CHAPTER VII  THE SCHOONER

    They carried the bananas up to the house, and hung them from a branch of the artu. Then Dick, on his knees, lit the fire to prepare the evening meal. When it was over he went down to where the boat was moored, and returned with something in his hand. It was the javelin with the iron point or, rather, the two pieces of it. He had said nothing of what he had seen to the girl.

    Emmeline was seated on the grass; she had a long strip of the striped flannel stuff about her, worn like a scarf, and she had another piece in her hand which she was hemming. The bird was hopping about, pecking at a banana which they had thrown to him; a light breeze made the shadow of the artu leaves dance upon the grass, and the serrated leaves of the breadfruit to patter one on the other with the sound of rain-drops falling upon glass.

    "Where did you get it?" asked Emmeline, staring at the piece of the javelin which Dick had flung down almost beside her whilst he went into the house to fetch the knife.

    "It was on the beach over there," he replied, taking his seat and examining the two fragments to see how he could splice them together.

    Emmeline looked at the pieces, putting them together in her mind. She did not like the look of the thing: so keen and savage, and stained dark a foot and more from the point.

    "People had been there," said Dick, putting the two pieces together and examining the fracture critically.

    "Where?"

    "Over there. This was lying on the sand, and the sand was all trod up."

    "Dick," said Emmeline, "who were the people?"

    "I don't know; I went up the hill and saw their boats going away--far away out. This was lying on the sand."

    "Dick," said Emmeline, "do you remember the noise yesterday?"

    "Yes," said Dick.

    "I heard it in the night."

    "When?"

    "In the night before the moon went away."

    "That was them," said Dick.

    "Dick!"

    "Yes?"

    "Who were they?"

    "I don't know," replied Dick.

    "It was in the night, before the moon went away, and it went on and on beating in the trees. I thought I was asleep, and then I knew I was awake; you were asleep, and I pushed you to listen, but you couldn't wake, you were so asleep; then the moon went away, and the noise went on. How did they make the noise?"

    "I don't know," replied Dick, "but it was them; and they left this on the sand, and the sand was all trod up, and I saw their boats from the hill, away out far."

    "I thought I heard voices," said Emmeline, "but I was not sure."

    She fell into meditation, watching her companion at work on the savage and sinister-looking thing in his hands. He was splicing the two pieces together with a strip of the brown cloth-like stuff which is wrapped round the stalks of the cocoa-palm fronds. The thing seemed to have been hurled here out of the blue by some unseen hand.

    When he had spliced the pieces, doing so with marvellous dexterity, he took the thing short down near the point, and began thrusting it into the soft earth to clean it; then, with a bit of flannel, he polished it till it shone. He felt a keen delight in it. It was useless as a fish-spear, because it had no barb, but it was a weapon. It was useless as a weapon, because there was no foe on the island to use it against; still, it was a weapon.

    When he had finished scrubbing at it, he rose, hitched his old trousers up, tightened the belt of cocoa-cloth which Emmeline had made for him, went into the house and got his fish-spear, and stalked off to the boat, calling out to Emmeline to follow him. They crossed over to the reef, where, as usual, he divested himself of clothing.

    It was strange that out here he would go about stark naked, yet on the island he always wore some covering. But not so strange, perhaps, after all.

    The sea is a great purifier, both of the mind and the body; before that great sweet spirit people do not think in the same way as they think far inland. What woman would appear in a town or on a country road, or even bathing in a river, as she appears bathing in the sea?

    Some instinct made Dick cover himself up on shore, and strip naked on the reef. In a minute he was down by the edge of the surf, javelin in one hand, fish-spear in the other.

    Emmeline, by a little pool the bottom of which was covered with branching coral, sat gazing down into its depths, lost in a reverie like that into which we fall when gazing at shapes in the fire. She had sat some time like this when a shout from Dick aroused her. She started to her feet and gazed to where he was pointing. An amazing thing was there.

    To the east, just rounding the curve of the reef, and scarcely a quarter of a mile from it, was coming a big topsail schooner; a beautiful sight she was, heeling to the breeze with every sail drawing, and the white foam like a feather at her fore-foot.

    Dick, with the javelin in his hand, was standing gazing at her; he had dropped his fishspear, and he stood as motionless as though he were carved out of stone. Emmeline ran to him and stood beside him; neither of them spoke a word as the vessel drew closer.

    Everything was visible, so close was she now, from the reef points on the great mainsail, luminous with the sunlight, and white as the wing of a gull, to the rail of the bulwarks. A crowd of men were hanging over the port bulwarks gazing at the island and the figures on the reef. Browned by the sun and sea-breeze, Emmeline's hair blowing on the wind, and the point of Dick's javelin flashing in the sun, they looked an ideal pair of savages, seen from the schooner's deck.

    "They are going away," said Emmeline, with a long-drawn breath of relief.

    Dick made no reply; he stared at the schooner a moment longer in silence, then, having made sure that she was standing away from the land, he began to run up and down, calling out wildly, and beckoning to the vessel as if to call her back.

    A moment later a sound came on the breeze, a faint hail; a flag was run up to the peak and dipped as in derision, and the vessel continued on her course.

    As a matter of fact, she had been on the point of putting about. Her captain had for a moment been undecided as to whether the forms on the reef were those of castaways or savages. But the javelin in Dick's hand had turned the scale of his opinion in favour of the theory of savages.


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