The Blue Lagoon: A Romance by H. de Vere Stacpoole
CHAPTER I. WHERE THE SLUSH LAMP BURNS
CHAPTER II. UNDER THE STARS
CHAPTER III. THE SHADOW AND THE FIRE
CHAPTER IV. AND LIKE A DREAM DISSOLVED
CHAPTER V. VOICES HEARD IN THE MIST
CHAPTER VI. DAWN ON A WIDE, WIDE SEA
CHAPTER VII. STORY OF THE PIG AND THE BILLY-GOAT
CHAPTER VIII. "S-H-E-N-A-N-D-O-A-H"
CHAPTER IX. SHADOWS IN THE MOONLIGHT
CHAPTER X. THE TRAGEDY OF THE BOATS
CHAPTER XI. THE ISLAND
CHAPTER XII. THE LAKE OF AZURE
CHAPTER XIII. DEATH VEILED WITH LICHEN
CHAPTER XIV. ECHOES OF FAIRY-LAND
CHAPTER XV. FAIR PICTURES IN THE BLUE
CHAPTER XVI. THE POETRY OF LEARNING
CHAPTER XVII. THE DEVIL'S CASK
CHAPTER XVIII. THE RAT HUNT
CHAPTER XIX. STARLIGHT ON THE FOAM
CHAPTER XX. THE DREAMER ON THE REEF
CHAPTER XXI. THE GARLAND OF FLOWERS
CHAPTER XXII. ALONE
CHAPTER XXIII. THEY MOVE AWAY
CHAPTER I. UNDER THE ARTU TREE
CHAPTER II. HALF CHILD—HALF SAVAGE
CHAPTER III. THE DEMON OF THE REEF
CHAPTER IV. WHAT BEAUTY CONCEALED
CHAPTER V. THE SOUND OF A DRUM
CHAPTER VI. SAILS UPON THE SEA
CHAPTER VII. THE SCHOONER
CHAPTER VIII. LOVE STEPS IN
CHAPTER IX. THE SLEEP OF PARADISE
CHAPTER X. AN ISLAND HONEYMOON
CHAPTER XI. THE VANISHING OF EMMELINE
CHAPTER XII. THE VANISHING OF EMMELINE (continued)
CHAPTER XIII. THE NEWCOMER
CHAPTER XIV. HANNAH
CHAPTER XV. THE LAGOON OF FIRE
CHAPTER XVI. THE CYCLONE
CHAPTER XVII. THE STRICKEN WOODS
CHAPTER XVIII. A FALLEN IDOL
CHAPTER XIX. THE EXPEDITION
CHAPTER XX. THE KEEPER OF THE LAGOON
CHAPTER XXI. THE HAND OF THE SEA
CHAPTER XXII. TOGETHER
CHAPTER I. MAD LESTRANGE
CHAPTER II. THE SECRET OF THE AZURE
CHAPTER III. CAPTAIN FOUNTAIN
CHAPTER IV. DUE SOUTH
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
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
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
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. Seagulls 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.
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
XI. THE ISLAND XII. THE LAKE OF AZURE XIII. DEATH VEILED WITH
LICHEN XIV. ECHOES OF FAIRY-LAND XV. FAIR PICTURES IN THE BLUE
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
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
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
I. MAD LESTRANGE II. THE SECRET OF THE AZURE III. CAPTAIN
FOUNTAIN IV. DUE SOUTH
THE BLUE LAGOON
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
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" [sic] 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
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
"Oh, a Leprachaun, you mane. Sure, me mother's sister had one down
"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
"Like? Sure, it was like a Leprachaun; and what else would it be
"What like vas that?" persisted the voice.
"It was like a little man no bigger than a big forked radish, 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 main-sail 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
"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
"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
"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!"
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
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
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
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 her- self—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 companionway 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
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
"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
"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
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.
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
"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
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 companionway,
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
"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.
"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
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
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
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
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
"Get those children ready!" he shouted, as he rushed into his own
cabin. "Get you all ready—boats are being swung out and victualled.
Ho! 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
"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,
The boat sank towards the smooth blue sea, kissed it and was
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.
"Run for your lives I've just rimimbered—there's two bar'ls of
blastin' powther in the houldt."
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
From the ship men were casting themselves overboard like
water-rats, swimming in the water like ducks, scrambling on board the
From the half-opened main-hatch the black smoke, mixed now with
sparks, rose steadily and swiftly and spitefulIy, 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
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 dis- solved; 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
"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
The long-boat was leading by a good way. When she was within
hailing distance the captain's voice came.
"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
"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
"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.
"Don't be shoutin' together, or I'll not know which way to pull.
Quarter-boat ahoy! where are yez?"
"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
"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?"
"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
"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
"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 ya hungray, childer?"
"No," said Dick, "but I'm direfully slapy?"
"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
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,
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
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
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
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
"What is it, honey?"
"Where are we now?"
"Sure, we're afloat on the say, acushla; where else would we be?"
"He's beyant there in the long-boat—he'll be afther us in a
"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
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
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
palmshadowed 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
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,
"Stick yours in!" commanded the other.
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,
"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
"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 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
There was a large bag of biscuits in the boat, and some tinned
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
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
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
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
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
"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
Every hour or so Mr Button would shake his lethargy off, and rise
and look round for "seagulls," 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
"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 [that]
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 billygoat 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 fortnit 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 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
"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,
"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
someone 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
She was afraid to enter the gloomy deckhouse, 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 extra-
ordinary 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
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
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. I n 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
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
"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
"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."
"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, and 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
"`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
"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
"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?"
"What's it like?" asked Dick, sniffing hard. "_I_ don't smell
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
"Flowers!" said the old sailor, tapping the ashes cut 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 E mmeline. 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
As he stood with his hands thrust deep in his pockets, longshore
fashion, counting the dowels in the planking of the deck by the
mooniight, 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
"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
"She's pulling for us," said the stroke oar.
"Captain," asked Lestrange, "are you sure there's no sight of the
"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.
"How much water have you?"
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
"Here, you scowbanker!" cried Le Farge, "who are you to be giving
"Scowbanker yourself!" replied the fellow. "Bullies, put her
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
"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 someone 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
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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 evidentIy one
of those small, lost islands that lie here and there scuth 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 cocoanut 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 sternsheets; then Dick.
In a moment the boat was adrift, the mast steeped, 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
Now, as they drew nearer, a sound came on the breeze—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, seagulls wheeling
and screaming, and over all the thunder of the surf.
Suddenly the break became visible, and a glimpse of smooth, blue
water beyond. 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
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
aquamarine. 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 treetops, 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 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
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
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 0, 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,
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 "cucanuts"
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
"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
"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
"Heugh!" said Dick in disgust; "I thought it might a' been
"_I_ don't want soldiers," replied Emmeline, in a voice of perfect
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
"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
"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; "coco-anuts 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."
"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 bread-fruit 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 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 water- fall
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
"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
"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 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
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,
"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 someone 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
"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 seagulls 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
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
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
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
CHAPTER XIV. ECHOES OF FAIRY-LAND
"Mr Buttons," 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 anyone 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
staysail 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
"What's the things you said made the boots for the people, Paddy?"
asked Dick, after a pause.
"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
"`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 spoke 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
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 wouId 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
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
"I don't want to be tethered," said E mmeIine.
"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
"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
Emmeline was sitting as nude as the day star, drying in the
morning sun after her dip, and watching Dick's evolutions on the
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'nt ask about him at all. Children
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. E mmeline 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
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
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?"
"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
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
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,
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.
"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:
[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
"Dicky," she said, "draw Henry the Eight."
Dick's face brightened. He cleared the sand and drew the following
"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.
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
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
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
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
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
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:
Having thus drawn the plans of the building, he leaned back
against a cocoa-palm and lit his pipe. But he had reckoned without
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
"How're you going to keep them from slipping, if you tie them
together like that?" he asked, when Paddy had more fully explained
"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
There was great cane-cutting in the canebrake 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
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
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
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
"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
famiIy 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
"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 nearby, 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
"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
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
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 someone 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
"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.
"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?"
"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.
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 dirty 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.
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 slaves are all set
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
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
"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
He got on his hands and knees and scuttle 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 excess 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 Button did not crawl away. He got on his feet
"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
"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
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—some-
times 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
"Blisther it!" said he; "the say here seems to breed whale-ships,
and nothin' but whaleships. It's like bugs in a bed: you kill wan,
and then another comes. Howsumever, 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
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
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
sailormen, 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
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 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
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 Aeolus as represented on those old Dutch charts that smell
of schiedam and snuff, and give one mermaids and angels instead of
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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 cocoanut 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
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
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
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.
"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
"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
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 larvae 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
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 wor]d
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, un- deodorised
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
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 sealine, and the tall cocoa-nut
trees were singing and whispering together under the strengthen- ing
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 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 cocoanut" 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
A lake in the midst of the ocean, that is what the lagoon really
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.
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 hawberries.
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,
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
Globeshaped 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
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
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 rockpool a hundred yards or so away,
motionless, his arms upraised, and crying out for help. She sprang to
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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 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
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 aether 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
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
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
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
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 cocoanut 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.
"Over there. This was lying on the sand, and the sand was all trod
"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."
"In the night before the moon went away."
"That was them," said Dick.
"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,
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 fishspear, 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
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
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 [that] 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
CHAPTER XII. THE VANISHING OF
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
Since the shock of the occurrence on the reef she had been
subjected 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
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
"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
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
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
"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 behind 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:
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 learnt 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 ourself half blind. We have become hypnotized 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 coconut 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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 fish-hooks 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
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
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
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
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
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
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, 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
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
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
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.
"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 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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
transshipped 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
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 world 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 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
fore-mast 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
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
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 someone 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-
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
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
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,
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
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. I 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
"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
"I will go there," said Lestrange.
"Do you know Rathray Street?"
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 a 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
"Is Mr Fountain in?" he asked. "I have come about the
"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, someone 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 muted
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 anyone 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
"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
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
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
"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 sugarcanes
which the men bust up for devilment."
"Good God!" said Lestrange. "Was there no one there—nothing but
"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
"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?"
"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
"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 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."
"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
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
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, much 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
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
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
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
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
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
"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, they would be well treated."
"And brought up as savages?"
"I suppose so."
"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."
"What does a man want to be but happy?"
"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—"
"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
"What is it?" asked Lestrange.
"A boat," he replied. "Hand me that glass you will find in the
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
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
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."