Into the Primitive
by Robert Ames Bennet
CHAPTER III. THE
WORTH OF FIRE
CHAPTER IV. A
CHAPTER V. THE
RE-ASCENT OF MAN
CHAPTER VI. MAN
THE CLUB AGE
CHAPTER IX. THE
CHAPTER XI. A
SURVIVAL OF THE
THE MARK OF THE
FEVER AND FIRE
CHAPTER XV. WITH
BOW AND CLUB
CHAPTER XVI. THE
CHAPTER XIX. AN
CHAPTER XX. THE
THE END OF THE
CHAPTER XXIV. A
LION LEADS THEM
CHAPTER XXV. IN
CHAPTER I. WAVE-TOSSED AND CASTAWAY
The beginning was at Cape Town, when Blake and Winthrope boarded the
steamer as fellow passengers with Lady Bayrose and her party.
This was a week after Winthrope had arrived on the tramp steamer
from India, and her Ladyship had explained to Miss Leslie that it was
as well for her not to be too hasty in accepting his attentions. To be
sure, he was an Englishman, his dress and manners were irreproachable,
and he was in the prime of ripened youth. Yet Lady Bayrose was too
conscientious a chaperon to be fully satisfied with her countryman's
bare assertion that he was engaged on a diplomatic mission requiring
reticence regarding his identity. She did not see why this should
prevent him from confiding in her.
Notwithstanding this, Winthrope came aboard ship virtually as a
member of her Ladyship's party. He was so quick, so thoughtful of her
comfort, and paid so much more attention to her than to Miss Leslie,
that her Ladyship had decided to tolerate him, even before Blake became
a factor in the situation.
From the moment he crossed the gangway the American engineer entered
upon a daily routine of drinking and gambling, varied only by attempts
to strike up an off-hand acquaintance with Miss Leslie. This was
Winthrope's opportunity, and his clever frustration of what Lady
Bayrose termed that low bounder's impudence served to install him in
the good graces of her Ladyship as well as in the favor of the American
Such, at least, was what Winthrope intimated to the persistent
engineer with a superciliousness of tone and manner that would have
stung even a British lackey to resentment. To Blake it was supremely
galling. He could not rejoin in kind, and the slightest attempt at
physical retort would have meant irons and confinement. It was a
British ship. Behind Winthrope was Lady Bayrose; behind her Ladyship,
as a matter of course, was all the despotic authority of the captain.
In the circumstances, it was not surprising that the American drank
heavier after each successive goading.
Meantime the ship, having touched at Port Natal, steamed on up the
East Coast, into the Mozambique Channel.
On the day of the cyclone, Blake had withdrawn into his stateroom
with a number of bottles, and throughout that fearful afternoon was
blissfully unconscious of the danger. Even when the steamer went on the
reef, he was only partially roused by the shock.
He took a long pull from a quart flask of whiskey, placed the flask
with great care in his hip pocket, and lurched out through the open
doorway. There he reeled headlong against the mate, who had rushed
below with three of the crew to bring up Miss Leslie. The mate cursed
him virulently, and in the same breath ordered two of the men to fetch
him up on deck.
The sea was breaking over the steamer in torrents; but between waves
Blake was dragged across to the side and flung over into the bottom of
the one remaining boat. He served as a cushion to break the fall of
Miss Leslie, who was tossed in after him. At the same time, Winthrope,
frantic with fear, scrambled into the bows and cut loose. One of the
sailors leaped, but fell short and went down within arm's length of
She and Winthrope saw the steamer slip from the reef and sink back
into deep water, carrying down in the vortex the mate and the few
remaining sailors. After that all was chaos to them. They were driven
ashore before the terrific gusts of the cyclone, blinded by the
stinging spoondrift to all else but the hell of breakers and coral
reefs in whose midst they swirled so dizzily. And through it all Blake
lay huddled on the bottom boards, gurgling blithely of spicy zephyrs
and swaying hammocks.
There came the seemingly final moment when the boat went spinning
stern over prow. . . . .
Half sobered, Blake opened his eyes and stared solemnly about him.
He was given little time to take his bearings. A smother of broken surf
came seething up from one of the great breakers, to roll him over and
scrape him a little farther up the muddy shore. There the flood
deposited him for a moment, until it could gather force to sweep back
and drag him down again toward the roaring sea that had cast him up.
Blake objected,not to the danger of being drowned, but to
interference with his repose. He had reached the obstinate stage. He
grunted a protest. . . . . Again the flood seethed up the shore, and
rolled him away from the danger. This was too much! He set his jaw,
turned over, and staggered to his feet. Instantly one of the terrific
wind-blasts struck his broad back and sent him spinning for yards. He
brought up in a shallow pool, beside a hummock.
Under the lee of the knoll lay Winthrope and Miss Leslie. Though
conscious, both were draggled and bruised and beaten to exhaustion.
They were together because they had come ashore together. When the boat
capsized, Miss Leslie had been flung against the Englishman, and they
had held fast to each other with the desperate clutch of drowning
persons. Neither of them ever recalled how they gained the shelter of
Blake, sitting waist-deep in the pool, blinked at them benignly with
his pale blue eyes, and produced the quart flask, still a third full of
I shay, fren's, he observed, ha' one on me. Won' cos' you
shentnotta re' shent!
You fuddled lout! shouted Winthrope. Come out of that pool.
Wassama'er pool! Pool's allri'!
The Englishman squinted through the driving scud at the intoxicated
man with an anxious frown. In all probability he felt no commiseration
for the American; but it was no light matter to be flung up barehanded
on the most unhealthful and savage stretch of the Mozambique coast, and
Blake might be able to help them out of their predicament. To leave him
in the pool was therefore not to be thought of. So soon as he had
drained his bottle, he would lie down, and that would be the end of
him. As any attempt to move him forcibly was out of the question, the
situation demanded that Winthrope justify his intimations of diplomatic
training. After considering the problem for several minutes, he met it
in a way that proved he was at least not lacking in shrewdness and
See here, Blake, he called, in another lull between the shrieking
gusts, the lady is fatigued. You're too much of a gentleman to ask her
to come over there.
It required some moments for this to penetrate Blake's fuddled
brain. After a futile attempt to gain his feet, he crawled out of the
pool on all fours, and, with tears in his eyes, pressed his flask upon
Miss Leslie. She shrank away from him, shuddering, and drew herself up
in a huddle of flaccid limbs and limp garments. Winthrope, however, not
only accepted the flask, but came near to draining it.
Blake squinted at the diminished contents, hesitated, and cast a
glance of maudlin gallantry at Miss Leslie. She lay coiled, closer than
before, in a draggled heap. Her posture suggested sleep. Blake stared
at her, the flask extended waveringly before him. Then he brought it to
his lips, and drained out the last drop.
Time turn in, he mumbled, and sprawled full length in the brackish
ooze. Immediately he fell into a drunken stupor.
Winthrope, invigorated by the liquor, rose to his knees, and peered
around. It was impossible to face the scud and spoondrift from the
furious sea; but to leeward he caught a glimpse of a marsh flooded with
salt water, its reedy vegetation beaten flat by the storm. He himself
was beaten down by a terrific gust. Panting and trembling, he waited
for the wind to lull, in hope that he might obtain a clearer view of
his surroundings. Before he again dared rise to his feet, darkness
swept down with tropical suddenness and blurred out everything.
The effect of the whiskey soon passed, and Winthrope huddled between
his companions, drenched and exhausted. Though he could hear Miss
Leslie moaning, he was too miserable himself to inquire whether he
could do anything for her.
Presently he became aware that the wind was falling. The centre of
the cyclone had passed before the ship struck, and they were now in the
outermost circle of the vast whirlwind. With the consciousness of this
change for the better, Winthrope's fear-racked nerves relaxed, and he
fell into a heavy sleep.
CHAPTER II. WORSE THAN WILDERNESS
A wail from Miss Leslie roused the Englishman out of a dream in
which he had been swimming for life across a sea of boiling oil. He sat
up and gazed about him, half dazed. The cyclone had been followed by a
dead calm, and the sun, already well above the horizon, was blazing
upon them over the glassy surfaces of the dying swells with fierce
Winthrope felt about for his hat. It had been blown off when, at the
striking of the steamer, he had rushed up on deck. As he remembered, he
straightened, and looked at his companions. Blake lay snoring where he
had first outstretched himself, sleeping the sleep of the justand of
the drunkard. The girl, however, was already awake. She sat with her
hands clasped in her lap, while the tears rolled slowly down her
Myahdear Miss Genevieve, what is the matter? exclaimed
Matter? Do you ask, when we are here on this wretched coast, and
may not get away for weeks? Oh, I did so count on the London season
this year! Lady Bayrose promised that I should be among those
Well, Iahfancy, Lady Bayrose will do no more presentingunless
it may be to the heavenly choir, you know.
Why, what do you mean, Mr. Winthrope? You told me that she and the
maids had been put in the largest boat
My dear Miss Genevieve, you must remember that I am a diplomat. It
was all quite sufficiently harrowing, I assure you. They were, indeed,
put into the largest boatBeastly muddle!While they waited for the
mate to fetch you, the boat was crushed alongside, and all in it
Drowned!drowned! Oh, dear Lady Bayrose! And she'd travelled so
muchoh, oh, it is horrible! Why did she persuade me to visit the
Cape? It was only to be with herAnd then for us to start off for
India, when we might have sailed straight to England! Oh, it is
horrible! horrible! And my maid, and allIt cannot be possible!
Pray, do not excite yourself, my dear Miss Genevieve. Their
troubles are all over. ErGawd has taken them to Him, you know.
But the pity of it! To be drownedso far from home!
Ah, if that's all you're worrying about!I must say I'd like to
know how we'll get a snack for breakfast. I'm hungry as aergroom.
Eating! How can you think of eating, Mr. Winthropeand all the
others drowned? This sun is becoming dreadfully hot. It is unbearable!
Can you not put up some kind of an awning?
Well, now, I must say, I was never much of a hand at such things,
and really I can't imagine what one could rig up. There might have been
a bit of sail in the boat, but one can't see a sign of it. I fancy it
Miss Leslie ventured a glance at Blake. Though still lying as he had
sprawled in his drunkenness, there was a comforting suggestion of power
in his broad shoulders and square jaw.
Is he stillin that condition?
Must have slept it off by this time, and there's no more in the
flask, answered Winthrope. Reaching over with his foot, he pushed
against Blake's back.
Huh! All right, grunted the sleeper, and sat up, as had Winthrope,
half dazed. Then he stared around him, and rose to his feet. Well,
what in hell! Say, this is damn cheerful!
I fancy we are in a nasty fix. But I say, my man, there is a woman
present, and your language, you know
Blake turned and fixed the Englishman with a cold stare.
Look here, you bloomin' lud, he said, there's just one thing
you're going to understand, right here and now. I'm not your man, and
we're not going to have any of that kind of blatter. Any fool can see
we're in a tight hole, and we're like to keep company for a
whileprobably long as we last.
Whatahmay I ask, do you mean by that?
Blake laughed harshly, and pointed from the reef-strewn sea to the
vast stretches of desolate marsh. Far inland, across miles of brackish
lagoons and reedy mud-flats, could be seen groups of scrubby,
half-leafless trees; ten or twelve miles to the southward a rocky
headland jutted out into the water; otherwise there was nothing in
sight but sea and swamp. If it could not properly be termed a sea-view,
it was at least a very wet landscape.
Fine prospect, remarked Blake, dryly. We'll be in luck if the
fever don't get the last of us inside a month; and as for you two,
you'd have as much show of lasting a month as a toad with a
rattlesnake, if it wasn't for Tom Blake,that's my nameTom
Blake,and as long as this shindy lasts, you're welcome to call me Tom
or Blake, whichever suits. But understand, we're not going to have any
more of your bloody, bloomin' English condescension. Aboard ship you
had the drop on me, and could pile on dog till the cows came home. Here
I'm Blake, and you're Winthrope.
Believe me, Mr. Blake, I quite appreciate theahsituation. And
now, I fancy that, instead of wasting time
It's about time you introduced me to the lady, interrupted Blake,
and he stared at them half defiantly, yet with a twinkle in his eyes.
Miss Leslie flushed. Winthrope swore softly, and bit his lip. Aboard
ship, backed by Lady Bayrose and the captain, he had goaded the
American at pleasure. Now, however, the situation was reversed. Both
title and authority had been swept away by the storm, and he was left
to shift for himself against the man who had every reason to hate him
for his overbearing insolence. Worse still, both he and Miss Leslie
were now dependent upon the American, in all probability for life
itself. It was a bitter pill and hard to swallow.
Blake was not slow to observe the Englishman's hesitancy. He
Every dog has his day, and I guess this is mine, he said. Take
your time, if it comes hard. I can imagine it's a pretty stiff dose for
your ludship. But why inwhy in frozen hades an American lady should
object to an introduction to a countryman who's going to do his level
best to save her pretty little self from the hyenaswell, it beats
Winthrope flushed redder than the girl.
Miss Leslie, Mr. Blake, he murmured, hoping to put an end to the
But yet Blake persisted. He bowed, openly exultant.
You see, Miss, he said, I know the correct thing quite as much as
your swells. I knew all along you were Jenny Leslie. I ran a survey for
your dear papa when he was manipulating the Q. T. Railroad, and he did
me out of my pay.
Oh, but Mr. Blake, I am sure it must be a mistake; I am sure that
if it is explained to papa
Yes; we'll cable papa to-night. Meantime, we've something else to
do. Suppose you two get a hustle on yourselves, and scrape up something
to eat. I'm going out to see what's left of that blamed old tub.
Surely you'll not venture to swim out so far! protested Winthrope.
I saw the steamer sink as we cast off.
Looks like a mast sticking up out there. Maybe some of the rigging
But the sharks! These waters swarm with the vile creatures. You
must not risk your life!
'Cause why? If I do, the babes in the woods will be left without
even the robins to cover them, poor things! But cheer up!maybe the
mud-hens will do it with lovely water-lilies.
Please, Mr. Blake, do not be so cruel! sobbed Miss Leslie, her
tears starting afresh. The sun makes my head ache dreadfully, and I
have no hat or shade, and I'm becoming so thirsty!
And you think you've only to wait, and half a dozen stewards will
come running with parasols and ice water. Neither you nor Winthrope
seem to 've got your eyes open. Just suppose you get busy and do
something. Winthrope, chase yourself over the mud, and get together a
mess of fish that are not too dead. Must be dozens, after the blow. As
for you, Miss Jenny, I guess you can pick up some reeds, and rig a
headgear out of this handkerchiefWait a moment. Put on my coat, if
you don't want to be broiled alive through the holes of that
But I say, Blake began Winthrope.
Don't saydo! rejoined Blake; and he started down the muddy
Though the tide was at flood, there was now no cyclone to drive the
sea above the beach, and Blake walked a quarter of a mile before he
reached the water's edge. There was little surf, and he paused only a
few moments to peer out across the low swells before he commenced to
Winthrope and Miss Leslie had been watching his movements; now the
girl rose in a little flurry of haste, and set to gathering reeds.
Winthrope would have spoken, but, seeing her embarrassment, smiled to
himself, and began strolling about in search of fish.
It was no difficult search. The marshy ground was strewn with dead
sea-creatures, many of which were already shrivelling and drying in the
sun. Some of the fish had a familiar look, and Winthrope turned them
over with the tip of his shoe. He even went so far as to stoop to pick
up a large mullet; but shrank back, repulsed by its stiffness and the
unnatural shape into which the sun was warping it.
He found himself near the beach, and stood for half an hour or more
watching the black dot far out in the water,all that was to be seen
of Blake. The American, after wading off-shore another quarter of a
mile, had reached swimming depth, and was heading out among the reefs
with steady, vigorous strokes. Half a mile or so beyond him Winthrope
could now make out the goal for which he was aiming,the one remaining
topmast of the steamer.
By Jove, these waters are full of sharks! murmured Winthrope,
staring at the steadily receding dot until it disappeared behind the
wall of surf which spumed up over one of the outer reefs.
A call from Miss Leslie interrupted his watch, and he hastened to
rejoin her. After several failures, she had contrived to knot Blake's
handkerchief to three or four reeds in the form of a little sunshade.
Her shoulders were protected by Blake's coat. It made a heavy wrap, but
it shut out the blistering sun-rays, which, as Blake had foreseen, had
quickly begun to burn the girl's delicate skin through her open-work
Thus protected, she was fairly safe from the sun. But the sun was by
no means the worst feature of the situation. While Winthrope was yet
several yards distant, the girl began to complain to him. I'm so
thirsty, Mr. Winthrope! Where is there any water? Please get me a drink
at once, Mr. Winthrope!
But, my dear Miss Leslie, there is no water. These pools are all
sea-water. I must say, I'm deuced dry myself. I can't see why that cad
should go off and leave us like this, when we need him most.
Indeed, it is a shameOh, I'm so thirsty! Do you think it would
help if we ate something?
Make it all the worse. Besides, how could we cook anything? All
these reeds are green, or at least water-soaked.
But Mr, Blake said to gather some fish. Had you not best
He can pick up all he wants. I shall not touch the beastly things.
Then I suppose there is nothing to do but wait for him.
Yes, if the sharks do not get him.
Miss Leslie uttered a little moan, and Winthrope, seeing that she
was on the verge of tears, hastened to reassure her. Don't worry about
him, Miss Genevieve! He'll soon return, with nothing worse than a
blistered back. Fellows of that sort are born to hang, you know.
But if he should beif anything should happen to him!
Winthrope shrugged his shoulders, and drew out his silver cigarette
case. It was more than half full, and he was highly gratified to find
that neither the cigarettes nor the vesta matches in the cover had been
reached by the wet.
By Jove, here's luck! he exclaimed, and he bowed to Miss Leslie.
Pardon me, but if you have no objections
The girl nodded as a matter of form, and Winthrope hastened to light
the cigarette already in his fingers. The smoke by no means tended to
lessen the dryness of his mouth; yet it put him in a reflective mood,
and in thinking over what he had read of shipwrecked parties, he
remembered that a pebble held in the mouth is supposed to ease one's
To be sure, there was not a sign of a pebble within miles of where
they sat; but after some reflection, it occurred to him that one of his
steel keys might do as well. At first Miss Leslie was reluctant to try
the experiment, and only the increasing dryness of her mouth forced her
to seek the promised relief. Though it failed to quench her thirst, she
was agreeably surprised to find that the little flat bar of metal eased
her craving to a marked degree.
Winthrope now thought to rig a shade as Miss Leslie had done, out of
reeds and his handkerchief, for the sun was scorching his unprotected
head. Thus sheltered, the two crouched as comfortably as they could
upon the half-dried crest of the hummock, and waited impatiently for
the return of Blake.
CHAPTER III. THE WORTH OF FIRE
Though the sea within the reefs was fast smoothing to a glassy plain
in the dead calm, they did not see Blake on his return until he struck
shallow water and stood up to wade ashore. The tide had begun to ebb
before he started landward, and though he was a powerful swimmer, the
long pull against the current had so tired him that when he took to
wading he moved at a tortoise-like gait.
The bloomin' loafer! commented Winthrope. He glanced quickly
about, and at sight of Miss Leslie's arching brows, hastened to add:
Beg pardon! Heahreminds me so much of a navvy, you know.
Miss Leslie made no reply.
At last Blake was out of the water and toiling up the muddy beach to
the spot where he had left his clothes. While dressing he seemed to
recover from his exertions in the water, for the moment he had
finished, he sprang to his feet and came forward at a brisk pace.
As he approached, Winthrope waved his fifth cigarette at him with
languid enthusiasm, and called out as heartily as his dry lips would
permit: I say, Blake, deuced glad the sharks didn't get you!
Sharks?bah! All you have to do is to splash a little, and they
How about the steamer, Mr. Blake? asked Miss Leslie, turning to
All under but the maintopmastcurse it!wire rigging at that!
Couldn't even get a bolt.
Not a bolt; and here we are as good as naked on this infernalHey,
you! what you doing with that match? Light your cigarettelight it!
Heedless of Blake's warning cry, Winthrope had struck his last
vesta, and now, angry and bewildered, he stood staring while the little
taper burned itself out. With an oath, Blake sprang to catch it as it
dropped from between Winthrope's fingers. But he was too far away. It
fell among the damp rushes, spluttered, and flared out.
For a moment Blake knelt, staring at the rushes as though stupefied;
then he sprang up before Winthrope, his bronzed face purple with anger.
Where's your matchbox? Got any more? he demanded.
Last one, I fancyyes; last one, and there are still two
cigarettes. But look here, Blake, I can't tolerate your talking so
You idiot! youyouHell! and every one for cigarettes!
From a growl Blake's voice burst into a roar of fury, and he sprang
upon Winthrope like a wild beast. His hands closed upon the
Englishman's throat, and he began to shake him about, paying no heed to
the blows his victim showered upon his face and body, blows which soon
began to lessen in force.
Terror-stricken, Miss Leslie put her hands over her eyes, and began
to screamthe piercing shriek that will unnerve the strongest man.
Blake paused as though transfixed, and as the half-suffocated
Englishman struggled in his grasp, he flung him on the ground, and
turned to the screaming girl.
Stop that squawking! he said. The girl cowed down. So; that's
better. Next time keep your mouth shut.
Good! You've got a little spunk, eh?
You cowardto attack a man not half your strength!
Steady, steady, young lady! I'm warm enough yet; I've still half a
mind to wring his fool neck.
But why should you be so angry! What has he done, that you
Whywhy? Lord! what hasn't he done! This coast fairly swarms with
beasts. We've not the smell of a gun; and now this idiotthis
dough-headhas gone and thrown away our only chancefireand on his
measly cigarettes! Blake choked with returning rage.
Winthrope, still panting for breath, began to creep away, at the
same time unclasping a small penknife. He was white with fear; but his
gray eyeswhich on shipboard Blake had never seen other than
offensively superciliousnow glinted in a manner that served to alter
the American's mood.
That'll do, he said. Come here and show me that knife.
I'll show it you where it will do the most good, muttered
Winthrope, rising hastily to repel the expected attack.
So you've got a little sand, too, said Blake, almost
good-naturedly. Say, that's not so bad. We'll call it quits on the
matches. Though how you could go and throw them away
Deuce take it, man! How should I know? I've never before been in a
Neither have Ithis kind. But I tell you, we've got to keep our
think tanks going. It's a guess if we see to-morrow, and that's no
joke. Now do you wonder I got hot?
Indeed, no! I've been an ass, and here's my hand to itif you
really mean it's quits.
It's quits all right, long as you don't run out of sand, responded
Blake, and he gripped the other's soft hand until the Englishman
winced. So; that's settled. I've got a hot temper, but I don't hold
grudges. Now, where're your fish?
Iwell, they were all spoiled.
The sun had shrivelled them.
And you call that spoiled! We're like to eat them rotten before
we're through with this picnic. How about the pools?
Pools? Do you know, Blake, I never thought of the pools. I stopped
to watch you, and then we were so anxious about you
Blake grunted, and turned on his heel to wade into the half-drained
pool in whose midst he had been deposited by the hurricane.
Two or three small fish lay faintly wriggling on the surface. As
Blake splashed through the water to seize them, his foot struck against
a living body which floundered violently and flashed a brilliant forked
tail above the muddy water. Blake sprang over the fish, which was
entangled in the reeds, and with a kick, flung it clear out upon the
A coryphene! cried Winthrope, and he ran forward to stare at the
gorgeously colored prize.
Coryphene? repeated Blake, following his example. Good to eat?
Fine as salmon. This is only a small one, but
Fifteen pounds, if an ounce! cried Blake, and he thrust his hand
in his pocket. There was a moment's silence, and Winthrope, glancing
up, saw the other staring in blank dismay.
What's up! he asked.
Lost my knife.
When?in the pool? If we felt about
No; aboard ship, or in the surf
Here is my knife.
Yes; almost big enough to whittle a match! Mine would have done us
It is the best steel.
All right; let's see you cut up the fish.
But you know, Blake, I shouldn't know how to go about it. I never
did such a thing.
And you, Miss Jenny? Girls are supposed to know about cooking.
I never cooked anything in all my life, Mr. Blake, and it's
alive,andand I am very thirsty, Mr. Blake!
Lord! commented Blake. Give me that knife.
Though the blade was so small, the American's hand was strong. After
some little haggling, the coryphene was killed and dressed. Blake
washed both it and his hands in the pool, and began to cut slices of
flesh from the fish's tail.
We have no fire, Winthrope reminded him, flushing at the word.
That's true, assented Blake, in a cheerful tone, and he offered
Winthrope two of the pieces of raw flesh. Here's your breakfast. The
trimmed piece is for Miss Leslie.
But it's raw! Really, I could not think of eating raw fish. Could
you, Miss Leslie?
Miss Leslie shuddered. Oh, no!and I'm so thirsty I could not eat
You bet you can! replied Blake. Both of you take that fish, and
go to chewing. It's the stuff to ease your thirst while we look for
water. Good Lord!in a week you'll be glad to eat raw snake. Finnicky
over clean fish, when you swallow canvas-back all but raw, and beef
running blood, and raw oysters with their stomachs full of
disintegrated animal matter, to put it politely! You couldn't tell
rattlesnake broth from chicken, and dog makes first-rate vealwhen
you've got to eat it. I've had it straight from them that know, that
over in France they eat snails and fish-worms. It's all a matter of
custom or the style.
To be sure, the Japanese eat raw fish, admitted Winthrope.
Yes; and you'd swallow your share of it if you had an invite to a
swell dinner in Tokio. Go on now, both of you. It's no joke, I tell
you. You've got to eat, if you expect to get to water before night.
Understand? See that headland south? Well, it's a hundred to one we'll
not find water short of there, and if we make it by night, we'll be
doing better than I figure from the look of these bogs. Now go to
chewing. That's it! That's fine, Miss Jenny!
Miss Leslie had forced herself to take a nibble of the raw fish. The
flavor proved less repulsive than she had expected, and its moisture
was so grateful to her parched mouth that she began to eat with
eagerness. Not to be outdone, Winthrope promptly followed her lead.
Blake had already cut himself a second slice. After he had cut more for
his companions, he began to look them over with a closeness that proved
embarrassing to Miss Leslie.
Here's more of the good stuff, he said. While you're chewing it,
we'll sort of take stock. Everybody shell out everything. Here's my
outfitthree shillings, half a dozen poker chips, and not another
blessedSay, what's become of that whiskey flask? Have you seen my
Here it is, right beside me, Mr. Blake, answered Miss Leslie. But
it is empty.
Might be worse! What you got?hair-pins, watch? No pocket, I
None; and no watch. Even most of my pins are gone, replied the
girl, and she raised her hand to her loosely coiled hair.
Well, hold on to what you've got left. They may come in for
fish-hooks. Let's see your shoes.
Miss Leslie slowly thrust a slender little foot just beyond the hem
of her draggled white skirt.
Good Lord! groaned Blake, slippers, and high heels at that! How
do you expect to walk in those things?
I can at least try, replied the girl, with spirit.
Hobble! Pass 'em over here, Winnie, my boy.
The slippers were handed over. Blake took one after the other, and
wrenched off the heel close to its base.
Now you've at least got a pair of slippers, he said, tossing them
back to their owner. Tie them on tight with a couple of your ribbons,
if you don't want to lose them in the mud. Now, Winthrope, what you got
beside the knife?
Winthrope held out a bunch of long flat keys and his cigarette case.
He opened the latter, and was about to throw away the two remaining
cigarettes when Blake grasped his wrist.
Hold on! even they may come in for something. We'll at least keep
them until we need the case.
And the keys!
Make arrow-heads, if we can get fire.
I've heard of savages making fire by rubbing wood.
Yes; and we're a long way from being savages,at present. All the
show we have is to find some kind of quartz or flint, and the sooner we
start to look the better. Got your slippers tied, Miss Jenny?
Yes; I think they'll do.
Think! It's knowing's the thing. Here, let me look.
The girl shrank back; but Blake stooped and examined first one
slipper and then the other. The ribbons about both were tied in dainty
bows. Blake jerked them loose and twisted them firmly over and under
the slippers and about the girl's slender ankles before knotting the
There; that's more like. You're not going to a dance, he growled.
He thrust the empty whiskey flask into his hip pocket, and went back
to pass a sling of reeds through the gills of the coryphene.
All ready now, he called. Let's get a move on. Keep my coat
closer about your shoulders, Miss Jenny, and keep your shade up, if you
don't want a sunstroke.
Thank you, Blake, I'll see to that, said Winthrope. I'm going to
help Miss Leslie along. I've fastened our two shades together, so that
they will answer for both of us.
How about yourself, Mr. Blake? inquired the girl. Do you not find
the sun fearfully hot?
Sure; but I wet my head in the sea, and here's another souse.
As he rose with dripping head from beside the pool, he slung the
coryphene on his back, and started off without further words.
CHAPTER IV. A JOURNEY IN DESOLATION
Morning was well advanced, and the sun beat down upon the three with
almost overpowering fierceness. The heat would have rendered their
thirst unendurable had not Blake hacked off for them bit after bit of
the moist coryphene flesh.
In a temperate climate, ten miles over firm ground is a pleasant
walk for one accustomed to the exercise. Quite a different matter is
ten miles across mud-flats, covered with a tangle of reeds and rushes,
and frequently dipping into salt marsh and ooze. Before they had gone a
mile Miss Leslie would have lost her slippers had it not been for
Blake's forethought in tying them so securely. Within a little more
than three miles the girl's strength began to fail.
Oh, Blake, called Winthrope, for the American was some yards in
the lead, pull up a bit on that knoll. We'll have to rest a while, I
fancy. Miss Leslie is about pegged.
What's that? demanded Blake. We're not half-way yet!
Winthrope did not reply. It was all he could do to drag the girl up
on the hummock. She sank, half-fainting, upon the dry reeds, and he sat
down beside her to protect her with the shade. Blake stared at the
miles of swampy flats which yet lay between them and the out-jutting
headland of gray rock. The base of the cliff was screened by a belt of
trees; but the nearest clump of green did not look more than a mile
nearer than the headland.
Hell! muttered Blake, despondently. Not even a short four miles.
Mush and sassiety girls!
Though he spoke to himself, the others heard him. Miss Leslie
flushed, and would have risen had not Winthrope put his hand on her
Could you not go on, and bring back a flask of water for Miss
Leslie? he asked. By that time she will be rested.
No; I don't fetch back any flasks of water. She's going when I go,
or you can come on to suit yourselves.
Mr. Blake, youyou won't go, and leave me here! If you have a
sisterif your mother
She died of drink, and both my sisters did worse.
My God, man! do you mean to say you'll abandon a helpless young
Not a bit more helpless than were my sisters when you rich folks'
guardians of law and order jugged me for the winter, 'cause I didn't
have a job, and turned both girls into the streetonto the street, if
you know what that meansone only sixteen and the other seventeen.
Talk about helpless young girlsDamnation!
Miss Leslie cringed back as though she had been struck. Blake,
however, seemed to have vented his anger in the curse, for when he
again spoke, there was nothing more than impatience in his tone. Come
on, now; get aboard. Winthrope couldn't lug you a half-mile, and long's
it's the only way, don't be all day about it. Here, Winthrope, look to
But, my dear fellow, I don't quite take your idea, nor does Miss
Leslie, I fancy, ventured Winthrope.
Well, we've got to get to water, or die; and as the lady can't
walk, she's going on my back. It's a case of have-to.
No! I am notI am not! I'd sooner die!
I'm afraid you'll find that easy enough, later on, Miss Jenny.
Stand by, Winthrope, to help her up. Do you hear? Take the knife and
fish, and lend a hand.
There was a note in Blake's voice that neither Winthrope nor Miss
Leslie dared disregard. Though scarlet with mortification, she
permitted herself to be taken pick-a-back upon Blake's broad shoulders,
and meekly obeyed his command to clasp her hands about his throat. Yet
even at that moment, such are the inconsistencies of human nature, she
could not but admire the ease with which he rose under her weight.
Now that he no longer had the slow pace of the girl to consider, he
advanced at his natural gait, the quick, tireless stride of an American
railroad-surveyor. His feet, trained to swamp travel in Louisiana and
Panama, seemed to find the firmest ground as by instinct, and whether
on the half-dried mud of the hummocks or in the ankle-deep water of the
bogs, they felt their way without slip or stumble.
Winthrope, though burdened only with the half-eaten coryphene,
toiled along behind, greatly troubled by the mud and the tangled reeds,
and now and then flung down by some unlucky misstep. His modish suit,
already much damaged by the salt water, was soon smeared afresh with a
coating of greenish slime. His one consolation was that Blake, after
jeering at his first tumble, paid no more attention to him. On the
other hand, he was cut by the seeming indifference of Miss Leslie.
Intent on his own misery, he failed to consider that the girl might be
suffering far greater discomfort and humiliation.
More than three miles had been covered before Blake stopped on a
hummock. Releasing Miss Leslie, he stretched out on the dry crest of
the knoll, and called for a slice of the fish. At his urging, the
others took a few mouthfuls, although their throats were now so parched
that even the moist flesh afforded scant relief. Fortunately for them
all, Blake had been thoroughly trained to endure thirst. He rested less
than ten minutes; then, taking Miss Leslie up again like a rag doll, he
swung away at a good pace.
The trees were less than half a mile distant when he halted for the
second time. He would have gone to them without a pause though his
muscles were quivering with exhaustion, had not Miss Leslie chanced to
look around and discover that Winthrope was no longer following them.
For the last mile he had been lagging farther and farther behind, and
now he had suddenly disappeared. At the girl's dismayed exclamation,
Blake released his hold, and she found herself standing in a foot or
more of mud and water. The sweat was streaming down Blake's face. As he
turned around, he wiped it off with his shirtsleeves.
Do youcan it be, Mr. Blake, that he has had a sunstroke? asked
Sunstroke? No; he's just laid down, that's all. I thought he had
more sandconfound him!
But the sun is so dreadfully hot, and I have his shade.
And he's been tumbling into every other pool. No; it's not the sun.
I've half a mind to let him liethe paper-legged swell! It would no
more than square our aboard-ship accounts.
Surely, you would not do that, Mr. Blake! It may be that he has
hurt himself in falling.
In this mud?bah! But I guess I'm in for the pack-mule stunt all
around. Now, now; don't yowl, Miss Jenny. I'm going. But you can't
expect me to love the snob.
As he splashed away on the return trail, Miss Leslie dabbed at her
eyes to check the starting tears.
Oh, dearOh, dear! she moaned; what have I done, to be so
treated? Such a brute, Oh, dear!and I am so thirsty!
In her despair she would have sunk down where she stood had not the
sliminess of the water repelled her. She gazed longingly at the trees,
in the fore of which stood a grove of stately palms. The half-mile
seemed an insuperable distance, but the ride on Blake's back had rested
her, and thirst goaded her forward.
Stumbling and slipping, she waded on across the inundated ground,
and came out upon a half-baked mud-flat, where the walking was much
easier. But the sun was now almost directly overhead, and between her
thirst and the heat, she soon found herself faltering. She tottered on
a few steps farther, and then stopped, utterly spent As she sank upon
the dried rushes, she glanced around, and was vaguely conscious of a
strange, double-headed figure following her path across the marsh. All
about her became black.
The next she knew, Blake was splashing her head and face with
brackish water out of the whiskey flask. She raised her hand to shield
her face, and sat up, sick and dizzy.
That's it! said Blake. He spoke in a kindly tone, though his voice
was harsh and broken with thirst. You're all right now. Pull yourself
together, and we'll get to the trees in a jiffy.
I'm here, Miss Genevieve. It was only a wrenched ankle. If I had a
stick, Blake, I fancy I could make a go of it over this drier ground.
And lay yourself up for a month. Come, Miss Jenny, brace up for
another try. It's only a quarter-mile, and I've got to pack him.
The girl was gasping with thirst; yet she made an effort, and
assisted by Blake managed to gain her feet. She was still dizzy; but as
Blake swung Winthrope upon his back, he told her to take hold of his
arm. Winthrope held the shade over her head. Thus assisted, and
sheltered from the direct beat of the sun-rays, she tottered along
beside Blake, half unconscious.
Fortunately the remaining distance lay across a stretch of bare dry
ground, for even Blake had all but reached the limit of endurance. Step
by step he labored on, staggering under the weight of the Englishman,
and gasping with a thirst which his exertions rendered even greater
than that of his companions. But through the trees and brush which
stretched away inland in a wall of verdure he had caught glimpses of a
broad stream, and the hope of fresh water called out every ounce of his
At last the nearest palm was only a few paces distant. Blake
clutched Miss Leslie's arm, and dragged her forward with a rush, in a
final outburst of energy. A moment later all three lay gasping in the
shade. But the river was yet another hundred yards distant. Blake
waited only to regain his breath; then he staggered up and went on. The
others, unable to rise, gazed after him in silent misery.
Soon Blake found himself rushing through the jungle along a broad
trail pitted with enormous footprints; but he was so near mad with
thirst that he paid no heed to the spoor other than to curse the holes
for the trouble they gave him. Suddenly the trail turned to the left
and sloped down a low bank into the river. Blind to all else, Blake ran
down the slope, and dropping upon his knees, plunged his head into the
At first his throat was so dry that he could no more than rinse his
mouth. With the first swallow, his swollen tongue mocked him with the
salt, bitter taste of sea-water. The tide was flowing! He rose,
sputtering and choking and gasping. He stared around. There was no
question that he was on the bank of a river and would be certain of
fresh water with the ebb tide. But could he endure the agony of his
thirst all those hours?
He thought of his companions.
Good God! he groaned, they're goners anyway!
He stared dully up the river at the thousands of waterfowl which
lined its banks. Within close view were herons and black ibises, geese,
pelicans, flamingoes, and a dozen other species of birds of which he
did not know the names. But he sat as though in a stupor, and did not
move even when one of the driftwood logs on a mud-shoal a few yards
up-stream opened an enormous mouth and displayed two rows of hooked
fangs. It was otherwise when the noontime stillness was broken by a
violent splashing and loud snortings down-stream. He glanced about, and
saw six or eight monstrous heads drifting towards him with the tide.
What inWhee! a whole herd of hippos! he muttered. That's what
the holes mean.
The foremost hippopotamus was headed directly for him. He glared at
the huge head with sullen resentment. For all his stupor, he perceived
at once that the beast intended to land; and he sat in the middle of
its accustomed path. His first impulse was to spring up and yell at the
creature. Then he remembered hearing that a white hunter had recently
been killed by these beasts on one of the South African lakes. Instead
of leaping up, he sank down almost flat, and crawled back around the
turn in the path. Once certain that he was hidden from the beasts, he
rose to his feet and hastened back through the jungle.
He was almost in view of the spot where he had left Winthrope and
Miss Leslie, when he stopped and stood hesitating.
I can't do it, he muttered; I can't tell her,poor girl!
He turned and pushed into the thicket. Forcing a way through the
tangle of thorny shrubs and creepers, until several yards from the
path, he began to edge towards the face of the jungle, that he might
peer out at his companions, unseen by them.
There was more of the thicket before him than he had thought, and he
was still fighting his way through it, when he was brought to a stand
by a peculiar cry that might have been the bleat of a young lamb:
What's that! he croaked.
He stood listening, and in a moment he again heard the cry, this
time more distinctly: Blak!Blak!
There could be no mistake. It was Winthrope calling for him, and
calling with a clearness of voice that would have been physically
impossible half an hour since. Blake's sunken eyes lighted with hope.
He burst through the last screen of jungle, and stared towards the palm
under which he had left his companions. They were not there.
Another call from Winthrope directed his gaze more seaward. The two
were seated beside a fallen palm, and Miss Leslie had a large round
object raised to her lips. Winthrope was waving to him.
Cocoanuts! he yelled. Come on!
Three of the palms had been overthrown by the hurricane, and when
Blake came up, he found the ground strewn with nuts. He seized the
first he came to; but Winthrope held out one already opened. He
snatched it from him, and placed the hole to his swollen lips. Never
had champagne tasted half so delicious as that cocoanut milk. Before he
could drain the last of it through the little opening, Winthrope had
the husks torn from the ends of two other nuts, and the convenient
germinal spots gouged open with his penknife.
Blake emptied the third before he spoke. Even then his voice was
hoarse and strained. How'd you strike 'em?
I couldn't help it, explained Winthrope. Hardly had you
disappeared when I noticed the tops of the fallen palms, and thought of
the nuts. There was one in the grass not twenty feet from where we
Lucky for youand for me, too, I guess, said Blake. We were all
three down for the count. But this settles the first round in our
favor. How do you like the picnic, Miss Jenny?
Miss Leslie, if you please, replied the girl, with hauteur.
Oh, say, Miss Jenny! protested Blake, genially. We live in the
same boarding-house now. Why not be folksy? You're free to call me Tom.
Pass me another nut, Winthrope. Thanks! By the way, what's your front
name? Saw it aboard shipCyril
Cecil, corrected Winthrope, in a low tone.
CecilLord Cecil, eh?or is it only The Honorable Cecil?
My dear sir, I have intimated before that, for reasons
Oh, yes; you're travelling incog., in the secret service. Sort of
Detective! echoed Winthrope, in a peculiar tone.
Blake grinned. Well, it is rawther a nawsty business for your
honorable ludship. But there's nothing like calling things by their
Right nameserI don't quite take you. I have told you
distinctly, my name is Cecil Winthrope!
O-h-h! how lovely!See-sill! See-seal!Bet they called you Sissy
at school. English, chum of mine told me your schools are corkers for
nicknames. What'll we make itSis or Sissy?
I prefer my patronymic, Mr. Blake, replied Winthrope.
All right, then; we'll make it Pat, if that's your choice. I say,
Pat, this juice is the stuff for wetness, but it makes a fellow
remember his grub. Where'd you leave that fish?
Really, I can't just say, but it must have been where I wrenched my
You cawn't just say! And what are we going to eat?
Here are the cocoanuts.
Bright boy! go to the head of the class! Just take some more husk
off those empty ones.
Winthrope caught up one of the nuts, and with the aid of his knife,
stripped it of its husk. At a gesture from Blake, he laid it on the
bare ground, and the American burst it open with a blow of his heel. It
was an immature nut, and the meat proved to be little thicker than
clotted cream. Blake divided it into three parts, handing Miss Leslie
Though his companions began with more restraint, they finished their
shares with equal gusto. Winthrope needed no further orders to return
to his husking. One after another, the nuts were cracked and divided
among the three, until even Blake could not swallow another mouthful of
the luscious cream.
Toward the end Miss Leslie had become drowsy. At Winthrope's urging,
she now lay down for a nap, Blake's coat serving as a pillow. She fell
asleep while Winthrope was yet arranging it for her. Blake had turned
his back on her, and was staring moodily at the hippopotamus trail,
when Winthrope hobbled around and sat down on the palm trunk beside
I say, Blake, he suggested, I feel deuced fagged myself. Why not
all take a nap?
'And when they awoke, they were all dead men,' remarked Blake.
By Jove, that sounds like a joke, protested the Englishman. Don't
rag me now.
Joke! repeated Blake. Why, that's Scripture, Pat, Scripture!
Anyway, you'd think it no joke to wake up and find yourself going down
the throat of a hippo.
Dozens of them over in the river. Shouldn't wonder if they've all
landed, and 're tracking me down by this time.
But hippopotami are not carnivorousthey're not at all dangerous,
unless one wounds them, out in the water.
That may be; but I'm not taking chances. They've got mouths like
sperm whalesI saw one take a yawn. Another thing, that bayou is chuck
full of alligators, and a fellow down on the Rand told me they're like
the Central American gavials for keenness to nip a swimmer.
They will not come out on this dry land.
Suppose they won'tthere're no other animals in Africa but sheep,
What can we do? The captain told me that there are both lions and
leopards on this coast.
Nice place for them, too, around these trees, added Blake. Lucky
for us, they're night-birds mostly,if that Rand fellow didn't lie. He
was a Boer, so I guess he ought to know.
To be sure. It's a nasty fix we're in for to-night. Could we not
build some kind of a barricade?
With a penknife! Guess we'll roost in a tree.
But cannot leopards climb? It seems to me that I have heard
How about lions?
They cannot; I'm sure of that.
Then we'll chance the leopards. Just stretch out here, and nurse
that ankle of yours. I don't want to be lugging you all year. I'm going
to hunt a likely tree.
CHAPTER V. THE RE-ASCENT OF MAN
Afternoon was far advanced, and Winthrope was beginning to feel
anxious, when at last Blake pushed out from among the close thickets.
As he approached, he swung an unshapely club of green wood, pausing
every few paces to test its weight and balance on a bush or knob of
By Jove! called Winthrope; that's not half bad! You look as if
you could bowl over an ox.
Blake showed that he was flattered.
Oh, I don't know, he responded; the thing's blamed unhandy. Just
the same, I guess we'll be ready for callers to-night.
Show you later, Pat, me b'y. Now trot out some nuts. We'll feed
before we move camp.
Miss Leslie is still sleeping.
Time, then, to roust her out. Hey, Miss Jenny, turn out! Time to
Miss Leslie sat up and gazed around in bewilderment.
It's all right, Miss Genevieve, reassured Winthrope. Blake has
found a safe place for the night, and he wishes us to eat before we
Save lugging the grub, added Blake. Get busy, Pat.
As Winthrope caught up a nut, the girl began to arrange her
disordered hair and dress with the deft and graceful movements of a
woman thoroughly trained in the art of self-adornment. There was
admiration in Blake's deep eyes as he watched her dainty preening. She
was not a beautiful girlat present she could hardly be termed pretty;
yet even in her draggled, muddy dress she retained all the subtle
charms of culture which appeal so strongly to a man. Blake was subdued.
His feelings even carried him so far as an attempt at formal
politeness, when they had finished their meal.
Now, Miss Leslie, he began, it's little more than half an hour to
sundown; so, if you please, if you're quite ready, we'd best be
Is it far?
Not so very. But we've got to chase through the jungle. Are you
sure you're quite ready?
Quite, thank you. But how about Mr. Winthrope's ankle?
He'll ride as far as the trees. I can't squeeze through with him,
I shall walk all the way, put in Winthrope.
No, you won't. Climb aboard, replied Blake, and catching up his
club, he stooped for Winthrope to mount his back. As he rose with his
burden, Miss Leslie caught sight of his coat, which still lay in a roll
beside the palm trunk.
How about your coat, Mr. Blake? she asked. Should you not put it
No; I'm loaded now. Have to ask you to look after it. You may need
it before morning, anyway. If the dews here are like those in Central
America, they are d-darned liable to bring on malarial fever.
Nothing more was said until they had crossed the open space between
the palms and the belt of jungle along the river. At other times
Winthrope and Miss Leslie might have been interested in the towering
screw-palms, festooned to the top with climbers, and in the huge ferns
which they could see beneath the mangroves, in the swampy ground on
their left. Now, however, they were far too concerned with the question
of how they should penetrate the dense tangle of thorny brush and
creepers which rose before them like a green wall. Even Blake hesitated
as he released Winthrope, and looked at Miss Leslie's costume. Her
white skirt was of stout duck; but the flimsy material of her waist was
ill-suited for rough usage.
Better put the coat on, unless you want to come out on the other
side in full evening dress, he said. There's no use kicking; but I
wish you'd happened to have on some sort of a jacket when we got
Is there no path through the thicket? inquired Winthrope.
Only the hippo trail, and it don't go our way. We've got to run our
own line. Here's a stick for your game ankle.
Winthrope took the half-green branch which Blake broke from the
nearest tree, and turned to assist Miss Leslie with the coat. The
garment was of such coarse cloth that as Winthrope drew the collar
close about her throat Miss Leslie could not forego a little grimace of
repugnance. The crease between Blake's eyes deepened, and the girl
hastened to utter an explanatory exclamation: Not so tight, Mr.
Winthrope, please! It scratches my neck.
You'd find those thorns a whole lot worse, muttered Blake.
To be sure; and Miss Leslie fully appreciates your kindness,
I do indeed, Mr. Blake! I'm sure I never could go through here
without your coat.
That's all right. Got the handkerchief?
I put it in one of the pockets.
It'll do to tie up your hair.
Miss Leslie took the suggestion, knotting the big square of linen
over her fluffy brown hair.
Blake waited only for her to draw out the kerchief, before he began
to force a way through the jungle. Now and then he beat at the tangled
vegetation with his club. Though he held to the line by which he had
left the thicket, yet all his efforts failed to open an easy passage
for the others. Many of the thorny branches sprang back into place
behind him, and as Miss Leslie, who was the first to follow, sought to
thrust them aside, the thorns pierced her delicate skin, until her
hands were covered with blood. Nor did Winthrope, stumbling and
hobbling behind her, fare any better. Twice he tripped headlong into
the brush, scratching his arms and face.
Blake took his own punishment as a matter of course, though his
tougher and thicker skin made his injuries less painful. He advanced
steadily along the line of bent and broken twigs that marked his
outward passage, until the thicket opened on a strip of grassy ground
beneath a wild fig-tree.
By Jove! exclaimed Winthrope, a banyan!
Banyan? Well, if that's British for a daisy, you've hit it,
responded Blake. Just take a squint up here. How's that for a roost?
Winthrope and Miss Leslie stared up dubiously at the edge of a bed
of reeds gathered in the hollow of one of the huge flattened branches
at its junction with the main trunk of the banyan, twenty feet above
Will not the mosquitoes pester us, here among the trees? objected
Storm must have blown 'em away. I haven't seen any yet.
There will be millions after sunset.
Maybe; but I bet they keep below our roost
But how are we to get up so high? inquired Miss Leslie.
I can swarm this drop root, and I've a creeper ready for you two,
Suiting action to words, he climbed up the small trunk of the air
root, and swung over into the hollow where he had piled the reeds.
Across the broad limb dangled a rope-like creeper, one end of which he
had fastened to a branch higher up. He flung down the free end to
Look lively, Pat, he called. The sun's most gone, and the
twilight don't last all night in these parts. Get the line around Miss
Leslie, and do what you can on a boost.
I see; but, you know, the vine is too stiff to tie.
Blake stifled an oath, and jerked the end of the creeper up into his
hand. When he threw it down again, it was looped around and fastened in
a bowline knot.
Now, Miss Leslie, get aboard, and we'll have you up in a jiffy, he
Are you sure you can lift me? asked the girl, as Winthrope slipped
the loop over her shoulders.
Blake laughed down at them. Well, I guess yes! Once hoisted a
fellow out of a fifty-foot prospect holebig fat Dutchman at that. You
don't weigh over a hundred and twenty.
He had stretched out across the broadest part of the branch. As Miss
Leslie seated herself in the loop, he reached down and began to haul up
on the creeper, hand over hand. Though frightened by the novel manner
of ascent, the girl clung tightly to the line above her head, and Blake
had no difficulty in raising her until she swung directly beneath him.
Here, however, he found himself in a quandary. The girl seemed as
helpless as a child, and he was lying flat. How could he lift her above
the level of the branch?
Take hold the other line, he said. The girl hesitated. Do you
hear? Grab it quick, and pull up hard, if you don't want a tumble!
The girl seized the part of the creeper which was fastened above,
and drew herself up with convulsive energy. Instantly Blake rose to his
knees, and grasping the taut creeper with one hand, reached down with
the other, to swing the girl up beside him on the branch.
All right, Miss Jenny, he reassured her as he felt her tremble.
Sorry to scare you, but I couldn't have made it without. Now, if
you'll just hold down my legs, we'll soon hoist his ludship.
He had seated her in the broadest part of the shallow hollow, where
the branch joined the main trunk of the fig. Heaped with the reeds
which he had gathered during the afternoon, it made such a cozy shelter
that she at once forgot her dizziness and fright. Nestling among the
reeds, she leaned over and pressed down on his ankles with all her
The loose end of the creeper had fallen to the ground when Blake
lifted her upon the branch, and Winthrope was already slipping into the
loop. Blake ordered him to take it off, and send up the club. As the
creeper was again flung down, a black shadow swept over the jungle.
Hello! Sunset! called Blake. Look sharp, there!
All ready, responded Winthrope.
Blake drew in a full breath, and began to hoist. The position was an
awkward one, and Winthrope weighed thirty or forty pounds more than
Miss Leslie. But as the Englishman came within reach of the descending
loop, he grasped it and did what he could to ease Blake's efforts. A
few moments found him as high above the ground as Blake could raise
him. Without waiting for orders, he swung himself upon the upper part
of the creeper, and climbed the last few feet unaided. Blake grunted
with satisfaction as he pulled him in upon the branch.
You may do, after all, he said. At any rate, we're all aboard for
the night; and none too soon. Hear that!
Lion, I guessNot that yelping. Listen!
The brief twilight was already fading into the darkness of a
moonless night, and as the three crouched together in their shallow
nest, they were soon made audibly aware of the savage nature of their
surroundings. With the gathering night the jungle wakened into full
life. From all sides came the harsh squawking of birds, the weird cries
of monkeys and other small creatures, the crash of heavy animals moving
through the jungle, and above all the yelp and howl and roar of beasts
After some contention with Winthrope, Blake conceded that the roars
of his lion might be nothing worse than the snorting of the hippopotami
as they came out to browse for the night. In this, however, there was
small comfort, since Winthrope presently reasserted his belief in the
climbing ability of leopards, and expressed his opinion that, whether
or not there were lions in the neighborhood, certain of the barking
roars they could hear came from the throats of the spotted climbers.
Even Blake's hair bristled as his imagination pictured one of the great
cats creeping upon them in the darkness from the far end of their nest
limb, or leaping down out of the upper branches.
The nerves of all three were at their highest tension when a dark
form swept past through the air within a yard of their faces. Miss
Leslie uttered a stifled scream, and Blake brandished his club. But
Winthrope, who had caught a glimpse of the creature's shape, broke into
a nervous laugh.
It's only a fruit bat, he explained. They feed on the banyan
figs, you know.
In the reaction from this false alarm, both men relaxed, and began
to yield to the effects of the tramp across the mud-flats. Arranging
the reeds as best they could, they stretched out on either side of Miss
Leslie, and fell asleep in the middle of an argument on how the
prospective leopard was most likely to attack.
Miss Leslie remained awake for two or three hours longer. Naturally
she was more nervous than her companions, and she had been refreshed by
her afternoon's nap. Her nervousness was not entirely due to the wild
beasts. Though Blake had taken pains to secure himself and his
companions in loops of the creeper, fastened to the branch above,
Winthrope moved about so restlessly in his sleep that the girl feared
he would roll from the hollow.
At last her limbs became so cramped that she was compelled to change
her position. She leaned back upon her elbow, determined to rise again
and maintain her watch the moment she was rested. But sleep was close
upon her. There was a lull in the louder noises of the jungle. Her eyes
closed, and her head sank lower. In a little time it was lying upon
Winthrope's shoulder, and she was fast asleep.
As Blake had asserted, the mosquitoes had either been blown away by
the cyclone, or did not fly to such a height. None came to trouble the
CHAPTER VI. MAN AND GENTLEMAN
Night had almost passed, and all three, soothed by the refreshing
coolness which preceded the dawn, were sleeping their soundest, when a
sudden fierce roar followed instantly by a piercing squeal caused even
Blake to start up in panic. Miss Leslie, too terrified to scream, clung
to Winthrope, who crouched on his haunches, little less overcome.
Blake was the first to recover and puzzle out the meaning of the
crashing in the jungle and the ferocious growls directly beneath them.
Lie still, he whispered. We're all right. It's only a beast
that's killed something down below us.
All sat listening, and as the noise of the animals in the thicket
died away, they could hear the beast beneath them tear at the body of
The air feels like dawn, whispered Winthrope. We'll soon be able
to see the brute.
And he us, rejoined Blake.
In this both were mistaken. During the brief false dawn they were
puzzled by the odd appearance of the ground. The sudden flood of full
daylight found them staring down into a dense white fog.
So they have that here! muttered Blakefever-fog!
Beastly shame! echoed Winthrope. I'm sure the creature has gone
This assertion was met by an outburst of snarls and yells that made
all start back and crouch down again in their sheltering hollow. As
before, Blake was the first to recover.
Bet you're right, he said. The big one has gone off, and a pack
of these African coyotes are having a scrap over the bones.
You mean jackals. It sounds like the nasty beasts.
If it wasn't for that fog, I'd go down and get our share of the
Would it not be very dangerous, Mr. Blake? asked Miss Leslie.
What a fearful noise!
I've chased coyotes off a calf with a rope; but that's not the
proposition. You don't find me fooling around in that sewer gas of a
fog. We'll roost right where we are till the sun does for it. We've got
enough malaria in us already.
Will it be long, Blake? asked Winthrope.
Huh? Getting hungry this quick? Wait till you've tramped around a
week, with nothing to eat but your shoes.
Surely, Mr. Blake, it will not be so bad! protested Miss Leslie.
Sorry, Miss Jenny; but cocoanut palms don't blow over every day,
and when those nuts are gone, what are we going to do for the next
Could we not make bows? suggested Winthrope. There seems to be no
end of game about.
Bowsand arrows without points! Neither of us could hit a barn
We could practise.
Suresix weeks' training on air pudding. I can do better with a
handful of stones.
Then we should go at once to the cliffs, said Miss Leslie.
Now you're talkingand it's Pike Peak or bust, for ours. Here's
one night to the good; but we won't last many more if we don't get
fire. It's flints we're after now.
Could we not make fire by rubbing sticks? said Winthrope,
recalling his suggestion of the previous morning. I've heard that
natives have no trouble
So've I, and what's more, I've seen 'em do it. Never could make a
go of it myself, though.
But if you remember how it is done, we have at least some chance
Give you ten to one odds! No; we'll scratch around for a flint good
and plenty before we waste time that way.
The mist is going, observed Miss Leslie.
That's no lie. Now for our coyotes. Where's my club?
They've all left, said Winthrope, peering down. I can see the
ground clearly, and there is not a sign of the beasts.
There are the boneswhat's left of them, added Blake. It's a
small deer, I suppose. Well, here goes.
He threw down his club, and dropped the loose end of the creeper
after it. As the line straightened, he twisted the upper part around
his leg, and was about to slide to the ground, when he remembered Miss
Think you can make it alone? he asked.
The girl held up her hands, sore and swollen from the lacerations of
the thorns. Blake looked at them, frowned, and turned to Winthrope.
Um! you got it, too, and in the face, he grunted. How's your
Winthrope wriggled his foot about, and felt the injured ankle.
I fancy it is much better, he answered. There seems to be no
swelling, and there is no pain now.
That's lucky; though it will tune up later. Take a slide, now.
We've got to hustle our breakfast, and find a way to get over the
How wide is it? inquired Winthrope, gazing at his swollen hands.
About three hundred yards at high tide. May be narrower at ebb.
Could you not build a raft? suggested Miss Leslie.
Blake smiled at her simplicity. Why not a boat? We've got a
Well, then, I can swim.
Bully for you! Guess, though, we'll try something else. The river
is chuck full of alligators. What you waiting for, Pat? We haven't got
all day to fool around here.
Winthrope twisted the creeper about his leg and slid to the ground,
doing all he could to favor his hands. He found that he could walk
without pain, and at once stepped over beside Blake's club, glancing
nervously around at the jungle.
Blake jerked up the end of the creeper, and passed the loop about
Miss Leslie. Before she had time to become frightened, he swung her
over and lowered her to the ground lightly as a feather. He followed,
hand under hand, and stood for a moment beside her, staring at the
dew-dripping foliage of the jungle. Then the remains of the night's
quarry caught his eye, and he walked over to examine them.
Say, Pat, he called, these don't look like deer bones. I'd
sayyes; there's the feetit's a pig.
Any tusks? demanded Winthrope.
Miss Leslie looked away. A heap of bones, however cleanly gnawed, is
not a pleasant sight. The skull of the animal seemed to be missing; but
Blake stumbled upon it in a tuft of grass, and kicked it out upon the
open ground. Every shred of hide and gristle had been gnawed from it by
the jackals; yet if there had been any doubt as to the creature's
identity, there was evidence to spare in the savage tusks which
projected from the jaws.
Je-rusalem! observed Blake; this old boar must have been
something of a scrapper his own self.
In India they have been known to kill a tiger. Can you knock out
Well, you said we had nothing for arrow points
Good boy! We'll cinch them, and ask questions later.
A few blows with the club loosened the tusks. Blake handed them over
to Winthrope, together with the whiskey flask, and led the way to the
half-broken path through the thicket. A free use of his club made the
path a little more worthy of the name, and as there was less need of
haste than on the previous evening, Winthrope and Miss Leslie came
through with only a few fresh scratches. Once on open ground again,
they soon gained the fallen palms.
At a word from Blake, Miss Leslie hastened to fetch nuts for
Winthrope to husk and open. Blake, who had plucked three leaves from a
fan palm near the edge of the jungle, began to split long shreds from
one of the huge leaves of a cocoanut palm. This gave him a quantity of
coarse, stiff fibre, part of which he twisted in a cord and used to tie
one of the leaves of the fan palm over his head.
How's that for a bonnet? he demanded.
The improvised head-gear bore so grotesque a resemblance to a recent
type of picture hat that Winthrope could not repress a derisive laugh.
Miss Leslie, however, examined the hat and gave her opinion without a
sign of amusement. I think it is splendid, Mr. Blake. If we must go
out in the sun again, it is just the thing to protect one.
Yes. Here's two more I've fixed for you. Ready yet, Winthrope?
The Englishman nodded, and the three sat down to their third feast
of cocoanuts. They were hungry enough at the start, and Blake added no
little keenness even to his own appetite by a grim joke on the slender
prospects of the next meal, to the effect that, if in the meantime not
eaten themselves, they might possibly find their next meal within a
But if we must move, could we not take some of the nuts with us?
Blake pondered over this as he ate, and when, fully satisfied, he
helped himself up with his club, he motioned the others to remain
There are your hats and the strings, he said, but you won't need
them now. I'm going to take a prospect along the river; and while I'm
gone, you can make a try at stringing nuts on some of this leaf fibre.
But, Mr. Blake, do you think it's quite safe? asked Miss Leslie,
and she glanced from him to the jungle.
Safe? he repeated. Well, nothing ate you yesterday, if that's
anything to go by. It's all I know about it.
He did not wait for further protests. Swinging his club on his
shoulder, he started for the break in the jungle which marked the
hippopotamus path. The others looked at each other, and Miss Leslie
If only he were a gentleman! she complained.
Winthrope turned abruptly to the cocoanuts.
CHAPTER VII. AROUND THE HEADLAND
It was mid morning before Blake reappeared. He came from the
mangrove swamp where it ran down into the sea. His trousers were
smeared to the thigh with slimy mud; but as he approached, the drooping
brim of his palm-leaf hat failed to hide his exultant expression.
Come on! he called. I've struck it. We'll be over in half an
How's that? asked Winthrope.
Bar, answered Blake, hurrying forward. Sling on your hats, and
get into my coat again, Miss Jenny. The sun's hot as yesterday. How
about the nuts?
Here they are. Three strings; all that I fancied we could carry,
All right. The big one is mine, I suppose. I'll take two. We'll
leave the other. Lean on me, if your ankle is still weak.
Thanks; I can make it alone. But must we go through mud like that?
Not on this side, at least. Come on! We don't want to miss the
Blake's impatience discouraged further inquiries. He had turned as
he spoke, and the others followed him, walking close together. The pace
was sharp for Winthrope, and his ankle soon began to twinge. He was
compelled to accept Miss Leslie's invitation to take her arm. With her
help, he managed to keep within a few yards of Blake.
Instead of plunging into the mangrove wood, which here was
undergrown with a thicket of giant ferns, Blake skirted around in the
open until they came to the seashore. The tide was at its lowest, and
he waved his club towards a long sand spit which curved out around the
seaward edge of the mangroves. Whether this was part of the river's
bar, or had been heaped up by the cyclone would have been beyond
Winthrope's knowledge, had the question occurred to him. It was enough
for him that the sand was smooth and hard as a race track.
Presently the party came to the end of the spit, where the river
water rippled over the sand with the last feeble out-suck of the ebb.
On their right they had a sweeping view of the river, around the flank
of the mangrove screen. Blake halted at the edge of the water, and half
Close up, he said. It's shallow enough; but do you see those logs
over on the mud-bank? Those are alligators.
Mercy!and you expect me to wade among such creatures? cried Miss
I went almost across an hour ago, and they didn't bother me any.
Come on! There's wind in that cloud out seaward. Inside half an hour
the surf'll be rolling up on this bar like all Niagara.
If we must, we must, Miss Genevieve, urged Winthrope. Step behind
me, and gather up your skirts. It's best to keep one's clothes dry in
The girl blushed, and retained his arm.
I prefer to help you, she replied.
Come on! called Blake, and he splashed out into the water.
The others followed within arm's-length, nervously conscious of the
rows of motionless reptiles on the mud-flat, not a hundred yards
In the centre of the bar, where the water was a trifle over
knee-deep, some large creature came darting down-stream beneath the
surface, and passed with a violent swirl between Blake and his
companions. At Miss Leslie's scream, Blake whirled about and jabbed
with his club at the supposed alligator.
Where's the brute? Has he got you? he shouted.
No, no; he went by! gasped Winthrope. There he is!
A long bony snout, fringed on either side by a row of lateral teeth,
was flung up into view.
Sawfish! said Blake, and he waded on across the bar, without
Miss Leslie had been on the point of fainting. The tone of Blake's
voice revived her instantly.
There were no more scares. A few minutes later they waded out upon a
stretch of clean sand on the south side of the river. Before them the
beach lay in a flattened curve, which at the far end hooked sharply to
the left, and appeared to terminate at the foot of the towering
limestone cliffs of the headland. A mile or more inland the river
jungle edged in close to the cliffs; but from there to the beach the
forest was separated from the wall of rock by a little sandy plain,
covered with creeping plants and small palms. The greatest width of the
open space was hardly more than a quarter of a mile.
Blake paused for a moment at high-tide mark, and Winthrope instantly
squatted down to nurse his ankle.
I say, Blake, he said, can't you find me some kind of a crutch?
It is only a few yards around to those trees.
Good Lord! you haven't been fool enough to overstrain that ankle
Yes, you have. Dammit! why couldn't you tell me before?
It did not feel so painful in the water.
I helped the best I could, interposed Miss Leslie. I think if you
could get Mr. Winthrope a crutch
Crutch! growled Blake. How long do you think it would take me to
wade through the mud? And look at that cloud! We're in for a squall.
He handed the girl the smaller string of cocoanuts, flung the other
up the beach, and stooped for Winthrope to mount his back. He then
started off along the beach at a sharp trot. Miss Leslie followed as
best she could, the heavy cocoanuts swinging about with every step and
bruising her tender body.
The wind was coming faster than Blake had calculated. Before they
had run two hundred paces, they heard the roar of rain-lashed water,
and the squall struck them with a force that almost overthrew the girl.
With the wind came torrents of rain that drove through their thickest
garments and drenched them to the skin within the first half-minute.
Blake slackened his pace to a walk, and plodded sullenly along
beneath the driving down-pour. He kept to the lower edge of the beach,
where the sand was firmest, for the force of the falling deluge beat
down the waves and held in check the breakers which the wind sought to
roll up the beach.
The rain storm was at its height when they reached the foot of the
cliffs. The gray rock towered above them, thirty or forty feet high.
Blake deposited Winthrope upon a wet ledge, and straightened up to scan
the headland. Here and there ledges ran more than half-way up the rocky
wall; in other places the crest was notched by deep clefts; but nowhere
within sight did either offer a continuous path to the summit. Blake
grunted with disgust.
It'd take a fire ladder to get up this side, he said. We'll have
to try the other, if we can get around the point. I'm going on ahead.
You can follow, after Pat has rested his ankle. Keep a sharp eye out
for anything in the flint linequartz or agate. That means fire.
Another thing, when this rain blows over, don't let your clothes dry on
you. I've got my hands full enough, without having to nurse you through
malarial fever. Don't forget the cocoanuts, and if I don't show up by
noon, save me some.
He stooped to drink from a pool in the rock which was overflowing
with the cool, pure rainwater, and started off at his sharpest pace.
Winthrope and Miss Leslie, seated side by side in dripping misery,
watched him swing away through the rain, without energy enough to call
out a parting word.
Beneath the cliff the sand beach was succeeded by a talus of rocky
debris which in places sloped up from the water ten or fifteen feet.
The lower part of the slope consisted of boulders and water-worn
stones, over which the surf, reinforced by the rising tide, was
beginning to break with an angry roar.
Blake picked his way quickly over the smaller stones near the top of
the slope, now and then bending to snatch up a fragment that seemed to
differ from the others. Finding nothing but limestone, he soon turned
his attention solely to the passage around the headland. Here he had
expected to find the surf much heavier. But the shore was protected by
a double line of reefs, so close in that the channel between did not
show a whitecap. This was fortunate, since in places the talus here
sank down almost to the level of low tide. Even a moderate surf would
have rendered farther progress impracticable.
Another hundred paces brought Blake to the second corner of the
cliff, which jutted out in a little point. He clambered around it, and
stopped to survey the coast beyond. Within the last few minutes the
squall had blown over, and the rain began to moderate its down-pour.
The sun, bursting through the clouds, told that the storm was almost
past, and its flood of direct light cleared the view.
Along the south side of the cliff the sea extended in twice as far
as on the north. From the end of the talus the coast trended off four
or five miles to the south-southwest in a shallow bight, whose southern
extremity was bounded by a second limestone headland. This ridge ran
inland parallel to the first, and from a point some little distance
back from the shore was covered with a growth of leafless trees.
Between the two ridges lay a plain, open along the shore, but a
short distance inland covered with a jungle of tall yellow grass, above
which, here and there, rose the tops of scrubby, leafless trees and the
graceful crests of slender-shafted palms. Blake's attention was drawn
to the latter by that feeling of artificiality which their exotic
appearance so often wakens in the mind of the Northern-bred man even
after long residence in the tropics. But in a moment he turned away,
with a growl. More of those darned feather-dusters! He was not
looking for palms.
The last ragged bit of cloud, with its showery accompaniment,
drifted past before the breeze which followed the squall, and the end
of the storm was proclaimed by a deafening chorus of squawks and
screams along the higher ledges of the cliff. Staring upward, Blake for
the first time observed that the face of the cliff swarmed with
That's luck! he muttered. Guess I haven't forgot how to rob
nests. Bet our fine lady'll shy at sucking them raw! All the same,
she'll have to, if I don't run across other rock than this, poor girl!
He advanced again along the talus, and did not stop until he reached
the sand beach. There he halted to make a careful examination, not only
of the loose debris, but of the solid rock above. Finding no sign of
flint or quartz, he growled out a curse, and backed off along the
beach, to get a view of the cliff top. From a point a little beyond
him, outward to the extremity of the headland, he could see that the
upper ledges and the crest of the cliff, as well, were fairly crowded
with seafowl and their nests. His smile of satisfaction broadened when
he glanced inland and saw, less than half a mile distant, a wooded
cleft which apparently ran up to the summit of the ridge. From a point
near the top a gigantic baobab tree towered up against the skyline like
a Brobdingnagian cabbage.
Say, we may have a run for our money, after all, he murmured.
Shade, and no end of grub, and, by the green of those trees, a
springlimestone water at that. Next thing, I'll find a flint!
He slapped his leg, and both sound and feeling reminded him that his
clothes were drenched.
Guess we'll wait about that flint, he said, and he made for a
clump of thorn scrub a little way inland.
As the tall grass did not grow here within a mile of the shore,
there was nothing to obstruct him. The creeping plants which during the
rainy season had matted over the sandy soil were now leafless and
withered by the heat of the dry season. Even the thorn scrub was half
bare of leaves.
Blake walked around the clump to the shadiest side, and began to
strip. In quick succession, one garment after another was flung across
a branch where the sun would strike it. Last of all, the shoes were
emptied of rainwater and set out to dry. Without a pause, he then gave
himself a quick, light rub-down, just sufficient to invigorate the skin
without starting the perspiration.
Physically the man was magnificent. His muscles were wiry and
compact, rather than bulky, and as he moved, they played beneath his
white skin with the smoothness and ease of a tiger's.
After the rub-down, he squatted on his heels, and spent some time
trying to bend his palm-leaf hat back into shape. When he had placed
this also out in the sun, he found himself beginning to yawn. The dry,
sultry air had made him drowsy. A touch with his bare foot showed him
that the sand beneath the thorn bush had already absorbed the rain and
offered a dry surface. He glanced around, drew his club nearer, and
stretched himself out for a nap.
CHAPTER VIII. THE CLUB AGE
It was past two o'clock when the sun, striking in where Blake lay
outstretched, began to scorch one of his legs. He stirred uneasily, and
sat upright. Like a sailor, he was wide awake the moment he opened his
eyes. He stood up, and peered around through the half leafless
Over the water thousands of gulls and terns, boobies and cormorants
were skimming and diving, while above them a number of graceful frigate
birdsthose swart, scarlet-throated pirates of the air,hung poised,
ready to swoop down and rob the weaker birds of their fish. All about
the headland and the surrounding water was life in fullest action. Even
from where he stood Blake could hear the harsh clamor of the seafowl.
In marked contrast to this scene, the plain was apparently lifeless.
When Blake rose, a small brown lizard darted away across the sand.
Otherwise there was neither sight nor sound of a living creature. Blake
pondered this as he gathered his clothes into the shade and began to
Looks like the siesta is the all-round style in this God-forsaken
hole, he grumbled. Haven't seen so much as a rabbit, nor even one
land bird. May be a droughtno; must be the dry seasonWhee, these
things are hot! I'm thirsty as a shark. Now, where's that softy and her
Ladyship? 'Fraid she's in for a tough time!
He drew on his shoes with a jerk, growled at their stiffness, and
club in hand, stepped clear of the brush to look for his companions.
The first glance along the foot of the cliff showed him Winthrope lying
under the shade of the overhanging ledges, a few yards beyond the sand
beach. Of Miss Leslie there was no sign. Half alarmed by this, Blake
started for the beach with his swinging stride. Winthrope was awake,
and on Blake's approach, sat up to greet him.
Hello! he called. Where have you been all this time?
'Sleep. Where's Miss Leslie?
She's around the point.
Blake grinned mockingly. Indeed! But I fawncy she won't be for
He would have passed on, but Winthrope stepped before him.
Don't go out there, Blake, he protested. Iahthink it would be
better if I went.
Why? demanded Blake.
Winthrope hesitated; but an impatient movement by Blake forced an
answer: Well, you remember, this morning, telling us to dry our
Yes; I remember, said Blake. So you want to serve as lady's
Winthrope's plump face turned a sickly yellow.
Iahvalet?What do you mean, sir? I protestI do not
understand you! he stammered. But in the midst, catching sight of
Blake's bewildered stare, he suddenly flushed crimson, and burst out in
unrestrained anger: Youyou bounderyou beastly cad! Any man with an
ounce of decency
Blake uttered a jeering laughWow! Hark, how the British lion
r-r-ro-ars when his tail's twisted!
You beastly cad! repeated the Englishman, now purple with rage.
Blake's unpleasant pleasantry gave place to a scowl. His jaw thrust
out like a bulldog's, and he bent towards Winthrope with a menacing
look. For a moment the Englishman faced him, sustained by his anger.
But there was a steely light in Blake's eyes that he could not
withstand. Winthrope's defiant stare wavered and fell. He shrank back,
the color fast ebbing from his cheeks.
Ugh! growled Blake. Guess you won't blat any more about cads! You
damned hypocrite! Maybe I'm not on to how you've been hanging around
Miss Leslie just because she's an heiress. Anything is fair enough for
you swells. But let a fellow so much as open his mouth about your
exalted set, and it's perfectly dreadful, you know!
He paused for a reply. Winthrope only drew back a step farther, and
eyed him with a furtive, sidelong glance. This brought Blake back to
his mocking jeer. You'll learn, Pat, me b'y. There's lots of things'll
show up different to you before we get through this picnic. For one
thing, I'm boss herepresident, congress, and supreme court.
By what right, may I ask? murmured Winthrope.
Right! answered Blake. That hasn't anything to do with the
questionit's might. Back in civilized parts, your little crowd has
the drop on my big crowd, and runs things to suit themselves. But here
we've sort of reverted to primitive society. This happens to be the
Club Age, and I'm the Man with the Big Stick. See?
I myself sympathize with the lower classes, Mr. Blake. Above all, I
think it barbarous the way they punish one who is forced by
circumstances to appropriate part of the ill-gotten gains of the rich
upstarts. But do you believe, Mr. Blake, that brute strength
You bet! Now shut up. Where're the cocoanuts?
Winthrope picked up two nuts and handed them over.
There were only five, he explained.
All right. I'm no captain of industry.
Ah, true; you said we had reverted to barbarism, rejoined
Winthrope, venturing an attempt at sarcasm.
Lucky for you! retorted Blake. But where's Miss Leslie all this
time? Her clothes must have dried hours ago.
They did. We had luncheon together just this side of the point.
Oh, you did! Then why shouldn't I go for her?
IIthere was a shaded pool around the point, and she thought a
dip in the salt water would refresh her. She went not more than half an
So that's it. Well, while I eat, you go and call herand say, you
keep this side the point. I'm looking out for Miss Leslie now.
Winthrope hurried away, clenching his fists and almost weeping with
impotent rage. Truly, matters were now very different from what they
had been aboard ship. Fortunately he had not gone a dozen steps before
Miss Leslie appeared around the corner of the cliff. He was scrambling
along over the loose stones of the slope without the slightest
consideration for his ankle. The girl, more thoughtful, waved to him to
wait for her where he was.
As she approached, Blake's frown gave place to a look that made his
face positively pleasant. He had already drained the cocoanuts; now he
proceeded to smash the shells into small bits, that he might eat the
meat, and at the same time keep his gaze on the girl. The cliff foot
being well shaded by the towering wall of rock, she had taken off his
coat, and was carrying it on her arm; so that there was nothing to mar
the effect of her dainty openwork waist, with its elbow sleeves and
graceful collar and the filmy veil of lace over the shoulders and
bosom. Her skirt had been washed clean by the rain, and she had managed
to stretch it into shape before drying.
Refreshed by a nap in the forenoon and by her salt-water dip, she
showed more vivacity than at any time that Winthrope could remember
during their acquaintance. Her suffering during and since the storm had
left its mark in the dark circles beneath her hazel eyes, but this in
no wise lessened their brightness; while the elasticity of her step
showed that she had quite recovered her well-bred ease and grace of
She bowed and smiled to the two men impartially. Good-afternoon,
Same to you, Miss Leslie! responded Blake, staring at her with
frank admiration. You look fresh as a daisy.
Genial and sincere as was his tone, the familiarity jarred on her
sensitive ear. She colored as she turned from him.
Is there anything new, Mr. Winthrope? she asked.
I'm afraid not, Miss Genevieve. Like ourselves, Blake took a nap.
Yes; but Blake first took a squint at the scenery. Just see if
you've got everything, and fix your hats. We'll be in the sun for half
a mile or so. Better get on the coat, Miss Leslie. It's hotter than
Permit me, said Winthrope.
Blake watched while the Englishman held the coat for the girl and
rather fussily raised the collar about her neck and turned back the
sleeves, which extended beyond the tips of her fingers. The American's
face was stolid; but his glance took in every little look and act of
his companions. He was not altogether unversed in the ways of good
society, and it seemed to him that the Englishman was somewhat
over-assiduous in his attentions.
All ready, Blake, remarked Winthrope, finally, with a last
'Bout time! grunted Blake. You're fussy as a tailor. Got the
flask and cigarette case and the knife?
All safe, sirerall safe, Blake.
Then you two follow me slow enough not to worry that ankle. I don't
want any more of the pack-mule in mine.
Where are we going, Mr. Blake? exclaimed Miss Leslie. You will
not leave us again!
It's only a half-mile, Miss Jenny. There's a break in the ridge.
I'm going on ahead to find if it's hard to climb.
But why should we climb?
Food, for one thing. You see, this end of the cliff is covered with
sea-birds. Another thing, I expect to strike a spring.
Oh, I hope you do! The water in the rain pools is already warm.
They'll be dry in a day or two. Say, Winthrope, you might fetch
some of those stonessize of a ball. I used to be a fancy pitcher when
I was a kid, and we might scare up a rabbit or something.
I play cricket myself. But these stones
Better'n a gun, when you haven't got the gun. Come on. We'll go in
a bunch, after all, in case I need stones.
With due consideration for Winthrope's ankle,not for
Winthrope,Blake set so slow a pace that the half-mile's walk consumed
over half an hour. But his smouldering irritation was soon quenched
when they drew near the green thicket at the foot of the cleft. In the
almost deathlike stillness of mid-afternoon, the sound of trickling
water came to their ears, clear and musical.
A spring! shouted Blake. I guessed right. Look at those green
plants and grass; there's the channel where it runs out in the sand and
The others followed him eagerly as he pushed in among the trees.
They saw no running water, for the tiny rill that trickled down the
ledges was matted over with vines. But at the foot of the slope lay a
pool, some ten yards across, and overshadowed by the surrounding trees.
There was no underbrush, and the ground was trampled bare as a floor.
By Jove, said Winthrope; see the tracks! There must have been a
drove of sheep about.
Deer, you mean, replied Blake, bending to examine the deeper
prints at the edge of the pool. These ain't sheep tracks. A lot of
them are larger.
Could you not uncover the brook? asked Miss Leslie. If animals
have been drinking here, one would prefer cleaner water.
Sure, assented Blake. If you're game for a climb, and can wait a
few minutes, we'll get it out of the spring itself. We've got to go up
anyway, to get at our poultry yard.
Here's a place that looks like a path, called Winthrope, who had
circled about the edge of the pool to the farther side.
Blake ran around beside him, and stared at the tunnel-like passage
which wound up the limestone ledges beneath the over-arching thickets.
Odd place, is it not? observed Winthrope. Looks like a fox run,
only larger, you know.
Too low for deer, thoughand their hoofs would have cut up the
moss and ferns more. Let's get a close look.
As he spoke, Blake stooped and climbed a few yards up the trail to
an overhanging ledge, four or five feet high. Where the trail ran up
over this break in the slope the stone was bare of all vegetation.
Blake laid his club on the top of the ledge, and was about to vault
after it, when, directly beneath his nose, he saw the print of a great
catlike paw, outlined in dried mud. At the same instant a deep growl
came rumbling down the fox run. Without waiting for a second warning,
Blake drew his club to him, and crept back down the trail. His stealthy
movements and furtive backward glances filled his companions with vague
terror. He himself was hardly less alarmed.
Get out of the treesinto the open! he exclaimed in a hoarse
whisper, and as they crept away, white with dread of the unknown
danger, he followed at their heels, looking backward, his club raised
in readiness to strike.
Once clear of the trees, Winthrope caught Miss Leslie by the hand,
and broke into a run. In their terror, they paid no heed to Blake's
command to stop. They had darted off so unexpectedly that he did not
overtake them short of a hundred yards.
Hold on! he said, gripping Winthrope roughly by the shoulder.
It's safe enough here, and you'll knock out that blamed ankle.
What is it? What did you see? gasped Miss Leslie.
Footprint, mumbled Blake, ashamed of his fright.
A lion's? cried Winthrope.
Not so large'bout the size of a puma's. Must be a leopard's den
up there. I heard a growl, and thought it about time to clear out.
By Jove, we'd better withdraw around the point!
Withdraw your aunty! There's no leopard going to tackle us out here
in open ground this time of day. The sneaking tomcat! If only I had a
match, I'd show him how we smoke rat holes.
Mr. Winthrope spoke of rubbing sticks to make fire, suggested Miss
Make sweat, you mean. But we may as well try it now, if we're going
to at all. The sun's hot enough to fry eggs. We'll go back to a shady
place, and pick up sticks on the way.
Though there was shade under the cliff within some six hundred feet,
they had to go some distance to the nearest dry wooda dead
thorp-bush. Here they gathered a quantity of branches, even Miss Leslie
volunteering to carry a load.
All was thrown down in a heap near the cliff, and Blake squatted
beside it, penknife in hand. Having selected the dryest of the larger
sticks, he bored a hole in one side and dropped in a pinch of powdered
bark. Laying the stick in the full glare of the sun, he thrust a twig
into the hole, and began to twirl it between his palms. This movement
he kept up for several minutes; but whether he was unable to twirl the
twig fast enough, or whether the right kind of wood or tinder was
lacking, all his efforts failed to produce a spark.
Unwilling to accept the failure, Winthrope insisted upon trying in
turn, and pride held him to the task until he was drenched with sweat.
The result was the same.
Told you so, jeered Blake from where he. lay in the shade. We'd
stand more chance cracking stones together.
But what shall we do now? asked Miss Leslie. I am becoming very
tired of cocoanuts, and there seems to be nothing else around here.
Indeed, I think this is all such a waste of time. If we had walked
straight along the shore this morning we might have reached a town.
We might, Miss Jenny, and then, again, we mightn't. I happened to
overhaul the captain's chartQuilimane, Mozambiquethat's all for
hundreds of miles. Towns on this coast are about as thick as
How about native villages? demanded Winthrope.
Oh, yes; maybe I'm fool enough to go into a wild nigger town
without a gun. Maybe I didn't talk with fellows down on the Rand.
But what shall we do? repeated Miss Leslie, with a little
frightened catch in her voice. She was at last beginning to realize
what this rude break in her sheltered, pampered life might mean. What
shall we do? It'sit's absurd to think of having to stay in this
horrid country for weeks or perhaps monthsunless some ship comes for
Look here, Miss Leslie, answered Blake, sharply yet not unkindly;
suppose you just sit back and use your thinker a bit. If you're your
daddy's daughter, you've got brains somewhere down under the
What do you mean, sir?
Now, don't get huffy, please! It's a question of think, not of
putting on airs. Here we are, worse off than the people of the Stone
Age. They had fire and flint axes; we've got nothing but our think
tanks, and as to lions and leopards and that sort of thing, it strikes
me we've got about as many on hand as they had.
Then you and Mr. Winthrope should immediately arm yourselves.
How?But we'll leave that till later. What else?
The girl gazed at the surrounding objects, her forehead wrinkled in
the effort at concentration. We must have water. Think how we suffered
yesterday! Then there is shelter from wild beasts, and food, and
All right here under our hands, if we had fire. Understand?
I understand about the water. You would frighten the leopard away
with the fire; and if it would do that, it would also keep away the
other animals at night. But as for food, unless we return for
Don't give it up! Keep your thinker going on the side, while Pat
tells us our next move. Now that he's got the fire sticks out of his
I say, Blake, I wish you would drop that name. It is no harder to
You're off, there, rejoined Blake. But look here, I'll make it
Win, if you figure out what we ought to do next.
Really, Blake, that would not be half bad. Theyerthey called me
Win at Harrow.
That so? My English chum went to HarrowJimmy Scarbridge.
Lord James!your chum?
He started in like you, sort of top-lofty. But he chummed all
rightafter I took out a lot of his British starch with a good
Oh, really now, Blake, you can't expect any one with brains to
believe that, you know!
No; I don't know, you know,and I don't know if you've got any
brains, you know. Here's your chance to show us. What's our next move?
Really, now, I have had no experience in this sort of thingdon't
interrupt, please! It seems to me that our first concern is shelter for
the night. If we should return to your tree nest, we should also be
near the cocoa palms.
That's one side. Here's the other. Bar to wade acrosssharks and
alligators; then swampy groundmalaria, mosquitoes, thorn jungle.
Guess the hands of both of you are still sore enough, by their look.
If only I had a pot of cold cream! sighed Miss Leslie.
If only I had a hunk of jerked beef! echoed Blake.
I say, why couldn't we chance it for the night around on the
seaward face of the cliff? asked Winthrope. I noticed a place where
the ledges overhangalmost a cave. Do you think it probable that any
wild beast would venture so close to the sea?
Can't say. Didn't see any tracks; so we'll chance it for to-night.
By morning I believe my ankle will be in such shape that I could go
back for the string of cocoanuts which we dropped on the beach.
I'll go myself, to-day, else we'll have no supper. Now we're
getting down to bedrock. If those nuts haven't been washed away by the
tide, we're fixed for to-night; and for two meals, such as they are.
But what next? Even the rain pools will be dried up by another day or
Are not sea-birds good to eat? inquired Miss Leslie.
Then, if only we could climb the cliffmight there not be another
No; I've looked at both sides. What's more, that spotted tomcat has
got a monopoly on our water supply. The river may be fresh at low tide;
but we've got nothing to boil water in, and such bayou stuff is just
Then we must find water elsewhere, responded Miss Leslie. Might
we not succeed if we went on to the other ridge?
That's the ticket! You've got a headpiece, Miss Jenny! It's too
late to start now. But first thing to-morrow I'll take a run down that
way, while you two lay around camp and see if you can twist some sort
of fish-line out of cocoanut fibre. By braiding your hair, Miss Jenny,
you can spare us your hair-pins for hooks.
But, Mr. Blake, I'm afraidI'd rather you'd take us with you. With
that dreadful creature so near
Well, I don't know. Let's see your feet?
Miss Leslie glanced at him, and thrust a slender foot from beneath
Um-mstocking torn; but those slippers are tougher than I thought.
Most of the way will be good walking, along the beach. We'll leave the
fishing to Paterbeg pardonWin! With his ankle
By Jove, Blake, I'll chance the ankle. Don't leave me behind. I
give you my word, you'll not have to lug me.
Oh, of course, Mr. Winthrope must go with us!
'Fraid to go alone, eh? demanded Blake, frowning.
His tone startled and offended her; yet all he saw was a politely
quizzical lifting of her brows.
Why should I be afraid, Mr. Blake? she asked.
Blake stared at her moodily. But when she met his gaze with a
confiding smile, he flushed and looked away.
All right, he muttered; well move camp together. But don't expect
me to pack his ludship, if we draw a blank and have to trek back
without food or water.
CHAPTER IX. THE LEOPARDS' DEN
While Blake made a successful trip for the abandoned cocoanuts, his
companions levelled the stones beneath the ledges chosen by Winthrope,
and gathered enough dried sea-weed along the talus to soften the hard
Soothed by the monotonous wash of the sea among the rocks, even Miss
Leslie slept well. Blake, who had insisted that she should retain his
coat, was wakened by the chilliness preceding the dawn. Five minutes
later they started on their journey.
The starlight glimmered on the waves and shed a faint radiance over
the rocks. This and their knowledge of the way enabled them to pick a
path along the foot of the cliff without difficulty. Once on the beach,
they swung along at a smart gait, invigorated by the cool air.
Dawn found them half way to their goal. Blake called a halt when the
first red streaks shot up the eastern sky. All stood waiting until the
quickly following sun sprang forth from the sea. Blake's first act was
to glance from one headland to the other, estimating their relative
distances. His grunt of satisfaction was lost in Winthrope's
exclamation, By Jove, look at the cattle!
Blake and Miss Leslie turned to stare at the droves of animals
moving about between them and the border of the tall grass. Miss Leslie
was the first to speak. They can't be cattle, Mr. Winthrope. There are
some with stripes. I do believe they're zebras!
Get down! commanded Blake. They're all wild game. Those big
ox-like fellows to the left of the zebras are eland. Whee! wouldn't we
be in it if we owned that water hole? I'll bet I'd have one of those
fat beeves inside three days.
How I should enjoy a juicy steak! murmured Miss Leslie.
Raw or jerked? questioned Blake.
What is 'jerked'?
Oh, no; I mean broiledjust red inside.
I prefer mine quite rare, added Winthrope.
That's the way you'll get it, damned rareBeg your pardon, Miss
Jenny! Without fire, we'll have the choice of raw or jerked.
Jerked meat is all right. You cut your game in strips
With a penknife! laughed Miss Leslie.
Blake stared at her glumly. That's so. You've got it back on
meButcher a beef with a penknife! We'll have to take it raw, and
dog-fashion at that.
Haven't I heard of bamboo knives? said Winthrope.
I'm sure I can't say, but as I remember, it seems to me that the
Silica? Say, that would cut meat. But where inwhere in hades are
I'm sure I can't say. Only I remember that I have seen them in
other tropical places, you know.
Meantime I prefer cocoanuts, until we have a fire to broil our
steaks, remarked Miss Leslie.
Ditto, Miss Jenny, long's we have the nuts and no meat. I'm a
vegetarian nowbut maybe my mouth ain't watering for something else.
Look at all those chops and roasts and stews running around out there!
They are making for the grass, observed Winthrope. Hadn't we
Nuts won't weigh so much without the shells. We'll eat right here.
There were only a few nuts left. They were drained and cracked and
scooped out, one after another. The last chanced to break evenly across
Hello, said Blake, the lower part of this will do for a bowl,
Miss Jenny. When you've eaten the cream, put it in your pocket. Say,
Win, have you got the bottle and keys and
Are you sure, Mr. Winthrope? asked Miss Leslie. Men's pockets
seem so open. Twice I've had to pick up Mr. Blake's locket.
Locket? echoed Blake.
The ivory locket. Women may be curious, Mr. Blake, but I assure
you, I did not look inside, though
Let megive it herequick! gasped Blake.
Startled by his tone and look, Miss Leslie caught an oval object
from the side pocket of the coat, and thrust it into Blake's
outstretched hand. For a moment he stared at it, unable to believe his
eyes; then he leaped up, with a yell that sent the droves of zebras and
antelope flying into the tall grass.
Oh! oh! screamed Miss Leslie. Is it a snake? Are you bitten?
Bitten?Yes, by John Barleycorn! Must have been fuzzy drunk to put
it in my coat. Always carry it in my fob pocket. What a blasted
infernal idiot I've been! Kick me, Win,kick me hard!
I say, Blake, what is it? I don't quite take you. If you would
Fire!fire! Can't you see? We've got all hell beat! Look
He snapped open the slide of the supposed locket, and before either
of his companions could realize what he would be about, was focussing
the lens of a surveyor's magnifying-glass upon the back of Winthrope's
hand. The Englishman jerked the hand away
Ow! That burns!
Blake shook the glass in their bewildered faces.
Look there! he shouted, there's fire; there's water; there's
birds' eggs and beefsteaks! Here's where we trek on the back trail.
We'll smoke out that leopard in short order!
You don't mean to say, Blake
No; I mean to do! Don't worry. You can hide with Miss Jenny on the
point, while I engineer the deal. Fall in.
The day was still fresh when they found themselves back at the foot
of the cliff. Here arose a heated debate between the men. Winthrope,
stung by Blake's jeering words, insisted upon sharing the attack,
though with no great enthusiasm. Much to Blake's surprise, Miss Leslie
came to the support of the Englishman.
But, Mr. Blake, she argued, you say it will be perfectly safe for
us here. If so, it will be safe for myself alone.
I can play this game without him.
No doubt. Yet if, as you say, you expect to keep off the leopard
with a torch, would it not be well to have Mr. Winthrope at hand with
other torches, should yours burn out?
Yes; if I thought he'd be at hand after the first scare.
Winthrope started off, almost on a run. At that moment he might have
faced the leopard single-handed. Blake chuckled as he swung away after
his victim. Within ten paces, however, he paused to call back over his
shoulder: Get around the point, Miss Jenny, and if you want something
to do, try braiding the cocoanut fibre.
Miss Leslie made no response; but she stood for some time gazing
after the two men. There was so much that was characteristic even in
this rear view. For all his anger and his haste, the Englishman bore
himself with an air of well-bred nicety. His trim, erect figure needed
only a fresh suit to be irreproachable. On the other hand, a careless
observer, at first glance, might have mistaken Blake, with his flannel
shirt and shouldered club, for a hulking navvy. But there was nothing
of the navvy in his swinging stride or in the resolute poise of his
head as he came up with Winthrope.
Though the girl was not given to reflection, the contrast between
the two could not but impress her. How well her countrymancoarse,
uncultured, but full of brute strength and couragefitted in with
these primitive surroundings. Whereas Winthrope . . . . and herself . .
She fell into a kind of disquieted brown study. Her eyes had an odd
look, both startled and meditative,such a look as might be expected
of one who for the first time is peering beneath the surface of things,
and sees the naked Realities of Life, the real values, bared of masking
conventions. It may have been that she was seeking to ponder the
meaning of her own existencethat she had caught a glimpse of the
vanity and wastefulness, the utter futility of her life. At the best,
it could only have been a glimpse. But was not that enough?
Of what use are such people as I? she cried. That man may be
rough and coarse,even a brute; but he at least does thingsI'll show
him that I can do things, too!
She hastened out around the corner of the cliff to the spot where
they had spent the night. Here she gathered together the cocoanut
husks, and seating herself in the shade of the overhanging ledges,
began to pick at the coarse fibre. It was cruel work for her soft
fingers, not yet fully healed from the thorn wounds. At times the pain
and an overpowering sense of injury brought tears to her eyes; still
more often she dropped the work in despair of her awkwardness. Yet
always she returned to the task with renewed energy.
After no little perseverance, she found how to twist the fibre and
plait it into cord. At best it was slow work, and she did not see how
she should ever make enough cord for a fish-line. Yet, as she caught
the knack of the work and her fingers became more nimble, she began to
enjoy the novel pleasure of producing something.
She had quite forgot to feel injured, and was learning to endure
with patience the rasping of the fibre between her fingers, when
Winthrope came clambering around the corner of the cliff.
What is it? she exclaimed, springing up and hurrying to meet him.
He was white and quivering, and the look in his eyes filled her with
Her voice shrilled to a scream, He's dead!
Winthrope shook his head.
Then he's hurt!he's hurt by that savage creature, and you've run
off and left him
No, no, Miss Genevieve, I must insist! The fellow is not even
It was the horror of it all. It actually made me ill.
You frightened me almost to death. Did the beast chase you?
That would have been better, in a way. Really, it was horrible! I'm
still sick over it, Miss Genevieve.
But tell me about it. Did you set fire to the bushes in the cleft,
as Mr. Blake
Yes; after we had fetched what we could carry of that long
grasstwo big trusses. It grows ten or twelve feet tall, and is now
quite dry. Part of it Blake made into torches, and we fired the bush
all across the foot of the cleft. Really, one would not have thought
there was that much dry wood in so green a dell. On either side of the
rill the grass and brush flared like tinder, and the flames swept up
the cleft far quicker than we had expected. We could hear them
crackling and roaring louder than ever after the smoke shut out our
Surely, there is nothing so very horrible in that.
No, oh, no; it was not that. But the beastthe leopard! At first
we heard one roar; then it was that dreadful snarling and yellingmost
awful squalling! . . . . The wretched thing came leaping and tumbling
down the path, all singed and blinded. Blake fired the big truss of
grass, and the brute rolled right into the flames. It was
shockingdreadfully shocking! The wretched creature writhed and leaped
about till it plunged into the pool. . . . . When it sought to crawl
out, all black and hideous, Blake went up and killed it with his
clubcrushed in its skullUgh!
Miss Leslie gazed at the unnerved Englishman with calm scrutiny.
But why should you feel so about it? she asked. Was it not the
beast's life against ours?
But so horrible a death!
I'm sure Mr. Blake would have preferred to shoot the creature, had
he a gun. Having nothing else than fire, I think it was all very brave
of him. Now we are sure of water and food. Had we not best be going?
It was to fetch you that Blake sent me.
Winthrope spoke with perceptible stiffness. He was chagrined, not
only by her commendation of Blake, but by the indifference with which
she had met his agitation.
They started at once, Miss Leslie in the lead. As they rounded the
point, she caught sight of the smoke still rising from the cleft. A
little later she noticed the vultures which were streaming down out of
the sky from all quarters other than seaward. Their focal point seemed
to be the trees at the foot of the cleft. A nearer view showed that
they were alighting in the thorn bushes on the south border of the
Of Blake there was nothing to be seen until Miss Leslie, still in
the lead, pushed in among the trees. There they found him crouched
beside a small fire, near the edge of the pool. He did not look up. His
eyes were riveted in a hungry stare upon several pieces of flesh,
suspended over the flames on spits of green twigs.
Hello! he sang out, as he heard their footsteps. Just in time,
Miss Jenny. Your broiled steak'll be ready in short order.
Oh, build up the fire! I'm simply ravenous! she exclaimed, between
impatience and delight.
Winthrope was hardly less keen; yet his hunger did not altogether
blunt his curiosity.
I say, Blake, he inquired, where did you get the meat?
Stow it, Win, my boy. This ain't a packing house. The stuff may be
tough, but it's noterthe other thing. Here you are, Miss Jenny.
Chew it off the stick.
Though Winthrope had his suspicions, he took the piece of
half-burned flesh which Blake handed him in turn, and fell to eating
without further question. As Blake had surmised, the roast proved far
other than tender. Hunger, however, lent it a most appetizing flavor.
The repast ended when there was nothing left to devour. Blake threw
away his empty spit, and rose to stretch. He waited for Miss Leslie to
swallow her last mouthful, and then began to chuckle.
What's the joke? asked Winthrope.
Blake looked at him solemnly.
Well now, that was downright mean of me, he drawled; after
robbing them, to laugh at it!
You've fed us on leopard meat! It'sit's disgusting!
I found it filling. How about you, Miss Jenny?
Miss Leslie did not know whether to laugh or to give way to a
feeling of nausea. She did neither.
Can we not find the spring of which you spoke? she asked. I am
Well, I guess the fire is about burnt out, assented Blake. Come
on; we'll see.
The cleft now had a far different aspect from what it had presented
on their first visit. The largest of the trees, though scorched about
the base, still stood with unwithered foliage, little harmed by the
fire. But many of their small companions had been killed and partly
destroyed by the heat and flames from the burning brush. In places the
fire was yet smouldering.
Blake picked a path along the edge of the rill, where the moist
vegetation, though scorched, had refused to burn. After the first
abrupt ledge, up which Blake had to drag his companions, the ascent was
easy. But as they climbed around an outjutting corner of the steep
right wall of the cleft, Blake muttered a curse of disappointment. He
could now see that the cleft did not run to the top of the cliff, but
through it, like a tiny box canyon. The sides rose sheer and smooth as
walls. Midway, at the highest point of the cleft, the baobab towered
high above the ridge crest, its gigantic trunk filling a third of the
breadth of the little gorge. Unfortunately it stood close to the left
Here's luck for you! growled Blake. Why couldn't the blamed old
tree have grown on the other side? We might have found a way to climb
it. Guess we'll have to smoke out another leopard. We're no nearer
those birds' nests than we were yesterday.
By Jove, look here! exclaimed Winthrope. This is our chance for
antelope! Here by the spring are bamboosreal bamboos,and only half
the thicket burned.
What of them? demanded Blake.
Bowsarrowsand did you not agree that they would make knives?
Umphwe'll see. What is it, Miss Jenny?
Isn't that a hole in the big tree?
Looks like it. These baobabs are often hollow.
Perhaps that is where the leopard had his den, added Winthrope.
Shouldn't wonder. We'll go and see.
But, Mr. Blake, protested the girl, may there not be other
Might have been; but I'll bet they lit out with the other. Look how
the tree is scorched. Must have been stacks of dry brush around the
hole, 'nough to smoke out a fireman. We'll look and see if they left
any soup bones lying around. First, though, here's your drink, Miss
As he spoke, Blake kicked aside some smouldering branches, and led
the way to the crevice whence the spring trickled from the rock into a
shallow stone basin. When all had drunk their fill of the clear cool
water, Blake took up his club and walked straight across to the baobab.
Less than thirty steps brought him to the narrow opening in the trunk
of the huge tree. At first he could make out nothing in the dimly lit
interior; but the fetid, catty odor was enough to convince him that he
had found the leopards' den.
He caught the vague outlines of a long body, crouched five or six
yards away, on the far side of the hollow. He sprang back, his club
brandished to strike. But the expected attack did not follow. Blake
glanced about as though considering the advisability of a retreat.
Winthrope and Miss Leslie were staring at him, white-faced. The sight
of their terror seemed to spur him to dare-devil bravado; though his
actions may rather have been due to the fact that he realized the
futility of flight, and so rose to the requirements of the
situationthe grim need to stand and face the danger.
Get behind the bamboos! he called, and as they hurriedly obeyed,
he caught up a stone and flung it in at the crouching beast.
He heard the missile strike with a soft thud that told him he had
not missed his mark, and he swung up his club in both hands. Given half
a chance, he would smash the skull of the female leopard as he had
crushed her blinded mate. . . . . One moment after another passed, and
he stood poised for the shock, tense and scowling. . . . . Not so much
as a snarl came from within. The truth flashed upon him.
Smothered! he yelled.
The others saw him dart in through the hole. A moment later two limp
grayish bodies were flung out into the open. Immediately after, Blake
reappeared, dragging the body of the mother leopard.
It's all right; they're dead! cried Winthrope, and he ran forward
to look at the bodies.
Miss Leslie followed, hardly less curious.
Are they all dead, Mr. Blake? she inquired.
Wiped outwhole family. The old cat stayed by her kittens, and all
smothered togetherlucky for us! Get busy with those bamboos, Win. I'm
going to have these skins, and the sooner we get the cub meat hung up
and curing, the better for us.
Leopard meat again! rejoined Winthrope.
Spring leopard, young and tender! What more could you ask? Get a
move on you.
Can I do anything, Mr. Blake? asked Miss Leslie.
Hunt a shady spot.
But I really mean it.
Well, if that's straight, you might go on along the gully, and see
if there's any place to get to the top. You could pick up sticks on the
way back, if any are left. We'll have to fumigate this tree hole before
we adopt it for a residence.
Will it be long before you finish with yourwith the bodies?
Well, now, look here, Miss Jenny; it's going to be a mess, and I
wouldn't mind hauling the carcasses clear down the gully, out of sight,
if it was to be the only time. But it's not, and you've got to get used
to it, sooner or later. So we'll start now.
I suppose, if I must, Mr. BlakeReally, I wish to help.
Good. That's something like! Think you can learn to cook?
See what I did this morning.
Blake took the cord of cocoanut fibre which she held out to him, and
tested its strength.
Well, I'll beblessed! he said. This is something like.
If you don't look out, you'll make quite a camp-mate, Miss Jenny. But
now, trot along. This is hardly arctic weather, and our abattoir don't
include a cold-storage plant. The sooner these lambs are dressed, the
CHAPTER X. PROBLEMS IN WOODCRAFT
It was no pleasant sight that met Miss Leslie's gaze upon her
return. The neatest of butchering can hardly be termed aesthetic; and
Blake and Winthrope lacked both skill and tools. Between the penknife
and an improvised blade of bamboo, they had flayed the two cubs and
haggled off the flesh. The ragged strips, spitted on bamboo rods, were
already searing in the fierce sun-rays.
Miss Leslie would have slipped into the hollow of the baobab with
her armful of fagots and brush; but Blake waved a bloody knife above
the body of the mother leopard, and beckoned the girl to come nearer.
Hold on a minute, please, he said. What did you find out?
Miss Leslie drew a few steps nearer, and forced herself to look at
the revolting sight. She found it still more difficult to withstand the
odor of the fresh blood. Winthrope was pale and nauseated. The sight of
his distress caused the girl to forget her own loathing. She drew a
deep breath, and succeeded in countering Blake's expectant look with a
How well you are getting along! she exclaimed.
Didn't think you could stand it. But you've got grit all right, if
you are a lady, Blake said admiringly. Say, you'll make it
yet! Now, how about the gully?
There is no place to climb up. It runs along like this, and then
slopes down. But there is a cliff at the end, as high as these walls.
Twenty feet, muttered Blake. Confound the luck! It isn't that
jump-off; but how inhow are we going to get up on the cliff? There's
an everlasting lot of omelettes in those birds' nests. If only that
bloomin'how's that, Win, me b'y?that bloomin', blawsted baobab was
on t' other side. The wood's almost soft as punk. We could drive in
pegs, and climb up the trunk.
There are other trees beyond it, remarked Miss Leslie.
Then maybe we can shin up
I fear the branches that overhang the cliff are too slender to bear
And it's too infernally high to climb up to this overhanging baobab
I say, ventured Winthrope, if we had a axe, now, we might cut up
one of the trees, and make a ladder.
Oh, yes; and if we had a ladder, we might climb up the cliff!
But, Mr. Blake, is there not some way to cut down one of the trees?
The tree itself would be a ladder if it fell in such a way as to lean
against the cliff.
There's only the penknife, answered Blake. So I guess we'll have
to scratch eggs off our menu card. Spring leopard for ours! Now, if you
really want to help, you might scrape the soup bones out of your
boudoir, and fetch a lot more brush. It'll take a big fire to rid the
hole of that cat smell.
Will not the tree burn?
No; these hollow baobabs have green bark on the inside as well as
out. Funny thing, that! We'd have to keep a fire going a long time to
Yet it would burn in time?
Yes; but we're not going to
Then why not burn through the trunk of one of those small trees,
instead of chopping it down?
Byheck, Miss Jenny, you've got an American headpiece! Come on.
Sooner we get the thing started, the better.
Neither Winthrope nor Miss Leslie was reluctant to leave the
vicinity of the carcasses. They followed close after Blake, around the
monstrous bole of the baobab. A little beyond it stood a group of
slender trees, whose trunks averaged eight inches thick at the base.
Blake stopped at the second one, which grew nearest to the seaward side
of the cleft.
Here's our ladder, he said. Get some firewood. Pound the bushes,
though, before you go poking into them. May be snakes here.
Snakes?oh! cried Miss Leslie, and she stood shuddering at the
danger she had already incurred.
The fire had burnt itself out on a bare ledge of rock between them
and the baobab, and the clumps of dry brush left standing in this end
of the cleft were very suggestive of snakes, now that Blake had called
attention to the possibility of their presence.
He laughed at his hesitating companions. Go on, go on! Don't squeal
till you're bit. Most snakes hike out, if you give them half a chance.
Take a stick, each of you, and pound the bushes.
Thus urged, both started to work. But neither ventured into the
thicker clumps. When they returned, with large armfuls of sticks and
twigs, they found that Blake had used his glass to light a handful of
dry bark, out in the sun, and was nursing it into a small fire at the
base of the tree, on the side next the cliff.
Now, Miss Jenny, he directed, you're to keep this goingnot too
big a fireunderstand? Same time you can keep on fetching brush to
fumigate your cat hole. It needs it, all right.
Will not that be rather too much for Miss Leslie? asked Winthrope.
Well, if she'd rather come and rub brains on the skins,Indian
tan, you know,or
How can you mention such things before a lady? protested
Beg your pardon, Miss Leslie! you see, I'm not much used to ladies'
company. Anyway, you've got to see and hear about these things. And now
I'll have to get the strings for Win's bamboo bows. Come on, Win. We've
got that old tabby to peel, and a lot more besides.
Miss Leslie's first impulse was to protest against being left alone,
when at any moment some awful venomous serpent might come darting at
her out of the brush or the crevices in the rocks. But her half-parted
lips drew firmly together, and after a moment's hesitancy, she forced
herself to the task which had been assigned her. The fire, once
started, required little attention. She could give most of her time to
gathering brush for the fumigation of the leopard den.
She had collected quite a heap of fuel at the entrance of the
hollow, when she remembered that the place would first have to be
cleared of its accumulation of bones. A glance at her companions showed
that they were in the midst of tasks even more revolting. It was
certainly disagreeable to do such things; yet, as Mr. Blake had said,
others had to do them. It was now her time to learn. She could see him
smile at her hesitation.
Stung by the thought of his half contemptuous pity, she caught up a
forked stick, and forced herself to enter the tree-cave. The stench met
her like a blow. It nauseated and all but overpowered her. She stood
for several moments in the centre of the cavity, sick and faint. Had it
been even the previous day, she would have run out into the open air.
Presently she grew a little more accustomed to the stench, and began
to rake over the soft dry mould of the den floor with her forked stick.
Bones!who had ever dreamed of such a mess of bones?big bones and
little bones and skulls; old bones, dry and almost buried; mouldy
bones; bones still half-covered with bits of flesh and gristlethe
remnants of the leopard family's last meal.
At last all were scraped out and flung in a heap, three or four
yards away from the entrance. Miss Leslie looked at the result of her
labor with a satisfied glance, followed by a sigh of relief. Between
the heat and her unwonted exercise, she was greatly fatigued. She
stepped around to a shadier spot to rest.
With a start, she remembered the fire.
When she reached it there were only a few dying embers left. She
gathered dead leaves and shreds of fibrous inner bark, and knelt beside
the dull coals to blow them into life. She could not bear the thought
of having to confess her carelessness to Blake.
The hot ashes flew up in her face and powdered her hair with their
gray dust; yet she persisted, blowing steadily until a shred of bark
caught the sparks and flared up in a tiny flame. A little more, and she
had a strong fire blazing against the tree trunk.
She rested a short time, relaxing both mentally and physically in
the satisfying consciousness that Blake never should know how near she
had come to failing in her trust.
Soon she became aware of a keen feeling of thirst and hunger. She
rose, piled a fresh supply of sticks on the fire, and hastened back
through the cleft towards the spring. Around the baobab she came upon
Winthrope, working in the shade of the great tree. The three leopard
skins had been stretched upon bamboo frames, and he was resignedly
scraping at their inner surfaces with a smooth-edged stone. Miss Leslie
did not look too closely at the operation.
Where ishe? she asked.
Winthrope motioned down the cleft.
I hope he hasn't gone far. I'm half famished. Aren't you?
Really, Miss Genevieve, it is odd, you know. Not an hour since, the
very thought of food
And now you're as hungry as I am. Oh, I do wish he had not gone off
just at the wrong time!
He went to take a dip in the sea. You know, he got so messed up
over the nastiest part of the work, which I positively refused to do
What's that beyond the bamboos?There's something alive!
Pray, don't be alarmed. It iserit's all right, Miss Genevieve,
I assure you.
But what is it? Such queer noises, and I see something alive!
Only the vultures, if you must know. Nothing else, I assure you.
It is all out of sight from the spring. You are not to go around
the bamboos until thethat is, not to-day.
Did Mr. Blake say that?
Why, yesto be sure. He also said to tell you that the cutlets
were on the top shelf.
You mean ?
His way of ordering you to cook our dinner. Really, Miss Genevieve,
I should be pleased to take your place, but I have been told to keep to
this. It is hard to take orders from a low fellow,very hard for a
gentleman, you know.
Miss Leslie gazed at her shapely hands. Three days since she could
not have conceived of their being so rough and scratched and dirty. Yet
her disgust at their condition was not entirely unqualified.
At least I have something to show for them, she murmured.
I beg pardon, said Winthrope.
Just look at my handslike a servant's! And yet I am not nearly so
ashamed of them as I would have fancied. It is very amusing, but do you
know, I actually feel proud that I have done somethingsomething
useful, I mean.
Useful?I call it shocking, Miss Genevieve. It is simply vile that
people of our breeding should be compelled to do such menial work. They
write no end of romances about castaways; but I fail to see the romance
in scraping skins Indian fashion, as this fellow Blake calls it.
I suppose, though, we should remember how much Mr. Blake is doing
for us, and should try to make the best of the situation.
It has no best. It is all a beastly muddle, complained Winthrope,
and he resumed his nervous scraping at the big leopard skin.
The girl studied his face for a moment, and turned away. She had
been trying so hard to forget.
He heard her leave, and called after, without looking up: Please
remember. He said to cook some meat.
She did not answer. Having satisfied her thirst at the spring, she
took one of the bamboo rods, with its haggled blackening pieces of
flesh, and returned to the fire. After some little experimenting, she
contrived a way to support the rod beside the fire so that all the meat
would roast without burning.
At first, keen as was her hunger, she turned with disgust from the
flabby sun-seared flesh; but as it began to roast, the odor restored
her appetite to full vigor. Her mouth fairly watered. It seemed as
though Winthrope and Blake would never come. She heard their voices,
and took the bamboo spit from the fire for the meat to cool. Still they
failed to appear, and unable to wait longer, she began to eat. The cub
meat proved far more tender than that of the old leopard. She had
helped herself to the second piece before the two men appeared.
Hold on, Miss Jenny; fair play! sang out Blake. You've set to
without tooting the dinner-horn. I don't blame you, though. That smells
Both men caught at the hot meat with eagerness, and Winthrope
promptly forgot all else in the animal pleasure of satisfying his
hunger. Blake, though no less hungry, only waited to fill his mouth
before investigating the condition of the prospective tree ladder. The
result of the attempt to burn the trunk did not seem encouraging to the
others, and Miss Leslie looked away, that her face might not betray
her, should he have an inkling of her neglect. She was relieved by the
cheerfulness of his tone.
Slow work, this fire businesseh? Guess, though, it'll go faster
this afternoon. The green wood is killed and is getting dried out.
Anyway, we've got to keep at it till the tree goes over. This spring
leopard won't last long at the present rate of consumption, and we'll
need the eggs to keep us going till we get the hang of our bows.
What is that smoke back there? interrupted Miss Leslie. Can it be
that the fire down the cleft has sprung up again?
No; it's your fumigation. You had plenty of brush on hand, so I
heaved it into the hole, and touched it off. While it's burning out,
you can put in time gathering grass and leaves for a bed.
Would you and Mr. Winthrope mind breaking off some bamboos for me?
Miss Leslie colored and hesitated. II should like to divide off a
corner of the place with a wall or screen.
Winthrope tried to catch Blake's eye; but the American was gazing at
Miss Leslie's embarrassed face with a puzzled look. Her meaning dawned
upon him, and he hastened to reply.
All right, Miss Jenny. You can build your wall to suit yourself.
But there'll be no hurry over it. Until the rains begin, Win and I'll
sleep out in the open. We'll have to take turn about on watch at night,
anyway. If we don't keep up a fire, some other spotted kitty will be
sure to come nosing up the gully.
There must also be lions in the vicinity, added Winthrope.
Miss Leslie said nothing until after the last pieces of meat had
been handed around, and Blake sprang up to resume work.
Mr. Blake, she called, in a low tone; one moment, please. Would
it save much bother if a door was made, and you and Mr. Winthrope
should sleep inside?
We'll see about that later, replied Blake, carelessly.
The girl bit her lip, and the tears started to her eyes. Even
Winthrope had started off without expressing his appreciation. Yet he
at least should have realized how much it had cost her to make such an
By evening she had her tree-cavehouse, she preferred to name it to
herselfin a habitable condition. When the purifying fire had burnt
itself out, leaving the place free from all odors other than the
wholesome smell of wood smoke, she had asked Blake how she could rake
out the ashes. His advice was to wet them down where they lay.
This was easier said than done. Fortunately, the spring was only a
few yards distant, and after many trips, with her palm-leaf hat for
bowl, the girl carried enough water to sprinkle all the powdery ashes.
Over them she strewed the leaves and grass which she had gathered while
the fire was burning. The driest of the grass, arranged in a far
corner, promised a more comfortable bed than had been her lot for the
last three nights.
During this work she had been careful not to forget the fire at the
tree. Yet when, near sundown, she called the others to the third meal
of leopard meat, Blake grumbled at the tree for being what he termed
such a confounded tough proposition.
Good thing there's lots of wood here, Win, he added. We'll keep
this fire going till the blamed thing topples over, if it takes a
Oh, but you surely will not stay so far from the baobab to-night!
exclaimed Miss Leslie.
Hold hard! soothed Blake. You've no license to get the jumps yet
a while. We'll have another fire by the baobab. So you needn't worry.
A few minutes later they went back to the baobab, and Winthrope
began helping Miss Leslie to construct a bamboo screen in the narrow
entrance of the tree-cave, while Blake built the second fire.
As Winthrope was unable to tell time by the stars, Blake took the
first watch. At sunset, following the engineer's advice, Winthrope lay
down with his feet to the small watch-fire, and was asleep before
twilight had deepened into night. Fagged out by the mental and bodily
stress of the day, he slept so soundly that it seemed to him he had
hardly lost consciousness when he was roused by a rough hand on his
What is it? he mumbled.
'Bout one o'clock, said Blake. Wake up! I ran overtime, 'cause
the morning watch is the toughest. But I can't keep 'wake any longer.
I say, this is a beastly bore, remarked Winthrope, sitting up.
Um-m, grunted Blake, who was already on his back.
Winthrope rubbed his eyes, rose wearily, and drew a blazing stick
from the fire. With this upraised as a torch, he peered around into the
darkness, and advanced towards the spring.
When, having satisfied his thirst, he returned somewhat hurriedly to
the fire, he was startled by the sight of a pale face gazing at him
from between the leaves of the bamboo screen.
My dear Miss Genevieve, what is the matter? he exclaimed.
Hush! Is he asleep?
Like a top.
Thank Heaven! . . . . Good-night.
Good-nighterI say, Miss Genevieve
But the girl disappeared, and Winthrope, after a glance at Blake's
placid face, hurried along the cleft to stack the other fire. When he
returned he noticed two bamboo rods which Blake had begun to shape into
bow staves. He looked them over, with a sneer at Blake's seemingly
unskilful workmanship; but he made no attempt to finish the bows.
CHAPTER XI. A DESPOILED WARDROBE
Soon after sunrise Miss Leslie was awakened by the snap and dull
crash of a falling tree. She made a hasty toilet, and ran out around
the baobab. The burned tree, eaten half through by the fire, had been
pushed over against the cliff by Blake and Winthrope. Both had already
climbed up, and now stood on the edge of the cliff.
Hello, Miss Jenny! shouted Blake. We've got here at last. Want to
Not now, thank you.
It's easy enough. But you're right. Try your hand again at the
cutlets, won't you? While they're frying, we'll get some eggs for
dessert How does that strike you?
We have no way to cook them.
Roast 'em in the ashes. So long!
Miss Leslie cooked breakfast over the watch-fire, for the other had
been scattered and stamped out by the men when the tree fell. They came
back in good time, walking carefully, that they might not break the
eggs with which their pockets bulged. Between them, they had brought a
round dozen and a half. Blake promptly began stowing all in the hot
ashes, while Winthrope related their little adventure with unwonted
You should have come with us, Miss Genevieve, he began. This time
of day it is glorious on the cliff top. Though the rock is bare, there
is a fine view
Fine view of grub near the end, interpolated Blake.
Ah, yes; the birdsyou must take a look at them, Miss Genevieve!
The sea end of the cliff is alive with themhundreds and thousands,
all huddled together and fighting for room. They are a sight, I assure
you! They're plucky, too. It was well we took sticks with us. As it
was, one of the gannetsboobies, Blake calls themcaught me a nasty
nip when I went to lift her off the nest.
Best way is to kick them off, explained Blake. But the point is
that we've hopped over the starvation stile. Understand? The whole
blessed cliff end is an omelette waiting for our pan. Pass the
leopardettes, Miss Jenny.
When the last bit of meat had disappeared, Blake raked the eggs from
the ashes, and began to crack them, solemnly sniffing at each before he
laid it on its leaf platter. Some were a trifle high. None, however,
were thrown away.
When it was all over, Winthrope contemplated the scattered shells
with a satisfied air.
Do you know, he remarked, this is the first time I have
felterreplenished since we found those cocoanuts.
How about one of 'em now to top off on? questioned Blake.
Miss Leslie sighed. Why did you speak of them! I am still hungry
enough to eat more eggsa dozenthat is, if we had a little salt and
And a silver cup and napkins! added Blake. About the salt,
though, we'll have to get some before long, and some kind of vegetable
food. It won't do to keep up this whole meat menu.
If only those little bamboo sprouts were as good as they looklike
a kind of asparagus! murmured Miss Leslie.
I've heard that the Chinese eat them, said Winthrope.
They eat rats, too, commented Blake.
We might at least try them, persisted Miss Leslie.
I have heard papa tell of roasting corn when he was a boy.
That's so; and roasting-ears are better than boiled. Win, I guess
we'll have a sample of bamboo asparagus a la Les-lee!
Winthrope took the penknife, and fetched a handful of young sprouts
from the bamboo thicket. They were heated over the coals on a grill of
green branches, and devoured half raw.
Say, mumbled Blake, as he ruminated on the last shoot, we're
getting on some for this smell hole of a coast: house and chicken
ranch, and vegetables in our front yardWe've got old Bobbie Crusoe
beat, hands down, on the start-off, and he with his shipful of stuff
Then you believe that the situation looks more hopeful, Mr. Blake?
Well, we've at least got an extension on our note for a week or
two. But I'm not going to coddle you with a lot of lies, Miss Jenny.
There's the fever coming, sure as fate. I may stave it off a while; you
and Win, ten to one, will be down in a few daysand not a smell of
quinine in our commissary. Then there'll be dysentery and snakes and
wild beastsNo; we're not out of the woods yet, not by
By Jove, Blake, muttered Winthrope, I must say, you're not very
Didn't say I was trying to be.
But, Mr. Blake, I am sure papa will offer a large reward when the
steamer is reported as lost. There will be ships searching for us
We're not in the British Channel, and I'll bet what few boats do
coast along here don't nose about much among these coral reefs.
I fancy it would do no harm to erect a signal, said Winthrope.
Only thing that would make a show is Miss Leslie's skirt, replied
There is the big leopard skin, persisted Winthrope. To his
surprise the engineer took the suggestion under serious consideration.
Well, I don't know, he said. If we had a water background, now.
But against the rock and trees,no; what we want is white. I'll tell
youwhen Miss Jenny sets to and makes herself a dress of that skin,
I'll fly her skirt to the zephyrs.
Mr. Blake! I really think that is cruel of you!
Oh, come now; that's not fair! I wouldn't have said a word, but you
said you wanted to help.
I beg your pardon, Mr. Blake. II did not quite understand you. I
really do want to helpto do my share
Now you're talking! You see, it's not only a question of the
signal, but of clothes. We've got to figure anyway on needing new ones
before long. Look at my pants and vest, and Win's too. Inside a month
we'll all be in hideor in hiding. That's a joke, Win, me b'y; see?
But in the meantime began Miss Leslie.
In the meantime we're like to miss a chance or two of being picked
up, just because we've failed to stick out a signal that'd catch the
eye twice as far off as any other color than scarlet. Do you suppose I
worked my way up from axeman to engineer, and didn't learn anything
But it is all really too absurd! I do not know the first thing
about sewing, and I have neither thread nor needle.
It's up to you, though, if you want to help. My sisters sewed
mighty soon after they learned to toddle. 'Bout time you
learnedThere, now; I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. You've made a
fair stagger at cooking, and I bet you win out on the dressmaking. For
needle you can use one of these long slim thornspoke a hole, and then
slip the thread through, like a shoemaker.
Ah, yes; but the thread? put in Winthrope.
The cocoanut fibre would hardly do, said Miss Leslie, forgetting
to dry her eyes.
No. We could get fairly good fibres out of the palm leaves; but
catgut will be a whole lot better. I'll slit up a lot for you, fine
enough to sew with. And now, let's get down to tacks. No offencebut
did either of you ever learn to do anything useful in all your blessed
Why, Mr. Blake, of course I
Of course what? demanded Blake, as Miss Leslie hesitated. We know
all about your cooking and sewing. What else?
II see what you meant. I fear that nothing of what I learned
would be of service now.
Boarding-school rot, eh? And you, Winthrope?
If you would kindly name over what you have in mind.
Um! grunted Blake. Well, it's first of all a question of a
practicalpractical, mind you,knowledge of metallurgy, ceramics, and
how to stick an arrow through a beef roast.
IahI believe I intimated that I have some knowledge of archery.
But I doubt
Cut it out! You'll have enough else to do. Get busy over those bows
and arrows, and don't quit till you've got them in shape. Leave my bow
good and stiff. I can pull like a mule can kick. Well, Miss Jenny; what
Is nothas not ceramics something to do with burning china?
Sure!china, pottery, and all that. Know anything about it?
Why, I have a friend who amuses herself by painting china, and I
know it has to be burned.
And that's all! grunted Blake. Well, let me tell you. When I was
a little kid I used to work in a pottery. All I can remember is that
they'd take clay, shape it into a pot, dry it, and bake the thing in a
kiln. We've got to work the same game somehow. This kind of eating will
mean dysentery in short order. So there's going to be a bean-pot for
our stews, or Tom Blake'll know the reason why. Nurse up that ankle of
yours, Win. We'll trek it to-morrowcocoanuts, and maybe something
else. There's clay on the far bank of the river, and across from it I
saw a streak that looked like brown haematite.
CHAPTER XII. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
The next four days slipped by almost unheeded. Blake saw to it that
not only himself but his companions had work to occupy every hour of
daylight. When not engaged in cooking and fuel gathering, Miss Leslie
was learning by painful experience the rudiments of dressmaking.
At the start she had all but ruined the beautiful skin of the mother
leopard before Blake chanced to see her and took over the task of
cutting it into shape for a skirt. But when it came to making a waist
of the cub fur, he said that she would have to puzzle out the pattern
from her other one. Between cooking three meals a day over an open
fire, gathering several armfuls of wood, and making a dress with
penknife, thorn, and catgut, the girl had little time to think of other
matters than her work.
Winthrope had been gazetted as hunter in ordinary. His task was to
keep Miss Leslie supplied with fresh eggs and each day to kill as many
of the boobies and cormorants as he could skin and split for drying.
Blake had changed his mind about taking him when he went for cocoanuts.
Instead, he had gone alone on several trips, bringing three or four
loads of nuts, then a little salt from the seashore, dirty but very
welcome, and last of all a great lump of clay, wrapped in palm fronds.
With this clay he at once began experiments in the art of pottery.
Having mixed and beaten a small quantity, he moulded it into little
cups and bowls, and tried burning them over night in the watch-fire. A
few came out without crack or flaw. Vastly elated by this success, he
fashioned larger vessels from his clay, and within the week could brag
of two pots suitable for cooking stews, and four large nondescript
pieces which he called plates. What was more, all had a fairly good
sand glaze, for he had been quick to observe a glaze on the bottoms of
the first pots, and had reasoned out that it was due to the sand which
had adhered while they stood drying in the sun.
He next turned his attention to metallurgy. The first move was to
search the river bank for the brown bog iron ore which he believed he
had seen from the farther side. After a dangerous and exhausting day's
work in the mire and jungle, he came back with nothing more to show for
his pains than an armful of creepers. Late in the afternoon, he had
located the haematite, only to find it lying in a streak so thin that
he could not hope to collect enough for practical purposes.
Lucky we've got something to fall back on, he added, after telling
of his failure. Pass over those keys of yours, Win. Good! Now untangle
those creepers. To-night we'll take turns knotting them up into some
sort of a rope-ladder. I'm getting mighty weary of hoofing it all
around the point every time I trot to the river. After this I'll go
down the cliff at that end of the gully.
Winthrope, who had become very irritable and depressed during the
last two days, turned on his heel, with the look of a fretful child.
To cover this undiplomatic rudeness, Miss Leslie spoke somewhat
hurriedly. But why should you return again to the river, Mr. Blake?
I'm sure you are risking the fever; and there must be savage beasts in
That's my business, growled Blake. He paused a moment, and added,
rather less ungraciously, Well, if you care, it's this wayI'm going
to keep on looking for ore. Give me a little iron ore, and we'll mighty
soon have a lot of steel knives and arrow-heads that'll amount to
something. How're we going to bag anything worth while with bamboo tips
on our arrows? Those boar tusks are a fizzle.
So you will continue to risk your life for us? I think that is very
brave and generous, Mr. Blake!
How's that? demanded Blake, not a little puzzled. He was fully
conscious of the risk; but this was the first intimation he had
received or conceived that his motives were other than selfishUm-m!
So that's the ticket. Getting generous, eh?
Not gettingyou are generous! When I think of all you have
done for us! Had it not been for you, I am sure we should have died
that first day ashore.
Well, don't blame me. I couldn't have let a dog die that way; and
then, a fellow needs a Man Friday for this sort of thing. As for you, I
haven't always had the luck to be favored with ladies' company.
Thank you, Mr. Blake. I quite appreciate the compliment. But now, I
must put on supper.
Blake followed her graceful movements with an intentness which, in
turn, drew Winthrope's attention to himself. The Englishman smiled in a
disagreeable manner, and resumed his work on the bows, with the look of
one mentally preoccupied. After supper he found occasion to spend some
little time among the bamboos.
When at sunset Miss Leslie withdrew into the baobab, Winthrope
somewhat officiously insisted upon helping her set up her screen in the
entrance. As he did so, he took the opportunity to hand her a bamboo
knife, and to draw her attention to several double-pointed bamboo
stakes which he had hidden under the litter.
What is it? she asked, troubled by his furtive glance back at
Merely precaution, you know, he whispered. The ground in there is
quite soft. It will be no trouble, I fancy, to put up the stakes, with
their points inclined towards the entrance.
Not so loud, Miss Genevieve! It struck me that if any one should
seek to enter in the night, he would find these stakes deucedly
unpleasant. Be careful how you handle them. As you see, the sharper
points, which are to be set uppermost, run off into a razor edge. Put
them up now, before it grows too dark. You know how ninepins are
setthat shape. Good-night! You see, with these to guard the entrance,
you need not be afraid to go to sleep at once.
Thank you, she whispered, and began to thrust the stakes into the
ground as he had directed.
He had not been mistaken. The vague doubts and fears which she
already entertained would have kept her awake throughout the night, but
thanks to the sense of security afforded by the sword-bayonets of her
silent little sentries, the girl was soon able to calm herself, and was
fast asleep long before Blake wakened Winthrope.
Immediately after breakfast, Blakewho had spent his watch in
grinding the edges from a stone and experimenting with split and bent
twigsput Winthrope's keys in the fire, and began an attempt to shape
them into a knife-blade. To heat the steel to the required temperature,
he used a bamboo blowpipe, with his lungs for bellows.
Winthrope turned away with an indifferent bearing; but Miss Leslie
found herself compelled to stop and admire his dexterous use of his
One after another, the keys were welded together, end to end, in a
narrow ribbon of steel. The thinnest one, however, was not fastened to
the tip until it had been used to burn a groove in the edge of a rib,
selected from among the bones which Miss Leslie had thrown out of the
baobab. The last key was then fastened to the others; the blade ground
sharp, tempered, and inserted in the groove. Finally, pieces of the
key-ring were fitted in bands around the bone, through notches cut in
the ends of the steel blade. The result was a bone-handled, bone-backed
knife, with a narrow cutting edge of fine steel.
Long before it was finished Miss Leslie had been forced away by the
requirements of her own work. In fact, Blake did not complete his task
until late in the afternoon. At the end, he spent more than an hour
grinding the handle into shape. When he came to show the completed
knife to Miss Leslie, he was fairly aglow with justifiable pride.
How's that for an Eskimo job? he demanded. Bunch of keys and a
You are certainly very ingenious, Mr. Blake!
Nixy! There's little of the inventor in my top pieceonly some
hustle and a good memory. I was up in Alaska, you know. Saw a sight of
Still, it is very skilfully done.
That may beLook out for the edge! It'd do to shave. No more
bamboo splinters for medull when you hit a piece of bone. I'm ready
now to skin a rhinoceros.
If you can catch one!
Guess we could find enough of them around here, all right. But
we'll start in on some of Win's sheep and cattle.
Oh, do! One grows tired of eggs, and all these sea-birds are so
tough and fishy, no matter how I cook them.
We'll sneak down to the pool, and make a try with the bows this
evening. I'll give odds, though, that we draw a blank. Win's got the
aim, but no drive; I've got the drive, but no aim. Even if I hit an
antelope, I don't think a bamboo-pointed arrow would bother him much.
Don't the savages kill game without iron weapons?
Sure; but a lot have flint points, and a lot of others use poison.
I know that the Apaches and some of those other Southern Indians used
to fix their arrows with rattlesnake poison.
Well, that depends on how you look at it. I guess they thought guns
more horrible when they tackled the whites and got the daylight let
through 'em. At any rate, they swapped arrows for rifles mighty quick,
and any one who knows Apaches will tell you it wasn't because they
thought bullets would do less damage.
Yet the thought of poison
Yes; but the thought of self-preservation! Sooner than starve, I'd
poison every animal in Africaand so would you.
IIYou put it in such a horrible way. One must consider others,
animals as well as people; and yet
Survival of the fittest. I've read some things, and I'm no fool, if
I do say it myself. For instance, I'm the boss here, because I'm the
fittest of our crowd in this environment; but back in what's called
civilized parts, where the law lets a few shrewd fellows monopolize the
means of production, a man like your father
Mr. Blake, it is not my fault if papa's position in the business
Nor his, eitherit's the cussed system! No; that's all right, Miss
Jenny. I was only illustrating. Now, I take it, both you and Win would
like to get rid of a boss like me, if you could get rid of Africa at
the same time. As it is, though, I guess you'd rather have me for boss,
and live, than be left all by your lonesomes, to starve.
II'm sure there is no question of your leadership, Mr. Blake. We
have both tried our best to do what you have asked of us.
You have, at least. But I know. If a ship should come
to-morrow, it'd be Blake to the back seat. 'Papa, give thiserperson
a check for his services, while I chase off with Winnie, to get my
look-in on 'Is Ri-yal 'Igh-ness.'
Miss Leslie flushed crimsonI'm sure, Mr. Blake
Oh, don't let that worry you, Miss Jenny. It don't me. I couldn't
be sore with you if I tried. Just the same, I know what it'll be like.
I've rubbed elbows enough with snobs and big bugs to know what kind of
consideration they give one of the mahssesunless one of the mahsses
has the drop on them. Hello, Win! What's kept you so late?
None of your business! snapped Winthrope.
Miss Leslie glanced at him, even more puzzled and startled by this
outbreak than she had been by Blake's strange talk. But if Blake was
angered, he did not show it.
Say, Win, he remarked gravely, I was going to take you down to
the pool after supper, on a try with the bows. But I guess you'd better
stay close by the fire.
Yes; it is time you gave a little consideration to those who
deserve it, rejoined Winthrope, with a peevishness of tone and manner
which surprised Miss Leslie. I tell you, I'm tired of being treated
like a dog.
All right, all right, old man. Just draw up your chair, and get all
the hot broth aboard you can stow, answered Blake, soothingly.
Winthrope sat down; but throughout the meal, he continued to
complain over trifles with the peevishness of a spoiled child, until
Miss Leslie blushed for him. Greatly to her astonishment, Blake endured
the nagging without a sign of irritation, and in the end took his bow
and arrows and went off down the cleft, with no more than a quiet
reminder to Winthrope that he should keep near the fire.
When, shortly after dark, the engineer came groping his way back up
the gorge, he was by no means so calm. Out of six shots, he had hit one
antelope in the neck and another in the haunch; yet both animals had
made off all the swifter for their wounds.
The noise of his approach awakened Winthrope, who turned over, and
began to complain in a whining falsetto. Miss Leslie, who was peering
out through the bars of her screen, looked to see Blake kick the
prostrate man. His frown showed only too clearly that he was in a
savage temper. To her astonishment, he spoke in a soothing tone until
Winthrope again fell asleep. Then he quietly set about erecting a
canopy of bamboos over the sleeper.
Just why he should build this was a puzzle to the girl. But when she
caught a glimpse of Blake's altered expression, she drew a deep breath
of relief, and picked her way around the edge of her bamboo stakes, to
lie down without a trace of the fear which had been haunting her.
CHAPTER XIII. THE MARK OF THE BEAST
Morning found Winthrope more irritable and peevish than ever. Though
he had not been called on watch by Blake until long after midnight, he
had soon fallen asleep at his post and permitted the fire to die out.
Shortly before dawn, Blake was roused by a pack of jackals, snarling
and quarrelling over the half-dried seafowl. To charge upon the thieves
and put them to flight with a few blows of his club took but a moment.
Yet daylight showed more than half the drying frames empty.
Blake was staring glumly at them, with his broad back to Winthrope,
when Miss Leslie appeared. The sudden cessation of Winthrope's
complaints brought his companion around on the instant. The girl stood
before him, clad from neck to foot in her leopard-skin dress.
Well, I'll bedashed! he exclaimed, and he stood staring at her
I fear it will be warm. Do you think it becoming? she asked,
flushing, and turning as though to show the fit of the costume.
Do I? he echoed. Miss Jenny, you're a peach!
Thank you, she said. And here is the skirt. I have ripped it
open. You see, it will make a fine flag.
If it's put up. Seems a pity, though, to do that, when we're
getting on so fine. What do you say to leaving it down, and starting a
little colony of our own?
Miss Leslie raised the skirt in her outstretched hands. Behind it
her face became white as the cloth.
Well? demanded Blake soberly, though his eyes were twinkling.
You forget the fever, she retorted mockingly, and Blake failed to
catch the quaver beneath the light remark.
Say, you've got me there! he admitted. Just pass over your flag,
and scrape up some grub. I'll be breaking out a big bamboo. There are
plenty of holes and loose stones on the cliff. We'll have the signal up
Miss Leslie murmured her thanks, and immediately set about the
preparation of breakfast.
When Blake had the bamboo ready, with one edge of the broad piece of
white duck lashed to it with catgut as high up as the tapering staff
would bear, he called upon Winthrope to accompany him.
You can go, too, Miss Jenny, he added. You haven't been on the
cliff yet, and you ought to celebrate the occasion.
No, thank you, replied the girl. I'm still unprepared to climb
precipices, even though my costume is that of a savage.
Savage? Great Scott! that leopard dress would win out against any
set of Russian furs a-going, and I've heard they're considered all
kinds of dog. Come on. I can swing you into the branches, and it's easy
from there up.
You will excuse me, please.
Yes, you can go alone, interposed Winthrope. I am indisposed this
morning, and, what is more, I have had enough of your dictation.
You have, have you? growled Blake, his patience suddenly come to
an end. Well, let me tell you, Miss Leslie is a lady, and if she don't
want to go, that settles it. But as for you, you'll go, if I have to
kick you every step.
Winthrope cringed back, and broke into a childish whine.
Don'tdon't do it, BlakeOh, I say, Miss Genevieve, how can you
stand by and see him abuse me like this?
Blake was grinning as he turned to Miss Leslie. Her face was flushed
and downcast with humiliation for her friend. It seemed incredible that
a man of his breeding should betray such weakness. A quick change came
over Blake's face.
Look here, he muttered, I guess I'm enough of a sport to know
something about fair play. Win's coming down with the fever, and's no
more to blame for doing the baby act than he'll be when he gets the
delirium, and gabbles.
I will thank you to attend to your own affairs, said Winthrope.
You're entirely welcome. It's what I'm doing.Do you understand,
Indeed, yes; and I wish to thank you. I have noticed how patient
you have been
Pardon me, Miss Leslie, rasped Winthrope. Can you not see that
for a fellow of this class to talk of fair play and patience is the
height of impertinence? In England, now, such insufferable impudence
That'll do, broke in Blake. It's time for us to trot along.
But, Mr. Blake, if he is ill
Just the reason why he should keep moving. No more of your gab,
Win! Give your jaw a lay-off, and try wiggling your legs instead.
Winthrope turned away, crimson with indignation. Blake paused only
for a parting word with Miss Leslie. If you want something to do, Miss
Jenny, try making yourself a pair of moccasins out of the scraps of
skin. You can't stay in this gully all the time. You've got to tramp
around some, and those slippers must be about done for.
They are still serviceable. Yet if you think
You'll need good tough moccasins soon enough. Singe off the hair,
and make soles of the thicker pieces. If you do a fair job, maybe I'll
employ you as my cobbler, soon as I get the hide off one of those
Miss Leslie nodded and smiled in response to his jesting tone. But
as he swung away after Winthrope, she stood for some time wondering at
herself. A few days since she knew she would have taken Blake's remark
as an insult. Now she was puzzled to find herself rather pleased that
he should so note her ability to be of service.
When she roused herself, and began singeing the hair from the odds
and ends of leopard skin, she discovered a new sensation to add to her
list of unpleasant experiences. But she did not pause until the last
patch of hair crisped close to the half-cured surface of the hide.
Fetching the penknife and her thorn and catgut from the baobab, she
gathered the pieces of skin together, and walked along the cleft to the
ladder-tree. There had been time enough for Blake and Winthrope to set
up the signal, and she was curious to see how it looked.
She paused at the foot of the tree, and gazed up to where the
withered crown lay crushed against the edge of the cliff. The height of
the rocky wall made her hesitate; yet the men, in passing up and down,
had so cleared away the twigs and leaves and broken the branches on the
upper side of the trunk, that it offered a means of ascent far from
difficult even for a young lady.
The one difficulty was to reach the lower branches. She could hardly
touch them with her finger-tips. But her barbaric costume must have
inspired her. She listened for a moment, and hearing no sound to
indicate the return of the men, clasped the upper side of the trunk
with her hands and knees, and made an energetic attempt to climb. The
posture was far from dignified, but the girl's eyes sparkled with
satisfaction as she found herself slowly mounting.
When, flushed and breathless, she gained a foothold among the
branches, she looked down at the ground, and permitted herself a merry
little giggle such as she had not indulged in since leaving
boarding-school. She had actually climbed a tree! She would show Mr.
Blake that she was not so helpless as he fancied.
At the thought, she clambered on up, finding that the branches made
convenient steps. She did not look back, and the screen of tree-tops
beneath saved her from any sense of giddiness. As her head came above
the level of the cliff, she peered through the foliage, and saw the
signal-flag far over near the end of the headland. The big piece of
white duck stood out bravely against the blue sky, all the more
conspicuous for the flocks of frightened seafowl which wheeled above
and around it.
Surprised that she did not see the men, Miss Leslie started to draw
herself up over the cliff edge. She heard Winthrope's voice a few yards
away on her left. A sudden realization that the Englishman might
consider her exploit ill-bred caused her to sink back out of sight.
She was hesitating whether to descend or to climb on up, when
Winthrope's peevish whine was cut short by a loud and angry retort from
Blake. Every word came to the girl's ears with the force of a blow.
You do, do you? Well, I'd like to know where in hell you come in.
She's not your sister, nor your mother, nor your aunt, and if she's
your sweetheart, you've both been damned close-mouthed over it.
There was an irritable, rasping murmur from Winthrope, and again
came Blake's loud retort.
Look here, young man, don't you forget you called me a cad once
before. I can stand a good deal from a sick man; but I'll give it to
you straight, you'd better cut that out. Call me a brute or a savage,
if that'll let off your steam; but, understand, I'm none of your
Again Winthrope spoke, this time in a fretful whine.
Blake replied with less anger: That's so; and I'm going to show you
that I'm the real thing when it comes to being a sport. Give you my
word, I'll make no move till you're through the fever and on your legs
again. What I'll do then depends on my own sweet will, and don't you
forget it. I'm not after her fortune. It's the lady herself that takes
my fancy. Remember what I said to you when you called me a cad the
other time. You had your turn aboard ship. Now I can do as I please;
and that's what I'm going to do, if I have to kick you over the cliff
end first, to shut off your pesky interference.
The girl crouched back into the withered foliage, dazed with terror.
Again she heard Blake speak. He had dropped into a bitter sneer.
No chance? It's no nerve, you mean. You could brain me, easy
enough, any nightjust walk up with a club when I'm asleep. Trouble
is, you're like most other under dogs'fraid that if you licked your
boss, there'd be no soup bones. So I guess I'm slated to stay boss of
this colonygrand Poo Bah and Mikado, all in one. Understand? You mind
your own business, and don't go to interfering with me any more! . . .
. Now, if you've stared enough at the lady's skirt
The threat of discovery stung the girl to instant action. With
almost frantic haste, she scrambled down to the lower branches, and
sprang to the ground. She had never ventured such a leap even in
childhood. She struck lightly but without proper balance, and pitched
over sideways. Her hands chanced to alight upon the remnants of leopard
skin. Great as was her fear, she stopped to gather all together in the
edge of her skirt before darting up the cleft.
At the baobab she turned and gazed back along the cliff edge. Before
she had time to draw a second breath, she caught a glimpse of Blake's
palm-leaf hat, near the crown of the ladder tree.
O-o-h!he didn't see me! she murmured. Her frantic strength
vanished, and a deathly sickness came upon her. She felt herself going,
and sought to kneel to ease the fall.
She was roused from the swoon by Blake's resonant shout: Hey, Miss
Jenny! where are you? We've got your laundry on the pole in fine
The girl's flaccid limbs grew tense, and her body quivered with a
shudder of dread and loathing. Yet she set her little white teeth, and
forced herself to rise and go out to face the men. Both met her look
with a blank stare of consternation.
What is it, Miss Genevieve? cried Winthrope. You're white as
It's the fever! growled Blake. She's in the cold stage. Get a pot
No, no; it's not that! It's onlyI've been frightened!
By aa dreadful beast!
Beast! repeated Blake, and his pale eyes flashed as he sprang
across to where his bow and arrows and his club leaned against the
baobab. I'll have no beasts nosing around my dooryard! Must be that
skulking lion I heard last night. I'll show him! He caught up his
weapons and stalked off down the cleft.
By Jove! exclaimed Winthrope; the man really must be mad. Call
him back, Miss Genevieve. If anything should happen to him
If only there might! gasped the girl.
Why, what do you mean?
She burst into a hysterical laugh. Oh! oh! it's such a jokesuch a
joke! At least he's not a hyenaoh, no; a brave beast! Hear him shout!
And he actually thinks it's a lion! But it isn'tit's himself! Oh,
dear! oh, dear! what shall I do?
Miss Genevieve, what do you mean? Be calm, pray, be calm!
Calm!when I heard what he said? Yes; I heard every word! In the
top of the tree
In the tree? Heavens! MisserMiss Genevieve! stammered
Winthrope, his face paling. Did youdid you hear all?
Everythingeverything he said! What shall I do? I am so
frightened! What shall I do?
Everything he said? echoed Winthrope.
You spoke too low for me to hear; but I'm sure you faced him like a
gentlemanI must believe it of you
Winthrope drew in a deep breath. Ah, yes; I did, Miss GenevieveI
assure you. The beast! Yet you see the plight I am in. It is a nasty
muddleindeed it is! But what can I do? He is strong as a gorilla.
Really, there is only one wayno doubt you heard him taunt me over it.
I assure you I should not be afraidbut it would be so horridso
cold-blooded. As a gentleman, you know
No; it is not that! broke in the girl. He is right. Neither of us
has the courageeven when he is asleep.
My dear Miss Genevieve, this beast instinct to kill
Yes; but think of him. If he is a beast, he is at least a brave
one. While wewe haven't the courage of rabbits. I thought you called
yourself an English gentleman. Are you going to stand by, and not lift
Really, now, Miss Genevieve, to murder a man
Self-defence is not a crimeself-preservation. If you have a spark
For Heaven's sake, if you can't do anything, at least keep still!
Oh, I'm sure I shall go mad! If only I had been drowned!
Ah, yes, to be sure. But really now, what you ask is a good deal
for a man to risk. The fellow might wake up and murder me! Should I
take the risk, might Ierexpect some manifestation of your
gratitude, Miss Genevieve?
Of course! of course! I should always
Iahrefer to thethebestowal of your hand.
My hand? IWould you bargain for my esteem? I thought you a
To be sureto be sure! Who says I am not? But all is fair in love
and war, you know. Your choice is quite free. I take it, you will not
consider hiserproposals. But if you do not wish my aid, you have
another way of escapethat isat least other women have done it.
The girl gazed at him, her eyes dilating with horror as she realized
No, no; not that! she gasped. I want to liveI've a right to
live! Why, I'm only just twenty-twoI
Hush! cautioned Winthrope. He's coming back. Be calm! There will
be time until I get over this vile malaria. It may be that he himself
will have the fever.
He will not have the fever, replied the girl, in a hopeless tone,
and she leaned back listlessly against the baobab, as Blake swung
himself up, frowning and sullen, and flung his weapons from him.
Bah! he grumbled, I told you that brute was a sneak. I've chased
clean down to the pool and into the open, and not a smell of him. Must
have hiked off into the tall grass the minute he heard me.
If only he had gone off for good! murmured Miss Leslie.
Maybe he has; though you never can count on a sneak. Even you might
be able to shoo him off next time; but, like as not, he'd come along
when we were all out calling, and clean out our commissary. Guess I'll
set to and run up a barricade down there where the gully is narrowest.
There're shoals of dead thorn-brush to the right of the pool.
Ah, yes; I fancy the vultures will be so vexed when they find your
hedge in the way, remarked Winthrope.
My! how smart we're getting! retorted Blake. Don't worry, though.
We'll stow the stuff in Miss Jenny's boudoir, and I guess the
birdies'll be polite enough to keep out.
I must say, Blake, I do not see why you should wish to drag us away
There're lots of things you don't see, Win, me b'yjokes, for
instance. But what could you expect?you're English. Now, don't get
mad. Worst thing in the world for malaria.
One would fancy you could see that I am not angry. I've a splitting
headache, and my back hurts. I am ill.
Blake looked him over critically, and nodded. That's no lie, old
man. You're entitled to a hospital check all right. Miss Jenny, we'll
appoint you chief nurse. Make him comfortable as you can, and give him
hot broth whenever he'll take it. You can do your sewing on the side.
Whenever you need help, call on me. I'm going to begin that barricade.
CHAPTER XIV. FEVER AND FIRE AND FEAR
By nightfall Winthrope was tossing and groaning on the bed of leaves
which Miss Leslie had heaped beneath his canopy. Though not delirious,
his high temperature, coupled with the pains which racked every nerve
and bone in his body, rendered him light-headed. He would catch himself
up in the midst of some rambling nonsense to inquire anxiously whether
he had said anything silly or strange. On being reassured upon this, he
would relax again, and, as likely as not, break into a babyish wail
over his aches and pains.
Blake shook his head when he learned that the attack had not been
preceded by a chill.
Guess he's in for a hot time, he said. There is more'n one kind
of malarial fever. Some are a whole lot like typhus.
Typhus? What is that? asked Miss Leslie.
Sort of rapid fire, double action typhoid. Not that I think Win's
got itonly malaria. What gets me is that we've only been here these
few days, and yet it looks like he's got the continuous, no-chill
Then you think he will be very ill?
Well, I guess he'll think so. It ought to run out in a week or ten
days, though. We've had good water, and it usually takes time for
malaria to soak in deep. Now, don't worry, Miss Jenny. It'll do him no
good, and you a lot of harm. Take things easy as you can, for you've
got to keep up your strength. If you don't, you'll be down yourself
before Win is up.
Ill while he is helpless and unable? Oh, no; that cannot be! I
must not give way to the fever until
Don't worry. You'll likely stave it off for a couple of weeks or
so. You're lively yet, and that's a good sign. I knew Win was in for it
when he began to grouch and loaf and do the baby act. I haven't much
use for dudes in general, and English dudes in particular; but I'll
admit that, while Win's soft enough in spots, he's not all mush and
Thank you, Mr. Blake.
You're welcome. I couldn't say less, seeing that Win can't speak
for himself. Now you tumble in and get a good sleep. I'll go on as
night nurse, and work at the barricade same time. You're not going to
do any night-nursing. I can gather the thorn-brush in the afternoons,
and pile it up at night.
In the morning Miss Leslie found that Blake had built a substantial
canopy over the invalid, in place of the first ramshackle structure.
It's best for him to be out in the air, he explained; so I fixed
this up to keep off the dew. But whenever it rains, we'll have to tote
Ah, yes; to be sure. How is he? murmured the girl.
He's about the same this morning. But he got a little sleep. Keep
him dosed with all the hot broth he'll take. And say, roust me out at
noon. I've had my breakfast. Now I'll have a snooze. So long!
He nodded, and crawled under the shade of the nearest bush, too
drowsy to observe her look of dismay.
At noon, having learned that Winthrope's condition showed little
change, Blake ate a hearty meal, and at once set off down the cleft. He
did not reappear until nightfall; though at intervals Miss Leslie had
heard his step as he came up the ravine with his loads of thorn-brush.
This course of action became the routine for the following ten days.
It was broken only by three incidents, all relating to the important
matter of food supply. Winthrope had soon tired of broth, and showed
such an insatiable craving for cocoanut milk that the stock on hand had
become exhausted within the week.
The day after, Blake took the rope ladder, as he called the tangle
of knotted creepers, and went off towards the north end of the cleft.
When he returned, a little before dark, the lower part of his trousers
was torn to shreds, and the palms of his hands were blistered and raw;
but he carried a heavy load of cocoanuts. After a vain attempt to climb
the giant palms on the far side of the river, he had found another
grove near at hand, in the little plain, and had succeeded in reaching
the tops of two of the smaller palms.
Under his directions, Miss Leslie clarified a bowl of bird
fatgoose-grease, Blake called it,and dressed his hands. Yet even
with the bandages which she made of soft inner bark and the
handkerchiefs, he was unable to handle the thorn-brush the following
day. Unfortunately for him, he was not content to sit idle. During the
night he had cut a bamboo fishing-pole and lengthened Miss Leslie's
line of plaited cocoanut-fibre with a long catgut leader. In the
afternoon he completed his outfit with a hairpin hook and a piece of
He was back an hour earlier than usual, and he brought with him a
dozen or more fair-sized fish. His mouth was watering over the
prospective feast, and Miss Leslie showed herself hardly less eager for
a change from their monotonous diet. As the fish were already dressed,
she raked up the coals and quickly contrived a grill of green bamboos.
When the odor of the broiling fish spread about in the still air,
even Winthrope sniffed and turned over, while Blake watched the
crisping delicacies with a ravenous look. Unable to restrain himself,
he caught up the smallest fish, half cooked, and bolted it down with
such haste that he burnt his mouth. He ran over to the spring for a
drink, and Winthrope cackled derisively.
Miss Leslie was too absorbed in her cooking to observe the result of
Blake's greediness. She had turned the fish for the last time, and was
about to lift them off the fire, when Blake came running back, and sent
grill and all flying with a violent kick.
Salt! he gaspedwhere's the salt? I'm poisoned!
Poison fish! Don't eat! God!Where's the salt?
The girl stared at him. His agony was so great that beads of sweat
were rolling down his face. He writhed, and stretched out a quivering
handSalt, quick!warm watersalt!
But there's none left! You remember, yesterday
God! groaned Blake, and for a moment he sank down, overcome by a
racking convulsion. Then his jaw closed like a bulldog's, and gritting
his teeth with the effort, he staggered up and rushed off down the
Stop! stop, Mr. Blake! Where are you going? screamed the girl.
She started to run after him, but was halted by an outburst of
delirious laughter. Winthrope was sitting upright and waving his
fever-blotched handsHi, hi! look at 'im run! 'E's got w'at'll do for
'im! Run, you swine; you
There followed a torrent of cockney abuse so foul that Miss Leslie
blushed scarlet with shame as she sought to quiet him. But the
excitement had so heightened his fever that he was in a raving
delirium. It was close upon midnight before his temperature fell, and
he sank into a death-like torpor. In her ignorance, she supposed that
he had fallen asleep.
Her relief was short-lived, for soon she remembered Blake. She could
see him lying beside the pool or out on the bare plain, his resolute
eyes cold and glassy, his powerful body contorted in the death agony.
The vision filled her with dismay. With all his coarseness, the man had
showed himself so resourceful, so indomitable, that when she sought to
dwell upon her reasons to fear him, she found herself admiring his
virile manliness. He might be a brute, but he did not belong among the
jackals and hyenas. Indeed, as she called to mind his strong face and
frank, blunt speech she all but disbelieved what her own ears had
And anyway, without his aid, what should she do? Winthrope had
already become as weak as a child. The emaciation of his jaundiced
features was a mockery of their former plumpness. Blake had said that
the fever might run on for another week, and that even if Winthrope
recovered, he would probably be helpless for several days besides.
What was no less serious, though she had concealed the fact from
Blake, she herself had been troubled the past week with the depression
and lassitude which had preceded Winthrope's attack. If Blake was dead,
and she should fall ill before Winthrope recovered, they would both die
from lack of care. And if they did not die of the fever, what of their
future, here on this desolate savage coast!
But the very keenness of her mental anguish so exhausted and numbed
the girl's brain that she at last fell into a heavy sleep. The fire
burned low, and shadowy forms began to creep from behind the bamboos
and the trees and rocks down the gorge. There was no sound; but greedy,
wolfish eyes gleamed in the starlight.
Only the day before Blake had told Miss Leslie to store the last
rack of cured meat inside the baobab. The two sleepers lay between the
fire and the entrance to the hollow. Slowly the embers of the fire died
away into gray ashes, and slowly the night prowlers drew nearer. The
boldest of the pack crept close to Miss Leslie, and, with teeth bared
and back bristling, sniffed at the edge of her skirt. Whether because
of her heavy breathing or the odor of the leopard skin, the beast drew
away, with an uneasy whine.
There was a pause; then, backed by three others, the leader
approached Winthrope. He was still lying in the death-like torpor, and
he lacked the protection which, in all likelihood, the leopard skin had
given Miss Leslie. The cowardly brutes took him for dead or dying. They
sniffed at him from head to foot, and then, with a ferocious outburst
of snarls and yells, flung themselves upon him.
Had it not chanced that Winthrope was lying upon his side, with one
arm thrown up, he would have been fatally wounded by the first slashing
bites of his assailants. The two which sought to tear him were baffled
by the thick folds of Blake's coat, while their leader's slash at the
victim's throat was barred by the upraised arm. With a savage snap, the
beast's jaws closed on the arm, biting through to the bone. At the same
instant the fourth jackal tore ravenously at one of the outstretched
With a shriek of agony, Winthrope started up from his torpor, and
struck out frantically in a fury of pain and terror. Startled by the
violence of this unexpected resistance, the jackals leaped backonly
to spring in again as the remainder of the pack made a rush to
Winthrope was staggering to his feet, when the foremost brute leaped
upon him. He fell heavily against one of the main supports of his
bamboo canopy, and the entire structure came down with a crash. Two of
the jackals, caught beneath the roof, howled with fear as they sought
to free themselves. The others, with brute dread of an unknown danger,
drew away, snarling and gnashing their teeth.
Wakened by the first ferocious yelps of Winthrope's assailants, Miss
Leslie had started up and stared about in the darkness. On all sides
she could see pairs of fiery eyes and dim forms like the phantom
creatures of a nightmare. Winthrope's shriek, instead of spurring her
to action, only confused her the more and benumbed her faculties. She
thought it was his death cry, and stood trembling, transfixed with
Then came the fall of the canopy. His cries as he sought to throw it
off showed that he was still alive. In a flash her bewilderment
vanished. The stagnant blood surged again through her arteries in a
fiery, stimulating torrent. With a cry, to which primeval instinct lent
a menacing note, she groped her way to the fallen canopy, and stooped
to lift up one side.
Quick!into the tree! she called.
Still frantic with terror, Winthrope struggled to his feet. She
thrust him towards the baobab, and followed, dragging the mass of
interwoven bamboos. Emboldened by the retreat of their quarry, the
snarling pack instantly began to close in. Fortunately they were too
cowardly to rush at once, and fear spurred their intended victims to
the utmost haste. Groping and stumbling, the two felt their way to the
baobab, and Miss Leslie pushed Winthrope headlong through the entrance.
As he fell, she turned to face the pack.
The foremost beasts were at the rear edge of the bamboo framework,
their eyes close to the ground. Instinct told her that they were
crouching to leap. With desperate strength she caught up the canopy
before her like a great shield, and drew it in after her until the ends
of the cross-bars were wedged fast against the sides of the opening.
Though it seemed so firm, she clung to it with a convulsive grasp as
she felt the pack leaders fling themselves against the outer side.
But Blake had lashed the bamboos securely together, and none of the
beasts was heavy enough to snap the supple bars. Finding that they
could not break down the barrier, they began to scratch and tear at the
thatch which covered the frame. Soon a pair of lean jaws thrust in and
snapped at the girl's skirt. She sprang back, with a cry: Help! Quick,
Mr. Winthrope! They're breaking through!
Winthrope made no response. She stooped, and found him lying inert
where he had fallen. She had only herself to depend upon. A screen of
sharp sticks which she had made for the entrance was leaning against
the inner wall, within easy reach. To grasp it and thrust it against
the other framework was the work of an instant.
Still she trembled, for the eager beasts had ripped the thatch from
the canopy, and their inthrust jaws made short work of the few leaves
on her screen. Unaware that even a lion or a tiger is quickly
discouraged by the knife-like splinters of broken bamboo, she expected
every moment that the jackals would bite their way through her frail
She remembered the stakes given her by Winthrope, hidden under the
leaves and grass of her bed. She groped her way across the hollow, and
uncovered one of the stakes. In her haste she cut her hand on its
razor-like edge. All unheeding, she sprang back towards the entrance.
She was none too soon. One of the smaller jackals had forced its head
and one leg between the bars, and was struggling to enlarge the
Fearful that the whole pack was about to burst in upon her, the girl
grasped the bamboo stake in both hands, and began stabbing and lunging
at the beast with all her strength. The jackal squirmed and snarled and
snapped viciously. But the girl was now frantic. She pressed nearer,
and though the white teeth grazed her wrist, she drove home a thrust
that changed the beast's snarls into a howl of pain. Before she could
strike again, it had struggled back out of the hole, beyond reach.
Tense and panting with excitement, she leaned forward, ready to stab
at the next beast. None appeared, and presently she became aware that
the pack had been daunted by the experience of their unlucky fellow.
Their snarls and yells had subsided to whines, which seemed to be
coming from a greater distance. Still she waited, with the bamboo stake
upraised ready to strike, every nerve and muscle of her body tense with
So great was the stress of her fear and excitement that she had not
heeded the first gray lessening of the night. But now the glorious
tropical dawn came streaming out of the east in all its red effulgence.
Above and through the bamboo barrier glowed a light such as might have
come from a great fire on the cliff top. Still tense and immovable, the
girl stared out up the cleft. There was not a jackal in sight. She
leaned forward and peered around, unable to believe such good fortune.
But the night prowlers had slunk off in the first gray dawn.
The girl drew in a deep, shuddering sigh, and sank back. Her hand
struck against Winthrope's foot. She turned about quickly and looked at
him. He was lying upon his face. She hastened to turn him upon his
side, and to feel his forehead. It was cool and moist. He was fast
asleep and drenched with sweat. The great shock of his pain and fear
and excitement had broken his fever.
With the relief and joy of this discovery, the girl completely
relaxed. Not observing Winthrope's wounds, which had bled little, she
sought to force a way out through the entrance. It was by no means an
easy task to free the wedged framework, and when, after much pulling
and pushing, she at last tore the mass loose, she found herself
perspiring no less freely than Winthrope.
She was far too preoccupied, however, to consider what this might
mean. Her first thought was of the fire. She ran to her rude stone
fireplace and raked over the ashes. They were still warm, but there was
not a live ember among them. Yet she realized that Winthrope must have
hot food when he wakened, and Blake had carried with him the magnifying
glass. For a little she stood hesitating. But the defeat of the jackals
had given her courage and resolution such as she had never before
known. She returned into the cave, and chose the sharpest of her
stakes. Having made certain that Winthrope was still asleep, she set
off boldly down the cleft.
At the first turn she came upon Blake's thorn barricade. It
stretched across the narrowest part of the cleft in an impenetrable
wall, twelve feet high. Only in the centre was a gap, which could have
been filled by Blake in less than two hours' work. The girl's eyes
brightened. She herself could gather the thorn-brush and fill the gap
before night. They no longer need fear the jackals or even the larger
beasts of prey. None the less, they must have fire.
Spurred on by the thought, she was about to spring through the
barricade when she heard the tread of feet on the path beyond. She
crouched down, and peered through the tangle of brush in the edge of
the gap. Less than ten paces away Blake was plodding heavily up the
trail. She stepped out before him.
Youyou! Are you alive? she gasped.
'Live? You bet your boots! came back the grim response. You bet
I'm alivethough I had to go Jonah one better to do it. The whale
heaved him up; I heaved up the whaleand it took about a barrel of
sea-water to do it.
Sure . . . . I tumbled over twice on the way. But I made the beach.
Lord! how I pumped in the briny deep! Guess I won't go into
detailsbut if you think you know anything about seasicknessWhew!
Lucky for yours truly, the tide was just starting out, and the wind off
shore. I'd fallen in the water, and the Jonah business laid me out
cold. Didn't know anything until the tide came up again and soused me.
I am very glad you're not dead. But how you must have suffered! You
are still white, and your face is all creased.
Blake attempted a careless laugh. Don't worry about me. I'm here,
O. K., all that's left,a little wobbly on my pins, but hungry as a
shark. But say, what's up with you? You're sweating like aGood thing,
though. It'll stave off your spell of fever a while. How 'd you happen
to be coming down here so early?
I was starting to find you.
Not youthat is, I thought you were dead. I was going to make
certain, and toto get the burning-glass.
Um-m. I see. Let the fire go out, eh?
Do not blame me, Mr. Blake! I was so ill and worn out, and I've
paid for it twice over, really I have. Didn't those awful beasts attack
Beasts? How's that? he demanded.
Oh, but you must have heard them! The horrid things tried to kill
us! she cried, and she poured out a half incoherent account of all
that had happened since he left.
Blake listened intently, his jaw thrust out, his eyes glowing upon
her with a look which she had never before seen in any man's eyes. But
his first comment had nothing to do with her conduct.
How's that?sorry Win got rousted out of his nice little snooze
Snooze! Why, don't you know, we'd been all alone in our glory by
to-night if it hadn't been for those brutes. He was in the stupor, and
that would have been the end of him if the beasts hadn't stirred him up
so lively. I've heard of such a thing before, but I always thought it
was a fake. Here you are sweating, too.
I feel much better than yesterday. I did not tell you, but I have
felt ill for nearly a week.
'Fraid to tell, eh?and you were so scared over the
beastsScared! By Jiminy, you've got grit, little woman! There's two
kinds of scaredness; you've got the Stonewall Jackson kind. If anybody
asks you, just refer them to Tommy Blake.
Thank you, Mr. Blake. But should we not hasten back now to prepare
something for Mr. Winthrope?
Ditto for yours truly. I'm like that sepulchre you read
aboutwhite outside, and within nothing but bare bones and emptiness.
CHAPTER XV. WITH BOW AND CLUB
The fire was soon re-lit, and a pot of meat set on to stew. It had
ample time to simmer. Winthrope was wrapped in a life-giving sleep, out
of which he did not waken until evening, while Blake, unable to wait
for the pot to boil, and nauseated by the fishy odor of the dried
seafowl, hunted out the jerked leopard meat, and having devoured enough
to satisfy a native, fell asleep under a bush.
The sun was half down the sky when he sat up and looked around, wide
awake the moment he opened his eyes. Miss Leslie was quietly placing an
armful of sticks on the fuel heap beside the baobab.
Hello, Miss Jenny! Hard at it, I see, he called cheerfully.
Hush! she cautioned. Mr. Winthrope is still asleep.
Good thing for him. He'll need all of that he can get.
Then you think?
Well, between you and me, I don't believe Win was built for the
tropics. This fever of his, coming on so soon, wouldn't have hit nine
men in ten half so hard. He's bound to have another spell in a month or
But cannot we possibly get away from here before then? Is there no
way? Surely, you are so resourceful
Nothing doing, Miss Jenny! Give me tools, and I'd engage to turn
out a seagoing boat. But as it is, the only thing I could do would be
to fire-burn a log. That would take two or three months, and in the end
we'd have a lop-sided canoe that'd live about half a second in one of
these tropic squalls.
Do not the natives sail in canoes?
Maybe they doand they make fire by rubbing sticks. We don't.
But what can we do?
Take our medicine, and wait for a ship to show up.
But we have no medicine.
Have noSay, Miss Jenny, you really ought to have stayed home from
boarding-school and England long enough to learn your own language. I
meant, we've got to take what's coming to us, without laying down or
grouching. Both are the worst thing out for malaria.
You mean that we must resign ourselves to this intolerable
situationthat we must calmly sit here and wait until the fever
No; I'll take care we don't sit around very much. We'll go on the
hike, soon as Win can wobble. Which reminds me, I've got a little hike
on hand now. I'm going to close up that barricade before dark. Me for a
Without waiting for a reply, he took his weapons, and swung briskly
away down the cleft.
He returned a few minutes before sunset, with what appeared to be a
large fur bag upon his back. Miss Leslie was pouring a bowl of broth
from the stew-pot, and did not notice him until he sang out to her:
Hey, Miss Jenny, spill over that stuff! No more of that in ours!
It's for Mr. Winthrope. He has just wakened, she replied, still
intent on her pouring.
And you'd kill him with that slop! Heave it over. He's going to
have beef juice.
Oh! what's that on your back? You've killed an antelope!
Sure! Bushbuck, I guess they call him. Sneaked up when he was
drinking, and stuck an arrow into his side. He jumped off a little way,
and turned to see what'd bit him. I hauled off and put the second arrow
right through his eye, into his brain. Neatest thing you ever saw.
You surely are becoming a splendid archer!
Yes; Jim dandy! I could do it again about once in ten thousand
shots. All the same, I've raked in this peacherino. Trot out your grill
and we'll have something fit to eat.
You spoke of beef juice.
I've a dozen steaks ready to broil. Slap 'em on the fire, and I'll
squeeze out enough juice with my fist to do Win for to-night.
He made good his assertion, using several of the steaks, which,
having lost less than half their juices in the process, were eaten with
great relish by Miss Leslie and himself.
Winthrope, after drinking the stimulating beef juice and a quantity
of hot water, turned over and fell asleep again while Blake was
dressing his wounds. None of these was serious of itself; but Blake
knew the danger of infection in the tropics, and carefully washed out
the gashes before applying the tallow salve which Miss Leslie had tried
out from the antelope fat.
The dressing was completed by torchlight. Blake then rolled the
sleeper into a comfortable position, took the torch from Miss Leslie,
and left the cave, pausing at the entrance to mutter a gruff
good-night. The girl murmured a response, but watched him anxiously as
he passed out. A step beyond the entrance he paused and turned again.
In the red glare of the torch, his face took on an expression that
filled her with fright. Shrouded by the gloom of the hollow, she drew
back to her bed, and without turning her eyes away from him, groped for
one of her bamboo stakes.
But before she could arm herself, she saw Blake stoop over and grasp
with his free hand the mass of interwoven bamboos. He straightened
himself, and the framework swung lightly up and over, until it stood on
end across the cave entrance. The girl stole around and peered out at
him. He had spread open the antelope skin, and was beginning to slice
the meat for drying. Though his forehead was furrowed, his expression
was by no means sinister. Relieved at the thought that the light must
have deceived her, she returned to her bed and was soon sleeping as
soundly as Winthrope.
Blake strung the greater part of the meat on the drying racks, built
a smudge fire beneath, and stretched the antelope skin on a frame. This
done, he took his club and a small piece of bloody meat, and walked
stealthily down the cleft to the barricade. Quiet as was his approach,
it was met by a warning yelp on the farther side of the thorny wall,
and he could hear the scurry of fleeing animals.
He kept on until the barricade loomed up before him in the
starlight. From cliff to cliff the wall now stretched across the gorge
without hole or gap. But Blake grasped the trunk of a young date-palm
which projected from the barricade near the bottom, and pushed it out.
The displacement of the spiky fronds disclosed the low passage which he
had made in the centre of the barricade. He placed the piece of meat on
one side, two or three feet from the hole, and squatted down across
from it, with his club balanced on his shoulder.
Half an hour passedan hour; and still he waited, silent and
motionless as a statue. At last stealthy footsteps sounded on the outer
side of the thorn wall, and an animal began to creep through the wall,
sniffing for the bait. Blake waited with the immobility of an Eskimo.
The delay was brief.
With a boldness for which Blake had not been prepared, the beast
leaped through and seized the meat. Even in the dim light, Blake could
see that he had lured an animal larger than any jackal. But this only
served to lend greater force to his blow. As he struck, he leaped to
his feet The brute fell as though struck by lightning and lay still.
Blake prodded the inert form warily; then knelt and passed his hands
over it. The beast had whirled about just in time to meet the
descending club, and the blow had crushed in its skull. Chuckling at
the success of his ruse, he drew the palm back into the opening, and
swung his prize over his shoulder. When he came to the fire, a glance
showed him that he had killed a full-grown spotted hyena.
In the morning, when Miss Leslie appeared, there were two hides
stretched on bamboo frames, and the air was dark with vultures
streaming down into the cleft near the barricade. Blake was sleeping
the sleep of the just, and did not waken until she had built the fire
and begun to broil the steaks which he had saved.
Again they had a feast of the fresh antelope meat. But with
repletion came more of fastidiousness, and Blake agreed with Miss
Leslie when she remarked that salt would have added to the flavor. He
set off presently, and spent half a day on the talus of the headland,
gathering salt from the rock crannies.
For the next three days he left the cleft only to gather eggs. The
greater part of his time was spent in tanning the hyena and antelope
skins. Meantime Miss Leslie continued to nurse Winthrope and to gather
firewood. Under Blake's directions, she also purified the salt by
dissolving it in a pot of water, and allowing the dirt to settle, when
the clarified solution was poured off and evaporated over the fire in
one of the earthenware pans.
At first Winthrope had been too weak to sit up. But treated to a
liberal diet of antelope broth, raw eggs, hot water, and cocoanut milk,
he gained strength faster than Blake had expected. On the fourth day
Blake set him to work on the final rubbing of the new skins; on the
fifth, he ordered him to go for eggs.
Much to Miss Leslie's surprise, Winthrope started off without a word
of protest. All his peevish irritability and childishness had gone with
the fever, and the girl was gratified to see the quiet manner in which
he set about a task which seemed an imposition upon his half-regained
strength. But the very motive which, seemingly, prevented him from
protesting, impelled her to speak for him.
Mr. Blake! she exclaimed, Mr. Winthrope is going off without a
word; but I can't endure it! You have no right to send him on such an
errand. It will kill him!
Blake met her indignant look with a sober stare.
What if it does! he said. Better for him to die in the gallant
service of his fellows, than to sit here and rot. Eh, Win?
Do not trouble yourself, Miss Genevieve. I hope I shall pull
through all right. If not
No, you shall not! I'll go myself!
See here, Miss Leslie, said Blake, somewhat sternly; who's got
the responsibility of keeping you two alive for the next month or so?
I've been in the tropics before, and I know something of the way people
have to live to get out again. I'm trying to do my best, and I tell you
straight, if you won't mind me, I'm going to make you, no matter how
much it hurts your feelings. You see how nice and meek Win takes his
orders. I explained matters to him last night
I assure you, Blake, you shall have no cause for complaint as to my
conduct, muttered Winthrope. I should like to observe, however, that
in speaking to Miss Leslie
There you are again, with your everlasting talk. Cut it out, and
get busy. To-morrow we all go on a hike to the river.
As Winthrope started off, Blake turned to Miss Leslie, with a
You see, it's this way, Miss Jenny he began. He caught her look
of disdain, and his face darkened. Mad, eh? So that's the racket!
Mr. Blake, I will not have you talk to me in that way. Mr.
Winthrope is a gentleman, but nothing more to me than a friend such as
any young woman
That settles it! I'll take your word for it, Miss Jenny, broke in
Blake, and springing up, he set about his work, whistling.
The girl gazed at his broad back and erect head, uncertain whether
she should feel relieved or anxious. The more she thought the matter
over, the more uncertain she became, and the more she wondered at her
uncertainty. Could it be possible that she was becoming interested in a
man who, if her ears had not deceived herBut no! That could not be
Yet what a ring there was to his voice!so clear and tonic after
Winthrope's precise, modulated drawl. And her countryman's firmness! He
could be rude if need be; but he would make her do what he thought was
best for her health. Was it not possible that she had misunderstood his
words on the cliff, and so misjudgedwrongedhim?that Winthrope, so
eager to stipulate for her handBut then Winthrope had more than
confirmed her dreadful conclusions taken from Blake's words, and
Winthrope was an English gentleman. It could not be possible that an
She ended in a state of utter bewilderment.
CHAPTER XVI. THE SAVAGE MANIFEST
As Winthrope had succeeded in dragging himself to and from the
headland without a collapse, the following morning, as soon as the dew
was dry, Blake called out all hands for the expedition. He was in the
best of humors, and showed unexpected consideration by presenting
Winthrope with a cane, which he had cut and trimmed during the night.
Having sent Miss Leslie to fill the whiskey flask with spring water,
he dropped three cocoanut-shell bowls, a piece of meat and a lump of
salt into one of the earthenware pots, and slung all over his shoulder
in the antelope skin. With his bow hung over the other shoulder, knife
and arrows in his belt, and his big club in hand, he looked ready for
We'll hit first for the mouth of the river, he said. I'm going on
ahead. If I'm not in sight when you come up, pick a tree where the
ground is dry, and wait.
But I say, Blake, replied Winthrope, I see animals over in the
coppices, and you should know that I am physically unable
Nothing but antelope, interrupted Blake. I've seen them enough
now to know them twice as far off. And you can bet on it they'd not be
there if any dangerous beast was in smelling distance.
That is so clever of you, Mr. Blake, remarked Miss Leslie.
Simple enough when you happen to think of it, responded Blake.
Yes; the only thing you've got to look out for's the ticks in the
grass. They'll keep you interested. They bit me up in great shape.
He scowled at the recollection, nodded by way of emphasis, and was
off like a shot. The edge of the plain beneath the cliff was strewn
with rocks, among which, even with Miss Leslie's help, Winthrope could
pick his way but slowly. Before they were clear of the rough ground,
they saw Blake disappear among the mangroves.
The ticks proved less annoying than they had apprehended after
Blake's warning. But when they approached the mouth of the river, they
were alarmed to hear, above the roar of the surf, loud snorting, such
as could only be made by large animals. Fearful lest Blake had roused
and angered some forest beast, they veered to the right, and ran to
hide behind a clump of thorns. Winthrope sank down exhausted the moment
they reached cover; but Miss Leslie crept to the far end of the thicket
and peered around.
Oh, look here! she cried. It's a whole herd of elephants trying
to cross the river mouth where we did, and they're being drowned, poor
Elephants? panted Winthrope, and he dragged himself forward beside
her. Why, so there are; quite a drove of the beasts. Yet, I must say,
they appear smallerah, yes; see their heads. They must be the hippos
Those ugly creatures? I once saw some at the zoo. Just the same,
they will be drowned. Some are right in the surf!
I can't say, I'm sure, Miss Genevieve, but I have an idea that the
beasts are quite at home in the water. I fancy they enjoy surf bathing
as keenly as ourselves.
I do believe you are right. There is one going in from the quiet
water. But look at those funny little ones on the backs of the others!
Must be the baby hippos, replied Winthrope, indifferently. If you
please, I'll take a pull at the flask. I am very dry.
When he had half emptied the flask, he stretched out in the shade to
doze. But Miss Leslie continued to watch the movements of the snorting
hippos, amused by the ponderous antics of the grown ones in the surf,
and the comic appearance of the barrel-like infants as they mounted the
backs of their obese mothers.
Presently Blake came out from among the mangroves, and walked across
to the beach, a few yards away from the huge bathers. To all
appearances, they paid as little attention to him as he to them. Miss
Leslie glanced about at Winthrope. He was fast asleep. She waited a few
moments to see if the hippopotami would attack Blake. They continued to
ignore him, and gaining courage from their indifference, she stepped
out from behind the thicket, and advanced to where Blake was crouched
on the beach. When she came up, she saw beside him a heap of oysters,
which he was opening in rapid succession.
Hello! You're just in time to help, he called. Where's Win!
Asleep behind those bushes.
Worst thing he could do. But lend a hand, and we'll shuck these
oysters before rousting him out. You can rinse those I've opened. Fill
the pot with water, and put them in to soak.
They look very tempting. How did you chance to find them?
Saw 'em on the mangrove roots at low tide, first time I nosed
around here. Tide was well up to-day; but I managed to get these all
right with a little diving. Only trouble, the skeets most ate me
Miss Leslie glanced at her companion's dry clothing, and came back
to the oysters themselves. These look very tempting. Do you like them
Can't say I like them much any way, as a rule. But if I did, I
wouldn't eat this mess raw.
This must be the dry season here, and the river is running mighty
clear. Just the same, it's nothing more than liquid malaria. We'll not
eat these oysters till they've been pasteurized.
If the water is so dangerous, I fear we will suffer before we can
return, replied Miss Leslie, and she held up the flask.
What! exclaimed Blake. Half gone already? That was Winthrope.
He was very thirsty. Could we not boil a potful of the river
Yes, when the ebb gets strong, if we run too dry. First, though,
we'll make a try for cocoanuts. Let's hit out for the nearest grove
now. The main thing is to keep moving.
As he spoke, Blake caught up the pot and his club, and started for
the thorn clump, leaving the skin, together with the meat and the salt,
for Miss Leslie to carry. Winthrope was wakened by a touch of Blake's
foot, and all three were soon walking away from the seashore, just
within the shady border of the mangrove wood.
At the first fan-palm Blake stopped to gather a number of leaves,
for their palm-leaf hats were now cracked and broken. A little farther
on a ruddy antelope, with lyrate horns, leaped out of the bush before
them and dashed off towards the river before Blake could string his
bow. As if in mockery of his lack of readiness, a troupe of large green
monkeys set up a wild chattering in a tree above the party.
I say, Miss Jenny, do you think you can lug the pot, if we go slow?
It isn't far now.
Good for you, little woman! That'll give me a chance to shoot
They moved on again for a hundred yards or more; but though Blake
kept a sharp lookout both above and below, he saw no game other than a
few small birds and a pair of blue wood-pigeons. When he sought to
creep up on the latter, they flew into the next tree. In following
them, he came upon a conical mound of hard clay, nearly four feet high.
Hello; this must be one of those white anthills, he said, and he
gave the mound a kick.
Instantly a tiny object whirred up and struck him in the face.
Whee! he exclaimed, springing back and striking out. A hornet!
No; it's a bee!
Did it sting you? cried Miss Leslie.
Sting? Keep back; there's a lot more of 'em. Sting? Oh, no; he only
hypodermicked me with a red-hot darning needle! Shy around here.
There's a whole swarm of the little devils, and they're hopping mad.
Hear 'em buzz!
But where is their hive? asked Winthrope, as all three drew back
behind the nearest bushes.
Guess they've borrowed that ant-hill, replied Blake, gingerly
fingering the white lump which marked the spot where the bee had struck
Wouldn't it be delightful if we had some honey? exclaimed Miss
By Jove, that really wouldn't be half bad! chimed in Winthrope.
Maybe we can, Miss Jenny; only we'll need a fire to tackle those
buzzers. Guess it'll be as well to let them cool off a bit also. The
cocoanuts are only a little way ahead now. Here; give me the pot.
They soon came to a small grove of cocoanut palms, where Blake threw
down his club and bow and handed his burning-glass to Miss Leslie.
Here, he said; you and Win start a fire. It's early yet, but I'm
thinking we'll all be ready enough for oyster stew.
How about the meat? asked Miss Leslie.
Keep that till later. Here goes for our dessert.
Selecting one of the smaller palms, Blake spat on his hands, and
began to climb the slender trunk. Aided by previous experiences, he
mounted steadily to the top. The descent was made with even more care
and steadiness, for he did not wish to tear the skin from his hands
Now, Win, he said, as he neared the bottom and sprang down, leave
the cooking to Miss Leslie, and husk some of those nuts. You won't
more'n have time to do it before the stew is ready.
Winthrope's response was to draw out his penknife. Blake stretched
himself at ease in the shade, but kept a critical eye on his
companions. Although Winthrope's fingers trembled with weakness, he
worked with a precision and rapidity that drew a grunt of approval from
Blake. Presently Miss Leslie, who had been stirring the stew with a
twig, threw in a little salt, and drew the pot from the fire.
En avant, gentlemen! Dinner is served, she called gayly.
What's that? demanded Blake. Oh; sure. Hold on, Miss Jenny.
You'll dump it all.
He wrapped a wisp of grass about the pot, and filled the three
cocoanut bowls. The stew was boiling hot; but they fished up the
oysters with the bamboo forks that Blake had carved some days since. By
the time the oysters were eaten, the liquor in the bowl was cool enough
to drink. The process was repeated until the pot had been emptied of
Say, but that was something like, murmured Blake. If only we'd
had pretzels and beer to go with it! But these nuts won't be bad.
When they finished the cocoanuts, Winthrope asked for a drink of
Would it not be best to keep it until later? replied Miss Leslie.
Sure, put in Blake. We've had enough liquid refreshments to do
any one. If I don't look out, you'll both be drinking river water. Just
bear in mind the work I'd have to carve a pair of gravestones. No; that
flask has got to do you till we get home. I don't shin up any more
telegraph poles to-day.
Would it not be best for Mr. Winthrope to rest during the noon
'Fraid not, Miss Jenny. We're not on t'other side of Jordan yet,
and there's no rest for the weary this side.
What odd expressions you use, Mr. Blake!
Just giving you the reverse application of one of those songs they
jolly us with in the mission churches
I'm sure, Mr. Blake
Me, too, Miss Jenny! So, as that's settled, we'll be moving. Chuck
some live coals in the pot, and come on.
He started off, weapons in hand. Winthrope made a languid effort to
take possession of the pot. But Miss Leslie pushed him aside, and
wrapping all in the antelope skin, slung it upon her back.
The brute! exclaimed Winthrope. To leave such a load for you,
when he knew that I can do so little!
The girl met his outburst with a brave attempt at a smile. Please
try to look at the bright side, Mr. Winthrope. Really, I believe he
thinks it is best for us to exert ourselves.
He has other opinions with which we of the cultured class would
hardly agree, Miss Leslie. Consider his command that we shall go
thirsty until he permits us to return to the cliffs. The man's
impertinence is intolerable. I shall go to the river and drink when I
Oh, but the danger of malaria!
Nonsense. Malaria, like yellow fever, comes only from the bite of
certain species of mosquitoes. If we have the fever, it will be
entirely his fault. We have been bitten repeatedly this morning, and
all because he must compel us to come with him to this infected
Still, I think we should do what Mr. Blake says.
My dear Miss Genevieve, for your sake I will endeavor not to break
with the fellow. Only, you know, it is deuced hard to keep one's temper
when one considers what a bounderwhat an unmitigated cad
Stop! I will not listen to another word! exclaimed the girl, and
she hurried after Blake, leaving Winthrope staring in astonishment.
My word! he muttered; can it be, after all I've doneand him, of
all the low fellows
He stood for several moments in deep thought. The look on his sallow
face was far from pleasant.
CHAPTER XVII. THE SERPENT STRIKES
When Winthrope came up with the others, they were gathering green
leaves to throw on the fire which was blazing close beside the
Get a move on you! called Blake. You're slow. Grab a bunch of
leaves, and get into the smoke, if you don't want to be stung.
Winthrope neither gathered any leaves nor hurried himself, until he
was visited by a highly irritated bee. Then he obeyed with alacrity.
Blake was far too intent on other matters to heed the Englishman.
Leaping in and out of the thick of the smoke, he pounded the ant-hill
with his club, until he had broken a gaping hole into the cavity. The
smoke, pouring into the hive, made short work of the bees that had not
already been suffocated.
Although the antelope skin was drawn into the shape of a sack, both
it and the pot were filled to overflowing with honey, and there were
still more combs left than the three could eat.
Blake caught Winthrope smiling with satisfaction as he licked his
What's the matter with my expedition now, old man? he demanded.
Iahmust admit, Blake, we have had a most enjoyable change of
If you are sure it will agree with you, remarked Miss Leslie.
But I am sure of that, Miss Genevieve. I could digest anything
to-day. I'm fairly ravenous.
All the more reason to be careful, rejoined Blake. I guess,
though, what we've had'll do no harm. We'll let it settle a bit, here
in the shade, and then hit the home trail.
Could we not first go to the river, Mr. Blake? My hands are
Win will take you. It's only a little way to the bank here and
there's not much underbrush.
If you think it's quite safe remarked Winthrope.
It's safe enough. Go on. You'll see the river in half a minute.
Only thing, you'd better watch out for alligators.
I believe thaterproperly speaking, these are crocodiles.
You don't say! Heap of difference it will make if one gets you.
Miss Leslie caught Winthrope's eye. He turned on his heel, and led
the way for her through the first thicket. Beyond this they came to a
little glade which ran through to the river. When they reached the
bank, they stepped cautiously down the muddy slope, and bathed their
hands in the clear water. As Miss Leslie rose, Winthrope bent over and
began to drink.
Oh, Mr. Winthrope! she exclaimed; please don't! In your weak
condition, I'm so afraid
Do not alarm yourself. I am perfectly well, and I am quite as
competent to judge what is good for me as yourahcountryman.
Mr. Winthrope, I am thinking only of your own good.
Winthrope took another deep draught, rinsed his fingers
fastidiously, and arose.
My dear Miss Genevieve, he observed, a woman looks at these
matters in such a different light from a man. But you should know that
there are some things a gentleman cannot tolerate.
You were welcome to all the water in the flask. Surely with that
you could have waited, if only to please me.
Ah, if you put it that way, I must beg pardon. Anything to please
you, I'm sure! Pray forgive me, and forget the incident. It is now
I hope so! she murmured; but her heart sank as she glanced at his
sallow face, and she recalled his languid, feeble movements.
Piqued by her look, Winthrope started back through the glade. Miss
Leslie was turning to follow, when she caught sight of a gorgeous
crimson blossom under the nearest tree. It was the first flower she had
seen since being shipwrecked. She uttered a little cry of delight, and
ran to pluck the blossom.
Winthrope, glancing about at her exclamation, saw her stoop over the
flowerand in the same instant he saw a huge vivid coil, all black and
green and yellow, flash up out of the bedded leaves and strike against
the girl. She staggered back, screaming with horror, yet seemed unable
Winthrope swung up his stick, and dashed across the glade towards
What is ita snake? he cried.
The girl did not seem to hear him. She had ceased screaming, and
stood rigid with fright, glaring down at the ground before her. In a
moment Winthrope was near enough, to make out the brilliant glistening
body, now extended full length in the grass. It was nearly five feet
long and thick as his thigh. Another step, and he saw the hideous
triangular head, lifted a few inches on the thick neck. The cold eyes
were fixed upon the girl in a malignant, deadly stare.
Snake! snake! he yelled, and thrust his cane at the reptile's
Again came a flashing leap of the beautiful ornate coil, and the
stick was struck from Winthrope's hand. He danced backward, wild with
Snake!Hi, Blake! monster!Run, Miss Leslie! I'll hold himI'll
get another stick!
He darted aside to catch up a branch, and then ran in and struck
boldly at the adder, which reared hissing to meet him. But the blow
fell short, and the rotten wood shattered on the ground. Again
Winthrope ran aside for a stick. There was none near, and as he paused
to glance about, Blake came sprinting down the glade.
Where? he shouted.
ThereHi! look out! You'll be on him!
Blake stopped short, barely beyond striking distance of the hissing
Wow! he yelled. Puff adder! I'll fix him.
He leaped back, and thrust his bow at the snake. The challenge was
met by a vicious lunge. Even where he stood Winthrope heard the thud of
the reptile's head upon the ground.
Now, once more, tootsie! mocked Blake, swinging up his club.
Again the adder struck at the bow tip, more viciously than before.
With the flash of the stroke, Blake's right foot thrust forward, and
his club came down with all the drive of his sinewy arm behind it. The
blow fell across the thickest part of the adder's outstretched body.
Told you so! See him wiggle! shouted Blake. Broke his back, first
lickWhat's the matter, Miss Jenny? He can't do anything now.
Miss Leslie did not answer. She stood rigid, her face ashy-gray, her
dilated eyes fixed upon the writhing, hissing adder.
II think the snake struck her! gasped Winthrope, suddenly
overcome with horror.
God! cried Blake. He dropped his club, and rushed to the girl. In
a moment he had knelt before her and flung up her leopard-skin skirt.
Her stockings ripped to shreds in his frantic grasp. There, a little
below her right knee, was a tiny red wound. Blake put his lips to it,
and sucked with fierce energy.
Then the girl found her voice.
Go awaygo away! How dare you! she cried, as her face flushed
Blake turned, spat, and burst out with a loud demand of Winthrope:
Quick! the little knifeI'll have to slash it! Ten times worse than a
rattlesnakeLord! you're slowI'll use mine!
Let go of melet go! What do you mean, sir? cried the girl,
struggling to free herself.
Hold still, you little fool! he shouted. It's deathsure death,
if I don't get the poison from that bite!
I'm not bittenLet go, I say! It struck in the fold of my skirt.
For God's sake, Jenny, don't lie! It's certain death! I saw the
That was a thorn. I drew it out an hour ago.
Blake looked up into her hazel eyes. They were blazing with
indignant scorn. He freed her, and rose with clumsy slowness. Again he
glanced at her quivering, scarlet face, only to look away with a
I guess you think I'm just a damned meddlesome idiot, he mumbled.
She did not answer. He stood for a little, rubbing a finger across
his sun-blistered lips. Suddenly he stopped and looked at the finger.
It was streaked with blood.
Whew! he exclaimed. Didn't stop to think of that! It's just as
well for me, Miss Jenny, that wasn't an adder bite. A little poison on
my sore lip would have done for me. Ten to one, we'd both have turned
up our toes at the same time. Of course, though, that'd be nothing to
Miss Leslie put her hands before her face, and burst into hysterical
Blake looked around, far more alarmed than when facing the adder.
Here, you blooming lud! he shouted; take the lady away, and be
quick about it. She'll go dotty if she sees any more snake stunts.
Clear out with her, while I smash the wriggler.
Winthrope, who had been staring fixedly at the beautiful coloring
and loathsome form of the writhing adder, started at Blake's harsh
command as though struck.
Ierto be sure, he stammered, and darting around to the
hysterical girl, he took her arm and hurried her away up the glade.
They had gone several paces when Blake came running up behind them.
Winthrope looked back with a glance of inquiry. Blake shook his head.
Not yet, he said. Give me your cigarette case. I've thought of
somethingHold on; take out the cigarettes. Smoke 'em, if you like.
Case in hand, Blake returned to the wounded adder, and picked up his
club. A second smashing blow would have ended the matter at once; but
Blake did not strike. Instead, he feinted with his club until he
managed to pin down the venomous head. The club lay across the
monster's neck, and he held it fast with the pressure of his foot.
When, half an hour later, he wiped his knife on a wisp of grass and
stood up, the cigarette case contained over a tablespoonful of a
crystalline liquid. He peered in at it, his heavy jaw thrust out, his
eyes glowing with savage elation.
Talk about your meat trusts and Winchesters! he exulted; here's a
whole carload of beef in this little boxenough dope to morgue a herd
of steers. Good God, though, that was a close shave for her!
His face sobered, and he stood for several moments staring
thoughtfully into space. Then his gaze chanced to fall upon the great
crimson blossom which had so nearly lured the girl to her death.
Hello! he exclaimed; that's an amaryllis. Wonder if she wasn't
coming to pick it He snapped shut the lid of the cigarette case,
thrust it carefully into his shirt pocket, and stepped forward to pluck
the flower. Makes a fellow feel like a kid; but maybe it'll make her
feel less sore at me.
He stood gazing at the flower for several moments, his eyes aglow
with a soft blue light.
Whew! he sighed; if onlyBut what's the use? She's 'way out of
my classa rough brute like me! All the same, it's up to me to take
care of her. She can't keep me from being her friendand she sure
can't object to my picking flowers for her.
Amaryllis in hand, he gathered up his bow and club. Then he paused
to study the skin of the decapitated adder. The inspection ended with a
shake of his head.
Better not, Thomas. It would make a dandy quiver; but then, it
might get on her nerves.
When he came to the ant-hill, he found companions and honey alike
gone. He went on to the cocoanuts. There he came upon Winthrope
stretched flat beside the skin of honey. Miss Leslie was seated a
little way beyond, nervously bending a palm-leaf into shape for a hat.
I say, Blake, drawled Winthrope, you've been a deuced long time
in coming. It was no end of a task to lug the honey
Blake brushed past without replying, and went on until he stood
before the girl. As she glanced up at him, he held out the crimson
Thought you might like posies, he said, in a hesitating voice.
Instead of taking the flower, she drew back with a gesture of
Oh, take it away! she exclaimed.
Blake flung the rejected gift on the ground, and crushed it beneath
Catch me making a fool of myself again! he growled.
II did not mean it that wayreally I didn't, Mr. Blake. It was
the thought of that awful snake.
But Blake, cut to the quick, had turned away, far too angry to heed
what she said. He stopped short beside the Englishman; but only to
sling the skin of honey upon his back. The load was by no means a light
one, even for his strength. Yet he caught up the heavy pot as well, and
made off across the plain at a pace which the others could not hope to
As Winthrope rose and came forward to join Miss Leslie, he looked
about closely for the bruised flower. It was nowhere in sight.
Erbeg pardon, Miss Genevieve, but did not Blake drop the
bloomerblossom somewhere about here?
Perhaps he did, replied Miss Leslie. She spoke with studied
Iahsaw the fellow exhibit his impudence.
You know, I think it high time the bounder is taken down a peg.
Ah, indeed! Then why do you not try it?
Miss Genevieve! you know that at present I am physically so much
How about mentally?
Though the girl's eyes were veiled by their lashes, she saw
Winthrope cast after Blake a look that seemed to her almost fiercely
Well? she said, smiling, but watching him closely.
Mentally!We'll soon see about that! he muttered. I must say,
Miss Genevieve, it strikes me as deuced odd, you know, to hear you
speak so pleasantly of a person whonot to mention past
occurrenceshas to-day, with the most shocking disregard
Stop!stop this instant! screamed the girl, her nerves
Winthrope smiled with complacent assurance.
My dear young lady, he drawled, allow me to repeat, 'All is fair
in love and war.' Believe me, I love you most ardently.
No gentleman would press his suit at such a time as this!
Really now, I fancy I have always comported myself as a
A trifle too much so, truth to say! she retorted.
Ah, indeed. However, this is now quite another matter. Has it not
occurred to you, my dear, that this entire experience of ours since
that beastly storm is ratherercompromising?
Youyou dare say such a thing! I'll go this instant and tell Mr.
Begging your pardon, madam,but are you prepared to marry that
Marry? What do you mean, sir?
Precisely that. It is a question of marriage, if you'll pardon me.
And, you see, I flatter myself, that when it comes to the point, it
will not be Blake, but myself
Ah, indeed! And if I should prefer neither of you?
Begging your pardon,I fancy you will honor me with your hand, my
dear. For one thing, you admit that I am a gentleman.
One moment, please! I am trying to intimate to you, as delicately
as possible, howerembarrassing you would find it to have these
little occurrencesabove all, to-day'snoised abroad to the vulgar
crowd, or even among your friends
What do you mean? What do you want? cried the girl, staring at him
with a deepening fear in her bewildered eyes.
Believe me, my dear, it grieves me to so perturb you; buterlove
must have its way, you know.
You forget. There is Mr. Blake.
Ah, to be sure! But really now, you would not ask, or even permit
him to murder me; and one is not legally bound, you know, to observe
promisesa pledge of silence, for examplewhen extorted under duress,
under violence, you know.
Miss Leslie looked the Englishman up and down, her brown eyes
sparkling with quick-returning anger. He met her scorn with a smile of
Cad! she cried, and turning her back upon him, she set out across
the plain after Blake.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE EAVESDROPPER
Even had it not been for her doubts of Blake, the girl's modesty
would have caused her to think twice before repeating to him the
Englishman's insulting proposal. While she yet hesitated and delayed,
Winthrope came down with a second attack of fever. Blake, who until
then had held himself sullenly apart from him as well as from Miss
Leslie, at once softened to a gentler, or, at least, to a more
considerate mood. Though his speech and bearing continued morose, he
took upon himself all the duties of night nurse, besides working and
foraging several hours each day.
Much to Miss Leslie's surprise, she found herself tending the
invalid through the daytime almost as though nothing had happened. But
everything about this wild and perilous life was so strange and
unnatural to her that she found herself accepting the most
unconventional relations as a regular consequence of the situation. She
was feverishly eager for anything that might occupy her mind; for she
felt that to brood over the future might mean madness. The mere thought
of the possibilities was far too terrifying to be calmly dwelt upon.
Though slight, there had been some little comfort in the belief that
she could rely on Winthrope. But now she was left alone with her doubt
and dread. Even if she had nothing to fear from Blake, there were all
the savage dangers of the coast, and behind those, far worse, the
Meantime Blake went about his share of the camp work, gruff and
silent, but with the usual concrete results. He brought load after load
of fresh cocoanuts, and took great pains to hunt out the deliciously
flavored eggs of the frigate birds to tempt Winthrope's failing
appetite. When Miss Leslie suggested that beef juice would be much
better for the invalid than broth, he went out immediately in search of
a gum-bearing tree, and that night, after heating a small quantity of
gum in the cigarette case with the adder poison, he spent hours
replacing his arrow-heads with small barbed tips that could be loosened
from their sockets by a slight pull.
A little before dawn he dipped two of his new arrow-heads in the
sticky contents of the cigarette case, fitted them carefully to their
shafts, and stole away down the cleft. Dawn found him crouched low in
the grass where the overflow from the pool ran out into the plain along
its little channel. He could see large forms moving away from him; then
came the flood of crimson light, and he made out that the figures were
a drove of huge eland.
His eyes flashed with eagerness. It was a long shot; but he knew
that no more was required than to pierce the skin on any part of his
quarry's body. He put his fingers between his teeth, and sent out a
piercing whistle. It was a trick he had tried more than once on deer
and pronghorn antelope. As he expected, the eland halted and swung half
around. Their ox-like sides presented a mark hard to miss.
He rose and shot as they were wheeling to fly. Before he could fit
his second arrow to the string, the whole herd were running off at a
lumbering gallop. He lowered his bow, and walked after the animals,
smiling with grim anticipation. He had seen his arrow strike against
the side of the young bull at which he had aimed.
A little beyond where the bull had stood, he came upon the headless
shaft of his arrow. As he stooped and caught it up, he saw one of the
fleeing animals fall. When he came up with the dead bull, his first act
was to recover his arrow-tip and cut out the flesh around the wound.
Provided only with his weak-bladed knife, he found it no easy task to
butcher so large a beast. Though he had now acquired considerable
dexterity in the art, noon had passed before he brought the first load
of meat up the cleft.
So great was the abundance of meat that Blake worked all the
remainder of the day and all night stringing the flesh on the curing
racks, and Miss Leslie tried out pot after pot of fat and tallow, until
every spare vessel was filled, and she had to resort to a hollow in the
rock beside the spring. Blake promised to make more pots as soon as he
could fetch the clay, but he had first to dress the eland hide, and
prepare a new stock of thread and cord from parts of the animal which
he was careful not to let her see.
Whatever their concern for the future,and even Blake's was keen
and bitter,the party, as a party, for the time being might have been
considered extremely fortunate. They had a shelter secure alike from
the weather and from wild beasts; an abundance of nutritious food, and,
as material for clothing, the bushbuck, hyena, and eland hides. To
obtain more skins and more meat Blake now knew would be a simple matter
so long as he had enough poison left in the cigarette case to moisten
the tips of his arrows.
Even Winthrope's relapse proved far less serious than might
reasonably have been expected. The fever soon left him, and within a
few days he regained strength enough to care for himself. Here,
however, much to Blake's perplexity and concern, his progress seemed to
stop, and all Blake's urging could do no more than cause him to move
languidly from one shady spot to another. He would receive Blake's
orders with a smile and a drawling Ya-as, to be sure!and would then
absolutely ignore the matter.
Only in two ways did the invalid exhibit any signs of energy. He
could and did eat with a heartiness little short of that shown by
Blake, and he would insist upon seeking opportunities to press his
attentions upon Miss Leslie. He was careful to avoid all offensive
remarks; yet the veriest commonplace from his lips was now an offence
to the girl. While he needed her as nurse, she had endured his talk as
part of her duty. But now she felt that she could no longer do so.
Taking advantage of a time when the Englishman was, as she supposed,
enjoying a noonday siesta down towards the barricade, she went to meet
Blake, who had been up on the cliff for eggs.
Hello! he sang out, as he swung down the tree, one hand gripping
the clay pot in which he had gathered the eggs. What you doing out in
the sun? Get into the shade.
She stepped into the shade, and waited until he had climbed down the
pile of stones which he had built for steps at the foot of the tree.
Mr. Blake, she began, could not I do this work,gather the
You could, if I'd let you, Miss Jenny. But it strikes me you've got
quite enough to do. Tell you the truth, I'd like to make Win take it in
hand again. But all my cussing won't budge him an inch, and you know,
when it comes to the rub, I couldn't wallop a fellow who can hardly
Is he really so weak? she murmured.
Well, you know howSay, you don't mean that you think he's
I did not say that I thought so, Mr. Blake. I do not care to talk
about him. What I wish is that you will let me attend to this work.
Couldn't think of it, Miss Jenny! You're already doing your share.
Mr. Blake,if you must know,I wish to have a place where I can
go and be apartalone.
Blake scowled. Alone with that dude! He'd soon find enough strength
to climb up with you on the cliff.
IahMr. Blake, would he be apt to follow me, if I told you
distinctly I should rather be alone?
Would he? Well, I should rather guess not! cried Blake, making no
attempt to conceal his delight. I'll give him a hint that'll make his
hair curl. From now on, nobody climbs up this tree but you, without
first asking your permission.
Thank you, Mr. Blake! You are very kind.
Kind to let you do more work! But say, I'll help out all I can on
the other work. You know, Miss Jenny,a rough fellow like me don't
know how to say it, but he can think it just the same,I'd do anything
in the world for you!
As he spoke, he held out his rough, powerful hand. She shrank back a
little, and caught her breath in sudden fright. But when she met his
steady gaze, her fear left her as quickly as it had come. She
impulsively thrust out her hand, and he seized it in a grip that
brought the tears to her eyes.
Miss Jenny! Miss Jenny! he murmured, utterly unconscious that he
was hurting her, you know now that I'm your friend, Miss Jenny!
Yes, Mr. Blake, she answered, blushing and drawing her hand free.
I believe you are a friendI believe I can trust you.
You can, byJiminy! But say, he continued, blundering with dense
stupidity, do you really mean that? Can you forgive me for being so
confounded meddlesome, the other day, after the snake
He stopped short, for upon the instant she was facing him, as on
that eventful day, scarlet with shame and anger.
How dare you speak of it? she cried. You'reyou're not a
Before he could reply, she turned and left him, walking rapidly and
with her head held high. Blake stared after her in bewilderment.
Well, what inwhat in thunder have I done now? he exclaimed.
Ladies are certainly mighty funny! To go off at a touchand just when
I thought we were going to be chums! But then, of course, I've the
whole thing to learn about nice girlslike her!
Iahmust certainly agree with you there, Blake, drawled
Winthrope, from beside the nearest bush.
Blake turned upon him with savage fury: You dirty sneak!you
gentleman! You've been eavesdropping!
The Englishman's yellow face paled to a sallow mottled gray. He had
seen the same look in Blake's eyes twice before, and this time Blake
was far more angry.
You sneak!you sham gent! repeated the American, his voice
Winthrope dropped in an abject heap, as though Blake had struck him
with his club.
No, no! he protested shrilly. I am a realI amI'm a not
That's ityou're a not! That's true! broke in Blake, with sudden
grim humor. You're a nothing. A fellow can't even wipe his shoes on
The change to sarcasm came as an immense relief to Winthrope.
Ah, I say now, Blake, he drawled, pulling together his assurance
the instant the dangerous light left Blake's eyes, I say now, do you
think it fair to pick on a man who is so much yourerwho is ill and
That's itdo the baby act, jeered Blake. But say, I don't know
just how much eavesdropping you did; so there's one thing I'll repeat
for the special benefit of your ludship. It'll be good for your
delicate health to pay attention. From now on, the cliff top belongs to
Miss Leslie. Gents and book agents not allowed. Understand? You don't
go up there without her special invite. If you do, I'll twist your
He turned on his heel, and left the Englishman cowering.
CHAPTER XIX. AN OMINOUS LULL
The three saw nothing more of each other that day. Miss Leslie had
withdrawn into the baobab, and Blake had gone off down the cleft for
more salt. He did not return until after the others were asleep. Miss
Leslie had gone without her supper, or had eaten some of the food
stored within the tree.
When, late the next morning, she finally left her seclusion, Blake
was nowhere in sight. Ignoring Winthrope's attempts to start a
conversation, she hurried through her breakfast, and having gathered a
supply of food and water, went to spend the day on the headland.
Evening forced her to return to the cleft. She had emptied the water
flask by noon, and was thirsty. Winthrope was dozing beneath his
canopy, which Blake had moved some yards down towards the barricade.
Blake was cooking supper.
He did not look up, and met her attempt at a pleasant greeting with
an inarticulate grunt. When she turned to enter the baobab, she found
the opening littered with bamboos and green creepers and pieces of
large branches with charred ends. On either side, midway through the
entrance, a vertical row of holes had been sunk through the bark of the
tree into the soft wood.
What is this? she asked. Are you planning a porch?
Maybe, he replied.
But why should you make the holes so far in? I know so little about
these matters, but I should have fancied the holes would come on the
front of the tree.
You'll see in a day or two.
How did you make the holes? They look black, as though
Burnt 'em, of coursehot stones.
That was so clever of you!
He made no response.
Supper was eaten in silence. Even Winthrope's presence would have
been a relief to the girl; yet she could not go to waken him, or even
suggest that her companion do so. Blake sat throughout the meal sullen
and stolid, and carefully avoided meeting her gaze. Before they had
finished, twilight had come and gone, and night was upon them. Yet she
lingered for a last attempt.
Good-night, friend! she whispered.
He sprang up as though she had struck him, and blundered away into
In the morning it was as before. He had gone off before she wakened.
She lingered over breakfast; but he did not appear, and she could not
endure Winthrope's suave drawl. She went for another day on the
She returned somewhat earlier than on the previous day. As before,
Winthrope was dozing in the shade. But Blake was under the baobab,
raking together a heap of rubbish. His hands were scratched and
bleeding. To the girl's surprise, he met her with a cheerful grin and a
clear, direct glance.
Look here, he called.
She stepped around the baobab, and stood staring. The entrance, from
the ground to the height of twelve feet, was walled up with a mass of
thorny branches, interwoven with yet thornier creepers.
How's that for a front door? he demanded.
But it's so big. I could never move it.
A child could. Look. He grasped a projecting handle near the
bottom of the thorny mass. The lower half of the door swung up and
outward, the upper half in and downward. See; it's balanced on a
crossbar in the middle. Come on in.
She walked after him in under the now horizontal door. He gave the
inner end a light upward thrust, and the door swung back in its
vertical circle until it again stood upright in the opening. From the
inside the girl could see the strong framework to which was lashed the
facing of thorns. It was made of bamboo and strong pieces of branches,
bound together with tough creepers.
Pretty good grating, eh? remarked Blake. When those green
creepers dry, they'll shrink and hold tight as iron clamps. Even now
nothing short of a rhinoceros could walk through when the bars are
fast. See here.
He stepped up to the novel door, and slid several socketed crossbars
until their outer ends were deep in the holes in the tree trunk, three
on each side.
How's that for a set of bolts? he demanded.
Wonderful! Really, you are very, very clever! But why should you go
to all this trouble, when the barricade
Well, you see, it's best to be on the safe side.
But it's absurd for you to go to all this needless work. Not that I
do not appreciate your kind thought for my safety. Yet look at your
Blake hastened to put his bleeding hands behind him.
They are no sight for a lady! he muttered apologetically.
Go and wash them at once, and I'll put on a dressing.
Blake glowed with frank pleasure, yet shook his head.
No, thank you, Miss Jenny. You needn't bother. They'll do all
You must! It would please me.
Why, then, of courseBut first, I want to make sure you understand
fastening the door. Try the bars yourself.
She obeyed, sliding the bars in and out until he nodded his
Good! he said. Now promise me you'll slide 'em fast every night.
If you ask it. But why?
I want to make perfectly safe.
Safe? But am I not secure with
Look here, Miss Leslie; I'm not going to say anything about
Perhaps you had better say no more, Mr. Blake.
That's right. But whatever happens, you'll believe I've done my
best, won't you?even if I'm not aPromise me straight, you'll lock
up tight every night.
Very well, I promise, responded the girl, not a little troubled by
the strangeness of his expression.
He turned at once, swung open the door, and went out. During supper
he was markedly taciturn, and immediately afterwards went off to his
That night Miss Leslie dutifully fastened herself in with all six
bars. She wakened at dawn, and hastened out to prepare Blake's
breakfast, but she found herself too late. There were evidences that he
had eaten and gone off before dawn. The stretching frame of one of the
antelope skins had been moved around by the fire, and on the smooth
inner surface of the hide was a laconic note, written with charcoal in
a firm, bold hand:
Exploring inland. Back by night, if can.
She bit her lip in her disappointment, for she had planned to show
him how much she appreciated his absurd but well-meant concern for her
safety. As it was, he had gone off without a word, and left her to the
questionable pleasure of a tete-a-tete with Winthrope. Hoping to
avoid this, she hurried her preparations for a day on the cliff. But
before she could get off, Winthrope sauntered up, hiding his yawns
behind a hand which had regained most of its normal plumpness. His eye
was at once caught by the charcoal note.
Ah! he drawled; really now, this is too kind of him to give us
the pleasure of his absence all day!
Ye-es! murmured Miss Leslie. Permit me to add that you will also
have the pleasure of my absence. I am going now.
Winthrope looked down, and began to speak very rapidly: Miss
Genevieve, II wish to apologize. I've thought it over. I've made a
mistakeII mean, my conduct the other day was vile, utterly vile!
Permit me to appeal to your considerateness for a man who has been
unfortunatewho, I mean, has beenerwas carried away by his
feelings. Your favoring of that bloomerthaterbounder so angered
me that Ithat I
Mr. Winthrope! interrupted the girl, I will have you to
understand that you do not advance yourself in my esteem by such
references to Mr. Blake.
Aye! aye, that Blake! panted Winthrope. Don't you see? It's 'im,
an' that blossom! W'en a man's daffyw'en 'e's in love!
Miss Leslie burst into a nervous laugh; but checked herself on the
Really, Mr. Winthrope! she exclaimed, you must pardon me. II
never knew that cultured Englishmen ever dropped their h's. As it
happens, you know, I never saw one excited before this.
Ah, yes; to be sureto be sure! murmured Winthrope, in an odd
The girl threw out her hand in a little gesture of protest.
Really, I'm sorry to have hurtto have been so thoughtless!
Winthrope stood silent. She spoke again: I'll do what you ask. I'll
make allowances for yourfor your feelings towards me, and will try to
forget all you said the other day. Let me begin by asking a favor of
Ah, Miss Genevieve, anything, to be sure, that I may do!
It is that I wish your opinion. When Mr. Blake finished that absurd
door last evening, he would not tell me why he had built itonly a
vague statement about my safety.
Ah! He did not go into particulars? drawled Winthrope.
No, not even a hint; and he looked soodd.
Winthrope slowly rubbed his soft palms on upon the other.
Do youerreally desire to know histhe motive which actuated
him? he murmured.
I should not have mentioned it to you, if I did not, she answered.
Weller He hesitated and paused for a full minute. You see, it
is a rather difficult undertaking to intimate such a matter to a
ladyjust the right touch of delicacy, you know. But I will begin by
explaining that I have known it since the first
Of that boundoferBlake's trouble.
Ah! Perhaps I should have said affliction; yes, that is the better
word. To own the truth, the fellow has some good qualities. It was no
doubt because he realised, when in his better moments
Better moments? Mr. Winthrope, I am not a child. In justice both to
myself and to Mr. Blake, I must ask you to speak out plainly.
My dear Miss Leslie, may I first ask if you have not observed how
strangely at times the fellow acts,'looks odd,' as you put it,how
he falls into melancholia or senseless rages? I may truthfully state
that he has three times threatened my life.
II thought his anger quite natural, after I had so rudelyand so
many people are given to broodingBut if he was violent to you
My dear Miss Genevieve, I hold nothing against the miserable
fellow. At such times he is noterresponsible, you know. Let us give
the fellow full creditthat is why he himself built your door.
Oh, but I can't believe it! I can't believe it! cried the girl.
It's not possible! He's so strong, so true and manly, so kind, for all
Ah, my dear! soothed Winthrope, that is the pity of it. But when
a man must needs be his worst enemy, when he must needs lead a certain
kind of life, he must take the consequences. To put it as delicately as
possible, yet explain all, I need only say one wordparanoia.
Miss Leslie gathered up her day's outfit with trembling fingers, and
went to mount the cliff.
After waiting a few minutes Winthrope walked hurriedly through the
cleft, and climbed the tree-ladder with an agility that would have
amazed his companions. But he did not draw himself up on the cliff.
Having satisfied himself that Miss Leslie was well out toward the
signal, he returned to the baobab, and proceeded to examine Blake's
door with minute scrutiny.
That evening, shortly before dark, Blake came in almost exhausted by
his journey. Few men could have covered the same ground in twice the
time. It had been one continuous round of grass jungle, thorn scrub,
rocks, and swamp. And for all his pains, he brought back with him
nothing more than the discouraging information that the back-country
was worse than the shore. Yet he betrayed no trace of depression over
the bad news, and for all his fatigue, maintained a tone of hearty
cheerfulness until, having eaten his fill, he suddenly observed Miss
Leslie's frigid politeness.
What's up now? he demanded. You're not mad 'cause I hiked off
this morning without notice?
No, of course not, Mr. Blake. Nothing of the kind. But I
Well,-what? he broke in, as she hesitated. I can't, for the
world, think of anything else I've done
You've done! Perhaps I might suggest that it is a question of what
you haven't done. The girl was trembling on the verge of hysterics.
Yes, what you've not done! All these weeks, and not a single attempt
to get us away from here, except that miserable signal; and I as good
as put that up! You call yourself a man! But II She stopped short,
white with a sudden overpowering fear.
Winthrope looked from her to Blake with a sidelong glance, his lips
drawn up in an odd twist.
There followed several moments of tense silence; then Blake mumbled
apologetically: Well, I suppose I might have done more. I was so dead
anxious to make sure of food and shelter. But this trip to-day
Mr.Mr. Blake, pray do not get excitedII mean, please excuse
You're coming down sick! he said.
No, no! I have no fever.
Then it's the sun. Yet you ought to keep up there where the air is
freshest. I'll make you a shade.
She protested, and withdrew, somewhat hurriedly, to her tree.
In the morning Blake was gone again; but instead of a note, beside
the fire stood the smaller antelope skin, converted into a great
She spent the day as usual on the headland. There was no wind, and
the sun was scorching hot. But with her big sunshade to protect her
from the direct rays, the heat was at least endurable. She even found
energy to work at a basket which she was attempting to weave out of
long, coarse grass; yet there were frequent intervals when her hands
sank idle in her lap, and she gazed away over the shimmering glassy
expanse of the ocean.
In the afternoon the heat became oppressively sultry, and a long
slow swell began to roll shoreward from beyond the distant horizon,
showing no trace of white along its oily crests until they broke over
the coral reefs. There was not a breath of air stirring, and for a time
the reefs so checked the rollers that they lacked force to drive on in
and break upon the beach.
Steadily, however, the swell grew heavier, though not so much as a
cat's-paw ruffled the dead surfaces of the watery hillocks. By sunset
they were rolling high over both lines of reefs and racing shoreward to
break upon the beach and the cliff foot in furious surf. The still air
reverberated with the booming of the breakers. Yet the girl, inland
bred and unversed in weather lore, sat heedless and indifferent, her
eyes fixed upon the horizon in a vacant stare.
Her reverie was at last disturbed by the peculiar behavior of the
seafowl. Those in the air circled around in a manner strange to her,
while their mates on the ledges waddled restlessly about over and
between their nests. There was a shriller note than usual in their
Yet even when she gave heed to the birds, the girl failed to realize
their alarm or to sense the impending danger. It was only that a
feeling of disquiet had broken the spell of her reverie; it did not
obtrude upon the field of her conscious thought. She sighed, and rose
to return to the cleft, idly wondering that the air should seem more
sultry than at mid-day. The peculiar appearance of the sun and the
western sky meant nothing more to her than an odd effect of color and
light. She smilingly compared it with an attempt at a sunset painted by
an artist friend of the impressionist school.
Neither Winthrope nor Blake was in sight when she reached the
baobab, and neither appeared, though she delayed supper until dark. It
was quite possible that they had eaten before her return and had gone
off again, the Englishman to doze, and Blake on an evening hunt.
At last, tired of waiting, she covered the fire, and retired into
her tree-cave. The air in the cleft was still more stifling than on the
headland. She paused, with her hand upraised to close the swinging
door. She had propped it open when she came out in the morning. After a
moment's hesitation, she went on across the hollow, leaving the door
I will rest a little, and close it later, she sighed. She was
feeling weary and depressed.
An hour passed. An ominous stillness lay upon the cleft. Even the
cicadas had hushed their shrill note. The only sound was a muffled
reverberating echo of the surf roaring upon the seashore. Beneath the
giant spread of the baobab all was blackness.
Something moved in a bush a little way down the cleft. A crouching
figure appeared, dimly outlined in the starlight. The figure crept
stealthily across into the denser night of the baobab. The darkness
closed about it like a shroud.
A blinding flash of light pierced the blackness. The figure halted
and crouched lower, though the flash had gone again in a fraction of a
second. A dull rumbling mingled with the ceaseless boom of the surf.
A second flash lighted the cleft with its dazzling coruscation. This
time the creeping figure did not halt.
Again and again the forked lightning streaked across the sky, every
stroke more vivid than the one before. The rumble of the distant
thunder deepened to a heavy rolling which dominated the dull roar of
the breakers. The storm was coming with the on-rush of a tornado. Yet
the leaves hung motionless in the still air, and there was no sound
other than the thunder and the booming of the surf.
The lightning flared, one stroke upon the other, with a brilliancy
that lit up the cave's interior brighter than at mid-day.
In the white glare the girl saw Winthrope, crouched beneath her
upswung door; and his face was as the face of a beast.
CHAPTER XX. THE HURRICANE BLAST
For a moment that seemed a moment of eternity, she lay on her bed,
staring into the blank darkness. The storm burst with a crashing uproar
that brought her to her feet, with a shriek. Her giant tree creaked and
strained under the impact of the terrific hurricane blasts that came
howling through the cleft like a rout of shrieking fiends. The peals of
thunder merged into one continuous roar, beneath which the solid ledges
of rock jarred and quivered. The sky was a pall of black clouds, meshed
with a dazzling network of forked lightning.
The girl stood motionless, stunned by the uproar, appalled by the
blinding glare of the thunder-bolts; yet even more fearful of the
figure which every flash showed her still lurking beneath the door. A
gust-borne bough struck with numbing force against her upraised arm.
But she took no heed. She was unaware of the swirl of rain and sticks
and leaves that was driving in through the open entrance.
On a sudden the door shook free from its props and whirled violently
around on its balance-bar. There was a shriek that pierced above the
shrilling of the cyclone,a single human shriek.
The girl sprang across the cave. The heavy door swished up before
her and down again, its lower edge all but grazing her face. For a
moment it stopped in a vertical position, and hung quivering, like a
beast about to leap upon its prey. Too excited to comprehend the danger
of the act, the girl sprang forward and shot one of the thick bars into
A fierce gust leaped against the outer face of the door and thrust
in upon it, striving to burst it bodily from its bearings. The top and
the free side of the bottom bowed in. But the branches were still green
and tough, the bamboo like whalebone, and the shrunken creepers held
the frame together as though the joints were lashed with wire rope.
Failing to smash in the elastic structure, or to snap the crossbar, it
were as if the blast flung itself alternately against the top and
bottom in a fierce attempt to again whirl the frame about. The white
glare streaming in through the interstices showed the girl her
opportunity. She grasped another bar and shot it into its socket as the
lower part of the door gave back with the shifting of the pressure to
the top. It was then a simple matter to slide the remaining bars into
the deep-sunk holes. Within half a minute she had made the door fast,
from the first bar to the sixth.
A heavy spray was beating in upon her through the chinks of the
framework. She drew back and sought shelter in a niche at the side.
Narrow as was the slit above the top of the door, it let in a torrent
of water, which spouted clear across and against the far wall of the
cave. It gushed down upon her bed and was already flooding the cave
She piled higher the cocoanuts stored in her niche, and perched
herself upon the heap to keep above the water. But even in her
sheltered corner the eddying wind showered her with spray. She waded
across for her skin-covered sunshade, and returned to huddle beneath
it, in the still misery and terror of a hunted animal that has crept
wounded into a hole.
During the first hurricane there had been companions to whom she
could look for help and comfort, and she had been to a degree unaware
of the greatness of the danger. But in the few short weeks since, she
had caught more than one glimpse of Primeval Nature,she of the bloody
fang, blind, remorseless, insensate, destroying, ever destroying.
True, this was on solid land, while before there had been the peril
of the sea. But now the girl was alone. Outside the straining walls of
her refuge, the hurricane yelled and shrieked and roared,a headless,
formless monster, furious to burst in upon her, to overthrow her stanch
old tree giant, that in his fall his shattered trunk might crush and
mangle her. Or at any instant a thunder-bolt might rend open the great
tower of living wood, and hurl her blackened body into the pool on the
Once she fancied that she heard Blake shouting outside the door; but
when she screamed a shrill response, the blast mocked her with echoing
shrieks, and she dared not venture to free the door. If it were Blake,
he did not shout again. After a time she began to think that the sound
had been no more than a freak of the shifting wind. Yet the thought of
him out in the full fury of the cyclone served to turn her thoughts
from her own danger. She prayed aloud for his safety, beseeching her
God that he be spared. She sought to pray even for Winthrope. But the
vision of that beastly face rose up before her, and she could
Presently she became aware of a change in the storm. The terrific
gusts blew with yet greater violence, the thunder crashed heavier, the
lightning filled the air with a flame of dazzling white light. But the
rain no longer gushed across on the spot where her bed had been. It was
entering at a different angle, and its force was broken by the bend in
the thick wall of the entrance. After a time the deluge dashed aslant
the entrance, gushing down the door in a cataract of foam.
Another interval, and the driving downpour no longer struck even the
edge of the opening. The wind was veering rapidly as the cyclone centre
moved past on one side. The area of the hurricane was little more than
thrice that of a tornado, and it was advancing along its course at
great speed. An hour more, and the outermost rim of the huge whirl was
passing over the cleft.
Quickly the hurricane gusts fell away to a gale; the gale became a
breeze; the breeze lulled and died away, stifled by the torrential
Within the baobab all was again dark and silent. Utterly exhausted,
the girl had sunk back against the friendly wall of the tree, and
She was wakened by a hoarse call: Miss Jenny! Miss Jenny, answer
me! Are you all right?
She started up, barely saving herself from a fall as the big
unhusked nuts rolled beneath her feet. The morning sunlight was
streaming in over her door. She sprang down ankle-deep into the mire of
the cave floor, and ran to loosen the bars. As the door swung up, she
darted out, with a cry of delight: You are safesafe! Oh, I was so
afraid for you! But you're drenched! You must build a firedry
Wait, said Blake. I've got to tell you something.
He caught her outstretched hands, and pushed them down with gentle
force. His face was grave, almost solemn.
Think you can stand bad newsa shock?
IWhat is it? You look so strange!
It's about Winthrope,something very bad
She turned, with a gasp, and hid her face in her hands, shuddering
with horror and loathing.
Oh! oh! she cried, I know alreadyI know all!
All? demanded Blake, staring blankly.
Yes; all! Andand he made me think it was you! She gasped, and
Blake's face went white. He spoke in a clear, vibrant voice, tense
as an overstrained violin string: I am speaking about
Winthropeunderstand me?Winthrope. He has been badly hurt.
The door swung down and struck him, when he was creeping in.
God! roared Blake. I picked him up like a sick babythe
beast!'stead of grinding my heel in his face! God! I'll
Tom! don'tdon't even speak it! Tom!
God! When a helpless girlwhen a ! He choked, beside himself
She sprang to him, and caught his sleeve in a convulsive grasp.
Hush, for mercy's sake! Tom Blake, rememberyou're a man!
He calmed like a ferocious dog at the voice of its master; but it
was several minutes before he could bring himself to obey her insistent
urging that he should return to the injured man.
I'll go, he at last growled. Wouldn't do it even for you, but
he's good as deadlucky for him!
Dying. . . . . You stay away.
He went around the baobab and a few paces along the cleft to the
place where a limp form lay huddled on the ledges, out of the mud.
Slowly, as though drawn by the fascination of horror, the girl crept
after him. When she saw the broken, storm-beaten thing that had been
Winthrope, she stopped, and would have turned back. After all, as Blake
had said, he was dying
When she stood at the feet of the writhing figure, and looked down
into the battered face, it required all her will-power to keep from
fainting. Blake frowned up at her for an instant, but said nothing.
Winthrope was speaking, feebly and brokenly, yet distinctly:
Really, I did not mean any harmat firstyou know. But a man does
not always have control
Not a beast like you! growled Blake.
Ow! Don't 'it me! I say now, I'm done for! My legs are cold
Oh, quick, Mr. Blake! build a fire! It may be, some hot broth
Too late, muttered Blake. See here, Winthrope, there's no use
lying about it. You're going out mighty soon. See if you can't die like
Die! . . . Gawd, but I can't dieI can't dieOw! it burns!
He flung up a hand, and sought to tear at his wounds.
Hold hard! cried Blake, catching the hand in an iron grip.
Something in his touch, or the tone of command, seemed to cower the
wretched man into a state of abject submission.
S'elp me, I'll confess!I'll confess all! he babbled. The stones
are sewed in the stomach pad; I 'ad to take 'em hout of their settings,
and melt up the gold. He paused, and a cunning smile stole over his
distorted features. Ho, wot a bloomin' lark! Valet plays the gent, an'
they never 'as a hinkling! Mr. Cecil Winthrope, hif you please, an' a
'int of a titlewot a lark! 'Awkings, me lad, you're a gay 'oaxer! Wot
a lark! wot a lark!
Again there was a pause. The breath of the wounded man came in
labored gasps. There was an ominous rattling in his throat. Yet once
again he rallied, and this time his eyes turned to Miss Leslie, bright
with an agonized consciousness of her presence and of all his guilt and
His voice shrilled out in quavering appeal: Don'tdon't look at
me, miss! I tried to make myself a gentleman; God knows I tried! I
fought my way up out of the East Endout of that helland none ever
lifted finger to help me. I educated myself like a scholarthen the
stock sharks cheated me of my savingsout of the last penny; and I had
to take service. My God! a valethis Grace's valet, and I a scholar!
Do you wonder the devil got into me? Do you
Blake's deep voice, firm but strangely husky, broke in upon and
silenced the cry of agony: There, I guess you've said enough.
Enough!and last nightMy God! to be such a beast! The devil
tempted meaye, and he's paid me out in my own coin! I'm done for! God
ha' mercy on me!God ha' mercy
Again came the gasping rattle; this time there was no rally.
Blake thrust himself between Miss Leslie and the crumpled figure.
Get back around the tree, he said harshly.
What are you going to do?
That's my business, he replied. He thrust his burning-glass into
her hand. Here; go and build a fire, if you can find any dry stuff.
You're not going toYou'll bury him!
Yes. Whatever he may have been, he's dead now, poor devil!
I can't go, she half whispered, not untiluntil I've learned
Do youcan you tell me just what is paranoia?
Blake studied a little, and tapped the top of his head.
Near as I can say, it's softening of the brain.up there.
Do you think that she hesitatedthat he had it?
Again Blake paused to consider.
Well, I'm no alienist. I thought him a softy from the first. But
that was all in line with what he was playing on usBritish dude.
Fooled me, and I'd been chumming with Jimmy Scarbridge,and Jimmy was
the straight goods, fresh importedmonocle evenwhen I first ran up
against him. No; thisthis Hawkins, if that's his name, had brains all
right. Still, he may have been cracked. When folks go dotty, they
sometimes get extra 'cute. The best I can think of him is that losing
his savings may have made him slip a cog, and then the scare over the
way we landed here and his spells of fever probably hurried up the
Then you believe his story?
Yes, I do. But if you'll go, please.
One thing moreI must know now! Do you remember the day when you
set up the signal, and youyou quarrelled with him?
Blake reddened, and dropped his gaze. Did he go and tell you that?
If you please, let us say nothing more about him. But would you
care to tell me what you meantwhat you said then?
Blake's flush deepened; but he raised his head, and faced her
squarely as he answered: No; I'm not going to repeat any dead man's
talk; and as for what I said, this isn't the time or place to say
anything in that linenow that we're alone. Understand?
I'm afraid I do not, Mr. Blake. Please explain.
Don't ask me, Miss Jenny. I can't tell you now. You'll have to wait
till we get aboard ship. We'll catch a steamer before long. 'T isn't
every one of them that goes ashore in these blows.
Why did you build that door? Did you suspect She glanced down at
the huddled figure between them.
Blake frowned and hesitated; then burst out almost angrily: Well,
you know now he was a sneak; so it's not blabbing to tell that muchI
knew he was before; and it's never safe to trust a sneak.
Thank you! she said, and she turned away quickly that she might
not again look at the prostrate figure.
CHAPTER XXI. WRECKAGE AND SALVAGE
All the wood in the cleft was sodden from the fierce downpour that
had accompanied the cyclone; all the cleft bottom other than the bare
ledges was a bed of mud; everything without the tree-cave had been
either blown away or heaped with broken boughs and mud-spattered
rubbish. But the girl had far too much to think about to feel any
concern over the mere damage and destruction of things. It was rather a
relief to find something that called for work.
Not being able to find dry fuel, she gathered a quantity of the
least sodden of the twigs and branches, and spread them out on a ledge
in the clear sunshine. While her firewood was drying, she scraped away
the mud and litter heaped upon her rude hearth. She then began a search
for lost articles. When she dug out the pottery ware, she found her
favorite stew-pot and one of the platters in fragments. The
drying-frames for the meat had been blown away, and so had the antelope
and hyena skins.
Catching sight of a bit of white down among the bamboos, she went to
it, and was not a little surprised to see the tattered remnant of her
duck skirt. It had evidently been torn from the signal staff by the
first gust of the cyclone, whirled down into the cleft by some flaw or
eddy in the wind, and wadded so tightly into the heart of the thick
clump of stems that all the fury of the storm had failed to dislodge
it. Its recovery seemed to the girl a special providence; for of course
they must keep up a signal on the cliff.
Having started her fire and set on a stew, she hunted out her sewing
materials from their crevice in the cave, and began mending the slits
in the torn flag. While she worked she sat on a shaded ledge, her bare
feet toasting in the sun, and her soggy, mud-smeared moccasins drying
within reach. When Blake appeared, the moccasins were still where she
had first set them; but the little pink feet were safely tucked up
beneath the tattered flag. Fortunately, the sight of the white cloth
prevented Blake from noticing the moccasins.
Hello! he exclaimed. What's that?the flag? Say, that's luck!
I'll break out a bamboo right off. Old staff's carried clean away.
Mr. Blake,just a moment, please. What have you done withwith
Blake jerked his thumb upward.
You have carried him up on the cliff?
Best place I could think of. No animalsand I piled stones
over.... But, I say, look here.
He drew out a piece of wadded cloth, marked off into little squares
by crossing lines of stitches. One of the squares near the edge had
been ripped open. Blake thrust in his finger, and worked out an emerald
the size of a large pea.
O-h-h! cried Miss Leslie, as he held the glittering gem out to her
in his rough palm.
He drew it back, and carefully thrust it again into its pocket.
That's one, he said. There's another in every square of this
innocent, harmless ragdozens of them. He must have made a clean sweep
of the duke'sor, more like, the duchess's jewels. Now, if you please,
I want you to sew this up tight again, and
I cannotI cannot touch it! she cried.
Say, I didn't mean toIt was confounded stupid of me, mumbled
Blake. Won't you excuse me?
Of course! It was only thethe thought that
No wonder. I always am a fool when it comes to ladies. I'll fix the
thing all right.
Catching up the nearest small pot, he crammed the quilted cloth down
within it, and filled it to the brim with sticky mud.
There! Guess nobody's going to run off with a jug of mudand it
won't hurt the stones till we get a chance to look up the owner. He
won't be hard to findEnglish duke minus a pint of first-class
sparklers! Will you mind its setting in the cave after things are fixed
No; not as it is.
He nodded soberly. All right, then. Now I'll go for the new
flag-staff. You might set out breakfast.
She nodded in turn, and when he came back from the bamboos with the
largest of the great canes on his shoulder, his breakfast was waiting
for him. She set it before him, and turned to go again to her sewing.
Hold on, he said. This won't do. You've got to eat your share.
I do notI am not hungry.
That's no matter. Here!
He forced upon her a bowl of hot broth, and she drank it because she
could not resist his rough kindness.
Good! Now a piece of meat, he said.
Please, Mr. Blake! she protested.
Yes, you must!
She took a bite, and sought to eat; but there was such a lump in her
throat that she could not swallow. The tears gushed into her eyes, and
she began to weep.
Blake's close-set lips relaxed, and he nodded.
That's it; let it run out. You're overwrought. There's nothing like
a good cry to ease off a woman's nervesand I guess ladies aren't much
different from women when it comes to such things.
But II want to get the flag mended! she sobbed.
All right, all right; plenty of time! he soothed. I'm going to
see how things look down the cleft.
He bolted the last of his meat, and at once left her alone to cry
herself back to calmness over the stitching of the signal.
His first concern was for the barricade. As he had feared, he found
that it had been blown to pieces. The greater part of the thorn
branches which he had gathered with so much labor were scattered to the
four corners of the earth. He stood staring at the wreckage in glum
silence; but he did not swear, as he would have done the week before.
Presently his face cleared, and he began to whistle in a plaintive
minor key. He was thinking of how she had looked when she darted out of
the tree at his callof her concern for him. When he was so angered at
Winthrope, she had called him Tom!
After a time he started on, picking his way over the remnant of the
barricade, without a falter in his whistling. The deluge of rain had
poured down the cleft in a torrent, tearing away the root-matted soil
and laying bare the ledges in the channel of the spring rill. But aside
from an occasional boggy hole, the water had drained away.
At the foot, about the swollen pool, was a wide stretch of rubbish
and mud. He worked his way around the edge, and came out on the plain,
where the sandy soil was all the firmer for its drenching. He swung
away at a lively clip. The air was fresh and pure after the storm, and
a slight breeze tempered the sun-rays.
He kept on along the cliff until he turned the point. It was not
altogether advisable to bathe at this time of day; but he had been
caught out by the cyclone in a corner of the swamp, across the river,
where the soil was of clay. Only his anxiety for Miss Leslie had
enabled him to fight his way out of the all but impassable morass which
the storm deluge had made of the half-dry swamp. At dawn he had reached
the river, and swam across, reckless of the crocodiles. The turbid
water of the stream had rid him of only part of his accumulated slime
and ooze. So now he washed out his tattered garments as well as he
could without soap, and while they were drying on the sun-scorched
rocks, swam about in the clear, tonic sea-water, quite as reckless of
the sharks as he had been of the ugly crocodiles in the river.
For all this, he was back at the baobab before Miss Leslie had
stitched up the last slit in the torn flag.
She looked up at him, with a brave attempt at a smile.
I am afraid I'm not much of a needle-woman, she sighed. Look at
Don't fret. They'll hold all right, and that's what we want, he
reassured her. Give it me, now. I've got to get it up, and hurry back
for a nap. No sleep last nightI was out beyond the river, in the
swampand to-night I'll have to go on watch. The barricade is down.
Oh, that is too bad! Couldn't I take a turn on watch?
Blake shook his head. No; I'll sleep to-day, and work rebuilding
the barricade to-night. Toward morning I might build up the fire, and
take a nap.
He caught up the flag and its new staff, and swung away through the
He returned much sooner than Miss Leslie expected, and at once began
to throw up a small lean-to of bamboos over a ledge at the cliff foot,
behind the baobab. The girl thought he was making himself a hut, in
place of the canopy under which he had slept before the storm, which,
like Winthrope's, had been carried away. But when he stopped work, he
laconically informed her that all she had to do to complete her new
house was to dry some leaves.
But I thought it was for yourself! she protested. I will sleep
inside the tree.
Doc Blake says no! he rejoinednot till it's dried out.
She glanced at his face, and replied, without a moment's hesitancy:
Very well. I will do what you think best.
That's good, he said, and went at once to lie down for his much
He awoke just soon enough before dark to see the results of her hard
day's labor. All the provisions stored in the tree had been brought out
to dry, and a great stack of fuel, ready for burning, was piled up
against the baobab; while all about the tree the rubbish had been
neatly gathered together in heaps. Blake looked his admiration for her
industry. But then his forehead wrinkled.
You oughtn't to've done so much, he admonished.
I'll show you I can tote fair! she rejoined. During the afternoon
she had called to mind that odd expression of a Southern girl chum, and
had been waiting her opportunity to banter him with it.
He stared at her open-eyed, and laughed.
Say, Miss Jenny, you'd better look out. You'll be speaking
American, first thing!
Thereupon, they fell to chattering like children out of school, each
happy to be able to forget for the moment that broken figure up on the
cliff top and the haunting fear of what another day might bring to
When they had eaten their meal, both with keen appetites, Blake
sprang up, with a curt Good-night! and swung off down the cleft. The
girl looked after him, with a lingering smile.
I wish he hadn't rushed off so suddenly, she murmured. I was just
going to thank him forfor everything!
The color swept over her face in a deep blush, and she darted around
to her tiny hut as though some one might have overheard her whisper.
Yet, after all, she had said nothing; or, at least, she had merely
CHAPTER XXII. UNDERSTANDING AND
In the morning she found Blake scraping energetically at the inner
surfaces of a pair of raw hyena skins.
So you've killed more game! she exclaimed.
Game? No; hyenas. I hated to waste good poison on the brutes; but
nothing else showed up, and I need a new pair of paertrousers.
Was it not dangerousgreat beasts like these!
Not even enough to make it interesting. I'd have had some fun,
though, with that confounded lion when the moon came up, if he hadn't
sneaked off into the grass.
Yes. Didn't you hear him? The skulking brute prowled around for
hours before the moon rose, when it was pitch dark. It was mighty
lonesome, with him yowling down by the pool. Half a chance, and I'd
given him something to yowl about. But it wasn't any use firing off my
arrows in the dark, and, as I said, he sneaked off before
TomMr. Blake!you must not risk your life!
Don't you worry about me. I've learned how to look out for Tom
Blake. And you can just bank on it I'm going to look out for Miss Jenny
Leslie, too! . . . . But say, after breakfast, suppose we take a run
out on the cliffs for eggs?
I do not wish any to-day, thank you.
He waited a little, studying her down-bent face.
Well, he muttered; you don't have to come. I know I oughtn't to
take a moment's time. I did quite a bit last night; but if you think
She glanced up, puzzled. His meaning flashed upon her, and she rose.
Oh, not that! I will come, she answered, and hastened to prepare
the morning meal.
When they came to the tree-ladder, she found that the heap of stones
built up by Blake to facilitate the first part of the ascent was now so
high that she could climb into the branches without difficulty. She
surmised that Blake had found it necessary to build up the pile before
he could ascend with his burden.
They were at the foot of the heap, when, with a sharp exclamation,
Blake sprang up into the branches, and scrambled to the top in hot
haste. Wondering what this might mean, Miss Leslie followed as fast as
she could. When she reached the top, she saw him running across towards
an out-jutting point on the north edge of the cliff.
She had hurried after him for more than half the distance before she
perceived the vultures that were gathered in a solemn circle about a
long and narrow heap of stones, on a ledge, down on the sloping brink
of the cliff. While at the foot of the tree Blake had seen one of the
grewsome flock descending to join the others, and, fearful of what
might be happening, had rushed on ahead.
At his approach, the croaking watchers hopped awkwardly from the
ledges, and soared away; only to wheel, and circle back overhead. Miss
Leslie shrank down, shuddering. Blake came back near her, and began to
gather up the pieces of loose rock which were strewn about beneath the
ledges on that part of the cliff.
I know I piled up enough, he explained, in response to her look.
All the same, a few more will do no harm.
Then you are sure those awful birds have not
Yes; I'm sure.
He carried an armful of rocks to lay on the mound. When he began to
gather more, she followed his example. They worked in silence, piling
the rough stones gently one upon another, until the cairn had grown to
twice its former size. The air on the open cliff top was fresher than
in the cleft, and Miss Leslie gave little heed to the absence of shade.
She would have worked on under the burning sun without thought of
consequences. But Blake knew the need of moderation.
There; that'll do, he said. He may have beenall he was; but
we've no more than done our duty. Now, we'll stroll out on the point.
I should prefer to return.
No doubt. But it's time you learned how to go nesting. What if you
should be left alone here? Besides, it looks to me like the signal is
She accompanied him out along the cliff crest until they stood in
the midst of the bird colony, half deafened by their harsh clamor. She
had never ventured into their concourse when alone. Even now she cried
out, and would have retreated before the sharp bills and beating wings
had not Blake walked ahead and kicked the squawking birds out of the
path. Having made certain that the big white flag was still secure on
its staff, he led the way along the seaward brink of the cliff,
pointing out the different kinds of seafowl, and shouting information
about such of their habits and qualities as were of concern to hungry
He concluded the lesson by descending a dizzy flight of ledges to
rob the nest of a frigate bird. It was a foolhardy feat at best, and
doubly so in view of the thousands of eggs lying all around in the
hollows of the cliff top. But from these Blake had recently culled out
all the fresh settings of the frigate birds, and none of the other eggs
equalled them in delicacy of flavor.
How's that? he demanded, as he drew himself up over the edge of
the cliff, and handed the big chalky-white egg into her keeping.
I would rather go without than see you take such risks, she
You would, eh! he cried, quite misunderstanding her, and angered
by what seemed to him a gratuitous rebuff. Well, I'd rather you'd say
nothing than speak in that tone. If you don't want the egg heave it
Unable to conceive any cause for his sudden anger, she was alarmed,
and drew back, watching him with sidelong glances.
What's the matter? he demanded. Think I'm going to bite you?
She shrank farther away, and did not answer. He stared at her, his
eyes hard and bright. Suddenly he burst into a harsh laugh, and strode
away towards the cliff, savagely kicking aside the birds that came in
When, an hour later, the girl crept back along the cleft to the
baobab, she saw him hard at work building a little hut, several yards
down towards the barricade. The moment she perceived what he was about
her bearing became less guarded, and she took up her own work with a
spirit and energy which she had not shown since the adventure with the
At her call to the noon meal, Blake took his time to respond, and
when he at last came to join her, he was morose and taciturn. She met
him with a smile, and exerted all her womanly tact to conciliate him.
You must help me eat the egg, she said. I've boiled it hard.
Rather eat beef, he mumbled.
But just to please mewhen I've cooked it your way!
He uttered an inarticulate sound which she chose to interpret as
assent. The egg was already shelled. She cut it exactly in half, and
served one of the pieces to him with a bit of warm fat and a pinch of
salt. As he took the dish, he raised his sullen eyes to her face. She
met his gaze with a look of smiling insistence.
Come now, she said; please don't refuse. I'm sorry I was so
Well, if you feel that way about it!not that I care for fancy
dishes, he responded gruffly.
It would be missing half the enjoyment to eat such a delicacy
without some one to share it, she said.
Blake looked away without answer. But she could see that his face
was beginning to clear. Greatly encouraged, she chatted away as though
they were seated at her father's dinner-table, and he was an elderly
friend from the business world whom it was her duty to entertain.
For a while Blake betrayed little interest, confining himself to
monosyllables except when he commented on the care with which she had
cooked the various dishes. When she least expected, he looked up at
her, his lips parted in a broad smile. She stopped short, for she had
been describing her first social triumphs, and his untimely levity
Don't get mad, Miss Jenny, he said, his eyes twinkling. You don't
know how funny it seems to sit here and listen to you talking about
those things. It's like serving up ice cream and onions in the same
I'm sure, Mr. Blake
Beats a burlesque all hollowMrs. Sint-Regis-Waldoff's chop-sooey
tea and young Mrs. Vandam-Jones's auto-cotillonwith us sitting here
like troglodytes, chewing snake-poisoned antelope, and you in that
Do youI was not aware that you knew about music.
Don't know a note. But give me a chance to hear good music, and I'm
there, if I have to stand in the peanut gallery.
Oh, I'm so glad! I'm very, very fond of music! Have you been to
In Germany. It is where his operas are given as staged by Wagner
himself. It is indescribably grand and inspiringabove all, the
I'll most certainly take that in, even if I have to cut short my
engagement in this gee-lorious climenot but what, when it comes to
leopard ladies He paused, and surveyed her with frank admiration.
The blood leaped into her face.
Oh! she gasped, I never dreamed that even such a man as you would
compare me withwith a creature like that!
Such a man as me! repeated Blake, staring. What do you mean? I
know I'm not much of a ladies' man; but to be yanked up like this when
a fellow is trying to pay a complimentwell, it's not just what you'd
I beg your pardon, Mr. Blake. I misunderstood. I
That's all right, Miss Jenny! I don't ask any lady to beg my
pardon. The only thing is I don't see why you should flare out at me
For a full minute she sat, with down-bent head, her face clouded
with doubt and indecision. At last she bravely raised her eyes to meet
Do you wonder that I am not quite myself? she asked. You should
remember that I have always had the utmost comforts of life, and have
been cared forDon't you see how terrible it is for me? And then the
I can't be sorry for that!
But even you felt how terrible it was . . . . and thenOh, surely,
you must see howhow embarrassing
It was Blake's turn to look down and hesitate. She studied his face,
her bosom heaving with quick-drawn breath; but she could make nothing
of his square jaw and firm-set lips. His eyes were concealed by the
brim of his leaf hat. When he spoke, seemingly it was to change the
subject: Guess you saw me making my hut. I'm fixing it so it'll do me
even when it rains.
Had he been the kind of man that she had been educated to consider
as alone entitled to the name of gentleman, she could have felt certain
that he had intended the remark for a delicately worded assurance. But
was Tom Blake, for all his blunt kindliness, capable of such tact? She
chose to consider that he was.
It's a cunning little bungalow. But will not the rain flood you
It's going to have a raised floor. You're more like to have the
rain drive in on you again. I'll have to rig up a porch over your door.
It won't do to stuff up the hole. You've little enough air as it is.
But that can wait a while. There's other work more pressing. First,
there's the barricade. By the time that's done, those hyena skins will
be cured enough to use. I've got to have new trousers soon, and new
I can do the sewing, if you will cut out the pattern.
No; I'll take a stagger at it myself first. I'd rather you'd go
egging. You need to run around more, to keep in trim.
I feel quite well now, and I am growing so strong! The only thing
is this constant heat.
We'll have to grin and bear it. After all, it's not so bad, if only
we can stave off the fever. Another reason I want you to go for eggs is
that you can take your time about it, and keep a look-out for
Then you think ?
Don't screw up your hopes too high. We've little show of being
picked up by a chance boat on a coast with reefs like this. But I
figure that if I was in your daddy's shoes, it'd be high time for me to
be cabling a ship to run up from Natal, or down from Zanzibar, to look
around for jettison, et cetera.
I'm sure papa will offer a big reward.
Second the motion! I've a sort of idea I wouldn't mind coming in
for a reward myself.
You? Oh, yes; to be sure. Papa is generous, and he will be grateful
to any one who
You think I mean his dirty money! broke in Blake, hotly.
Her confusion told him that he had not been mistaken. His face, only
a moment since bright and pleasant, took on its sullenest frown.
Miss Leslie rose hurriedly, and started along the cleft.
Hello! he called. Not going for eggs now, are you?
She did not reply.
Hang it all, Miss Jenny! Don't go off like that.
May I ask you to excuse me, Mr. Blake? Is that sufficient?
Sufficient? It's enough to give a fellow a chill! Come now; don't
go off mad. You know I've a quick temper. Can't you make allowances?
You'veyou've no right to look so angry, even if I did
misunderstand you. You misunderstood me! She caught herself up with a
half sob. His silence gave her time to recover her composure. She
continued with excessive politeness, Need I repeat my request to be
excused, Mr. Blake?
No; once is enough! But honest now, I didn't mean to be nasty.
Good-day, Mr. Blake.
Oh, da-darn it, good-day! he groaned.
When, a few minutes later, she returned, he was gone. He did not
come back until some time after dark, when she had withdrawn to her
lean-to for the night. His hands were bleeding from thorn scratches;
but after a hasty supper, he went back down the cleft to build up the
new wall of the barricade with the great stack of fresh thorn-brush
that he had gathered during the afternoon.
CHAPTER XXIII. THE END OF THE WORLD
In the morning he met Miss Leslie with a sullen bearing, which,
however, did not altogether conceal his desire to be on friendly terms.
Having regained her self-control, she responded to this with such tact
that by evening each felt more at ease in the new relationship, and
Blake had lost every trace of his moroseness. The fact that both were
passionately fond of music proved an immense help. It gave them an
impersonal source of mutual sympathy and understanding,a common
meeting-ground in the world of art and culture, apart from and above
the plane of their material wants.
Yet for all his enjoyment of the girl's wide knowledge of everything
relating to music, Blake took care that their talks and discussions did
not interfere with the activities of their primitive mode of life. As
soon as he had finished with the barricade, he devoted himself to his
tailoring and shoe-making; while Miss Leslie, between her cooking and
wood-gathering and daily visits to the cliff for eggs, had much to
occupy both her thoughts and her hands.
At first every ascent of the cliff was embittered by a painful
consciousness of the cairn upon the north edge. Fortunately it was not
in sight from the direct path to the headland, and, as she refrained
from visiting it, the new happenings of her wild life soon thrust
Winthrope and his death out of the foreground of her thoughts. Each day
she had to nerve herself to meet the beaks and wings of the despoiled
nest-owners; each day she looked with greater hope for the expected
rescue ship, only to be increasingly disappointed.
But the hours she spent on the cliff crest after gathering the day's
supply of eggs were not spent merely in watching and longing. The
inconvenience of carrying the eggs in a handkerchief or in one of the
heavy jars suggested a renewal of her attempt at basket-making. Memory,
perseverance, and a trace of inventiveness enabled her to produce a
small but serviceable hamper of split bamboo.
Encouraged by this success she gathered a quantity of tough, wiry
grass, and wove a hat to take the place of the flimsy palm-leaf
makeshift. The result was by no means satisfactory with regard to
style, its shape being intermediate between a Mexican sombrero and a
funnel; but aside from its appearance, she could not have wished for a
more comfortable head-cover. Before showing it to Blake, she wove a
second one for him, so that they were able to cast aside the grotesque,
palm-leaf affairs at the same time.
The following morning Blake appeared in an outfit to match her
leopard-skin dress. He had singed off the hair of the hide out of which
he had made his moccasins, and his hyena-skin trousers quite matched
the bristling stubble on his face.
Hey, Miss Jenny! he hailed; what d' you think of this for fancy
Splendid! You're the very picture of an Argentine vaquero.
Greaser?ugh! Let me get back to the Weary Willy pants!
I mean you are very picturesque.
That's it, is it? Glad I've got something to call your leopardine
gown that won't make you huffy.
We can at least call our costumes serviceable, and mine has proved
much cooler than I expected.
But our new hats beat all for thatregular sunshades. What do you
say?there's a good breezeLet's take a hike.
Not to the river! The very thought of that dreadful snake
No; just the other way. I've been thinking for some time that we
ought to run down to that south headland, and take a squint at the
coast beyond. Ten to one, it's another stretch of swamps, but
You think there is a chance we may find a town?
About one chance in a million, even for a native village. The slave
trade wiped the niggers off this coast, and I guess those that hit out
upcountry ran so hard they haven't been able to get back yet.
But it has been years since the slave trade was forbidden.
And they don't sell beer in Kansasoh, no! I'll bet the dhows
still slip over from Madagascar when the moon is in the right quarter.
At any rate, niggers are mighty scarce or mighty shy around here. I've
kept a watch for smoke, and haven't seen a suspicion of it anywhere.
Maybe the swamps swing around inland and cut off this strip of coast.
It looked that way to me when I made that trip along the ridge. But
there's a chance it used to be inhabited, and we may run across an
I do not see that the discovery would do us any good.
How about the chance of grain or bananas still growing? But that's
all a guess. We're going because we need a change.
She nodded, and hastened to prepare breakfast, while he packed a
skin bag with food, and examined the slender tips of his arrows. As a
matter of precaution, he had been keeping them in the cigarette case,
where the points would be certain of a coat of the sticky poison and at
the same time guarded against inflicting a chance wound. But as he was
now about to set out on a journey, he fitted tips into the heads of his
two straightest shafts.
The morning was still fresh when they closed the barricade behind
them and descended to the pool. There was no game in sight, but Blake
had no wish to hunt at the commencement of the trip. The steady
southwest wind had blown the sky clear of its malarial haze, and gave
promise of a day which should know nothing of sultry calma day on
which game would be hard to stalk, but one perfectly suited for a long
Mindful of ticks, Blake headed obliquely across to the beach. Once
on the smooth, hard sand, they swung along at a brisk pace,
light-hearted and keen with the spirit of adventure. Never had they
felt more companionable. Miss Leslie laughed and chatted and sang
snatches of songs, while Blake beat time with his club, or sought to
whistle grand operahe had healed his blistered lips some time before
by liberal applications of antelope tallow.
Gulls and terns circled about them, or hovered over the water, ready
to swoop down upon their finny prey. Sandpipers ran along the beach
within a stone's throw, but the curlews showed their greater knowledge
of mankind by keeping beyond gunshot.
Once a great flock of geese drove high overhead, their leader
honking the alarm as they swept above the suspicious figures on the
beach. Like the curlews, they had knowledge of mankind. But the flock
of white pelicans which came sailing along in stately leisure on their
immense wings floated past so low that Blake felt certain he could
shoot one. He raised his bow and took aim, but refrained from shooting,
at the thought that it might be a sheer waste of his precious poison.
A little later a herd of large animals appeared on the border of the
grass jungle, but wheeled and dashed back into cover so quickly that
Blake barely had time to make out that they were buffaloesthe first
he had seen on this coast, but easily recognized by their resemblance
to the Cape variety. Their flight gave him small concern; for the time
being he was more interested in topography than game.
The southern headland now lay close before them, its seaward face
rearing up sheer and lofty, but the approach behind running down in
broken terraces. Mid-morning found the explorers at the foot of the
ridge. Blake squinted up at the boulder-strewn slopes and the crannies
of the broken ledges.
Likely place for snakes, Miss Jenny, he remarked. Guess I'd
Eager as she was to look over into the country beyond, the girl
dropped into second place, and made no complaint about the wary
slowness of her companion's advance. She found the most difficult parts
of the ascent quite easy after her training on the tree-ladder. Blake
could have taken ledges and all at a run, but as he mounted each
terrace, he halted to spy out the ground before him. Like Miss Leslie,
he was looking for snakes, though for an exactly opposite reason. He
wished to add to the contents of the cigarette case.
Greatly to his disappointment and the girl's relief, neither snake
nor sign of snake was to be seen all the way up the ridge. As they
neared the crest Blake turned to offer her his hand up the last ledges,
and in the instant they gained the top.
The wind, now freshening to a gale, struck the girl with such force
that she would have been blown back down the ledges had not Blake
clutched her wrist. Heedless alike of the painful grip which held her
and of the gusts which tore at her skirt, the girl stood gazing out
across the desolate swamps which stretched away to the southwest as far
as the eye could see. She did not speak until Blake led her down behind
the shelter of the crest ledges.
What's the matter? he demanded. Didn't I warn you?
She looked away to hide the tears which sprang into her eyes.
I can't explainonly, it makes me feel soso lonely!
Oh, come now, little woman; don't take on so! he urged. It might
be a lot worse, you know. We've gotten along pretty well, considering.
You have been very kind, Mr. Blake, and as you say, matters might
have been worse. I do not forget how far more terrible was our
situation the morning after the storm. Yet you must realize how
disappointing it is to lose even the slightest hope of escape.
Well, I don't know. If it wasn't for the fever that's bound to come
with the rains, I, for one, would just as leave stick to this camp
right along, providing the company don't change.
She turned upon him with flashing eyes, all thought of caution lost
in her anger. How dare you say such a thing? You are contemptible! I
My, Miss Jenny, but you are pretty when you get mad! he exclaimed.
The answer took her completely aback. He was neither angry nor
laughing at her, but met her defiant glance with candid, sober
admiration. There was something more than admiration in his glowing
eyes; yet she could not but see that her alarm had been baseless. His
manner had never been more respectful. Suddenly she found that she
could no longer meet his gaze. She looked away and stammered lamely,
Youyou shouldn't say such things, you know.
Why not? Hasn't everything been running smooth the last few days?
Haven't we been good chummy comrades? Of course you've got the worst of
the deal. I know I'm not much on fancy talk; but I like to hear it when
I've a chance. I've led a lonesome sort of life since they did for my
sistersNo; I'm not going to rake that up again. I'm only trying to
give you an idea what it means to a fellow to be with a lady like you.
May be it isn't polite to tell you all this, but it's just what I feel,
and I never did amount to shucks as a liar.
I believe I understand you, Mr. Blake, and I really feel highly
No, you don't, any such thing, Miss Jenny. Own up, now! If I met
you to-morrow on your papa's doorstep, you'd cut me cold.
I should if you continued to be so rude. Have you no regard for my
feelings? But here we are, talking nonsense, when we should be going
Is it nonsense? he broke in. What does life mean, anyway? Here we
can be true friends and comrades,real, free living people. It can't
be that you want to go back to all those society shams, after you've
seen real life! As for me, what have I to gain by going back to the
everlasting grind? I don't mind work; but when a man has nothing ahead
to work for but a bank account, when it's grind, grind, grind till your
head goes stale and all the world looks black, then there's no choice
but throw up your job and go on a drunk, if you want to keep from a gun
accident. Maybe you don't understand it. But that's what I've had to go
through, time and again. Do you wonder I like to fancy an everlasting
picnic here, with a little partner who wouldn't let me come within
shouting distance of her in the land of lavendertrousers and
Mr. Blake, really you are most unjust! I could not be soso
ungrateful, after all your kindness. Iwe should certainly be glad to
number you among our friends.
Drink and all, eh?
A man of your will-power has no need whatever to give way to such a
Course not, if he's got anything in sight worth while. Guess,
though, my folks must have been poor white trash. I never could go
after money just for the fun of the game. No family, no friends,
nowhat-youcall-it?cultureWhat's the use? I have a fair head for
figures; but all the mathematics that I know I've had to catch hot off
the bat. It's true I grubbed my C. E. out of a correspondence school;
but a fellow has to have an all-round, crack-up education to put him
where it's worth while.
You still have time to work up. You are not much over thirty.
Twenty-seven! I should have thoughtWhat a hard life you must have
Hard work? Well, I suppose Panama did do for me some. But it wasn't
so much that. Few fellows could hit up the pace I've set and come out
I do not understand.
Just what you might expect of a fellow in my fixall kinds of
gamble and drink andthe rest of it.
Miss Leslie looked away, visibly distressed. She had not been reared
after the French method. Young as she was, she had fluttered at will
about the borders of the garden of vice, knowing well that the gaudy
blossoms were lures to entice one into the pitfall. Yet never before
had she caught so clear a glimpse of the slimy depths.
That's it! growled Blake. Throw me down cold, just because I'm
square enough to tell you straight out. You make me tired! I'm not one
of the work-ox sort, that can chew the cud all the year round, and cork
the blood out of their brains. I've got to cut loose from the infernal
grind once in a while, and barring a chance now and then at opera,
there's never been anything but a spree
Oh, but that's so dreadfully shocking, Mr. Blake!
And then like all the other little hypocrites, you'll go and marry
one of those swell dudes who's made that sort of thing his business,
and everybody knows it, but it's all politely understood to've been
done sub rosa, so it's all right, because he knows how to part his name
in the middle and
Please, please stop, Mr. Blake! You don't know how cruel you are!
Cruel? Suppose I told you about the millionaire cur thatOh, now,
don't go and cry! Please don't cry, Miss Jenny! I wouldn't hurt your
feelings for the world! I didn't mean anything out of the way, really I
didn't! It's only that when I get to thinking ofof things, it sets me
half crazy. And now, can't you see how it's going to be ten times worse
for me afterwith you so altogether beyond me He stopped short,
flushed, and stammered lamely, II didn't mean to say that!
She looked down, no less embarrassed.
Please let us talk of something else, she murmured. It has been
such a pleasant morning, until youuntil we began this silly
All right, all right! Only mop up the dewdrops, and we'll turn on
the sun machine. I really didn't mean to rip out that way at all. But,
you see, the thing's been rankling in me ever since we came aboard ship
at the Cape, and Winthrope and Lady Bayrose had my seat changed so I
couldn't see youNot that I hold anything against them now
Mr. Blake, I suppose you know that this African coast is
particularly dangerous for women. So far I have escaped the fever. But
you yourself said that the longer the attack is delayed, the worse it
Blake's face darkened, and he turned to stare inland along the
ridge. She had flicked him on the raw, and he thought that she had done
You think I haven't triedthat I've been shamming! he burst out
bitterly. You're right. There's the one chanceBut I couldn't leave
you till the barricade was finished, and it's been only a few days
sinceAll the same, I oughtn't to've waited a day. I'll start it
What! Start what?
A catamaran. I can rig one up, in short order, that, with a skin
sail and an outrigger, will do fairly well to coast along inside the
reefsbarring squalls. Worst thing is that it's all a guess whether
the nearest settlement is up the coast or down.
And you can think of going, and leaving me all alone here!
That's better than letting you risk two-to-one chances on feeding
But you'd be risking it!
Blake uttered a short harsh laugh.
What's the difference? He paused a moment; then added, with grim
humor, Anyway, they'll have earned a meal by the time they get me
You sha'n't go!
Oh, I don't know. We'll see about it to-morrow. There's a grove of
cocoanuts yonder. Come on, and I'll get some nuts. I can't see any
water around here, and it would be dry eating, with only the flask.
CHAPTER XXIV. A LION LEADS THEM
The palm grove stood under the lee of the ridge, on a stretch of
bare ground. Other than seaward, the open space was hemmed in by grass
jungle, interspersed with clumps of thorn-brush. On the north side a
jutting corner of the tall, yellow spear-grass curved out and around,
with the point of the hook some fifty yards from the palms. Elsewhere
the distance to the jungle was nearly twice as far.
Blake dropped the bag and his weapons, flung down his hat, and
started up a palm shaft. The down-pointing bristles of his skin
trousers aided his grip. Though the lofty crown of the palm was swaying
in the wind, he reached the top and was down again before Miss Leslie
had arranged the contents of the lunch bag.
Guess you're not extra hungry, he remarked.
She made no response.
Mad, eh? Well, toss me the little knife. Mine has got too good a
meat-edge to spoil on these husks.
It was very kind of you to climb for the nuts, and the wind blowing
so hard up there, she said, as she handed over the penknife. I am not
angry. It is only that I feel tired and depressed. I hope I am not
going to be
No; you're not going to have the fever, or any such thing! You're
played out, that's all. I'm a fool for bringing you so far. You'll be
all right after you eat and rest. Here; drink this cocoa milk.
She drained the nut, and upon his insistence, made a pretence at
eating. He was deceived until, with the satisfying of his first keen
hunger, he again became observant.
Say, that won't do! he exclaimed. Look at your bowl. You haven't
nibbled enough to keep a mouse alive.
Really, I am not hungry. But I am resting.
Try another nut. I'll have one ready in two shakes.
He caught his hat, which was dragging past in a downward eddy of the
wind, and weighted it with a cocoanut. He wedged another nut between
his knees, and bent over it, tearing at the husk. It took him only a
few moments to strip the fibre from the end and gouge open the germ
hole. He held out the nut, and glanced up to meet her smile of
She was staring past him, her eyes wide with terror, and the color
fast receding from her face.
What inAnother snake? he demanded, twisting warily about to
glare at the ground behind him.
Thereover in the grass! she whispered, It looked out at me with
terrible, savage eyes!
Snake?that far off?
No, no!a monstera huge, fierce beast!
Beast? echoed Blake, grasping his bow and arrows. Where is he?
Maybe only one of these African buffaloes. How'd he look?horns?
II didn't see any. It was all shaggy, and yellow like the grass,
and terrible eyesOh!
The girl's scream was met by a ferocious, snarling roar, so deep and
prolonged that the air quivered and the very ground seemed to shake.
God!a lion! cried Blake, the hair on his bare head bristling
like a startled animal's.
He turned squarely about toward the ridge, his bow half drawn. Had
the lion shown himself then, Blake would have shot on the instant. As
it was, the beast remained behind the screening border of grass, where
he could watch his intended quarry without being seen in turn. The
delay gave Blake time for reflection. He spoke sharply, as it were
biting off his words: Hit out. I'll stop the bluffer.
I can't. Oh, I'm afraid!
Again the hidden beast gave voice to his mighty rumbling challenge.
Still he did not appear, and Blake attempted a derisive jeer: Hey,
there, louder! We've not run yet! It's all right, little woman. The
skulking sneak is trying to bluff us. 'Fraid to come out if we don't
stampede. He'll make off when he finds we don't scare. Lions never
tackle men in the daytime. Just keep cool a while. He'll
Look!there to the right!I saw him again! He's creeping around!
See the grass move!
That's only the wind. It eddies downGod! he is stalking around.
Trying to take us from behindcurse him! He may get me, but I'll get
him too,the dirty sneak!
The blood had flowed back into Blake's face, and showed on each
cheek in a little red patch. His broad chest rose and fell slowly to
deep respirations; his eyes glowed like balls of white-hot steel. He
drew his bow a little tauter, and wheeled slowly to keep the arrow
pointed at the slight wave in the grass which marked the stealthy
movements of the lion. Miss Leslie, more terrified with every added
moment of suspense, cringed around, that she might keep him between her
and the hidden beast.
Minute after minute dragged by. Only a man of Blake's obstinate,
sullen temperament could have withstood the strain and kept cool. Even
he found the impulse to leap up and run all but irresistible. Miss
Leslie crouched behind him, no more able to run than a mouse with which
a cat has been playing.
Once they caught a glimpse of the sinuous, tawny form gliding among
the leafless stems of a thorn clump. Blake took quick aim; but the
outlines of the beast were indistinct and the range long. He hesitated,
and the opportunity was lost.
Yard by yard they watched the slight swaying of the grass tops which
betrayed the cautious advance of the grim stalker. The beast did not
roar again. Having failed to flush his game, he was seeking to catch
them off their guard, or perhaps was warily taking stock of the strange
creatures, whose like he had never seen.
Now and then there was a pause, and the grass tops swayed only to
the down-puffs of the heightening gale. At such moments the two grew
rigid, watching and waiting in breathless suspense. They could see, as
distinctly as though there had been no screening grass, the baleful
eyes of the huge cat and the shaggy forebody as the beast stood still
and glared out at them.
Then the sinuous wave would start on again around the grass border,
and Blake would draw in a deep breath and mutter a word of
encouragement to the girl: Look, nowthe dirty sneak! Trying to give
us the creeps, is he? I'll creeps him! 'Fraid to show his pretty mug!
Not until the beast had circled half around the glade did his
purpose flash upon Blake. With the wariness of all savage hunters, the
animal had marked out the spur of jungle on the north side, where he
could creep closer to his quarry before leaping from cover.
The damned sneak! growled Blake. You there, Jenny?
She could not speak, but he heard her gasp.
Brace up, little woman! Where's your grit? You're out of this deal,
anyway. He'll choke to death swallowing meBut say; couldn't you
manage to shin up a palm, twenty feet or so, and hang on for a couple
of minutes I
Ican't moveI am
Make a try! It'll give me a run for my money. I'll take the next
elevator after you. That'll bring the bluffer out on the hot-foot. I
slip a surprise between his ribs, and we view the scenery while he's
passing in his checks. Come; make a spurt! He's around the turn, and
getting nearer every step.
I can'tTom,there is no need that both of usYou climb up
He turned about as the meaning of her whisper dawned upon him. Her
eyes were shining with the ecstasy of self-sacrifice. It was only the
glance of an instant; then he was again facing the jungle.
God! You think I'd do that!
She made no reply. There was a pause. Blakecrouched on one knee,
tense and alertwaited until the sinister wave was advancing into the
point of the incurved jungle. Then he spoke, in a low, even tone: Feel
if my glass is there.
Her hand reached around and pressed against the fob pocket which he
had sewn in the belt of his skin trousers.
Right. Now slip my club up under my elbowbig end. Lick on the
nose'll stop a dog or a bull. It's a chance.
She thrust the club under his right elbow, and he gripped it against
At that moment the lion bounded from cover, with a roar like a clap
of thunder. Blake sprang erect. The beast checked himself in the act of
leaping, and crouched with his great paws outstretched, every hooked
claw thrust out, ready to tear and mangle. In two or three bounds he
could have leaped upon Blake and crushed him with a single stroke of
his paw. As he rose to repeat his deafening roar, it seemed to Blake
that he stood higher than a horsethat his mouth gaped wide as the end
of a hogshead. And yet the beast stood hesitating, restrained by brute
dread of the unknown. Never before had any animal that he had hunted
reared up to meet his attack in this strange manner.
Lie flat! commanded Blake; lie flat, and don't move! I'm going to
call his bluff. Keep still till the poison gets in its work. I'll keep
him busy long as I can. When it's over, hit out for home along the
beach. Keep inside the barricade, and watch all you can from the
cliffs. Might light a fire up there nights. There's sure to be a
steamer before long
Tom! she cried, struggling to her knees,Tom!
But he did not pause or look around. He was beginning to circle
slowly to the left across the open ground, in a spiral curve that would
bring him to the edge of the jungle within thirty yards of the lion.
There was red now showing in his eyes. His hair was bristling, no
longer with fear, but with sheer brute fury; his lips were drawn back
from the clenched teeth; his nostrils distended and quivering; his
forehead wrinkled like that of an angry mastiff. His look was more
ferocious than that of the snarling beast he faced. All the primeval in
him was roused. He was become a man of the Cave Age. He went to meet
death, his mind and body aflame with fierce lust to kill.
The lion stilled his roars, and crouched as if to spring, snarling
and grinning with rage and uncertainty. His eyes, unaccustomed to the
glare of the mid-day sun, blinked incessantly, though he followed the
man's every movement, his snarls deepening into growls at the slightest
change of attitude.
In his blind animal rage, Blake had forgotten that the purpose of
his lateral advance was to place as great a distance as possible
between him and the girl before the clash. Yet instinct kept him moving
along his spiral course, on the chance that he might catch his foe off
Suddenly the lion half rose and stretched forward, sniffing. There
was an uneasy whining note in his growls. Blake let the club slip from
beneath his arm, and drew his bow until the arrow-head lay upon his
thumb. His outstretched arm was rigid as a bar of steel. So tense and
alert were all his nerves that he knew he could drive home both arrows,
and still have time to swing his club before the beast was upon him.
A puff of wind struck against his back, and swept on to the nostrils
of the lion, laden with the odor of man. The beast uttered a short,
startled roar, and whirling about, leaped away into the jungle so
quickly that Blake's arrow flashed past a full yard behind.
The second arrow was on the string before the first had struck the
ground. But the lion had vanished in the grass. With a yell, Blake
dashed on across to the nearest point of the jungle. As he ran, he drew
the burning-glass from his fob, and flipped it open, ready for use. If
the lion had turned behind the sheltering grass stems, he was too
cowardly to charge out again. Within a minute the jungle border was a
wall of roaring flame.
The grass, long since dead, and bone-dry with the days of tropical
sunshine since the cyclone, flared up before the wind like gunpowder.
Even against the wind the fire ate its way along the ground with
fearful rapidity, trailing behind it an upwhirling vortex of smoke and
flame. No living creature could have burst through that belt of fire.
A wave of fierce heat sent Blake staggering back, scorched and
blistered. There was no exultance in his bearing. For the moment all
thought of the lion was swallowed up in awe of his own work. He stared
at the hell of leaping, roaring flames from beneath his upraised arm.
To the north sparks and lighted wisps of grass driven by the gale had
already fired the jungle half way to the farther ridge.
Step by step Blake drew back. His heel struck against something
soft. He looked down, and saw Miss Leslie lying on the sand, white and
still. She had fainted, overcome by fear or by the unendurable heat.
The heat must have stupefied him as well. He stared at her, dull-eyed,
wondering if she was dead. His brain cleared. He sprang over to where
the flask lay beside the remnants of the lunch.
He was dashing the last drops of the tepid water in her face, when
she moaned, and her eyelids began to flutter. He flung down the flask,
and fell to chafing her wrist.
Tom! she moaned.
Yes, Miss Jenny, I'm here. It's all right, he answered.
Have I had a sunstroke? Is that why it seems soI can hardly
It's all right, I tell you. Only a little bonfire I touched off.
Guess you must have fainted, but it's all right now.
It was silly of me to faint. But when I saw that dreadful thing
leap She faltered, and lay shuddering. Fearful that she was about to
swoon again, Blake slapped her hand between his palms with stinging
You're it! he shouted. The joke's on you! Kitty jumped just the
other way, and he won't come back in a hurry with that fire to head him
off. Jump up now, and we'll do a jig on the strength of it.
She attempted a smile, and a trace of color showed in her cheeks.
With an idea that action would further her recovery, he drew her to a
sitting position, stepped quickly behind, and, with his hands beneath
her elbows, lifted her upright. But she was still too weak and giddy to
stand alone. As he released his grip, she swayed and would have fallen
had he not caught her arm.
Steady! he admonished. Brace up; you're all right.
I'mI'm just a little dizzy, she murmured, clinging to his
shoulder. It will pass in a minute. It's so silly, but I'm that
wayTom, II think you are the bravest man
Yes, yesbut that's not the point. Leave go now, like a sensible
girl. It's about time to hit the trail.
He drew himself free, and without a glance at her blushing face,
began to gather up their scattered outfit. His hat lay where he had
weighted it down with the cocoanut. He tossed the nut into the skin
bag, and jammed the hat on his head, pulling the brim far down over his
eyes. When he had fetched his club, he walked back past the girl, with
his eyes averted.
Come on, he muttered.
The scarlet in the girl's cheeks swept over her whole face in a
burning wave, which ebbed slowly and left her colorless. Blake had
started off without a backward glance. She gazed about with a
bewildered look at the palms and the barren ridge and the fiery tidal
wave of flame. Her gaze came back to Blake, and she followed him.
Within a short distance she found herself out of the sheltering lee
of the ridge. The first wind gust almost overthrew her. She could never
have walked against such a gale; but with the wind at her back she was
buoyed up and borne along as though on wings. Her sole effort was to
keep her foothold. Had it been their morning trip, she could have cried
out with joy and skipped along before the gusts like a school-girl. Now
she walked as soberly as the wind would permit, and took care not to
lessen the distance between herself and Blake.
Mile by mile they hastened back across the plain,on their right
the blue sea of water, with its white-caps and spray; on their left the
yellow sea of fire, with its dun fog of smoke.
Once only had Blake looked back to see if the girl was following.
After that he swung along, with down-bent head, his gaze upon the
ground. Even when he passed in under the grove and around the pool to
the foot of the cleft, he began the ascent without waiting to assist
her up the break in the path. The girl came after, her lips firm, her
eyes bright and expectant. She drew herself up the ledge as though she
had been bred to mountain climbing.
Inside the barricade Blake was waiting to close the opening. She
crept through, and rose to catch him by the sleeve.
Tom, look at me, she said. Once I was most unjust to you in my
thoughts. I wronged you. Now I must tell you that I think you are the
bravestthe noblest man
Get away! he exclaimed, and he shook off her hand roughly. Don't
be a fool! You don't know what you're talking about.
But I do, Tom. I believe that you are
I'm a blackguarddo you hear?
No blackguard is brave. The way you faced that terrible beast
Yes, blackguardto've gone and shown to you that Ito've let you
say a single wordCan't you see? Even if I'm not what you call a
gentleman, I thought I knew how any man ought to treat a womanbut to
go and let you know, before we'd got back among people!
Butbut, Tom, why not, if we
No! he retorted harshly. I'm going now to pile up wood on the
cliff for a beacon fire. In the morning I'll start making that
No, you shall notYou shall not go off, and leave me, andand
risk your life! I can't bear to think of it! Stay with me, Tomdear!
Even if a ship never came
He turned resolutely, so as not to see her blushing face.
Come now, Miss Leslie, he said in a dry, even tone; don't make it
so awfully hard. Let's be sensible, and shake hands on it, like two
She struck frantically at his outstretched hand.
Keep awayI hate you! she cried.
Before he could speak, she was running up the cleft.
CHAPTER XXV. IN DOUBLE SALVATION
When, an hour or more after dawn the next morning, the girl slowly
drew open her door and came out of the cave, Blake was nowhere in
sight. She sighed, vastly relieved, and hastened across to bathe her
flushed face in the spring. Stopping every few moments to listen for
his step down the cleft, she gathered up a hamper of food and fled to
As she drew herself up on the cliff, she noticed a thin column of
smoke rising from the last smouldering brands of a beacon fire that had
been built in the midst of the bird colony, on the extreme outer edge
of the headland. She did not, however, observe that, while the smoke
column streamed up from the fire directly skyward, beyond it there was
a much larger volume of smoke, which seemed to have eddied down the
cliff face and was now rolling up into view from out over the sea. She
gave no heed to this, for the sight of the beacon had instantly alarmed
her with the possibility that Blake was still on the headland, and
would imagine that she was seeking him.
She paused, her cheeks aflame. But the only sign of Blake that she
could see was the fire itself. She reflected that he might very well
have left before dawn. As likely as not, he had descended at the north
end of the cleft, and had gone off to the river to start his catamaran.
At the thought all the color ebbed from her cheeks and left her white
and trembling. Again she stood hesitating. With a sigh she started on
toward the signal staff.
She was close upon the border of the bird colony, when Blake sat up
from behind a ledge, and she found herself staring into his blinking
Hello! he mumbled drowsily. He sprang up, wide awake, and flushing
with the guilty consciousness of what he had done. Look at the
sunway up! Didn't mean to oversleep, Miss Leslie. You see I was up
pretty late, tending the beacon. But of course that's no excuse
Don't! she exclaimed. There were tears in her eyes; yet she smiled
as she spoke. I know what you mean by 'pretty late.' You've been up
No, I haven't. Not all night
To be sure! I quite understand, Mr. Thomas Blake!... Now, sit down,
and eat this luncheon.
Can't. Haven't time. I've got to get to the river and set to work.
I'll get some jerked beef and eat it on the way. You see
Tom! she protested.
It's for you, he rejoined, and his lips closed together
He was stepping past her, when over the seaward edge of the cliff
there came a sound like the yell of a raging sea-monster.
Siren! shouted Blake, whirling about.
The cloud of smoke beyond the cliff end was now rolling up more to
the left. He dashed away towards the north edge of the cliff as though
he intended to leap off into space. The girl ran after him as fast as
she could over the loose stones. Before she had covered half the
distance she saw him halt on the very brink of the cliff, and begin to
wave and shout like a madman. A few steps farther on she caught sight
of the steamer. It was lying close in, only a little way off the north
point of the headland.
Even as she saw the vessel, its siren responded to Blake's wild
gestures with a series of joyous screams. There could be no mistake. He
had been seen. Already they were letting go anchor, and there was a
little crowd of men gathering about one of the boats. Blake turned and
started on a run for the cliff. But Miss Leslie darted before him,
compelling him to halt.
Wait! she cried, her eyes sparkling with happy tears. Tom, it's
come now. You needn't
Let me by! I'm going to meet them. I want to
But she put her hands upon his shoulders.
Tom! she whispered, let it be now, before any oneanything can
possibly come between us! Let it be a part of our life herehere,
where I've learned how brave and true a real man can be!
And then have him prove himself a sneak! he cried. No; I won't,
Jenny! I've got you to think of. Wait till I've seen your father. Ten
to one, he'll not hear of ithe'll cut you off without a cent. Not but
what I'd be glad myself; but you're used to luxuries, girlie, and I'm a
poor man. I can't give them to you
She laid a hand on his mouth, and smiled up at him in tender
Come, now, Mr. Blake; you're not very complimentary. After
surviving my cooking all these weeks, don't you think I might do, at a
pinch, for a poor man's wife!
No, Jenny! he protested, trying to draw back. You oughtn't to
decide now. When you get back among your friends, things may look
different. Think of your society friends! Wait till you see me with
other mengentlemen! I'm just a rough, uncultured, ordinary
Hush! she cried, and she again placed her hand on his mouth. You
sha'n't say such cruel things about Tommy Tomthe man I trustthat
Her arms slipped about his neck, and her eyes shone up into his with
Don't! he begged hoarsely. 'T ain't fair! II can't stand it!
The man I love! she whispered.
He crushed her to him in his great arms.
My little girl!dear little girl! he repeated, and he pressed his
lips to her hair.
She snuggled her face closer against his shoulder, and replied in a
very small voice, II suppose you know that ship captains can m-marry
But I haven't even a job yet! he exclaimed. Suppose your
Please listen! she pleaded. There was a sound like suppressed
What is it? he ventured, and he listened, greatly perturbed. The
muffled voice sounded very meek and plaintive: I'll try to do my part,
Mr. Blake,really I will! II hope we can manage to struggle
alongsomehow. You know, I have a little of my own. It's only
threethree million; but
What! he demanded, and he held her out at arm's length, to stare
at her in frowning bewilderment. If I'd known that, I'd
You'd never have given me a chance toto propose to you, you dear
old silly! she cried, her eyes dancing with tender mirth. See here!
She turned from him, and back again, and held up a withered,
crumpled flower. He looked, and saw that it was the amaryllis blossom.
Becausebecause, even then, down in the bottom of my heart, I had
begun to realizeto know what you were likeand of course that
meant Tom, tell me! Do you think I'm utterly shameless? Do you blame
me for being the one toto
Blame you! he cried. He paused to put a finger under her chin and
raise her down-bent face. His eyes were very blue, but there was a
twinkle in their depths. Oh, yes; it was dreadful, wasn't it? But I
guess I've no complaint to file just now.