The Coral Island - R. M. Ballantyne

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CHAPTER ONE
The Wreck
For three days and nights our ship had driven before the storm, and now the end was near. Death looked us in the face.
There could be no doubt of that. The ship was breaking up. The first blast of the gale had carried away two of our masts: the frightful walls of water that came sweeping across the Pacific Ocean had torn off our rudder and left us at the mercy of wind and waves. Everything had been swept off the decks except one small boat, and we had been blown far out of our course. I knew that we might find ourselves among dangerous coral reefs-and I, Ralph Rover, fifteen years old and mad about the sea, was terribly afraid.
Then, at the dawn of the third day, there came a cry from the look-out:
«Land! Land ahead!»
I tried to peer through the sheeted rain. Its drops struck at me like bullets. I had never dreamed it could blow so hard. The wind was a screaming fury that rushed in through my mouth and strangled me as I faced it...
And then the ship rose on a mountainous wave, and I saw the dark mass of land that lay ahead. It was an island, encircled by a reef of pounded coral on which the waves were breaking in a fury of flying foam. There was calm water within the reef, but I could see only one narrow opening into the lagoon. My heart sank. We had no chance of winning through without a rudder.
I felt hopeless.
I turned my head and stared at the two boys who clung to the rigging beside me. There were three of us serving as apprentices on board the Arrow: Jack Martin, a tall, strong lad of eighteen, Peterkin Gay, who was little and quick and funny, and about fourteen years old, and myself. Even in that awful moment, Jack's face showed no sign of fear, though Peterkin looked sick and scared, and there were tears of pain in his eyes from the hard slaps of wind and spray, and the long driving spears of rain.
Above the roar of the gale I heard the captain give a shout. «It's all up with us, lads! Stand by to launch the boat! We'll be on the rocks any minute now!»
Jack grabbed hold of my arm.
«Never mind the boat!» he screamed in my ear. «It's sure to upset in this. When I give the word, make a dash for it and grab that big oar in the bows. If it's driven over the breakers we might get to the shore.»
I shouted an answer, and clung on, as a great wall of water caught the ship, tilted her over at a crazy angle, and flung her towards the reef. I looked at the white waves that lashed the reef and boiled against its rocks, and had little hope of coming through alive.
Things happened quickly.
Wind and the heaving seas were shoving the Arrow towards the reef. I saw the men standing by the boat and the captain beside them giving orders. The reef was very close, and a tremendous wave was rushing towards us.
«Now!» Jack yelled.
We clawed our way towards the bows, clinging to the rigging, and sobbing for air as we leaned into the wind. The wave fell on the deck with a crash like thunder. A rush of water went over my head. As I clung desperately to the rigging, the ship struck; the foremast broke off close to the deck and went over the side, carrying the boat and men with it. I saw the sea churned to flying foam; I had a glimpse of black heads and up flung arms silhouetted against the frothing white of the waves, and then all of them vanished.
We three ran towards the bow to lay hold of our oar. It was entangled with the wreck, and Jack seized an axe to cut it free. A lurch of the ship made him miss the ropes and he struck the axe deep into the oar. Another wave washed it clear of the wreck. We all seized hold of it. Wind and water caught it and whirled it away, and the next instant we were struggling in the wild sea.
I felt myself lifted and driven through the air, and then I dropped like a stone. A rush of salt water went over my head. I was drowning. I could no longer breathe. Again the waves lifted me and hurled me forward. I crashed down and something struck my head a heavy blow. I pitched headfirst into a watery darkness.
CHAPTER TWO
The Island
I felt water splashing on my face. I slowly opened my eyes.
I was lying, out of the wind, under an overhanging shelf of rock. Peterkin and Jack were kneeling beside me, their faces pale and drawn, and in that moment it all came back to me. I sat up, then blinked and clenched my brows in a frown of pain. I put a hand to my head and found that it had been gashed across.
«Don't rush things, Ralph,» said Jack. «You're not quite better yet. Wet your lips with this water. I got it from a spring.»
«What-what happened,» I asked, «after we were thrown into the water?»
«The oar struck your head,» said Jack. «I managed to grab you and push you towards the shore. It wasn't too hard because the water was quite calm inside the reef.»
«And the others?» I asked.
Jack shook his head.
«No sign of them,» he said quietly.
We were silent for a minute or two.
«Did you see what happened to the ship?» I asked at last.
«She's gone to the bottom,» Jack replied. «She struck on the tail of the island and stove in her bow. The next breaker swung her clear, and she floated away to leeward before she filled and went down.»
There was a longer silence while we thought about it all. For my part, I did not feel very happy. We might be on a desert island, but if it should turn out to be inhabited I felt certain, from all I had heard of South Sea Islanders, that we should be roasted alive and eaten. If, on the other hand, it should turn out to be uninhabited, I fancied that we might well starve to death.
Jack must have been thinking the same.
«If this is a desert island,» he said suddenly, «we'll have to live like wild animals. We haven't a tool of any kind- not even a knife.»
Peterkin's face lit up.
«Yes we have!» he cried, and fumbled in his trousers pockets, from which he drew out a small penknife with only one blade-and that was broken.
Jack grinned suddenly.
«Well, that's better than nothing,» he said. «Let's see what else we've got.»
I sat up. I was feeling a lot better now. My friends had taken off some of their clothes and spread them out in the sun. They had also stripped off most of my wet clothes and laid them out to dry.
We went through our pockets and discovered that we had, between us, the broken penknife, an old silver pencil-case without any lead in it, a piece of cord about six yards long, a small sailmaker's needle, and a ship's telescope.
And that was all!
Jack suddenly started and exclaimed:
«The oar! We've forgotten the oar!»
«What's the use of that?» asked Peterkin. «There's enough wood on this island to make a thousand oars.» «I know,» said Jack, «but there was a bit of hoop-iron at the end of ours, and that may be a lot of use to us.»
«Come on, then,» I said. «Let's go and fetch it.»
I was still a little weak from the loss of blood, but Jack lent me his shoulder and helped me along. My spirits rose as we walked down to the beach. The gale had suddenly died away. The island was hilly and covered with richly coloured trees and shrubs. A beach of dazzling white sand lined this bright green shore, and upon it there fell a gentle ripple of the sea, although a mile off across the lagoon the great seas were rolling in and crashing upon the reef, to be dashed into white foam and flung up in clouds of spray. Peterkin ran on ahead and down to the edge of the sea.
Suddenly he gave a shout, and we saw him tugging with all his might at something that lay upon the shore.
It was the axe which Jack had struck into the oar, and which had remained fast-so fast, indeed, that Peterkin could not budge it.
«What luck!» cried Jack, and gave the axe a wrench that plucked it out of the wood.
We carried the axe and the oar, which had some iron on the blade, back to the place where we had left the rest of our things, intending to burn the wood away from the iron at a more convenient time.
«Now let's go to the tail of the island, where the ship struck, and see if anything else has been thrown ashore,» Jack suggested.
We set off.
«What are we going to eat?» asked Peterkin, as we moved along the white beach. «I could do with a drink, too.»
«Look up there,» answered Jack, «and you'll see both food and drink.»
He pointed to the branched head of a coconut palm, heavily laden with fruit. Peterkin gave a cry of delight and climbed up the tall stem of the tree as easily as a squirrel. In a matter of seconds he had thrown down more than a dozen nuts.
«Now let's have some of the green, unripe ones,» Jack called up to him-and down they came, followed by Peterkin.
We cut holes in the unripe nuts with Peterkin's knife and drank gratefully of their cool, sweet milk.
«Marvellous!» cried Peterkin, in high delight. «This is the life! It's like Paradise!»
We went on until we came to the point of rocks off which the ship had struck, and searched carefully along the shore. We found nothing.
The sun was sinking when we walked back. As long as the daylight lasted we worked hard cutting down boughs and leaves and used them to build a sort of wall all round us; then we covered the inner floor with leaves and dry grass. On these we sat down and made our supper from the meat of coconuts.
All of us were yawning by the time we had finished, and we were glad to lie back under the overhanging palms.
That night the starry sky looked down upon our sleep, and the distant roaring of the surf upon the reef was our lullaby.
CHAPTER THREE
A Strange Discovery
I was awakened by a loud scream. I sat up, startled. There came a roar of laughter from Jack and Peterkin, who were already on their feet and looking down at me.
«Wh-what was it?» I stammered.
«A parrot,» said Peterkin. «It's been sitting on a twig above your head, looking into your mouth, which was wide open, and wondering if it ought to fly in.»
I grinned and rubbed my eyes. The sky was blue and the air heavy with the scent of flowers.
«Who's for a swim?» cried Peterkin.
He began tearing off his clothes, then rushed over the white sands and plunged into the water, even though he could swim only a little, and could not dive at all.
Within ten seconds Jack and I were running after him.
While Peter enjoyed himself in the shallow water, Jack and I swam out into the deep and began diving for stones. The water was so clear that we could see down to a depth of twenty or thirty yards. At our first dive we found ourselves in a kind of submarine garden. The bottom of the lagoon was covered with coral of every size, shape, and hue, through which sported many fishes-blue, red, yellow, green, and striped-and they did not seem to be in the least afraid of us.
After a few minutes, as we both rose to the surface, Jack gave a shout.
«Oysters!» he cried. «Follow me, Ralph.»
We dived together. When Jack reached the bottom, he grasped the coral stems and crept along on his hands and knees, peeping under the seaweed and among the rocks. I did the same, and picked up three or four large oysters. Then he sprang like an arrow to the surface, and the two of us swam lazily to the shore.
«Breakfast, Peterkin!» Jack shouted, as we ran up the beach. «Oysters, my boy! Split them open while Ralph and I get dressed.»
Peterkin took the oysters and opened them with the edge of our axe.
«This is marvellous!» he exclaimed. «We'll get a fine fire going and roast them for breakfast.»
«And how will you start the fire?» I asked.
«Easy!» said Peterkin. «We'll use the end of the telescope as a burning-glass. Leave it to me, my lad.»
We left it to him. Inside five minutes he had built up a fire, and we set about roasting our oysters. They tasted delicious.
Our next step, we decided, was to explore our island. Since we had no idea of what dangers we might have to face, we cut two large clubs off a tree and Jack armed himself with the axe. We set off.
To begin with we followed the beach till we came to the entrance of a valley, through which flowed a little river. Here we turned our backs on the sea and struck inland.
At the head of the valley, about two miles off, stood a small mountain, all covered with trees except for a spot near the left shoulder, where we could see a bare and rocky cliff.
We reached the foot of the mountain and were passing through a grove of banana trees, when we were startled by a strange pattering and a rumbling sound.
We stopped short.
«What's that?» Peterkin cried.
Jack held his axe tight in his right hand and with the other pushed aside the broad leaves.
«I can't see anything-» he began.
The rumbling sound came again, louder than before. We stared all round, a little wild-eyed, expecting to see some gigantic animal bounding towards us. Then the pattering noise came again, much closer at hand this time. There was a fearful crash among the bushes, and a second later an enormous rock came hurtling through the undergrowth in a cloud of dust and small stones. It flew close past the spot where we stood, flattening the bushes and young trees in its path.
«Gosh! Is that all?» gasped Peterkin, wiping the sweat from his forehead. «I thought it was all the wild men in the South Sea Islands coming at us in one grand charge- and it was just a stone tumbling down the mountainside.»
«If that stone had come a few feet this way,» said Jack grimly, «it would have been the end of all of us!»
This was true, and we felt very thankful for our escape. On looking at the spot more closely, we found that it lay right under the high cliff that we had seen. It was clear that stones had tumbled from it before as they were strewn all around on the ground.
We moved forward again, having made up our minds to keep clear of the place in future.
In a matter of minutes we were clambering up the steep sides of the mountain. We saw, when we reached its top, that it was not the highest point of the island, but that another mountain lay beyond, and between the two was a wide valley full of tall trees. We pushed on down the hillside, crossed the valley, and began to climb the second mountain.
We were not far from the top when we had our second shock of the day. That was when Jack, who was in the lead, came to a sudden halt and gave an exclamation of surprise.
«Look at that!» he cried, and pointed at the stump of a tree.
I stared and for a moment I was puzzled. Then I saw what he meant. The tree had been cut down with an axe. We were not the first to walk upon this beautiful isle!
CHAPTER FOUR
The Shark
We moved closer to the tree-stump and looked at it closely. There could be no doubt at all that it had been cut by the hand of man. The wood was all decayed and partly covered with moss, so that it must have been done a long time before.
We stared at it in silence for a few seconds.
«Perhaps a ship put in here for wood,» said Peterkin.
Jack shook his head.
«That's not the answer,» he said. «The crew of a ship would cut any wood they wanted close to the shore. This was a large tree-and it stood near the top of the mountain.» He frowned and scratched at the stump with his axe. «I can't understand it,» he went on. «It must be the work of savages-but wait a moment! What's this?»
He bent over the stump as he spoke and began to scrape more carefully. As the moss fell away, I saw three distinct marks, as if someone had carved his initials upon the trunk. They looked like J. S., but were so broken up that we could not be sure what they were.
It was all very puzzling and we spent a long time wondering how the marks had got there. Then, as the day was wearing on, we began climbing once more.
From the top of the mountain we could see our kingdom laid out like a map beneath us, with all its woods and valleys, plains and sparkling streams. It was roughly circular in shape and about ten miles across, the whole island belted by a beach of pure white sand, on which washed the gentle ripples of the lagoon. Out at sea lay about a dozen other islands at various distances from half a mile to ten miles. All of them, as far as we could tell, were smaller than ours and much lower on the sea.
As the day was now well on we turned back the way we had come. We had not gone far when once more we found traces of man. These were a pole or staff, and one or two blocks of wood which had been squared with an axe. All were very much decayed and must have lain untouched for years. We also found the prints of some four-footed animal, but could not tell whether they were old or new.
We sat up late that night, talking our heads off and trying to solve the riddle of the felled tree. At last, however, we made up our minds that the island must be uninhabited, and went to bed.
For several days after we did not go far from our camp. We bathed a lot, talked a great deal, and, among other useful things, Jack turned about three inches of the hoop-iron into a fine sharp knife. First he beat it quite flat with the axe. Then he made a rough handle, tied the hoop-iron to it with our piece of cord, and ground the iron to an edge on a piece of hard sandstone. When the blade was finished, he used it to shape a better handle.
Peterkin then tried using the cord as a fishing-line. To the end of it he tied a piece of oyster; this the fish were allowed to swallow, and then they were pulled ashore. As the line was very short, however, and we had no boat, the fish we caught were all very small.
One day Peterkin came up from the beach, where he had been fishing, and said:
«Jack, I think we ought to have a shot at making a boat. I want to go fishing in deeper water.»
Jack thought about it for a minute or two.
«I'll tell you what we could do,» he said at last. «We'll fell a large tree and launch the trunk of it in the water. We could all float on that.»
It seemed to be a good idea. We found a tree that grew close to the water's edge, and Jack set to work with the axe. Within half an hour it came crashing down. «Now for it!» he cried. «Off with its head!»
While he was lopping off the branches, Peterkin and I shaped two rough paddles, and then the three of us rolled the log into the lagoon.
Once it was well afloat, we climbed aboard. This was easy to do; but after seating ourselves astride the log we found that it rolled round and plunged us into the water. It took an hour's practice for us to become expert enough to keep our balance pretty steadily.
We decided to go deep-sea fishing.
Peterkin baited his line with a whole oyster. Then we paddled out and dropped the line into deep water.
After a minute or two Peterkin gave an excited shout.
«There's a big fellow down there. Gosh! He's swallowed the bait! What a whacker!»
I could see that the fish was a big one. As it came struggling to the surface we all leaned forward to see it-and overturned the log. Peterkin threw his arms round the neck of the fish, and in another instant we were all floundering in the water.
We rose to the surface like three drowned rats and seized hold of the log. One by one we climbed back on to it and sat more warily while Peterkin secured the fish and rebaited the line. Then he dropped it in again.
Suddenly there was a ripple on the sea, only a few yards from us. Peter shouted for us to paddle in that direction. As I swung up my paddle I heard Jack give a shout that froze the blood in my veins.
«Peterkin, pull in the line! Grab your paddle, quick!- It's a shark!»
A second later I saw a sharp fin appear above the surface of the water and cut through it towards the log.
CHAPTER FIVE
A Cry in the Night
We were all filled with horror. We sat with our legs dangling in the water and dared not pull them out for fear of unsettling the log.
Peterkin pulled in the line and grabbed his paddle. We began paddling frantically for the shore, while the shark, which had veered off a little, swam round and round us with its sharp fin sticking out of the water. I saw suddenly, with a thrill of fear, that it was moving closer as if to attack.
Jack shouted. «Look out! He's coming!» I stared at the water with panic-stricken eyes and saw the long sleek body dive close under us, and then the white of the belly as the shark turned half over on his side. «Splash with your paddles!» Jack cried, and we all beat at the water to kick up a great splashing and foaming. For a moment the shark was frightened off. It went back to circling around us. «Throw him that fish, Peterkin!» cried Jack. «We'll make the shore yet, if we can keep him off for a few minutes.» Peterkin threw the fish, then plied his paddle once more with all his might. I saw the fish touch the water and had a glimpse of the white breast as the shark rose; then the snout appeared with its wide jaws and its double row of teeth. The fish was gone, and the shark sank back out of sight. We paddled furiously for the shore and then the fin appeared again and began circling close to us.
«Stop paddling,» Jack ordered suddenly. «Do as I tell you-and do it quickly. Do your best to balance the log, and don't look out for the shark. Leave him to me!»
Peterkin and I did as we were ordered. For a few seconds, that seemed like long minutes to my mind, we sat in silence; but I could not help looking back...
I saw Jack, sitting like a statue, his paddle raised, his lips pressed tightly together, and his eyes glaring down into the water. I also saw the shark, very close, darting towards Jack's foot. My heart was in my throat. I gave a cry. The shark rose, and I saw Jack whip his leg out of the water and throw it over the log. The shark's snout rubbed against the log, and it showed its hideous jaws. A second later Jack thrust hard down with the paddle and plunged it into the monster's throat. As he did so he rose to his feet so that the log was rolled right over and the three of us plunged into the water. We rose, spluttering and gasping.
«Get ashore!» yelled Jack. «Peterkin, grab my collar and kick out like mad!»
Peterkin did as he was told, and Jack struck out with such force that he cut through the water like a boat. I went after him and a minute later we were all in shallow water. We flopped down on to the sand, worn out by our terrible adventure, and much shaken by the thought that we had run the same danger while bathing in the lagoon. It was clear that we had to do something about that.
At last we thought of searching for a large pool among the rocks, where the water would be deep enough for diving, yet so surrounded by rocks that no shark could get at us. And such a pool we found, not ten minutes' walk from our camp: a small, deep bay with a narrow, shallow entrance that no fish as large as a shark could get through.
But there could be no more deep-sea fishing until we had made a raft or a boat...
A few days later we made up our minds to do something we had often talked about-to travel right round the island. Before we set out, however, Jack suggested that we should arm ourselves in some way.
«It would be a good idea to make bows and arrows,» he said, «and have a shot at getting some animal food. And there's another thing-if we had some candles we could work at night. Now, I know that there's a certain nut that grows in the South Sea that the natives call the candlenut. I know all about it and how to prepare it for burning.
»Then why don't you do it?" asked Peterkin.
«Because,» Jack answered, «I've not yet seen the tree on which it grows.»
«What are the nuts like?» I asked.
«They're about the size of a walnut; and I think the leaves are white.»
Peterkin gave a start.
«I saw a tree like that today,» he said eagerly. «It's only about half a mile away.»
Jack rose and seized his axe.
«Lead me to it,» he ordered.
In a few minutes we were pushing through the underwood of the forest, led by Peterkin.
We soon found the tree. Its leaves were silvery white, and we filled our pockets with the nuts.
«Now, Peterkin,» said Jack when we had done that, «just climb that coconut tree and cut me one of the long branches.»
Peterkin shinned up the tree and threw down a branch about fifteen feet long, with a number of narrow, pointed leaflets ranged down both sides. There was also something like coarse brown cotton cloth wrapped round the end of the stalk where it had been cut from the tree. This strange piece of cloth we stripped off. It was about two feet long by a foot broad, and we carried it home with us as a great prize.
Jack then took one of the leaflets and cut out the central spine or stalk. Having made a small fire, he baked the nuts slightly, and then peeled off the husks. After that Jack bored a hole in them with the point of our pencil-case. I watched him string the nuts on the coconut spine and then, to my amazement, when he put a light to the topmost nut I saw it begin to burn with a clear, bright flame.
«So far, so good,» said Jack, blowing out our candle, «but the sun will be down in an hour, so we've no time to lose. I'm going to cut a young tree to make a bow and you'd better find some strong sticks for clubs. We'll set to work on them after dark.»
We did as we were told and, when darkness came down, we lit a candle inside the camp, sat down on our leafy beds, and set to work.
Jack started chipping at the piece of wood he had brought in with him, while Peterkin tried to fit a small, sharp piece of the hoop-iron to the end of a long pole.
«What's that for?» I asked.
«I'm making a spear instead of a club,» Peterkin answered.
«Good idea,» I said. «I think I'll change my mind too. I'm going to make a sling out of this piece of cloth. I used to be pretty handy with a sling.»
For some time we worked in silence. At last Peterkin looked up. «Jack,» he said, «may I have a strip of your handkerchief to tie on my spearhead? It's pretty well torn up already, and-»
He stopped dead and his eyes widened. Over the island there rang out a strange and horrible cry that seemed to come from the sea.
CHAPTER SIX
The Water-spouts
I felt a chill run up my back. The sound came again, loud and clear on the still night air-a long and hideous cry. We all started to our feet, and stared out across the sea. The moon had risen and we could see the islands in and beyond the lagoon, but there was nothing stirring anywhere. The sound died away while we were gazing at the sea.
«What is it?» asked Peterkin, in a low, frightened whisper.
«I've heard it before,» said Jack, «but never as loud as that. I thought I might have imagined it, so I said nothing to you.»
We listened for a long time, but the sound was not made again. We sat down and started work once more, all of us a little uneasy.
There was a silence.
«Ralph, do you believe in ghosts?» asked Peterkin at last.
I shook my head.
«No,» I said. «I don't!»
«What about you, Jack?»
«I don't either. I don't know what made that sound, but I'll find out before long. Now, I've finished my bow and arrows, so if you're ready, we'd better get to sleep.»
By this time Peterkin had thinned down his spear and tied an iron point to the end of it, I had made a sling from plaited strips of the coconut cloth, and Jack had made a strong bow, nearly five feet long, with several arrows that he'd feathered from plumes dropped by birds.
So it was that we were all well armed when we set out on our expedition the next morning. The day was still and peaceful, its silence broken only by the little twitter of birds among the bushes and the distant boom of the surf upon the reef.
Half a mile's walk took us round a bend in the land which shut our camp from view, and for some time we strode on without speaking, till we reached the mouth of a valley that we had not explored before. We were about to turn into it when Peterkin stopped and pointed along the shore.
«What's that?» he said.
As he spoke, I saw a white column of something like steam or spray shoot up above the rocks. It hung there for a moment and then disappeared. The odd thing was that it was about fifty yards inland, among rocks that stretched across the sandy beach to the sea. As we stood gaping, a second column flew up for a few seconds-and disappeared.
Jack started forward.
«Come on,» he said. «Let's see what it is.»
We reached the spot in a couple of minutes. The rocks were high and steep and damp with the falling of spray. Here and there were holes in the ground. We looked round, puzzled, as there came a low, rumbling sound near us. It grew into a gurgling and hissing that seemed to come from under our feet and a moment later a thick spout of water burst from a hole in the rock only a few feet off. We sprang to one side, but not before a cloud of spray had drenched us to the skin.
Peterkin, who had been well clear, gave a roar of laughter.
«Mind your eye!» he shouted. «There goes another!»
At the same instant a spout shot from another hole and drenched us even more.
Peterkin was now doubled up with laughter, but suddenly there came a loud hiss and a fierce spout of water burst under his legs, threw him off his feet, drenched him in spray, and landed him in a clump of tangled bushes.
It was our turn to laugh; then the three of us ran from the spot before we were caught again.
We looked at our wet and dripping clothes.
«We'll have to make a fire and dry them,» said Jack.
I carried the burning-glass in my pocket, and in a few minutes we had a fire going and our clothes hanging up before it. While they were drying we walked down to the beach and we soon found out that these curious spoutings took place after the fill of a wave. We decided that there must be an underground channel in the rocks, that the water was driven into it, and that, having no way of escape except through the holes, it was forced up through them.
We moved along the cliff a bit. Suddenly Jack gave a shout. I ran to the overhanging ledge of rock from which he was looking down into the sea.
«What's that in the water?» he asked. «Is it a shark?»
Down in the water I could see a faint, pale object of a greenish colour, which seemed to be moving slightly
«It's a fish of some sort,» I said.
Jack turned and yelled for Peterkin.
«Bring your spear,» he bawled.
Peterkin did so but the spear was too short for us to reach the object with it, so Jack raised it, drove it down into the water, and let go his hold. He must have missed. When the spear rose again, there was the pale green object in the same spot, slowly moving its tail.
We took it in turn to plunge the spear into the water again and again, but we could neither hit the thing nor drive it away. We continued our journey without discovering what it was.
As we moved on along the little valley we were lucky enough to find a large supply of yams, and another root like a potato. We stuffed our pockets with them, planning to eat them for our supper.
This valley took us into another, larger, one, in which we found a clump of chestnuts growing on the bank of a stream. Jack struck his axe into one with all his force and split off a large slice of wood, to satisfy himself that we could cut short planks if we needed them at a later date. The sun was sinking as we wended our way back towards the shore. We wanted to camp near the beach because the mosquitoes were so troublesome in the forest. As we went, we were startled by a loud, whistling noise above our heads and saw a flock of wild-ducks making for the coast. We watched them, saw where they came down, and followed after them until we reached a most lovely blue lake about two hundred yards long, from which rose a cloud of ducks and water-hens as we appeared.
Jack suggested that he and I should go a little out of our way to see if we could shoot one of the ducks, while Peterkin went on to the shore and built a fire.
We saw nothing more of the ducks though we searched for half an hour, and we were about to start back when we were faced with one of the strangest sights we had yet seen on the island.
It was on the edge of a clearing. About ten yards in front of us grew a huge tree, with clusters of bright yellow fruit hanging from its branches. Under the tree lay at least twenty hogs of all ages and sizes, all fast asleep.
We watched them for a second, then Jack put a hand on my arm.
«Put a stone in your sling,» he whispered, «and let fly at that big fellow with his back to you. I'll try to put an arrow in one of the others. Don't miss if you can help it, for we badly need the meat.»
I slung my stone with such a good aim that it smacked against the hog's flank as if against a drum. The animal started to its feet with a squeal of surprise, and scampered away through the trees. At the same instant Jack's bow twanged and an arrow pinned one of the little pigs to the ground by its ear.
«He's getting away,» Jack yelled, and darted forward with uplifted axe.
The little pig gave a loud squeal, tore the arrow from the ground, and ran away with it, along with the whole drove. We went crashing through the bushes after them, but were unable to catch them.
«No pork supper tonight,» said Jack ruefully. «We'd better hurry up and look for Peterkin.»
We worked our way back towards the shore, where we found a fire burning, but no sign of Peterkin at all. Jack gave a shout. As if in answer, we heard a distant shriek, followed by a chorus of squeals from the hogs.
«I believe Peterkin's run into them,» I said excitedly.
There was a great deal of squealing, and then a distant shout. Along the beach we saw Peterkin walking towards us with a little pig stuck on the end of his long spear.
«Peterkin, you're the best shot among us,» said Jack, giving him a slap on the shoulder.
Peterkin held out the pig and pointed to its ear.
«Do you see that hole?» he said. «And do you know this arrow, eh? You hit him first. But never mind that. I'm hungry! Let's get supper going.»
It took us some time, however, to make up our minds how to cook the pig. We had never cut one up before, and we did not know how to begin. In the end, we cut off the legs with the axe, along with a large part of the flesh, made some deep gashes in them, thrust a sharp-pointed stick through each, and stuck them up before the blaze to roast. While they were cooking, we scraped a hole in the sand and ashes under the fire, put in the vegetables we had found, and covered them up.
The meal, when cooked, seemed to taste better than anything we had ever eaten before. We had our fill, then lay down to sleep upon a couch of branches under an overhanging shelf of rock. We slept soundly and well that night-happily unaware of the gruesome discovery that we were to make the next day.
CHAPTER SEVEN
The Hut
The sun was already high when we awoke. We all felt strong and well and made a good breakfast of cold pork and fruit. We set out, but had not gone more than a mile or so, when, as we turned a point that showed us a new and beautiful cluster of islands beyond the reef, we heard the appalling cry that had so alarmed us a few nights before. We stood stockstill. The sound came again, louder than before.
«It's coming from one of those islands,» said Jack.
We all peered towards the islands. And then I jumped with surprise. On the shore of the largest I could see some curious objects moving. At that distance they looked like an army of soldiers, marching in lines and squares. Even as we stared, that dreadful cry came again across the water.
And then Jack laughed.
«They're penguins,» he said. «It's their cry we've been hearing. When we've built our boat we'll go over and have a look at them.»
We went on our way, much lighter at heart for having solved the mystery of the ghostly cry.
It was that afternoon that we found the footprints of a small animal, which were something like those of a dog.
There were a lot of them, running off into the woods along a beaten track which seemed too wide to have been made by the animal itself. We followed them and had gone some way when we came upon an open space and heard a faint cry. We all started in surprise. On the track before us stood a small black animal.
«It's a wildcat!» cried Jack, and let fly with an arrow.
He missed. The arrow struck the earth about two feet to one side. The wildcat, to our surprise, did not bolt away, but walked slowly towards the arrow and sniffed at it.
«It's tame!» cried Peterkin.
«I think it's blind,» I said. «Look, it keeps walking into branches as it moves along. It must be very old.»
We hurried towards it. It did not hear our footsteps until we were right up to it, seeming deaf as well as blind. It gave a hoarse mew.
Peterkin went over and patted its head.
«Poor old thing!» he said gently. «Poor pussy; chee, chee, chee; puss, puss, puss; cheetie pussy!»
The cat stood still and let him stroke it, then rubbed itself against his legs, purring loudly all the time. Peterkin lifted it in his arms.
«It's no more a wildcat than I am,» he said. «Poor pussy!»
We watched in amazement as the cat rubbed its head against Peterkin's cheek, and mewed and purred to show its pleasure. It was quite clear that the poor animal had known man before, and was showing its joy at meeting human beings.
At last we decided to follow the track, and went on with Peterkin carrying the cat. After fifty yards or so the track turned to the right and wandered for a short space along the banks of a stream. We were quite startled when we came to a spot where there must once have been a crude bridge, the stones of which were now scattered in the stream. We moved on, more expectant now, until, under the shelter of some bread-fruit trees, we came upon a small hut.
We stopped and stood for a long time in silent wonder. There was a deep and melancholy stillness about the place, a kind of sadness about this broken, lonely hut so far from the usual dwellings of man. It was roughly twelve feet long and seven or eight feet high. It had one opening for a window and the door was very low. The roof was of coconut and plantain leaves. Most of it was in a state of decay.
We stood and talked in whispers before any of us dared go near the place. Then Jack stole forward and tried to peer in through the window. He could see nothing in the deep shadow of the trees, so we lifted the rusty iron latch and pushed the door open. It gave an eerie creak as it swung back. We entered and gazed around us.
As my eyes grew used to the dim light I made out a wooden stool standing beside a roughly hewn table, on which stood an iron pot. Then my gaze moved on and my heart gave a sudden, frightened leap. In the corner farthest from the door was a low bedstead, and on it lay the skeleton of a man.
CHAPTER EIGHT
The Diamond Cave
For long, long moments we stood staring in the awful stillness of the place; then Jack stepped forward to the bed and we followed him with beating hearts.
There were two skeletons, I saw, lying in a little heap of dust. One was that of a man, and the other that of a dog, its head resting on its master's chest. We searched the hut for some clue to the identity of this poor man, but we found nothing that helped at all. We talked about him in whispers. I said that he must have been a shipwrecked sailor, cast away with only his cat and dog for company. There seemed to be no other answer.
Then came a sudden exclamation from Peterkin, who was turning over a heap of broken wood and rubbish that lay in a corner.
«Look here! These should be useful.»
«What are they?» asked Jack, hastening across the room.
«An old pistol and an axe,» Peterkin replied.
«We might as well take them,» said Jack quietly, «though the gun won't be any use without powder.»
We took these things and the iron pot with us. Peter lifted the cat and we left the hut. As we did so, Jack stumbled heavily against the doorpost, which was so decayed that it broke across, and the whole hut seemed ready to tumble about our ears. This put it into our heads that we might as well pull it down and let it form a grave for the skeletons.
Jack swung his axe at the other doorpost and brought the whole hut in ruins to the ground. We continued our journey, though we did not recover our good spirits till we got back to our camp, late on the next day.
For several weeks after this we were busy cutting and shaping wood with which to make a boat. And then one morning, after we had bathed and eaten, Peterkin rose and said:
«I could do with a rest. I'm tired of cutting and hammering. Let's do something different today.»
«All right,» said Jack. «What shall we do?»
I was the first to answer.
«Do you remember the green thing we saw in the water close to the water-spouts? Let's see if it's still there.»
The others readily agreed, and we took up our weapons and set out. When we reached the place and gazed down into the sea, there was the same pale green object moving its tail to and fro in the water.
«Well, this beats everything!» said Peterkin. «Let's have another shot at moving it with my spear.»
A second later his spear flashed down into the water. Down it went, straight into the centre of the green object, passed right through it, and came up again. Below us the mysterious tail still moved quietly to and fro.
We looked at each other.
«I don't think it's alive at all,» said Jack. «I think it's merely a light. Anyway, as long as it isn't a shark there's no reason why we shouldn't dive down to it. I'm going to have a look.»
He stripped off his clothes, joined his hands above his head, and plunged into the sea. For a second or so he was hidden by the spray of his dive; then the water became still and we saw him swimming far down towards the green object.
And then he vanished!
We held our breath and waited for him to reappear. A minute passed, two, three-and still he did not come. We waited a little longer, and then a panic took hold of me. Peterkin started to his feet, his face deadly pale.
«Ralph!» he said hoarsely. «He needs help. Dive for him, Ralph.» I was already on my feet. In a moment I was poised on the edge of the rocks, and was on the point of diving when I saw something black shooting up through the water. Another second and Jack's head rose to the surface. He gave a shout and shook the spray from his hair; then I put out an arm and helped him clamber up to the ledge.
He sank down, panting for breath.
«Jack,» cried Peterkin, and there were tears in his eyes, «where were you?»
Jack grinned.
«Lads,» he said, «that green object is a stream of light that comes from a cave in the rocks underneath us. I swam right into it, saw a faint light above me, darted up, and found my head out of water. At first I couldn't see much, it was so dark; but when my eyes got used to the light, I found that I was in a big cave. I could see part of the walls and the roof. I had a good look round; then I thought that you two might be getting a bit worried, so I shot back up again.»
This was enough to make me want to see the cave, but Jack told me to wait for a minute or two because he wanted to take down a torch, and set fire to it in the cave.
I waited while he cut some strips of inflammable bark off a tree, and cemented them together with a kind of gum from another tree. When this was ready, he wrapped it up in several pieces of the coconut cloth; then he took a small piece of the tinder from the old pistol we had found, rolled up some dry grass, and made another bundle protected by the cloth. At last we were ready. We walked to the edge of the rocks, Jack carrying one bundle and I the other. Peterkin, who could not dive, watched us with a mournful face.
«Don't worry about us, Peterkin,» said Jack. «We may not be back for half an hour.»
The next moment we sprang from the rock together.
It was easy to find the entrance to the cave. I watched Jack swim through, then went straight after him. There was light above me. I came up to the surface and trod water, holding my bundle above my head. As soon as our eyes were used to the faint light, we swam to a shelf of rock and clambered out on to it.
Inside five minutes our torch flared into life. I gazed all round me, struck dumb by the wonders it showed.
The whole place flashed and gleamed. Its roof was made of coral, and from it hung glistening icicles that were really a sort of limestone. As we walked forward along the ledge we saw that the floor was made of the same stuff; its surface all rippled like water when ruffled by the wind.
In the walls on either hand were several openings that seemed to lead off into other caves, but these we did not explore. We moved far into the big cavern, without reaching the end of it. Its walls and roof sparkled in the glare of the torch, and threw back gleams and flashes just as if they were covered with precious stones.
We turned back when the torch began to burn down. What was left of it we placed in a dry spot. Then we plunged back off the ledge, dived through the entrance, and shot up to the surface.
As we dressed and walked home we tried to tell Peterkin all about the wonders of our Diamond Cave, little guessing then how much use it would prove to be in a moment of urgent danger...
CHAPTER NINE
Penguin Island
Our boat, at last, was finished.
It looked a clumsy thing, but it did our hearts good to see it. Its planks were of chestnut, and its keel made from a small tree which had a branch growing at the proper angle about ten feet up its stem. The planks were nailed to the keel with wooden pegs, driven hard through holes that we had bored through the timber with a length of red-hot hoop-iron. The oars we blocked out roughly with the axe; then we smoothed them down with the knife.
It was a bright clear morning when we first launched the boat upon the lagoon. The sea was like a sheet of glass, and in its depths shone the brilliant corals. We rowed and fished for an hour or two and found that the boat handled surprisingly well.
«The next thing,» said Jack, «is to make a mast and sail. I'll see to the mast and you two can collect coconut cloth for the sail. Let's get to work.»
In three days we had set up the mast and sail. The sail was made of a number of oblong pieces of cloth that we had sewn together with our needle. It worked perfectly, and we cruised about over the lagoon, fishing, and watching for hours the brightly coloured fish that swam among the corals and seaweed.
Soon after we'd finished the boat, we were sitting on the rocks at Spouting Cliff, and talking about a sail we planned to make to Penguin Island, on the very next day. As we sat there I noticed a dark line, like a low cloud or fogbank, on the seaward horizon. The day was fine, though cloudy, and the seas breaking on the reef were no higher than usual. We thought a storm might be brewing, and kept our eyes on that strange dark line that seemed to draw nearer without spreading up over the sky. It moved swiftly, but there was no sound till it reached an island out at sea. At its touch a cloud of white foam burst in spray that rose high in the air. There was a loud roar and then, for the first time, we realized that we were calmly gazing at a monster wave, sweeping in towards us. We sprang to our feet.
«Run!» Jack shouted. «Quickly-get on high ground!»
We raced towards a hill that rose behind us, and scrambled to its summit. There we turned, wide-eyed and panting, in time to see the great wave strike the reef.
It burst right over with a roar like thunder, then rolled on towards the shore. Its great crest seemed to rear higher and higher, and then, with a crash that shook the solid rocks, it fell. In that moment it seemed as if all the earth had been blown up with water. We were stunned and confused by the shock, and blinded by flying spray. The wave swept across the beach and dashed into the woods, smashing down trees and bushes in its headlong course.
As soon as the water had flowed back, we tore down the hill, afraid that our camp might have been swept away, and that our boat, which we had pulled up on to the beach, might have been utterly destroyed. The camp, we found, was safe, for the wave had not flowed that far, though there were torn-up bushes and tangled heaps of seaweed only a few feet from the entrance.
Our next thought was for the boat. We hurried down to the beach and found that it was gone.
We started towards the woods, our eyes searching everywhere for some sign of the missing boat. Then Peterkin gave a shout.
«Jack! What sort of fruit is that growing on top of that bush there?»
We stared and saw our boat perched upside-down on the top of a large bush. Luckily it was not damaged in any way, though it was hard work to get it out of the bush and down to the sea again.
The weather next morning was so good, and the sea so quiet, that we made up our minds to sail across to Penguin Island as we had planned. We rowed over the lagoon towards the outlet in the reef, and slipped between the two green islets that guarded the entrance. We shipped some water in the surf, but then found ourselves floating smoothly enough on a long oily swell.
We had about twenty miles to go. Rowing was hard work, but after we had covered a mile or two a breeze got up, so we spread our sail and flew merrily over the waves.
As we drew close to the island, we were much amused by the antics of the penguins as they strutted to and fro, or marched in ranks like soldiers.
There were thousands of them on the rock, and we pulled in and lay there for more than an hour watching the habits of these curious birds.
It was late afternoon when we turned away from the island. We had made up our minds to camp for the night on another smaller island on which we could see a few coconut trees growing, about two miles off.
The sky darkened as we went. Before we were half-way the breeze had freshened until it was blowing a gale, and the waves began to rise against the boat so that she took in water, and it was all we could do to keep afloat.
We at last realized that we could never make the island. Jack put the boat around and called for the sail to be hoisted, to run back to Penguin Island. «If we can get there, we'll at least have shelter,» he said.
Even as he spoke the wind shifted and began to blow so much against us that it was clear that it would not be easy to beat up for the island.
«You'll have to take in sail,» Jack shouted above the wind.
Peterkin and I hurried to obey. We had the sail down in a moment but were then struck by a sudden squall that left the boat half full of water. I started baling, while Peterkin again raised a corner of the sail.
Several minutes passed. When I had finished baling, I sat up and stared around me. In that moment the awful truth dawned upon me. It would be impossible for us to reach Penguin Island. Our small and leaky boat was being swept out into the ocean.
CHAPTER TEN
Cannibals
I was scared stiff.
At any moment one of the huge waves which curled over in masses of foam might easily swallow up the boat. Water kept washing over the sides and I had to keep on baling alone, for Jack dared not leave the helm nor Peterkin the sail.
Several minutes passed. Then came a shout from Jack.
«Look-a rock-or an island-straight ahead!»
Hope sprang up inside me. I baled furiously, then sat up and looked ahead. I had not seen the island before because of the dark clouds that filled the sky, and the blinding spray that flew into my eyes.
The island was bare of trees-a sea-pounded stretch of coral sand that rose only two or three feet out of the water. And my heart sank again when I saw that there was not a spot where we could thrust our little boat without its being dashed to pieces.
«Show a bit more sail,» Jack ordered, as we went sweeping past the weather side of the rock with fearful speed it seemed we would be swept passed the island.
The extra bit of sail was enough to lay the boat right over. It creaked so loudly that I felt sure it would overturn, but somehow Jack managed to steer us sharply round to the leeward side of the rock, where the water seemed almost calm and the force of the wind was broken.
«Out with the oars!» Jack cried.
We obeyed at once. Two or three good strong pulls on the oars and we were floating in a little creek so narrow that it would barely admit the boat. We leaped ashore and made our craft fast to the rocks. Even then our plight was far from happy. We had brought plenty of food with us, but we were drenched to the skin, the attacking sea was foaming all round us, and the spray flew over our heads. At the upper end of the creek, however, was a small hollow in the rock, which would give us some shelter against the sea and wind.
We landed our provisions, wrung the water out of our clothing, spread our sail for a carpet, and ate a cold meal.
By then we were feeling more cheerful, but as night drew on our spirits sank again.
We lay there in the darkness, unable to see the rock, and stunned by the fury of the storm. From time to time the spray blew into our faces and the sea, in its mad boiling, washed up into our little creek until it reached our feet. Flashes of lightning shone with a ghastly glare through the watery curtains around us and gave an added horror to the scene, while crashing peals of thunder seemed to split the skies in two.
Again and again we fancied that the solid rock was giving way, and in our agony we clung to the bare ground, expecting every second to be whirled away into the black, howling sea.
Somehow the hours dragged by, and at last we saw the gleam of dawn breaking through the mists. This, however, was not the end of our ordeal...
For three days and nights we were chained to that rock, and all the time the storm raged with unabated fury. Then, on the morning of the fourth day, the wind dropped. By the middle of the morning the sea was dead calm and the sun was shining.
It was with light hearts that we launched our boat once more and pulled away for Coral Island. The breeze rose an hour later, but we did not reach the outer reef till dusk. The moon and stars were shining in the sky when we came to our camp and found the poor old black cat curled up asleep inside. For many months after we lived happily enough. Sometimes we went fishing in the lagoon, sometimes we hunted in the woods, and often we climbed to the mountain-top to look for passing ships.
The weather was so fine, our island so beautiful, that it all seemed like a never-ending summer-until there happened something that was alarming and horrible.
It was when we were sitting on the rocks at Spouting Cliff one day that I noticed the two dark objects that had appeared on the horizon.
We stared at them for a long time.
«They're coming closer,» I said.
«I think they're whales,» said Peterkin, shading his eyes with his hands. «No, wait-can they be boats, Jack?»
Jack gazed out across the sea.
«They are boats,» he said at last.
I felt my heart begin to pound with excitement.
We were all on our feet now, staring out across the sunlit sea. Suddenly Jack gave a start.
«They're canoes,» he said. «They may be war-canoes. I don't like the look of this. We mustn't forget that a lot of the natives of these islands are fierce cannibals. We'd better hide until we know what to make of them. Come on- behind the rocks!»
A minute later we lay hidden, each one of us with a thick club in his hand and his eyes on the approaching canoes.
It was soon clear that one was chasing the other. The one in the lead held about forty people, among them a few women and children. The canoe which pursued them held only men, who were paddling with all their might. It looked like a war-canoe.
The first canoe made for the shore almost right below us. The paddles flashed in and out of the water and threw up a shower of spray. From where I lay I could see the eyes of the paddlers glistening in the sunlight. As the canoe grounded on the sand, the whole party sprang to the shore. Three women and a girl rushed away into the woods, while the men crowded to the water's edge, waving spears and clubs as if to threaten the approaching enemy.
The second canoe came on unchecked. It struck the beach, and its savage crew leaped into the water and rushed to the attack.
The attackers were led by a tall, strong chief whose hair was frizzed out all round his head. It was light yellow in colour and I could only think that it must have been dyed. He was tattooed from head to foot, his whole body smeared and streaked with red and white paint.
The battle that followed was frightful to watch. Most of the men wielded great clubs, with which they dashed out each other's brains.
As they leaped and bounded and pounced for the kill, they looked more like devils than human beings. I felt my heart grow sick within me at the awful sights I saw.
Suddenly the yellow-haired chief was attacked by a man as big and strong as himself. The two fought like demons, and then in an instant Yellow Hair tripped and crashed down to the ground. His enemy sprang forward, club upraised, but before he could strike he, too, was felled to the ground by a stone from the hand of one who had seen his chief 's danger.
That was the turning point. The savages who had landed first turned and fled towards the woods, but not one of them escaped. All were overtaken and dragged to the ground. Fifteen were seized alive, tied hand and foot with cords, and thrown down upon the sand. Then they were left where they lay while their captors moved along the beach and began dressing their wounds and three or four of their number were sent running into the woods to search for the women we had seen come ashore.
Still we stayed behind our rock. I saw another of the savages go up into the woods and return with a great bundle of firewood. He crouched down upon the sand and soon had a big fire blazing on the beach. Yellow Hair gave a shout, and two of his followers went over to the captives and began dragging one of them towards the fire.
A dreadful feeling of horror crept over me. I could see that these savages meant to burn their enemies. I gasped for breath and made to spring to my feet, but Jack grabbed hold of me and held me where I was. A second later one of the savages swung up his club to smash it down on the skull of his enemy. It was horrible. I turned away, and when I looked again Yellow Hair and his men were roasting something over the fire. I could guess what it was...
There came a scream from the woods. A minute later two of the savages came out of the woods, one dragging by the hair a woman who carried a baby in her arms, and the other struggling with the girl we had already seen. Yellow Hair rose and walked towards the woman carrying the baby. He put his hand upon the child. The woman wailed in fear and shrank away from him. He let out a wild laugh, tore the child from her arms, and threw it violently down upon the sands. The mother shrieked and crumpled in a faint.
I heard Jack moan.
The young girl was dragged forward, and Yellow Hair spoke to her. It seemed to me, by the way he pointed to the fire, that he was threatening her life.
A great hatred took hold of me.
«Peterkin,» said Jack, in a hoarse whisper, «have you got your knife?»
«Yes,» replied Peterkin in a strange voice.
I looked at him and saw that he was as white as death.
«Listen,» said Jack between his teeth, «I want you to make a dash for the prisoners, and cut them loose. I'll keep the others busy. Go on, before it's too late.»
He rose, his great club gripped in his hand. I heard him give a yell that rang like a death-shriek among the rocks. He went leaping towards the savages.
«Come on,» cried Peterkin to me, and the two of us went darting across the sands towards the prisoners.
CHAPTER ELEVEN
The «Jolly Roger»
As I dropped beside the first of the bound men I looked over my shoulder and saw Jack rushing upon Yellow Hair, swinging his club.
The chief leaped back as quick as a cat, and at the same time aimed a blow at Jack. Now it was Jack's turn to spring aside, and then the two of them were fighting fiercely.
I tore at the cords that held the man's legs, while Peterkin went along the line slashing away with his knife. When I looked up again I saw Yellow Hair swing up his club. Then Jack darted in and struck the savage between the eyes with all his force. Yellow Hair fell forward and Jack, staggering, went down beneath the body of the chief.
The other savages yelled with fury. A dozen clubs were swung high, ready to crush Jack's skull, but the men hesitated for a moment, as if afraid to strike their chief.
That moment saved Jack's life. All the prisoners were free, and Peterkin and I led them across the sands, in a howling, shrieking mob, grabbing for stones and fallen clubs as we went.
A fierce hand-to-hand struggle followed. Seven of Yellow Hair's men went down beneath the clubs of the prisoners, who knew well enough that they were fighting for their lives. Our enemies were taken completely by surprise and, I think, felt disheartened because of the fall of their chief. They were also overawed by the sweeping fury of Jack, who had no sooner shaken himself free of the chief 's body than he rushed into the midst of them and struck down three men in as many blows.
Inside ten minutes all our opponents were either knocked down or made prisoners, bound hand and foot, and stretched out in a line upon the seashore.
We stood there, breathing hard, while the savages crowded around and jabbered away in their own tongue, which sounded so strange to our ears. I saw Jack take hold of the hand of the big man who was their chief (and who seemed to have recovered from the blow that had struck him down) and shake it warmly to show that we were friends. Then his eye fell upon the poor child that had been thrown upon the shore. Dropping the chief 's hand, he hurried towards it and found that it was still alive. Its mother was lying upon the sand where she had fallen, and Jack carried the baby to her and laid its warm little cheek on hers. The effect was wonderful. The woman opened her eyes, felt the child, let out a scream of joy, and clasped the baby in her arms.
Jack turned away.
«Come on,» he said to Peterkin and me. «Let's take them to the camp and hunt up some food.»
Within half an hour all the savages were seated on the ground in front of our camp making a heart
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