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Title: The Blue Lagoon: A Romance
Author: Stacpoole, H. De Vere (Henry De Vere)
Language: English
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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.

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The Blue Lagoon: A Romance

by H. de Vere Stacpoole



CONTENTS


BOOK I

PART I

     I. WHERE THE SLUSH LAMP BURNS
    II. UNDER THE STARS
   III. THE SHADOW AND THE FIRE
    IV. AND LIKE A DREAM DISSOLVED
     V. VOICES HEARD IN THE MIST
    VI. DAWN ON A WIDE, WIDE SEA
   VII. STORY OF THE PIG AND THE BILLY-GOAT
  VIII. “S-H-E-N-A-N-D-O-A-H”
    IX. SHADOWS IN THE MOONLIGHT
     X. THE TRAGEDY OF THE BOATS


PART II

    XI. THE ISLAND
   XII. THE LAKE OF AZURE
  XIII. DEATH VEILED WITH LICHEN
   XIV. ECHOES OF FAIRY-LAND
    XV. FAIR PICTURES IN THE BLUE


PART III

   XVI. THE POETRY OF LEARNING
  XVII. THE DEVIL’S CASK
 XVIII. THE RAT HUNT
   XIX. STARLIGHT ON THE FOAM
    XX. THE DREAMER ON THE REEF
   XXI. THE GARLAND OF FLOWERS
  XXII. ALONE
 XXIII. THEY MOVE AWAY



BOOK II

PART I

     I. UNDER THE ARTU TREE
    II. HALF CHILD-HALF SAVAGE
   III. THE DEMON OF THE REEF
    IV. WHAT BEAUTY CONCEALED
     V. THE SOUND OF A DRUM
    VI. SAILS UPON THE SEA
   VII. THE SCHOONER
  VIII. LOVE STEPS IN
    IX. THE SLEEP OF PARADISE


PART II

     X. AN ISLAND HONEYMOON
    XI. THE VANISHING OF EMMELINE
   XII. THE VANISHING OF EMMELINE (CONTINUED)
  XIII. THE NEWCOMER
   XIV. HANNAH
    XV. THE LAGOON OF FIRE
   XVI. THE CYCLONE
  XVII. THE STRICKEN WOODS
 XVIII. A FALLEN IDOL
   XIX. THE EXPEDITION
    XX. THE KEEPER OF THE LAGOON
   XXI. THE HAND OF THE SEA
  XXII. TOGETHER


BOOK III

     I. MAD LESTRANGE
    II. THE SECRET OF THE AZURE
   III. CAPTAIN FOUNTAIN
    IV. DUE SOUTH



THE BLUE LAGOON


BOOK I

PART I

CHAPTER I

WHERE THE SLUSH LAMP BURNS

Mr Button was seated on a sea-chest with a fiddle under his left ear.
He was playing the “Shan van vaught,” and accompanying the tune,
punctuating it, with blows of his left heel on the fo’cs’le deck.

  “O the _Frinch_ are in the bay,
  Says the _Shan van vaught_.”

He was dressed in dungaree trousers, a striped shirt, and a jacket
baize—green in parts from the influence of sun and salt. A typical old
shell-back, round-shouldered, hooked of finger; a figure with strong
hints of a crab about it.

His face was like a moon, seen red through tropical mists; and as he
played it wore an expression of strained attention as though the fiddle
were telling him tales much more marvellous than the old bald statement
about Bantry Bay.

“Left-handed Pat,” was his fo’cs’le name; not because he was
left-handed, but simply because everything he did he did wrong—or
nearly so. Reefing or furling, or handling a slush tub—if a mistake
was to be made, he made it.

He was a Celt, and all the salt seas that had flowed between him and
Connaught these forty years and more had not washed the Celtic element
from his blood, nor the belief in fairies from his soul. The Celtic
nature is a fast dye, and Mr Button’s nature was such that though he
had been shanghaied by Larry Marr in ’Frisco, though he had got drunk
in most ports of the world, though he had sailed with Yankee captains
and been man-handled by Yankee mates, he still carried his fairies
about with him—they, and a very large stock of original innocence.

Nearly over the musician’s head swung a hammock from which hung a leg;
other hammocks hanging in the semi-gloom called up suggestions of
lemurs and arboreal bats. The swinging kerosene lamp cast its light
forward, past the heel of the bowsprit to the knightheads, lighting here
a naked foot hanging over the side of a bunk, here a face from which
protruded a pipe, here a breast covered with dark mossy hair, here an
arm tattooed.

It was in the days before double topsail yards had reduced ships’
crews, and the fo’cs’le of the _Northumberland_ had a full company: a
crowd of packet rats such as often is to be found on a Cape Horner
“Dutchmen” Americans—men who were farm labourers and tending
pigs in Ohio three months back, old seasoned sailors like Paddy
Button—a mixture of the best and the worst of the earth, such as you
find nowhere else in so small a space as in a ship’s fo’cs’le.

The _Northumberland_ had experienced a terrible rounding of the Horn.
Bound from New Orleans to ’Frisco she had spent thirty days battling
with head-winds and storms—down there, where the seas are so vast that
three waves may cover with their amplitude more than a mile of sea
space; thirty days she had passed off Cape Stiff, and just now, at the
moment of this story, she was locked in a calm south of the line.

Mr Button finished his tune with a sweep of the bow, and drew his right
coat sleeve across his forehead. Then he took out a sooty pipe, filled
it with tobacco, and lit it.

“Pawthrick,” drawled a voice from the hammock above, from which
depended the leg, “what was that yarn you wiz beginnin’ to spin ter
night ’bout a lip me dawn?”

“A which me dawn?” asked Mr Button, cocking his eye up at the bottom of
the hammock while he held the match to his pipe.

“It vas about a green thing,” came a sleepy Dutch voice from a bunk.

“Oh, a Leprachaun you mane. Sure, me mother’s sister had one down in
Connaught.”

“Vat vas it like?” asked the dreamy Dutch voice—a voice seemingly
possessed by the calm that had made the sea like a mirror for the last
three days, reducing the whole ship’s company meanwhile to the level of
wasters.

“Like? Sure, it was like a Leprachaun; and what else would it be like?”

“What like vas that?” persisted the voice.

“It was like a little man no bigger than a big forked raddish, an’ as
green as a cabbidge. Me a’nt had one in her house down in Connaught in
the ould days. O musha! musha! the ould days, the ould days! Now, you
may b’lave me or b’lave me not, but you could have put him in your
pocket, and the grass-green head of him wouldn’t more than’v stuck out.
She kept him in a cupboard, and out of the cupboard he’d pop if it was
a crack open, an’ into the milk pans he’d be, or under the beds, or
pullin’ the stool from under you, or at some other divarsion. He’d
chase the pig—the crathur!—till it’d be all ribs like an ould
umbrilla with the fright, an’ as thin as a greyhound with the runnin’
by the marnin; he’d addle the eggs so the cocks an’ hens wouldn’t know
what they wis afther wid the chickens comin’ out wid two heads on them,
an’ twinty-seven legs fore and aft. And you’d start to chase him, an’
then it’d be mainsail haul, and away he’d go, you behint him, till
you’d landed tail over snout in a ditch, an’ he’d be back in the
cupboard.”

“He was a Troll,” murmured the Dutch voice.

“I’m tellin’ you he was a Leprachaun, and there’s no knowin’ the
divilments he’d be up to. He’d pull the cabbidge, maybe, out of the pot
boilin’ on the fire forenint your eyes, and baste you in the face with
it; and thin, maybe, you’d hold out your fist to him, and he’d put a
goulden soverin in it.”

“Wisht he was here!” murmured a voice from a bunk near the knightheads.

“Pawthrick,” drawled the voice from the hammock above, “what’d you do
first if you found y’self with twenty pound in your pocket?”

“What’s the use of askin’ me?” replied Mr Button. “What’s the use of
twenty pound to a sayman at say, where the grog’s all wather an’ the
beef’s all horse? Gimme it ashore, an’ you’d see what I’d do wid it!”

“I guess the nearest grog-shop keeper wouldn’t see you comin’ for
dust,” said a voice from Ohio.

“He would not,” said Mr Button; “nor you afther me. Be damned to the
grog and thim that sells it!”

“It’s all darned easy to talk,” said Ohio. “You curse the grog at sea
when you can’t get it; set you ashore, and you’re bung full.”

“I likes me dhrunk,” said Mr Button, “I’m free to admit; an’ I’m the
divil when it’s in me, and it’ll be the end of me yet, or me ould
mother was a liar. ‘Pat,’ she says, first time I come home from say
rowlin’, ‘storms you may escape, an’ wimmen you may escape, but the
potheen ’ill have you.’ Forty year ago—forty year ago!”

“Well,” said Ohio, “it hasn’t had you yet.”

“No,” replied Mr Button, “but it will.”



CHAPTER II

UNDER THE STARS

It was a wonderful night up on deck, filled with all the majesty and
beauty of starlight and a tropic calm.

The Pacific slept; a vast, vague swell flowing from far away down south
under the night, lifted the _Northumberland_ on its undulations to the
rattling sound of the reef points and the occasional creak of the
rudder; whilst overhead, near the fiery arch of the Milky Way, hung the
Southern Cross like a broken kite.

Stars in the sky, stars in the sea, stars by the million and the
million; so many lamps ablaze that the firmament filled the mind with
the idea of a vast and populous city—yet from all that living and
flashing splendour not a sound.

Down in the cabin—or saloon, as it was called by courtesy—were seated
the three passengers of the ship; one reading at the table, two playing
on the floor.

The man at the table, Arthur Lestrange, was seated with his large,
deep-sunken eyes fixed on a book. He was most evidently in
consumption—very near, indeed, to reaping the result of that last and
most desperate remedy, a long sea voyage.

Emmeline Lestrange, his little niece—eight years of age, a mysterious
mite, small for her age, with thoughts of her own, wide-pupilled eyes
that seemed the doors for visions, and a face that seemed just to have
peeped into this world for a moment ere it was as suddenly
withdrawn—sat in a corner nursing something in her arms, and rocking
herself to the tune of her own thoughts.

Dick, Lestrange’s little son, eight and a bit, was somewhere under the
table. They were Bostonians, bound for San Francisco, or rather for the
sun and splendour of Los Angeles, where Lestrange had bought a small
estate, hoping there to enjoy the life whose lease would be renewed by
the long sea voyage.

As he sat reading, the cabin door opened, and appeared an angular
female form. This was Mrs Stannard, the stewardess, and Mrs Stannard
meant bedtime.

“Dicky,” said Mr Lestrange, closing his book, and raising the
table-cloth a few inches, “bedtime.”

“Oh, not yet, daddy!” came a sleep-freighted voice from under the
table; “I ain’t ready. I dunno want to go to bed, I— Hi yow!”

Mrs Stannard, who knew her work, had stooped under the table, seized him
by the foot, and hauled him out kicking and fighting and blubbering all
at the same time.

As for Emmeline, she having glanced up and recognised the inevitable,
rose to her feet, and, holding the hideous rag-doll she had been
nursing, head down and dangling in one hand, she stood waiting till
Dicky, after a few last perfunctory bellows, suddenly dried his eyes
and held up a tear-wet face for his father to kiss. Then she presented
her brow solemnly to her uncle, received a kiss and vanished, led by
the hand into a cabin on the port side of the saloon.

Mr Lestrange returned to his book, but he had not read for long when
the cabin door was opened, and Emmeline, in her nightdress, reappeared,
holding a brown paper parcel in her hand, a parcel of about the same
size as the book you are reading.

“My box,” said she; and as she spoke, holding it up as if to prove its
safety, the little plain face altered to the face of an angel.

She had smiled.

When Emmeline Lestrange smiled it was absolutely as if the light of
Paradise had suddenly flashed upon her face: the happiest form of
childish beauty suddenly appeared before your eyes, dazzled them—and
was gone.

Then she vanished with her box, and Mr Lestrange resumed his book.

This box of Emmeline’s, I may say in parenthesis, had given more
trouble aboard ship than all of the rest of the passengers’ luggage put
together.

It had been presented to her on her departure from Boston by a lady
friend, and what it contained was a dark secret to all on board, save
its owner and her uncle; she was a woman, or, at all events, the
beginning of a woman, yet she kept this secret to herself—a fact which
you will please note.

The trouble of the thing was that it was frequently being lost.
Suspecting herself, maybe, as an unpractical dreamer in a world filled
with robbers, she would cart it about with her for safety, sit down
behind a coil of rope and fall into a fit of abstraction: be recalled
to life by the evolutions of the crew reefing or furling or what not,
rise to superintend the operations—and then suddenly find she had lost
her box.

Then she would absolutely haunt the ship. Wide-eyed and distressed of
face she would wander hither and thither, peeping into the galley,
peeping down the forescuttle, never uttering a word or wail, searching
like an uneasy ghost, but dumb.

She seemed ashamed to tell of her loss, ashamed to let any one know of
it; but every one knew of it directly they saw her, to use Mr Button’s
expression, “on the wandher,” and every one hunted for it.

Strangely enough it was Paddy Button who usually found it. He who was
always doing the wrong thing in the eyes of men, generally did the
right thing in the eyes of children. Children, in fact, when they could
get at Mr Button, went for him _con amore_. He was as attractive to them
as a Punch and Judy show or a German band—almost.

Mr Lestrange after a while closed the book he was reading, looked
around him and sighed.

The cabin of the _Northumberland_ was a cheerful enough place, pierced
by the polished shaft of the mizzen mast, carpeted with an Axminster
carpet, and garnished with mirrors let into the white pine panelling.
Lestrange was staring at the reflection of his own face in one of these
mirrors fixed just opposite to where he sat.

His emaciation was terrible, and it was just perhaps at this moment
that he first recognised the fact that he must not only die, but die
soon.

He turned from the mirror and sat for a while with his chin resting
upon his hand, and his eyes fixed on an ink spot upon the table-cloth;
then he arose, and crossing the cabin climbed laboriously up the
companion-way to the deck.

As he leaned against the bulwark rail to recover his breath, the
splendour and beauty of the Southern night struck him to the heart with
a cruel pang. He took his seat on a deck chair and gazed up at the
Milky Way, that great triumphal arch built of suns that the dawn would
sweep away like a dream.

In the Milky Way, near the Southern Cross, occurs a terrible circular
abyss, the Coal Sack. So sharply defined is it, so suggestive of a void
and bottomless cavern, that the contemplation of it afflicts the
imaginative mind with vertigo. To the naked eye it is as black and as
dismal as death, but the smallest telescope reveals it beautiful and
populous with stars.

Lestrange’s eyes travelled from this mystery to the burning cross, and
the nameless and numberless stars reaching to the sea-line, where they
paled and vanished in the light of the rising moon. Then he became
aware of a figure promenading the quarter-deck. It was the “Old Man.”

A sea captain is always the “old man,” be his age what it may. Captain
Le Farges’ age might have been forty-five. He was a sailor of the Jean
Bart type, of French descent, but a naturalised American.

“I don’t know where the wind’s gone,” said the captain as he drew near
the man in the deck chair. “I guess it’s blown a hole in the firmament,
and escaped somewheres to the back of beyond.”

“It’s been a long voyage,” said Lestrange; “and I’m thinking, Captain,
it will be a very long voyage for me. My port’s not ’Frisco; I feel it.”

“Don’t you be thinking that sort of thing,” said the other, taking his
seat in a chair close by. “There’s no manner of use forecastin’ the
weather a month ahead. Now we’re in warm latitoods, your glass will
rise steady, and you’ll be as right and spry as any one of us, before
we fetch the Golden Gates.”

“I’m thinking about the children,” said Lestrange, seeming not to hear
the captain’s words. “Should anything happen to me before we reach
port, I should like you to do something for me. It’s only this: dispose
of my body without—without the children knowing. It has been in my
mind to ask you this for some days. Captain, those children know
nothing of death.”

Le Farge moved uneasily in his chair.

“Little Emmeline’s mother died when she was two. Her father—my
brother—died before she was born. Dicky never knew a mother; she died
giving him birth. My God, Captain, death has laid a heavy hand on my
family; can you wonder that I have hid his very name from those two
creatures that I love!”

“Ay, ay,” said Le Farge, “it’s sad! it’s sad!”

“When I was quite a child,” went on Lestrange, “a child no older than
Dicky, my nurse used to terrify me with tales about dead people. I was
told I’d go to hell when I died if I wasn’t a good child. I cannot tell
you how much that has poisoned my life, for the thoughts we think in
childhood, Captain, are the fathers of the thoughts we think when we
are grown up. And can a diseased father—have healthy children?”

“I guess not.”

“So I just said, when these two tiny creatures came into my care, that
I would do all in my power to protect them from the terrors of life—or
rather, I should say, from the terror of death. I don’t know whether I
have done right, but I have done it for the best. They had a cat, and
one day Dicky came in to me and said: ‘Father, pussy’s in the garden
asleep, and I can’t wake her.’ So I just took him out for a walk; there
was a circus in the town, and I took him to it. It so filled his mind
that he quite forgot the cat. Next day he asked for her. I did not tell
him she was buried in the garden, I just said she must have run away.
In a week he had forgotten all about her—children soon forget.”

“Ay, that’s true,” said the sea captain. “But ’pears to me they must
learn some time they’ve got to die.”

“Should I pay the penalty before we reach land, and be cast into that
great, vast sea, I would not wish the children’s dreams to be haunted
by the thought: just tell them I’ve gone on board another ship. You
will take them back to Boston; I have here, in a letter, the name of a
lady who will care for them. Dicky will be well off, as far as worldly
goods are concerned, and so will Emmeline. Just tell them I’ve gone on
board another ship—children soon forget.”

“I’ll do what you ask,” said the seaman.

The moon was over the horizon now, and the _Northumberland_ lay adrift in
a river of silver. Every spar was distinct, every reef point on the
great sails, and the decks lay like spaces of frost cut by shadows
black as ebony.

As the two men sat without speaking, thinking their own thoughts, a
little white figure emerged from the saloon hatch. It was Emmeline. She
was a professed sleepwalker—a past mistress of the art.

Scarcely had she stepped into dreamland than she had lost her precious
box, and now she was hunting for it on the decks of the _Northumberland_.

Mr Lestrange put his finger to his lips, took off his shoes and
silently followed her. She searched behind a coil of rope, she tried to
open the galley door; hither and thither she wandered, wide-eyed and
troubled of face, till at last, in the shadow of the hencoop, she found
her visionary treasure. Then back she came, holding up her little
nightdress with one hand, so as not to trip, and vanished down the
saloon companion very hurriedly, as if anxious to get back to bed, her
uncle close behind, with one hand outstretched so as to catch her in
case she stumbled.



CHAPTER III

THE SHADOW AND THE FIRE

It was the fourth day of the long calm. An awning had been rigged up on
the poop for the passengers, and under it sat Lestrange, trying to
read, and the children trying to play. The heat and monotony had
reduced even Dicky to just a surly mass, languid in movement as a grub.
As for Emmeline, she seemed dazed. The rag-doll lay a yard away from
her on the poop deck unnursed; even the wretched box and its
whereabouts she seemed to have quite forgotten.

“Daddy!” suddenly cried Dick, who had clambered up, and was looking
over the after-rail.

“What?”

“Fish!”

Lestrange rose to his feet, came aft and looked over the rail.

Down in the vague green of the water something moved, something pale
and long—a ghastly form. It vanished; and yet another came, neared the
surface, and displayed itself more fully. Lestrange saw its eyes, he
saw the dark fin, and the whole hideous length of the creature; a
shudder ran through him as he clasped Dicky.

“Ain’t he fine?” said the child. “I guess, daddy, I’d pull him aboard
if I had a hook. Why haven’t I a hook, daddy?—why haven’t I a hook,
daddy?— Ow, you’re _squeezin’_ me!”

Something plucked at Lestrange’s coat: it was Emmeline—she also wanted
to look. He lifted her up in his arms; her little pale face peeped over
the rail, but there was nothing to see: the forms of terror had
vanished, leaving the green depths untroubled and unstained.

“What’s they called, daddy?” persisted Dick, as his father took him
down from the rail, and led him back to the chair.

“Sharks,” said Lestrange, whose face was covered with perspiration.

He picked up the book he had been reading—it was a volume of
Tennyson—and he sat with it on his knees staring at the white sunlit
main-deck barred with the white shadows of the standing rigging.

The sea had disclosed to him a vision. Poetry, Philosophy, Beauty, Art,
the love and joy of life—was it possible that these should exist in
the same world as those?

He glanced at the book upon his knees, and contrasted the beautiful
things in it which he remembered with the terrible things he had just
seen, the things that were waiting for their food under the keel of the
ship.

It was three bells—half-past three in the afternoon—and the ship’s
bell had just rung out. The stewardess appeared to take the children
below; and as they vanished down the saloon companion-way Captain Le
Farge came aft, on to the poop, and stood for a moment looking over the
sea on the port side, where a bank of fog had suddenly appeared like
the spectre of a country.

“The sun has dimmed a bit,” said he; “I can a’most look at it. Glass
steady enough—there’s a fog coming up—ever seen a Pacific fog?”

“No, never.”

“Well, you won’t want to see another,” replied the mariner, shading his
eyes and fixing them upon the sea-line. The sea-line away to starboard
had lost somewhat its distinctness, and over the day an almost
imperceptible shade had crept.

The captain suddenly turned from his contemplation of the sea and sky,
raised his head and sniffed.

“Something is burning somewhere—smell it? Seems to me like an old mat
or summat. It’s that swab of a steward, maybe; if he isn’t breaking
glass, he’s upsetting lamps and burning holes in the carpet. Bless _my_
soul, I’d sooner have a dozen Mary Anns an’ their dustpans round the
place than one tomfool steward like Jenkins.” He went to the saloon
hatch. “Below there!”

“Ay, ay, sir.”

“What are you burning?”

“I an’t burnin’ northen, sir.”

“Tell you, I smell it!”

“There’s northen burnin’ here, sir.”

“Neither is there, it’s all on deck. Something in the galley,
maybe—rags, most likely, they’ve thrown on the fire.”

“Captain!” said Lestrange.

“Ay, ay.”

“Come here, please.”

Le Farge climbed on to the poop.

“I don’t know whether it’s my weakness that’s affecting my eyes, but
there seems to me something strange about the main-mast.”

The main-mast near where it entered the deck, and for some distance up,
seemed in motion—a corkscrew movement most strange to watch from the
shelter of the awning.

This apparent movement was caused by a spiral haze of smoke so vague
that one could only tell of its existence from the mirage-like tremor
of the mast round which it curled.

“My God!” cried Le Farge, as he sprang from the poop and rushed forward.

Lestrange followed him slowly, stopping every moment to clutch the
bulwark rail and pant for breath. He heard the shrill bird-like notes
of the bosun’s pipe. He saw the hands emerging from the forecastle,
like bees out of a hive; he watched them surrounding the main-hatch. He
watched the tarpaulin and locking-bars removed. He saw the hatch
opened, and a burst of smoke—black, villainous smoke—ascend to the
sky, solid as a plume in the windless air.

Lestrange was a man of a highly nervous temperament, and it is just
this sort of man who keeps his head in an emergency, whilst your
level-headed, phlegmatic individual loses his balance. His first
thought was of the children, his second of the boats.

In the battering off Cape Horn the _Northumberland_ lost several of her
boats. There were left the long-boat, a quarter-boat, and the dinghy.
He heard Le Farge’s voice ordering the hatch to be closed and the pumps
manned, so as to flood the hold; and, knowing that he could do nothing
on deck, he made as swiftly as he could for the saloon companion-way.

Mrs Stannard was just coming out of the children’s cabin.

“Are the children lying down, Mrs Stannard?” asked Lestrange, almost
breathless from the excitement and exertion of the last few minutes.

The woman glanced at him with frightened eyes. He looked like the very
herald of disaster.

“For if they are, and you have undressed them, then you must put their
clothes on again. The ship is on fire, Mrs Stannard.”

“Good God, sir!”

“Listen!” said Lestrange.

From a distance, thin, and dreary as the crying of sea-gulls on a
desolate beach, came the clanking of the pumps.



CHAPTER IV

AND LIKE A DREAM DISSOLVED

Before the woman had time to speak a thunderous step was heard on the
companion stairs, and Le Farge broke into the saloon. The man’s face
was injected with blood, his eyes were fixed and glassy like the eyes
of a drunkard, and the veins stood on his temples like twisted cords.

“Get those children ready!” he shouted, as he rushed into his own
cabin. “Get you all ready—boats are being swung out and victualled.
H--l! where are those papers?”

They heard him furiously searching and collecting things in his
cabin—the ship’s papers, accounts, things the master mariner clings to
as he clings to his life; and as he searched, and found, and packed, he
kept bellowing orders for the children to be got on deck. Half mad he
seemed, and half mad he was with the knowledge of the terrible thing
that was stowed amidst the cargo.

Up on deck the crew, under the direction of the first mate, were
working in an orderly manner, and with a will, utterly unconscious of
there being anything beneath their feet but an ordinary cargo on fire.
The covers had been stripped from the boats, kegs of water and bags of
biscuit placed in them. The dinghy, smallest of the boats and most
easily got away, was hanging at the port quarter-boat davits flush with
the bulwarks; and Paddy Button was in the act of stowing a keg of water
in her, when Le Farge broke on to the deck, followed by the stewardess
carrying Emmeline, and Mr Lestrange leading Dick. The dinghy was rather
a larger boat than the ordinary ships’ dinghy, and possessed a small
mast and long sail. Two sailors stood ready to man the falls, and Paddy
Button was just turning to trundle forward again when the captain
seized him.

“Into the dinghy with you,” he cried, “and row these children and the
passenger out a mile from the ship—two miles—three miles—make an
offing.”

“Sure, Captain dear, I’ve left me fiddle in the——”

Le Farge dropped the bundle of things he was holding under his left
arm, seized the old sailor and rushed him against the bulwarks, as if
he meant to fling him into the sea _through_ the bulwarks.

Next moment Mr Button was in the boat. Emmeline was handed to him, pale
of face and wide-eyed, and clasping something wrapped in a little
shawl; then Dick, and then Mr Lestrange was helped over.

“No room for more!” cried Le Farge. “Your place will be in the
long-boat, Mrs Stannard, if we have to leave the ship. Lower away,
lower away!”

The boat sank towards the smooth blue sea, kissed it and was afloat.

Now Mr Button, before joining the ship at Boston, had spent a good
while lingering by the quay, having no money wherewith to enjoy himself
in a tavern. He had seen something of the lading of the _Northumberland_,
and heard more from a stevedore. No sooner had he cast off the falls
and seized the oars, than his knowledge awoke in his mind, living and
lurid. He gave a whoop that brought the two sailors leaning over the
side.

“Bullies!”

“Ay, ay!”

“Run for your lives—I’ve just rimimbered—there’s two bar’ls of
blastin’ powther in the hould!”

Then he bent to his oars, as no man ever bent before.

Lestrange, sitting in the stern-sheets clasping Emmeline and Dick,
saw nothing for a moment after hearing these words. The children,
who knew nothing of blasting powder or its effects, though half
frightened by all the bustle and excitement, were still amused
and pleased at finding themselves in the little boat so close to
the blue pretty sea.

Dick put his finger over the side, so that it made a ripple in the
water (the most delightful experience of childhood). Emmeline, with one
hand clasped in her uncle’s, watched Mr Button with a grave sort of
half pleasure.

He certainly was a sight worth watching. His soul was filled with
tragedy and terror. His Celtic imagination heard the ship blowing up,
saw himself and the little dinghy blown to pieces—nay, saw himself in
hell, being toasted by “divils.”

But tragedy and terror could find no room for expression on his
fortunate or unfortunate face. He puffed and he blew, bulging his
cheeks out at the sky as he tugged at the oars, making a hundred and
one grimaces—all the outcome of agony of mind, but none expressing it.
Behind lay the ship, a picture not without its lighter side. The
long-boat and the quarter-boat, lowered with a rush and seaborne by the
mercy of Providence, were floating by the side of the _Northumberland_.

From the ship men were casting themselves overboard like water-rats,
swimming in the water like ducks, scrambling on board the boats anyhow.

From the half-opened main-hatch the black smoke, mixed now with sparks,
rose steadily and swiftly and spitefully, as if driven through the
half-closed teeth of a dragon.

A mile away beyond the _Northumberland_ stood the fog bank. It looked
solid, like a vast country that had suddenly and strangely built itself
on the sea—a country where no birds sang and no trees grew. A country
with white, precipitous cliffs, solid to look at as the cliffs of Dover.

“I’m spint!” suddenly gasped the oarsman, resting the oar handles under
the crook of his knees, and bending down as if he was preparing to butt
at the passengers in the stern-sheets. “Blow up or blow down, I’m
spint—don’t ax me, I’m spint!”

Mr Lestrange, white as a ghost, but recovered somewhat from his first
horror, gave the Spent One time to recover himself and turned to look
at the ship. She seemed a great distance off, and the boats, well away
from her, were making at a furious pace towards the dinghy. Dick was
still playing with the water, but Emmeline’s eyes were entirely
occupied with Paddy Button. New things were always of vast interest to
her contemplative mind, and these evolutions of her old friend were
eminently new.

She had seen him swilling the decks, she had seen him dancing a jig,
she had seen him going round the main deck on all fours with Dick on
his back, but she had never seen him going on like this before.

She perceived now that he was exhausted, and in trouble about
something, and, putting her hand in the pocket of her dress, she
searched for something that she knew was there. She produced a
Tangerine orange, and leaning forward she touched the Spent One’s head
with it.

Mr Button raised his head, stared vacantly for a second, saw the
proffered orange, and at the sight of it the thought of “the childer”
and their innocence, himself and the blasting powder, cleared his
dazzled wits, and he took to the sculls again.

“Daddy,” said Dick, who had been looking astern, “there’s clouds near
the ship.”

In an incredibly short space of time the solid cliffs of fog had
broken. The faint wind that had banked it had pierced it, and was now
making pictures and devices of it, most wonderful and weird to see.
Horsemen of the mist rode on the water, and were dissolved; billows
rolled on the sea, yet were not of the sea; blankets and spirals of
vapour ascended to high heaven. And all with a terrible languor of
movement. Vast and lazy and sinister, yet steadfast of purpose as Fate
or Death, the fog advanced, taking the world for its own.

Against this grey and indescribably sombre background stood the
smouldering ship with the breeze already shivering in her sails, and
the smoke from her main-hatch blowing and beckoning as if to the
retreating boats.

“Why’s the ship smoking like that?” asked Dick. “And look at those
boats coming—when are we going back, daddy?”

“Uncle,” said Emmeline, putting her hand in his, as she gazed towards
the ship and beyond it, “I’m ’fraid.”

“What frightens you, Emmy?” he asked, drawing her to him.

“Shapes,” replied Emmeline, nestling up to his side.

“Oh, Glory be to God!” gasped the old sailor, suddenly resting on his
oars. “Will yiz look at the fog that’s comin’—”

“I think we had better wait here for the boats,” said Mr Lestrange; “we
are far enough now to be safe if—anything happens.”

“Ay, ay,” replied the oarsman, whose wits had returned. “Blow up or
blow down, she won’t hit us from here.”

“Daddy,” said Dick, “when are we going back? I want my tea.”

“We aren’t going back, my child,” replied his father. “The ship’s on
fire; we are waiting for another ship.”

“Where’s the other ship?” asked the child, looking round at the horizon
that was clear.

“We can’t see it yet,” replied the unhappy man, “but it will come.”

The long-boat and the quarter-boat were slowly approaching. They looked
like beetles crawling over the water, and after them across the
glittering surface came a dullness that took the sparkle from the
sea—a dullness that swept and spread like an eclipse shadow.

Now the wind struck the dinghy. It was like a wind from fairyland,
almost imperceptible, chill, and dimming the sun. A wind from Lilliput.
As it struck the dinghy, the fog took the distant ship.

It was a most extraordinary sight, for in less than thirty seconds the
ship of wood became a ship of gauze, a tracery—flickered, and was gone
forever from the sight of man.



CHAPTER V

VOICES HEARD IN THE MIST

The sun became fainter still, and vanished. Though the air round the
dinghy seemed quite clear, the on-coming boats were hazy and dim, and
that part of the horizon that had been fairly clear was now blotted out.

The long-boat was leading by a good way. When she was within hailing
distance the captain’s voice came.

“Dinghy ahoy!”

“Ahoy!”

“Fetch alongside here!”

The long-boat ceased rowing to wait for the quarter-boat that was
slowly creeping up. She was a heavy boat to pull at all times, and now
she was overloaded.

The wrath of Captain Le Farge with Paddy Button for the way he had
stampeded the crew was profound, but he had not time to give vent to it.

“Here, get aboard us, Mr Lestrange!” said he, when the dinghy was
alongside; “we have room for one. Mrs Stannard is in the quarter-boat,
and it’s overcrowded; she’s better aboard the dinghy, for she can look
after the kids. Come, hurry up, the smother is coming down on us fast.
Ahoy!”—to the quarter-boat—“hurry up, hurry up!”

The quarter-boat had suddenly vanished.

Mr Lestrange climbed into the long-boat. Paddy pushed the dinghy a few
yards away with the tip of a scull, and then lay on his oars waiting.

“Ahoy! ahoy!” cried Le Farge.

“Ahoy!” came from the fog bank.

Next moment the long-boat and the dinghy vanished from each other’s
sight: the great fog bank had taken them.

Now a couple of strokes of the port scull would have brought Mr Button
alongside the long-boat, so close was he; but the quarter-boat was in
his mind, or rather imagination, so what must he do but take three
powerful strokes in the direction in which he fancied the quarter-boat
to be.

The rest was voices.

“Dinghy ahoy!”

“Ahoy!”

“Ahoy!”

“Don’t be shoutin’ together, or I’ll not know which way to pull.
Quarter-boat ahoy! where are yiz?”

“Port your helm!”

“Ay, ay!”—putting his helm, so to speak, to starboard—“I’ll be wid yiz
in wan minute—two or three minutes’ hard pulling.”

“Ahoy!”—much more faint.

“What d’ye mane rowin’ away from me?”—a dozen strokes.

“Ahoy!”—fainter still.

Mr Button rested on his oars.

“Divil mend them—I b’lave that was the long-boat shoutin’.”

He took to his oars again and pulled vigorously.

“Paddy,” came Dick’s small voice, apparently from nowhere, “where are
we now?”

“Sure, we’re in a fog; where else would we be? Don’t you be affeared.”

“I ain’t affeared, but Em’s shivering.”

“Give her me coat,” said the oarsman, resting on his oars and taking it
off. “Wrap it round her; and when it’s round her we’ll all let one big
halloo together. There’s an ould shawl som’er in the boat, but I can’t
be after lookin’ for it now.”

He held out the coat and an almost invisible hand took it; at the same
moment a tremendous report shook the sea and sky.

“There she goes,” said Mr Button; “an’ me old fiddle an’ all. Don’t be
frightened, childer; it’s only a gun they’re firin’ for divarsion. Now
we’ll all halloo togither—are yiz ready?”

“Ay, ay,” said Dick, who was a picker-up of sea terms.

“Halloo!” yelled Pat.

“Halloo! Halloo!” piped Dick and Emmeline.

A faint reply came, but from where, it was difficult to say. The old
man rowed a few strokes and then paused on his oars. So still was the
surface of the sea that the chuckling of the water at the boat’s bow as
she drove forward under the impetus of the last powerful stroke could
be heard distinctly. It died out as she lost way, and silence closed
round them like a ring.

The light from above, a light that seemed to come through a vast
scuttle of deeply-muffed glass, faint though it was, almost to
extinction, still varied as the little boat floated through the strata
of the mist.

A great sea fog is not homogeneous—its density varies: it is
honeycombed with streets, it has its caves of clear air, its cliffs of
solid vapour, all shifting and changing place with the subtlety of
legerdemain. It has also this wizard peculiarity, that it grows with
the sinking of the sun and the approach of darkness.

The sun, could they have seen it, was now leaving the horizon.

They called again. Then they waited, but there was no response.

“There’s no use bawlin’ like bulls to chaps that’s deaf as adders,”
said the old sailor, shipping his oars; immediately upon which
declaration he gave another shout, with the same result as far as
eliciting a reply.

“Mr Button!” came Emmeline’s voice.

“What is it, honey?”

“I’m—m—’fraid.”

“You wait wan minit till I find the shawl—here it is, by the same
token!—an’ I’ll wrap you up in it.”

He crept cautiously aft to the stern-sheets and took Emmeline in his
arms.

“Don’t want the shawl,” said Emmeline; “I’m not so much afraid in your
coat.” The rough, tobacco-smelling old coat gave her courage somehow.

“Well, thin, keep it on. Dicky, are you cowld?”

“I’ve got into daddy’s great-coat; he left it behind him.”

“Well, thin, I’ll put the shawl round me own shoulders, for it’s cowld
I am. Are y’ hungry, childer?”

“No,” said Dick, “but I’m drefful—Hi—yow——”

“Slapy, is it? Well, down you get in the bottom of the boat, and here’s
the shawl for a pilla. I’ll be rowin’ again in a minit to keep meself
warm.”

He buttoned the top button of the coat.

“I’m a’right,” murmured Emmeline in a dreamy voice.

“Shut your eyes tight,” replied Mr Button, “or Billy Winker will be
dridgin’ sand in them.

  “’Shoheen, shoheen, shoheen, shoheen,
  Sho-hu-lo, sho-hu-lo.
  Shoheen, shoheen, shoheen, shoheen,
  Hush a by the babby O.’”

It was the tag of an old nursery folk-song they sing in the hovels of
the Achill coast fixed in his memory, along with the rain and the wind
and the smell of the burning turf, and the grunting of the pig and the
knickety-knock of a rocking cradle.

“She’s off,” murmured Mr Button to himself, as the form in his arms
relaxed. Then he laid her gently down beside Dick. He shifted forward,
moving like a crab. Then he put his hand to his pocket for his pipe and
tobacco and tinder box. They were in his coat pocket, but Emmeline was
in his coat. To search for them would be to awaken her.

The darkness of night was now adding itself to the blindness of the
fog. The oarsman could not see even the thole pins. He sat adrift mind
and body. He was, to use his own expression, “moithered.” Haunted by
the mist, tormented by “shapes.”

It was just in a fog like this that the Merrows could be heard
disporting in Dunbeg bay, and off the Achill coast. Sporting and
laughing, and hallooing through the mist, to lead unfortunate fishermen
astray.

Merrows are not altogether evil, but they have green hair and teeth,
fishes’ tails and fins for arms; and to hear them walloping in the
water around you like salmon, and you alone in a small boat, with the
dread of one coming floundering on board, is enough to turn a man’s
hair grey.

For a moment he thought of awakening the children to keep him company,
but he was ashamed. Then he took to the sculls again, and rowed “by the
feel of the water.” The creak of the oars was like a companion’s voice,
the exercise lulled his fears. Now and again, forgetful of the sleeping
children, he gave a halloo, and paused to listen. But no answer came.

Then he continued rowing, long, steady, laborious strokes, each taking
him further and further from the boats that he was never destined to
sight again.



CHAPTER VI

DAWN ON A WIDE, WIDE SEA

“Is it aslape I’ve been?” said Mr Button, suddenly awaking with a start.

He had shipped his oars just for a minute’s rest. He must have slept
for hours, for now, behold! a warm, gentle wind was blowing, the moon
was shining, and the fog was gone.

“Is it dhraming I’ve been?” continued the awakened one. “Where am I at
all, at all? O musha! sure, here I am. O wirra! wirra! I dreamt I’d
gone aslape on the main-hatch and the ship was blown up with powther,
and it’s all come true.”

“Mr Button!” came a small voice from the stern-sheets (Emmeline’s).

“What is it, honey?”

“Where are we now?”

“Sure, we’re afloat on the say, acushla; where else would we be?”

“Where’s uncle?”

“He’s beyant there in the long-boat—he’ll be afther us in a minit.”

“I want a drink.”

He filled a tin pannikin that was by the beaker of water, and gave her
a drink. Then he took his pipe and tobacco from his coat pocket.

She almost immediately fell asleep again beside Dick, who had not
stirred or moved; and the old sailor, standing up and steadying
himself, cast his eyes round the horizon. Not a sign of sail or boat
was there on all the moonlit sea.

From the low elevation of an open boat one has a very small horizon,
and in the vague world of moonlight somewhere round about it was
possible that the boats might be near enough to show up at daybreak.

But open boats a few miles apart may be separated by long leagues in
the course of a few hours. Nothing is more mysterious than the currents
of the sea.

The ocean is an ocean of rivers, some swiftly flowing, some slow, and a
league from where you are drifting at the rate of a mile an hour
another boat may be drifting two.

A slight warm breeze was frosting the water, blending moonshine and
star shimmer; the ocean lay like a lake, yet the nearest mainland was
perhaps a thousand miles away.

The thoughts of youth may be long, long thoughts, but not longer than
the thoughts of this old sailor man smoking his pipe under the stars.
Thoughts as long as the world is round. Blazing bar rooms in
Callao—harbours over whose oily surfaces the sampans slipped like
water-beetles—the lights of Macao—the docks of London. Scarcely ever
a sea picture, pure and simple, for why should an old seaman care to
think about the sea, where life is all into the fo’cs’le and out again,
where one voyage blends and jumbles with another, where after
forty-five years of reefing topsails you can’t well remember off which
ship it was Jack Rafferty fell overboard, or who it was killed who in
the fo’cs’le of what, though you can still see, as in a mirror darkly,
the fight, and the bloody face over which a man is holding a kerosene
lamp.

I doubt if Paddy Button could have told you the name of the first ship
he ever sailed in. If you had asked him, he would probably have
replied: “I disremimber; it was to the Baltic, and cruel cowld weather,
and I was say-sick—till I near brought me boots up; and it was ‘O for
ould Ireland!’ I was cryin’ all the time, an’ the captin dhrummin me
back with a rope’s end to the tune uv it—but the name of the hooker—I
disremimber—bad luck to her, whoever she was!”

So he sat smoking his pipe, whilst the candles of heaven burned above
him, and calling to mind roaring drunken scenes and palm-shadowed
harbours, and the men and the women he had known—such men and such
women! The derelicts of the earth and the ocean. Then he nodded off to
sleep again, and when he awoke the moon had gone.

Now in the eastern sky might have been seen a pale fan of light, vague
as the wing of an ephemera. It vanished and changed back to darkness.

Presently, and almost at a stroke, a pencil of fire ruled a line along
the eastern horizon, and the eastern sky became more beautiful than a
rose leaf plucked in May. The line of fire contracted into one
increasing spot, the rim of the rising sun.

As the light increased the sky above became of a blue impossible to
imagine unless seen, a wan blue, yet living and sparkling as if born of
the impalpable dust of sapphires. Then the whole sea flashed like the
harp of Apollo touched by the fingers of the god. The light was music
to the soul. It was day.

“Daddy!” suddenly cried Dick, sitting up in the sunlight and rubbing
his eyes with his open palms. “Where are we?”

“All right, Dicky, me son!” cried the old sailor, who had been standing
up casting his eyes round in a vain endeavour to sight the boats. “Your
daddy’s as safe as if he was in hivin; he’ll be wid us in a minit, an’
bring another ship along with him. So you’re awake, are you, Em’line?”

Emmeline, sitting up in the old pilot coat, nodded in reply without
speaking. Another child might have supplemented Dick’s enquiries as to
her uncle by questions of her own, but she did not.

Did she guess that there was some subterfuge in Mr Button’s answer, and
that things were different from what he was making them out to be? Who
can tell?

She was wearing an old cap of Dick’s, which Mrs Stannard in the hurry
and confusion had popped on her head. It was pushed to one side, and
she made a quaint enough little figure as she sat up in the early
morning brightness, dressed in the old salt-stained coat beside Dick,
whose straw hat was somewhere in the bottom of the boat, and whose
auburn locks were blowing in the faint breeze.

“Hurroo!” cried Dick, looking around at the blue and sparkling water,
and banging with a stretcher on the bottom of the boat. “I’m goin’ to
be a sailor, aren’t I, Paddy? You’ll let me sail the boat, won’t you,
Paddy, an’ show me how to row?”

“Aisy does it,” said Paddy, taking hold of the child. “I haven’t a
sponge or towel, but I’ll just wash your face in salt wather and lave
you to dry in the sun.”

He filled the bailing tin with sea water.

“I don’t want to wash!” shouted Dick.

“Stick your face into the water in the tin,” commanded Paddy. “You
wouldn’t be going about the place with your face like a sut-bag, would
you?”

“Stick yours in!” commanded the other.

Mr Button did so, and made a hub-bubbling noise in the water; then he
lifted a wet and streaming face, and flung the contents of the bailing
tin overboard.

“Now you’ve lost your chance,” said this arch nursery-strategist, “all
the water’s gone.”

“There’s more in the sea.”

“There’s no more to wash with, not till to-morrow—the fishes don’t
allow it.”

“I want to wash,” grumbled Dick. “I want to stick my face in the tin,
same’s you did; ’sides, Em hasn’t washed.”

“_I_ don’t mind,” murmured Emmeline.

“Well, thin,” said Mr Button, as if making a sudden resolve, “I’ll ax
the sharks.” He leaned over the boat’s side, his face close to the
surface of the water. “Halloo there!” he shouted, and then bent his
head sideways to listen; the children also looked over the side, deeply
interested.

“Halloo there! Are y’aslape— Oh, there y’are! Here’s a spalpeen with a
dhirty face, an’s wishful to wash it; may I take a bailin’ tin of— Oh,
thank your ’arner, thank your ’arner—good day to you, and my respects.”

“What did the shark say, Mr Button?” asked Emmeline.

“He said: ‘Take a bar’l full, an’ welcome, Mister Button; an’ it’s
wishful I am I had a drop of the crathur to offer you this fine
marnin’.’ Thin he popped his head under his fin and went aslape agin;
leastwise, I heard him snore.”

Emmeline nearly always “Mr Buttoned” her friend; sometimes she called
him “Mr Paddy.” As for Dick, it was always “Paddy,” pure and simple.
Children have etiquettes of their own.

It must often strike landsmen and landswomen that the most terrible
experience when cast away at sea in an open boat is the total absence
of privacy. It seems an outrage on decency on the part of Providence to
herd people together so. But, whoever has gone through the experience
will bear me out that in great moments of life like this the human mind
enlarges, and things that would shock us ashore are as nothing out
there, face to face with eternity.

If so with grown-up people, how much more so with this old shell-back
and his two charges?

And indeed Mr Button was a person who called a spade a spade, had no
more conventions than a walrus, and looked after his two charges just
as a nursemaid might look after her charges, or a walrus after its
young.

There was a large bag of biscuits in the boat, and some tinned
stuff—mostly sardines.

I have known a sailor to open a box of sardines with a tin-tack. He was
in prison, the sardines had been smuggled into him, and he had no
can-opener. Only his genius and a tin-tack.

Paddy had a jack-knife, however, and in a marvellously short time a box
of sardines was opened, and placed on the stern-sheets beside some
biscuits.

These, with some water and Emmeline’s Tangerine orange, which she
produced and added to the common store, formed the feast, and they fell
to.

When they had finished, the remains were put carefully away, and
they proceeded to step the tiny mast.

The sailor, when the mast was in its place, stood for a moment resting
his hand on it, and gazing around him over the vast and voiceless blue.

The Pacific has three blues: the blue of morning, the blue of midday,
and the blue of evening. But the blue of morning is the happiest: the
happiest thing in colour—sparkling, vague, newborn—the blue of heaven
and youth.

“What are you looking for, Paddy?” asked Dick.

“Say-gulls,” replied the prevaricator; then to himself: “Not a sight or
a sound of them! Musha! musha! which way will I steer—north, south,
aist, or west? It’s all wan, for if I steer to the aist, they may be in
the west; and if I steer to the west, they may be in the aist; and I
can’t steer to the west, for I’d be steering right in the wind’s eye.
Aist it is; I’ll make a soldier’s wind of it, and thrust to chance.”

He set the sail and came aft with the sheet. Then he shifted the
rudder, lit a pipe, leaned luxuriously back and gave the bellying sail
to the gentle breeze.

It was part of his profession, part of his nature, that, steering,
maybe, straight towards death by starvation and thirst, he was as
unconcerned as if he were taking the children for a summer’s sail. His
imagination dealt little with the future; almost entirely influenced by
his immediate surroundings, it could conjure up no fears from the scene
now before it. The children were the same.

Never was there a happier starting, more joy in a little boat. During
breakfast the seaman had given his charges to understand that if Dick
did not meet his father and Emmeline her uncle in a “while or two,” it
was because he had gone on board a ship, and he’d be along presently.
The terror of their position was as deeply veiled from them as eternity
is veiled from you or me.

The Pacific was still bound by one of those glacial calms that can only
occur when the sea has been free from storms for a vast extent of its
surface, for a hurricane down by the Horn will send its swell and
disturbance beyond the Marquesas. De Bois in his table of amplitudes
points out that more than half the sea disturbances at any given space
are caused, not by the wind, but by storms at a great distance.

But the sleep of the Pacific is only apparent. This placid lake, over
which the dinghy was pursuing the running ripple, was heaving to an
imperceptible swell and breaking on the shores of the Low Archipelago,
and the Marquesas in foam and thunder.

Emmeline’s rag-doll was a shocking affair from a hygienic or artistic
standpoint. Its face was just inked on, it had no features, no arms;
yet not for all the dolls in the world would she have exchanged this
filthy and nearly formless thing. It was a fetish.

She sat nursing it on one side of the helmsman, whilst Dick, on the
other side, hung his nose over the water, on the look-out for fish.

“Why do you smoke, Mr Button?” asked Emmeline, who had been watching
her friend for some time in silence.

“To aise me thrubbles,” replied Paddy.

He was leaning back with one eye shut and the other fixed on the luff
of the sail. He was in his element: nothing to do but steer and smoke,
warmed by the sun and cooled by the breeze. A landsman would have been
half demented in his condition, many a sailor would have been taciturn
and surly, on the look-out for sails, and alternately damning his soul
and praying to his God. Paddy smoked.

“Whoop!” cried Dick. “Look, Paddy!”

An albicore a few cables lengths to port had taken a flying leap from
the flashing sea, turned a complete somersault and vanished.

“It’s an albicore takin’ a buck lep. Hundreds I’ve seen before this;
he’s bein’ chased.”

“What’s chasing him, Paddy?”

“What’s chasin’ him?—why, what else but the gibly-gobly-ums!”

Before Dick could enquire as to the personal appearance and habits of
the latter, a shoal of silver arrow heads passed the boat and flittered
into the water with a hissing sound.

“Thim’s flyin’ fish. What are you sayin’—fish can’t fly! Where’s the
eyes in your head?”

“Are the gibblyums chasing them too?” asked Emmeline fearfully.

“No; ’tis the Billy balloos that’s afther thim. Don’t be axin’ me any
more questions now, or I’ll be tellin’ you lies in a minit.”

Emmeline, it will be remembered, had brought a small parcel with her
done up in a little shawl; it was under the boat seat, and every now
and then she would stoop down to see if it were safe.



CHAPTER VII

STORY OF THE PIG AND THE BILLY-GOAT

Every hour or so Mr Button would shake his lethargy off, and rise and
look round for “sea-gulls,” but the prospect was sail-less as the
prehistoric sea, wingless, voiceless. When Dick would fret now and
then, the old sailor would always devise some means of amusing him. He
made him fishing-tackle out of a bent pin and some small twine that
happened to be in the boat, and told him to fish for “pinkeens”; and
Dick, with the pathetic faith of childhood, fished.

Then he told them things. He had spent a year at Deal long ago, where a
cousin of his was married to a boatman.

Mr Button had put in a year as a longshoreman at Deal, and he had got a
great lot to tell of his cousin and her husband, and more especially of
one, Hannah; Hannah was his cousin’s baby—a most marvellous child, who
was born with its “buck” teeth fully developed, and whose first
unnatural act on entering the world was to make a snap at the
“docther.” “Hung on to his fist like a bull-dog, and him bawlin’
‘Murther!’”

“Mrs James,” said Emmeline, referring to a Boston acquaintance, “had a
little baby, and it was pink.”

“Ay, ay,” said Paddy; “they’re mostly pink to start with, but they fade
whin they’re washed.”

“It’d no teeth,” said Emmeline, “for I put my finger in to see.”

“The doctor brought it in a bag,” put in Dick, who was still steadily
fishing—“dug it out of a cabbage patch; an’ I got a trow’l and dug all
our cabbage patch up, but there weren’t any babies—but there were no
end of worms.”

“I wish I had a baby,” said Emmeline, “and _I_ wouldn’t send it back to
the cabbage patch.”

“The doctor,” explained Dick, “took it back and planted it again; and
Mrs James cried when I asked her, and daddy said it was put back to
grow and turn into an angel.”

“Angels have wings,” said Emmeline dreamily.

“And,” pursued Dick, “I told cook, and she said to Jane, daddy
was always stuffing children up with—something or ’nother. And I asked
daddy to let me see him stuffing up a child—and daddy said cook’d have
to go away for saying that, and she went away next day.”

“She had three big trunks and a box for her bonnet,” said Emmeline,
with a far-away look as she recalled the incident.

“And the cabman asked her hadn’t she any more trunks to put on his cab,
and hadn’t she forgot the parrot cage,” said Dick.

“I wish _I_ had a parrot in a cage,” murmured Emmeline, moving slightly
so as to get more in the shadow of the sail.

“And what in the world would you be doin’ with a par’t in a cage?”
asked Mr Button.

“I’d let it out,” replied Emmeline.

“Spakin’ about lettin’ par’ts out of cages, I remimber me grandfather
had an ould pig,” said Paddy (they were all talking seriously together
like equals). “I was a spalpeen no bigger than the height of me knee,
and I’d go to the sty door, and he’d come to the door, and grunt an’
blow wid his nose undher it; an’ I’d grunt back to vex him, an’ hammer
wid me fist on it, an’ shout ‘Halloo there! halloo there!’ and ‘Halloo
to you!’ he’d say, spakin’ the pigs’ language. ‘Let me out,’ he’d say,
‘and I’ll give yiz a silver shilling.’

“‘Pass it under the door,’ I’d answer him. Thin he’d stick the snout of
him undher the door an’ I’d hit it a clip with a stick, and he’d yell
murther Irish. An’ me mother’d come out an’ baste me, an’ well I
desarved it.

“Well, wan day I opened the sty door, an’ out he boulted and away and
beyant, over hill and hollo he goes till he gets to the edge of the
cliff overlookin’ the say, and there he meets a billy-goat, and he and
the billy-goat has a division of opinion.

“‘Away wid yiz!’ says the billy-goat.

“‘Away wid yourself!’ says he.

“‘Whose you talkin’ to?’ says t’other.

“‘Yourself,’ says him.

“‘Who stole the eggs?’ says the billy-goat.

“‘Ax your ould grandmother!’ says the pig.

“‘Ax me ould _which_ mother?’ says the billy-goat.

“‘Oh, ax me——’ And before he could complete the sintence ram, blam,
the ould billy-goat butts him in the chist, and away goes the both of
thim whirtlin’ into the say below.

“Thin me ould grandfather comes out, and collars me by the scruff, and
‘Into the sty with you!’ says he; and into the sty I wint, and there
they kep’ me for a fortni’t on bran mash and skim milk—and well I
desarved it.”

They dined somewhere about eleven o’clock, and at noon Paddy unstepped
the mast and made a sort of little tent or awning with the sail in the
bow of the boat to protect the children from the rays of the vertical
sun.

Then he took his place in the bottom of the boat, in the stern, stuck
Dick’s straw hat over his face to preserve it from the sun, kicked
about a bit to get a comfortable position, and fell asleep.



CHAPTER VIII

“S-H-E-N-A-N-D-O-A-H”

He had slept an hour and more when he was brought to his senses by a
thin and prolonged shriek. It was Emmeline in a nightmare, or more
properly a day-mare, brought on by a meal of sardines and the haunting
memory of the gibbly-gobbly-ums. When she was shaken (it always took a
considerable time to bring her to, from these seizures) and comforted,
the mast was restepped.

As Mr Button stood with his hand on the spar looking round him before
going aft with the sheet, an object struck his eye some three miles
ahead. Objects rather, for they were the masts and spars of a small
ship rising from the water. Not a vestige of sail, just the naked
spars. It might have been a couple of old skeleton trees jutting out of
the water for all a landsman could have told.

He stared at this sight for twenty or thirty seconds without speaking,
his head projected like the head of a tortoise. Then he gave a wild
“Hurroo!”

“What is it, Paddy?” asked Dick.

“Hurroo!” replied Mr Button. “Ship ahoy! ship ahoy! Lie to till I be
afther boardin’ you. Sure, they are lyin’ to—divil a rag of canvas on
her—are they aslape or dhramin’? Here, Dick, let me get aft wid the
sheet; the wind’ll take us up to her quicker than we’ll row.”

He crawled aft and took the tiller; the breeze took the sail, and the
boat forged ahead.

“Is it daddy’s ship?” asked Dick, who was almost as excited as his
friend.

“I dinno; we’ll see when we fetch her.”

“Shall we go on her, Mr Button?” asked Emmeline.

“Ay will we, honey.”

Emmeline bent down, and fetching her parcel from under the seat, held
it in her lap.

As they drew nearer, the outlines of the ship became more apparent. She
was a small brig, with stump topmasts, from the spars a few rags of
canvas fluttered. It was apparent soon to the old sailor’s eye what was
amiss with her.

“She’s derelick, bad cess to her!” he muttered; “derelick and done
for—just me luck!”

“I can’t see any people on the ship,” cried Dick, who had crept
forward to the bow. “Daddy’s not there.”

The old sailor let the boat off a point or two, so as to get a view of
the brig more fully; when they were within twenty cable lengths or so
he unstepped the mast and took to the sculls.

The little brig floated very low on the water, and presented a mournful
enough appearance; her running rigging all slack, shreds of canvas
flapping at the yards, and no boats hanging at her davits. It was easy
enough to see that she was a timber ship, and that she had started a
butt, flooded herself and been abandoned.

Paddy lay on his oars within a few strokes of her. She was floating as
placidly as though she were in the harbour of San Francisco; the green
water showed in her shadow, and in the green water waved the tropic
weeds that were growing from her copper. Her paint was blistered and
burnt absolutely as though a hot iron had been passed over it, and over
her taffrail hung a large rope whose end was lost to sight in the water.

A few strokes brought them under the stern. The name of the ship was
there in faded letters, also the port to which she belonged.
“_Shenandoah_. Martha’s Vineyard.”

“There’s letters on her,” said Mr Button. “But I can’t make thim out.
I’ve no larnin’.”

“I can read them,” said Dick.

“So c’n I,” murmured Emmeline.

“S-H-E-N-A-N-D-O-A-H,” spelt Dick.

“What’s that?” enquired Paddy.

“I don’t know,” replied Dick, rather downcastedly.

“There you are!” cried the oarsman in a disgusted manner, pulling the
boat round to the starboard side of the brig. “They pritind to tache
letters to childer in schools, pickin’ their eyes out wid book-readin’,
and here’s letters as big as me face an’ they can’t make hid or tail of
them—be dashed to book-readin’!”

The brig had old-fashioned wide channels, regular platforms; and she
floated so low in the water that they were scarcely a foot above the
level of the dinghy.

Mr Button secured the boat by passing the painter through a channel
plate, then, with Emmeline and her parcel in his arms or rather in one
arm, he clambered over the channel and passed her over the rail on to
the deck. Then it was Dick’s turn, and the children stood waiting
whilst the old sailor brought the beaker of water, the biscuit, and the
tinned stuff on board.

It was a place to delight the heart of a boy, the deck of the
_Shenandoah_; forward right from the main hatchway it was laden with
timber. Running rigging lay loose on the deck in coils, and nearly the
whole of the quarter-deck was occupied by a deck-house. The place had a
delightful smell of sea-beach, decaying wood, tar, and mystery. Bights
of buntline and other ropes were dangling from above, only waiting to
be swung from. A bell was hung just forward of the foremast. In half a
moment Dick was forward hammering at the bell with a belaying pin he
had picked from the deck.

Mr Button shouted to him to desist; the sound of the bell jarred on his
nerves. It sounded like a summons, and a summons on that deserted craft
was quite out of place. Who knew what mightn’t answer it in the way of
the supernatural?

Dick dropped the belaying pin and ran forward. He took the disengaged
hand, and the three went aft to the door of the deck-house. The door
was open, and they peeped in.

The place had three windows on the starboard side, and through the
windows the sun was shining in a mournful manner. There was a table in
the middle of the place. A seat was pushed away from the table as if
some one had risen in a hurry. On the table lay the remains of a meal, a
teapot, two teacups, two plates. On one of the plates rested a fork
with a bit of putrifying bacon upon it that some one had evidently been
conveying to his mouth when—something had happened. Near the teapot
stood a tin of condensed milk, haggled open. Some old salt had just
been in the act of putting milk in his tea when the mysterious
something had occurred. Never did a lot of dead things speak so
eloquently as these things spoke.

One could conjure it all up. The skipper, most likely, had finished his
tea, and the mate was hard at work at his, when the leak had been
discovered, or some derelict had been run into, or whatever it was had
happened—happened.

One thing was evident, that since the abandonment of the brig she had
experienced fine weather, else the things would not have been left
standing so trimly on the table.

Mr Button and Dick entered the place to prosecute enquiries, but
Emmeline remained at the door. The charm of the old brig appealed to
her almost as much as to Dick, but she had a feeling about it quite
unknown to him. A ship where no one was had about it suggestions of
“other things.”

She was afraid to enter the gloomy deck-house, and afraid to remain
alone outside; she compromised matters by sitting down on the deck.
Then she placed the small bundle beside her, and hurriedly took the
rag-doll from her pocket, into which it was stuffed head down, pulled
its calico skirt from over its head, propped it up against the coaming
of the door, and told it not to be afraid.

There was not much to be found in the deck-house, but aft of it were
two small cabins like rabbit hutches, once inhabited by the skipper and
his mate. Here there were great findings in the way of rubbish. Old
clothes, old boots, an old top-hat of that extraordinary pattern you
may see in the streets of Pernambuco, immensely tall, and narrowing
towards the brim. A telescope without a lens, a volume of Hoyt, a
nautical almanac, a great bolt of striped flannel shirting, a box of
fish hooks. And in one corner—glorious find!—a coil of what seemed to
be ten yards or so of black rope.

“Baccy, begorra!” shouted Pat, seizing upon his treasure. It was
pigtail. You may see coils of it in the tobacconists’ windows of
seaport towns. A pipe full of it would make a hippopotamus vomit, yet
old sailors chew it and smoke it and revel in it.

“We’ll bring all the lot of the things out on deck, and see what’s
worth keepin’ an’ what’s worth leavin’,” said Mr Button, taking an
immense armful of the old truck; whilst Dick, carrying the top-hat,
upon which he had instantly seized as his own special booty, led the
way.

“Em,” shouted Dick, as he emerged from the doorway, “see what I’ve got!”

He popped the awful-looking structure over his head. It went right down
to his shoulders.

Emmeline gave a shriek.

“It smells funny,” said Dick, taking it off and applying his nose to
the inside of it—“smells like an old hair brush. Here, you try it on.”

Emmeline scrambled away as far as she could, till she reached the
starboard bulwarks, where she sat in the scupper, breathless and
speechless and wide-eyed. She was always dumb when frightened (unless
it were a nightmare or a very sudden shock), and this hat suddenly seen
half covering Dick frightened her out of her wits. Besides, it was a
black thing, and she hated black things—black cats, black horses;
worst of all, black dogs.

She had once seen a hearse in the streets of Boston, an old-time hearse
with black plumes, trappings and all complete. The sight had nearly
given her a fit, though she did not know in the least the meaning of it.

Meanwhile Mr Button was conveying armful after armful of stuff on deck.
When the heap was complete, he sat down beside it in the glorious
afternoon sunshine, and lit his pipe.

He had searched neither for food or water as yet; content with the
treasure God had given him, for the moment the material things of life
were forgotten. And, indeed, if he had searched he would have found
only half a sack of potatoes in the caboose, for the lazarette was
awash, and the water in the scuttle-butt was stinking.

Emmeline, seeing what was in progress, crept up, Dick promising not to
put the hat on her, and they all sat round the pile.

“Thim pair of brogues,” said the old man, holding a pair of old boots
up for inspection like an auctioneer, “would fetch half a dollar any
day in the wake in any sayport in the world. Put them beside you, Dick,
and lay hold of this pair of britches by the ends of em’—stritch them.”

The trousers were stretched out, examined and approved of, and laid
beside the boots.

“Here’s a tiliscope wid wan eye shut,” said Mr Button, examining the
broken telescope and pulling it in and out like a concertina. “Stick
it beside the brogues; it may come in handy for somethin’. Here’s a
book”—tossing the nautical almanac to the boy. “Tell me what it says.”

Dick examined the pages of figures hopelessly.

“I can’t read ’em,” said Dick; “it’s numbers.”

“Buzz it overboard,” said Mr Button.

Dick did what he was told joyfully, and the proceedings resumed.

He tried on the tall hat, and the children laughed. On her old friend’s
head the thing ceased to have terror for Emmeline.

She had two methods of laughing. The angelic smile before mentioned—a
rare thing—and, almost as rare, a laugh in which she showed her little
white teeth, whilst she pressed her hands together, the left one tight
shut, and the right clasped over it.

He put the hat on one side, and continued the sorting, searching all
the pockets of the clothes and finding nothing. When he had arranged
what to keep, they flung the rest overboard, and the valuables were
conveyed to the captain’s cabin, there to remain till wanted.

Then the idea that food might turn up useful as well as old clothes in
their present condition struck the imaginative mind of Mr Button, and
he proceeded to search.

The lazarette was simply a cistern full of sea water; what else it
might contain, not being a diver, he could not say. In the copper of
the caboose lay a great lump of putrifying pork or meat of some sort.
The harness cask contained nothing except huge crystals of salt. All
the meat had been taken away. Still, the provisions and water brought
on board from the dinghy would be sufficient to last them some ten days
or so, and in the course of ten days a lot of things might happen.

Mr Button leaned over the side. The dinghy was nestling beside the brig
like a duckling beside a duck; the broad channel might have been
likened to the duck’s wing half extended. He got on the channel to see
if the painter was safely attached. Having made all secure, he climbed
slowly up to the main-yard arm, and looked round upon the sea.



CHAPTER IX

SHADOWS IN THE MOONLIGHT

“Daddy’s a long time coming,” said Dick all of a sudden.

They were seated on the baulks of timber that cumbered the deck of the
brig on either side of the caboose. An ideal perch. The sun was setting
over Australia way, in a sea that seemed like a sea of boiling gold.
Some mystery of mirage caused the water to heave and tremble as if
troubled by fervent heat.

“Ay, is he,” said Mr Button; “but it’s better late than never. Now
don’t be thinkin’ of him, for that won’t bring him. Look at the sun
goin’ into the wather, and don’t be spakin’ a word, now, but listen and
you’ll hear it hiss.”

The children gazed and listened, Paddy also. All three were mute as the
great blazing shield touched the water that leapt to meet it.

You _could_ hear the water hiss—if you had imagination enough. Once
having touched the water, the sun went down behind it, as swiftly as a
man in a hurry going down a ladder. As he vanished a ghostly and golden
twilight spread over the sea, a light exquisite but immensely forlorn.
Then the sea became a violet shadow, the west darkened as if to a
closing door, and the stars rushed over the sky.

“Mr Button,” said Emmeline, nodding towards the sun as he vanished,
“where’s over there?”

“The west,” replied he, staring at the sunset. “Chainy and Injee and
all away beyant.”

“Where’s the sun gone to now, Paddy?” asked Dick.

“He’s gone chasin’ the moon, an’ she’s skedadlin’ wid her dress brailed
up for all she’s worth; she’ll be along up in a minit. He’s always
afther her, but he’s never caught her yet.”

“What would he do to her if he caught her?” asked Emmeline.

“Faith, an’ maybe he’d fetch her a skelp—an’ well she’d desarve it.”

“Why’d she deserve it?” asked Dick, who was in one of his questioning
moods.

“Because she’s always delutherin’ people an’ leadin’ thim asthray.
Girls or men, she moidhers thim all once she gets the comeither on
them; same as she did Buck M’Cann.”

“Who’s he?”

“Buck M’Cann? Faith, he was the village ijit where I used to live in
the ould days.”

“What’s that?”

“Hould your whisht, an’ don’t be axin’ questions. He was always wantin’
the moon, though he was twinty an’ six feet four. He’d a gob on him
that hung open like a rat-trap with a broken spring, and he was as thin
as a barber’s pole, you could a’ tied a reef knot in the middle of ’um;
and whin the moon was full there was no houldin’ him.” Mr Button gazed
at the reflection of the sunset on the water for a moment as if
recalling some form from the past, and then proceeded. “He’d sit on the
grass starin’ at her, an’ thin he’d start to chase her over the hills,
and they’d find him at last, maybe a day or two later, lost in the
mountains, grazin’ on berries, an’ as green as a cabbidge from the
hunger an’ the cowld, till it got so bad at long last they had to
hobble him.”

“I’ve seen a donkey hobbled,” cried Dick.

“Thin you’ve seen the twin brother of Buck M’Cann. Well, one night me
elder brother Tim was sittin’ over the fire, smokin’ his dudeen an’
thinkin’ of his sins, when in comes Buck with the hobbles on him.

“‘Tim,’ says he, ‘I’ve got her at last!’

“‘Got who?’ says Tim.

“‘The moon,’ says he.

“‘Got her where?’ says Tim.

“‘In a bucket down by the pond,’ says t’other, ‘safe an’ sound an’ not
a scratch on her; you come and look,’ says he. So Tim follows him, he
hobblin’, and they goes to the pond side, and there, sure enough, stood
a tin bucket full of wather, an’ on the wather the refliction of the
moon.

“‘I dridged her out of the pond,’ whispers Buck. ‘Aisy now,’ says he,
‘an’ I’ll dribble the water out gently,’ says he, ‘an’ we’ll catch her
alive at the bottom of it like a trout.’ So he drains the wather out
gently of the bucket till it was near all gone, an’ then he looks into
the bucket expectin’ to find the moon flounderin’ in the bottom of it
like a flat fish.

“‘She’s gone, bad ’cess to her!’ says he.

“‘Try again,’ says me brother, and Buck fills the bucket again, and
there was the moon sure enough when the water came to stand still.

“‘Go on,’ says me brother. ‘Drain out the wather, but go gentle, or
she’ll give yiz the slip again.’

“‘Wan minit,’ says Buck, ‘I’ve got an idea,’ says he; ‘she won’t give
me the slip this time,’ says he. ‘You wait for me,’ says he; and off he
hobbles to his old mother’s cabin a stone’s-throw away, and back he
comes with a sieve.

“‘You hold the sieve,’ says Buck, ‘and I’ll drain the water into it; if
she ’scapes from the bucket we’ll have her in the sieve.’ And he pours
the wather out of the bucket as gentle as if it was crame out of a jug.
When all the wather was out he turns the bucket bottom up, and shook it.

“‘Ran dan the thing!’ he cries, ‘she’s gone again;’ an’ wid that he
flings the bucket into the pond, and the sieve afther the bucket, when
up comes his old mother hobbling on her stick.

“‘Where’s me bucket?’ says she.

“‘In the pond,’ say Buck.

“‘And me sieve?’ says she.

“‘Gone afther the bucket.’

“‘I’ll give yiz a bucketin’!’ says she; and she up with the stick and
landed him a skelp, an’ driv him roarin’ and hobblin’ before her, and
locked him up in the cabin, an’ kep’ him on bread an’ wather for a wake
to get the moon out of his head; but she might have saved her thruble,
for that day month in it was agin—— There she comes!”

The moon, argent and splendid, was breaking from the water. She was
full, and her light was powerful almost as the light of day. The
shadows of the children and the queer shadow of Mr Button were cast on
the wall of the caboose hard and black as silhouettes.

“Look at our shadows!” cried Dick, taking off his broad-brimmed straw
hat and waving it.

Emmeline held up her doll to see _its_ shadow, and Mr Button held up his
pipe.

“Come now,” said he, putting the pipe back in his mouth, and making to
rise, “and shadda off to bed; it’s time you were aslape, the both of
you.”

Dick began to yowl.

“_I_ don’t want to go to bed; I aint tired, Paddy—les’s stay a little
longer.”

“Not a minit,” said the other, with all the decision of a nurse; “not a
minit afther me pipe’s out!”

“Fill it again,” said Dick.

Mr Button made no reply. The pipe gurgled as he puffed at it—a kind of
death-rattle speaking of almost immediate extinction.

“Mr Button!” said Emmeline. She was holding her nose in the air and
sniffing; seated to windward of the smoker, and out of the
pigtail-poisoned air, her delicate sense of smell perceived something
lost to the others.

“What is it, acushla?”

“I smell something.”

“What d’ye say you smell?”

“Something nice.”

“What’s it like?” asked Dick, sniffing hard. “_I_ don’t smell anything.”

Emmeline sniffed again to make sure.

“Flowers,” said she.

The breeze, which had shifted several points since midday, was bearing
with it a faint, faint odour: a perfume of vanilla and spice so faint
as to be imperceptible to all but the most acute olfactory sense.

“Flowers!” said the old sailor, tapping the ashes out of his pipe
against the heel of his boot. “And where’d you get flowers in middle of
the say? It’s dhramin’ you are. Come now—to bed wid yiz!”

“Fill it again,” wailed Dick, referring to the pipe.

“It’s a spankin’ I’ll give you,” replied his guardian, lifting him down
from the timber baulks, and then assisting Emmeline, “in two ticks if
you don’t behave. Come along, Em’line.”

He started aft, a small hand in each of his, Dick bellowing.

As they passed the ship’s bell, Dick stretched towards the belaying pin
that was still lying on the deck, seized it, and hit the bell a mighty
bang. It was the last pleasure to be snatched before sleep, and he
snatched it.

Paddy had made up beds for himself and his charges in the deck-house;
he had cleared the stuff off the table, broken open the windows to get
the musty smell away, and placed the mattresses from the captain and
mate’s cabins on the floor.

When the children were in bed and asleep, he went to the starboard
rail, and, leaning on it, looked over the moonlit sea. He was thinking
of ships as his wandering eye roved over the sea spaces, little
dreaming of the message that the perfumed breeze was bearing him. The
message that had been received and dimly understood by Emmeline. Then
he leaned with his back to the rail and his hands in his pockets. He
was not thinking now, he was ruminating.

The basis of the Irish character as exemplified by Paddy Button is a
profound laziness mixed with a profound melancholy. Yet Paddy, in his
left-handed way, was as hard a worker as any man on board ship; and as
for melancholy, he was the life and soul of the fo’cs’le. Yet there
they were, the laziness and the melancholy, only waiting to be tapped.

As he stood with his hands thrust deep in his pockets, longshore
fashion, counting the dowels in the planking of the deck by the
moonlight, he was reviewing the “old days.” The tale of Buck M’Cann had
recalled them, and across all the salt seas he could see the moonlight
on the Connemara mountains, and hear the sea-gulls crying on the
thunderous beach where each wave has behind it three thousand miles of
sea.

Suddenly Mr Button came back from the mountains of Connemara to find
himself on the deck of the _Shenandoah_; and he instantly became
possessed by fears. Beyond the white deserted deck, barred by the
shadows of the standing rigging, he could see the door of the caboose.
Suppose he should suddenly see a head pop out—or, worse, a shadowy form
go in?

He turned to the deck-house, where the children were sound asleep, and
where, in a few minutes, he, too, was sound asleep beside them, whilst
all night long the brig rocked to the gentle swell of the Pacific, and
the breeze blew, bringing with it the perfume of flowers.



CHAPTER X

THE TRAGEDY OF THE BOATS

When the fog lifted after midnight the people in the long-boat saw the
quarter-boat half a mile to starboard of them.

“Can you see the dinghy?” asked Lestrange of the captain, who was
standing up searching the horizon.

“Not a speck,” answered Le Farge. “Damn that Irishman! but for him I’d
have got the boats away properly victualled and all; as it is I don’t
know what we’ve got aboard. You, Jenkins, what have you got forward
there?”

“Two bags of bread and a breaker of water,” answered the steward.

“A breaker of water be sugared!” came another voice; “a breaker half
full, you mean.”

Then the steward’s voice: “So it is; there’s not more than a couple of
gallons in her.”

“My God!” said Le Farge. “_Damn_ that Irishman!”

“There’s not more than’ll give us two half pannikins apiece all round,”
said the steward.

“Maybe,” said Le Farge, “the quarter-boat’s better stocked; pull for
her.”

“She’s pulling for us,” said the stroke oar.

“Captain,” asked Lestrange, “are you sure there’s no sight of the
dinghy?”

“None,” replied Le Farge.

The unfortunate man’s head sank on his breast. He had little time to
brood over his troubles, however, for a tragedy was beginning to unfold
around him, the most shocking, perhaps, in the annals of the sea—a
tragedy to be hinted at rather than spoken of.

When the boats were within hailing distance, a man in the bow of the
long-boat rose up.

“Quarter-boat ahoy!”

“Ahoy!”

“How much water have you?”

“None!”

The word came floating over the placid moonlit water. At it the fellows
in the long-boat ceased rowing, and you could see the water-drops
dripping off their oars like diamonds in the moonlight.

“Quarter-boat ahoy!” shouted the fellow in the bow. “Lay on your oars.”

“Here, you scowbanker!” cried Le Farge, “who are you to be giving
directions—”

“Scowbanker yourself!” replied the fellow. “Bullies, put her about!”

The starboard oars backed water, and the boat came round.

By chance the worst lot of the _Northumberland’s_ crew were in the
long-boat—veritable “scowbankers,” scum; and how scum clings to life
you will never know, until you have been amongst it in an open boat at
sea. Le Farge had no more command over this lot than you have who are
reading this book.

“Heave to!” came from the quarter-boat, as she laboured behind.

“Lay on your oars, bullies!” cried the ruffian at the bow, who was
still standing up like an evil genius who had taken momentary command
over events. “Lay on your oars, bullies; they’d better have it now.”

The quarter-boat in her turn ceased rowing, and lay a cable’s length
away.

“How much water have you?” came the mate’s voice.

“Not enough to go round.”

Le Farge made to rise, and the stroke oar struck at him, catching him
in the wind and doubling him up in the bottom of the boat.

“Give us some, for God’s sake!” came the mate’s voice; “we’re parched
with rowing, and there’s a woman on board.”

The fellow in the bow of the long-boat, as if some one had suddenly
struck him, broke into a tornado of blasphemy.

“Give us some,” came the mate’s voice, “or, by God, we’ll lay you
aboard!”

Before the words were well spoken the men in the quarter-boat carried
the threat into action. The conflict was brief: the quarter-boat was
too crowded for fighting. The starboard men in the long-boat fought
with their oars, whilst the fellows to port steadied the boat.

The fight did not last long, and presently the quarter-boat sheered
off, half of the men in her cut about the head and bleeding—two of
them senseless.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

It was sundown on the following day. The long-boat lay adrift. The last
drop of water had been served out eight hours before.

The quarter-boat, like a horrible phantom, had been haunting and
pursuing her all day, begging for water when there was none. It was
like the prayers one might expect to hear in hell.

The men in the long-boat, gloomy and morose, weighed down with a sense
of crime, tortured by thirst, and tormented by the voices imploring for
water, lay on their oars when the other boat tried to approach.

Now and then, suddenly, and as if moved by a common impulse, they would
all shout out together: “We have none.” But the quarter-boat would not
believe. It was in vain to hold the breaker with the bung out to prove
its dryness, the half-delirious creatures had it fixed in their minds
that their comrades were withholding from them the water that was not.

Just as the sun touched the sea, Lestrange, rousing himself from a
torpor into which he had sunk, raised himself and looked over the
gunwale. He saw the quarter-boat drifting a cable’s length away, lit by
the full light of sunset, and the spectres in it, seeing him, held out
in mute appeal their blackened tongues.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Of the night that followed it is almost impossible to speak. Thirst
was nothing to what the scowbankers suffered from the torture of the
whimpering appeal for water that came to them at intervals during the
night.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

When at last the _Arago_, a French whale ship, sighted them, the crew of
the long-boat were still alive, but three of them were raving madmen.
Of the crew of the quarter-boat was saved—not one.



PART II


CHAPTER XI

THE ISLAND

“Childer!” shouted Paddy. He was at the cross-trees in the full dawn,
whilst the children standing beneath on deck were craning their faces
up to him. “There’s an island forenint us.”

“Hurrah!” cried Dick. He was not quite sure what an island might be
like in the concrete, but it was something fresh, and Paddy’s voice was
jubilant.

“Land ho! it is,” said he, coming down to the deck. “Come for’ard to
the bows, and I’ll show it you.”

He stood on the timber in the bows and lifted Emmeline up in his arms;
and even at that humble elevation from the water she could see
something of an undecided colour—green for choice—on the horizon.

It was not directly ahead, but on the starboard bow—or, as she would
have expressed it, to the right. When Dick had looked and expressed his
disappointment at there being so little to see, Paddy began to make
preparations for leaving the ship.

It was only just now, with land in sight, that he recognised in some
fashion the horror of the position from which they were about to escape.

He fed the children hurriedly with some biscuits and tinned meat, and
then, with a biscuit in his hand, eating as he went, he trotted about
the decks, collecting things and stowing them in the dinghy. The bolt
of striped flannel, all the old clothes, a housewife full of needles
and thread, such as seamen sometimes carry, the half-sack of potatoes,
a saw which he found in the caboose, the precious coil of tobacco, and
a lot of other odds and ends he transhipped, sinking the little dinghy
several strakes in the process. Also, of course, he took the breaker of
water, and the remains of the biscuit and tinned stuff they had brought
on board. These being stowed, and the dinghy ready, he went forward
with the children to the bow, to see how the island was bearing.

It had loomed up nearer during the hour or so in which he had been
collecting and storing the things—nearer, and more to the right, which
meant that the brig was being borne by a fairly swift current, and that
she would pass it, leaving it two or three miles to starboard. It was
well they had command of the dinghy.

“The sea’s all round it,” said Emmeline, who was seated on Paddy’s
shoulder, holding on tight to him, and gazing upon the island, the
green of whose trees was now visible, an oasis of verdure in the
sparkling and seraphic blue.

“Are we going there, Paddy?” asked Dick, holding on to a stay, and
straining his eyes towards the land.

“Ay, are we,” said Mr Button. “Hot foot—five knots, if we’re makin’
wan; and it’s ashore we’ll be by noon, and maybe sooner.”

The breeze had freshened up, and was blowing dead from the island, as
though the island were making a weak attempt to blow them away from it.

Oh, what a fresh and perfumed breeze it was! All sorts of tropical
growing things had joined their scent in one bouquet.

“Smell it,” said Emmeline, expanding her small nostrils. “That’s what I
smelt last night, only it’s stronger now.”

The last reckoning taken on board the _Northumberland_ had proved the
ship to be south by east of the Marquesas; this was evidently one of
those small, lost islands that lie here and there south by east of the
Marquesas. Islands the most lonely and beautiful in the world.

As they gazed it grew before them, and shifted still more to the right.
It was hilly and green now, though the trees could not be clearly made
out; here, the green was lighter in colour, and there, darker. A rim of
pure white marble seemed to surround its base. It was foam breaking on
the barrier reef.

In another hour the feathery foliage of the cocoa-nut palms could be
made out, and the old sailor judged it time to take to the boat.

He lifted Emmeline, who was clasping her luggage, over the rail on to
the channel, and deposited her in the stern-sheets; then Dick.

In a moment the boat was adrift, the mast stepped, and the _Shenandoah_
left to pursue her mysterious voyage at the will of the currents of the
sea.

“You’re not going to the island, Paddy,” cried Dick, as the old man put
the boat on the port tack.

“You be aisy,” replied the other, “and don’t be larnin’ your
gran’mother. How the divil d’ye think I’d fetch the land sailin’ dead
in the wind’s eye?”

“Has the wind eyes?”

Mr Button did not answer the question. He was troubled in his mind.
What if the island were inhabited? He had spent several years in the
South Seas. He knew the people of the Marquesas and Samoa, and liked
them. But here he was out of his bearings.

However, all the troubling in the world was of no use. It was a case of
the island or the deep sea, and, putting the boat on the starboard
tack, he lit his pipe and leaned back with the tiller in the crook of
his arm. His keen eyes had made out from the deck of the brig an
opening in the reef, and he was making to run the dinghy abreast of the
opening, and then take to the sculls and row her through.

Now, as they drew nearer a sound came on the breeze, a sound faint and
sonorous and dreamy. It was the sound of the breakers on the reef. The
sea just here was heaving to a deeper swell, as if vexed in its sleep
at the resistance to it of the land.

Emmeline, sitting with her bundle in her lap, stared without speaking
at the sight before her. Even in the bright, glorious sunshine, and
despite the greenery that showed beyond, it was a desolate sight seen
from her place in the dinghy. A white, forlorn beach, over which the
breakers raced and tumbled, sea-gulls wheeling and screaming, and over
all the thunder of the surf.

Suddenly the break became visible, and a glimpse of smooth, blue water
beyond. Mr Button unshipped the tiller, unstepped the mast, and took to
the sculls.

As they drew nearer, the sea became more active, savage, and alive; the
thunder of the surf became louder, the breakers more fierce and
threatening, the opening broader.

One could see the water swirling round the coral piers, for the tide
was flooding into the lagoon; it had seized the little dinghy and was
bearing it along far swifter than the sculls could have driven it.
Sea-gulls screamed around them, the boat rocked and swayed. Dick
shouted with excitement, and Emmeline shut her eyes _tight_.

Then, as though a door had been swiftly and silently closed, the sound
of the surf became suddenly less. The boat floated on an even keel; she
opened her eyes and found herself in Wonderland.



CHAPTER XII

THE LAKE OF AZURE

On either side lay a great sweep of waving blue water. Calm, almost as
a lake, sapphire here, and here with the tints of the aqua marine. Water
so clear that fathoms away below you could see the branching coral, the
schools of passing fish, and the shadows of the fish upon the spaces of
sand.

Before them the clear water washed the sands of a white beach, the
cocoa-palms waved and whispered in the breeze; and as the oarsman lay
on his oars to look a flock of bluebirds rose, as if suddenly freed
from the tree-tops, wheeled, and passed soundless, like a wreath of
smoke, over the tree-tops of the higher land beyond.

“Look!” shouted Dick, who had his nose over the gunwale of the boat.
“Look at the _fish_!”

“Mr Button,” cried Emmeline, “where are we?”

“Bedad, I dunno; but we might be in a worse place, I’m thinkin’,”
replied the old man, sweeping his eyes over the blue and tranquil
lagoon, from the barrier reef to the happy shore.

On either side of the broad beach before them the cocoa-nut trees came
down like two regiments, and bending gazed at their own reflections in
the lagoon. Beyond lay waving chapparel, where cocoa-palms and
breadfruit trees intermixed with the mammee apple and the tendrils of
the wild vine. On one of the piers of coral at the break of the reef
stood a single cocoa-palm; bending with a slight curve, it, too, seemed
seeking its reflection in the waving water.

But the soul of it all, the indescribable thing about this picture of
mirrored palm trees, blue lagoon, coral reef and sky, was the light.

Away at sea the light was blinding, dazzling, cruel. Away at sea it had
nothing to focus itself upon, nothing to exhibit but infinite spaces of
blue water and desolation.

Here it made the air a crystal, through which the gazer saw the
loveliness of the land and reef, the green of palm, the white of coral,
the wheeling gulls, the blue lagoon, all sharply outlined—burning,
coloured, arrogant, yet tender—heart-breakingly beautiful, for the
spirit of eternal morning was here, eternal happiness, eternal youth.

As the oarsman pulled the tiny craft towards the beach, neither he nor
the children saw away behind the boat, on the water near the bending
palm tree at the break in the reef, something that for a moment
insulted the day, and was gone. Something like a small triangle of dark
canvas, that rippled through the water and sank from sight; something
that appeared and vanished like an evil thought.

It did not take long to beach the boat. Mr Button tumbled over the side
up to his knees in water, whilst Dick crawled over the bow.

“Catch hould of her the same as I do,” cried Paddy, laying hold of the
starboard gunwale; whilst Dick, imitative as a monkey, seized the
gunwale to port. Now then:

  “‘Yeo ho, Chilliman,
  Up wid her, up wid her,
  Heave O, Chilliman.’

“Lave her be now; she’s high enough.”

He took Emmeline in his arms and carried her up on the sand. It was
from just here on the sand that you could see the true beauty of the
lagoon. That lake of sea water forever protected from storm and trouble
by the barrier reef of coral.

Right from where the little clear ripples ran up the strand, it led the
eye to the break in the coral reef where the palm gazed at its own
reflection in the water, and there, beyond the break, one caught a
vision of the great heaving, sparkling sea.

The lagoon, just here, was perhaps more than a third of a mile broad. I
have never measured it, but I know that, standing by the palm tree on
the reef, flinging up one’s arm and shouting to a person on the beach,
the sound took a perceptible time to cross the water: I should say,
perhaps, an almost perceptible time. The distant signal and the distant
call were almost coincident, yet not quite.

Dick, mad with delight at the place in which he found himself, was
running about like a dog just out of the water. Mr Button was
discharging the cargo of the dinghy on the dry, white sand. Emmeline
seated herself with her precious bundle on the sand, and was watching
the operations of her friend, looking at the things around her and
feeling very strange.

For all she knew all this was the ordinary accompaniment of a sea
voyage. Paddy’s manner throughout had been set to the one idea, not to
frighten the “childer”; the weather had backed him up. But down in the
heart of her lay the knowledge that all was not as it should be. The
hurried departure from the ship, the fog in which her uncle had
vanished, those things, and others as well, she felt instinctively were
not right. But she said nothing.

She had not long for meditation, however, for Dick was running towards
her with a live crab which he had picked up, calling out that he was
going to make it bite her.

“Take it away!” cried Emmeline, holding both hands with fingers
widespread in front of her face. “Mr Button! Mr Button! Mr Button!”

“Lave her be, you little divil!” roared Pat, who was depositing the
last of the cargo on the sand. “Lave her be, or it’s a cow-hidin’ I’ll
be givin’ you!”

“What’s a ‘divil,’ Paddy?” asked Dick, panting from his exertions.
“Paddy, what’s a ‘divil’?”

“You’re wan. Ax no questions now, for it’s tired I am, an’ I want to
rest me bones.”

He flung himself under the shade of a palm tree, took out his tinder
box, tobacco and pipe, cut some tobacco up, filled his pipe and lit it.
Emmeline crawled up, and sat near him, and Dick flung himself down on
the sand near Emmeline.

Mr Button took off his coat and made a pillow of it against a cocoa-nut
tree stem. He had found the El Dorado of the weary. With his knowledge
of the South Seas a glance at the vegetation to be seen told him that
food for a regiment might be had for the taking; water, too.

Right down the middle of the strand was a depression which in the rainy
season would be the bed of a rushing rivulet. The water just now was
not strong enough to come all the way to the lagoon, but away up there
“beyant” in the woods lay the source, and he’d find it in due time.
There was enough in the breaker for a week, and green “cuca-nuts” were
to be had for the climbing.

Emmeline contemplated Paddy for a while as he smoked and rested his
bones, then a great thought occurred to her. She took the little shawl
from around the parcel she was holding and exposed the mysterious box.

“Oh, begorra, the box!” said Paddy, leaning on his elbow interestedly;
“I might a’ known you wouldn’t a’ forgot it.”

“Mrs James,” said Emmeline, “made me promise not to open it till I got
on shore, for the things in it might get lost.”

“Well, you’re ashore now,” said Dick; “open it.”

“I’m going to,” said Emmeline.

She carefully undid the string, refusing the assistance of Paddy’s
knife. Then the brown paper came off, disclosing a common cardboard
box. She raised the lid half an inch, peeped in, and shut it again.

“_Open_ it!” cried Dick, mad with curiosity.

“What’s in it, honey?” asked the old sailor, who was as interested as
Dick.

“Things,” replied Emmeline.

Then all at once she took the lid off and disclosed a tiny tea service
of china, packed in shavings; there was a teapot with a lid, a cream
jug, cups and saucers, and six microscopic plates, each painted with a
pansy.

“Sure, it’s a tay-set!” said Paddy, in an interested voice. “Glory be
to God! will you look at the little plates wid the flowers on thim?”

“Heugh!” said Dick in disgust; “I thought it might a’ been soldiers.”

“_I_ don’t want soldiers,” replied Emmeline, in a voice of perfect
contentment.

She unfolded a piece of tissue paper, and took from it a sugar-tongs
and six spoons. Then she arrayed the whole lot on the sand.

“Well, if that don’t beat all!” said Paddy.

“And whin are you goin’ to ax me to tay with you?”

“Some time,” replied Emmeline, collecting the things, and carefully
repacking them.

Mr Button finished his pipe, tapped the ashes out, and placed it in his
pocket.

“I’ll be afther riggin’ up a bit of a tint,” said he, as he rose to his
feet, “to shelter us from the jew to-night; but I’ll first have a look
at the woods to see if I can find wather. Lave your box with the other
things, Emmeline; there’s no one here to take it.”

Emmeline left her box on the heap of things that Paddy had placed in
the shadow of the cocoa-nut trees, took his hand, and the three entered
the grove on the right.

It was like entering a pine forest; the tall symmetrical stems of the
trees seemed set by mathematical law, each at a given distance from the
other. Whichever way you entered a twilight alley set with tree boles
lay before you. Looking up you saw at an immense distance above a pale
green roof patined with sparkling and flashing points of light, where
the breeze was busy playing with the green fronds of the trees.

“Mr Button,” murmured Emmeline, “we won’t get lost, will we?”

“Lost! No, faith; sure we’re goin’ uphill, an’ all we have to do is to
come down again, when we want to get back—ware nuts!” A green nut
detached from up above came down rattling and tumbling and hopped on
the ground. Paddy picked it up. “It’s a green cucanut,” said he,
putting it in his pocket (it was not very much bigger than a Jaffa
orange), “and we’ll have it for tay.”

“That’s not a cocoa-nut,” said Dick; “cocoa-nuts are brown. I had five
cents once an’ I bought one, and scraped it out and y’et it.”

“When Dr Sims made Dicky sick,” said Emmeline, “he said the wonder
t’im was how Dicky held it all.”

“Come on,” said Mr Button, “an’ don’t be talkin’, or it’s the
Cluricaunes will be after us.”

“What’s cluricaunes?” demanded Dick.

“Little men no bigger than your thumb that make the brogues for the
Good People.”

“Who’s they?”

“Whisht, and don’t be talkin’. Mind your head, Em’leen, or the
branches’ll be hittin’ you in the face.”

They had left the cocoa-nut grove, and entered the chapparel. Here was
a deeper twilight, and all sorts of trees lent their foliage to make
the shade. The artu with its delicately diamonded trunk, the great
breadfruit tall as a beech, and shadowy as a cave, the aoa, and the
eternal cocoa-nut palm all grew here like brothers. Great ropes of wild
vine twined like the snake of the laocoon from tree to tree, and all
sorts of wonderful flowers, from the orchid shaped like a butterfly to
the scarlet hibiscus, made beautiful the gloom.

Suddenly Mr Button stopped.

“Whisht!” said he.

Through the silence—a silence filled with the hum and the murmur of
wood insects and the faint, far song of the reef—came a tinkling,
rippling sound: it was water. He listened to make sure of the bearing
of the sound, then he made for it.

Next moment they found themselves in a little grass-grown glade. From
the hilly ground above, over a rock black and polished like ebony, fell
a tiny cascade not much broader than one’s hand; ferns grew around and
from a tree above where a great rope of wild convolvulus flowers blew
their trumpets in the enchanted twilight.

The children cried out at the prettiness of it, and Emmeline ran and
dabbled her hands in the water. Just above the little waterfall sprang
a banana tree laden with fruit; it had immense leaves six feet long and
more, and broad as a dinner-table. One could see the golden glint of
the ripe fruit through the foliage.

In a moment Mr Button had kicked off his shoes and was going up the
rock like a cat, absolutely, for it seemed to give him nothing to climb
by.

“Hurroo!” cried Dick in admiration. “Look at Paddy!”

Emmeline looked, and saw nothing but swaying leaves.

“Stand from under!” he shouted, and next moment down came a huge bunch
of yellow-jacketed bananas. Dick shouted with delight, but Emmeline
showed no excitement: she had discovered something.



CHAPTER XIII

DEATH VEILED WITH LICHEN

“Mr Button,” said she, when the latter had descended, “there’s a little
barrel”; she pointed to something green and lichen-covered that lay
between the trunks of two trees—something that eyes less sharp than
the eyes of a child might have mistaken for a boulder.

“Sure, an’ faith it’s an’ ould empty bar’l,” said Mr Button, wiping the
sweat from his brow and staring at the thing. “Some ship must have been
wathering here an’ forgot it. It’ll do for a sate whilst we have
dinner.”

He sat down upon it and distributed the bananas to the children, who
sat down on the grass.

The barrel looked such a deserted and neglected thing that his
imagination assumed it to be empty. Empty or full, however, it made an
excellent seat, for it was quarter sunk in the green soft earth, and
immovable.

“If ships has been here, ships will come again,” said he, as he munched
his bananas.

“Will daddy’s ship come here?” asked Dick.

“Ay, to be sure it will,” replied the other, taking out his pipe. “Now
run about and play with the flowers an’ lave me alone to smoke a pipe,
and then we’ll all go to the top of the hill beyant, and have a look
round us.

“Come ’long, Em!” cried Dick; and the children started off amongst the
trees, Dick pulling at the hanging vine tendrils, and Emmeline plucking
what blossoms she could find within her small reach.

When he had finished his pipe he hallooed, and small voices answered
him from the wood. Then the children came running back, Emmeline
laughing and showing her small white teeth, a large bunch of blossoms
in her hand; Dick flowerless, but carrying what seemed a large green
stone.

“Look at what a funny thing I’ve found!” he cried; “it’s got holes in
it.”

“Dhrap it!” shouted Mr Button, springing from the barrel as if some one
had stuck an awl into him. “Where’d you find it? What d’you mane by
touchin’ it? Give it here.”

He took it gingerly in his hands; it was a lichen-covered skull, with a
great dent in the back of it where it had been cloven by an axe or some
sharp instrument. He hove it as far as he could away amidst the trees.

“What is it, Paddy?” asked Dick, half astonished, half frightened at
the old man’s manner.

“It’s nothin’ good,” replied Mr Button.

“There were two others, and I wanted to fetch them,” grumbled Dick.

“You lave them alone. Musha! musha! but there’s been black doin’s here
in days gone by. What is it, Emmeline?”

Emmeline was holding out her bunch of flowers for admiration. He took a
great gaudy blossom—if flowers can ever be called gaudy—and stuck its
stalk in the pocket of his coat. Then he led the way uphill, muttering
as he went.

The higher they got the less dense became the trees and the fewer the
cocoa-nut palms. The cocoa-nut palm loves the sea, and the few they had
here all had their heads bent in the direction of the lagoon, as if
yearning after it.

They passed a cane-brake where canes twenty feet high whispered
together like bulrushes. Then a sunlit sward, destitute of tree or
shrub, led them sharply upward for a hundred feet or so to where a
great rock, the highest point of the island, stood, casting its shadow
in the sunshine. The rock was about twenty feet high, and easy to
climb. Its top was almost flat, and as spacious as an ordinary
dinner-table. From it one could obtain a complete view of the island
and the sea.

Looking down, one’s eye travelled over the trembling and waving
tree-tops, to the lagoon; beyond the lagoon to the reef, beyond the
reef to the infinite space of the Pacific. The reef encircled the whole
island, here further from the land, here closer; the song of the surf
on it came as a whisper, just like the whisper you hear in a shell;
but, a strange thing, though the sound heard on the beach was
continuous, up here one could distinguish an intermittency as breaker
after breaker dashed itself to death on the coral strand below.

You have seen a field of green barley ruffled over by the wind, just so
from the hill-top you could see the wind in its passage over the sunlit
foliage beneath.

It was breezing up from the south-west, and banyan and cocoa-palm, artu
and breadfruit tree, swayed and rocked in the merry wind. So bright and
moving was the picture of the breeze-swept sea, the blue lagoon, the
foam-dashed reef, and the rocking trees that one felt one had surprised
some mysterious gala day, some festival of Nature more than ordinarily
glad.

As if to strengthen the idea, now and then above the trees would burst
what seemed a rocket of coloured stars. The stars would drift away in a
flock on the wind and be lost. They were flights of birds. All-coloured
birds peopled the trees below—blue, scarlet, dove-coloured, bright of
eye, but voiceless. From the reef you could see occasionally the
sea-gulls rising here and there in clouds like small puffs of smoke.

The lagoon, here deep, here shallow, presented, according to its depth
or shallowness, the colours of ultra-marine or sky. The broadest parts
were the palest, because the most shallow; and here and there, in the
shallows, you might see a faint tracery of coral ribs almost reaching
the surface. The island at its broadest might have been three miles
across. There was not a sign of house or habitation to be seen, and not
a sail on the whole of the wide Pacific.

It was a strange place to be, up here. To find oneself surrounded by
grass and flowers and trees, and all the kindliness of nature, to feel
the breeze blow, to smoke one’s pipe, and to remember that one was in a
place uninhabited and unknown. A place to which no messages were ever
carried except by the wind or the sea-gulls.

In this solitude the beetle was as carefully painted and the flower as
carefully tended as though all the peoples of the civilised world were
standing by to criticise or approve.

Nowhere in the world, perhaps, so well as here, could you appreciate
Nature’s splendid indifference to the great affairs of Man.

The old sailor was thinking nothing of this sort. His eyes were fixed
on a small and almost imperceptible stain on the horizon to the
sou’-sou’-west. It was no doubt another island almost hull-down on the
horizon. Save for this blemish the whole wheel of the sea was empty and
serene.

Emmeline had not followed them up to the rock. She had gone botanising
where some bushes displayed great bunches of the crimson arita berries
as if to show to the sun what Earth could do in the way of
manufacturing poison. She plucked two great bunches of them, and with
this treasure came to the base of the rock.

“Lave thim berries down!” cried Mr Button, when she had attracted his
attention. “Don’t put thim in your mouth; thim’s the never-wake-up
berries.”

He came down off the rock, hand over fist, flung the poisonous things
away, and looked into Emmeline’s small mouth, which at his command she
opened wide. There was only a little pink tongue in it, however, curled
up like a rose-leaf; no sign of berries or poison. So, giving her a
little shake, just as a nursemaid would have done in like
circumstances, he took Dick off the rock, and led the way back to the
beach.



CHAPTER XIV

ECHOES OF FAIRY-LAND

“Mr Button,” said Emmeline that night, as they sat on the sand near
the tent he had improvised, “Mr Button—cats go to sleep.”

They had been questioning him about the “never-wake-up” berries.

“Who said they didn’t?” asked Mr Button.

“I mean,” said Emmeline, “they go to sleep and never wake up again.
Ours did. It had stripes on it, and a white chest, and rings all down
its tail. It went asleep in the garden, all stretched out, and showing
its teeth; an’ I told Jane, and Dicky ran in an’ told uncle. I went to
Mrs Sims, the doctor’s wife, to tea; and when I came back I asked Jane
where pussy was—and she said it was deadn’ berried, but I wasn’t to
tell uncle.”

“I remember,” said Dick. “It was the day I went to the circus, and you
told me not to tell daddy the cat was deadn’ berried. But I told Mrs
James’s man when he came to do the garden; and I asked him where cats
went when they were deadn’ berried, and he said he guessed they went to
hell—at least he hoped they did, for they were always scratchin’ up
the flowers. Then he told me not to tell any one he’d said that, for it
was a swear word, and he oughtn’t to have said it. I asked him what
he’d give me if I didn’t tell, an’ he gave me five cents. That was the
day I bought the cocoa-nut.”

The tent, a makeshift affair, consisting of two sculls and a tree
branch, which Mr Button had sawed off from a dwarf aoa, and the
stay-sail he had brought from the brig, was pitched in the centre of the
beach, so as to be out of the way of falling cocoa-nuts, should the
breeze strengthen during the night. The sun had set, but the moon had
not yet risen as they sat in the starlight on the sand near the
temporary abode.

“What’s the things you said made the boots for the people, Paddy?”
asked Dick, after a pause.

“Which things?”

“You said in the wood I wasn’t to talk, else—”

“Oh, the Cluricaunes—the little men that cobbles the Good People’s
brogues. Is it them you mane?”

“Yes,” said Dick, not knowing quite whether it was them or not that he
meant, but anxious for information that he felt would be curious. “And
what are the good people?”

“Sure, where were you born and bred that you don’t know the Good People
is the other name for the fairies—savin’ their presence?”

“There aren’t any,” replied Dick. “Mrs Sims said there weren’t.”

“Mrs James,” put in Emmeline, “said there were. She said she liked to
see children b’lieve in fairies. She was talking to another lady, who’d
got a red feather in her bonnet, and a fur muff. They were having tea,
and I was sitting on the hearthrug. She said the world was getting
too—something or another, an’ then the other lady said it was, and
asked Mrs James did she see Mrs Someone in the awful hat she wore
Thanksgiving Day. They didn’t say anything more about fairies, but Mrs
James——”

“Whether you b’lave in them or not,” said Paddy, “there they are. An’
maybe they’re poppin’ out of the wood behint us now, an’ listenin’ to
us talkin’; though I’m doubtful if there’s any in these parts, though
down in Connaught they were as thick as blackberries in the ould days.
O musha! musha! the ould days, the ould days! when will I be seein’
thim again? Now, you may b’lave me or b’lave me not, but me own ould
father—God rest his sowl!—was comin’ over Croagh Patrick one night
before Christmas with a bottle of whisky in one hand of him, and a
goose, plucked an’ claned an’ all, in the other, which same he’d won in
a lottery, when, hearin’ a tchune no louder than the buzzin’ of a bee,
over a furze-bush he peeps, and there, round a big white stone, the
Good People were dancing in a ring hand in hand, an’ kickin’ their
heels, an’ the eyes of them glowin’ like the eyes of moths; and a chap
on the stone, no bigger than the joint of your thumb, playin’ to thim
on a bagpipes. Wid that he let wan yell an’ drops the goose an’ makes
for home, over hedge an’ ditch, boundin’ like a buck kangaroo, an’ the
face on him as white as flour when he burst in through the door, where
we was all sittin’ round the fire burnin’ chestnuts to see who’d be
married the first.

“‘An’ what in the name of the saints is the mather wid yiz?’ says me
mother.

“‘I’ve sane the Good People,’ says he, ‘up on the field beyant,’ says
he; ‘and they’ve got the goose,’ says he, ‘but, begorra, I’ve saved the
bottle,’ he says. ‘Dhraw the cork and give me a taste of it, for me
heart’s in me throat, and me tongue’s like a brick-kil.’

“An’ whin we come to prize the cork out of the bottle, there was
nothin’ in it; an’ whin we went next marnin’ to look for the goose, it
was gone. But there was the stone, sure enough, and the marks on it of
the little brogues of the chap that’d played the bagpipes—and who’d be
doubtin’ there were fairies after that?”

The children said nothing for a while, and then Dick said:

“Tell us about Cluricaunes, and how they make the boots.”

“Whin I’m tellin’ you about Cluricaunes,” said Mr Button, “it’s the
truth I’m tellin’ you, an’ out of me own knowlidge, for I’ve spoken to a
man that’s held wan in his hand; he was me own mother’s brother, Con
Cogan—rest his sowl! Con was six fut two, wid a long, white face; he’d
had his head bashed in, years before I was barn, in some ruction or
other, an’ the docthers had japanned him with a five-shillin’ piece
beat flat.”

Dick interposed with a question as to the process, aim, and object of
japanning, but Mr Button passed the question by.

“He’d been bad enough for seein’ fairies before they japanned him, but
afther it, begorra, he was twiced as bad. I was a slip of a lad at the
time, but me hair near turned grey wid the tales he’d tell of the Good
People and their doin’s. One night they’d turn him into a harse an’
ride him half over the county, wan chap on his back an’ another runnin’
behind, shovin’ furze prickles under his tail to make him buck-lep.
Another night it’s a dunkey he’d be, harnessed to a little cart, an’
bein’ kicked in the belly and made to draw stones. Thin it’s a goose
he’d be, runnin’ over the common wid his neck stritched out squawkin’,
an’ an old fairy woman afther him wid a knife, till it fair drove him
to the dhrink; though, by the same token, he didn’t want much dhrivin’.

“And what does he do when his money was gone, but tear the
five-shillin’ piece they’d japanned him wid aff the top of his hed, and
swaps it for a bottle of whisky, and that was the end of him.”

Mr Button paused to relight his pipe, which had gone out, and there was
silence for a moment.

The moon had risen, and the song of the surf on the reef filled the
whole night with its lullaby. The broad lagoon lay waving and rippling
in the moonlight to the incoming tide. Twice as broad it always looked
seen by moonlight or starlight than when seen by day. Occasionally the
splash of a great fish would cross the silence, and the ripple of it
would pass a moment later across the placid water.

Big things happened in the lagoon at night, unseen by eyes from the
shore. You would have found the wood behind them, had you walked
through it, full of light. A tropic forest under a tropic moon is green
as a sea cave. You can see the vine tendrils and the flowers, the
orchids and tree boles all lit as by the light of an emerald-tinted day.

Mr Button took a long piece of string from his pocket.

“It’s bedtime,” said he; “and I’m going to tether Em’leen, for fear
she’d be walkin’ in her slape, and wandherin’ away an’ bein’ lost in
the woods.”

“I don’t want to be tethered,” said Emmeline.

“It’s for your own good I’m doin’ it,” replied Mr Button, fixing the
string round her waist. “Now come ’long.”

He led her like a dog in a leash to the tent, and tied the other end of
the string to the scull, which was the tent’s main prop and support.

“Now,” said he, “if you be gettin’ up and walkin’ about in the night,
it’s down the tint will be on top of us all.”

And, sure enough, in the small hours of the morning, it was.



CHAPTER XV

FAIR PICTURES IN THE BLUE

“I don’t want my old britches on! I don’t want my old britches on!”

Dick was darting about naked on the sand, Mr Button after him with a
pair of small trousers in his hand. A crab might just as well have
attempted to chase an antelope.

They had been on the island a fortnight, and Dick had discovered the
keenest joy in life—to be naked. To be naked and wallow in the shallows
of the lagoon, to be naked and sit drying in the sun. To be free from
the curse of clothes, to shed civilisation on the beach in the form of
breeches, boots, coat, and hat, and to be one with the wind and the sun
and the sea.

The very first command Mr Button had given on the second morning of
their arrival was, “Strip and into the water wid you.”

Dick had resisted at first, and Emmeline (who rarely wept) had stood
weeping in her little chemise. But Mr Button was obdurate. The
difficulty at first was to get them in; the difficulty now was to keep
them out.

Emmeline was sitting as nude as the day star, drying in the morning sun
after her dip, and watching Dick’s evolutions on the sand.

The lagoon had for the children far more attraction than the land.
Woods where you might knock ripe bananas off the trees with a big cane,
sands where golden lizards would scuttle about so tame that you might
with a little caution seize them by the tail, a hill-top from whence
you might see, to use Paddy’s expression, “to the back of beyond”; all
these were fine enough in their way, but they were nothing to the
lagoon.

Deep down where the coral branches were you might watch, whilst Paddy
fished, all sorts of things disporting on the sand patches and between
the coral tufts. Hermit crabs that had evicted whelks, wearing the
evicted ones’ shells—an obvious misfit; sea anemones as big as roses.
Flowers that closed up in an irritable manner if you lowered the hook
gently down and touched them; extraordinary shells that walked about on
feelers, elbowing the crabs out of the way and terrorising the whelks.
The overlords of the sand patches, these; yet touch one on the back
with a stone tied to a bit of string, and down he would go flat,
motionless and feigning death. There was a lot of human nature lurking
in the depths of the lagoon, comedy and tragedy.

An English rock-pool has its marvels. You can fancy the marvels of this
vast rock-pool, nine miles round and varying from a third to half a
mile broad, swarming with tropic life and flights of painted fishes;
where the glittering albicore passed beneath the boat like a fire and a
shadow; where the boat’s reflection lay as clear on the bottom as
though the water were air; where the sea, pacified by the reef, told,
like a little child, its dreams.

It suited the lazy humour of Mr Button that he never pursued the lagoon
more than half a mile or so on either side of the beach. He would bring
the fish he caught ashore, and with the aid of his tinder box and dead
sticks make a blazing fire on the sand; cook fish and breadfruit and
taro roots, helped and hindered by the children. They fixed the tent
amidst the trees at the edge of the chapparel, and made it larger and
more abiding with the aid of the dinghy’s sail.

Amidst these occupations, wonders, and pleasures, the children lost all
count of the flight of time. They rarely asked about Mr Lestrange;
after a while they did not ask about him at all. Children soon forget.



PART III


CHAPTER XVI

THE POETRY OF LEARNING

To forget the passage of time you must live in the open air, in a warm
climate, with as few clothes as possible upon you. You must collect and
cook your own food. Then, after a while, if you have no special ties to
bind you to civilisation, Nature will begin to do for you what she does
for the savage. You will recognise that it is possible to be happy
without books or newspapers, letters or bills. You will recognise the
part sleep plays in Nature.

After a month on the island you might have seen Dick at one moment full
of life and activity, helping Mr Button to dig up a taro root or
what not, the next curled up to sleep like a dog. Emmeline the same.
Profound and prolonged lapses into sleep; sudden awakenings into a
world of pure air and dazzling light, the gaiety of colour all round.
Nature had indeed opened her doors to these children.

One might have fancied her in an experimental mood, saying: “Let me put
these buds of civilisation back into my nursery and see what they will
become—how they will blossom, and what will be the end of it all.”

Just as Emmeline had brought away her treasured box from the
_Northumberland_, Dick had conveyed with him a small linen bag that
chinked when shaken. It contained marbles. Small olive-green marbles
and middle-sized ones of various colours; glass marbles with splendid
coloured cores; and one large old grandfather marble too big to be
played with, but none the less to be worshipped—a god marble.

Of course one cannot play at marbles on board ship, but one can play
_with_ them. They had been a great comfort to Dick on the voyage. He knew
them each personally, and he would roll them out on the mattress of his
bunk and review them nearly every day, whilst Emmeline looked on.

One day Mr Button, noticing Dick and the girl kneeling opposite each
other on a flat, hard piece of sand near the water’s edge, strolled up
to see what they were doing. They were playing marbles. He stood with
his hands in his pockets and his pipe in his mouth watching and
criticising the game, pleased that the “childer” were amused. Then he
began to be amused himself, and in a few minutes more he was down on
his knees taking a hand; Emmeline, a poor player and an unenthusiastic
one, withdrawing in his favour.

After that it was a common thing to see them playing together, the old
sailor on his knees, one eye shut, and a marble against the nail of his
horny thumb taking aim; Dick and Emmeline on the watch to make sure he
was playing fair, their shrill voices echoing amidst the cocoa-nut
trees with cries of “Knuckle down, Paddy, knuckle down!” He entered
into all their amusements just as one of themselves. On high and rare
occasions Emmeline would open her precious box, spread its contents and
give a tea-party, Mr Button acting as guest or president as the case
might be.

“Is your tay to your likin’, ma’am?” he would enquire; and Emmeline,
sipping at her tiny cup, would invariably make answer: “Another lump of
sugar, if you please, Mr Button;” to which would come the stereotyped
reply: “Take a dozen, and welcome; and another cup for the good of your
make.”

Then Emmeline would wash the things in imaginary water, replace them in
the box, and every one would lose their company manners and become
quite natural again.

“Have you ever seen your name, Paddy?” asked Dick one morning.

“Seen me which?”

“Your name?”

“Arrah, don’t be axin’ me questions,” replied the other. “How the divil
could I see me name?”

“Wait and I’ll show you,” replied Dick.

He ran and fetched a piece of cane, and a minute later on the
salt-white sand in face of orthography and the sun appeared these
portentous letters:

B U T T E N

“Faith, an’ it’s a cliver boy y’are,” said Mr Button admiringly, as he
leaned luxuriously against a cocoa-nut tree, and contemplated Dick’s
handiwork. “And that’s me name, is it? What’s the letters in it?”

Dick enumerated them.

“I’ll teach you to do it, too,” he said. “I’ll teach you to write your
name, Paddy—would you like to write your name, Paddy?”

“No,” replied the other, who only wanted to be let smoke his pipe in
peace; “me name’s no use to me.”

But Dick, with the terrible gadfly tirelessness of childhood, was not
to be put off, and the unfortunate Mr Button had to go to school
despite himself. In a few days he could achieve the act of drawing upon
the sand characters somewhat like the above, but not without prompting,
Dick and Emmeline on each side of him, breathless for fear of a mistake.

“Which next?” would ask the sweating scribe, the perspiration pouring
from his forehead—“which next? an’ be quick, for it’s moithered I am.”

“N. N.—that’s right—Ow, you’re making it crooked!—_that’s_
right—there! it’s all there now—Hurroo!”

“Hurroo!” would answer the scholar, waving his old hat over his own
name, and “Hurroo!” would answer the cocoa-nut grove echoes; whilst the
far, faint “Hi hi!” of the wheeling gulls on the reef would come over
the blue lagoon as if in acknowledgment of the deed, and encouragement.

The appetite comes with teaching. The pleasantest mental exercise of
childhood is the instruction of one’s elders. Even Emmeline felt this.
She took the geography class one day in a timid manner, putting her
little hand first in the great horny fist of her friend.

“Mr Button!”

“Well, honey?”

“I know g’ography.”

“And what’s that?” asked Mr Button.

This stumped Emmeline for a moment.

“It’s where places are,” she said at last.

“Which places?” enquired he.

“All sorts of places,” replied Emmeline. “Mr Button!”

“What is it, darlin’?”

“Would you like to learn g’ography?”

“I’m not wishful for larnin’,” said the other hurriedly. “It makes me
head buzz to hear them things they rade out of books.”

“Paddy,” said Dick, who was strong on drawing that afternoon, “look
here.” He drew the following on the sand:

[Illustration: A bad drawing of an elephant]

“That’s an elephant,” he said in a dubious voice.

Mr Button grunted, and the sound was by no means filled with
enthusiastic assent. A chill fell on the proceedings.

Dick wiped the elephant slowly and regretfully out, whilst Emmeline
felt disheartened. Then her face suddenly cleared; the seraphic smile
came into it for a moment—a bright idea had struck her.

“Dicky,” she said, “draw Henry the Eight.”

Dick’s face brightened. He cleared the sand and drew the following
figure:

      l   l
    <[     ]>
      /   \

“_That’s_ not Henry the Eight,” he explained, “but he will be in a
minute. Daddy showed me how to draw him; he’s nothing till he gets his
hat on.”

“Put his hat on, put his hat on!” implored Emmeline, gazing alternately
from the figure on the sand to Mr Button’s face, watching for the
delighted smile with which she was sure the old man would greet the
great king when he appeared in all his glory.

Then Dick with a single stroke of the cane put Henry’s hat on.

       === l
       l   l
     <[     ]>
       /   \

Now, no portrait could be liker to his monk-hunting majesty than the
above, created with one stroke of a cane (so to speak), yet Mr Button
remained unmoved.

“I did it for Mrs Sims,” said Dick regretfully, “and _she_ said it was
the image of him.”

“Maybe the hat’s not big enough,” said Emmeline, turning her head from
side to side as she gazed at the picture. It looked right, but she felt
there must be something wrong, as Mr Button did not applaud. Has not
every true artist felt the same before the silence of some critic?

Mr Button tapped the ashes out of his pipe and rose to stretch himself,
and the class rose and trooped down to the lagoon edge, leaving Henry
and his hat a figure on the sand to be obliterated by the wind.

After a while, as time went on, Mr Button took to his lessons as a
matter of course, the small inventions of the children assisting their
utterly untrustworthy knowledge. Knowledge, perhaps, as useful as any
other there amidst the lovely poetry of the palm trees and the sky.

Days slipped into weeks, and weeks into months, without the appearance
of a ship—a fact which gave Mr Button very little trouble; and even
less to his charges, who were far too busy and amused to bother about
ships.

The rainy season came on them with a rush, and at the words “rainy
season” do not conjure up in your mind the vision of a rainy day in
Manchester.

The rainy season here was quite a lively time. Torrential showers
followed by bursts of sunshine, rainbows, and rain-dogs in the sky, and
the delicious perfume of all manner of growing things on the earth.

After the rains the old sailor said he’d be after making a house of
bamboos before the next rains came on them; but, maybe, before that
they’d be off the island.

“However,” said he, “I’ll dra’ you a picture of what it’ll be like when
it’s up;” and on the sand he drew a figure like this:

X

Having thus drawn the plans of the building, he leaned back against a
cocoa-palm and lit his pipe. But he had reckoned without Dick.

The boy had not the least wish to live in a house, but he had a keen
desire to see one built, and help to build one. The ingenuity which is
part of the multiform basis of the American nature was aroused.

“How’re you going to keep them from slipping, if you tie them together
like that?” he asked, when Paddy had more fully explained his method.

“Which from slippin’?”

“The canes—one from the other?”

“After you’ve fixed thim, one cross t’other, you drive a nail through
the cross-piece and a rope over all.”

“Have you any nails, Paddy?”

“No,” said Mr Button, “I haven’t.”

“Then how’re you goin’ to build the house?”

“Ax me no questions now; I want to smoke me pipe.”

But he had raised a devil difficult to lay. Morning, noon, and night it
was “Paddy, when are you going to begin the house?” or, “Paddy, I guess
I’ve got a way to make the canes stick together without nailing.” Till
Mr Button, in despair, like a beaver, began to build.

There was great cane-cutting in the cane-brake above, and, when
sufficient had been procured, Mr Button struck work for three days. He
would have struck altogether, but he had found a taskmaster.

The tireless Dick, young and active, with no original laziness in his
composition, no old bones to rest, or pipe to smoke, kept after him
like a bluebottle fly. It was in vain that he tried to stave him off
with stories about fairies and Cluricaunes. Dick wanted to build a
house.

Mr Button didn’t. He wanted to rest. He did not mind fishing or
climbing a cocoa-nut tree, which he did to admiration by passing a rope
round himself and the tree, knotting it, and using it as a support
during the climb; but house-building was monotonous work.

He said he had no nails. Dick countered by showing how the canes could
be held together by notching them.

“And, faith, but it’s a cliver boy you are,” said the weary one
admiringly, when the other had explained his method.

“Then come along, Paddy, and stick ’em up.”

Mr Button said he had no rope, that he’d have to think about it, that
to-morrow or next day he’d be after getting some notion how to do it
without rope. But Dick pointed out that the brown cloth which Nature
has wrapped round the cocoa-palm stalks would do instead of rope if cut
in strips. Then the badgered one gave in.

They laboured for a fortnight at the thing, and at the end of that time
had produced a rough sort of wigwam on the borders of the chapparel.

Out on the reef, to which they often rowed in the dinghy, when the tide
was low, deep pools would be left, and in the pools fish. Paddy said
if they had a spear they might be able to spear some of these fish, as
he had seen the natives do away “beyant” in Tahiti.

Dick enquired as to the nature of a spear, and next day produced a
ten-foot cane sharpened at the end after the fashion of a quill pen.

“Sure, what’s the use of that?” said Mr Button. “You might job it into
a fish, but he’d be aff it in two ticks; it’s the barb that holds them.”

Next day the indefatigable one produced the cane amended; he had
whittled it down about three feet from the end and on one side, and
carved a fairly efficient barb. It was good enough, at all events, to
spear a “groper” with, that evening, in the sunset-lit pools of the
reef at low tide.

“There aren’t any potatoes here,” said Dick one day, after the second
rains.

“We’ve et ’em all months ago,” replied Paddy.

“How do potatoes grow?” enquired Dick.

“Grow, is it? Why, they grow in the ground; and where else would they
grow?” He explained the process of potato-planting: cutting them into
pieces so that there was an eye in each piece, and so forth. “Having
done this,” said Mr Button, “you just chuck the pieces in the ground;
their eyes grow, green leaves ‘pop up,’ and then, if you dug the roots
up maybe, six months after, you’d find bushels of potatoes in the
ground, ones as big as your head, and weeny ones. It’s like a family of
childer—some’s big and some’s little. But there they are in the
ground, and all you have to do is to take a fark and dig a potful of
them with a turn of your wrist, as many a time I’ve done it in the ould
days.”

“Why didn’t we do that?” asked Dick.

“Do what?” asked Mr Button.

“Plant some of the potatoes.”

“And where’d we have found the spade to plant them with?”

“I guess we could have fixed up a spade,” replied the boy. “I made a
spade at home, out of a piece of old board, once—daddy helped.”

“Well, skelp off with you, and make a spade now,” replied the other,
who wanted to be quiet and think, “and you and Em’line can dig in the
sand.”

Emmeline was sitting near by, stringing together some gorgeous blossoms
on a tendril of liana. Months of sun and ozone had made a considerable
difference in the child. She was as brown as a gipsy and freckled, not
very much taller, but twice as plump. Her eyes had lost considerably
that look as though she were contemplating futurity and immensity—not
as abstractions, but as concrete images, and she had lost the habit of
sleep-walking.

The shock of the tent coming down on the first night she was tethered
to the scull had broken her of it, helped by the new healthful
conditions of life, the sea-bathing, and the eternal open air. There is
no narcotic to excel fresh air.

Months of semi-savagery had made also a good deal of difference in
Dick’s appearance. He was two inches taller than on the day they
landed. Freckled and tanned, he had the appearance of a boy of twelve.
He was the promise of a fine man. He was not a good-looking child, but
he was healthy-looking, with a jolly laugh, and a daring, almost
impudent expression of face.

The question of the children’s clothes was beginning to vex the mind of
the old sailor. The climate was a suit of clothes in itself. One was
much happier with almost nothing on. Of course there were changes of
temperature, but they were slight. Eternal summer, broken by torrential
rains, and occasionally a storm, that was the climate of the island;
still, the “childer” couldn’t go about with nothing on.

He took some of the striped flannel and made Emmeline a kilt. It was
funny to see him sitting on the sand, Emmeline standing before him with
her garment round her waist, being tried on; he, with a mouthful of
pins, and the housewife with the scissors, needles, and thread by his
side.

“Turn to the lift a bit more,” he’d say, “aisy does it. Stidy
so—musha! musha! where’s thim scissors? Dick, be holdin’ the end of
this bit of string till I get the stitches in behint. Does that hang
comfortable?—well, an’ you’re the trouble an’ all. How’s _that_? That’s
aisier, is it? Lift your fut till I see if it comes to your knees. Now
off with it, and lave me alone till I stitch the tags to it.”

It was the mixture of a skirt and the idea of a sail, for it had two
rows of reef points; a most ingenious idea, as it could be reefed if
the child wanted to go paddling, or in windy weather.



CHAPTER XVII

THE DEVIL’S CASK

One morning, about a week after the day on which the old sailor, to use
his own expression, had bent a skirt on Emmeline, Dick came through the
woods and across the sands running. He had been on the hill-top.

“Paddy,” he cried to the old man, who was fixing a hook on a
fishing-line, “there’s a ship!”

It did not take Mr Button long to reach the hill-top, and there she
was, beating up for the island. Bluff-bowed and squab, the figure of an
old Dutch woman, and telling of her trade a league off. It was just
after the rains, the sky was not yet quite clear of clouds; you could
see showers away at sea, and the sea was green and foam-capped.

There was the trying-out gear; there were the boats, the crow’s nest,
and all complete, and labelling her a whaler. She was a ship, no doubt,
but Paddy Button would as soon have gone on board a ship manned by
devils, and captained by Lucifer, as on board a South Sea whaleman. He
had been there before, and he knew.

He hid the children under a large banyan, and told them not to stir or
breathe till he came back, for the ship was “the devil’s own ship”; and
if the men on board caught them they’d skin them alive and all.

Then he made for the beach; he collected all the things out of the
wigwam, and all the old truck in the shape of boots and old clothes,
and stowed them away in the dinghy. He would have destroyed the house,
if he could, but he hadn’t time. Then he rowed the dinghy a hundred
yards down the lagoon to the left, and moored her under the shade of an
aoa, whose branches grew right over the water. Then he came back
through the cocoa-nut grove on foot, and peered through the trees over
the lagoon to see what was to be seen.

The wind was blowing dead on for the opening in the reef, and the old
whaleman came along breasting the swell with her bluff bows, and
entered the lagoon. There was no leadsman in her chains. She just came
in as if she knew all the soundings by heart—as probably she did—for
these whalemen know every hole and corner in the Pacific.

The anchor fell with a splash, and she swung to it, making a strange
enough picture as she floated on the blue mirror, backed by the
graceful palm tree on the reef. Then Mr Button, without waiting to see
the boats lowered, made back to his charges, and the three camped in
the woods that night.

Next morning the whaleman was off and away, leaving as a token of her
visit the white sand all trampled, an empty bottle, half an old
newspaper, and the wigwam torn to pieces.

The old sailor cursed her and her crew, for the incident had brought a
new exercise into his lazy life. Every day now at noon he had to climb
the hill, on the look-out for whalemen. Whalemen haunted his dreams,
though I doubt if he would willingly have gone on board even a Royal
Mail steamer. He was quite happy where he was. After long years of the
fo’cs’le the island was a change indeed. He had tobacco enough to last
him for an indefinite time, the children for companions, and food at
his elbow. He would have been entirely happy if the island had only
been supplied by Nature with a public-house.

The spirit of hilarity and good fellowship, however, who suddenly
discovered this error on the part of Nature, rectified it, as will be
presently seen.

The most disastrous result of the whaleman’s visit was not the
destruction of the “house,” but the disappearance of Emmeline’s box.
Hunt high or hunt low, it could not be found. Mr Button in his hurry
must have forgotten it when he removed the things to the dinghy—at all
events, it was gone. Probably one of the crew of the whalemen had found
it and carried it off with him; no one could say. It was gone, and
there was the end of the matter, and the beginning of great
tribulation, that lasted Emmeline for a week.

She was intensely fond of coloured things, coloured flowers especially;
and she had the prettiest way of making them into a wreath for her own
or some one else’s head. It was the hat-making instinct that was at work
in her, perhaps; at all events, it was a feminine instinct, for Dick
made no wreaths.

One morning, as she was sitting by the old sailor engaged in stringing
shells, Dick came running along the edge of the grove. He had just come
out of the wood, and he seemed to be looking for something. Then he
found what he was in search of—a big shell—and with it in his hand
made back to the wood.

_Item._—His dress was a piece of cocoa-nut cloth tied round his middle.
Why he wore it at all, goodness knows, for he would as often as not be
running about stark naked.

“I’ve found something, Paddy!” he cried, as he disappeared among the
trees.

“What have you found?” piped Emmeline, who was always interested in new
things.

“Something funny!” came back from amidst the trees.

Presently he returned; but he was not running now. He was walking
slowly and carefully, holding the shell as if it contained something
precious that he was afraid would escape.

“Paddy, I turned over the old barrel and it had a cork thing in it, and
I pulled it out, and the barrel is full of awfully funny-smelling
stuff—I’ve brought some for you to see.”

He gave the shell into the old sailor’s hands. There was about half a
gill of yellow liquid in the shell. Paddy smelt it, tasted, and gave a
shout.

“Rum, begorra!”

“What is it, Paddy?” asked Emmeline.

“_Where_ did you say you got it—in the ould bar’l, did you say?” asked
Mr Button, who seemed dazed and stunned as if by a blow.

“Yes; I pulled the cork thing out—”

“_Did yiz put it back?_”

“Yes.”

“Oh, glory be to God! Here have I been, time out of mind, sittin’ on an
ould empty bar’l, with me tongue hangin’ down to me heels for the want
of a drink, and it full of rum all the while!”

He took a sip of the stuff, tossed the lot off, closed his lips tight
to keep in the fumes, and shut one eye.

Emmeline laughed.

Mr Button scrambled to his feet. They followed him through the
chapparel till they reached the water source. There lay the little
green barrel; turned over by the restless Dick, it lay with its bung
pointing to the leaves above. You could see the hollow it had made in
the soft soil during the years. So green was it, and so like an object
of nature, a bit of old tree-bole, or a lichen-stained boulder, that
though the whalemen had actually watered from the source, its real
nature had not been discovered.

Mr Button tapped on it with the butt end of the shell: it was nearly
full. Why it had been left there, by whom, or how, there was no one to
tell. The old lichen-covered skulls might have told, could they have
spoken.

“We’ll rowl it down to the beach,” said Paddy, when he had taken
another taste of it.

He gave Dick a sip. The boy spat it out, and made a face, then, pushing
the barrel before them, they began to roll it downhill to the beach,
Emmeline running before them crowned with flowers.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE RAT HUNT

They had dinner at noon. Paddy knew how to cook fish, island fashion,
wrapping them in leaves, and baking them in a hole in the ground in
which a fire had previously been lit. They had fish and taro root
baked, and green cocoa-nuts; and after dinner Mr Button filled a big
shell with rum, and lit his pipe.

The rum had been good originally, and age had improved it. Used as he
was to the appalling balloon juice sold in the drinking dens of the
“Barbary coast” at San Francisco, or the public-houses of the docks,
this stuff was nectar.

Joviality radiated from him: it was infectious. The children felt that
some happy influence had fallen upon their friend. Usually after dinner
he was drowsy and “wishful to be quiet.” To-day he told them stories of
the sea, and sang them songs—chantys:

  “I’m a flyin’ fish sailor come back from Hong Kong,
  Yeo ho! blow the man down.
  Blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down,
  Oh, give us _time_ to blow the man down.
  You’re a dhirty black-baller come back from New York,
  Yeo ho! blow the man down,
  Blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down.
  Oh, give us time to blow the man down.”

“Oh, give us _time_ to blow the man down!” echoed Dick and Emmeline.

Up above, in the trees, the bright-eyed birds were watching them—such
a happy party. They had all the appearance of picnickers, and the song
echoed amongst the cocoa-nut trees, and the wind carried it over the
lagoon to where the sea-gulls were wheeling and screaming, and the foam
was thundering on the reef.

That evening, Mr Button feeling inclined for joviality, and not wishing
the children to see him under the influence, rolled the barrel through
the cocoa-nut grove to a little clearing by the edge of the water.
There, when the children were in bed and asleep, he repaired with some
green cocoa-nuts and a shell. He was generally musical when amusing
himself in this fashion, and Emmeline, waking up during the night,
heard his voice borne through the moonlit cocoa-nut grove by the wind:

  “There were five or six old drunken sailors
    Standin’ before the bar,
  And Larry, he was servin’ them
    From a big five-gallon jar.

          “_Chorus._—
  Hoist up the flag, long may it wave!
    Long may it lade us to glory or the grave.
  Stidy, boys, stidy—sound the jubilee,
    For Babylon has fallen, and the niggers are all set free.”

Next morning the musician awoke beside the cask. He had not a trace of
a headache, or any bad feeling, but he made Dick do the cooking; and he
lay in the shade of the cocoa-nut trees, with his head on a “pilla”
made out of an old coat rolled up, twiddling his thumbs, smoking his
pipe, and discoursing about the “ould” days, half to himself and half
to his companions.

That night he had another musical evening all to himself, and so it
went on for a week. Then he began to lose his appetite and sleep; and
one morning Dick found him sitting on the sand looking very queer
indeed—as well he might, for he had been “seeing things” since dawn.

“What is it, Paddy?” said the boy, running up, followed by Emmeline.

Mr Button was staring at a point on the sand close by. He had his right
hand raised after the manner of a person who is trying to catch a fly.
Suddenly he made a grab at the sand, and then opened his hand wide to
see what he had caught.

“What is it, Paddy?”

“The Cluricaune,” replied Mr Button. “All dressed in green he
was—musha! musha! but it’s only pretindin’ I am.”

The complaint from which he was suffering has this strange thing about
it, that, though the patient sees rats, or snakes, or what not, as
real-looking as the real things, and though they possess his mind for a
moment, almost immediately he recognises that he is suffering from a
delusion.

The children laughed, and Mr Button laughed in a stupid sort of way.

“Sure, it was only a game I was playin’—there was no Cluricaune at
all—it’s whin I dhrink rum it puts it into me head to play games like
that. Oh, be the Holy Poker, there’s red rats comin’ out of the sand!”

He got on his hands and knees and scuttled off towards the cocoa-nut
trees, looking over his shoulder with a bewildered expression on his
face. He would have risen to fly, only he dared not stand up.

The children laughed and danced round him as he crawled.

“Look at the rats, Paddy! look at the rats!” cried Dick.

“They’re in front of me!” cried the afflicted one, making a vicious
grab at an imaginary rodent’s tail. “Ran dan the bastes!—now they’re
gone. Musha, but it’s a fool I’m makin’ of meself.”

“Go on, Paddy,” said Dick; “don’t stop— Look there—there’s more rats
coming after you!”

“Oh, whisht, will you?” replied Paddy, taking his seat on the sand, and
wiping his brow. “They’re aff me now.”

The children stood by, disappointed of their game. Good acting appeals
to children just as much as to grown-up people. They stood waiting for
another access of humour to take the comedian, and they had not to wait
long.

A thing like a flayed horse came out of the lagoon and up the beach,
and this time Mr Button did not crawl away. He got on his feet and ran.

“It’s a harse that’s afther me—it’s a harse that’s afther me! Dick!
Dick! hit him a skelp. Dick! Dick! dhrive him away.”

“Hurroo! Hurroo!” cried Dick, chasing the afflicted one, who was
running in a wide circle, his broad red face slewed over his left
shoulder. “Go it, Paddy! go it, Paddy!”

“Kape off me, you baste!” shouted Paddy. “Holy Mary, Mother of God!
I’ll land you a kick wid me fut if yiz come nigh me. Em’leen! Em’leen!
come betune us!”

He tripped, and over he went on the sand, the indefatigable Dick
beating him with a little switch he had picked up to make him continue.

“I’m better now, but I’m near wore out,” said Mr Button, sitting up on
the sand. “But, bedad, if I’m chased by any more things like them it’s
into the say I’ll be dashin’. Dick, lend me your arum.”

He took Dick’s arm and wandered over to the shade of the trees. Here
he threw himself down, and told the children to leave him to sleep.
They recognised that the game was over and left him. And he slept for
six hours on end; it was the first real sleep he had had for several
days. When he awoke he was well, but very shaky.



CHAPTER XIX

STARLIGHT ON THE FOAM

Mr Button saw no more rats, much to Dick’s disappointment. He was off
the drink. At dawn next day he got up, refreshed by a second sleep, and
wandered down to the edge of the lagoon. The opening in the reef faced
the east, and the light of the dawn came rippling in with the flooding
tide.

“It’s a baste I’ve been,” said the repentant one—“a brute baste.”

He was quite wrong; as a matter of fact, he was only a man beset and
betrayed.

He stood for a while, cursing the drink, “and them that sells it.” Then
he determined to put himself out of the way of temptation. Pull the
bung out of the barrel, and let the contents escape?

Such a thought never even occurred to him—or, if it did, was instantly
dismissed; for, though an old sailor-man may curse the drink, good rum
is to him a sacred thing; and to empty half a little barrel of it into
the sea, would be an act almost equivalent to child-murder. He put the
cask into the dinghy, and rowed it over to the reef. There he placed it
in the shelter of a great lump of coral, and rowed back.

Paddy had been trained all his life to rhythmical drunkenness. Four
months or so had generally elapsed between his bouts—sometimes six; it
all depended on the length of the voyage. Six months now elapsed before
he felt even an inclination to look at the rum cask, that tiny dark
spot away on the reef. And it was just as well, for during those six
months another whale-ship arrived, watered and was avoided.

“Blisther it!” said he; “the say here seems to breed whale-ships, and
nothin’ but whale-ships. It’s like bugs in a bed: you kill wan, and then
another comes. Howsomever, we’re shut of thim for a while.”

He walked down to the lagoon edge, looked at the little dark spot and
whistled. Then he walked back to prepare dinner. That little dark spot
began to trouble him after a while; not it, but the spirit it contained.

Days grew long and weary, the days that had been so short and pleasant.
To the children there was no such thing as time. Having absolute and
perfect health, they enjoyed happiness as far as mortals can enjoy it.
Emmeline’s highly-strung nervous system, it is true, developed a
headache when she had been too long in the glare of the sun, but they
were few and far between.

The spirit in the little cask had been whispering across the lagoon for
some weeks; at last it began to shout. Mr Button, metaphorically
speaking, stopped his ears. He busied himself with the children as much
as possible. He made another garment for Emmeline, and cut Dick’s hair
with the scissors (a job which was generally performed once in a couple
of months).

One night, to keep the rum from troubling his head, he told them the
story of Jack Dogherty and the Merrow, which is well known on the
western coast.

The Merrow takes Jack to dinner at the bottom of the sea, and shows him
the lobster pots wherein he keeps the souls of old sailor-men, and then
they have dinner, and the Merrow produces a big bottle of rum.

It was a fatal story for him to remember and recount; for, after his
companions were asleep, the vision of the Merrow and Jack hobnobbing,
and the idea of the jollity of it, rose before him, and excited a
thirst for joviality not to be resisted.

There were some green cocoa-nuts that he had plucked that day lying in
a little heap under a tree—half a dozen or so. He took several of
these and a shell, found the dinghy where it was moored to the aoa
tree, unmoored her, and pushed off into the lagoon.

The lagoon and sky were full of stars. In the dark depths of the water
might have been seen phosphorescent gleams of passing fish, and the
thunder of the surf on the reef filled the night with its song.

He fixed the boat’s painter carefully round a spike of coral and landed
on the reef, and with a shellful of rum and cocoa-nut lemonade mixed
half and half, he took his perch on a high ledge of coral from whence a
view of the sea and the coral strand could be obtained.

On a moonlight night it was fine to sit here and watch the great
breakers coming in, all marbled and clouded and rainbowed with
spindrift and sheets of spray. But the snow and the song of them under
the diffused light of the stars produced a more indescribably beautiful
and strange effect.

The tide was going out now, and Mr Button, as he sat smoking his pipe
and drinking his grog, could see bright mirrors here and there where
the water lay in rock-pools. When he had contemplated these sights for
a considerable time in complete contentment, he returned to the lagoon
side of the reef and sat down beside the little barrel. Then, after a
while, if you had been standing on the strand opposite, you would have
heard scraps of song borne across the quivering water of the lagoon.

  “Sailing down, sailing down
  On the coast of Barbaree.”

Whether the coast of Barbary in question is that at San Francisco, or
the true and proper coast, does not matter. It is an old-time song; and
when you hear it, whether on a reef of coral or a granite quay, you may
feel assured that an old-time sailor-man is singing it, and that the
old-time sailor-man is bemused.

Presently the dinghy put off from the reef, the sculls broke the
starlit waters and great shaking circles of light made rhythmical
answer to the slow and steady creak of the thole pins against the
leather. He tied up to the aoa, saw that the sculls were safely
shipped; then, breathing heavily, he cast off his boots for fear of
waking the “childer.” As the children were sleeping more than two
hundred yards away, this was a needless precaution—especially as the
intervening distance was mostly soft sand.

Green cocoa-nut juice and rum mixed together are pleasant enough to
drink, but they are better drunk separately; combined, not even the
brain of an old sailor can make anything of them but mist and
muddlement; that is to say, in the way of thought—in the way of action
they can make him do a lot. They made Paddy Button swim the lagoon.

The recollection came to him all at once, as he was walking up the
strand towards the wigwam, that he had left the dinghy tied to the
reef. The dinghy was, as a matter of fact, safe and sound tied to the
aoa; but Mr Button’s memory told him it was tied to the reef. How he
had crossed the lagoon was of no importance at all to him; the fact
that he had crossed without the boat, yet without getting wet, did not
appear to him strange. He had no time to deal with trifles like these.
The dinghy had to be fetched across the lagoon, and there was only one
way of fetching it. So he came back down the beach to the water’s edge,
cast down his boots, cast off his coat, and plunged in. The lagoon was
wide, but in his present state of mind he would have swum the
Hellespont. His figure gone from the beach, the night resumed its
majesty and aspect of meditation.

So lit was the lagoon by starshine that the head of the swimmer could
be distinguished away out in the midst of circles of light; also, as
the head neared the reef, a dark triangle that came shearing through
the water past the palm tree at the pier. It was the night patrol of the
lagoon, who had heard in some mysterious manner that a drunken
sailor-man was making trouble in his waters.

Looking, one listened, hand on heart, for the scream of the arrested
one, yet it did not come. The swimmer, scrambling on to the reef in an
exhausted manner, forgetful evidently of the object for which he had
returned, made for the rum cask, and fell down beside it as though
sleep had touched him instead of death.



CHAPTER XX

THE DREAMER ON THE REEF

“I wonder where Paddy is?” cried Dick next morning. He was coming out
of the chapparel pulling a dead branch after him. “He’s left his coat
on the sand, and the tinder box in it, so I’ll make the fire. There’s
no use waiting. I want my breakfast. Bother——”

He trod the dead stick with his naked feet, breaking it into pieces.

Emmeline sat on the sand and watched him.

Emmeline had two gods of a sort: Paddy Button and Dick. Paddy was
almost an esoteric god wrapped in the fumes of tobacco and mystery. The
god of rolling ships and creaking masts—the masts and vast sail spaces
of the _Northumberland_ were an enduring vision in her mind—the deity
who had lifted her from a little boat into this marvellous place, where
the birds were coloured and the fish were painted, where life was never
dull, and the skies scarcely ever grey.

Dick, the other deity, was a much more understandable personage, but no
less admirable, as a companion and protector. In the two years and five
months of island life he had grown nearly three inches. He was as
strong as a boy of twelve, and could scull the boat almost as well as
Paddy himself, and light a fire. Indeed, during the last few months Mr
Button, engaged in resting his bones, and contemplating rum as an
abstract idea, had left the cooking and fishing and general gathering
of food as much as possible to Dick.

“It amuses the craythur to pritind he’s doing things,” he would say,
as he watched Dick delving in the earth to make a little
oven—island-fashion—for the cooking of fish or what not.

“Come along, Em,” said Dick, piling the broken wood on top of some
rotten hibiscus sticks; “give me the tinder box.”

He got a spark on to a bit of punk, and then he blew at it, looking not
unlike Æolus as represented on those old Dutch charts that smell of
schiedam and snuff, and give one mermaids and angels instead of
soundings.

The fire was soon sparkling and crackling, and he heaped on sticks in
profusion, for there was plenty of fuel, and he wanted to cook
breadfruit.

The breadfruit varies in size, according to age, and in colour
according to season. These that Dick was preparing to cook were as
large as small melons. Two would be more than enough for three people’s
breakfast. They were green and knobbly on the outside, and they
suggested to the mind unripe lemons, rather than bread.

He put them in the embers, just as you put potatoes to roast, and
presently they sizzled and spat little venomous jets of steam, then
they cracked, and the white inner substance became visible. He cut
them open and took the core out—the core is not fit to eat—and they
were ready.

Meanwhile, Emmeline, under his directions, had not been idle.

There were in the lagoon—there are in several other tropical lagoons I
know of—a fish which I can only describe as a golden herring. A bronze
herring it looks when landed, but when swimming away down against the
background of coral brains and white sand patches, it has the sheen of
burnished gold. It is as good to eat as to look at, and Emmeline was
carefully toasting several of them on a piece of cane.

The juice of the fish kept the cane from charring, though there were
accidents at times, when a whole fish would go into the fire, amidst
shouts of derision from Dick.

She made a pretty enough picture as she knelt, the “skirt” round the
waist looking not unlike a striped bath-towel, her small face intent,
and filled with the seriousness of the job on hand, and her lips
puckered out at the heat of the fire.

“It’s so hot!” she cried in self-defence, after the first of the
accidents.

“Of course it’s hot,” said Dick, “if you stick to looward of the fire.
How often has Paddy told you to keep to windward of it!”

“I don’t know which is which,” confessed the unfortunate Emmeline, who
was an absolute failure at everything practical: who could neither row
nor fish, nor throw a stone, and who, though they had now been on the
island twenty-eight months or so, could not even swim.

“You mean to say,” said Dick, “that you don’t know where the wind comes
from?”

“Yes, I know that.”

“Well, that’s to windward.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Well, you know it now.”

“Yes, I know it now.”

“Well, then, come to windward of the fire. Why didn’t you ask the
meaning of it before?”

“I did,” said Emmeline; “I asked Mr Button one day, and he told me a
lot about it. He said if he was to spit to windward and a person was to
stand to loo’ard of him, he’d be a fool; and he said if a ship went too
much to loo’ard she went on the rocks, but I didn’t understand what he
meant. Dicky, I wonder where he is?”

“Paddy!” cried Dick, pausing in the act of splitting open a breadfruit.
Echoes came from amidst the cocoa-nut trees, but nothing more.

“Come on,” said Dick; “I’m not going to wait for him. He may have gone
to fetch up the night lines”—they sometimes put down night lines in
the lagoon—“and fallen asleep over them.”

Now, though Emmeline honoured Mr Button as a minor deity, Dick had no
illusions at all upon the matter. He admired Paddy because he could
knot, and splice, and climb a cocoa-nut tree, and exercise his sailor
craft in other admirable ways, but he felt the old man’s limitations.
They ought to have had potatoes now, but they had eaten both potatoes
and the possibility of potatoes when they consumed the contents of that
half sack. Young as he was, Dick felt the absolute thriftlessness of
this proceeding. Emmeline did not; she never thought of potatoes,
though she could have told you the colour of all the birds on the
island.

Then, again, the house wanted rebuilding, and Mr Button said every day
he would set about seeing after it to-morrow, and on the morrow it
would be to-morrow. The necessities of the life they led were a
stimulus to the daring and active mind of the boy; but he was always
being checked by the go-as-you-please methods of his elder. Dick came
of the people who make sewing machines and typewriters. Mr Button came
of a people notable for ballads, tender hearts, and potheen. That was
the main difference.

“Paddy!” again cried the boy, when he had eaten as much as he wanted.
“Hullo! where are you?”

They listened, but no answer came. A bright-hued bird flew across the
sand space, a lizard scuttled across the glistening sand, the reef
spoke, and the wind in the tree-tops; but Mr Button made no reply.

“Wait,” said Dick.

He ran through the grove towards the aoa where the dinghy was moored;
then he returned.

“The dinghy is all right,” he said. “Where on earth can he be?”

“I don’t know,” said Emmeline, upon whose heart a feeling of loneliness
had fallen.

“Let’s go up the hill,” said Dick; “perhaps we’ll find him there.”

They went uphill through the wood, past the water-course. Every now and
then Dick would call out, and echoes would answer—there were quaint,
moist-voiced echoes amidst the trees—or a bevy of birds would take
flight. The little waterfall gurgled and whispered, and the great
banana leaves spread their shade.

“Come on,” said Dick, when he had called again without receiving a
reply.

They found the hill-top, and the great boulder stood casting its shadow
in the sun. The morning breeze was blowing, the sea sparkling, the reef
flashing, the foliage of the island waving in the wind like the flames
of a green-flamed torch. A deep swell was spreading itself across the
bosom of the Pacific. Some hurricane away beyond the Navigators or
Gilberts had sent this message and was finding its echo here, a
thousand miles away, in the deeper thunder of the reef.

Nowhere else in the world could you get such a picture, such a
combination of splendour and summer, such a vision of freshness and
strength, and the delight of morning. It was the smallness of the
island, perhaps, that closed the charm and made it perfect. Just a
bunch of foliage and flowers set in the midst of the blowing wind and
sparkling blue.

Suddenly Dick, standing beside Emmeline on the rock, pointed with his
finger to the reef near the opening.

“There he is!” cried he.



CHAPTER XXI

THE GARLAND OF FLOWERS

You could just make the figure out lying on the reef near the little
cask, and comfortably sheltered from the sun by an upstanding lump of
coral.

“He’s asleep,” said Dick.

He had not thought to look towards the reef from the beach, or he might
have seen the figure before.

“Dicky!” said Emmeline.

“Well?”

“How did he get over, if you said the dinghy was tied to the tree?”

“I don’t know,” said Dick, who had not thought of this; “there he is,
anyhow. I’ll tell you what, Em, we’ll row across and wake him. I’ll boo
into his ear and make him jump.”

They got down from the rock, and came back down through the wood. As
they came Emmeline picked flowers and began making them up into one of
her wreaths. Some scarlet hibiscus, some bluebells, a couple of pale
poppies with furry stalks and bitter perfume.

“What are you making that for?” asked Dick, who always viewed
Emmeline’s wreath-making with a mixture of compassion and vague disgust.

“I’m going to put it on Mr Button’s head,” said Emmeline; “so’s when
you say boo into his ear he’ll jump up with it on.”

Dick chuckled with pleasure at the idea of the practical joke, and
almost admitted in his own mind for a moment, that after all there
might be a use for such futilities as wreaths.

The dinghy was moored under the spreading shade of the aoa, the painter
tied to one of the branches that projected over the water. These dwarf
aoas branch in an extraordinary way close to the ground, throwing out
limbs like rails. The tree had made a good protection for the little
boat, protecting it from marauding hands and from the sun; besides the
protection of the tree Paddy had now and then scuttled the boat in
shallow water. It was a new boat to start with, and with precautions
like these might be expected to last many years.

“Get in,” said Dick, pulling on the painter so that the bow of the
dinghy came close to the beach.

Emmeline got carefully in, and went aft. Then Dick got in, pushed off,
and took to the sculls. Next moment they were out on the sparkling
water.

Dick rowed cautiously, fearing to wake the sleeper. He fastened the
painter to the coral spike that seemed set there by nature for the
purpose. He scrambled on to the reef, and lying down on his stomach
drew the boat’s gunwale close up so that Emmeline might land. He had no
boots on; the soles of his feet, from constant exposure, had become
insensitive as leather.

Emmeline also was without boots. The soles of her feet, as is always
the case with highly nervous people, were sensitive, and she walked
delicately, avoiding the worst places, holding her wreath in her right
hand.

It was full tide, and the thunder of the waves outside shook the reef.
It was like being in a church when the deep bass of the organ is turned
full on, shaking the ground and the air, the walls and the roof. Dashes
of spray came over with the wind, and the melancholy “Hi, hi!” of the
wheeling gulls came like the voices of ghostly sailor-men hauling at
the halyards.

Paddy was lying on his right side steeped in profound oblivion. His
face was buried in the crook of his right arm, and his brown tattooed
left hand lay on his left thigh, palm upwards. He had no hat, and the
breeze stirred his grizzled hair.

Dick and Emmeline stole up to him till they got right beside him. Then
Emmeline, flashing out a laugh, flung the little wreath of flowers on
the old man’s head, and Dick, popping down on his knees, shouted into
his ear. But the dreamer did not stir or move a finger.

“Paddy,” cried Dick, “wake up! wake up!”

He pulled at the shoulder till the figure from its sideways posture
fell over on its back. The eyes were wide open and staring. The mouth
hung open, and from the mouth darted a little crab; it scuttled over
the chin and dropped on the coral.

Emmeline screamed, and screamed, and would have fallen, but the boy
caught her in his arms—one side of the face had been destroyed by the
larvæ of the rocks.

He held her to him as he stared at the terrible figure lying upon its
back, hands outspread. Then, wild with terror, he dragged her towards
the little boat. She was struggling, and panting and gasping, like a
person drowning in ice-cold water.

His one instinct was to escape, to fly—anywhere, no matter where. He
dragged the girl to the coral edge, and pulled the boat up close. Had
the reef suddenly become enveloped in flames he could not have exerted
himself more to escape from it and save his companion. A moment later
they were afloat, and he was pulling wildly for the shore.

He did not know what had happened, nor did he pause to think: he was
fleeing from horror—nameless horror; whilst the child at his feet,
with her head resting against the gunwale, stared up open-eyed and
speechless at the great blue sky, as if at some terror visible there.
The boat grounded on the white sand, and the wash of the incoming tide
drove it up sideways.

Emmeline had fallen forward; she had lost consciousness.



CHAPTER XXII

ALONE

The idea of spiritual life must be innate in the heart of man, for all
that terrible night, when the children lay huddled together in the
little hut in the chapparel, the fear that filled them was that their
old friend might suddenly darken the entrance and seek to lie down
beside them.

They did not speak about him. Something had been done to him; something
had happened. Something terrible had happened to the world they knew.
But they dared not speak of it or question each other.

Dick had carried his companion to the hut when he left the boat, and
hidden with her there; the evening had come on, and the night, and now
in the darkness, without having tasted food all day, he was telling her
not to be afraid, that he would take care of her. But not a word of
the thing that had happened.

The thing, for them, had no precedent, and no vocabulary. They had come
across death raw and real, uncooked by religion, undeodorised by the
sayings of sages and poets.

They knew nothing of the philosophy that tells us that death is the
common lot, and the natural sequence to birth, or the religion that
teaches us that Death is the door to Life.

A dead old sailor-man lying like a festering carcass on a coral ledge,
eyes staring and glazed and fixed, a wide-open mouth that once had
spoken comforting words, and now spoke living crabs.

That was the vision before them. They did not philosophise about it;
and though they were filled with terror, I do not think it was terror
that held them from speaking about it, but a vague feeling that what
they had beheld was obscene, unspeakable, and a thing to avoid.

Lestrange had brought them up in his own way. He had told them there
was a good God who looked after the world; determined as far as he
could to exclude demonology and sin and death from their knowledge, he
had rested content with the bald statement that there was a good God
who looked after the world, without explaining fully that the same God
would torture them for ever and ever, should they fail to believe in
Him or keep His commandments.

This knowledge of the Almighty, therefore, was but a half knowledge,
the vaguest abstraction. Had they been brought up, however, in the most
strictly Calvinistic school, this knowledge of Him would have been no
comfort now. Belief in God is no comfort to a frightened child. Teach
him as many parrot-like prayers as you please, and in distress or the
dark of what use are they to him? His cry is for his nurse, or his
mother.

During that dreadful night these two children had no comfort to seek
anywhere in the whole wide universe but in each other. She, in a sense
of his protection, he, in a sense of being her protector. The
manliness in him greater and more beautiful than physical strength,
developed in those dark hours just as a plant under extraordinary
circumstances is hurried into bloom.

Towards dawn Emmeline fell asleep. Dick stole out of the hut when he
had assured himself from her regular breathing that she was asleep,
and, pushing the tendrils and the branches of the mammee apples aside,
found the beach. The dawn was just breaking, and the morning breeze was
coming in from the sea.

When he had beached the dinghy the day before, the tide was just at the
flood, and it had left her stranded. The tide was coming in now, and in
a short time it would be far enough up to push her off.

Emmeline in the night had implored him to take her away. Take her away
somewhere from there, and he had promised, without knowing in the least
how he was to perform his promise. As he stood looking at the beach, so
desolate and strangely different now from what it was the day before,
an idea of how he could fulfil his promise came to him. He ran down to
where the little boat lay on the shelving sand, with the ripples of the
incoming tide just washing the rudder, which was still shipped. He
unshipped the rudder and came back.

Under a tree, covered with the stay-sail they had brought from the
_Shenandoah_, lay most of their treasures: old clothes and boots, and all
the other odds and ends. The precious tobacco stitched up in a piece of
canvas was there, and the housewife with the needles and threads. A
hole had been dug in the sand as a sort of _cache_ for them, and the
stay-sail put over them to protect them from the dew.

The sun was now looking over the sea-line, and the tall cocoa-nut trees
were singing and whispering together under the strengthening breeze.



CHAPTER XXIII

THEY MOVE AWAY

He began to collect the things, and carry them to the dinghy. He took
the stay-sail and everything that might be useful; and when he had
stowed them in the boat, he took the breaker and filled it with water
at the water source in the wood; he collected some bananas and
breadfruit, and stowed them in the dinghy with the breaker. Then he
found the remains of yesterday’s breakfast, which he had hidden between
two palmetto leaves, and placed it also in the boat.

The water was now so high that a strong push would float her. He turned
back to the hut for Emmeline. She was still asleep: so soundly asleep,
that when he lifted her up in his arms she made no movement. He placed
her carefully in the stern-sheets with her head on the sail rolled up,
and then standing in the bow pushed off with a scull. Then, taking the
sculls, he turned the boat’s head up the lagoon to the left. He kept
close to the shore, but for the life of him he could not help lifting
his eyes and looking towards the reef.

Round a certain spot on the distant white coral there was a great
commotion of birds. Huge birds some of them seemed, and the “Hi! hi!
hi!” of them came across the lagoon on the breeze as they quarrelled
together and beat the air with their wings. He turned his head away
till a bend of the shore hid the spot from sight.

Here, sheltered more completely than opposite the break in the reef,
the artu trees came in places right down to the water’s edge; the
breadfruit trees cast the shadow of their great scalloped leaves upon
the water; glades, thick with fern, wildernesses of the mammee apple,
and bushes of the scarlet “wild cocoa-nut” all slipped by, as the
dinghy, hugging the shore, crept up the lagoon.

Gazing at the shore edge one might have imagined it the edge of a lake,
but for the thunder of the Pacific upon the distant reef; and even that
did not destroy the impression, but only lent a strangeness to it.

A lake in the midst of the ocean, that is what the lagoon really was.

Here and there cocoa-nut trees slanted over the water, mirroring their
delicate stems, and tracing their clear-cut shadows on the sandy bottom
a fathom deep below.

He kept close in-shore for the sake of the shelter of the trees. His
object was to find some place where they might stop permanently, and
put up a tent. He was seeking a new home, in fact. But, pretty as were
the glades they passed, they were not attractive places to live in.
There were too many trees, or the ferns were too deep. He was seeking
air and space, and suddenly he found it. Rounding a little cape, all
blazing with the scarlet of the wild cocoa-nut, the dinghy broke into a
new world.

Before her lay a great sweep of the palest blue wind-swept water, down
to which came a broad green sward of park-like land set on either side
with deep groves, and leading up and away to higher land, where, above
the massive and motionless green of the great breadfruit trees, the
palm trees swayed and fluttered their pale green feathers in the
breeze. The pale colour of the water was due to the extreme shallowness
of the lagoon just here. So shallow was it that one could see brown
spaces indicating beds of dead and rotten coral, and splashes of
darkest sapphire where the deep pools lay. The reef lay more than half
a mile from the shore: a great way out, it seemed, so far out that its
cramping influence was removed, and one had the impression of wide and
unbroken sea.

Dick rested on his oars, and let the dinghy float whilst he looked
around him. He had come some four miles and a half, and this was right
at the back of the island. As the boat drifting shoreward touched the
bank, Emmeline awakened from her sleep, sat up, and looked around her.



BOOK II


PART I

CHAPTER I

UNDER THE ARTU TREE

On the edge of the green sward, between a diamond-chequered artu trunk
and the massive bole of a breadfruit, a house had come into being. It
was not much larger than a big hen-house, but quite sufficient for the
needs of two people in a climate of eternal summer. It was built of
bamboos, and thatched with a double thatch of palmetto leaves, so
neatly built, and so well thatched, that one might have fancied it the
production of several skilled workmen.

The breadfruit tree was barren of fruit, as these trees sometimes are,
whole groves of them ceasing to bear for some mysterious reason only
known to Nature. It was green now, but when suffering its yearly change
the great scalloped leaves would take all imaginable tinges of gold and
bronze and amber. Beyond the artu was a little clearing, where the
chapparel had been carefully removed and taro roots planted.

Stepping from the house doorway on to the sward you might have fancied
yourself, except for the tropical nature of the foliage, in some
English park.

Looking to the right, the eye became lost in the woods, where all tints
of green were tinging the foliage, and the bushes of the wild cocoa-nut
burned scarlet as haw-berries.

The house had a doorway, but no door. It might have been said to have a
double roof, for the breadfruit foliage above gave good shelter during
the rains. Inside it was bare enough. Dried, sweet-smelling ferns
covered the floor. Two sails, rolled up, lay on either side of the
doorway. There was a rude shelf attached to one of the walls, and on
the shelf some bowls made of cocoa-nut shell. The people to whom the
place belonged evidently did not trouble it much with their presence,
using it only at night, and as a refuge from the dew.

Sitting on the grass by the doorway, sheltered by the breadfruit shade,
yet with the hot rays of the afternoon sun just touching her naked
feet, was a girl. A girl of fifteen or sixteen, naked, except for a
kilt of gaily-striped material reaching from her waist to her knees.
Her long black hair was drawn back from the forehead, and tied behind
with a loop of the elastic vine. A scarlet blossom was stuck behind her
right ear, after the fashion of a clerk’s pen. Her face was beautiful,
powdered with tiny freckles; especially under the eyes, which were of a
deep, tranquil blue-grey. She half sat, half lay on her left side;
whilst before her, quite close, strutted up and down on the grass, a
bird, with blue plumage, coral-red beak, and bright, watchful eyes.

The girl was Emmeline Lestrange. Just by her elbow stood a little bowl
made from half a cocoa-nut, and filled with some white substance with
which she was feeding the bird. Dick had found it in the woods two
years ago, quite small, deserted by its mother, and starving. They had
fed it and tamed it, and it was now one of the family; roosting on the
roof at night, and appearing regularly at meal times.

All at once she held out her hand; the bird flew into the air, lit on
her forefinger and balanced itself, sinking its head between its
shoulders, and uttering the sound which formed its entire vocabulary
and one means of vocal expression—a sound from which it had derived
its name.

“Koko,” said Emmeline, “where is Dick?”

The bird turned his head about, as if he were searching for his master;
and the girl lay back lazily on the grass, laughing, and holding him up
poised on her finger, as if he were some enamelled jewel she wished to
admire at a little distance. They made a pretty picture under the
cave-like shadow of the breadfruit leaves; and it was difficult to
understand how this young girl, so perfectly formed, so fully
developed, and so beautiful, had evolved from plain little Emmeline
Lestrange. And the whole thing, as far as the beauty of her was
concerned, had happened during the last six months.



CHAPTER II

HALF CHILD—HALF SAVAGE

Five rainy seasons had passed and gone since the tragic occurrence on
the reef. Five long years the breakers had thundered, and the sea-gulls
had cried round the figure whose spell had drawn a mysterious barrier
across the lagoon.

The children had never returned to the old place. They had kept
entirely to the back of the island and the woods—the lagoon, down to a
certain point, and the reef; a wide enough and beautiful enough world,
but a hopeless world, as far as help from civilisation was concerned.
For, of the few ships that touched at the island in the course of
years, how many would explore the lagoon or woods? Perhaps not one.

Occasionally Dick would make an excursion in the dinghy to the old
place, but Emmeline refused to accompany him. He went chiefly to obtain
bananas; for on the whole island there was but one clump of banana
trees—that near the water source in the wood, where the old green
skulls had been discovered, and the little barrel.

She had never quite recovered from the occurrence on the reef.
Something had been shown to her, the purport of which she vaguely
understood, and it had filled her with horror and a terror of the place
where it had occurred. Dick was quite different. He had been frightened
enough at first; but the feeling wore away in time.

Dick had built three houses in succession during the five years. He had
laid out a patch of taro and another of sweet potatoes. He knew every
pool on the reef for two miles either way, and the forms of their
inhabitants; and though he did not know the names of the creatures to
be found there, he made a profound study of their habits.

He had seen some astonishing things during these five years—from a
fight between a whale and two thrashers conducted outside the reef,
lasting an hour, and dyeing the breaking waves with blood, to the
poisoning of the fish in the lagoon by fresh water, due to an
extraordinarily heavy rainy season.

He knew the woods of the back of the island by heart, and the forms of
life that inhabited them—butterflies, and moths, and birds, lizards,
and insects of strange shape; extraordinary orchids—some
filthy-looking, the very image of corruption, some beautiful, and all
strange. He found melons and guavas, and breadfruit, the red apple of
Tahiti, and the great Brazilian plum, taro in plenty, and a dozen
other good things—but there were no bananas. This made him unhappy
at times, for he was human.

Though Emmeline had asked Koko for Dick’s whereabouts, it was only a
remark made by way of making conversation, for she could hear him in
the little cane-brake which lay close by amidst the trees.

In a few minutes he appeared, dragging after him two canes which he had
just cut, and wiping the perspiration off his brow with his naked arm.
He had an old pair of trousers on—part of the truck salved long ago
from the _Shenandoah_—nothing else, and he was well worth looking at and
considering, both from a physical and psychological point of view.

Auburn-haired and tall, looking more like seventeen than sixteen, with
a restless and daring expression, half a child, half a man, half a
civilised being, half a savage, he had both progressed and retrograded
during the five years of savage life. He sat down beside Emmeline,
flung the canes beside him, tried the edge of the old butcher’s knife
with which he had cut them, then, taking one of the canes across his
knee, he began whittling at it.

“What are you making?” asked Emmeline, releasing the bird, which flew
into one of the branches of the artu and rested there, a blue point
amidst the dark green.

“Fish-spear,” replied Dick.

Without being taciturn, he rarely wasted words. Life was all business
for him. He would talk to Emmeline, but always in short sentences; and
he had developed the habit of talking to inanimate things, to the
fish-spear he was carving, or the bowl he was fashioning from a
cocoa-nut.

As for Emmeline, even as a child she had never been talkative. There
was something mysterious in her personality, something secretive. Her
mind seemed half submerged in twilight. Though she spoke little, and
though the subject of their conversations was almost entirely material
and relative to their everyday needs, her mind would wander into
abstract fields and the land of chimerae and dreams. What she found
there no one knew—least of all, perhaps, herself.

As for Dick, he would sometimes talk and mutter to himself, as if in a
reverie; but if you caught the words, you would find that they referred
to no abstraction, but to some trifle he had on hand. He seemed
entirely bound up in the moment, and to have forgotten the past as
completely as though it had never been.

Yet he had his contemplative moods. He would lie with his face over a
rock-pool by the hour, watching the strange forms of life to be seen
there, or sit in the woods motionless as a stone, watching the birds
and the swift-slipping lizards. The birds came so close that he could
easily have knocked them over, but he never hurt one or interfered in
any way with the wild life of the woods.

The island, the lagoon, and the reef were for him the three volumes of
a great picture book, as they were for Emmeline, though in a different
manner. The colour and the beauty of it all fed some mysterious want in
her soul. Her life was a long reverie, a beautiful vision—troubled
with shadows. Across all the blue and coloured spaces that meant months
and years she could still see as in a glass dimly the _Northumberland_,
smoking against the wild background of fog; her uncle’s face, Boston—a
vague and dark picture beyond a storm—and nearer, the tragic form on
the reef that still haunted terribly her dreams. But she never spoke of
these things to Dick. Just as she kept the secret of what was in her
box, and the secret of her trouble whenever she lost it, she kept the
secret of her feelings about these things.

Born of these things there remained with her always a vague terror: the
terror of losing Dick. Mrs Stannard, her uncle, the dim people she had
known in Boston, all had passed away out of her life like a dream and
shadows. The other one too, most horribly. What if Dick were taken
from her as well?

This haunting trouble had been with her a long time; up to a few months
ago it had been mainly personal and selfish—the dread of being left
alone. But lately it had altered and become more acute. Dick had
changed in her eyes, and the fear was now for him. Her own personality
had suddenly and strangely become merged in his. The idea of life
without him was unthinkable, yet the trouble remained, a menace in the
blue.

Some days it would be worse than others. To-day, for instance, it was
worse than yesterday, as though some danger had crept close to them
during the night. Yet the sky and sea were stainless, the sun shone on
tree and flower, the west wind brought the tune of the far-away reef
like a lullaby. There was nothing to hint of danger or the need of
distrust.

At last Dick finished his spear and rose to his feet.

“Where are you going?” asked Emmeline.

“The reef,” he replied. “The tide’s going out.”

“I’ll go with you,” said she.

He went into the house and stowed the precious knife away. Then he came
out, spear in one hand, and half a fathom of liana in the other. The
liana was for the purpose of stringing the fish on, should the catch be
large. He led the way down the grassy sward to the lagoon where the
dinghy lay, close up to the bank, and moored to a post driven into the
soft soil. Emmeline got in, and, taking the sculls, he pushed off. The
tide was going out.

I have said that the reef just here lay a great way out from the shore.
The lagoon was so shallow that at low tide one could have waded almost
right across it, were it not for pot-holes here and there—ten-feet
traps—and great beds of rotten coral, into which one would sink as
into brushwood, to say nothing of the nettle coral that stings like a
bed of nettles. There were also other dangers. Tropical shallows are
full of wild surprises in the way of life—and death.

Dick had long ago marked out in his memory the soundings of the lagoon,
and it was fortunate that he possessed the special sense of location
which is the main stand-by of the hunter and the savage, for, from the
disposition of the coral in ribs, the water from the shore edge to the
reef ran in lanes. Only two of these lanes gave a clear, fair way from
the shore edge to the reef; had you followed the others, even in a boat
of such shallow draught as the dinghy, you would have found yourself
stranded half-way across, unless, indeed, it were a spring tide.

Half-way across the sound of the surf on the barrier became louder, and
the everlasting and monotonous cry of the gulls came on the breeze. It
was lonely out here, and, looking back, the shore seemed a great way
off. It was lonelier still on the reef.

Dick tied up the boat to a projection of coral, and helped Emmeline to
land. The sun was creeping down into the west, the tide was nearly half
out, and large pools of water lay glittering like burnished shields in
the sunlight. Dick, with his precious spear beside him, sat calmly down
on a ledge of coral, and began to divest himself of his one and only
garment.

Emmeline turned away her head and contemplated the distant shore, which
seemed thrice as far off as it was in reality. When she turned her head
again he was racing along the edge of the surf. He and his spear
silhouetted against the spindrift and dazzling foam formed a picture
savage enough, and well in keeping with the general desolation of the
background. She watched him lie down and cling to a piece of coral,
whilst the surf rushed round and over him, and then rise and shake
himself like a dog, and pursue his gambols, his body all glittering
with the wet.

Sometimes a whoop would come on the breeze, mixing with the sound of
the surf and the cry of the gulls, and she would see him plunge his
spear into a pool, and the next moment the spear would be held aloft
with something struggling and glittering at the end of it.

He was quite different out here on the reef to what he was ashore. The
surroundings here seemed to develop all that was savage in him, in a
startling way; and he would kill, and kill, just for the pleasure of
killing, destroying more fish than they could possibly use.



CHAPTER III

THE DEMON OF THE REEF

The romance of coral has still to be written. There still exists a
widespread opinion that the coral reef and the coral island are the
work of an “insect.” This fabulous insect, accredited with the genius
of Brunel and the patience of Job, has been humorously enough held up
before the children of many generations as an example of industry—a
thing to be admired, a model to be followed.

As a matter of fact, nothing could be more slothful or slow, more given
up to a life of ease and degeneracy, than the “reef-building
polypifer”—to give him his scientific name. He is the hobo of the
animal world, but, unlike the hobo, he does not even tramp for a
living. He exists as a sluggish and gelatinous worm; he attracts to
himself calcareous elements from the water to make himself a
house—mark you, the sea does the building—he dies, and he leaves his
house behind him—and a reputation for industry, beside which the
reputation of the ant turns pale, and that of the bee becomes of little
account.

On a coral reef you are treading on rock that the reef-building
polypifers of ages have left behind them as evidences of their idle and
apparently useless lives. You might fancy that the reef is formed of
dead rock, but it is not: that is where the wonder of the thing comes
in—a coral reef is half alive. If it were not, it would not resist the
action of the sea ten years. The live part of the reef is just where
the breakers come in and beyond. The gelatinous rock-building
polypifers die almost at once, if exposed to the sun or if left
uncovered by water.

Sometimes, at very low tide, if you have courage enough to risk being
swept away by the breakers, going as far out on the reef as you can,
you may catch a glimpse of them in their living state—great mounds and
masses of what seems rock, but which is a honeycomb of coral, whose
cells are filled with the living polypifers. Those in the uppermost
cells are usually dead, but lower down they are living.

Always dying, always being renewed, devoured by fish, attacked by the
sea—that is the life of a coral reef. It is a thing as living as a
cabbage or a tree. Every storm tears a piece off the reef, which the
living coral replaces; wounds occur in it which actually granulate and
heal as wounds do of the human body.

There is nothing, perhaps, more mysterious in nature than this fact of
the existence of a living land: a land that repairs itself, when
injured, by vital processes, and resists the eternal attack of the sea
by vital force, especially when we think of the extent of some of these
lagoon islands or atolls, whose existences are an eternal battle with
the waves.

Unlike the island of this story (which is an island surrounded by a
barrier reef of coral surrounding a space of sea—the lagoon), the reef
forms the island. The reef may be grown over by trees, or it may be
perfectly destitute of important vegetation, or it may be crusted with
islets. Some islets may exist within the lagoon, but as often as not it
is just a great empty lake floored with sand and coral, peopled with
life different to the life of the outside ocean, protected from the
waves, and reflecting the sky like a mirror.

When we remember that the atoll is a living thing, an organic whole, as
full of life, though not so highly organised, as a tortoise, the
meanest imagination must be struck with the immensity of one of the
structures.

Vliegen atoll in the Low Archipelago, measured from lagoon edge to
lagoon edge, is sixty miles long by twenty miles broad, at its broadest
part. In the Marshall Archipelago, Rimsky Korsacoff is fifty-four miles
long and twenty miles broad; and Rimsky Korsacoff is a living thing,
secreting, excreting, and growing—more highly organised than the
cocoa-nut trees that grow upon its back, or the blossoms that powder
the hotoo trees in its groves.

The story of coral is the story of a world, and the longest chapter in
that story concerns itself with coral’s infinite variety and form.

Out on the margin of the reef where Dick was spearing fish, you might
have seen a peach-blossom-coloured lichen on the rock. This lichen was
a form of coral. Coral growing upon coral, and in the pools at the edge
of the surf branching corals also of the colour of a peach bloom.

Within a hundred yards of where Emmeline was sitting, the pools
contained corals of all colours, from lake-red to pure white, and the
lagoon behind her—corals of the quaintest and strangest forms.

Dick had speared several fish, and had left them lying on the reef to
be picked up later on. Tired of killing, he was now wandering along,
examining the various living things he came across.

Huge slugs inhabited the reef, slugs as big as parsnips, and somewhat
of the same shape; they were a species of Bech de mer. Globe-shaped
jelly-fish as big as oranges, great cuttlefish bones flat and shining
and white, shark’s teeth, spines of echini; sometimes a dead scarus
fish, its stomach distended with bits of coral on which it had been
feeding; crabs, sea urchins, sea-weeds of strange colour and shape;
star-fish, some tiny and of the colour of cayenne pepper, some huge and
pale. These and a thousand other things, beautiful or strange, were to
be found on the reef.

Dick had laid his spear down, and was exploring a deep bath-like pool.
He had waded up to his knees, and was in the act of wading further when
he was suddenly seized by the foot. It was just as if his ankle had
been suddenly caught in a clove hitch and the rope drawn tight. He
screamed out with pain and terror, and suddenly and viciously a
whip-lash shot out from the water, lassoed him round the left knee,
drew itself taut, and held him.



CHAPTER IV

WHAT BEAUTY CONCEALED

Emmeline, seated on the coral rock, had almost forgotten Dick for a
moment. The sun was setting, and the warm amber light of the sunset
shone on reef and rock-pool. Just at sunset and low tide the reef had a
peculiar fascination for her. It had the low-tide smell of sea-weed
exposed to the air, and the torment and trouble of the breakers seemed
eased. Before her, and on either side, the foam-dashed coral glowed in
amber and gold, and the great Pacific came glassing and glittering in,
voiceless and peaceful, till it reached the strand and burst into song
and spray.

Here, just as on the hill-top at the other side of the island, you
could mark the rhythm of the rollers. “Forever, and forever—forever,
and forever,” they seemed to say.

The cry of the gulls came mixed with the spray on the breeze. They
haunted the reef like uneasy spirits, always complaining, never at
rest; but at sunset their cry seemed farther away and less melancholy,
perhaps because just then the whole island world seemed bathed in the
spirit of peace.

She turned from the sea prospect and looked backwards over the lagoon
to the island. She could make out the broad green glade beside which
their little house lay, and a spot of yellow, which was the thatch of
the house, just by the artu tree, and nearly hidden by the shadow of
the breadfruit. Over woods the fronds of the great cocoa-nut palms
showed above every other tree silhouetted against the dim, dark blue of
the eastern sky.

Seen by the enchanted light of sunset, the whole picture had an unreal
look, more lovely than a dream. At dawn—and Dick would often start for
the reef before dawn, if the tide served—the picture was as beautiful;
more so, perhaps, for over the island, all in shadow, and against the
stars, you would see the palm-tops catching fire, and then the light of
day coming through the green trees and blue sky, like a spirit, across
the blue lagoon, widening and strengthening as it widened, across the
white foam, out over the sea, spreading like a fan, till, all at once,
night was day, and the gulls were crying and the breakers flashing, the
dawn wind blowing, and the palm trees bending, as palm trees only know
how. Emmeline always imagined herself alone on the island with Dick,
but beauty was there, too, and beauty is a great companion.

The girl was contemplating the scene before her. Nature in her
friendliest mood seemed to say, “Behold me! Men call me cruel; men have
called me deceitful, even treacherous. _I_—ah well! my answer is,
‘Behold me!’”

The girl was contemplating the specious beauty of it all, when on the
breeze from seaward came a shout. She turned quickly. There was Dick up
to his knees in a rock-pool a hundred yards or so away, motionless, his
arms upraised, and crying out for help. She sprang to her feet.

There had once been an islet on this part of the reef, a tiny thing,
consisting of a few palms and a handful of vegetation, and destroyed,
perhaps, in some great storm. I mention this because the existence of
this islet once upon a time was the means, indirectly, of saving Dick’s
life; for where these islets have been or are, “flats” occur on the
reef formed of coral conglomerate.

Emmeline in her bare feet could never have reached him in time over
rough coral, but, fortunately, this flat and comparatively smooth
surface lay between them.

“My spear!” shouted Dick, as she approached.

He seemed at first tangled in brambles; then she thought ropes were
tangling round him and tying him to something in the water—whatever it
was, it was most awful, and hideous, and like a nightmare. She ran with
the speed of Atalanta to the rock where the spear was resting, all red
with the blood of new-slain fish, a foot from the point.

As she approached Dick, spear in hand, she saw, gasping with terror,
that the ropes were alive, and that they were flickering and rippling
over his back. One of them bound his left arm to his side, but his
right arm was free.

“Quick!” he shouted.

In a second the spear was in his free hand, and Emmeline had cast
herself down on her knees, and was staring with terrified eyes into the
water of the pool from whence the ropes issued. She was, despite her
terror, quite prepared to fling herself in and do battle with the
thing, whatever it might be.

What she saw was only for a second. In the deep water of the pool,
gazing up and forward and straight at Dick, she saw a face, lugubrious
and awful. The eyes were wide as saucers, stony and steadfast; a large,
heavy, parrot-like beak hung before the eyes, and worked and wobbled,
and seemed to beckon. But what froze one’s heart was the expression of
the eyes, so stony and lugubrious, so passionless, so devoid of
speculation, yet so fixed of purpose and full of fate.

From away far down he had risen with the rising tide. He had been
feeding on crabs, when the tide, betraying him, had gone out, leaving
him trapped in the rock-pool. He had slept, perhaps, and awakened to
find a being, naked and defenceless, invading his pool. He was quite
small, as octopods go, and young, yet he was large and powerful enough
to have drowned an ox.

The octopod has only been described once, in stone, by a Japanese
artist. The statue is still extant, and it is the most terrible
masterpiece of sculpture ever executed by human hands. It represents a
man who has been bathing on a low-tide beach, and has been caught. The
man is shouting in a delirium of terror, and threatening with his free
arm the spectre that has him in its grip. The eyes of the octopod are
fixed upon the man—passionless and lugubrious eyes, but steadfast and
fixed.

Another whip-lash shot out of the water in a shower of spray, and
seized Dick by the left thigh. At the same instant he drove the point
of the spear through the right eye of the monster, deep down through
eye and soft gelatinous carcass till the spear-point dirled and
splintered against the rock. At the same moment the water of the pool
became black as ink, the bands around him relaxed, and he was free.

Emmeline rose up and seized him, sobbing and clinging to him, and
kissing him. He clasped her with his left arm round her body, as if to
protect her, but it was a mechanical action. He was not thinking of
her. Wild with rage, and uttering hoarse cries, he plunged the broken
spear again and again into the depths of the pool, seeking utterly to
destroy the enemy that had so lately had him in its grip. Then slowly
he came to himself, and wiped his forehead, and looked at the broken
spear in his hand.

“Beast!” he said. “Did you see its eyes? Did you see its eyes? I wish
it had a hundred eyes, and I had a hundred spears to drive into them!”

She was clinging to him, and sobbing and laughing hysterically, and
praising him. One might have thought that he had rescued her from
death, not she him.

The sun had nearly vanished, and he led her back to where the dinghy
was moored recapturing and putting on his trousers on the road. He
picked up the dead fish he had speared; and as he rowed her back across
the lagoon, he talked and laughed, recounting the incidents of the
fight, taking all the glory of the thing to himself, and seeming quite
to ignore the important part she had played in it.

This was not from any callousness or want of gratitude, but simply from
the fact that for the last five years he had been the be-all and
end-all of their tiny community—the Imperial master. And he would
just as soon have thought of thanking her for handing him the spear as
of thanking his right hand for driving it home. She was quite content,
seeking neither thanks nor praise. Everything she had came from him:
she was his shadow and his slave. He was her sun.

He went over the fight again and again before they lay down to rest,
telling her he had done this and that, and what he would do to the next
beast of the sort. The reiteration was tiresome enough, or would have
been to an outside listener, but to Emmeline it was better than Homer.
People’s minds do not improve in an intellectual sense when they are
isolated from the world, even though they are living the wild and happy
lives of savages.

Then Dick lay down in the dried ferns and covered himself with a piece
of the striped flannel which they used for blanketing, and he snored,
and chattered in his sleep like a dog hunting imaginary game, and
Emmeline lay beside him wakeful and thinking. A new terror had come
into her life. She had seen death for the second time, but this time
active and in being.



CHAPTER V

THE SOUND OF A DRUM

The next day Dick was sitting under the shade of the artu. He had the
box of fishhooks beside him, and he was bending a line on to one of
them. There had originally been a couple of dozen hooks, large and
small, in the box; there remained now only six—four small and two
large ones. It was a large one he was fixing to the line, for he
intended going on the morrow to the old place to fetch some bananas,
and on the way to try for a fish in the deeper parts of the lagoon.

It was late afternoon, and the heat had gone out of the day. Emmeline,
seated on the grass opposite to him, was holding the end of the line,
whilst he got the kinks out of it, when suddenly she raised her head.

There was not a breath of wind; the hush of the far-distant surf came
through the blue weather—the only audible sound except, now and then,
a movement and flutter from the bird perched in the branches of the
artu. All at once another sound mixed itself with the voice of the
surf—a faint, throbbing sound, like the beating of a distant drum.

“Listen!” said Emmeline.

Dick paused for a moment in his work. All the sounds of the island were
familiar: this was something quite strange.

Faint and far away, now rapid, now slow; coming from where, who could
say? Sometimes it seemed to come from the sea, sometimes, if the fancy
of the listener turned that way, from the woods. As they listened, a
sigh came from overhead; the evening breeze had risen and was moving in
the leaves of the artu tree. Just as you might wipe a picture off a
slate, the breeze banished the sound. Dick went on with his work.

Next morning early he embarked in the dinghy. He took the hook and line
with him, and some raw fish for bait. Emmeline helped him to push off,
and stood on the bank waving her hand as he rounded the little cape
covered with wild cocoa-nut.

These expeditions of Dick’s were one of her sorrows. To be left alone
was frightful; yet she never complained. She was living in a paradise,
but something told her that behind all that sun, all that splendour of
blue sea and sky, behind the flowers and the leaves, behind all that
specious and simpering appearance of happiness in nature, lurked a
frown, and the dragon of mischance.

Dick rowed for about a mile, then he shipped his sculls, and let the
dinghy float. The water here was very deep; so deep that, despite its
clearness, the bottom was invisible; the sunlight over the reef struck
through it diagonally, filling it with sparkles.

The fisherman baited his hook with a piece from the belly of a scarus
and lowered it down out of sight, then he belayed the line to a thole
pin, and, sitting in the bottom of the boat, hung his head over the
side and gazed deep down into the water. Sometimes there was nothing to
see but just the deep blue of the water. Then a flight of spangled
arrowheads would cross the line of sight and vanish, pursued by a form
like a moving bar of gold. Then a great fish would materialise itself
and hang in the shadow of the boat motionless as a stone, save for the
movement of its gills; next moment with a twist of the tail it would be
gone.

Suddenly the dinghy shored over, and might have capsized, only for the
fact that Dick was sitting on the opposite side to the side from which
the line hung. Then the boat righted; the line slackened, and the
surface of the lagoon, a few fathoms away, boiled as if being stirred
from below by a great silver stick. He had hooked an albicore. He tied
the end of the fishing-line to a scull, undid the line from the thole
pin, and flung the scull overboard.

He did all this with wonderful rapidity, while the line was still
slack. Next moment the scull was rushing over the surface of the
lagoon, now towards the reef, now towards the shore, now flat, now end
up. Now it would be jerked under the surface entirely; vanish for a
moment, and then reappear. It was a most astonishing thing to watch,
for the scull seemed alive—viciously alive, and imbued with some
destructive purpose; as, in fact, it was. The most venomous of living
things, and the most intelligent could not have fought the great fish
better.

The albicore would make a frantic dash down the lagoon, hoping,
perhaps, to find in the open sea a release from his foe. Then, half
drowned with the pull of the scull, he would pause, dart from side to
side in perplexity, and then make an equally frantic dash up the
lagoon, to be checked in the same manner. Seeking the deepest depths,
he would sink the scull a few fathoms; and once he sought the air,
leaping into the sunlight like a crescent of silver, whilst the splash
of him as he fell echoed amidst the trees bordering the lagoon. An hour
passed before the great fish showed signs of weakening.

The struggle had taken place up to this close to the shore, but now the
scull swam out into the broad sheet of sunlit water, and slowly began
to describe large circles rippling up the peaceful blue into flashing
wavelets. It was a melancholy sight to watch, for the great fish had
made a good fight, and one could see him, through the eye of
imagination, beaten, half drowned, dazed, and moving as is the fashion
of dazed things in a circle.

Dick, working the remaining oar at the stern of the boat, rowed out and
seized the floating scull, bringing it on board. Foot by foot he hauled
his catch towards the boat till the long gleaming line of the thing
came dimly into view.

The fight had been heard for miles through the lagoon water by all
sorts of swimming things. The lord of the place had got sound of it. A
dark fin rippled the water; and as Dick, pulling on his line, hauled
his catch closer, a monstrous grey shadow stained the depths, and the
glittering streak that was the albicore vanished as if engulfed in a
cloud. The line came in slack, and Dick hauled in the albicore’s head.
It had been divided from the body as if with a huge pair of shears. The
grey shadow slipped by the boat, and Dick, mad with rage, shouted and
shook his fist at it; then, seizing the albicore’s head, from which he
had taken the hook, he hurled it at the monster in the water.

The great shark, with a movement of the tail that caused the water to
swirl and the dinghy to rock, turned upon his back and engulfed the
head; then he slowly sank and vanished, just as if he had been
dissolved. He had come off best in this their first encounter—such as
it was.



CHAPTER VI

SAILS UPON THE SEA

Dick put the hook away and took to the sculls. He had a three-mile row
before him, and the tide was coming in, which did not make it any the
easier. As he rowed, he talked and grumbled to himself. He had been in
a grumbling mood for some time past: the chief cause, Emmeline.

In the last few months she had changed; even her face had changed. A
new person had come upon the island, it seemed to him, and taken the
place of the Emmeline he had known from earliest childhood. This one
looked different. He did not know that she had grown beautiful, he just
knew that she looked different; also she had developed new ways that
displeased him—she would go off and bathe by herself, for instance.

Up to six months or so ago he had been quite contented; sleeping and
eating, and hunting for food and cooking it, building and rebuilding
the house, exploring the woods and the reef. But lately a spirit of
restlessness had come upon him; he did not know exactly what he wanted.
He had a vague feeling that he wanted to go away from the place where
he was; not from the island, but from the place where they had pitched
their tent, or rather built their house.

It may have been the spirit of civilisation crying out in him, telling
him of all he was missing. Of the cities, and the streets, and the
houses, and the businesses, and the striving after gold, the striving
after power. It may have been simply the man in him crying out for
Love, and not knowing yet that Love was at his elbow.

The dinghy glided along, hugging the shore, past the little glades of
fern and the cathedral gloom of the breadfruit; then, rounding a
promontory, she opened the view of the break in the reef. A little bit
of the white strand was visible, but he was not looking that way—he
was looking towards the reef at a tiny, dark spot, not noticeable
unless searched for by the eye. Always when he came on these
expeditions, just here, he would hang on his oars and gaze over there,
where the gulls were flying and the breakers thundering.

A few years ago the spot filled him with dread as well as curiosity,
but from familiarity and the dullness that time casts on everything,
the dread had almost vanished, but the curiosity remained: the
curiosity that makes a child look on at the slaughter of an animal even
though his soul revolts at it. He gazed for a while, then he went on
pulling, and the dinghy approached the beach.

Something had happened on the beach. The sand was all trampled, and
stained red here and there; in the centre lay the remains of a great
fire still smouldering, and just where the water lapped the sand, lay
two deep grooves as if two heavy boats had been beached there. A South
Sea man would have told from the shape of the grooves, and the little
marks of the out-riggers, that two heavy canoes had been beached there.
And they had.

The day before, early in the afternoon, two canoes, possibly from that
far-away island which cast a stain on the horizon to the
sou’-sou’-west, had entered the lagoon, one in pursuit of the other.

What happened then had better be left veiled. A war drum with a
shark-skin head had set the woods throbbing; the victory was celebrated
all night, and at dawn the victors manned the two canoes and set sail
for the home, or the hell, they had come from. Had you examined the
strand you would have found that a line had been drawn across the
beach, beyond which there were no footmarks: that meant that the rest
of the island was for some reason _tabu_.

Dick pulled the nose of the boat up a bit on the strand, then he looked
around him. He picked up a broken spear that had been cast away or
forgotten; it was made of some hard wood and barbed with iron. On the
right-hand side of the beach something lay between the cocoa-nut trees.
He approached; it was a mass of offal; the entrails of a dozen sheep
seemed cast here in one mound, yet there were no sheep on the island,
and sheep are not carried as a rule in war canoes.

The sand on the beach was eloquent. The foot pursuing and the foot
pursued; the knee of the fallen one, and then the forehead and
outspread hands; the heel of the chief who has slain his enemy, beaten
the body flat, burst a hole through it through which he has put his
head, and who stands absolutely wearing his enemy as a cloak; the head
of the man dragged on his back to be butchered like a sheep—of these
things spoke the sand.

As far as the sand traces could speak, the story of the battle was
still being told; the screams and the shouting, the clashing of clubs
and spears were gone, yet the ghost of the fight remained.

If the sand could bear such traces, and tell such tales, who shall say
that the plastic æther was destitute of the story of the fight and the
butchery?

However that may have been, Dick, looking around him, had the shivering
sense of having just escaped from danger. Whoever had been, had
gone—he could tell that by the canoe traces. Gone either out to sea,
or up the right stretch of the lagoon. It was important to determine
this.

He climbed to the hill-top and swept the sea with his eyes. There, away
to the south-west, far away on the sea, he could distinguish the brown
sails of two canoes. There was something indescribably mournful and
lonely in their appearance; they looked like withered leaves—brown
moths blown to sea—derelicts of autumn. Then, remembering the beach,
these things became freighted with the most sinister thoughts for the
mind of the gazer. They were hurrying away, having done their work.
That they looked lonely and old and mournful, and like withered leaves
blown across the sea, only heightened the horror.

Dick had never seen canoes before, but he knew that these things were
boats of some sort holding people, and that the people had left all
those traces on the beach. How much of the horror of the thing was
revealed to his subconscious intelligence, who can say?

He had climbed the boulder, and he now sat down with his knees drawn
up, and his hands clasped round them. Whenever he came round to this
side of the island, something happened of a fateful or sinister nature.
The last time he had nearly lost the dinghy; he had beached the little
boat in such a way that she floated off, and the tide was just in the
act of stealing her, and sweeping her from the lagoon out to sea, when
he returned laden with his bananas, and, rushing into the water up to
his waist, saved her. Another time he had fallen out of a tree, and
just by a miracle escaped death. Another time a hurricane had broken,
lashing the lagoon into snow, and sending the cocoa-nuts bounding and
flying like tennis balls across the strand. This time he had just
escaped something, he knew not exactly what. It was almost as if
Providence were saying to him, “Don’t come here.”

He watched the brown sails as they dwindled in the wind-blown blue,
then he came down from the hill-top and cut his bananas. He cut four
large bunches, which caused him to make two journeys to the boat. When
the bananas were stowed he pushed off.

For a long time a great curiosity had been pulling at his
heart-strings: a curiosity of which he was dimly ashamed. Fear had
given it birth, and Fear still clung to it. It was, perhaps, the
element of fear and the awful delight of daring the unknown that made
him give way to it.

He had rowed, perhaps, a hundred yards when he turned the boat’s head
and made for the reef. It was more than five years since that day when
he rowed across the lagoon, Emmeline sitting in the stern, with her
wreath of flowers in her hand. It might have been only yesterday, for
everything seemed just the same. The thunderous surf and the flying
gulls, the blinding sunlight, and the salt, fresh smell of the sea. The
palm tree at the entrance of the lagoon still bent gazing into the
water, and round the projection of coral to which he had last moored
the boat still lay a fragment of the rope which he had cut in his hurry
to escape.

Ships had come into the lagoon, perhaps, during the five years, but no
one had noticed anything on the reef, for it was only from the hill-top
that a full view of what was there could be seen, and then only by eyes
knowing where to look. From the beach there was visible just a speck.
It might have been, perhaps, a bit of old wreckage flung there by a
wave in some big storm. A piece of old wreckage that had been tossed
hither and thither for years, and had at last found a place of rest.

Dick tied the boat up, and stepped on to the reef. It was high tide
just as before; the breeze was blowing strongly, and overhead a
man-of-war’s bird, black as ebony, with a blood-red bill, came sailing,
the wind doming out his wings. He circled in the air, and cried out
fiercely, as if resenting the presence of the intruder, then he passed
away, let himself be blown away, as it were, across the lagoon,
wheeled, circled, and passed out to sea.

Dick approached the place he knew, and there lay the little old barrel
all warped by the powerful sun; the staves stood apart, and the hooping
was rusted and broken, and whatever it had contained in the way of
spirit and conviviality had long ago drained away.

Beside the barrel lay a skeleton, round which lay a few rags of cloth.
The skull had fallen to one side, and the lower jaw had fallen from the
skull; the bones of the hands and feet were still articulated, and the
ribs had not fallen in. It was all white and bleached, and the sun
shone on it as indifferently as on the coral, this shell and framework
that had once been a man. There was nothing dreadful about it, but a
whole world of wonder.

To Dick, who had not been broken into the idea of death, who had not
learned to associate it with graves and funerals, sorrow, eternity, and
hell, the thing spoke as it never could have spoken to you or me.

Looking at it, things linked themselves together in his mind: the
skeletons of birds he had found in the woods, the fish he had slain,
even trees lying dead and rotten—even the shells of crabs.

If you had asked him what lay before him, and if he could have
expressed the thought in his mind, he would have answered you “change.”

All the philosophy in the world could not have told him more than he
knew just then about death—he, who even did not know its name.

He was held spellbound by the marvel and miracle of the thing and the
thoughts that suddenly crowded his mind like a host of spectres for
whom a door has just been opened.

Just as a child by unanswerable logic knows that a fire which has
burned him once will burn him again, or will burn another person, he
knew that just as the form before him was, his form would be some
day—and Emmeline’s.

Then came the vague question which is born not of the brain, but the
heart, and which is the basis of all religions—where shall I be then?
His mind was not of an introspective nature, and the question just
strayed across it and was gone. And still the wonder of the thing held
him. He was for the first time in his life in a reverie; the corpse
that had shocked and terrified him five years ago had cast seeds of
thought with its dead fingers upon his mind, the skeleton had brought
them to maturity. The full fact of universal death suddenly appeared
before him, and he recognised it.

He stood for a long time motionless, and then with a deep sigh turned
to the boat and pushed off without once looking back at the reef. He
crossed the lagoon and rowed slowly homewards, keeping in the shelter
of the tree shadows as much as possible.

Even looking at him from the shore you might have noticed a difference
in him. Your savage paddles his canoe, or sculls his boat, alert,
glancing about him, at touch with nature at all points; though he be
lazy as a cat and sleeps half the day, awake he is all ears and eyes—a
creature reacting to the least external impression.

Dick, as he rowed back, did not look about him: he was thinking or
retrospecting. The savage in him had received a check. As he turned the
little cape where the wild cocoa-nut blazed, he looked over his
shoulder. A figure was standing on the sward by the edge of the water.
It was Emmeline.



CHAPTER VII

THE SCHOONER

They carried the bananas up to the house, and hung them from a branch
of the artu. Then Dick, on his knees, lit the fire to prepare the
evening meal. When it was over he went down to where the boat was
moored, and returned with something in his hand. It was the javelin
with the iron point—or, rather, the two pieces of it. He had said
nothing of what he had seen to the girl.

Emmeline was seated on the grass; she had a long strip of the striped
flannel stuff about her, worn like a scarf, and she had another piece
in her hand which she was hemming. The bird was hopping about, pecking
at a banana which they had thrown to him; a light breeze made the
shadow of the artu leaves dance upon the grass, and the serrated leaves
of the breadfruit to patter one on the other with the sound of
rain-drops falling upon glass.

“Where did you get it?” asked Emmeline, staring at the piece of the
javelin which Dick had flung down almost beside her whilst he went into
the house to fetch the knife.

“It was on the beach over there,” he replied, taking his seat and
examining the two fragments to see how he could splice them together.

Emmeline looked at the pieces, putting them together in her mind. She
did not like the look of the thing: so keen and savage, and stained
dark a foot and more from the point.

“People had been there,” said Dick, putting the two pieces together and
examining the fracture critically.

“Where?”

“Over there. This was lying on the sand, and the sand was all trod up.”

“Dick,” said Emmeline, “who were the people?”

“I don’t know; I went up the hill and saw their boats going away—far
away out. This was lying on the sand.”

“Dick,” said Emmeline, “do you remember the noise yesterday?”

“Yes,” said Dick.

“I heard it in the night.”

“When?”

“In the night before the moon went away.”

“That was them,” said Dick.

“Dick!”

“Yes?”

“Who were they?”

“I don’t know,” replied Dick.

“It was in the night, before the moon went away, and it went on and on
beating in the trees. I thought I was asleep, and then I knew I was
awake; you were asleep, and I pushed you to listen, but you couldn’t
wake, you were so asleep; then the moon went away, and the noise went
on. How did they make the noise?”

“I don’t know,” replied Dick, “but it was them; and they left this on
the sand, and the sand was all trod up, and I saw their boats from the
hill, away out far.”

“I thought I heard voices,” said Emmeline, “but I was not sure.”

She fell into meditation, watching her companion at work on the savage
and sinister-looking thing in his hands. He was splicing the two pieces
together with a strip of the brown cloth-like stuff which is wrapped
round the stalks of the cocoa-palm fronds. The thing seemed to have
been hurled here out of the blue by some unseen hand.

When he had spliced the pieces, doing so with marvellous dexterity, he
took the thing short down near the point, and began thrusting it into
the soft earth to clean it; then, with a bit of flannel, he polished it
till it shone. He felt a keen delight in it. It was useless as a
fish-spear, because it had no barb, but it was a weapon. It was useless
as a weapon, because there was no foe on the island to use it against;
still, it was a weapon.

When he had finished scrubbing at it, he rose, hitched his old trousers
up, tightened the belt of cocoa-cloth which Emmeline had made for him,
went into the house and got his fish-spear, and stalked off to the
boat, calling out to Emmeline to follow him. They crossed over to the
reef, where, as usual, he divested himself of clothing.

It was strange that out here he would go about stark naked, yet on the
island he always wore some covering. But not so strange, perhaps, after
all.

The sea is a great purifier, both of the mind and the body; before that
great sweet spirit people do not think in the same way as they think
far inland. What woman would appear in a town or on a country road, or
even bathing in a river, as she appears bathing in the sea?

Some instinct made Dick cover himself up on shore, and strip naked on
the reef. In a minute he was down by the edge of the surf, javelin in
one hand, fish-spear in the other.

Emmeline, by a little pool the bottom of which was covered with
branching coral, sat gazing down into its depths, lost in a reverie
like that into which we fall when gazing at shapes in the fire. She had
sat some time like this when a shout from Dick aroused her. She
started to her feet and gazed to where he was pointing. An amazing
thing was there.

To the east, just rounding the curve of the reef, and scarcely a
quarter of a mile from it, was coming a big topsail schooner; a
beautiful sight she was, heeling to the breeze with every sail drawing,
and the white foam like a feather at her fore-foot.

Dick, with the javelin in his hand, was standing gazing at her; he had
dropped his fish-spear, and he stood as motionless as though he were
carved out of stone. Emmeline ran to him and stood beside him; neither
of them spoke a word as the vessel drew closer.

Everything was visible, so close was she now, from the reef points on
the great mainsail, luminous with the sunlight, and white as the wing
of a gull, to the rail of the bulwarks. A crowd of men were hanging
over the port bulwarks gazing at the island and the figures on the
reef. Browned by the sun and sea-breeze, Emmeline’s hair blowing on the
wind, and the point of Dick’s javelin flashing in the sun, they looked
an ideal pair of savages, seen from the schooner’s deck.

“They are going away,” said Emmeline, with a long-drawn breath of
relief.

Dick made no reply; he stared at the schooner a moment longer in
silence, then, having made sure that she was standing away from the
land, he began to run up and down, calling out wildly, and beckoning to
the vessel as if to call her back.

A moment later a sound came on the breeze, a faint hail; a flag was run
up to the peak and dipped as in derision, and the vessel continued on
her course.

As a matter of fact, she had been on the point of putting about. Her
captain had for a moment been undecided as to whether the forms on the
reef were those of castaways or savages. But the javelin in Dick’s hand
had turned the scale of his opinion in favour of the theory of savages.



CHAPTER VIII

LOVE STEPS IN

Two birds were sitting in the branches of the artu tree: Koko had taken
a mate. They had built a nest out of fibres pulled from the wrappings
of the cocoa-nut fronds, bits of stick and wire grass—anything, in
fact; even fibres from the palmetto thatch of the house below. The
pilferings of birds, the building of nests, what charming incidents
they are in the great episode of spring!

The hawthorn tree never bloomed here, the climate was that of eternal
summer, yet the spirit of May came just as she comes to the English
countryside or the German forest. The doings in the artu branches
greatly interested Emmeline.

The love-making and the nest-building were conducted quite in the usual
manner, according to rules laid down by Nature and carried out by men
and birds. All sorts of quaint sounds came filtering down through the
leaves from the branch where the sapphire-coloured lovers sat side by
side, or the fork where the nest was beginning to form: croonings and
cluckings, sounds like the flirting of a fan, the sounds of a squabble,
followed by the sounds that told of the squabble made up. Sometimes
after one of these squabbles a pale blue downy feather or two would
come floating earthwards, touch the palmetto leaves of the house-roof
and cling there, or be blown on to the grass.

It was some days after the appearance of the schooner, and Dick was
making ready to go into the woods and pick guavas. He had all the
morning been engaged in making a basket to carry them in. In
civilisation he would, judging from his mechanical talent, perhaps have
been an engineer, building bridges and ships, instead of palmetto-leaf
baskets and cane houses—who knows if he would have been happier?

The heat of midday had passed, when, with the basket hanging over his
shoulder on a piece of cane, he started for the woods, Emmeline
following. The place they were going to always filled her with a vague
dread; not for a great deal would she have gone there alone. Dick had
discovered it in one of his rambles.

They entered the wood and passed a little well, a well without apparent
source or outlet and a bottom of fine white sand. How the sand had
formed there, it would be impossible to say; but there it was, and
around the margin grew ferns redoubling themselves on the surface of
the crystal-clear water. They left this to the right and struck into
the heart of the wood. The heat of midday still lurked here; the way
was clear, for there was a sort of path between the trees, as if, in
very ancient days, there had been a road.

Right across this path, half lost in shadow, half sunlit, the lianas
hung their ropes. The hotoo tree, with its powdering of delicate
blossoms, here stood, showing its lost loveliness to the sun; in the
shade the scarlet hibiscus burned like a flame. Artu and breadfruit
trees and cocoa-nut bordered the way.

As they proceeded the trees grew denser and the path more obscure. All
at once, rounding a sharp turn, the path ended in a valley carpeted
with fern. This was the place that always filled Emmeline with an
undefined dread. One side of it was all built up in terraces with huge
blocks of stone. Blocks of stone so enormous, that the wonder was how
the ancient builders had put them in their places.

Trees grew along the terraces, thrusting their roots between the
interstices of the blocks. At their base, slightly tilted forward as if
with the sinkage of years, stood a great stone figure roughly carved,
thirty feet high at least—mysterious-looking, the very spirit of the
place. This figure and the terraces, the valley itself, and the very
trees that grew there, inspired Emmeline with deep curiosity and vague
fear.

People had been here once; sometimes she could fancy she saw dark
shadows moving amidst the trees, and the whisper of the foliage seemed
to her to hide voices at times, even as its shadow concealed forms. It
was indeed an uncanny place to be alone in even under the broad light
of day. All across the Pacific for thousands of miles you find relics
of the past, like these scattered through the islands.

These temple places are nearly all the same: great terraces of stone,
massive idols, desolation overgrown with foliage. They hint at one
religion, and a time when the sea space of the Pacific was a continent,
which, sinking slowly through the ages, has left only its higher lands
and hill-tops visible in the form of islands. Round these places the
woods are thicker than elsewhere, hinting at the presence there, once,
of sacred groves. The idols are immense, their faces are vague; the
storms and the suns and the rains of the ages have cast over them a
veil. The sphinx is understandable and a toy compared to these things,
some of which have a stature of fifty feet, whose creation is veiled in
absolute mystery—the gods of a people for ever and for ever lost.

The “stone man” was the name Emmeline had given the idol of the valley;
and sometimes at nights, when her thoughts would stray that way, she
would picture him standing all alone in the moonlight or starlight
staring straight before him.

He seemed for ever listening; unconsciously one fell to listening too,
and then the valley seemed steeped in a supernatural silence. He was
not good to be alone with.

Emmeline sat down amidst the fears just at his base. When one was close
up to him he lost the suggestion of life, and was simply a great stone
which cast a shadow in the sun.

Dick threw himself down also to rest. Then he rose up and went off
amidst the guava bushes, plucking the fruit and filling his basket.
Since he had seen the schooner, the white men on her decks, her great
masts and sails, and general appearance of freedom and speed and
unknown adventure, he had been more than ordinarily glum and restless.
Perhaps he connected her in his mind with the far-away vision of the
_Northumberland_, and the idea of other places and lands, and the
yearning for change the idea of them inspired.

He came back with his basket full of the ripe fruit, gave some to the
girl and sat down beside her. When she had finished eating them she
took the cane that he used for carrying the basket and held it in her
hands. She was bending it in the form of a bow when it slipped, flew
out and struck her companion a sharp blow on the side of his face.

Almost on the instant he turned and slapped her on the shoulder. She
stared at him for a moment in troubled amazement, a sob came in her
throat. Then some veil seemed lifted, some wizard’s wand stretched out,
some mysterious vial broken. As she looked at him like that, he
suddenly and fiercely clasped her in his arms. He held her like this
for a moment, dazed, stupefied, not knowing what to do with her. Then
her lips told him, for they met his in an endless kiss.



CHAPTER IX

THE SLEEP OF PARADISE

The moon rose up that evening and shot her silver arrows at the house
under the artu tree. The house was empty. Then the moon came across the
sea and across the reef.

She lit the lagoon to its dark, dim heart. She lit the coral brains and
sand spaces, and the fish, casting their shadows on the sand and the
coral. The keeper of the lagoon rose to greet her, and the fin of him
broke her reflection on the mirror-like surface into a thousand
glittering ripples. She saw the white staring ribs of the form on the
reef. Then, peeping over the trees, she looked down into the valley,
where the great idol of stone had kept its solitary vigil for five
thousand years, perhaps, or more.

At his base, in his shadow, looking as if under his protection, lay two
human beings, naked, clasped in each other’s arms, and fast asleep. One
could scarcely pity his vigil, had it been marked sometimes through the
years by such an incident as this. The thing had been conducted just as
the birds conduct their love affairs. An affair absolutely natural,
absolutely blameless, and without sin.

It was a marriage according to Nature, without feast or guests,
consummated with accidental cynicism under the shadow of a religion a
thousand years dead.

So happy in their ignorance were they, that they only knew that
suddenly life had changed, that the skies and the sea were bluer, and
that they had become in some magical way one a part of the other. The
birds on the tree above were equally as happy in their ignorance, and
in their love.



PART II


CHAPTER X

AN ISLAND HONEYMOON

One day Dick climbed on to the tree above the house, and, driving
Madame Koko off the nest upon which she was sitting, peeped in. There
were several pale green eggs in it. He did not disturb them, but
climbed down again, and the bird resumed her seat as if nothing had
happened. Such an occurrence would have terrified a bird used to the
ways of men, but here the birds were so fearless and so full of
confidence that often they would follow Emmeline in the wood, flying
from branch to branch, peering at her through the leaves, lighting
quite close to her—once, even, on her shoulder.

The days passed. Dick had lost his restlessness: his wish to wander had
vanished. He had no reason to wander; perhaps that was the reason why.
In all the broad earth he could not have found anything more desirable
than what he had.

Instead now of finding a half-naked savage followed dog-like by his
mate, you would have found of an evening a pair of lovers wandering on
the reef. They had in a pathetic sort of way attempted to adorn the
house with a blue flowering creeper taken from the wood and trained
over the entrance.

Emmeline, up to this, had mostly done the cooking, such as it was; Dick
helped her now, always. He talked to her no longer in short sentences
flung out as if to a dog; and she, almost losing the strange reserve
that had clung to her from childhood, half showed him her mind. It was
a curious mind: the mind of a dreamer, almost the mind of a poet. The
Cluricaunes dwelt there, and vague shapes born of things she had heard
about or dreamt of: she had thoughts about the sea and stars, the
flowers and birds.

Dick would listen to her as she talked, as a man might listen to the
sound of a rivulet. His practical mind could take no share in the
dreams of his other half, but her conversation pleased him.

He would look at her for a long time together, absorbed in thought. He
was admiring her.

Her hair, blue-black and glossy, tangled him in its meshes; he would
stroke it, so to speak, with his eyes, and then pull her close to him
and bury his face in it; the smell of it was intoxicating. He breathed
her as one does the perfume of a rose.

Her ears were small, and like little white shells. He would take one
between finger and thumb and play with it as if it were a toy, pulling
at the lobe of it, or trying to flatten out the curved part. Her
breasts, her shoulders, her knees, her little feet, every bit of her,
he would examine and play with and kiss. She would lie and let him,
seeming absorbed in some far-away thought, of which he was the object,
then all at once her arms would go round him. All this used to go on in
the broad light of day, under the shadow of the artu leaves, with no
one to watch except the bright-eyed birds in the leaves above.

Not all their time would be spent in this fashion. Dick was just as
keen after the fish. He dug up with a spade—improvised from one of the
boards of the dinghy—a space of soft earth near the taro patch and
planted the seeds of melons he found in the wood; he rethatched the
house. They were, in short, as busy as they could be in such a climate,
but love-making would come on them in fits, and then everything would
be forgotten. Just as one revisits some spot to renew the memory of a
painful or pleasant experience received there, they would return to the
valley of the idol and spend a whole afternoon in its shade. The
absolute happiness of wandering through the woods together, discovering
new flowers, getting lost, and finding their way again, was a thing
beyond expression.

Dick had suddenly stumbled upon Love. His courtship had lasted only
some twenty minutes; it was being gone over again now, and extended.

One day, hearing a curious noise from the tree above the house, he
climbed it. The noise came from the nest, which had been temporarily
left by the mother bird. It was a gasping, wheezing sound, and it came
from four wide-open beaks, so anxious to be fed that one could almost
see into the very crops of the owners. They were Koko’s children. In
another year each of those ugly downy things would, if permitted to
live, be a beautiful sapphire-coloured bird with a few dove-coloured
tail feathers, coral beak, and bright, intelligent eyes. A few days ago
each of these things was imprisoned in a pale green egg. A month ago
they were nowhere.

Something hit Dick on the cheek. It was the mother bird returned with
food for the young ones. Dick drew his head aside, and she proceeded
without more ado to fill their crops.



CHAPTER XI

THE VANISHING OF EMMELINE

Months passed away. Only one bird remained in the branches of the artu:
Koko’s children and mate had vanished, but he remained. The breadfruit
leaves had turned from green to pale gold and darkest amber, and now
the new green leaves were being presented to the spring.

Dick, who had a complete chart of the lagoon in his head, and knew all
the soundings and best fishing places, the locality of the stinging
coral, and the places where you could wade right across at low
tide—Dick, one morning, was gathering his things together for a
fishing expedition. The place he was going to lay some two and a half
miles away across the island, and as the road was bad he was going
alone.

Emmeline had been passing a new thread through the beads of the
necklace she sometimes wore. This necklace had a history. In the
shallows not far away, Dick had found a bed of shell-fish; wading out
at low tide, he had taken some of them out to examine. They were
oysters. The first one he opened, so disgusting did its appearance seem
to him, might have been the last, only that under the beard of the
thing lay a pearl. It was about twice the size of a large pea, and so
lustrous that even he could not but admire its beauty, though quite
unconscious of its value.

He flung the unopened oysters down, and took the thing to Emmeline.
Next day, returning by chance to the same spot, he found the oysters he
had cast down all dead and open in the sun. He examined them, and
found another pearl embedded in one of them. Then he collected nearly a
bushel of the oysters, and left them to die and open. The idea had
occurred to him of making a necklace for his companion. She had one
made of shells, he intended to make her one of pearls.

It took a long time, but it was something to do. He pierced them with a
big needle, and at the end of four months or so the thing was complete.
Great pearls most of them were—pure white, black, pink, some perfectly
round, some tear shaped, some irregular. The thing was worth fifteen,
or perhaps twenty thousand pounds, for he only used the biggest he
could find, casting away the small ones as useless.

Emmeline this morning had just finished restringing them on a double
thread. She looked pale and not at all well and had been restless all
night.

As he went off, armed with his spear and fishing tackle, she waved her
hand to him without getting up. Usually she followed him a bit into the
wood when he was going away like this, but this morning she just sat at
the doorway of the little house, the necklace in her lap, following him
with her eyes until he was lost amidst the trees.

He had no compass to guide him, and he needed none. He knew the woods
by heart. The mysterious line beyond which scarcely an artu tree was to
be found. The long strip of mammee apple—a regular sheet of it a
hundred yards broad, and reaching from the middle of the island right
down to the lagoon. The clearings, some almost circular where the ferns
grew knee-deep. Then he came to the bad part.

The vegetation here had burst into a riot. All sorts of great sappy
stalks of unknown plants barred the way and tangled the foot; and there
were boggy places into which one sank horribly. Pausing to wipe one’s
brow, the stalks and tendrils one had beaten down, or beaten aside,
rose up and closed together, making one a prisoner almost as closely
surrounded as a fly in amber.

All the noontides that had ever fallen upon the island seemed to have
left some of their heat behind them here. The air was damp and close
like the air of a laundry; and the mournful and perpetual buzz of
insects filled the silence without destroying it.

A hundred men with scythes might make a road through the place to-day;
a month or two later, searching for the road, you would find none—the
vegetation would have closed in as water closes when divided.

This was the haunt of the jug orchid—a veritable jug, lid and all.
Raising the lid you would find the jug half filled with water.
Sometimes in the tangle up above, between two trees, you would see a
thing like a bird come to ruin. Orchids grew here as in a hothouse. All
the trees—the few there were—had a spectral and miserable appearance.
They were half starved by the voluptuous growth of the gigantic weeds.

If one had much imagination one felt afraid in this place, for one felt
not alone. At any moment it seemed that one might be touched on the
elbow by a hand reaching out from the surrounding tangle. Even Dick
felt this, unimaginative and fearless as he was. It took him nearly
three-quarters of an hour to get through, and then, at last, came the
blessed air of real day, and a glimpse of the lagoon between the
tree-boles.

He would have rowed round in the dinghy, only that at low tide the
shallows of the north of the island were a bar to the boat’s passage.
Of course he might have rowed all the way round by way of the strand
and reef entrance, but that would have meant a circuit of six miles or
more. When he came between the trees down to the lagoon edge it was
about eleven o’clock in the morning, and the tide was nearly at the
full.

The lagoon just here was like a trough, and the reef was very near,
scarcely a quarter of a mile from the shore. The water did not shelve,
it went down sheer fifty fathoms or more, and one could fish from the
bank just as from a pier head. He had brought some food with him, and
he placed it under a tree whilst he prepared his line, which had a lump
of coral for a sinker. He baited the hook, and whirling the sinker
round in the air sent it flying out a hundred feet from shore. There
was a baby cocoa-nut tree growing just at the edge of the water. He
fastened the end of his line round the narrow stem, in case of
eventualities, and then, holding the line itself, he fished.

He had promised Emmeline to return before sundown.

He was a fisherman. That is to say, a creature with the enduring
patience of a cat, tireless and heedless of time as an oyster. He came
here for sport more than for fish. Large things were to be found in
this part of the lagoon. The last time he had hooked a horror in the
form of a cat-fish; at least in outward appearance it was likest to a
Mississippi cat-fish. Unlike the cat-fish, it was coarse and useless as
food, but it gave good sport.

The tide was now going out, and it was at the going-out of the tide
that the best fishing was to be had. There was no wind, and the lagoon
lay like a sheet of glass, with just a dimple here and there where the
outgoing tide made a swirl in the water.

As he fished he thought of Emmeline and the little house under the
trees. Scarcely one could call it thinking. Pictures passed before his
mind’s eye—pleasant and happy pictures, sunlit, moonlit, starlit.

Three hours passed thus without a bite or symptom that the lagoon
contained anything else but sea water, and disappointment; but he did
not grumble. He was a fisherman. Then he left the line tied to the tree
and sat down to eat the food he had brought with him. He had scarcely
finished his meal when the baby cocoa-nut tree shivered and became
convulsed, and he did not require to touch the taut line to know that
it was useless to attempt to cope with the thing at the end of it. The
only course was to let it tug and drown itself. So he sat down and
watched.

After a few minutes the line slackened, and the little cocoa-nut tree
resumed its attitude of pensive meditation and repose. He pulled the
line up: there was nothing at the end of it but a hook. He did not
grumble; he baited the hook again, and flung it in, for it was quite
likely that the ferocious thing in the water would bite again.

Full of this idea and heedless of time he fished and waited. The sun
was sinking into the west—he did not heed it. He had quite forgotten
that he had promised Emmeline to return before sunset; it was nearly
sunset now. Suddenly, just behind him, from among the trees, he heard
her voice, crying:

“Dick!”



CHAPTER XII

THE VANISHING OF EMMELINE (continued)

He dropped the line, and turned with a start. There was no one visible.
He ran amongst the trees calling out her name, but only echoes
answered. Then he came back to the lagoon edge.

He felt sure that what he had heard was only fancy, but it was nearly
sunset, and more than time to be off. He pulled in his line, wrapped it
up, took his fish-spear and started.

It was just in the middle of the bad place that dread came to him.
What if anything had happened to her? It was dusk here, and never had
the weeds seemed so thick, dimness so dismal, the tendrils of the vines
so gin-like. Then he lost his way—he who was so sure of his way
always! The hunter’s instinct had been crossed, and for a time he went
hither and thither helpless as a ship without a compass. At last he
broke into the real wood, but far to the right of where he ought to
have been. He felt like a beast escaped from a trap, and hurried along,
led by the sound of the surf.

When he reached the clear sward that led down to the lagoon the sun had
just vanished beyond the sea-line. A streak of red cloud floated like
the feather of a flamingo in the western sky close to the sea, and
twilight had already filled the world. He could see the house dimly,
under the shadow of the trees, and he ran towards it, crossing the
sward diagonally.

Always before, when he had been away, the first thing to greet his eyes
on his return had been the figure of Emmeline. Either at the lagoon
edge or the house door he would find her waiting for him.

She was not waiting for him to-night. When he reached the house she was
not there, and he paused, after searching the place, a prey to the most
horrible perplexity, and unable for the moment to think or act.

Since the shock of the occurrence on the reef she had been subject at
times to occasional attacks of headache; and when the pain was more
than she could bear, she would go off and hide. Dick would hunt for her
amidst the trees, calling out her name and hallooing. A faint “halloo”
would answer when she heard him, and then he would find her under a
tree or bush, with her unfortunate head between her hands, a picture of
misery.

He remembered this now, and started off along the borders of the wood,
calling to her, and pausing to listen. No answer came.

He searched amidst the trees as far as the little well, waking the
echoes with his voice; then he came back slowly, peering about him in
the deep dusk that now was yielding to the starlight. He sat down
before the door of the house, and, looking at him, you might have
fancied him in the last stages of exhaustion. Profound grief and
profound exhaustion act on the frame very much in the same way. He sat
with his chin resting on his chest, his hands helpless. He could hear
her voice, still as he heard it over at the other side of the island.
She had been in danger and called to him, and he had been calmly
fishing, unconscious of it all.

This thought maddened him. He sat up, stared around him and beat the
ground with the palms of his hands; then he sprang to his feet and made
for the dinghy. He rowed to the reef: the action of a madman, for she
could not possibly be there.

There was no moon, the starlight both lit and veiled the world, and no
sound but the majestic thunder of the waves. As he stood, the night
wind blowing on his face, the white foam seething before him, and
Canopus burning in the great silence overhead, the fact that he stood
in the centre of an awful and profound indifference came to his
untutored mind with a pang.

He returned to the shore: the house was still deserted. A little bowl
made from the shell of a cocoa-nut stood on the grass near the doorway.
He had last seen it in her hands, and he took it up and held it for a
moment, pressing it tightly to his breast. Then he threw himself down
before the doorway, and lay upon his face, with head resting upon his
arms in the attitude of a person who is profoundly asleep.

He must have searched through the woods again that night just as a
somnambulist searches, for he found himself towards dawn in the valley
before the idol. Then it was daybreak—the world was full of light and
colour. He was seated before the house door, worn out and exhausted,
when, raising his head, he saw Emmeline’s figure coming out from amidst
the distant trees on the other side of the sward.



CHAPTER XIII

THE NEWCOMER

He could not move for a moment, then he sprang to his feet and ran
towards her. She looked pale and dazed, and she held something in her
arms; something wrapped up in her scarf. As he pressed her to him, the
something in the bundle struggled against his breast and emitted a
squall—just like the squall of a cat. He drew back, and Emmeline,
tenderly moving her scarf a bit aside, exposed a wee face. It was
brick-red and wrinkled; there were two bright eyes, and a tuft of dark
hair over the forehead. Then the eyes closed, the face screwed itself
up, and the thing sneezed twice.

“Where did you _get_ it?” he asked, absolutely lost in astonishment as
she covered the face again gently with the scarf.

“I found it in the woods,” replied Emmeline.

Dumb with amazement, he helped her along to the house, and she sat
down, resting her head against the bamboos of the wall.

“I felt so bad,” she explained; “and then I went off to sit in the
woods, and then I remembered nothing more, and when I woke up it was
there.”

“It’s a baby!” said Dick.

“I know,” replied Emmeline.

Mrs James’s baby, seen in the long ago, had risen up before their
mind’s eyes, a messenger from the past to explain what the new thing
was. Then she told him things—things that completely shattered the old
“cabbage bed” theory, supplanting it with a truth far more wonderful,
far more poetical, too, to he who can appreciate the marvel and the
mystery of life.

“It has something funny tied on to it,” she went on, as if she were
referring to a parcel she had just received.

“Let’s look,” said Dick.

“No,” she replied; “leave it alone.”

She sat rocking the thing gently, seeming oblivious to the whole world,
and quite absorbed in it, as, indeed, was Dick. A physician would have
shuddered, but, perhaps fortunately enough, there was no physician on
the island. Only Nature, and she put everything to rights in her own
time and way.

When Dick had sat marvelling long enough, he set to and lit the fire.
He had eaten nothing since the day before, and he was nearly as
exhausted as the girl. He cooked some breadfruit, there was some cold
fish left over from the day before; this, with some bananas, he served
up on two broad leaves, making Emmeline eat first.

Before they had finished, the creature in the bundle, as though it had
smelt the food, began to scream. Emmeline drew the scarf aside. It
looked hungry; its mouth would now be pinched up and now wide open, its
eyes opened and closed. The girl touched it on the lips with her
finger, and it seized upon her fingertip and sucked it. Her eyes filled
with tears, she looked appealingly at Dick, who was on his knees; he
took a banana, peeled it, broke off a bit and handed it to her. She
approached it to the baby’s mouth. It tried to suck it, failed, blew
bubbles at the sun and squalled.

“Wait a minute,” said Dick.

There were some green cocoa-nuts he had gathered the day before close
by. He took one, removed the green husk, and opened one of the eyes,
making an opening also in the opposite side of the shell. The
unfortunate infant sucked ravenously at the nut, filled its stomach
with the young cocoa-nut juice, vomited violently, and wailed. Emmeline
in despair clasped it to her naked breast, wherefrom, in a moment, it
was hanging like a leech. It knew more about babies than they did.



CHAPTER XIV

HANNAH

At noon, in the shallows of the reef, under the burning sun, the water
would be quite warm. They would carry the baby down here, and Emmeline
would wash it with a bit of flannel. After a few days it scarcely ever
screamed, even when she washed it. It would lie on her knees during the
process, striking valiantly out with its arms and legs, staring
straight up at the sky. Then, when she turned it on its face, it would
lay its head down and chuckle and blow bubbles at the coral of the
reef, examining, apparently, the pattern of the coral with deep and
philosophic attention.

Dick would sit by with his knees up to his chin, watching it all. He
felt himself to be part proprietor in the thing—as indeed he was.
The mystery of the affair still hung over them both. A week ago they
two had been alone, and suddenly from nowhere this new individual had
appeared.

It was so complete. It had hair on its head, tiny finger-nails, and
hands that would grasp you. It had a whole host of little ways of its
own, and every day added to them.

In a week the extreme ugliness of the newborn child had vanished. Its
face, which had seemed carved in the imitation of a monkey’s face from
half a brick, became the face of a happy and healthy baby. It seemed to
see things, and sometimes it would laugh and chuckle as though it had
been told a good joke. Its black hair all came off and was supplanted
by a sort of down. It had no teeth. It would lie on its back and kick
and crow, and double its fists up and try to swallow them alternately,
and cross its feet and play with its toes. In fact, it was exactly like
any of the thousand-and-one babies that are born into the world at
every tick of the clock.

“What will we call it?” said Dick one day, as he sat watching his son
and heir crawling about on the grass under the shade of the breadfruit
leaves.

“Hannah,” said Emmeline promptly.

The recollection of another baby once heard about was in her mind; and
it was as good a name as any other, perhaps, in that lonely place,
notwithstanding the fact that Hannah was a boy.

Koko took a vast interest in the new arrival. He would hop round it and
peer at it with his head on one side; and Hannah would crawl after the
bird and try to grab it by the tail. In a few months so valiant and
strong did he become that he would pursue his own father, crawling
before him on the grass, and you might have seen the mother and father
and child playing all together like three children, the bird sometimes
hovering overhead like a good spirit, sometimes joining in the fun.

Sometimes Emmeline would sit and brood over the child, a troubled
expression on her face and a far-away look in her eyes. The old vague
fear of mischance had returned—the dread of that viewless form her
imagination half pictured behind the smile on the face of Nature. Her
happiness was so great that she dreaded to lose it.

There is nothing more wonderful than the birth of a man, and all that
goes to bring it about. Here, on this island, in the very heart of the
sea, amidst the sunshine and the wind-blown trees, under the great blue
arch of the sky, in perfect purity of thought, they would discuss the
question from beginning to end without a blush, the object of their
discussion crawling before them on the grass, and attempting to grab
feathers from Koko’s tail.

It was the loneliness of the place as well as their ignorance of life
that made the old, old miracle appear so strange and fresh—as
beautiful as the miracle of death had appeared awful. In thoughts vague
and beyond expression in words, they linked this new occurrence with
that old occurrence on the reef six years before. The vanishing and the
coming of a man.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Hannah, despite his unfortunate name, was certainly a most virile and
engaging baby. The black hair which had appeared and vanished like some
practical joke played by Nature, gave place to a down at first as
yellow as sun-bleached wheat, but in a few months’ time tinged with
auburn.

One day—he had been uneasy and biting at his thumbs for some time
past—Emmeline, looking into his mouth, saw something white and like a
grain of rice protruding from his gum. It was a tooth just born. He
could eat bananas now, and breadfruit, and they often fed him on
fish—a fact which again might have caused a medical man to shudder;
yet he throve on it all, and waxed stouter every day.

Emmeline, with a profound and natural wisdom, let him crawl about stark
naked, dressed in ozone and sunlight. Taking him out on the reef, she
would let him paddle in the shallow pools, holding him under the
armpits whilst he splashed the diamond-bright water into spray with his
feet, and laughed and shouted.

They were beginning now to experience a phenomenon, as wonderful as the
birth of the child’s body—the birth of his intelligence: the peeping
out of a little personality with predilections of its own, likes and
dislikes.

He knew Dick from Emmeline; and when Emmeline had satisfied his
material wants, he would hold out his arms to go to Dick if he were by.
He looked upon Koko as a friend, but when a friend of Koko’s—a bird
with an inquisitive mind and three red feathers in his tail—dropped in
one day to inspect the newcomer, he resented the intrusion, and
screamed.

He had a passion for flowers, or anything bright. He would laugh and
shout when taken on the lagoon in the dinghy, and make as if to jump
into the water to get at the bright-coloured corals below.

Ah me! we laugh at young mothers, and all the miraculous things they
tell us about their babies. They see what we cannot see: the first
unfolding of that mysterious flower, the mind.

One day they were out on the lagoon. Dick had been rowing; he had
ceased, and was letting the boat drift for a bit. Emmeline was dancing
the child on her knee, when it suddenly held out its arms to the
oarsman and said:

“Dick!”

The little word, so often heard and easily repeated, was its first word
on earth.

A voice that had never spoken in the world before, had spoken; and to
hear his name thus mysteriously uttered by a being he has created, is
the sweetest and perhaps the saddest thing a man can ever know.

Dick took the child on his knee, and from that moment his love for it
was more than his love for Emmeline or anything else on earth.



CHAPTER XV

THE LAGOON OF FIRE

Ever since the tragedy of six years ago there had been forming in the
mind of Emmeline Lestrange a something—shall I call it a deep
mistrust. She had never been clever; lessons had saddened and wearied
her, without making her much the wiser. Yet her mind was of that order
into which profound truths come by short cuts. She was intuitive.

Great knowledge may lurk in the human mind without the owner of the
mind being aware. He or she acts in such or such a way, or thinks in
such and such a manner from intuition; in other words, as the outcome
of the profoundest reasoning.

When we have learned to call storms, storms, and death, death, and
birth, birth; when we have mastered the sailor’s horn book, and Mr
Piddington’s law of cyclones, Ellis’s anatomy, and Lewer’s midwifery,
we have already made ourselves half blind. We have become hypnotised by
words and names. We think in words and names, not in ideas; the
commonplace has triumphed, the true intellect is half crushed.

Storms had burst over the island before this. And what Emmeline
remembered of them might be expressed by an instance.

The morning would be bright and happy, never so bright the sun, or so
balmy the breeze, or so peaceful the blue lagoon; then, with a horrid
suddenness, as if sick with dissimulation and mad to show itself,
something would blacken the sun, and with a yell stretch out a hand and
ravage the island, churn the lagoon into foam, beat down the cocoa-nut
trees, and slay the birds. And one bird would be left and another
taken, one tree destroyed, and another left standing. The fury of the
thing was less fearful than the blindness of it, and the indifference
of it.

One night, when the child was asleep, just after the last star was lit,
Dick appeared at the doorway of the house. He had been down to the
water’s edge and had now returned. He beckoned Emmeline to follow him,
and, putting down the child, she did so.

“Come here and look,” said he.

He led the way to the water; and as they approached it, Emmeline became
aware that there was something strange about the lagoon. From a
distance it looked pale and solid; it might have been a great stretch
of grey marble veined with black. Then, as she drew nearer, she saw
that the dull grey appearance was a deception of the eye.

The lagoon was alight and burning.

The phosphoric fire was in its very heart and being; every coral branch
was a torch, every fish a passing lantern. The incoming tide moving the
waters made the whole glittering floor of the lagoon move and shiver,
and the tiny waves to lap the bank, leaving behind them glow-worm
traces.

“Look!” said Dick.

He knelt down and plunged his forearm into the water. The immersed part
burned like a smouldering torch. Emmeline could see it as plainly as
though it were lit by sunlight. Then he drew his arm out, and as far as
the water had reached, it was covered by a glowing glove.

They had seen the phosphorescence of the lagoon before; indeed, any
night you might watch the passing fish like bars of silver, when the
moon was away; but this was something quite new, and it was entrancing.

Emmeline knelt down and dabbled her hands, and made herself a pair of
phosphoric gloves, and cried out with pleasure, and laughed. It was all
the pleasure of playing with fire without the danger of being burnt.
Then Dick rubbed his face with the water till it glowed.

“Wait!” he cried; and, running up to the house, he fetched out Hannah.

He came running down with him to the water’s edge, gave Emmeline the
child, unmoored the boat, and started out from shore.

The sculls, as far as they were immersed, were like bars of glistening
silver; under them passed the fish, leaving cometic tails; each coral
clump was a lamp, lending its lustre till the great lagoon was luminous
as a lit-up ballroom. Even the child on Emmeline’s lap crowed and cried
out at the strangeness of the sight.

They landed on the reef and wandered over the flat. The sea was white
and bright as snow, and the foam looked like a hedge of fire.

As they stood gazing on this extraordinary sight, suddenly, almost as
instantaneously as the switching off of an electric light, the
phosphorescence of the sea flickered and vanished.

The moon was rising. Her crest was just breaking from the water, and as
her face came slowly into view behind a belt of vapour that lay on the
horizon, it looked fierce and red, stained with smoke like the face of
Eblis.



CHAPTER XVI

THE CYCLONE

When they awoke next morning the day was dark. A solid roof of cloud,
lead-coloured and without a ripple on it, lay over the sky, almost to
the horizon. There was not a breath of wind, and the birds flew wildly
about as if disturbed by some unseen enemy in the wood.

As Dick lit the fire to prepare the breakfast, Emmeline walked up and
down, holding her baby to her breast; she felt restless and uneasy.

As the morning wore on the darkness increased; a breeze rose up, and
the leaves of the breadfruit trees pattered together with the sound of
rain falling upon glass. A storm was coming, but there was something
different in its approach to the approach of the storms they had
already known.

As the breeze increased a sound filled the air, coming from far away
beyond the horizon. It was like the sound of a great multitude of
people, and yet so faint and vague was it that sudden bursts of the
breeze through the leaves above would drown it utterly. Then it ceased,
and nothing could be heard but the rocking of the branches and the
tossing of the leaves under the increasing wind, which was now blowing
sharply and fiercely and with a steady rush dead from the west,
fretting the lagoon, and sending clouds and masses of foam right over
the reef. The sky that had been so leaden and peaceful and like a solid
roof was now all in a hurry, flowing eastward like a great turbulent
river in spate.

And now, again, one could hear the sound in the distance—the thunder
of the captains of the storm and the shouting; but still so faint, so
vague, so indeterminate and unearthly that it seemed like the sound in
a dream.

Emmeline sat amidst the ferns on the floor cowed and dumb, holding the
baby to her breast. It was fast asleep. Dick stood at the doorway. He
was disturbed in mind, but he did not show it.

The whole beautiful island world had now taken on the colour of ashes
and the colour of lead. Beauty had utterly vanished, all seemed sadness
and distress.

The cocoa-palms, under the wind that had lost its steady rush and was
now blowing in hurricane blasts, flung themselves about in all the
attitudes of distress; and whoever has seen a tropical storm will know
what a cocoa-palm can express by its movements under the lash of the
wind.

Fortunately the house was so placed that it was protected by the whole
depth of the grove between it and the lagoon; and fortunately, too, it
was sheltered by the dense foliage of the breadfruit, for suddenly,
with a crash of thunder as if the hammer of Thor had been flung from
sky to earth, the clouds split and the rain came down in a great
slanting wave. It roared on the foliage above, which, bending leaf on
leaf, made a slanting roof from which it rushed in a steady sheet-like
cascade.

Dick had darted into the house, and was now sitting beside Emmeline,
who was shivering and holding the child, which had awakened at the
sound of the thunder.

For an hour they sat, the rain ceasing and coming again, the thunder
shaking earth and sea, and the wind passing overhead with a piercing,
monotonous cry.

Then all at once the wind dropped, the rain ceased, and a pale spectral
light, like the light of dawn, fell before the doorway.

“It’s over!” cried Dick, making to get up.

“Oh, listen!” said Emmeline, clinging to him, and holding the baby to
his breast as if the touch of him would give it protection. She had
divined that there was something approaching worse than a storm.

Then, listening in the silence, away from the other side of the island,
they heard a sound like the droning of a great top.

It was the centre of the cyclone approaching.

A cyclone is a circular storm: a storm in the form of a ring. This ring
of hurricane travels across the ocean with inconceivable speed and
fury, yet its centre is a haven of peace.

As they listened the sound increased, sharpened, and became a tang that
pierced the ear-drums: a sound that shook with hurry and speed,
increasing, bringing with it the bursting and crashing of trees, and
breaking at last overhead in a yell that stunned the brain like the
blow of a bludgeon. In a second the house was torn away, and they were
clinging to the roots of the breadfruit, deaf, blinded, half-lifeless.

The terror and the prolonged shock of it reduced them from thinking
beings to the level of frightened animals whose one instinct is
preservation.

How long the horror lasted they could not tell, when, like a madman who
pauses for a moment in the midst of his struggles and stands
stock-still, the wind ceased blowing, and there was peace. The centre
of the cyclone was passing over the island.

Looking up, one saw a marvellous sight. The air was full of birds,
butterflies, insects—all hanging in the heart of the storm and
travelling with it under its protection.

Though the air was still as the air of a summer’s day, from north,
south, east, and west, from every point of the compass, came the yell
of the hurricane.

There was something shocking in this.

In a storm one is so beaten about by the wind that one has no time to
think: one is half stupefied. But in the dead centre of a cyclone one
is in perfect peace. The trouble is all around, but it is not here. One
has time to examine the thing like a tiger in a cage, listen to its
voice and shudder at its ferocity.

The girl, holding the baby to her breast, sat up gasping. The baby had
come to no harm; it had cried at first when the thunder broke, but now
it seemed impassive, almost dazed. Dick stepped from under the tree and
looked at the prodigy in the air.

The cyclone had gathered on its way sea-birds and birds from the land;
there were gulls, electric white and black man-of-war birds,
butterflies, and they all seemed imprisoned under a great drifting dome
of glass. As they went, travelling like things without volition and in
a dream, with a hum and a roar the south-west quadrant of the cyclone
burst on the island, and the whole bitter business began over again.

It lasted for hours, then towards midnight the wind fell; and when the
sun rose next morning he came through a cloudless sky, without a trace
of apology for the destruction caused by his children the winds. He
showed trees uprooted and birds lying dead, three or four canes
remaining of what had once been a house, the lagoon the colour of a
pale sapphire, and a glass-green, foam-capped sea racing in thunder
against the reef.



CHAPTER XVII

THE STRICKEN WOODS

At first they thought they were ruined; then Dick, searching, found the
old saw under a tree, and the butcher’s knife near it, as though the
knife and saw had been trying to escape in company and had failed.

Bit by bit they began to recover something of their scattered property.
The remains of the flannel had been taken by the cyclone and wrapped
round and round a slender cocoa-nut tree, till the trunk looked like a
gaily-bandaged leg. The box of fishhooks had been jammed into the
centre of a cooked breadfruit, both having been picked up by the
fingers of the wind and hurled against the same tree; and the stay-sail
of the _Shenandoah_ was out on the reef, with a piece of coral carefully
placed on it as if to keep it down. As for the lug-sail belonging to
the dinghy, it was never seen again.

There is humour sometimes in a cyclone, if you can only appreciate it;
no other form of air disturbance produces such quaint effects. Beside
the great main whirlpool of wind, there are subsidiary whirlpools, each
actuated by its own special imp.

Emmeline had felt Hannah nearly snatched from her arms twice by these
little ferocious gimlet winds; and that the whole business of the great
storm was set about with the object of snatching Hannah from her, and
blowing him out to sea, was a belief which she held, perhaps, in the
innermost recesses of her mind.

The dinghy would have been utterly destroyed, had it not heeled over
and sunk in shallow water at the first onset of the wind; as it was,
Dick was able to bail it out at the next low tide, when it floated as
bravely as ever, not having started a single seam.

But the destruction amidst the trees was pitiful. Looking at the woods
as a mass, one noticed gaps here and there, but what had really
happened could not be seen till one was amongst the trees. Great,
beautiful cocoa-nut palms, not dead, but just dying, lay crushed and
broken as if trampled upon by some enormous foot. You would come
across half a dozen lianas twisted into one great cable. Where
cocoa-nut palms were, you could not move a yard without kicking against
a fallen nut; you might have picked up full-grown, half-grown, and wee
baby nuts, not bigger than small apples, for on the same tree you will
find nuts of all sizes and conditions.

One never sees a perfectly straight-stemmed cocoa-palm; they all have
an inclination from the perpendicular more or less; perhaps that is why
a cyclone has more effect on them than on other trees.

Artus, once so pretty a picture with their diamond-chequered trunks,
lay broken and ruined; and right through the belt of mammee apple,
right through the bad lands, lay a broad road, as if an army, horse,
foot, and artillery, had passed that way from lagoon edge to lagoon
edge. This was the path left by the great fore-foot of the storm; but
had you searched the woods on either side, you would have found paths
where the lesser winds had been at work, where the baby whirlwinds had
been at play.

From the bruised woods, like an incense offered to heaven, rose a
perfume of blossoms gathered and scattered, of rain-wet leaves, of
lianas twisted and broken and oozing their sap; the perfume of
newly-wrecked and ruined trees—the essence and soul of the artu, the
banyan and cocoa-palm cast upon the wind.

You would have found dead butterflies in the woods, dead birds too; but
in the great path of the storm you would have found dead butterflies’
wings, feathers, leaves frayed as if by fingers, branches of the aoa,
and sticks of the hibiscus broken into little fragments.

Powerful enough to rip a ship open, root up a tree, half ruin a city.
Delicate enough to tear a butterfly wing from wing—that is a cyclone.

Emmeline, wandering about in the woods with Dick on the day after the
storm, looking at the ruin of great tree and little bird, and
recollecting the land birds she had caught a glimpse of yesterday being
carried along safely by the storm out to sea to be drowned, felt a
great weight lifting from her heart. Mischance had come, and spared
them and the baby. The blue had spoken, but had not called them.

She felt that something—the something which we in civilisation call
Fate—was for the present gorged; and, without being annihilated, her
incessant hypochondriacal dread condensed itself into a point, leaving
her horizon sunlit and clear.

The cyclone had indeed treated them almost, one might say, amiably. It
had taken the house—but that was a small matter, for it had left them
nearly all their small possessions. The tinder box and flint and steel
would have been a much more serious loss than a dozen houses, for,
without it, they would have had absolutely no means of making a fire.

If anything, the cyclone had been almost too kind to them; had let them
pay off too little of that mysterious debt they owed to the gods.



CHAPTER XVIII

A FALLEN IDOL

The next day Dick began to rebuild the house. He had fetched the
stay-sail from the reef and rigged up a temporary tent.

It was a great business cutting the canes and dragging them out in the
open. Emmeline helped; whilst Hannah, seated on the grass, played with
the bird that had vanished during the storm, but reappeared the evening
after.

The child and the bird had grown fast friends; they were friendly
enough even at first, but now the bird would sometimes let the tiny
hands clasp him right round his body—at least, as far as the hands
would go.

It is a rare experience for a man to hold a tame and unstruggling and
unfrightened bird in his hands; next to pressing a woman in his arms,
it is the pleasantest tactile sensation he will ever experience,
perhaps, in life. He will feel a desire to press it to his heart, if he
has such a thing.

Hannah would press Koko to his little brown stomach, as if in artless
admission of where his heart lay.

He was an extraordinarily bright and intelligent child. He did not
promise to be talkative, for, having achieved the word “Dick,” he
rested content for a long while before advancing further into the
labyrinth of language; but though he did not use his tongue, he spoke
in a host of other ways. With his eyes, that were as bright as Koko’s,
and full of all sorts of mischief; with his hands and feet and the
movements of his body. He had a way of shaking his hands before him
when highly delighted, a way of expressing nearly all the shades of
pleasure; and though he rarely expressed anger, when he did so, he
expressed it fully.

He was just now passing over the frontier into toyland. In civilisation
he would no doubt have been the possessor of an india-rubber dog or a
woolly lamb, but there were no toys here at all. Emmeline’s old doll
had been left behind when they took flight from the other side of the
island, and Dick, a year or so ago, on one of his expeditions, had
found it lying half buried in the sand of the beach.

He had brought it back now more as a curiosity than anything else, and
they had kept it on the shelf in the house. The cyclone had impaled it
on a tree-twig near by, as if in derision; and Hannah, when it was
presented to him as a plaything, flung it away from him as if in
disgust. But he would play with flowers or bright shells, or bits of
coral, making vague patterns with them on the sward.

All the toy lambs in the world would not have pleased him better than
those things, the toys of the Troglodyte children—the children of the
Stone Age. To clap two oyster shells together and make a noise—what,
after all, could a baby want better than that?

One afternoon, when the house was beginning to take some sort of form,
they ceased work and went off into the woods; Emmeline carrying the
baby, and Dick taking turns with him. They were going to the valley of
the idol.

Since the coming of Hannah, and even before, the stone figure standing
in its awful and mysterious solitude had ceased to be an object of
dread to Emmeline, and had become a thing vaguely benevolent. Love had
come to her under its shade; and under its shade the spirit of the
child had entered into her—from where, who knows? But certainly through
heaven.

Perhaps the thing which had been the god of some unknown people had
inspired her with the instinct of religion; if so, she was his last
worshipper on earth, for when they entered the valley they found him
lying upon his face. Great blocks of stone lay around him: there had
evidently been a landslip, a catastrophe preparing for ages, and
determined, perhaps, by the torrential rain of the cyclone.

In Ponape, Huahine, in Easter Island, you may see great idols that have
been felled like this, temples slowly dissolving from sight, and
terraces, seemingly as solid as the hills, turning softly and subtly
into shapeless mounds of stone.



CHAPTER XIX

THE EXPEDITION

Next morning the light of day filtering through the trees awakened
Emmeline in the tent which they had improvised whilst the house was
building. Dawn came later here than on the other side of the island
which faced east—later, and in a different manner—for there is the
difference of worlds between dawn coming over a wooded hill, and dawn
coming over the sea.

Over at the other side, sitting on the sand with the break of the reef
which faced the east before you, scarcely would the east change colour
before the sea-line would be on fire, the sky lit up into an
illimitable void of blue, and the sunlight flooding into the lagoon,
the ripples of light seeming to chase the ripples of water.

On this side it was different. The sky would be dark and full of stars,
and the woods, great spaces of velvety shadow. Then through the leaves
of the artu would come a sigh, and the leaves of the breadfruit would
patter, and the sound of the reef become faint. The land breeze had
awakened, and in a while, as if it had blown them away, looking up, you
would find the stars gone, and the sky a veil of palest blue. In this
indirect approach of dawn there was something ineffably mysterious. One
could see, but the things seen were indecisive and vague, just as they
are in the gloaming of an English summer’s day.

Scarcely had Emmeline arisen when Dick woke also, and they went out on
to the sward, and then down to the water’s edge. Dick went in for a
swim, and the girl, holding the baby, stood on the bank watching him.

Always after a great storm the weather of the island would become more
bracing and exhilarating, and this morning the air seemed filled with
the spirit of spring. Emmeline felt it, and as she watched the swimmer
disporting in the water, she laughed, and held the child up to watch
him. She was fey. The breeze, filled with all sorts of sweet perfumes
from the woods, blew her black hair about her shoulders, and the full
light of morning coming over the palm fronds of the woods beyond the
sward touched her and the child. Nature seemed caressing them.

Dick came ashore, and then ran about to dry himself in the wind. Then
he went to the dinghy and examined her; for he had determined to leave
the house-building for half a day, and row round to the old place to
see how the banana trees had fared during the storm. His anxiety about
them was not to be wondered at. The island was his larder, and the
bananas were a most valuable article of food. He had all the feelings
of a careful housekeeper about them, and he could not rest till he had
seen for himself the extent of damage, if damage there was any.

He examined the boat, and then they all went back to breakfast. Living
their lives, they had to use forethought. They would put away, for
instance, all the shells of the cocoa-nuts they used for fuel; and you
never could imagine the blazing splendour there lives in the shell of a
cocoa-nut till you see it burning. Yesterday, Dick, with his usual
prudence, had placed a heap of sticks, all wet with the rain of the
storm, to dry in the sun: as a consequence, they had plenty of fuel to
make a fire with this morning.

When they had finished breakfast he got the knife to cut the bananas
with—if there were any left to cut—and, taking the javelin, he went
down to the boat, followed by Emmeline and the child.

Dick had stepped into the boat, and was on the point of unmooring her,
and pushing her off, when Emmeline stopped him.

“Dick!”

“Yes?”

“I will go with you.”

“You!” said he in astonishment.

“Yes, I’m—not afraid any more.”

It was a fact; since the coming of the child she had lost that dread of
the other side of the island—or almost lost it.

Death is a great darkness, birth is a great light—they had intermixed
in her mind; the darkness was still there, but it was no longer
terrible to her, for it was infused with the light. The result was a
twilight sad, but beautiful, and unpeopled with forms of fear.

Years ago she had seen a mysterious door close and shut a human being
out for ever from the world. The sight had filled her with dread
unimaginable, for she had no words for the thing, no religion or
philosophy to explain it away or gloss it over. Just recently she had
seen an equally mysterious door open and admit a human being; and deep
down in her mind, in the place where the dreams were, the one great
fact had explained and justified the other. Life had vanished into the
void, but life had come from there. There was life in the void, and it
was no longer terrible.

Perhaps all religions were born on a day when some woman, seated upon a
rock by the prehistoric sea, looked at her newborn child and recalled
to mind her man who had been slain, thus closing the charm and
imprisoning the idea of a future state.

Emmeline, with the child in her arms, stepped into the little boat and
took her seat in the stern, whilst Dick pushed off. Scarcely had he put
out the sculls than a new passenger arrived. It was Koko. He would
often accompany them to the reef, though, strangely enough, he would
never go there alone of his own accord. He made a circle or two over
them, and then lit on the gunwale in the bow, and perched there, humped
up, and with his long dove-coloured tail feathers presented to the
water.

The oarsman kept close in-shore, and as they rounded the little cape
all gay with wild cocoa-nut the bushes brushed the boat, and the child,
excited by their colour, held out his hands to them. Emmeline
stretched out her hand and broke off a branch; but it was not a branch
of the wild cocoa-nut she had plucked, it was a branch of the
never-wake-up berries. The berries that will cause a man to sleep,
should he eat of them—to sleep and dream, and never wake up again.

“Throw them away!” cried Dick, who remembered.

“I will in a minute,” she replied.

She was holding them up before the child, who was laughing and trying
to grasp them. Then she forgot them, and dropped them in the bottom of
the boat, for something had struck the keel with a thud, and the water
was boiling all round.

There was a savage fight going on below. In the breeding season great
battles would take place sometimes in the lagoon, for fish have their
jealousies just like men—love affairs, friendships. The two great
forms could be dimly perceived, one in pursuit of the other, and they
terrified Emmeline, who implored Dick to row on.

They slipped by the pleasant shores that Emmeline had never seen
before, having been sound asleep when they came past them those years
ago.

Just before putting off she had looked back at the beginnings of the
little house under the artu tree, and as she looked at the strange
glades and groves, the picture of it rose before her, and seemed to
call her back.

It was a tiny possession, but it was home; and so little used to change
was she that already a sort of home-sickness was upon her; but it
passed away almost as soon as it came, and she fell to wondering at the
things around her, and pointing them out to the child.

When they came to the place where Dick had hooked the albicore, he hung
on his oars and told her about it. It was the first time she had heard
of it; a fact which shows into what a state of savagery he had been
lapsing. He had mentioned about the canoes, for he had to account for
the javelin; but as for telling her of the incidents of the chase, he
no more thought of doing so than a red Indian would think of detailing
to his squaw the incidents of a bear hunt. Contempt for women is the
first law of savagery, and perhaps the last law of some old and
profound philosophy.

She listened, and when it came to the incident of the shark, she
shuddered.

“I wish I had a hook big enough to catch him with,” said he, staring
into the water as if in search of his enemy.

“Don’t think of him, Dick,” said Emmeline, holding the child more
tightly to her heart. “Row on.”

He resumed the sculls, but you could have seen from his face that he
was recounting to himself the incident.

When they had rounded the last promontory, and the strand and the break
in the reef opened before them, Emmeline caught her breath. The place
had changed in some subtle manner; everything was there as before, yet
everything seemed different—the lagoon seemed narrower, the reef
nearer, the cocoa-palms not nearly so tall. She was contrasting the
real things with the recollection of them when seen by a child. The
black speck had vanished from the reef; the storm had swept it utterly
away.

Dick beached the boat on the shelving sand, and left Emmeline seated in
the stern of it, whilst he went in search of the bananas; she would
have accompanied him, but the child had fallen asleep.

Hannah asleep was even a pleasanter picture than when awake. He looked
like a little brown Cupid without wings, bow or arrow. He had all the
grace of a curled-up feather. Sleep was always in pursuit of him, and
would catch him up at the most unexpected moments—when he was at play,
or indeed at any time. Emmeline would sometimes find him with a
coloured shell or bit of coral that he had been playing with in his
hand fast asleep, a happy expression on his face, as if his mind were
pursuing its earthly avocations on some fortunate beach in dreamland.

Dick had plucked a huge breadfruit leaf and given it to her as a
shelter from the sun, and she sat holding it over her, and gazing
straight before her, over the white, sunlit sands.

The flight of the mind in reverie is not in a direct line. To her,
dreaming as she sat, came all sorts of coloured pictures, recalled by
the scene before her: the green water under the stern of a ship, and
the word _Shenandoah_ vaguely reflected on it; their landing, and the
little tea-set spread out on the white sand—she could still see the
pansies painted on the plates, and she counted in memory the lead
spoons; the great stars that burned over the reef at nights; the
Cluricaunes and fairies; the cask by the well where the convolvulus
blossomed, and the wind-blown trees seen from the summit of the
hill—all these pictures drifted before her, dissolving and replacing
each other as they went.

There was sadness in the contemplation of them, but pleasure too. She
felt at peace with the world. All trouble seemed far behind her. It was
as if the great storm that had left them unharmed had been an
ambassador from the powers above to assure her of their forbearance,
protection, and love.

All at once she noticed that between the boat’s bow and the sand there
lay a broad, blue, sparkling line. The dinghy was afloat.



CHAPTER XX

THE KEEPER OF THE LAGOON

The woods here had been less affected by the cyclone than those upon
the other side of the island, but there had been destruction enough. To
reach the place he wanted, Dick had to climb over felled trees and
fight his way through a tangle of vines that had once hung overhead.

The banana trees had not suffered at all; as if by some special
dispensation of Providence even the great bunches of fruit had been
scarcely injured, and he proceeded to climb and cut them. He cut two
bunches, and with one across his shoulder came back down through the
trees.

He had got half across the sands, his head bent under the load, when a
distant call came to him, and, raising his head, he saw the boat adrift
in the middle of the lagoon, and the figure of the girl in the bow of
it waving to him with her arm. He saw a scull floating on the water
half-way between the boat and the shore, which she had no doubt lost in
an attempt to paddle the boat back. He remembered that the tide was
going out.

He flung his load aside, and ran down the beach; in a moment he was in
the water. Emmeline, standing up in the boat, watched him.

When she found herself adrift, she had made an effort to row back, and
in her hurry shipping the sculls she had lost one. With a single scull
she was quite helpless, as she had not the art of sculling a boat from
the stern. At first she was not frightened, because she knew that Dick
would soon return to her assistance; but as the distance between boat
and shore increased, a cold hand seemed laid upon her heart. Looking at
the shore it seemed very far away, and the view towards the reef was
terrific, for the opening had increased in apparent size, and the great
sea beyond seemed drawing her to it.

She saw Dick coming out of the wood with the load on his shoulder, and
she called to him. At first he did not seem to hear, then she saw him
look up, cast the bananas away, and come running down the sand to the
water’s edge. She watched him swimming, she saw him seize the scull,
and her heart gave a great leap of joy.

Towing the scull and swimming with one arm, he rapidly approached the
boat. He was quite close, only ten feet away, when Emmeline saw behind
him, shearing through the clear, rippling water and advancing with
speed, a dark triangle that seemed made of canvas stretched upon a
sword point.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Forty years ago he had floated adrift on the sea in the form and
likeness of a small shabby pine-cone, a prey to anything that might
find him. He had escaped the jaws of the dog-fish, and the jaws of the
dog-fish are a very wide door; he had escaped the albicore and squid:
his life had been one long series of miraculous escapes from death. Out
of a billion like him born in the same year, he and a few others only
had survived.

For thirty years he had kept the lagoon to himself, as a ferocious
tiger keeps a jungle. He had known the palm tree on the reef when it
was a seedling, and he had known the reef even before the palm tree was
there. The things he had devoured, flung one upon another, would have
made a mountain; yet he was as clear of enmity as a sword, as cruel, and
as soulless. He was the spirit of the lagoon.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Emmeline screamed, and pointed to the thing behind the swimmer. He
turned, saw it, dropped the oar and made for the boat. She had seized
the remaining scull and stood with it poised, then she hurled it blade
foremost at the form in the water, now fully visible, and close on its
prey.

She could not throw a stone straight, yet the scull went like an arrow
to the mark, balking the pursuer and saving the pursued. In a moment
more his leg was over the gunwale, and he was saved.

But the scull was lost.



CHAPTER XXI

THE HAND OF THE SEA

There was nothing in the boat that could possibly be used as a paddle;
the scull was only five or six yards away, but to attempt to swim to it
was certain death, yet they were being swept out to sea. He might have
made the attempt, only that on the starboard quarter the form of the
shark, gently swimming at the same pace as they were drifting, could be
made out only half veiled by the water.

The bird perched on the gunwale seemed to divine their trouble, for he
rose in the air, made a circle, and resumed his perch with all his
feathers ruffled.

Dick stood in despair, helpless, his hands clasping his head. The shore
was drawing away before him, the surf loudening behind him, yet he
could do nothing. The island was being taken away from them by the
great hand of the sea.

Then, suddenly, the little boat entered the race formed by the
confluence of the tides, from the right and left arms of the lagoon;
the sound of the surf suddenly increased as though a door had been
flung open. The breakers were falling and the sea-gulls crying on
either side of them, and for a moment the ocean seemed to hesitate as
to whether they were to be taken away into her wastes, or dashed on the
coral strand. Only for a moment this seeming hesitation lasted; then
the power of the tide prevailed over the power of the swell, and the
little boat taken by the current drifted gently out to sea.

Dick flung himself down beside Emmeline, who was seated in the bottom
of the boat holding the child to her breast. The bird, seeing the land
retreat, and wise in its instinct, rose into the air. It circled
thrice round the drifting boat, and then, like a beautiful but
faithless spirit, passed away to the shore.



CHAPTER XXII

TOGETHER

The island had sunk slowly from sight; at sundown it was just a trace,
a stain on the south-western horizon. It was before the new moon, and
the little boat lay drifting. It drifted from the light of sunset into
a world of vague violet twilight, and now it lay drifting under the
stars.

The girl, clasping the baby to her breast, leaned against her
companion’s shoulder; neither of them spoke. All the wonders in their
short existence had culminated in this final wonder, this passing away
together from the world of Time. This strange voyage they had embarked
on—to where?

Now that the first terror was over they felt neither sorrow nor fear.
They were together. Come what might, nothing could divide them; even
should they sleep and never wake up, they would sleep together. Had one
been left and the other taken!

As though the thought had occurred to them simultaneously, they turned
one to the other, and their lips met, their souls met, mingling in one
dream; whilst above in the windless heaven space answered space with
flashes of siderial light, and Canopus shone and burned like the
pointed sword of Azrael.

Clasped in Emmeline’s hand was the last and most mysterious gift of the
mysterious world they had known—the branch of crimson berries.



BOOK III


CHAPTER I

MAD LESTRANGE

They knew him upon the Pacific slope as “Mad Lestrange.” He was not
mad, but he was a man with a fixed idea. He was pursued by a vision:
the vision of two children and an old sailor adrift in a little boat
upon a wide blue sea.

When the _Arago_, bound for Papetee, picked up the boats of the
_Northumberland_, only the people in the long-boat were alive. Le Farge,
the captain, was mad, and he never recovered his reason. Lestrange was
utterly shattered; the awful experience in the boats and the loss of
the children had left him a seemingly helpless wreck. The scowbankers,
like all their class, had fared better, and in a few days were about
the ship and sitting in the sun. Four days after the rescue the _Arago_
spoke the _Newcastle_, bound for San Francisco, and transhipped the
shipwrecked men.

Had a physician seen Lestrange on board the _Northumberland_ as she lay
in that long, long calm before the fire, he would have declared that
nothing but a miracle could prolong his life. The miracle came about.

In the general hospital of San Francisco, as the clouds cleared from
his mind, they unveiled the picture of the children and the little
boat. The picture had been there daily, seen but not truly
comprehended; the horrors gone through in the open boat, the sheer
physical exhaustion, had merged all the accidents of the great disaster
into one mournful half-comprehended fact. When his brain cleared all
the other incidents fell out of focus, and memory, with her eyes set
upon the children, began to paint a picture that he was ever more to
see.

Memory cannot produce a picture that Imagination has not retouched; and
her pictures, even the ones least touched by Imagination, are no mere
photographs, but the work of an artist. All that is inessential she
casts away, all that is essential she retains; she idealises, and that
is why her picture of a lost mistress has had power to keep a man a
celibate to the end of his days, and why she can break a human heart
with the picture of a dead child. She is a painter, but she is also a
poet.

The picture before the mind of Lestrange was filled with this almost
diabolical poetry, for in it the little boat and her helpless crew were
represented adrift on a blue and sunlit sea. A sea most beautiful to
look at, yet most terrible, bearing as it did the recollections of
thirst.

He had been dying, when, raising himself on his elbow, so to say, he
looked at this picture. It recalled him to life. His willpower asserted
itself, and he refused to die.

The will of a man has, if it is strong enough, the power to reject
death. He was not in the least conscious of the exercise of this power;
he only knew that a great and absorbing interest had suddenly arisen in
him, and that a great aim stood before him—the recovery of the
children.

The disease that was killing him ceased its ravages, or rather was
slain in its turn by the increased vitality against which it had to
strive. He left the hospital and took up his quarters at the Palace
Hotel, and then, like the General of an army, he began to formulate his
plan of campaign against Fate.

When the crew of the _Northumberland_ had stampeded, hurling their
officers aside, lowering the boats with a rush, and casting themselves
into the sea, everything had been lost in the way of ship’s papers; the
charts, the two logs—everything, in fact, that could indicate the
latitude and longitude of the disaster. The first and second officers
and a midshipman had shared the fate of the quarter-boat; of the
foremast hands saved, not one, of course, could give the slightest
hint as to the locality of the spot.

A time reckoning from the Horn told little, for there was no record of
the log. All that could be said was that the disaster had occurred
somewhere south of the line.

In Le Farge’s brain lay for a certainty the position, and Lestrange
went to see the captain in the “Maison de Sante,” where he was being
looked after, and found him quite recovered from the furious mania that
he had been suffering from. Quite recovered, and playing with a ball of
coloured worsted.

There remained the log of the _Arago_; in it would be found the latitude
and longitude of the boats she had picked up.

The _Arago_, due at Papetee, became overdue. Lestrange watched the
overdue lists from day to day, from week to week, from month to month,
uselessly, for the _Arago_ never was heard of again. One could not affirm
even that she was wrecked; she was simply one of the ships that never
come back from the sea.



CHAPTER II

THE SECRET OF THE AZURE

To lose a child he loves is undoubtedly the greatest catastrophe that
can happen to a man. I do not refer to its death.

A child wanders into the street, or is left by its nurse for a moment,
and vanishes. At first the thing is not realised. There is a pang and
hurry at the heart which half vanishes, whilst the understanding
explains that in a civilised city, if a child gets lost, it will be
found and brought back by the neighbours or the police.

But the police know nothing of the matter, or the neighbours, and the
hours pass. Any minute may bring back the wanderer; but the minutes
pass, and the day wears into evening, and the evening to night, and the
night to dawn, and the common sounds of a new day begin.

You cannot remain at home for restlessness; you go out, only to return
hurriedly for news. You are eternally listening, and what you hear
shocks you; the common sounds of life, the roll of the carts and cabs
in the street, the footsteps of the passers-by, are full of an
indescribable mournfulness; music increases your misery into madness,
and the joy of others is monstrous as laughter heard in hell.

If some one were to bring you the dead body of the child, you might
weep, but you would bless him, for it is the uncertainty that kills.

You go mad, or go on living. Years pass by, and you are an old man.
You say to yourself: “He would have been twenty years of age to-day.”

There is not in the old ferocious penal code of our forefathers a
punishment adequate to the case of the man or woman who steals a child.

Lestrange was a wealthy man, and one hope remained to him, that the
children might have been rescued by some passing ship. It was not the
case of children lost in a city, but in the broad Pacific, where ships
travel from all ports to all ports, and to advertise his loss
adequately it was necessary to placard the world. Ten thousand dollars
was the reward offered for news of the lost ones, twenty thousand for
the recovery; and the advertisement appeared in every newspaper
likely to reach the eyes of a sailor, from the _Liverpool Post_ to
the _Dead Bird_.

The years passed without anything definite coming in answer to all
these advertisements. Once news came of two children saved from the sea
in the neighbourhood of the Gilberts, and it was not false news, but
they were not the children he was seeking for. This incident at once
depressed and stimulated him, for it seemed to say, “If these children
have been saved, why not yours?”

The strange thing was, that in his heart he felt a certainty that they
were alive. His intellect suggested their death in twenty different
forms; but a whisper, somewhere out of that great blue ocean, told him
at intervals that what he sought was there, living, and waiting for him.

He was somewhat of the same temperament as Emmeline—a dreamer, with a
mind tuned to receive and record the fine rays that fill this world
flowing from intellect to intellect, and even from what we call
inanimate things. A coarser nature would, though feeling, perhaps, as
acutely the grief, have given up in despair the search. But he kept on;
and at the end of the fifth year, so far from desisting, he chartered a
schooner and passed eighteen months in a fruitless search, calling at
little-known islands, and once, unknowing, at an island only three
hundred miles away from the tiny island of this story.

If you wish to feel the hopelessness of this unguided search, do not
look at a map of the Pacific, but go there. Hundreds and hundreds of
thousands of square leagues of sea, thousands of islands, reefs, atolls.

Up to a few years ago there were many small islands utterly unknown;
even still there are some, though the charts of the Pacific are the
greatest triumphs of hydrography; and though the island of the story
was actually on the Admiralty charts, of what use was that fact to
Lestrange?

He would have continued searching, but he dared not, for the desolation
of the sea had touched him.

In that eighteen months the Pacific explained itself to him in part,
explained its vastness, its secrecy and inviolability. The schooner
lifted veil upon veil of distance, and veil upon veil lay beyond. He
could only move in a right line; to search the wilderness of water with
any hope, one would have to be endowed with the gift of moving in all
directions at once.

He would often lean over the bulwark rail and watch the swell slip by,
as if questioning the water. Then the sunsets began to weigh upon his
heart, and the stars to speak to him in a new language, and he knew
that it was time to return, if he would return with a whole mind.

When he got back to San Francisco he called upon his agent, Wannamaker
of Kearney Street, but there was still no news.



CHAPTER III

CAPTAIN FOUNTAIN

He had a suite of rooms at the Palace Hotel, and he lived the life of
any other rich man who is not addicted to pleasure. He knew some of the
best people in the city, and conducted himself so sanely in all
respects that a casual stranger would never have guessed his reputation
for madness; but when you knew him better, you would find sometimes in
the middle of a conversation that his mind was away from the subject;
and were you to follow him in the street, you would hear him in
conversation with himself. Once at a dinner-party he rose and left the
room, and did not return. Trifles, but sufficient to establish a
reputation of a sort.

One morning—to be precise, it was the second day of May, exactly eight
years and five months after the wreck of the _Northumberland_—Lestrange
was in his sitting-room reading, when the bell of the telephone, which
stood in the corner of the room, rang. He went to the instrument.

“Are you there?” came a high American voice. “Lestrange—right—come
down and see me—Wannamaker—I have news for you.”

Lestrange held the receiver for a moment, then he put it back in the
rest. He went to a chair and sat down, holding his head between his
hands, then he rose and went to the telephone again; but he dared not
use it, he dare not shatter the newborn hope.

“News!” What a world lies in that word.

In Kearney Street he stood before the door of Wannamaker’s office
collecting himself and watching the crowd drifting by, then he entered
and went up the stairs. He pushed open a swing-door and entered a great
room. The clink and rattle of a dozen typewriters filled the place, and
all the hurry of business; clerks passed and came with sheaves of
correspondence in their hands; and Wannamaker himself, rising from
bending over a message which he was correcting on one of the
typewriters’ tables, saw the newcomer and led him to the private office.

“What is it?” said Lestrange.

“Only this,” said the other, taking up a slip of paper with a name and
address on it. “Simon J. Fountain, of 45 Rathray Street, West—that’s
down near the wharves—says he has seen your ad. in an old number of a
paper, and he thinks he can tell you something. He did not specify the
nature of the intelligence, but it might be worth finding out.”

“I will go there,” said Lestrange.

“Do you know Rathray Street?”

“No.”

Wannamaker went out and called a boy and gave him some directions; then
Lestrange and the boy started.

Lestrange left the office without saying “Thank you,” or taking leave
in any way of the advertising agent—who did not feel in the least
affronted, for he knew his customer.

Rathray Street is, or was before the earthquake, a street of small
clean houses. It had a seafaring look that was accentuated by the
marine perfumes from the wharves close by and the sound of steam
winches loading or discharging cargo—a sound that ceased not night
or day as the work went on beneath the sun or the sizzling arc lamps.

No. 45 was almost exactly like its fellows, neither better nor worse;
and the door was opened by a neat, prim woman, small, and of middle
age. Commonplace she was, no doubt, but not commonplace to Lestrange.

“Is Mr Fountain in?” he asked. “I have come about the advertisement.”

“Oh, have you, sir?” she replied, making way for him to enter, and
showing him into a little sitting-room on the left of the passage.
“The Captain is in bed; he is a great invalid, but he was expecting,
perhaps, some one would call, and he will be able to see you in a
minute, if you don’t mind waiting.”

“Thanks,” said Lestrange; “I can wait.”

He had waited eight years, what mattered a few minutes now? But at no
time in the eight years had he suffered such suspense, for his heart
knew that now, just now in this commonplace little house, from the lips
of, perhaps, the husband of that commonplace woman, he was going to
learn either what he feared to hear, or what he hoped.

It was a depressing little room; it was so clean, and looked as though
it were never used. A ship imprisoned in a glass bottle stood upon the
mantelpiece, and there were shells from far-away places, pictures of
ships in sand—all the things one finds as a rule adorning an old
sailor’s home.

Lestrange, as he sat waiting, could hear movements from the next
room—probably the invalid’s, which they were preparing for his
reception. The distant sounds of the derricks and winches came muffled
through the tightly-shut window that looked as though it never had been
opened. A square of sunlight lit the upper part of the cheap lace
curtain on the right of the window, and repeated its pattern vaguely on
the lower part of the wall opposite. Then a bluebottle fly awoke
suddenly into life and began to buzz and drum against the window pane,
and Lestrange wished that they would come.

A man of his temperament must necessarily, even under the happiest
circumstances, suffer in going through the world; the fine fibre always
suffers when brought into contact with the coarse. These people were as
kindly disposed as any one else. The advertisement and the face and
manners of the visitor might have told them that it was not the time
for delay, yet they kept him waiting whilst they arranged bed-quilts
and put medicine bottles straight—as if he could see!

At last the door opened, and the woman said:

“Will you step this way, sir?”

She showed him into a bedroom opening off the passage. The room was
neat and clean, and had that indescribable appearance which marks the
bedroom of the invalid.

In the bed, making a mountain under the counterpane with an enormously
distended stomach, lay a man, black-bearded, and with his large,
capable, useless hands spread out on the coverlet—hands ready and
willing, but debarred from work. Without moving his body, he turned his
head slowly and looked at the newcomer. This slow movement was not
from weakness or disease, it was the slow, emotionless nature of the
man speaking.

“This is the gentleman, Silas,” said the woman, speaking over
Lestrange’s shoulder. Then she withdrew and closed the door.

“Take a chair, sir,” said the sea captain, flapping one of his hands on
the counterpane as if in wearied protest against his own helplessness.
“I haven’t the pleasure of your name, but the missus tells me you’re
come about the advertisement I lit on yester-even.”

He took a paper, folded small, that lay beside him, and held it out to
his visitor. It was a _Sidney Bulletin_ three years old.

“Yes,” said Lestrange, looking at the paper; “that is my advertisement.”

“Well, it’s strange—very strange,” said Captain Fountain, “that I
should have lit on it only yesterday. I’ve had it all three years in my
chest, the way old papers get lying at the bottom with odds and ends.
Mightn’t a’ seen it now, only the missus cleared the raffle out of the
chest, and, ‘Give me that paper,’ I says, seeing it in her hand; and I
fell to reading it, for a man’ll read anything bar tracts lying in bed
eight months, as I’ve been with the dropsy. I’ve been whaler man and
boy forty year, and my last ship was the _Sea-Horse_. Over seven years
ago one of my men picked up something on a beach of one of them islands
east of the Marquesas—we’d put in to water——”

“Yes, yes,” said Lestrange. “What was it he found?”

“Missus!” roared the captain in a voice that shook the walls of the
room.

The door opened, and the woman appeared.

“Fetch me my keys out of my trousers pocket.”

The trousers were hanging up on the back of the door, as if only
waiting to be put on. The woman fetched the keys, and he fumbled over
them and found one. He handed it to her, and pointed to the drawer of a
bureau opposite the bed.

She knew evidently what was wanted, for she opened the drawer and
produced a box, which she handed to him. It was a small cardboard box
tied round with a bit of string. He undid the string, and disclosed a
child’s tea service: a teapot, cream jug, six little plates—all painted
with a pansy.

It was the box which Emmeline had always been losing—lost again.

Lestrange buried his face in his hands. He knew the things. Emmeline
had shown them to him in a burst of confidence. Out of all that vast
ocean he had searched unavailingly: they had come to him like a
message, and the awe and mystery of it bowed him down and crushed him.

The captain had placed the things on the newspaper spread out by his
side, and he was unrolling the little spoons from their tissue-paper
covering. He counted them as if entering up the tale of some trust, and
placed them on the newspaper.

“When did you find them?” asked Lestrange, speaking with his face still
covered.

“A matter of over seven years ago,” replied the captain, “we’d put in
to water at a place south of the line—Palm Tree Island we whalemen
call it, because of the tree at the break of the lagoon. One of my men
brought it aboard, found it in a shanty built of sugar-canes which the
men bust up for devilment.”

“Good God!” said Lestrange. “Was there no one there—nothing but this
box?”

“Not a sight or sound, so the men said; just the shanty abandoned
seemingly. I had no time to land and hunt for castaways, I was after
whales.”

“How big is the island?”

“Oh, a fairish middle-sized island—no natives. I’ve heard tell it’s
_tabu_; why, the Lord only knows—some crank of the Kanakas, I s’pose.
Anyhow, there’s the findings—you recognise them?”

“I do.”

“Seems strange,” said the captain, “that I should pick ’em up; seems
strange your advertisement out, and the answer to it lying amongst my
gear, but that’s the way things go.”

“Strange!” said the other. “It’s more than strange.”

“Of course,” continued the captain, “they might have been on the island
hid away som’ere, there’s no saying; only appearances are against it.
Of course they might be there now unbeknownst to you or me.”

“They _are_ there now,” answered Lestrange, who was sitting up and
looking at the playthings as though he read in them some hidden
message. “They _are_ there now. Have you the position of the island?”

“I have. Missus, hand me my private log.”

She took a bulky, greasy, black note-book from the bureau, and handed
it to him. He opened it, thumbed the pages, and then read out the
latitude and longitude.

“I entered it on the day of finding—here’s the entry. ‘Adams brought
aboard child’s toy box out of deserted shanty, which men pulled down;
traded it to me for a caulker of rum.’ The cruise lasted three years
and eight months after that; we’d only been out three when it happened.
I forgot all about it: three years scrubbing round the world after
whales doesn’t brighten a man’s memory. Right round we went, and paid
off at Nantucket. Then, after a fortni’t on shore and a month
repairin’, the old _Sea-Horse_ was off again, I with her. It was at
Honolulu this dropsy took me, and back I come here, home. That’s the
yarn. There’s not much to it, but, seein’ your advertisement, I thought
I might answer it.”

Lestrange took Fountain’s hand and shook it.

“You see the reward I offered?” he said. “I have not my cheque book
with me, but you shall have the cheque in an hour from now.”

“No, _sir_,” replied the captain; “if anything comes of it, I don’t say
I’m not open to some small acknowledgment, but ten thousand dollars for
a five-cent box—that’s not my way of doing business.”

“I can’t make you take the money now—I can’t even thank you properly
now,” said Lestrange—“I am in a fever; but when all is settled, you
and I will settle this business. My God!”

He buried his face in his hands again.

“I’m not wishing to be inquisitive,” said Captain Fountain, slowly
putting the things back in the box and tucking the paper shavings round
them, “but may I ask how you propose to move in this business?”

“I will hire a ship at once and search.”

“Ay,” said the captain, wrapping up the little spoons in a meditative
manner; “perhaps that will be best.”

He felt certain in his own mind that the search would be fruitless, but
he did not say so. If he had been absolutely certain in his mind
without being able to produce the proof, he would not have counselled
Lestrange to any other course, knowing that the man’s mind would never
be settled until proof positive was produced.

“The question is,” said Lestrange, “what is my quickest way to get
there?”

“There I may be able to help you,” said Fountain, tying the string round
the box. “A schooner with good heels to her is what you want; and, if
I’m not mistaken, there’s one discharging cargo at this present minit
at O’Sullivan’s wharf. Missus!”

The woman answered the call. Lestrange felt like a person in a dream,
and these people who were interesting themselves in his affairs seemed
to him beneficent beyond the nature of human beings.

“Is Captain Stannistreet home, think you?”

“I don’t know,” replied the woman; “but I can go see.”

“Do.”

She went.

“He lives only a few doors down,” said Fountain, “and he’s the man for
you. Best schooner captain ever sailed out of ’Frisco. The _Raratonga_ is
the name of the boat I have in my mind—best boat that ever wore
copper. Stannistreet is captain of her, owners are M’Vitie. She’s been
missionary, and she’s been pigs; copra was her last cargo, and she’s
nearly discharged it. Oh, M’Vitie would hire her out to Satan at a
price; you needn’t be afraid of their boggling at it if you can raise
the dollars. She’s had a new suit of sails only the beginning of the
year. Oh, she’ll fix you up to a T, and you take the word of S.
Fountain for that. I’ll engineer the thing from this bed if you’ll let
me put my oar in your trouble; I’ll victual her, and find a crew three
quarter price of any of those d--d skulking agents. Oh, I’ll take a
commission right enough, but I’m half paid with doing the thing—”

He ceased, for footsteps sounded in the passage outside, and Captain
Stannistreet was shown in. He was a young man of not more than thirty,
alert, quick of eye, and pleasant of face. Fountain introduced him to
Lestrange, who had taken a fancy to him at first sight.

When he heard about the business in hand, he seemed interested at once;
the affair seemed to appeal to him more than if it had been a purely
commercial matter, such as copra and pigs.

“If you’ll come with me, sir, down to the wharf, I’ll show you the boat
now,” he said, when they had discussed the matter and threshed it out
thoroughly.

He rose, bid good-day to his friend Fountain, and Lestrange followed
him, carrying the brown-paper box in his hand.

O’Sullivan’s Wharf was not far away. A tall Cape Horner that looked
almost a twin sister of the ill-fated _Northumberland_ was discharging
iron, and astern of her, graceful as a dream, with snow-white decks,
lay the _Raratonga_ discharging copra.

“That’s the boat,” said Stannistreet; “cargo nearly all out. How does
she strike your fancy?”

“I’ll take her,” said Lestrange, “cost what it will.”



CHAPTER IV

DUE SOUTH

It was on the 10th of May, so quickly did things move under the
supervision of the bedridden captain, that the _Raratonga_, with
Lestrange on board, cleared the Golden Gates, and made south, heeling
to a ten-knot breeze.

There is no mode of travel to be compared to your sailing-ship. In a
great ship, if you have ever made a voyage in one, the vast spaces of
canvas, the sky-high spars, the _finesse_ with which the wind is met and
taken advantage of, will form a memory never to be blotted out.

A schooner is the queen of all rigs; she has a bounding buoyancy denied
to the square-rigged craft, to which she stands in the same
relationship as a young girl to a dowager; and the _Raratonga_ was not
only a schooner, but the queen, acknowledged of all the schooners in
the Pacific.

For the first few days they made good way south; then the wind became
baffling and headed them off.

Added to Lestrange’s feverish excitement there was an anxiety, a deep
and soul-fretting anxiety, as if some half-heard voice were telling him
that the children he sought were threatened by some danger.

These baffling winds blew upon the smouldering anxiety in his breast,
as wind blows upon embers, causing them to glow. They lasted some days,
and then, as if Fate had relented, up sprang on the starboard quarter a
spanking breeze, making the rigging sing to a merry tune, and blowing
the spindrift from the forefoot, as the _Raratonga_, heeling to its
pressure, went humming through the sea, leaving a wake spreading behind
her like a fan.

It took them along five hundred miles, silently and with the speed of a
dream. Then it ceased.

The ocean and the air stood still. The sky above stood solid like a
great pale blue dome; just where it met the water line of the far
horizon a delicate tracery of cloud draped the entire round of the sky.

I have said that the ocean stood still as well as the air: to the eye
it was so, for the swell under-running the glitter on its surface was
so even, so equable, and so rhythmical, that the surface seemed not in
motion. Occasionally a dimple broke the surface, and strips of dark
sea-weed floated by, showing up the green; dim things rose to the
surface, and, guessing the presence of man, sank slowly and dissolved
from sight.

Two days, never to be recovered, passed, and still the calm continued.
On the morning of the third day it breezed up from the nor’-nor’west,
and they continued their course, a cloud of canvas, every sail drawing,
and the music of the ripple under the forefoot.

Captain Stannistreet was a genius in his profession; he could get more
speed out of a schooner than any other man afloat, and carry more
canvas without losing a stick. He was also, fortunately for Lestrange,
a man of refinement and education, and what was better still,
understanding.

They were pacing the deck one afternoon, when Lestrange, who was
walking with his hands behind him, and his eyes counting the brown
dowels in the cream-white planking, broke silence.

“You don’t believe in visions and dreams?”

“How do you know that?” replied the other.

“Oh, I only put it as a question; most people say they don’t.”

“Yes, but most people do.”

“I do,” said Lestrange.

He was silent for a moment.

“You know my trouble so well that I won’t bother you going over it, but
there has come over me of late a feeling—it is like a waking dream.”

“Yes?”

“I can’t quite explain, for it is as if I saw something which my
intelligence could not comprehend, or make an image of.”

“I think I know what you mean.”

“I don’t think you do. This is something quite strange. I am fifty, and
in fifty years a man has experienced, as a rule, all the ordinary and
most of the extraordinary sensations that a human being can be
subjected to. Well, I have never felt this sensation before; it comes
on only at times. I see, as you might imagine, a young baby sees, and
things are before me that I do not comprehend. It is not through my
bodily eyes that this sensation comes, but through some window of the
mind, from before which a curtain has been drawn.”

“That’s strange,” said Stannistreet, who did not like the conversation
over-much, being simply a schooner captain and a plain man, though
intelligent enough and sympathetic.

“This something tells me,” went on Lestrange, “that there is danger
threatening the—” He ceased, paused a minute, and then, to
Stannistreet’s relief, went on. “If I talk like that you will think I
am not right in my head: let us pass the subject by, let us forget
dreams and omens and come to realities. You know how I lost the
children; you know how I hope to find them at the place where Captain
Fountain found their traces? He says the island was uninhabited, but he
was not sure.”

“No,” replied Stannistreet, “he only spoke of the beach.”

“Yes. Well, suppose there were natives at the other side of the island
who had taken these children.”

“If so, they would grow up with the natives.”

“And become savages?”

“Yes; but the Polynesians can’t be really called savages; they are a
very decent lot. I’ve knocked about amongst them a good while, and a
kanaka is as white as a white man—which is not saying much, but it’s
something. Most of the islands are civilised now. Of course there are a
few that aren’t, but still, suppose even that ‘savages,’ as you call
them, had come and taken the children off—”

Lestrange’s breath caught, for this was the very fear that was in his
heart, though he had never spoken it.

“Well?”

“Well, they would be well treated.”

“And brought up as savages?”

“I suppose so.”

Lestrange sighed.

“Look here,” said the captain; “it’s all very well talking, but upon my
word I think that we civilised folk put on a lot of airs, and waste a
lot of pity on savages.”

“How so?”

“What does a man want to be but happy?”

“Yes.”

“Well, who is happier than a naked savage in a warm climate? Oh, he’s
happy enough, and he’s not always holding a corroboree. He’s a good
deal of a gentleman; he has perfect health; he lives the life a man was
born to live face to face with Nature. He doesn’t see the sun through
an office window or the moon through the smoke of factory chimneys;
happy and civilised too—but, bless you, where is he? The whites have
driven him out; in one or two small islands you may find him still—a
crumb or so of him.”

“Suppose,” said Lestrange, “suppose those children had been brought up
face to face with Nature—”

“Yes?”

“Living that free life—”

“Yes?”

“Waking up under the stars”—Lestrange was speaking with his eyes
fixed, as if upon something very far away—“going to sleep as the sun
sets, feeling the air fresh, like this which blows upon us, all around
them. Suppose they were like that, would it not be a cruelty to bring
them to what we call civilisation?”

“I think it would,” said Stannistreet.

Lestrange said nothing, but continued pacing the deck, his head bowed
and his hands behind his back.

One evening at sunset, Stannistreet said:

“We’re two hundred and forty miles from the island, reckoning from
to-day’s reckoning at noon. We’re going all ten knots even with this
breeze; we ought to fetch the place this time to-morrow. Before that if
it freshens.”

“I am greatly disturbed,” said Lestrange.

He went below, and the schooner captain shook his head, and, locking
his arm round a ratlin, gave his body to the gentle roll of the craft
as she stole along, skirting the sunset, splendid, and to the nautical
eye full of fine weather.

The breeze was not quite so fresh next morning, but it had been blowing
fairly all the night, and the _Raratonga_ had made good way. About eleven
it began to fail. It became the lightest sailing breeze, just
sufficient to keep the sails drawing, and the wake rippling and
swirling behind. Suddenly Stannistreet, who had been standing talking
to Lestrange, climbed a few feet up the mizzen ratlins, and shaded his
eyes.

“What is it?” asked Lestrange.

“A boat,” he replied. “Hand me that glass you will find in the sling
there.”

He levelled the glass, and looked for a long time without speaking.

“It’s a boat adrift—a small boat, nothing in her. Stay! I see
something white, can’t make it out. Hi there!”—to the fellow at the
wheel “Keep her a point more to starboard.” He got on to the deck.
“We’re going dead on for her.”

“Is there any one in her?” asked Lestrange.

“Can’t quite make out, but I’ll lower the whale-boat and fetch her
alongside.”

He gave orders for the whale-boat to be slung out and manned.

As they approached nearer, it was evident that the drifting boat, which
looked like a ship’s dinghy, contained something, but what, could not
be made out.

When he had approached near enough, Stannistreet put the helm down and
brought the schooner to, with her sails all shivering. He took his
place in the bow of the whale-boat and Lestrange in the stern. The boat
was lowered, the falls cast off, and the oars bent to the water.

The little dinghy made a mournful picture as she floated, looking
scarcely bigger than a walnut shell. In thirty strokes the whale-boat’s
nose was touching her quarter. Stannistreet grasped her gunwale.

In the bottom of the dinghy lay a girl, naked all but for a strip of
coloured striped material. One of her arms was clasped round the neck
of a form that was half hidden by her body, the other clasped partly to
herself, partly to her companion, the body of a baby. They were
natives, evidently, wrecked or lost by some mischance from some
inter-island schooner. Their breasts rose and fell gently, and clasped
in the girl’s hand was a branch of some tree, and on the branch a
single withered berry.

“Are they dead?” asked Lestrange, who divined that there were people in
the boat, and who was standing up in the stern of the whale-boat trying
to see.

“No,” said Stannistreet; “they are asleep.”

THE END



----- Transcriber's Note #1 -----

Introduction to the Doctrine Publishing Corporation text of H. de Vere Stacpoole’s
The Blue Lagoon: A Romance

by Edward A. Malone

University of Missouri-Rolla


Born on April 9, 1863, in Kingstown, Ireland, Henry de Vere Stacpoole
grew up in a household dominated by his mother and three older sisters.
William C. Stacpoole, a doctor of divinity from Trinity College and
headmaster of Kingstown school, died some time before his son’s eighth
birthday, leaving the responsibility of supporting the family to his
Canadian-born wife, Charlotte Augusta Mountjoy Stacpoole. At a young
age, Charlotte had been led out of the Canadian backwoods by her
widowed mother and taken to Ireland, where their relatives lived. This
experience had strengthened her character and prepared her for single
parenthood.

Charlotte cared passionately for her children and was perhaps overly
protective of her son. As a child, Henry suffered from severe
respiratory problems, misdiagnosed as chronic bronchitis by his
physician, who in the winter of 1871 advised that the boy be taken to
Southern France for his health. With her entire family in tow,
Charlotte made the long journey from Kingstown to London to Paris,
where signs of the Franco-Prussian War were still evident, settling at
last in Nice at the Hotel des Iles Britannique. Nice was like paradise
to Henry, who marveled at the city’s affluence and beauty as he played
in the warm sun.

After several more excursions to the continent, Stacpoole was sent to
Portarlington, a bleak boarding school more than 100 miles from
Kingstown. In contrast to his sisters, the Portarlington boys were
noisy and uncouth. As Stacpoole writes in his autobiograhy Men and
Mice, 1863-1942 (1942), the boys abused him mentally and physically,
making him feel like “a little Arthur in a cage of baboons.” One night,
he escaped through an adjacent girls’ school and returned to Kingstown,
only to be betrayed by his family and dragged back to school by his
eldest sister.

When his family moved to London, he was taken out of Portarlington and
enrolled at Malvern College, a progressive school with refined students
and plenty of air and sunshine. Stacpoole thoroughly enjoyed his new
surroundings, which he associated with the description of Malvern Hills
in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh (1857): “Keepers of Piers
Plowman’s visions / Through the sunshine and the snow.” This
environment encouraged his interest in literature and writing.

The idyll ended, however, when Stacpoole began his medical training. At
his mother’s prodding, he entered the medical school at St. George’s
Hospital. Twice a day, he had to traverse a park frequented by
perambulating nursemaids, and he became romantically involved with one
of them. When his mother discovered their affair, she insisted that he
transfer to University College, and he complied.

More interested in literature than corpses, Stacpoole began to neglect
his studies and miss classes, especially the required dissections.
Finally, the dean of the medical school confronted him, and their
argument drove Stacpoole to St. Mary’s Hospital, where he completed his
medical training and qualified L. S. A. in 1891. At some point after
this date, Stacpoole made several sea voyages into the tropics (at
least once as a doctor aboard a cable-mending ship), collecting
information for future stories.

Stacpoole’s literary career, which he once described as being “more
like a Malay fishing prahu than an honest-to-God English literary
vessel,” began inauspiciously with the publication of The Intended
(1894), a tragic novel about two look-alikes, one rich, the other poor,
who switch places on a whim. Bewildered by the novel’s lack of success,
Stacpoole consulted his friendly muse, Pearl Craigie, alias John Oliver
Hobbes, who suggested a comic rather than tragic treatment. Years
later, Stacpoole retold the story in The Man Who Lost Himself (1918), a
commercially successful comic novel about a down-and-out American who
impersonates his wealthy look-alike in England.

Set in France during the Franco-Prussian War, Stacpoole’s second novel,
Pierrot (1896), recounts a French boy’s eerie relationship with a
patricidal doppelganger. Like its predecessor, it was a commercial
failure, and it was at this point, perhaps, that Stacpoole began to
view literary success only in terms of sales figures and numbers of
editions.

A strange tale of reincarnation, cross dressing, and uxoricide,
Stacpoole’s third novel, Death, the Knight, and the Lady (1897),
purports to be the deathbed confession of Beatrice Sinclair, who is
both a reincarnated murderer (male) and a descendant of the murder
victim (female). She falls in love with Gerald Wilder, a man disguised
as a woman, who is both a reincarnated murder victim (female) and the
descendant of the murderer (male). Despite its originality, the novel
was killed by “Public Indifference” (Stacpoole’s term), which also
killed The Rapin (1899), a novel about an art student in Paris.

Stacpoole spent the summer of 1898 in Sommerset, where he took over the
medical practice of an ailing country doctor. So peaceful were his days
in this pastoral setting that he had time to write The Doctor (1899), a
novel about an old-fashioned physician practicing medicine in rural
England. “It is the best book I have written,” Stacpoole declared more
than forty years later. He could also say, in retrospect, that the
book’s weak sales were a disguised blessing, “for I hadn’t ballast on
board in those days to stand up to the gale of success, which means
incidentally money.” He would be spared the gale of success for nine
more years, during which he published seven books, including a
collection of children’s stories and two collaborative novels with his
friend William Alexander Bryce.

In 1907, two events occurred that altered the course of Stacpoole’s
life: he wrote The Blue Lagoon and he married Margaret Robson. Unable
to sleep one night, he found himself thinking about and envying the
caveman, who in his primitiveness was able to marvel at such
commonplace phenomena as sunsets and thunderstorms. Civilized,
technological man had unveiled these mysteries with his telescopes and
weather balloons, so that they were no longer “nameless wonders” to be
feared and contemplated. As a doctor, Stacpoole had witnessed countless
births and deaths, and these events no longer seemed miraculous to him.
He conceived the idea of two children growing up alone on an island and
experiencing storms, death, and birth in almost complete ignorance and
innocence. The next morning, he started writing The Blue Lagoon. The
exercise was therapeutic because he was able to experience the wonders
of life and death vicariously through his characters.

The Blue Lagoon is the story of two cousins, Dicky and Emmeline
Lestrange, stranded on a remote island with a beautiful lagoon. As
children, they are cared for by Paddy Button, a portly sailor who
drinks himself to death after only two and a half years in paradise.
Frightened and confused by the man’s gruesome corpse, the children flee
to another part of Palm Tree Island. Over a period of five years, they
grow up and eventually fall in love. Sex and birth are as mysterious
to them as death, but they manage to copulate instinctively and
conceive a child. The birth is especially remarkable: fifteen-year-old
Emmeline, alone in the jungle, loses consciousness and awakes to find a
baby boy on the ground near her. Naming the boy Hannah (an example of
Stacpoole’s penchant for gender reversals), the Lestranges live in
familial bliss until they are unexpectedly expelled from their tropical
Eden.

The parallels between The Blue Lagoon and the Biblical story of Adam
and Eve are obvious and intentional, but Stacpoole was also influenced
by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), which he
invokes in a passage describing the castaways’ approach Palm Tree
Island:

“One could see the water swirling round the coral piers, for the tide
was flooding into the lagoon; it had seized the little dinghy and was
bearing it along far swifter than the sculls could have driven it.
Sea-gulls screamed about them, the boat rocked and swayed. Dick shouted
with excitement, and Emmeline shut her eyes TIGHT.

“Then, as though a door had been swiftly and silently closed, the sound
of the surf became suddenly less. The boat floated on an even keel; she
opened her eyes and found herself in Wonderland.”

This direct reference to Wonderland prepares the reader for the many
parallels that follow. When their adventures begin, both girls are
about the same age, Alice seven and a half, Emmeline exactly eight.
Just as Alice joins a tea party in Wonderland, Emmeline plays with her
tiny tea set on the beach after they land. Emmeline’s former pet, like
the Cheshire Cat, “had white stripes and a white chest, and rings down
its tail” and died “showing its teeth.” Whereas Alice looks for a
poison label on a bottle that says “Drink Me,” Emmeline innocently
tries to eat “the never-wake-up berries” and receives a stern rebuke
and a lecture about poison from Paddy Button. “The Poetry of Learning”
chapter echoes Alice’s dialogue with the caterpillar. Like the wily
creature smoking a hookah, Paddy smokes a pipe and shouts “Hurroo!” as
the children teach him to write his name in the sand. The children
lose “all count of time,” just as the Mad Hatter does. Whereas Alice
grows nine feet taller, Dick sprouts “two inches taller” and Emmeline
“twice as plump.” Like the baby in the “Pig and Pepper,” Hannah sneezes
at the first sight of Dicky. The novel is artfully littered with
references to wonder, curiosity, and strangeness—all evidence of
Stacpoole’s conscious effort to invoke and honor his Victorian
predecessor.

Stacpoole presented The Blue Lagoon to Publisher T. Fisher Unwin in
September 1907 and went to Cumberland to assist another ailing doctor
in his practice. Every day from Eden Vue in Langwathby, Stacpoole wrote
to his fiancee, Margaret Robson (or Maggie, as he called her), and
waited anxiously for their wedding day. On December 17, 1907, the
couple were married and spent their honeymoon at Stebbing Park, a
friend’s country house in Essex, about three miles from the village of
Stebbing. It was there that they stumbled upon Rose Cottage, where
Stacpoole lived for several years before he moved to Cliff Dene on the
Isle of Wight in the 1920s.

Published in January 1908, The Blue Lagoon was an immediate success,
both with reviewers and the public. “[This] tale of the discovery of
love, and innocent mating, is as fresh as the ozone that made them
strong,” declared one reviewer. Another claimed that “for once the
title of ‘romance,’ found in so many modern stories, is really
justified.” The novel was reprinted more than twenty times in the next
twelve years and remained popular in other forms for more than eighty
years. Norman MacOwen and Charlton Mann adapted the story as a play,
which ran for 263 performances in London from August 28, 1920, to April
16, 1921. Film versions of the novel were made in 1923, 1949, and 1980.

Stacpoole also wrote two successful sequels: The Garden of God (1923)
and The Gates of Morning (1925). These three books and two others were
combined to form The Blue Lagoon Omnibus in 1933. The Garden of God was
filmed as Return to the Blue Lagoon in 1992.

This Gutenberg etext of The Blue Lagoon: A Romance is based on the 1908
first American edition published by J. B. Lippincott Company of
Philadelphia.

----- Transcriber's Note #2 -----

The stated edition for this etext is the 1908 first American edition
published by J. B. Lippincott Company of Philadelphia. Stacpoole
delivered his original manuscript to publisher T. Fisher Unwin (London)
in September 1907. The London edition and the Lippincott (this etext)
edition were both published in 1908. Four changes were made in
creating the Lippincott edition:

1. On page 18:

   London edition: he sat with it on his knees staring at
   the white sunlit main-deck barred with the black shadows
   of the standing rigging.

   US edition: he sat with it on his knees staring at
   the white sunlit main-deck barred with the white shadows
   of the standing rigging.

   Stacpoole originally indicated black shadows of the
   rigging on the deck.

2. On page 19:

   London edition: It was seven bells—half-past three in the
   afternoon—and the ship’s bell had just rung out.

   US edition: It was three bells—half-past three in the
   afternoon—and the ship’s bell had just rung out.

   The London edition is correct: seven bells is 3:30 in
   the afternoon. Three bells is half-past one.

3. On page 24:

   London edition: The dinghy was rather a larger boat than
   the ordinary ships’ dinghy, and possessed a small mast
   and lug-sail.

   US edition: The dinghy was rather a larger boat than
   the ordinary ships’ dinghy, and possessed a small mast
   and long sail.

   A lug-sail (modern: lugsail) is an evolved version of
   the classical square sail that is correct for the boat
   as described.

4. On page 309:

   London edition: “This is the gentleman, Simon,” ...

   US edition: “This is the gentleman, Silas,” ...

Other than these four changes, both 1908 editions are
essentially identical.





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