FOR some minutes we lay upon the bottom of the up-turned boat too exhausted t_peak. I still held the unconscious form of little Esther Bailey in my arms, and protected her, as well as I was able, from the marauding seas. Though th_aves about us upheld many evidences of the terrible catastrophe, such a_ratings, broken spars, portions of boat gear, still, to my astonishment, _ould discover no signs of any bodies. Once, however, I was successful i_btaining possession of something which I knew would be worth its weight i_old to us: it was an oar, part of the equipment of one of the quarter boats _magined; half the blade was missing, but with what remained it would still b_ossible for us to propel the boat on which we had taken refuge.
What a terrible position was ours, lodged on the bottom of that overturne_ifeboat, icy seas breaking upon us every few seconds, the knowledge of ou_allant ship, with all our friends aboard, lying fathoms deep below th_urface of the waves, and the remembrance that the same fate might be ours a_ny moment; no possible notion of where we were, no provisions or means o_ustaining life, and but small chance of being picked up by any passing boat!
It was Miss Maybourne who spoke first, and, as usual, her conversation was no_bout herself.
"Mr. Wrexford," she said, and her teeth chattered as she spoke, "at any ris_omething must be done for that poor child you hold in your arms, she will di_lse. Do you think we could manage to get her up further on to the boat an_hen try to chafe her back to consciousness?"
"By all means let us try," I answered, "though I fear it will prove _ifficult matter. She seems very far gone, poor little mite."
With the utmost care I clambered further up the boat till I sat with my burde_stride the keel. In the darkness we could scarcely see each other, but onc_he child was placed between us we set to work rubbing her face and hands an_rying by every means in our power to restore consciousness. Suddenly a grea_hought occurred to me. I remembered the flask I had taken from the cabi_here I had found the clothes. In an instant I had dived my hand into m_ocket in search of it, almost trembling with fear lest by any chance i_hould have slipped out when I had dived overboard, but to my delight it wa_till there. I had pulled it out and unscrewed the stopper before anyone coul_ave counted a dozen, taking the precaution to taste it in order to see tha_t was all right before I handed it to Miss Maybourne. It was filled with th_inest French brandy, and, having discovered this, I bade her take a goo_rink at it. When she had done so I put it to the child's mouth and forced _mall quantity between her lips.
"Surely you are going to drink some yourself," said my companion, as she sa_e screw on the top and replace it in my pocket.
But I was not going to do anything of the sort. I did not need it so vitall_s my charges, and I knew that there was not enough in the bottle to justif_e in wasting even a drop. I explained this and then asked her if she felt an_armer.
"Much warmer," she answered, "and I think Esther here feels better too. Let u_hafe her hands again."
We did so, and in a few minutes had the satisfaction of hearing the poor mit_tter a little moan. In less than an hour she was conscious once more, but s_eak that it seemed as if the first breath of wind that came our way woul_low the life out of her tiny body. Poor little soul, if it was such _errible experience for us, what must it have been for her?
What length of time elapsed from the time of our heading the boat befor_aylight came to cheer us I cannot say, but, cramped up as we were, th_arkness seemed to last for centuries. For periods of something like half a_our at a time we sat without speaking, thinking of all that had happene_ince darkness had fallen the night before, and remembering the rush and agon_f those last few dreadful minutes on board, and the awful fact that all thos_hom we had seen so well and strong only a few hours before were now cold an_ifeless for ever. Twice I took out my flask and insisted on Miss Maybourn_nd the child swallowing a portion of the spirit. Had I not brought that wit_e, I really believe neither of them would have seen another sunrise.
Suddenly Miss Maybourne turned to me.
"Listen, Mr. Wrexford," she cried. "What is that booming noise? Is i_hunder?"
I did as she commanded, but for some moments could hear nothing save th_plashing of the waves upon the boat's planks. Then a dull, sullen nois_eached my ears that might very well have been mistaken for the booming o_hunder at a great distance. Thunder it certainly was, but not of the kind m_ompanion imagined. It was the thunder of surf, and that being so, I kne_here must be land at no great distance from us. I told her my conjecture, an_hen we set ourselves to wait, with what patience we could command, fo_aylight.
What a strange and, I might almost say, weird dawn that was! It was like th_eginning of a new life under strangely altered conditions. The first shaft_f light found us still clinging to the keel of the overturned boat, gazin_opelessly about us. When it was light enough to discern our features, we tw_lder ones looked at each other, and were horrified to observe the chang_hich the terrible sufferings of the night had wrought in our countenances.
Miss Maybourne's face was white and drawn, and she looked years older than he_eal age. I could see by the way she glanced at me that I also was changed.
The poor little girl Esther hardly noticed either of us, but lay curled up a_lose as possible to her sister in misfortune.
As the light widened, the breeze, which had been just perceptible all night, died away, and the sea became as calm as a mill pond. I looked about me fo_omething to explain the noise of breakers we had heard, but at first coul_ee nothing. When, however, I turned my head to the west I almost shouted i_y surprise, for, scarcely a mile distant from us, was a comparatively larg_sland, surrounded by three or four reef-like smaller ones. On the large_sland a peak rose ragged and rough to a height of something like five hundre_eet, and upon the shore, on all sides, I could plainly discern the sur_reaking upon the rocks. As soon as I saw it I turned excitedly to Mis_aybourne.
"We're saved!" I cried, pointing in the direction of the island; "loo_here—look there!"
She turned round on the boat as well as she was able and when she saw th_and, stared at it for some moments in silence. Then with a cry, "Thank God!"
she dropped her head on to her hands and I could see her shoulders shaken b_onvulsive sobs. I did my best to console her, but she soon recovered of he_wn accord, and addressed herself to me again.
"These must be the Salvage Islands of which the captain was speaking at dinne_ast night," she said. "How can we reach the shore? Whatever happens, we mus_ot drift past them."
"Have no fear," I answered; "I will not let that happen, come what may."
So saying, I shifted my position to get a better purchase of the water, an_hen using the broken oar began to paddle in the direction of the bigges_sland. It was terribly hard work, and a very few moments showed me that afte_ll the horrors of the night I was as weak as a kitten. But by patience an_erseverance I at last got the boat's head round and began to lessen th_istance that separated us. At the end of nearly half an hour we were withi_n hundred yards of the shore. By this time I had decided on a landing-place.
It was a little bit of open sandy beach, perhaps sixty yards long, withou_ocks, and boasting less surf than any other part of the island I could see.
In addition to these advantages it was nearer, and I noted that tha_articular side of the island looked more sheltered than the others.
Towards this haven of refuge I accordingly made my way, hoping that I shoul_ot find any unexpected danger lurking there when I should be too close in t_e able to get out again. It was most necessary for every reason that w_hould save the boat from damage, for by her aid alone could we hope to mak_ur way out to passing ships, or, if the worst came, to strike out on our ow_ccount for the Canary Islands. That the rocks we were now making were th_alvage Group, as Miss Maybourne had said, I had no doubt in my own mind, though how the skipper came to be steering such a course was more than I coul_ell.
At last we were so close that I could see the sandy bottom quite distinctl_nly a fathom or so below us. A better landing-place no man could have wishe_or. When we were near enough to make it safe I slid off the boat into th_ater, which was just up to my hips, and began to push her in before me.
Having grounded her I took Miss Maybourne in my arms and carried her out o_he water up on to the beach and then went back for the child. My heart was s_ull of gratitude at being on dry land again and having saved the two live_ntrusted to my care that I could have burst into tears on the leas_ncouragement.
Having got my charges safely ashore, I waded into the water again to have _ook at the boat and, if possible, to discover what had made her capsize. Sh_as so precious to us that I dared not leave her for an instant. To my deligh_he looked as sound as the day she had been turned out of the shipwright'_ard, and I felt if once I could turn her over she would carry us as well a_ny boat ever built. But how to do that, full of water as she was, was _roblem I could not for the life of me solve. Miss Maybourne's wits, however, were sharper than mine and helped me out of the difficulty.
"There is a rope in her bows, Mr. Wrexford," she cried; "why not drive the oa_nto the sand and fasten her to that? then when the tide goes out—you see i_s nearly full now—she will be left high and dry, the water will have run ou_f her, and then you will be able to do whatever you please to her."
"You've solved the difficulty for me in a very simple fashion," I answered.
"What a duffer I was not to have thought of that."
"The mouse can help the lion sometimes, you see," she replied, with a wa_ittle smile that went to my heart.
Having got my party safely ashore, and made my boat fast to the oar, a_roposed by Miss Maybourne, the next thing to be done was to discover _uitable spot where we might fix our camp, and then to endeavour to find som_ort of food upon which we might sustain our lives until we should be rescued.
I explained my intentions to my elder companion, and then, leaving them on th_each together, climbed the hillside to explore. On the other sides of th_sland the peak rose almost precipitously from the beach, and upon the side o_hich we stood it was, in many places, pretty stiff climbing. At last, however, to my great delight, on a small plateau some thirty yards long b_wenty deep, I discovered a cave that looked as if it would suit my purpose t_erfection. It was not a large affair, but quite big enough to hold the woma_nd the child even when lying at full length. To add to my satisfaction, th_ittle strip of land outside was covered with a coarse grass, a quantity o_hich I gathered and spread about in the cave to serve as a bed. This, with _ew armfuls of dry seaweed, which I knew I should be able to obtain on th_each, made an excellent couch.
What, however, troubled me more than anything else, was the fear that th_sland might contain no fresh water. But my doubts on that head were soon se_t rest, for on the hillside, a little below the plateau on which I ha_iscovered the cave, was a fair-sized pool, formed by a hollow in a rock, which, when I tasted it, I found to contain water, a little brackish it i_rue, but still quite drinkable. There was an abundance of fuel everywhere, and if only I could manage to find some shell fish on the rocks, or hit upo_ome way of catching the fish swimming in the bay, I thought we might manag_o keep ourselves alive until we were picked up by some passing boat.
Descending to the beach again, I told Miss Maybourne of my discoveries, an_hen taking poor little Esther in my arms we set off up the hill towards th_ave. On reaching it I made them as comfortable as I could and then descende_o the shore again in search of food.
Leaving the little sandy bay where we had landed, I tramped along as far a_ome large rocks I could see a couple of hundred yards or so to my left hand.
As I went I thought of the strangeness of my position. How inscrutable are th_ays of Providence! However much I might have hated Bartrand, had I not me_ikola I should in all probability never have attempted to revenge myself o_im. In that case I should not have been compelled to fly from England at _oment's notice, and should certainly not have sailed aboard the _Fij_rincess._ Presuming, therefore, that all would have gone on without me as i_ad done with me, Miss Maybourne would have been drowned off the coast o_pain, and the _Fiji Princess_ would have gone to the bottom and nobody hav_een left to tell the tale. It was a curious thought, and one that sent _trange thrill through me to think what good had indirectly resulted from m_isfortune.
Reaching the rocks mentioned above, I clambered on to them and began my searc_or limpets. Once more Fate was kind to me. The stones abounded with th_ollusks, the majority of which were of larger sizes than I had met with in m_ife before. In considerably less than five minutes I had detached a large_upply than our little party would be able to consume all day.
My harvest gathered, I filled my handkerchief and set off for the platea_gain. About half-way I looked up, to find Miss Maybourne standing at the cav_outh watching me. Directly she saw me approaching, she waved her hand t_ncourage me, and that little gesture set my heart beating like a wheat-flail.
It was the first dawning of a knowledge that was soon to give me the greates_ain I had ever yet known in my life.
On reaching the plateau, I hastened towards her and placed my spoils at he_eet.
"Fortune is indeed kind to us," I said. "See what splendid limpets _I_ hav_btained from the rocks down yonder. I was beginning to be afraid lest ther_hould be nothing edible on the island."
"But how are we to cook them?" she answered, with a little shudder, for I mus_onfess the things did not look appetising. "I could not eat them raw."
"I have no intention that you shall," I cried, reassuringly. "I am going t_ight a fire and cook them for you."
"But how can you light a fire? Have you any matches dry enough?"
I took from my waistcoat pocket a little Japanese match-box, the lid of whic_losed with a strong spring, and opened it in some trepidation. So muc_epended on the discovery I was about to make. With a trembling hand I presse_ack the lid, and tipped the contents into my palm. Fortunately, the strengt_f the spring and the tight fit of the cover rendered the box almost water- tight, and for this reason the dozen or so matches it contained were only _ittle damp. In their present state, however, they were quite useless.
"I think," I said, turning them over and examining them closely, "that if _lace them in a dry spot they will soon be fit for use."
"Let me do it for you," she said, holding out her hand. "You have don_verything so far. Why should I not be allowed to help you?"
"I shall be only too glad to let you," I answered. "I want to cut the fish ou_f their shells and prepare them for the fire."
So saying, I handed over the precious matches to her care; and then, taking m_lasp knife from my pocket, set about my work. When it was finished, and I ha_repared an ample meal for three people, I placed it in a safe place in th_ave, and then set about collecting a supply of fuel for the fire.
When this work was done I determined to climb to a point of vantage and searc_he offing for a sail. Just as I was starting, however, Miss Maybourne calle_o me to know where I was going. I informed her of my errand, and sh_mmediately asked permission to accompany me. I told her that I should be ver_lad of her company, and when she had looked into the cave at the littl_hild, who was still fast asleep, we set off together.
From the encampment we climbed the hillside for a hundred feet or so, an_hen, reaching another small plateau, turned our attention to the sea. Side b_ide we looked across the expanse of blue water for the sail that was to brin_eliverance to us. But no sign of any vessel could be seen—only a flock o_eagulls screeching round the rocks below us, and another wheeling roundabou_n the blue sky above our heads.
"Nothing there," I said bitterly. "Not a single sail of any kind."
A fit of anger, as sudden as the squall that ruffles the surface of a mountai_ake, rose in my breast against Fate. I shook my fist fiercely at the plane o_ater softly heaving in the sunlight, and but for my companion's presenc_ould have cursed our fate aloud. I suppose Miss Maybourne must hav_nderstood, for she came a little closer to me and laid her hand soothingl_pon my arm.
"Mr. Wrexford," she said, "surely you who have hitherto been so brave are no_oing to give way now, just because we cannot see a ship the first time w_ook for one. No! No! I know you too well, and I cannot believe that."
"You shame me, Miss Maybourne," I replied, recovering myself directly. "Upo_y word, you do. I don't know what made me give way like that. I am worse tha_ baby."
"I won't have you call yourself names either. It was because you are tired an_ little run down," she answered. "You have done too much. Oh, Mr. Wrexford, _ant you to grant me a favour. I want you to kneel with me while I thank Go_or His great mercy in sparing our lives. We owe everything to Him. Withou_is help where should we be now?"
"I will kneel with you with pleasure," I said, "if you wish it, but I am no_orthy. I have been too great a sinner for God to listen to me."
"Hush! I cannot let you say that," she went on. "Whatever your past may hav_een, God will hear you and forgive you if you pray aright. Remember, too, that in my eyes you have atoned for all your past by your care of us las_ight. Come, let us kneel down here."
So saying, she dropped on to her knees on that little plateau, and without _econd's hesitation I followed her example. It must have been a strange sigh_or the gulls, that lovely girl and myself kneeling, side by side, on tha_indy hillside. Overhead rose the rugged peak of the mountain, below us wa_he surf-bound beach, and on all sides the treacherous sea from which we ha_o lately been delivered. What were the exact words of the prayer Mis_aybourne sent up to the Throne of Grace I cannot now remember; I only know i_eemed to me the most beautiful expression of thankfulness for the past, an_upplication for guidance and help in the future that it would be possible fo_ human being to give utterance to. When she had finished we rose, and havin_iven a final glance round, went down the hill again. On reaching our camping- place she went to the cave to ascertain how little Esther was, while I sough_he spot where she had set the matches to dry. To my delight they were no_eady for use. So placing them back in my box as if they were the greates_reasures I possessed on earth—as they really were just then—I went across t_he fire I had built up. Then striking one of the matches upon a stone I li_he grass beneath the sticks, and in less time than it takes to tell had th_atisfaction of seeing a fine bonfire blazing before me. This done, I crosse_o the cave to obtain the fish I had placed there.
On entering, I discovered Miss Maybourne kneeling beside the child.
"How is she now?" I enquired, surprised at discovering the poor little mit_till asleep upon the bed of grass.
"She is unconscious again," answered Miss Maybourne, large tears standing i_er beautiful eyes as she spoke. "Oh, Mr. Wrexford, what can we do to save he_ife?"
"Alas! I cannot tell," I replied. "Shall we give her some more brandy? I hav_till a little left in the flask."
"We might try it," she said. "But I fear it will not be much use. What th_oor little thing needs most is a doctor's science and proper nursing. Oh! i_ only knew what is really the matter, I might be able to do something fo_er. But, as it is, I feel powerless to help her at all."
"At any rate, let us try the effect of a few sips of this," I said, as I too_he flask from my pocket. "Even if it does no good, it cannot possibly do an_arm."
I knelt beside her, and having opened the little child's mouth, poured into i_ few drops of the precious spirit. We then set to work and chafed her hand_s briskly as possible, and in a few minutes were rewarded by seeing the mit_pen her eyes and look about her.
"Thank God," said Miss Maybourne, devoutly. "Oh, Esther darling, do you kno_e? Do you remember Aggie?"
To show that she understood what was said to her, the little one extended he_and and placed it in that of her friend. The action was so full of trust an_onfidence that it brought the tears to my eyes.
"How do you feel now, darling?" asked her friend, as she lifted the littl_ufferer into a more comfortable position.
"A pain here," faltered Esther, placing her hand on the side of her head. The_ooking round the cave as if in search of someone, she said, "Miss Maybourne, where is mother?"
At this point my pluck forsook me altogether, and seizing the fish for which _ad come, I dashed from the cave without waiting to hear what answer the brav_irl would give her. When she joined me, ten minutes later, large tears wer_unning down her cheeks. She made no attempt to hide them from me, but cam_cross to where I knelt by the fire, and said, in a choking voice:
"I have been preparing that poor child for the sad news she must soon hear, and I cannot tell you how miserable it has made me. Do you really think i_our own heart that we are the only people who escaped from that ill-fate_essel? Isn't it just possible that some other boat may have been lowered, an_hat the child's mother may be among those who got away in her? Tell m_xactly what you think, without hiding anything from me, I implore you."
"Of course it may be _just_ possible, as you say, that a boat _did_ ge_way; but I must confess that I think it is most, unlikely. Had such a thin_ccurred, we should have been almost certain to have seen her, and in tha_ase we should have been able to attract her attention, and she would hav_icked us up. No, Miss Maybourne. I wish I could comfort you with such a_ssurance; but I fear it would be cruel to buoy you up with any false hopes, only to have them more cruelly shattered later on. I'm afraid we must accusto_urselves to the awful thought that the _Fiji Princess_ and all her company, with the exception of ourselves, have met a watery grave. Why I should hav_een saved when so many worthier people perished I cannot imagine."
"To save us, Mr. Wrexford," she answered. "Think what you are saying, an_emember that but for you we should not be here now."
"I thank God, then, for the opportunity He gave me," I answered; and what _aid I meant from the very bottom of my heart.
Whatever she may have thought of my speech, she vouchsafed no reply to it; bu_n looking up a moment later, I discovered that her face was suffused with _eautiful blush that was more eloquent than any words. After that I turned m_ttention to the meal which I was preparing, and gave her time to recove_erself a little.
Having no pot in which to cook the fish, I had to use the largest of th_hells I had discovered. These did not prove altogether a good substitute, bu_s they were all I had got, I had to make the best of them or go without.
When the mussels were sufficiently done, I lifted them off the fire an_nvited my companion to taste the dish. She did so, and the grimace whic_ollowed told me that she was not overpleased at the result. I followed he_xample, and felt obliged to confess that they made but poor fare to suppor_ife upon.
"If we cannot get something better, I don't know what we shall do," she cried.
"These things are too horrible."
"Perhaps I may be able to hit upon a way of catching some fish," I said; "o_t is just possible I may be able to get a trap and catch some birds. There i_o knowing what I may not be able to do with a little practice. In th_eantime, you must endeavour to swallow as much of this mess as possible, an_ry to get the little one in the cave there to do the same."
Putting some of the fish into another shell, _I_ gave it to her, and sh_arried it off to her sick friend. After I had scraped and washed i_arefully, I filled a larger shell with pure water from the pool and gave i_o them to drink. When they had finished their meal—and it was not much tha_hey ate—I called Miss Maybourne outside and informed her that I was going t_uild up a large fire, after which I should set off on a tramp round th_sland to see if I could discover anything better to eat. While I was away, _dvised her to dry her own and the child's things by the blaze, for though w_ad been some time under the influence of the hot sun, still our garment_ould not be said to be anything like dry. She promised to do as I wished, an_hen I had piled what remained of my heap of fuel upon the fire I made my wa_own to the shore, and then set off for a tramp round the island.
My first call was at the group of rocks from which I had gathered th_hellfish of which my companion had so strongly disapproved. I wanted to se_f I could discover a place where it would be possible for me to construc_ome sort of a trap for fish. But though I searched diligently, nothin_uitable could I find. At last I had to give it up in despair, and set m_rain to work on another plan for stocking my larder. That fish were plentifu_ could see by looking over the edges of the rocks, but how I was to captur_hem was by no means so plain. I think at that moment I would have given _ear of my life for the worst hook and line I had used as a boy among th_ticklebacks of Polton Penna.
Leaving the rocks behind me, I turned the point and made for the brow of a lo_ill that overlooked the sea on the further side. I had noticed that the se_irds gathered here in greater numbers than elsewhere, and when I reached th_liff, to my surprise and delight, I found the ground literally covered wit_ests. Indeed, it was a matter of some difficulty to move without treadin_pon the eggs. My delight can scarcely be overestimated, for here was a ne_ood supply, and one that, while it would be unlikely to give out for som_eeks to come, would be infinitely preferable to the wretched limpets upo_hich we had almost made up our minds we should have to subsist. I hastened t_ill my handkerchief and pockets with the spoil, and when I could stuff in n_ore, continued my walk in a much easier, and consequently more thankful, frame of mind.
As I tramped along, glancing ever and anon at the sea, the sordid details o_y past life rose before me. When I considered it, I felt almost staggered b_he change that had come over me. It seemed scarcely possible that so short _ime could have passed since I had plotted against Bartrand and had been s_iserable in London. In my present state of usefulness, I felt as if centurie_ad elapsed since then, instead of barely a couple of weeks, as was really th_ase. I wondered what would be said in England when the news got into th_apers, as I supposed it inevitably must, that I had found a watery grave i_he ill-fated _Fiji Princess._ Would there be anyone to regret me? I ver_uch doubted it. One hope occurred to me. Perhaps, under cover of th_upposition that I was dead, I might manage to outwit the law after all, an_hen an opportunity would be afforded me of beginning a new life in a strang_and—the land that was the home of Agnes Maybourne.
From _a_ consideration of this important chance I fell to thinking of th_irl herself. Could it have been for the reason that I was ultimately to sav_er life that Fate had raised her face before my eyes to warn me tha_iserable night in London? It looked very much like it. If, however, that wa_he beginning, what was the sequel to be? for surely it could not be intende_hat Fate, having brought me so far, should suddenly abandon me at the end.
"Oh! if I were only clean handed like my fellow-men," I cried, in miserabl_elf-abasement, "how happy might I not be!" For I must mention here that in m_wn mind I had quite come to the conclusion that Agnes Maybourne entertained _iking for me. And, God knows, I on my side had discovered that I loved he_etter than my own soul. What was to be the end of it all? That the futur_lone could decide.
The other side of the island—that is to say, the side exactly opposite tha_pon which we had landed—was almost precipitous, and at the foot of th_liffs, extending for some distance out into the sea, were a number of smal_slets, upon which the seas broke with never-easing violence. I searched tha_ffing, as I had done the other, for a sail, but was no better rewarded. A_oon as I had made certain that there was nothing in sight, I turned upon m_racks and hastened back to the plateau as fast as I could go. For some reaso_r another, I experienced a great dread lest by any chance something ill migh_ave befallen my charges. But when I reached the beach below the plateau an_ooked up, to see the fire still burning brightly and Miss Maybourne movin_bout between it and the cave, I was reassured.
The tide by this time had gone out, and the lifeboat lay high and dry upon th_each. Before rejoining my companions I made my way towards her.
To roll her over into her proper position was only a matter of smal_ifficulty now that the water was out of her, and once this was accomplished _as able to satisfy myself as to her condition. As far as I could gather, there was nothing amiss with her, even her oars lay fastened to the thwarts a_sual. How she could have got into the water was a mystery I could not solv_or the life of me. I examined her most carefully, and having done so, foun_ome pieces of wood to act as rollers, and dragged her up the beach till I ha_ot her well above high water mark. After that I picked up my parcel of egg_nd climbed the hill to the plateau. It was now well on into the afternoon, and I had still much to do before nightfall.'
When I showed Miss Maybourne the eggs I had found, she expressed her grea_atisfaction, and we immediately cooked a couple to be ready against th_ittle sufferer's waking.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in carrying drift wood from the beach t_he plateau; for I had determined to keep a good flare burning all night, i_ase any ships might happen to pass, and think it worth their while to stan_ff and on till daylight should show them the reason of it. When I had stacke_t ready to my hand there was yet another supply of grass to be cut, wit_hich to improve the bed-places in the cave. Then my own couch had to b_repared somewhere within call. After which there was the evening meal t_ook. By the time this was done, darkness had fallen, and our first night o_he island had commenced.
When I bade Miss Maybourne "good night" she was kind enough to express he_hanks a second time for the trouble I had taken. As if the better to giv_oint to her gratitude, she held out her hand to me. I took it and raised i_o my lips. She did not attempt to stop me, and then, with another "goo_ight," she passed into the cave, and I was left alone.
For hours I sat watching my blaze and listening to the rumbling of the sur_pon the shore. The night was as still as a night could well be. Not even _reath of wind was stirring. When I laid myself down in my corner between th_ocks near the cave's mouth, and fell asleep, it was to dream of Agne_aybourne and the happiness that might have been mine but for the one drea_hing which had made it quite impossible.