HotFreeBooks.com
The Island Queen
by R.M. Ballantyne
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

But weeks and months passed away, and the flag continued to fly without attracting the attention of any one more important, or more powerful to deliver them, than the albatross and the wild sea-mew.

During this period the ingenuity and inventive powers of the party were taxed severely, for, being utterly destitute of tools of any kind, with the exception of the gully-knives before mentioned, they found it extremely difficult to fashion any sort of implement.

"If we had only an axe or a saw," said Otto one morning, with a groan of despair, "what a difference it would make."

"Isn't there a proverb," said Pauline, who at the time was busy making cordage while Otto was breaking sticks for the fire, "which says that we never know our mercies till we lose them?"

"Perhaps there is," said Otto, "and if there isn't, I don't care. I don't like proverbs, they always tell you in an owlishly wise sort o' way what you know only too well, at a time when you'd rather not know it if possible. Now, if we only had an axe—ever so small—I would be able to fell trees and cut 'em up into big logs, instead of spending hours every day searching for dead branches and breaking them across my knee. It's not a pleasant branch of our business, I can tell you."

"But you have the variety of hunting," said his sister, "and that, you know, is an agreeable as well as useful branch."

"Humph! It's not so agreeable as I used to think it would be, when one has to run after creatures that run faster than one's-self, and one is obliged to use wooden spears, and slings, instead of guns. By the way, what a surprising, I may say awful, effect a well-slung stone has on the side of a little pig! I came upon a herd yesterday in the cane-brake, and, before they could get away, I slung a big stone at them, which caught the smallest of the squeakers fair in the side. The sudden squeal that followed the slap was so intense, that I thought the life had gone out of the creature in one agonising gush; but it hadn't, so I slung another stone, which took it in the head and dropt it."

"Poor thing! I wonder how you can be so cruel."

"Cruel!" exclaimed Otto, "I don't do it for pleasure, do I? Pigs and other things have got to be killed if we are to live."

"Well, I suppose so," returned Pauline, with a sigh; "at all events it would never do to roast and eat them alive. But, about the axe. Is there no iron-work in the wreck that might be fashioned into one?"

"Oh yes, sister dear," returned Otto, with a short laugh, "there's plenty of iron-work. Some crowbars and ringbolts, and an anchor or two; but do you suppose that I can slice off a bit of an anchor in the shape of an axe as you slice a loaf?"

"Well no, not exactly, but I thought there might be some small flat pieces that could be made to do."

"What is your difficulty," asked Dominick, returning from a hunting expedition at that moment, and flinging down three brace of fowls on the floor of the golden cave.

When the difficulty was stated, he remarked that he had often pondered the matter while lying awake at night, and when wandering in the woods; and he had come to the conclusion that they must return to what was termed the stone period of history, and make their axes of flint.

Otto shook his head, and thought Pina's idea of searching the wreck till they found a piece of flat metal was a more hopeful scheme.

"What do you say to trying both plans?" cried Pauline, with sudden animation. "Come, as you have voluntarily elected me queen of this realm, I command you, Sir Dominick, to make a flint axe without delay, and you, Sir Otto, to make an iron one without loss of time."

"Your majesty shall be obeyed," replied her obedient subjects, and to work they went accordingly, the very next morning.

Dominick searched far and near for a flint large enough for his purpose. He found several, and tried to split them by laying them on a flat stone, upheaving another stone as large as he could lift, and hurling it down on them with all his might. Sometimes the flint would fly from under the stone without being broken, sometimes it would be crushed to fragments, and at other times would split in a manner that rendered it quite unsuitable. At last, however, by patient perseverance, he succeeded in splitting one so that an edge of it was thin and sharp, while the other end was thick and blunt.

Delighted with this success, he immediately cut with his knife, a branch of one of the hardest trees he could find, and formed it into an axe-handle. Some of Pauline's cord he tied round the middle of this, and then split it at one end, using his flint for the purpose, and a stone for a hammer. The split extended only as far as the cord, and he forced it open by means of little stones as wedges until it was wide enough to admit the thick end of his flint axe-head. Using a piece of soft stone as a pencil, he now marked the form of the flint, where it touched the wood, exactly, and worked at this with his knife, as patiently as a Chinaman, for several hours, until the wood fitted the irregularities and indentations of the flint to a nicety. This of itself caused the wood to hold the flint-head very firmly. Then the wedges were removed, and when the handle was bound all round the split part with cord, and the flint-head enveloped in the same, the whole thing became like a solid mass.

Gingerly and anxiously did Dominick apply it to a tree. To his joy his axe caused the chips to fly in all directions. He soon stopped, however, for fear of breaking it, and set off in triumph to the golden cave.

Meanwhile Otto, launching the raft, went on board the wreck to search for a suitable bit of iron. As he had said, there was plenty on board, but none of the size or shape that he required, and he was about to quit in despair when he observed the flat iron plates, about five inches square and quarter of an inch thick, with a large hole in the centre of each, which formed the sockets that held the davits for suspending the ship's boats. A crowbar enabled him, after much trouble, to wrench off one of these. A handspike was, after some hours' labour, converted into a handle with one side cut flat. Laying the plate on this, he marked its exact size, and then cut away the wood until the iron sank its own thickness into it. There were plenty of nails in the wreck; with these he nailed the iron, through its own nail-holes, to the hard handspike, and, still further to secure it, he covered it with a little piece of flat wood, which he bound firmly on with some cordage made by his sister from cocoa-nut fibre. As the iron projected on both sides of the handle, it thus formed a double-edged axe of the most formidable appearance. Of course the edges required grinding down, but this was a mere matter of detail, to be accomplished by prolonged and patient rubbing on a stone!

Otto arrived triumphantly at the golden cave almost at the same moment with his brother, and they both laid their axes at the feet of the queen.

"Thanks, my trusty vassals," she said; "I knew you would both succeed, and had prepared a royal feast against your return."

"To which I have brought a royal appetite, your majesty," said Otto.

"In truth so have I," added Dominick.

There was a good deal of jesting in all this; nevertheless the trio sat down to supper that night highly pleased with themselves. While eating, they discussed, with much animation, the merits of the axes, and experienced no little difficulty in deciding which was the better tool. At last Pauline settled the matter by declaring that the iron axe, being the strongest, was, perhaps, the best; but as it was not yet sharpened, while Dominick's was ready for immediate use, the flint axe was in present circumstances better.

"So then, being equal," said Otto, "and having had a splendid supper, we will retire to rest."

Thus, in devising means for increasing their comforts, and supplying their daily necessities, the days and weeks flew swiftly by.



CHAPTER FIVE.

STIRRING EVENTS AND CHANGES.

An event was now pending over the castaway family which was destined to darken their bright sky, and interrupt them in the even tenor of their way.

Up to this time the interest, not to say delight, with which they went about their daily avocations, the fineness of the weather, and the romance of their situation, had prevented their minds from dwelling much on the flight of time, and if Pauline had not remembered the Sundays by conscientiously keeping a daily record with a pencil on a piece of bark, not one of them would have believed it possible that two months had elapsed since they were cast ashore.

The sanguine hope, too, which filled the breast of each, that a vessel would certainly pass by sooner or later and take them off, prevented their being disturbed by gloomy anticipations of a long exile, and it is probable that they would have gone on pleasantly for a much longer time, improving the golden cave, and exploring the reef, and developing the resources of what Otto styled the Queendom, without much caring about the future, had not the event above referred to come upon them with the sudden violence of a thunder-clap, terminating their peaceful life in a way they had never anticipated, and leading to changes which the wildest imagination could hardly have conceived.

That event was, indeed, the arrival of a ship, but it did not arrive in the manner that had been expected. It came in the dead of a dark night, when the elements seemed to have declared fierce war against each other, for it was difficult to say whether the roaring of the sea, the crashing of the thunder, or the flashing of the forked lightning was most tremendous.

A previous storm or two, of a mild type, having warned our trio that Paradise had not been quite regained, even in that lovely region, they had fitted something like a front, formed of wreckage, to the golden cave, and this had, up to that time, formed a sufficient protection against slight inclemencies of weather; but on this particular night the gusts of wind were so violent, and shook the front of their dwelling so much, that both Dominick and his brother found it impossible to sleep. Their sister, however, lay undisturbed, because she reposed in an inner chamber, which had been screened off with broken planks, and these not only checked draughts, but deadened sounds.

"I'm afraid our wall will come down," said Dominick, raising himself at last on one elbow, and gazing at the wooden erection uneasily.

"Oh, let it come!" growled Otto, who had been so frequently checked while dropping into slumber that night that he was getting quite cross.

Not feeling quite so regardless of consequences, his brother Dominick arose and endeavoured to prop the weak part of the structure with an additional piece of timber.

He had accomplished his object, and was about to lie down again to rest, when a terrible cry was heard, which rose above the roaring of the storm. There seemed something so appalling in it, and at the same time so unaccountable in that solitary spot, that Dominick's heart almost stood still for a moment with superstitious fear. Otto also heard the cry, and sat bolt upright, while drowsiness was effectually banished from his brain.

"Dom, did you hear that?" he asked in a solemn voice. "I should think I did," replied his brother in a low tone. The cave being very dark, neither could see the other distinctly. They sat silent for a few moments, anxiously listening for a repetition of the cry.

"Move quietly, Otto," said Dominick, as he crept towards their little door, "it evidently has not awaked Pina, and we may as well let her lie still till we find out what it is."

"You're not going out, Dom?" asked Otto, in anxiety.

"Yes, why not?"

"Be—because—it—it may be—be—something—awful!"

"It must be something awful, and that is just why I am going out. Come, you didn't use to be a coward."

This was touching the boy on a tender point. He was indeed by no means a coward when the danger he had to face was comprehensible and obvious, but when the danger happened to be incomprehensible, as well as invisible, his courage was not quite as high as might have been desired. The taunt of his brother stirred up his pride however. He rose and followed him in silence, with stern resolve and a quaking heart!

On issuing from their shelter the brothers had to lean heavily against the blast to prevent their being swept away. Seeking the shelter of a bush, they gazed around them, but saw nothing save a dim appearance of bending trees and scudding foam.

"The cry may have come from the beach; let's go down," said Dominick, leaving the shelter of the bush, and pushing forward.

"Better go back," was on Otto's lips, but he repressed the words and followed.

There was not light enough to enable them to see objects on land, but whatever chanced to be pictured against the dark sky became distinctly visible as a dark object. The old familiar wreck was therefore seen the moment they cleared the bushes that fringed the bay, but close to it was another object which was very unfamiliar indeed to their eyes. It accounted for the cry and caused a gush of mingled feelings in the breasts of the brothers.

Let us now, good reader, wing our flight out to sea, and backwards a little in time. On that stormy night of which we treat, a large emigrant ship was scudding before the gale almost under bare poles. Part of her sails and rigging had been carried away; the rest of her was more or less damaged. The officers, having had no reliable observation for several days, were not sure of their exact position on the great ocean, and the captain, being well aware of the danger of those seas, was filled with anxiety. To add to his troubles, the crew had become slightly mutinous, and some of the emigrants—of whom there were upwards of three hundred on board—sided with the crew. It was even whispered that the chief mate was at the bottom of a plot to murder the captain and seize the ship. For what purpose, of course, no one could tell, and, indeed, there was no apparent ground for the rumour, beyond the fact that the mate—Malines by name—was a surly, taciturn man, with a scowling, though handsome, visage, and a powerful frame.

But whatever of truth might have been in these rumours was never brought to light, for an accident occurred during the gale which put the commander of the vessel beyond the power of earthly foes. One of the larger ropes of the vessel snapt, and the heavy block attached to it swung against the captain with such violence as to kill him on the spot. The momentary confusion which followed the disaster distracted the attention of the steersman, and a heavy sea was shipped, by which the captain's body was swept overboard. No attempt was made to lower a boat or check the ship. Even the unskilled emigrants understood that no boat could live in such a sea, and that rescue was impossible. The vessel held on her wild course as if nothing had happened.

Malines, being now in command, issued an order that all the emigrants should go below, and the hatches be secured.

The women and children and most of the men were already in their uncomfortable quarters below hatches, but a group of hardy-looking fellows, who held on to ropes and stanchions near the windlass, refused to move. Among them was a remarkably powerful woman, whose tongue afforded presumptive evidence that she had been born in the Emerald Isle.

"We'll stop where we be, master," said one of the emigrants, with a quiet but resolute air.

"That's right, Joe, stick up. We ain't slaves," said another.

To this last speaker Malines turned fiercely and knocked him down; then, seizing him by the collar and dragging him to the hatchway, he thrust him below. It may be remarked that the man thus roughly treated— Redding by name—was a little man. Bullies usually select little men when inclined to display their courage.

"Shame on yez," exclaimed the Irish woman, clenching her huge fist. "If it wasn't that I'm a poor widdy woman, I'd—I'd—"

"Howld yer tongue, Mother Lynch," whispered a lively youth of about nineteen by her side, who obviously hailed from the same country. "It's not aggravatin' him that'll do him good. Let him be, darlin', and he'll soon blow the steam off."

"An' what does it matter to me, Teddy Malone, whether he blows the steam off, or keeps it down till he bursts his biler? Is it a descendant o' the royal family o' Munster as'll howld her tongue whin she sees cruelty and injustice?"

Without paying the slightest regard to this royal personage, Malines returned to the group of men, and repeated his order to go below; but they did not go, and he seized a handspike with a view to enforce his commands. He hesitated, however, on observing that the man named Joe, after quietly buttoning his coat, was turning up his wristbands as if in preparation for a pugilistic encounter.

"Lookee here now, Mister Malines," said Joe, with a mild, even kindly, expression, which was the very reverse of belligerent; "I was allers a law-abidin' man myself, and don't have no love for fightin'; but when I'm ordered to go into a dark hole, and have the lid shut down on me an' locked, I feels a sort of objection, d'ee see. If you lets us be, us'll let you be. If otherwise—"

Joe stopped abruptly, grinned, and clenched his enormous fists.

Mr Malines was one of those wise men who know when they have met their match. His knockings down and overbearing ways always stopped short at that line where he met courage and strength equal or superior to his own. He possessed about the average of bull-dog courage and more than the average of physical strength, but observing that Joe was gifted with still more of both these qualities, he lowered the handspike, and with a sneer replied—

"Oh, well—please yourselves. It matters nothing to me if you get washed overboard. Make all fast, lads," he added, turning to his crew, who stood prepared for what one of them styled a scrimmage. Malines returned to the quarter-deck, followed by a half-suppressed laugh from some of the mutinous emigrants.

"You see, David," remarked Joe, in a quiet tone, to a man beside him, as he turned down his cuffs, "I think, from the look of him, that if we was to strike on rocks, or run on shore, or take to sinking, or anything o' that sort, the mate is mean enough to look arter hisself and leave the poor things below to be choked in a hole. So you an' me must keep on deck, so as to let 'em all out if need be."

"Right, Joe, right you are."

The man who thus replied bore such a strong resemblance to Joe in grave kindliness of expression and colossal size of frame, that even a stranger could not fail to recognise them as brothers, and such they were—in truth they were twins, having first seen the light together just thirty years before. There was this difference in the character of the brothers, however, that Joe Binney was the more intellectual and resolute of the two. David Binney, recognising this fact, and loving his brother with all the fervour of a strong nature, was in the habit of looking up to him for advice, and submitting to him as if he had been an elder brother. Nevertheless, David was not without a mind of his own, and sometimes differed in opinion with Joe. He even occasionally disputed, but never with the slightest tinge of ill-feeling.

While the brothers were conversing in an undertone on the dangers of the sea, and the disagreeables of a fore-cabin, the mass of unfortunates below were cowering in their berths, rendered almost forgetful of the stifling atmosphere, and the wailing of sick children, by the fear of shipwreck, as they listened with throbbing hearts to the howling wind and rattling cordage overhead, and felt the tremendous shocks when the good ship was buffeted by the sea.

Near to Joe Binney stood one of the sailors on outlook. He was a dark-complexioned, savage-looking man, who had done more than any one else to foment the bad feeling that had existed between the captain and his men.

"Ye look somethin' skeared, Hugh Morris," said Joe, observing that the look-out was gazing over the bow with an expression of alarm.

"Breakers ahead!" roared the man at that moment—"port!—hard-a-port!"

The order was sharply repeated, and promptly obeyed, and the vessel came round in time to escape destruction on a ledge of rocks, over which the water was foaming furiously.

Instantly Malines went forward and began to give hurried directions to the steersman. The danger was avoided, though the escape was narrow, and the low rocks were seen passing astern, while the sea ahead seemed to be free from obstruction, as far, at least, as the profound darkness permitted them to see.

"They'll be all drowned like rats in a hole if we strike," muttered the sailor, Hugh Morris, as if speaking to himself.

"Not if I can help it," said Joe Binney, who overheard the remark.

As he spoke he went to the little companion hatch, or door to the fore-cabin, and tried to open it, but could not.

"Here, David," he cried, "lend a hand."

Applying their united strength—with some assistance from Teddy Malone, and earnest encouragement from Mrs Lynch—they succeeded in bursting open the hatch.

"Hallo! there," shouted Joe, in a voice that would have been creditable to a boatswain, "come on deck if ye don't want to be drownded."

"Hooroo!" added Malone, "we're goin' to the bottom! Look alive wid ye."

"Ay, an' bring up the childers," yelled Mrs Lynch. "Don't lave wan o' thim below."

Of course, the poor emigrants were not slow to obey these startling orders.

The state of affairs was so serious that Malines either did not see, or did not care for, what was going on. He stood on the forecastle looking out intently ahead.

"Land on the starboard beam!" shouted Morris suddenly.

The mate was on the point of giving an order to the steersman when he observed land looming on the port bow. Instantly he saw that all hope was over. They were steering to inevitable destruction between two ledges of rock! What he would have done in the circumstances no one can tell, because before he had time to act the vessel struck with great violence, and the terror-stricken passengers gave vent to that appalling cry of fear which had so suddenly aroused Dominick Rigonda and his brother.

As the vessel remained hard and fast, with her bow thrust high on the rocks, the emigrants and crew found a partial refuge from the violence of the waves on the forecastle. Hence the first wild shriek of fear was not repeated. In a few minutes, however, a wave of greater size than usual came rushing towards the vessel. Fortunately, most of the emigrants failed to realise the danger, but the seamen were fully alive to it.

"It's all over with us," exclaimed the mate, in a sort of reckless despair. But he was wrong. The great billow, which he expected would dash the vessel in pieces—and which, in nine cases out of ten, would have done so—lifted the wreck so high as to carry it almost completely over the ledge, on which it had struck, leaving the stern high on the rocks, while the bow was plunged into the partly-protected water on the other side.

The sudden descent of the forecastle induced the belief an many of the emigrants' minds that they were about to go headlong to the bottom, and another cry of terror arose; but when they found that their place of refuge sank no further than to a level with the water, most of them took heart again, and began to scramble up to the quarter-deck as hastily as they had before scrambled to the forecastle.

"Something like land ahead," observed Hugh Morris, who stood close to the mate.

"I don't see it," returned the latter, gruffly, for he was jealous of the influence that Morris had over the crew, and, during the whole voyage, had treated him harshly.

"It may be there, although you don't see it," retorted Hugh, with a feeling of scorn, which he made no attempt to conceal.

"Sure I sees somethin' movin' on the wather," exclaimed Mrs Lynch, who, during the occurrences just described, had held on to a belaying pin with the tenacity and strength of an octopus.

"It's the wather movin' in yer own eyes, mother," said Malone, who stood beside his Amazonian countrywoman.

At that moment a halloo was heard faintly in the distance, and, soon after, a raft was seen approaching, guided, apparently, by two men.

"Raft a-hoy! Where d'ee hail from?" shouted the mate.

"From nowhere!" came back promptly in a boy's ringing voice.

"You've got on a coral reef," shouted a powerful voice, which, we need scarcely say, was that of Dominick Rigonda, "but you're safe enough now. The last wave has shoved you over into sheltered water. You're in luck. We'll soon put you on shore."

"An island, I suppose," said Malines, as the raft came alongside. "What may be its name?"

"Got no name that I know of; as far as I know it's uninhabited, and, probably, unknown. Only three of us here—wrecked like yourselves. If you have boats, lower them, and I'll pilot you to land."

"Ohone!" groaned Mrs Lynch, in solemn despair, as she tried to see the speaker, whom darkness rendered almost invisible. "An unbeknown island, uninhabited by nobody. Boys, we are done for intirely. Didn't I say this would be the end of it, when we made up our minds to go to say?"

No one seemed inclined just then to dispute the prophetic reminiscences of the widow, for the order had been given to get ready one of the boats. Turning to the emigrants, who were now clustering on the fore part of the vessel, Malines, condescending to adopt a more respectful tone, addressed them as follows:—

"Now, let me tell you, one and all, that your voyage has come to an end sooner than I expected. Our ship is wrecked, but we're out of danger, and must go ashore an' live as best we can, or die if we can't live. Where we are, I don't know, and don't care, for it don't much matter. It's an island, it seems, and three people who have been wrecked before us are all its population. As it is too dark to go ashore comfortably to-night, I would advise you to go below again, an' turn in till daylight. You may make your minds easy, for there's no fear of our going to the bottom now."

"Sure, an' you're right there," murmured Teddy Malone, "for aren't we at the bottom already?"

"You may all do as you please, however," continued the mate, after a low-toned remark from one of the crew, "for my command has come to an end with the loss of the ship."

When the mate ceased speaking, there was a brief pause, for the unfortunate emigrants had been so long accustomed to conform to the strict discipline of the ship that they felt like sheep suddenly deprived of a shepherd, or soldiers bereft of their officers when thus left to think for themselves. Then the self-sufficient and officious among them began to give advice, and to dispute noisily as to what they should do, so that in a few minutes their voices, mingling with the gale and the cries of terrified children, caused such a din that the strong spirit of the widow Lynch was stirred within her, inducing her to raise her masculine voice in a shout that silenced nearly all the rest.

"That's right, mother," cried young Malone, "howld yer tongues, boys, and let's hear what the widdy has to say. Isn't it herself has got the great mind—not to mintion the body?"

"Shut your murphy-trap, Teddy," retorted the widow, "an' here's what I've got to say. We must have only wan man to guide us if we are to get on at all. Too many cooks, ye knows well enough, is sure to spile the broth. Let Joe Binney speak, and the rest of 'ee howld yer tongues, if ye can."

Thus invited, modest Joe gave it as his opinion that the emigrants could not do better than follow the advice of Muster Malines—go below, turn in, and wait till daylight. He added further that he would count it a favour if Muster Malines would continue in command of the party, at least till they all got ashore.

This little compliment to the man whom he had so recently defied had a softening influence on the mate, and the proposal was well received by the people, who, even during the few minutes of anarchy which had prevailed, were led to appreciate the value of order and government.

"You are right, Binney," said the mate. "I would advise you all, good people, to go below and rest as well as you can, while I, and those who choose to act under me, will go ashore and make the best possible arrangements for your landing in the morning."

"Now, why don't ye do what ye'er towld at wanst?" cried Mrs Lynch, who had evidently made up her mind that the reins of government were not to be entirely given up to the mate. "It's not wishin', are ye, to get wetter than ye are, a'ready? Go below, ivery wan of ye."

Like a meek flock, the women and children obeyed the mandate, being absolutely in bodily fear of the woman, while most of the men followed them with a laugh, or a little chaff, according to temperament.

Before the latter had left the deck, Malines suggested that Joe Binney and his brother David should accompany him on shore that night, to represent the emigrants, as it were, and assist him in the proposed arrangements.

"Besides," he added, "there is just the possibility that we may fall into a trap. We know nothing about the man who has come off to us except his voice, so that it will be wise to land with some of our best men armed."

Of course the brothers had no objection to this plan, and accordingly they, with the mate and four of the ship's crew—all armed with cutlasses and pistols—got into one of the boats and were lowered into the water on the lee side of the vessel, where Dominick and Otto had been quietly awaiting the end of the foregoing discussions.

In a few minutes they reached the shore, and then Dominick shook hands with them, and welcomed them to the islands, "which," he said, "we have named 'Refuge Islands.'"

"Run up to the cave, Otto," he whispered, while the party was engaged in drawing up the boat. "Stir up the fire and rouse Pina,—tell her to prepare to receive company."

"She'll be as much puzzled as if I told her to prepare to receive cavalry," muttered the boy as he ran up to the cave.

"Hallo! Pina! rouse up, old girl," he shouted, bursting into the cave, and falling on his knees before the embers of the fire, which he soon blew up into a flame. "I say, Pina! hallo! Pina! Pi-i-i-i-na!"

"Dear me, Otto, what is wrong?" asked the sleepy voice of Pauline from behind her screen.

"Wrong?" cried her brother, "nothing's wrong—that is, everything's wrong; but don't be afraid, old girl, all's right. Dress as fast as you can, and prepare for company!"

"What do you mean?" cried the girl, by that time thoroughly aroused, and somewhat alarmed by Otto's words and excitement.

"Can't explain. No time. Get up, make yourself presentable, and come out of your den."

As he spoke Pauline lifted the curtain door of her apartment and stepped into the outer cave, which was by that time all aglow with the ruddy blaze.

"Do you call yourself presentable?" asked Otto, laughing; "why your hair is raised like the back of a wild cat."

It is only right to say that the boy did not do his sister justice. An old shawl thrown hastily on, and descending in confused folds around her slight, graceful figure, invested her with an air of classic simplicity, while her pretty face, surrounded by a wealth of dishevelled, but beautiful, hair, was suggestive of something very much the reverse of a wild cat.

"Are you prepared, sister, for a stunning surprise?" said Otto, quickly, for he heard the approaching footsteps of the party.

"I'm prepared for anything," said Pauline, her lustrous eyes and her little mouth opening simultaneously, for she also heard the numerous footfalls outside.

"'Tis well!" cried Otto, starting up, and assuming a heroic attitude as he waved his right hand toward the door of the cavern, "no time to explain. Enter Dominick, with band of robbers, headed by their captain, amid shrieking wind, forked lightning, and peals of thunder!"

As he spoke, Pauline, despite her surprise, could scarcely refrain from laughter, for Otto's words were fulfilled almost to the letter. Amid a strife of elements that caused their frail erections to tremble, the little door burst open, and Dominick, stooping low to save his head, entered. He was followed by the gaunt, dark form of Malines, who, in rough garments and long fishermen's boots, with pistols in belt, and cutlass by his side, was a particularly good representative of a robber-captain. Following him came the still more gigantic Joe Binney, and his equally huge brother David, after which trooped in the boat's crew one by one.

As each man entered he stood stock still—dumb, petrified with astonishment—as he gazed, saucer-eyed, at Pauline. Bereft of speech and motion, she returned the gaze with interest.

Oh! it was a rare treat to Otto! His little bosom heaved with delight as he watched the shipwrecked men enter one after another and become petrefactions! Some of the sailors even dropped their lower jaws with wonder.

Dominick, who, in the bustle of action, had not thought of the surprise in store for his visitors, burst into a hearty fit of laughter.

"It was well got up, Otto," he said at last.

"No, it wasn't, Dom. I do assure you it was not got up at all, but came about in the most natural manner."

"Well, got up or not," returned Dominick, "here you are, friends, in what we have styled our golden cave, and this is my sister Pauline— allow me to introduce you, Pina, to part of a shipwrecked crew."

The youth's laughter, and the introduction which followed, seemed to disenchant the mariners, who, recovering self-possession with a deep sigh, became sheepish in bearing, and seemed inclined to beat a retreat, but our heroine quickly put them at their ease. With a natural tact and grace of manner which had the appearance of, but was not meant for, dignity, she advanced and offered her little hand to Malines, who seemed to fear that he might crush it unintentionally, so slight was the shake he gave it.

"You are heartily welcome to our cavern," she said. "I'm so grieved to hear that you have been wrecked."

"Don't mention it, Miss. Not worth speaking of, I assure you; we're quite used to it," replied Malines, not knowing very well what he said.

The ice, however, was broken. From this point all went on, as Otto said, swimmingly. The mate began to relate the circumstances of the recent wreck, while Pauline and Otto spread the remains of their supper before the men, and set about roasting the fowls that had been intended for the morrow's breakfast.

Before long the gale began to abate, and the sailors went out with Dominick, to select a spot on which the emigrants might encamp, being aided in this work by a struggling and fitful moonlight. After that Malines went back with his party to the ship, and Dominick returned with Otto to court slumber in the golden cave.



CHAPTER SIX.

SHIPWRECKED EMIGRANTS AND HORRIFIED CONSPIRATORS.

The scene which presented itself on the morning after the storm is not easily described, and the change to the trio who had up to that time lived so peacefully on Refuge Islands' Reef was so great that they found it difficult at first to believe it was other than a dream.

On awaking, indeed, Otto saluted his brother with the exclamation—

"O Dom, I've had such a comical dream!"

"Indeed, my boy," said Dominick, "I fear it was no dream, but a reality."

At this Otto suddenly sprang up, and ran out to relieve his mind on the point. A few seconds sufficed. On clearing the bushes he beheld the new wreck lying not far from the old one, and saw from the crowds of people who were being put into the boats that the emigrant ship had been no mere creature of his imagination. It was evident that the boat which had just quitted the vessel's side contained the first band of emigrants, for the only people yet landed were a few men, who busied themselves in putting up a rude shelter for the women and children, and in kindling fires for the preparation of breakfast on a little mound between two and three hundred yards from the golden cave.

By that time the storm had blown itself out, and the rising sun was mounting into a cloudless blue sky, and covering the sea with dazzling ripples, which looked as if the very water were laughing with joy at the sudden change from darkness and fury to light and peace.

Conspicuous among those who worked on shore was the gigantic form of Joe Binney. Considering him an old acquaintance. Otto ran up to him and shook hands.

"How many emigrants are there of you?" he asked.

"Three hundred, more or less, master, but I ain't rightly sure; there's such a many that it's difficult to count 'em when they are all a-movin' to and fro."

"Here, Joe, catch hold o' this post, an' keep it steady till I make it fast," said Hugh Morris, the seaman who has been described as one of the most turbulent among the men.

While Joe assisted in the erection of the canvas booth or shelter, he gave Otto a good deal of information regarding the vessel, the emigrants, the crew, and the misunderstandings which had occurred previous to the captain's death.

"It's well for one man that we've bin wrecked, anyhow," remarked Morris, stepping back with an artistic air to survey his handiwork.

"You mean the young doctor," said Joe.

"That's who I mean," returned Morris. "Doctor John Marsh. He's the only man in the ship that's worth his salt, but I fear he's a doomed man."

"I hope not, Hugh, though there are one or two men on board worth more than their salt," said Joe, with a peculiar smile, as he returned to the care of a large kettle of beans, from which the sailor had called him.

On Otto inquiring what was the matter with the doctor, Joe Binney explained—

"He's been ill a'most since we left England, owin' to a fall he had in tryin' to save one o' the child'n as was tumblin' down the after-hatch. He saved the child, but broke one or two of his own ribs, an' the broken ends must have damaged his lungs, for, ever since, he's bin spittin' blood an' wearin' away, till we can hardly believe he's the same stout, hearty, active young feller that came aboord at Gravesend. Spite of his hurt he's bin goin' among us quite cheerful-like, doin' the best he could for the sick; but as Morris says, he looks like a doomed man. P'r'aps gittin' ashore may do him good. You see, bein' the only doctor in the ship, he couldn't attend to hisself as well as might be, mayhap."

While Joe and Otto were conversing, the first boat load of emigrants landed, consisting chiefly of women and children. Dr Marsh was also among them, in order that, as he said with quiet pleasantry, he might attend to the sanitary arrangements of the camp in the new land, though all who saw him quit the wreck were under the sorrowful impression that the new land would prove to be in his case a last resting-place.

There was something peculiarly attractive in the manly, handsome face of this young disciple of Aesculapius, worn as it was by long sickness and suffering, and Otto fell in love with him at first sight.

There can be no doubt that some human beings are so constituted as to powerfully attract others by their mere physical conformation and expression, without reference to character or conduct,—indeed, before character or conduct can possibly be known. And when this peculiar conformation and expression is coupled with delicacy of health, and obvious suffering, the attractive influence becomes irresistible. Let us thank God that such is the case. Blind, unreasoning affection is a grand foundation on which to build a mighty superstructure of good offices, kindly acts, and tender feelings, mingled, it may be, with loving forbearance, and occasional suffering, which shall be good to the souls of the lover, as well as the loved one.

Anyhow, when Otto saw Dr Marsh helped, almost lifted, out of the boat; observed him give a pitiful little smile, and heard him utter some mild pleasantry to those who assisted him, he experienced a gush of feeling such as had never before inflated his reckless little bosom, and something like water—to his great astonishment—caused interference with his vision.

Running forward just as the widow Lynch was officiously thrusting her warm-hearted attentions on the invalid, he accosted the doctor, and offered to escort him to the golden cave.

And we may here inform the reader that the involuntary affection of our little hero met with a suitable return, for Dr Marsh also fell in love with Otto at first sight. His feelings, however, were strongly mingled with surprise.

"My boy," he said, with painfully wide-open eyes, "from what part of the sky have you dropt?"

"Well, not being a falling star or a rocket-stick, I cannot claim such high descent,—but hasn't the mate told you about us?" returned Otto.

Here widow Lynch broke in with:

"Towld him about you? Av course he hasn't. He don't throuble his hid to tell much to any wan; an', sure, wasn't the doctor slaapin' whin he returned aboord i' the night, an' wasn't I nursin' of 'im, and d'ee think any wan could git at 'im widout my lave?"

Otto thought that certainly no one could easily accomplish that feat, and was about to say so, when Dr Marsh said remonstratively—

"Now, my dear widow Lynch, do leave me to the care of this new friend, who, I am sure, is quite able to assist me, and do you go and look after these poor women and children. They are quite helpless without your aid. Look! your favourite Brown-eyes will be in the water if you don't run."

The child of a poor widow, which had been styled Brown-eyes by the doctor because of its gorgeous optics, was indeed on the point of taking an involuntary bath as he spoke. Mrs Lynch, seeing the danger, rushed tumultuously to the rescue, leaving the doctor to Otto's care.

"Don't let me lean too heavily on you," he said, looking down; "I'm big-boned, you see, and long-legged, though rather thin."

"Pooh!" said Otto, looking up, "you're as light as a feather, and I'm as strong as a horse,—a little horse, at least. You'd better not go to the camp yet, they are not ready for you, and that sweet little delicate creature you call widow Lynch is quite able to manage them all. Come up with me to the cave. But has nobody said a word about us?"

"Not a soul. As the widow told you, I was asleep when the mate returned to the wreck. Indeed, it is not very long since I awoke. I did hear some mention in passing of a few people being on the island, but I thought they referred to savages."

"Perhaps they were not far wrong," said Otto, with a laugh. "I do feel pretty savage sometimes, and Dominick is awful when he is roused; but we can't count Pauline among the savages."

"Dominick! Pauline!" exclaimed the doctor. "My good fellow, explain yourself, and let us sit down on this bank while you do so. I'm so stupidly weak that walking only a few yards knocks me up."

"Well, only two or three yards further will bring you to our cave, which is just beyond that cluster of bushes, but it may be as well to enlighten you a little before introducing you."

In a few rapid sentences Otto explained their circumstances, and how they came to be there. He told his brief tale in sympathetic ears.

"And your own name," asked the doctor, "is—?"

"Otto Rigonda."

"Well, Otto, my boy, you and I shall be friends; I know it—I feel it."

"And I'm sure of it," responded the enthusiastic boy, grasping the hand of the invalid, and shaking it almost too warmly. "But come, I want to present you to my sister. Dominick is already among the emigrants, for I saw him leave the cave and go down to the camp when you were disputing with that female grampus."

"Come, don't begin our friendship by speaking disrespectfully of one of my best friends," said the doctor, rising; "but for widow Lynch's tender nursing I don't think I should be here now."

"I'll respect and reverence her henceforth and for ever," said Otto. "But here we are—this is the golden cave. Now you'll have to stoop, because our door was made for short men like me—and for humble long ones like my brother."

"I'll try to be a humble long one," said the doctor as he stooped and followed Otto into the cave.

Pauline was on her knees in front of the fire, with her back to the door, as they entered. She was stooping low and blowing at the flames vigorously.

"O Otto!" she exclaimed, without looking round, "this fire will break my heart. It won't light!"

"More company, Pina," said her brother.

Pauline sprang up and turned round with flushed countenance and disordered hair; and again Otto had the ineffable delight of seeing human beings suddenly reduced to that condition which is variously described as being "stunned," "thunderstruck," "petrified," and "struck all of a heap" with surprise.

Pauline was the first to recover self-possession.

"Really, Otto, it is too bad of you to take one by surprise so. Excuse me, sir,—no doubt you are one of the unfortunates who have been wrecked. I have much pleasure in offering you the hospitality of our humble home!"

Pauline spoke at first half jestingly, but when she looked full at the thin, worn countenance of the youth who stood speechless before her, she forgot surprise and everything else in a feeling of pity.

"But you have been ill," she continued, sympathetically; "this wreck must have—pray sit down."

She placed a little stool for her visitor beside the fire.

If Dr John Marsh had spoken the words that sprang to his lips he would have begun with "Angelic creature," but he suppressed his feelings and only stammered—

"Your b-brother, Miss Rigonda, must have a taste for taking people by surprise, for he did not tell me that—that—I—I mean he did not prepare me for—for—you are right. I think I had better sit down, for I have, as you perceive, been very ill, and am rather weak, and—and in the circumstances such an unexpected—a—"

At this critical moment Dominick fortunately entered the cave, and rescued the doctor from the quicksand, in which he was floundering.

"Oh! you must be the very man I want," he said, grasping his visitor by the hand.

"That is strange," returned the doctor, with a languid smile, "seeing that you have never met me before."

"True, my good sir; nevertheless I may venture to say that I know you well, for there's a termagant of an Irish woman down at the camp going about wringing her hands, shouting out your good qualities in the most pathetic tones, and giving nobody a moment's peace because she does not know what has become of you. Having a suspicion that my brother must have found you and brought you here, I came to see. But pray, may I ask your name, for the Irish woman only describes you as 'Doctor, dear!'"

"Allow me to introduce him," cried Otto, "as an old friend of mine—Dr Marsh."

Dominick looked at his brother in surprise.

"Otto is right," said the doctor, with a laugh, "at least if feeling may be permitted to do duty for time in gauging the friendship."

"Well, Dr Marsh, we are happy to make your acquaintance, despite the sadness of the circumstances," said Dominick, "and will do all we can for you and your friends; meanwhile, may I ask you to come to the camp and relieve the mind of your worshipper, for I can scarcely call her less."

Poor Dr Marsh, feeling greatly exhausted by excitement as much as by exertion, was on the point of excusing himself and begging his host to fetch the widow up to the cave, when he was saved the trouble by the widow herself, whose voice was just then heard outside.

"What's that yer sayin', Joe?" she exclaimed in a remonstrative tone, "ye seed 'im go into that rabbit-hole? Never! Don't tell me! Arrah it's on his hands an knees he'd have to do it."

The voice which replied was pitched in a much deeper and softer key, but it was heard distinctly to say, "Ay, widdy Lynch, that's the door I seed him an' a boy go through; so ye'd better rap at it an' inquire."

"Faix, an' that's jist what I'll do, though I don't half belave ye."

She was about to apply her large red knuckles to the door in question when her intention was frustrated and her doubts were scattered by the door opening and Dominick presenting himself.

"Come in, Mrs Lynch, come in. Your doctor is here, alive and well."

"Well, is it—ah! I wish he was! Are ye there, darlin'?"

"Yes, yes," came from within, in a laughing voice. "Here I am, Mrs Lynch, all right and comfortable. Come in."

Being excessively tall, the widow was obliged, like others, to stoop to enter; but being also excessively broad, she only got her head and shoulders through the doorway, and then, unlike others, she stuck fast. By dint, however, of a good pull from Dominick and a gentle push from Joe, she was got inside without quite carrying away the structure which the gale of the preceding night had spared.

"Och! 'tis a quare place intirely, and there is some disadvantage in bein' big—thank ye kindly, sir—but on the whole—"

She got no further, for at that moment her sharp little grey eyes fell on Pauline, and once again Otto's heart was stirred to its profoundest depths by the expressive glare that ensued. Indeed, Dominick and Marsh were equally affected, and could not help laughing.

"Ha! ye may laugh," said the widow, with profound solemnity, "but if it's not dramin' I am, what Father Macgrath says about ghosts is true, and—"

"I hope you don't take me for a ghost, Mrs Lynch," said Pauline, stepping forward with a kindly smile and holding out her hand.

"No, cushla! I don't," returned the widow, accepting the hand tenderly. "Sure it's more like a ghost the doctor is, in spite of his larfin'. But wonders 'll niver cease. I'll lave 'im wid an aisy mind, for he's in good hands. Now, Joe, clear out o' the door, like a good man, an' let me through. They'll be wantin' me at the camp. A good haul, Joe, I'm tough; no fear o' me comin' to pieces. Och! but it's a poor cabin. An Irish pig wouldn't thank ye for it."

Murmuring similar uncomplimentary remarks, mingled with expressions of surprise, the voice of the woman gradually died away, and the people in the golden cave were left to discuss their situation and form hasty plans for the present emergency.

At first, of course, they could do little else than make each other partially acquainted with the circumstances which had so strangely thrown them together, but Dominick soon put an end to this desultory talk.

"You see, it will take all our time," he said, "between this and sunset to get the emigrants comfortably under canvas, or some sort of shelter."

"True," assented Dr Marsh, "and it would never do with so many women and children, some of whom are on the sick list, to leave them to the risk of exposure to another storm like that which has just passed. Is your island subject to such?"

"By no means," answered Dominick. "It has a splendid climate. This gale is quite exceptional. Nevertheless, we cannot tell when the next may burst on us. Come, Otto, you and I will go down to the camp. Now, Dr Marsh, you must remain here. I can see, without being told, that you are quite unfit to help us. I know that it is hard to be condemned to inaction when all around are busy, but reflect how many patients you have solemnly warned that their recovery would depend on implicit obedience to the doctor's orders! Divide yourself in two, now, and, as a doctor, give yourself strict orders to remain quiet."

"H'm! Gladly would I divide myself," was the doctor's reply, "if while I left the patient half to act the invalid, I could take the impatient half down to the camp to aid you. But I submit. The days of my once boasted strength are gone. I feel more helpless than a mouse."

There was something quite pitiful in the half-humorous look, and the weary sigh, with which the poor youth concluded his remarks, and Otto was so touched that he suddenly suggested the propriety of his staying behind and taking care of him.

"Why, you conceited creature," cried Dominick, "of what use could you be? Besides, don't you think that Pina is a sufficiently good nurse?"

Otto humbly admitted that she was.

Dr Marsh, glancing at her pretty face, on which at the moment there beamed an expression of deep sympathy, also admitted that she was; but, being a man of comparatively few words, he said nothing.

It was a busy day for Dominick and his brother. Not only had they to counsel and advise with the unfortunate emigrants as to the best position for the temporary encampment, with reference to wood and water, as well as to assist with their own hands in the erection of tents made of torn sails and huts and booths composed of broken planks and reeds, but they had to answer innumerable questions from the inquisitive as to their own history, from the anxious as to the probabilities of deliverance, from the practical as to the resources of the islands, and from the idiotic as to everything in general and nothing in particular. In addition to which they had to encourage the timid, to correct the mistaken, and to remonstrate with or resist the obstinate; also to romp a little with the children as they recovered their spirits, quiet the babies as they recovered their powers of lung, and do a little amateur doctoring for the sick in the absence of the medical man.

In all these varied occupations they were much aided by the widow Lynch, who, instead of proving to be, as they had expected, a troublesome termagant, turned out to be a soft-hearted, kindly, enthusiastic, sympathetic woman, with a highly uneducated, unbalanced mind, a powerfully constituted and masculine frame, and "a will of her own." In this last particular she did not differ much from the rest of the human species, but she was afflicted with an unusually strong desire to assert it.

Very like Mrs Lynch in the matters of kindly soft-heartedness and sympathy was Mrs Welsh—a poor, gentle, delicate Englishwoman, the wife of a great hulking cross-grained fellow named Abel, who was a carpenter by trade and an idler by preference. Mrs Welsh was particularly good as a sick-nurse and a cook, in which capacities she made herself extremely useful.

About midday, Mrs Welsh having prepared a glorious though simple meal for her section of the emigrant band, and the other sections having been ministered to more or less successfully by their more or less capable cooks, Dominick and Otto went up to the golden cave to dinner, which they well knew the faithful Pauline would have ready waiting for them.

"What a day we have had, to be sure!" said Dominick as they walked along; "and I'm as hungry as a kangaroo."

Without noticing the unreasonableness of supposing that long-legged creature to be the hungriest of animals, Otto declared that he was in the same condition, "if not more so."

On opening the door they were checked by the expression of Pauline's face, the speaking eyes of which, and the silent mouth, were concentrated into an unmistakable "hush!"—which was emphasised by a significant forefinger.

"What's wrong?" whispered Dominick, anxiously.

"Sleeping," murmured Pauline—she was too good a nurse to whisper— pointing to the invalid, who, overcome with the night's exposure and the morning's excitement, had fallen into a profound slumber on Otto's humble couch.

This was a rather severe and unexpected trial to Otto, who had come up to the cave brimming over with camp news for Pauline's benefit. He felt that it was next to impossible to relate in a whisper all the doings and sayings, comical and otherwise, that he had seen and heard that day. To eat his dinner and say nothing seemed equally impossible. To awaken the wearied sleeper was out of the question. However, there was nothing for it but to address himself to the suppression of his feelings. Probably it was good for him to be thus self-disciplined; certainly it was painful.

He suffered chiefly at the top of the nose—inside behind his eyes—that being the part of the safety-valve where bursts of laughter were checked; and more than once, while engaged in a whispering commentary on the amiable widow Lynch, the convulsions within bade fair to blow the nasal organ off his face altogether. Laughter is catching. Pauline and Dominick, ere long, began to wish that Otto would hold his tongue. At last, some eccentricity of Joe Binney, or his brother, or Mrs Lynch, we forget which, raised the pressure to such a pitch that the safety-valves of all three became ineffective. They all exploded in unison, and poor Marsh was brought to consciousness, surprise, and a sitting posture at the same instant.

"I'm afraid," he said, rather sheepishly, "that I've been sleeping."

"You have, doctor, and a right good sleep you've had," said Dominick, rising and placing a stool for the invalid. "We ought to apologise for disturbing you; but come, sit down and dine. You must be hungry by this time."

"Indeed I am. The land air seems to have had a powerful effect on me already."

"Truly it must," remarked Pauline, "else you could not have fallen asleep in the very middle of my glowing description of our island home."

"Did I really do that?" said the doctor, with an air of self-reproach.

"Indeed you did; but in the circumstances you are to be excused."

"And I hope," added Dominick, "that you'll have many a good sleep in our golden cave."

"Golden cave, indeed," echoed the invalid, in thought, for his mind was too much taken up just then with Pauline to find vent in speech. "A golden cave it will be to me for evermore!"

It is of no use mincing the matter; Dr John Marsh, after being regarded by his friends at home as hopelessly unimpressible—in short, an absolute woman-hater—had found his fate on a desolate isle of the Southern seas, he had fallen—nay, let us be just—had jumped over head and ears in love with Pauline Rigonda! Dr Marsh was no sentimental die-away noodle who, half-ashamed, half-proud of his condition, displays it to the semi-contemptuous world. No; after disbelieving for many years in the power of woman to subdue him, he suddenly and manfully gave in—sprang up high into the air, spiritually, and so to speak, turning a sharp somersault, went headlong down deep into the flood, without the slightest intention of ever again returning to the surface.

But of this mighty upheaval and overturning of his sentiments he betrayed no symptom whatever, excepting two bright spots—one on either cheek—which might easily have been mistaken for the effects of weakness, or recent excitement, or bad health, or returning hunger. Calmly he set to work on the viands before him with unusual appetite, conversing earnestly, meanwhile, with Dominick and Otto on the gravity of their situation, and bestowing no more attention upon Pauline than was barely consistent with good breeding, insomuch that that pretty young creature began to feel somewhat aggrieved. Considering all the care she had so recently bestowed on him, she came to the conclusion, in short, that he was by no means as polite as at first she had supposed him to be.

By degrees the conversation about the present began to give place to discussions as to the future, and when Dominick and Otto returned for their evening meal at sunset, bringing with them Mr Malines, the mate, and Joe Binney and his brother David and Hugh Morris as being representative men of the emigrants and ship's crew, the meeting resolved itself into a regular debating society. At this point Pauline deserted them and went down to the camp to cultivate the acquaintance of the widow Lynch, Mrs Welsh, and the other female and infantine members of the wrecked party.

"For my part," said Malines, "I shall take one o' the boats, launch it in the lagoon, and go over to the big island, follow me who may, for it is clear that there's not room for us all on this strip of sand."

"I don't see that," objected Hugh Morris. "Seems to me as there's space enough for all of us, if we're not too greedy."

"That shows ye knows nothin' about land, Hugh," said Joe Binney. "What's of it here is not only too little, but too sandy. I votes for the big island."

"So does I," said David Binney. "Big Island for me."

Thus, incidentally, was the large island named.

"But," said Hugh, still objecting, "it won't be half so convenient to git things out o' the wreck, as where we are."

"Pooh! that's nothing," said Malines. "It won't cost us much trouble to carry all we want across a spit of sand."

Seeing that the two men were getting angry with each other, Dominick interposed by blandly stating that he knew well the capabilities of the spot on which they were encamped, and he was sure that such a party would require more ground if they meant to settle on it.

"Well now, master," observed Joe, with a half-laugh, "we don't 'zactly mean for to settle on it, but here we be, an' here we must be, till a ship takes us off, an' we can't afford to starve, 'ee know, so we'll just plough the land an' plant our seed, an' hope for good weather an' heavy crops; so I says Big Island!"

"An' so says I—Big Island for ever!" repeated his brother David.

After a good deal more talk and altercation this was finally agreed to, and the meeting dissolved itself.

That night, at the darkest hour, another meeting was held in the darkest spot that could be found near the camp. It chanced, unknown to the meeting, to be the burial-ground at first discovered by the Rigondas.

Unwittingly, for it was very dark, Hugh Morris seated himself on one of the old graves, and about thirty like-minded men gathered round him. Little did they know that Otto was one of the party! Our little hero, being sharp eyed and eared, had seen and overheard enough in the camp that day to induce him to watch Morris after he left the cave, and follow him to the rendezvous.

"My lads," said Morris, "I've done my best to keep them to the reef, but that blackguard Malines won't hear of it. He's bent on takin' 'em all to the big island, so they're sure to go, and we won't get the help o' the other men: but no matter; wi' blocks an' tackle we'll do it ourselves, so we can afford to remain quiet till our opportunity comes. I'm quite sure the ship lays in such a position that we can get her over the ledge into deep water, and so be able to draw round into the open sea, and then—"

"Hurrah for the black flag and the southern seas," cried one of the party.

"No, no, Jabez Jenkins," said Morris, "we don't mean to be pirates; only free rovers."

"Hallo! what's this?" exclaimed another of the party. "A cross, I do believe! and this mound—why, it's a grave!"

"And here's another one!" said Jabez, in a hoarse whisper. "Seems to me we've got into a cannibal churchyard, or—"

"Bo-o-o-o-oo!" groaned Otto at that moment, in the most horribly sepulchral tone he could command.

Nothing more was wanted. With one consent the conspirators leapt up and fled from the dreadful spot in a frenzy of unutterable consternation.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

TREATS OF BIG ISLAND—A GREAT FIGHT AND A ROYAL FAMILY.

"Dominick," said Otto, next morning, after having solemnly and somewhat mysteriously led his brother to the old burial-ground, "would you believe me if I told you that last night, when you and the like of you were sound asleep, not to say snoring, I saw some twenty or thirty men fly from this spot like maniacs at the howling of a ghost?"

"No, I would not believe you," answered Dominick, with a bland smile.

"Would you not believe me if I told you that I was the ghost and that Hugh Morris was the ringleader of the cowards?"

"Come, Otto, be sensible and explain."

Otto became sensible and explained. Thereupon Dominick became serious, and said "Oho!" To which Otto replied "Just so," after which they became meditative. Then Dominick linked his arm in that of his little brother, and, leading him off to a well-known and sequestered walk, entered into an earnest confabulation.

With the details of that confabulation we will not trouble the reader. We will only repeat the concluding sentences.

"Well, then, Dom, it's agreed on, that we are to go on as if we knew nothing about this matter, and take no notice of it whatever to any one—not even to Pina."

"Yes, Otto, that's it. Of course I don't like to have any sort of secret from Pina, but it would be cruel in us to fill her mind with alarm for no good purpose. No—mum's the word. Take no notice whatever. Morris may repent. Give him the benefit of the doubt, or the hope."

"Very well, Dom, mum shall be the word."

Having thus for the time being disposed of a troublesome subject, the brothers returned to the place where the emigrants were encamped.

Here all was wild confusion and harmony. Lest this should appear contradictory, we must explain that the confusion was only physical, and addressed to the eye. The emigrants, who were busy as ants, had already disembarked large quantities of their goods, which were scattered about in various heaps between the landing-place and the encampment. The harmony, on the other hand, was mental and spiritual, for as yet there had been no time for conflicting interests to arise, and the people were all so busy that they had not leisure to disagree.

Besides, the weather being splendidly bright and warm was conducive to good-humour. It will be remembered also that Hugh Morris and his friends had resolved to remain quiet for the present. Perhaps the effect of the ghostly visitation might have had some influence in restraining their turbulent spirits.

At all events, be this as it may, when Dominick and Otto came upon the scene everything was progressing pleasantly. The male emigrants were running between the beach and the camp with heavy burdens on their shoulders. The females were busy washing and mending garments, which stood sorely in need of their attention, or tending the sick and what Otto styled the infantry. The sailors were engaged, some in transporting goods from the wreck to the shore, others in piloting two of the large boats through the reef into the lagoon, and the larger children were romping joyously in the thickets and trying to climb the cocoa-nut trees, while the smaller fry were rolling helplessly on the sands—watched, more or less, by mothers and big sisters.

Chief among those who piloted the large boats through the passage in the reef was Hugh Morris. He took careful observations and soundings as he went along, not that such were needed for the safety of the boats, but Hugh Morris had an eye to the ultimate destiny of the ship.

"You're mighty particular, Morris," said Malines, with something of a sneer in his tone, when the former drew up his boat inside the reef beside the other boat. "One would think you were piloting a man-of-war through instead of a little boat."

"What I was doin' is none o' your business, Malines," returned Hugh, sternly. "Your command ceased when you lost your ship, and I ain't agoin' to obey your orders; no, nor take any of your cheek."

"The emigrants chose to accept me as their commander, at least for the present," retorted Malines, fiercely.

To this Hugh replied, with a laugh of scorn, that the emigrants might make a commander of the ship's monkey for all that he cared, the emigrants were not his masters, and he would do exactly as he pleased.

As a number of his followers echoed the scornful laugh, Malines felt that he had not the power to carry things with a high hand.

"Well, well," he returned, in a tone of quiet indifference, "we shall see. It is quite clear to every one with a grain of sense that people can't live comfortably under two masters; the people will have to decide that matter for themselves before long."

"Ay, that will they, master," remarked Joe Binney, in a low but significant voice. "Seems to me, however, that as we're all agreed about goin' over to Big Island, we'd better go about it an' leave disputation till afterwards."

Agreeing to this in silence, the men set about loading the boats for the first trip.

Dominick and Otto, standing on the beach, had witnessed this altercation.

"The seeds of much dissension and future trouble are there," remarked the former.

"Unless we prevent the growth of the seed," said Otto.

"True, but how that is to be done does not appear obvious at present. These men have strong wills and powerful frames, and each has a large following, I can see that. We must hope that among the emigrants there may be good and strong men enough to keep the crew in check."

"Luckily two of the biggest and stoutest are also the most sensible," said Otto.

"You mean the brothers Binney?"

"Yes, Dom. They're first-rate men, don't you think so?"

"Undoubtedly; but very ignorant, and evidently unaccustomed to lead or command men."

"What a pity," exclaimed the boy, with a flush of sudden inspiration, "that we couldn't make you king of the island! You're nearly as strong as the best of them, and much cleverer."

Dominick received this compliment with a laugh and a shake of the head.

"No, my boy; I am not nearly as strong as Malines or Morris, or the Binneys. Besides, you forget that 'the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,' and as to cleverness, that does not consist in a superior education or a head crammed full of knowledge, but in the right and ready application of knowledge. No; I have no ambition to be a king. But it won't do for us to stand here talking, else we shall be set down as idlers. Come, let us lend a helping hand."

While the men were busy at the boats on the lagoon side of the reef, Pauline was winning golden opinions among the women at the camp by the hearty, unaffected way in which she went about making herself generally useful. O blessed simplicity, how adorable art thou in man and woman! Self-forgetfulness was a salient point in Pauline's character, and, being conjoined with strong powers of sympathy, active good-will to man and beast, and more than the average of intellectual capacity, with an under-current of rippling fun, the girl's influence quickly made itself felt.

Mrs Lynch said she was a jewel, and that was extraordinary praise from the strapping widow, who seldom complimented her sex, whatever she may have felt. Mrs Welsh said she was a "dear, pritty creetur'," and laughter-loving little Mrs Nobbs, the wife of a jovial harum-scarum blacksmith, pronounced her a "perfect darling." As for the children, after one hour's acquaintance they adored her, and would have "bored her to death" had that been possible. What the men thought of her we cannot tell, for they spake not, but furtively stared at her in a sort of reverential amazement, and some of them, in a state of mild enthusiasm, gave murmured utterance to the sentence quoted above, "Blessed simplicity!" for Pauline Rigonda was, at first, utterly unaware of the sensation she created.

When the two boats were loaded down to the gunwales, a select party of men embarked and rowed them over the calm lagoon to Big Island. Of course they were well armed, for no one could tell what they might meet with there. Dominick and Otto were of the party, and, being regarded in some measure as owners of the soil, the former was tacitly recognised as leader on this their first visit.

The distance they had to row was not more than a quarter of a mile, so the lagoon was soon crossed. The spot at which they landed was a beautiful little bay with bush-topped cliffs on one side, a thicket of luxuriant plants on the other, and palm groves rising to a moderate height behind. The little beach on which they ran the boats was of pure white sand, which induced one of them to name it Silver Bay.

Jumping out, Dominick, with a dozen armed men, advanced into the bushes with caution.

"Nothing to be seen here of either friends or foes," he said, halting. "I felt sure that we should find no one, and it is of no use taking so many of you from work; therefore, lads, I would advise your returning to the boats and going to work at once. My little brother and I will ascend to the top of the cliff there, from which we will be able to see all the neighbouring country, and give you timely warning should any natives appear. Pile your rifles on the beach, so as to have them handy; but you've nothing to fear."

In a few minutes Dominick and his brother, each carrying a rifle and cutlass supplied by the wrecked party, had mounted to the top of the neighbouring cliff, while the men returned to aid in unloading the boats.

"What a splendid island!" exclaimed Otto, with intense delight, as, from the lofty outlook, they gazed down upon a scene of the richest beauty. From their position on the reef they had hitherto seen the island through the softening atmosphere of distance, like a rounded mass of verdure; but in this case distance had not "lent enchantment to the view," for, now that they beheld it spread in all its luxuriance at their feet, like a verdant gem resting on the breast of ocean, it appeared infinitely more beautiful. Not only was the mind charmed by the varied details of grove and bay, thicket and grotto, but the eye was attracted irresistibly to the magnificent trees and shrubs which stood prominent in their individuality—such as the light and elegant aito-tree; the stately apape, with its branchless trunk and light crown of pale green leaves, resembling those of the English ash; the splendid tamanu, an evergreen, with its laurel-shaped leaves; the imposing hutu-tree, with foliage resembling the magnolia and its large white flowers, the petals of which are edged with bright pink;—these and many others, with the feathery palm and several kinds of mimosa lining the seashore, presented a display of form and colour such as the brothers had not up to that time even dreamed of.

While Otto gazed in silent wonder and admiration, he was surprised to hear Dominick give vent to a sigh, and shake his head.

"Dom!" he said, remonstratively, "what do you mean by that?"

"I mean that the place is such a paradise that the emigrants won't want to leave it, and that will interfere with a little plan which had begun to form itself in my brain of late. I had been thinking that among so many tradesmen I should find men to help me to break up the wreck, and, out of the materials, to build a small vessel, with which to leave the island—for, to tell you the truth, Otto, I have begun to fear that this place lies so far out of the track of ships that we may be left on it for many years like the mutineers of Pitcairn Island."

"Humph! I'm sorry you're growing tired of it already," said Otto; "I thought you had more o' the spirit of Robinson Crusoe in you, Dom, and I never heard of the mutineers of Pitcairn Island; but if—"

"What! did you never hear of the mutineers of the Bounty?"

"Never. My education, you know, has been neglected."

"Then I'll tell you the story some time or other. It's too long to begin just now, but it beats that of your favourite Robinson out of sight in my opinion."

Otto shook his head in grave unbelief. "That," he said, "is impossible. But as to this island proving so attractive, don't you think that such fellows as Hugh Morris and Malines will take care to prevent it becoming too much of a paradise?"

Dominick laughingly admitted that there was something in that—and he was right. There was even more in that than he had imagined, for the party had not been a week in their new home when they began to differ as to the division of the island. That old, old story of mighty men desiring to take possession of the land and push their weaker brethren to the wall soon began to be re-enacted on this gem of the ocean, and bade fair to convert the paradise—like the celebrated Monte Carlo—into a magnificent pandemonium.

At one of their stormy meetings, of which the settlers had many, the brothers Binney and Dominick were present. It was held on the shores of Silver Bay, where the first boat-loads had been discharged, and around which quite a village of rude huts had sprung up like mushrooms. From those disputatious assemblies most of the women absented themselves, but the widow Lynch always remained, holding herself in reserve for any emergency, for she was well aware that her opinion carried much weight with many of the party.

"We're a rough lot, and would need tight handlin'," whispered the little man named Redding to Joe Binney, who sat on a bank beside him.

"The handlin' will be tight enough before long," returned Joe, with a decided little nod. "Listen, the worst o' the lot's agoin' to spout."

This last remark had reference to Malines, who had just risen to reply to a fiery little man named Buxley, a tailor by trade, who was possessed not only of good reasoning power but great animal courage, as he had proved on more than one occasion on the voyage out.

"Friends," said the mate, "it's all very well for Buxley to talk about fair play, and equal rights, etcetera, but, I ask, would it be fair play to give each of us an equal portion of land, when it's quite clear that some—like Joe Binney there—could cultivate twice as much as his share, while a creature like Buxley—"

"No more a creature than yourself!" shouted the little tailor.

"Could only work up half his lot—if even so much," continued the mate, regardless of the interruption.

"Hear, hear!" from those who sympathised with Malines.

"An' what could you do with land?" demanded Buxley in a tone of scorn, "a man that's ploughed nothing but salt water all his life."

This was greeted with a laugh and "That's so." "He's only sowed wild oats as yet." "Pitch into him, Buckie."

Malines was fast losing temper under the little man's caustic remarks, but succeeded in restraining himself, and went on:—

"It's quite plain that the island is too small to let every man have an equal bit of land, so I propose that it should be divided among those who have strength and knowledge to work it, and—"

"You ain't one o' them," shouted the irate tailor.

"Come, come, Buxley—let him speak," said Joe Binney, "fair play, ye know. That's what you sticks up for, ain't it? Let 'im speak."

"Anyhow," continued Malines, sharply, "I mean to keep the bit o' ground I've staked off whether you like it or no—"

"An' so do I," cried Welsh, who was what may be styled a growly man.

"Sure, an' so does myself," said Teddy Malone, "for I've staked off a bit about six feet long an' two broad, to plant mesilf in whin I give up the ghost."

This mild pleasantry seemed to calm a little the rising wrath of contending parties, much to Dominick's satisfaction, for he was exceedingly anxious to keep in the background and avoid interference. During the week that had passed, he had more than once been forced to have sharp words with Malines, and felt that if he was to act as a peacemaker—which he earnestly wished to do—he must avoid quarrelling with him if possible.

The hopes of those who wished to settle matters amicably, however, were dashed by the fiery tailor, who, still smarting under the contemptuous tones and words of the mate, suddenly sprang to his feet and suggested that, as Malines knew nothing about agriculture, no land at all should be apportioned to him, but that he should be set to fishing, or some such dirty work, for the benefit of the community.

This was too much for Malines, who strode towards Buxley with clenched fists and furious looks, evidently intending to knock him down. To the surprise and amusement of every one, Buxley threw himself into a pugilistic attitude, and shouted defiantly, "Come on!" There is no saying how the thing would have ended, if Dominick had not quickly interposed.

"Come, Mr Malines," he said, "it is not very creditable in you to threaten a man so very much smaller than yourself."

"Out of my road," shouted the mate, fiercely, "we don't want gentlemen to lord it over us."

"No, nor yet blackguards," growled a voice in the crowd.

This so angered Malines, that he dealt Dominick a sounding slap on the cheek.

For a moment there was dead silence, as the two men glared at each other. If it had been a blow the youth might have stood it better, but there was something so stinging, as well as insulting, in a slap, that for a moment he felt as if his chest would explode. Before he could act, however, Joe Binney thrust his bulky form between the men.

"Leave'm to me, master," he said, quietly turning up his wristbands, "I'm used to this sort o' thing, an'—"

"No, no," said Dominick, in a deep, decided voice, "listen."

He grasped Joe by the arm, and whispered a few words in his ear. A smile broke over the man's face, and he shook his head doubtfully.

"Well, it may be so," he remarked, "an' no doubt it would have a good effect."

"Now, then, stand aside," said Dominick, as he retreated a few paces and threw off his coat, while Malines still stood in a threatening attitude, with an expression of contempt on his face. "My friends," he said, as he slowly rolled up his shirt-sleeves, showing a pair of arms which, although not bulky, displayed an amount of sinews and muscle that was suggestive of knotted ropes under a fair skin—

"My friends," he said, "somewhere in the Bible it is written, 'Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware.' I have done my best to conciliate this scorner without success; I shall now try to smite him."

"An' brother David an' me will see fair play," remarked Joe Binney.

If the combatants had been more equally matched, the spectators would probably have encouraged Dominick with a cheer, but the difference in size was so apparent, that astonishment kept them silent. Dominick was indeed fully as tall as his opponent, and his shoulders were nearly as broad, but the massive weight of Malines's figure seemed to render the chance of Dominick's success highly improbable.

The youth sprang at him, however, like lightning, and, hitting him a violent blow on the forehead, leapt back out of his reach.

The blow had the effect that was intended; it roused the mate's wrath to the utmost pitch, causing him to rush at his opponent, striking right and left with all his force. Dominick, however, leapt about with such activity, that only a few of the blows reached him, and these not with their full force. The result was that the mate became what is styled winded in a few minutes, and was compelled to pause to recover himself, but Dominick had no intention of allowing him time to recover himself. Without a moment's hesitation, he sprang in again and planted a severe left-hander between his opponent's eyes. This roused the mate once more to white heat, and he sought to close with his foe, but the latter prevented that by leaping aside, tripping him up, and causing him to plunge forward on his hands and knees—assisting him to that position with a stiff rap on the right temple as he passed.

Then it was that Malines discovered that he had drawn on himself the wrath of one who had been the champion boxer in a large public school, and was quite as tough as himself in wind and limb, though not so strong or so heavy.

Now, it is not our intention to give a graphic account of that pugilistic encounter. Yet is it needful to point out briefly how, being a man of peace, as well as a man of science, Dominick managed to bring this fight to as speedy a close as possible. Instead, then, of striking his foe in all directions, and producing a disgusting scene of bloodshed, he confined his practice chiefly to one spot, between the eyes, close above the bridge of the nose—varying it a little with a shot now and then under each eye. This had the effect, owing to constant repetition, of gradually shutting up both Malines's eyes so that he could not easily see. When in this condition, Dominick suddenly delivered first a left and then a right hander into what is sometimes called the breadbasket, and stretched his adversary on the sand.

Dominick was not boastful or ungenerous. He did not crow over his fallen foe. On the contrary, he offered to assist that smitten scorner to rise, but Malines preferred in the meantime to lie still.

It is scarcely necessary to say that the emigrants watched this short but sharp encounter with keen interest, and when it was ended gave vent to a cheer, in which surprise was quite as clearly expressed as satisfaction.

"Now, I tell 'ee what it is, lads," said Joe Binney, striking his great right fist into the palm of his left hand enthusiastically, "I never seed the likes o' that since I was a leetle booy, and I've got a motion for to propose, as they say at meetin's. It's this, that we makes Master Dom'nik Riggundy capting over us all."

Up started Teddy Malone, with a slap of his thigh. "And it's mesilf as'll second that motion—only we should make him governor of the whole island, if not king!"

"Hear! hear!" shouted a decided majority of the party. "Let him be king!"

When silence had been partially restored Dominick politely but firmly declined the honour, giving it as his opinion that the fairest way would be to have a republic.

"A republic! No; what we wants is a despotism," said David Binney, who had up to this point remained silent, "a regular despot—a howtocrat—is what we wants to keep us in order."

"Hump!" exclaimed Hugh Morris, contemptuously, "if you'd on'y let Malines have his way you'd soon have a despot an' a howtocrat as 'ud keep yer noses to the grindstone."

"Mrs Lynch," whispered Otto, who had hitherto stood beside the widow watching the proceedings with inexpressible glee, "you get up an' propose that Pina should be queen!"

That this suggestion came upon the widow with a shock of surprise, as well as approval, was obvious from the wide-eyed stare, with which for a moment she regarded the boy, and from her subsequent action. Taking a bold and masculine stride to the front of the disputers, she turned about and faced them.

"Howld yer tongues now, boys, all of you, and listen to what your grandmother's got to say."

A shout of laughter cut her short for a few seconds.

"That's right, old 'ooman, out with it."

"Sure, if ye'd stop your noise I'd out wid it fast enough. Now, then, here ye are, nivver a man of ye able to agree wid the others; an' the raisin's not far to seek—for yer all wrong togither. It would nivver do to make wan o' you a king—not even Joe here, for he knows nixt to nothin', nor yet Mister Rig Gundy, though he can fight like a man, for it's not a king's business to fight. No, take my word for it; what ye want is a queen—"

A loud explosion of mirth drowned the rest. "Hurrah! for Queen Lynch," cried one. "The Royal blood of owld Ireland for ivver!" shouted Malone.

"I wouldn't," said the widow indignantly, "condescind to reign over sitch a nation o' pigs, av ye was to go down on yer bare knees an' scrape them to the bone. No, it's English blood, or Spanitch, I don't rightly know which, that I'm drivin' at, for where could ye find a better, or honester, or purtier queen than that swate creetur, Miss Pauline Rig Gundy?"

The idea seemed to break upon the assembly as a light in a dark place. For a moment they seemed struck dumb; then there burst forth such a cheer as showed that the greater part of those present sympathised heartily with the proposal.

"I know'd ye'd agree to it. Sure, men always does when a sensible woman spakes. You see, Queen Pauline the First—"

"Hurrah! for Queen Pauline the First," yelled the settlers, with mingled cheers and laughter.

"Queen Pauline the First, ye may be sure," continued the widow, "would nivver try to kape order wid her fists, nor yit wid shoutin' or swearin'. An' then, av coorse, it would be aisy to make Mister Duminick or Joe Binney Prime Minister, an' little Buxley Chancler o' the Checkers, or whatever they calls it. Now, think over it, boys, an' good luck be wid ye."

They did think over it, then and there, in real earnest, and the possibility of an innocent, sensible, gentle, just, sympathetic, and high-minded queen reigning over them proved so captivating to these rough fellows, that the idea which had been at first received in jest crystallised into a serious purpose. At this point Otto ventured to raise his voice in this first deliberation of the embryo State.

"Friends," he said, with an air of modesty, which, we fear, was foreign to his nature, "although I can only appear before you as a boy, my big brother has this day proved himself to be so much more than an ordinary man that I feel somehow as if I had a right to his surplus manhood, being next-of-kin, and therefore I venture to address you as a sort of man." (Hear, hear!) "I merely wish to ask a question. May I ask to be the bearer of the news of this assembly's determination to—the—the Queen?"

"Yes—yes—of course—av course," were the immediate replies.

Otto waited not for more, but sped to their new hut, in which the Queen was busy preparing dinner at the time.

"Pina," exclaimed the boy, bursting in, "will you consent to be the Queen of Big Island?"

"Come, Otto; don't talk nonsense. I hope Dom is with you. Dinner is much overdone already."

"No, but I'm not talking nonsense," cried Otto. "I say, will you consent to be a queen—a real queen—Pina the First, eh?"

Hereupon he gave his wondering sister a graphic account of the recent meeting, and fight, and final decision.

"But they don't really mean it, you know," said Pauline, laughing.

"But they do really mean it," returned Otto; "and, by the way, if you become a queen won't that necessarily make me and Dom princes?"

As Dominick entered the hut at that moment he joined in the laugh which this question created, and corroborated his brother's statement.

In this cheerful frame of mind the new Royal Family sat down to dinner.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE CORONATION—CROWN-MAKING DELIBERATIONS, CEREMONIALS, AND CATASTROPHES.

There came a day, not many weeks later in the history of our emigrants, when great preparations were made for an important and unusual event.

This was neither more nor less than the coronation of Queen Pauline the First.

The great event had been delayed by the unfortunate illness of the elect queen herself—an illness brought on by reckless exposure in the pursuit of the picturesque and beautiful among the islets of the lagoon. In other words, Otto and she, when off on a fishing and sketching excursion in the dinghy of the wreck, had been caught in a storm and drenched to the skin. The result to Otto was an increase of appetite; to Pauline, a sharp attack of fever, which confined her for some time to the palace, as their little hut was now styled. Here the widow Lynch—acting the united parts of nurse, lady of the bedchamber, mistress of the robes, maid of honour, chef de cuisine, and any other office that the reader may recollect as belonging to royalty—did so conduct herself as to gain not only the approval but the affection and gratitude of her royal mistress.

During the period of Pauline's convalescence considerable changes had taken place in the circumstances and condition of the community. The mere fact that a government had been fixed on, the details of which were being wrought out by a committee of leading men appointed by the people, tended to keep the turbulent spirits pretty quiet, and enabled the well-disposed to devote all their strength of mind and body to the various duties that devolved upon them and the improving of their circumstances. Busy workers are usually peaceful. They have no time to quarrel. It is only when turbulent idlers interfere with or oppress them that the industrious are compelled to show their teeth and set up their backs.

During these weeks the appearance of the shores of Big Island began to change materially. All round the edge of Silver Bay a number of bright green patches were enclosed by rough but effective fences. These were the gardens of the community, in which sweet potatoes, yams, etcetera, grew spontaneously, while some vegetables of the northern hemisphere had already been sown, and were in some cases even beginning to show above ground. In these gardens, when the important work of planting had been finished, the people set about building huts of various shapes and sizes, according to their varying taste and capacity.

Even at this early stage in the life of the little community the difficulties which necessarily surround a state of civilisation began to appear, and came out at one of the frequent, though informal, meetings of the men on the sands of Silver Bay. It happened thus:—

It was evening. The younger and more lively men of the community, having a large store of surplus energy unexhausted after the labours of the day, began, as is the wont of the young and lively, to compete with one another in feats of agility and strength, while a group of their elders stood, sat, or reclined on a bank, discussing the affairs of the nation, and some of them enjoying their pipes—for, you see, everything in the wreck having been saved, they had, among other bad things, plenty of tobacco.

Dr Marsh sat among the elders, for, although several weeks on shore had greatly restored his health, he was still too weak to join in the athletics. A few of the women and children also looked on, but they stood aside by themselves, not feeling very much interested in the somewhat heated discussions of the men.

By degrees these discussions degenerated into disputes, and became at last so noisy that the young athletes were attracted, and some of them took part in the debates.

"I tell 'ee what it is," exclaimed Nobbs, the blacksmith, raising his powerful voice above the other voices, and lifting his huge fist in the air, "something'll have to be done, for I can't go on workin' for nothin' in this fashion."

"No more can I, or my mates," said Abel Welsh, the carpenter.

"Here comes the Prime Minister," cried Teddy Malone.

"To be—he ain't Prime Minister yet," growled Jabez Jenkins, who, being a secret ally of Hugh Morris, was one of the disaffected, and had, besides, a natural tendency to growl and object to everything.

"He is Prime Minister," cried the fiery little Buxley, starting up and extending his hand with the air of one who is about to make a speech. "No doubt the Queen ain't crowned yet, an' hasn't therefore appointed any one to be her Minister, but we know she means to do it and we're all agreed about it."

"No we ain't," interrupted Jenkins, angrily.

"Well, the most on us, then," retorted Buxley.

"Shut up, you radical!" said Nobbs, giving the tailor a facetious slap on the back, "an' let's hear what the Prime Minister himself has got to say about it."

"What is the subject under discussion?" inquired Dominick, who, with Otto, joined the group of men at the moment and flung down a basket of fine fish which he had just caught in the lagoon.

He turned to Dr Marsh for an answer.

"Do you explain your difficulties," said the doctor to the blacksmith.

"Well, sir," said Nobbs, "here's where it is. When I fust comed ashore an' set up my anvil an' bellows I went to work with a will, enjyin' the fun o' the thing an' the novelty of the sitivation; an' as we'd lots of iron of all kinds I knocked off nails an' hinges an' all sorts o' things for anybody as wanted 'em. Similarly, w'en Abel Welsh comed ashore he went to work with his mates at the pit-saw an' tossed off no end o' planks, etceterer. But you see, sir, arter a time we come for to find that we're workin' to the whole population for nothin', and while everybody else is working away at his own hut or garden, or what not, our gardens is left to work themselves, an' our huts is nowhere! Now, as we've got no money to pay for work with, and as stones an' shells won't answer the purpus—seein' there's a sight too much of 'em— the question is, what's to be done?"

"Not an easy question to answer, Nobbs," said Dominick, "and one that requires serious consideration. Perhaps, instead of trying to answer it at present, we might find a temporary expedient for the difficulty until a Committee of the House—if I may say so—shall investigate the whole problem." (Hear, hear from Malone, Redding, and Buxley, and a growl from Jenkins.) "I would suggest, then, in the meantime, that while Nobbs and Welsh,—who are, perhaps, the most useful men among us—continue to ply their trades for the benefit of the community, every man in the community shall in turn devote a small portion of time to working in the gardens and building the huts of these two men." (Hear, hear, from a great many of the hearers, and dissenting growls from a few.) "But," continued Dominick, "as there are evidently some here who are not of an obliging disposition, and as the principle of willing service lies at the root of all social felicity, I would further suggest that, until our Queen is crowned and the Government fairly set up, all such labour shall be undertaken entirely by volunteers."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse