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    Chapter XXXIII. We Explore the Island

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    Chapter 34
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    I opened my eyes to a great beam of sun pouring in at the open doorway, whereby I judged my companion already astir. So I arose forthwith, and going out of the cave stood amazed to see the havoc wrought by last night's storm. For everywhere lay trees torn and uprooted, and in divers of the more exposed places the wind it seemed had swept them utterly away, so that the landscape here and there wore an air unfamiliar and not to be recognised. Though the wind was died away I saw the sea yet rolling tempestuous to break in foam upon the reef and with dreadful roar. Looking down on Deliverance Beach I beheld its white sands littered with piles of driftwood, and over all a cloudless blue with the sun new-risen and very hot.

    And now taking my hooks and line and a pliant bough for rod, I went forth to angle for breakfast. Reaching the lagoon great wonder was it to behold these waters so smooth and placid while the surf foamed and thundered beyond the reef. I now baited my hooks with fat of the goat and betook me to my angling; nor had I long to wait ere I felt a jerk on my line, and tingling with the joy of it I whipped my rod so furiously that my fish whirled glittering through the air, and flying from my barbless hook lay floundering on the sands behind me; and though of no great size yet a very good fish I thought him. And indeed I found the fish to bite readily enough and mighty dexterous to filch my bait, and though I lost a-many yet I, becoming more expert, contrived to land five likely fish of different sizes and of marvellous colouring.

    So there sat I in the shade of a rock, mighty content and quite lost in the joy of my sport until, chancing to lift my gaze, I beheld my companion upon the rocks over against me gazing away across the troubled ocean. And beholding all the grace of her as she stood there, her shapely figure poised and outlined against the blue sky, her long hair rippling in the soft wind, I clean forgot my fish, for indeed it seemed I had not noticed the vigorous beauty of her until now. And in this moment, as I sat staring up at her, she turned and spying me, waved her hand in cheery greeting and begins to descend these rocks, leaping sure- footed from ledge to ledge, lithe and graceful as any fabled nymph or goddess of them all. But I, well knowing the danger of these rocks, watched her with breath in check and mighty anxious until she sprang nimbly to the sands and so came running all joyous to meet me. Hereupon I caught up my forgotten angle and found my hook empty, whereat she must needs fall a-laughing at my discomfiture.

    "O Martin" says she, "what a glory of sun and sea and sky and the wind so sweet! Indeed it seems as nature would make us amends for the cruel storm, for the poor trees have suffered greatly."

    "Aye, comrade," quoth I, "so is there much fruit for us to gather ere it rot, and great store of palm-nuts, which are good food and useful in a thousand ways."

    "But nature is very cruel, Martin, for I have seen many birds lying dead and over yonder a poor goat crushed by a tree."

    "Why then," says I, "these will we eat also, at least, such as we may."

    "Nay, Martin, your mind runneth overmuch on food, methinks."

    "Mayhap!" says I. "Howbeit here are fish to our breakfast." Hereupon she falls on her knees to behold my catch and very full of wonder.

    "Indeed," says she, "meseemeth we have strayed into Paradise, for even the fish are beautiful. Why stare you so, Martin? Is it so wonderful I joy in life and find it sweet in so fair a world and on such a day? Moreover I have been swimming--"

    "How?" says I, "and the sea so rough!"

    "I have found me a little bay where the waters run smooth and deep. But come, let us breakfast, for to-day, Martin, to-day we will explore our island."

    "Why, I had thought to try my saw to-day," says I, "I had intended to begin a chair for you."

    "Nay, let this rest awhile; Martin, to-day I yearn to adventure the unknown, who can say what marvels and wonders lie waiting us?"

    "As you will!" says I, rising, and so away to the plateau. Now very soon I had the fire a-going and while she bustled to and fro preparing breakfast and singing very sweet and blithe to hear, I took the pistol, and having cleaned and oiled it, found it very well; then I loaded it with one of my six bullets, using a strip from my ragged shirtsleeve for wads. This done I laid it by and, going for Adam's journal, I cut therefrom the map of the island and fell to studying it with a view to our forthcoming journey. The which map I give herewith:

    (Map of the island.)

    Hearing my companion call me I went out to find breakfast ready, the fish broiled and very appetising. While we ate I showed her Adam's map and she greatly pleased therewith and anxious to know how I came by it, all of which I told her. And she, examining this plan, grows but the more eager to be gone on this expedition.

    "But, Martin," says she all at once as she studied the map, "Master Penfeather would seem to have been forced to slay a great number of poor men, here be--one--two--three--O many men all dead by his hand--and each marked with a little cross."

    "Aye," I nodded, "and each and every 'slain of necessity'"...

    "Which meaneth--what, Martin?"

    "Murder, like as not, though 'tis all cunningly glozed in his journal."

    "I would fain see this journal, Martin."

    "Why, so you shall and judge thereby whether he be rogue or no, for 'tis beyond me."

    "But now," says she rising, "let us make ready for our journey, though 'twill be no great matter, for according to this plan the island is no more than seven miles long and some five miles wide."

    "Even so," quoth I, "'twill be ill travelling by reason of woods and tangled thickets, swamps and the like, so I judge 'twill take the whole day."

    "Why then," says she, leaping up, "the sooner we start the better, Martin."

    Hereupon, finding her so set on it I proceeded to equip myself for the journey; in my belt I thrust my trusty knife and the hatchet, these balanced by the pistol, and over my shoulder I slung my bow and quiver of arrows and chose me a good stout sapling for staff. Soon cometh my companion, her slender middle girt by a goatskin girdle whereto she had hung our other sheath- knife and my wallet; so we set out together side by side. Reaching the little valley, we turned off to the right, or westerly, according to Adam's map, following the stream that rippled amid great boulders or flowed 'twixt banks adorned with many-hued flowers most rare to be seen. And here were bushes of all kinds and trees a-plenty untouched by the gale, for the little valley, being well secluded, it fortuned the wind had passed over it. Up rose the sun waxing ever hotter, so that, reaching a grove of trees, I would have my companion rest awhile in this right pleasant shade the whiles I, with certain great leaves, contrived a covering for her head and another for my own; which done, we fared on again and she very merry by reason of the strange figures we cut. Thus we presently came out of the valley into a pleasant champain--a rolling grassy upland with dim woods beyond, even as Adam had set forth in his map. Wherefore, guided by this map, we struck off north and so in a while came again to the river and heard the roar of the waterfall away to our left; and turning thither (I being minded to show her this wonder) we saw before us a high land, well girt by bush and fern and flowering shrubs, up which we scrambled forthwith, the roar of the fall waxing louder as we climbed. Reaching the summit we saw it had once been covered by noble trees, some few of which the storm had left standing yet, but for the most part they lay wind- tossed in wild and tangled confusion.

    "O Martin!" says my companion, "O Martin!" and so stood awed by the destruction wrought by this mighty and pitiless tempest. Here was ill-going, but by dint of labour with my hatchet I forced us a way through the wreckage until we suddenly came where we might behold the fall that leapt from the adjacent rocks, all rainbow-hued, to plunge into those deep and troubled waters below.

    And now instead of bursting forth into cries of delighted wonder, as I had expected, my companion stood mute and still, her hands tight-clasped, viewing now the splendour of these falling waters, now the foam-sprent deeps below, like one quite dumbfounded. At last:

    "O Martin," says she in my ear, for the noise of the fall was very loud, "here is wonder on wonder!"

    "As how, comrade?"

    "This great body of water for all its weight yet disturbeth yonder black depths very little--and how should this chance except this dark lake be immeasurably deep?"

    "Aye, true!" says I. "Here belike was a volcano once and this the crater."

    Hard by, a great rock jutted out above the lake, that same barren rock wherein I had sat the day I discovered this cataract; now as I viewed this rock I was struck by its grotesque shape and then, all at once, I saw it was hatefully like to a shrivelled head-- there were the fleshless jaws, the shrunken nose and great, hollow eye-socket. And now even as I stared at the thing my companion spied it also, for I felt her hand on my arm and saw her stand to view it wide-eyed. So we, speaking no word, stared upon this shape, and ever as we stared the nameless evil of it seemed to grow, insomuch that we turned with one accord and hasted away.

    "Yonder was an ill sight, Martin."

    "Indeed!" says I. "'Twas like the face of one long dead! And yet 'tis no more than a volcanic rock! Nature playeth strange tricks sometimes, and here was one vastly strange and most unlovely!" After this we went on side by side and never a word betwixt us until we had reached that pleasant champain country where flowed the river shaded by goodly trees, in whose branches fluttered birds of a plumage marvellously coloured and diverse, and beneath which bloomed flowers as vivid; insomuch that my lady brake forth ever and anon into little soft cries of delighted wonder. And yet despite all these marvels it was long ere we shook off the evil of that ghastly rock.

    Presently as we journeyed came a wind sweet and fresh from the sea, offsetting the sun's immoderate heat to our great comfort, so that, though ofttimes our way was toilsome, our spirits rose notwithstanding, and we laughed and talked unfeignedly as only good comrades may.

    By noon we had reached a place of rocks where, according to Adam's map should be a ford, though hereabouts the stream, swollen by the late rains, ran deep. Howbeit we presently came upon the ford sure enough and, having crossed it, my lady must needs fall to admiring at her new shoes again, finding them water-fast.

    "And they so comfortable and easy to go in, Martin!"

    "Why, you have footed it bravely thus far!" says I, "But--"

    "But?" says she, "And what then? You shall find me no laggard these days, Martin. Indeed I could run fast as you for all your long legs, sir."

    So she challenges me to race her forthwith, whereupon (and despite the sun) we started off side by side and she so fleet that I might scarce keep pace with her; thus we ran until at last we stopped all flushed and breathless and laughing for the pure joy of it.

    Presently in our going we came on a little dell, very shady and pleasantly secluded, where flowers bloomed and great clusters of wild grapes hung ripe for the plucking; and mighty pleasant methought it to behold my companion's pleased wonderment. Here we sat to rest and found these grapes very sweet and refreshing.

    Much might I tell of the marvels of this island, of fruit and bird and beast, of the great butterflies that wheeled and hovered resplendent, and of the many and divers wonders that beset us at every turn; but lest my narrative grow to immoderate length (of the which I do already begin to entertain some doubt) I will pass these with this mere mention and hurry on to say that we tramped blithely on until, the sun declining westwards, warned us to be turning back; but close before us rose that high hill whose summit towered above the island, and my companion mighty determined that she must climb it.

    "For, Martin," says she, scornful of all weariness, "once up there we may behold all our domain spread out before us!"

    So having skirted the woods and avoided tangled thickets as well as we might, we began the ascent, which we found to be no great matter after all. And now I bethought me how Adam had sped hotfoot up hereabouts on a time and with Tressady's glittering hook ringing loud on the rocks behind him. More than once as we climbed we came on flocks of goats that scampered off at sight of us; here, too, I remarked divers great birds and determined to try a shot at one if chance should offer. As to my companion, I had all I could do to keep up with her until, flushed and breathless, she turned to view me all radiant-eyed where we stood panting upon the summit. And now beholding the prospect below, she uttered a soft, inarticulate cry, and sinking down upon the sward, pushed the damp curls from her brow the better to survey the scene outstretched before us.

    A rolling, wooded country of broad savannahs, of stately groves and mazy boskages, of dim woods and flashing streams; a blended harmony of greens be-splashed, here and there, with blossoming thickets or flowering trees, the whole shut in by towering, tree- girt cliffs and bounded by a limitless ocean, blue as any sapphire.

    Viewing the island from this eminence I could see that Adam's map was true in all essentials as to shape and general trend of the country, and sitting beside my lady I fell to viewing the island more narrowly, especially this eminent place; and looking about me I called to mind how Adam (according to his story) had waged desperate fight with Tressady hereabouts--indeed I thought to recognise the very spot itself, viz., a narrow ledge of rock with, far below, a sea that ran deeply blue to break in foam against the base of these precipitous cliffs. Away over hill and dale I saw that greeny cliff with its silver thread of falling water that marked our refuge, and beyond this again, on my right hand, the white spume of the breakers on the reef. And beholding the beauties thus spread out before my eyes, and knowing myself undisputed lord of it all, there grew within me a sense of joy unknown hitherto.

    At last, moved by a sudden thought, I turned from the beauties of this our island to study the beauty of her who sat beside me; the proud carriage of her shapely head 'neath its silky masses of hair, the level brows, the calm, deep serenity of her blue eyes, the delicate nose, full red lips and dimpled chin, the soft round column of her throat, deep bosom and slender waist--thus sat I staring upon her loveliness heedless of all else until she stirred uneasily, as if conscious of my regard, and looked at me. Then I saw that her eyes were serene no longer, whiles all at once throat and cheeks and brow were suffused with slow and painful colour, yet even as I gazed on her she met my look unflinching.

    "What is it, Martin?" she questioned, a little breathless still.

    "Suppose," says I slowly, "suppose we are never taken hence-- suppose we are destined to end our days here?"

    "Surely this is--an ill thought, Martin?"

    "Indeed and is it, my lady? Can the world offer a home more fair?"

    "Surely not, Martin."

    "Then wherein lieth the ill--Damaris? Is it that you do yearn so mightily for England?"

    "There lieth my home, Martin!"

    "Is home then so dear to you?" Here, finding no answer, she grew troubled. "Or is it," says I, bending my staff across my knee and beginning to frown, "or is it that there waits some man yonder that you love?"

    "No, Martin, have I not told you--"

    "Why then," says I, "is it that you grow a-weary of my unlovely ways and would be quit of me?"

    "No, Martin--only--only--" Here she fell silent and I saw her flush again.

    "Or is it that you fear I might grow to love you--in time?"

    "To--love me!" says she, very softly, and now I saw her red lips dimple to a smile as she stooped to cull a flower blooming hard by. "Nay!" says she lightly, "Here were a wonder beyond thought, Martin!"

    "And wherefore should this be so great wonder?" I demanded.

    "Because I am Joan Brandon and you are a man vowed and sworn to vengeance, Martin."

    "Vengeance?" says I and, with the word, the staff snapped in my hands.

    "Is it not so, Martin?" she questioned, wistfully. "Given freedom from this island would you not go seeking your enemy's life? Dream you not of vengeance still?"

    "Aye, true," says I, "true! How should it be otherwise? Come, let us begone!" And casting away my broken staff, I got to my feet. But she, sitting there, lifted her head to view me with look mighty strange.

    "Poor Martin!" says she softly. "Poor Martin!"

    Then she arose, albeit slow and wearily, and we went down the hill together. Now as we went thus, I in black humour (and never a word) I espied one of those great birds I have mentioned within easy range, and whipping off my bow I strung it, and setting arrow on cord let fly and brought down my quarry (as luck would have it) and running forward had very soon despatched it.

    "Why must you kill the poor thing, Martin?"

    "For supper."

    "Supper waiteth us at home."

    "Home?" says I.

    "The cave, Martin."

    "We shall not reach there this night. 'Twill be dark in another hour and there is no moon, so needs must we bide here."

    "As you will, Martin."

    Hard beside the river that wound a devious course through the green was a little grove, and sitting here I fell to plucking the bird.

    "Shall I not do that, Martin?"

    "I can do it well enough."

    "As you wish, Martin."

    "You are weary, doubtless."

    "Why, 'tis no great labour to cook supper, Martin."

    "Howbeit, I'll try my hand to-night."

    "Very well," says she and away she goes to collect sticks for the fire whiles I sat feathering the bird and found the flesh of it very white and delicate. But all the while my anger swelled within me for the folly I had uttered to her, in a moment of impulse, concerning love. Thus as she knelt to build the fire I spoke my thought.

    "I said a vain and foolish thing to you a while since."

    "Aye, Martin you did!" says she, bending over her pile of sticks. "But which do you mean?"

    "I mean that folly regarding love."

    "O, was that folly, Martin?" she questioned, busy laying the sticks in place.

    "Arrant folly, for I could never love you--or any woman--"

    "O, why not, Martin?"

    "Because I have no gift for't--no leaning that way--nor ever shall--"

    "Why indeed, you are no ordinary man, Martin. Shall I light the fire?"

    "No, I will."

    "Yes, Martin!" And down she sits with folded hands, watching me mighty solemn and demure and I very conscious of her scrutiny. Having plucked and drawn my bird, I fell to trimming it with my knife, yet all the time feeling her gaze upon me, so that what with this and my anger I pricked my thumb and cursed beneath my breath, whereupon she arose and left me.

    Having thus prepared my bird for cooking I set it upon two sticks and, lighting the fire, sat down to watch it. But scarce had I done so when back comes my lady.

    "Martin," says she, "should you not truss your bird first, Martin?"

    "'Twill do as it is."

    "Very well, Martin. But why are you so short with me?"

    "I am surly by nature!" quoth I.

    "Aye, true!" she nodded, "But why are you angry with me this time?"

    "I ha' forgot."

    "You were merry enough this noon and laughed gaily, and once you fell a-whistling--"

    "The more fool I!"

    "Why then, methinks I do like your folly--sometimes!" says she softly. "But now see this river, Martin, 'tis called the Serpent Water in the map, and indeed it winds and twists like any snake. But where should so much water come from, think you? Let us go look!"

    "Nay, not I--here's the bird to tend--"

    "Why then," says she, stamping her foot at me in sudden anger, "stay where you are until you find your temper! And may your bird burn to a cinder!" And away she goes forthwith and I staring after her like any fool until she was out of sight. So there sat I beside the fire and giving all due heed to my cooking; but in a while I fell to deep reflection and became so lost in my thoughts that, roused by a smell of burning, I started up to find my bird woefully singed.

    This put me in fine rage so that I was minded to cast the carcass into the fire and have done with it; and my anger grew as the time passed and my companion came not. The sun sank rapidly, and the bird I judged well-nigh done; wherefore I began to shout and halloo, bidding her to supper. But the shadows deepening and getting no answer to my outcries, I started up, clean forgetting my cookery, and hasted off in search of my companion, calling her name now and then as I went. Following the stream I found it to narrow suddenly (and it running very furious and deep) perceiving which I began to fear lest some mischance had befallen my wilful lady. Presently as I hurried on, casting my eyes here and there in search of her, I heard, above the rush of the water, a strange and intermittent roaring, the which I could make nothing of, until, at last, forcing my way through the underbrush I saw before me a column of water that spouted up into the air from a fissure at the base of the hill, and this waterspout was about the bigness of a fair-sized tree and gushed up some twenty feet or so, now sinking to half this height, only to rise again. Scarce pausing to behold this wonder I would have hasted on (and roaring louder than the water) when I beheld her seated close by upon a rock and watching me, chin in hand.

    "Why must you shout so loud?" says she reprovingly.

    "I feared you lost!" says I, like any fool.

    Would it matter so much? And you so angry with me and no reason?"

    "Howbeit, supper is ready!"

    "I am not hungry, I thank you, sir."

    "But I am!"

    "Then go eat!"

    "Not alone!" says I; and then very humbly, "Prithee, comrade, come to supper, indeed you should be hungry!"

    "And indeed, Martin," says she, rising and giving me her hand, "I do think I am vastly hungry after all." So back we went together and, reaching the fire, found the accursed bird burned black as any coal, whereupon I stood mighty downcast and abashed the while she laughed and laughed until she needs must lean against a tree; and I, seeing her thus merry at my expense, presently laughed also. Hereupon she falls on her knees, and taking the thing from the fire sets it upon a great leaf for dish, and turns it this way and that.

    "Good lack, Martin!" says she, "'Tis burned as black e'en as I wished! This cometh of your usurpation of my duties, sir! And yet methinks 'tis not utterly spoiled!" And drawing her knife she scrapes and trims it, cutting away the burned parts until there little enough remained, but that mighty delectable judging by the smell of it.

    So down we sat to supper forthwith and mighty amicable, nay indeed methought her kinder than ordinary and our friendship only the stronger, which did comfort me mightily.

    But our supper done we spake little, for night was come upon us very still and dark save for a glitter of stars, by whose unearthly light all things took on strange shapes, and our solitude seemed but the more profound and awesome.

    Above us a purple sky be-gemmed by a myriad stars, a countless host whose distant splendour throbbed upon the night; round about us a gloom of woods and thickets that hemmed us in like a dark and sombre tide, whence stole a sweet air fraught with spicy odours; and over all a deep and brooding quietude. But little by little upon this silence crept sounds near and far, leafy rustlings, a stirring in the undergrowth, the whimper of some animal, the croak of a bird, and the faint, never-ceasing murmur of the surge.

    And I, gazing thus upon this measureless immensity, felt myself humbled thereby, and with this came a knowledge of the futility of my life hitherto. And now (as often she had done, ere this) my companion voiced the thought I had no words for.

    "Martin," says she, softly, "what pitiful things are we, lost thus in God's infinity."

    "And doth it affright you, Damaris?"

    "No, Martin, for God is all-merciful. Yet I needs must think how vain our little strivings, our hopes and fears, how small our joys and sorrows!"

    "Aye, truly, truly!" quoth I.

    "But," says she, leaning towards me in the firelight and with her gaze uplifted to the starry heavens, "He who made the heavens is a merciful God, 'who hath made great lights...the moon and the stars to govern the night.' So, Martin, 'let us give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever; and in this knowledge methinks we may surely rest secure."

    After this we fell silent again, I for one being very full of troublesome thought and perplexity, and the sum of it this, viz., whether a woman, cast alone on a desolate island with a man such as I, had need to fear him? To the which question answer found I none. Wherefore I got me another speculation, to wit: Whether a man and woman thus solitary must needs go a-falling in love with one another? Finding no answer to this either, I turned, half- minded to put the question to my companion, and found her fast asleep.

    She lay deep-slumbering in the light of the fire, her face half- hid 'neath a tress of shining hair; and I viewing her, chin in fist, saw in her only the last of her hated race and knew in that moment that never might there be aught of true love, that pure passion, high and ennobling, the which may lift man above his baser self--never might this be 'twixt her blood and mine. And knowing this I knew also great doubt and fear of myself. And in my fear I lifted my gaze to the stars, those "great lights" set there by the hand of God; and spake thus within myself:

    "Lord God," quoth I, "Since love is not nor ever shall be 'twixt this my companion and me, do Thou protect her from the devil within me, do Thou aid me to keep the oath I sware in Thy name."

    But now (and my prayer scarce uttered) the Devil sprang and was upon me, and I, forgetting all my oaths and resolutions, yielded me joyously to his will; stirring in her slumbers my lady sighed, turned and, throwing her arm out it chanced that her hand came upon my knee and rested there, and I, shivering at her touch, seized this hand and caught it to my lips and began to kiss these helpless fingers and the round, soft arm above. I felt her start, heard her breath catch in a sob, but, in my madness I swept her to my embrace. Then as I stooped she held me off striving fiercely against me; all at once her struggles ceased and I heard her breath come in a long, tremulous sigh.

    "Martin!" says she, "O thank God 'tis you! I dreamed these Black Bartlemy's cruel arms about me and I was sick with fear and horror--thank God 'tis you, dear Martin, and I safe from all harms soever. So hold me an you will, Martin, you that have saved me from so much and will do till the end."

    "Aye, by God!" says I, bending my head above her that she might not see my face, "And so I will, faithfully, truly, until the very end!"

    "Do I not know it--O do I not know it!" says she in choking voice, and here, lying beside me, she must take my hand and hold it to her soft cheek. "Indeed I do think there is no man like you in the whole world."

    At this, knowing myself so unworthy, I thought no man in the world so miserable as I, as I would have told her but dared not.

    "God make me worthy of your trust!" says I at last.

    "'Tis a good prayer, Martin. Now hear mine, 'tis one I have prayed full oft--God make you strong enough to forgive past wrongs and, forgetting vengeance, to love your enemy."

    "'Tis thing impossible!" says I.

    "Yet the impossible shall come to pass soon or late, Martin, this am I sure."

    "And why so sure?"

    "My heart telleth me so!" says she drowsily, and looking down I saw her eyes were closed and she on the verge of slumber. And beholding her thus, my self-hate grew, insomuch that her fingers loosing their hold, I stole away my hand and, seeing her asleep, crept from the place. Being come to the stream I stood awhile staring down at the hurrying waters, minded to cast myself therein; but presently I turned aside, and coming amid leafy gloom lay there outstretched, my face hidden from the stars and I very full of bitterness, for it seemed that I was as great a rogue and well-nigh as vile as ever Bartlemy had been. And thus merciful sleep found me at last.
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