CHAPTER XXIII  THEY MOVE AWAY

    He began to collect the things, and carry them to the dinghy. He took the stay-sail and everything that might be useful; and when he had stowed them in the boat, he took the breaker and filled it with water at the water source in the wood; he collected some bananas and breadfruit, and stowed them in the dinghy with the breaker. Then he found the remains of yesterday's breakfast, which he had hidden between two palmetto leaves, and placed it also in the boat.

    The water was now so high that a strong push would float her. He turned back to the hut for Emmeline. She was still asleep: so soundly asleep, that when he lifted her up in his arms she made no movement. He placed her carefully in the stern-sheets with her head on the sail rolled up, and then standing in the bow pushed off with a scull. Then, taking the sculls, he turned the boat's head up the lagoon to the left. He kept close to the shore, but for the life of him he could not help lifting his eyes and looking towards the reef.

    Round a certain spot on the distant white coral there was a great commotion of birds. Huge birds some of them seemed, and the "Hi! hi! hi!" of them came across the lagoon on the breeze as they quarrelled together and beat the air with their wings. He turned his head away till a bend of the shore hid the spot from sight.

    Here, sheltered more completely than opposite the break in the reef, the artu came in places right down to the water's edge; the breadfruit trees cast the shadow of their great scalloped leaves upon the water; glades, thick with fern, wildernesses of the mammee apple, and bushes of the scarlet "wild cocoanut" all slipped by, as the dinghy, hugging the shore, crept up the lagoon.

    Gazing at the shore edge one might have imagined it the edge of a lake, but for the thunder of the Pacific upon the distant reef; and even that did not destroy the impression, but only lent a strangeness to it.

    A lake in the midst of the ocean, that is what the lagoon really was.

    Here and there cocoa-nut trees slanted over the water, mirroring their delicate stems, and tracing their clear-cut shadows on the sandy bottom a fathom deep below.

    He kept close in-shore for the sake of the shelter of the trees. His object was to find some place where they might stop permanently, and put up a tent. He was seeking a new home, in fact. But, pretty as were the glades they passed, they were not attractive places to live in. There were too many trees, or the ferns were too deep. He was seeking air and space, and suddenly he found it. Rounding a little cape, all blazing with the scarlet of the wild cocoa-nut, the dinghy broke into a new world.

    Before her lay a great sweep of the palest blue wind-swept water, down to which came a broad green sward of park-like land set on either side with deep groves, and leading up and away to higher land, where, above the massive and motionless green of the great breadfruit trees, the palm trees swayed and fluttered their pale green feathers in the breeze. The pale colour of the water was due to the extreme shallowness of the lagoon just here. So shallow was it that one could see brown spaces indicating beds of dead and rotten coral, and splashes of darkest sapphire where the deep pools lay. The reef lay more than half a mile from the shore: a great way out, it seemed, so far out that its cramping influence was removed, and one had the impression of wide and unbroken sea.

    Dick rested on his oars, and let the dinghy float whilst he looked around him. He had come some four miles and a half, and this was right at the back of the island. As the boat drifting shoreward touched the bank, Emmeline awakened from her sleep, sat up, and looked around her.


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