The Blue lagoon: A Romance
H. de Vere Stacpoole
Part 3 out of 5
"Kape off me, you baste!" shouted Paddy. "Holy Mary, Mother of God!
I'll land you a kick wid me fut if yiz come nigh me. Em'leen!
Em'leen! come betune us!"
He tripped, and over he went on the sand, the indefatigable Dick
beating him with a little switch he had picked up to make him
"I'm better now, but I'm near wore out," said Mr Button, sitting up
on the sand. "But, bedad, if I'm chased by any more things like
them it's into the say I'll be dashin'. Dick, lend me your arum."
He took Dick's arm and wandered over to the shade of the trees.
Here he threw himself down, and told the children to leave him to
sleep. They recognised that the game was over and left him. And
he slept for six hours on end; it was the first real sleep he had
had for several days. When he awoke he was well, but very shaky.
STARLIGHT ON THE FOAM
Mr Button saw no more rats, much to Dick's disappointment. He
was off the drink. At dawn next day he got up, refreshed by a
second sleep, and wandered down to the edge of the lagoon. The
opening in the reef faced the east, and the light of the dawn came
rippling in with the flooding tide.
"It's a baste I've been," said the repentant one, "a brute baste."
He was quite wrong; as a matter of fact, he was only a man beset
He stood for a while, cursing the drink, "and them that sells it."
Then he determined to put himself out of the way of temptation.
Pull the bung out of the barrel, and let the contents escape?
Such a thought never even occurred to him--or, if it did, was
instantly dismissed; for, though an old sailor-man may curse the
drink, good rum is to him a sacred thing; and to empty half a little
barrel of it into the sea, would be an act almost equivalent to
child-murder. He put the cask into the dinghy, and rowed it over
to the reef. There he placed it in the shelter of a great lump of
coral, and rowed back.
Paddy had been trained all his life to rhythmical drunkenness.
Four months or so had generally elapsed between his bouts--some-
times six; it all depended on the length of the voyage. Six months
now elapsed before he felt even an inclination to look at the rum
cask, that tiny dark spot away on the reef. And it was just as
well, for during those six months another whale-ship arrived,
watered and was avoided.
"Blisther it!" said he; "the say here seems to breed whale-ships,
and nothin' but whaleships. It's like bugs in a bed: you kill wan,
and then another comes. Howsumever, we're shut of thim for a
He walked down to the lagoon edge, looked at the little dark spot
and whistled. Then he walked back to prepare dinner. That little
dark spot began to trouble him after a while; not it, but the spirit
Days grew long and weary, the days that had been so short and
pleasant. To the children there was no such thing as time. Having
absolute and perfect health, they enjoyed happiness as far as
mortals can enjoy it. Emmeline's highly strung nervous system, it
is true, developed a headache when she had been too long in the
glare of the sun, but they were few and far between.
The spirit in the little cask had been whispering across the
lagoon for some weeks; at last it began to shout. Mr Button,
metaphorically speaking, stopped his ears. He busied himself with
the children as much as possible. He made another garment for
Emmeline, and cut Dick's hair with the scissors (a job which was
generally performed once in a couple of months).
One night, to keep the rum from troubling his head, he told them
the story of Jack Dogherty and the Merrow, which is well known
on the western coast.
The Merrow takes Jack to dinner at the bottom of the sea, and
shows him the lobster pots wherein he keeps the souls of old
sailormen, and then they have dinner, and the Merrow produces a
big bottle of rum.
It was a fatal story for him to remember and recount; for, after
his companions were asleep, the vision of the Merrow and Jack
hobnobbing, and the idea of the jollity of it, rose before him, and
excited a thirst for joviality not to be resisted.
There were some green cocoa-nuts that he had plucked that day
lying in a little heap under a tree--half a dozen or so. He took
several of these and a shell, found the dinghy where it was
moored to the aoa tree, unmoored her, and pushed off into the
The lagoon and sky were full of stars. In the dark depths of the
water might have been seen phosphorescent gleams of passing
fish, and the thunder of the surf on the reef filled the night with
He fixed the boat's painter carefully round a spike of coral and
landed on the reef, and with a shellful of rum and cocoa-nut
lemonade mixed half and half, he took his perch on a high ledge of
coral from whence a view of the sea and the coral strand could be
On a moonlight night it was fine to sit here and watch the great
breakers coming in, all marbled and clouded and rainbowed with
spindrift and sheets of spray. But the snow and the song of them
under the diffused light of the stars produced a more
indescribably beautiful and strange effect.
The tide was going out now, and Mr Button, as he sat smoking his
pipe and drinking his grog, could see bright mirrors here and there
where the water lay in rock-pools. When he had contemplated
these sights for a considerable time in complete contentment, he
returned to the lagoon side of the reef and sat down beside the
little barrel. Then, after a while, if you had been standing on the
strand opposite, you would have heard scraps of song borne across
the quivering water of the lagoon.
"Sailing down, sailing down,
On the coast of Barbaree."
Whether the coast of Barbary in question is that at San Francisco,
or the true and proper coast, does not matter. It is an old-time
song; and when you hear it, whether on a reef of coral or a granite
quay, you may feel assured that an old-time sailor-man is singing
it, and that the old-time sailor-man is bemused.
Presently the dinghy put off from the reef, the sculls broke the
starlit waters and great shaking circles of light made rhythmical
answer to the slow and steady creak of the thole pins against the
leather. He tied up to the aoa, saw that the sculls were safely
shipped; then, breathing heavily, he cast off his boots for fear of
waking the "childer." As the children were sleeping more than two
hundred yards away, this was a needless precaution especially as
the intervening distance was mostly soft sand.
Green cocoa-nut juice and rum mixed together are pleasant
enough to drink, but they are better drunk separately; combined,
not even the brain of an old sailor can make anything of them but
mist and muddlement; that is to say, in the way of thought--in
the way of action they can make him do a lot. They made Paddy
Button swim the lagoon.
The recollection came to him all at once, as he was walking up
the strand towards the wigwam, that he had left the dinghy tied
to the reef. The dinghy was, as a matter of fact, safe and sound
tied to the aoa; but Mr Button's memory told him it was tied to
the reef. How he had crossed the lagoon was of no importance at
all to him; the fact that he had crossed without the boat, yet
without getting wet, did not appear to him strange. He had no
time to deal with trifles like these. The dinghy had to be fetched
across the lagoon, and there was only one way of fetching it. So
he came back down the beach to the water's edge, cast down his
boots, cast off his coat, and plunged in. The lagoon was wide, but
in his present state of mind he would have swum the Hellespont.
His figure gone from the beach, the night resumed its majesty and
aspect of meditation.
So lit was the lagoon by starshine that the head of the swimmer
could be distinguished away out in the midst of circles of light;
also, as the head neared the reef, a dark triangle that came
shearing through water past the palm tree at the pier. It was the
night patrol of the lagoon, who had heard in some mysterious
manner that a drunken sailor-man was making trouble in his
Looking, one listened, hand on heart, for the scream of the
arrested one, yet it did not come. The swimmer, scrambling on to
the reef in an exhausted manner, forgetful evidently of the object
for which he had returned, made for the rum cask, and fell down
beside it as though sleep had touched him instead of death.
THE DREAMER ON THE REEF
"I wonder where Paddy is?" cried Dick next morning. He was
coming out of the chapparel, pulling a dead branch after him. "He's
left his coat on the sand, and the tinder box in it, so I'll make the
fire. There's no use waiting. I want my breakfast. Bother!"
He trod the dead stick with his naked feet, breaking it into pieces.
Emmeline sat on the sand and watched him.
Emmeline had two gods of a sort: Paddy Button and Dick. Paddy
was almost an esoteric god wrapped in the fumes of tobacco and
mystery. The god of rolling ships and creaking masts--the masts
and vast sail spaces of the Northumberland were an enduring
vision in her mind--the deity who had lifted her from a little boat
into this marvellous place, where the birds were coloured and the
fish were painted, where life was never dull, and the skies
scarcely ever grey.
Dick, the other deity, was a much more understandable personage,
but no less admirable, as a companion and protector. In the two
years and five months of island life he had grown nearly three
inches. He was as strong as a boy of twelve, and could scull the
boat almost as well as Paddy himself, and light a fire. Indeed,
during the last few months Mr Button, engaged in resting his
bones, and contemplating rum as an abstract idea, had left the
cooking and fishing and general gathering of food as much as
possible to Dick.
"It amuses the craythur to pritind he's doing things," he would
say, as he watched Dick delving in the earth to make a little
oven--Island-fashion--for the cooking of fish or what-not.
"Come along, Em," said Dick, piling the broken wood on top of
some rotten hibiscus sticks; "give me the tinder box."
He got a spark on to a bit of punk, and then he blew at it, looking
not unlike Aeolus as represented on those old Dutch charts that
smell of schiedam and snuff, and give one mermaids and angels
instead of soundings.
The fire was soon sparkling and crackling, and he heaped on sticks
in profusion, for there was plenty of fuel, and he wanted to cook
The breadfruit varies in size, according to age, and in colour
according to season. These that Dick was preparing to cook were
as large as small melons. Two would be more than enough for
three people's breakfast. They were green and knobbly on the
outside, and they suggested to the mind unripe lemons, rather
He put them in the embers, just as you put potatoes to roast, and
presently they sizzled and spat little venomous jets of steam,
then they cracked, and the white inner substance became visible.
He cut them open and took the core out--the core is not fit to
eat--and they were ready.
Meanwhile, Emmeline, under his directions, had not been idle.
There were in the lagoon--there are in several other tropical
lagoons I know of--a fish which I can only describe as a golden
herring. A bronze herring it looks when landed, but when
swimming away down against the background of coral brains and
white sand patches, it has the sheen of burnished gold. It is as
good to eat as to look at, and Emmeline was carefully toasting
several of them on a piece of cane.
The juice of the fish kept the cane from charring, though there
were accidents at times, when a whole fish would go into the
fire, amidst shouts of derision from Dick.
She made a pretty enough picture as she knelt, the "skirt" round
the waist looking not unlike a striped bath-towel, her small face
intent, and filled with the seriousness of the job on hand, and her
lips puckered out at the heat of the fire.
"It's so hot!" she cried in self-defence, after the first of the
"Of course it's hot," said Dick, "if you stick to looward of the fire.
How often has Paddy told you to keep to windward of it!"
"I don't know which is which," confessed the unfortunate
Emmeline, who was an absolute failure at everything practical:
who could neither row nor fish, nor throw a stone, and who,
though they had now been on the island twenty-eight months or
so, could not even swim.
"You mean to say," said Dick, "that you don't know where the wind
"Yes, I know that."
"Well, that's to windward."
"I didn't know that."
"Well, you know it now."
"Yes, I know it now."
"Well, then, come to windward of the fire. Why didn't you ask the
meaning of it before?"
"I did," said Emmeline; "I asked Mr Button one day, and he told me
a lot about it. He said if he was to spit to windward and a person
was to stand to loo'ard of him, he'd be a fool; and he said if a ship
went too much to loo'ard she went on the rocks, but I didn't
understand what he meant. Dicky, I wonder where he is?"
"Paddy!" cried Dick, pausing in the act of splitting open a
breadfruit. Echoes came from amidst the cocoa-nut trees, but
"Come on," said Dick; "I'm not going to wait for him. He may have
gone to fetch up the night lines"--they sometimes put down night
lines in the lagoon--"and fallen asleep over them."
Now, though Emmeline honoured Mr Button as a minor deity, Dick
had no illusions at all upon the matter. He admired Paddy because
he could knot, and splice, and climb a cocoanut tree, and exercise
his sailor craft in other admirable ways, but he felt the old man's
limitations. They ought to have had potatoes now, but they had
eaten both potatoes and the possibility of potatoes when they
consumed the contents of that half sack. Young as he was, Dick
felt the absolute thriftlessness of this proceeding. Emmeline did
not; she never thought of potatoes, though she could have told you
the colour of all the birds on the island.
Then, again, the house wanted rebuilding, and Mr Button said
every day he would set about seeing after it to-morrow, and on
the morrow it would be to-morrow. The necessities of the life
they led were a stimulus to the daring and active mind of the boy;
but he was always being checked by the go-as-you-please
methods of his elder. Dick came of the people who make sewing
machines and typewriters. Mr Button came of a people notable for
ballads, tender hearts, and potheen. That was the main difference.
"Paddy!" again cried the boy, when he had eaten as much as he
wanted. "Hullo! where are you?"
They listened, but no answer came. A bright-hued bird flew
across the sand space, a lizard scuttled across the glistening
sand, the reef spoke, and the wind in the tree-tops; but Mr Button
made no reply.
"Wait," said Dick.
He ran through the grove towards the aoa where the dinghy was
moored; then he returned.
"The dinghy is all right," he said. "Where on earth can he be?"
"I don't know," said Emmeline, upon whose heart a feeling of
loneliness had fallen.
"Let's go up the hill," said Dick; "perhaps we'll find him there."
They went uphill through the wood, past the water-course. Every
now and then Dick would call out, and echoes would answer--there
were quaint, moist-voiced echoes amidst the trees or a bevy of
birds would take flight. The little waterfall gurgled and
whispered, and the great banana leaves spread their shade.
"Come on," said Dick, when he had called again without receiving a
They found the hill-top, and the great boulder stood casting its
shadow in the sun. The morning breeze was blowing, the sea
sparkling, the reef flashing, the foliage of the island waving in
the wind like the flames of a green-flamed torch. A deep swell
was spreading itself across the bosom of the Pacific. Some
hurricane away beyond the Navigators or Gilberts had sent this
message and was finding its echo here, a thousand miles away, in
the deeper thunder of the reef.
Nowhere else in the world could you get such a picture, such a
combination of splendour and summer, such a vision of freshness
and strength, and the delight of morning. It was the smallness of
the island, perhaps, that closed the charm and made it perfect.
Just a bunch of foliage and flowers set in the midst of the
blowing wind and sparkling blue.
Suddenly Dick, standing beside Emmeline on the rock, pointed
with his finger to the reef near the opening.
"There he is!" cried he.
THE GARLAND OF FLOWERS
You could just make the figure out lying on the reef near the little
cask, and comfortably sheltered from the sun by an upstanding
lump of coral.
"He's asleep," said Dick.
He had not thought to look towards the reef from the beach, or he
might have seen the figure before.
"Dicky!" said Emmeline.
"How did he get over, if you said the dinghy was tied to the tree?"
"I don't know," said Dick, who had not thought of this; "there he is,
anyhow. I'll tell you what, Em, we'll row across and wake him. I'll
boo into his ear and make him jump."
They got down from the rock, and came back down through the
wood. As they came Emmeline picked flowers and began making
them up into one of her wreaths. Some scarlet hibiscus, some
bluebells, a couple of pale poppies with furry stalks and bitter
"What are you making that for?" asked Dick, who always viewed
Emmeline's wreath-making with a mixture of compassion and
"I'm going to put it on Mr Button's head," said Emmeline; "so's
when you say boo into his ear he'll jump up with it on."
Dick chuckled with pleasure at the idea of the practical joke, and
almost admitted in his own mind for a moment, that after all
there might be a use for such futilities as wreaths.
The dinghy was moored under the spreading shade of the aoa, the
painter tied to one of the branches that projected over the water.
These dwarf aoas branch in an extraordinary way close to the
ground, throwing out limbs like rails. The tree had made a good
protection for the little boat, protecting it from marauding hands
and from the sun; besides the protection of the tree Paddy had
now and then scuttled the boat in shallow water. It was a new
boat to start with, and with precautions like these might be
expected to last many years.
"Get in," said Dick, pulling on the painter so that the bow of the
dinghy came close to the beach.
Emmeline got carefully in, and went aft. Then Dick got in, pushed
off, and took to the sculls. Next moment they were out on the
Dick rowed cautiously, fearing to wake the sleeper. He fastened
the painter to the coral spike that seemed set there by nature for
the purpose. He scrambled on to the reef, and lying down on his
stomach drew the boat's gunwale close up so that Emmeline
might land. He had no boots on; the soles of his feet, from
constant exposure, had become insensitive as leather.
Emmeline also was without boots. The soles of her feet, as is
always the case with highly nervous people, were sensitive, and
she walked delicately, avoiding the worst places, holding her
wreath in her right hand.
It was full tide, and the thunder of the waves outside shook the
reef. It was like being in a church when the deep bass of the organ
is turned full on, shaking the ground and the air, the walls and the
roof. Dashes of spray came over with the wind, and the
melancholy "Hi, hi!" of the wheeling gulls came like the voices of
ghostly sailor-men hauling at the halyards.
Paddy was lying on his right side steeped in profound oblivion. His
face was buried in the crook of his right arm, and his brown
tattooed left hand lay on his left thigh, palm upwards. He had no
hat, and the breeze stirred his grizzled hair.
Dick and Emmeline stole up to him till they got right beside him.
Then Emmeline, flashing out a laugh, flung the little wreath of
flowers on the old man's head, and Dick, popping down on his
knees, shouted into his ear. But the dreamer did not stir or move a
"Paddy," cried Dick, "wake up! wake up!"
He pulled at the shoulder till the figure from its sideways
posture fell over on its back. The eyes were wide open and
staring. The mouth hung open, and from the mouth darted a little
crab; it scuttled over the chin and dropped on the coral.
Emmeline screamed, and screamed, and would have fallen, but the
boy caught her in his arms--one side of the face had been destroyed
by the larvae of the rocks.
He held her to him as he stared at the terrible figure lying upon
its back, hands outspread. Then, wild with terror, he dragged her
towards the little boat. She was struggling, and panting and
gasping, like a person drowning in ice-cold water.
His one instinct was to escape, to fly anywhere, no matter where.
He dragged the girl to the coral edge, and pulled the boat up close.
Had the reef suddenly become enveloped in flames he could not
have exerted himself more to escape from it and save his
companion. A moment later they were afloat, and he was pulling
wildly for the shore.
He did not know what had happened, nor did he pause to think: he
was fleeing from horror--nameless horror; whilst the child at his
feet, with her head resting against the gunwale, stared up open-
eyed and speechless at the great blue sky, as if at some terror
visible there. The boat grounded on the white sand, and the wash
of the incoming tide drove it up sideways.
Emmeline had fallen forward; she had lost consciousness.
The idea of spiritual life must be innate in the heart of man, for
all that terrible night, when the children lay huddled together in
the little hut in the chapparel, the fear that filled them was that
their old friend might suddenly darken the entrance and seek to
lie down beside them.
They did not speak about him. Something had been done to him;
something had happened. Something terrible had happened to the
wor]d they knew. But they dared not speak of it or question each
Dick had carried his companion to the hut when he left the boat,
and hidden with her there; the evening had come on, and the night,
and now in the darkness, without having tasted food all day, he
was telling her not to be afraid, that he would take care of her.
But not a word of the thing that had happened.
The thing, for them, had no precedent, and no vocabulary. They had
come across death raw and real, uncooked by religion, un-
deodorised by the sayings of sages and poets.
They knew nothing of the philosophy that tells us that death is
the common lot, and the natural sequence to birth, or the religion
that teaches us that Death is the door to Life.
A dead old sailor-man lying like a festering carcass on a coral
ledge, eyes staring and glazed and fixed, a wide-open mouth that
once had spoken comforting words, and now spoke living crabs.
That was the vision before them. They did not philosophise about
it; and though they were filled with terror, I do not think it was
terror that held them from speaking about it, but a vague feeling
that what they had beheld was obscene, unspeakable, and a thing
Lestrange had brought them up in his own way. He had told them
there was a good God who looked after the world; determined as
far as he could to exclude demonology and sin and death from
their knowledge, he had rested content with the bald statement
that there was a good God who looked after the world, without
explaining fully that the same God would torture them for ever
and ever, should they fail to believe in Him or keep His
This knowledge of the Almighty, therefore, was but a half
knowledge, the vaguest abstraction. Had they been brought up,
however, in the most strictly Calvinistic school, this knowledge
of Him would have been no comfort now. Belief in God is no
comfort to a frightened child. Teach him as many parrot-like
prayers as you please, and in distress or the dark of what use are
they to him? His cry is for his nurse, or his mother.
During that dreadful night these two children had no comfort to
seek anywhere in the whole wide universe but in each other. She,
in a sense of his protection, he, in a sense of being her protector.
The manliness in him greater and more beautiful than physical
strength, developed in those dark hours just as a plant under
extraordinary circumstances is hurried into bloom.
Towards dawn Emmeline fell asleep. Dick stole out of the hut
when he had assured himself from her regular breathing that she
was asleep, and, pushing the tendrils and the branches of the
mammee apples aside, found the beach. The dawn was just
breaking, and the morning breeze was coming in from the sea.
When he had beached the dinghy the day before, the tide was just
at the flood, and it had left her stranded. The tide was coming in
now, and in a short time it would be far enough up to push her off.
Emmeline in the night had implored him to take her away. Take
her away somewhere from there, and he had promised, without
knowing in the least how he was to perform his promise. As he
stood looking at the beach, so desolate and strangely different
now from what it was the day before, an idea of how he could
fulfil his promise came to him. He ran down to where the little
boat lay on the shelving sand, with the ripples of the incoming
tide just washing the rudder, which was still shipped. He
unshipped the rudder and came back.
Under a tree, covered with the stay-sail they had brought from
the Shenandoah, lay most of their treasures: old clothes and
boots, and all the other odds and ends. The precious tobacco
stitched up in a piece of canvas was there, and the housewife
with the needles and threads. A hole had been dug in the sand as a
sort of cache for them, and the stay-sail put over them to protect
them from the dew.
The sun was now looking over the sealine, and the tall cocoa-nut
trees were singing and whispering together under the strengthen-
THEY MOVE AWAY
He began to collect the things, and carry them to the dinghy. He
took the stay-sail and everything that might be useful; and when
he had stowed them in the boat, he took the breaker and filled it
with water at the water source in the wood; he collected some
bananas and breadfruit, and stowed them in the dinghy with the
breaker. Then he found the remains of yesterday's breakfast,
which he had hidden between two palmetto leaves, and placed it
also in the boat.
The water was now so high that a strong push would float her. He
turned back to the hut for Emmeline. She was still asleep: so
soundly asleep, that when he lifted her up in his arms she made no
movement. He placed her carefully in the stern-sheets with her
head on the sail rolled up, and then standing in the bow pushed off
with a scull. Then, taking the sculls, he turned the boat's head up
the lagoon to the left. He kept close to the shore, but for the life
of him he could not help lifting his eyes and looking towards the
Round a certain spot on the distant white coral there was a great
commotion of birds. Huge birds some of them seemed, and the "Hi!
hi! hi!" of them came across the lagoon on the breeze as they
quarrelled together and beat the air with their wings. He turned
his head away till a bend of the shore hid the spot from sight.
Here, sheltered more completely than opposite the break in the
reef, the artu came in places right down to the water's edge; the
breadfruit trees cast the shadow of their great scalloped leaves
upon the water; glades, thick with fern, wildernesses of the
mammee apple, and bushes of the scarlet "wild cocoanut" all
slipped by, as the dinghy, hugging the shore, crept up the lagoon.
Gazing at the shore edge one might have imagined it the edge of a
lake, but for the thunder of the Pacific upon the distant reef; and
even that did not destroy the impression, but only lent a
strangeness to it.
A lake in the midst of the ocean, that is what the lagoon really
Here and there cocoa-nut trees slanted over the water, mirroring
their delicate stems, and tracing their clear-cut shadows on the
sandy bottom a fathom deep below.
He kept close in-shore for the sake of the shelter of the trees. His
object was to find some place where they might stop
permanently, and put up a tent. He was seeking a new home, in
fact. But, pretty as were the glades they passed, they were not
attractive places to live in. There were too many trees, or the
ferns were too deep. He was seeking air and space, and suddenly
he found it. Rounding a little cape, all blazing with the scarlet of
the wild cocoa-nut, the dinghy broke into a new world.
Before her lay a great sweep of the palest blue wind-swept
water, down to which came a broad green sward of park-like land
set on either side with deep groves, and leading up and away to
higher land, where, above the massive and motionless green of the
great breadfruit trees, the palm trees swayed and fluttered their
pale green feathers in the breeze. The pale colour of the water
was due to the extreme shallowness of the lagoon just here. So
shallow was it that one could see brown spaces indicating beds of
dead and rotten coral, and splashes of darkest sapphire where the
deep pools lay. The reef lay more than half a mile from the shore:
a great way out, it seemed, so far out that its cramping influence
was removed, and one had the impression of wide and unbroken
Dick rested on his oars, and let the dinghy float whilst he looked
around him. He had come some four miles and a half, and this was
right at the back of the island. As the boat drifting shoreward
touched the bank, Emmeline awakened from her sleep, sat up, and
looked around her.
UNDER THE ARTU TREE
On the edge of the green sward, between a diamond-chequered
artu trunk and the massive bole of a breadfruit, a house had come
into being. It was not much larger than a big hen-house, but quite
sufficient for the needs of two people in a climate of eternal
summer. It was built of bamboos, and thatched with a double
thatch of palmetto leaves, so neatly built, and so well thatched,
that one might have fancied it the production of several skilled
The breadfruit tree was barren of fruit, as these trees sometimes
are, whole groves of them ceasing to bear for some mysterious
reason only known to Nature. It was green now, but when
suffering its yearly change the great scalloped leaves would take
all imaginable tinges of gold and bronze and amber. Beyond the
artu was a little clearing, where the chapparel had been carefully
removed and taro roots planted.
Stepping from the house doorway on to the sward you might have
fancied yourself, except for the tropical nature of the foliage, in
some English park.
Looking to the right, the eye became lost in the woods, where all
tints of green were tinging the foliage, and the bushes of the wild
cocoa-nut burned scarlet as hawberries.
The house had a doorway, but no door. It might have been said to
have a double roof, for the breadfruit foliage above gave good
shelter during the rains. Inside it was bare enough. Dried, sweet-
smelling ferns covered the floor. Two sails, rolled up, lay on
either side of the doorway. There was a rude shelf attached to one
of the walls, and on the shelf some bowls made of cocoa-nut
shell. The people to whom the place belonged evidently did not
trouble it much with their presence, using it only at night, and as
a refuge from the dew.
Sitting on the grass by the doorway, sheltered by the breadfruit
shade, yet with the hot rays of the afternoon sun just touching
her naked feet, was a girl. A girl of fifteen or sixteen, naked,
except for a kilt of gaily-striped material reaching from her
waist to her knees. Her long black hair was drawn back from the
forehead, and tied behind with a loop of the elastic vine. A scarlet
blossom was stuck behind her right ear, after the fashion of a
clerk's pen. Her face was beautiful, powdered with tiny freckles;
especially under the eyes, which were of a deep, tranquil blue-
grey. She half sat, half lay on her left side; whilst before her,
quite close, strutted up and down on the grass, a bird, with blue
plumage, coral-red beak, and bright, watchful eyes.
The girl was Emmeline Lestrange. Just by her elbow stood a little
bowl made from half a cocoa-nut, and filled with some white
substance with which she was feeding the bird. Dick had found it
in the woods two years ago, quite small, deserted by its mother,
and starving. They had fed it and tamed it, and it was now one of
the family, roosting on the roof at night, and appearing regularly
at meal times.
All at once she held out her hand; the bird flew into the air, lit on
her forefinger and balanced itself, sinking its head between its
shoulders, and uttering the sound which formed its entire
vocabulary and one means of vocal expression--a sound from
which it had derived its name.
"Koko," said Emmeline, "where is Dick?"
The bird turned his head about, as if he were searching for his
master; and the girl lay back lazily on the grass, laughing, and
holding him up poised on her finger, as if he were some enamelled
jewel she wished to admire at a little distance. They made a
pretty picture under the cave-like shadow of the breadfruit
leaves; and it was difficult to understand how this young girl, so
perfectly formed, so fully developed, and so beautiful, had
evolved from plain little Emmeline Lestrange. And the whole
thing, as far as the beauty of her was concerned, had happened
during the last six months.
HALF CHILD--HALF SAVAGE
Five rainy seasons had passed and gone since the tragic
occurrence on the reef. Five long years the breakers had
thundered, and the sea-gulls had cried round the figure whose
spell had drawn a mysterious barrier across the lagoon.
The children had never returned to the old place. They had kept
entirely to the back of the island and the woods--the lagoon,
down to a certain point, and the reef; a wide enough and beautiful
enough world, but a hopeless world, as far as help from
civilisation was concerned. For, of the few ships that touched at
the island in the course of years, how many would explore the
lagoon or woods? Perhaps not one.
Occasionally Dick would make an excursion in the dinghy to the
old place, but Emmeline refused to accompany him. He went
chiefly to obtain bananas; for on the whole island there was but
one clump of banana trees--that near the water source in the
wood, where the old green skulls had been discovered, and the
She had never quite recovered from the occurrence on the reef.
Something had been shown to her, the purport of which she
vaguely understood, and it had filled her with horror and a terror
of the place where it had occurred. Dick was quite different. He
had been frightened enough at first; but the feeling wore away in
Dick had built three houses in succession during the five years. He
had laid out a patch of taro and another of sweet potatoes. He
knew every pool on the reef for two miles either way, and the
forms of their inhabitants; and though he did not know the names
of the creatures to be found there, he made a profound study of
He had seen some astonishing things during these five years--
from a fight between a whale and two thrashers conducted
outside the reef, lasting an hour, and dyeing the breaking waves
with blood, to the poisoning of the fish in the lagoon by fresh
water, due to an extraordinarily heavy rainy season.
He knew the woods of the back of the island by heart, and the
forms of life that inhabited them, butterflies and moths and
birds, lizards, and insects of strange shape; extraordinary
orchids--some filthy-looking, the very image of corruption, some
beautiful, and all strange. He found melons and guavas, and
breadfruit, the red apple of Tahiti, and the great Brazilian plum,
taro in plenty, and a dozen other good things--but there were no
bananas. This made him unhappy at times, for he was human.
Though Emmeline had asked Koko for Dick's whereabouts, it was
only a remark made by way of making conversation, for she could
hear him in the little cane-brake which lay close by amidst the
In a few minutes he appeared, dragging after him two canes which
he had just cut, and wiping the perspiration off his brow with his
naked arm. He had an old pair of trousers on--part of the truck
salved long ago from the Shenandoah--nothing else, and he was
well worth looking at and considering, both from a physical and
psychological point of view.
Auburn-haired and tall, looking more like seventeen than sixteen,
with a restless and daring expression, half a child, half a man,
half a civilised being, half a savage, he had both progressed and
retrograded during the five years of savage life. He sat down
beside Emmeline, flung the canes beside him, tried the edge of the
old butcher's knife with which he had cut them, then, taking one
of the canes across his knee, he began whittling at it.
"What are you making?" asked Emmeline, releasing the bird, which
flew into one of the branches of the artu and rested there, a blue
point amidst the dark green.
"Fish-spear," replied Dick.
Without being taciturn, he rarely wasted words. Life was all
business for him. He would talk to Emmeline, but always in short
sentences; and he had developed the habit of talking to inanimate
things, to the fish-spear he was carving, or the bowl he was
fashioning from a cocoa-nut.
As for Emmeline, even as a child she had never been talkative.
There was something mysterious in her personality, something
secretive. Her mind seemed half submerged in twilight. Though
she spoke little, and though the subject of their conversations
was almost entirely material and relative to their everyday
needs, her mind would wander into abstract fields and the land of
chimerae and dreams. What she found there no one knew--least of
all, perhaps, herself.
As for Dick, he would sometimes talk and mutter to himself, as if
in a reverie; but if you caught the words, you would find that they
referred to no abstraction, but to some trifle he had on hand. He
seemed entirely bound up in the moment, and to have forgotten
the past as completely as though it had never been.
Yet he had his contemplative moods. He would lie with his face
over a rock-pool by the hour, watching the strange forms of life
to be seen there, or sit in the woods motionless as a stone,
watching the birds and the swift-slipping lizards. The birds came
so close that he could easily have knocked them over, but he never
hurt one or interfered in any way with the wild life of the woods.
The island, the lagoon, and the reef were for him the three
volumes of a great picture book, as they were for Emmeline,
though in a different manner. The colour and the beauty of it all
fed some mysterious want in her soul. Her life was a long reverie,
a beautiful vision--troubled with shadows. Across all the blue
and coloured spaces that meant months and years she could still
see as in a glass dimly the Northumberland, smoking against
the wild background of fog; her uncle's face, Boston--a vague and
dark picture beyond a storm--and nearer, the tragic form on the
reef that still haunted terribly her dreams. But she never spoke of
these things to Dick. Just as she kept the secret of what was in
her box, and the secret of her trouble whenever she lost it, she
kept the secret of her feelings about these things.
Born of these things there remained with her always a vague
terror: the terror of losing Dick. Mrs Stannard, her uncle, the dim
people she had known in Boston, all had passed away out of her
life like a dream and shadows. The other one too, most horribly.
What if Dick were taken from her as well?
This haunting trouble had been with her a long time; up to a few
months ago it had been mainly personal and selfish--the dread of
being left alone. But lately it had altered and become more acute.
Dick had changed in her eyes, and the fear was now for him. Her
own personality had suddenly and strangely become merged in his.
The idea of life without him was unthinkable, yet the trouble
remained, a menace in the blue.
Some days it would be worse than others. To-day, for instance, it
was worse than yesterday, as though some danger had crept close
to them during the night. Yet the sky and sea were stainless, the
sun shone on tree and flower, the west wind brought the tune of
the far-away reef like a lullaby. There was nothing to hint of
danger or the need of distrust.
At last Dick finished his spear and rose to his feet.
"Where are you going?" asked Emmeline.
"The reef," he replied. "The tide's going out."
"I'll go with you," said she.
He went into the house and stowed the precious knife away. Then
he came out, spear in one hand, and half a fathom of liana in the
other. The liana was for the purpose of stringing the fish on,
should the catch be large. He led the way down the grassy sward
to the lagoon where the dinghy lay, close up to the bank, and
moored to a post driven into the soft soil. Emmeline got in, and,
taking the sculls, he pushed off. The tide was going out.
I have said that the reef just here lay a great way out from the
shore. The lagoon was so shallow that at low tide one could have
waded almost right across it, were it not for pot-holes here and
there--ten-feet traps--and great beds of rotten coral, into which
one would sink as into brushwood, to say nothing of the nettle
coral that stings like a bed of nettles. There were also other
dangers. Tropical shallows are full of wild surprises in the way
of life and death.
Dick had long ago marked out in his memory the soundings of the
lagoon, and it was fortunate that he possessed the special sense
of location which is the main stand-by of the hunter and the
savage, for, from the disposition of the coral in ribs, the water
from the shore edge to the reef ran in lanes. Only two of these
lanes gave a clear, fair way from the shore edge to the reef; had
you followed the others, even in a boat of such shallow draught as
the dinghy, you would have found yourself stranded half-way
across, unless, indeed, it were a spring tide.
Half-way across the sound of the surf on the barrier became
louder, and the everlasting and monotonous cry of the gulls came
on the breeze. It was lonely out here, and, looking back, the shore
seemed a great way off. It was lonelier still on the reef.
Dick tied up the boat to a projection of coral, and helped
Emmeline to land. The sun was creeping down into the west, the
tide was nearly half out, and large pools of water lay glittering
like burnished shields in the sunlight. Dick, with his precious
spear beside him, sat calmly down on a ledge of coral, and began
to divest himself of his one and only garment.
Emmeline turned away her head and contemplated the distant
shore, which seemed thrice as far off as it was in reality. When
she turned her head again he was racing along the edge of the
surf. He and his spear silhouetted against the spindrift and
dazzling foam formed a picture savage enough, and well in
keeping with the general desolation of the background. She
watched him lie down and cling to a piece of coral, whilst the
surf rushed round and over him, and then rise and shake himself
like a dog, and pursue his gambols, his body all glittering with the
Sometimes a whoop would come on the breeze, mixing with the
sound of the surf and the cry of the gulls, and she would see him
plunge his spear into a pool, and the next moment the spear would
be held aloft with something struggling and glittering at the end
He was quite different out here on the reef to what he was
ashore. The surroundings here seemed to develop all that was
savage in him, in a startling way; and he would kill, and kill, just
for the pleasure of killing, destroying more fish than they could
THE DEMON OF THE REEF
The romance of coral has still to be written. There still exists a
widespread opinion that the coral reef and the coral island are
the work of an "insect." This fabulous insect, accredited with the
genius of Brunel and the patience of Job, has been humorously
enough held up before the children of many generations as an
example of industry--a thing to be admired, a model to be
As a matter of fact, nothing could be more slothful or slow, more
given up to a life of ease and degeneracy, than the "reef-building
polypifer"--to give him his scientific name. He is the hobo of the
animal world, but, unlike the hobo, he does not even tramp for a
living. He exists as a sluggish and gelatinous worm; he attracts to
himself calcareous elements from the water to make himself a
house--mark you, the sea does the building--he dies, and he
leaves his house behind him--and a reputation for industry,
beside which the reputation of the ant turns pale, and that of the
bee becomes of little account.
On a coral reef you are treading on rock that the reef-building
polypifers of ages have left behind them as evidences of their
idle and apparently useless lives. You might fancy that the reef is
formed of dead rock, but it is not: that is where the wonder of the
thing comes in--a coral reef is half alive. If it were not, it would
not resist the action of the sea ten years. The live part of the
reef is just where the breakers come in and beyond. The
gelatinous rock-building polypifers die almost at once, if exposed
to the sun or if left uncovered by water.
Sometimes, at very low tide, if you have courage enough to risk
being swept away by the breakers, going as far out on the reef as
you can, you may catch a glimpse of them in their living state--
great mounds and masses of what seems rock, but which is a
honeycomb of coral, whose cells are filled with the living
polypifers. Those in the uppermost cells are usually dead, but
lower down they are living.
Always dying, always being renewed, devoured by fish, attacked
by the sea--that is the life of a coral reef. It is a thing as living
as a cabbage or a tree. Every storm tears a piece off the reef,
which the living coral replaces; wounds occur in it which actually
granulate and heal as wounds do of the human body.
There is nothing, perhaps, more mysterious in nature than this
fact of the existence of a living land: a land that repairs itself,
when injured, by vital processes, and resists the eternal attack
of the sea by vital force, especially when we think of the extent
of some of these lagoon islands or atolls, whose existences are
an eternal battle with the waves.
Unlike the island of this story (which is an island surrounded by a
barrier reef of coral surrounding a space of sea--the lagoon), the
reef forms the island. The reef may be grown over by trees, or it
may be perfectly destitute of important vegetation, or it may be
crusted with islets. Some islets may exist within the lagoon, but
as often as not it is just a great empty lake floored with sand and
coral, peopled with life different to the life of the outside ocean,
protected from the waves, and reflecting the sky like a mirror.
When we remember that the atoll is a living thing, an organic
whole, as full of life, though not so highly organised, as a
tortoise, the meanest imagination must be struck with the
immensity of one of the structures.
Vliegen atoll in the Low Archipelago, measured from lagoon edge
to lagoon edge, is sixty miles long by twenty miles broad, at its
broadest part. In the Marshall Archipelago, Rimsky Korsacoff is
fifty-four miles long and twenty miles broad; and Rimsky
Korsacoff is a living thing, secreting, excreting, and growing
more highly organised than the cocoa-nut trees that grow upon its
back, or the blossoms that powder the hotoo trees in its groves.
The story of coral is the story of a world, and the longest chapter
in that story concerns itself with coral's infinite variety and
Out on the margin of the reef where Dick was spearing fish, you
might have seen a peach-blossom-coloured lichen on the rock.
This lichen was a form of coral. Coral growing upon coral, and in
the pools at the edge of the surf branching corals also of the
colour of a peach-bloom.
Within a hundred yards of where Emmeline was sitting, the pools
contained corals of all colours, from lake-red to pure white, and
the lagoon behind her--corals of the quaintest and strangest
Dick had speared several fish, and had left them lying on the reef
to be picked up later on. Tired of killing, he was now wandering
along, examining the various living things he came across.
Huge slugs inhabited the reef, slugs as big as parsnips, and
somewhat of the same shape; they were a species of Bech de mer.
Globeshaped jelly-fish as big as oranges, great cuttlefish bones
flat and shining and white, shark's teeth, spines of echini;
sometimes a dead scarus fish, its stomach distended with bits of
coral on which it had been feeding; crabs, sea urchins, sea-weeds
of strange colour and shape; star-fish, some tiny and of the
colour of cayenne pepper, some huge and pale. These and a
thousand other things, beautiful or strange, were to be found on
Dick had laid his spear down, and was exploring a deep bath-like
pool. He had waded up to his knees, and was in the act of wading
further when he was suddenly seized by the foot. It was just as if
his ankle had been suddenly caught in a clove hitch and the rope
drawn tight. He screamed out with pain and terror, and suddenly
and viciously a whip-lash shot out from the water, lassoed him
round the left knee, drew itself taut, and held him.
WHAT BEAUTY CONCEALED
Emmeline, seated on the coral rock, had almost forgotten Dick for
a moment. The sun was setting, and the warm amber light of the
sunset shone on reef and rock-pool. Just at sunset and low tide
the reef had a peculiar fascination for her. It had the low-tide
smell of sea-weed exposed to the air, and the torment and trouble
of the breakers seemed eased. Before her, and on either side, the
foam-dashed coral glowed in amber and gold, and the great
Pacific came glassing and glittering in, voiceless and peaceful,
till it reached the strand and burst into song and spray.
Here, just as on the hill-top at the other side of the island, you
could mark the rhythm of the rollers. "Forever, and forever--
forever, and forever," they seemed to say.
The cry of the gulls came mixed with the spray on the breeze.
They haunted the reef like uneasy spirits, always complaining,
never at rest; but at sunset their cry seemed farther away and
less melancholy, perhaps because just then the whole island
world seemed bathed in the spirit of peace.
She turned from the sea prospect and looked backwards over the
lagoon to the island. She could make out the broad green glade
beside which their little house lay, and a spot of yellow, which
was the thatch of the house, just by the artu tree, and nearly
hidden by the shadow of the breadfruit. Over woods the fronds of
the great cocoa-nut palms showed above every other tree
silhouetted against the dim, dark blue of the eastern sky.
Seen by the enchanted light of sunset, the whole picture had an
unreal look, more lovely than a dream. At dawn--and Dick would
often start for the reef before dawn, if the tide served--the
picture was as beautiful; more so, perhaps, for over the island,
all in shadow, and against the stars, you would see the palm-tops
catching fire, and then the light of day coming through the green
trees and blue sky, like a spirit, across the blue lagoon, widening
and strengthening as it widened across the white foam, out over
the sea, spreading like a fan, till, all at once, night was day, and
the gulls were crying and the breakers flashing, the dawn wind
blowing, and the palm trees bending, as palm trees only know
how. Emmeline always imagined herself alone on the island with
Dick, but beauty was there, too, and beauty is a great companion.
The girl was contemplating the scene before her. Nature in her
friendliest mood seemed to say, "Behold me! Men call me cruel;
men have called me deceitful, even treacherous. _I_--ah well! my
answer is, `Behold me!'"
The girl was contemplating the specious beauty of it all, when on
the breeze from seaward came a shout. She turned quickly. There
was Dick up to his knees in a rockpool a hundred yards or so away,
motionless, his arms upraised, and crying out for help. She sprang
to her feet.
There had once been an islet on this part of the reef, a tiny thing,
consisting of a few palms and a handful of vegetation, and
destroyed, perhaps, in some great storm. I mention this because
the existence of this islet once upon a time was the means,
indirectly, of saving Dick's life; for where these islets have been
or are, "flats" occur on the reef formed of coral conglomerate.
Emmeline in her bare feet could never have reached him in time
over rough coral, but, fortunately, this flat and comparatively
smooth surface lay between them.
"My spear!" shouted Dick, as she approached.
He seemed at first tangled in brambles; then she thought ropes
were tangling round him and tying him to something in the water-
-whatever it was, it was most awful, and hideous, and like a
nightmare. She ran with the speed of Atalanta to the rock where
the spear was resting, all red with the blood of new-slain fish, a
foot from the point.
As she approached Dick, spear in hand, she saw, gasping with
terror, that the ropes were alive, and that they were flickering
and rippling over his back. One of them bound his left arm to his
side, but his right arm was free.
"Quick!" he shouted.
In a second the spear was in his free hand, and Emmeline had cast
herself down on her knees, and was staring with terrified eyes
into the water of the pool from whence the ropes issued. She was,
despite her terror, quite prepared to fling herself in and do battle
with the thing, whatever it might be.
What she saw was only for a second. In the deep water of the
pool, gazing up and forward and straight at Dick, she saw a face,
lugubrious and awful. The eyes were wide as saucers, stony and
steadfast; a large, heavy, parrot-like beak hung before the eyes,
and worked and wobbled, and seemed to beckon. But what froze
one's heart was the expression of the eyes, so stony and
lugubrious, so passionless, so devoid of speculation, yet so fixed
of purpose and full of fate.
From away far down he had risen with the rising tide. He had been
feeding on crabs, when the tide, betraying him, had gone out,
leaving him trapped in the rock-pool. He had slept, perhaps, and
awakened to find a being, naked and defenceless, invading his
pool. He was quite small, as octopods go, and young, yet he was
large and powerful enough to have drowned an ox.
The octopod has only been described once, in stone, by a Japanese
artist. The statue is still extant, and it is the most terrible
masterpiece of sculpture ever executed by human hands. It
represents a man who has been bathing on a low-tide beach, and
has been caught. The man is shouting in a delirium of terror, and
threatening with his free arm the spectre that has him in its grip.
The eyes of the octopod are fixed upon the man--passionless and
lugubrious eyes, but steadfast and fixed.
Another whip-lash shot out of the water in a shower of spray, and
seized Dick by the left thigh. At the same instant he drove the
point of the spear through the right eye of the monster, deep down
through eye and soft gelatinous carcass till the spear-point
dirled and splintered against the rock. At the same moment the
water of the pool became black as ink, the bands around him
relaxed, and he was free.
Emmeline rose up and seized him, sobbing and clinging to him, and
kissing him. He clasped her with his left arm round her body, as if
to protect her, but it was a mechanical action. He was not
thinking of her. Wild with rage, and uttering hoarse cries, he
plunged the broken spear again and again into the depths of the
pool, seeking utterly to destroy the enemy that had so lately had
him in its grip. Then slowly he came to himself, and wiped his
forehead, and looked at the broken spear in his hand.
"Beast!" he said. "Did you see its eyes? Did you see its eyes? I
wish it had a hundred eyes, and I had a hundred spears to drive
She was clinging to him, and sobbing and laughing hysterically,
and praising him. One might have thought that he had rescued her
from death, not she him.
The sun had nearly vanished, and he led her back to where the
dinghy was moored, recapturing and putting on his trousers on the
road. He picked up the dead fish he had speared; and as he rowed
her back across the lagoon, he talked and laughed, recounting the
incidents of the fight, taking all the glory of the thing to himself,
and seeming quite to ignore the important part she had played in
This was not from any callousness or want of gratitude, but
simply from the fact that for the last five years he had been the
be-all and end-all of their tiny community--the Imperial master.
And he would just as soon have thought of thanking her for
handing him the spear as of thanking his right hand for driving it
home. She was quite content, seeking neither thanks nor praise.
Everything she had came from him: she was his shadow and his
slave. He was her sun.
He went over the fight again and again before they lay down to
rest, telling her he had done this and that, and what he would do
to the next beast of the sort. The reiteration was tiresome
enough, or would have been to an outside listener, but to
Emmeline it was better than Homer. People's minds do not
improve in an intellectual sense when they are isolated from the
world, even though they are living the wild and happy lives of
Then Dick lay down in the dried ferns and covered himself with a
piece of the striped flannel which they used for blanketing, and he
snored, and chattered in his sleep like a dog hunting imaginary
game, and Emmeline lay beside him wakeful and thinking. A new
terror had come into her life. She had seen death for the second
time, but this time active and in being.
THE SOUND OF A DRUM
The next day Dick was sitting under the shade of the artu. He had
the box of fishhooks beside him, and he was bending a line on to
one of them. There had originally been a couple of dozen hooks,
large and small, in the box; there remained now only six--four
small and two large ones. It was a large one he was fixing to the
line, for he intended going on the morrow to the old place to fetch
some bananas, and on the way to try for a fish in the deeper parts
of the lagoon.
It was late afternoon, and the heat had gone out of the day.
Emmeline, seated on the grass opposite to him, was holding the
end of the line, whilst he got the kinks out of it, when suddenly
she raised her head.
There was not a breath of wind; the hush of the far-distant surf
came through the blue weather--the only audible sound except,
now and then, a movement and flutter from the bird perched in the
branches of the artu. All at once another sound mixed itself with
the voice of the surf--a faint, throbbing sound, like the beating of
a distant drum.
"Listen!" said Emmeline.
Dick paused for a moment in his work. All the sounds of the island
were familiar: this was something quite strange.
Faint and far away, now rapid, now slow; coming from where, who
could say? Sometimes it seemed to come from the sea,
sometimes, if the fancy of the listener turned that way, from the
woods. As they listened, a sigh came from overhead; the evening
breeze had risen and was moving in the leaves of the artu tree.
Just as you might wipe a picture off a slate, the breeze banished
the sound. Dick went on with his work.
Next morning early he embarked in the dinghy. He took the hook
and line with him, and some raw fish for bait. Emmeline helped
him to push off, and stood on the bank waving her hand as he
rounded the little cape covered with wild cocoa-nut.
These expeditions of Dick's were one of her sorrows. To be left
alone was frightful; yet she never complained. She was living in a
paradise, but something told her that behind all that sun, all that
splendour of blue sea and sky, behind the flowers and the leaves,
behind all that specious and simpering appearance of happiness in
nature, lurked a frown, and the dragon of mischance.
Dick rowed for about a mile, then he shipped his sculls, and let
the dinghy float. The water here was very deep; so deep that,
despite its clearness, the bottom was invisible; the sunlight over
the reef struck through it diagonally, filling it with sparkles.
The fisherman baited his hook with a piece from the belly of a
scarus and lowered it down out of sight, then he belayed the line
to a thole pin, and, sitting in the bottom of the boat, hung his head
over the side and gazed deep down into the water. Sometimes
there was nothing to see but just the deep blue of the water. Then
a flight of spangled arrowheads would cross the line of sight and
vanish, pursued by a form like a moving bar of gold. Then a great
fish would materialise itself and hang in the shadow of the boat
motionless as a stone, save for the movement of its gills; next
moment with a twist of the tail it would be gone.
Suddenly the dinghy shored over, and might have capsized, only
for the fact that Dick was sitting on the opposite side to the side
from which the line hung. Then the boat righted; the line
slackened, and the surface of the lagoon, a few fathoms away,
boiled as if being stirred from below by a great silver stick. He
had hooked an albicore. He tied the end of the fishing-line to a
scull, undid the line from the thole pin, and flung the scull
He did all this with wonderful rapidity, while the line was still
slack. Next moment the scull was rushing over the surface of the
lagoon, now towards the reef, now towards the shore, now flat,
now end up. Now it would be jerked under the surface entirely;
vanish for a moment, and then reappear. It was a most astonishing
thing to watch, for the scull seemed alive--viciously alive, and
imbued with some destructive purpose; as, in fact, it was. The
most venomous of living things, and the most intelligent could
not have fought the great fish better.
The albicore would make a frantic dash down the lagoon, hoping,
perhaps, to find in the open sea a release from his foe. Then, half
drowned with the pull of the scull, he would pause, dart from side
to side in perplexity, and then make an equally frantic dash up the
lagoon, to be checked in the same manner. Seeking the deepest
depths, he would sink the scull a few fathoms; and once he sought
the air, leaping into the sunlight like a crescent of silver, whilst
the splash of him as he fell echoed amidst the trees bordering the
lagoon. An hour passed before the great fish showed signs of
The struggle had taken place up to this close to the shore, but
now the scull swam out into the broad sheet of sunlit water, and
slowly began to describe large circles rippling up the peaceful
blue into flashing wavelets. It was a melancholy sight to watch,
for the great fish had made a good fight, and one could see him,
through the eye of imagination, beaten, half drowned, dazed, and
moving as is the fashion of dazed things in a circle.
Dick, working the remaining oar at the stern of the boat, rowed
out and seized the floating scull, bringing it on board. Foot by foot
he hauled his catch towards the boat till the long gleaming line of
the thing came dimly into view.
The fight had been heard for miles through the lagoon water by all
sorts of swimming things. The lord of the place had got sound of
it. A dark fin rippled the water; and as Dick, pulling on his line,
hauled his catch closer, a monstrous grey shadow stained the
depths, and the glittering streak that was the albicore vanished
as if engulfed in a cloud. The line came in slack, and Dick hauled
in the albicore's head. It had been divided from the body as if with
a huge pair of shears. The grey shadow slipped by the boat, and
Dick, mad with rage, shouted and shook his fist at it; then,
seizing the albicore's head, from which he had taken the hook, he
hurled it at the monster in the water.
The great shark, with a movement of the tail that caused the
water to swirl and the dinghy to rock, turned upon his back and
engulfed the head; then he slowly sank and vanished, just as if he
had been dissolved. He had come off best in this their first
encounter--such as it was.
SAILS UPON THE SEA
Dick put the hook away and took to the sculls. He had a three-mile
row before him, and the tide was coming in, which did not make it
any the easier. As he rowed, he talked and grumbled to himself. He
had been in a grumbling mood for some time past: the chief cause,
In the last few months she had changed; even her face had
changed. A new person had come upon the island, it seemed to
him, and taken the place of the Emmeline he had known from
earliest childhood. This one looked different. He did not know that
she had grown beautiful, he just knew that she looked different;
also she had developed new ways that displeased him--she would
go off and bathe by herself, for instance.
Up to six months or so ago he had been quite contented; sleeping
and eating, and hunting for food and cooking it, building and
rebuilding the house, exploring the woods and the reef. But lately
a spirit of restlessness had come upon him; he did not know
exactly what he wanted. He had a vague feeling that he wanted to
go away from the place where he was; not from the island, but
from the place where they had pitched their tent, or rather built
It may have been the spirit of civilisation crying out in him,
telling him of all he was missing. Of the cities, and the streets,
and the houses, and the businesses, and the striving after gold,
the striving after power. It may have been simply the man in him
crying out for Love, and not knowing yet that Love was at his
The dinghy glided along, hugging the shore, past the little glades
of fern and the cathedral gloom of the breadfruit; then, rounding a
promontory, she opened the view of the break in the reef. A little
bit of the white strand was visible, but he was not looking that
way--he was looking towards the reef at a tiny, dark spot, not
noticeable unless searched for by the eye. Always when he came
on these expeditions, just here, he would hang on his oars and
gaze over there, where the gulls were flying and the breakers
A few years ago the spot filled him with dread as well as
curiosity, but from familiarity and the dullness that time casts
on everything, the dread had almost vanished, but the curiosity
remained: the curiosity that makes a child look on at the
slaughter of an animal even though his soul revolts at it. He gazed
for a while, then he went on pulling, and the dinghy approached
Something had happened on the beach. The sand was all trampled,
and stained red here and there; in the centre lay the remains of a
great fire still smouldering, and just where the water lapped the
sand, lay two deep grooves as if two heavy boats had been
beached there. A South Sea man would have told from the shape of
the grooves, and the little marks of the out-riggers, that two
heavy canoes had been beached there. And they had.
The day before, early in the afternoon, two canoes, possibly from
that far-away island which cast a stain on the horizon to the -
sou'-sou'-west, had entered the lagoon, one in pursuit of the
What happened then had better be left veiled. A war drum with a
shark-skin head had set the woods throbbing; the victory was
celebrated all night, and at dawn the victors manned the two
canoes and set sail for the
home, or hell, they had come from. Had you examined the strand
you would have found that a line had been drawn across the beach,
beyond which there were no footmarks: that meant that the rest
of the island was for some reason tabu.
Dick pulled the nose of the boat up a bit on the strand, then he
looked around him. He picked up a broken spear that had been cast
away or forgotten; it was made of some hard wood and barbed
with iron. On the right-hand side of the beach something lay
between the cocoa-nut trees. He approached; it was a mass of
offal; the entrails of a dozen sheep seemed cast here in one
mound, yet there were no sheep on the island, and sheep are not
carried as a rule in war canoes.
The sand on the beach was eloquent. The foot pursuing and the
foot pursued; the knee of the fallen one, and then the forehead and
outspread hands; the heel of the chief who has slain his enemy,
beaten the body flat, burst a hole through it, through which he has
put his head, and who stands absolutely wearing his enemy as a
cloak; the head of the man dragged on his back to be butchered
like a sheep--of these things spoke the sand.
As far as the sand traces could speak, the story of the battle was
still being told; the screams and the shouting, the clashing of
clubs and spears were gone, yet the ghost of the fight remained.
If the sand could bear such traces, and tell such tales, who shall
say that the plastic aether was destitute of the story of the fight
and the butchery?
However that may have been, Dick, looking around him, had the
shivering sense of having just escaped from danger. Whoever had
been, had gone--he could tell that by the canoe traces. Gone either
out to sea, or up the right stretch of the lagoon. It was important
to determine this.
He climbed to the hill-top and swept the sea with his eyes. There,
away to the south-west, far away on the sea, he could distinguish
the brown sails of two canoes. There was something
indescribably mournful and lonely in their appearance; they looked
like withered leaves--brown moths blown to sea--derelicts of
autumn. Then, remembering the beach, these things became
freighted with the most sinister thoughts for the mind of the
gazer. They were hurrying away, having done their work. That they
looked lonely and old and mournful, and like withered leaves
blown across the sea, only heightened the horror.
Dick had never seen canoes before, but he knew that these things
were boats of some sort holding people, and that the people had
left all those traces on the beach. How much of the horror of the
thing was revealed to his subconscious intelligence, who can say?
He had climbed the boulder, and he now sat down with his knees
drawn up, and his hands clasped round them. Whenever he came
round to this side of the island, something happened of a fateful
or sinister nature. The last time he had nearly lost the dinghy; he
had beached the little boat in such a way that she floated off, and
the tide was just in the act of stealing her, and sweeping her
from the lagoon out to sea, when he returned laden with his
bananas, and, rushing into the water up to his waist, saved her.
Another time he had fallen out of a tree, and just by a miracle
escaped death. Another time a hurricane had broken, lashing the
lagoon into snow, and sending the cocoa-nuts bounding and flying
like tennis balls across the strand. This time he had just escaped
something, he knew not exactly what. It was almost as if
Providence were saying to him, "Don't come here."
He watched the brown sails as they dwindled in the wind-blown
blue, then he came down from the hill-top and cut his bananas. He
cut four large bunches, which caused him to make two journeys to
the boat. When the bananas were stowed he pushed off.
For a long time a great curiosity had been pulling at his heart-
strings: a curiosity of which he was dimly ashamed. Fear had
given it birth, and Fear still clung to it. It was, perhaps, the
element of fear and the awful delight of daring the unknown that
made him give way to it.
He had rowed, perhaps, a hundred yards when he turned the boat's
head and made for the reef. It was more than five years since that
day when he rowed across the lagoon, Emmeline sitting in the
stern, with her wreath of flowers in her hand. It might have been
only yesterday, for everything seemed just the same. The
thunderous surf and the flying gulls, the blinding sunlight, and the
salt, fresh smell of the sea. The palm tree at the entrance of the
lagoon still bent gazing into the water, and round the projection
of coral to which he had last moored the boat still lay a fragment
of the rope which he had cut in his hurry to escape.
Ships had come into the lagoon, perhaps, during the five years, but
no one had noticed anything on the reef, for it was only from the
hill-top that a full view of what was there could be seen, and
then only by eyes knowing where to look. From the beach there
was visible just a speck. It might have been, perhaps, a bit of old
wreckage flung there by a wave in some big storm. A piece of old
wreckage that had been tossed hither and thither for years, and
had at last found a place of rest.
Dick tied the boat up, and stepped on to the reef. It was high tide
just as before; the breeze was blowing strongly, and overhead a
man-of-war's bird, black as ebony, with a blood-red bill, came
sailing, the wind doming out his wings. He circled in the air, and
cried out fiercely, as if resenting the presence of the intruder,
then he passed away, let himself be blown away, as it were,
across the lagoon, wheeled, circled, and passed out to sea.
Dick approached the place he knew, and there lay the little old
barrel all warped by the powerful sun; the staves stood apart, and
the hooping was rusted and broken, and whatever it had contained
in the way of spirit and conviviality had long ago drained away.
Beside the barrel lay a skeleton, round which lay a few rags of
cloth. The skull had fallen to one side, and the lower jaw had
fallen from the skull; the bones of the hands and feet were still
articulated, and the ribs had not fallen in. It was all white and
bleached, and the sun shone on it as indifferently as on the coral,
this shell and framework that had once been a man. There was
nothing dreadful about it, but a whole world of wonder.
To Dick, who had not been broken into the idea of death, who had
not learned to associate it with graves and funerals, sorrow,
eternity, and hell, the thing spoke as it never could have spoken to
you or me.
Looking at it, things linked themselves together in his mind: the
skeletons of birds he had found in the woods, the fish he had
slain, even trees lying dead and rotten--even the shells of crabs.
If you had asked him what lay before him, and if he could have
expressed the thought in his mind, he would have answered you
All the philosophy in the world could not have told him more than
he knew just then about death--he, who even did not know its
He was held spellbound by the marvel and miracle of the thing and
the thoughts that suddenly crowded his mind like a host of
spectres for whom a door has just been opened.
Just as a child by unanswerable logic knows that a fire which has
burned him once will burn him again, or will burn another person,
he knew that just as the form before him was, his form would be
some day--and Emmeline's.
Then came the vague question which is born not of the brain, but
the heart, and which is the basis of all religions--where shall I
be then? His mind was not of an introspective nature, and the
question just strayed across it and was gone. And still the
wonder of the thing held him. He was for the first time in his life
in a reverie; the corpse that had shocked and terrified him five
years ago had cast seeds of thought with its dead fingers upon his
mind, the skeleton had brought them to maturity. The full fact of
universal death suddenly appeared before him, and he recognised
He stood for a long time motionless, and then with a deep sigh
turned to the boat and pushed off without once looking back at the
reef. He crossed the lagoon and rowed slowly homewards, keeping
in the shelter of the tree shadows as much as possible.
Even looking at him from the shore you might have noticed a
difference in him. Your savage paddles his canoe, or sculls his
boat, alert, glancing about him, at touch with nature at all points;
though he be lazy as a cat and sleeps half the day, awake he is all
ears and eyes--a creature reacting to the least external
Dick, as he rowed back, did not look about him: he was thinking or
retrospecting. The savage in him had received a check. As he
turned the little cape where the wild cocoanut blazed, he looked
over his shoulder. A figure was standing on the sward by the edge
of the water. It was Emmeline.
They carried the bananas up to the house, and hung them from a
branch of the artu. Then Dick, on his knees, lit the fire to prepare
the evening meal. When it was over he went down to where the
boat was moored, and returned with something in his hand. It was
the javelin with the iron point or, rather, the two pieces of it. He
had said nothing of what he had seen to the girl.
Emmeline was seated on the grass; she had a long strip of the
striped flannel stuff about her, worn like a scarf, and she had
another piece in her hand which she was hemming. The bird was
hopping about, pecking at a banana which they had thrown to him;
a light breeze made the shadow of the artu leaves dance upon the
grass, and the serrated leaves of the breadfruit to patter one on
the other with the sound of rain-drops falling upon glass.
"Where did you get it?" asked Emmeline, staring at the piece of
the javelin which Dick had flung down almost beside her whilst
he went into the house to fetch the knife.
"It was on the beach over there," he replied, taking his seat and
examining the two fragments to see how he could splice them
Emmeline looked at the pieces, putting them together in her mind.
She did not like the look of the thing: so keen and savage, and
stained dark a foot and more from the point.
"People had been there," said Dick, putting the two pieces
together and examining the fracture critically.
"Over there. This was lying on the sand, and the sand was all trod
"Dick," said Emmeline, "who were the people?"
"I don't know; I went up the hill and saw their boats going away--
far away out. This was lying on the sand."
"Dick," said Emmeline, "do you remember the noise yesterday?"
"Yes," said Dick.
"I heard it in the night."
"In the night before the moon went away."
"That was them," said Dick.
"Who were they?"
"I don't know," replied Dick.
"It was in the night, before the moon went away, and it went on
and on beating in the trees. I thought I was asleep, and then I
knew I was awake; you were asleep, and I pushed you to listen,
but you couldn't wake, you were so asleep; then the moon went
away, and the noise went on. How did they make the noise?"
"I don't know," replied Dick, "but it was them; and they left this
on the sand, and the sand was all trod up, and I saw their boats
from the hill, away out far."
"I thought I heard voices," said Emmeline, "but I was not sure."
She fell into meditation, watching her companion at work on the
savage and sinister-looking thing in his hands. He was splicing
the two pieces together with a strip of the brown cloth-like stuff
which is wrapped round the stalks of the cocoa-palm fronds. The
thing seemed to have been hurled here out of the blue by some
When he had spliced the pieces, doing so with marvellous
dexterity, he took the thing short down near the point, and began
thrusting it into the soft earth to clean it; then, with a bit of
flannel, he polished it till it shone. He felt a keen delight in it. It
was useless as a fish-spear, because it had no barb, but it was a
weapon. It was useless as a weapon, because there was no foe on
the island to use it against; still, it was a weapon.
When he had finished scrubbing at it, he rose, hitched his old
trousers up, tightened the belt of cocoa-cloth which Emmeline
had made for him, went into the house and got his fish-spear, and
stalked off to the boat, calling out to Emmeline to follow him.
They crossed over to the reef, where, as usual, he divested
himself of clothing.
It was strange that out here he would go about stark naked, yet on
the island he always wore some covering. But not so strange,
perhaps, after all.
The sea is a great purifier, both of the mind and the body; before
that great sweet spirit people do not think in the same way as
they think far inland. What woman would appear in a town or on a
country road, or even bathing in a river, as she appears bathing in
Some instinct made Dick cover himself up on shore, and strip
naked on the reef. In a minute he was down by the edge of the
surf, javelin in one hand, fish-spear in the other.
Emmeline, by a little pool the bottom of which was covered with
branching coral, sat gazing down into its depths, lost in a reverie
like that into which we fall when gazing at shapes in the fire. She
had sat some time like this when a shout from Dick aroused her.
She started to her feet and gazed to where he was pointing. An
amazing thing was there.
To the east, just rounding the curve of the reef, and scarcely a
quarter of a mile from it, was coming a big topsail schooner; a
beautiful sight she was, heeling to the breeze with every sail
drawing, and the white foam like a feather at her fore-foot.
Dick, with the javelin in his hand, was standing gazing at her; he
had dropped his fishspear, and he stood as motionless as though
he were carved out of stone. Emmeline ran to him and stood
beside him; neither of them spoke a word as the vessel drew
Everything was visible, so close was she now, from the reef
points on the great mainsail, luminous with the sunlight, and
white as the wing of a gull, to the rail of the bulwarks. A crowd
of men were hanging over the port bulwarks gazing at the island
and the figures on the reef. Browned by the sun and sea-breeze,
Emmeline's hair blowing on the wind, and the point of Dick's
javelin flashing in the sun, they looked an ideal pair of savages,
seen from the schooner's deck.
"They are going away," said Emmeline, with a long-drawn breath
Dick made no reply; he stared at the schooner a moment longer in
silence, then, having made sure that she was standing away from
the land, he began to run up and down, calling out wildly, and
beckoning to the vessel as if to call her back.
A moment later a sound came on the breeze, a faint hail; a flag
was run up to the peak and dipped as in derision, and the vessel
continued on her course.
As a matter of fact, she had been on the point of putting about.
Her captain had for a moment been undecided as to whether the
forms on the reef were those of castaways or savages. But the
javelin in Dick's hand had turned the scale of his opinion in favour
of the theory of savages.
LOVE STEPS IN
Two birds were sitting in the branches of the artu tree: Koko had
taken a mate. They had built a nest out of fibres pulled from the
wrappings of the cocoa-nut fronds, bits of stick and wire grass--
anything, in fact; even fibres from the palmetto thatch of the
house below. The pilferings of birds, the building of nests, what
charming incidents they are in the great episode of spring!
The hawthorn tree never bloomed here, the climate was that of
eternal summer, yet the spirit of May came just as she comes to
the English countryside or the German forest. The doings in the
artu branches greatly interested Emmeline.
The love-making and the nest-building were conducted quite in
the usual manner, according to rules laid down by Nature and
carried out by men and birds. All sorts of quaint sounds came
filtering down through the leaves from the branch where the
sapphire-coloured lovers sat side by side, or the fork where the
nest was beginning to form: croonings and cluckings, sounds like
the flirting of a fan, the sounds of a squabble, followed by the
sounds that told of the squabble made up. Sometimes after one of
these squabbles a pale blue downy feather or two would come
floating earthwards, touch the palmetto leaves of the house-roof
and cling there, or be blown on to the grass.
It was some days after the appearance of the schooner, and Dick
was making ready to go into the woods and pick guavas. He had all
the morning been engaged in making a basket to carry them in. In
civilisation he would, judging from his mechanical talent,
perhaps have been an engineer, building bridges and ships, instead
of palmetto-leaf baskets and cane houses--who knows if he would
have been happier?
The heat of midday had passed, when, with the basket hanging
over his shoulder on a piece of cane, he started for the woods,
Emmeline following. The place they were going to always filled
her with a vague dread; not for a great deal would she have gone
there alone. Dick had discovered it in one of his rambles.
They entered the wood and passed a little well, a well without
apparent source or outlet and a bottom of fine white sand. How
the sand had formed there, it would be impossible to say; but
there it was, and around the margin grew ferns redoubling
themselves on the surface of the crystal-clear water. They left
this to the right and struck into the heart of the wood. The heat of
midday still lurked here; the way was clear, for there was a sort
of path between the trees, as if, in very ancient days, there had
been a road.
Right across this path, half lost in shadow, half sunlit, the lianas
hung their ropes. The hotoo tree, with its powdering of delicate
blossoms, here stood, showing its lost loveliness to the sun; in
the shade the scarlet hibiscus burned like a flame. Artu and
breadfruit trees and cocoa-nut bordered the way.
As they proceeded the trees grew denser and the path more
obscure. All at once, rounding a sharp turn, the path ended in a
valley carpeted with fern. This was the place that always filled
Emmeline with an undefined dread. One side of it was all built up
in terraces with huge blocks of stone--blocks of stone so
enormous, that the wonder was how the ancient builders had put
them in their places.
Trees grew along the terraces, thrusting their roots between the
interstices of the blocks. At their base, slightly tilted forward as
if with the sinkage of years, stood a great stone figure roughly
carved, thirty feet high at least--mysterious-looking, the very
spirit of the place. This figure and the terraces, the valley itself,
and the very trees that grew there, inspired Emmeline with deep
curiosity and vague fear.
People had been here once; sometimes she could fancy she saw
dark shadows moving amidst the trees, and the whisper of the
foliage seemed to her to hide voices at times, even as its shadow
concealed forms. It was indeed an uncanny place to be alone in
even under the broad light of day. All across the Pacific for
thousands of miles you find relics of the past, like these
scattered through the islands.
These temple places are nearly all the same: great terraces of
stone, massive idols, desolation overgrown with foliage. They
hint at one religion, and a time when the sea space of the Pacific
was a continent, which, sinking slowly through the ages, has left
only its higher lands and hill-tops visible in the form of islands.
Round these places the woods are thicker than elsewhere, hinting
at the presence there, once, of sacred groves. The idols are
immense, their faces are vague; the storms and the suns and the
rains of the ages have cast over them a veil. The sphinx is
understandable and a toy compared to these things, some of which
have a stature of fifty feet, whose creation is veiled in absolute
mystery--the gods of a people for ever and for ever lost.
The "stone man" was the name Emmeline had given the idol of the
valley; and sometimes at nights, when her thoughts would stray
that way, she would picture him standing all alone in the
moonlight or starlight staring straight before him.
He seemed for ever listening; unconsciously one fell to listening
too, and then the valley seemed steeped in a supernatural silence.
He was not good to be alone with.
Emmeline sat down amidst the fears just at his base. When one
was close up to him he lost the suggestion of life, and was simply
a great stone which cast a shadow in the sun.
Dick threw himself down also to rest. Then he rose up and went
off amidst the guava bushes, plucking the fruit and filling his
basket. Since he had seen the schooner, the white men on her
decks, her great masts and sails, and general appearance of
freedom and speed and unknown adventure, he had been more than
ordinarily glum and restless. Perhaps he connected her in his mind
with the far-away vision of the Northumberland, and the idea
of other places and lands, and the yearning for change [that] the idea of
He came back with his basket full of the ripe fruit, gave some to
the girl and sat down beside her. When she had finished eating
them she took the cane that he used for carrying the basket and
held it in her hands. She was bending it in the form of a bow when
it slipped, flew out and struck her companion a sharp blow on the
side of his face.
Almost on the instant he turned and slapped her on the shoulder.
She stared at him for a moment in troubled amazement, a sob
came in her throat. Then some veil seemed lifted, some wizard's
wand stretched out, some mysterious vial broken. As she looked
at him like that, he suddenly and fiercely clasped her in his arms.
He held her like this for a moment, dazed, stupefied, not knowing
what to do with her. Then her lips told him, for they met his in an
THE SLEEP OF PARADISE
The moon rose up that evening and shot her silver arrows at the
house under the artu tree. The house was empty. Then the moon
came across the sea and across the reef.
She lit the lagoon to its dark, dim heart. She lit the coral brains
and sand spaces, and the fish, casting their shadows on the sand
and the coral. The keeper of the lagoon rose to greet her, and the
fin of him broke her reflection on the mirror-like surface into a
thousand glittering ripples. She saw the white staring ribs of the
form on the reef. Then, peeping over the trees, she looked down
into the valley, where the great idol of stone had kept its solitary
vigil for five thousand years, perhaps, or more.
At his base, in his shadow, looking as if under his protection, lay
two human beings, naked, clasped in each other's arms, and fast
asleep. One could scarcely pity his vigil, had it been marked
sometimes through the years by such an incident as this. The
thing had been conducted just as the birds conduct their love
affairs. An affair absolutely natural, absolutely blameless, and
It was a marriage according to Nature, without feast or guests,
consummated with accidental cynicism under the shadow of a
religion a thousand years dead.
So happy in their ignorance were they, that they only knew that
suddenly life had changed, that the skies and the sea were bluer,
and that they had become in some magical way one a part of the
other. The birds on the tree above were equally as happy in their
ignorance, and in their love.
AN ISLAND HONEYMOON
One day Dick climbed on to the tree above the house, and, driving
Madame Koko off the nest upon which she was sitting, peeped in.
There were several pale green eggs in it. He did not disturb them,
but climbed down again, and the bird resumed her seat as if
nothing had happened. Such an occurrence would have terrified a
bird used to the ways of men, but here the birds were so fearless
and so full of confidence that often they would follow Emmeline
in the wood, flying from branch to branch, peering at her through
the leaves, lighting quite close to her--once, even, on her
The days passed. Dick had lost his restlessness: his wish to
wander had vanished. He had no reason to wander; perhaps that
was the reason why. In all the broad earth he could not have found
anything more desirable than what he had.
Instead now of finding a half-naked savage followed dog-like by
his mate, you would have found of an evening a pair of lovers
wandering on the reef. They had in a pathetic sort of way
attempted to adorn the house with a blue flowering creeper taken
from the wood and trained over the entrance.
Emmeline, up to this, had mostly done the cooking, such as it was;
Dick helped her now, always. He talked to her no longer in short
sentences flung out as if to a dog; and she, almost losing the
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