The Boats of the "Glen Carrig"
William Hope Hodgson

Part 2 out of 3

spears were discovered, both of them stuck in the sand, and no more than
a yard one from the other, which seemed to me a very strange thing.

Now, for a while after the lighting of the second fire, there came no
further sounds from the direction of the valley; nothing indeed to break
the quietness of the island, save the occasional lonely splashes that
sounded from time to time out in the vastness of the weed-continent.
Then, about an hour after I had waked the bo'sun, one of the men who had
been tending the fires came up to him to say that we had come to the end
of our supply of weed-fuel. At that, the bo'sun looked very blank, the
which did the rest of us, as well we might; yet there was no help for it,
until one of the men bethought him of the remainder of the bundle of
reeds which we had cut, and which, burning but poorly, we had discarded
for the weed. This was discovered at the back of the tent, and with it we
fed the fire that burned between us and the valley; but the other we
suffered to die out, for the reeds were not sufficient to support even
the one until the dawn.

At last, and whilst it was still dark, we came to the end of our fuel,
and as the fire died down, so did the noises in the valley recommence.
And there we stood in the growing dark, each one keeping a very ready
weapon, and a more ready glance. And at times the island would be
mightily quiet, and then again the sounds of things crawling in the
valley. Yet, I think the silences tried us the more.

And so at last came the dawn.


What Happened in the Dusk

Now with the coming of the dawn, a lasting silence stole across the
island and into the valley, and, conceiving that we had nothing more to
fear, the bo'sun bade us get some rest, whilst he kept watch. And so I
got at last a very substantial little spell of sleep, which made me fit
enough for the day's work.

Presently, after some hours had passed, the bo'sun roused us to go
with him to the further side of the island to gather fuel, and soon we
were back with each a load, so that in a little we had the fire going
right merrily.

Now for breakfast, we had a hash of broken biscuit, salt meat and some
shell-fish which the bo'sun had picked up from the beach at the foot of
the further hill; the whole being right liberally flavored with some of
the vinegar, which the bo'sun said would help keep down any scurvy that
might be threatening us. And at the end of the meal he served out to us
each a little of the molasses, which we mixed with hot water, and drank.

The meal being ended, he went into the tent to take a look at Job, the
which he had done already in the early morning; for the condition of the
lad preyed somewhat upon him; he being, for all his size and
top-roughness, a man of surprisingly tender heart. Yet the boy remained
much as on the previous evening, so that we knew not what to do with him
to bring him into better health. One thing we tried, knowing that no food
had passed his lips since the previous morning, and that was to get some
little quantity of hot water, rum and molasses down his throat; for it
seemed to us he might die from very lack of food; but though we worked
with him for more than the half of an hour, we could not get him to
come-to sufficiently to take anything, and without that we had fear of
suffocating him. And so, presently, we had perforce to leave him within
the tent, and go about our business; for there was very much to be done.

Yet, before we did aught else, the bo'sun led us all into the valley,
being determined to make a very thorough exploration of it, perchance
there might be any lurking beast or devil-thing waiting to rush out and
destroy us as we worked, and more, he would make search that he might
discover what manner of creatures had disturbed our night.

Now in the early morning, when we had gone for the fuel, we had kept to
the upper skirt of the valley where the rock of the nearer hill came down
into the spongy ground, but now we struck right down into the middle part
of the vale, making a way amid the mighty fungi to the pit-like opening
that filled the bottom of the valley. Now though the ground was very
soft, there was in it so much of springiness that it left no trace of our
steps after we had gone on a little way, none, that is, save that in odd
places, a wet patch followed upon our treading. Then, when we got
ourselves near to the pit, the ground became softer, so that our feet
sank into it, and left very real impressions; and here we found tracks
most curious and bewildering; for amid the slush that edged the
pit--which I would mention here had less the look of a pit now that I had
come near to it--were multitudes of markings which I can liken to nothing
so much as the tracks of mighty slugs amid the mud, only that they were
not altogether like to that of slugs; for there were other markings such
as might have been made by bunches of eels cast down and picked up
continually, at least, this is what they suggested to me, and I do but
put it down as such.

Apart from the markings which I have mentioned, there was everywhere a
deal of slime, and this we traced all over the valley among the great
toadstool plants; but, beyond that which I have already remarked, we
found nothing. Nay, but I was near to forgetting, we found a quantity of
this thin slime upon those fungi which filled the end of the little
valley nearest to our encampment, and here also we discovered many of
them fresh broken or uprooted, and there was the same mark of the beast
upon them all, and now I remember the dull thuds that I had heard in the
night, and made little doubt but that the creatures had climbed the great
toadstools so that they might spy us out; and it may be that many climbed
upon one, so that their weight broke the fungi, or uprooted them. At
least, so the thought came to me.

And so we made an end of our search, and after that, the bo'sun set each
one of us to work. But first he had us all back to the beach to give a
hand to turn over the boat, so that he might get to the damaged part.
Now, having the bottom of the boat full to his view, he made discovery
that there was other damage beside that of the burst plank; for the
bottom plank of all had come away from the keel, which seemed to us a
very serious matter; though it did not show when the boat was upon her
bilges. Yet the bo'sun assured us that he had no doubts but that she
could be made seaworthy, though it would take a greater while than
hitherto he had thought needful.

Having concluded his examination of the boat, the bo'sun sent one of the
men to bring the bottom-boards out of the tent; for he needed some
planking for the repair of the damage. Yet when the boards had been
brought, he needed still something which they could not supply, and this
was a length of very sound wood of some three inches in breadth each
way, which he intended to bolt against the starboard side of the keel,
after he had gotten the planking replaced so far as was possible. He had
hopes that by means of this device he would be able to nail the bottom
plank to this, and then caulk it with oakum, so making the boat almost
so sound as ever.

Now hearing him express his need for such a piece of timber, we were all
adrift to know from whence such a thing could be gotten, until there came
suddenly to me a memory of the mast and topmast upon the other side of
the island, and at once I made mention of them. At that, the bo'sun
nodded, saying that we might get the timber out of it, though it would be
a work requiring some considerable labor, in that we had only a hand-saw
and a small hatchet. Then he sent us across to be getting it clear of the
weed, promising to follow when he had made an end of trying to get the
two displaced planks back into position.

Having reached the spars, we set-to with a very good will to shift away
the weed and wrack that was piled over them, and very much entangled with
the rigging. Presently we had laid them bare, and so we discovered them
to be in remarkably sound condition, the lower-mast especially being a
fine piece of timber. All the lower and topmast standing rigging was
still attached, though in places the lower rigging was stranded so far as
half-way up the shrouds; yet there remained much that was good and all
of it quite free from rot, and of the very finest quality of white hemp,
such as is to be seen only in the best found vessels.

About the time that we had finished clearing the weed, the bo'sun came
over to us, bringing with him the saw and the hatchet. Under his
directions, we cut the lanyards of the topmast rigging, and after that
sawed through the topmast just above the cap. Now this was a very tough
piece of work, and employed us a great part of the morning, even though
we took turn and turn at the saw, and when it was done we were mightily
glad that the bo'sun bade one of the men go over with some weed and make
up the fire for dinner, after which he was to put on a piece of the salt
meat to boil.

In the meanwhile, the bo'sun had started to cut through the topmast,
about fifteen feet beyond the first cut, for that was the length of the
batten he required; yet so wearisome was the work, that we had not gotten
more than half through with it before the man whom the bo'sun had sent,
returned to say that the dinner was ready. When this was dispatched, and
we had rested a little over our pipes, the bo'sun rose and led us back;
for he was determined to get through with the topmast before dark.

Presently, relieving each other frequently, we completed the second
cut, and after that the bo'sun set us to saw a block about twelve
inches deep from the remaining portion of the topmast. From this, when
we had cut it, he proceeded to hew wedges with the hatchet. Then he
notched the end of the fifteen-foot log, and into the notch he drove
the wedges, and so, towards evening, as much, maybe, by good luck as
good management, he had divided the log into two halves--the split
running very fairly down the center.

Now, perceiving how that it drew near to sundown, he bade the men haste
and gather weed and carry it across to our camp; but one he sent along
the shore to make a search for shell-fish among the weed; yet he himself
ceased not to work at the divided log, and kept me with him as helper.
Thus, within the next hour, we had a length, maybe some four inches in
diameter, split off the whole length of one of the halves, and with this
he was very well content; though it seemed but a very little result for
so much labor.

By this time the dusk was upon us, and the men, having made an end of
weed carrying, were returned to us, and stood about, waiting for the
bo'sun to go into camp. At this moment, the man the bo'sun had sent to
gather shellfish, returned, and he had a great crab upon his spear, which
he had spitted through the belly. This creature could not have been less
than a foot across the back, and had a very formidable appearance; yet it
proved to be a most tasty matter for our supper, when it had been placed
for a while in boiling water.

Now so soon as this man was returned, we made at once for the camp,
carrying with us the piece of timber which we had hewn from the topmast.
By this time it was quite dusk, and very strange amid the great fungi as
we struck across the upper edge of the valley to the opposite beach.
Particularly, I noticed that the hateful, mouldy odor of these monstrous
vegetables was more offensive than I had found it to be in the daytime;
though this may be because I used my nose the more, in that I could not
use my eyes to any great extent.

We had gotten halfway across the top of the valley, and the gloom was
deepening steadily, when there stole to me upon the calmness of the
evening air, a faint smell; something quite different from that of the
surrounding fungi. A moment later I got a great whiff of it, and was near
sickened with the abomination of it; but the memory of that foul thing
which had come to the side of the boat in the dawn-gloom, before we
discovered the island, roused me to a terror beyond that of the sickness
of my stomach; for, suddenly, I knew what manner of thing it was that had
beslimed my face and throat upon the previous night, and left its hideous
stench lingering in my nostrils. And with the knowledge, I cried out to
the bo'sun to make haste, for there were demons with us in the valley.
And at that, some of the men made to run; but he bade them, in a very
grim voice, stay where they were, and keep well together, else would they
be attacked and overcome, straggled all among the fungi in the dark. And
this, being, I doubt not, as much in fear of the rounding dark as of the
bo'sun, they did, and so we came safely out of the valley; though there
seemed to follow us a little lower down the slope an uncanny slithering.

Now so soon as we reached the camp, the bo'sun ordered four fires to be
lit--one on each side of the tent, and this we did, lighting them at the
embers of our old fire, which we had most foolishly allowed to die down.
When the fires had been got going, we put on the boiler, and treated the
great crab as I have already mentioned, and so fell-to upon a very hearty
supper; but, as we ate, each man had his weapon stuck in the sand beside
him; for we had knowledge that the valley held some devilish thing, or
maybe many; though the knowing did not spoil our appetites.

And so, presently, we came to an end of eating, whereat each man pulled
out his pipe, intending to smoke; but the bo'sun told one of the men to
get him upon his feet and keep watch, else might we be in danger of
surprise, with every man lolling upon the sand; and this seemed to me
very good sense; for it was easy to see that the men, too readily, deemed
themselves secure, by reason of the brightness of the fires about them.

Now, whilst the men were taking their ease within the circle of the
fires, the bo'sun lit one of the dips which we had out of the ship in the
creek, and went in to see how Job was, after the day's rest. At that, I
rose up, reproaching myself for having forgotten the poor lad, and
followed the bo'sun into the tent. Yet, I had but reached the opening,
when he gave out a loud cry, and held the candle low down to the sand. At
that, I saw the reason for his agitation, for, in the place where we had
left Job, there was nothing. I stepped into the tent, and, in the same
instant, there came to my nostrils the faint odor of the horrible stench
which had come to me in the valley, and before then from the thing that
came to the side of the boat. And, suddenly, I knew that Job had fallen
prey of those foul things, and, knowing this, I called out to the bo'sun
that _they_ had taken the boy, and then my eyes caught the smear of slime
upon the sand, and I had proof that I was not mistaken.

Now, so soon as the bo'sun knew all that was in my mind; though indeed it
did but corroborate that which had come to his own, he came swiftly out
from the tent, bidding the men to stand back; for they had come all about
the entrance, being very much discomposed at that which the bo'sun had
discovered. Then the bo'sun took from a bundle of the reeds, which they
had cut at the time when he had bidden them gather fuel, several of the
thickest, and to one of these he bound a great mass of the dry weed;
whereupon the men, divining his intention, did likewise with the others,
and so we had each of us the wherewithal for a mighty torch.

So soon as we had completed our preparations, we took each man his weapon
and, plunging our torches into the fires, set off along the track which
had been made by the devil-things and the body of poor Job; for now that
we had suspicion that harm had come to him, the marks in the sand, and
the slime, were very plain to be seen, so that it was a wonder that we
had not discovered them earlier.

Now the bo'sun led the way, and, finding the marks led direct to the
valley, he broke into a run, holding his torch well above his head. At
that, each of us did likewise; for we had a great desire to be together,
and further than this, I think with truth I may say, we were all fierce
to avenge Job, so that we had less of fear in our hearts than otherwise
had been the case.

In less than the half of a minute we had reached the end of the valley;
but here, the ground being of a nature not happy in the revealing of
tracks, we were at fault to know in which direction to continue. At that,
the bo'sun set up a loud shout to Job, perchance he might be yet alive;
but there came no answer to us, save a low and uncomfortable echo. Then
the bo'sun, desiring to waste no more time, ran straight down towards the
center of the valley, and we followed, and kept our eyes very open about
us. We had gotten perhaps halfway, when one of the men shouted that he
saw something ahead; but the bo'sun had seen it earlier; for he was
running straight down upon it, holding his torch high and swinging his
great cutlass. Then, instead of smiting, he fell upon his knees beside
it, and the following instant we were up with him, and in that same
moment it seemed to me that I saw a number of white shapes melt swiftly
into the shadows further ahead: but I had no thought for these when I
perceived that by which the bo'sun knelt; for it was the stark body of
Job, and no inch of it but was covered with the little ringed marks that
I had discovered upon my throat, and from every place there ran a trickle
of blood, so that he was a most horrid and fearsome sight.

At the sight of Job so mangled and be-bled, there came over us the sudden
quiet of a mortal terror, and in that space of silence, the bo'sun placed
his hand over the poor lad's heart; but there was no movement, though the
body was still warm. Immediately upon that, he rose to his feet, a look
of vast wrath upon his great face. He plucked his torch from the ground,
into which he had plunged the haft, and stared round into the silence of
the valley; but there was no living thing in sight, nothing save the
giant fungi and the strange shadows cast by our great torches, and the

At this moment, one of the men's torches, having burnt near out, fell all
to pieces, so that he held nothing but the charred support, and
immediately two more came to a like end. Upon this, we became afraid that
they would not last us back to the camp, and we looked to the bo'sun to
know his wish; but the man was very silent, and peering everywhere into
the shadows. Then a fourth torch fell to the ground in a shower of
embers, and I turned to look. In the same instant there came a great
flare of light behind me, accompanied by the dull thud of a dry matter
set suddenly alight. I glanced swiftly back to the bo'sun, and he was
staring up at one of the giant toadstools which was in flames all along
its nearer edge, and burning with an incredible fury, sending out spirits
of flame, and anon giving out sharp reports, and at each report, a fine
powder was belched in thin streams; which, getting into our throats and
nostrils, set us sneezing and coughing most lamentably; so that I am
convinced, had any enemy come upon us at that moment, we had been undone
by reason of our uncouth helplessness.

Now whether it had come to the bo'sun to set alight this first of the
fungi, I know not; for it may be that his torch coming by chance against
it, set it afire. However it chanced, the bo'sun took it as a veritable
hint from Providence, and was already setting his torch to one a little
further off, whilst the rest of us were near to choking with our
coughings and sneezings. Yet, that we were so suddenly overcome by the
potency of the powder, I doubt if a full minute passed before we were
each one busied after the manner of the bo'sun; and those whose torches
had burned out, knocked flaming pieces from the burning fungus, and with
these impaled upon their torch-sticks, did so much execution as any.

And thus it happened that within five minutes of this discovery of Job's
body, the whole of that hideous valley sent up to heaven the reek of its
burning; whilst we, filled with murderous desires, ran hither and thither
with our weapons, seeking to destroy the vile creatures that had brought
the poor lad to so unholy a death. Yet nowhere could we discover any
brute or creature upon which to ease our vengeance, and so, presently,
the valley becoming impassable by reason of the heat, the flying sparks
and the abundance of the acrid dust, we made back to the body of the boy,
and bore him thence to the shore.

And during all that night no man of us slept, and the burning of the
fungi sent up a mighty pillar of flame out of the valley, as out of the
mouth of a monstrous pit and when the morning came it still burned. Then
when it was daylight, some of us slept, being greatly awearied; but some
kept watch.

And when we waked there was a great wind and rain upon the island.


The Light in the Weed

Now the wind was very violent from the sea, and threatened to blow down
our tent, the which, indeed, it achieved at last as we made an end of a
cheerless breakfast. Yet, the bo'sun bade us not trouble to put it up
again; but spread it out with the edges raised upon props made from the
reeds, so that we might catch some of the rainwater; for it was become
imperative that we should renew our supply before putting out again to
sea. And whilst some of us were busied about this, he took the others and
set up a small tent made of the spare canvas, and under this he sheltered
all of our matters like to be harmed by the rain.

In a little, the rain continuing very violent, we had near a breaker-full
of water collected in the canvas, and were about to run it off into one
of the breakers, when the bo'sun cried out to us to hold, and first taste
the water before we mixed it with that which we had already. At that, we
put down our hands and scooped up some of the water to taste, and thus we
discovered it to be brackish and quite undrinkable, at which I was
amazed, until the bo'sun reminded us that the canvas had been saturated
for many days with salt water, so that it would take a great quantity of
fresh before all the salt was washed out. Then he told us to lay it flat
upon the beach, and scour it well on both sides with the sand, which we
did, and afterwards let the rain rinse it well, whereupon the next water
that we caught we found to be near fresh; though not sufficiently so for
our purpose. Yet when we had rinsed it once more, it became clear of the
salt, so that we were able to keep all that we caught further.

And then, something before noon, the rain ceased to fall, though coming
again at odd times in short squalls; yet the wind died not, but blew
steadily, and continued so from that quarter during the remainder of the
time that we were upon the island.

Upon the ceasing of the rain, the bo'sun called us all together, that we
might make a decent burial of the unfortunate lad, whose remains had lain
during the night upon one of the bottom-boards of the boat. After a
little discussion, it was decided to bury him in the beach; for the only
part where there was soft earth was in the valley, and none of us had a
stomach for that place. Moreover, the sand was soft and easy to dig, and
as we had no proper tools, this was a great consideration. Presently,
using the bottom-boards and the oars and the hatchet, we had a place
large and deep enough to hold the boy, and into this we placed him. We
made no prayer over him; but stood about the grave for a little space, in
silence. Then, the bo'sun signed to us to fill in the sand; and,
therewith, we covered up the poor lad, and left him to his sleep.

And, presently, we made our dinner, after which the bo'sun served out to
each one of us a very sound tot of the rum; for he was minded to bring us
back again to a cheerful state of mind.

After we had sat awhile, smoking, the bo'sun divided us into two
parties to make a search through the island among the rocks, perchance
we should find water, collected from the rain, among the hollows and
crevasses; for though we had gotten some, through our device with the
sail, yet we had by no means caught sufficient for our needs. He was
especially anxious for haste, in that the sun had come out again; for he
was feared that such small pools as we should find would be speedily
dried up by its heat.

Now the bo'sun headed one party, and set the big seaman over the other,
bidding all to keep their weapons very handy. Then he set out to the
rocks about the base of the nearer hill, sending the others to the
farther and greater one, and in each party we carried an empty breaker
slung from a couple of the stout reeds, so that we might put all such
driblets as we should find, straight away into it, before they had time
to vanish into the hot air; and for the purpose of bailing up the water,
we had brought with us our tin pannikins, and one of the boat's bailers.

In a while, and after much scrambling amid the rocks, we came upon a
little pool of water that was remarkably sweet and fresh, and from this
we removed near three gallons before it became dry; and after that we
came across, maybe, five or six others; but not one of them near so big
as the first; yet we were not displeased; for we had near three parts
filled the breaker, and so we made back to the camp, having some wonder
as to the luck of the other party.

When we came near the camp, we found the others returned before us, and
seeming in a very high content with themselves; so that we had no need to
call to them as to whether they had filled their breaker. When they saw
us, they set out to us at a run to tell us that they had come upon a
great basin of fresh water in a deep hollow a third of the distance up
the side of the far hill, and at this the bo'sun bade us put down our
breaker and make all of us to the hill, so that he might examine for
himself whether their news was so good as it seemed.

Presently, being guided by the other party, we passed around to the back
of the far hill, and discovered it to go upward to the top at an easy
slope, with many ledges and broken places, so that it was scarce more
difficult than a stair to climb. And so, having climbed perhaps ninety or
a hundred feet, we came suddenly upon the place which held the water, and
found that they had not made too much of their discovery; for the pool
was near twenty feet long by twelve broad, and so clear as though it had
come from a fountain; yet it had considerable depth, as we discovered by
thrusting a spear shaft down into it.

Now the bo'sun, having seen for himself how good a supply of water there
was for our needs, seemed very much relieved in his mind, and declared
that within three days at the most we might leave the island, at which we
felt none of us any regret. Indeed, had the boat escaped harm, we had
been able to leave that same day; but this could not be; for there was
much to be done before we had her seaworthy again.

Having waited until the bo'sun had made complete his examination, we
turned to descend, thinking that this would be the bo'sun's intention;
but he called to us to stay, and, looking back, we saw that he made to
finish the ascent of the hill. At that, we hastened to follow him; though
we had no notion of his reason for going higher. Presently, we were come
to the top, and here we found a very spacious place, nicely level save
that in one or two parts it was crossed by deepish cracks, maybe half a
foot to a foot wide, and perhaps three to six fathoms long; but, apart
from these and some great boulders, it was, as I have mentioned, a
spacious place; moreover it was bone dry and pleasantly firm under one's
feet, after so long upon the sand.

I think, even thus early, I had some notion of the bo'sun's design; for
I went to the edge that overlooked the valley, and peered down, and,
finding it nigh a sheer precipice, found myself nodding my head, as
though it were in accordance with some part formed wish. Presently,
looking about me, I discovered the bo'sun to be surveying that part which
looked over towards the weed, and I made across to join him. Here, again,
I saw that the hill fell away very sheer, and after that we went across
to the seaward edge, and there it was near as abrupt as on the weed side.

Then, having by this time thought a little upon the matter, I put it
straight to the bo'sun that here would make indeed a very secure camping
place, with nothing to come at us upon our sides or back; and our front,
where was the slope, could be watched with ease. And this I put to him
with great warmth; for I was mortally in dread of the coming night.

Now when I had made an end of speaking, the bo'sun disclosed to me that
this was, as I had suspicion, his intent, and immediately he called to
the men that we should haste down, and ship our camp to the top of the
hill. At that, the men expressed their approbation, and we made haste
every one of us to the camp, and began straightway to move our gear to
the hilltop.

In the meanwhile, the bo'sun, taking me to assist him, set-to again upon
the boat, being intent to get his batten nicely shaped and fit to the
side of the keel, so that it would bed well to the keel, but more
particularly to the plank which had sprung outward from its place. And at
this he labored the greater part of that afternoon, using the little
hatchet to shape the wood, which he did with surprising skill; yet when
the evening was come, he had not brought it to his liking. But it must
not be thought that he did naught but work at the boat; for he had the
men to direct, and once he had to make his way to the top of the hill to
fix the place for the tent. And after the tent was up, he set them to
carry the dry weed to the new camp, and at this he kept them until near
dusk; for he had vowed never again to be without a sufficiency of fuel.
But two of the men he sent to collect shell-fish--putting two of them to
the task, because he would not have one alone upon the island, not
knowing but that there might be danger, even though it were bright day;
and a most happy ruling it proved; for, a little past the middle of the
afternoon, we heard them shouting at the other end of the valley, and,
not knowing but that they were in need of assistance, we ran with all
haste to discover the reason of their calling, passing along the
right-hand side of the blackened and sodden vale. Upon reaching the
further beach, we saw a most incredible sight; for the two men were
running towards us through the thick masses of the weed, while, no more
than four or five fathoms behind, they were pursued by an enormous crab.
Now I had thought the crab we had tried to capture before coming to the
island, a prodigy unsurpassed; but this creature was more than treble its
size, seeming as though a prodigious table were a-chase of them, and
moreover, spite of its monstrous bulk, it made better way over the weed
than I should have conceived to be possible--running almost sideways, and
with one enormous claw raised near a dozen feet into the air.

Now whether, omitting accidents, the men would have made good their
escape to the firmer ground of the valley, where they could have attained
to a greater speed, I do not know; but suddenly one of them tripped over
a loop of the weed, and the next instant lay helpless upon his face. He
had been dead the following moment, but for the pluck of his companion,
who faced round manfully upon the monster, and ran at it with his
twenty-foot spear. It seemed to me that the spear took it about a foot
below the overhanging armor of the great back shell, and I could see
that it penetrated some distance into the creature, the man having, by
the aid of Providence, stricken it in a vulnerable part. Upon receiving
this thrust, the mighty crab ceased at once its pursuit, and clipped at
the haft of the spear with its great mandible, snapping the weapon more
easily than I had done the same thing to a straw. By the time we had
raced up to the men, the one who had stumbled was again upon his feet,
and turning to assist his comrade; but the bo'sun snatched his spear from
him, and leapt forward himself; for the crab was making now at the other
man. Now the bo'sun did not attempt to thrust the spear into the monster;
but instead he made two swift blows at the great protruding eyes, and in
a moment the creature had curled itself up, helpless, save that the huge
claw waved about aimlessly. At that, the bo'sun drew us off, though the
man who had attacked the crab desired to make an end of it, averring that
we should get some very good eating out of it; but to this the bo'sun
would not listen, telling him that it was yet capable of very deadly
mischief, did any but come within reach of its prodigious mandible.

And after this, he bade them look no more for shellfish; but take out the
two fishing-lines which we had, and see if they could catch aught from
some safe ledge on the further side of the hill upon which we had made
our camp. Then he returned to his mending of the boat.

It was a little before the evening came down upon the island, that the
bo'sun ceased work; and, after that, he called to the men, who, having
made an end of their fuel carrying, were standing near, to place the
full breakers--which we had not thought needful to carry to the new
camp on account of their weight--under the upturned boat, some holding
up the gunnel whilst the others pushed them under. Then the bo'sun laid
the unfinished batten along with them, and we lowered the boat again
over all, trusting to its weight to prevent any creature from meddling
with aught.

After that, we made at once to the camp, being wearifully tired, and with
a hearty anticipation of supper. Upon reaching the hilltop, the men whom
the bo'sun had sent with the lines, came to show him a very fine fish,
something like to a huge king-fish, which they had caught a few minutes
earlier. This, the bo'sun, after examining, did not hesitate to pronounce
fit for food; whereupon they set-to and opened and cleaned it. Now, as I
have said, it was not unlike a great king-fish, and like it, had a mouth
full of very formidable teeth; the use of which I understood the better
when I saw the contents of its stomach, which seemed to consist of
nothing but the coiled tentacles of squid or cuttlefish, with which, as I
have shown, the weed-continent swarmed. When these were upset upon the
rock, I was confounded to perceive the length and thickness of some of
them; and could only conceive that this particular fish must be a very
desperate enemy to them, and able successfully to attack monsters of a
bulk infinitely greater than its own.

After this, and whilst the supper was preparing, the bo'sun called to
some of the men to put up a piece of the spare canvas upon a couple of
the reeds, so as to make a screen against the wind, which up there was
so fresh that it came near at times to scattering the fire abroad. This
they found not difficult; for a little on the windward side of the fire
there ran one of the cracks of which I have made previous mention, and
into this they jammed the supports, and so in a very little time had the
fire screened.

Presently, the supper was ready, and I found the fish to be very fair
eating; though somewhat coarse; but this was no great matter for concern
with so empty a stomach as I contained. And here I would remark, that we
made our fishing save our provisions through all our stay on the island.
Then, after we had come to an end of our eating, we lay down to a most
comfortable smoke; for we had no fear of attack, at that height, and with
precipices upon all sides save that which lay in front. Yet, so soon as
we had rested and smoked a while, the bo'sun set the watches; for he
would run no risk through carelessness.

By this time the night was drawing on apace; yet it was not so dark but
that one could perceive matters at a very reasonable distance. Presently,
being in a mood that tended to thoughtfulness, and feeling a desire to be
alone for a little, I strolled away from the fire to the leeward edge of
the hilltop. Here, I paced up and down awhile, smoking and meditating.
Anon, I would stare out across the immensity of the vast continent of
weed and slime that stretched its incredible desolation out beyond the
darkening horizon, and there would come the thought to me of the terror
of men whose vessels had been entangled among its strange growths, and so
my thoughts came to the lone derelict that lay out there in the dusk, and
I fell to wondering what had been the end of her people, and at that I
grew yet more solemn in my heart. For it seemed to me that they must have
died at last by starvation, and if not by that, then by the act of some
one of the devil-creatures which inhabited that lonely weed-world. And
then, even as I fell upon this thought, the bo'sun clapped me upon the
shoulder, and told me in a very hearty way to come to the light of the
fire, and banish all melancholy thoughts; for he had a very penetrating
discernment, and had followed me quietly from the camping place, having
had reason once or twice before to chide me for gloomy meditations. And
for this, and many other matters, I had grown to like the man, the which
I could almost believe at times, was his regarding of me; but his words
were too few for me to gather his feelings; though I had hope that they
were as I surmised.

And so I came back to the fire, and presently, it not being my time to
watch until after midnight, I turned into the tent for a spell of sleep,
having first arranged a comfortable spread of some of the softer portions
of the dry weed to make me a bed.

Now I was very full of sleep, so that I slept heavily, and in this wise
heard not the man on watch call the bo'sun; yet the rousing of the others
waked me, and so I came to myself and found the tent empty, at which I
ran very hurriedly to the doorway, and so discovered that there was a
clear moon in the sky, the which, by reason of the cloudiness that had
prevailed, we had been without for the past two nights. Moreover, the
sultriness had gone, the wind having blown it away with the clouds; yet
though, maybe, I appreciated this, it was but in a half-conscious manner;
for I was put about to discover the whereabouts of the men, and the
reason of their leaving the tent. With this purpose, I stepped out from
the entrance, and the following instant discovered them all in a clump
beside the leeward edge of the hilltop. At that, I held my tongue; for I
knew not but that silence might be their desire; but I ran hastily over
to them, and inquired of the bo'sun what manner of thing it was which
called them from their sleep, and he, for answer, pointed out into the
greatness of the weed-continent.

At that, I stared out over the breadth of the weed, showing very ghostly
in the moonlight; but, for the moment, I saw not the thing to which he
purposed to draw my attention. Then, suddenly, it fell within the circle
of my gaze--a little light out in the lonesomeness. For the space of some
moments, I stared with bewildered eyes; then it came to me with
abruptness that the light shone from the lone derelict lying out in the
weed, the same that upon that very evening, I had looked with sorrow and
awe, because of the end of those who had been in her--and now, behold, a
light burning, seemingly within one of her after cabins; though the moon
was scarce powerful enough to enable the outline of the hulk to be seen
clear of the rounding wilderness.

And from this time, until the day, we had no more sleep; but made up the
fire, and sat round it, full of excitement and wonder, and getting up
continually to discover if the light still burned. This it ceased to do
about an hour after I had first seen it; but it was the more proof that
some of our kind were no more than the half of a mile from our camp.

And at last the day came.


The Signals from the Ship

Now so soon as it was clearly light, we went all of us to the leeward
brow of the hill to stare upon the derelict, which now we had cause to
believe no derelict, but an inhabited vessel. Yet though we watched her
for upwards of two hours, we could discover no sign of any living
creature, the which, indeed, had we been in cooler minds, we had not
thought strange, seeing that she was all so shut in by the great
superstructure; but we were hot to see a fellow creature, after so much
lonesomeness and terror in strange lands and seas, and so could not by
any means contain ourselves in patience until those aboard the hulk
should choose to discover themselves to us.

And so, at last, being wearied with watching, we made it up together to
shout when the bo'sun should give us the signal, by this means making a
good volume of sound which we conceived the wind might carry down to the
vessel. Yet though we raised many shouts, making as it seemed to us a
very great noise, there came no response from the ship, and at last we
were fain to cease from our calling, and ponder some other way of
bringing ourselves to the notice of those within the hulk.

For a while we talked, some proposing one thing, and some another; but
none of them seeming like to achieve our purpose. And after that we fell
to marveling that the fire which we had lit in the valley had not
awakened them to the fact that some of their fellow creatures were upon
the island; for, had it, we could not suppose but that they would have
kept a perpetual watch upon the island until such time as they should
have been able to attract our notice. Nay! more than this, it was scarce
credible that they should not have made an answering fire, or set some of
their bunting above the superstructure, so that our gaze should be
arrested upon the instant we chanced to glance towards the hulk. But so
far from this, there appeared even a purpose to shun our attention; for
that light which we had viewed in the past night was more in the way of
an accident, than of the nature of a purposeful exhibition.

And so, presently, we went to breakfast, eating heartily; our night of
wakefulness having given us mighty appetites; but, for all that, we were
so engrossed by the mystery of the lonesome craft, that I doubt if any of
us knew what manner of food it was with which we filled our bellies. For
first one view of the matter would be raised, and when this had been
combated, another would be broached, and in this wise it came up finally
that some of the men were falling in doubt whether the ship was inhabited
by anything human, saying rather that it might be held by some demoniac
creature of the great weed-continent. At this proposition, there came
among us a very uncomfortable silence; for not only did it chill the
warmth of our hopes; but seemed like to provide us with a fresh terror,
who were already acquainted with too much. Then the bo'sun spoke,
laughing with a hearty contempt at our sudden fears, and pointed out
that it was just as like that they aboard the ship had been put in fear
by the great blaze from the valley, as that they should take it for a
sign that fellow creatures and friends were at hand. For, as he put it to
us, who of us could say what fell brutes and demons the weed-continent
did hold, and if we had reason to know that there were very dread things
among the weed, how much the more must they, who had, for all that we
knew, been many years beset around by such. And so, as he went on to make
clear, we might suppose that they were very well aware there had come
some creatures to the island; yet, maybe, they desired not to make
themselves known until they had been given sight of them, and because of
this, we must wait until they chose to discover themselves to us.

Now when the bo'sun had made an end, we felt each one of us greatly
cheered; for his discourse seemed very reasonable. Yet still there were
many matters that troubled our company; for, as one put it, was it not
mightily strange that we had not had previous sight of their light, or,
in the day, of the smoke from their galley fire? But to this the bo'sun
replied that our camp hitherto had lain in a place where we had not
sight, even of the great world of weed, leaving alone any view of the
derelict. And more, that at such times as we had crossed to the opposite
beach, we had been occupied too sincerely to have much thought to watch
the hulk, which, indeed, from that position showed only her great
superstructure. Further, that, until the preceding day, we had but once
climbed to any height; and that from our present camp the derelict could
not be viewed, and to do so, we had to go near to the leeward edge of
the hill-top.

And so, breakfast being ended, we went all of us to see if there were yet
any signs of life in the hulk; but when an hour had gone, we were no
wiser. Therefore, it being folly to waste further time, the bo'sun left
one man to watch from the brow of the hill, charging him very strictly to
keep in such position that he could be seen by any aboard the silent
craft, and so took the rest down to assist him in the repairing of the
boat. And from thence on, during the day, he gave the men a turn each at
watching, telling them to wave to him should there come any sign from the
hulk. Yet, excepting the watch, he kept every man so busy as might be,
some bringing weed to keep up a fire which he had lit near the boat; one
to help him turn and hold the batten upon which he labored; and two he
sent across to the wreck of the mast, to detach one of the futtock
shrouds, which (as is most rare) were made of iron rods. This, when they
brought it, he bade me heat in the fire, and afterwards beat out straight
at one end, and when this was done, he set me to burn holes with it
through the keel of the boat, at such places as he had marked, these
being for the bolts with which he had determined to fasten on the batten.

In the meanwhile, he continued to shape the batten until it was a very
good and true fit according to his liking. And all the while he cried out
to this man and to that one to do this or that; and so I perceived that,
apart from the necessity of getting the boat into a seaworthy condition,
he was desirous to keep the men busied; for they were become so excited
at the thought of fellow creatures almost within hail, that he could not
hope to keep them sufficiently in hand without some matter upon which to
employ them.

Now, it must not be supposed that the bo'sun had no share of our
excitement; for I noticed that he gave ever and anon a glance to the
crown of the far hill, perchance the watchman had some news for us. Yet
the morning went by, and no signal came to tell us that the people in the
ship had design to show themselves to the man upon watch, and so we came
to dinner. At this meal, as might be supposed, we had a second
discussion upon the strangeness of the behavior of those aboard the hulk;
yet none could give any more reasonable explanation than the bo'sun had
given in the morning, and so we left it at that.

Presently, when we had smoked and rested very comfortably, for the bo'sun
was no tyrant, we rose at his bidding to descend once more to the beach.
But at this moment, one of the men having run to the edge of the hill to
take a short look at the hulk, cried out that a part of the great
superstructure over the quarter had been removed, or pushed back, and
that there was a figure there, seeming, so far as his unaided sight could
tell, to be looking through a spy-glass at the island. Now it would be
difficult to tell of all our excitement at this news, and we ran eagerly
to see for ourselves if it could be as he informed us. And so it was; for
we could see the person very clearly; though remote and small because of
the distance. That he had seen us, we discovered in a moment; for he
began suddenly to wave something, which I judged to be the spy-glass, in
a very wild manner, seeming also to be jumping up and down. Yet, I doubt
not but that we were as much excited; for suddenly I discovered myself to
be shouting with the rest in a most insane fashion, and more-over I was
waving my hands and running to and fro upon the brow of the hill. Then, I
observed that the figure on the hulk had disappeared; but it was for no
more than a moment, and then it was back and there were near a dozen with
it, and it seemed to me that some of them were females; but the distance
was over great for surety. Now these, all of them, seeing us upon the
brow of the hill, where we must have shown up plain against the sky,
began at once to wave in a very frantic way, and we, replying in like
manner, shouted ourselves hoarse with vain greetings. But soon we grew
wearied of the unsatisfactoriness of this method of showing our
excitement, and one took a piece of the square canvas, and let it stream
out into the wind, waving it to them, and another took a second piece and
did likewise, while a third man rolled up a short bit into a cone and
made use of it as a speaking trumpet; though I doubt if his voice carried
any the further because of it. For my part, I had seized one of the long
bamboo-like reeds which were lying about near the fire, and with this I
was making a very brave show. And so it may be seen how very great and
genuine was our exaltation upon our discovery of these poor people shut
off from the world within that lonesome craft.

Then, suddenly, it seemed to come to us to realize that _they_ were among
the weed, and _we_ upon the hilltop, and that we had no means of bridging
that which lay between. And at this we faced one another to discuss what
we should do to effect the rescue of those within the hulk. Yet it was
little that we could even suggest; for though one spoke of how he had
seen a rope cast by means of a mortar to a ship that lay off shore, yet
this helped us not, for we had no mortar; but here the same man cried out
that they in the ship might have such a thing, so that they would be able
to shoot the rope to us, and at this we thought more upon his saying; for
if they had such a weapon, then might our difficulties be solved. Yet we
were greatly at a loss to know how we should discover whether they were
possessed of one, and further to explain our design to them. But here the
bo'sun came to our help, and bade one man go quickly and char some of the
reeds in the fire, and whilst this was doing he spread out upon the rock
one of the spare lengths of canvas; then he sung out to the man to bring
him one of the pieces of charred reed, and with this he wrote our
question upon the canvas, calling for fresh charcoal as he required it.
Then, having made an end of writing, he bade two of the men take hold of
the canvas by the ends and expose it to the view of those in the ship,
and in this manner we got them to understand our desires. For, presently,
some of them went away, and came back after a little, and held up for us
to see, a very great square of white, and upon it a great "NO," and at
this were we again at our wits' ends to know how it would be possible to
rescue those within the ship; for, suddenly, our whole desire to leave
the island, was changed into a determination to rescue the people in the
hulk, and, indeed, had our intentions not been such we had been veritable
curs; though I am happy to tell that we had no thought at this juncture
but for those who were now looking to us to restore them once more to the
world to which they had been so long strangers.

Now, as I have said, we were again at our wits' ends to know how to come
at those within the hulk, and there we stood all of us, talking together,
perchance we should hit upon some plan, and anon we would turn and wave
to those who watched us so anxiously. Yet, a while passed, and we had
come no nearer to a method of rescue. Then a thought came to me (waked
perchance by the mention of shooting the rope over to the hulk by means
of a mortar) how that I had read once in a book, of a fair maid whose
lover effected her escape from a castle by a similar artifice, only that
in his case he made use of a bow in place of a mortar, and a cord instead
of a rope, his sweetheart hauling up the rope by means of the cord.

Now it seemed to me a possible thing to substitute a bow for the mortar,
if only we could find the material with which to make such a weapon, and
with this in view, I took up one of the lengths of the bamboo-like reed,
and tried the spring of it, which I found to be very good; for this
curious growth, of which I have spoken hitherto as a reed, had no
resemblance to that plant, beyond its appearance; it being
extraordinarily tough and woody, and having considerably more nature
than a bamboo. Now, having tried the spring of it, I went over to the
tent and cut a piece of sampsonline which I found among the gear, and
with this and the reed I contrived a rough bow. Then I looked about until
I came upon a very young and slender reed which had been cut with the
rest, and from this I fashioned some sort of an arrow, feathering it with
a piece of one of the broad, stiff leaves, which grew upon the plant, and
after that I went forth to the crowd about the leeward edge of the hill.
Now when they saw me thus armed, they seemed to think that I intended a
jest, and some of them laughed, conceiving that it was a very odd action
on my part; but when I explained that which was in my mind, they ceased
from laughter, and shook their heads, making that I did but waste time;
for, as they said, nothing save gunpowder could cover so great a
distance. And after that they turned again to the bo'sun with whom some
of them seemed to be in argument. And so for a little space I held my
peace, and listened; thus I discovered that certain of the men advocated
the taking of the boat--so soon as it was sufficiently repaired--and
making a passage through the weed to the ship, which they proposed to do
by cutting a narrow canal. But the bo'sun shook his head, and reminded
them of the great devil-fish and crabs, and the worse things which the
weed concealed, saying that those in the ship would have done it long
since had it been possible, and at that the men were silenced, being
robbed of their unreasoning ardor by his warnings.

Now just at this point there happened a thing which proved the wisdom of
that which the bo'sun contended; for, suddenly, one of the men cried out
to us to look, and at that we turned quickly, and saw that there was a
great commotion among those who were in the open place in the
superstructure; for they were running this way and that, and some were
pushing to the slide which filled the opening. And then, immediately, we
saw the reason for their agitation and haste; for there was a stir in the
weed near to the stem of the ship, and the next instant, monstrous
tentacles were reached up to the place where had been the opening; but
the door was shut, and those aboard the hulk in safety. At this
manifestation, the men about me who had proposed to make use of the boat,
and the others also, cried out their horror of the vast creature, and, I
am convinced, had the rescue depended upon their use of the boat, then
had those in the hulk been forever doomed.

Now, conceiving that this was a good point at which to renew my
importunities, I began once again to explain the probabilities of my plan
succeeding, addressing myself more particularly to the bo'sun. I told how
that I had read that the ancients made mighty weapons, some of which
could throw a great stone so heavy as two men, over a distance surpassing
a quarter of a mile; moreover, that they compassed huge catapults which
threw a lance, or great arrow, even further. On this, he expressed much
surprise, never having heard of the like; but doubted greatly that we
should be able to construct such a weapon. Yet, I told him that I was
prepared; for I had the plan of one clearly in my mind, and further I
pointed out to him that we had the wind in our favor, and that we were a
great height up, which would allow the arrow to travel the farther before
it came so low as the weed.

Then I stepped to the edge of the hill, and, bidding him watch, fitted my
arrow to the string, and, having bent the bow, loosed it, whereupon,
being aided by the wind and the height on which I stood, the arrow
plunged into the weed at a distance of near two hundred yards from where
we stood, that being about a quarter of the distance on the road to the
derelict. At that, the bo'sun was won over to my idea; though, as he
remarked, the arrow had fallen nearer had it been drawing a length of
yarn after it, and to this I assented; but pointed out that my bow and
arrow was but a rough affair, and, more, that I was no archer; yet I
promised him, with the bow that I should make, to cast a shaft clean over
the hulk, did he but give me his assistance, and bid the men to help.

Now, as I have come to regard it in the light of greater knowledge, my
promise was exceeding rash; but I had faith in my conception, and was
very eager to put it to the test; the which, after much discussion at
supper, it was decided I should be allowed to do.


The Making of the Great Bow

The fourth night upon the island was the first to pass without incident.
It is true that a light showed from the hulk out in the weed; but now
that we had made some acquaintance with her inmates, it was no longer a
cause for excitement, so much as contemplation. As for the valley where
the vile things had made an end of Job, it was very silent and desolate
under the moonlight; for I made a point to go and view it during my time
on watch; yet, for all that it lay empty, it was very eerie, and a place
to conjure up uncomfortable thoughts, so that I spent no great time
pondering it.

This was the second night on which we had been free from the terror of
the devil-things, and it seemed to me that the great fire had put them in
fear of us and driven them away; but of the truth or error of this idea,
I was to learn later.

Now it must be admitted that, apart from a short look into the valley,
and occasional starings at the light out in the weed, I gave little
attention to aught but my plans for the great bow, and to such use did I
put my time, that when I was relieved, I had each particular and detail
worked out, so that I knew very well just what to set the men doing so
soon as we should make a start in the morning.

Presently, when the morning had come, and we had made an end of
breakfast, we turned-to upon the great bow, the bo'sun directing the men
under my supervision. Now, the first matter to which I bent attention,
was the raising, to the top of the hill, of the remaining half of that
portion of the topmast which the bo'sun had split in twain to procure the
batten for the boat. To this end, we went down, all of us, to the beach
where lay the wreckage, and, getting about the portion which I intended
to use, carried it to the foot of the hill; then we sent a man to the top
to let down the rope by which we had moored the boat to the sea anchor,
and when we had bent this on securely to the piece of timber, we returned
to the hill-top, and tailed on to the rope, and so, presently, after much
weariful pulling, had it up.

The next thing I desired was that the split face of the timber should be
rubbed straight, and this the bo'sun understood to do, and whilst he was
about it, I went with some of the men to the grove of reeds, and here,
with great care, I made a selection of some of the finest, these being
for the bow, and after that I cut some which were very clean and
straight, intending them for the great arrows. With these we returned
once more to the camp, and there I set-to and trimmed them of their
leaves, keeping these latter, for I had a use for them. Then I took a
dozen reeds and cut them each to a length of twenty-five feet, and
afterwards notched them for the strings. In the meanwhile, I had sent
two men down to the wreckage of the masts to cut away a couple of the
hempen shrouds and bring them to the camp, and they, appearing about
this time, I set to work to unlay the shrouds, so that they might get
out the fine white yarns which lay beneath the outer covering of tar
and blacking. These, when they had come at them, we found to be very
good and sound, and this being so, I bid them make three-yarn sennit;
meaning it for the strings of the bows. Now, it will be observed that I
have said bows, and this I will explain. It had been my original
intention to make one great bow, lashing a dozen of the reeds together
for the purpose; but this, upon pondering it, I conceived to be but a
poor plan; for there would be much life and power lost in the rendering
of each piece through the lashings, when the bow was released. To
obviate this, and further, to compass the bending of the bow, the which
had, at first, been a source of puzzlement to me as to how it was to be
accomplished, I had determined to make twelve separate bows, and these I
intended to fasten at the end of the stock one above the other, so that
they were all in one plane vertically, and because of this conception, I
should be able to bend the bows one at a time, and slip each string over
the catch-notch, and afterwards frap the twelve strings together in the
middle part so that they would be but one string to the butt of the
arrow. All this, I explained to the bo'sun, who, indeed, had been
exercised in his own mind as to how we should be able to bend such a bow
as I intended to make, and he was mightily pleased with my method of
evading this difficulty, and also one other, which, else, had been
greater than the bending, and that was the _stringing_ of the bow, which
would have proved a very awkward work.

Presently, the bo'sun called out to me that he had got the surface of the
stock sufficiently smooth and nice; and at that I went over to him; for
now I wished him to burn a slight groove down the center, running from
end to end, and this I desired to be done very exactly; for upon it
depended much of the true flight of the arrow. Then I went back to my own
work; for I had not yet finished notching the bows. Presently, when I
had made an end of this, I called for a length of the sennit, and, with
the aid of another man, contrived to string one of the bows. This, when I
had finished, I found to be very springy, and so stiff to bend that I had
all that I could manage to do so, and at this I felt very satisfied.

Presently, it occurred to me that I should do well to set some of the men
to work upon the line which the arrow was to carry; for I had determined
that this should be made also from the white hemp yarns, and, for the
sake of lightness, I conceived that one thickness of yarn would be
sufficient; but so that it might compass enough of strength, I bid them
split the yarns and lay the two halves up together, and in this manner
they made me a very light and sound line; though it must not be supposed
that it was finished at once; for I needed over half a mile of it, and
thus it was later finished than the bow itself.

Having now gotten all things in train, I set me down to work upon one of
the arrows; for I was anxious to see what sort of a fist I should make of
them, knowing how much would depend upon the balance and truth of the
missile. In the end, I made a very fair one, feathering it with its own
leaves, and truing and smoothing it with my knife; after which I inserted
a small bolt in the forrard end, to act as a head, and, as I conceived,
give it balance; though whether I was right in this latter, I am unable
to say. Yet, before I had finished my arrow, the bo'sun had made the
groove, and called me over to him, that I might admire it, the which I
did; for it was done with a wonderful neatness.

Now I have been so busy with my description of how we made the great bow,
that I have omitted to tell of the flight of time, and how we had eaten
our dinner this long while since, and how that the people in the hulk had
waved to us, and we had returned their signals, and then written upon a
length of the canvas the one word, "WAIT." And, besides all this, some
had gathered our fuel for the coming night.

And so, presently, the evening came upon us; but we ceased not to work;
for the bo'sun bade the men to light a second great fire, beside our
former one, and by the light of this we worked another long spell;
though it seemed short enough, by reason of the interest of the work.
Yet, at last, the bo'sun bade us to stop and make supper, which we did,
and after that, he set the watches, and the rest of us turned in; for we
were very weary.

In spite of my previous weariness, when the man whom I relieved called me
to take my watch, I felt very fresh and wide awake, and spent a great
part of the time, as on the preceding night, in studying over my plans
for completing the great bow, and it was then that I decided finally in
what manner I would secure the bows athwart the end of the stock; for
until then I had been in some little doubt, being divided between several
methods. Now, however, I concluded to make twelve grooves across the sawn
end of the stock, and fit the middles of the bows into these, one above
the other, as I have already mentioned; and then to lash them at each
side to bolts driven into the sides of the stock. And with this idea I
was very well pleased; for it promised to make them secure, and this
without any great amount of work.

Now, though I spent much of my watch in thinking over the details of my
prodigious weapon, yet it must not be supposed that I neglected to
perform my duty as watchman; for I walked continually about the top of
the hill, keeping my cut-and-thrust ready for any sudden emergency. Yet
my time passed off quietly enough; though it is true that I witnessed one
thing which brought me a short spell of disquiet thought. It was in this
wise:--I had come to that part of the hill-top which overhung the valley,
and it came to me, abruptly, to go near to the edge and look over. Thus,
the moon being very bright, and the desolation of the valley reasonably
clear to the eye, it appeared to me, as I looked that I saw a movement
among certain of the fungi which had not burnt, but stood up shriveled
and blackened in the valley. Yet by no means could I be sure that it was
not a sudden fancy, born of the eeriness of that desolate looking vale;
the more so as I was like to be deceived because of the uncertainty which
the light of the moon gives. Yet, to prove my doubts, I went back until I
had found a piece of rock easy to throw, and this, taking a short run, I
cast into the valley, aiming at the spot where it had seemed to me that
there had been a movement. Immediately upon this, I caught a glimpse of
some moving thing, and then, more to my right, something else stirred,
and at this, I looked towards it; but could discover nothing. Then,
looking back at the clump at which I had aimed my missile, I saw that the
slime covered pool, which lay near, was all a-quiver, or so it seemed.
Yet the next instant I was just as full of doubt; for, even as I watched
it, I perceived that it was quite still. And after that, for some time, I
kept a very strict gaze into the valley; yet could nowhere discover aught
to prove my suspicions, and, at last, I ceased from watching it; for I
feared to grow fanciful, and so wandered to that part of the hill which
overlooked the weed.

Presently, when I had been relieved, I returned to sleep, and so till the
morning. Then, when we had made each of us a hasty breakfast--for all
were grown mightily keen to see the great bow completed--we set-to upon
it, each at our appointed task. Thus, the bo'sun and I made it our work
to make the twelve grooves athwart the flat end of the stock, into which
I proposed to fit and lash the bows, and this we accomplished by means of
the iron futtock-shroud, which we heated in its middle part, and then,
each taking an end (protecting our hands with canvas), we went one on
each side and applied the iron until at length we had the grooves burnt
out very nicely and accurately. This work occupied us all the morning;
for the grooves had to be deeply burnt; and in the meantime the men had
completed near enough sennit for the stringing of the bows; yet those who
were at work on the line which the arrow was to carry, had scarce made
more than half, so that I called off one man from the sennit to turn-to,
and give them a hand with the making of the line.

When dinner was ended, the bo'sun and I set-to about fitting the bows
into their places, which we did, and lashed them to twenty-four bolts,
twelve a side, driven into the timber of the stock, about twelve inches
in from the end. After this, we bent and strung the bows, taking very
great care to have each bent exactly as the one below it; for we started
at the bottom. And so, before sunset, we had that part of our work ended.

Now, because the two fires which we had lit on the previous night had
exhausted our fuel, the bo'sun deemed it prudent to cease work, and go
down all of us to bring up a fresh supply of the dry seaweed and some
bundles of the reeds. This we did, making an end of our journeyings just
as the dusk came over the island. Then, having made a second fire, as on
the preceding night, we had first our supper, and after that another
spell of work, all the men turning to upon the line which the arrow was
to carry, whilst the bo'sun and I set-to, each of us, upon the making of
a fresh arrow; for I had realized that we should have to make one or two
flights before we could hope to find our range and make true our aim.

Later, maybe about nine of the night, the bo'sun bade us all to put away
our work, and then he set the watches, after which the rest of us went
into the tent to sleep; for the strength of the wind made the shelter a
very pleasant thing.

That night, when it came my turn to watch, I minded me to take a look
into the valley; but though I watched at intervals through the half of an
hour, I saw nothing to lead me to imagine that I had indeed seen aught on
the previous night, and so I felt more confident in my mind that we
should be troubled no further by the devil-things which had destroyed
poor Job. Yet I must record one thing which I saw during my watch; though
this was from the edge of the hilltop which overlooked the
weed-continent, and was not in the valley, but in the stretch of clear
water which lay between the island and the weed. As I saw it, it seemed
to me that a number of great fish were swimming across from the island,
diagonally towards the great continent of weed: they were swimming in one
wake, and keeping a very regular line; but not breaking the water after
the manner of porpoises or black fish. Yet, though I have mentioned this,
it must not be supposed that I saw any very strange thing in such a
sight, and indeed, I thought nothing more of it than to wonder what sort
of fish they might be; for, as I saw them indistinctly in the moonlight,
they made a queer appearance, seeming each of them to be possessed of two
tails, and further, I could have thought I perceived a flicker as of
tentacles just beneath the surface; but of this I was by no means sure.

Upon the following morning, having hurried our breakfast, each of us
set-to again upon our tasks; for we were in hopes to have the great bow
at work before dinner. Soon, the bo'sun had finished his arrow, and mine
was completed very shortly after, so that there lacked nothing now to
the completion of our work, save the finishing of the line, and the
getting of the bow into position. This latter, assisted by the men, we
proceeded now to effect, making a level bed of rocks near the edge of
the hill which overlooked the weed. Upon this we placed the great bow,
and then, having sent the men back to their work at the line, we
proceeded to the aiming of the huge weapon. Now, when we had gotten the
instrument pointed, as we conceived, straight over the hulk, the which
we accomplished by squinting along the groove which the bo'sun had burnt
down the center of the stock, we turned-to upon the arranging of the
notch and trigger, the notch being to hold the strings when the weapon
was set, and the trigger--a board bolted on loosely at the side just
below the notch--to push them upwards out of this place when we desired
to discharge the bow. This part of the work took up no great portion of
our time, and soon we had all ready for our first flight. Then we
commenced to set the bows, bending the bottom one first, and then those
above in turn, until all were set; and, after that, we laid the arrow
very carefully in the groove. Then I took two pieces of spun yarn and
frapped the strings together at each end of the notch, and by this means
I was assured that all the strings would act in unison when striking the
butt of the arrow. And so we had all things ready for the discharge;
whereupon, I placed my foot upon the trigger, and, bidding the bo'sun
watch carefully the flight of the arrow, pushed downwards. The next
instant, with a mighty twang, and a quiver that made the great stock
stir on its bed of rocks, the bow sprang to its lesser tension, hurling
the arrow outwards and upwards in a vast arc. Now, it may be conceived
with what mortal interest we watched its flight, and so in a minute
discovered that we had aimed too much to the right, for the arrow struck
the weed ahead of the hulk--but _beyond_ it. At that, I was filled near
to bursting with pride and joy, and the men who had come forward to
witness the trial, shouted to acclaim my success, whilst the bo'sun
clapped me twice upon the shoulder to signify his regard, and shouted as
loud as any.

And now it seemed to me that we had but to get the true aim, and the
rescue of those in the hulk would be but a matter of another day or two;
for, having once gotten a line to the hulk, we should haul across a thin
rope by its means, and with this a thicker one; after which we should set
this up so taut as possible, and then bring the people in the hulk to the
island by means of a seat and block which we should haul to and fro along
the supporting line.

Now, having realized that the bow would indeed carry so far as the wreck,
we made haste to try our second arrow, and at the same time we bade the
men go back to their work upon the line; for we should have need of it in
a very little while. Presently, having pointed the bow more to the left,
I took the frappings off the strings, so that we could bend the bows
singly, and after that we set the great weapon again. Then, seeing that
the arrow was straight in the groove, I replaced the frappings, and
immediately discharged it. This time, to my very great pleasure and
pride, the arrow went with a wonderful straightness towards the ship,
and, clearing the superstructure, passed out of our sight as it fell
behind it. At this, I was all impatience to try to get the line to the
hulk before we made our dinner; but the men had not yet laid-up
sufficient; there being then only four hundred and fifty fathoms (which
the bo'sun measured off by stretching it along his arms and across his
chest). This being so, we went to dinner, and made very great haste
through it; and, after that, every one of us worked at the line, and so
in about an hour we had sufficient; for I had estimated that it would not
be wise to make the attempt with a less length than five hundred fathoms.

Having now completed a sufficiency of the line, the bo'sun set one of the
men to flake it down very carefully upon the rock beside the bow, whilst
he himself tested it at all such parts as he thought in any way doubtful,
and so, presently, all was ready. Then I bent it on to the arrow, and,
having set the bow whilst the men were flaking down the line, I was
prepared immediately to discharge the weapon.

Now, all the morning, a man upon the hulk had observed us through a
spy-glass, from a position that brought his head just above the edge of
the superstructure, and, being aware of our intentions--having watched
the previous flights--he understood the bo'sun, when he beckoned to him,
that we had made ready for a third shot, and so, with an answering wave
of his spy-glass, he disappeared from our sight. At that, having first
turned to see that all were clear of the line, I pressed down the
trigger, my heart beating very fast and thick, and so in a moment the
arrow was sped. But now, doubtless because of the weight of the line, it
made nowhere near so good a flight as on the previous occasion, the arrow
striking the weed some two hundred yards short of the hulk, and at this,
I could near have wept with vexation and disappointment.

Immediately upon the failure of my shot, the bo'sun called to the men to
haul in the line very carefully, so that it should not be parted through
the arrow catching in the weed; then he came over to me, and proposed
that we should set-to at once to make a heavier arrow, suggesting that it
had been lack of weight in the missile which had caused it to fall short.
At that, I felt once more hopeful, and turned-to at once to prepare a new
arrow; the bo'sun doing likewise; though in his case he intended to make
a lighter one than that which had failed; for, as he put it, though the
heavier one fell short, yet might the lighter succeed, and if neither,
then we could only suppose that the bow lacked power to carry the line,
and in that case, we should have to try some other method.

Now, in about two hours, I had made my arrow, the bo'sun having finished
his a little earlier, and so (the men having hauled in all the line and
flaked it down ready) we prepared to make another attempt to cast it
over the hulk. Yet, a second time we failed, and by so much that it
seemed hopeless to think of success; but, for all that it appeared
useless, the bo'sun insisted on making a last try with the light arrow,
and, presently, when we had gotten the line ready again, we loosed upon
the wreck; but in this case so lamentable was our failure, that I cried
out to the bo'sun to set the useless thing upon the fire and burn it;
for I was sorely irked by its failure, and could scarce abide to speak
civilly of it.

Now the bo'sun, perceiving how I felt, sung out that we would cease
troubling about the hulk for the present, and go down all of us to gather
reeds and weed for the fire; for it was drawing nigh to evening. And this
we did, though all in a disconsolate condition of mind; for we had seemed
so near to success, and now it appeared to be further than ever from us.
And so, in a while, having brought up a sufficiency of fuel, the bo'sun
sent two of the men down to one of the ledges which overhung the sea, and
bade them see whether they could not secure a fish for our supper. Then,
taking our places about the fire, we fell-to upon a discussion as to how
we should come at the people in the hulk.

Now, for a while there came no suggestion worthy of notice, until at last
there occurred to me a notable idea, and I called out suddenly that we
should make a small fire balloon, and float off the line to them by such
means. At that, the men about the fire were silent a moment; for the idea
was new to them, and moreover they needed to comprehend just what I
meant. Then, when they had come fully at it, the one who had proposed
that they should make spears of their knives, cried out to know why a
kite would not do, and at that I was confounded, in that so simple an
expedient had not occurred to any before; for, surely, it would be but a
little matter to float a line to them by means of a kite, and, further,
such a thing would take no great making.

And so, after a space of talk, it was decided that upon the morrow we
should build some sort of kite, and with it fly a line over the hulk, the
which should be a task of no great difficulty with so good a breeze as we
had continually with us.

And, presently, having made our supper off a very fine fish, which the
two fishermen had caught whilst we talked, the bo'sun set the watches,
and the rest turned-in.


The Weed Men

Now, on that night, when I came to my watch, I discovered that there was
no moon, and, save for such light as the fire threw, the hill-top was in
darkness; yet this was no great matter to trouble me; for we had been
unmolested since the burning of the fungi in the valley, and thus I had
lost much of the haunting fear which had beset me upon the death of Job.
Yet, though I was not so much afraid as I had been, I took all
precautions that suggested themselves to me, and built up the fire to a
goodly height, after which I took my cut-and-thrust, and made the round
of the camping place. At the edges of the cliffs which protected us on
three sides, I made some pause, staring down into the darkness, and
listening; though this latter was of but small use because of the
strength of the wind which roared continually in my ears. Yet though I
neither saw nor heard anything, I was presently possessed of a strange
uneasiness, which made me return twice or thrice to the edge of the
cliffs; but always without seeing or hearing anything to justify my
superstitions. And so, presently, being determined to give way to no
fancifulness, I avoided the boundary of cliffs, and kept more to that
part which commanded the slope, up and down which we made our journeys
to and from the island below.

Then, it would be near halfway through my time of watching, there came to
me out of the immensity of weed that lay to leeward, a far distant sound
that grew upon my ear, rising and rising into a fearsome screaming and
shrieking, and then dying away into the distance in queer sobs, and so at
last to a note below that of the wind's. At this, as might be supposed, I
was somewhat shaken in myself to hear so dread a noise coming out of all
that desolation, and then, suddenly, the thought came to me that the
screaming was from the ship to leeward of us, and I ran immediately to
the edge of the cliff overlooking the weed, and stared into the darkness;
but now I perceived, by a light which burned in the hulk, that the
screaming had come from some place a great distance to the right of her,
and more, as my sense assured me, it could by no means have been possible
for those in her to have sent their voices to me against such a breeze as
blew at that time.

And so, for a space, I stood nervously pondering, and peering away into
the blackness of the night; thus, in a little, I perceived a dull glow
upon the horizon, and, presently, there rose into view the upper edge of
the moon, and a very welcome sight it was to me; for I had been upon the
point of calling the bo'sun to inform him regarding the sound which I had
heard; but I had hesitated, being afraid to seem foolish if nothing
should befall. Then, even as I stood watching the moon rise into view,
there came again to me the beginning of that screaming, somewhat like to
the sound of a woman sobbing with a giant's voice, and it grew and
strengthened until it pierced through the roar of the wind with an
amazing clearness, and then slowly, and seeming to echo and echo, it sank
away into the distance, and there was again in my ears no sound beyond
that of the wind.

At this, having looked fixedly in the direction from which the sound had
proceeded, I ran straightway to the tent and roused the bo'sun; for I had
no knowledge of what the noise might portend, and this second cry had
shaken from me all my bashfulness. Now the bo'sun was upon his feet
almost before I had made an end of shaking him, and catching up his great
cutlass which he kept always by his side, he followed me swiftly out on
to the hill-top. Here, I explained to him that I had heard a very
fearsome sound which had appeared to proceed out of the vastness of the
weed-continent, and that, upon a repetition of the noise, I had decided
to call him; for I knew not but that it might signal to us of some coming
danger. At that, the bo'sun commended me; though chiding me in that I had
hesitated to call him at the first occurrence of the crying, and then,
following me to the edge of the leeward cliff, he stood there with me,
waiting and listening, perchance there might come again a recurrence of
the noise.

For perhaps something over an hour we stood there very silent and
listening; but there came to us no sound beyond the continuous noise of
the wind, and so, by that time, having grown somewhat impatient of
waiting, and the moon being well risen, the bo'sun beckoned to me to make
the round of the camp with him. Now, just as I turned away, chancing to
look downward at the clear water directly below, I was amazed to see that
an innumerable multitude of great fish, like unto those which I had seen
on the previous night, were swimming from the weed-continent towards the
island. At that, I stepped nearer the edge; for they came so directly
towards the island that I expected to see them close inshore; yet I could
not perceive one; for they seemed all of them to vanish at a point some
thirty yards distant from the beach, and at that, being amazed both by
the numbers of the fish and their strangeness, and the way in which they
came on continually, yet never reached the shore, I called to the bo'sun
to come and see; for he had gone on a few paces. Upon hearing my call, he
came running back; whereat I pointed into the sea below. At that, he
stooped forward and peered very intently, and I with him; yet neither one
of us could discover the meaning of so curious an exhibition, and so for
a while we watched, the bo'sun being quite so much interested as I.

Presently, however, he turned away, saying that we did foolishly to stand
here peering at every curious sight, when we should be looking to the
welfare of the camp, and so we began to go the round of the hill-top.
Now, whilst we had been watching and listening, we had suffered the fire
to die down to a most unwise lowness, and consequently, though the moon
was rising, there was by no means the same brightness that should have
made the camp light. On perceiving this, I went forward to throw some
fuel on to the fire, and then, even as I moved, it seemed to me that I
saw something stir in the shadow of the tent. And at that, I ran towards
the place, uttering a shout, and waving my cut-and-thrust; yet I found
nothing, and so, feeling somewhat foolish, I turned to make up the fire,
as had been my intention, and whilst I was thus busied, the bo'sun came
running over to me to know what I had seen, and in the same instant there
ran three of the men out of the tent, all of them waked by my sudden cry.
But I had naught to tell them, save that my fancy had played me a trick,
and had shown me something where my eyes could find nothing, and at that,
two of the men went back to resume their sleep; but the third, the big
fellow to whom the bo'sun had given the other cutlass, came with us,
bringing his weapon; and, though he kept silent, it seemed to me that he
had gathered something of our uneasiness; and for my part I was not sorry
to have his company.

Presently, we came to that portion of the hill which overhung the
valley, and I went to the edge of the cliff, intending to peer over; for
the valley had a very unholy fascination for me. Yet, no sooner had I
glanced down than I started, and ran back to the bo'sun and plucked him
by the sleeve, and at that, perceiving my agitation, he came with me in
silence to see what matter had caused me so much quiet excitement. Now,
when he looked over, he also was astounded, and drew back instantly;
then, using great caution, he bent forward once more, and stared down,
and, at that, the big seaman came up behind, walking upon his toes, and
stooped to see what manner of thing we had discovered. Thus we each of us
stared down upon a most unearthly sight; for the valley all beneath us
was a-swarm with moving creatures, white and unwholesome in the
moonlight, and their movements were somewhat like the movements of
monstrous slugs, though the things themselves had no resemblance to such
in their contours; but minded me of naked humans, very fleshy and
crawling upon their stomachs; yet their movements lacked not a surprising
rapidity. And now, looking a little over the bo'sun's shoulder, I
discovered that these hideous things were coming up out from the pit-like
pool in the bottom of the valley, and, suddenly, I was minded of the
multitudes of strange fish which we had seen swimming towards the island;
but which had all disappeared before reaching the shore, and I had no
doubt but that they entered the pit through some natural passage known to
them beneath the water. And now I was made to understand my thought of
the previous night, that I had seen the flicker of tentacles; for these
things below us had each two short and stumpy arms; but the ends appeared
divided into hateful and wriggling masses of small tentacles, which slid
hither and thither as the creatures moved about the bottom of the valley,
and at their hinder ends, where they should have grown feet, there seemed
other flickering bunches; but it must not be supposed that we saw these
things clearly.

Now it is scarcely possible to convey the extraordinary disgust which the
sight of these human slugs bred in me; nor, could I, do I think I would;
for were I successful, then would others be like to retch even as I did,
the spasm coming on without premonition, and born of very horror. And
then, suddenly, even as I stared, sick with loathing and apprehension,
there came into view, not a fathom below my feet, a face like to the face
which had peered up into my own on that night, as we drifted beside the
weed-continent. At that, I could have screamed, had I been in less
terror; for the great eyes, so big as crown pieces, the bill like to an
inverted parrot's, and the slug-like undulating of its white and slimy
body, bred in me the dumbness of one mortally stricken. And, even as I
stayed there, my helpless body bent and rigid, the bo'sun spat a mighty
curse into my ear, and, leaning forward, smote at the thing with his
cutlass; for in the instant that I had seen it, it had advanced upward by
so much as a yard. Now, at this action of the bo'sun's, I came suddenly
into possession of myself, and thrust downward with so much vigor that I
was like to have followed the brute's carcass; for I overbalanced, and
danced giddily for a moment upon the edge of eternity; and then the
bo'sun had me by the waistband, and I was back in safety; but in that
instant through which I had struggled for my balance, I had discovered
that the face of the cliff was near hid with the number of the things
which were making up to us, and I turned to the bo'sun, crying out to him
that there were thousands of them swarming up to us. Yet, he was gone
already from me, running towards the fire, and shouting to the men in the
tent to haste to our help for their very lives, and then he came racing
back with a great armful of the weed, and after him came the big seaman,
carrying a burning tuft from the camp fire, and so in a few moments we
had a blaze, and the men were bringing more weed; for we had a very good
stock upon the hill-top; for which the Almighty be thanked.

Now, scarce had we lit one fire, when the bo'sun cried out to the big
seaman to make another, further along the edge of the cliff, and, in the
same instant, I shouted, and ran over to that part of the hill which lay
towards the open sea; for I had seen a number of moving things about the
edge of the seaward cliff. Now here there was a deal of shadow; for there
were scattered certain large masses of rock about this part of the hill,
and these held off both the light of the moon, and that from the fires.
Here, I came abruptly upon three great shapes moving with stealthiness
towards the camp, and, behind these, I saw dimly that there were others.
Then, with a loud cry for help, I made at the three, and, as I charged,
they rose up on end at me, and I found that they overtopped me, and their
vile tentacles were reached out at me. Then I was smiting, and gasping,
sick with a sudden stench, the stench of the creatures which I had come
already to know. And then something clutched at me, something slimy and
vile, and great mandibles champed in my face; but I stabbed upward, and
the thing fell from me, leaving me dazed and sick, and smiting weakly.
Then there came a rush of feet behind, and a sudden blaze, and the bo'sun
crying out encouragement, and, directly, he and the big seaman thrust
themselves in front of me, hurling from them great masses of burning
weed, which they had borne, each of them, up a long reed. And immediately
the things were gone, slithering hastily down over the cliff edge.

And so, presently, I was more my own man, and made to wipe from my throat
the slime left by the clutch of the monster: and afterwards I ran from
fire to fire with weed, feeding them, and so a space passed, during
which we had safety; for by that time we had fires all about the top of
the hill, and the monsters were in mortal dread of fire, else had we been
dead, all of us, that night.

Now, a while before the dawn, we discovered, for the second time since we
had been upon the island, that our fuel could not last us the night at
the rate at which we were compelled to burn it, and so the bo'sun told
the men to let out every second fire, and thus we staved off for a while
the time when we should have to face a spell of darkness, and the things
which, at present, the fires held off from us. And so at last, we came to
the end of the weed and the reeds, and the bo'sun called out to us to
watch the cliff edges very carefully, and smite on the instant that any
thing showed; but that, should he call, all were to gather by the central
fire for a last stand. And, after that, he blasted the moon which had
passed behind a great bank of cloud. And thus matters were, and the gloom
deepened as the fires sank lower and lower. Then I heard a man curse, on
that part of the hill which lay towards the weed-continent, his cry
coming up to me against the wind, and the bo'sun shouted to us to all
have a care, and directly afterwards I smote at something that rose
silently above the edge of the cliff opposite to where I watched.

Perhaps a minute passed, and then there came shouts from all parts of the
hilltop, and I knew that the weed men were upon us, and in the same
instant there came two above the edge near me, rising with a ghostly
quietness, yet moving lithely. Now the first, I pierced somewhere in the
throat, and it fell backward; but the second, though I thrust it through,
caught my blade with a bunch of its tentacles, and was like to have
snatched it from me; but that I kicked it in the face, and at that,
being, I believe, more astonished than hurt, it loosed my sword, and
immediately fell away out of sight. Now this had taken, in all, no more
than some ten seconds; yet already I perceived so many as four others
coming into view a little to my right, and at that it seemed to me that
our deaths must be very near, for I knew not how we were to cope with the
creatures, coming as they were so boldly and with such rapidity. Yet, I
hesitated not, but ran at them, and now I thrust not; but cut at their
faces, and found this to be very effectual; for in this wise disposed I
of three in as many strokes; but the fourth had come right over the cliff
edge, and rose up at me upon its hinder parts, as had done those others
when the bo'sun had succored me. At that, I gave way, having a very
lively dread; but, hearing all about me the cries of conflict, and
knowing that I could expect no help, I made at the brute: then as it
stooped and reached out one of its bunches of tentacles, I sprang back,
and slashed at them, and immediately I followed this up by a thrust in
the stomach, and at that it collapsed into a writhing white ball, that
rolled this way and that, and so, in its agony, coming to the edge of the
cliff, it fell over, and I was left, sick and near helpless with the
hateful stench of the brutes.

Now by this time all the fires about the edges of the hill were sunken
into dull glowing mounds of embers; though that which burnt near to the
entrance of the tent was still of a good brightness; yet this helped us
but little, for we fought too far beyond the immediate circle of its
beams to have benefit of it. And still the moon, at which now I threw a
despairing glance, was no more than a ghostly shape behind the great bank
of cloud which was passing over it. Then, even as I looked upward,
glancing as it might be over my left shoulder, I saw, with a sudden
horror, that something had come anigh me, and upon the instant, I caught
the reek of the thing, and leapt fearfully to one side, turning as I
sprang. Thus was I saved in the very moment of my destruction; for the
creature's tentacles smeared the back of my neck as I leapt, and then I
had smitten, once and again, and conquered.

Immediately after this, I discovered something to be crossing the dark
space that lay between the dull mound of the nearest fire, and that which
lay further along the hill-top, and so, wasting no moment of time, I ran
towards the thing, and cut it twice across the head before ever it could
get upon its hind parts, in which position I had learned greatly to dread
them. Yet, no sooner had I slain this one, than there came a rush of
maybe a dozen upon me; these having climbed silently over the cliff edge
in the meanwhile. At this, I dodged, and ran madly towards the glowing
mound of the nearest fire, the brutes following me almost so quick as I
could run; but I came to the fire the first, and then, a sudden thought
coming to me, I thrust the point of my cut-and-thrust among the embers
and switched a great shower of them at the creatures, and at that I had a
momentary clear vision of many white, hideous faces stretched out towards
me, and brown, champing mandibles which had the upper beak shutting into
the lower; and the clumped, wriggling tentacles were all a-flutter. Then
the gloom came again; but immediately, I switched another and yet another
shower of the burning embers towards them, and so, directly, I saw them
give back, and then they were gone. At this, all about the edges of the
hilltop, I saw the fires being scattered in like manner; for others had
adopted this device to help them in their sore straits.

For a little after this, I had a short breathing space, the brutes
seeming to have taken fright; yet I was full of trembling, and I glanced
hither and thither, not knowing when some one or more of them would come
upon me. And ever I glanced towards the moon, and prayed the Almighty
that the clouds would pass quickly, else should we be all dead men; and
then, as I prayed, there rose a sudden very terrible scream from one of
the men, and in the same moment there came something over the edge of the
cliff fronting me; but I cleft it or ever it could rise higher, and in my
ears there echoed still the sudden scream which had come from that part
of the hill which lay to the left of me: yet I dared not to leave my
station; for to have done so would have been to have risked all, and so I
stayed, tortured by the strain of ignorance, and my own terror.

Again, I had a little spell in which I was free from molestation; nothing
coming into sight so far as I could see to right or left of me; though
others were less fortunate, as the curses and sounds of blows told to me,
and then, abruptly, there came another cry of pain, and I looked up again
to the moon, and prayed aloud that it might come out to show some light
before we were all destroyed; but it remained hid. Then a sudden thought
came into my brain, and I shouted at the top of my voice to the bo'sun to
set the great cross-bow upon the central fire; for thus we should have a
big blaze--the wood being very nice and dry. Twice I shouted to him,
saying:--"Burn the bow! Burn the bow!" And immediately he replied,
shouting to all the men to run to him and carry it to the fire; and this
we did and bore it to the center fire, and then ran back with all speed
to our places. Thus in a minute we had some light, and the light grew as
the fire took hold of the great log, the wind fanning it to a blaze. And
so I faced outwards, looking to see if any vile face showed above the
edge before me, or to my right or left. Yet, I saw nothing, save, as it
seemed to me, once a fluttering tentacle came up, a little to my right;
but nothing else for a space.

Perhaps it was near five minutes later, that there came another attack,
and, in this, I came near to losing my life, through my folly in
venturing too near to the edge of the cliff; for, suddenly, there shot up
out from the darkness below, a clump of tentacles, and caught me about
the left ankle, and immediately I was pulled to a sitting posture, so
that both my feet were over the edge of the precipice, and it was only by
the mercy of God that I had not plunged head foremost into the valley.
Yet, as it was, I suffered a mighty peril; for the brute that had my
foot, put a vast strain upon it, trying to pull me down; but I resisted,
using my hands and seat to sustain me, and so, discovering that it could
not compass my end in this wise, it slacked somewhat of the stress, and
bit at my boot, shearing through the hard leather, and nigh destroying my
small toe; but now, being no longer compelled to use both hands to retain
my position, I slashed down with great fury, being maddened by the pain
and the mortal fear which the creature had put upon me; yet I was not
immediately free of the brute; for it caught my sword blade; but I
snatched it away before it could take a proper hold, mayhaps cutting its
feelers somewhat thereby; though of this I cannot be sure, for they
seemed not to grip around a thing, but to _suck_ to it; then, in a
moment, by a lucky blow, I maimed it, so that it loosed me, and I was
able to get back into some condition of security.

And from this onwards, we were free from molestation; though we had no
knowledge but that the quietness of the weed men did but portend a
fresh attack, and so, at last, it came to the dawn; and in all this
time the moon came not to our help, being quite hid by the clouds which
now covered the whole arc of the sky, making the dawn of a very
desolate aspect.

And so soon as there was a sufficiency of light, we examined the valley;
but there were nowhere any of the weed men, no! nor even any of their
dead for it seemed that they had carried off all such and their wounded,
and so we had no opportunity to make an examination of the monsters by
daylight. Yet, though we could not come upon their dead, all about the
edges of the cliffs was blood and slime, and from the latter there came
ever the hideous stench which marked the brutes; but from this we
suffered little, the wind carrying it far away to leeward, and filling
our lungs with sweet and wholesome air.

Presently, seeing that the danger was past, the bo'sun called us to the
center fire, on which burnt still the remnants of the great bow, and here
we discovered for the first time that one of the men was gone from us. At
that, we made search about the hilltop, and afterwards in the valley and
about the island; but found him not.


In Communication

Now of the search which we made through the valley for the body of
Tompkins, that being the name of the lost man, I have some doleful
memories. But first, before we left the camp, the bo'sun gave us all a
very sound tot of the rum, and also a biscuit apiece, and thereafter we
hasted down, each man holding his weapon readily. Presently, when we were
come to the beach which ended the valley upon the seaward side, the
bo'sun led us along to the bottom of the hill, where the precipices came
down into the softer stuff which covered the valley, and here we made a
careful search, perchance he had fallen over, and lay dead or wounded
near to our hands. But it was not so, and after that, we went down to the
mouth of the great pit, and here we discovered the mud all about it to be
covered with multitudes of tracks, and in addition to these and the
slime, we found many traces of blood; but nowhere any signs of Tompkins.
And so, having searched all the valley, we came out upon the weed which
strewed the shore nearer to the great weed-continent; but discovered
nothing until we had made up towards the foot of the hill, where it came
down sheer into the sea. Here, I climbed on to a ledge--the same from
which the men had caught their fish--, thinking that, if Tompkins had
fallen from above, he might lie in the water at the foot of the cliff,
which was here, maybe, some ten to twenty feet deep; but, for a little
space, I saw nothing. Then, suddenly, I discovered that there was
something white, down in the sea away to my left, and, at that, I climbed
farther out along the ledge.

In this wise I perceived that the thing which had attracted my notice was
the dead body of one of the weed men. I could see it but dimly, catching
odd glimpses of it as the surface of the water smoothed at whiles. It
appeared to me to be lying curled up, and somewhat upon its right side,
and in proof that it was dead, I saw a mighty wound that had come near to
shearing away the head; and so, after a further glance, I came in, and
told what I had seen. At that, being convinced by this time that Tompkins
was indeed done to death, we ceased our search; but first, before we left
the spot, the bo'sun climbed out to get a sight of the dead weed man and
after him the rest of the men, for they were greatly curious to see
clearly what manner of creature it was that had attacked us in the night.
Presently, having seen so much of the brute as the water would allow,
they came in again to the beach, and afterwards were returned to the
opposite side of the island, and so, being there, we crossed over to the
boat, to see whether it had been harmed; but found it to be untouched.
Yet, that the creatures had been all about it, we could perceive by the
marks of slime upon the sand, and also by the strange trail which they
had left in the soft surface. Then one of the men called out that there
had been something at Job's grave, which, as will be remembered, had been
made in the sand some little distance from the place of our first camp.
At that, we looked all of us, and it was easy to see that it had been
disturbed, and so we ran hastily to it, knowing not what to fear; thus
we found it to be empty; for the monsters had digged down to the poor
lad's body, and of it we could discover no sign. Upon this, we came to a
greater horror of the weed men than ever; for we knew them now to be foul
ghouls who could not let even the dead body rest in the grave.

Now after this, the bo'sun led us all back to the hill-top, and there he
looked to our hurts; for one man had lost two fingers in the night's
fray; another had been bitten savagely in the left arm; whilst a third
had all the skin of his face raised in wheals where one of the brutes had
fixed its tentacles. And all of these had received but scant attention,
because of the stress of the fight, and, after that, through the
discovery that Tompkins was missing. Now, however, the bo'sun set-to upon
them, washing and binding them up, and for dressings he made use of some
of the oakum which we had with us, binding this on with strips torn from
the roll of spare duck, which had been in the locker of the boat.

For my part, seizing this chance to make some examination of my
wounded toe, the which, indeed, was causing me to limp, I found that I
had endured less harm than seemed to me; for the bone of the toe was
untouched, though showing bare; yet when it was cleansed, I had not
overmuch pain with it; though I could not suffer to have the boot on,
and so bound some canvas about my foot, until such time as it should
be healed.

Presently, when our wounds were all attended to, the which had taken
time, for there was none of us altogether untouched, the bo'sun bade the
man whose fingers were damaged, to lie down in the tent, and the same
order he gave also to him that was bitten in the arm. Then, the rest of
us he directed to go down with him and carry up fuel; for that the night
had shown him how our very lives depended upon a sufficiency of this;
and so all that morning we brought fuel to the hill-top, both weed and
reeds, resting not until midday, when he gave us a further tot of the
rum, and after that set one of the men upon the dinner. Then he bade the
man, Jessop by name, who had proposed to fly a kite over the vessel in
the weed, to say whether he had any craft in the making of such a
matter. At that, the fellow laughed, and told the bo'sun that he would
make him a kite that would fly very steadily and strongly, and this
without the aid of a tail. And so the bo'sun bade him set-to without
delay, for that we should do well to deliver the people in the hulk, and
afterwards make all haste from the island, which was no better than a
nesting place of ghouls.

Now hearing the man say that his kite would fly without a tail, I was
mightily curious to see what manner of thing he would make; for I had
never seen the like, nor heard that such was possible. Yet he spoke of no
more than he could accomplish; for he took two of the reeds and cut them
to a length of about six feet; then he bound them together in the middle
so that they formed a Saint Andrew's cross, and after that he made two
more such crosses, and when these were completed, he took four reeds
maybe a dozen feet long, and bade us stand them upright in the shape of a
square, so that they formed the four corners, and after that he took one
of the crosses, and laid it in the square so that its four ends touched
the four uprights, and in this position he lashed it. Then he took the
second cross and lashed it midway between the top and bottom of the
uprights, and after that he lashed the third at the top, so that the
three of them acted as spreaders to keep the four longer reeds in their
places as though they were for the uprights of a little square tower.
Now, when he had gotten so far as that, the bo'sun called out to us to
make our dinners, and this we did, and afterwards had a short time in
which to smoke, and whilst we were thus at our ease the sun came out,
the which it had not done all the day, and at that we felt vastly
brighter; for the day had been very gloomy with clouds until that time,
and what with the loss of Tompkins, and our own fears and hurts, we had
been exceeding doleful, but now, as I have said, we became more cheerful,
and went very alertly to the finishing of the kite.

At this point it came suddenly to the bo'sun that we had made no
provision of cord for the flying of the kite, and he called out to the
man to know what strength the kite would require, at which Jessop
answered him that maybe ten-yarn sennit would do, and this being so,
the bo'sun led three of us down to the wrecked mast upon the further
beach, and from this we stripped all that was left of the shrouds, and
carried them to the top of the hill, and so, presently, having unlaid
them, we set-to upon the sennit, using ten yarns; but plaiting two as
one, by which means we progressed with more speed than if we had taken
them singly.

Now, as we worked, I glanced occasionally towards Jessop, and saw that he
stitched a band of the light duck around each end of the framework which
he had made, and these bands I judged to be about four feet wide, in this
wise leaving an open space between the two, so that now the thing looked
something like to a Punchinello show, only that the opening was in the
wrong place, and there was too much of it. After that he bent on a bridle
to two of the uprights, making this of a piece of good hemp rope which he
found in the tent, and then he called out to the bo'sun that the kite was
finished. At that, the bo'sun went over to examine it, the which did all
of us; for none of us had seen the like of such a thing, and, if I
misdoubt not, few of us had much faith that it would fly; for it seemed
so big and unwieldy. Now, I think that Jessop gathered something of our
thoughts; for, calling to one of us to hold the kite, lest it should
blow away, he went into the tent, and brought out the remainder of the
hemp line, the same from which he had cut the bridle. This, he bent on to
it, and, giving the end into our hands, bade us go back with it until all
the slack was taken up, he, in the meanwhile, steadying the kite. Then,
when we had gone back to the extent of the line, he shouted to us to take
a very particular hold upon it, and then, stooping, caught the kite by
the bottom, and threw it into the air, whereupon, to our amazement,
having swooped somewhat to one side, it steadied and mounted upwards into
the sky like a very bird.

Now at this, as I have made mention, we were astonished, for it appeared
like a miracle to us to see so cumbrous a thing fly with so much grace
and persistence, and further, we were mightily surprised at the manner in
which it pulled upon the rope, tugging with such heartiness that we were
like to have loosed it in our first astonishment, had it not been for the
warning which Jessop called to us.

And now, being well assured of the properness of the kite, the bo'sun
bade us to draw it in, the which we did only with difficulty, because of
its bigness and the strength of the breeze. And when we had it back again
upon the hilltop, Jessop moored it very securely to a great piece of
rock, and, after that, having received our approbation, he turned-to with
us upon the making of the sennit.

Presently, the evening drawing near, the bo'sun set us to the building of
fires about the hill-top, and after that, having waved our goodnights to
the people in the hulk, we made our suppers, and lay down to smoke, after
which, we turned-to again at our plaiting of the sennit, the which we
were in very great haste to have done. And so, later, the dark having
come down upon the island, the bo'sun bade us take burning weed from the
center fire, and set light to the heaps of weed that we had stacked
round the edges of the hill for that purpose, and so in a few minutes the
whole of the hill-top was very light and cheerful, and afterwards, having
put two of the men to keep watch and attend to the fires, he sent the
rest of us back to our sennit making, keeping us at it until maybe about
ten of the clock, after which he arranged that two men at a time should
be on watch throughout the night, and then he bade the rest of us
turn-in, so soon as he had looked to our various hurts.

Now, when it came to my turn to watch, I discovered that I had been
chosen to accompany the big seaman, at which I was by no means
displeased; for he was a most excellent fellow, and moreover a very lusty
man to have near, should anything come upon one unawares. Yet, we were
happy in that the night passed off without trouble of any sort, and so at
last came the morning.

So soon as we had made our breakfast, the bo'sun took us all down to the
carrying of fuel; for he saw very clearly that upon a good supply of this
depended our immunity from attack. And so for the half of the morning we
worked at the gathering of weed and reeds for our fires. Then, when we
had obtained a sufficiency for the coming night, he set us all to work
again upon the sennit, and so until dinner, after which we turned-to once
more upon our plaiting. Yet it was plain that it would take several days
to make a sufficient line for our purpose, and because of this, the
bo'sun cast about in his mind for some way in which he could quicken its
production. Presently, as a result of some little thought, he brought out
from the tent the long piece of hemp rope with which we had moored the
boat to the sea anchor, and proceeded to unlay it, until he had all three
strands separate. Then he bent the three together, and so had a very
rough line of maybe some hundred and eighty fathoms in length, yet,
though so rough, he judged it strong enough, and thus we had this much
the less sennit to make.

Now, presently, we made our dinner, and after that for the rest of the
day we kept very steadily to our plaiting, and so, with the previous
day's work, had near two hundred fathoms completed by the time that the
bo'sun called us to cease and come to supper. Thus it will be seen that
counting all, including the piece of hemp line from which the bridle had
been made, we may be said to have had at this time about four hundred
fathoms towards the length which we needed for our purpose, this having
been reckoned at five hundred fathoms.

After supper, having lit all the fires, we continued to work at the
plaiting, and so, until the bo'sun set the watches, after which we
settled down for the night, first, however, letting the bo'sun see to
our hurts. Now this night, like to the previous, brought us no trouble;
and when the day came, we had first our breakfast, and then set-to upon
our collecting of fuel, after which we spent the rest of the day at the
sennit, having manufactured a sufficiency by the evening, the which the
bo'sun celebrated by a very rousing tot of the rum. Then, having made
our supper, we lit the fires, and had a very comfortable evening, after
which, as on the preceding nights, having let the bo'sun attend our
wounds, we settled for the night, and on this occasion the bo'sun let
the man who had lost his fingers, and the one who had been bitten so
badly in the arm, take their first turn at the watching since the night
of the attack.

Now when the morning came we were all of us very eager to come to the
flying of the kite; for it seemed possible to us that we might effect
the rescue of the people in the hulk before the evening. And, at the
thought of this, we experienced a very pleasurable sense of excitement;
yet, before the bo'sun would let us touch the kite, he insisted that we
should gather our usual supply of fuel, the which order, though full of
wisdom, irked us exceedingly, because of our eagerness to set about the
rescue. But at last this was accomplished, and we made to get the line
ready, testing the knots, and seeing that it was all clear for running.
Yet, before setting the kite off, the bo'sun took us down to the further
beach to bring up the foot of the royal and t'gallant mast, which
remained fast to the topmast, and when we had this upon the hill-top, he
set its ends upon two rocks, after which he piled a heap of great pieces
around them, leaving the middle part clear. Round this he passed the
kite line a couple or three times, and then gave the end to Jessop to
bend on to the bridle of the kite, and so he had all ready for paying
out to the wreck.

And now, having nothing to do, we gathered round to watch, and,
immediately, the bo'sun giving the signal, Jessop cast the kite into
the air, and, the wind catching it, lifted it strongly and well, so
that the bo'sun could scarce pay out fast enough. Now, before the kite
had been let go, Jessop had bent to the forward end of it a great
length of the spun yarn, so that those in the wreck could catch it as
it trailed over them, and, being eager to witness whether they would
secure it without trouble, we ran all of us to the edge of the hill to
watch. Thus, within five minutes from the time of the loosing of the
kite, we saw the people in the ship wave to us to cease veering, and
immediately afterwards the kite came swiftly downwards, by which we
knew that they had the tripping-line, and were hauling upon it, and at
that we gave out a great cheer, and afterwards we sat about and smoked,
waiting until they had read our instructions, which we had written upon
the covering of the kite.

Presently, maybe the half of an hour afterwards, they signaled to us to
haul upon our line, which we proceeded to do without delay, and so,
after a great space, we had hauled in all of our rough line, and come
upon the end of theirs, which proved to be a fine piece of three-inch
hemp, new and very good; yet we could not conceive that this would stand
the stress necessary to lift so great a length clear of the weed, as
would be needful, or ever we could hope to bring the people of the ship
over it in safety. And so we waited some little while, and, presently,
they signaled again to us to haul, which we did, and found that they had
bent on a much greater rope to the bight of the three-inch hemp, having
merely intended the latter for a hauling-line by which to get the heavier
rope across the weed to the island. Thus, after a weariful time of
pulling, we got the end of the bigger rope up to the hill-top, and
discovered it to be an extraordinarily sound rope of some four inches
diameter, and smoothly laid of fine yarns round and very true and well
spun, and with this we had every reason to be satisfied.

Now to the end of the big rope they had tied a letter, in a bag of
oilskin, and in it they said some very warm and grateful things to us,
after which they set out a short code of signals by which we should be
able to understand one another on certain general matters, and at the end
they asked if they should send us any provision ashore; for, as they
explained, it would take some little while to get the rope set taut
enough for our purpose, and the carrier fixed and in working order. Now,
upon reading this letter, we called out to the bo'sun that he should ask
them if they would send us some soft bread; the which he added thereto a
request for lint and bandages and ointment for our hurts. And this he
bade me write upon one of the great leaves from off the reeds, and at the
end he told me to ask if they desired us to send them any fresh water.
And all of this, I wrote with a sharpened splinter of reed, cutting the
words into the surface of the leaf. Then, when I had made an end of
writing, I gave the leaf to the bo'sun, and he enclosed it in the oilskin
bag, after which he gave the signal for those in the hulk to haul on the
smaller line, and this they did.

Presently, they signed to us to pull in again, the which we did, and so,
when we had hauled in a great length of their line, we came to the little
oilskin bag, in which we found lint and bandages and ointment, and a
further letter, which set out that they were baking bread, and would send
us some so soon as it was out from the oven.

Now, in addition to the matters for the healing of our wounds, and the
letter, they had included a bundle of paper in loose sheets, some quills
and an inkhorn, and at the end of their epistle, they begged very
earnestly of us to send them some news of the outer world; for they had
been shut up in that strange continent of weed for something over seven
years. They told us then that there were twelve of them in the hulk,
three of them being women, one of whom had been the captain's wife; but
he had died soon after the vessel became entangled in the weed, and along
with him more than half of the ship's company, having been attacked by
giant devil-fish, as they were attempting to free the vessel from the
weed, and afterwards they who were left had built the superstructure as a
protection against the devil-fish, and the _devil-men_, as they termed
them; for, until it had been built, there had been no safety about the
decks, neither day nor night.

To our question as to whether they were in need of water, the people in
the ship replied that they had a sufficiency, and, further, that they
were very well supplied with provisions; for the ship had sailed from
London with a general cargo, among which there was a vast quantity of
food in various shapes and forms. At this news we were greatly pleased,
seeing that we need have no more anxiety regarding a lack of victuals,
and so in the letter which I went into the tent to write, I put down
that we were in no great plentitude of provisions, at which hint I
guessed they would add somewhat to the bread when it should be ready. And
after that I wrote down such chief events as my memory recalled as having
occurred in the course of the past seven years, and then, a short account
of our own adventures, up to that time, telling them of the attack which
we had suffered from the weed men, and asking such questions as my
curiosity and wonder prompted.

Now whilst I had been writing, sitting in the mouth of the tent, I had
observed, from time to time, how that the bo'sun was busied with the men
in passing the end of the big rope round a mighty boulder, which lay
about ten fathoms in from the edge of the cliff which overlooked the
hulk. This he did, parceling the rope where the rock was in any way


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