  How high
are we, Drew?"

"Just over four thousand feet, and I should say the mountain goes up
quite two thousand more, but it is very deceiving.  Then we are upon an

"Hurrah!" cried Panton.

"I don't see where the hurrah comes in," said Oliver, quietly, "but I'm
glad that our journey has not been without some result."

"I should have liked to get to the top though," said Panton, looking
upward wistfully.

"I say, you two," said Drew, "we were to give a good look round for the

"I've been doing so," said Oliver, whose eyes were still at his glass,
"and there isn't a sign of a hut, boat, or savage.  Nothing but a
barrier reef shutting in a beautiful lagoon, and the cocoa-nut palms
fringing its edge."

"What about the lower slopes?" asked Drew.

"Dense forest for the most part, cut through every here and there by
what looks like old lava streams, which reach the lagoon, and form

"Then this side of the island is better wooded than the other?"

"Evidently, and there are two little streams running down from the dark
chaos of rock, that look to me different from the rest of the mountain.
You have a look, Panton."

The latter took the glass and stood sweeping the mountain slope for some
minutes, during which Smith and Wriggs sat down, and lit their pipes for
a restful smoke.

"All plain enough, as far as I can judge, my lads.  That dark part in
the most wooded district is an old volcano, and this that we are on
seems to be quite new and active.  I should say this island has been
quiescent for hundreds of years before it burst out into eruption, and
sent up this great pile of rock and ashes.  Now then, what next?"

"Back to the tent before we are overtaken by the darkness," said Drew.

"Can we do it?" said Oliver.

"We're going to try.  Now, then, all down-hill over the soft ash, I
daresay we shall be able to slide part of the way."

"No," cried Oliver, emphatically, "it must be fair walking.  If we start
a slide of ashes and cinders, how are we to stop when we come near one
of the crevasses?"

"Or to avoid being buried?" said Drew, "Steady work is the thing."

He had hardly spoken these words when, as if resenting their presence, a
roar like thunder came from the crater, and a huge cloud shot up into
the clear sky, to curve over like a tree, and as they turned and fled
once more, a rain of ashes commenced falling.  The darkness of which
they had had so terrible an experience, threatened to shut them in high
up on that mountain slope, while at any moment in their retreat they
were liable to come upon one of the openings that ran deep down into the
volcano's fiery core.



One of the rifts was crossed in the dim twilight, another was avoided by
making a circuit, and another by walking along its edge till it narrowed
sufficiently for them to spring across, and after one of these bold
leaps, Smith, who bore the ladder, said to Wriggs,--

"Feel 'sposed to take to a noo line o' life, messmate, if we ever gets
back home?"

"Dunno.  What sort?" growled Wriggs.

"Hacerybat and tumbler by appointment to her Majesty."

"What d'yer mean, Tommy?"

"Why, arter this practice we can do anything: balancing on poles,
crawling desprit places on ladders, hanging from ropes, and standing
over nothing with yer eyes shut.  Feel a tug, Billy, when we jumped that
last bit?"

"Tug?  No.  I on'y felt as if I was a bit a' iron, and there was a big
loadstone down in the hole, trying to pull me in."

"Well, that's what I meant--a tug."

"Bah! there's only one kind o' tug--a steam tug, and there's none here
for a man to feel."

"What, aren't there a tug-o'-war?"

"Not here, messmet.  But I say, I don't stomach this here darkness.
It's like being at work in the hold.  Mind!"

"All right, I see it coming, mate," said Smith, as a great lump of
cinder fell close to him.  "Didn't touch me."

"Miss is as good as a mile, mate, eh?  But don't it seem as if someone
up above was heaving these stones at us because we are not wanted here."

"Come along, my lads!" cried Oliver, halting for them to hasten up.
"Take my gun, Smith, and I'll carry the ladder for a bit."

"Not me, sir, begging your pardon.  This here ladder's about the
awkwardest and heaviest ladder as ever was for his size."

"Then let me rest you."

"No, sir.  I've got used to it now.  You couldn't carry it.  Could he,

"Not much, lad.  We're all right, sir.  You go on and show us the way.
If you manage, we can."

"Better let me rest you, my lad."

"Thank-ye, no, sir, Billy and me lays it down in the dust now and then,
and sits on the edge for a rest.  We're doing pretty comfortable, and
only wants to get down to the tent to tea."

"All right, then."

The darkness increased for a while, and they came dangerously near being
struck by stones several times over, but escaped as if by a miracle.
Then just as they were approaching one of the worst of the gaps, the
cloud of smoke and ashes floated gradually away, they obtained a glimpse
of the bright blue sky and were able to cross the crevice in safety,
though conscious all the while that a great body of suffocating vapour
was now rising from the depths below.

The rest of the descent to the great rift was made in the bright
afternoon sunshine, every nerve being strained to get that passed before
darkness fell, and as Wriggs, who came last this time, reached the edge
where the others were hauling in the line they all set up a hearty
cheer, and gathering up the rope, set off as if refreshed, for the
dangers of the ascent were at an end.

"An hour will do it," cried Oliver.  "Then a warm bath, a good meal, a
night's rest, and we shall be all right."

"But we did not get to the top," said Panton.

"Well, what of that?  We've found out that we are upon an island, and we
have left something else to do another day, for we must get to the edge
of the crater before we've done."

"And now what next?" said Drew, as they tramped on down the soft ash
bed, after carefully mapping out their course to the hot-spring camp.

"Food and rest."

"No, no, I mean about our proceedings."

"Let Mr Rimmer construct a boat if he likes.  It will keep him busy,
and take I daresay a couple of years.  During that time we can collect a
cargo of specimens, and thank our stars that we have fallen in such good

In spite of marking down the trees and rocks where the hot springs lay,
the natural darkness of night made their task by no means easy.  Objects
looked so different, and after they had reached the end of the ash
slope, the inequalities of the surface were so great that they lost
their way several times over, and at last it was decided to lie down and
rest under the shelter of a huge tree, when Smith suddenly exclaimed,--

"Why, this here's where I got some of the firewood last night."

"Nonsense," said Panton pettishly.

"It was somewheres here as I broke a big branch off, one as was dead."

"If it were, you would find the stump," said Panton.

"Course I should, sir, and here it is," growled the man.

"What!" shouted Oliver.  "Then the tent must be close by."

"Round at the back of a big mask o' rock, sir, as is the hardest and
sharpest I ever broke my shins again.  It ought to be just about where
Billy Wriggs is a-lighting of his pipe."

"Want me, matey?"

"Yes.  Look if there's a lot o' rock behind you."

"Ay, I am a-leaning again it."

"There you are, sir!  I'll go on and light the fire and set the kettle
to boil," said Smith, and ten minutes after there was a ruddy blaze
lighting up the rocks and trees; a good tea meal followed, and
forgetting all perils and dangers, the little party lay down to rest and
enjoy the sound sleep that comes to the truly tired out.



The night passed peaceably enough, and though every now and then there
was a violent hissing from close at hand, it was not noticed till just
at daybreak, when Smith, who had grown brave and reckless with
knowledge, drove his elbow into his messmate's ribs.

"All right," growled Wriggs, drowsily, "but t'arnt our watch, is it?"

"Watch?  No, rouse up, my lad.  Steam's up."

"Eh?  What?  Steam?"

_Css_, came loudly from a crevice in the rocks so suddenly and sharply,
that the sailor sprang up in alarm.

"Oh," he grumbled, directly after, "it's them hot water works.  I
thought it was a snake."

"Who said snakes?" cried Drew, waking up.

"I did, sir, but it ain't.  It's to-morrer morning, and we're getting

"I have raked the fire together, sir, and put the billy on to byle,"
said Smith,--"not meaning you, messmate."

"Time to get up?" cried Oliver, and he sprang to his feet.  "Come on,
Panton, who's for a bath?"

They all were, and coming back refreshed partook of a hearty meal which
exhausted their supplies, all but the condiments they had provided, and
necessitated an immediate return to the brig.

"Only it seems a pity," said Oliver, as the cries of birds could be
heard in different directions, while butterflies of bright colours
darted here and there, and the trees were hung with creepers whose
racemes and clusters of blossoms gladdened Drew's eyes.

"Yes, it seems a pity," said Panton, taking out his little hammer and
beginning to chip at a piece of rock.

"There is so little to be seen close to the brig," said Oliver
thoughtfully, as he took out his handkerchief and began to polish a
speck of rust from the barrel of his double gun.

"And I haven't collected half so much as I should like to have done,"
said Drew.

"Think Mr Rimmer would be very uneasy if we stayed here for the day and
did a little collecting?"

"Not he," said Panton.  "But what about prog?"

"I'll shoot three or four pigeons," suggested Oliver.

"Three or four, why, I could eat half a dozen for dinner."

"Think so?" said Oliver, smiling; "I doubt it."

"But I'm getting hungry again already, although I've just breakfasted.
I say, though, surely we could shoot enough for our dinner.  What do you
say, Drew, shall we stop till evening and collect?"

"I'm willing."

"What do you say then, Lane?"

"By all means, this forest land at the bottom of the volcano slope is
swarming with good things.  We'll stay about here all the morning, and
after dinner begin to work back to the boat.  So long as we can reach it
by the time it grows dark we shall be all right."

"Yes, there's no fear of making a mistake when once we get into the
lagoon," said Panton.  "I could find my way to the boat-house

"Boat-house?" cried Drew.

"Well, the cocoa-nut grove," said Panton, laughing.  "Then, of course,
we can easily find our way to the brig.  I say, I'm precious glad that
we have seen no signs of the niggers.  It would have been very awkward
if we had found that they lived here."

"Instead of our having the island all to ourselves," said Drew.

"But this must once have been part of some mainland," Oliver remarked,
thoughtfully.  "Apes and leopards would hardly be found upon islands
unless they have been cut off by some convulsion of nature."

"This must have been cut off by some convulsion of nature," said Panton
quickly, and then, as he pointed upward toward the volcano, "and there's
the convulser ready to do anything.  There, come along, no more
scientific discussions.  Let's collect, but, first of all, we must think
of the pot."

"Are we coming back here?" asked Drew.

"Decidedly," cried Lane.  "We'll make this camp still.  Make up the
fire, Smith, and you two can come with us till we have shot enough for
dinner and then come back here and do the cooking."

"Right, sir," replied Smith.  "Come along, Billy."

The fire was well drawn together and replenished with fuel, and then,
shouldering their guns, the party started; but upon Oliver Lane glancing
back he called a halt.

"Here, Wriggs," he cried, "we don't want that ladder, nor those ropes,

"Don't yer, sir?"

"No, we are going along the edge of the forest.  Take those things

The ladder and ropes were taken back and then a fresh start was made,
the explorers keeping well to the edge of the forest for several
reasons, the principal being that they could easily get out toward the
barren slope of the mountain, and the travelling was so much easier as
they formed a line and beat the undergrowth for specimens and game.

"Pot first, you know," said Panton, "science later on.  Are we likely to
get a deer of any kind, Lane?"

"No," said Drew decisively.

"Why not?" said Lane.  "We have seen that there are leopards, and
leopards must have something to live upon.  I should say that we may
find some small kind of deer."

"Leopards might live on the monkeys," said Panton.

"Perhaps so, but I'm prepared for anything in a place like this.  What's

"I can hear one of them steam engyne birds coming along, sir," said
Wriggs, from behind.

"What birds?"

"One of them rooshy rashy ones, sir, as you called blow-horn-bills, and
makes such a noise with their wings."

"Hornbills without the blow, my man," said Lane, laughing.  "Look out,
all of you.  Hornbills are fruit-eating birds, and would be good

There was the sharp clicking of gun-locks as the rushing sound of big
wings was heard four times over; but the birds passed to right or left
to them, hidden by the trees, and all was silent again, till after a few
hundred yards had been passed something got up in a dense thicket and
went off through the forest at a tremendous rate.

"Lane, man, why didn't you fire?" cried Panton reproachfully.

"Because I have a habit of looking at what I shoot, and I never had a
glimpse of this.  Did you see it, Drew?"

"I?  No."

"Please, sir, I just got one squint at it," said Smith.  "You did, too,
didn't you, Billy?"

"I sin it twice," said Wriggs.  "It was a spotty sort o' thing, and it
went through the bushes like a flash."

"It must have been a leopard, then," said Panton.

"No," said Oliver decisively, "not that made the loud crashing noise.
One of those great cats would have glided away almost in silence.  I
fancy that it was some kind of deer.  Keep on steadily and we may hunt
up another."

But they tramped on for quite an hour, without any such good fortune,
though had their aim solely been collecting specimens, their
opportunities were great.  For at every opening sun-birds flitted here
and there, poising themselves before some blossom which they probed with
their long curved bills, and sent forth flashes from their brilliant
plumage like those from cut and polished gems.  Every now and then too,
thrush-like birds flew up from beneath the bushes--thrush-like in form
but with plumage in which fawn or dove colour and celestial blues
preponderated.  Mynahs and barbets were in flocks: lories and paroquets
abundant, and at last Lane stopped short and held up his hand, for from
out of a patch of the forest where the trees towered up to an enormous
height, and all beneath was dim and solemn-looking as some cathedral,
there came a loud harsh cry, _waark, waark, wok, wok, wok_, and this was
answered several times from a distance.

"Only some kind of crow," said Panton, "and we don't, as the American
backwoodsman said, `kinder hanker arter crow.'"

"Kind of crow? yes, of course," said Oliver impatiently.  "That's the
cry of the great bird of Paradise.  Come along quietly, we must have
some specimens of them."

"No, no," cried Panton.  "If we fire at them good-bye to any chance of a
deer.  Steal up and have a look at them, we shall have plenty more

Oliver was strongly tempted to fire, for just then a bird skimmed down
from on high into the gloom beneath the trees, and they had a glimpse of
the lovely creature, with its long, loose, yellowish plumage streaming
out behind as if it were a sort of bird-comet dwelling amongst the
trees.  Then it was gone, and the young man consoled himself with the
thought that had he fired the chances were great against his hitting,
and it would have been like a crime to let the bird go off wounded and
mutilated to a lingering death.

He thought this as they stood listening to the cries of the birds,
harsh, powerful, and echoing as they rang out in all directions.

"Not the kind o' bird as I should choose for his singing, eh, Billy?"
said Smith, suddenly breaking the silence of the gloomy spot.

"Well, no, Tommy, can't say as I should either for the sake o' the
moosic, but there's a deal o' body in it."

"I wish we could get hold of something with some body in it that we
should care to eat."

"There's a something upon that tree yonder, sir," said Smith, "one o'
them little black boy chaps.  See him, sir?"

"I can," whispered Drew.  "It's quite a large monkey."

"He'd eat good, wouldn't he, sir?" said Wriggs.

"Yes, for cannibals," said Oliver, shortly, as he took out his double
glass and focussed it upon a black face peering round a tall, smooth
trunk, quite a hundred feet from the ground.  "Look, there's another.
But time's running on.  Hadn't we better get back into a more open part
and begin collecting?"

"If you wish me to die of starvation," said Panton.  "I can't work
without food."

"Then for goodness' sake let's get on," said Oliver, pettishly, and he
hurried beneath the tree where the first monkey had been seen, and as he
passed a good-sized piece of stick whizzed by his ear and struck the

"See that, Billy?" said Smith.

"Ah, I see it."

"Lucky for that little nigger as they're a good-hearted Christian sort
o' gentlemen.  If they warn't he'd go home to his messmates peppered all
over with shot, and feelin' like a sore currant dumpling."

Another half-hour was passed of what Oliver dubbed the most aggravating
natures for beautiful specimens of bird, insect, flower, and mineral
abounded, while the whole of their attention had to be devoted to
providing food.

"I don't believe there are any deer to be had," he cried at last, and
then he stopped short in the sunny grove, where they had halted to take
a few minutes' rest.  "What's that?"

"I was going to ask you," said Panton.

For the peculiar noise they had heard upon a former occasion came from a
short distance away, deep-toned, soft, and musical, as if a tyro were
practising one note upon a great brass instrument.

"Quick, come on," whispered Oliver, excitedly, and leading the way he
signed to his companions to come on abreast, and in this form they went
on cautiously in the direction of the sound, till Drew suddenly took a
quick aim through an opening, and fired both barrels of the piece in
rapid succession.

Instantly there was a tremendous beating of wings, and a little flock of
half-a-dozen large, dark birds rose up, affording Oliver and Panton each
a shot, with the result that a couple of the birds fell heavily.

Then the two men behind cheered, there was a rush forward through the
thick growth, and four of the huge crowned pigeons were retrieved--
lovely dark slate-coloured birds, which looked with their soft, loose
plumage and beautiful crests, nearly double the size of ordinary
farm-yard fowls.

"Now," cried Oliver, triumphantly, "back with you to the fire, and pluck
and cook those.  We will be with you in a couple of hours' time.  But I
say, Panton, you won't eat half-a-dozen?"

The two men seized a bird in each hand, grinning with delight, and
started off for the edge of the wood at a run, but Smith stopped and

"Byled or roast, sir?" he cried.

"Roast, of course," said Oliver.  "You have nothing to boil them in."

"Byling spring, sir."

"Nonsense, man.  Off with you.  Now," he continued, as the two sailors
disappeared, "specimens.  A little way farther, and then turn back."



Oliver suffered from a sensation of disappointment during those next two
hours, for he regretted not stripping the skins from the magnificent
fruit pigeons, but, as his companions said, he had no cause to complain,
for he secured specimens of two beautifully feathered birds of Paradise,
of an exceedingly rare kind.  In addition he had a couple of brilliant
scarlet and green lories, and half-a-dozen sun-birds, while Drew's
collecting box and pockets were full of specimens, and Panton perspired
freely beneath his burden of crystals, vitrified rock, and pieces of
quartz.  Several of these contained specks of metal, and proved
satisfactorily that in spite of volcanic eruption and the abundant
coral, the nucleus of the land on which they stood was exceedingly
ancient, and evidently a part of some continent now submerged.

Smith met them as they approached camp and announced dinner, and in
spite of the absence of bread and vegetables, no meat was ever more
enjoyed than the roast Goura pigeons, nor greater justice done to the

"Now then for the brig," said Oliver, decisively.  "We must not stop by
the way, for the sun will soon be getting low.  Mr Rimmer will be
coming after us if we are not there in good time, and we've a long tramp
yet to get to the shore."

"Collect as we go?" said Drew.

"Oh no, let's be content with what we have.  I shall have enough to do
to preserve mine."

"And I to arrange my little lot," said Panton.  "Here, Smith, carry a
few of these."

"Certeny, sir, but there's heaps of as good stones close to where the
brig lies."

"Never mind that, I want these."

"All right, sir," said the man, cheerily, and with a bag of stones and
the ropes, and with Wriggs at his side shouldering the ladder, the
little party started back, discussing the results of their expedition,
and the fact that though they had not climbed to the crater, they had
half explored the great mountain.  That, and the fact that there were no
savages to be seen, they felt was news enough for the mate, while, as to
themselves, they were all three more than satisfied with their finds.

The long tramp in the forest before dinner and the dinner itself made
the journey back to the shore of the lagoon where they had left the boat
seem doubly long, but they reached it at last, just as the west was one
glory of amber and gold, and the globular cloud high up over the crater
appeared of a rosy scarlet.  The long fringe of cocoa palms, too, seemed
as if their great pinnate leaves had been cut out of orange metal, and
reflected as they were in the glassy water of the lagoon, a scene of
loveliness met the travellers' eyes that made them soon forget their
weariness, and set to with a will to drag the boat over the sand, and
then launch it in the mirror-like sea.

"Now for a gentle pull back," said Oliver.  "Shall we do it before

"No; and there is no moon."

"Never mind, we can easily run the boat in among the trees, and avoid
the coral blocks and the pools as we walk to the brig.  Crocs are pretty
active of a night, so let's give them a wide berth."

"Yes, we must," said Panton, "for I daresay they'll be getting hungry as
they finish all the fish left in their larder."

"If it had not been for those reptiles in the pools they would have been
getting offensive by now."

"And when they have cleared them out, you think the crocs will journey
down to the sea?"

"I haven't a doubt of it," replied Panton.

"Then I hope they will not have begun their journey to-night, for I'm
too tired to care about meeting enemies."

Their row along the narrow lagoon was glorious with the cocoa-nut grove
on one side and the reef with its tumbling billows and subdued roar on
the other.  Then, as the sun set, the long mirror they traversed and the
backs of the curling over breakers were dyed with the most refulgent
colours, which grew pale only too soon.  When the darkness closed in,
the croaking of reptiles and night birds rose from beyond the grove, and
the breakers grew phosphorescent and as if illumined by a pale fire
tinged with a softened green, while the foam resembled golden spray as
it was dashed over the coral sand.

The sailors were relieved from time to time as they rowed on with the
stars spangling the still water, so that in the distance it was hard to
tell where sea ended and sky began; and at last, dimly seen against the
sky, three tall trees marked the spot where they ran up the boat.

"Sure this is right?" asked Oliver, as the sharp prow touched the soft,
white sand.

"Oh, yes, sir, this is right enough," replied Smith.  "Here's our marks
that we made this morning when we ran her down."

There was the faintly marked furrow, sure enough, and, all taking hold
of the sides, the boat was run up easily enough over the soft, loose
sand and then in amongst the smooth, round, curved trunks of the
cocoa-nut trees till her old quarters were reached, and the painter
secured to a stout stem.

"No fear of tide or wind affecting her," said Oliver; "but how dark it
is under these trees.  Look here, Smith, I don't think you men need
carry that ladder on to-night.  Leave it here.  It will be ready for
next time we try the ascent."

"All right, sir," replied Smith.

"I don't know, though; perhaps it will be as well to bring it along.
We'll help you if you get tired."

"I sha'n't get tired o' carrying a thing like that, sir," said the man,
with a laugh.  Then he shouldered it at once and the start was made for
the brig.

They reckoned upon it taking a good hour in the darkness, what with the
care they would have to exercise to avoid half-dried pools, scattered
fragments of coral rock, and the many heaps of snag-like trees half
buried in sand and mud, but when as near as they could guess an hour had
passed they were still some distance from the brig and suffering from a
feeling of weariness which made them all trudge along slowly and
silently in single file.

Oliver was leading with his gun over his shoulder, the piece feeling
heavier than it had ever felt before and as if it was increasing in
weight each minute.

Smith was behind him with the ropes over his shoulder, and Wriggs now
bore the ladder, coming last.

For some minutes they had been walking in utter silence, their footsteps
deadened by the soft sand, and a terribly drowsy feeling was coming over
Lane, making him long to lie down and sleep, but he fought it back and
strained his eyes to gaze forward in search of obstacles, knowing as he
did that the others were trusting him to pick out the best road and keep
them out of difficulties.

But it was very dark in spite of the stars, and hard to make anything
out till, all at once, he saw a misty and strange-looking form run by,
about twenty yards ahead.

"What's that?" he said to himself, and then he started, for Smith caught
his arm, and whispered,--

"Mr Lane, sir?  See that?"

"Yes, what was it?  Was it a deer?" and he involuntarily lowered his

"Two legged 'un, sir, if it was," said the man, softly.  "Will you call
a halt?  I think it was a hinjun."

"Nonsense.  One of our men, perhaps," said Oliver, testily.  "Don't say
that and scare them.  We're close up to the ship now."


The sharp report of a piece came from about a couple of hundred yards
farther on.

"There; I knew we were close up to the brig.  Mr Rimmer fired that as a
signal to let us know the way in the darkness.  I'll fire him one back."

The lock clicked and Oliver raised the muzzle to fire, when a ragged
volley came from ahead, followed by a savage yelling, and as the sounds
struck a chill to every heart there was utter silence.  Then came a
flash and a bright gleam, which grew brighter and brighter, developing
into the sickly glare of a blue light, while as they stood there,
fearing to advance, all grasped the meaning of the light.

The brig had been attacked by the Indians.  A gallant defence was being
made, and the blue light had been thrown out to show where the enemy



The first impulse of Oliver Lane was to drop down flat upon the
sun-baked sand and earth, so as to protect himself from being seen in
the glare of the blue light.  His example was followed by the others,
whose thoughts reverted also to the possibility of a bullet intended for
the enemy, hitting a friend.

And there they lay listening after the dying out of the yells, and
watching the glare from the blue light as it lit up the surroundings of
the brig, and then sank lower and lower till all was darkness as well as

Judging from what they heard, Mr Rimmer and his men were safe enough so
far, and had been aware of the Indians' attack.  But what was to come

The watchers asked themselves this question as they lay close together
listening for the slightest sound, waiting for a solution of the little
problem which had so much to do with their future: Had the enemy seen
them when the light was burning?

Long-drawn-out minutes passed as they waited in the darkness, now
hopeful, now despondent, for Oliver felt a touch on his arm
simultaneously with a soft, rustling sound, and the _pat, pat_ of naked
feet going over the sand.

The message of danger was silently telegraphed by a touch to the others,
and every weapon was grasped, those who had guns slightly raising the
muzzles, while Smith took out his jack-knife to open it with his teeth,
and Wriggs, to use his own words--afterwards spoken--"stood by" with the
ladder, meaning to use it as a battering-ram to drive it at any enemy
who approached.

But the sound passed over to their right, and all was silent again.

"Hadn't we better creep up to the ship?" whispered Oliver.

"And be shot for enemies?" replied Panton, in the same tone.

"They haven't seen us, so we had better wait till morning."

"And then make ourselves marks for spears and arrows."

"Better than for bullets.  I'd rather a savage mop-headed Papuan shot
me, than Mr Rimmer did."

"Hist!  Silence!" whispered Drew, who had crept closer.  "Enemy."

He was right, for footsteps were heard again, coming from the direction
of the brig, and it seemed like a second party following the first, till
it occurred to Panton that this might be the same party returning from
passing right round the vessel.

But they had no means of knowing, and a few minutes later they all lay
there asking themselves whether they would not have acted more wisely if
they had fired a volley into the enemy when they first came up, and
followed up the confusion the shots would have caused by rushing to the

"They would not have taken us for the enemy then," said Drew.

But the opportunity had gone by, and to add to their discomfort, a low,
murmuring sound indicated that the savages had come to a halt between
them and their friends.

For a good hour the party waited in the hope that the enemy would move
away, but it soon became evident that they had settled down for a
permanent halt, and the murmur of voices came so clearly to the ear that
all felt the danger of attempting to speak, lest they should bring the
enemy upon them.

Somehow, in spite of his being the youngest, Drew and Panton fell into
the habit of letting Oliver Lane take the post of leader, and when after
a long and wearisome period of waiting he whispered his ideas, they were
accepted at once, as being the most sensible under the circumstances.

Oliver's plan was this: to gradually creep back from the position they
occupied, until they felt that they were out of hearing, and then to
bear off to their left, and gradually get round to the other side of the
brig, which would thus be placed between them and the enemy.

The greatest caution was necessary in the presence of so wary a foe, and
it was not until this had been duly impressed upon the two sailors that
Oliver began the retrograde movement so slowly and softly that his
companions could hardly realise the fact that he had started.

Panton followed, then Smith and Wriggs, and Drew brought up the rear.

They had all risen and followed one another in Indian file, almost
without a sound.  But the murmuring that was made by the Papuans came
softly through the darkness, as if the savages were engaged in a debate
upon the subject of how they had better make their next attack.

Then all at once there was a sharp crack, for Oliver had stepped upon a
large, thin shell, which broke up with a fine ear-piercing sound, that
must have penetrated for a long distance.

That it had reached the spot where the Papuans were was evident, for the
murmuring of voices ceased on the instant.

"Down.  Lie down," whispered Oliver.  "They will come to see what the
noise was."

They lay down upon the soft sand, listening with every nerve upon the
strain, but not for long.  Before many seconds had passed, there was a
peculiar soft, rattling sound such as would be made by a bundle of reed
arrows, secure at one end and loose at the other.  This noise came
nearer, and then at a little distance, as they held their breath, it
seemed as if a shadow passed by, and then another, and another.

Oliver's hand which held his gun trembled, not from fear, but from the
nervous strain, and the knowledge that at any moment he might, for the
first time in his life, be compelled in self-defence, and for the
protection of his companions, to fire upon a party of savages, and so
shed the blood of a human being.

He stretched out his left hand as the third shadowy figure went lightly
by, and touched Panton's arm, to have the extended hand caught and
pressed warmly.

This was encouraging, and told of a trusty friend ready to help.  Then
they lay there upon their breasts for some minutes, gazing in the
direction taken by the enemy, while the impressive silence continued.
At last came a quick, sharp pressure of the hand, which seemed to
imply--Look out!  Here they come.

For at that moment, the quick, soft beat of feet came again, and three
shadowy figures passed so close to them that it seemed impossible for
them to remain unseen, but their clothes assimilated so with the
sun-burned sand and earth that the enemy passed on, and in a minute or
two the murmuring of voices arose once more.

"Come on," whispered Oliver, and he rose quickly, while the word was
passed to the others, and they recommenced their retreat, taking every
step cautiously.

It was not an easy task, for there was no judging distances by any
object, and hence Oliver had to walk straight away into the darkness,
till he guessed that he was far enough distant.  Then he began to veer
round to his right, and he had hardly done this, when from somewhere
behind came a sharp sound, best expressed by the word _Thung_!
accompanied by a sharp whizz.

No one needed any telling what had produced that noise, for it was
evident that one of the Papuans had hung back to keep watch, and hearing
if not seeing, he had sent an arrow in the direction by which the party
was retreating.

Oliver halted for a few moments with the thought in his mind which took
the form "poisoned," and he listened for some exclamation from one or
other of his companions indicating pain, or the sound of a fall.  But
all was still.  The others had given up to him as leader, and when he
stopped they halted, and when he moved on again they followed, in full
expectation of another arrow whizzing by.

But none came, and increasing his speed now and trying as well as he
could to move in a curve large enough to carry him round to the other
side of the brig, Oliver pressed on.

"Oh, if only they would burn another blue light," he muttered, as
striving to pierce the darkness ahead, and with his gun across his
breast ready for instant action, he went on and on, with all kinds of
curious thoughts occurring to him as his pulses beat heavily, and even
his brain seemed to throb.  Stories he had read and heard of people who
were lost moving in a circle and getting back to the place from which
they had started troubled him, others of people wandering about in the
dark and going over the same ground, and of others walking right into
the very spot they sought to avoid.  These and similar thoughts made him
break out into a cold perspiration, and wish that Panton had taken the

But all the time he was steadily walking on in the direction he believed
to be correct, till he felt at last that he must be level with the brig,
then passing it, and again that he must be well on his way now, and that
it was time to turn more sharply round and get up to the other side of
the vessel.  Then--_Splash_!

He drew back with a chill of dread running through his frame, for he had
reached the edge of a pool, and there was no water within half a mile of
the spot where the brig lay.

"What is it--water?" whispered Panton.

"Yes, I have come wrong."

"No, you haven't, only kept straight on instead of bearing more to your

"But I thought I was bearing well to the right," whispered Oliver.

"So did I--too much, but you see you were not.  This is the
half-dried-up pool, where there are three crocos.  I saw them the other

"It can't be."

_Splash, splash, splash, splash_!

Four heavy blows given to the surface of the water by the tail of a
great reptile, for the purpose of stunning any fish there might be close
at hand.

"Yes; you're right," said Oliver.  "Then we ought to bear away to the
right now?"

"That's it.  Go on."

Fortunately the ground was open now, and there was nothing to dread but
the scattered blocks of coral which it was too dark to see, but Oliver
stepped out boldly, chancing a fall over any of these obstacles, and for
the next ten minutes or so he made pretty good progress, and felt sure
that he was going right, for he every now and then stepped short with
his right foot.

"I must be near the brig now," he said to himself, and after gradually
slackening his pace he stopped short and listened, in the hope of
hearing some sound on board the vessel, and to his great joy there was a
whispering not far away.  Reaching out his hand, he touched Panton, and
then placing his lips to his companion's ear he said,--

"Can you hear that?"

"Yes, some one talking."

"Well, I make it out to be on the brig.  What are we to do next?"

"Creep a little nearer, and then wait for morning.  If we go too close,
the next thing will be a shot in our direction."


"What is it?"

"Listen.  Isn't this peculiar?"

Panton was silent there in the darkness for a few minutes, and then with
his lips to Oliver's ear,--

"I say," he said, "isn't this rather queer?"

"What?  I don't understand you."

"If that's people on the brig she's coming nearer to us; I thought at
first that the wind might be bringing the sound, but it isn't.  The
sound's coming closer."

"Mr Rimmer is down, then, patrolling round with some of his men.  Be
careful, or they may shoot."

"Not he.  Mr Rimmer wouldn't leave his wooden fort in the darkness.

"Yes, you're right.  Whoever it is, is coming this way."

"It's the enemy, then, and we must retreat again."

"But which way?  What are we to do?  We must be near the brig at
daybreak, so that as soon as it is light we may make a rush for it."

"We ought to be, but we mustn't be within sight of Mr Papuan at
daybreak; for, so near as we are, we shall have some of his arrows
quivering in us.  I don't know that I am very much afraid of a wound as
a rule, but I am awfully scared about having a poisoned arrow in me.  I
don't want to die of locked jaw."

"Hist.  Back," whispered Oliver.  "We must go somewhere, for they're
coming on, and it sounds like a good number of them."

Talking was quite plain now, and those who spoke were evidently full of
confidence, for one man spoke in a loud voice, and a chorus of agreement
or dissent arose, otherwise the enemy must have heard the whispering of
the little party, which now retreated steadily, but with the result that
Oliver grew confused, for he felt that he had entirely lost all sense of
direction, and letting Panton come up abreast he told him so.

"Don't matter," said the latter.  "You've evidently been going all
wrong, and no wonder.  Nature never meant us to play rats and owls.  But
I daresay we shall get right after all.  I wish there were some trees so
that we could shelter under them, and--"

"But there is nothing for a long distance but those barren rocks a
quarter of a mile from the brig's bows.  If we could reach them."

"Yes, where do you think they are?"

"I can't think.  I don't know, only that they must be somewhere."

"Yes, that's exactly where they are," said Panton, with a little laugh.
"Somewhere, unless the earth has swallowed them up, but where that
somewhere is I don't know, nor you either, so we're lost in the dark."

"Hush, not so loud, the daylight cannot be very far-off now."

"What?  Hours.  I don't believe it's midnight yet."

"There, I told you so," whispered Oliver, a few minutes later, "there's
the dawn coming and the sunrise."

"Nonsense, it's the moon; but look here, oughtn't we to be facing the
east now."

"Yes, according to my calculations," replied Oliver.

"Your calculating tackle wants regulating, for so sure as that's the
moon rising over yonder we've been working along due west."

"Tut, tut, tut!" ejaculated Oliver, as he gazed round at the faint light
on the horizon, "and I did try so hard.  But that must be the dawn."

"Then it has got a good, hard, firm, silvery rim to it.  Look!  That's
uncommonly like the moon, isn't it?"

Panton pointed to where the edge of the pale orb came slowly above the
horizon, looking big, and of a soft yellowish tarnished silver hue.

"Yes, it's the moon sure enough," said Oliver.  "I'm all wrong.  We
shall be able to make out where the brig is, though, when it gets a
little higher."

"And the niggers will be able to make out where we are, and skewer us
all with arrows, if we don't look out.  Hadn't we better all lie down?"

"No, no, let's aim at getting back on board.  We shall be stronger
there, and it will be a relief to Mr Rimmer to have us all back again
safely.  Better wait.  I can't hear the enemy now, and in a few minutes
we may be able to see the brig.  What do you say, Drew?"

"All right."



"Look-ye here, old mate," growled Wriggs to his companion, "I'm getting
jolly well sick o' this here job."

"Why, yer ungrateful beggar, what are you grumbling about now?  You had
too much o' them joosety pigeons, and it's been too strong for you."

"'Tarn't that," growled Wriggs, in a hoarse whisper.  "It's this here

"What's the matter with the ladder, mate?  Seemed to me to be a nice
light strong 'un when I carried it."

"Oh, yes, it's strong enough, messmate, but it makes me feel like a
fool, Tommy."

"Why so, Billy?"

"'Cause I'm having to go cutting about here like a lamp-lighter as has
lost his lantern, and ain't got no lamposties near.  Blow the old
ladder!  I'm sick on it."

"Give us hold, and you take these ropes," said Smith, "I never see such
a fellow for grumbling as you are, Billy.  You'd only got to say as you
was tired, and I'd ha' took it at once."

Wriggs chewed and spat on the ground, but he made no other movement.

"Well, are yer going to ketch hold o' these here ropes?"

"No, I aren't going to ketch hold o' no ropes.  Cause why?  It's my
spell with the ladder, and I'm a-going to carry the ladder till it's
time to give it up."

"Well, you are a horbstnit one, Billy, and no mistake."

"Look-ye here, are you going to keep your mouth shut?  'Cause if you're
not, I'm a-going to get furder away afore the Injuns begins to shoot.  I
don't want no pysoned arrows sticking into me."

"Course you don't, mate.  Look-ye here, if I was you I'd stand that
there ladder straight up, and then go aloft and sit on the top rung.
You could rest yourself, and be a deal safer up there."

"Chaff!" growled Wriggs.  "Chaff!  Better hold your tongue, Tommy, if
yer can't talk sense.  What does young Mr Oliver say--Forrard again?"


"Oh, all right, then, I don't mind.  I'll go off 'lone with the ladder
if he likes.  Where's the Injuns now?"

"Dunno.  But they ain't Injuns, Billy; they're savygees, that's what
they are."

"Why, I heered Mr Oliver call 'em pap you hans.  But there, I don't
care.  Call 'em what you like, so long as I can get rid o' this ladder
and rest my soldier."

"Then why don't you put it over your other soldier, Billy, or else let
me carry it?"

"'Cause I shan't, Tommy, so there you have it, sharp."

"You men will be heard by the Papuans if there are any lurking about,"
whispered Oliver just then.  "Silence, and keep close behind us."

As the moon rose higher it was not to shine out bright and clear, for
there was a thin haze floating over the sea, and consequently, as the
softened silvery light flooded the wave-swept plain, every object looked
distorted and mysterious.  Tree-trunks, where they lay together, seemed
huge masses of coral rock, swollen and strange, and the hollows scooped
out by the earthquake wave appeared to be full of a luminous haze that
the eye could not penetrate, and suggested the possibility of enemies
being in hiding, waiting to take aim with some deadly weapon, as soon as
the light grew plain enough for the returning party to be seen.

But out in the open, as far as they could make out, no lurking savages
were visible, and as the light spread more and more, unless hidden by
some shadowy hollow, there was no danger close at hand.

This was satisfactory and encouraging, the more so that though they all
listened with every nerve on the strain, there was now not a sound to
betray the enemy's whereabouts.

On the other hand, in spite of the light growing stronger, there was no
sign of the brig, and, worse still, everything looked so distorted and
hazy, not one familiar object to enable them to judge of their position.

"It's just like looking through a big magnifying glass," whispered
Oliver, "at the point when everything is upside down and distorted from
being out of focus."

"Perhaps so," said Drew, "but we're not looking through a magnifying

"I wonder that you, a man who is always using a microscope, should talk
like that," replied Oliver.  "We are not looking through a glass,
certainly, but we are piercing a dull transparent medium, caused by
water in the form of mist floating in the air.  I don't want to be
conceited, but my idea was quite right."

"Quite," said Panton, "only this is not a good time for studying optics.
What we want is knowledge that shall bring us to the brig without being
shot at by our friends."

"Hear that, Tommy," whispered Wriggs.  "We're going to be shot at now in
front by Muster Rimmer and the others, while the savages shoots at us

"Well, if we can't help it, Billy, what's the use o' grumbling?"
returned his mate.

"'Cause I've got this here ladder.  What's the good of a ladder when
you're being shot at?"

"None as I sees, Billy."

"'Course not.  Now, if it had been a good stout plank, there'd be some
sense in it."

"What, you'd shove it behind yer when the niggers was shooting harrers?"
said Smith, thoughtfully.

"O' course."

"And afore yer when Muster Rimmer was lettin' go with his revolver or a

"Right you are, mate.  That's it."

"Might keep off a harrer," said Smith, thoughtfully, "but bullets would
go through it like they would through a bar o' soap."

"Yah, that's where you allers haggravates me, Tommy.  I knows you're
cleverer than I am, but sometimes you do talk so soft."

"What d'yer mean?"

"I mean what's the good o' you hargying whether a bullet would go
through a thick plank or whether it wouldn't, when it's on'y a split
pole and so many wooden spells.  Don't you see it ain't a board but on'y
a ladder; and I'm sick on it, that I am."

"Then let me carry it."


"Will you two men be quiet?" said Oliver in a sharp whisper.  "Do you
want to betray our whereabouts to the enemy?"

"It aren't me, sir, it's Tommy Smith keeps a-haggrywating like."

"I aren't, sir! it's Billy Wriggs a-going on about that ladder as he's
got to carry."

"Well, it is a nuisance to be carrying a thing like that about all
night.  Lay it down, man.  I daresay we can find it again in the
morning.  Now follow us on quietly."

Oliver joined his companions, and the two sailors were left a little way

"Now, then! d'yer hear?" whispered Smith.  "He telled yer to chuck that
there ladder down."

"I don't care what he telled me, Tommy.  He aren't my orficer.  I was to
carry that there ladder, and I'm a-goin' to carry that there ladder till
my watch is up."

"Yah! yer orbsnit wooden-headed old chock."

"Dessay I am, Tommy, but dooty's dooty, and ship's stores is ship's
stores.  I've got to do my dooty, and I aren't going to chuck away the
ship's stores.  That sort o' thing may do for natralists, but it don't
come nat'ral to a sailor."

"You won't be better till you've had a snooze, Billy.  Your temper's
downright nasty, my lad.  I say, what's that?"

"Which?  What?  Wheer?"

"Yonder, something fuzzy-like coming along yonder."

"Niggers," whispered back Wriggs.  "You can see their heads with the
hair standing out like a mop.  But say, Tommy, what's that up yonder
again the sky?"

"Nothin' as I knows on."

"Not there, stoopid: yonder.  If that there ain't the wane on the top of
our mast sticking up out of a hindful o' fog, I'm a Dutchman."

"Talking again?" said Oliver, angrily.

"Yes, sir, look!" whispered Smith.  "Yonder's the brig."

"Can't be that way, my man."

"But it is, sir, just under that bit o' fog.  See the little
weather-cock thing on the mast?"

"Of course!  Bravo!  Found."

"Yes, sir, and something else, too," growled Wriggs.  "Look yonder
behind yer.  Niggers--a whole ship's crew on 'em and they're coming
arter us--there under the moon."

"Yes," said Oliver sharply.  "Now, then, for the brig.  Sharp's the

"Where is it?" asked Panton excitedly, as he too caught sight of the
undefined hazy figures of the Papuans beneath the moon.

"There in that patch of fog: the top mast shows above it.  Altogether:

They set off at full speed, nerved by a yell from the savages, when, all
at once, the thin mist which had hidden the ship was cut in half a dozen
places by flashes of light.  The dull reports of as many rifles smote
their ears, and as Oliver uttered a sharp cry, Wriggs went down with a
rush, carrying with him the ladder, which fell crosswise and tripped up
Panton and Smith, who both came with a crash to the ground.



A yell of triumph rose from the savages, and they stopped short to send
a little flight of arrows at the knot of men struggling to their feet--
no easy task, for Panton's right leg had gone between two of the rounds,
and as he strove to get up he jerked the implement, and upset Smith

"Don't--don't fire," cried Drew, who rushed forward, and none to soon;
for the clicking of locks came out of the thin mist.  "Friends!

A cheer rose at this; but it was answered by another yell, and the
savages came on now at a run.

"Hurt, Lane, old chap?"

"Don't talk: forward, all of you."

Somehow or another the little party, hurt and unhurt, rose to their
feet, and ran hard for the brig, fortunately only a short distance away,
but their speed did not equal that of the arrows winged after them, and
one of the deadly missiles struck Panton in the shoulder, making him
utter an angry ejaculation, stop, turn, and discharge both barrels of
his gun at the advancing enemy.

"Don't; don't stop to do that," groaned Oliver.  "To the brig, man--to
the brig."

He spoke in great pain, but the two shots had their effect, for they
checked the advancing enemy for a few moments, and gave the flying party
time to struggle to the side of the brig, but utterly worn out and
exhausted.  Then a terrible feeling of despair came over them as they
looked up and saw that if the savages came on their case was hopeless,
for the gangway was fastened up and sails had been rigged up along the
bulwarks as a protection against an attacking foe, while to open out and
let down steps would have taken many valuable minutes, and given the
enemy time to seize or slay.

"Quick, my lads, throw them ropes.  Hold on below, there; we'll soon
haul you up."

Oliver saw that long before they could be dragged up it would be all
over with them, and he placed his back to the vessel's side, meaning to
sell his life as dearly as he could, while the others followed his
example, feeling completely shut out from the help they had sought.

"Fire over our heads, sir," cried Drew, "we must not wait for ropes."

"Yes.  Guns, all of you," cried Mr Rimmer, as the savages came on in
the moonlight, winging arrow after arrow, which stuck in the ship's side
again and again.

"Hooray for Billy Wriggs!" yelled Smith just then, as his comrade came
panting up last.

"Here y'are gents," cried Wriggs, and with steady hands he planted the
ladder he had been so long abusing right up against the side.  "Now,
then, up with yer, Mr Oliver Lane, sir."

"No, no; up, Drew."

"Quick: don't shilly-shally," roared Mr Rimmer.  "Now, boys, fire!"

A ragged volley came from overhead as Drew ran up the ladder, and then
leaned down to hold out his hand to Panton, who went up more slowly,
with an arrow sticking in his shoulder.

"Now, Smith," cried Oliver.

"No, sir.  Orficers first," was the reply.

"Confound you, you'll be too late!" roared Mr Rimmer, and Smith sprang
up as the savages came on with a rush, and, literally driven by Wriggs
to follow, Oliver went up next, while Wriggs followed him so closely
that he touched and helped him all the while, the ladder quivering and
bending and threatening to give way beneath their weight.

The next moment the mate's strong hands had seized Oliver's sides and
pitched him over the sail cloth to the deck, while, as Wriggs got hold
of a rope and swung himself in, the ladder was seized and dragged away
as a trophy taken from the enemy, the savages yelling wildly, and then
increasing their rate of retreat, as a fresh volley was sent after them.

"Oh, murder, look at that!" yelled Wriggs, excitedly, as he climbed up
and looked over at the retreating foe.

"Tommy, old lad, see here.  The beggars!  Arter my troubles too, all the
night: they've carried off my ladder, after all."

The moon was now high above the mist, and bathed the deck with the soft
light, veining it at the same time with the black shadows of stay, spar,
yard, and running rigging.

"Don't fire, lads," cried Mr Rimmer.  "We mustn't waste a shot.  Wait
till they come on again.  Now, gentlemen, thank God you're all back safe
again.  Eh?  Not safe?  Don't say anyone's hurt."

"Yes, Lane's hurt, and Panton."

"So's Billy Wriggs, sir," said Smith.

"Course I am, mate, so would you be if you'd slipped your foot between
the ratlines of an ugly old ladder, and broke your ankle."

"Why, I did, Billy, right up to the crutch, and snapped my thigh-bone in
half," growled Smith.

"I'll see to you as soon as I can.  Here, two of you carry Mr Lane down
into the cabin."

"No, Mr Panton first," said Oliver.  "He's worst."

"Don't stand on ceremony, gentlemen," cried the mate, angrily.  "Mr
Drew, are you all right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then take command here.  You have your gun, keep a sharp look-out, and
no mercy now, down with the first of the treacherous dogs who comes

"Right.  I'm ready," said Drew; "but pray see to my friends."

Oliver was already on his way to the cabin hatch.

"You trust me for that, sir," said the mate.  "Steady there.  Ah!  An
arrow!  Here, quick; down with Mr Panton."

The men who had lifted him from the deck, panting with fear and horror,
were quick enough in their actions, and the two young men were soon
lying one on each side of the cabin floor.

"You shall be attended to directly, Mr Lane," said the mate, hurriedly.
"You're not bleeding much.  Here, Smith, hold this cloth tightly
against Mr Lane's arm."

He hurried to Panton's side, and turned him more over upon his face,
showing the broken shaft of an arrow sticking through the cloth of the
young man's jacket.  Then quickly taking out his knife, he did not
hesitate for a moment, but ordering Wriggs to hold the cabin lamp so as
to cast its light upon the broken arrow, he inserted his knife, and
ripped the light Norfolk jacket right up to the collar, and across the
injured place, so that he could throw it open, and then serving the thin
flannel shirt the young man wore in the same way, the wound was at once
laid bare, and the extent of the injury seen.

"Can't ha' gone into his heart, sir," said Wriggs, respectfully.
"'Cause it's pinting uppards."

"Yes," said Mr Rimmer, "imbedded in the muscles of his shoulder.  Poor
fellow, best done while he's fainting."

It was rough surgery, but right.  Taking hold of the broken arrow shaft,
of which about three inches stood up from the wound, which was just
marked by a few drops of blood, Mr Rimmer found that it was held
firmly, and resisted all efforts to dislodge it without violence, so
judging that the head was barbed, and that tearing would be dangerous,
he at once made a bold cut down into the flesh, parallel with the flat
of the arrow head, and then pressing it gently up and down, he drew the
missile forth.  He followed this up by carefully washing out the wound
with clean water, and finally, before bandaging, poured in some ammonia.

Just as he gave the final touches to the bandage, Panton came to, and
looked wildly round, his eyes resting at last upon the mate's.

"You have taken out the arrow?" he asked.

"Yes, and made a good job of you, sir," said the mate, cheerily.  "I
didn't think I was such a surgeon."

Panton grasped his arm, and whispered hoarsely,--

"Tell me the truth.  That was a poisoned arrow, was it not?"

"How should I know?" said the mate, roughly.  "It was an arrow; I've
taken it out, bathed the wound, and what you have to do, is to lie
still, and not worry yourself into a fever by fancying all kinds of

"But these men poison their arrows, do they not?"

"People say so," said the mate, bluffly, "but it doesn't follow that
they do.  Now, then, I've got to attend to Mr Lane.  You've had your

He bent down over Oliver, and began to remove the bandage which Smith
had passed round the upper part of the young man's left arm.

"Thank goodness it isn't in the body," said the mate.  "I thought it was
at first."

"No, sir," said Smith.  "He was all wet about his chest, and I thought
he'd got it somewhere there, but it's a nice, neat hole right through
his arm, and here's the bullet which tumbled out of the sleeve of his

He handed the little piece of lead to the mate, who took it quickly,
held it to the lamp and then drawing his breath sharply between his
teeth, he slipped the bullet into his pocket before slitting up Oliver's
sleeve, and examining a couple of ruddy orifices in the upper part of
his arm.

"Hurt you much, sir?" he said, cheerfully.

"Hurt?" cried Oliver, angrily.  "Why, it throbs and stings horribly."

"So I s'pose.  But you mustn't think that this is poisoned.  No fear of

"I did not think so," said Oliver, shortly.  "I wish I knew who it was
that fired at me."

"Well," said the mate, drily, as he bathed the two wounds where the
bullet had entered and passed out right through the thickest part of the
arm, carefully using fresh water and sponge, "I don't think that would
help the places to heal."

"No--ah! you hurt!  Mr Rimmer, what are you doing?"

"I was trying to find out whether the bone was injured."

"Is it broken?" said Oliver, who was wincing with pain.

"No, the bullet never touched it, sir.  There's only a nice clean tunnel
through your flesh to heal up."

"Nice clean tunnel, indeed!" said Oliver, whose deadly faintness was
giving way to irritability, caused by the sharp pain.  "I only, as I
said before, wish I knew who shot me.  How could a man be so stupid?"

"Well, I'll tell you," said the mate, as he softly dried the wounds.
"If people come rushing out of a fog in company with a lot of yelling
savages, they can't expect other people to know the difference.  The
fact is, my lad, I fired that shot, for it was a bullet out of the
captain's gun."

"You, Mr Rimmer!"

"Yes, my lad, and I'm very thankful."

"What, that you shot me?"

"Yes, through the arm instead of through the chest, for I couldn't have
doctored you then."

"I say!  Oh!  What are you doing?" cried Oliver.

"That's right, have a rousing shout if it will do you good, my lad,"
said the mate, whose fingers were busy.  "But that's right, don't
shrink," he continued as he went on with his task, which was that of
plugging the two mouths of the wound with lint--

"Hallo!  What is it?"

A sailor's head had appeared inside the cabin door.

"Mr Drew says, sir, as the savages are coming back, and would you like
to come on deck?"

"Yes, of course," said the mate hastily.  "Go and tell him I'm coming."

"Yes, sir."

The man disappeared, and the mate turned to Smith.

"Here," he said, "carefully and tightly bind up Mr Lane's arm, so that
the plugs cannot come out."

"Me, sir?  Don't you want me to come and fight?"

"I want you to obey orders," said the mate, sharply.  "There, you will
not hurt, Mr Lane; and as for you, Mr Panton, don't let imagination
get the better of you, sir.  I'll come down again as soon as I can."

"You won't hurt, sir," said Smith, with rough sympathy, as he took up
the bandage and examined the injured arm by the light of the lamp.  "But
he can.  All very fine for him to say that, after ramming in a couple o'
pellets just as if he was loading an elder-wood pop-gun.  Look here,
sir, shall I take 'em out again?"

"No, no," said Oliver, trying hard to bear the acute pain he suffered,

"But they must hurt you 'orrid, and he won't know when the bandage is

"Tie up my arm, man," said Oliver, shortly.  "It is quite right.  That's
better--Tighter.--No, no, I can't bear it.  Yes: that will do.  How are
you getting on, Panton?"

"Badly.  Feel as if someone was boring a hole in my shoulder with a red
hot poker."

"So do I," said Oliver; "and as if he had got quite through, and was
leaving the poker in to burn the hole bigger."

"Serve you right."


"You were always torturing some poor creature, sticking pins through it
to `set it up' as you call it."

"But not alive.  I always poisoned them first."

"Worse and worse," said Panton, trying hard to preserve his calmness,
and to master the horror always to the front in his thoughts, by
speaking lightly.  "That's what I believe they have done to me, but
they've failed to get me as a specimen."

"Haw, haw, haw!" laughed Smith.

"Quiet, sir!" cried Oliver.  "What have you got to laugh at?"

"Beg pardon," said the man, passing his hand across his mouth, as if the
laugh required wiping away, "but it seemed so comic for the natives to
be trying to get a spessermen of an English gent, to keep stuffed as a

"Ah, they wouldn't have done that, Smith, my lad.  More likely to have
rolled me up in leaves to bake in one of their stone ovens, and then
have a feast."

"Well, they aren't got yer, sir, and they sha'n't have yer, if me and
Billy Wriggs can stop it."

"God bless you both, my lads," said Panton huskily.  "You stood by me
very bravely."

"Oh, I don't know, sir," said Smith bashfully.  "People as is out
together, whether they're gents or only common sailors, is mates yer
know for the time, and has to stand by one another in a scrimmage.  Did
one's dooty like, and I dessay I could do it again, better than what I'm
a doing here.  My poor old mother never thought I should come to be a
'orspittle nuss.  Like a drink a' water, sir?"

"Yes, please, my mouth's terribly dry."

Smith looked round, but there was no water in the cabin, and he went out
to get some from the breaker on deck, but he had not reached halfway to
the tub, before there was a sharp recommencement of the firing, and he
knew by the yelling that the savages were making a fresh attack.

The sailor forgot all about the wounded in the cabin, and running right
forward, he seized a capstan bar for a weapon, and then went to the side
waiting to help and repel the attack, if any of the enemy managed to
reach the deck.

But evidently somewhat daunted by the firearms and the injuries
inflicted upon several of their party, the savages did not come too
near, but stood drawing their bows from time to time, and sending their
arrows up in the air, so that they might fall nearly perpendicularly
upon the deck.  Many times over the men had hairbreadth escapes from
arrows which fell with a sharp whistling sound, and stuck quivering in
the boards, while the mate made the crew hold their fire.

"Firing at them is no good," he said, "or they would have stopped away
after the first volleys.  Let them shoot instead and waste their arrows.
They'll soon get tired of that game.  So long as they don't hurt us,
it's of no consequence.  All we want, is for them to leave us alone."

"But it does not seem as if they would do that," said Drew, to whom he
was speaking.

"Well, then, if they will not, we must give them another lesson, and
another if it comes to that.  We're all right now in our bit of a fort,
but it seems queer to be in command of a ship that will not--Hah!  Look
at that!" he cried, stooping to pull from the deck an arrow which had
just fallen with a whizz.  "You may as well keep some of these and take
'em home for curiosities, sir.  There's no trickery or deceit about
them.  They were not made for trade purposes, but for fighting."

"And are they poisoned?" said Drew anxiously.

"Best policy is to say no they are not, sir.  We don't want to frighten
Mr Panton into the belief that he has been wounded by one, for if he
does, he'll get worse and worse and die of the fancy; whereas, after the
spirits are kept up, even if the arrow points have been dipped into
something nasty, he may fight the trouble down and get well again.  I
say, take it that they are not poisoned and let's keep to that, for many
a man has before now died from imagination.  Why, bless me! if the men
got to think that the savages' weapons were poisonous, every fellow who
got a scratch would take to his bunk, and we should have no end of

"I suppose so," said Drew.  "But tell me, what do you think of my
companions' wounds?"

"Well, speaking as a man who has been at sea twenty years, and has
helped to do a good deal of doctoring with sticking plaster and medicine
chest--for men often get hurt and make themselves ill--I should say as
they've both got nasty troublesome wounds which will pain them a bit for
weeks to come, but that there's nothing in them to fidget about.  Young
hearty out-door-living fellows like yourselves have good flesh, and if
it's wounded it soon heals up again."

"Yes, I suppose so."

"Of course, sir: when you're young you soon come right.  It's when you
are getting old, and fidget and worry about your health, that you get
better slowly.  Hah! there's another stuck up in the mainsail.  That
won't hurt anybody."

"But tell me, Mr Rimmer, when did the savages come and attack you?"

"I was going to ask you to tell me why you were all so long.  I was just
thinking of coming in search of you, expecting to find that you'd gone
down some hole or broken your necks, when one of the men came running up
from where he had been fishing in that nearest pool--for the crocs and
things have left a few fish swimming about still.  Up he comes to the
gangway shouting,--`Mr Rimmer, Mr Rimmer, here they are,' he says.
`Good job too,' says I.  `Are they all here?'  `Quick, quick,' he says.
`Get out the guns,' and looking half wild with fear, he began to shut up
the gangway and to yell for some one to help him pull up the ladder.  I
thought he was mad, and I caught hold of him as the men came running up.
`Here, young fellow,' I says, `what's the matter with you; have you got
sunstroke?'  `No, sir,' he says, `but one of their poisoned arrows
whizzed by my ear.  Don't you understand?  I was fishing and I'd just
hooked a big one when a croc seized it, and nearly dragged me into the
water.  Then, all at once, I looked up and let go of the line, for there
was a whole gang of nearly naked black fellows, with their heads all
fuzzed out, and spears and bows and arrows in their hands.  They were a
long way off on the other side of the pool, but they saw me, and began
to run as fast as ever they could, and so did I.'"

"Enough to make him," said Drew.

"Yes, and it didn't want any telling, for the perspiration was streaming
down his face, his hair sticking to his forehead, and you could see his
heart pumping away and rising and falling.  Next minute we could see the
rascals stealing up looking at the brig as if they expected to see it
come sailing down upon them; but as soon as they made sure it was not
going to move, they came shouting and dancing round us, and in the
boldest way tried to climb on board."

"Well?" said Drew, for the mate stopped.

"Well?  I call it ill, sir."

"But what did you do then?"

"Oh! the game began then, of course.  I told the men to tell them that
nobody came on board except by invitation; but they didn't like it and
insisted upon coming."

"But could they understand English?"

"No, not a word."

"Then how could you tell them?"

"Oh! that was easy enough," said the mate with a droll look.  "I made
the men tell them with capstan bars, and as soon as a black head
appeared above the bulwarks it went down again.  I didn't want to fire
upon the poor ignorant wretches, who seemed to have an idea that the
brig was their prize, and that everyone was to give way to them, for
they came swarming up, over fifty of them, throwing and darting their
spears at us, and shooting arrows, so I was obliged to give them a

"Have you killed any?" said Drew.

"Not yet.  I found that hitting their thick heads was no good, so I
served out some swan shot cartridges, and sent a lot of them back rather

"It checked them, then?"

"Yes, for a time, while we ran up that canvas and cleared away
everything that made it easy for them to swarm up over the bulwarks.
But they're so active that one's never safe."

"Hark! what's that?" cried Drew.  "Someone called `help!'"

"It came from the cabin.  Come along."

"Who's there?" said Drew.

"I left Smith with them, but he's here," panted the mate, as he passed
the sailor, who was hurrying back horrified by the cry he had heard.

They were just in time to see the cabin window blocked up by black
heads, whose owners were trying to force their way in, while a couple of
fierce-looking wretches had their clubs raised as if about to dash out
the brains of the two injured passengers.

There was no time to take aim.  The mate and Drew both drew trigger as
they entered the cabin, when there was a savage yelling, the place
filled with smoke.  Then as it rose, Oliver Lane and Panton could be
seen lying half fainting upon the cabin floor, and the open cabin window
was vacant.

"The brutes!" cried Drew, running to the window to lean out and fire the
second barrel of his piece at a group of the Papuans.

"Mind!" roared the mate, as Drew passed him, but his warning was not
heeded in the excitement.  The need, though, was evident, for the young
man shrank away startled and horrified as half a dozen arrows came with
a whizz and stuck here and there in the woodwork, and two in the
ceiling, while a spear struck off his cap, and then fell and stuck with
a loud thud in the cabin floor, not a couple of inches from one of
Oliver Lane's legs.

"Hurt?" cried the mate, excitedly.

"Yes--no--I can't tell," said Drew, whose hands trembled as he reloaded
his gun.

"But you must know," cried the mate, seizing his arm and gazing at him

"No: I don't know," said Drew.  "Something touched me, but I don't feel
anything now.  I am certain, though: I am not wounded."

"For heaven's sake be careful, man!" cried the mate.  "We have shelter
here and must make use of it.  We are regularly besieged, and how long
it will last it is impossible to say."

As he spoke he dragged the little narrow mattress out of a bunk, and,
signing to Drew to take hold of one end, they raised it and placed it
across the window to act as a screen, while Mr Rimmer thrust out one
arm, got hold of a rope, and drew up the dead-light which was struck
several times before he got it perfectly secure.

"Oh, you're there, Smith," he said, turning to the sailor, who, now
feeling very penitent, was down on one knee holding a panikin of water
to Oliver Lane's lips.  "How came you to leave the cabin, and with that
window open?"

"I didn't, sir.  Window was shut fast enough when I left it, and I only
went for some water for the gentlemen to drink."

"And nearly sent them to their graves?" cried the mate.

"Will you come on deck, sir, please?" cried one of the men, who had come
to the cabin door with his face looking drawn and scared.

"Yes.  What is it?" said the mate.

"There's a lot more on 'em just come up, sir, and we think they're going
to rush us now."

"Yes.  Come on, Mr Drew.  You, too, Smith.  Quick, they're attacking."

For there was a terrific yelling, and the sound indicated that it must
come from quite a crowd.

They rushed on deck and none too soon, for, at the first glance Drew
obtained, he could see that the savages had surrounded the brig, and
that many of them bore small palm trunk poles whose purpose was evident
the next moment, for a dozen men rushed forward and laid them from the
earth to the bulwarks, sinking down directly to clasp the little trees
with their arms while as many of their companions leaped up, took as
high a hold as they could, and then began to swarm up toward the deck.

"It's all over now," muttered Drew, and he took aim at a man who seemed
to be the leader.



The shouting and yelling was so plainly heard in the cabin, that Oliver
tried to raise himself up, but sank back with a sigh of pain, for the
rough usage he had met with from the Papuans had made him lie back half
fainting and speechless.  But he was conscious of the words shouted by
the seaman to the mate, and of the latter's orders as he ran out of the

Oliver groaned as he lay back upon his couch, listening to the sounds of
the impending strife.

"It is too hard to be left alone and helpless here," he muttered.  "I
wouldn't care if I were strong enough to go and help."

"You there, Lane?" came in feeble tones from the other side of the

"Yes.  How are you?"

"Bad.  But what's that noise?  That shouting?"

"Papuans attacking the ship."

"Oh, yes," said Panton faintly.  "I remember now.  They followed us and
shot me down.  Ah!  I should have liked to have one turn at the fellow
who drew a bow at me.  Hark! they're fighting."

"Fighting!  Yes; and oh! it is dreadful to have to lie here and not be
able to help."

"Yes, I should like to help our fellows," sighed Panton, "Drew is there,
I suppose?"

"Yes, of course.  Hark! they've begun firing."

They lay listening for some minutes, and then Panton suddenly

"I'm weak and faint as can be, but I can't lie like this.  Look here,
Lane, old chap; if those blacks get the best of it, they'll come down
here and murder us."

"Without mercy," said Oliver, with a groan.

"Well, wounded men have helped the fighting before now.  Don't you think
you and I could do our little bit now?"

"I don't feel as if I could raise an arm," said Oliver, "but I'll have a

"So will I.  It's of no use to lie here fancying one has been wounded by
poisoned arrows.  I shall think of nothing but paying those fellows out.
The guns are there on that locker."

"And the cartridge bags with them," said Oliver.

"Then here goes."


"What is it?" whispered back Panton.

"Some one is trying that window."

There was no mistake about the matter, for the grating as of a great
piece of wood was heard, followed by a cracking sound like the point of
a spear being inserted in a crevice so as to wrench open the dead-light.

The young men looked at each other, and Panton reached out his sound
arm, setting his teeth hard as he tried to master the agony he felt in
his effort, and succeeded in grasping one gun.

The rest was easy: by its help he drew the other within reach--their own
guns which had been thrown down there when they were brought into the
cabin.  In another minute he had the cartridge satchels as well, and
pushed one and his gun to Oliver.  They both examined the breeches to
see that they were properly loaded, listening the while to the
crackling, wrenching noise.

Meanwhile the sounds from without increased.  There was plenty of firing
going on from the deck, answered by savage yelling and the dull sounds
of blows, as arrow and spear kept on striking the woodwork and flying
over the protected bulwarks to the deck.

"Haven't got a foot on board yet," whispered Panton, faintly.

"No; it sounds as if they were climbing up, and our fellows kept
knocking them backward.  Oh, if I were only strong enough to go up and

"I'd give anything to be there," said Panton, with his eyes brightening.

"I say," said Oliver, hoarsely; "does it come natural to fellows to want
to kill as soon as they get hurt and fighting's going on?"

"I suppose so.  It seems to take all the fear out of you, and you don't
care for anything.  I say--look out!"

For at that moment there was a sharp splitting sound at the cabin
window, the dead-light fell over with a sharp crack, and as a couple of
savage grinning faces appeared, Oliver held out his gun with one hand as
if it had been a pistol, and without attempting to raise his head from
the rough pillow on which it lay, drew trigger.

The effect was instantaneous.  One moment the two Papuans were there,
the next they were gone, and a heavy thick smoke rose towards the

"Hit them?" said Panton, excitedly.

"Must have hit them, or they wouldn't have dropped.  But some of the
pellets were sure to go home, for it was loaded with small shot."

"You were too quick for me," said Panton, huskily, as Oliver reloaded,
opening the breech as the gun lay across him, only one hand being at
liberty for the task.

"Think they'll come again?" said Oliver, through his teeth, for the
recoil of the gun had horribly jarred his injured arm, and there were
moments when he felt as if his senses were leaving him in a swoon.

"Yes, they'll come again, and I must have a shot this time.  Am I loaded
with small shot too?  I forget.  My head is so horribly muddled."

"Yes, I think so.  Look out.  I'm not ready."

Panton was looking out, and he, too, saw the top of a mop-headed
savage's fuzz begin to appear softly over the edge of the window, then
dart up quickly and bob down again, after its owner had made a quick

"Don't fire; he'll come back."

Lane was quite right, for a hand holding a spear was raised now, the
weapon poised ready to be hurled into the cabin.  Then the head of the
holder appeared and bobbed down once more.

"Too quick, don't fire," said Oliver, hoarsely.  "Wait, and we'll fire

"No, no," said Panton, faintly.  "I must have this one."

Up came the bead again sharply, the spear was poised, and, holding on by
the sill with one hand, the savage drew back to give force to his throw,
which was intended for Panton, who lay there as if in a nightmare,
completely paralysed, feeling that he ought to fire to save his friend,
but unable to hold his gun steady for a moment, and to draw trigger.

At last.  _Bang_!  A terrible yell; the spear dropped on the sill, the
point was then jerked upwards, and struck the top of the window as the
savage fell headlong, leaving the opening clear once more.

"Did--I hit him?" said Panton, faintly.

"Yes, he went down at once.  Quick, load again.  Another will be up

He was quite right, but Panton did not stir; he lay back senseless, the
recoil of the fired piece having sent so agonising a pang through him
too that he turned sick and fainted dead away; and this just as a couple
more spear-armed savages dragged themselves up and began to climb
through.  In fact, one was dimly seen half in before Oliver could shake
off his feeling of lethargy and steady the gun for another shot.

The report sounded deafening in the confined cabin, filling it far more
with smoke, which Oliver lay trying hard to penetrate as he wondered at
the silence which had now fallen.

The window was open and no enemy was to be seen as the smoke slowly rose
and floated out through the door, carried by the current of air which
set in through the window, and as there was no fresh alarm the young
naturalist lay listening, till all at once steps were heard, and the
mate's voice saluted him,--

"Well, how's the wound?  Hear all our noise and firing?"

"Yes," said Oliver, slowly, "I heard."

"But, hallo! what's the meaning of this?  I thought that dead-light was
put up? and what!  Guns?"

Oliver told him what had happened, and the mate caught his hand.

"And we were so much taken up by our own firing that we did not hear a
sound of yours?"

"Have you beaten them off?" asked Oliver.

"Yes, they've drawn back for the time," replied the mate.  "Then if you
two had not helped in the defence of the brig, they would have got in?"

"I suppose so," said Oliver; "but, pray see to Mr Panton."

The request was necessary, and it was some time before he recovered
sufficiently to answer when spoken to, then falling into a sleep that
was broken by feverish dreams.



Mr Rimmer felt great unwillingness for anyone to leave the brig, but at
the end of forty-eight hours, during which no sign whatever had been
seen of the enemy, he felt that some investigations must be made to see
whether they had left the island or were lurking somewhere near, in one
of the patches of forest, waiting for an opportunity to take the
occupants of the brig at a disadvantage.

"And we know what the consequences would be, gentlemen, if they did."

These words were spoken in the cabin where, in spite of their injuries,
both Oliver and Panton eagerly took part in the little discussion.

Ever since the attack had ceased careful watch had been kept after the
windows had been made thoroughly secure and no one had left the deck of
the brig.  But such a condition of affairs was proving terribly irksome,
besides cutting off the opportunities for obtaining fresh fish and meat.

The idea which found most favour was that the enemy had gone back to
their canoes and paddled away, but this had to be put to the test, and
various were the plans proposed, but none seemed to possess qualities
which commended themselves to the mate.

"No, gentlemen," he said, "I think my last idea will be the best; I'll
start before daylight to-morrow morning and steer for the sea, so as to
make out whether they have a canoe on the shore.  If there is not one,
they must have gone."

"And what is to become of us and the brig if you are unable to get
back?" asked Oliver rather indignantly.

"Well," said Mr Rimmer with his eyes twinkling, "that would be rather
awkward for both of us, squire, but we won't look at the worst side of
the case, but at the best.  I'll come back if I can."

"But I agree with Mr Lane," said Panton.  "I don't want to be selfish,
but there are two things against you, Mr Rimmer, you would be deserting
your ship and crew as captain, and your patients as doctor.  No, sir,
you must not go."

"Two things against me, eh?" said the mate.  "And what do you say, Mr

"The same as my friends, sir.  It is quite impossible for you to go."

"Three against me, eh?  What are we to do, then; stay in this wretched
state of uncertainty, unable to stir a yard from the brig?"

"No," said Drew.  "I shall go.  I'll take Smith and Wriggs.  I'm used to
those two men, and they're used to me.  I'll start before daylight."

"That's good," cried his friends.

"Yes," said Mr Rimmer, "that's good, and I'll agree that it is the best
thing that can be done.  But you'll have to be very careful, sir, and at
the least sign of danger begin to retreat.  Look here, take this old
boatswain's whistle, and if you are pressed in any way, blow it as soon
as you are near the brig, and we'll turn out and come to your help."

"Thank you, Mr Rimmer," said Drew, cheerfully, "but I hope I shall not
have to use it."

A good breakfast was ready a couple of hours before daylight, and Mr
Rimmer himself called Drew up, doing everything he could to further his
object, even to taking four men well armed and making a long circuit of
the brig, while Drew and his two companions were partaking of a hearty
meal to fit them for their task.

"Can't see any enemy, sir," Mr Rimmer said as he came back and found
Drew waiting impatiently.  "That's right, sir, make straight for the
shore, and I'd go first and see whether the boat's safe before hunting
to the south for the niggers' canoe.  I'd keep in the cocoa-nut grove
all the way.  It will shelter you all, and you'll be able to see well
enough whether there's anyone in the lagoon, for that's where their
canoes are sure to be."

"Then you think there's more than one?" said Oliver.

"Oh, yes, sir, I should say there are two at least.  Those big
outriggers that hold forty or fifty men each.  There, Mr Drew, off with
you, please, and don't get to fighting except as a last resource--so as
to escape.  I won't come with you part of the way, it's better that you
should be off alone.  You two lads," he continued as they reached the
deck, and turned to Smith and Wriggs who were standing in the darkness
very proud of the rifles with which they had been armed, "I look to you
to bring Mr Drew back safely."

"Ay, ay, sir, we mean that," said Smith.  "Eh, Billy?"

"Ah," came in a deep growl.  "That's so."

Mr Rimmer walked to the gangway and took a long steady observation, as
far as the darkness would allow.  Then turning to the leader of the
little expedition,--

"Off with you, sir."

_Ha! ha!  Ow, ow, ow_! came from a couple of hundred yards away--a
hollow, diabolical kind of mocking laugh which sent a chill through the

"Hear that, Tommy?" whispered Wriggs as he caught his companion's arm.

"Ay, mate, I heerd it.  They're a laughin' at us, and it's as good as
saying as they'll go and light a fire, and have it ready to cook the

"Gahn!" growled Wriggs.  "I know now, it's one o' them stoopid-looking
Tommy soft sort o' howls, as Mr Oliver Lane shot at one day.  You know,
lad, them big, all of a heap sort o' things, all duffie and fluff."

Just then the cry was repeated at a distance, and soon after farther

"Why, it's an owl!" cried Drew.

"I thought it must be a bird," said the mate.

"Yer may well call 'em howls," said Wriggs.  "That's just what they do

"I hope that's what it is," whispered Smith, shaking his head.  "I've
heered howls often enough, Billy; but I never heered one as could laugh
like that."

"Whatcher think, then, as it was one o' they blacks?"

"Ay, or, if it warn't that, one o' they hissing things as lives in the
burnin' mountain.  I've heerd 'em before now a pretendin' to be steam
when yer went to look for 'em."

"Now, my lads, off with you!" cried the mate, and they hurried down from
the side, joining Drew with arms shouldered, and a minute after they had
disappeared in the darkness on their way to the sea.



That hot sunny day passed with Oliver Lane and Panton seated in wicker
chairs, under a sail stretched out as an awning, for they both declared
that they could get better out in the air sooner than in the stuffy
cabin.  A regular watch was kept on deck, and, in addition, a man was
stationed in the main-top, where a doubly folded sail had been rigged so
as to form sides, and to act as a protection in case he were seen by the
enemy and made a mark for their arrows; but nothing particular occurred.
All around looked very beautiful, for nature was beginning to rapidly
obliterate the devastation caused by the eruption and the earthquake
wave.  There was heat and there was moisture, with plenty of rich soil
washed up in places, and these being three of her principal servants in
beautifying a tropic land, they had been hard at work.  Trees, whose
roots had been buried in mud and sand, were putting forth green buds,
the water was pretty well dried away, and in places the bare earth was
showing faintly, bright patches of a tender green, while bird and
insect, wonderful to see, were darting about like brilliant gems.

As the two young men sat there weak and faint, but with the happy
sensation of feeling that they were, if only at the beginning, still on
the road back to health and strength, it seemed to them as if the events
of the night when they returned from the expedition to the volcano might
have been a dream.  For the blacks had scared them on that day when they
were fishing, and again during the absence of part of the crew.  Then
they had disappeared as suddenly as they appeared, and possibly they
might never come again.

Oliver thought and said so to Mr Rimmer, who, with a double gun resting
in the hollow of his left arm, had joined them, for he spent nearly the
whole of his time on deck.

"Perhaps you are right," he said.  "I hope it is so.  We did give them a
terrible peppering.  I don't think anyone was killed, but they took away
enough shot to make them remember us by."

"Poor wretches," said Oliver.  "They don't understand the powers of

"Poor wretches, indeed!" said Panton, giving a writhe.  "I don't feel
much pity for them.  Murderous thieves."

"They are," said the mate, "some of them, and it's wonderful what
conceit the black beggars have.  But we must not be too hopeful, for
there's no trusting savages.  They jump into their canoes and they are
here, there, and everywhere in a few hours.  Let's hear what report Mr
Drew gives us when he comes back."

"Hang the savages!" said Panton, pettishly.

"Must catch 'em first, sir," said the mate, laughing.

"They seem to have put a stop to everything," said Oliver, joining in
with a smile.  "But we'll forgive them if they'll only keep away and let
us go on with our work, and," he added with a sigh, "it is such a lovely
place, and there is so much to do."

"Yes, it's glorious," said Panton, as his eyes slowly took in their
surroundings.  "Now, too, that the volcano's calming down, everything
promises that we shall have had a glorious expedition."

"Lovely, sir," said the mate, drily.  "What about my poor ship?"

"Yes, that is bad, but I wouldn't mind losing a brig for the sake of
reaching so wonderful a country."

"Ah, that's where I don't agree with you, sir," said the mate.  "The
place is very glorious, and it's grand to get to a new country--where--"

"Look! look!" cried Oliver.  "Mr Rimmer, your gun!  Those birds with
the long loose tails!"

"Eh?  Well, I didn't pull their tails and make 'em loose, sir.  More
likely the monkeys."

"You've lost the chance," cried Oliver, pettishly.  "Didn't you see?
They were a kind of bird of paradise that I don't think I have seen

"Those were, sir?" said the mate, looking after the birds.  "Well, I
should have said they were a kind of crow."

"Well, so they are, but very beautiful, all the same.  You might shoot a
few birds for me, and I could sit and skin and preserve them, then I
should not feel that I was losing so much time."

"Wait till Mr Drew comes back, sir, and begin in earnest to-morrow.
I'll shoot all I can then, and the men will be very glad of the birds
without their skins, for they're longing for fresh meat, and if we can,
we must have another turn at the fish."

"And we can't go," sighed Oliver.  "I am so longing to study up those
wonderfully-marked fish."

"You'll never get through all you want to do if we stay here for years,"
said the mate, smiling.  "But look there, I must have that."

He pointed over the side to where a handsome little roe-deer had come
trotting forward away from some half-dozen companions which had halted
and were gazing wonderingly at the brig, while the one which had
advanced, evidently more daring or more carried away by curiosity, came
on and on till it was about fifty yards from the vessel.  Here it stood
at gaze, so beautiful a specimen of an animal, that Oliver felt,
naturalist though he was, and eager to collect, it would be a pity to
destroy so lovely a creature's life.

There it stood in full view, profoundly ignorant of the fact that its
life was in danger, while the mate hurriedly exchanged the shot
cartridge in one of the chambers of the gun for a bullet.  Then, laying
the barrel of his gun upon the bulwark in an opening between two pieces
of the sailcloth rigged up for defence, he said, softly,--

"This skin will do for a specimen, too, won't it?"

"Yes, of course," said Oliver, eagerly.

"That's right, sir, and it has a beautiful head."

He took careful aim as he spoke.

"That's dead on the shoulder," he said, softly, and then he fired, the
young men having the satisfaction of seeing the little buck go bounding
away like the wind after its companions, who went off at the flash of
the gun.

"Missed him," said Panton, rather contemptuously.

"Couldn't have missed," said the mate, sharply.  "I took such careful
aim.  Wait a moment or two, and you'll see it drop.  It was a dead

"Then you didn't kill its legs, too," said Oliver; "they're lively
enough.  How the little thing can run."

"I tell you it's a dead roe-buck," said the mate, sharply.

"Then why does it keep on running?" said Panton.

"That's the vitality left in it," said the mate.  "It will soon drop.
I'll go after it at once.  It can't run far."

As he was speaking he hurriedly threw open the breech of his piece and
drew out the discharged cartridge.

"Hullo!" he cried.

"What's the matter?" said Oliver.

"Well, hang it all!"

"Why don't you speak?"

"It's enough to make any man speak," cried the mate, angrily.  "Don't
you see this is only a blue cartridge and number six shot?  I pulled the
wrong trigger.  Here's the bullet cartridge in the other barrel."

"Then you only tickled the buck," said Panton, laughing.  "Why, at fifty
yards that shot wouldn't go through the skin."

"Humph!" said the mate, "so much the better for the buck.  What a pity,
though; there goes a delicious dinner of good fresh venison."

"Never mind, you may get another chance."

"I don't know.  If this is an island, there are not likely to be a great
many, and once they are shot at they will become shy.  See anything, my
lad?" he cried to the man in the sheltered top.

"No, sir, not a sign o' nothing," replied the sailor.

"Keep a sharp look-out."

"Ay, ay, sir."

The mate turned to the wounded passengers.

"These fellows generally have an idea that their officer is as blind as
a mole, and that they are as cunning as the cleverest man who was ever
born.  Now that fellow thinks I don't know he was asleep at his post."

"Was he?" said Oliver, rather anxiously.

"To be sure he was.  If he had been awake he would have seen those deer
and given warning, seeing how all the men are longing for a bit of fresh

"Well, it seems probable," said Panton.

"No seem about it, Mr Panton.  He was fast asleep, sir, till I fired.
Then he woke up and was all eagerness.  Now if I was not a
good-tempered, easy-going sort of man, do you know what I should do?"

"Haul that bit of sail down and let him take his chance of getting an
arrow in him for his neglect."

The mate walked away, and ordered another man aloft to take the
culprit's place, the offender receiving a very severe bullying, and
being sent below.

The day wore slowly by, and as it grew towards sundown, Mr Rimmer began
to walk faster about the deck with a growing anxiety which was shared by
Drew's two companions.

"I don't know who'd be in command!" he said.  "Here have I just got
through one worry because you didn't return, had a sharp attack from
savages, and had you two badly wounded; and now off goes Mr Drew and
gets himself lost.  Here has he been away all these hours, and he might
have been back in six.  There, I know how it is.  The niggers are out in
force, and have got between them and the brig as sure as can be, that is
if they haven't been killed before now.  It will be dark directly, and
as sure as fate we shall have another attack to-night.  Wish I hadn't
let him go."

"He'll be too cautious to get into a trap," said Oliver, whose face
looked drawn and old with anxiety.

"He'll mean to be, sir, but the blacks have a cleverness of their own,
and it's hard to get the better of them, civilised as we are.  Tut, tut,
tut!  It would be madness to start in search of them without knowing
which way to go."

"Yet, they would be as likely to come from the west as the east."

"Of course, and from the north as from the south.  There, I've got blue
lights ready, and the men's arms are lying to hand.  If they don't come
soon, and the blacks make their appearance instead, I'm afraid they will
find me vicious."

"Let's try to be patient," said Oliver.

"Patience, sir!  I've none of that left.  Now then, I think it's time
you gentlemen went below."

"Not yet," said Oliver.  "It is so much cooler here, and if we went
below we should be fidgety, and fretting horribly.  There goes the sun."

For as he spoke the great glowing disk of orange light dipped below the
horizon, great broad rays shot up nearly to the firmament, which for a
few minutes was of a transparent amber; then all rapidly turned grey,
dark grey, pale purple, purple, and almost directly black, covered with
brilliant stars.

"No moon for three hours," said the mate, as he looked round at the
black darkness, when the silence was suddenly broken by a chorus of
croaking, roaring and chirruping from reptile and insect.  Then came the
strange trumpetings of birds; the splashings of crocodiles, accompanied
by roaring barks and the flogging of the water with their tails.  Once
there was the unmistakable wailing cry of one of the great panther cats
answered at a distance, while from the north there came every now and
then a flickering flash of lightning evidently from the clouds hanging
heavily over the huge crater.  Then for a few moments silence, and a
soft moist coolness floated by the watchers, followed by a heated puff,
suggestive of a breath from the volcano, and they were conscious of a
dull quivering of the deck.

"Wasn't thunder," said the mate.  "That was a grumble down below."

Almost as he finished speaking there was a dull muttering, soon
followed, not preceded, by flash after flash.

"Like a storm upside down," said Panton.  "Not likely to have rain, are
we, with the sky clear?"

"Likely to have anything," said the mate, "round the foot of a great

_Ha ha ha, haw haw haw_!

"Bah those birds again," said Panton, as the peculiar laughing hoot of a
great owl was heard, raising up quite a chorus from the nearest patch of
forest, but silenced by another muttering from below.

"We're going to have some terrible trouble, I'm afraid," said the mate.
"The volcano's waking up again, and the birds and things know it.
What's that?"

"Rushing of wings overhead," replied Oliver.

"Yes, the birds know, and are getting out of the way.  Hark at those
tiger things, too, how uneasy they are!  I'd give all I've got,
gentlemen, if Mr Drew and those two fellows were safe back on deck, for
we shall have a storm to-night."

"But we are not at sea," said Oliver.

"More we are!" replied the mate.  "'Pon my word, I was going on just as
if I expected we were going to fight the waves.  But I wish we were.
I'd rather have solid water under me than boiling rock."

"Quick! look out," cried Oliver excitedly as there was a rushing
trampling sound in the distance, evidently coming nearer.  "It's the
savages we shall have to fight, and they're coming on again."

They listened in the midst of an appalling stillness, while the whole
deck seemed to be quivering, and the vessel gave two or three ominous
cracks.  There was another flash, then a boom, and a momentary blinding
glare of light, while the coming trampling for a moment ceased, but only
to be resumed again, as every man grasped his weapon, and felt for his
supply of ammunition, feeling that in another minute he might be face to
face with death.



The quivering continued, and the earth beneath the vessel throbbed in
slow pulsations.  The vivid flashes and thunderous growls as of distant
explosions went on, and the rushing sound of many feet came nearer and
nearer as the occupants of the brig strained their eyes to pierce the
transparent darkness to get a glance of their enemies, and then all
stood wondering; for after rising to a certain pitch, the rushing sound
began to die away gradually.  Then followed a vivid flash and a heavy
boom as of some huge gun, and as it died away they were conscious of a
stillness that was terrible in its oppression, the quivering beneath
their feet ceased, and then startling and clear, from right away to the
westward, came the piercing note of the boatswain's pipe.

"Drew!" cried Oliver, joyously.

"Yes, that's he," said the mate, "and he wants help.  There, take charge
of the deck, Mr Panton.  I must go and bring him.  Volunteers here: six

Twelve sprang to his side, and he selected half a dozen, all well armed
and ready to face anything.

As they moved to the gangway where others held the ladder ready for them
to descend, the shrill note of the whistle was heard again.

"Draw up the ladder as soon as we're down, my lads," said the mate, "and
stand ready to make a rush to help us when we come back, for we may be
hard pressed."

"Ay, ay!" came readily from the rest of the crew, and the next minute
the little rescue party was off at a trot, leaving Oliver Lane and
Panton feverish and excited as they writhed in their weakness and misery
at being compelled to lie there inert, unable to stir a step to the help
of their companion.

All was still as the footsteps died out.  There was no rushing sound of
an enemy at hand, the explosions and flashes from the volcano had
ceased, and once more it was a calm tropic night.

But the shrill whistle could be heard at intervals of about a minute,
sometimes sounding closer, sometimes apparently at a great distance.

"Won't them black beggars hear 'em, sir?" said one of the men, drawing
near to where the two young naturalists sat.  "Seems to me as if it
would be a deal better if Mr Drew kept that pipe in his pocket."

"There are no blacks to hear them," said Panton, quietly.

The man started.

"Beg pardon, sir, but me and my mates heered 'em a-rooshin' along."

"We all thought we did," said Panton; "but Mr Lane and I have come to
the conclusion that the sounds we heard were made by animals and birds
startled by the explosions at the burning mountain, and flying for
safety to the lower part of the island."

"Why, of course," said the man, giving his knee a slap; "there was a
regular flapping noise with it, and a whizzing just as if there was
swarms of great bees going along like mad.  Well, I'm glad o' that,
because if we did have to fight again, I don't want it to be in the

"There goes the whistle once more!" said Oliver excitedly, as the note
rang out very clearly now, but for a long time, though they strained
their ears, there was no farther sound, and they grew more and more
uneasy till all at once there was a heavy thud as of some one falling.

Then silence again, and a great dread fell upon the listeners, whose
active brains suggested the creeping up of treacherous blacks to brain
people who were in ignorance of their presence.

But it was only a momentary dread, for the whistle chirruped shrilly
again, very near now, and directly after there was a cheery "Ship ahoy!"

"Mr Rimmer's voice," said Oliver, excitedly.

"Yes," cried Panton, "cheer, my lads.  Answer them."

There was a roaring hail from the brig, and in a few minutes the tramp
of footsteps was plainly heard, and dimly seen figures emerged from the
darkness, looking grotesque and strange.

"Down with the ladder, my lads," cried Mr Rimmer, and directly after,
the rescue party and the explorers climbed on board, two of the men
panting with exertion, and dropping to the deck the carcases of a couple
of little bucks.

"That's what made them so long," said Mr Rimmer, merrily.  "They had
shot all this good fresh meat, and it has taken them hours to bring it
along.  Here, cook, set to work on one of them at once, and let's all
have a hot grill for supper.  Two of you hang the other up here in the
rigging for the night."

"But what news, Drew, of the blacks?"

"None at all.  We found the marks where two great canoes had been
dragged up over the sands, and the foot-prints of those who launched
them again.  Not a sign of them beside."

"And our boat?"

"All right.  Looks as if it had not been touched," said Drew.  "Hear the
grumblings of the volcano?"

"Yes, plainly enough."

"And the rush of quite a large herd of scared animals?  They nearly ran
us down and would, if it had not been for the shelter of some rocks.  I
am glad to get back.  We had an awful job to carry those two little

There was a merry supper that night, and on the strength of Drew's
information, the watch was somewhat relaxed, while it was late when they
assembled for breakfast that morning.

"Eh?  What's that?" said Mr Rimmer, as the cook and Smith came to the
cabin door.

"Want you to come and have a look, sir," said Smith.

"Look?  What at?  Is anything wrong?"

"Well, sir, seems to me as it is a little bit not quite what it oughter
be," said Smith.

"There, don't talk in riddles, man," cried the mate, and he strode out
to the deck, followed by Drew--Panton and Lane following to the door to

Smith led the way to where a group of the men were standing, some with
buckets and swabs, but waiting before using them until their officer
gave orders.

The sight that met the eyes of the new arrivals was not pleasant, but it
was startling, for there was a patch of blood upon the deck, and signs
of something bleeding having been dragged for a few yards to the
starboard bulwarks, and then drawn up and over them, the ugly stains
being on the top of the rail as well.

"I don't quite understand it," said the mate, hoarsely.  "Who was on the

There was a dead silence.

"Someone must have been.  Does it mean that the poor fellow has been

"A-mussy, no, sir," said Smith, grinning, "don'tcher see, sir?  That was
our other supper, as we hung up there to use to-night when t'other was
done.  The buck we brought home."

"Oh!" exclaimed the mate.  "How absurd.  But what's become of it?"

"It's gone, sir."

"Well, we can see that, my lad.  But how has it been stolen?"

"Yes, sir, that's about it.  In the night.  Must ha' been the cat."

"The what?"

"Well, sir, you see, I don't means the ship's cat, because we ain't got
one, but I means one o' them great spotty big toms as lives in the woods

Taking their guns, the mate and Drew followed the trail, which was
plainly enough marked from the side of the brig, the round soft
foot-prints showing out in the light patches of sand, the fore paws
well-defined and the hind partly brushed out, showing that the body of
the deer had been dragged over them.  Here and there, too, dry smears of
blood were visible on the rough coral rock, where the animal had
probably rested, and then dragged the carcase on again in its progress
toward the nearest patch of forest.

"The brute must have followed me," said Drew, "attracted by the blood
which no doubt dripped as we came along, and when all was quiet followed
the scent and then come on board."

A quarter of a mile farther on the trail ceased, and it was plain enough
why, for the soft sand was plentifully marked with foot-prints, and in
one place bits of fur and smears of blood showed that there had been a
fierce fight with tooth and claw, while broken bones and bits of hide
with the short sharp horns pointed to the fact that the fight had been
followed by a banquet, after which the leopards or panthers had trotted
steadily off to the forest, the track of three or four of the great
cat-like creatures being plainly marked.

"No use to go hunting them," said the mate.  "They go on stealing away
from tree to tree, and we should never get a shot."

They shouldered their guns and walked back, talking about the rushing
and trampling noise of the preceding night, Drew having heard something
of it from a distance and attributed it rightly to a sudden panic
amongst the animals startled into headlong flight by the eruptive action
of the volcano.

Oliver and Panton were watching them from the bulwarks against which
they leaned, using their small binoculars to watch the proceeding of
their companions, and both low-spirited and looking dejected at having
to stay on deck through the weakness produced by their wounds.

Drew saw it as he came on board and related their experience.

"Come, I say," he exclaimed at last, "don't look so down-hearted."

"All very well for you," said Oliver, "you can get about.  We're

"Only for a little while.  It may be my turn next," said Drew.

"A little while!" said Oliver, sadly.

"Yes; your wound is getting better fast."

Panton groaned.

"And yours, too," said Drew smiling.

"Yea, that's right, grin," said Panton, sourly.  "You'd laugh if I were

"I don't know about then," replied Drew, "but I can't help laughing


"No, I'm not, I was only laughing at your irritability and petulance.
Sure sign that you are getting better, my lad, isn't it, doctor?"

Mr Rimmer gave the speaker a good-tempered nod.

"Oh, yes," he said, "Mr Panton's coming right again, fast.  Nice
healthy appearance about his wound, and Mr Lane's, too.  When the sea
fails to get me a living I think I shall set up as quack doctor.  Come,
gentlemen, you are getting better, you know.  Not long ago you were on
your backs; then you managed to sit on deck; then to stand for a bit,
and now you have been here for ever so long watching us.  That don't
look as if you were going back."

"No," said Oliver, "but I feel so weak, and it seems to be so long
before we get strong."

"Oh, never mind that, my dear sir, so long as you are travelling on the
right way.  Patience, patience.  Let's get a few more days past, and
then you'll be running instead of walking, and getting such a collection
together as will make us all complain about the smell."

Oliver smiled sadly.

"Ah, but we shall," cried the mate.  "That's what I like in Mr Drew's
collecting, he presses and dries his bits of weeds and things, and then
shuts them up in books.  Mr Panton's work, too, is pleasant enough only
lumpy.  I shall have to get rid of the brig's ballast and make up with
his specimens of minerals to take their place."

"Then you mean to get the brig down to the sea again?" said Oliver

Mr Rimmer took off his hat and scratched his head, as he wrinkled up
his forehead and gazed with a comical look at the last speaker.

"I didn't think about that," he said sadly.  "Seems to me, that the
sooner we set about building a good-sized lugger the better, and making
for some port in Java."

"No, no," cried Oliver; "there is no hurry.  This is an exceptionally
good place for our purpose, and we can all join hands at ship-building
when we have exhausted the natural history of the island."

"Very good, gentlemen, but in the meanwhile I shall strengthen our fort
a little, so as to be ready for the niggers when they come again.  I'll
get the carpenter at work to rig up planks above the bulwarks with a
good slope outwards, so that they'll find it harder to climb up next
time they come."

"Do you think they will come?" asked Panton, evincing more interest in
the conversation.

"Oh, yes, sir," said the mate thoughtfully, "such a ship as this would
be a prize for them, and we shall have them again some day, as sure as a



That day and during the many which followed the shipwrecked party had
plenty of proof of the truth of their theory about the animals and birds
migrating from one side of the island to the other in consequence of
fright caused by the eruption, for birds came back singly and in little
flocks, many of them passing right over the brig on their way to the
forest-covered lower slopes of the burning mountain.

It was the same too with insects, while from time to time a roe-buck or
two would trot across the wide opening, perhaps, to stand and gaze up at
the peculiar-looking object in the middle of the wave-swept plain, but
always ready to dart off on any attempt being made to approach them with
a gun, for already they were learning the meaning of the report.

Oliver and Panton tried hard to be patient and bear their lot, but they
often fell to and had a good grumble and murmur.  But soon, as the days
went on and they could walk about the deck with less exertion and
suffering, they brought up their guns and sat waiting by the bulwarks
for the brightly painted birds as they flew over, Panton helping largely
to increase his friend's store of preserved specimens, securing for him
several remarkably good lories and brilliant metallic cuckoos.  The pot,
as Panton called it, was not forgotten either, several large
bustard-like birds being shot as they raced across the plain, besides
wild duck and geese, which at times passed over in plenty.

At last the happy day arrived when the mate suggested that the patients
should make an effort to get a little way from the ship, and with eyes
brightened the two young men were helped down the steps in spite of
their irritable declarations that they could do better alone.

Oliver drew a long deep breath as he gave a stamp upon the sand.

"Hah!  That's better," he sighed.  "Well, Panton, how do you feel?"

"I don't know.  So weak yet, but--yes, I am better, a good deal.  I say,
couldn't we make a little expedition somewhere, say as far as that
cavern where the sulphur hole goes right down into deep strata?"

"No, no, let's keep out in the fresh air."

"That's better, gentlemen," said the mate, descending in turn from the
deck of the brig, which now looked quite like a fort with its breastwork
of new planks.  "Puts strength into you, don't it, to get out here?"

"Oh, yes," cried Panton, "now one has got over the first bit of it.  I
felt as if I was too weak to walk down, but I'm coming round now.  Hi!
One of you two go and get me my gun and the cartridges.  Shall he bring
yours, Lane?"

"Yes, I think so," said Oliver rather dubiously though, as Panton
shouted to "One of you two," which proved to be Smith, who was standing
looking out of a sheltered loophole with Wriggs.

"Think of going shooting?" said Mr Rimmer.

"Yes, a short trip would not hurt us, would it?" asked Oliver.

"No; do you good if you walk steadily and don't go too far.  You'll go
with them, Mr Drew?"

"Only too glad," said that individual, "I'm longing for a bit of a trip.
But hadn't we better send out scouts first?"

"Yes, of course," said the mate, "we mustn't be taken by surprise.
That's the worst of being down here on so flat a place, you can't make
out whether there's any danger."

Hailing one of the men directly, he sent him up to the main-topgallant
cross-trees with a spy-glass to carefully "sweep the offing," as he
termed it, and then as Smith brought down the guns with a very inquiring
look which said dumbly but plainly enough, "You won't leave me behind,
will yer, gents?" the mate spoke out,--

"Let's see, you have been with these gentlemen before, Smith?"

"Yes, sir, me and Billy Wriggs," cried Smith excitedly.

"Humph.  Like to have the same men again, Mr Lane, or try some fresh

"Oh, I say stick to the tools you know," said Oliver, smiling at Smith.

"Yes, let's have the same men again," put in Panton.

"Hi!  Wriggs," said the mate--"down here."

Wriggs came down smiling all over his face, and after a certain amount
of scouting had been done, and the man at the cross-trees had turned his
telescope in every direction in search of danger, and seen none, the
little party started once more, the mate accompanying them for a few
hundred yards towards the south-west.

"I'd make for the sea," he said, "but don't go too far."

"I can walk that distance easily," said Panton.  "The stiffness has gone
out of my legs already."

"Glad of it," said the mate drily; "but it isn't the walking down to the

"What is it, then?" asked Panton, who kept on turning his head in
different directions to take great breaths of the warm spicy air.

"The walking back," said the mate.  "There, take care of yourselves, and
be very careful; mind, Mr Drew, they are not to go too far!"

"They will not want to," said Drew, smiling, and the mate gave them all
a friendly nod, left them at the edge of the forest, to the south of the
plain, and they at once began to move forward beneath the boughs which
sheltered them from the ardent sunshine.

It was a glorious morning, and to the prisoners newly escaped from
confinement the sight of the forest with the long creepers which draped
the boughs with dewy leaf, tendril, and brilliant blossom seemed
brighter than ever, and, once more all eagerness, the collecting began.

Panton, who grumbled a little at there being nothing in his way, devoted
himself to helping first one and then the other of his companions,
picking some fresh leaf or flower for Drew, or bringing down an
attractive bird for Oliver.

As for the two sailors, they were as pleased as schoolboys, and had to
be kept back from plunging into the forest and complicating matters by
losing themselves.  They had not gone far before Smith uttered a shout,
and on the party hurrying up he was ready to point in the direction of a
piled-up clump of rocks.

"What is it?" cried Oliver.

"Deer, sir, two on 'em!  They was just by that bit o' green stone
nibbling away at the grass; but as soon as I hailed you they just lifted
up their heads, looked at me, and then they were gone."

"Of course," said Oliver, quietly.  "Next time draw back so that they
can't see you, and come and tell us quietly."

"Right, sir, if you think that's the best way, only t'other takes least
time.  They might be gone before I could get to you and back again."

"Perhaps so; but you see they are sure to be gone if you shout."

The deer were missed; but a couple of bush turkey were soon after
secured, and followed by the successful stalk of a wire-tailed bird of
Paradise and a couple of gorgeously plumaged paroquets.  Then followed
the capture of beetles in armour of violet, green and gold, a couple of
metallic-looking lizards, and a snake that seemed particularly venomous,
but proved to be of quite a harmless nature.

So interesting was the walk that, in spite of the heat, no one felt
tired, and they wandered on and on, forgetful of time or distance.  The
part traversed was perfectly new to them all, and when, at last, they
had been walking for a couple of hours, and with one consent sat down to
rest and partake of the lunch provided for the occasion, it was felt
that, though they could not see it, they must be near to the sea on that
side; so after a brief halt it was decided to push on along the side of
the opening for another half-hour, and try whether they could reach the

"But it's for you to decide," said Drew.

"It ain't far, sir," interposed Wriggs.

"Let us decide, please," said Drew, rather stiffly.

"Certeny, sir."

"But what makes you think we are so near the coast?" said Oliver.  "It
is so flat we can see nothing."

"No, sir, you can't; but me and Tommy Smith have been at it for some
time, whenever we gets a puff o' wind."

"Been at what?"

"Sniffin', sir.  Every now and then you gets it a smellin' o' hysters.
Next minute it's mussels, and directly after it's cockles all alive o'!"

"And sea-weed, Billy Wriggs."

"So it is, messmate, but I didn't say nowt, cause sea-weed's such common

"Yes, he's right," said Drew.  "I can smell the sea quite plainly."

"Like mussels, sir?" said Smith.

"No," replied Drew, smiling.  "It's more like sea-weed to me, my lad."

"That's it, sir.  All the same," growled Smith.  "Means as we're close
to the shore, anyhow.  I kept on a-listening, 'specting to hear the sea
go _boom, boom_ on the reef; sir, and thinking about the sharp rocks
going through the bottom of a ship."

_Wark, wark, wok, wok, wok_!

The now familiar cawing cry of the paradise bird came from close at
hand, and, with his eyes glistening, Oliver made a sign to the rest to
remain where they were.  Then, softly cocking his piece, he stole in
through the thick bush-like tangle which extended for a few yards before
the tall forest tree-trunks rose up to spread branches which effectually
shut out the sun and checked all undergrowth while they turned their
leaves and flowers to the sun, a hundred and fifty or two hundred feet
in the air.

"Hadn't I better foller him, sir?" said Smith.

"No; he is more likely to get a specimen alone," replied Drew.  "We'll
go on round that corner where the forest edge seems to bend away to the
south, and wait for him there."

He indicated a spot about a hundred yards farther on, and the party
walked slowly along till the bend was reached, when as they caught a
puff of the soft warm air from which they had been sheltered, Smith
suddenly threw up his head, expanded his nostrils, as he drew in a deep
breath and exclaimed,--


"Nay, lad," cried Wriggs, who had followed his example.


"It's both on 'em, matey," cried Smith.  "Hear that?"

Everyone did hear "that"--the deep, heavy, dull, booming thud of a
roller, as in imagination they saw it come running in like a wall of
water to strike on the reef; curl over in a brilliant, many-hued arch,
and break in thousands of sheaves of diamond spray.

"It can't be more than a mile away," said Drew, quickly, as he began to
look about for a spot where he could throw himself down and rest while
they waited.

"No," said Panton; "the wave must have swept along here and spread off a
little to the south, clearing the forest away to the edge of the lagoon.
Yonder's the still water; I can just catch the gleam of it and the long
roll of the breakers farther away.  Hah it's nice here.  How fresh the
sea air smells!"

"Salt," said Drew, quietly.

"Any objection to me and Billy Wriggs going and having a dip, sir?" said
Smith, respectfully.

"Yes--now," said Panton.  "Mr Lane may be back directly, and we had
better keep together; perhaps we shall all go down to the sea when he
joins us."

"Thank-ye, sir, all the same," said the sailor--"whether we gets what we
wants and whether we doesn't," he added to himself; as he walked away.
Then aloud,--"Billy, my lad, it aren't no go, and we've got to stop
dirty till we all goes down to the sea together.  So let's you and me,
matey, begin to look for cooriosities.  How do we know as we mayn't find
dymons and precious stones, pearls, and silver and gold, all a-lying
about waiting to be picked up and put in your pockets."

"Gammon!  I wants a bit o' pig-tail, matey," replied Wriggs.  "Let's go
along here to that there bit o' stone, where we can sit down and talk
without their hearin' on us.  Come on."

He led the way, and, in a few yards, the beautiful lagoon, hidden before
by an irregularity, lay spread out before them like a sheet of blue and
silver, spreading for miles along the western shore.

"Smell the mussels now, my lad?" cried Wriggs triumphantly.

"Hysters, I tells yer!" cried Smith, excitedly, as, with a leap like a
panther, he sprang right upon his messmate's back, sending him down
heavily upon his breast with Smith lying flat upon him.

Wriggs screwed his head round to look in his companion's face, which was
only a few inches away.

"Whatcher do that there for?" he asked, plaintively.

"Can't you see, stoopid?" growled Smith.  "Look."

He pointed straight away to where, about half a mile distant, a couple
of large canoes, crowded with men, were coming swiftly along the smooth
waters of the lagoon, their occupants apparently aiming for a point
opposite to where the two sailors lay.



"Murder!" said Wriggs, in a low voice.

"That there will be, Billy, if them chaps don't let us alone.  Look
here, mate, it aren't their island; they lives somewheres else, or they
wouldn't want a boat--bah!  I don't call them holler logs boats--to get
here.  Who are they, I should like to know?  Just a-cause we're ashore,
and can't get our ship afloat they think they're going to do just what
they please with us.  But we've got guns, Billy, and we know how to use
'em, mate, and if they think as they're going to collar off all there is
aboard the _Planet_, they're jolly well out of their reckoning, eh,

Smith had by this time shifted himself to his messmate's side and was
looking at him earnestly, but Wriggs did not stir, he only rested his
chin upon his hands and stared hard at the two canoes.

"Now, then, d'yer hear what I said?"

Wriggs gave a short nod.

"Well, say something, then.  What'cher thinking about?"

"I was a thinking, Tommy, as it warn't no use for you to go on talking,
when we ought to be toddlin' back and telling the three gents as we're
in a mess."

"Well, there is something in that, Billy.  What d'yer say, then, shall
we run and tell 'em?"

"No, Tommy; if we gets up and begins to run, them crystal minstrel
chaps'll see us, and come arter us like hooray.  We oughter congeal
ourselves back again."

"How are we to, when there aren't no trees to congeal behind?"

"This how," said Wriggs.  "I'm off.  You foller arter me same way."

As soon as he had done speaking, he laid his gun close down by his side
and began to roll himself over and over with such rapidity that he was
some yards away before Smith thought of imitating his action.

"Well, this here is a rum 'un," he grumbled.  "I never thought when I
come to sea as I should have to turn myself into a garden roller.  But
one never knows!"

He began rolling himself as fast as he could after Wriggs, and at last,
after they both had to correct several divergences from their proper
course, they approached the two friends, who were seated beneath a tree.

"Look, Panton!" cried Drew, excitedly.

"What at?"

"Those two fellows.  They must have found and been eating some poisonous
kind of berry.  They've gone mad."

"More likely been breathing some bad volcanic gas.  Here, I say, you
two, what's the matter with you?" he cried, as Wriggs rolled close up to
him, and stopped to lie with his mouth open, staring, but too giddy to

"I thought so," said Drew.  "We must get them back to the ship and give
them something."

At that moment Smith rolled up, and lay giddy and staring.

"Here, you two: can't you speak?  What's the matter with you?"

Wriggs pointed at Smith, as much as to say, "Ask him," and when the
friends looked in his direction, Smith nodded at Wriggs.

"We must get back," cried Panton.  "Ahoy-y-y-y!  Lane!  Ahoy-y-y-y-y!"
he shouted.

"Don't, sir! don't!" cried Wriggs, in a choking voice.

"Why not?" cried Drew.  "What's the matter with you?  Here, try and get

"No, no, sir," they cried in duet.

"Then, what is it?"

"Niggers, sir," gasped Smith.  "Comin' ashore!"

"Quick, close under cover!" said Panton, and all crawled under the shade
of the nearest tree.

"Now, where are they?" said Panton.

"You can't see 'em from here, sir, but we saw the whole lot on 'em in
two canoes, a comin' on like steam, and they'll be here afore many
minutes have gone."

"Quick, then!" cried Panton.  "Here, you are best at it, Smith.  Hail
Mr Lane as loudly as you can."

The man stared at him.

"Hail him, sir, with that there lot o' black ruffyians just landing!
Why, it's saying to 'em, `Here we are, my lads; come an' catch us.'"

"Of course!  You are right," cried Panton, excitedly, as he stood wiping
his face.  "But what are we to do?"

"Two of us must try and track him," said Drew.  "Do you think they heard
me shouting before?"

"Dunno, sir.  On'y hope as they didn't, that's all, sir," said Wriggs.

"Perhaps they did not," said Drew, hurriedly.  "But look here, Lane
can't have gone far, he was too weak to make much of a journey.  Here,
Wriggs, come with me.  You two keep quite close in hiding."

At that moment from one of the trees at the edge of the forest, there
rang out the hoarse, cawing cry of one of the paradise birds, and
directly after they saw that a little flock had taken flight, and were
crossing the open land to make for the forest, far away toward the slope
of the mountain.

A sudden thought inspired Drew, and signing to his companions, he put
his hands close to his lips and gave vent to a very fair imitation of
the bird's note.  In fact, so close was it, that they saw a couple of
birds in the little flock wheel round and come back over their heads,
till evidently detecting that it was a deceit, they flew off again.

"There; what's the good of that, man?" cried Panton, angrily.  "You
couldn't deceive them."

"No, but I may trick poor Lane.  He'll think it is some of the birds,
and come back eagerly to try and shoot one."

"Bah!" ejaculated Panton; but Drew took no heed of his impatient, angry
manner.  Putting his hands to his mouth again, he produced a capital
imitation of the bird's call note, and then stood listening.

There was no rustling of the undergrowth, though, nor sign of an eager
white face peering out of the dim twilight among the great shadowy
tree-trunks, but a noise arose from the distance, which sent a thrill
through every one present, and made all strain their ears in the
direction of the shore, for it was the murmur of a crowd.

It was a strange, awe-inspiring sound, suggesting a horrible death at
the hands of merciless savages, and, acting under one impulse, the two
sailors glanced at Panton, and Drew saw plainly enough their startled
look of horror, as they turned and ran as hard as they could go back
along the edge of the forest toward the brig.

"The cowardly hounds!" said Panton, between his teeth, and he
involuntarily cocked his gun.  "I could find it in my heart to send a
charge of shot after them."

"Let them go," cried Drew, bitterly.  "We must hide here in the forest.
They will warn Mr Rimmer, and perhaps it's best."

He finished his speech with the loud _wok, wok, wawk_ again.

"Do stop that abominable row," cried Panton, whom the weakness had made
irritable.  "You'll bring the niggers straight to us."

"I sha'n't stop it," said Drew, coolly, and he repeated the call.
"There!" he cried triumphantly, "that was it, exactly."

"Pish!" said Panton.

"I told you so," said Drew, excitedly, as the murmur of the approaching
Papuans came nearer, and at the same moment there was a rushing of
wings, as half a dozen large birds perched in one of the trees and gave
proof of the exactitude of the botanist's imitation by answering loudly,
as if to say, "Who was it called?"

Meanwhile Smith and Wriggs had run as hard as they could go for about a
hundred and fifty yards, and then, once more moved by the same impulse,
they pulled up short.

"Woa hoa!  Woa ho a ho!" said Smith, in a deep, smothered voice.

"Avast below there," cried Wriggs, panting hard.  "Stopped 'em at last,
Billy," said Smith.  "Ay, and mine too, Tommy; I never see such a
cowardly pair o' legs afore, did you?"

"Yes, matey, mine's the worstest, for they begun it and started yourn.
Think on 'em, running away and taking us along with 'em, leaving one's
officers in the lurch like that."

"Ay, 'nuff to make a man wish as they was wooden legs, Tommy, eh?"

"Or cork, messmet.  But don't jaw, Billy.  Let 'em have it.  Make the
beggars run as they never run afore.  Come on back again."

The two men took hold of hands and ran back as hard as ever they could
go to where Panton and Drew were standing, and as they came up the flock
of Paradise birds flew off again, and the murmur of the Papuans' voices
sounded very near.

"Then you thought better of it," said Panton, fiercely.

"Nay, sir, never thought at all," replied Smith, stolidly.  "Did you
ever see two pair of such legs as these here?" and he gave his thighs
each a tremendous slap, Wriggs following his example.

"What do you mean?" said Panton, roughly.

"_Wawk, wawk, wawk, wawk, wawk_!" cried Drew, with his face turned to
the forest.

"That we didn't, sir," said Smith, indignantly.  "They took the bit in
their teeth and bolted just like hosses, and run; there warn't no walk
about it, or I wouldn't ha' minded it so much.  But we pulled up as soon
as we could, didn't we, Billy?"

"Ay, mate, that's so," growled Wriggs.  "But hadn't we better stow under
kiver?  Them charcoal chaps is getting precious nigh."

"What! are you going to stop?" said Panton.

"Yes, sir, course we is," said Smith, in an ill-used way.  "We couldn't
help it if our legs warn't under control.  You don't know, p'raps, but I
do, and Billy Wriggs too, what trouble a man's legs'll get him in.  Why,
I've known Billy's legs take him ashore to a public-house, and then
they've got in such a nasty state o' what Mr Rimmer calls tossication,
that they couldn't stand.  Didn't they, Billy?"

"Ay, Tommy, they did, lad," growled Wriggs; "but speak the truth,
messmate, and don't keep nought back.  Yourn was just as bad."

"Wuss, Billy, ever so much, and I was quite ashamed to take 'em on board
again.  Oh, murder!  Look-ye there!"  Smith exclaimed, in a hoarse
whisper, and he dropped down flat.

"Legs again!" growled Wriggs, following his example, one that the others
were not slow to adopt, for all at once the heads of several spears came
into view, and hardly had the little party crept well under cover before
there was a sudden burst of voices, and they could see the black faces
of a crowd of Papuans advancing.

There was very little cover, and, to the horror of all, they saw and
heard that the enemy had what the military would term flankers out, in
shape of a couple of men at each end of their line; and while the main
body kept along out in the open, the scouts at the right forced their
way through the undergrowth and among the trees at the edge of the

Those were crucial minutes, and both Panton and Drew felt that at any
moment they might be seen, for two naked figures came nearer and nearer
through the trees, till their white eyeballs and glistening teeth could
be seen plainly, and as Panton crouched there, with his piece
convulsively clutched in his hands, he felt certain that one of the men
saw him plainly, and was striding to get nearer, so as to be within
reach for a deadly thrust with his spear.

On and on he came, glaring straight before him, holding his weapon
carefully poised, and in utter ignorance of how near he was to death,
for at the slightest gesture Panton would have drawn trigger and shot
the savage in his track, a charge of bird shot at so short a distance
being as effectual as a bullet.

"It will be an enemy the less," he thought, and at one instant he had
determined upon firing and making sure before the man thrust at him with
his spear.

Just then there was a faint crack as of a twig being sharply broken, and
the savage turned quickly round to stand in an attitude of attention,
poised spear in one hand, bow and arrows in the other, ready to throw or
strike as the need might be.

Panton and his companions lay and crouched there, breathlessly, all
trembling with excitement, not with dread.  For the same thought as now
invaded Panton's breast came to Drew's--that it was Oliver Lane,
attracted by the imitation of the bird's cry, making his way back into a
horrible trap.

As if moved by the same muscles, two barrels rose slowly to a horizontal
position, and fingers were upon triggers ready to press the mechanism
and pour the deadly contents into the savage the moment he raised his
hand to strike or took step forward to get a better aim.

Never was man nearer death, for all thought of the danger to self was
non-existent.  All the two young men had in their minds was that poor
Oliver Lane must be saved, and, if guns had carried truly, the black
would have fallen.

The shots would have brought the enemy upon them with a rush, but
neither thought of that, and so they waited, watching the naked back of
the savage, above which appeared his head, with the hair gummed and
matted out to a tremendous size, somewhat resembling the cap of a
grenadier officer, though looking larger in the forest gloom.

But no further token of another presence was heard, and after waiting,
watchful and alert, for the next sound, the savage looked about keenly,
and then turned, gave a sharp look round, and continued his course,
seeming as if; with all his acuteness, the cracking stick had so taken
off his attention that he completely overlooked the danger within a few
yards of where he stood.

Just then there was a low call from the main body of the enemy, which
the man answered, and the next minute he had, with his companions,
passed on out of sight, leaving the hidden party at liberty to breathe



"What an escape!" exclaimed Drew at last.

"Yes," said Panton, wiping the cold perspiration from his brow, "for
him, too."

"But what next?" exclaimed Drew.  "I'm thinking about poor Rimmer.
Can't one of us get round through the forest before them, and warn them
on board the brig?  It will be horrible for them to be surprised."

"You know we can't get through these trees," said Panton sadly, "and it
would take a day if we could.  But Rimmer won't be surprised."

"No, I hope not," said Drew.  "We ought to have sent a man back to warn

"We meant to go ourselves, only we couldn't leave poor Lane in the

"No," said Drew, with a sigh.  "Do you think it's safe yet to imitate
the birds again?"

"No, I don't," said Panton, sharply.  "You'll bring the enemy back upon
us if you do that.  Now, then, at all hazards we must go in search of
him.  I'm afraid he has broken down from the exertion."

"No, he hasn't," said a voice in a low tone, and to the intense delight
of all, Lane raised his head from the ground, so that they could see his
face all torn and bleeding, from its owner having had to force his way
as he crawled through the dense creepers at the edge of the forest.

"Thank heaven!" cried Panton, and he let his head drop down upon his
hands in his weakness produced by long suffering and over-exertion.

"Then you saw the savages?" said Drew, excitedly.

"Yes.  I was creeping in this direction, to get a shot at some of the
paradise birds which I heard calling, when I came suddenly upon a black,
and in endeavouring to crawl silently away, a piece of wood snapped
under my hand and made the man turn toward me.  I had to be perfectly
still for a long time before he went on.  Are there any more?"

"Fifty at least, so the men say," replied Panton, recovering himself.
"But are you at all hurt?"

"Only scratched and done up.  I feel so weak.  But what are you going to

"Crawl back through the edge of the forest till we are near the brig,
and then wait till night--if we escape notice.  Seems the best way."

"And then," said Oliver, "if they make an attack on the brig, we can
take them in flank or rear, perhaps scare them off."

"Beg pardon, sir," said Smith.  "It's only a sort of a kind o'
disgestion like as you can do or no, but them beggars has left their
boats.  How would it be for us to go down to the shore and grab one and
sink t'other?  Then we should be free to sail away where we liked."

"Without provisions, compass, or water?" said Panton, drily.

"And leave our friends in the lurch?" said Drew.

"O' course," said Smith, scratching his head.  "That's the wust o' my
dis--suggestions; there's allus a screw loose or suthin' wrong about
'em, so as they won't hold water."

"Allus," said Wriggs, solemnly.

"Deal you know about it," growled Smith.  "Don't you get a shovin' your
oar in that how.  P'raps you've got a better hidear?  'Cause if you
have, let it off at once for the gents to hear.  I on'y said what I

"Quite right, Smith," interposed Lane.  "Don't be cross about it,
because the idea will not work."

"Oh, no, sir, I ar'n't cross and I ar'n't a-goin' to be cross, but I
don't like it when Billy Wriggs will be so jolly clever and get thinking
as he knows every blessed thing as there is in life.  He don't propose
any good things, do he?"

"No, Tommy, I don't," said Wriggs, quietly.  "It ar'n't in my way o'
business.  Ropes and swabbing and pullin' a oar or setting of a sail's
more in my line, mate."

"That will do," said Oliver, firmly, and somehow, though he was yet weak
and rather helpless from the injury he had received, he dropped at once
into a way of taking the lead, unchallenged by either of his elder

"Now, then," he continued, "is there any better plan?  Silence!  Then
we'll try the one we have before us, and follow cautiously in the
savages' track."

"How do you feel, Lane?" said Panton in a whisper, as they two stood
together during a halt.

"Tired and hot."

"So do I, but I didn't mean that.  Do you feel fighty?"

"Fighty?  No; not at all.  Rather, as if I should like to run away."

"That's frank," said Panton.

"Well, it's the truth.  I'm weak and done up, and I don't think I'm one
of the fighting sort.  It doesn't seem nice either to shoot at human
beings, but I suppose we shall have to."

"Yes, it's their lives or ours, my lad; but as you say, it's not nice.
You won't think me a coward, will you, if I tell you that I feel just
the same as you do?"

"Hush! don't talk," whispered Drew, who was a little way in front,
keeping a sharp look-out, "I don't think they are far ahead.  Ready to
go on?"

"Yes," said the others in a breath, and the toilsome march was resumed,
Drew, as the lightest and most active, going in front, the two sailors
following, and Oliver Lane and Panton, as the weakest of the party,
bringing up the rear.

The sun beat down with tremendous force, but the heat was forgotten in
the excitement, as, forced by circumstances to imitate the savages, the
little party crept cautiously on, taking advantage of every bit of cover
and keeping well in under the shade of the trees at the edge of the
forest.  At any moment it was felt that they might come upon the rear of
the enemy, when, if undiscovered, the aim was to remain in hiding.  If
seen, Drew proposed to wait until there was any attack, and then fire;
the others to follow, taking their cue from him, and without hurrying,
following one another, so as to give those who fired first time to
reload and continue a steady fusillade.  This, it was hoped, would drive
the savage crew into confusion and enable the party to get on to where
they would be opposite to the brig, when they could rush across without
running the risk of being fired at by their friends, who would have had
fair warning of their approach and be ready to help them.

These were their plans, but everything depended upon the Papuans, who
had unaccountably disappeared.

For it seemed to all that they ought to have been overtaken some time
before, whereas they had for some time seen no sign of them, nor heard
so much as a whisper.

All at once, when they were still quite a mile from the brig, and while
Oliver was being tortured by opportunities for acquiring magnificent
specimens of butterfly and bird of which he could not avail himself,
Drew stopped short, and let the others come close up to where he was
crouching beneath the huge leaves of a dwarf palm.

"I dare not go any further," he whispered, "for I feel certain that we
are walking right into a trap."

"Why?" asked Oliver.  "You say you have neither seen nor heard anything
of them."

"I can't tell you, but somehow I feel as if they are lying in ambush,
waiting for us, and I can't lead you on to your death."

These words acted like a chill to all, and for the full space of a
minute there was utter silence.  Then Oliver spoke.

"I feel so weak and helpless, that I do not like to make proposals," he
said, "but how would it be to try and play boldly?"

"How?" asked Panton.

"By taking the initiative and attacking."

"Madness," said Drew.

"I don't know that.  Our shots would let Mr Rimmer know that we are in
danger.  It is too far-off to make him hear the boatswain's whistle.  As
soon as he knew he would come to our help, and we should have the enemy
then between two fires.  They would be scared, and either throw down
their arms or take to the woods."

There was silence again after these words, and then Panton spoke.

"Won't do, Lane," he said.  "You speak as if you were as strong as Smith
or Wriggs here, and all the time you are as helpless and weak as I."

"Yes," said Drew.  "It is like being only three to attack fifty."

Oliver was silent, for he felt the force of his companion's remark.

"Like to send me or Billy Wriggs on ahead, gentlemen?" said Smith.

"What for, man?" said Panton, impatiently.

"I don't quite zackly know, sir, but I've got a brother as is a soger,
and he was a tellin' me that when they fight the niggers up in the
hills, where they shuts themselves up strong behind stone walls, with
lots o' big ones ready to chuck down on them as comes to attack, they
sends some one fust, and calls him a f'lorn hope.  I don't quite know
what good it is, but I'll go and be a f'lorn hope if you like, or so
would Billy Wriggs here.  P'r'aps he'd do butter, sir, for he's a more
mizz'able-looking chap than me."

Panton smiled.

"It's very good and brave of you, my lad," he said.

"Oh, don't you make no mistake about that, sir," said Smith, shaking his
head.  "I'm only a sailor, and not a soger, and not brave at all."

"Speak the truth, Tommy," said Wriggs, in a tone of protest.

"Well, that is the truth, Billy; I ar'n't what you call a brave chap,
and I can't fight a bit till some one hurts me, and then I s'pose I do
let go, 'cause you see I feel nasty and sawage like, but that ar'n't
being brave."

"Don't you believe him, gents," growled Wriggs; "he is a brave chap when
his monkey's up.  You can't hold him then."

"Yah, don't talk stuff, my lad," said Smith, bashfully.  "How can a chap
be brave as has got two legs as runs away with him as soon as he's

"Hush!" whispered Drew, "we are talking too loudly.  Look here, Lane,
and you, Panton: we had better wait for the darkness, and then take our
chance of making a dash for the brig."

"And spend all these weary hours in this heat without water.  It would
be horrible."

"Lie down, and try and pass the time in sleep, while we watch."

"She's at it again, sir," whispered Wriggs, with bated breath, as he
made a clutch at his messmate and held on tightly, for a curious heaving
sensation, as of a wave passing beneath them, was felt, followed by a
deep booming roar from northward.

"Ay," whispered Smith, "and if she'd suck one o' them big waves ashore
and make a clean sweep o' these charcoal chaps, she'd be doing some

"That's so, messmate," growled Wriggs, "for black-skins as can't live in
a beautiful country without wantin' to kill and eat their neighbours,
oughtn't to be 'lowed to live at all, that's what I says about them.
Here, hold tight!"

He set the example by throwing his arms about a young tree, for there
was a peculiar rushing sound as the earth quivered and the trees of the
forest bent over and seemed as if stricken by some tremendous blast,
though all the time there was not a breath of air.

Then they became conscious of a black cloud rising over the forest
beyond the clearing, as if the precursor of some fresh eruption.

"I say, Billy," whispered Smith, "oughtn't this here to scare them

"I should say so," replied the other; "all I know is that it scares me."

"Hist--hist!" whispered Drew, as he pointed forward and signed to the
others to lie close, for from out of the edge of the forest, about a
hundred yards in front, a black head was thrust forth from among the

It was a strange and incongruous sight.  Between the hiding party and
the black scout of the savages there ran a high wall of dazzling green
of many tints, bright flowers hung clustering down, the dazzling sun
shone from the vivid blue sky, and every now and then bird and butterfly
of effulgent hue flitted before their sight; while there, just beyond
this strip of glorious beauty, there was the hideous black grotesque
head of the Papuan, evidently scanning the side of the forest back
towards where they were hidden.

The next minute he had drawn back, but only to spring out with a shout,
brandishing his club, while his cry was taken up by fifty throats, as
with a roar the whole band rushed into sight, and dashed down towards
where the little party lay.



Oliver Lane's hands trembled and then became steady as the
fierce-looking rout of nearly nude savages came rushing on.  No words
were spoken in those few brief moments, but it was an understood thing
among them all that they were to hold their fire till the Papuans were
close upon their hiding place, and then to draw trigger together, in the
full belief, or rather hope, that the volley they would deliver would
check the enemy, and the following fire from the second barrels complete
their discomfiture.

And so during those moments, as Oliver Lane and his companions watched
the on-coming rush--moments which seemed to be drawn-out to quite a
reckonable space of time--all waited with levelled piece and finger on
trigger for the sudden swerve in amongst them as the savages dashed
along the open ground with eyes dilated, teeth gleaming, and a fierce
look that betokened little mercy.

But the swerve in amongst the trees never came, no weapons were raised
by the on-coming foe, and, to the astonishment of the waiting party, the
savages dashed by like a human whirlwind till they were some fifty yards
onward toward the sea, when they stopped short and wheeled round to
stand looking back as if for the enemy from whom they had fled, while
Oliver and his party still crouched there, wondering what was to happen

Then came the explanation of the savages' action.  They were fleeing
from an enemy, but it was no human foe.  Nature was at work once more.
There was a peculiar vibration of the earth, a cracking, rending sound,
and the earth opened in a jagged rift which ran on steadily toward the
enemy, passing the edge of the forest where the friends lay, and
starting the Papuans on again in headlong flight toward their canoe.
Then came a deep rumbling from the opening, a hot gush of steamy air and
a violent report from away in the direction of the volcano, and silence
once more deep and profound.

No one spoke for some minutes, as they all strained their ears to catch
the returning tramp of the fleeing savages.  Then the horror and dread
were turned into mirth, perhaps a little hysterical on the part of
Oliver and Panton, for Wriggs suddenly rose to his knees, made a
derisive gesture with one hand, and then placed it to the side of his
mouth and yelled out,--

"Yah!  Cowards!"

"Yes, that's it, Billy," said Smith, rising to his knees as well, and
brushing away some of the insects which were investigating his person.
"They were all scared because the mountain grumbled a bit.  What would
some of the beggars have done if they'd been where we went the other

"Ah, what indeed!" growled Wriggs.  "I don't see as we've got much call
to be feared o' such a set as them."

"Think they'll come back?" said Oliver.

"Well, not till we've had plenty of time to reach the brig," replied
Panton, "so let's get on at once.  I say, look at old Drew!"

Oliver turned his head to see, with surprise and some amusement, that
now the imminent danger had passed, the naturalist had re-asserted
itself, and their companion was eagerly collecting specimens of the
wonderful parasitic plants which clustered over a decaying tree-trunk.
Then his own instincts were aroused by the beauty of at least a dozen
tiny sun-birds, perfect gems of colour and brilliancy, which were
flitting and buzzing almost like insects about the same blossoms, to
probe the deep richly-tinted throats with their long curved beaks.

"These are quite fresh," he said, "I must have a couple of specimens."

In his eagerness he opened the breech of his gun to substitute fresh
cartridges containing the smallest shot he had, but Panton arrested him.

"Don't fire," he said, "they may hear you and come back."


A peculiar sound like a jet of air suddenly shot out of the crack in the
earth close by.

"What's that?" cried Panton, excitedly.

"Don't azackly know, sir," said Smith; "but I see a puff o' thin,
bluish-looking steam come up out of that bit of a split there."

Panton forgot all about his companions' firing, and ran to the edge of
the rift to find that it was not above a foot across, and that a hot
flush of steamy air was being forced out with a faint singing noise,
while, to his astonishment, the narrow crack which ran to right and left
quite out of sight was now gradually and quite perceptibly closing up.

He could see down for a few yards and noted an efflorescence of sulphur
rapidly forming on the sides, but this grew fainter and fainter, and was
soon lost in the bluish darkness.

"Wonderful! wonderful!" he muttered, as he sank upon his knees and laid
the barrel of his gun across to watch the rate at which the crevice
closed up, while he bent over from time to time to gaze down, the act
necessitating the holding of his breath to avoid inhaling the hot fume.

"I should just like to see one o' them charcoal chaps do that, Billy,"
said Smith.

"Yah!  Them!" exclaimed Wriggs, contemptuously.  "Why, matey, I'm
ashamed o' mysen.  That's what's the matter with me."

"'Shamed, what on?"

"Being afeard on 'em.  For allus speak the truth, Billy, my poor old
mother used to say, and I will now, that I will, and I don't care who
hears me."

"Spit it out, then, Billy.  There's nothin' like the truth nowheres.
What are you been saying as warn't true?"

"Same as you did, messmate.  I said as it was my legs as run away,
'cause they was feared."

"Well, so they was, warn't they?  I know mine was."

"Nay, not you, Tommy.  It warn't my legs as run away with me, it was me
as run away with my legs from them black-looking tar-swabs, and I'm
ashamed on it, that I am.  Now, then, what have you got to say to that?"

"Nothin' at all, Billy," said Smith.  "But just look, she's shutting her
mouth again."

"Who is?" said Wriggs, staring about.  "I can't see no she's here."

"Old mother earth, arter trying to swaller that lot o' niggers, only
they was too quick for her."

There, plainly enough as he spoke, was the opening, but it was closing
more rapidly now, and a minute later the two sides touched after a
violent hissing noise, while one edge was several inches above the
other, marking where the rift had been.

"Ready?" said Oliver just then.

Panton rose to his feet, and, shouldering their guns, the little party
marched steadily back toward the brig, which they reached without
adventure soon after dark, the latter part of their way having been
guided by a lantern hoisted right up to the main truck for their

"Take that light down at once," were Oliver's first words as he climbed
the side.

"Well, yes, I was going to take it down," said Mr Rimmer, "but it did
you some good, didn't it?"

Oliver explained the reason, for there had been no alarm of savages at
the brig.

Mr Rimmer uttered a low whistle.

"So near as that, eh?" he said.  "Well, we were quite ready for them;
but, my dear lads, what a narrow escape for you.  There, welcome back.
I shall be rather chary of letting you all out of my sight another time.
Get down into the cabin and have a good meal and a rest; I'll join you
as soon as I can."

He left the returned party and busied himself in seeing that all lights
likely to be visible from outside were carefully extinguished and the
men posted ready in case of an attack when the enemy had recovered from
their fright; but they had evidently received too great a shock to
return that night, and at last half the men were sent below and later on
several more, but the mate stayed on deck till morning came without
there having been the slightest alarm.



After a little consultation in the morning it was decided to lead out a
strong well armed party to make sure whether the enemy was down by the
lagoon, for the state of uncertainty seemed worse than the danger likely
to be incurred in an advance and careful retreat.  The mate determined
to go himself, and selecting four men with Smith and Wriggs they set
off, leaving Drew in charge of the ship.

The expedition proved to be quite uneventful, and the scouting party
were back soon after noon, having been right down to the shores of the
lagoon and searched it well from the highest point they could find
without there being a sign of a canoe.

From that day forward for quite two months, the occupants of the ship
ashore enjoyed perfect peace, and no sign was seen of an enemy.  It was
evident that the natural childish fear and superstition of the blacks
had kept them away from the island, but all the same no fishing or
shooting excursion was ventured upon without the feeling that the party
might return to find the savages making a fresh attack, or being in
possession of the brig.  Consequently no precautions could be relaxed on
board, and not a step was taken without every one being armed to the

The change during that time had been wonderful.  Vegetation was so rapid
in its growth, and seed spread so quickly, wind swept, that the traces
of the earthquake wave were pretty well obliterated by bright young
growth.  Many of the pools had dried up, but four of the largest kept
fairly well filled with brackish water, evidently supplied by some
underground communication with the sea, possibly merely by slow
filtration through the porous coral rock, sufficient, however, to keep
them fit habitations for fish and reptiles.

On board the brig the carpenter with three aides worked hard at the
lugger being constructed.  This was to be hauled down to the sand, and
then slowly taken down to the sea on rollers in a cradle specially
constructed for the purpose.

"Give us time," said Mr Rimmer, "and we'll have a light boat that will
take us from island to island till we get to some civilised port.  But
first of all we must sail round where we are."

"There's no hurry," said Oliver, "but get the lugger done, and then make
another, for we shall want plenty of room for our specimens if we go on
like this."

For in spite of having to work as it were with one eye on the look-out
for danger, and the other for specimens, each of the three naturalists
rapidly increased his collection.  Oliver Lane filled case after case
with series of the splendid paradise birds which came and went in the
most unaccountable manner.  For days together they would be plentiful,
then for a whole week it seemed as if they had forsaken the island and
taken flight to some other spot invisible from the highest points to
which they had climbed, but known well to the birds.

And there the choice, carefully prepared skins lay in their cases, well
dried and aromatic with the preserving paste which kept insect enemies
at bay.  Here would lie the great bird of Paradise, all cinnamon,
metallic green and buff, with its loose plumage and long wire-shafted
feathers.  In another case a series of the lesser bird.  Then Lane found
a few of the beautiful metallic rifle bird, all glossy purply green.
The standard wing with its elongated tufts of green upon its breast, and
from each shoulder a pair of long, gracefully curved, white
willow-leaved feathers standing almost straight out at times, while at
others they lay neatly down along with the larger quills.

Another day in his favourite hunting ground at the foot of the volcano
slope he had the good fortune to shoot a bird of which he had read and
never seen.  It was the king bird of Paradise, monarch for its beauty
and not from its size.

Drew and Panton were out with him collecting, the one plants, the other
crystals, and running to him on hearing him whistling, they were ready
to laugh at his excitement over his one bird, a little fellow somewhere
about the size of a thrush, but with an exceedingly short tail balanced
by a couple of beautiful curled plumes at the end of their wire-like,
exquisitely curved feather, starting above the tail and crossing just at
its end.

But their ridicule soon turned into delight as they gazed at the
wondrous display of tints, beautifully blended, so that no two colours
jarred.  But it was not only in its hues that there was so much
fascination to the eye, for all three gazed in wonder at the peculiar
appendages which added to the strangeness and beauty of this bird.

But there was no end to Oliver's bird treasures now, and knowing the
interest he took in the beautiful creatures, every man on board tried
his best to add to his stores by means of trap and gun, the mate
encouraging the use of the latter, so that the men might be quite at
home with it.

"Here y'are, sir," said Smith, "right sort, and nothing wrong in it,
'cept a spot o' blood on its back, over two o' the feathers.  I was
going to pull 'em out and bring him quite clean, on'y you're so
perticler about every feather being there."

"How could it be perfect without?" said Oliver.

"Oh, I dunno, sir.  Birds got so many feathers in 'em that nobody'd miss
fifty or sixty, let alone one or two.  Why, many's the time I've seen
'em pick out lots themselves, specially ducks."

"I daresay," replied Oliver, "but don't you ever pick any out; I can
always wash away the blood."

"All right, sir, but ain't yer going to look at it, and what Billy
Wriggs got, too?"

"I will directly," replied Oliver.  "Wait till I've turned this skin."

"Oh, yes, sir, we'll wait," said the sailor, and he dropped the butt of
his gun to the earth, and stood holding a bird he had shot, while Oliver
was seated by an upturned cask, whose head formed a table just under the
brig's bows, where, with a large piece of canvas rigged to a stay, he
worked in shelter, skinning his specimens for hours in the early morning
and late evening.

"Looks gashly nasty, now, sir," said the man, after a few minutes'
watching, while Oliver carefully painted over the wet, soft,
newly-stripped-off skin of a bird with the aromatic poisonous cream he
had in a pot.  Now the bristles of the brush sought out every crease and
hollow about where the flesh-denuded bones of the wings hung by their
tendons; then the bones of the legs were painted, the young man intent
upon his work--too much so to look up when the two sailors came round
from the other side of the vessel.  Now the brush ran carefully along
the skin, so as not to smirch the feathers at the edge; now it was
passed along the thin stretched neck and up to the skull, which had been
left whole all but the back, where brains and eyeballs had been
carefully extracted, leaving nothing but the paper-like bone of
wondrously delicate texture and strength.  Here the brush was sedulously
applied with more and more cream, which shed a pleasant odour around.

"Pyson, ain't it, sir?" said Wriggs, at last.

"Yes, my man, dangerously poisonous," said Oliver, as he worked away.

"Wouldn't do to set me that job, sir," said Smith.

"Why not?  You could soon learn."

"'Cause I got a bad habit, sir."

"Lots!" said Wriggs, laconically.

"Here, don't you be so jolly fond o' running down your messmate, Bill.
'Course I've got lots a' bad habits--everybody has--don't s'pose I got
more more nor you, mate."

"Dessay not, Tommy," said Wriggs, with a chuckle.

"What I meant was as I've got a bad habit a' poppin' my fingers in my
mouth every now and then, when I'm doin' anythin', so as to get a better
hold.  Some chaps spit in their hands--Billy here does, sir."

"Ay, mate, that's a true word," growled Wriggs.

"Well, that's a deal nastier than just wettin' the tips o' your fingers,
ain't it?  Would it hurt me if I did, sir?"

"Most likely be very dangerous," said Oliver, as he busily tucked some
cotton wool into the cavities of the eyes, and then into the empty

"What's he doin' that for, Tommy?" whispered Wriggs.

"Stuffin' on it to keep the skin from s'rivellin', mate.  Can't yer

"Yes, that's it," said Oliver, as he worked away.  Then, laying the wing
bones together, so as to keep them a short distance apart, he proceeded
to bind a little of the cotton fibre round the leg bones before wiping
his fingers, carefully feeling for the bird's claws, and drawing them
out from among the soft feathers where they nestled, and restoring the
skin to its place so that it fitted well over the wool.

"Look at that, now, Billy.  There y'are, regular pair o' natural legs
again.  Wonderful thing, bird-stuffing!  Hope we don't worry you, sir,

"Oh no, talk away," said Oliver smiling, as he made up a little
egg-shaped ball of cotton wool of the size of the bird's body, which
dangled upon a hook at the end of a string.  And then he took a pinch of
the wool, doubled it, and thrust the doubled part into the skull,
leaving enough to form the bird's neck, followed up with the loose
egg-shaped pad which he laid upon the tied together wing bones, and
then, with a clever bit of manipulation, drew the skin over the pad,
gave the bird a bit of a shake, and, as if it had been some conjuring
trick, every feather came back into its right place, and to all
appearances there lay a dead bird before him on the head of the cask.

"Three cheers and a hextra hooray!" cried Smith.  "Ain't that wonderful,
Billy?  You and me couldn't ha' made a bird like that."

"No," said Oliver, laughing, "and I couldn't have furled the
main-topgallant sail like you two could."

"Well, sir, that's true enough," said Smith; "but if you wouldn't mind
me astin', `What's the good o' pysonin' a bird when it's dead?'"

"I don't," said Oliver, as he busily smoothed feathers and fitted the
bird's folded wings close to its sides, giving a pinch them in their
here and a pinch there before confining places by rolling a strip of
paper round, and fastening it with a pin.

"What I do is to poison the skin, so that it may be fatal to any
mischievous insect that might wish to eat it, and make the feathers fall

"Why o' course, Tommy," growled Wriggs, "anybody could ha' know'd that."

"You didn't, Billy," said Smith shortly.

"Well, I can't say as I did quite, mate, but I do now, and I shan't
never forget it.  But what's he doin' o' that for?  It won't ketch cold

"No," said Oliver, laughing, as he fitted a little cone of paper on the
bird's head by thrusting it with the beak right down to the end.  "That
paper cap is to hold the bird's head well down upon its shoulders, so
that it may dry in a natural shape.  Birds' necks fold so that they
always look very short."

"And what bird may that be, sir?" said Wriggs.

"A pitta--or ground thrush."

"A mercy on us!" said Smith.  "It's a wonderful place this.  Thrushes at
home is all browny speckly birds, and this here's blue and green."

"Yes, birds have brilliant plumage here, my lads.  Now, then, what have
you got for me?  Anything good?"

"Well, that's for you to say, sir.  Now then, Billy, out with yours

"Nay, let's see yours first, matey."

"Come, come, I'm busy.  We're going for a fresh excursion to-day.  Now
then, Wriggs, what is it?"

"It's a little squirmy wormy thing as he ketched, sir, just as it come
outer its hole to curl up in the sunshine.  Pull it out, Billy.  He's
got it in his pocket, sir."

Wriggs slowly thrust in his hand and drew out a little thin snake, which
moved slightly as he laid it on the table.

"He says it's a wurm, sir," put in Smith, "I says it's a young

"What's that?" cried Oliver in a startled way.  "Nonsense, it is full

"Couldn't ha' took long growing to that size, sir," said Smith,
grinning, as he held the bird he had shot behind him.

"But, my good fellows, don't you know that this is a very dangerous

"What, that?" said Wriggs contemptuously, "there ain't nothin' on him."

"There isn't much of a wasp," said Oliver, "but his sting is poisonous

"That's true, sir, specially it you gets it near yer eye.  But you don't
mean to say as that little chap's got a sting in his tail?"

"Absurd!  Vipers have poisonous fangs--two."

"What, in their tails, sir?"

"No, man, in the roof of the mouth.  I'll show you."

"But do you mean as that chap would ha' bit us and stung us, sir?" said
Wriggs anxiously.

"Of course I do, and you've had a very close shave.  How did you kill

"Well, sir, he wouldn't let us kill him, but kep' on wrigglin' arter
Billy here had trod on his tail, and we didn't want to quite scrunch
him, because you're so partickler.  He got a bit quiet, though, arter a
time, and then Billy nipped him at the back o' the head and put him in
his pocket."

"Look here, when you find a snake with a diamond-shaped head like that,
you may be pretty certain that it is venomous."

The two sailors scratched their heads in unison while Oliver turned the
little viper's head over, opened its mouth, and made it gape widely by
placing a little bone stiletto which he used in skinning the smaller
birds within, and then with the point of a penknife he raised two tiny
fangs which were laid back on the roof of the reptile's mouth, and
which, when erect, looked like points of glass.

"There!" he exclaimed, "those are the poison fangs.  They're hollow and
connected with a couple of exceedingly small glands or bags of poison,
which shoot a couple of tiny drops of venom through the hollow teeth
when they are pressed by the animal biting."

"But you don't call that 'ere a hanimal, sir?" said Smith, as he wiped
the perspiration from his forehead.

"What is it, then?" said Oliver, laughingly quoting from an old book--"a

"Well, no, sir, but it does look some'at like a sort o' liquorice stick
as the boys used to buy to chew when we went to school."

"It looks more like what it is," said Oliver, "a very dangerous viper,
and I warn you both to be very careful about meddling with such things

"But you see it was such a little 'un, sir," said Wriggs,

"None the less dangerous, and you've had a very narrow escape," said
Oliver.  Then noting the men's disappointed looks, he continued--

"But I'm very grateful to you all the same.  It was very thoughtful of
you, Wriggs, and I am glad to have it to add to my collection."

"Then you won't chuck it away, sir?" said Wriggs, brightening up.

"Throw it away--a rare specimen of a poisonous snake?  Most decidedly
not.  I shall put it in my tin of spirit, and preserve it carefully."

"Seems most a pity to waste good liquor on such a wicious little beggar,
don't it, sir?"

"By no means," said Oliver, smiling.  "There, I hope I shall have the
pleasure of showing it to one of our best zoologists.  Now, Smith, let's
have a look at yours."

"Well, yes, sir," said the man addressed, as he still kept his hand
behind him.  "You may as well see it now.  Me and Billy here seed my
gentleman three or four mornin's ago."

"Four, Tommy.  Allus make yer knots tight."

"Weer it four, Billy?  All right, then, four mornin's ago, just as it
was gettin' light, an' I says to him, I says, `Now that's just the sort
o' bird as Muster Oliver Lane would like to have to stuff,' didn't I,

"Well, it warn't quite in them there words, Tommy, but it meant that

"Don't you be so nation perticler about a heff or a gee, messmate.  If
it meant what I says, wheer's the harm?"

"Allus speak the truth, Tommy.  Allus speak the truth," growled Wriggs.

"Come, come, I want to see my bird," said Oliver.  "Go on, Smith."

"That's just what I wants to do, sir, on'y Billy Wriggs here he is such
a haggravatin' beggar.  If yer don't speak your words to half a quarter
of a hinch, he's down on yer."

Wriggs chuckled, and his messmate went on, but frowned and scowled at
him all the time.

"Well, sir, I hups with my gun to shoot him, for Mr Rimmer says we're
never to go about anywhere now without loaded guns 'cause of the
hinjuns--but bless your 'art, afore you could say `Fire' he was off over
the trees, and I was that aggrawated as never was, for he was a fine

"There, what did I say, Tommy?" growled Wriggs.  "Let him have it all."

"Look-ye here, messmate, are you a-goin' to tell the story, or am I?"

"Well, you'd better go on, Tommy, as you began it, on'y you gets
driftin' to the lee so, instead o' sailin' ahead."

"Look here, you'd better do it yoursen," cried Smith.

"No, no, go on, man," said Oliver.

"All right, sir," grumbled Smith.  "Well, Billy Wriggs says as he was
sure he come there to feed of a morning, and pick up the wurms, and that
if we got up early and waited there, we should see my gentleman again.
So we says nothin' to nobody, did we, Billy?"

"Not a word, messmate."

"And gets there very early nex' morning, but he'd got there afore us,
and _Chuck_, he says, and away he went, 'fore I'd time to think o'
shootin' at him.  But never mind, I says, I will be ready for yer
to-morrer mornin', and we gets there much sooner, and waited in the
dark.  We hadn't been there more'n a minute before we know'd he'd been
afore us, for we could hear him querking an' cherking to himself all in
a low tone, just as if he was a-saying, `There's a couple o' chaps
hangin' about to get a look at my feathers, and I just aren't goin' to
let 'em.'"

"Yes, it were just like that," said Wriggs, giving his head an approving

"Ay, it weer, Billy, and my heye, sir, how we two did try to get a
glimpse of him.  But bless yer 'art, sir, it was that dark as never was.
He didn't mind, for we could hear him flickin' about in the trees, and
flying down on the ground, and then makin' quite a flutter as he went up
again, and talkin' to hissen all the time about us."

"You're a long time getting to the shooting, Smith," said Oliver.

"That's a true word, sir.  We was, for it got light at last, and both me
and Billy had our guns ready to pop off, but he warn't there then.  Not
a sign of him.  Oh, he was a hartful one!  He knowed what we was up to,
and he goes and gets there in the middle o' the night, has what he
wants, and then off he goes all quiet like before we could see."

"But you did shoot it at last?"

"Ay, sir, I did, but not that mornin', which was yesterday, you know.
For, Billy, I says, this here game won't do."

"Ay, you did, Tommy."

"You and me ain't goin' to be done by a big cock-sparrer sort o' thing,
is we? and he says we warn't, and we'll keep on earlier and earlier till
we do get him."

"Well, and what did you do?" asked Oliver, smiling.

"Goes in the middle o' the night, sir, to be sure, and there we was as
quiet as could be; but we didn't hear nothin' till just afore sunrise,
when there was a _cherk, cherk_, and a bit of flutterin' just as we was
makin' up our minds as he was too artful for us.  Billy, he gives me a
nudge and shoves up the gun and takes aim."

"But you couldn't see the bird?" said Oliver.

"No, sir, not yet, but I wanted to be ready so as to get a shot at him
the moment he showed hissen, and then if I didn't recklect as I hadn't
loaded the gun arter giving it a good clean up yes'day, 'cause it were
getting rusty."

"That's so, and I did mine, too," said Wriggs.

"You might ha' knocked me down with a feather, sir," continued Smith.

"Nay, nay, speak the truth, Tommy," growled Wriggs, reprovingly.  "No
feather as ever growed wouldn't knock you down."

"Will you be quiet, Billy Wriggs?  Who's to tell the gentleman if you
keep a-sticking your marlin-spike in where it aren't wanted?"

"Come, come, I want to see my bird," cried Oliver, who was amused by the
sailor's long-winded narrative.  "If it takes so much time to shoot one
bird, how long would it take to shoot a flock?"

"Ah!  I dunno, sir," said Smith, solemnly.

"But you got this one?"

"Ay, sir, I did."

"We did, Tommy! speak the truth."

"Well, _we_ did, then.  I shot him, sir, and Billy goes in among the
bushes and picked him up."

"Gettin' scratched awfully," growled Wriggs.

"Then you did shoot it," said Oliver, "without powder or shot?"

"Nay, sir, I lowered the gun down, shoved in a fresh cartridge, and
waited like a stone statty."

"Two stone stattys," said Wriggs, solemnly.  "Speak the truth."

"Yes, sir, neither on us moved, and I don't think as we breathed for
ever so long, till it humbugged that there bird so as he couldn't stand
it no longer, and he bobs right up on to a high bough so as to peep over
and see whether we was there."

"And were you?"

"Yes, sir," said Smith, very solemnly, "we was, and he soon knowed it,
for bang says my gun, down he come.  Billy, as I says afore, goes and
picks him up."

"Yes," said Oliver, laughing; "and after all that long rigmarole, I
suppose it is something I don't want.  Now, then, don't keep it behind
you like that.  Let's see what it's like.  Come, don't be so childish."

"All right, sir," said Smith, giving his companion a wink, and then with
a flourish he swung round a shapely-looking Pitta--a hen-bird of very
sober plumage--and banged it down on the head of the cask.

"Well, upon my word," cried Oliver, indignantly.  "Here have you two
chaps kept me all this time spinning a miserable yarn about a bird that
I began to hope was a fine specimen worth having, and then you bring out

"Yes, sir, won't it do?" said Smith, winking at Wriggs once more.

"There, be off with you, and take the rubbishing thing away," cried
Oliver, wrathfully.  "All your cock and bull story about that."

"Yes, sir," cried Smith, with a peculiar chuckle and a wink at Wriggs;
"but that there warn't the one."

As he spoke, Smith very carefully and slowly brought his hand round
again, holding a bird in the most perfect plumage suspended by a thin
ring of brass wire, which had been thrust through the nostrils, and
Oliver uttered a cry of joy.

"Ahoy, Drew!  Panton! come here, quick!"

"What's up?" came from the deck, and as there was the hurried sound of
feet, the two sailors nodded and winked and gave each his leg a slap.

"What is it?" cried Panton, eagerly, as he ran to where his brother
naturalist stood gloating over his treasure.

"A gem!  A gem!" cried Oliver.

"Then, that's in my way, not yours," said Panton.  "My word, what a
beauty!  That's quite fresh."

"To me, but I know what it is.  The Golden Paradise bird.  Isn't it
exquisite?  Look at its colours and the crest."

"That's what took my attention first of all," said Drew, who had now
joined them, and they all three gloated over the wonderful specimen
which glowed with intense colours.  There were no long loose flowing
buff plume; for the bird was short and compact, its principal decoration
being six oval feathers at the end of as many thin wire-like pens, three
growing crest-like out of each side of its head.  The whole of its
throat and breast were covered with broad scale-like feathers of
brilliant metallic golden hue, looking in the sunshine like the dazzling
throat of a humming bird vastly magnified; while, seen in different
lights, these golden scales changed in hue like the plumes of a peacock,
becoming purple or green.  A pure satiny white patch glistened
conspicuously on the front of the head, before the place whence the six
cresting feathers sprang.  This covering stood out the more strongly
from the fact that at first sight the bird appeared to be of a dense
black, but at the slightest movement it glowed with bronze metallic
blue, and an indescribable tint, such as is sometimes seen in
freshly-broken sulphur and iron ore.

For some moments no one spoke, and with tender touches Oliver turned his
bird here and there, so that the sun should play upon its glistening
plumage at different angles.  Now he was carefully raising some feather
which was slightly out of place, now raising the six crest feathers
through his hand, and bending over it as if it were the most glorious
object he had ever seen.

"Seems a sin to attempt to skin it," said Oliver at last.  "I shall
never get those feathers to look so smooth again."

"Oh, yes, you will.  Go on," said Panton, "and get it done.  The weather
soon makes a change."

"Yes, I must carefully preserve this," cried Oliver; and Drew sighed.

"I've worked pretty hard," he said, "but I have found nothing to compare
with that in rarity or beauty."

"Then you think it'll do, sir?" said Smith, with his face shining with

"Do, my man!  I can never be grateful enough to you both for finding

"Worth long rigmarole, eh, sir?" said Wriggs with a chuckle.

"It's worth anything to a naturalist, my man."

"What is?" said Mr Rimmer, coming up; and the bird was held up for his

"Another kind of bird of Paradise?" he said.

"Yes, isn't it lovely?"

"Very, gentlemen, but I want to talk to you about launching our lugger,
she's getting well on toward being ready."

"Ready?" said Oliver.  "Oh yes, of course.  But don't hurry, Mr Rimmer,
we shan't be ready to go for some time yet."

"Mean it?" said Rimmer, smiling.

"Mean it!" cried Oliver, looking up from his bird.  "Why, you don't
suppose we can go away from a place where such specimens as this are to
be had.  I can't."

"No," said Panton, quietly, "since I got better I have been finding such
a grand series of minerals that I must stay if I possibly can.  What do
you say, Drew?"

"It would be madness to hurry away."

"And what about the niggers?" said Mr Rimmer, who looked amused.

"They haven't worried us lately."

"But the volcano?  Really, gentlemen, I never feel safe from one day to
another.  I am always expecting to see the earth open and swallow us

"Yes, we are in a doubtful position," said Panton, thoughtfully, "and
never know what may happen, living as we are, over fire."

"And hot water," said the mate, smiling.  "One of the men has just found
a little spring, where the water spurts up at boiling point."

"Well," said Panton, "it will be convenient.  There, Mr Rimmer, get
your lugger launched, and we'll explore the coast, but don't say
anything about our going away for months to come, for we must make some
more efforts to get right up to the crater edge before we give up.
Besides, we have not half examined the land yet."

"No," said the mate, "we have not half examined the land yet.  Very
well, gentlemen, you came on purpose for this sort of thing, so it's not
for me to say any more.  I'm anchored pretty safely, that is, if the
earth don't give way, and let the brig through.  I'll, as I've said
before, get my lugger finished and launched.  She'll lie snugly enough
in the deepest part of the lagoon if the blacks will keep away, and I
shall gradually load and provision her, ready for when we have to go
will that do?"

"Yes, splendidly," said Oliver.  "There, don't say any wore about it,
please, for I want to skin my bird."



"You were so precious proud of your ornitho superbo, or whatever you
call it, that you seemed to fancy yourself head cock discoverer and
chief boss of the expedition," cried Panton one morning, as he returned
in a great hurry, after being out for some hours with Smith and Wriggs.

Oliver, who, helped by Drew, was busily packing layers of dried bird
skins in a case, looked up laughingly.

"What is it?" he cried.  "What have you found--diamonds?"

"Oh, no, nothing of that kind.  Come on and see."

"In five minutes I shall be done.  Then we'll come.  But what is it?"

"Wait till you get there," responded Panton, wincing slightly, for he
had just felt a sting in his newly-healed wound.

"All right," said Oliver.  "Now, Drew, another layer of paper, then this
lot of skins, and we'll fasten the lid down."

"Why not leave it unfastened till your other lot are dry?"

"Because if I do, the ants will make short work of them.  In with the
rest, lightly.  Now the lid."

This was clapped on, a good solid deal lid made by the ship's carpenter,
with holes bored and screws in them, all ready, and as soon as it was
on, Oliver, with his sleeves rolled up and the muscles working beneath
his clear white skin, attacked the screws, and soon had them all tightly
in their places.  Then a rope was made fast, the word given to those on
deck, and the chest was run up in no time.

Five minutes later Oliver was equipped in light flannel jacket and sun
helmet, his gun over his shoulder and all ready fur action.

"Going for a stroll?" said Mr Rimmer, as they stepped down from the
deck to where he was superintending the planking of the lugger, whose
framework had been slid down on a kind of cradle, where it now stood
parallel with the brig, it having been found advisable to get her down
from the deck for several reasons, notably her rapidly increasing weight
and her being so much in the way.

"But suppose the enemy comes and finds her alongside?  They might burn

"They'd burn or bake us if we kept her up here," said the mate, shortly,
"for we should not have room to move."

So there it was, down alongside, rapidly approaching completion, the men
having toiled away with a will, feeling how necessary it was to have a
way open for escape, and working so well that most of them soon began to
grow into respectable shipyard labourers, one or two, under the guidance
of the ship's carpenter, promising to develop soon into builders.

The mate was very busy with a caulking hammer in one hand, a wedge in
the other, driving tar-soaked oakum between the planks so as to make a
water-tight seam, and as the young men came up he wiped his steamy brow
with his arm, and looked at all with good-humoured satisfaction.

"Yes, we're going to inspect a discovery I have made," said Panton,
importantly.  "Like to join us?"

"Well, I should like," replied the mate, "and I think I--no: resolution
for ever.  Not a step will I take till I've got the _Little Planet_
finished.  She's rough, but I believe she'll go."

"When you get her to the sea."

"Ye-es," said Mr Rimmer, with a comically perplexed look in his bluff
English countenance, "when we get her to the sea.  You don't think
she'll stick fast, do you, Mr Lane?"

"Well, I hope not," said Oliver, "but when I get thinking about how big
you are making her, I can't help having doubts."

"Doubts?" said the mate, sadly, as if he had plenty of his own.

"Yes--no," cried Oliver, "I will not have any.  We will get her down to
the sea somehow.  Englishmen have done bigger things than that."

"And will again, eh, sir?" cried the mate.  "Come, that's encouraging.
You've done me no end of good, sir, that you have.  There, off with you,
and get back to dinner in good time.  Crowned pigeon for dinner, and

He attacked the side of the lugger with redoubled energy, his strokes
following the party for far enough as they trudged on due south to an
opening in the forest not yet visited by either Drew or Lane, and the
latter, as he saw the abundance of tempting specimens, exclaimed,--

"I say, what have we been about not to visit this spot before?"

"Had too many other good spots to visit, I suppose," said Drew; "but, my
word! look at the orchids here."

"Bah!  That's nothing to what you will see, eh, Smith?"

"Yes, sir, they'll stare a bit when they gets farder on.  Me and Billy's
been thinking as we should like to retire from business and build
ourselves houses there to live in, speshly Billy."

"Speak the truth, mate, you was the worst," grumbled Wriggs.

"You was just as bad about it, Billy.  Didn't you say as it would be
grand to have a house to live in, with b'iling water laid on at your
front door?"

"Nay, that I didn't, Tommy.  How could I when there warn't no front door
and no house built?"

"You are so partickler to a word, mate.  It was something of that kind."

"Nay, Tommy."

"Why, it was, and you says you'd want a missus, on'y you didn't know as
how a white missus'd care to come and live out in a place where there
warn't no pumps, and you couldn't abide to have one as was black."

"Well!" exclaimed Wriggs indignantly, "of all the 'orrid yarns!  Why, it
were him, gents, as said all that.  Now, speak the truth, Tommy, warn't
it you?"

"Now you comes to talk about it that way, Billy, I begin to think as it
were; but it don't matter, let's say it was both on us."

"How much farther is it to the wonder?" asked Oliver.

"About a mile," replied Panton.  "There, curb your impetuosity and don't
be jealous when you get there."

"Jealous!  Rubbish!  Look, Drew!" cried Oliver, as a huge moth as big
across the wings as a dinner plate flapped gently along the shadowy way
beneath the trees, now nearly invisible, now plainly seen threading its
way through patches which looked like showers of silver rain.  "Who can
be jealous of another's luck when he is overwhelmed with luck of his

"Hi!  Stop!  None of that!" cried Panton, catching Oliver by the arm, as
he snatched off his sun helmet and was dashing forward through the

"What's the matter?"

"That's what I want to know.  Are you mad to go dashing off, hat in
hand, after a butterfly here in this dangerous place, as if you were a
boy out on a Surrey Common?"

"Bother!  It isn't a butterfly."

"What is it, then?"

"The grandest Atlas moth I ever saw."

"I don't care, you're not going to make yourself raging hot running
after that.  I want you to come and see my find."

Oliver stood looking after the shadowy moth as it went on in and out
among the trunks of the trees till it reached a tunnel-like opening,
full of sunshine.  Up this, after pausing for a moment or two, balanced
upon its level outstretched wings, it seemed to float on a current of
air and was gone.

"You've made me miss a glorious prize," said Oliver sadly.

"Not I.  You couldn't have caught it, my boy.  Come along."

Oliver resigned himself to his fate, but gazed longingly at several
birds dimly seen on high among the leaves, and whose presence would have
passed unnoticed if it had not been for their piping cries or screams.
But he soon after took a boyish mischievous satisfaction in joining
Panton in checking Drew every time he made a point at some botanical

"No, no," cried Oliver, "if there is to be no animal, I say no

"Because it's all mineral.  There, be patient," said Panton.  "We
haven't much farther to go, eh, Smith?"

"No, sir, on'y a little bit now.  Either o' you gents think o' bringing
a bit o' candle or a lantern?"

"Candle?" cried Panton in dismay.  "No."

"What, didn't yer think o' that rubub and magneshy stuff, sir?"

"The magnesium wire?  Yes, I brought that."

"Well, that's something, sir, but we do want candles."

"And we must have some.  Here, Smith, you must go back," cried Panton.

"Right, sir, on'y shouldn't I be useful to you when we gets there?"

"Of course, very: but we can't do without a light."

"No, sir, that we can't.  How many shall you want?"

"Ask for half-a-dozen," said Panton, "and be as smart as you can."

"Half-a-dozen, sir," said Smith, "that all?"

"Yes, be off!"

"But Billy Wriggs's got more'n that tucked inside his jersey, if they
ain't melted away.  Air they, Billy?"

"No," said that gentleman, thrusting his hand inside his blue knitted
garment.  "The wicks is all right, and they're gettin' a bit soft, but
there's nothing else amiss."

"Well done, Smith," cried Oliver, who by this time pretty well knew his
man.  "You thought we should want some, then?"

"Course I did, sir.  We ain't got cat's eyes, and we can't see like them
speckydillo chaps as we hear going about in the woods o' nights.  So I
thought we'd bring some dips, and if we didn't want 'em we could only
bring 'em back again."

By this time they were ascending a rugged slope, and painfully climbing
in and out among huge rocks, whose structure told of their being
portions of some lava eruption.  Water trickled here and there, overhung
by mosses of loose habit and of a dazzling green.  Tree ferns arched
over the way with their lace-work fronds, and here and there clumps of
trees towered up, showing that it must have been many generations since
fire had devastated this part of the island, and the huge masses of lava
had been formed in a long, river-like mass, to be afterwards broken up
and piled by some convulsion in the fragments amongst which they

"Wonderful!  Wonderful!" cried Oliver.

"Grand!" exclaimed Drew.  "Look at the Nepenthes," and he pointed to the
curiously metamorphosed leaves of the climbers around, each forming a
pitcher half full of water.

"I want to know how you discovered it," said Oliver.

"Oh, you must ask these fellows," replied Panton.

"It were Billy Wriggs, sir, goin' after a bird I'd shot in that
robuschus way of his'n, and when I follered him and see what a place it
were I was obliged to come on."

"Why, we must be getting up toward an old crater," cried Oliver.  "There
has been a volcanic eruption here."

"Then just be a bit patient," said Panton, laughing.  "Only up as high
as that ridge," he continued, panting, "and then we're close at hand."

It was hot and toilsome work, but the party were in so lovely a natural
garden that the toil was forgotten.  For the trees of great growth were
farther apart up here, leaving room for the sunshine to penetrate, with
the result that the undergrowth was glorious, and the rocky dells and
precipices magnificent.

"Straight away.  Up to the top here," cried Panton.  "Come along."

He was foremost, and had reached a tremendous piled-up wall of masses of
mossy stone, whose crevices formed a gorgeous rockery of flowers and
greenery, wonderful to behold, almost perpendicular, but so full of
inequalities that offered such excellent foot and hand hold that there
was very little difficulty in the ascent.  He began at once seizing
creeper and root, and was about half way up, when there was a snarling
yell, and a great cat-like creature sprang out of a dark crevice,
bounded upward and was gone, while Panton, startled into loosening his
hold as the brute brushed by him, came scrambling and falling down, till
he was checked by his friends.

"Hurt?" cried Oliver, excitedly.

"Hurt!" was the reply, in an angry tone, "just see if you can come down
twenty or thirty feet without hurting yourself."

"But no bones broken?" said Drew.

"How should I know?  Oh, hang it, how I've hurt my poor shoulder again."

Irritation, more than injury, was evidently the result of the fall, for
as he knelt down to bathe a cut upon one of his hands, Panton

"One of you might have shot the brute.  Only let me catch a glimpse of
him again."

"There wasn't time," said Oliver.  "But don't you think we had better
give up the excursion for to-day?"

"No, I don't," cried Panton.  "Think I've taken all this trouble for
nothing," and, rising to his feet again, he took his gun from where he
had stood it, and began to climb once more in and out among the pendent
vines and creepers till he was at the top, and the others followed, but
did not reach his side without being bitten and stung over and over
again by the ants and winged insects which swarmed.

"There, what do you say to that?" cried Panton, forgetting his injuries
and pointing downward.

His companions were too much entranced to speak, but stood there gazing
at as lovely a scene as ever met the eyes of man.

For there below them, in a cup-like depression, lay a nearly circular
lake of the purest and stillest water, in whose mirror-like surface were
reflected the rocky sides, verdant with beautiful growth, the towering
trees and spire-like needles which ran up for hundreds of feet, here and
there crumbled into every imaginable form, but clothed by nature with
wondrous growth wherever plant could find room to root in the slowly
decaying rock.

"Glorious, glorious!" exclaimed Drew, in a subdued voice, as if tones
ought to be hushed in that lovely scene, for fear they should all awaken
and find it had been some dream.

Panton gazed from one to the other, forgetful of his fall, and with a
look of triumph in his smiling eyes, while Oliver let himself sink down
upon the nearest stone, rested his chin upon his hand, and gazed at the
scene as if he could never drink his fill.

As for the two sailors, they exchanged a solemn wink and then stood
waiting with a calm look of satisfaction as much as to say: "We did all
this; you'd never have known of it if it had not been for us."

"Come, lads," cried Panton at last, "we must be getting on.  You see now
how it is there is so much clear water trickling down below.  What a
magnificent reservoir!"

"It seems almost too beautiful," sighed Oliver, rising unwillingly.
"Who could expect a place like this with a burning mountain only a few
miles to the north?"

"And think," added Panton, "that this is the crater of an old volcano
that once belched out these stones and poured fire and fluid lava down
the slope we have just climbed."

"It almost seems impossible," said Drew.  "The place is so luxuriantly
fertile.  Are you sure you are right?"

"Sure," said Panton, "as that we stand here.  Look for yourselves at the
perfectly formed crater filled with water now as it was once filled with
seething molten matter.  Look yonder, straight across there where the
wall is broken down as it was perhaps thousands of years ago by the
weight of the boiling rock which flowed out.  Look, you can see for
yourselves, even at this distance, the head of the river of stone.  Chip
any of these blocks, and you have lava and tufa.  That block you sat on
is a weather-worn mass of silvery pumice inside, I'm sure, though
outside it is all black and crumbling where it is not covered with

"But for such luxuriance of growth here all must have been barren

"Barren till it disintegrated in the course of time, and, by the action
of the sun, rain, and air, became transformed into the most fertile of
soil.  Why, Lane, you ought to know these things.  Look there, how every
root is at work breaking up the rock to which it clings, and in whose
crevices the plants and trees take root, grow to maturity, die, and add
their decaying matter to the soil, which is ever growing deeper and more

"Hear, hear," growled Wriggs in a low tone, and Panton frowned, but
smiled directly after as he saw the sailor's intent looks.

"Well, do you understand, Wriggs?" he cried.

"Not quite exactly, sir," said the man.  "Some on it, sir; and it makes
me and my mate feel that it's grand like to know as much as you gents

"Ay, ay," cried Smith, taking off his hat and waving it about as he
spoke.  "Billy Wriggs is right, sir.  It is grand to find you gents with
all your bags o' tricks ready for everything: Mr Drew with his piles o'
blottin'-paper to suck all the joost outer the leaves and flowers, and
Mr Lane here, with his stuff as keeps the skins looking as good as if
they were alive, and, last o' hall, you with your hammer--ay, that's
it!--and your myklescrope and bottle o' stuff as you puts on a bit o'
stone to make it fizzle and tell yer what kind it is.  It's fine, sir,
it's fine, and it makes us two think what a couple o' stoopid, common
sailors we are, don't it, Billy?"

"Ay, Tommy, it do, but yer see we had to go as boys afore the mast, and
never had no chances o' turning out scholards."

"But you turned out a couple of first class sailors," said Oliver
warmly, "and as good and faithful helpmates as travellers could wish to
have at their backs.  We couldn't have succeeded without you."

"So long, sir, as their legs don't want to run away with 'em, eh,
messmate?" said Smith with a comical look at Wriggs.

"Ay, they was a bit weak and wankle that day," said Wriggs, chuckling.

"Never mind about that, my lads," cried Panton, who had been busy
breaking off a bit of the stone on which Oliver had sat--a very dark
time-stained blackish-brown, almost covered with some form of growth,
but the fresh fracture was soft glittering, and of a silvery grey, as
pure and clear as when it was thrown out of the crater as so much
vesicular cindery scum.

"Yes," said Drew, examining the fragment.  "You are right.  Well, I say
thank you for bringing us up to see this glorious place."

"And I too, as heartily," said Oliver.  "We must come up here regularly
for the next month at least; why, there are specimens enough here to
satisfy us all."

"Quite," said Drew, "and I propose we begin collecting to-day."

"And I second you," said Lane.

"And I form the opposition," cried Panton.  "Do you suppose I made all
that fuss to bring you only to see this old crater?"

"Isn't it enough?" said Oliver.

"No," cried Panton excitedly.  "This is nothing to the wonders I have to
show.  Now, then, this way.  Come on."



Panton plunged at once down the slope as if to go diagonally to the
water's edge, and his companions followed him in and out and over the
blocks, which were a feast for Drew, while at every few steps some
strange bird, insect, or quadruped offered itself as a tempting prize to
Oliver, but no one paused.  The gathering in of these prizes was left
till some future time.

It was as the others supposed, Panton was descending to the water's
edge, reaching it just where the crater rose up more steeply and
chaotically rugged than in the other parts.

"Look out!" he cried, loudly, and, raising his piece, he fired at the
great leopard-like creature which had evidently taken refuge here, and
now bounded out with a fierce growl, and away along the rocks by the
edge of the lake.

The bullet sent after it evidently grazed the animal, for it sprang into
the air and fell with a tremendous splash into the water, but scrambled
out again, and went bounding away, while, instead of following their
comrade's example, Oliver and Drew stood listening, appalled by the deep
roar as of subterranean thunder, which ran away from close to their feet
to die away in the distance, and then rise again--a strange
reverberation that seemed to make the rocks quiver upon which they

"We must have him some day," said Panton, stepping right down on a
stone, whose surface was just above the level of the water; and now, for
the first time, Oliver saw that there was a slightly perceptible current
running on either side of this stone, the water gliding by with a glassy
motion, this evidently being the outlet of the lake; and on joining
Panton he found himself facing what resembled a rugged Gothic archway at
the foot of the stony walls, where a couple of great fragments of lava
had fallen together.

"Why, it is a cavern!" cried Oliver, as he bent forward, and tried to
peer into the darkness before him.

"A cavern?  Yes; Aladdin's cave, and we're going to explore it," cried
Panton.  "Now then, Smith, five candles, please, and all lit ready for
us to go in and see what there is to be seen."

Smith walked right in, stepping from stone to stone for a few yards, and
then leaping off the block on which he stood in midstream to the lava at
the side; and, upon Oliver following him, he found that he was standing
upon another stream, one which had become solid as it cooled, while the
water which now filled the cup-like hollow had gradually eaten itself a
channel in the stone, about a quarter of the width of the lava, and this
flowed on into the darkness right ahead.

"What do you think of it?" cried Panton.

"Wet, dark, and creepy," said Oliver, as he listened to a peculiar
whispering noise made by the water as it glided along in its stone
canal, the sound being repeated in a faint murmur from the sides and

Then _scritch-scratch_ and a flash of light which sank and then rose
again, as the splint of wood, whose end Smith had struck, began to burn

"Now, Billy!  Candleses!" cried the sailor, and light after light began
to burn, showing the shape of the place--a fairly wide rift, whose sides
came together about twenty feet overhead.  The floor was wonderfully
level and some forty feet wide, the stream being another nine or perhaps
but eight, but widening as it went on.

As soon as the candles were lit Smith held up three, and Wriggs two,
right overhead, so as to illuminate the place, and Oliver and Drew gazed
with a feeling of awe at the sloping sides which glistened with
magnificent crystals, many of which were pendent from sloping roof and
sides, though for the most part they were embedded in the walls.

"Well, is that wet, dark, and creepy?" cried Panton.

"It is very wonderful," replied Drew.  Oliver said nothing, for he was
peering right before him into the darkness, and trying to master a
curious feeling of awe.

"This is something like a find," cried Panton, triumphantly.

"How far does it go in?" said Oliver, at last.

"Don't know.  We are going to explore."

"Will it be safe?  This may lead right down into the bowels of the

"I think not," said Panton, "but right away underground somewhere.  Once
upon a time when the volcano was in action it overflowed here or cut a
way through the wall, and then the fiery stream forced its way onward,
and was, no doubt, afterwards covered in by the stones and cinders
hurled out by the mountain.  Then, of course, after the volcano had
played itself out, and the lake formed in the crater, it in turn
overflowed, and the water ate its way along, as you see, right in the
river of lava, which it followed naturally downwards."

"And do you want us to follow the stream naturally downwards?" said

"Of course.  I've only been in about fifty yards, but it is certainly
the most wonderful place I have ever seen.  Look here."

He picked from a crevice a great bunch of soft dark brown filaments,
somewhat resembling spun glass.

"What's that?  Some kind of fibre?" cried Drew.  "But how does it come

"Is it fibre?" said Panton, smiling.

"No; too brittle.  It is glass."

"Yes.  Obsidian--a volcanic glass."

"But it looks like the result of glass-blowing," said Oliver.

"Right; so it is.  Volcanic glass-blowing.  This must have been driven
out of some aperture in the burning mountain during an eruption, steam
acting upon flint and lime when in a state of fusion."

"But where are you going to get your flint and lime from to make a glass
like this?" said Oliver.

"Who can say?  From the interior of the earth, or from deposits made by
the sea."

"I don't see that," said Drew.

"Indeed!  Why, haven't you silicious sand, the lime from the coral and
shells and soda from the seaweeds of thousands of years.  Plenty from
that supply alone, without calculating what may be beneath us.  Now
then, forward: I'll lead, and we had better all go carefully, in case of
there being any chasms.  As far as I've been the floor was all like
this, smooth and just faintly marked by a grain formed by the flow."

He took a candle, and, holding it high above his head, led the way,
closely followed by Oliver.

"No fear of our losing our way," said the latter.  "We have only to keep
on by the side of the stream, and then notice which way it flows.  If we
go against it, we must be right in coming back."

The way widened as they progressed, and was to a small extent down-hill,
but not sufficiently so to make the water rush onwards, only sufficient
for it to glide along in a glassy smooth fashion, keeping up the same
mysterious whispering which grew as they went on into the darkness, not
seeming to be louder, but so to speak as if there were more and more of
this strange murmur extending onward and onward to infinity.

Once they all stopped to look back at the light which shone in through
the cavern's mouth, and looking dazzlingly bright as it played upon the
water gliding in softly from the lake, but soon growing softer and
opalescent, and gradually dying away.  Five minutes later, when Oliver
turned back to look again, he found that they must have unconsciously
descended, for there was only a faint dawn of light upon the roof of the
cave, and a minute later all was black.

"Now," said Drew, with an involuntary shiver which he turned off as
being from the temperature.  "What are you going to show us? for it's
getting chilly here."

"One of the wonders of the world," replied Panton.  "Look at the
crystals here."

"Yes, but we saw them before."

"Then look at the incrustations of sulphur here.  These must have been
here for countless ages.  Look, too, how it is heaped against this

"Yes, wonderful, but we saw plenty of sulphur when you came up out of
that hole where you first went down, if you remember, and brought plenty

"Yes," said Oliver.  "Can't you show us something more like what must
have been in Aladdin's cave, gold, silver, and precious stones?"

Panton held up his light as they turned round a bend of the rocky side
on their left, and pointed to the coloration of the rocks and the half
loose fragments, which still clung in their place, while other bits had
fallen down.

"There," he said, "those are as bright as anything in Aladdin's cave."

"And as valuable?"

"That depends on the value people put upon them.  From a geological
point of view, and the study of the formation of crystals by volcanic
heat they are priceless."

"But how much farther are you going?" said Drew.

"As far as the candles will let us," said Panton.  "Hallo!"

His voice was echoed from a distance as loudly as he had spoken, and the
"Hallo!" went reverberating away in the gloom.

"We must be in a big opening," he said, and again his voice echoed, and
then went on repeating itself and dying away.

Panton thrust a hand into his pocket and brought out a roll of magnesium
wire, gave Wriggs his gun to hold, and then lit one end which flashed
out into a brilliant whitish light, surrounded by dense fumes of smoke,
and illuminating the vast hall in which they stood, for here the tiny
river ran in a wide-spreading plain of smooth lava which must at one
time have been a lake of molten stone, now hard, cold, and dry, save
where the water glided on like so much steel in motion.

As the magnesium wire burned out, the candles which were getting short
looked like so many yellowish sparks in the midst of utter blackness,
and it was some minutes before even Panton showed any disposition to
stir.  But at last the eyes of all began to lose the dazzled sensation
caused by the white glare, and Panton proposed that they should go on.

"What for?" said Drew.  "There are specimens enough for you here without
going farther, and the place seems to be all alike."

"Oh, no: all variety.  You are not afraid, are you?"

"Well, I don't know so much about that," replied Drew, quietly.  "I have
no wish to seem cowardly, but it is not very pleasant moleing along here
in the darkness.  I keep expecting to step down into some bottomless

"If we come across one, you'll see me go down first.  But hark!  What's

"I don't hear anything," said Drew.

"Don't you, Lane?" cried Panton.

"Well, yes, I fancy I can hear a dull sound as of falling water."

"There must be a cascade, then, farther in.  Come on, I must see that.
I've got some more wire."

Holding his candle well on high, he strode boldly on over the lava
stream, his two friends feeling bound to follow him, while Smith and
Wriggs came last.

"How do you feel, Tommy?" whispered the latter.

"Bad," was the laconic reply.

"Don't seem no good in going no furder, do it?"

"Not a bit, and these here candles'll be out d'rectly.  Hold hard,
please, sir, we've got to light up again."

Oliver heard his words, and hailed Drew, who in turn called to Panton.
But the latter was just at an angle where the lava stream swept round to
the left, and there was a reason why he did not hear the call, and they
saw him disappear round the corner with his light.

Drew hastened his steps and followed, catching sight of him for a
moment, and then losing him again, for Panton's light was extinguished,
and Drew stood peering forward in an agony of dread, feeling certain
that their companion had dropped down into some horrible crevice in the
lava; while he had suddenly himself stepped from almost perfect silence
into a part of the cavern where his ears were smitten by a fearful din
of falling water.

The next minute, in an agony of spirit that seemed too hard to bear, his
outstretched candle lit up Panton's face, which was farther illumined by
the lights the others bore.

"My light's burned out," cried Panton, placing his lips close to Drew's
ear.  "I say, what a row the water makes."

The effort to speak grew troublesome, and signs were resorted to.  Fresh
candles were lit, and in spite of an objection raised by Oliver, Panton
was for going on again.

"We must see the falls now we are so near," he shouted.  "We can't be
many yards away.  We'll come better provided with lights another time."

Starting on again, but going very carefully, Panton continued his way
onward pretty close to the edge of the smooth river which ran now
several feet below the level on which they walked.  And as he held out
his candle, so as to clearly see the edge, the light gleamed fitfully
from the black glassy surface of the stream.

All at once Panton found himself at an angle of the rock, where a second
stream joined the one by which they had come, and as the others joined
him, it seemed as if their progress was at an end.  This second stream
was a surprise, for it was larger than the one by their right, and
coming as it did almost at right angles from their left, it was puzzling
as to whence it could come, for it did not seem possible that it could
have issued from the crater lake.

And there they stood in a noise that was now deafening, holding their
lights on high, and trying to pierce the black darkness in front, but of
course in vain.

A peculiar fact struck Oliver now, as he stood pretty close to the lava
edge of the angular platform upon which they had halted, and this was,
that the flames of all their candles were drawn away from them toward
where the water of the conjoined streams must be falling in one plunge
down into some terrible gulf.  He knew at once that this was caused by a
strong, steady current of air setting towards the falls, and in his
uneasiness he was about to point out to Panton that their candles were
rapidly burning away, when the latter suddenly lit his remaining piece
of magnesium wire, and the next minute they were all straining their
eyes, and now looking into a misty glare of light, right in front--
evidently the mist rising from the churned-up water--or now upon their
grotesque black shadows, cast by the white-smoked magnesium upon the
floor and the ceiling far above.

But there was no sign of the water itself, only the conformation of the
lava stream whose edge could be seen upon the other side of the second
river at least thirty feet away.

"What's to be done?" said Panton at last, as the magnesium burned out
and all was once more black darkness.

"Get back," said Oliver, with his lips to his friend's ear.  "The
candles are guttering away terribly, and we must not be left in the

"No," yelled Panton, "that wouldn't be pleasant.  Hang it, all my
candle's done."

Time had gone faster than they had expected since the second candles
were lit, and turning to Oliver he said, sharply,--

"There, you lead the way back.  It isn't far if you step out.  Forward!"

Oliver wanted no telling, and he started back, but did not begin to
breathe freely till the angle of the rock wall was passed and they found
themselves again in silence, just too as another candle began to

"Hullo!" cried Oliver, glancing back.  "What does this mean?"

"What?" said Panton.

"The number of lights.  Yours is gone and this one will be out directly,
but there ought to be three more.  Drew, Smith, ourselves.  Here, where
is Wriggs?"

There was no answer, and in a strained, excited voice, Smith shouted,--

"Hi, Billy lad, where are yer?"

There was a whispering echo, but nothing more till Oliver spoke,--

"Where did you see him last?"

"See him, sir, why yonder, where the magneshy was burnt.  Billy

But there was no answer, and they stood in a little group appalled by
the knowledge that their lights would not last many minutes longer.

"Here--quick, Smith, you have some more candles?" cried Oliver.

"Not a blessed one, sir.  Billy Wriggs has got what there is left in his

The truth forced itself upon them now with horrifying force that they
had done wrong in making this attempt so badly provided, and in trusting
so fully to Panton, who in his eager enthusiasm had gone too far.

One thought was in every mind, would they ever be able to find their way
out of this terrible darkness when the last ray of light had failed?



Panton's conscience smote him, and he could not speak, for he felt that
he was to blame for their trouble.  But Oliver Lane rose to the

"Quick," he said, "all candles out but one.  Keep yours, Drew, and the
other can be relit when it burns down."

In an instant there was a darkening of the scene of gloom, and the young
botanist held up his dim yellow light a little higher.

"Now, then, what's to be done?" he said, huskily.  "Hail--hail, all
together," cried Oliver, and he was obeyed, but the echoes were the only
answers to their cries.

"Poor old Billy!  Poor old Billy!" groaned Smith.

"Silence, there!" said Oliver, sharply.  "There is only one thing to do.
You must get back to the entrance as quickly as you can, and then make
for the brig to fetch lights and ropes."

"But it seems so cruel to go and leave the poor fellow without making
farther search."

"You cannot make farther search without lights," cried Oliver, angrily.
"Quick! you are wasting time.  Go at once while your lights last."

"And when the lights are all out, what then?  How are we to find our

"By touch," cried Oliver.  "One of you must creep along by the side of
the river and feel the way from time to time."

"Come along, then," cried Panton, "but it does seem too hard to go and
leave the poor fellow."

"He's not going to be left," said Oliver, quietly.

"What do you mean?" cried Panton.

"I am going to stay."

"Then I shall stay with you," said Panton, firmly.  "I'm not going to
leave you in the lurch."

"You are going to do as I tell you," raged out Oliver.  "Go, and don't
lose the chance of saving the poor fellow's life.  Quick!  Off!"

"Let me stay with you, sir," growled Smith.

"No, man, go!" cried Oliver, and without a word, Drew led off with the
others following and the faint rays from the candle shining on the rocky
wall, with a very feeble gleam.  Then as Oliver watched, it appeared
like a faint star on the surface of the water, making the young man
shudder at the thought of some terrible subterranean creature existing
there ready to attack him as soon as the last rays of the candle and the
steps had died out.

This did not take long, for roused to make quick effort by those stern,
emphatic commands, the sadly diminished party hurried on, with Oliver
watching them as he stood still for a few minutes, and then moved slowly
farther away from the little whispering river, extending his hands till
they touched the rocky wall against which he leaned.

He listened to the footsteps growing more and more faint, and watched
the faint yellow star, until it died right away, gleamed faintly into
sight once more, and then was completely gone, leaving him in total
darkness, and face to face with despair, and the knowledge that the fate
which had snatched away his companion so suddenly, might at any moment
be his.

For what was it?  Had he slipped and fallen into the stream, and been
swept away before he could rise to the surface, and cry for help?  Had
he inhaled some mephitic gas which had overcome him?  Or was he to let
superstitious imagination have its play and believe that some dragon or
serpent-like creature had suddenly raised a head out of the dark waters,
seized him, and borne him down?  It was possible, and a shudder ran
through the young man's frame as he pictured the great serpent-like
object suddenly darting itself at him, wrapping him in its folds as he
had seen the constricting sea-snakes seize their prey, and at once drag
them out of sight.

He shuddered at the thought, and in spite of a strong effort to command
his nerve, the horror of thick darkness was upon him for a few minutes,
and a mad desire came over him to shriek aloud, and run frantically in
what he believed to be the direction of the entrance, though a movement
or two which he had made had robbed him even of that knowledge, and for
the moment he felt that he had lost all count of where he was.

He came to his natural self again, with his hands tightly over his mouth
to keep back the cries which had risen to his lips.

"As if I were a frightened child in dread of punishment," he said, half
aloud, in his anger against self, and from that minute he grew calm and
cool once more.  Feeling about a little over the face of the rock as he
turned to it, he found a place where he could seat himself and rest for
a time.  And now he knew well enough that he must be facing the stream,
and that all he had to do to reach the entrance was that which he had
bidden his companions do, creep along by the side, and dip in his hand
from time to time, so as to keep in touch with the water.

"As a last resource," he said, softly, "as a last resource," and then he
began to think of how necessary this would be, should he have to seek
the daylight alone, for he recalled how, though the place was a mere
passage at times through which the lava stream flowed, there were spots
where it opened out into vast halls, whose sides and roof were beyond
the reach of the artificial light they had used, and in these places he
knew he might easily lose himself and with this loss might fail in his
nerve, and perhaps go mad with horror.

He shuddered at the thought as he recalled the sensation through which
he had fought his way, and determining to be firm and strong, he turned
his attention away from his own sufferings to those of the man for whose
sake he had stayed.

"And it was to help him and give him encouragement that I stopped," he
said to himself, with a feeling of hot indignation against his weakness.
"Then I must not stay here, but go back towards where we missed him."

He sat thinking for a few moments as to his plans, and then, feeling
certain that when help came, those who returned would follow right on,
he concluded that it would be better to go back to the junction of the
two streams once more, and stay there, striving from time to time, in
spite of the deafening noise, to make the lost man hear.

"It will encourage him, for I will not believe he's dead," said Oliver
aloud, and then, in spite of himself he shivered, for his voice went
echoing strangely along the great hollow.  But he mastered this
unpleasant feeling, and determining to be strong, he raised his voice
and uttered a loud "Ahoy," listening directly after to the wonderful
echoes, which seemed to fly in all directions, repeating and blurring
each other as it were, into a strange confusion till the last one died

"Not pleasant," thought Oliver, as he listened, and then when all was
silent once more he made a start for the river's edge, and reaching it
began to follow it down.  This, by walking slowly, did not prove very
difficult, for the water had cut the bed in which it ran so straight
down through the lava that there was quite a well-marked angle, which he
could run his right foot along and make his way without stooping, save
at rare intervals.

As he went on with his eyeballs aching from the strong natural effort to
see through the darkness, his mind would keep wandering away to the
glory of the sunshine without, and how beautiful were light and life,
and how little appreciated till a person was shut off from their

Travelling slowly on in this way for how long a time he could not tell,
he at last became conscious of the fact that he must be nearing the
place where they had turned off nearly at right angles and plunged from
silence into the deafening roar of echoes formed by the noise of falling
waters.  For there it all was plainly on the ear, but as it were in
miniature, and Oliver stopped short, thinking.

"Shall I be doing wisely in going forward after all?" he said to
himself, and he hesitated as he thought of one of the main objects of
his being there--to try and let poor Wriggs know that he was not
forsaken and that help would soon be at hand.

"My voice can never be heard in all that din," he said to himself, and
before going farther he uttered a loud shout, and listened to the
echoes, one of which struck him as being so peculiar that he shouted
again with the repetition sounding even more peculiar.

His heart began to throb and his hopes to rise, for he felt convinced
that the "ahoy" was an answer to his call, and in a wild fit of
excitement and joy he said to himself,--

"It must be.  Now, let's try if it is after all only an Irish echo."

"Ahoy!" he cried.  "Where are you?"

There was utter silence for a few moments, and then he heard a cry
sounding so wild and strange that it seemed to freeze the very marrow in
his bones.



Oliver was too much startled for a few moments to move or speak.  Then
making an effort to master his dread, "It's an Irish echo," he said.
"Poor Wriggs, he is making his way towards me.  Ahoy! this way."

"Comin' sir," came plainly enough now, but directly after every echo
seemed again blurred and confused like a picture reflected in agitated
water.  But the sound was certainly very near, and each shout and answer
came closer, till at last the man's steps were plainly heard in a slow
shuffling fashion, as he evidently carefully extended one foot and then
drew the other up to join it.

"Where are you?" cried Oliver at last, for the steps were now very
close, and his voice, like the man's, sounded strange and confused by
the repetitions from roof, wall, and water.

"Clost here!"

"Hold out your hand," cried Oliver, as he extended his own.  "Ha!
That's good," he said, with his heart leaping for joy at the warm strong
grasp he received.  "Thank Heaven you are safe!"

"Thank-ye, Mr Oliver Lane, sir.  But my word it are black, Hold of a
coalin' screw's nothing to it."

"Where were you?" said Oliver, as he clung to the man's hand.

"Oh, clost along here by the waterside, sir."

"But did you fall in?  No; you are not wet."

"Oh, no, sir, I never fell.  I'm dry enough."

"Then how came you to hang behind, and cause all this trouble and

"'Cause company's good, they says, if you're going to be hanged; and as
you wasn't, sir, I 'adn't the 'art to let you stop all alone here in the

"Why, it isn't Wriggs, then?"

"Nay, sir, that's for sartin, I on'y wish as how it was."

"Why, Smith, my good fellow!  Then you stopped back to keep me company?"

"That's so, sir, and I thought it would be best.  You see it'll be bad
enough for two on us to wait, but for one all alone in a coal-cellar
like this, it's too horful I says to myself, and so I just hung back,
and here I am, sir."

"Oh, Smith, my good fellow!" cried Oliver, who felt moved at the man's

"It's all right, sir.  You and me can talk about birds as you've
skinned, and about some o' those tomtit and sparrer things as I've seen
about, and meant to shoot for yer some day.  And when we're tired o'
that, we can ask riddles and sing a song or two, or play at chucking one
stone at another, or into the water.  It won't be so much like being all
alone in the coal-cellar, shut up for a naughty boy as I used to be when
I was a little 'un."

"Smith, I can never feel grateful enough for this," cried Oliver.

"Gammon, sir; Pretty sort of a chap I should be if I hadn't ha' been
ready to stop and keep a gent like you comp'ny a bit.  Don't you say no
more about that there, sir."

"I must, Smith, I must," said Oliver, huskily.

"Then I shall be off till you've done, sir; and you'll have to say it to
the heckers as allus answers, `Where'?"

Oliver pressed the man's hand, and Smith gave a sigh of relief.

"Any use to offer you a bit o' good pig-tail, sir?" he said.  "Werry
comfortin' at a time like this."

"No, thank you, Smith, I don't chew."

"I doos," said Smith, giving a grunt or two, which was followed by the
click of the knife being shut after using it to cut a quid, and then by
the sharp snap of a brass tobacco box.  "Werry bad habit, sir, but I
don't seem able to leave it off.  I say, sir, what about poor old Billy?
Don't say as you think he's drowned."

"No, no, I hope and pray not," said Oliver.

"That's right, sir.  I don't believe he is.  Stoopid chuckle brain sort
o' chap in some things; and talk about a bull being obstinit, why, it
would take a hundred bulls biled down to produce enough obst'nacy to
make one Billy Wriggs.  He wouldn't get drowned; I've known him tumble
out o' the rigging over and over, and be upset out of a boat, but he's
only picked his self up and clambered in again, and been hauled into the
boat when he was upset.  While one day when he were washed overboard--
and I thought he had gone that time, for you couldn't ha' lowered a boat
in such a sea--I'm blessed if another big wave didn't come and wash him
back again, landing him over the poop so wet as you might ha' wrung him
out wonderful clean, and if he'd only had a week's beard off, he'd ha'
looked quite the gentleman."

"Poor fellow, we must save him somehow."

"Tchah!  Don't you be down-hearted, sir, you see if he don't turn up all
right again.  Reg'lar bad shillin' Billy is.  Why, you see how he went
on when he went up the mountain and into holes and over 'em and into hot
water.  He allus comes out square.  He can't help it.  No savage
couldn't kill Billy no matter what he did, and as for this here game--
oh, he'll be all right."

"I hope so, Smith," said Oliver, with a sigh.

"Well, sir, it don't sound as if yer did.  You spoke in a tone o' woice
as seemed to say I hope he's jolly well drowned."

"I can't help feeling low-spirited, Smith."

"Course you can't, sir, but you just cheer up and I'll try and tell you
a yarn o' some kind."

"No, no: not now."

"But I feel as if I'd like to, sir, a reg'lar good out an' outer--a
stiff 'un, cause just when I got to the biggest whopper in it, I should
expect to hear Billy behind my back in that solemn and serus woice of
his a-saying, `Speak the truth, Tommy, speak the truth.'"

"If I could think that, Smith, I'd say go on, but I cannot.  Here, let's
talk about him and his accident."

"I don't think there's been no accident, sir, yer see he aren't a
haccidental sort o' chap."

"Well, about his disappearance."

"Disappearance, sir?" said Smith.  "I aren't no scholard, but I don't
see as how a man can disappear in the dark.  That aren't nat'ral, is

"No: of course not, a blunder of mine, Smith.  Do you feel cold?"

"No, sir, on'y just comf'able.  Watcher think o' doing?"

"I did mean to go right to where we stood looking down over the water
toward the falls, so as to be near poor Wriggs, but our voices would be
quite drowned."

"Might take a walk there, sir, all the same," said Smith, "an' then come
back, you know.  But I say, sir, you don't think there's no underground
sort o' wild beasties here, do you?"

"No, Smith, nothing of the kind."

"No big sort of worms as might twissen round yer and pull yer into their

"No, Smith, I think we shall have the place all to ourselves."

"And no t'other sort o' things, sir?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, sir, I don't quite azakly know, but it comes natral like to be
feared o' being in the dark, and one has heard o' bogies and ghosties
and that sort o' thing."

"Did you ever see anything of the kind?"

"Well, no, sir, I never did, but I've heerd chaps say as they've seen
some rum things in their time from sea sarpents downwards."

"As to sea-serpents or some kind of monstrous creature similar to the
old saurians--"

"Sawrians, sir,--do you mean sea sawrians?"

"Sea and river; the crocodiles whose remains we find as fossils.  There
is plenty of room in the sea, Smith, and, as a naturalist, I am quite
ready to believe in something fresh being discovered.  We have seen
small sea-serpents, and there is no reason why there might not be big
ones, but as to what you call bogies and ghosts, for goodness sake throw
over all those silly superstitious notions."

"What, don't you believe people ever comes back arter they're dead?"

"On purpose to frighten the living?  No, Smith, I do not.  It is an
insult to the greatness of nature and the whole scheme of creation."

"Well, sir, speakin' as a man as couldn't help feelin' a bit
uncomfortable here in the dark with on'y one looficer in his pocket, it
does me good to hear you say that, though it is a bit higher up than I
can quite reach with my head.  You've made me feel a deal better, for it
aren't nice to think as there's anything o' that sort to upset you when
the place is quite bad enough without."

"Of course it is," said Oliver.  "Come on now.  Shall I lead, or will

"You, please sir, and what do you say to keepin' hold o' hands?"

"I was going to propose it.  Here's mine."

Smith grasped the extended hand, and Oliver started off at once, making
his way cautiously to the edge of the river, and then, as a boy might
along the kerbstone of a street, he kept on passing his right foot
along, till at last they stood in the profound darkness, listening to
the thundering echoing roar of the falling water reverberating from the
hollow roof and rising and sinking in booming deep diapasons till there
were moments when it seemed to their stunned ears like a burst of
strange wild giant music.

They stood for long enough together there, feeling that they were quite
at the edge where the water-worn lava formed an angle, thinking, with
many a shudder, that if poor Wriggs had fallen from where they stood,
they could never by any possibility see him again.

At last Oliver drew his companion back, and, placing his lips to the
man's ear, shouted to him that it was of no use to stay there, and they
had better return to the portion of the cavern round the angle where
they could speak to each other.

"You be leader going back," said Oliver.

"But I aren't sure which way to go, sir," shouted back Smith.

Oliver placed his lips close again.

"Keep your left foot on the edge and slide it along as we go."

"But suppose it's wrong way, sir?" suggested Smith.

"It can't be," cried Oliver again.  "If you keep your left foot on the
edge of the rock, every step must take us back toward the entrance."

Smith tightened his grasp and began, but so clumsily, that at the end of
ten minutes he slipped, fell, and gave so violent a jerk to Oliver's arm
that the latter nearly lost his hold, and, for a few moments, the
sailor's fate seemed sealed.  For he lay motionless with both legs over
the edge, while all Oliver could do was to hold on, with his heart
beating heavily, and the roar of the cavern seeming to be multiplied a
hundredfold.  He could not shout, for his throat felt dry, but he knew
that if he did, his voice would not be heard, and he waited till Smith
recovered himself a little, then made a struggle, and managed with his
companion's help to get on his legs again.

Then the slow movement was resumed, with Oliver conscious of the
exertion and shock by the twitching, beating sensation of the pulses in
the sailor's hand.

At last, after what seemed to be an endless length of time the sudden
silence which fell upon them told them that they were somewhere about
their resting-place, and drawing back from the edge of the little river,
Smith sank down upon the lava with a groan.

"Oh, murder in Irish!" he said.  "I thought I was gone, sir.  I was
feeling along with my left hoof, when my right suddenly give a slip on a
bit of rock as seemed like glass, and there it was slithering away more
and more.  If you hadn't ha' held on, you might ha' told 'em to sell off
my kit by auction when you got back."

"I thought you were gone too, Smith," said Oliver, with a shudder.

"Yes, sir, it was werry 'orrid; and do you know, I fancy that's where
poor old Billy slipped and went down."

"Possibly," said Oliver, and seating himself they talked at intervals
for hours in the tomb-like silence of the awful place, till a peculiar
drowsy feeling stole over Oliver, and he started back into wakefulness
with a shudder of horror, for it suddenly struck him that he was
beginning to be influenced by some mephitic gas once more, such as had
affected them along the line of the mist at the foot of the mountain.

"Smith!" he cried excitedly, "do you feel sleepy?"

A low deep breathing was the only reply.

"Smith! wake up!" he cried; but there was a want of energy in his words,
and five minutes after his efforts had grown feeble in the extreme.  In
another, he too had succumbed, not to a dangerous soporific vapour, but
to the weariness produced by long exertion, and slept as soundly as his
companion, and as if there was nothing whatever to fear.



Oliver Lane was dreaming of pleasant gushing streams, in which swam fish
of glistening colours, deep down in the soft shades, when the sun
appeared to come out suddenly and dazzle his eyes, so that he could not
bear it, and he sprang up to find Mr Rimmer leaning over him, holding a

"That's better, sir!" he cried.  "I was beginning to be afraid that you
had breathed bad air."

"I--I--what time is it?" said Oliver confusedly.  "Anything the matter?"

"Matter!" said the mate.  "Here, Smith, my lad, rouse!"

"Rouse up it is, sir!" cried the man, scrambling to his feet.  "My
trick?  Eh?  Oh, all right.  Just dropped asleep."

"I couldn't for the moment recall where I was," said Oliver, "Thank
goodness you have all come.  We could do nothing, and sleep overcame us
at last."

"Then you have heard nothing of poor Wriggs?" said Panton, who was one
of the group that surrounded them.

"Nothing," replied Oliver.

"And never will, I'm afraid," said Mr Rimmer.

"Don't say that," cried Oliver, who was full of excitement now.  "Have
you just come?"

"Yes, and found you both lying here asleep, as if nothing were wrong,"
said Drew, who, like the others, carried a lantern.  "We had a terribly
long struggle to get out of the cavern, for our last piece of candle
soon came to an end, and then it was very hard work to get back to the
ship in the dark."

"Dark?  Was it evening?"

"Black night," said Panton.

"Then what is it now?"

"The sun was just upon rising as we left the crater lake and came in,"
said the mate, "and that's two hours ago, full."

Smith gave his leg a slap to express his astonishment, and the mate
offered them both food and water, which had been thoughtfully provided.

"By-and-by," said Oliver.  "I'm not hungry now.  Come on, and try and
find that poor fellow."

He held out his hand for one of the lanterns, and leading the way, which
was comparatively light now, as the sailors who had been brought held
their lanterns well up, he soon reached the corner, passed it, and saw
that they were in a very spacious cavern.  Then the second stream was
reached, and they all stood together gazing out toward where the cascade
formed by the union of the two rivers plunged down.

But nothing was visible save blackness and wreathing vapour, which
gleamed in a grey ghostly way some distance in front, and to try and see
better some magnesium wire was burned.

This vivid white light showed that there was a black dripping roof some
fifty feet overhead, and the water of the two streams gliding rapidly
away from below the angle on which they stood, covering one whole side
of the visible cavern with water, and increasing in speed till it
disappeared beneath the rising mist caused, of course, by the falls.

There the lanterns were swung about over the water, and shout after
shout was sent forth to be lost in the torrent's roar, till at last the
mate turned away and signed to the party to follow him.

He led them back to where the noise grew hushed, and they could speak
once more.

"There is nothing more to be done, gentlemen," said the mate, sadly.
"The poor fellow must have gone over somewhere along that rocky edge.  I
saw several places where it was as slippery as ice, and he has been
swept into the depths.  Ugh, the whole thing makes me shudder."

He was right: they all knew nothing more could be done, and they tramped
back over the smooth lava stream.

"And I feel to blame for it all," said Panton, as he walked between his
friends.  "Who could have foretold that such a terrible calamity would
happen to us?  It is too horrible to bear."

At last there was a faint gleam of light upon the water, followed by a
flash, and then the lanterns were extinguished, for the blaze of
sunshine could be seen playing upon the lake and the Gothic archway of
the cavern's mouth fringed with creepers and ferns, while like some
curious silhouette, there for a few moments upon one of the rocks just
level with the water, those which had served for stepping-stones, was
the figure of a large graceful leopard as it stood gazing into the
cavern, but turned and bounded away directly.

The light was hardly bearable for a few minutes, as the party issued out
to climb the walls of the ancient crater, and then descend on the other
side, but eyes soon grew accustomed to the change, and Smith uttered a
deep sigh full of mournfulness.

"I never see nothing look so beautiful before," he said to Oliver, "but
oh, if poor old Billy Wriggs was here to see it.  He wouldn't say to me,
`Speak the truth, Tommy, speak the truth,' for them's the truest words,
sir, as I ever said."

They reached the side of the brig, hot and weary, to find all well, and
as they parted on the deck Smith turned to Oliver.

"I'm a-goin' down to have a good heavy wash, sir, 'fore I has any
breakfast, and then I don't think as I shall eat any, for it's hard
lines to ha' lost one's mate."

"Hard indeed, Smith," said Oliver, sympathetically.  "Poor fellow! but I
think we did all we could."

"Heverythink, sir, I say," replied the man, who then went slowly below
into the forecastle and rushed out again, looking horrified, scared, and
yelling loudly.

"Hallo!" cried Mr Rimmer, running forward.  "What's the matter now?"

Smith could not speak, but stood with his lips quivering and his eyes
round and staring.

"Do you hear?" cried the mate, angrily.  "Why don't you speak?"

The reason was patent to all.  The poor fellow could not utter a word,
but stood pointing wildly down through the forecastle hatch.



Oliver and the mate immediately made a sharp rush for the opening, and
the first uttered a cry of astonishment as he got down into the men's
place, for there, dimly seen by the faint light shed by a great disc of
glass let into the fore part of the deck and well cemented with pitch,
was a man in one of the bunks sleeping heavily, while in a tone
indicative of his astonishment, the mate exclaimed,--

"What, Wriggs!  You here?"

"Ay, ay, sir," shouted the man, rising so suddenly that he struck his
head a violent blow against the floor of the bunk above him.  "I say,
don't wake a man quite so hard!" he grumbled, and then, as he recognised
the speaker, "Beg pardon, sir, didn't know it was you."

"Why, how did you get here?" cried Oliver.

"Get here, sir?  Oh, I walked it, and was that bet out that I tumbled in
at once.  Tommy Smith got back?"

"Yes, and all of them," cried the mate.  "Here, pass the word for Smith,
and tell him it isn't a ghost."

"I'm here, sir," said a gruff voice as the hatchway was filled up by a
body which darkened the light.  "Is it alive?"

"Tommy ahoy!" cried Wriggs hoarsely.  "I got back fust."

"But how?" cried Oliver.  "You did not pass us and come out the way we
went in."

"No, sir; I went out t'other way by the back door."

"Is he all right--alive?" cried Panton, in a voice full of hysterical
excitement as he scrambled down, followed by Drew.

"He seems to be," said the mate.  "Are you sure you're alive, Wriggs?"

"Yes, sir, I think so."

"But how was it?" cried Oliver.

"Ah, that's a queshtun, sir," said the man, rubbing one ear.  "I don't
quite know, on'y as I was walking along arter you one moment, and the
next my legs seemed to run down a slide and I was in the water."

"I thought so," cried Oliver.

"I did holler, but there was such a row nobody heered me, and afore I
knowed where I was I seemed to be going down with five hundred millions
o' chaps sousing buckets o' water on my head till I was most stifled,
and then I was going on again."

"Going on where?"

"Oh, I dunno, on'y as it was all dark and the water just deep enough to
slide me along over the bottom which was smooth as glass."

"Ah! the trough cut by the water in the lava stream," cried Panton,
"continued right on after the fall."

"Yes, sir, that's it.  I continued right on arter the fall till I got
rayther sick on it and tried to get out fust one side and then the

"And did you?" cried Oliver.

"No, sir, I just didn't, for it was all as slipper as slither, and as
soon as I tried, the water seemed to lay hold on me and pull me back and
send me on again."

"And did you keep on like that?"

"Oh, no; I got up sometimes and tried to walk, and other times I went
along sittin'."

"But didn't you try to come back?"

"Try, sir?  What was the good?  Why, the water did just what it liked
with me, and wouldn't even let me try to swim.  Do you think I could ha'
got back up that waterfall?  Bless your 'art, sir, seems to me as if you
might as well try to get up to the moon."

"Never mind that," said Oliver, excitedly; "tell us about what
followed," and then he turned his head sharply, for Smith was rubbing
his hands down his legs and chuckling softly now in his intense delight
to see his messmate back safe and sound.

"Told you so--I told you so," he muttered.

"Course I will, sir," said Wriggs.  "Well, you see the water kept
carrying me along in the dark, and as fast as I managed to get up it
downed me again and began to stuffycate me, only I wouldn't have that,
and got up again and tried to stand.  But it warn't no use, the bottom
was too slithery, and down I goes again in the darkness, thinking it was
all over with me, but I gets the better of it again, and on I goes
sailing along, sometimes up and sometimes down, and a-swallering enough
water to last me for a week."

"Yes, go on," cried Oliver.

"Right, sir, I'm a-goin' on," said Wriggs.  "Where was I?"

"A-swallerin' the water, Billy," said Smith, interposing a word or two.

"So I was, Tommy, lots of it.  I kep' on swallerin' that water till I
didn't swaller no more 'cause there warn't no room.  So, of course, I
left off, and went bobbin' up and bobbin' down, sometimes goin' head
fust and sometimes legs fust.  Oh, it was at a rate!  And it was as dark
as pitch, and you couldn't get out this side nor t'other side neither."

"Well, go on," said Mr Rimmer, impatiently.

"Yes, sir; and there I goes, getting in a puff o' wind now and then when
I has a charnsh, and the water a-rooshin' me along and the bottom all
slithery, and sometimes I was heads up and sometimes toes, and the water
kep' a carryin' of me along so as I couldn't stand straight nor sit down
nor kneel nor nothing.  But on I keeps again, on and on and on, and
sometimes I was down and--"

"I say," said Panton, "wasn't it a very long way?"

"Yes, sir, a mortal long ways, and sometimes the water got me down when
I tried to swim and sometimes--"

"Yes, yes, yes," cried Oliver, for the mate was roaring with laughter;
"but you've told us all that over and over again.  We want you to get to
the end."

"That's what I wanted to do, sir," said Wriggs, "but there didn't seem
to be no end and the water kep' a--"

"My good fellow, that isn't the way to tell a story," cried Oliver,
impatiently.  "Now, then, get on: we've had enough of that.  The water
swept you along a dark cavernous place where it had cut a way through
the lava, and you couldn't keep your feet."

"That's it, sir.  You can tell it ever so much better nor me.  Go on,

"How can I?" cried Oliver, as there was a general burst of laughter at
this.  "I was not there, so how am I to tell your story?"

"I d'know, sir; but you seems to know ever so much more about it than
me, for it was so dark and the water kep' a-rooshin me along--"

"Right to the entrance, where the stream swept you out into the open
air, but before you got there you could see the light gleaming along on
the top of the water, and this increased till you found yourself in' the
full glow of daylight where the stream rushed out and down toward the

"Why, did you tumble in too, Mr Oliver Lane, sir?" cried Wriggs,
staring open-eyed.

"I?  Of course not," cried Oliver.

"But that were just how it was, sir.  How did you know?"

"I only supposed it was like that, my man."

"Well that's a rum 'un, for I was washed right out with a regular fizz
at last, like a cork in a drain."

"And where?" said Mr Rimmer.

"Oh, over yonder somewheres, sir, and I warn't long scuffling ashore,
for there was two black fins out, and I knowed as Jack shark's shovel
nose warn't far in front."

"Was it in the lagoon?"

"Yes, sir, that was it, and then I gets all my things off and wrings
'em, and lays 'em out ready for the sun to shine on when it come up,
while I covers myself all over with sand, which was as nyste and warm as
getting between blankets."

"But I thought you said you were swept out into the broad daylight,"
cried Oliver.

"No, sir, it was you as said that: I didn't.  I couldn't cause it was
the moon a-shining, and the stars and some o' them flying sparks in
among the trees."

"Well, you've got a rum way of telling a story, Wriggs," said the mate.
"What did you do next?"

"Oh, I snoozed on till it was quite warm, and my clothes was dry, and
then I takes my bearin's and steered off through the woods for port."

"Did you see any of the blacks?" said the mate.

"No, sir, and didn't want to.  It was black enough for me in that hole
underground, to last me for a long time yet.  Don't want any more black,
sir, yet, thank-ye."

"Well, you're safe back," said Panton, "and no one is more glad than I
am, though we did have all our trouble for nothing, and you may thank
Mr Lane and Smith for staying there in the dark waiting till lights
were fetched."

"Did Mr Lane do that, sir?"

"To be sure he did."

"And Tommy Smith stopped too, sir?"

"Yes, to keep him company, though we thought once we'd lost him too."

"Much ado about nothing," said the mate drily.  "You gentlemen lead me a
pretty dance.  What's the next thing, Mr Panton--do you want to go down
the crater of the volcano?"

"Yes, if it is possible," replied the young man, so seriously that there
was a general laugh, and soon after Wriggs was left to finish his sleep,
while Panton retired to the cabin to number and make notes about a few
of the crystals which he had brought back in his pockets, but thinking
of how that cavern might be turned to use.



Mr Rimmer gave way, and a few days after an expedition was made to try
once more to mount right up to the mouth of the crater.  Taking
advantage of what had been learned in former expeditions, the little
party followed their last plan, rowed beyond the poisonous mist, landed,
and after securing the boat as before, they made for the old camp,
reached it and spent a delightful evening watching the faint glow upon
the cloud which hovered over the mouth of the crater, and then gazed at
the scintillating fire-flies, which upon this occasion made the low
growth at the edge of the forest below them alive with sparkling lights.

Long before daylight they were on their way, with the air feeling cold
and numbing as they climbed the loose ash and cinders which formed the
slope.  The great cracks in the mountain-side were successfully passed,
and by sunrise they were high enough up to get a glorious view over the
island, while a couple of hours after, a point was reached which enabled
them to trace the greater part of the coast line and learn by the
barrier reef with its white foam that without doubt they were upon an

"Now, then," cried Panton, after a brief halt for refreshment, "how long
do you say it will take us?"

"Two hours," said Oliver, gazing up at the remainder of the slope, and
thinking of how quiescent the volcano was: for save an occasional
trembling or vibration under foot, all seemed still.

"One hour at the most," said Drew.  "Come on."

"I say the same," cried Panton.  "Come on."

Oliver proved to be nearest as to time, for they all referred to their
watches when the above words were spoken, and again, when, after a long
weary scramble over the yielding ashes, from which came breathings of
hot, stifling air.

"Two hours, forty minutes," cried Drew.  "I couldn't have thought it."

The hot, gaseous emanations had really seemed to be like breathings, and
as they neared the top, they were conscious, as they paused again and
again, of the mountain seeming to pant and utter sounds like weary

As they mounted higher, the heat began to grow suffocating, and it was
at last so bad that Smith and Wriggs pulled up short and looked hard at
their leaders.

"Well?" cried Oliver.

"Think it safe to go any furder, sir?" said Smith.

"Safe or no, we mean to get to the top now we've mounted so high.  Why
do you ask?  Want to stop?"

"Well, sir, you see Billy Wriggs been thinking for some time as it was
getting werry dangerous, and he'd like to go down."

"Speak the truth, Tommy, speak the truth," growled Wriggs.

"Why, I am speaking the truth, Billy," cried Smith, in angry
remonstrance.  "Didn't you say over and over again as it was werry

"Nay, I said it was dangerous, I didn't say werry."

"Oh, well, that's nigh enough for me, messmate."

"You two had better stay here while we go to the top," said Oliver,
quietly.  "Ready, you others?"

"Yes," said Panton.  "Forward," and they started upward again, but
stopped directly, for the two sailors were trudging up close behind

"I thought you two were going to stop back," cried Oliver.

"Not me," said Smith.  "Billy Wriggs can, if he likes."

"What?" cried the latter, "and let you get puffin' and blowin' about
havin' done my dags.  Not me, Tommy, old man.  I'm a-goin' right up to
the top, and I'll go as far inside as he will, gen'lemen."

"Come along, then," cried Oliver, and the slow trudge, trudge was
resumed in zig-zags, till Smith halted once more, and stood wiping his
steaming face.

"Beg pardon, sir," he said, "but if you look uppards, you can see as the
smoke hangs over toward us."

"Yes, what of that?" said Oliver.

"Well, that means wind, though we can't feel none.  Wouldn't it be best,
'stead o' doublin' back, if we was to go right on now, so as to get
higher and higher, and more round to windward?"

"I'm afraid that it will be the same all about the mouth of the crater,"
said Panton, "but we'll try."

It was a simple expedient that they ought to have thought of before, and
Smith proved to be correct, for as they wound on slowly upwards the heat
grew greater, but they began to be aware of soft puffs of wind, and at
the end of another half-hour, they had climbed to where a steady soft
current of cool air blew against them.  This made the final part of the
toilsome ascent so bearable that as they reached a glistening vitreous
stream of greyish hue which looked as if the crater had brimmed over and
poured down this molten matter, Oliver leaped upon it and ran for a
couple of hundred yards.  Then he disappeared suddenly, and horrified
the rest, who followed as fast as they could go.

But there was no cause of alarm.  As they reached the top of the slope
there stood their companion some twenty feet below them on the rugged,
jagged and fissured slope of the crater gazing down at a dull glistening
lake of molten matter, but so covered with a grey scum that it was only
from time to time that a crack appeared, out of which darted a glare so
bright that it was visible in the full sunshine, while a tremendous glow
struck upon their faces, making their eyes smart as they gazed at the
transparent quivering gas which rose up from the molten mass.

A stronger breeze was blowing here, bearing the heat away, otherwise it
would have been unbearable, and they made their way on the chaos of
cindery rock which lay about in blocks riven and split in every form,
some glazed by the glass of the mighty natural furnace, some of a clear
vesicular silvery grey, while a hundred yards or so distant and about
fifty lower than where they stood, the lake of molten matter lay about
circular and apparently half a mile across.  The rim of the gigantic cup
which from below had looked so regular was now seen to be broken into a
thousand cracks and crevices, some going right down through the greyish
ash and pumice nearly to the edge of the lake.

No one spoke, it was as if they were too much stricken by awe, as they
gazed at this outlet of the earth's inner fires, wondering at the way in
which solid rock was turned by the intensity of the heat into a fluid
which now in places they could see was in a state of ebullition, and
formed rings flowing away from the boiling centre like so much water.

Then, all at once, as if moved by the same set of nerves, they all
turned and fled, for without the slightest warning, a part of the lake
shot up some fifty feet in the air, like some great geyser, but instead
of boiling water it was fluid rock of dazzling brightness even in the
sunshine.  Then it fell with a sound of hideous splashing, and as they
turned to gaze back there was a little rising and falling, and then all
was still once more, and the surface rapidly scummed over and grew
silvery and dull.

"I wouldn't have missed this for anything," cried Panton, breaking the
silence as they stood watching the lake, and then, amid many expressions
of wonder and awe at the grandness of the scene, they began to make
their way along the well-defined rim of the crater.  But slowly, for
inside there was not a level space, all being a chaos of riven and
scattered masses of slag, obsidian, and scoria, ragged, sharp and in
part glazed by the fluid rock.

"It aren't what I thought it would be, Mr Oliver Lane, sir," said
Smith, scraping the perspiration from his face with a thin piece of the
obsidian which he had picked up, while Wriggs followed his example for a
few moments and then threw his piece down.

"What did you expect?" said Oliver.

"On'y a big hole, sir, running right down into the middle o' the world;
and I thought we should be able to see into the works."

"Works!  What works, man!" said Oliver, smiling.

"Why, them as makes the world turn round; for it do turn round, don't

"Of course, but not from any cause within."

"I say, Tommy, mind what yer at with that there bit o' stuff," growled


"It's sharp as ragers.  I've cut my cheek."

"Sarve yer right for being so clumsy.  You should use it like this

"Well, I did, matey."

"I'm blest!" cried Smith, throwing down the piece of volcanic glass, and
dabbing at his nose, whose side was bleeding slightly.

"Cut yoursen?"

"Ay: didn't know it was so sharp as that."

Wriggs chuckled heartily, and the little party moved on as well as they
could for the great fissures about the rim, some of which went down into
profound depths, from whence rose up strange hissings and whisperings of
escaping gases, and breathings of intensely hot air.

There was so much to see, that they would willingly have gone on trying
to follow the edge all round, but before long they had warnings that the
whole of one side was impassable from the vapours rising from the
various fuming rifts, and that it would be madness to proceed; and at
last as Panton was pressing his friends to persevere for a few yards
farther, they had what Smith called "notice to quit," in a change of the
wind that wafted a scorching heat toward them, which, had they not fled
over the side and down the outer slope for a short distance, would have
proved fatal.

It was only temporary, though, for the fresh cool air came again, and
they stopped, hesitating about returning.

"We ought to have thought of it sooner," said Panton.

"Never mind, I'll climb back to yonder," said Oliver, pointing.  "That
seems to be the highest point.  Come with me, Smith," and he began to
climb the ascent once more, closely followed by the sailor.

"Whatcher going to do, sir?" cried the man, as Oliver took out what
seemed to be a good-sized gold watch.

"You'll soon see," replied Oliver, as he toiled upward.

"But can't yer see what's o'clock down where they is, sir, just as well
as up yonder?"

Oliver laughed, and kept on making for a conical rock needle, evidently
the remaining portion of a mass of the crater edge when it was fifty
feet or so higher, and being wider had remained, when other portions
were blasted away by the terrific explosions which had occurred.

"Yer not going to climb up atop there, are yer, sir?" said Smith.

"Yes, you stay below," said Oliver.  Finding that, as he had expected,
it was an intensely hard miniature mountain of vitrified scoria, and
tolerably easy of ascent, he began to climb.

"He aren't my orsifer," muttered Smith, "and I shan't stop back.  I
should look well if he had an accident.  So here goes."

As Oliver mounted, he climbed after him, till they stood together, right
on the conical pinnacle, with only just room for them to remain erect,
the great boiling crater below on one side, the glorious view of the
fairy-like isle, with its ring of foam around, and the vivid blue
lagoon, circling the emerald green of the coast.  There it all was
stretched out with glorious clearness, and so exquisite, that for a few
moments Oliver was entranced.

Then the fairy-like vision became commonplace, and Oliver started back
to everyday life, for Smith said gruffly,--

"Better see what's o'clock, and come down, sir, for that there big pot's
a-going to boil over again."

Even as he spoke there was a roar, a great gush upward of fiery fluid,
and a sensation of intense heat, while the pinnacle upon which they
stood literally rocked and threatened to fall.

"Quick! get down," said Oliver, taking out the watch-like object once
more, glancing at it, and then replacing it in his vest.

"Comin' too, sir?"

"Yes, all right; five thousand nine hundred feet."

Smith stared, but went on descending, followed by Oliver, while the glow
shed upon them was for a few moments unbearable.  Then the huge fountain
of molten rock ceased playing, the glow scorched them no longer, and
they scrambled and slid down in safety to where their friends were
waiting, and commenced their descent after taking their bearings as well
as they could.

"What did you make it?"

"Just over five thousand nine hundred."

"And we've got nearly all that distance to go down," said Drew.  "I'm
tired already."

But there was no help for it, and they toiled on down among the crevices
in safety, and finally reached the brig, but not till close upon
midnight, rejoicing, in spite of their weariness, upon a great feat

"But it caps me, that it do," said Smith in the forecastle.

"What does?"

"Why, for that Mr Oliver Lane.  I knows as we say they gents has got
tools for everything, but I never knowed as there was watches made as
could tell yer the time and how high up yer are all at once.  Well,
there is, and I see it all, and it's quite right.  I mean to have one of
them watches, and I asked Mr Oliver Lane about 'em.  He says you can
buy 'em in London for thrippenten apiece, and I think he says as they
was made by a woman, Mrs Annie Royd, but I aren't quite sure."

"But yer can't afford to give thrippenten for one of they things,"
growled Wriggs.

"How do you know, matey?  Mebbe I can, my lad."

"What yer want it for?"

"See how high yer are up when yer climbs mountains.  I mean to say it
would be grand."

"Ah, well, I don't want one o' them," said Wriggs, thoughtfully.

"What do you want, then?"

"One o' them things as yer looks through into a drop a' water and sees
as what yer drinks is all alive."

"Not you," said Smith, contemptuously; "what you wants is plenty more
water in big tanks in our hold, and if I was Mr Rimmer, cap'en of this
here ship, I should make some, and keep 'em full."

"What for?  Swimmin' baths?"

"Swimmin' great-grandmothers," growled Smith, contemptuously.  "No, my
lad, I've got a sort o' sentiment as one o' these days the niggers'll
come and catch us on the hop, and if so be as they do, and we keep 'em
from gettin' in here, do you know what it'll be?"

"Stickin' knives and harrers in us, if they can."

"No," said Smith, laying his hand upon his companion's shoulder and
placing his lips to his ear, with the result that Wriggs started away
with his face looking of an unpleasant clay colour.

"Think so, mate?" he gasped.

"Ay, that I do, Billy.  They will as sure as a gun."  Oddly enough, just
about the same time as the two sailors were holding this conversation, a
chat was going on in the cabin respecting the lugger and how to get her
launched.  Like Smith, the mate seemed to be suffering from a
"sentiment," and he was talking very seriously.

"I did not see it before," he said, "but it all shows what noodles we
are when we think ourselves most clever."

"Interpret," said Panton; "your words are too obscure."

"I mean about the lugger," said the mate.  "I went well all over it in
my mind before I began her, and saw that it would be much easier to
build her here where everything was handy than to carry the materials
down to the edge of the lagoon."

"Of course," said Oliver.  "That would have been very awkward, for the
men would have had to go to and fro morning and evening."

"But," said Panton, "a hut might have been run up for them to sleep in."

"Which means dividing a force already too weak.  If the blacks make
another serious attack upon us we shall have enough to do to hold our
own here together, without having part of us defending a flimsy hut,
which they would serve at once as they will us here if we don't take
very great care."

"Eh?  How?" said Oliver, startled by the mate's manner.

"Burn us out as sure as we're alive."



The idea was revived again by the mate.

"That's a pleasant way of looking at things," said Panton.

"Horrible!" exclaimed Drew, with a shiver.

"Yes, we've had enough of fire from the volcano," said Oliver, with a
glance in its direction, forgetting as he did that it was invisible from
their side of the mist.

"We have, gentlemen," said the mate, "but that will be their plan.  We
may beat them off times enough, but so sure as they set thoroughly to
work to burn us out, we're done for, sir."

"You think so?"

"No, I don't think.  We're as inflammable as can be, and they've only
got to bring plenty of dry, fierce, burning wood and pile it up, and
there we are as soon as they set light to it.  They can have a good
feast then."

"What?" cried Drew.

"Feast, sir.  There'll be plenty of roast men done to a turn."

"Don't!" cried Oliver.  "You give me quite a turn."

The discussion arose one morning some weeks after the ascent to the
crater, and when, after a tremendous amount of collecting, the three
naturalists had owned that it was getting on toward the time for helping
Mr Rimmer a little over the preparations for getting away from the

"Really, Mr Rimmer," Oliver said, "I am ashamed of my selfishness."

"Eh?  What have you been doing selfish, my dear sir?" was the reply.

"Thinking of nothing but my own pleasure."

"Pleasure, sir?  Why, I haven't seen you playing any games but a bit or
two of chess with Mr Panton."

"I mean in thinking of nothing else but my collecting."

"Why, that was your work, sir."

"It is a pleasure to me, and I have thought of nothing else."

"And quite right too, my lad.  You came out on purpose to make a
collection, didn't you?"

"Well, yes."

"And you've made a splendid one, sir.  I never saw such birds and
butterflies and beetles before, let along the snakes and things."

"Yes, I have been grandly successful," said Oliver; "certainly."

"And so have your friends.  You're satisfied, I hope, Mr Panton?"

"More than satisfied," cried that gentleman.  "I've a wonderful
collection of minerals, and I've picked up some grand facts on volcanic
and coral formation."

"Oh, yes," cried Drew.  "I'm satisfied, too.  I'm only afraid that
you'll have to build another boat to carry my specimens."

"All right, we'll build one if it's necessary, but we've got to tackle
this one first.  Everything's done that can be done before she's in the
water.  No likelihood of another earthquake wave, is there, sir?"

"There might be one at any time," said Panton; "but it might be five
hundred years."

"And it would be tiresome to wait as long as that, eh, sir?" said the
mate, with a droll twinkle of the eye.

"Yes, you'd better get her down to the sea first.  What do you mean to

"Begin to-morrow morning, gentlemen; and if you would be so good as to
let the birds and stones and flowers alone now, and help me till we get
the _Little Planet_ afloat, I should be obliged."

"You know we'll all do our best, Mr Rimmer," said Panton.  "You've
helped us whenever we have hinted at wanting a hand."

"Why, of course, sir, of course," said the mate, interrupting the
speaker.  "It's all right: turn for turn."

"But why not begin to-day?" said Oliver.

"To be sure," said the others.

"I didn't want to be hard upon you, gentlemen, and so I thought I'd give
you a day's notice, but if you would all tackle to at once, why, I
should be glad."

"Then as far as we're concerned," said Oliver, "the lugger's launched."

"Thank you, gentlemen, all of you," said the mate; and then drily, "but
I don't think we shall get her in the water to-day."

There was a hearty laugh at this, but they were all serious directly,
and the question of the launching was taken up.

"Two miles to the lagoon," said Oliver; "it's a long way."

"Yes, sir, but every foot we get her along, will be one less."

"Of course," said Oliver.  "And do you think your plans will work?"

"I hope so, sir.  We'll give them a good try first, before we start upon

They went down over the side and stood directly after examining the
lines of the well-made little vessel, which was about the size of a
Cornish fishing boat, and now that the greater part of the supports had
been knocked away, and she could be seen in all her regularity,
compliments were freely given to her builder and architect.

"Well, I'm not ashamed of her, gentlemen," said the mate.  "All I'm
afraid of is that we shall weaken her a bit in hauling her along over
the runners."

"Have you got your runners made?" said Drew.

"Have I got my runners made, sir?" said the mate with a chuckle.  "I've
got everything ready, grease and all for making 'em slippery, and under
her keel a bit of iron as smooth as if it had been polished.  Look

He pointed out the curve and finish of the keel, which was so contrived
that the vessel was quite on the balance, and a couple of men could
easily rock her up and down, while to keep her straight and prevent her
lopping over to one side or the other, an ingenious kind of outrigger
had been contrived out of a couple of yards, which rested on the ground,
and were kept there about four feet from the keel.  These two were well
pointed and curved up a little in front, and gave the lugger the
appearance of riding in a sledge-like cradle.

Moreover, a capstan had been rigged up, half a cable's length away, and
as soon as a rope had been attached to a hole low down close to the
keel, word was given, the capstan was manned, the sailors gave a cheer
as the stout cable secured low down beneath the lugger's bows gradually
tightened, strained, and stretched, quivering in the bright morning
sunshine, but the vessel did not move.  Then a halt was called while the
mate re-examined the well-greased runners, and then gave the word for
the men to ply their capstan bars once more.

But still she did not move, and a despairing look began to gather upon
the mate's brow, till Smith sidled up to Oliver and said,--

"I've jest whispered to Billy Wriggs to go round t'other side, sir,
along o' Mr Panton, and if you and me and Master Drew was to do the
same here, I dessay we could start her."

"Yes, what are you going to do?" asked Oliver.

"Just ketch hold here, sir, and we'll give her a bit of a rock.  Once
she's started, away she goes."

As the sailor spoke, he took hold of the yard rigged out on one side to
keep the lugger upright, the others did the same on the other side, and
as the cable was tightened once more with a jerk, which gave forth a
musical deep bass twang, Smith shouted, "All together!" and with his
companions, he began to give the hull a gentle rocking movement from
side to side.

Then a tremendous cheer arose, and as every man tugged and strained, the
vessel began to move, so little that it was almost imperceptible, and
Oliver's heart sank at the thought of two miles to go at that rate; but
in less than a minute, as she was rocked a little more, she gained
momentum, the men at the capstan strained and cheered, and away she
went, slowly and steadily, on and on the whole half cable's length.

"Now right up to the capstan," cried solemn, heavy-looking Wriggs; and
as she came to a stand, and the men took out their bars and began
cheering again in the glorious sunshine, with the coral rock and sand
reflecting the brilliant light, and the rapid tropic growth glowing in
its most vivid golden green, the rough sailor took off his straw hat,
dashed it down upon the ground, screwed up his face into the most severe
of frowns, folding his arms tightly across his chest, he gave a kind of
trot round to form a circle, and then turned into the middle, stopped
for a moment, gave three stamps and a nod to an imaginary fiddler, and
started off in the regular sailor's hornpipe, dancing lightly and well,
but as seriously as if his life depended upon the accuracy of his steps.

"Hooroar!  Brayvo, Billy!" yelled Smith, bending down and beginning to
keep time by giving a succession of ringing slaps on his right thigh,
and in an instant the whole crew joined in slapping and cheering, while
the mate and his passengers joined in the hearty laugh.

"Go it, lad!"  "Brayvo, Billy!"  "Lay it down, lad!" came in a rugged
chorus, and Wriggs danced on with wonderful skill and lightness, putting
in all the regular pulling and hauling business right to the very end,
which was achieved with the most intense solemnity of manner, amid
tremendous applause.

"Capstan!" he shouted as he stopped, and then he was the first to begin
loosening the piece of mechanism which had to be taken up and refixed
strongly with block and stay a whole cable's length, this time farther
on towards the sea.

"Slow work," said the mate, as he turned from superintending to wipe his
face and give his companions a nod full of satisfaction; "but we're half
a cable's length nearer the lagoon, and if we only did that every day,
we should get her afloat in time."

"It's grand," cried Oliver, whose face was streaming from his exertions.
"I feel quite hopeful now."

"Hopeful?  Yes," cried Panton.  "We shall do it."

"If we are not interrupted," said Drew.

"If we are," said the mate, "we must make a fight for it.  There's the
watch up in the top to give us warning, and the arms all lie ready.  At
the first alarm everyone will make for the brig's deck, and I daresay we
shall beat our visitors off."

"But when we get farther away?" said Drew.

"Don't let's meet troubles before they're half way," said the mate,
smiling.  "Perhaps the blacks may never come again.  Let's hope not."

"Amen," said Panton, and then everything was forgotten in the business
on hand, all trusting to the careful watch kept from the brig, and
working like slaves to get the capstan fixed to the bars driven in
between crevices in the bed rock, while stays were fixed to blocks of
coral, which lay here and there as they had been swept by the earthquake

The consequence was, that by noon, when the great heat had produced
exhaustion, the capstan had been moved three times, and, thanks to the
level ground, the lugger had glided steadily nearly as many cables'
lengths nearer the sea.

"Do it?" cried the mate, suddenly, as they sat resting and waiting till
the men had finished their mid-day meal.  "Of course we shall do it."

"Well," said Oliver, laughing, "no one said we shouldn't."

"No," said the mate, "but someone might have thought so."

"Why, you thought so yourself, Mr Rimmer," cried Panton, merrily.

"Yes, I suppose I have been a bit down-hearted about getting her to sea,
and it has made me slow over the finishing.  But after the way you
gentlemen have buckled to, it goes as easy as can be."

"How long do you reckon we shall be?" asked Drew.

"Getting her down, sir?  Well, I used to say to myself, if we can manage
it in two months I shall be satisfied, but I'm beginning to think about
one now."

"Why, we shall do it in a week," cried Oliver.

"A week?" cried the others.

"Well, why not?  If we go on as steadily this afternoon and evening as
we have this morning, we shall manage to get her along a quarter of a
mile, and that's an eighth part of the distance."

"We shall see," said the mate.  "We have had all plain sailing so far."

"Yes, but the men get every time more accustomed to the work," said
Drew, "and we ought to do more some days."

"Of course," said Panton.  "My anxiety is about the blacks."

Work was resumed then, and by dark they all had the satisfaction of
feeling that fully five hundred yards of the long portage had been got
over, and, as Oliver said, there was no reason whatever why they should
not get on quite as far day by day.

There were plenty of rejoicings there that night--"high jinks," Smith
called them--but by daylight next morning every man was in his place,
and the lugger began to move again.

And so matters went on day after day, in a regular, uneventful way.
There were tremblings of the earth beneath them, and now and then a
sharp cracking, tearing sound, as if some portion of the rocky bed below
was splitting suddenly open.

At times, too, a heavy report was heard from the direction of the
mountain, generally followed by the flight of birds, making in alarm for
the south, or the appearance of some little herd of deer, but these
matters, like the lurid glow which shone nightly in the clouds above the
volcano, had grown so familiar that they ceased to command much
attention, and the work went steadily on.

It had to be checked, though, from time to time, for there were
occasions when difficulties arose as to the proper fixing of the capstan
from the want of hold in the rock, or the failing of blocks to which
ropes could be secured, necessitating the driving down of crowbars into
some crack in the stone.

At these times, when Mr Rimmer knew almost at a glance that some hours
must elapse before the half-dozen for whom there was room to work would
complete their task, advantage was taken of the opportunity for a
hunting expedition in the nearest patch of forest, or for a party to go
down to the lagoon, cross it to the reef, and spend the time with better
or worse luck fishing with lines, or collecting the abundant molluscs
which formed a dainty addition to their food.

And at last, a month of exactly four weeks from the day they began, the
lugger stood up near to the end of the two-mile land voyage, close to
the sands, with the cocoa-nut grove beginning on either side, just at
the edge of the land which had not been swept by the earthquake wave.

That afternoon there was a desperate fight with the soft, yielding sand,
into which the well-worn bearers and blocks used under the lugger's keel
kept on sinking so deeply that it seemed as if fresh means must be
contrived for getting the boat quite to the water's edge.

"I'm about done," said Mr Rimmer, as he stood with a huge mallet in his
hand; "this sand gives way directly.  We shall have to get her back and
make for the cocoa-nut trees, but I doubt whether they will bear the
strain if we get a cable and blocks at work."

"But look here," said Oliver, "I'm not a sailor, but it seems to me--"

He stopped short, and Mr Rimmer looked at him smiling, but Oliver
remained silent.

"He thinks it would be a good plan to put some preserving soap on the
lugger," said Panton laughing.

"No, I don't," said Oliver, "but I was thinking that it would not be a
bad plan to drag the brig's anchor down here, and get it out in the
lagoon, and then fix up the capstan on board the lugger and work it

"No," said the mate, "it would drag her bows down and wedge her more

"I had not done," said Oliver.

"Well, what would you do then?" asked the mate.

"Dig a trench just a little wider than the keel, right away down to the
shore, and let the water in at high tide."

"It would all soak away."

"At first," said Oliver.  "After a time it would be half sand, half
water, and yielding enough to let the keel go through like a quicksand."

"He's right," cried Mr Rimmer, and the men set to work spending two
whole days digging what resembled a pretty good ditch in the sand, and
leading from the embedded keel right out nearly to the edge of the

While this was going on one of the brig's anchors was lowered down into
the dinghy and laid across a couple of pieces of wood, then, with a
couple of planks for the keel to run upon, each being taken up in turn
and laid end on to the other, the anchor was got right down to the
lagoon, dropped about fifty yards out after being attached to a cable,
another was knotted on to this, and again another to the last, and
carried through the lugger's bows to where the capstan was fixed.

At high tide the little remaining sand was rapidly dug away, and the
water began to flow in; the capstan was manned, and a burst of cheering
rose; for as fast as the bars could be worked and the cables in turn
coiled down, the new boat was drawn through the sand and out till she
was head over the anchor, with a clear foot below her keel.

"You'd better take command, Mr Lane," said the mate, shaking hands
warmly.  "I ought to have thought of that, but it was beyond me.  There
we are, then.  Now, all we have to do is to load her up with your
treasures and plenty of stores, and then make for some other island, and
from one to the other until we can get to a civilised port."

"Why not make another lugger, so as to have everything you can belonging
to the _Planet_?"

"And give you gentlemen more time to collect?"


"Well, I don't see why not," said the mate, thoughtfully.  "It grieves
me to have the good old vessel stranded here with no end of valuable
stuff in her; and now that we shall soon have the means of getting away
when we like, I think I might as well set the men to work at another."

"But you'll get the rigging and stores on board this one first," said

"Of course," replied the mate; "but there is another thing to think of,

The others looked at him inquiringly.

"When this boat is ready and properly laden, she cannot be left without
a crew on board."

"On account of the blacks," cried Oliver.  "No, it is impossible for her
to be left."



The question of building another craft remained in abeyance for a time,
all attention being given to the furnishing, the decking, rigging, and
other fittings of the _Little Planet_.  Then the cases of specimens were
got down and placed on board, Panton's first, for they took the place of
ballast.  Then all necessary stores and water were stowed away, with
compass, instruments, and everything ready for an immediate start.

"We shall be packed pretty close," said the mate; "but I propose that we
land whenever we have an opportunity, so that we shall not feel the
confinement quite so much."

"Then, now that all is right, we may go on collecting?"

"Yes," said the mate, "and I think instead of attempting to build
another it would be wiser to half-deck over our two best boats and store
them ready.  I can't help feeling that it will be safer, and that if we
try to save too much we may lose all."

This was finally settled, and a crew selected for the lugger under one
or other of the passengers, each taking the command for a week.

This went on for a month, when one day the mate said,--

"Look here, gentlemen, I want a holiday.  I've worked pretty hard, and I
think it's my turn to go on the new expedition.  What do you say?"

"It is only just," they chorussed.

"Then I propose taking the lugger and sailing round the island--as we
believe it to be--and then I shall learn something about the prowess of
our new craft and see how she can sail."

"That's quite right, Mr Rimmer," said Panton.  "Eh, Lane?"

"Of course; we have been horribly selfish in letting him keep on at work
for us while we have been taking our pleasure."

"Which again was work, gentlemen, work," replied the mate,
good-humouredly.  "But all the same, my dear fellows, there will not be
much pleasure in this trip.  I want to see whether our craft is
seaworthy before we are compelled to take to her in real earnest.  It
would be rather awkward if she began to open her seams as soon as any
strain was put upon her by the sails and a heavy sea.  Believe me, I
would not go if I didn't think it right."

"My dear Mr Rimmer," said Oliver, "do you think we do not know that?"

"But it's like leaving you all in the lurch."

"Nonsense," cried Panton; "we shall be all right.  How long will you be

"I can't say.  Two or three days.  Perhaps altogether."

"Eh?" cried Drew, in dismay.

"The _Little Planet_ may prove untrustworthy, and take me to the bottom,
gentlemen," said the mate, calmly.  "Who knows?"

"Suppose we don't make the worst of it," said Oliver.  "We know what a
sailor you are."

"Well, I grant that I am, gentlemen, and ought to be," replied the mate.
"I was brought up to the sea, but I never tried my hand at
ship-building before."

"Never mind, you've done wonders," cried Panton.  "When shall you

"To-morrow, about mid-day.  That will give me time to make a few
preparations.  Let's see, I must have some fighting tools and powder."

"Of course.  How many men will you take with you?"

"Three.  That will be enough to manage the sails.  I shall take the
helm.  You, gentlemen, will take command, of course, and see that the
watches are kept regularly."

Oliver nodded as much as to say, "you may trust us," and after a little
more discussion of the mate's plans, the three men were selected and
sent down to the boat to take the places of two men who were in charge.

They sat for long enough in the cabin that night, looking out through
the open window at the lightning flickering about the volcano cloud, and
the fire-flies flitting about the nearest patch of green growth, while
every now and then a faint passing quiver told that the action below was
still going on, though its violence seemed to be past, and the
disturbance gradually dying out, perhaps to wait for years before
another outbreak.  There was a feeling akin to sadness as they sat
talking, for they had all grown so intimate that the parting on the
morrow promised to be painful.  But the mate saw how they were all
affected, and tried hard to cheer them up, rising at last to take a
final look round before they retired for the night.

Oliver's sleep was terribly disturbed.  He dreamed that the blacks had
come with no ordinary weapons, but each bearing a bundle of dry wood
which they piled-up round the brig and set on fire, and as the flames
flashed in his eyes he started up in bed to see that the cabin was
vividly illuminated, but only for a moment or two at a time, and he knew
that it was from the electricity which played about the mountain top.

He was glad enough when daylight came, and after a bathe in the spring
where the bitter water was just comfortably hot, he felt refreshed and
took upon himself the duty of sending off the rifles, guns, and
ammunition, which would be needed on the voyage.

These were entrusted to Smith to carry down to the lagoon and put on
board, and at last the hour arrived for the mate to start, Panton being
left for that day in command at the brig, while Oliver and Drew started,
gun on shoulder, to see Mr Rimmer off.

Very little was said during the walk, and the young men's spirits sank
low when they reached the coral sands where the lugger, with sails all
ready for hoisting, lay on the pleasantly rippled blue lagoon.

"Capital," cried Mr Rimmer.  "Just wind enough to take us well out
through the opening in the reef."

As he spoke he waved his hand, the dinghy put off from the lugger, and a
man rowed to the shore.

"Good-bye," cried the mate, quickly.  "Only a pleasant trip, my dear
sirs.  I'll soon be back.  Shove off."

"It is to avoid showing that he is nervous about his voyage," said
Oliver as the man obeyed, and the little boat skimmed away toward where
the lugger lay hanging on to a buoy, formed of a little keg anchored to
a huge block of coral in the deepest part, by a great noose which had
been cleverly dropped around the rock.  And then as they stood leaning
upon their guns, the dinghy reached the lugger and was made fast, the
mooring rope was cast off and the men began to hoist the first sail,
when Drew suddenly uttered a cry of horror.

"What's the matter?" exclaimed Oliver.

"Look! look!" was the reply.

Oliver already saw.  A great war canoe was being paddled down the lagoon
from the north, another was approaching from the south, and from out of
the haze made by the booming breakers, a third came on toward the
opening through which the mate had arranged to pass to the sea.

The two young men stood paralysed for a few moments, before Oliver
raised his gun to give a signal of alarm.

But he lowered it into the hollow of his arm, as he felt that it was
unnecessary, for the mate must see.

"Look," cried Drew.  "He's coming back to take his luck with us," as
they saw that the canoes were being paddled rapidly to lay their crews
on board.  For the sail hoisted had filled, and the second was being
raised while the mate at the helm was steering the lugger as if to bring
her close to where the young men stood.

"That's right, come ashore, we'll cover you," roared Oliver, and then he
uttered a groan, for the lugger curved round when close to them, and
then rushed through the water toward the opening in the reef.

Oliver's heart sank.

"Discretion's the better part of valour," he muttered, "he's going to
leave us all in the lurch."



These were harsh and cruel words to use respecting the man who had shown
so much true manliness of disposition; but there are times when we all
show what a great deal of the imperfect there is in our natures, and
this was one of those times with Oliver, who, judging by the mate's
acts, formed the conclusion that, seeing their case was desperate, and a
way out to save his own life, he had, in sudden panic, fled.

"Seems like it," said Drew, sadly.  "But quick, lie down.  No, let's get
behind here."

The need of concealment was pressing, for they were standing out upon
the open sands, and, with a feeling of despair and misery attacking him,
Oliver followed his companion to where some huge fragments of madrepore
coral lay a few yards from the water's edge, affording them a place
where they could hide, and, at the same time, observe what was going on
out in the lagoon, where matters were growing exciting.

"Better have come back and fought it out with us," said Drew, bitterly,
as they saw that the blacks were straining every effort to cut off the
lugger before it reached the gap in the barrier reef; while, evidently
seeing the situation of affairs, those who were in the canoe outside
were, like the occupants of the lugger, though from a different side,
rapidly approaching the opening.

"They'll cut him off before he reaches it," said Oliver, excitedly.
"Can we do anything to help him?"

"No, nothing, we are too far-off," said Drew, sadly.  "How could he be
so foolish?"

"And why don't he give up the helm to one of the men?  Either of them
could steer; and he could throw the blacks into confusion by firing a
few shots."

But after a little show of excitement on board, Mr Rimmer stayed by the
helm; while the two canoes, from north and south, with some twenty
paddles on each side, made the blue water flash like diamonds, as they
threw it up with their spoon-shaped implements, sending their canoes
along at a tremendous rate.

"They'll cut him off, they'll cut him off," cried Oliver, excitedly.
"Oh, why don't he fire at them?"

He paused breathless, watching the exciting scene of the lugger
careening over, as she raced through the water.

"My word, she sails well," said Drew.

"Splendidly," cried Oliver.  "But don't, don't talk about the boat.
Look at poor Rimmer, he stands up there as if brave as a lion.  I wish I
hadn't said that about him, and yet it's true enough, he's running away
like a cur.  But it's no good, my friend, they're too much for you;
they'll cut in just before you get to the opening, and be aboard of you
like a swarm of wasps.  Oh, Drew! it's horrible!"

"And all our specimens, the work of months, gone."

"Hang the specimens!" cried Oliver.  "I'd give a hundred times as many
to be on the lugger now with our guns.  A few good shots, and we could
save him."

"Yes.  Shall we fire now?"

"Pooh!  Shall we throw a few handfuls of sand into the water, or two or
three stones?  Look! there they go; they're going to drive their prows
right into her, one on each side, and with their length, speed, and
weight, they'll crush in her planks like a matchwood box.  I can't bear,
to see it.  It's horrible."

"I can't; but I must look," cried Drew, piteously.

"Yes, we must look and see the worst," groaned Oliver.  Then stamping
his foot: "Why are we not there to help him?"

He ceased speaking, and stood leaning forward, with his eyes just above
the edge of the rock, gazing, fascinated by the scene before him.  There
were the four vessels all clear in the brilliant sunshine, three of them
with their prows aimed straight at the fourth, which appeared to be
doomed as it glided along with its sails well filled, rushing now for
the opening before it, and the sea.

Closer and closer the canoes on either side, gliding along, with their
dark sides flecked with silver, and their black crews toiling on with
wondrous exactitude, on and on with increasing speed, while the third
canoe slackened, and suddenly was thrown right across the opening, as if
to block the gateway leading to freedom.  On either side the huge
breakers glided in softly, and then, as they reached the reef; rose,
curled over, glistening with green, blue, and gold, as they hung for a
moment or two on high, and then crashed down into sparkling gems, from
which diamond dust seemed to rise in a soft vapoury cloud.

But still the collision did not come.  The distance was greater than the
watchers had allowed for, and in those exciting moments time seemed to
be long-drawn-out.

"Now it's coming," cried Oliver, at last.  "Good-bye, Rimmer, I liked
you, after all.  Ah!"

His last ejaculation was quite a wild exciting cry, for the distance
between the prows of the two canoes, and the sides of the lugger grew
less and less, and then they seemed to strike and go right through her,
while imagination painted her crew struggling in the water, to be
pierced through and through by the spears of the savages.

"Hurrah!" shouted Drew suddenly, and a film of mist which had been
blurring Oliver Lane's eyes, suddenly cleared away, for though the two
prows had seemed to go through the lugger, there she was still racing on
for the gap, while the two canoes partly crossed behind her stern after
she had dashed between them, and their occupants were curving round to
go in chase, crossing and taking up their positions on either side

"Escaped for the moment, but it's all over," cried Oliver, "they'll take
her now, she can't get away.  Look, what is Rimmer going to do?  Oh, it
is madness."

Madness or no, the mate's decision was plain enough to them now, and it
was evident that he had some faith in the strength of his boat, for
onward she was rushing straight for the side of the great sixty-foot
long canoe which blocked the way.  One minute the watchers saw her rise
up on one of the rollers that came pouring through the opening, the next
she was nearly lost to sight, but only to rise again upon another, being
suspended in equilibrium for a few moments and then careening over, she
dashed down a slope of water, right on to, and as it were, over the long
narrow canoe and then off and away to sea.

Oliver Lane could hardly believe it for the moment, but it was all true
enough, there was the _Little Planet_ sailing away, while through the
opening in the reef the great canoe floated bottom upwards, and the
white foamy water was seen to be dotted with black heads, whose owners
were swimming for the wreck of their vessel, or to the two canoes which
approached them.

"Three cheers for Rimmer," cried Drew, excitedly.

"A hundred if he had played fair," said Oliver, sadly.  "But there it
is.  You see: he _has_ left us in the lurch."

"Well, yes, I suppose so.  It was very plucky, though, and
self-preservation is the first law of nature."

"And the last exception in civilisation," said Oliver, bitterly.

"Perhaps so, but I hope he'll get our specimens safe to England."

"And I wish he had shown himself a better man."

"No time for discussion," said Drew, quietly, as he watched the canoes.
"They're picking up all their wet ones.  My word, how the beggars can
swim.  Now, then, what have we got to do?"

"Make for the cocoa-nut grove in order to be under cover, and then keep
along under the trees for the brig, so as to give the alarm."

"Yes, they won't be long, I suppose, before they come ashore.  Will you
lead, or shall I?"

"Go on," said Oliver.  "Better crawl right on your breast, or we shall
be seen."

"As we most likely shall be, whether or no."

"Never mind, off!"

Drew dropped flat upon the sand, and, dragging his gun after him, began
to crawl as fast as he could towards the cocoa-nut grove where the boat
was hidden, and fortunately the distance was only short, for the sun
beat down with tremendous force and the glistening coral sand was
already growing very hot.

"I was never meant for a snake," said Drew, as he painfully dragged
himself along.  "Ugh, you little wretch!" he cried, and thrusting
forward his gun, he passed the muzzle under a little short thick viper,
which lay basking just in his way, sent it flying, pitchfork fashion.

"Poisonous," said Oliver, who noted where the flat, spade headed little
serpent fell.  "Looks wonderfully like an asp, such as they have in
Egypt.  Go on faster."

"Can't," grumbled Drew, but he did exert himself, and soon after rose
with a sigh of relief, well hidden by the grove of trees.

"No, no," cried Oliver.  "Never mind the canoes.  Rimmer's all right
now.  Why, Drew!"


"Smith must have been in the lugger and gone off with him."


"Yes, he took down the guns and ammunition.  We've lost our best man."

They had plenty of opportunity now for keeping under cover, the trees
having rapidly sent out young shoots along the edge of the forest where
they could, since the passing of the earthquake wave, enjoy plenty of
sunshine, and hurrying forward, the pair were not long in catching sight
of the masts of the brig.

"Keep up," said Oliver suddenly, for soon after they had reached to
within sight of home Drew had suddenly stopped short.  "What's the

"Don't you see?" was the answer.  "Quick, keep well under cover."

"What for?"

"Look at the mainmast!  There's a danger signal flying."

"Then they have caught sight of the blacks coming on in the distance,
and it is a warning to us to look sharp."

"It's a warning to us to keep off," cried Drew, excitedly; "and there
goes another."

Oliver started, and his heart sank, for he saw that at which his
companion pointed--a puff of white smoke fired from the foretop, and
directly after there was a dull report.

"Look! look!" he too cried, now excitedly, as he pointed between the
leaves, for, not half a mile away, and pretty close to the brig, black
figures were visible, first two or three, then more and more.

"Got here before us," said Drew in a despairing tone.

"No, some more of the black scoundrels must have landed on the other
side of the island."



"Lane, old chap," said Drew, "can't Panton turn on the fireworks?"

"What do you mean?"

"Poke up the volcano and get up a good eruption, so as to sweep these
wretches away."

"He seems to have already done it," said Oliver, bitterly.  "Haven't you
noticed that the ground has been all of a quiver for long enough?"

"No, too much worried over getting away.  I wish a good blow up would

"As bad for us as for the blacks, man.  But what are we to do?"

"I don't know.  What do you say to keeping on along the edge till we are
opposite to the brig, and then making a rush as you did before?"

"Seems our only chance."

"Or wait till dusk and then try?"

"No, they want our help at the brig as badly as we want theirs.  I think
we had better creep on slowly.  If we are seen, we must let the enemy
come close, and then give them four barrels and rush.  They'll cover us
from the brig."

The plan was decided upon, and keeping along the edge of the forest,
they went cautiously on, sensible now that the tremulous motion of the
earth was on the increase, while in addition there came a short sharp
report from the mountain.

"Won't this scare the niggers?" said Drew as they stopped to

"It doesn't seem to," replied Oliver, as they peered between the trunks
of some newly-sprung-up palms.  "They're taking it coolly enough."

The blacks were in fact walking about, now gazing toward the brig, now
along the opening toward the sea.

"Why, I know," cried Drew; "they're waiting for their friends whom we
saw.  When they come there'll be a general attack."

Oliver was silent for a few moments, as he stood watching the movements
of the blacks.

"That's it," he said at last.  "Then our plan is to get to the brig at

He led on now till they were as near as they could get, and as they
stood in the dark shadow of the forest the question was, had the enemy
sense enough to invest the vessel and plant sentries all round?  If they
had, the difficulties were greatly increased; and to solve this problem,
Oliver made his companion wait, sheltered by a great tree, while he
crept right to the edge to investigate.

"You'll come back?" said Drew.

"I will if I am left alive," said Oliver, quietly, and then he turned
his head and was in the act of drawing out his little glass to watch the
actions of a couple of sun-birds playing merrily about in a narrow sunny
beam of light, but he checked himself; half-laughing the while.  "Use is
second nature," he said, and, leaving his gun with Drew, he went down on
hands and knees and crept cautiously along, dislodging beetles, lizards,
and more natural history specimens in a few yards than he would in an
ordinary way in a day.

In a few minutes he was at the extremity of and beneath a great bough,
with the brilliant sunshine before him, the darkness of the forest
behind.  There, in front, rising above the low growth and a quarter of a
mile away, was the brig, with the look-out in the top and a head showing
here and there, one of which he made out by his glass to be Panton's,
while it was evident enough that they were well on the _qui vive_.

To Oliver's great joy there was not a black in sight on his side, though
plainly enough beyond the vessel, they were hanging about in groups and
all well armed.

As he lay there, sweeping the various objects with his glass, partly for
signs of danger, partly for places of shelter to which they could creep,
going from one to the other till they were near enough to make a rush
for the brig, he marked down quite a series.  There, a short distance
their side of the brig, were the heaps of wood rejected in the making of
the lugger; a little nearer a shed-like construction of bamboo and palm
leaves, erected to shelter the men who were adzing and planing the
planks.  Then, nearer still, there was a high tuft of newly-grown-up
grass.  Again, nearer, a hollow, once full of fish, but long since dried
up, and, nearer still, a freshly-grown clump of bamboos.

"If we can crawl to that unseen, we're all right, and we must risk it at
once," said Oliver to himself, and then his heart seemed to stand still
and a horrible feeling of despair came over him, for he suddenly made
out a slight movement and jerking amongst the bamboo stems, and, fixing
his glass upon the spot, there, plainly enough, were the soles of a
man's feet--a scout evidently, lying extended there, watching the brig.

Oliver swept the bamboos on both sides for others of the enemy, but all
was so still and the space was so small that he came to the conclusion
at last that there was only one foe concealed there, and with pulses
beginning to throb now from the exciting thought which came upon him, he
backed slowly and silently away and made haste to rejoin Drew.

"Well?" said the latter, excitedly.

"Hist!  Sound travels," whispered Oliver, and he hurriedly told all that
he had seen.

"The brute!" said Drew.  "He is, then, between us and safety."


"Well," said Drew, sternly, "I would hurt no man if I could help it, but
that black would not hesitate to kill us and our friends, and in
addition to saving our own lives, we may perhaps help to save those of
the others.  Lane, old fellow, do you think we could creep up behind and
stun the wretch?"

"That was the idea that came to me," said Oliver, hurriedly.  "I don't
want to, but we must."

"Yes," said Drew, firmly, "we must."

"And at once."

"Come on, then," said Drew.  "No firing; the butts of our pieces."

Oliver nodded with his brow all in wrinkles, and directly after they
crept to the spot from which Oliver had caught sight of the feet among
the bamboos, and once more, lying flat down, he examined the edge
nearest to him, and then handed the glass to Drew, who scanned the spot

"Strange how the insides of the palms of a black's hands and the soles
of his feet grow to be nearly white," whispered Oliver, whose natural
history propensities always came to the front, even in times of peril.

"Yes," said Drew, returning the glass, "and I only wish their hearts
would wear white, too--the murderous wretches.  Ready?"

"Yes, both together, and when we are sheltered by the bamboos from the
blacks we must rise, take a few quick steps forward together and club
the wretch."

"Exactly.  No one can see what we do for the canes, and all we want to
do is to stun him."


The next minute they were creeping silently and cautiously over the
sand, keeping their heads well down and gradually nearing the feet,
which, even as they grew closer, remained the only portions of their
enemy's body visible.  Every moment they expected to see him take the
alarm, and if he did, and attacked them, they would club him if they
could, but it was fully expected that he would take flight, and in that
case, they determined to follow rapidly, and take their chance of
getting on board.

But the man was so intent upon his duty of watching the brig, that he
did not hear; and as they came on and on there were the toes twitching
and jerking about uneasily, and the bamboos amongst which he lay gently

Twenty yards, ten yards, five yards, and now brig and savages were
hidden by the giant grass.  Oliver turned to Drew, whose face was deadly
pale, and their eyes met.  Then together they rose, bending in a sloping
position, held their guns by the barrels, and, keeping step, advanced
foot by foot, raising their pieces as they nearly reached the tall
greeny stems and then paused and hesitated, for the same question was
mentally asked by both,--

"How can we reach to strike this man on the head when we are standing
close to his feet?"

The same idea came again to both: "We must strike twice."

Then a second plan occurred to Oliver, and making a sign to Drew that he
should deliver the blow, he softly laid down his gun and reached forward
to seize one ankle, and suddenly drag the man back.

Drew took a fresh hold of the barrel of his piece, and raised the butt
to strike, as Oliver's hands hovered within a few inches of the man's

"I shall have to charnsh it, that I shall!"

The two young men stood as if paralysed, and it was some moments before
Oliver could whisper huskily,--


The feet were snatched out of sight in an instant, there was a loud
rustling, and then a face was thrust out of the bamboos above where the
man's feet had been, and just as a bellowing roar came from the mountain
and the earth trembled beneath their feet.

"Why, gentlemen; you?" whispered Smith, for it was indeed he.

"Yes: we thought you were on board the lugger, and nearly killed you."

"Then that was a narrow squeak, gentlemen.  And I've been thinking as I
was going to be baked instead.  I was on my way with the guns, when I
ketches sight of a drove of these here ugly black pigs, and they chevied
me, but, fortunately, I'd got a good start, and run in among the trees,
where, somehow or other, they couldn't find me, and at last they give it
up, and here have I been tryin' to crawl within reach of the brig, so as
to make a run for it, and get aboard."

"Our plan, too, Smith.  We were on our way," said Oliver, "when we saw
your toes."

"And I was going to kill you for a savage, when you spoke," whispered

"Then I'm glad I did speak, sir.  My old dad used to say it was a bad
habit to think aloud, but it don't seem to be so arter all."

"We can't do better than creep on," said Drew.

"Yes, and now's our time," said Oliver, excitedly, for a loud shouting
was heard, and on peering through the waving bamboos, they could see a
party of about a hundred of the blacks coming down from the sea, while
those who were on the other side of the brig started off running to meet

"Quick, all together!" cried Oliver, and flat on their faces, and
crawling whenever there was no cover, the three began to make their way
toward the vessel, reaching patch after patch of bush unseen in the
excitement--the blacks' attention being so much taken off--till the
shed, and then the heaps of wood were reached.

"Now for it!" whispered Oliver.  "Jump up and run!"

His order was obeyed, and their sudden appearance was as startling to
Panton, and the crew of the _Planet_, as to the blacks who were now a
couple of hundred yards on the other side, but who now ran back, yelling

"Quick, ropes, and haul us up!" shouted Oliver, and a terribly long
space of time elapsed, or seemed to, before three ropes were cast over
the bulwarks, and seized.

"Haul away!" roared Smith, "or they'll have us, lads!" and it was a very
close shave, for, as they were run up, the savages reached the brig's
side, and seizing the ropes, began to drag, expecting to pull the
fugitives down.

But by this time they had seized the bulwarks, and as a spear and club
were thrown, swung themselves over on to the deck, to help in a kind of
game of French and English, ending by their jerking the ropes out of the
blacks' hands, and sending them to the right about, with a volley from
the ready guns.

"My dear boys," cried Panton, wringing his friends' hands as soon as he
was at liberty.  "I was afraid I was left in the lurch."

"Why?" said Oliver.

"No, no, I mean that you were all killed.  Where's Mr Rimmer?--don't
say he's dead."

"I would almost rather have to say so," said Oliver, "for he seems to
have forsaken us."


"Yes; in the lugger, and run for it."

"To get help, or come back in the dark to help us."

"That's what I want to think," said Oliver, "but it is so hard to do so,
after what I have seen."

"Never mind that now," cried Panton, excitedly.  "The niggers are
reinforced--so are we, though, thank goodness--and before long they'll
make a big attack.  We've had two or three little ones, with no
particular luck on either side.  Ready to fight?"

"Of course."

"Then take a station, and mind this, we can't afford to show mercy.
It's war to the knife, our lives or theirs."

They soon had abundant evidence that this was to be the case, for before
they had much time to think, there was a loud yelling and the brig was
surrounded by a gesticulating mob of savages, who advanced, sending
their arrows sharply against the sides of the vessel, shaking their war
clubs, and making fierce darts with their spears wherever they imagined
a white to be crouched.

This went on for an hour or two, and as no real danger threatened so
long as they did not attempt to scale the sides, the firing was
withheld, and Panton and his lieutenant, Oliver Lane, contented
themselves with finishing the elaborate arrangements made against attack
by the mate with a plan or two of their own, which consisted in filling
some small preserved fish tins with powder, adding a piece of fuse, and
keeping them ready for lighting when the right moment came.

It came long before evening, for at last, satisfied that they would not
be able to frighten the defenders of the brig into a surrender, the
blacks made a furious attack, crowding to one side more especially, and
trying to scale the bulwarks.

And now, as the arrows came in a shower over the attacking party's
heads, firing became general, and watching their opportunity just as
matters were getting very critical, the place of every man shot down
being taken by a dozen more, Oliver and Panton both held the ends of the
fuses they had prepared to the candle in a lantern.  They saw that they
were well alight, and then, as calmly as if there were no danger
whatever of the contents exploding, bore them to the side, with the men
shrinking away, and cast them over, right into the most crowded part of
the attack.

A fierce yelling followed, and in place of running away, the poor
ignorant wretches crowded round these strange-looking missiles which had
been sent into their midst.

The next minute there was a terrific roar, followed almost directly by
another which seemed to shake the ship, and then a complete stampede,
the blacks who were uninjured helping their wounded comrades off to the
shelter of the forest, and leaving many dead behind.

"Saved!" cried Panton.  "They won't face that again."

"Yes, they will," said Oliver sadly.  "Depend upon it, this is only a
temporary scare."

"Then we'll get ready some more for them.  I'm growing bloodthirsty now,
and we'll defend the brig to the last."

The men cheered at this, and watched with interest the making of fresh
shells, but the afternoon wore on and evening came without a sign of a
black, and at last hopes began to be entertained that the enemy had
fled, so they all partook of a hearty meal.

"It's the darkness I dread," said Oliver, soon after sundown, as he and
his friends stood together watching all around, and now and then
mistaking shadows for coming enemies.

It must have been two hours after dark, though, before there was any
fresh cause for alarm, and it arrived just as Panton had confidentially

"Some of us may sleep, for there'll be no attack to-night."

"Beg pardon, Mr Oliver Lane, sir," said a voice at their elbow.

"Yes, what is it?"

"Billy Wriggs, sir.  Ever since he had that swim in the black cavern,
his hyes has been like your little glasses.  Here, Billy, tell the gents
just what you says you see."

"'Undred niggers a crawlin' along like harnts, sir, each one with a big
faggit on his back, and if they arn't a comin' to burn us out, I'm a



It was the terrible danger foretold by the mate, and dreaded by Oliver,
coming when Mr Rimmer was away with his men, and unable to help his

For the sailor's eyes, long trained to watching through the darkness,
had told the truth, there were the blacks slowly advancing, armed with
those simple but deadly weapons, bundles of the most inflammable
materials they could cut in the forest.  There they came, stealing along
in a line, crawling like insects toward the bows of the ship, with all a
savage's cunning, for they were pointed toward the west, whence the
night breeze now blew strongly, and in utter silence first one and then
another thrust his load close against the vessel and passed on into the

For a few minutes, the besieged gazed down over their breastwork of
planking bewildered by the danger.  They might have fired and shot many
of their assailants, but they knew that would not save them, for the
whole party kept persistently piling up the faggots, and though Oliver
and his friends did not know it, passing round the brig to go back
straight from the stern to the spot whence they had issued from the
forest to fetch more faggots, so that there were soon two lines, one
coming laden toward the bows, the other returning from the stern.

"Buckets," said Oliver, suddenly.  "Form lines to the water tanks."

The men leaped with alacrity to the task, and in a very short time the
buckets were being filled and passed along to where Smith and Wriggs
bravely mounted on to the bowsprit and poured the water down upon the
increasing heap.

"Give it a good souse round, Billy," said Smith, "and wet all yer can."

"Ay, ay," was the reply, and _splash, splash_ went the water, as the
buckets were passed up and returned empty, producing a great deal of
whispering from below, but no missiles were sent up, and the blacks
worked on with the advantage that their supply was inexhaustible, while
that of the unfortunate defenders was failing fast.

"Water's done," cried Drew, suddenly, "only a few more buckets."

"Save them, then," said Panton, sharply.

"Yes," said Oliver, "Now, then, Panton, try one of your shells to blow
the heap of faggots away."

"Good," cried Panton, and he ran to get one of the powder-filled tins
just as a couple of fire-flies of a different kind were seen to be
gliding toward the vessel from the nearest point in the forest.

"No," said Oliver, addressing Smith, who had not spoken, but after
hurling down the last bucket of water had seized his gun once more.
"Those are not fire-flies but fire sticks."

"Yes, sir, they're a-goin' to light us up, so that we can see to shoot
some of the beggars, for up to now, it would ha' been like aiming at
shadders.  Is it begin, sir?"

"No, wait till Mr Panton has thrown down the powder."

Smith drew a long breath, and just as the two bright points of light
disappeared under the faggot heap, piled now right up among the tarry
stays beneath the bowsprit, Panton came up with his lighted fuse.

"Now," he said, "down by the side or right atop?"

"Down beside it, or it will do more harm to us than to them."

"Here goes," said Panton, and steadily giving the fuse a good puff which
lit up his face, he pitched the shell gently, so that it should roll
down beyond the faggots, and they watched it as it went down and down
with the fuse hissing and sputtering as it burned.

"Now, then," cried Oliver, "down: everyone flat on the deck."

"No go," said Panton sharply.  "I heard the fuse hiss: it fell right in
the water beneath."

At that moment one of the dry, freshly-thrown faggots, of those the
blacks kept on steadily piling up, began to blaze, then to crackle and
roar, and directly after a blinding, pungent smoke arose, and set dead
on the bows and over the deck, driving the defenders away.

The next minute the pile was hissing and roaring with increasing fury,
and, as the surroundings were illumined, the blacks could be seen
running now, each with his faggot, which he threw on to the heap, where
the fire grew fiercer and fiercer, and licked up the water which clung
to the lower layer, as if it had been so much oil.

"The powder, the powder!" yelled Wriggs.

"It's of no use, my man," cried Oliver, "it would only increase the

"Hadn't we better shoot some of the beggars down, sir?" said Smith.

"What would be the good?" replied Oliver.  "Even if we killed a dozen or
two we should be no better off.  Now, every man be ready with his gun,
in case they try to swarm on deck."

He motioned his devoted band a little back, for Panton somehow resigned
everything into his hands now, and there by the bright light they drew
away aft, facing outward, ready for their first assailant.

But attack now seemed to be far from the intentions of the enemy; they
had delivered their assault, and with patient energy they kept on
pertinaciously bearing more and more faggots to the pile, even when the
task had become unnecessary.  For the great sheets of flame curved over
the bulwarks, and the unfortunate defenders had the mortification of
seeing that the boards and planks, all carefully nailed up under the
mate's directions, were so much inflammable matter to feed the flames,
which began to roar now like a furnace, as the bowsprit, with its well
tarred ropes and stays, caught, and the figure-head and fore part of the
vessel were well alight.

"On'y one thing'd save her now, Billy," said Smith, coolly.

"What's that, mate, blowin' of her up?"

"Nay, a good header into a big wave."

He was quite right, for moment by moment the furnace-like heat
increased, and the fire could be seen burning slowly up the stays toward
the fore mast, with drops of burning tar beginning to rain down on the

"Anyone got anything down below he wants to save?" cried one of the men,
as they were gradually beaten back, and there was a movement towards the
forecastle hatch.

"Stop!" shouted Oliver.  "Are you all mad?  The cabin there is in a

It was too true; the forepart of the brig was well alight now, and the
flames eating their way slowly and steadily toward the stern.

"Be ready, all of you," said Oliver, the next minute.

"What are you going to do?" asked Panton.

"Throw one of the small kegs into the fire.  Then, as it goes off, we
must all drop down from the gangway, and fight our way to the south
opening in the woods.  I daresay we can get some distance under the
cover of the smoke and confusion."

"Good," cried Panton.  "It is our only chance.  This vessel will be a
pile of ashes in an hour's time."

That was evident to all, for the heat was growing tremendous, and even
as Panton spoke the flames were running rapidly up the rigging of the
foremast, which promised soon to be in a blaze right to the truck.

The smoke, too, was blinding, but when they could get a glance over the
side, there were the blacks still silently toiling away, hurling on the
faggots of wood which were licked up in a few moments, as with a
crackling roar they added to the fierceness of the blaze.

And now, without a word, the little keg of powder was got up from the
stores where it had been carefully stowed along with the cases of
cartridges and the captain's tiny armoury.

Panton went with Smith to bring it up, the latter carrying it and
placing it upon the deck while the sparks and flakes of fire flew
overhead in a continuous stream, some of them lodging upon the furled
sails, forming specks of fire which soon began to glow, telling that
before many minutes had elapsed the main mast would become a pyramid of

"I don't know how it's to be done now," said Panton.  "No one could go
near enough to the fire to fling it in."

"I'll scheme that, sir," said Smith, "if you'll let me."

"No," said Oliver, "I will not let any man run risks.  Stop: I know," he

"How?" asked Panton.

"Stand ready there, right aft," said Oliver.  "Get plenty of ropes over
the stern rail, and we must escape there when the powder explodes."

"But how will you manage with the keg?"

"I'll show you," said Oliver, and while ropes were made fast to the
belaying-pins and stays, and cast over the stern in a dozen places, he
took Smith and Wriggs with him bearing one of the longest planks that
could be torn down above the bulwarks.  The end of this was rested upon
the cover of the deck-house, seven feet above the deck, the other thrust
forward to where the flames were eating their way along, and showing
that below, the forecastle and hold were rapidly becoming a furnace of

"Now give me the keg," said Oliver, and Smith handed it up to where he
climbed on the deck-house, and it was placed there on end, the young
man's figure showing up in the brilliant glow of light, and offering an
easy mark to any savage who liked to draw a bow.

But no arrow came flying, and Oliver, whose plan was now grasped, sent
his companions aft to the ropes, to stand ready to save themselves when
the critical moment came.  Every man was well armed, and his pockets and
wallet crammed with cartridges, and the orders were as soon as they had
dropped from the stern to follow Panton as he led them towards the
opening in the wood, some hundreds of yards from the spot whence the
line of blacks still brought their faggots.

"For goodness' sake be careful," cried Panton, turning to where Oliver
stood.  "You'll act at once, will you not? the heat here is stifling."

"Directly you get back to your place.  Then I shall join you, and Drew
and I will form the rear guard.  Now, then, off with you, and God help

Panton reached up to wring his hand, and then, with the mainmast
overhead already beginning to burn, he ran aft.

There was no time to spare, for the fire was creeping astern with
wonderful rapidity, and, after a glance downward at the deck, Oliver
lifted the keg and held it carefully balanced upon the top of the
sloping plank, whose lower end was now just beginning to burn.  For the
space of quite a minute he held it with a fire in front scorching his
brow, and the sparks rushing overhead on what was now a fierce wind.
Then, when he had it perfectly balanced to his satisfaction, he let go
with both hands, and the keg remained stationary for an instant.  Then
it began to roll down the plank faster and faster, and ended by
literally bounding off the burning deck as it reached the bottom of the
plank and plunging right into the fiery furnace that had been the

Oliver stayed till he saw the keg disappear, and then swung himself down
and ran to where his friends were waiting.

"Over!" cried Panton, and the men dropped from the stern, just as there
was a tremendous roar and a rush of flame; sparks and burning pieces of
timber rose from the forepart of the ship, followed by the burning
foremast, which fortunately fell over toward the bows, sending the
blacks flying.

"All here?" said Panton, in a low voice, but no one spoke, and for a few
minutes the darkness seemed intense, as huge clouds of smoke rolled up
from where the fire had blazed so fiercely.  "Then off!" but before they
were far on their way, the flames burst forth again with fury, lighting
up the open flat across which they retreated, and a yell arose.

"Now, steady," cried Panton.  "Double.  When I cry halt, we'll turn and
give them a volley.  Then another run, loading as we go.  You there,

"All right."

They ran till the blacks began to press them, halted, checked the enemy
with a volley, ran on loading, and turned again, the evolution being so
successful that at last they reached the opening in the forest without
losing a man.  Here they gave the enemy another volley, reloaded, and
now in single file, led by Panton, entered the dense shades.

"Where to?" said Oliver to Drew.

"Safety, I hope," was the reply.

"Safety.  We have not a scrap of food, only ammunition.  Yes, we have,"
he cried more cheerily, "stout hearts and plenty of faith.  We can
easily keep the enemy at bay, too, along here."



Daylight found the little party steadily advancing, but the blacks were
in pursuit, and Oliver passed along the line to have a short conference
with Panton, leaving Drew, Smith, and Wriggs to form the rear guard.

"Glad to see you, old fellow," said Panton.  "I was afraid I had said
good-bye when you were left with that powder keg."

"But I haven't a scratch, only a little burn.  What are you going to

"Get to the shore if I can, and try and find and take possession of
their canoes."

"Impossible," said Oliver, decisively.  "Look here, we are on the way to
the old crater.  Let's get to that natural fort.  Once up there and
inside the great volcano wall we can easily keep these wretches at bay,
and they cannot burn us out there."

"No, but--"

"We must give them a severe lesson, and beat them off.  It is our only

"Anything for the best," said Panton.  "Very well, then, I'll turn off,
and we'll hold that piece you remember where it was so steep, and--"

"Yes, just where the leopard sprang out."

"Good," cried Panton, and he went on at the head of the men, while
Oliver halted till Smith and Wriggs came up with Drew.

"Speak the truth, Tommy," Wriggs was saying.  "Yer can't be hungry
enough to eat a black, so don't tell no lies."

"Where are we for?" said Drew, anxiously.

"The old crater, to make that a fort."

"Hooroar," said Smith, in a low voice.  "Splendid.  Billy, old chap,
that place was just runnin' in my head, as being a good spot for a

"Then the sooner we are there, the better," said Drew, "for the wretches
are close behind."

"And going to shoot," said Oliver, raising his piece, and firing back
both barrels rapidly, the buck shot with which they were charged
breaking through the leaves and twigs and eliciting a savage yell.

"He's got it, Billy," said Smith, "and sarve him right."

Some little trifle later, after being much harassed, the retreating
party were offering themselves as prominent marks to the blacks, as they
climbed up the outer slope of the old crater, but very soon after they
began to reach shelter, and at last they lined the top of the mouldering
wall, while the blacks hesitated to approach, for the deadly powers of
the whites' guns had become more and more acknowledged.  Hence the
fugitives were glad to rest a little, and refresh with water from the
lake and such scraps of food as they happened to have, though the
refreshment was principally black-looking pig-tail tobacco, Smith and
Wriggs having their pipes and beginning to smoke.

The hours glided on, and at first every now and then an arrow was shot
with bad aim into the natural fortification, but by degrees these were
less frequent, and at last the only sign made by the enemy was a little
group of men armed with club and spear watching them from the bottom of
the slope.

"What do they mean to do?" said Oliver.  "Starve us out?"

"Seems like it," said Panton.  "Well, it won't take long, unless we can
live on water.  Wonder whether there are any fish below here in the

"If there are, we have no means of catching them," said Oliver, sadly.
"I'm thinking that our only chance is to assume the aggressive now, and
drive them off the island."

"I'm afraid there would not be many of us left to do the driving, before
we had finished," said Panton.

_Boom!  Crash_!

"Ah, if you would erupt in real earnest, and frighten the black ruffians
away, you would be doing some good," he continued, as the volcano made
itself evident.

"Hi, look out!" cried one of the men.  "They're coming on again."  For a
sudden movement was visible in the group below them, and they had hardly
seized their weapons to bring them to bear, when Smith suddenly uttered
another warning shout, as he came back from the edge of the lake to
which he had descended for a drink.

"All right, we see them," cried Oliver.

"No, you don't, sir!" yelled the sailor.  "Look! look yonder."

A chill of despair ran through all as they glanced in the direction
pointed out by Smith, for there, coming rapidly round by the edge of the
lake, were some fifty of the enemy, who had evidently kept their
attention while a part of their force had managed to penetrate the dense
forest, to where they could scale the crater wall nearly on the opposite
side, and then descend to the lake, so as to come and take them in the

"What shall we do, face both ways and fight?" said Panton.

"Madness!" cried Oliver.  "There's hope for us yet.  This way."

He began to descend rapidly, and then led the party along by the side of
the lake, leaping from stone to stone, till he reached the spot where
the waters flowed out slowly into the cave.

"In with you, quickly!" he cried; but some of the men hesitated.  "Lead
the way, Smith, and we'll cover you.  Quick!"

Smith plunged in, and now his messmates followed, and so hardly were
they pressed that the foremost blacks came bounding up just as Oliver
and Panton backed slowly in, keeping their pieces towards the entrance,
and firing twice as some of the enemy began to follow.

These shots and the darkness checked them, and they vented their
disappointment by howling with rage, and sending arrow after arrow
splintering against the roof or rocky sides, and making the hollows echo

With a little care, though, sufficient distance was soon placed between
the fugitives and their pursuers, while a bend in the passage-like
entrance protected them from the arrows, which were deflected as they
struck the walls, and after a time these ceased, and all waited for the
next development of the attack.

"They will not dare to come in here," Drew said; "these people are too
superstitious to enter such a hole."

"Not when they have lights," said Oliver, sadly.  "Smith, can you lead
the men farther in?  You know the way.  Forward."

It was time, for all at once bright rays flashed from the surface of the
little river, and shone upon the rocky walls, as with shout and yell the
blacks once more came on, and though shot after shot was fired they
still pressed forward, evidently determined to avenge the deaths of so
many of their party.

But the burning wood they bore helped the retreating party, and rendered
the bearers plain objects for the marksmen, while the deafening roar of
echoes after every discharge had its effect, and checked the savages
more than seeing one or two of their number drop.

But still they came on, forcing the little party back till the sharp
bend was reached, and all passed round into absolute darkness and the
fearful roar of the failing waters.

"They'll never come along here, surely," said Panton, with his lips to
his companion's ear, as they slowly retreated, backing, hand in hand,
and guiding themselves by one passing his foot along the edge of the
river's bank.

It was a vain hope, for lights soon flashed round, and the great
cavernous place was more and more lit up, the shadowy black figures
darting here and there, and sending an arrow whenever they fancied they
could see one of the sailors.

"Our last chance," shouted Panton, excitedly.  "We must stand at bay
yonder, on the point, and sell our lives dearly.  We'll wait till they
come close up, and then begin sending volleys, half firing while the
others reload.  What do you say!"

"That is what I thought," said Oliver, "but would it be possible to go

"What, past the falls?  Impossible."

"It's that or death," said Oliver, sternly.--"Yes?  What is it?"

"I says, would you like me to show 'em the way now, sir?" yelled Wriggs
in his ear, for he had edged up unseen.

"What, down there, man?" said Oliver, with a shudder, as he looked over
into the darkness.  "Impossible."

"Which it aren't, sir, for I've done it."

The burning pieces of wood increased in number now, lighting up the huge
cavern weirdly, and the blacks were not a hundred yards away, and
approaching cautiously.

"What do you say, Panton--fight or run that horrible risk and retreat?"

"I'd say fight," replied Panton, with a shudder, "but we should not beat
them off.  They'd never dare to follow here.  Let's try it.  Wriggs got
through, why should not we?"

"Yes, go on," cried Oliver.  "You cannot talk to the men, and it's as
well they do not know the danger.  Lead on, Wriggs, and Heaven help us

It was as he said, no one but Smith fully realised what the dangers
were, and though they were staggered by the noise and horrors around
them, the men knew that there was a way through, and, following their
comrade's example, they lowered themselves down over the edge of the
rock and dropped, the stream seeming less repellent than the ferocious

One by one they dropped down, disappearing directly as if suddenly
snatched away, till only Smith was left with the three friends, and his
action was suggestive, for he held out his hand to each in turn, shook
that placed within it, and then, grasping his gun, lowered himself over
the edge.

The blacks were very near as Drew followed the man's example, and then
Panton shook hands with Oliver.

"Good-bye, or _au revoir_," he cried, and turning, he jumped boldly
forward into the darkness.

A loud yell arose now, for the lights showed Oliver standing on the
brink, and, lowering their spears, a dozen savages rushed at him, but he
stepped off the rock edge, descended quickly for some distance, and then
plunged into the rushing water, which seemed to rise at him, seize him,
and bear him along at a rapidly increasing rate, but with his head above
the surface, and the echoing roar of falling waters striking his ears
with stunning violence.  Then he felt himself suddenly shot out as it
were into space, suffocated by the rushing torrent, which poured down
upon him, and faint, bewildered, and exhausted, whirled round, and
beaten down here and there.  At last his face was above the surface, and
he was being borne rapidly along a shallow stream, just as Wriggs had
described, with its smooth, glassy bottom.

Hope sprang up within his breast once more, for he could breathe again
at such times as he could get his head above the rapids; what was more,
he could fight for his life against an enemy more merciful than the
cascade over which he had been dashed.

But it was a terrible struggle for breath in the darkness of the vast
tunnel through which he was being hurried, and though from time to time
he touched smooth, water-worn rock, he could get no hold.

At length, after how long he could not tell, he became conscious that
the now swift, smooth stream was growing shallower, and recalling the
sailor's words, after many efforts he managed to gain and retain his
feet, wading onward, and sufficiently recovered to listen for the sound
of pursuit, of which there was none.

The noise, too, was dying out.  There was a deep, murmuring roar, and
the low, whispering rush, but that was all.

And now the confusion in Oliver's brain seemed to clear off.  His
efforts to preserve life so far had been instinctive; from this moment
there was more method.  He began as he groped along to make use of the
gun to which he still clung, as a staff, but he had not taken many steps
onward in the way the water pressed and which he knew must be toward
daylight when self was forgotten, and the thought of his comrades made
him feel ready to sink helplessly once more and let the stream carry him
where it would.

Panton--Drew--the two rough sailors who had been such faithful
companions--the rest of the crew?  Was he the only survivor?


A long-drawn, hollow, echoing hail came from a distance out of the
darkness, and it was repeated again and again, before he could command
himself and reply.  For his throat seemed to be contracted--relief--
joy--gratitude to Heaven, combined to make him, in his weak exhausted
state, hysterical, and his answering shout was feeble in the extreme.

But it was heard, and another hail came, which he answered with more
vigour, and the knowledge that help was not far away nerved him to fresh
efforts.  These were encouraged by hail after hail, hoarse, hollow, and
terrible, as they were repeated, till all at once a voice sent a thrill
of delight through him, for he recognised it, and its words,--

"Where are you, sir?  This way."

"Here!  Who is it?" cried Oliver, hoarsely.  "Smith?"

"Ay, ay, sir!  Both on us.  Me and Billy Wriggs.  Hah!  I got yer.
Three cheers, Billy, and give it throat.  Why, we began to think you was
nabbed by the niggers or else drown dead."

"Success to yer, sir," came in a hoarse voice.  "Wait till we gets him
out, Tommy, and then we'll cheer, ho!"

"Mr Panton--Mr Drew--the others?" cried Oliver, as he clung to the man
who had grasped him by the arms.

"Oh, they're all right, sir."

"Nay, nay, speak the truth, Tommy," growled Wriggs, whose hoarse voice
sounded awful in the black echoing darkness.

"Don't you be so nation tickler, Billy," cried the other angrily.
"Well, they aren't quite all right, being as you may say regular washed
out, but they've all alive 'o!"

"Far as we knows, sir," interposed Wriggs.  "But you step forrard, sir,
and lets get out o' this here waterworks' pipe."

"Is--is it far to the light?" asked Oliver.

"Not it, sir.  Clost here."

"Speak the truth, Tommy, speak the truth," growled Wriggs.

"You won't be happy, Billy, till I gives you one on the nose.  Well,
sir, it aren't so werry far, an' fore long you'll be able to see the
light a shinin' in, where Billy here stood up to his knees a ketchin' on
us all as we come down stream, and settin' on us all in a row, on a bit
of a shelf to dry a bit, 'fore we went any furder."

"You helped, Tommy."

"Well, yes, soon as I'd let about two barrels o' water run out o' me."

"Speak the truth, Tommy."

"Oh, well, one barrel, then," cried Smith, angrily.  "I'll say half a
pannikin, if you like.  Yes, sir, I helped a bit, and counted us as we
was ketched, and then as you didn't come, Billy and me come arter yer
and here yer are."

"Which is the truth, Tommy, lad, so stick to that."

They journeyed on till there was a faint dawn of light on ahead, which
grew lighter and lighter as they waded forward, till the water, lava and
pumice of the arched-over roof became visible.  Then there was a hail
which was answered, and at last in the twilight the figures of their
comrades could be seen seated on the lava edge of the subterranean
river, one standing in the middle, evidently gazing anxiously toward the
inner portions of the cavern.

In all thankfulness hands were grasped, and then the party waded on,
wash, wash with the rapid stream, now not knee deep.  The light grew
stronger and stronger, till at last there was a bright flash along the
smooth water, a sharp bend was turned, and some hundred yards before
them there was a low arch laced with ferns, opening out upon blue water
and sunshine.

This was approached in silence and with great caution, fresh cartridges
were placed in the well-drained guns, though doubts were felt as to
their being of any use, if the savages knew of the exit of the waters,
and were lying in wait.

But all was still, and as they crept on with Panton and Drew now taking
the lead, and all feeling as if light were the great reviver of all, the
opening was approached, and they stepped out into the daylight where the
little river ran on along its narrow path in the jungle--a path they
followed for a time, the growth being too dense on either side for the
dry land to be sought.

Then all at once Panton halted, and held up his hand for silence.

There was no need, for they had heard voices from somewhere forward, and
in despair they stood gazing out at the sunlit lagoon, feeling that a
more desperate fight than ever was before them now when they were
utterly exhausted, and their ammunition probably spoiled.

"Ah!  Thank Heaven!" cried Oliver, springing forward through the water
with all his weakness gone, and now the men cheered frantically.  For
there in front gliding into sight, and not a hundred yards away, was the
lugger with two men visible, and these heard and returned the cheer.

As in Oliver's case every one forgot his weakness and exhaustion, in his
efforts to wade out toward the lugger which was steered to meet them
through the warm sunny water, and they climbed on board.

"Where's Mr Rimmer?" was Oliver's first question.

"Just close handy somewhere," was the reply.  "He landed an hour ago,
sir, to try and find some way through the forest, so that we could come
across to-night and get to you at the brig."

"Ahoy!  Look yonder!" cried Panton, and he waved his hand to a figure on
a point about a mile along the lagoon, signalling with his hat at the
end of a bamboo.

The helm was put down, and the lugger glided softly over the smooth
water between the thickly wooded shore and the surf-beaten reef, to
where Mr Rimmer waded out to meet them.

"You see, he had not forsaken us," said Oliver, in a whisper to his

"Ah, at last," cried the mate, springing on board, and eagerly grasping
the young men's hands.  "I was getting in despair about you."

"And we about you," said Oliver.  "I thought you had left us in the

"Just what I should do," said the mate, grimly.  "How was I to come to
your help with a pocket knife and a marlin-spike?  Those were all the
arms we had."

"What?" cried Oliver.  "Where were the guns that Smith brought?"

"Never brote none, sir," cried Smith.  "Didn't I tell yer the niggers
cut me off, when you found me with my toes a-sticking out of the

No other explanation was needed, for the mate soon told them how he had
sailed round the island, and been trying again and again to communicate.
The next question was, what was to be done?

That was soon decided.  The brig was by that time a heap of ashes, and
it was madness to think of attacking and punishing the savages; so after
a hearty meal, and some rest, the lugger was anchored for the night in
the sheltered waters of the lagoon, prior to an early start next morning
for one or other of the isles to the east.

But they were not destined to rest in peace.  Soon after midnight, the
water began to be disturbed, the mountain burst into a frightful state
of eruption, and the sea rose and fell so that there was every prospect
of their being cast on the island, high and dry once more.

There was plenty of light for the evolutions, so hoisting sails which
looked orange in the glow, they ran for the first opening they could
find in the reef, passed through in safety, and stood out to sea, where
they lay to a few miles away, watching the awfully grand display of
fire, rising fountain-like from the volcano, down whose sides golden and
blood-red water seemed to be running in streams.

All that night the lugger rocked with the terrible concussions,
succeeding each other without half a minute's interval, and when the sun
rose the glasses showed a great smoke rising from a desolate-looking
shore, at one end of which the mountain, about half its former height,
was pouring forth clouds of ashes and covering the sea thickly as far as
eye could reach.

The glorious groves and bright scenery were gone, destroyed in a few
hours, and the strange convulsions which kept on occurring, rendered it
necessary to run as rapidly as could be for safer waters and brighter

As the day went on an island was reached, and an addition made to their
provisions and water.  A few days later they were at the British port in
New Guinea, where they once more provisioned for their run south to get
within the shelter of the Great Barrier Reef.

Brisbane was made, and then Sydney, from which port a passage was taken
for home, where all arrived in safety with the grandest set of Natural
History specimens ever collected in one voyage.

"I do wonder what became of those blacks," said Panton, one evening when
they were dining with Captain Rimmer, to celebrate his appointment to a
fine vessel in the China trade, in which he was to start the following
week, and in which he had laughingly offered them a cabin for three.

"Nothing would please me better," he had said, "and you will find your
old friends Smith and Wriggs with me as boatswain and his mate."

But appointments at scientific institutions kept the three friends at
home, and it was in the course of conversation that Panton alluded to
the blacks.

"Ah, and I wonder what became of all those wondrous butterflies and

"And the wealth of vegetation?" said Drew.

"Swept away, sir," said the captain, "swept away.  Strange things take
place where there are burning mountains."

"But out of the ruins fresh natural glories grow," said Panton.

"Yes," said Oliver, "and I suppose all things are for the best.  But I
should have liked to go with you, Captain Rimmer, to see Fire Island
once again."


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fire Island - Being the Adventures of Uncertain Naturalists in an Unknown Track" ***

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search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.