Infomotions, Inc.The Wings of the Morning / Tracy, Louis, 1863-1928



Author: Tracy, Louis, 1863-1928
Title: The Wings of the Morning
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): iris; jenks; dyaks; anstruther; lord ventnor; mir jan; deane; miss deane; sailor
Contributor(s): Scott, Walter, Sir, 1771-1832 [Editor]
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Identifier: etext14917
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Title: The Wings of the Morning

Author: Louis Tracy

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THE WINGS OF THE MORNING

by

LOUIS TRACY

Author of _A Son of the Immortals_, _The Stowaways_, _The Message_,
_The Wheel o' Fortune_, etc.

New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers

1903.







_If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts
of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall
hold me. Psalm CXXXIX, 9, 10_




[Illustration: INVOLUNTARILY SHE CAUGHT HIS ARM. HE STEPPED A HALF-PACE
IN FRONT OF HER TO WARD OFF ANY DANGER THAT MIGHT BE HERALDED BY THIS
UNCANNY PHENOMENON. _Frontispiece_]




CONTENTS

I     The Wreck of the _Sirdar_
II    The Survivors
III   Discoveries
IV    Rainbow Island
V     Iris to the Rescue
VI    Some Explanations
VII   Surprises
VIII  Preparations
IX    The Secret of the Cave
X     Reality v. Romance--The Case for the Plaintiff
XI    The Fight
XII   A Truce
XIII  Reality v. Romance--The Case for the Defendant
XIV   The Unexpected Happens
XV    The Difficulty of Pleasing Everybody
XVI   Bargains, Great and Small
XVII  Rainbow Island Again--and Afterward




CHAPTER I

THE WRECK OF THE _SIRDAR_


Lady Tozer adjusted her gold-rimmed eye-glasses with an air of
dignified aggressiveness. She had lived too many years in the Far East.
In Hong Kong she was known as the "Mandarin." Her powers of merciless
inquisition suggested torments long drawn out. The commander of the
_Sirdar_, homeward bound from Shanghai, knew that he was about to
be stretched on the rack when he took his seat at the saloon table.

"Is it true, captain, that we are running into a typhoon?" demanded her
ladyship.

"From whom did you learn that, Lady Tozer?" Captain Ross was wary,
though somewhat surprised.

"From Miss Deane. I understood her a moment ago to say that you had
told her."

"I?"

"Didn't you? Some one told me this morning. I couldn't have guessed it,
could I?" Miss Iris Deane's large blue eyes surveyed him with innocent
indifference to strict accuracy. Incidentally, she had obtained the
information from her maid, a nose-tilted coquette who extracted ship's
secrets from a youthful quartermaster.

"Well--er--I had forgotten," explained the tactful sailor.

"Is it true?"

Lady Tozer _was_ unusually abrupt today. But she was annoyed by
the assumption that the captain took a mere girl into his confidence
and passed over the wife of the ex-Chief Justice of Hong Kong.

"Yes, it is," said Captain Ross, equally curt, and silently thanking
the fates that her ladyship was going home for the last time.

"How horrible!" she gasped, in unaffected alarm. This return to
femininity soothed the sailor's ruffled temper.

Sir John, her husband, frowned judicially. That frown constituted his
legal stock-in-trade, yet it passed current for wisdom with the Hong
Kong bar.

"What evidence have you?" he asked.

"Do tell us," chimed in Iris, delightfully unconscious of interrupting
the court. "Did you find out when you squinted at the sun?"

The captain smiled. "You are nearer the mark than possibly you imagine,
Miss Deane," he said. "When we took our observations yesterday there
was a very weird-looking halo around the sun. This morning you may have
noticed several light squalls and a smooth sea marked occasionally by
strong ripples. The barometer is falling rapidly, and I expect that, as
the day wears, we will encounter a heavy swell. If the sky looks wild
tonight, and especially if we observe a heavy bank of cloud approaching
from the north-west, you see the crockery dancing about the table at
dinner. I am afraid you are not a good sailor, Lady Tozer. Are you,
Miss Deane?"

"Capital! I should just love to see a real storm. Now promise me
solemnly that you will take me up into the charthouse when this typhoon
is simply tearing things to pieces."

"Oh dear! I do hope it will not be very bad. Is there no way in which
you can avoid it, captain? Will it last long?"

The politic skipper for once preferred to answer Lady Tozer. "There is
no cause for uneasiness," he said. "Of course, typhoons in the China
Sea are nasty things while they last, but a ship like the _Sirdar_
is not troubled by them. She will drive through the worst gale she is
likely to meet here in less than twelve hours. Besides, I alter the
course somewhat as soon as I discover our position with regard to its
center. You see, Miss Deane--"

And Captain Ross forthwith illustrated on the back of a menu card the
spiral shape and progress of a cyclone. He so thoroughly mystified the
girl by his technical references to northern and southern hemispheres,
polar directions, revolving air-currents, external circumferences, and
diminished atmospheric pressures, that she was too bewildered to
reiterate a desire to visit the bridge.

Then the commander hurriedly excused himself, and the passengers saw no
more of him that day.

But his short scientific lecture achieved a double result. It rescued
him from a request which he could not possibly grant, and reassured
Lady Tozer. To the non-nautical mind it is the unknown that is fearful.
A storm classed as "periodic," whose velocity can be measured, whose
duration and direction can be determined beforehand by hours and
distances, ceases to be terrifying. It becomes an accepted fact, akin
to the steam-engine and the electric telegraph, marvelous yet
commonplace.

So her ladyship dismissed the topic as of no present interest, and
focused Miss Deane through her eye-glasses.

"Sir Arthur proposes to come home in June, I understand?" she inquired.

Iris was a remarkably healthy young woman. A large banana momentarily
engaged her attention. She nodded affably.

"You will stay with relatives until he arrives?" pursued Lady Tozer.

The banana is a fruit of simple characteristics. The girl was able to
reply, with a touch of careless hauteur in her voice:

"Relatives! We have none--none whom we specially cultivate, that is. I
will stop in town a day or two to interview my dressmaker, and then go
straight to Helmdale, our place in Yorkshire."

"Surely you have a chaperon!"

"A chaperon! My dear Lady Tozer, did my father impress you as one who
would permit a fussy and stout old person to make my life miserable?"

The acidity of the retort lay in the word "stout." But Iris was not
accustomed to cross-examination. During a three months' residence on
the island she had learnt how to avoid Lady Tozer. Here it was
impossible, and the older woman fastened upon her asp-like. Miss Iris
Deane was a toothsome morsel for gossip. Not yet twenty-one, the only
daughter of a wealthy baronet who owned a fleet of stately ships--the
_Sirdar_ amongst them--a girl who had been mistress of her
father's house since her return from Dresden three years ago--young,
beautiful, rich--here was a combination for which men thanked a
judicious Heaven, whilst women sniffed enviously.

Business detained Sir Arthur. A war-cloud over-shadowed the two great
divisions of the yellow race. He must wait to see how matters
developed, but he would not expose Iris to the insidious treachery of a
Chinese spring. So, with tears, they separated. She was confided to the
personal charge of Captain Ross. At each point of call the company's
agents would be solicitous for her welfare. The cable's telegraphic eye
would watch her progress as that of some princely maiden sailing in
royal caravel. This fair, slender, well-formed girl--delightfully
English in face and figure--with her fresh, clear complexion, limpid
blue eyes, and shining brown hair, was a personage of some importance.

Lady Tozer knew these things and sighed complacently.

"Ah, well," she resumed. "Parents had different views when I was a
girl. But I assume Sir Arthur thinks you should become used to being
your own mistress in view of your approaching marriage."

"My--approaching--marriage!" cried Iris, now genuinely amazed.

"Yes. Is it not true that you are going to marry Lord Ventnor?"

A passing steward heard the point-blank question.

It had a curious effect upon him. He gazed with fiercely eager eyes at
Miss Deane, and so far forgot himself as to permit a dish of water ice
to rest against Sir John Tozer's bald head.

Iris could not help noting his strange behavior. A flash of humor
chased away her first angry resentment at Lady Tozer's interrogatory.

"That may be my happy fate," she answered gaily, "but Lord Ventnor has
not asked me."

"Every one says in Hong Kong--" began her ladyship.

"Confound you, you stupid rascal! what are you doing?" shouted Sir
John. His feeble nerves at last conveyed the information that something
more pronounced than a sudden draught affected his scalp; the ice was
melting.

The incident amused those passengers who sat near enough to observe it.
But the chief steward, hovering watchful near the captain's table,
darted forward. Pale with anger he hissed--

"Report yourself for duty in the second saloon tonight," and he hustled
his subordinate away from the judge's chair.

Miss Deane, mirthfully radiant, rose.

"Please don't punish the man, Mr. Jones," she said sweetly. "It was a
sheer accident. He was taken by surprise. In his place I would have
emptied the whole dish."

The chief steward smirked. He did not know exactly what had happened;
nevertheless, great though Sir John Tozer might be, the owner's
daughter was greater.

"Certainly, miss, certainly," he agreed, adding confidentially:--"It
_is_ rather hard on a steward to be sent aft, miss. It makes such
a difference in the--er--the little gratuities given by the
passengers."

The girl was tactful. She smiled comprehension at the official and bent
over Sir John, now carefully polishing the back of his skull with a
table napkin.

"I am sure you will forgive him," she whispered. "I can't say why, but
the poor fellow was looking so intently at me that he did not see what
he was doing."

The ex-Chief Justice was instantly mollified. He did not mind the
application of ice in that way--rather liked it, in fact--probably ice
was susceptible to the fire in Miss Deane's eyes.

Lady Tozer was not so easily appeased. When Iris left the saloon she
inquired tartly: "How is it, John, that Government makes a shipowner a
baronet and a Chief Justice only a knight?"

"That question would provide an interesting subject for debate at the
Carlton, my dear," he replied with equal asperity.

Suddenly the passengers still seated experienced a prolonged sinking
sensation, as if the vessel had been converted into a gigantic lift.
They were pressed hard into their chairs, which creaked and tried to
swing round on their pivots. As the ship yielded stiffly to the sea a
whiff of spray dashed through an open port.

"There," snapped her ladyship, "I knew we should run into a storm, yet
Captain Ross led us to believe---- John, take me to my cabin at once."

From the promenade deck the listless groups watched the rapid advance
of the gale. There was mournful speculation upon the _Sirdar's_
chances of reaching Singapore before the next evening.

"We had two hundred and ninety-eight miles to do at noon," said
Experience. "If the wind and sea catch us on the port bow the ship will
pitch awfully. Half the time the screw will be racing. I once made this
trip in the _Sumatra_, and we were struck by a south-east typhoon
in this locality. How long do you think it was before we dropped anchor
in Singapore harbor?"

No one hazarded a guess.

"Three days!" Experience was solemnly pompous. "Three whole days. They
were like three years. By Jove! I never want to see another gale like
that."

A timid lady ventured to say--

"Perhaps this may not be a typhoon. It may only be a little bit of
a storm."

Her sex saved her from a jeer. Experience gloomily shook his head.

"The barometer resists your plea," he said. "I fear there will be a
good many empty saddles in the saloon at dinner."

The lady smiled weakly. It was a feeble joke at the best. "You think we
are in for a sort of marine steeple-chase?" she asked.

"Well, thank Heaven, I had a good lunch," sniggered a rosy-faced
subaltern, and a ripple of laughter greeted his enthusiasm.

Iris stood somewhat apart from the speakers. The wind had freshened and
her hat was tied closely over her ears. She leaned against the
taffrail, enjoying the cool breeze after hours of sultry heat. The sky
was cloudless yet, but there was a queer tinge of burnished copper in
the all-pervading sunshine.  The sea was coldly blue. The life had gone
out of it. It was no longer inviting and translucent. That morning,
were such a thing practicable, she would have gladly dived into its
crystal depths and disported herself like a frolicsome mermaid. Now
something akin to repulsion came with the fanciful remembrance.

Long sullen undulations swept noiselessly past the ship. Once, after a
steady climb up a rolling hill of water, the _Sirdar_ quickly
pecked at the succeeding valley, and the propeller gave a couple of
angry flaps on the surface, whilst a tremor ran through the stout iron
rails on which the girl's arms rested.

The crew were busy too. Squads of Lascars raced about, industriously
obedient to the short shrill whistling of jemadars and quartermasters.
Boat lashings were tested and tightened, canvas awnings stretched
across the deck forward, ventilator cowls twisted to new angles, and
hatches clamped down over the wooden gratings that covered the holds.
Officers, spotless in white linen, flitted quietly to and fro. When the
watch was changed. Iris noted that the "chief" appeared in an old blue
suit and carried oilskins over his arm as he climbed to the bridge.

Nature looked disturbed and fitful, and the ship responded to her mood.
There was a sense of preparation in the air, of coming ordeal, of
restless foreboding. Chains clanked with a noise the girl never noticed
before; the tramp of hurrying men on the hurricane deck overhead
sounded heavy and hollow. There was a squeaking of chairs that was
abominable when people gathered up books and wraps and staggered
ungracefully towards the companion-way. Altogether Miss Deane was not
wholly pleased with the preliminaries of a typhoon, whatever the
realities might be.

And then, why did gales always spring up at the close of day? Could
they not start after breakfast, rage with furious grandeur during
lunch, and die away peacefully at dinner-time, permitting one to sleep
in comfort without that straining and groaning of the ship which seemed
to imply a sharp attack of rheumatism in every joint?

Why did that silly old woman allude to her contemplated marriage to
Lord Ventnor, retailing the gossip of Hong Kong with such malicious
emphasis? For an instant Iris tried to shake the railing in comic
anger. She hated Lord Ventnor. She did not want to marry him, or
anybody else, just yet. Of course her father had hinted approval of his
lordship's obvious intentions. Countess of Ventnor! Yes, it was a nice
title. Still, she wanted another couple of years of careless freedom;
in any event, why should Lady Tozer pry and probe?

And finally, why did the steward--oh, poor old Sir John! What
_would_ have happened if the ice had slid down his neck?
Thoroughly comforted by this gleeful hypothesis, Miss Deane seized a
favorable opportunity to dart across to the starboard side and see if
Captain Ross's "heavy bank of cloud in the north-west" had put in an
appearance.

Ha! there it was, black, ominous, gigantic, rolling up over the horizon
like some monstrous football. Around it the sky deepened into purple,
fringed with a wide belt of brick red. She had never seen such a
beginning of a gale. From what she had read in books she imagined that
only in great deserts were clouds of dust generated. There could not be
dust in the dense pall now rushing with giant strides across the
trembling sea. Then what was it? Why was it so dark and menacing? And
where was desert of stone and sand to compare with this awful expanse
of water? What a small dot was this great ship on the visible surface!
But the ocean itself extended away beyond there, reaching out to the
infinite. The dot became a mere speck, undistinguishable beneath a
celestial microscope such as the gods might condescend to use.

Iris shivered and aroused herself with a startled laugh.

A nice book in a sheltered corner, and perhaps forty winks until
tea-time--surely a much more sensible proceeding than to stand there,
idly conjuring up phantoms of affright.

The lively fanfare of the dinner trumpet failed to fill the saloon. By
this time the _Sirdar_ was fighting resolutely against a stiff
gale. But the stress of actual combat was better than the eerie
sensation of impending danger during the earlier hours. The strong,
hearty pulsations of the engines, the regular thrashing of the screw,
the steadfast onward plunging of the good ship through racing seas and
flying scud, were cheery, confident, and inspiring.

Miss Deane justified her boast that she was an excellent sailor. She
smiled delightedly at the ship's surgeon when he caught her eye through
the many gaps in the tables. She was alone, so he joined her.

"You are a credit to the company--quite a sea-king's daughter," he
said.

"Doctor, do you talk to all your lady passengers in that way?"

"Alas, no! Too often I can only be truthful when I am dumb."

Iris laughed. "If I remain long on this ship I will certainly have my
head turned," she cried. "I receive nothing but compliments from the
captain down to--to----

"The doctor!"

"No. You come a good second on the list."

In very truth she was thinking of the ice-carrying steward and his
queer start of surprise at the announcement of her rumored engagement.
The man interested her. He looked like a broken-down gentleman. Her
quick eyes traveled around the saloon to discover his whereabouts. She
could not see him. The chief steward stood near, balancing himself in
apparent defiance of the laws of gravitation, for the ship was now
pitching and rolling with a mad zeal. For an instant she meant to
inquire what had become of the transgressor, but she dismissed the
thought at its inception. The matter was too trivial.

With a wild swoop all the plates, glasses, and cutlery on the saloon
tables crashed to starboard. Were it not for the restraint of the
fiddles everything must have been swept to the floor. There were one or
two minor accidents. A steward, taken unawares, was thrown headlong on
top of his laden tray. Others were compelled to clutch the backs of
chairs and cling to pillars. One man involuntarily seized the hair of a
lady who devoted an hour before each meal to her coiffure. The
_Sirdar_, with a frenzied bound, tried to turn a somersault.

"A change of course," observed the doctor. "They generally try to avoid
it when people are in the saloon, but a typhoon admits of no labored
politeness. As its center is now right ahead we are going on the
starboard tack to get behind it."

"I must hurry up and go on deck," said Miss Deane.

"You will not be able to go on deck until the morning."

She turned on him impetuously. "Indeed I will. Captain Ross promised
me--that is, I asked him----"

The doctor smiled. She was so charmingly insistent. "It is simply
impossible," he said. "The companion doors are bolted. The promenade
deck is swept by heavy seas every minute. A boat has been carried away
and several stanchions snapped off like carrots. For the first time in
your life, Miss Deane, you are battened down."

The girl's face must have paled somewhat. He added hastily, "There is
no danger, you know, but these precautions are necessary. You would not
like to see several tons of water rushing down the saloon stairs; now,
would you?"

"Decidedly not." Then after a pause, "It is not pleasant to be fastened
up in a great iron box, doctor. It reminds one of a huge coffin."

"Not a bit. The _Sirdar_ is the safest ship afloat. Your father
has always pursued a splendid policy in that respect. The London and
Hong Kong Company may not possess fast vessels, but they are seaworthy
and well found in every respect."

"Are there many people ill on board?"

"No; just the usual number of disturbed livers. We had a nasty accident
shortly before dinner."

"Good gracious! What happened?"

"Some Lascars were caught by a sea forward. One man had his leg
broken."

"Anything else?"

The doctor hesitated. He became interested in the color of some
Burgundy. "I hardly know the exact details yet," he replied. "Tomorrow
after breakfast I will tell you all about it."

An English quartermaster and four Lascars had been licked from off the
forecastle by the greedy tongue of a huge wave. The succeeding surge
flung the five men back against the quarter. One of the black sailors
was pitched aboard, with a fractured leg and other injuries. The others
were smashed against the iron hull and disappeared.

For one tremulous moment the engines slowed. The ship commenced to veer
off into the path of the cyclone. Captain Ross set his teeth, and the
telegraph bell jangled "Full speed ahead."

"Poor Jackson!" he murmured. "One of my best men. I remember seeing his
wife, a pretty little woman, and two children coming to meet him last
homeward trip. They will be there again. Good God! That Lascar who was
saved has some one to await him in a Bombay village, I suppose."

The gale sang a mad requiem to its victims. The very surface was torn
from the sea. The ship drove relentlessly through sheets of spray that
caused the officers high up on the bridge to gasp for breath. They held
on by main force, though protected by strong canvas sheets bound to the
rails. The main deck was quite impassable. The promenade deck, even the
lofty spar deck, was scourged with the broken crests of waves that
tried with demoniac energy to smash in the starboard bow, for the
_Sirdar_ was cutting into the heart of the cyclone.

The captain fought his way to the charthouse. He wiped the salt water
from his eyes and looked anxiously at the barometer.

"Still falling!" he muttered. "I will keep on until seven o'clock and
then bear three points to the southward. By midnight we should be
behind it."

He struggled back into the outside fury. By comparison the sturdy
citadel he quitted was Paradise on the edge of an inferno.

Down in the saloon the hardier passengers were striving to subdue the
ennui of an interval before they sought their cabins. Some talked. One
hardened reprobate strummed the piano. Others played cards, chess,
draughts, anything that would distract attention.

The stately apartment offered strange contrast to the warring elements
without. Bright lights, costly upholstery, soft carpets, carved panels
and gilded cornices, with uniformed attendants passing to and fro
carrying coffee and glasses--these surroundings suggested a floating
palace in which the raging seas were defied. Yet forty miles away,
somewhere in the furious depths, four corpses swirled about with
horrible uncertainty, lurching through battling currents, and perchance
convoyed by fighting sharks.

The surgeon had been called away. Iris was the only lady left in the
saloon. She watched a set of whist players for a time and then essayed
the perilous passage to her stateroom. She found her maid and a
stewardess there. Both women were weeping.

"What is the matter?" she inquired.

The stewardess tried to speak. She choked with grief and hastily went
out. The maid blubbered an explanation.

"A friend of hers was married, miss, to the man who is drowned."

"Drowned! What man?"

"Haven't you heard, miss? I suppose they are keeping it quiet. An
English sailor and some natives were swept off the ship by a sea. One
native was saved, but he is all smashed up. The others were never seen
again."

Iris by degrees learnt the sad chronicles of the Jackson family. She
was moved to tears. She remembered the doctor's hesitancy, and her own
idle phrase--"a huge coffin."

Outside the roaring waves pounded upon the iron walls.

Were they not satiated? This tragedy had taken all the grandeur out of
the storm. It was no longer a majestic phase of nature's power, but an
implacable demon, bellowing for a sacrifice. And that poor woman, with
her two children, hopefully scanning the shipping lists for news of the
great steamer, news which, to her, meant only the safety of her
husband. Oh, it was pitiful!

Iris would not be undressed. The maid sniveled a request to be allowed
to remain with her mistress. She would lie on a couch until morning.

Two staterooms had been converted into one to provide Miss Deane with
ample accommodation. There were no bunks, but a cozy bed was screwed to
the deck. She lay down, and strove to read. It was a difficult task.
Her eyes wandered from the printed page to mark the absurd antics of
her garments swinging on their hooks. At times the ship rolled so far
that she felt sure it must topple over. She was not afraid; but
subdued, rather astonished, placidly prepared for vague eventualities.
Through it all she wondered why she clung to the belief that in another
day or two the storm would be forgotten, and people playing quoits on
deck, dancing, singing coon songs in the music-room, or grumbling at
the heat.

Things were ridiculous. What need was there for all this external fury?
Why should poor sailors be cast forth to instant death in such awful
manner? If she could only sleep and forget--if kind oblivion would blot
out the storm for a few blissful hours! But how could one sleep with
the consciousness of that watery giant thundering his summons upon the
iron plates a few inches away?

Then came the blurred picture of Captain Ross high up on the bridge,
peering into the moving blackness. How strange that there should be
hidden in the convolutions of a man's brain an intelligence that laid
bare the pretences of that ravenous demon without. Each of the ship's
officers, the commander more than the others, understood the why and
the wherefore of this blustering combination of wind and sea. Iris knew
the language of poker. Nature was putting up a huge bluff.

What was it the captain said in his little lecture? "When a ship meets
a cyclone north of the equator on a westerly course she nearly always
has the wind at first on the port side, but, owing to the revolution of
the gale, when she passes its center the wind is on the starboard
side."

Yes, that was right, as far as the first part was concerned. Evidently
they had not yet passed the central path. Oh, dear! She was so tired.
It demanded a physical effort to constantly shove away an unseen force
that tried to push you over. How funny that a big cloud should travel
up against the wind! And so, amidst confused wonderment, she lapsed
into an uneasy slumber, her last sentient thought being a quiet
thankfulness that the screw went thud-thud, thud-thud with such firm
determination.

After the course was changed and the _Sirdar_ bore away towards
the south-west, the commander consulted the barometer each half-hour.
The tell-tale mercury had sunk over two inches in twelve hours. The
abnormally low pressure quickly created dense clouds which enhanced the
melancholy darkness of the gale.

For many minutes together the bows of the ship were not visible.
Masthead and sidelights were obscured by the pelting scud. The engines
thrust the vessel forward like a lance into the vitals of the storm.
Wind and wave gushed out of the vortex with impotent fury.

At last, soon after midnight, the barometer showed a slight upward
movement. At 1.30 a.m. the change became pronounced; simultaneously the
wind swung round a point to the westward.

Then Captain Ross smiled wearily. His face brightened. He opened his
oilskin coat, glanced at the compass, and nodded approval.

"That's right," he shouted to the quartermaster at the steam-wheel.
"Keep her steady there, south 15 west."

"South 15 west it is, sir," yelled the sailor, impassively watching the
moving disk, for the wind alteration necessitated a little less help
from the rudder to keep the ship's head true to her course.

Captain Ross ate some sandwiches and washed them down with cold tea. He
was more hungry than he imagined, having spent eleven hours without
food. The tea was insipid. He called through a speaking-tube for a
further supply of sandwiches and some coffee.

Then he turned to consult a chart. He was joined by the chief officer.
Both men examined the chart in silence.

Captain Ross finally took a pencil. He stabbed its point on the paper
in the neighborhood of 14 deg. N. and 112 deg. E.

"We are about there, I think."

The chief agreed. "That was the locality I had in my mind." He bent
closer over the sheet.

"Nothing in the way tonight, sir," he added.

"Nothing whatever. It is a bit of good luck to meet such weather here.
We can keep as far south as we like until daybreak, and by that
time--How did it look when you came in?"

"A trifle better, I think."

"I have sent for some refreshments. Let us have another
_dekko_[Footnote: Hindustani for "look"--word much used by sailors
in the East.] before we tackle them."

The two officers passed out into the hurricane. Instantly the wind
endeavored to tear the charthouse from off the deck. They looked aloft
and ahead. The officer on duty saw them and nodded silent
comprehension. It was useless to attempt to speak. The weather was
perceptibly clearer.

Then all three peered ahead again. They stood, pressing against the
wind, seeking to penetrate the murkiness in front. Suddenly they were
galvanized into strenuous activity.

A wild howl came from the lookout forward. The eyes of the three men
glared at a huge dismasted Chinese junk, wallowing helplessly in the
trough of the sea, dead under the bows.

The captain sprang to the charthouse and signaled in fierce pantomime
that the wheel should be put hard over.

The officer in charge of the bridge pressed the telegraph lever to
"stop" and "full speed astern," whilst with his disengaged hand he
pulled hard at the siren cord, and a raucous warning sent stewards
flying through the ship to close collision bulkhead doors. The "chief"
darted to the port rail, for the _Sirdar's_ instant response to
the helm seemed to clear her nose from the junk as if by magic.

It all happened so quickly that whilst the hoarse signal was still
vibrating through the ship, the junk swept past her quarter. The chief
officer, joined now by the commander, looked down into the wretched
craft. They could see her crew lashed in a bunch around the capstan on
her elevated poop. She was laden with timber. Although water-logged,
she could not sink if she held together.

A great wave sucked her away from the steamer and then hurled her back
with irresistible force. The _Sirdar_ was just completing her
turning movement, and she heeled over, yielding to the mighty power of
the gale. For an appreciable instant her engines stopped. The mass of
water that swayed the junk like a cork lifted the great ship high by
the stern. The propeller began to revolve in air--for the third officer
had corrected his signal to "full speed ahead" again--and the cumbrous
Chinese vessel struck the _Sirdar_ a terrible blow in the counter,
smashing off the screw close to the thrust-block and wrenching the
rudder from its bearings.

There was an awful race by the engines before the engineers could shut
off steam. The junk vanished into the wilderness of noise and tumbling
seas beyond, and the fine steamer of a few seconds ago, replete with
magnificent energy, struggled like a wounded leviathan in the grasp of
a vengeful foe.

She swung round, as if in wrath, to pursue the puny assailant which had
dealt her this mortal stroke. No longer breasting the storm with
stubborn persistency, she now drifted aimlessly before wind and wave.
She was merely a larger plaything, tossed about by Titantic gambols.
The junk was burst asunder by the collision. Her planks and cargo
littered the waves, were even tossed in derision on to the decks of the
_Sirdar_. Of what avail was strong timber or bolted iron against
the spleen of the unchained and formless monster who loudly proclaimed
his triumph? The great steamship drifted on through chaos. The typhoon
had broken the lance.

But brave men, skilfully directed, wrought hard to avert further
disaster. After the first moment of stupor, gallant British sailors
risked life and limb to bring the vessel under control.

By their calm courage they shamed the paralyzed Lascars into activity.
A sail was rigged on the foremast, and a sea anchor hastily constructed
as soon as it was discovered that the helm was useless. Rockets flared
up into the sky at regular intervals, in the faint hope that should
they attract the attention of another vessel she would follow the
disabled _Sirdar_ and render help when the weather moderated.

When the captain ascertained that no water was being shipped, the
damage being wholly external, the collision doors were opened and the
passengers admitted to the saloon, a brilliant palace, superbly
indifferent to the wreck and ruin without.

Captain Ross himself came down and addressed a few comforting words to
the quiet men and pallid women gathered there. He told them exactly
what had happened.

Sir John Tozer, self-possessed and critical, asked a question.

"The junk is destroyed, I assume?" he said.

"It is."

"Would it not have been better to have struck her end on?"

"Much better, but that is not the view we should take if we encountered
a vessel relatively as big as the _Sirdar_ was to the unfortunate
junk."

"But," persisted the lawyer, "what would have been the result?"

"You would never have known that the incident had happened, Sir John."

"In other words, the poor despairing Chinamen, clinging to their little
craft with some chance of escape, would be quietly murdered to suit our
convenience."

It was Iris's clear voice that rang out this downright exposition of
the facts. Sir John shook his head; he carried the discussion no
further.

The hours passed in tedious misery after Captain Ross's visit. Every
one was eager to get a glimpse of the unknown terrors without from the
deck. This was out of the question, so people sat around the tables to
listen eagerly to Experience and his wise saws on drifting ships and
their prospects.

Some cautious persons visited their cabins to secure valuables in case
of further disaster. A few hardy spirits returned to bed.

Meanwhile, in the charthouse, the captain and chief officer were
gravely pondering over an open chart, and discussing a fresh risk that
loomed ominously before them. The ship was a long way out of her usual
course when the accident happened. She was drifting now, they
estimated, eleven knots an hour, with wind, sea, and current all
forcing her in the same direction, drifting into one of the most
dangerous places in the known world, the south China Sea, with its
numberless reefs, shoals, and isolated rocks, and the great island of
Borneo stretching right across the path of the cyclone.

Still, there was nothing to be done save to make a few unobtrusive
preparations and trust to idle chance. To attempt to anchor and ride
out the gale in their present position was out of the question.

Two, three, four o'clock came, and went. Another half-hour would
witness the dawn and a further clearing of the weather. The barometer
was rapidly rising. The center of the cyclone had swept far ahead.
There was only left the aftermath of heavy seas and furious but
steadier wind.

Captain Ross entered the charthouse for the twentieth time.

He had aged many years in appearance. The smiling, confident, debonair
officer was changed into a stricken, mournful man. He had altered with
his ship. The _Sirdar_ and her master could hardly be recognized,
so cruel were the blows they had received.

"It is impossible to see a yard ahead," he confided to his second in
command. "I have never been so anxious before in my life. Thank God the
night is drawing to a close. Perhaps, when day breaks----"

His last words contained a prayer and a hope. Even as he spoke the ship
seemed to lift herself bodily with an unusual effort for a vessel
moving before the wind.

The next instant there was a horrible grinding crash forward. Each
person who did not chance to be holding fast to an upright was thrown
violently down. The deck was tilted to a dangerous angle and remained
there, whilst the heavy buffeting of the sea, now raging afresh at this
unlooked-for resistance, drowned the despairing yells raised by the
Lascars on duty.

The _Sirdar_ had completed her last voyage. She was now a battered
wreck on a barrier reef. She hung thus for one heart-breaking second.
Then another wave, riding triumphantly through its fellows, caught the
great steamer in its tremendous grasp, carried her onward for half her
length and smashed her down on the rocks. Her back was broken. She
parted in two halves. Both sections turned completely over in the utter
wantonness of destruction, and everything--masts, funnels, boats, hull,
with every living soul on board--was at once engulfed in a maelstrom of
rushing water and far-flung spray.




CHAPTER II

THE SURVIVORS


When the _Sirdar_ parted amidships, the floor of the saloon heaved
up in the center with a mighty crash of rending woodwork and iron. Men
and women, too stupefied to sob out a prayer, were pitched headlong
into chaos. Iris, torn from the terrified grasp of her maid, fell
through a corridor, and would have gone down with the ship had not a
sailor, clinging to a companion ladder, caught her as she whirled along
the steep slope of the deck.

He did not know what had happened. With the instinct of
self-preservation he seized the nearest support when the vessel struck.
It was the mere impulse of ready helpfulness that caused him to stretch
out his left arm and clasp the girl's waist as she fluttered past. By
idle chance they were on the port side, and the ship, after pausing for
one awful second, fell over to starboard.

The man was not prepared for this second gyration. Even as the stairway
canted he lost his balance; they were both thrown violently through the
open hatchway, and swept off into the boiling surf. Under such
conditions thought itself was impossible. A series of impressions, a
number of fantastic pictures, were received by the benumbed faculties,
and afterwards painfully sorted out by the memory. Fear, anguish,
amazement--none of these could exist. All he knew was that the lifeless
form of a woman--for Iris had happily fainted--must be held until death
itself wrenched her from him. Then there came the headlong plunge into
the swirling sea, followed by an indefinite period of gasping oblivion.
Something that felt like a moving rock rose up beneath his feet. He was
driven clear out of the water and seemed to recognize a familiar object
rising rigid and bright close at hand. It was the binnacle pillar,
screwed to a portion of the deck which came away from the charthouse
and was rent from the upper framework by contact with the reef.

He seized this unlooked-for support with his disengaged hand. For one
fleet instant he had a confused vision of the destruction of the ship.
Both the fore and aft portions were burst asunder by the force of
compressed air. Wreckage and human forms were tossing about foolishly.
The sea pounded upon the opposing rocks with the noise of ten thousand
mighty steam-hammers.

A uniformed figure--he thought it was the captain--stretched out an
unavailing arm to clasp the queer raft which supported the sailor and
the girl. But a jealous wave rose under the platform with devilish
energy and turned it completely over, hurling the man with his
inanimate burthen into the depths. He rose, fighting madly for his
life. Now surely he was doomed! But again, as if human existence
depended on naught more serious than the spinning of a coin, his knees
rested on the same few staunch timbers, now the ceiling of the
music-room, and he was given a brief respite. His greatest difficulty
was to get his breath, so dense was the spray through which he was
driven. Even in that terrible moment he kept his senses. The girl,
utterly unconscious, showed by the convulsive heaving of her breast
that she was choking. With a wild effort he swung her head round to
shield her from the flying scud with his own form.

The tiny air-space thus provided gave her some relief, and in that
instant the sailor seemed to recognize her. He was not remotely capable
of a definite idea. Just as he vaguely realized the identity of the
woman in his arms the unsteady support on which he rested toppled over.
Again he renewed the unequal contest. A strong resolute man and a
typhoon sea wrestled for supremacy.

This time his feet plunged against something gratefully solid. He was
dashed forward, still battling with the raging turmoil of water, and a
second time he felt the same firm yet smooth surface. His dormant
faculties awoke. It was sand. With frenzied desperation, buoyed now by
the inspiring hope of safety, he fought his way onwards like a maniac.

Often he fell, three times did the backwash try to drag him to the
swirling death behind, but he staggered blindly on, on, until even the
tearing gale ceased to be laden with the suffocating foam, and his
faltering feet sank in deep soft white sand.

[Illustration: WITH FRENZIED DESPERATION, BUOYED NOW BY THE INSPIRING
HOPE OF SAFETY, HE FOUGHT HIS WAY ONWARD LIKE A MANIAC.]

Then he fell, not to rise again. With a last weak flicker of exhausted
strength he drew the girl closely to him, and the two lay, clasped
tightly together, heedless now of all things.

How long the man remained prostrate he could only guess subsequently.
The _Sirdar_ struck soon after daybreak and the sailor awoke to a
hazy consciousness of his surroundings to find a shaft of sunshine
flickering through the clouds banked up in the east. The gale was
already passing away. Although the wind still whistled with shrill
violence it was more blustering than threatening. The sea, too, though
running very high, had retreated many yards from the spot where he had
finally dropped, and its surface was no longer scourged with venomous
spray.

Slowly and painfully he raised himself to a sitting posture, for he was
bruised and stiff. With his first movement he became violently ill. He
had swallowed much salt water, and it was not until the spasm of
sickness had passed that he thought of the girl.

She had slipped from his breast as he rose, and was lying, face
downwards, in the sand. The memory of much that had happened surged
into his brain with horrifying suddenness.

"She cannot be dead," he hoarsely murmured, feebly trying to lift her.
"Surely Providence would not desert her after such an escape. What a
weak beggar I must be to give in at the last moment. I am sure she was
living when we got ashore. What on earth can I do to revive her?"

Forgetful of his own aching limbs in this newborn anxiety, he sank on
one knee and gently pillowed Iris's head and shoulders on the other.
Her eyes were closed, her lips and teeth firmly set--a fact to which
she undoubtedly owed her life, else she would have been suffocated--and
the pallor of her skin seemed to be that terrible bloodless hue which
indicates death. The stern lines in the man's face relaxed, and
something blurred his vision. He was weak from exhaustion and want of
food. For the moment his emotions were easily aroused.

"Oh, it is pitiful," he almost whimpered. "It cannot be!"

With a gesture of despair he drew the sleeve of his thick jersey across
his eyes to clear them from the gathering mist. Then he tremblingly
endeavored to open the neck of her dress and unclasp her corsets. He
had a vague notion that ladies in a fainting condition required such
treatment, and he was desperately resolved to bring Iris Deane back to
conscious existence if it were possible. His task was rendered
difficult by the waistband of her dress. He slipped out a clasp-knife
and opened the blade.

Not until then did he discover that the nail of the forefinger on his
right hand had been torn out by the quick, probably during his
endeavors to grasp the unsteady support which contributed so materially
to his escape. It still hung by a shred and hindered the free use of
his hand. Without any hesitation he seized the offending nail in his
teeth and completed the surgical operation by a rapid jerk.

Bending to resume his task he was startled to find the girl's eyes wide
open and surveying him with shadowy alarm. She was quite conscious,
absurdly so in a sense, and had noticed his strange action.

"Thank God!" he cried hoarsely. "You are alive."

Her mind as yet could only work in a single groove.

"Why did you do that?" she whispered.

"Do what?"

"Bite your nail off!"

"It was in my way. I wished to cut open your dress at the waist. You
were collapsed, almost dead, I thought, and I wanted to unfasten your
corsets."

Her color came back with remarkable rapidity. From all the rich variety
of the English tongue few words could have been selected of such
restorative effect.

She tried to assume a sitting posture, and instinctively her hands
traveled to her disarranged costume.

"How ridiculous!" she said, with a little note of annoyance in her
voice, which sounded curiously hollow. But her brave spirit could not
yet command her enfeebled frame. She was perforce compelled to sink
back to the support of his knee and arm.

"Do you think you could lie quiet until I try to find some water?" he
gasped anxiously.

She nodded a childlike acquiescence, and her eyelids fell. It was only
that her eyes smarted dreadfully from the salt water, but the sailor
was sure that this was a premonition of a lapse to unconsciousness.

"Please try not to faint again," he said. "Don't you think I had better
loosen these things? You can breathe more easily."

A ghost of a smile flickered on her lips. "No--no," she murmured. "My
eyes hurt me--that is all. Is there--any--water?"

He laid her tenderly on the sand and rose to his feet. His first glance
was towards the sea. He saw something which made him blink with
astonishment. A heavy sea was still running over the barrier reef which
enclosed a small lagoon. The contrast between the fierce commotion
outside and the comparatively smooth surface of the protected pool was
very marked. At low tide the lagoon was almost completely isolated.
Indeed, he imagined that only a fierce gale blowing from the north-west
would enable the waves to leap the reef, save where a strip of broken
water, surging far into the small natural harbor, betrayed the position
of the tiny entrance.

Yet at this very point a fine cocoanut palm reared its stately column
high in air, and its long tremulous fronds were now swinging wildly
before the gale. From where he stood it appeared to be growing in the
midst of the sea, for huge breakers completely hid the coral
embankment. This sentinel of the land had a weirdly impressive effect.
It was the only fixed object in the waste of foam-capped waves. Not a
vestige of the _Sirdar_ remained seaward, but the sand was
littered with wreckage, and--mournful spectacle!--a considerable number
of inanimate human forms lay huddled up amidst the relics of the
steamer.

This discovery stirred him to action. He turned to survey the land on
which he was stranded with his helpless companion. To his great relief
he discovered that it was lofty and tree-clad. He knew that the ship
could not have drifted to Borneo, which still lay far to the south.
This must be one of the hundreds of islands which stud the China Sea
and provide resorts for Hainan fishermen. Probably it was inhabited,
though he thought it strange that none of the islanders had put in an
appearance. In any event, water and food, of some sort, were assured.

But before setting out upon his quest two things demanded attention.
The girl must be removed from her present position. It would be too
horrible to permit her first conscious gaze to rest upon those crumpled
objects on the beach. Common humanity demanded, too, that he should
hastily examine each of the bodies in case life was not wholly extinct.

So he bent over the girl, noting with sudden wonder that, weak as she
was, she had managed to refasten part of her bodice.

"You must permit me to carry you a little further inland," he explained
gently.

Without another word he lifted her in his arms, marveling somewhat at
the strength which came of necessity, and bore her some little
distance, until a sturdy rock, jutting out of the sand, offered shelter
from the wind and protection from the sea and its revelations.

"I am so cold, and tired," murmured Iris. "Is there any water? My
throat hurts me."

He pressed back the tangled hair from her forehead as he might soothe a
child.

"Try to lie still for a very few minutes," he said.

"You have not long to suffer. I will return immediately."

His own throat and palate were on fire owing to the brine, but he first
hurried back to the edge of the lagoon. There were fourteen bodies in
all, three women and eleven men, four of the latter being Lascars. The
women were saloon passengers whom he did not know. One of the men was
the surgeon, another the first officer, a third Sir John Tozer. The
rest were passengers and members of the crew. They were all dead; some
had been peacefully drowned, others were fearfully mangled by the
rocks. Two of the Lascars, bearing signs of dreadful injuries, were
lying on a cluster of low rocks overhanging the water. The remainder
rested on the sand.

The sailor exhibited no visible emotion whilst he conducted his sad
scrutiny. When he was assured that this silent company was beyond
mortal help he at once strode away towards the nearest belt of trees.
He could not tell how long the search for water might be protracted,
and there was pressing need for it.

When he reached the first clump of brushwood he uttered a delighted
exclamation. There, growing in prodigal luxuriance, was the beneficent
pitcher-plant, whose large curled-up leaf, shaped like a teacup, not
only holds a lasting quantity of rain-water, but mixes therewith its
own palatable and natural juices.

With his knife he severed two of the leaves, swearing emphatically the
while on account of his damaged finger, and hastened to Iris with the
precious beverage. She heard him and managed to raise herself on an
elbow.

The poor girl's eyes glistened at the prospect of relief. Without a
word of question or surprise she swallowed the contents of both leaves.

Then she found utterance. "How odd it tastes! What is it?" she
inquired.

But the eagerness with which she quenched her thirst renewed his own
momentarily forgotten torture. His tongue seemed to swell. He was
absolutely unable to reply.

The water revived Iris like a magic draught. Her quick intuition told
her what had happened.

"You have had none yourself," she cried. "Go at once and get some. And
please bring me some more."

He required no second bidding. After hastily gulping down the contents
of several leaves he returned with a further supply. Iris was now
sitting up. The sun had burst royally through the clouds, and her
chilled limbs were gaining some degree of warmth and elasticity.

"What is it?" she repeated after another delicious draught.

"The leaf of the pitcher-plant. Nature is not always cruel. In an
unusually generous mood she devised this method of storing water."

Miss Deane reached out her hand for more. Her troubled brain refused to
wonder at such a reply from an ordinary seaman. The sailor deliberately
spilled the contents of a remaining leaf on the sand.

"No, madam," he said, with an odd mixture of deference and firmness.
"No more at present. I must first procure you some food."

She looked up at him in momentary silence.

"The ship is lost?" she said after a pause.

"Yes, madam."

"Are we the only people saved?"

"I fear so."

"Is this a desert island?"

"I think not, madam. It may, by chance, be temporarily uninhabited, but
fishermen from China come to all these places to collect tortoise-shell
and _beche-de-mer_. I have seen no other living beings except
ourselves; nevertheless, the islanders may live on the south side."

Another pause. Amidst the thrilling sensations of the moment Iris found
herself idly speculating as to the meaning of _beche-de-mer_, and
why this common sailor pronounced French so well. Her thoughts reverted
to the steamer.

"It surely cannot be possible that the _Sirdar_ has gone to
pieces--a magnificent vessel of her size and strength?"

He answered quietly--"It is too true, madam. I suppose you hardly knew
she struck, it happened so suddenly. Afterwards, fortunately for you,
you were unconscious."

"How do you know?" she inquired quickly. A flood of vivid recollection
was pouring in upon her.

"I--er--well, I happened to be near you, madam, when the ship broke up,
and we--er--drifted ashore together."

She rose and faced him. "I remember now," she cried hysterically. "You
caught me as I was thrown into the corridor. We fell into the sea when
the vessel turned over. You have saved my life. Were it not for you I
could not possibly have escaped."

She gazed at him more earnestly, seeing that he blushed beneath the
crust of salt and sand that covered his face. "Why," she went on with
growing excitement, "you are the steward I noticed in the saloon
yesterday. How is it that you are now dressed as a sailor?"

He answered readily enough. "There was an accident on board during the
gale, madam. I am a fair sailor but a poor steward, so I applied for a
transfer. As the crew were short-handed my offer was accepted."

Iris was now looking at him intently.

"You saved my life," she repeated slowly. It seemed that this obvious
fact needed to be indelibly established in her mind. Indeed the girl
was overwrought by all that she had gone through. Only by degrees were
her thoughts marshaling themselves with lucid coherence. As yet, she
recalled so many dramatic incidents that they failed to assume due
proportion.

But quickly there came memories of Captain Ross, of Sir John and Lady
Tozer, of the doctor, her maid, the hundred and one individualities of
her pleasant life aboard ship. Could it be that they were all dead? The
notion was monstrous. But its ghastly significance was instantly borne
in upon her by the plight in which she stood. Her lips quivered; the
tears trembled in her eyes.

"Is it really true that all the ship's company except ourselves are
lost?" she brokenly demanded.

The sailor's gravely earnest glance fell before hers. "Unhappily there
is no room for doubt," he said.

"Are you quite, quite sure?"

"I am sure--of some." Involuntarily he turned seawards.

She understood him. She sank to her knees, covered her face with her
hands, and broke into a passion of weeping. With a look of infinite
pity he stooped and would have touched her shoulder, but he suddenly
restrained the impulse. Something had hardened this man. It cost him an
effort to be callous, but he succeeded. His mouth tightened and his
expression lost its tenderness.

"Come, come, my dear lady," he exclaimed, and there was a tinge of
studied roughness in his voice, "you must calm yourself. It is the
fortune of shipwreck as well as of war, you know. We are alive and must
look after ourselves. Those who have gone are beyond our help."

"But not beyond our sympathy," wailed Iris, uncovering her swimming
eyes for a fleeting look at him. Even in the utter desolation of the
moment she could not help marveling that this queer-mannered sailor,
who spoke like a gentleman and tried to pose as her inferior, who had
rescued her with the utmost gallantry, who carried his Quixotic zeal to
the point of first supplying her needs when he was in far worse case
himself, should be so utterly indifferent to the fate of others.

He waited silently until her sobs ceased.

"Now, madam," he said, "it is essential that we should obtain some
food. I don't wish to leave you alone until we are better acquainted
with our whereabouts. Can you walk a little way towards the trees, or
shall I assist you?"

Iris immediately stood up. She pressed her hair back defiantly.

"Certainly I can walk," she answered. "What do you propose to do?"

"Well, madam--"

"What is your name?" she interrupted imperiously.

"Jenks, madam. Robert Jenks."

"Thank you. Now, listen, Mr. Robert Jenks. My name is Miss Iris Deane.
On board ship I was a passenger and you were a steward--that is, until
you became a seaman. Here we are equals in misfortune, but in all else
you are the leader--I am quite useless. I can only help in matters by
your direction, so I do not wish to be addressed as 'madam' in every
breath. Do you understand me?"

Conscious that her large blue eyes were fixed indignantly upon him Mr.
Robert Jenks repressed a smile. She was still hysterical and must be
humored in her vagaries. What an odd moment for a discussion on
etiquette!

"As you wish, Miss Deane," he said. "The fact remains that I have many
things to attend to, and we really must eat something."

"What can we eat?"

"Let us find out," he replied, scanning the nearest trees with keen
scrutiny.

They plodded together through the sand in silence. Physically, they
were a superb couple, but in raiment they resembled scarecrows. Both,
of course, were bare-headed. The sailor's jersey and trousers were old
and torn, and the sea-water still soughed loudly in his heavy boots
with each step.

But Iris was in a deplorable plight. Her hair fell in a great wave of
golden brown strands over her neck and shoulders. Every hairpin had
vanished, but with a few dexterous twists she coiled the flying tresses
into a loose knot. Her beautiful muslin dress was rent and draggled. It
was drying rapidly under the ever-increasing power of the sun, and she
surreptitiously endeavored to complete the fastening of the open
portion about her neck. Other details must be left until a more
favorable opportunity.

She recalled the strange sight that first met her eyes when she
recovered consciousness.

"You hurt your finger," she said abruptly. "Let me see it."

They had reached the shelter of the trees, pleasantly grateful now, so
powerful are tropical sunbeams at even an early hour.

He held out his right hand without looking at her. Indeed, his eyes had
been studiously averted during the past few minutes. Her womanly
feelings were aroused by the condition of the ragged wound.

"Oh, you poor fellow," she said. "How awful it must be! How did it
happen? Let me tie it up."

"It is not so bad now," he said. "It has been well soaked in salt
water, you know. I think the nail was torn off when we--when a piece of
wreckage miraculously turned up beneath us."

Iris shredded a strip from her dress. She bound the finger with deft
tenderness.

"Thank you," he said simply. Then he gave a glad shout. "By Jove! Miss
Deane, we are in luck's way. There is a fine plantain tree."

The pangs of hunger could not be resisted. Although the fruit was
hardly ripe they tore at the great bunches and ate ravenously. Iris
made no pretence in the matter, and the sailor was in worse plight, for
he had been on duty continuously since four o'clock the previous
afternoon.

At last their appetite was somewhat appeased, though plantains might
not appeal to a gourmand as the solitary joint.

"Now," decided Jenks, "you must rest here a little while, Miss Deane. I
am going back to the beach. You need not be afraid. There are no
animals to harm you, and I will not be far away."

"What are you going to do on the beach?" she demanded.

"To rescue stores, for the most part."

"May I not come with you--I can be of some little service, surely?"

He answered slowly: "Please oblige me by remaining here at present. In
less than an hour I will return, and then, perhaps, you will find
plenty to do."

She read his meaning intuitively and shivered. "I could not do
_that_," she murmured. "I would faint. Whilst you are away I will
pray for them--my unfortunate friends."

As he passed from her side he heard her sobbing quietly.

When he reached the lagoon he halted suddenly. Something startled him.
He was quite certain that he had counted fourteen corpses. Now there
were only twelve. The two Lascars' bodies, which rested on the small
group of rocks on the verge of the lagoon, had vanished.

Where had they gone to?




CHAPTER III

DISCOVERIES


The sailor wasted no time in idle bewilderment. He searched carefully
for traces of the missing Lascars. He came to the conclusion that the
bodies had been dragged from off the sun-dried rocks into the lagoon by
some agency the nature of which he could not even conjecture.

They were lying many feet above the sea-level when he last saw them,
little more than half an hour earlier. At that point the beach shelved
rapidly. He could look far into the depths of the rapidly clearing
water. Nothing was visible there save several varieties of small fish.

The incident puzzled and annoyed him. Still thinking about it, he sat
down on the highest rock and pulled off his heavy boots to empty the
water out. He also divested himself of his stockings and spread them
out to dry.

The action reminded him of Miss Deane's necessities. He hurried to a
point whence he could call out to her and recommend her to dry some of
her clothing during his absence. He retired even more quickly, fearing
lest he should be seen. Iris had already displayed to the sunlight a
large portion of her costume.

Without further delay he set about a disagreeable but necessary task.
From the pockets of the first officer and doctor he secured two
revolvers and a supply of cartridges, evidently intended to settle any
dispute which might have arisen between the ship's officers and the
native members of the crew. He hoped the cartridges were uninjured; but
he could not test them at the moment for fear of alarming Miss Deane.

Both officers carried pocket-books and pencils. In one of these,
containing dry leaves, the sailor made a careful inventory of the money
and other valuable effects he found upon the dead, besides noting names
and documents where possible. Curiously enough, the capitalist of this
island morgue was a Lascar jemadar, who in a belt around his waist
hoarded more than one hundred pounds in gold. The sailor tied in a
handkerchief all the money he collected, and ranged pocket-books,
letters, and jewelry in separate little heaps. Then he stripped the men
of their boots and outer clothing. He could not tell how long the girl
and he might be detained on the island before help came, and fresh
garments were essential. It would be foolish sentimentality to trust to
stores thrown ashore from the ship.

Nevertheless, when it became necessary to search and disrobe the women
he almost broke down. For an instant he softened. Gulping back his
emotions with a savage imprecation he doggedly persevered. At last he
paused to consider what should be done with the bodies. His first
intent was to scoop a large hole in the sand with a piece of timber;
but when he took into consideration the magnitude of the labor
involved, requiring many hours of hard work and a waste of precious
time which might be of infinite value to his helpless companion and
himself, he was forced to abandon the project. It was not only
impracticable but dangerous.

Again he had to set his teeth with grim resolution. One by one the
bodies were shot into the lagoon from the little quay of rock. He knew
they would not be seen again.

He was quite unnerved now. He felt as if he had committed a colossal
crime. In the smooth water of the cove a number of black fins were
cutting arrow-shaped ripples. The sharks were soon busy. He shuddered.
God's Providence had ferried him and the girl across that very place a
few hours ago. How wonderful that he and she should be snatched from
the sea whilst hundreds perished! Why was it? And those others--why
were they denied rescue? For an instant he was nearer to prayer than he
had been for years.

Some lurking fiend of recollection sprang from out the vista of bygone
years and choked back the impulse. He arose and shook himself like a
dog. There was much to be done. He gathered the clothes and other
articles into a heap and placed portions of shattered packing-cases
near--to mislead Iris. Whilst thus engaged he kicked up out of the sand
a rusty kriss, or Malay sword. The presence of this implement startled
him. He examined it slowly and thrust it out of sight.

Then he went back to her, after donning his stockings and boots, now
thoroughly dry.

"Are you ready now, Miss Deane?" he sang out cheerily.

"Ready? I have been waiting for you."

Jenks chuckled quietly. "I must guard my tongue: it betrays me," he
said to himself.

Iris joined him. By some mysterious means she had effected great
improvement in her appearance. Yet there were manifest gaps.

"If only I had a needle and thread--" she began.

"If that is all," said the sailor, fumbling in his pockets. He produced
a shabby little hussif, containing a thimble, scissors, needles and
some skeins of unbleached thread. Case and contents were sodden or
rusted with salt water, but the girl fastened upon this treasure with a
sigh of deep content.

"Now, please," she cried, "I want a telegraph office and a ship."

It was impossible to resist the infection of her high spirits. This
time he laughed without concealment.

"We will look for them, Miss Deane. Meanwhile, will you oblige me by
wearing this? The sun is climbing up rapidly."

He handed her a sou'wester which he carried. He had secured another for
himself. The merriment died away from her face. She remembered his
errand. Being an eminently sensible young woman she made no protest,
even forcing herself to tie the strings beneath her chin.

When they reached the sands she caught sight of the pile of clothes and
the broken woodwork, with the small heaps of valuables methodically
arranged. The harmless subterfuge did not deceive her. She darted a
quick look of gratitude at her companion. How thoughtful he was! After
a fearful glance around she was reassured, though she wondered what had
become of--them.

"I see you have been busy," she said, nodding towards the clothes and
boots.

It was his turn to steal a look of sharp inquiry. 'Twere an easier task
to read the records of time in the solid rock than to glean knowledge
from the girl's face.

"Yes," he replied simply. "Lucky find, wasn't it?"

"Most fortunate. When they are quite dry I will replenish my wardrobe.
What is the first thing to be done?"

"Well, Miss Deane, I think our programme is, in the first place, to
examine the articles thrown ashore and see if any of the cases contain
food. Secondly, we should haul high and dry everything that may be of
use to us, lest the weather should break again and the next tide sweep
away the spoil. Thirdly, we should eat and rest, and finally, we must
explore the island before the light fails. I am convinced we are alone
here. It is a small place at the best, and if any Chinamen were ashore
they would have put in an appearance long since."

"Do you think, then, that we may remain here long?"

"It is impossible to form an opinion on that point. Help may come in a
day. On the other hand----"

"Yes?"

"It is a wise thing, Miss Deane, to prepare for other contingencies."

She stood still, and swept the horizon with comprehensive eyes. The
storm had vanished. Masses of cloud were passing away to the west,
leaving a glorious expanse of blue sky. Already the sea was calming.
Huge breakers roared over the reef, but beyond it the waves were
subsiding into a heavy unbroken swell.

The sailor watched her closely. In the quaint oilskin hat and her
tattered muslin dress she looked bewitchingly pretty. She reminded him
of a well-bred and beautiful society lady whom he once saw figuring as
Grace Darling at a fashionable bazaar.

But Miss Iris's thoughts were serious.

"Do you mean," she said slowly, without moving her gaze from the
distant meeting-place of sky and water, "that we may be imprisoned here
for weeks, perhaps months?"

"If you cast your mind back a few hours you will perhaps admit that we
are very fortunate to be here at all."

She whisked round upon him. "Do not fence with my question, Mr. Jenks.
Answer me!"

He bowed. There was a perceptible return of his stubborn cynicism when
he spoke.

"The facts are obvious, Miss Deane. The loss of the _Sirdar_ will
not be definitely known for many days. It will be assumed that she has
broken down. The agents in Singapore will await cabled tidings of her
whereabouts. She might have drifted anywhere in that typhoon.
Ultimately they will send out a vessel to search, impelled to that
course a little earlier by your father's anxiety. Pardon me. I did not
intend to pain you. I am speaking my mind."

"Go on," said Iris bravely.

"The relief ship must search the entire China Sea. The gale might have
driven a disabled steamer north, south, east or west. A typhoon travels
in a whirling spiral, you see, and the direction of a drifting ship
depends wholly upon the locality where she sustained damage. The coasts
of China, Java, Borneo, and the Philippines are not equipped with
lighthouses on every headland and cordoned with telegraph wires. There
are river pirates and savage races to be reckoned with. Casting aside
all other possibilities, and assuming that a prompt search is made to
the south of our course, this part of the ocean is full of reefs and
small islands, some inhabited permanently, others visited occasionally
by fishermen." He was about to add something, but checked himself.

"To sum up," he continued hurriedly, "we may have to remain here for
many days, even months. There is always a chance of speedy help. We
must act, however, on the basis of detention for an indefinite period.
I am discussing appearances as they are. A survey of the island may
change all these views."

"In what way?"

He turned and pointed to the summit of the tree-covered hill behind
them.

"From that point," he said, "we may see other and larger islands. If
so, they will certainly be inhabited. I am surprised this one is not."

He ended abruptly. They were losing time. Before Iris could join him he
was already hauling a large undamaged case out of the water.

He laughed unmirthfully. "Champagne!" he said, "A good brand, too!"

This man was certainly an enigma. Iris wrinkled her pretty forehead in
the effort to place him in a fitting category. His words and accent
were those of an educated gentleman, yet his actions and manners were
studiously uncouth when he thought she was observing him. The veneer of
roughness puzzled her. That he was naturally of refined temperament she
knew quite well, not alone by perception but by the plain evidence of
his earlier dealings with her. Then why this affectation of coarseness,
this borrowed aroma of the steward's mess and the forecastle?

To the best of her ability she silently helped in the work of salvage.
They made a queer collection. A case of champagne, and another of
brandy. A box of books. A pair of night glasses. A compass. Several
boxes of ship's biscuits, coated with salt, but saved by their
hardness, having been immersed but a few seconds. Two large cases of
hams in equally good condition. Some huge dish-covers. A bit of twisted
ironwork, and a great quantity of cordage and timber.

There was one very heavy package which their united strength could not
lift. The sailor searched round until he found an iron bar that could
be wrenched from its socket. With this he pried open the strong outer
cover and revealed the contents--regulation boxes of Lee-Metford
ammunition, each containing 500 rounds.

"Ah!" he cried, "now we want some rifles."

"What good would they be?" inquired Iris.

He softly denounced himself as a fool, but he answered at once: "To
shoot birds, of course, Miss Deane. There are plenty here, and many of
them are edible."

"You have two revolvers and some cartridges."

"Yes. They are useful in a way, but not for pot hunting."

"How stupid of me! What you really need is a shot-gun."

He smiled grimly. At times his sense of humor forced a way through the
outward shield of reserve, of defiance it might be.

"The only persons I ever heard of," he said, "who landed under
compulsion on a desert island with a ship-load of requisites, were the
Swiss Family Robinson."

"Good gracious!" cried Iris irrelevantly; "I had not even thought of
Robinson Crusoe until this moment. Isn't it odd? I--we--"

She pulled herself up short, firmly resolved not to blush. Without
flinching she challenged him to complete her sentence. He dared not do
it. He could not be mean enough to take advantage of her slip.

Instantly he helped her embarrassment. "I hope the parallel will not
hold good," he said. "In any event, you, Miss Deane, fill a part less
familiar in fiction."

The phrase was neat. It meant much or little, as fancy dictated. Iris
at first felt profoundly grateful for his tact. Thinking the words over
at leisure she became hot and very angry.

They worked in silence for another hour. The sun was nearing the
zenith. They were distressed with the increasing heat of the day. Jenks
secured a ham and some biscuits, some pieces of driftwood and the
binoculars, and invited Miss Deane to accompany him to the grove. She
obeyed without a word, though she wondered how he proposed to light a
fire. To contribute something towards the expected feast she picked up
a dish-cover and a bottle of champagne.

The sailor eyed the concluding item with disfavor. "Not whilst the sun
is up." he said. "In the evening, yes."

"It was for you," explained Iris, coldly. "I do not drink wine."

"You must break the pledge whilst you are here, Miss Deane. It is often
very cold at night in this latitude. A chill would mean fever and
perhaps death."

"What a strange man!" murmured the girl.

She covertly watched his preparations. He tore a dry leaf from a
notebook and broke the bullet out of a cartridge, damping the powder
with water from a pitcher-plant. Smearing the composition on the paper,
he placed it in the sun, where it dried at once. He gathered a small
bundle of withered spines from the palms, and arranged the driftwood on
top, choosing a place for his bonfire just within the shade. Then,
inserting the touch-paper among the spines, he unscrewed one of the
lenses of the binoculars, converted it into a burning-glass, and had a
fine blaze roaring merrily in a few minutes. With the aid of pointed
sticks he grilled some slices of ham, cut with his clasp-knife, which
he first carefully cleaned in the earth. The biscuits were of the
variety that become soft when toasted, and so he balanced a few by
stones near the fire.

Iris forgot her annoyance in her interest. A most appetizing smell
filled the air. They were having a picnic amidst delightful
surroundings. Yesterday at this time--she almost yielded to a rush of
sentiment, but forced it back with instant determination. Tears were a
poor resource, unmindful of God's goodness to herself and her
companion. Without the sailor what would have become of her, even were
she thrown ashore while still living? She knew none of the expedients
which seemed to be at his command. It was a most ungrateful proceeding
to be vexed with him for her own thoughtless suggestion that she
occupied a new role as Mrs. Crusoe.

"Can I do nothing to help?" she exclaimed. So contrite was her tone
that Jenks was astonished.

"Yes," he said, pointing to the dish-cover. "If you polish the top of
that with your sleeve it will serve as a plate. Luncheon is ready."

He neatly dished up two slices of ham on a couple of biscuits and
handed them to her, with the clasp-knife.

"I can depend on my fingers," he explained. "It will not be the first
time."

"Have you led an adventurous life?" she asked, by way of polite
conversation.

"No," he growled.

"I only thought so because you appear to know all sorts of dodges for
prolonging existence--things I never heard of."

"Broiled ham--and biscuits--for instance?"

At another time Iris would have snapped at him for the retort. Still
humbly regretful for her previous attitude she answered meekly--

"Yes, in this manner of cooking them, I mean. But there are other
items--methods of lighting fires, finding water, knowing what fruits
and other articles may be found on a desert island, such as plantains
and cocoanuts, certain sorts of birds--and _beche-de-mer_."

For the life of her she could not tell why she tacked on that weird
item to her list.

The sailor inquired, more civilly--"Then you are acquainted with
trepang?"

"Who?"

"Trepang--_beche-de-mer_, you know."

Iris made a desperate guess. "Yes," she said, demurely. "It makes
beautiful backs for hair brushes. And it looks so nice as a frame for
platinotype photographs. I have--"

Jenks swallowed a large piece of ham and became very red. At last he
managed to say--"I beg your pardon. You are thinking of tortoise-shell.
_Beche-de-mer_ is a sort of marine slug."

"How odd!" said Iris.

She had discovered at an early age the tactical value of this remark,
and the experience of maturer years confirmed the success of juvenile
efforts to upset the equanimity of governesses. Even the sailor was
silenced.

Talk ceased until the meal was ended. Jenks sprang lightly to his feet.
Rest and food had restored his faculties. The girl thought dreamily, as
he stood there in his rough attire, that she had never seen a finer
man. He was tall, sinewy, and well formed. In repose his face was
pleasant, if masterful. Its somewhat sullen, self-contained expression
was occasional and acquired. She wondered how he could be so energetic.
Personally she was consumed with sleepiness.

He produced a revolver.

"Do you mind if I fire a shot to test these cartridges?" he inquired.
"The powder is all right, but the fulminate in the caps may be
damaged."

She agreed promptly. He pointed the weapon at a cluster of cocoanuts,
and there was a loud report. Two nuts fell to the ground, and the air
was filled with shrill screams and the flapping of innumerable wings.
Iris was momentarily dismayed, but her senses confirmed the sailor's
explanation--"Sea-birds."

He reloaded the empty chamber, and was about to say something, when a
queer sound, exactly resembling the gurgling of water poured from a
large bottle, fell upon their ears. It came from the interior of the
grove, and the two exchanged a quick look of amazed questioning. Jenks
took a hasty step in the direction of the noise, but he stopped and
laughed at his own expense. Iris liked the sound of his mirth. It was
genuine, not forced.

"I remember now," he explained. "The wou-wou monkey cries in that
peculiar warble. The presence of the animal here shows that the island
has been inhabited at some time."

"You remember?" repeated the girl. "Then you have been in this part of
the world before?"

"No. I mean I have read about it."

Twice in half an hour had he curtly declined to indulge in personal
reminiscences.

"Can you use a revolver?" he went on.

"My father taught me. He thinks every woman should know how to defend
herself if need be."

"Excellent. Well, Miss Deane, you must try to sleep for a couple of
hours. I purpose examining the coast for some distance on each side.
Should you want me, a shot will be the best sort of signal."

"I am very tired," she admitted. "But you?"

"Oh, I am all right. I feel restless; that is, I mean I will not be
able to sleep until night comes, and before we climb the hill to survey
our domain I want to find better quarters than we now possess."

Perhaps, were she less fatigued, she would have caught the vague
anxiety, the note of distrust, in his voice. But the carpet of sand and
leaves on which she lay was very seductive. Her eyes closed. She
nestled into a comfortable position, and slept.

The man looked at her steadily for a little while. Then he moved the
revolver out of harm's way to a spot where she must see it instantly,
pulled his sou'wester well over his eyes and walked off quietly.

They were flung ashore on the north-west side of the island. Except for
the cove formed by the coral reef, with its mysterious palm-tree
growing apparently in the midst of the waves, the shape of the coast
was roughly that of the concave side of a bow, the two visible
extremities being about three-quarters of a mile apart.

He guessed, by the way in which the sea raced past these points, that
the land did not extend beyond them. Behind him, it rose steeply to a
considerable height, 150 or 200 feet. In the center was the tallest
hill, which seemed to end abruptly towards the south-west. On the
north-east side it was connected with a rocky promontory by a ridge of
easy grade. The sailor turned to the south-west, as offering the most
likely direction for rapid survey.

He followed the line of vegetation; there the ground was firm and
level. There was no suggestion of the mariner's roll in his steady
gait. Alter his clothing, change the heavy boots into spurred
Wellingtons, and he would be the _beau ideal_ of a cavalry
soldier, the order of Melchisedec in the profession of arms.

He was not surprised to find that the hill terminated in a sheer wall
of rock, which stood out, ominous and massive, from the wealth of
verdure clothing the remainder of the ridge. Facing the precipice, and
separated from it by a strip of ground not twenty feet above the
sea-level in the highest part, was another rock-built eminence, quite
bare of trees, blackened by the weather and scarred in a manner that
attested the attacks of lightning.

He whistled softly. "By Jove!" he said. "Volcanic, and highly
mineralized."

The intervening belt was sparsely dotted with trees, casuarinas, poon,
and other woods he did not know, resembling ebony and cedar. A number
of stumps showed that the axe had been at work, but not recently. He
passed into the cleft and climbed a tree that offered easy access. As
he expected, after rising a few feet from the ground, his eyes
encountered the solemn blue line of the sea, not half a mile distant.

He descended and commenced a systematic search. Men had been here. Was
there a house? Would he suddenly encounter some hermit Malay or
Chinaman?

At the foot of the main cliff was a cluster of fruit-bearing trees,
plantains, areca-nuts, and cocoa-palms. A couple of cinchonas caught
his eye. In one spot the undergrowth was rank and vividly green. The
cassava, or tapioca plant, reared its high, passion-flower leaves above
the grass, and some sago-palms thrust aloft their thick-stemmed trunks.

"Here is a change of menu, at any rate," he communed.

Breaking a thick branch off a poon tree he whittled away the minor
stems. A strong stick was needful to explore that leafy fastness
thoroughly.

A few cautious strides and vigorous whacks with the stick laid bare the
cause of such prodigality in a soil covered with drifted sand and lumps
of black and white speckled coral. The trees and bushes enclosed a
well--safe-guarded it, in fact, from being choked with sand during the
first gale that blew.

Delighted with this discovery, more precious than diamonds at the
moment, for he doubted the advisability of existing on the water supply
of the pitcher-plant, he knelt to peer into the excavation. The well
had been properly made. Ten feet down he could see the reflection of
his face. Expert hands had tapped the secret reservoir of the island.
By stretching to the full extent of his arm, he managed to plunge the
stick into the water. Tasting the drops, he found that they were quite
sweet. The sand and porous rock provided the best of filter-beds.

He rose, wall pleased, and noted that on the opposite side the
appearance of the shrubs and tufts of long grass indicated the
existence of a grown-over path towards the cliff. He followed it,
walking carelessly, with eyes seeking the prospect beyond, when
something rattled and cracked beneath his feet. Looking down, he was
horrified to find he was trampling on a skeleton.

Had a venomous snake coiled its glistening folds around his leg he
would not have been more startled. But this man of iron nerve soon
recovered. He frowned deeply after the first involuntary heart-throb.

With the stick he cleared away the undergrowth, and revealed the
skeleton of a man. The bones were big and strong, but oxidized by the
action of the air. Jenks had injured the left tibia by his tread, but
three fractured ribs and a smashed shoulder-blade told some terrible
unwritten story.

Beneath the mournful relics were fragments of decayed cloth. It was
blue serge. Lying about were a few blackened objects--brass buttons
marked with an anchor. The dead man's boots were in the best state of
preservation, but the leather had shrunk and the nails protruded like
fangs.

A rusted pocket-knife lay there, and on the left breast of the skeleton
rested a round piece of tin, the top of a canister, which might have
reposed in a coat pocket. Jenks picked it up. Some curious marks and
figures were punched into its surface. After a hasty glance he put it
aside for more leisurely examination.

No weapon was visible. He could form no estimate as to the cause of the
death of this poor unknown, nor the time since the tragedy had
occurred.

Jenks must have stood many minutes before he perceived that the
skeleton was headless. At first he imagined that in rummaging about
with the stick he had disturbed the skull. But the most minute search
demonstrated that it had gone, had been taken away, in fact, for the
plants which so effectually screened the lighter bones would not permit
the skull to vanish.

Then the frown on the sailor's face became threatening, thunderous. He
recollected the rusty kriss. Indistinct memories of strange tales of
the China Sea crowded unbidden to his brain.

"Dyaks!" he growled fiercely. "A ship's officer, an Englishman
probably, murdered by head-hunting Dyak pirates!"

If they came once they would come again.

Five hundred yards away Iris Deane was sleeping. He ought not to have
left her alone. And then, with the devilish ingenuity of coincidence, a
revolver shot awoke the echoes, and sent all manner of wildfowl
hurtling through the trees with clamorous outcry.

Panting and wild-eyed, Jenks was at the girl's side in an inconceivably
short space of time. She was not beneath the shelter of the grove, but
on the sands, gazing, pallid in cheek and lip, at the group of rocks on
the edge of the lagoon.

"What is the matter?" he gasped.

"Oh, I don't know," she wailed brokenly. "I had a dream, such a
horrible dream. You were struggling with some awful thing down there."
She pointed to the rocks.

"I was not near the place," he said laboriously. It cost him an effort
to breathe. His broad chest expanded inches with each respiration.

"Yes, yes, I understand. But I awoke and ran to save you. When I got
here I saw something, a thing with waving arms, and fired. It vanished,
and then you came."

The sailor walked slowly to the rocks. A fresh chip out of the stone
showed where the bullet struck. One huge boulder was wet, as if water
had been splashed over it. He halted and looked intently into the
water. Not a fish was to be seen, but small spirals of sand were
eddying up from the bottom, where it shelved steeply from the shore.

Iris followed him. "See," she cried excitedly. "I was not mistaken.
There _was_ something here."

A creepy sensation ran up the man's spine and passed behind his ears.
At this spot the drowned Lascars were lying. Like an inspiration came
the knowledge that the cuttlefish, the dreaded octopus, abounds in the
China Sea.

His face was livid when he turned to Iris. "You are over-wrought by
fatigue, Miss Deane," he said. "What you saw was probably a seal;" he
knew the ludicrous substitution would not be questioned. "Please go and
lie down again."

"I cannot," she protested. "I am too frightened."

"Frightened! By a dream! In broad daylight!"

"But why are _you_ so pale? What has alarmed you?"

"Can you ask? Did you not give the agreed signal?"

"Yes, but--"

Her inquiring glance fell. He was breathless from agitation rather than
running. He was perturbed on her account. For an instant she had looked
into his soul.

"I will go back," she said quietly, "though I would rather accompany
you. What are you doing?"

"Seeking a place to lay our heads," he answered, with gruff
carelessness. "You really must rest, Miss Deane. Otherwise you will be
broken up by fatigue and become ill."

So Iris again sought her couch of sand, and the sailor returned to the
skeleton. They separated unwillingly, each thinking only of the other's
safety and comfort. The girl knew she was not wanted because the man
wished to spare her some unpleasant experience. She obeyed him with a
sigh, and sat down, not to sleep, but to muse, as girls will,
round-eyed, wistful, with the angelic fantasy of youth and innocence.




CHAPTER IV

RAINBOW ISLAND


Across the parched bones lay the stick discarded by Jenks in his alarm.
He picked it up and resumed his progress along the pathway. So closely
did he now examine the ground that he hardly noted his direction. The
track led straight towards the wall of rock. The distance was not
great--about forty yards. At first the brushwood impeded him, but soon
even this hindrance disappeared, and a well-defined passage meandered
through a belt of trees, some strong and lofty, others quite immature.

More bushes gathered at the foot of the cliff. Behind them he could see
the mouth of a cave; the six months' old growth of vegetation about the
entrance gave clear indication as to the time which had elapsed since a
human foot last disturbed the solitude.

A few vigorous blows with the stick cleared away obstructing plants and
leafy branches. The sailor stooped and looked into the cavern, for the
opening was barely five feet high. He perceived instantly that the
excavation was man's handiwork, applied to a fault in the hard rock. A
sort of natural shaft existed, and this had been extended by manual
labor. Beyond the entrance the cave became more lofty. Owing to its
position with reference to the sun at that hour Jenks imagined that
sufficient light would be obtainable when the tropical luxuriance of
foliage outside was dispensed with.

At present the interior was dark. With the stick he tapped the walls
and roof. A startled cluck and the rush of wings heralded the flight of
two birds, alarmed by the noise. Soon his eyes, more accustomed to the
gloom, made out that the place was about thirty feet deep, ten feet
wide in the center, and seven or eight feet high.

At the further end was a collection of objects inviting prompt
attention. Each moment he could see with greater distinctness. Kneeling
on one side of the little pile he discerned that on a large stone,
serving as a rude bench, were some tin utensils, some knives, a
sextant, and a quantity of empty cartridge cases. Between the stone and
what a miner terms the "face" of the rock was a four-foot space. Here,
half imbedded in the sand which covered the floor, were two pickaxes, a
shovel, a sledge-hammer, a fine timber-felling axe, and three crowbars.

In the darkest corner of the cave's extremity the "wall" appeared to be
very smooth. He prodded with the stick, and there was a sharp clang of
tin. He discovered six square kerosene-oil cases carefully stacked up.
Three were empty, one seemed to be half full, and the contents of two
were untouched. With almost feverish haste he ascertained that the
half-filled tin did really contain oil.

"What a find!" he ejaculated aloud. Another pair of birds dashed from a
ledge near the roof.

"Confound you!" shouted the sailor. He sprang back and whacked the
walls viciously, but all the feathered intruders had gone.

So far as he could judge the cave harbored no further surprises.
Returning towards the exit his boots dislodged more empty cartridges
from the sand. They were shells adapted to a revolver of heavy caliber.
At a short distance from the doorway they were present in dozens.

"The remnants of a fight," he thought. "The man was attacked, and
defended himself here. Not expecting the arrival of enemies he provided
no store of food or water. He was killed whilst trying to reach the
well, probably at night."

He vividly pictured the scene--a brave, hardy European keeping at bay a
boatload of Dyak savages, enduring manfully the agonies of hunger,
thirst, perhaps wounds. Then the siege, followed by a wild effort to
gain the life-giving well, the hiss of a Malay parang wielded by a
lurking foe, and the last despairing struggle before death came.

He might be mistaken. Perchance there was a less dramatic explanation.
But he could not shake off his, first impressions. They were garnered
from dumb evidence and developed by some occult but overwhelming sense
of certainty.

"What was the poor devil doing here?" he asked. "Why did he bury
himself in this rock, with mining utensils and a few rough stores? He
could not be a castaway. There is the indication of purpose, of
preparation, of method combined with ignorance, for none who knew the
ways of Dyaks and Chinese pirates would venture to live here alone, if
he could help it, and if he really were alone." The thing was a
mystery, would probably remain a mystery for ever.

  "Be it steel or be it lead,
 Anyhow the man is dead."

There was relief in hearing his own voice. He could hum, and think, and
act. Arming himself with the axe he attacked the bushes and branches of
trees in front of the cave. He cut a fresh approach to the well, and
threw the litter over the skeleton. At first he was inclined to bury it
where it lay, but he disliked the idea of Iris walking unconsciously
over the place. No time could be wasted that day. He would seize an
early opportunity to act as grave-digger.

After an absence of little more than an hour he rejoined the girl. She
saw him from afar, and wondered whence he obtained the axe he
shouldered.

"You are a successful explorer," she cried when he drew near.

"Yes, Miss Deane. I have found water, implements, a shelter, even
light."

"What sort of light--spiritual, or material?"

"Oil."

"Oh!"

Iris could not remain serious for many consecutive minutes, but she
gathered that he was in no mood for frivolity.

"And the shelter--is it a house?" she continued.

"No, a cave. If you are sufficiently rested you might come and take
possession."

Her eyes danced with excitement. He told her what he had seen, with
reservations, and she ran on before him to witness these marvels.

"Why did you make a new path to the well?" she inquired after a rapid
survey.

"A new path!" The pertinent question staggered him.

"Yes, the people who lived here must have had some sort of free
passage."

He lied easily. "I have only cleared away recent growth," he said.

"And why did they dig a cave? It surely would be much more simple to
build a house from all these trees."

"There you puzzle me," he said frankly.

They had entered the cavern but a little way and now came out.

"These empty cartridges are funny. They suggest a fort, a battle."
Woman-like, her words were carelessly chosen, but they were crammed
with inductive force.

Embarked on the toboggan slope of untruth the sailor slid smoothly
downwards.

"Events have colored your imagination, Miss Deane. Even in England men
often preserve such things for future use. They can be reloaded."

"Yes, I have seen keepers do that. This is different. There is an air
of--"

"There is a lot to be done," broke in Jenks emphatically. "We must
climb the hill and get back here in time to light another fire before
the sun goes down. I want to prop a canvas sheet in front of the cave,
and try to devise a lamp."

"Must I sleep inside?" demanded Iris.

"Yes. Where else?"

There was a pause, a mere whiff of awkwardness.

"I will mount guard outside," went on Jenks. He was trying to improve
the edge of the axe by grinding it on a soft stone.

The girl went into the cave again. She was inquisitive, uneasy.

"That arrangement--" she began, but ended in a sharp cry of terror. The
dispossessed birds had returned during the sailor's absence.

"I will kill them," he shouted in anger.

"Please don't. There has been enough of death in this place already."

The words jarred on his ears. Then he felt that she could only allude
to the victims of the wreck.

"I was going to say," she explained, "that we must devise a partition.
There is no help for it until you construct a sort of house. Candidly,
I do not like this hole in the rock. It is a vault, a tomb."

"You told me that I was in command, yet you dispute my orders." He
strove hard to appear brusquely good-humored, indifferent, though for
one of his mould he was absurdly irritable. The cause was over-strain,
but that explanation escaped him.

"Quite true. But if sleeping in the cold, in dew or rain, is bad for
me, it must be equally bad for you. And without you I am helpless, you
know."

His arms twitched to give her a reassuring hug. In some respects she
was so childlike; her big blue eyes were so ingenuous. He laughed
sardonically, and the harsh note clashed with her frank candor. Here,
at least, she was utterly deceived. His changeful moods were
incomprehensible.

"I will serve you to the best of my ability, Miss Deane," he exclaimed.
"We must hope for a speedy rescue, and I am inured to exposure. It is
otherwise with you. Are you ready for the climb?"

Mechanically she picked up a stick at her feet. It was the sailor's
wand of investigation. He snatched it from her hands and threw it away
among the trees.

"That is a dangerous alpenstock," he said. "The wood is unreliable. It
might break. I will cut you a better one," and he swung the axe against
a tall sapling.

Iris mentally described him as "funny." She followed him in the upward
curve of the ascent, for the grade was not difficult and the ground
smooth enough, the storms of years having pulverized the rock and
driven sand into its clefts. The persistent inroads of the trees had
done the rest. Beyond the flight of birds and the scampering of some
tiny monkeys overhead, they did not disturb a living creature.

The crest of the hill was tree-covered, and they could see nothing
beyond their immediate locality until the sailor found a point higher
than the rest, where a rugged collection of hard basalt and the
uprooting of some poon trees provided an open space elevated above the
ridge.

For a short distance the foothold was precarious. Jenks helped the girl
in this part of the climb. His strong, gentle grasp gave her
confidence.  She was flushed with exertion when they stood together on
the summit of this elevated perch. They could look to every point of
the compass except a small section on the south-west. Here the trees
rose behind them until the brow of the precipice was reached.

The emergence into a sunlit panorama of land and sea, though expected,
was profoundly enthralling. They appeared to stand almost exactly in
the center of the island, which was crescent-shaped. It was no larger
than the sailor had estimated. The new slopes now revealed were covered
with verdure down to the very edge of the water, which, for nearly a
mile seawards, broke over jagged reefs. The sea looked strangely calm
from this height. Irregular blue patches on the horizon to south and
east caught the man's first glance. He unslung the binoculars he still
carried and focused them eagerly.

"Islands!" he cried, "and big ones, too!"

"How odd!" whispered Iris, more concerned in the scrutiny of her
immediate surroundings. Jenks glanced at her sharply. She was not
looking at the islands, but at a curious hollow, a quarry-like
depression beneath them to the right, distant about three hundred yards
and not far removed from the small plateau containing the well, though
isolated from it by the south angle of the main cliff.

Here, in a great circle, there was not a vestige of grass, shrub, or
tree, nothing save brown rock and sand. At first the sailor deemed it
to be the dried-up bed of a small lake. This hypothesis would not
serve, else it would be choked with verdure. The pit stared up at them
like an ominous eye, though neither paid further attention to it, for
the glorious prospect mapped at their feet momentarily swept aside all
other considerations.

"What a beautiful place!" murmured Iris. "I wonder what it is called."

"Limbo."

The word came instantly. The sailor's gaze was again fixed on those
distant blue outlines. Miss Deane was dissatisfied.

"Nonsense!" she exclaimed. "We are not dead yet. You must find a better
name than that."

"Well, suppose we christen it Rainbow Island?"

"Why 'Rainbow'?"

"That is the English meaning of 'Iris,' in Latin, you know."

"So it is. How clever of you to think of it! Tell me, what is the
meaning of 'Robert,' in Greek?"

He turned to survey the north-west side of the island. "I do not know,"
he answered. "It might not be far-fetched to translate it as 'a ship's
steward: a menial.'"

Miss Iris had meant her playful retort as a mere light-hearted quibble.
It annoyed her, a young person of much consequence, to have her kindly
condescension repelled.

"I suppose so," she agreed; "but I have gone through so much in a few
hours that I am bewildered, apt to forget these nice distinctions."

Where these two quareling, or flirting? Who can tell?

Jenks was closely examining the reef on which the _Sirdar_ struck.
Some square objects were visible near the palm tree. The sun, glinting
on the waves, rendered it difficult to discern their significance.

"What do you make of those?" he inquired, handing the glasses, and
blandly ignoring Miss Deane's petulance. Her brain was busy with other
things while she twisted the binoculars to suit her vision. Rainbow
Island--Iris--it was a nice conceit. But "menial" struck a discordant
note. This man was no menial in appearance or speech. Why was he so
deliberately rude?

"I think they are boxes or packing-cases," she announced.

"Ah, that was my own idea. I must visit that locality."

"How? Will you swim?"

"No," he said, his stern lips relaxing in a smile, "I will not swim;
and by the way, Miss Deane, be careful when you are near the water. The
lagoon is swarming with sharks at present. I feel tolerably assured
that at low tide, when the remnants of the gale have vanished, I will
be able to walk there along the reef."

"Sharks!" she cried. "In there! What horrible surprises this speck of
land contains! I should not have imagined that sharks and seals could
live together."

"You are quite right," he explained, with becoming gravity. "As a rule
sharks infest only the leeward side of these islands. Just now they are
attracted in shoals by the wreck."

"Oh." Iris shivered slightly.

"We had better go back now. The wind is keen here, Miss Deane."

[Illustration: HE WAS SO BUSY THAT HE PAID LITTLE HEED TO IRIS, BUT THE
ODOR OF FRIED HAM WAS WAFTED TO HIM]

She knew that he purposely misunderstood her gesture. His attitude
conveyed a rebuke. There was no further room for sentiment in their
present existence; they had to deal with chill necessities. As for the
sailor, he was glad that the chance turn of their conversation enabled
him to warn her against the lurking dangers of the lagoon. There was no
need to mention the devil-fish now; he must spare her all avoidable
thrills.

They gathered the stores from the first _al fresco_ dining-room
and reached the cave without incident. Another fire was lighted, and
whilst Iris attended to the kitchen the sailor felled several young
trees. He wanted poles, and these were the right size and shape. He
soon cleared a considerable space. The timber was soft and so small in
girth that three cuts with the axe usually sufficed. He dragged from
the beach the smallest tarpaulin he could find, and propped it against
the rock in such manner that it effectually screened the mouth of the
cave, though admitting light and air.

He was so busy that he paid little heed to Iris. But the odor of fried
ham was wafted to him. He was lifting a couple of heavy stones to stay
the canvas and keep it from flapping in the wind, when the girl called
out--

"Wouldn't you like to have a wash before dinner?"

He straightened himself and looked at her. Her face and hands were
shining, spotless. The change was so great that his brow wrinkled with
perplexity.

"I am a good pupil," she cried. "You see I am already learning to help
myself. I made a bucket out of one of the dish-covers by slinging it in
two ropes. Another dish-cover, some sand and leaves supplied basin,
soap, and towel. I have cleaned the tin cups and the knives, and see,
here is my greatest treasure."

She held up a small metal lamp.

"Where in the world did you find that?" he exclaimed.

"Buried in the sand inside the cave."

"Anything else?"

His tone was abrupt She was so disappointed by the seeming want of
appreciation of her industry that a gleam of amusement died from her
eyes and she shook her head, stooping at once to attend to the toasting
of some biscuits.

This time he was genuinely sorry.

"Forgive me, Miss Deane," he said penitently. "My words are dictated by
anxiety. I do not wish you to make discoveries on your own account.
This is a strange place, you know--an unpleasant one in some respects."

"Surely I can rummage about my own cave?"

"Most certainly. It was careless of me not to have examined its
interior more thoroughly."

"Then why do you grumble because I found the lamp?"

"I did not mean any such thing. I am sorry."

"I think you are horrid. If you want to wash you will find the water
over there. Don't wait. The ham will be frizzled to a cinder."

Unlucky Jenks! Was ever man fated to incur such unmerited odium? He
savagely laved his face and neck. The fresh cool water was delightful
at first, but it caused his injured nail to throb dreadfully. When he
drew near to the fire he experienced an unaccountable sensation of
weakness. Could it be possible that he was going to faint? It was too
absurd. He sank to the ground. Trees, rocks, and sand-strewn earth
indulged in a mad dance. Iris's voice sounded weak and indistinct. It
seemed to travel in waves from a great distance. He tried to brush away
from his brain these dim fancies, but his iron will for once failed,
and he pitched headlong downwards into darkness.

When he recovered the girl's left arm was round his neck. For one
blissful instant he nestled there contentedly. He looked into her eyes
and saw that she was crying. A gust of anger rose within him that he
should be the cause of those tears.

"Damn!" he said, and tried to rise.

"Oh! are you better?" Her lips quivered pitifully.

"Yes. What happened? Did I faint?"

"Drink this."

She held a cup to his mouth and he obediently strove to swallow the
contents. It was champagne. After the first spasm of terror, and when
the application of water to his face failed to restore consciousness,
Iris had knocked the head off the bottle of champagne.

He quickly revived. Nature had only given him a warning that he was
overdrawing his resources. He was deeply humiliated. He did not
conceive the truth, that only a strong man could do all that he had
done and live. For thirty-six hours he had not slept. During part of
the time he fought with wilder beasts than they knew at Ephesus. The
long exposure to the sun, the mental strain of his foreboding that the
charming girl whose life depended upon him might be exposed to even
worse dangers than any yet encountered, the physical labor he had
undergone, the irksome restraint he strove to place upon his conduct
and utterances--all these things culminated in utter relaxation when
the water touched his heated skin.

But he was really very much annoyed. A powerful man always is annoyed
when forced to yield. The revelation of a limit to human endurance
infuriates him. A woman invariably thinks that the man should be
scolded, by way of tonic.

"How _could_ you frighten me so?" demanded Iris, hysterically.
"You must have felt that you were working too hard. You made me rest.
Why didn't you rest yourself?"

He looked at her wistfully. This collapse must not happen again, for
her sake. These two said more with eyes than lips. She withdrew her
arm; her face and neck crimsoned.

"There," she said with compelled cheerfulness. "You are all right now.
Finish the wine."

He emptied the tin. It gave him new life. "I always thought," he
answered gravely, "that champagne was worth its weight in gold under
certain conditions. These are the conditions."

Iris reflected, with elastic rebound from despair to relief, that men
in the lower ranks of life do not usually form theories on the
expensive virtues of the wine of France. But her mind was suddenly
occupied by a fresh disaster.

"Good gracious!" she cried. "The ham is ruined."

It was burnt black. She prepared a fresh supply. When it was ready,
Jenks was himself again. They ate in silence, and shared the remains of
the bottle. The man idly wondered what was the _plat du jour_ at
the Savoy that evening. He remembered that the last time he was there
he had called for _Jambon de York aux epinards_ and half a pint of
Heidseck.

"_Coelum non animum mutant, qui trans mare currant_," he thought.
By a queer trick of memory he could recall the very page in Horace
where this philosophical line occurs. It was in the eleventh epistle of
the first book. A smile illumined his tired face.

Iris was watchful. She had never in her life cooked even a potato or
boiled an egg. The ham was her first attempt.

"My cooking amuses you?" she demanded suspiciously.

"It gratifies every sense," he murmured. "There is but one thing
needful to complete my happiness."

"And that is?"

"Permission to smoke."

"Smoke what?"

He produced a steel box, tightly closed, and a pipe, "I will answer you
in Byron's words," he said--

  "'Sublime tobacco! which from east to west
  Cheers the tar's labour or the Turkman's rest.'"

"Your pockets are absolute shops," said the girl, delighted that his
temper had improved. "What other stores do you carry about with you?"

He lit his pipe and solemnly gave an inventory of his worldly goods.
Beyond the items she had previously seen he could only enumerate a
silver dollar, a very soiled and crumpled handkerchief, and a bit of
tin. A box of Norwegian matches he threw away as useless, but Iris
recovered them.

"You never know what purpose they may serve," she said. In after days a
weird significance was attached to this simple phrase.

"Why do you carry about a bit of tin?" she went on.

How the atmosphere of deception clung to him! Here was a man compelled
to lie outrageously who, in happier years, had prided himself on
scrupulous accuracy even in small things.

"Plague upon it!" he silently protested. "Subterfuge and deceit are as
much at home in this deserted island as in Mayfair."

"I found it here, Miss Deane," he answered.

Luckily she interpreted "here" as applying to the cave.

"Let me see it. May I?"

He handed it to her. She could make nothing of it, so together they
puzzled over it. The sailor rubbed it with a mixture of kerosene and
sand. Then figures and letters and a sort of diagram were revealed. At
last they became decipherable. By exercising patient ingenuity some one
had indented the metal with a sharp punch until the marks assumed this
aspect (see cut, following page).

Iris was quick-witted. "It is a plan of the island," she cried.

"Also the latitude and the longitude."

"What does 'J.S.' mean?"

"Probably the initials of a man's name; let us say John Smith, for
instance."

"And the figures on the island, with the 'X' and the dot?"

"I cannot tell you at present," he said. "I take it that the line
across the island signifies this gap or canyon, and the small
intersecting line the cave. But 32 divided by 1, and an 'X' surmounted
by a dot are cabalistic. They would cause even Sherlock Holmes to smoke
at least two pipes. I have barely started one."

[Illustration]

She ran to fetch a glowing stick to enable him to relight his pipe.

"Why do you give me such nasty little digs?" she asked. "You need not
have stopped smoking just because I stood close to you."

"Really, Miss Deane--"

"There, don't protest. I like the smell of that tobacco. I thought
sailors invariably smoked rank, black stuff which they call thick
twist."

"I am a beginner, as a sailor. After a few more years before the mast I
may hope to reach perfection."

Their eyes exchanged a quaintly pleasant challenge. Thus the man--"She
is determined to learn something of my past, but she will not succeed."

And the woman--"The wretch! He is close as an oyster. But I will make
him open his mouth, see if I don't."

She reverted to the piece of tin. "It looks quite mysterious, like the
things you read of in stories of pirates and buried treasure."

"Yes," he admitted. "It is unquestionably a plan, a guidance, given to
a person not previously acquainted with the island but cognizant of
some fact connected with it. Unfortunately none of the buccaneers I can
bring to mind frequented these seas. The poor beggar who left it here
must have had some other motive than searching for a cache."

"Did he dig the cave and the well, I wonder?"

"Probably the former, but not the well. No man could do it unaided."

"Why do you assume he was alone?"

He strolled towards the fire to kick a stray log. "It is only idle
speculation at the best, Miss Deane," he replied. "Would you like to
help me to drag some timber up from the beach? If we get a few big
planks we can build a fire that will last for hours. We want some extra
clothes, too, and it will soon be dark."

The request for co-operation gratified her. She complied eagerly, and
without much exertion they hauled a respectable load of firewood to
their new camping-ground. They also brought a number of coats to serve
as coverings. Then Jenks tackled the lamp. Between the rust and the
soreness of his index finger it was a most difficult operation to open
it.

Before the sun went down he succeeded, and made a wick by unraveling a
few strands of wool from his jersey. When night fell, with the
suddenness of the tropics, Iris was able to illuminate her small
domain.

They were both utterly tired and ready to drop with fatigue. The girl
said "Good night," but instantly reappeared from behind the tarpaulin.

"Am I to keep the lamp alight?" she inquired.

"Please yourself, Miss Deane. Better not, perhaps. It will only burn
four or five hours, any way."

Soon the light vanished, and he lay down, his pipe between his teeth,
close to the cave's entrance. Weary though he was, he could not sleep
forthwith. His mind was occupied with the signs on the canister head.

"32 divided by 1; an 'X' and a dot," he repeated several times. "What
do they signify?"

Suddenly he sat up, with every sense alert, and grabbed his revolver.
Something impelled him to look towards the spot, a few feet away, where
the skeleton was hidden. It was the rustling of a bird among the trees
that had caught his ear.

He thought of the white framework of a once powerful man, lying there
among the bushes, abandoned, forgotten, horrific. Then he smothered a
cry of surprise.

"By Jove!" he muttered. "There is no 'X' and dot. That sign is meant
for a skull and cross-bones. It lies exactly on the part of the island
where we saw that queer-looking bald patch today. First thing tomorrow,
before the girl awakes, I must examine that place."

He resolutely stretched himself on his share of the spread-out coats,
now thoroughly dried by sun and fire. In a minute he was sound asleep.




CHAPTER V

IRIS TO THE RESCUE

    "Before mine eyes in opposition sits
    Grim death."
                             --_Milton_.


He awoke to find the sun high in the heavens. Iris was preparing
breakfast; a fine fire was crackling cheerfully, and the presiding
goddess had so altered her appearance that the sailor surveyed her with
astonishment.

He noiselessly assumed a sitting posture, tucked his feet beneath him,
and blinked. The girl's face was not visible from where he sat, and for
a few seconds he thought he must surely be dreaming. She was attired in
a neat navy-blue dress and smart blouse. Her white canvas shoes were
replaced by strong leather boots. She was quite spick and span, this
island Hebe.

So soundly had he slept that his senses returned but slowly. At last he
guessed what had happened. She had risen with the dawn, and, conquering
her natural feeling of repulsion, selected from the store he
accumulated yesterday some more suitable garments than those in which
she escaped from the wreck.

He quietly took stock of his own tattered condition, and passed a
reflective hand over the stubble on his chin. In a few days his face
would resemble a scrubbing-brush. In that mournful moment he would have
exchanged even his pipe and tobacco-box--worth untold gold--for shaving
tackle. Who can say why his thoughts took such trend? Twenty-four hours
can effect great changes in the human mind if controlling influences
are active.

Then came a sharp revulsion of feeling. His name was Robert--a menial.
He reached for his boots, and Iris heard him.

"Good morning," she cried, smiling sweetly. "I thought you would never
awake. I suppose you were very, very tired. You were lying so still
that I ventured to peep at you a long time ago."

"Thus might Titania peep at an ogre," he said.

"You didn't look a bit like an ogre. You never do. You only try to talk
like one--sometimes."

"I claim a truce until after breakfast. If my rough compliment offends
you, let me depend upon a more gentle tongue than my own--

            "'Her Angel's face
  As the great eye of heaven, shyned bright,
  And made a sunshine in the shady place.'

"Those lines are surely appropriate. They come from the _Faerie
Queene_."

"They are very nice, but please wash quickly. The eggs will be hard."

"Eggs!"

"Yes; I made a collection among the trees. I tasted one of a lot that
looked good. It was first-rate."

He had not the moral courage to begin the day with a rebuke. She was
irrepressible, but she really must not do these things. He smothered a
sigh in the improvised basin which was placed ready for him.

Miss Deane had prepared a capital meal. Of course the ham and biscuits
still bulked large in the bill of fare, but there were boiled eggs,
fried bananas and an elderly cocoanut. These things, supplemented by
clear cold water, were not so bad for a couple of castaways, hundreds
of miles from everywhere.

For the life of him the man could not refrain from displaying the
conversational art in which he excelled. Their talk dealt with Italy,
Egypt, India. He spoke with the ease of culture and enthusiasm. Once he
slipped into anecdote _a propos_ of the helplessness of British
soldiers in any matter outside the scope of the King's Regulations.

"I remember," he said, "seeing a cavalry subaltern and the members of
an escort sitting, half starved, on a number of bags piled up in the
Suakin desert. And what do you think were in the bags?"

"I don't know," said Iris, keenly alert for deductions.

"Biscuits! They thought the bags contained patent fodder until I
enlightened them."

It was on the tip of her tongue to pounce on him with the comment:
"Then you have been an officer in the army." But she forbore. She had
guessed this earlier. Yet the mischievous light in her eyes defied
control. He was warned in time and pulled himself up short.

"You read my face like a book," she cried, with a delightful little
_moue_.

"No printed page was ever so--legible."

He was going to say "fascinating," but checked the impulse. He went on
with brisk affectation--

"Now, Miss Deane, we have gossiped too long. I am a laggard this
morning; but before starting work, I have a few serious remarks to
make."

"More digs?" she inquired saucily.

"I repudiate 'digs.' In the first place, you must not make any more
experiments in the matter of food. The eggs were a wonderful effort,
but, flattered by success, you may poison yourself."

"Secondly?"

"You must never pass out of my sight without carrying a revolver, not
so much for defence, but as a signal. Did you take one when you went
bird's-nesting?"

"No. Why?"

There was a troubled look in his eyes when he answered--

"It is best to tell you at once that before help reaches us we may be
visited by cruel and blood-thirsty savages. I would not even mention
this if it were a remote contingency. As matters stand, you ought to
know that such a thing may happen. Let us trust in God's goodness that
assistance may come soon. The island has seemingly been deserted for
many months, and therein lies our best chance of escape. But I am
obliged to warn you lest you should be taken unawares."

Iris was serious enough now.

"How do you know that such danger threatens us?" she demanded.

He countered readily. "Because I happen to have read a good deal about
the China Sea and its frequenters," he said. "I am the last man in the
world to alarm you needlessly. All I mean to convey is that certain
precautions should be taken against a risk that is possible, not
probable. No more."

She could not repress a shudder. The aspect of nature was so beneficent
that evil deeds seemed to be out of place in that fair isle. Birds were
singing around them. The sun was mounting into a cloudless sky. The
gale had passed away into a pleasant breeze, and the sea was now
rippling against the distant reef with peaceful melody.

The sailor wanted to tell her that he would defend her against a host
of savages if he were endowed with many lives, but he was perforce
tongue-tied. He even reviled himself for having spoken, but she saw the
anguish in his face, and her woman's heart acknowledged him as her
protector, her shield.

"Mr. Jenks," she said simply, "we are in God's hands. I put my trust in
Him, and in you. I am hopeful, nay more, confident. I thank you for
what you have done, for all that you will do. If you cannot preserve me
from threatening perils no man could, for you are as brave and gallant
a gentleman as lives on the earth today."

Now, the strange feature of this extraordinary and unexpected outburst
of pent-up emotion was that the girl pronounced his name with the
slightly emphasized accentuation of one who knew it to be a mere
disguise. The man was so taken aback by her declaration of faith that
the minor incident, though it did not escape him, was smothered in a
tumult of feeling.

He could not trust himself to speak. He rose hastily and seized the axe
to deliver a murderous assault upon a sago palm that stood close at
hand.

Iris was the first to recover a degree of self-possession. For a moment
she had bared her soul. With reaction came a sensitive shrinking. Her
British temperament, no less than her delicate nature, disapproved
these sentimental displays. She wanted to box her own ears.

With innate tact she took a keen interest in the felling of the tree.

"What do you want it for?" she inquired, when the sturdy trunk creaked
and fell.

Jenks felt better now.

"This is a change of diet," he explained. "No; we don't boil the leaves
or nibble the bark. When I split this palm open you will find that the
interior is full of pith. I will cut it out for you, and then it will
be your task to knead it with water after well washing it, pick out all
the fiber, and finally permit the water to evaporate. In a couple of
days the residuum will become a white powder, which, when boiled, is
sago."

"Good gracious!" said Iris.

"The story sounds unconvincing, but I believe I am correct. It is worth
a trial."

"I should have imagined that sago grew on a stalk like rice or wheat."

"Or Topsy!"

She laughed. A difficult situation had passed without undue effort.
Unhappily the man reopened it. Whilst using a crowbar as a wedge he
endeavored to put matters on a straightforward footing.

"A little while ago," he said, "you seemed to imply that I had assumed
the name of Jenks."

But Miss Deane's confidential mood had gone. "Nothing of the kind," she
said, coldly. "I think Jenks is an excellent name."

She regretted the words even as they fell from her lips. The sailor
gave a mighty wrench with the bar, splitting the log to its clustering
leaves.

"You are right," he said. "It is distinctive, brief, dogmatic. I cling
to it passionately."

Soon afterwards, leaving Iris to the manufacture of sago, he went to
the leeward side of the island, a search for turtles being his
ostensible object. When the trees hid him he quickened his pace and
turned to the left, in order to explore the cavity marked on the tin
with a skull and cross-bones. To his surprise he hit upon the remnants
of a roadway--that is, a line through the wood where there were no
well-grown trees, where the ground bore traces of humanity in the shape
of a wrinkled and mildewed pair of Chinese boots, a wooden sandal, even
the decayed remains of a palki, or litter.

At last he reached the edge of the pit, and the sight that met his eyes
held him spellbound.

The labor of many hands had torn a chasm, a quarry, out of the side of
the hill. Roughly circular in shape, it had a diameter of perhaps a
hundred feet, and at its deepest part, towards the cliff, it ran to a
depth of forty feet. On the lower side, where the sailor stood, it
descended rapidly for some fifteen feet.

Grasses, shrubs, plants of every variety, grew in profusion down the
steep slopes, wherever seeds could find precarious nurture, until a
point was reached about ten or eleven feet from the bottom. There all
vegetation ceased as if forbidden to cross a magic circle.

Below this belt the place was a charnel-house. The bones of men and
animals mingled in weird confusion. Most were mere skeletons. A few
bodies--nine the sailor counted--yet preserved some resemblance of
humanity. These latter were scattered among the older relics. They wore
the clothes of Dyaks. Characteristic hats and weapons denoted their
nationality. The others, the first harvest of this modern Golgotha,
might have been Chinese coolies. When the sailor's fascinated vision
could register details he distinguished yokes, baskets, odd-looking
spades and picks strewed amidst the bones. The animals were all of one
type, small, lanky, with long pointed skulls. At last he spied a
withered hoof. They were pigs.

Over all lay a thick coating of fine sand, deposited from the eddying
winds that could never reach the silent depths. The place was gruesome,
horribly depressing. Jenks broke out into a clammy perspiration. He
seemed to be looking at the secrets of the grave.

At last his superior intelligence asserted itself. His brain became
clearer, recovered its power of analysis. He began to criticize,
reflect, and this is the theory he evolved--

Some one, long ago, had discovered valuable minerals in the volcanic
rock. Mining operations were in full blast when the extinct volcano
took its revenge upon the human ants gnawing at its vitals and
smothered them by a deadly outpouring of carbonic acid gas, the
bottled-up poison of the ages. A horde of pigs, running wild over the
island--placed there, no doubt, by Chinese fishers--had met the same
fate whilst intent on dreadful orgy.

Then there came a European, who knew how the anhydrate gas, being
heavier than the surrounding air, settled like water in that terrible
hollow. He, too, had striven to wrest the treasure from the stone by
driving a tunnel into the cliff. He had partly succeeded and had gone
away, perhaps to obtain help, after crudely registering his knowledge
on the lid of a tin canister. This, again, probably fell into the hands
of another man, who, curious but unconvinced, caused himself to be set
ashore on this desolate spot, with a few inadequate stores. Possibly he
had arranged to be taken off within a fixed time.

But a sampan, laden with Dyak pirates, came first, and the intrepid
explorer's bones rested near the well, whilst his head had gone to
decorate the hut of some fierce village chief. The murderers, after
burying their own dead--for the white man fought hard, witness the
empty cartridges--searched the island. Some of them, ignorantly
inquisitive, descended into the hollow. They remained there. The
others, superstitious barbarians, fled for their lives, embarking so
hastily that they took from the cave neither tools nor oil, though they
would greatly prize these articles.

Such was the tragic web he spun, a compound of fact and fancy. It
explained all perplexities save one. What did "32 divided by 1" mean?
Was there yet another fearsome riddle awaiting solution?

And then his thoughts flew to Iris. Happen what might, her bright
picture was seldom absent from his brain. Suppose, egg-hunting, she had
stumbled across this Valley of Death! How could he hope to keep it
hidden from her? Was not the ghastly knowledge better than the horror
of a chance ramble through the wood and the shock of discovery, nay,
indeed, the risk of a catastrophe?

He was a man who relieved his surcharged feelings with strong
language--a habit of recent acquisition. He indulged in it now and felt
better. He rushed back through the trees until he caught sight of Iris
industriously kneading the sago pith in one of those most useful
dish-covers.

He called to her, led her wondering to the track, and pointed out the
fatal quarry, but in such wise that she could not look inside it.

"You remember that round hole we saw from the summit rock?" he said.
"Well, it is full of carbonic acid gas, to breathe which means
unconsciousness and death. It gives no warning to the inexperienced. It
is rather pleasant than otherwise. Promise me you will never come near
this place again."

Now, Iris, too, had been thinking deeply. Robert Jenks bulked large in
her day-dreams. Her nerves were not yet quite normal. There was a catch
in her throat as she answered--

"I don't want to die. Of course I will keep away. What a horrid island
this is! Yet it might be a paradise."

She bit her lip to suppress her tears, but, being the Eve in this
garden, she continued--

"How did you find out? Is there anything--nasty--in there?"

"Yes, the remains of animals, and other things. I would not have told
you were it not imperative."

"Are you keeping other secrets from me?"

"Oh, quite a number."

He managed to conjure up a smile, and the ruse was effective. She
applied the words to his past history.

"I hope they will not be revealed so dramatically," she said.

"You never can tell," he answered. They were in prophetic vein that
morning. They returned in silence to the cave.

"I wish to go inside, with a lamp. May I?" he asked.

"Certainly. Why not?"

He had an odd trick of blushing, this bronzed man with a gnarled soul.
He could not frame a satisfactory reply, but busied himself in
refilling the lamp.

"May I come too?" she demanded.

He flung aside the temptation to answer her in kind, merely assenting,
with an explanation of his design. When the lamp was in order he held
it close to the wall and conducted a systematic survey. The geological
fault which favored the construction of the tunnel seemed to diverge to
the left at the further end. The "face" of the rock exhibited the marks
of persistent labor. The stone had been hewn away by main force when
the dislocation of strata ceased to be helpful.

His knowledge was limited on the subject, yet Jenks believed that the
material here was a hard limestone rather than the external basalt.
Searching each inch with the feeble light, he paused once, with an
exclamation.

"What is it?" cried Iris.

"I cannot be certain," he said, doubtfully. "Would you mind holding the
lamp whilst I use a crowbar?"

In the stone was visible a thin vein, bluish white in color. He managed
to break off a fair-sized lump containing a well-defined specimen of
the foreign metal.

They hurried into the open air and examined the fragment with curious
eyes. The sailor picked it with his knife, and the substance in the
vein came off in laminated layers, small, brittle scales.

"Is it silver?" Iris was almost excited.

"I do not think so. I am no expert, but I have a vague idea--I have
seen----"

He wrinkled his brows and pressed away the furrows with his hand, that
physical habit of his when perplexed.

"I have it," he cried. "It is antimony."

Miss Deane pursed her lips in disdain. Antimony! What was antimony?

"So much fuss for nothing," she said.

"It is used in alloys and medicines," he explained. "To us it is
useless."

He threw the piece of rock contemptuously among the bushes. But, being
thorough in all that he undertook, he returned to the cave and again
conducted an inquisition. The silver-hued vein became more strongly
marked at the point where it disappeared downwards into a collection of
rubble and sand. That was all. Did men give their toil, their lives,
for this? So it would appear. Be that as it might, he had a more
pressing work. If the cave still held a secret it must remain there.

Iris had gone back to her sago-kneading. Necessity had made the lady a
bread-maid.

"Fifteen hundred years of philology bridged by circumstance," mused
Jenks. "How Max Mueller would have reveled in the incident!"

Shouldering the axe he walked to the beach. The tide was low and the
circular sweep of the reef showed up irregularly, its black outlines
sticking out of the vividly green water like jagged teeth.

Much debris from the steamer was lying high and dry. It was an easy
task for an athletic man to reach the palm tree, yet the sailor
hesitated, with almost imperceptible qualms.

"A baited rat-trap," he muttered. Then he quickened his pace. With the
first active spring from rock to rock his unacknowledged doubts
vanished. He might find stores of priceless utility. The reflection
inspired him. Jumping and climbing like a cat, in two minutes he was
near the tree.

He could now see the true explanation of its growth in a seemingly
impossible place. Here the bed of the sea bulged upwards in a small
sand cay, which silted round the base of a limestone rock, so different
in color and formation from the coral reef. Nature, whose engineering
contrivances can force springs to mountain tops, managed to deliver to
this isolated refuge a sufficient supply of water to nourish the palm,
and the roots, firmly lodged in deep crevices, were well protected from
the waves.

Between the sailor and the tree intervened a small stretch of shallow
water. Landward this submerged saddle shelved steeply into the lagoon.
Although the water in the cove was twenty fathoms in depth, its crystal
clearness was remarkable. The bottom, composed of marvelously white
sand and broken coral, rendered other objects conspicuous. He could see
plenty of fish, but not a single shark, whilst on the inner slope of
the reef was plainly visible the destroyed fore part of the
_Sirdar_, which had struck beyond the tree, relatively to his
present standpoint. He had wondered why no boats were cast ashore. Now
he saw the reason. Three of them were still fastened to the davits and
carried down with the hull.

Seaward the water was not so clear. The waves created patches of foam,
and long submarine plants swayed gently in the undercurrent.

To reach Palm-tree Rock--anticipating its subsequent name--he must
cross a space of some thirty feet and wade up to his waist.

He made the passage with ease.

Pitched against the hole of the tree was a long narrow case, very
heavy, iron-clamped; and marked with letters in black triangles and the
broad arrow of the British Government.

"Rifles, by all the gods!" shouted the sailor. They were really by the
Enfield Small Arms Manufactory, but his glee at this stroke of luck
might be held to excuse a verbal inaccuracy.

The _Sirdar_ carried a consignment of arms and ammunition from
Hong Kong to Singapore. Providence had decreed that a practically
inexhaustible store of cartridges should be hurled across the lagoon to
the island. And here were Lee-Metfords enough to equip half a company.
He would not risk the precious axe in an attempt to open the case. He
must go back for a crowbar.

What else was there in this storehouse, thrust by Neptune from the
ocean bed? A chest of tea, seemingly undamaged. Three barrels of flour,
utterly ruined. A saloon chair, smashed from its pivot. A battered
chronometer. For the rest, fragments of timber intermingled with
pulverized coral and broken crockery.

A little further on, the deep-water entrance to the lagoon curved
between sunken rocks. On one of them rested the _Sirdar's_ huge
funnel. The north-west section of the reef was bare. Among the wreckage
he found a coil of stout rope and a pulley. He instantly conceived the
idea of constructing an aerial line to ferry the chest of tea across
the channel he had forded.

He threaded the pulley with the rope and climbed the tree, adding a
touch of artistic completeness to the ruin of his trousers by the
operation. He had fastened the pulley high up the trunk before he
realized how much more simple it would be to break open the chest where
it lay and transport its contents in small parcels.

He laughed lightly. "I am becoming addleheaded," he said to himself.
"Anyhow, now the job is done I may as well make use of it."

Recoiling the rope-ends, he cast them across to the reef. In such small
ways do men throw invisible dice with death. With those two lines he
would, within a few fleeting seconds, drag himself back from eternity.

Picking up the axe, he carelessly stepped into the water, not knowing
that Iris, having welded the incipient sago into a flat pancake, had
strolled to the beach and was watching him.

The water was hardly above his knees when there came a swirling rush
from the seaweed. A long tentacle shot out like a lasso and gripped his
right leg. Another coiled round his waist.

"My God!" he gurgled, as a horrid sucker closed over his mouth and
nose. He was in the grip of a devil-fish.

A deadly sensation of nausea almost overpowered him, but the love of
life came to his aid, and he tore the suffocating feeler from his face.
Then the axe whirled, and one of the eight arms of the octopus lost
some of its length. Yet a fourth flung itself around his left ankle. A
few feet away, out of range of the axe, and lifting itself bodily out
of the water, was the dread form of the cuttle, apparently all head,
with distended gills and monstrous eyes.

The sailor's feet were planted wide apart. With frenzied effort he
hacked at the murderous tentacles, but the water hindered him, and he
was forced to lean back, in superhuman strain, to avoid losing his
balance. If once this terrible assailant got him down he knew he was
lost. The very need to keep his feet prevented him from attempting to
deal a mortal blow.

The cuttle was anchored by three of its tentacles. Its remaining arm
darted with sinuous activity to again clutch the man's face or neck.
With the axe he smote madly at the curling feeler, diverting its aim
time and again, but failing to deliver an effective stroke.

With agonized prescience the sailor knew that he was yielding. Were the
devil-fish a giant of its tribe he could not have held out so long. As
it was, the creature could afford to wait, strengthening its grasp,
tightening its coils, pulling and pumping at its prey with remorseless
certainty.

He was nearly spent. In a paroxysm of despair he resolved to give way,
and with one mad effort seek to bury the axe in the monster's brain.
But ere he could execute this fatal project--for the cuttle would have
instantly swept him into the trailing weeds--five revolver shots rang
out in quick succession. Iris had reached the nearest rock.

The third bullet gave the octopus cause to reflect. It squirted forth a
torrent of dark-colored fluid. Instantly the water became black,
opaque. The tentacle flourishing in air thrashed the surface with
impotent fury; that around Jenks's waist grew taut and rigid. The axe
flashed with the inspiration of hope. Another arm was severed; the huge
dismembered coil slackened and fell away.

Yet was he anchored immovably. He turned to look at Iris. She never
forgot the fleeting expression of his face. So might Lazarus have
looked from the tomb.

"The rope!" she screamed, dropping the revolver and seizing the loose
ends lying at her feet.

She drew them tight and leaned back, pulling with all her strength. The
sailor flung the axe to the rocks and grasped the two ropes. He raised
himself and plunged wildly. He was free. With two convulsive strides he
was at the girl's side.

He stumbled to a boulder and dropped in complete collapse. After a time
he felt Iris's hand placed timidly on his shoulder. He raised his head
and saw her eyes shining.

"Thank you," he said. "We are quits now."




CHAPTER VI

SOME EXPLANATIONS


Fierce emotions are necessarily transient, but for the hour they
exhaust the psychic capacity. The sailor had gone through such mental
stress before it was yet noon that he was benumbed, wholly incapable of
further sensation. Seneca tells how the island of Theresaea arose in a
moment from the sea, thereby astounding ancient mariners, as well it
might. Had this manifestation been repeated within a cable's length
from the reef, Jenks was in mood to accept it as befitting the new
order of things.

Being in good condition, he soon recovered his physical powers. He was
outwardly little the worse for the encounter with the devil-fish. The
skin around his mouth was sore. His waist and legs were bruised. One
sweep of the axe had cut clean through the bulging leather of his left
boot without touching the flesh. In a word, he was practically
uninjured.

He had the doglike habit of shaking himself at the close of a fray. He
did so now when he stood up. Iris showed clearer signs of the ordeal.
Her face was drawn and haggard, the pupils of her eyes dilated. She was
gazing into depths, illimitable, unexplored. Compassion awoke at sight
of her.

"Come," said Jenks, gently. "Let us get back to the island."

He quietly resumed predominance, helping her over the rough pathway of
the reef, almost lifting her when the difficulties were great.

He did not ask her how it happened that she came so speedily to his
assistance. Enough that she had done it, daring all for his sake. She
was weak and trembling. With the acute vision of the soul she saw
again, and yet again, the deadly malice of the octopus, the divine
despair of the man.

Reaching the firm sand, she could walk alone. She limped. Instantly her
companion's blunted emotions quickened into life. He caught her arm and
said hoarsely--

"Are you hurt in any way?"

The question brought her back from dreamland. A waking nightmare was
happily shattered into dim fragments. She even strove to smile
unconcernedly.

"It is nothing," she murmured. "I stumbled on the rocks. There is no
sprain. Merely a blow, a bit of skin rubbed off, above my ankle."

"Let me carry you."

"The idea! Carry me! I will race you to the cave."

It was no idle jest. She wanted to run--to get away from that inky
blotch in the green water.

"You are sure it is a trifle?"

"Quite sure. My stocking chafes a little; that is all. See, I will show
you."

She stooped, and with the quick skill of woman, rolled down the
stocking on her right leg. Modestly daring, she stretched out her foot
and slightly lifted her dress. On the outer side of the tapering limb
was an ugly bruise, scratched deeply by the coral.

He exhibited due surgical interest. His manner, his words, became
professional.

"We will soon put that right," he said. "A strip off your muslin dress,
soaked in brandy, will----"

"Brandy!" she exclaimed.

"Yes; we have some, you know. Brandy is a great tip for bruised wounds.
It can be applied both ways, inside and out."

This was better. They were steadily drifting back to the commonplace.
Whilst she stitched together some muslin strips he knocked the head off
a bottle of brandy. They each drank a small quantity, and the generous
spirit brought color to their wan cheeks. The sailor showed Iris how to
fasten a bandage by twisting the muslin round the upper part of his
boot. For the first time she saw the cut made by the axe.

"Did--the thing--grip you there?" she nervously inquired.

"There, and elsewhere. All over at once, it felt like. The beast
attacked me with five arms."

She shuddered. "I don't know how you could fight it," she said. "How
strong, how brave you must be."

This amused him. "The veriest coward will try to save his own life," he
answered. "If you use such adjectives to me, what words can I find to
do justice to you, who dared to come close to such a vile-looking
creature and kill it. I must thank my stars that you carried the
revolver."

"Ah!" she said, "that reminds me. You do not practice what you preach.
I found your pistol lying on the stone in the cave. That is one reason
why I followed you."

It was quite true. He laid the weapon aside when delving at the rock,
and forgot to replace it in his belt.

"It was stupid of me," he admitted; "but I am not sorry."

"Why?"

"Because, as it is, I owe you my life."

"You owe me nothing," she snapped. "It is very thoughtless of you to
run such risks. What will become of me if anything happens to you? My
point of view is purely selfish, you see."

"Quite so. Purely selfish." He smiled sadly. "Selfish people of your
type are somewhat rare, Miss Deane."

Not a conversation worth noting, perhaps, save in so far as it is
typical of the trite utterances of people striving to recover from some
tremendous ordeal. Epigrams delivered at the foot of the scaffold have
always been carefully prepared beforehand.

The bandage was ready; one end was well soaked in brandy. She moved
towards the cave, but he cried--

"Wait one minute. I want to get a couple of crowbars."

"What for?"

"I must go back there." He jerked his head in the direction of the
reef. She uttered a little sob of dismay.

"I will incur no danger this time," he explained. "I found rifles
there. We must have them; they may mean salvation."

When Iris was determined about anything, her chin dimpled. It puckered
delightfully now.

"I will come with you," she announced.

"Very well. I will wait for you. The tide will serve for another hour."

He knew he had decided rightly. She could not bear to be alone--yet.
Soon the bandage was adjusted and they returned to the reef. Scrambling
now with difficulty over the rough and dangerous track, Iris was
secretly amazed by the remembrance of the daring activity she displayed
during her earlier passage along the same precarious roadway.

Then she darted from rock to rock with the fearless certainty of a
chamois. Her only stumble was caused, she recollected, by an absurd
effort to avoid wetting her dress. She laughed nervously when they
reached the place. This time Jenks lifted her across the intervening
channel.

"Is this the spot where you fell?" he asked, tenderly.

"Yes; how did you guess it?"

"I read it in your eyes."

"Then please do not read my eyes, but look where you are going."

"Perhaps I was doing that too," he said.

They were standing on the landward side of the shallow water in which
he fought the octopus.

Already the dark fluid emitted by his assailant in its final
discomfiture was passing away, owing to the slight movement of the
tide.

Iris was vaguely conscious of a double meaning in his words. She did
not trouble to analyze them. All she knew was that the man's voice
conveyed a subtle acknowledgment of her feminine divinity. The
resultant thrill of happiness startled, even dismayed her. This
incipient flirtation must be put a stop to instantly.

"Now that you have brought me here with so much difficulty, what are
you going to do?" she said. "It will be madness for you to attempt to
ford that passage again. Where there is one of those horrible things
there are others, I suppose."

Jenks smiled. Somehow he knew that this strict adherence to business
was a cloak for her real thoughts. Already these two were able to
dispense with spoken word.

But he sedulously adopted her pretext.

"That is one reason why I brought the crowbars," he explained. "If you
will sit down for a little while I will have everything properly
fixed."

He delved with one of the bars until it lodged in a crevice of the
coral. Then a few powerful blows with the back of the axe wedged it
firmly enough to bear any ordinary strain. The rope-ends reeved through
the pulley on the tree were lying where they fell from the girl's hand
at the close of the struggle. He deftly knotted them to the rigid bar,
and a few rapid turns of a piece of wreckage passed between the two
lines strung them into a tautness that could not be attained by any
amount of pulling.

Iris watched the operation in silence. The sailor always looked at his
best when hard at work. The half-sullen, wholly self-contained
expression left his face, which lit up with enthusiasm and concentrated
intelligence. That which he essayed he did with all his might. Will
power and physical force worked harmoniously. She had never before seen
such a man. At such moments her admiration of him was unbounded.

He, toiling with steady persistence, felt not the inward spur which
sought relief in speech, but Iris was compelled to say something.

"I suppose," she commented with an air of much wisdom, "you are
contriving an overhead railway for the safe transit of yourself and the
goods?"

"Y--yes."

"Why are you so doubtful about it?"

"Because I personally intended to walk across. The ropes will serve to
convey the packages."

She rose imperiously. "I absolutely forbid you to enter the water
again. Such a suggestion on your part is quite shameful. You are taking
a grave risk for no very great gain that I can see, and if anything
happens to you I shall be left all alone in this awful place."

She could think of no better argument. Her only resource was a woman's
expedient--a plea for protection against threatening ills.

The sailor seemed to be puzzled how best to act.

"Miss Deane," he said, "there is no such serious danger as you imagine.
Last time the cuttle caught me napping. He will not do so again. Those
rifles I must have. If it will serve to reassure you, I will go along
the line myself."

He made this concession grudgingly. In very truth, if danger still
lurked in the neighboring sea, he would be far less able to avoid it
whilst clinging to a rope that sagged with his weight, and thus working
a slow progress across the channel, than if he were on his feet and
prepared to make a rush backwards or forwards.

Not until Iris watched him swinging along with vigorous overhead
clutches did this phase of the undertaking occur to her.

"Stop!" she screamed.

He let go and dropped into the water, turning towards her.

"What is the matter now?" he said.

"Go on; do!"

He stood meekly on the further side to listen to her rating.

"You knew all the time that it would be better to walk, yet to please
me you adopted an absurdly difficult method. Why did you do it?"

"You have answered your own question."

"Well, I am very, very angry with you."

"I'll tell you what," he said, "if you will forgive me I will try and
jump back. I once did nineteen feet three inches in--er--in a meadow,
but it makes such a difference when you look at a stretch of water the
same width."

"I wish you would not stand there talking nonsense. The tide will be
over the reef in half an hour," she cried.

Without another word he commenced operations. There was plenty of rope,
and the plan he adopted was simplicity itself. When each package was
securely fastened he attached it to a loop that passed over the line
stretched from the tree to the crowbar. To this loop he tied the
lightest rope he could find and threw the other end to Iris. By pulling
slightly she was able to land at her feet even the cumbrous
rifle-chest, for the traveling angle was so acute that the heavier the
article the more readily it sought the lower level.

They toiled in silence until Jenks could lay hands on nothing more of
value. Then, observing due care, he quickly passed the channel. For an
instant the girl gazed affrightedly at the sea until the sailor stood
at her side again.

"You see," he said, "you have scared every cuttle within miles." And he
thought that he would give many years of his life to be able to take
her in his arms and kiss away her anxiety.

But the tide had turned; in a few minutes the reef would be partly
submerged. To carry the case of rifles to the mainland was a manifestly
impossible feat, so Jenks now did that which, done earlier, would have
saved him some labor--he broke open the chest, and found that the
weapons were apparently in excellent order.

He snapped the locks and squinted down the barrels of half a dozen to
test them. These he laid on one side. Then he rapidly constructed a
small raft from loose timbers, binding them roughly with rope, and to
this argosy he fastened the box of tea, the barrels of flour, the
broken saloon-chair, and other small articles which might be of use. He
avoided any difficulty in launching the raft by building it close to
the water's edge. When all was ready the rising tide floated it for
him; he secured it to his longest rope, and gave it a vigorous push off
into the lagoon. Then he slung four rifles across his shoulders, asked
Iris to carry the remaining two in like manner, and began to manoeuvre
the raft landwards.

"Whilst you land the goods I will prepare dinner," announced the girl.

"Please be careful not to slip again on the rocks," he said.

"Indeed I will. My ankle gives me a reminder at each step."

"I was more concerned about the rifles. If you fell you might damage
them, and the incoming tide will so hopelessly rust those I leave
behind that they will be useless."

She laughed. This assumption at brutality no longer deceived her.

"I will preserve them at any cost, though with six in our possession
there is a margin for accidents. However, to reassure you, I will go
back quickly. If I fall a second time you will still be able to replace
any deficiencies in our armament."

Before he could protest she started off at a run, jumping lightly from
rock to rock, though the effort cost her a good deal of pain.
Disregarding his shouts, she persevered until she stood safely on the
sands. Then saucily waving a farewell, she set off towards the cave.

Had she seen the look of fierce despair that settled down upon Jenks's
face as he turned to his task of guiding the raft ashore she might have
wondered what it meant. In any case she would certainly have behaved
differently.

By the time the sailor had safely landed his cargo Iris had cooked
their midday meal. She achieved a fresh culinary triumph. The eggs were
fried!

"I am seriously thinking of trying to boil a ham," she stated gravely.
"Have you any idea how long it takes to cook one properly?"

"A quarter of an hour for each pound."

"Admirable! But we can measure neither hours nor pounds."

"I think we can do both. I will construct a balance of some kind. Then,
with a ham slung to one end, and a rifle and some cartridges to the
other, I will tell you the weight of the ham to an ounce. To ascertain
the time, I have already determined to fashion a sun-dial. I remember
the requisite divisions with reasonable accuracy, and a little
observation will enable us to correct any mistakes."

"You are really very clever, Mr. Jenks," said Iris, with childlike
candor. "Have you spent several years of your life in preparing for
residence on a desert island?"

"Something of the sort. I have led a queer kind of existence, full of
useless purposes. Fate has driven me into a corner where my odds and
ends of knowledge are actually valuable. Such accidents make men
millionaires."

"Useless purposes!" she repeated. "I can hardly credit that. One uses
such a phrase to describe fussy people, alive with foolish activity.
Your worst enemy would not place you in such a category."

"My worst enemy made the phrase effective at any rate, Miss Deane."

"You mean that he ruined your career?"

"Well--er--yes. I suppose that describes the position with fair
accuracy."

"Was he a very great scoundrel?"

"He was, and is."

Jenks spoke with quiet bitterness. The girl's words had evoked a sudden
flood of recollection. For the moment he did not notice how he had been
trapped into speaking of himself, nor did he see the quiet content on
Iris's face when she elicited the information that his chief foe was a
man. A certain tremulous hesitancy in her manner when she next spoke
might have warned him, but his hungry soul caught only the warm
sympathy of her words, which fell like rain on parched soil.

"You are tired," she said. "Won't you smoke for a little while, and
talk to me?"

He produced his pipe and tobacco, but he used his right hand awkwardly.
It was evident to her alert eyes that the torn quick on his injured
finger was hurting him a great deal. The exciting events of the morning
had caused him temporarily to forget his wound, and the rapid coursing
of the blood through the veins was now causing him agonized throbs.

With a cry of distress she sprang to her feet and insisted upon washing
the wound. Then she tenderly dressed it with a strip of linen well
soaked in brandy, thinking the while, with a sudden rush of color to
her face, that although he could suggest this remedy for her slight
hurt, he gave no thought to his own serious injury. Finally she pounced
upon his pipe and tobacco-box.

"Don't be alarmed," she laughed. "I have often filled my father's pipe
for him. First, you put the tobacco in loosely, taking care not to use
any that is too finely powdered. Then you pack the remainder quite
tightly. But I was nearly forgetting. I haven't blown, through the pipe
to see if it is clean."

She suited the action to the word, using much needless breath in the
operation.

"That is a first-rate pipe," she declared. "My father always said that
a straight stem, with the bowl at a right angle, was the correct shape.
You evidently agree with him."

"Absolutely."

"You will like my father when you meet him. He is the very best man
alive, I am sure."

"You two are great friends, then?"

"Great friends! He is the only friend I possess in the world."

"What! Is that quite accurate?"

"Oh, quite. Of course, Mr. Jenks, I can never forget how much I owe to
you. I like you immensely, too, although you are so--so gruff to me at
times. But--but--you see, my father and I have always been together. I
have neither brother nor sister, not even a cousin. My dear mother died
from some horrid fever when I was quite a little girl. My father is
everything to me."

"Dear child!" he murmured, apparently uttering his thoughts aloud
rather than addressing her directly. "So you find me gruff, eh?"

"A regular bear, when you lecture me. But that is only occasionally.
You can be very nice when you like, when you forget your past troubles.
And pray, why do you call me a child?

"Have I done so?"

"Not a moment ago. How old are you, Mr. Jenks? I am twenty--twenty last
December."

"And I," he said, "will be twenty-eight in August."

"Good gracious!" she gasped. "I am very sorry, but I really thought you
were forty at least."

"I look it, no doubt. Let me be equally candid and admit that you, too,
show your age markedly."

She smiled nervously. "What a lot of trouble you must have had
to--to--to give you those little wrinkles in the corners of your mouth
and eyes," she said.

"Wrinkles! How terrible!"

"I don't know. I think they rather suit you; besides, it was stupid of
me to imagine you were so old. I suppose exposure to the sun creates
wrinkles, and you must have lived much in the open air."

"Early rising and late going to bed are bad for the complexion," he
declared, solemnly.

"I often wonder how army officers manage to exist," she said. "They
never seem to get enough sleep, in the East, at any rate. I have seen
them dancing for hours after midnight, and heard of them pig-sticking
or schooling hunters at five o'clock next morning."

"So you assume I have been in the army?"

"I am quite sure of it."

"May I ask why?"

"Your manner, your voice, your quiet air of authority, the very way you
walk, all betray you."

"Then," he said sadly, "I will not attempt to deny the fact. I held a
commission in the Indian Staff Corps for nine years. It was a hobby of
mine, Miss Deane, to make myself acquainted with the best means of
victualing my men and keeping them in good health under all sorts of
fanciful conditions and in every kind of climate, especially under
circumstances when ordinary stores were not available. With that object
in view I read up every possible country in which my regiment might be
engaged, learnt the local names of common articles of food, and
ascertained particularly what provision nature made to sustain life.
The study interested me. Once, during the Soudan campaign, it was
really useful, and procured me promotion."

"Tell me about it."

"During some operations in the desert it was necessary for my troop to
follow up a small party of rebels mounted on camels, which, as you
probably know, can go without water much longer than horses. We were
almost within striking distance, when our horses completely gave out,
but I luckily noticed indications which showed that there was water
beneath a portion of the plain much below the general level. Half an
hour's spade work proved that I was right. We took up the pursuit
again, and ran the quarry to earth, and I got my captaincy."

"Was there no fight?"

He paused an appreciable time before replying. Then he evidently made
up his mind to perform some disagreeable task. The watching girl could
see the change in his face, the sharp transition from eager interest to
angry resentment.

"Yes," he went on at last, "there was a fight. It was a rather stiff
affair, because a troop of British cavalry which should have supported
me had turned back, owing to the want of water already mentioned. But
that did not save the officer in charge of the 24th Lancers from being
severely reprimanded."

"The 24th Lancers!" cried Iris. "Lord Ventnor's regiment!"

"Lord Ventnor was the officer in question."

Her face crimonsed. "Then you know him?" she said.

"I do."

"Is he your enemy?"

"Yes."

"And that is why you were so agitated that last day on the
_Sirdar_, when poor Lady Tozer asked me if I were engaged to him?"

"Yes."

"How could it affect you? You did not even know my name then?"

Poor Iris! She did not stop to ask herself why she framed her question
in such manner, but the sailor was now too profoundly moved to heed the
slip. She could not tell how he was fighting with himself, fiercely
beating down the inner barriers of self-love, sternly determined, once
and for all, to reveal himself in such light to this beautiful and
bewitching woman that in future she would learn to regard him only as
an outcast whose company she must perforce tolerate until relief came.

"It affected me because the sudden mention of his name recalled my own
disgrace. I quitted the army six months ago, Miss Deane, under very
painful circumstances. A general court-martial found me guilty of
conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. I was not even given a
chance to resign. I was cashiered."

He pretended to speak with cool truculence. He thought to compel her
into shrinking contempt. Yet his face blanched somewhat, and though he
steadily kept the pipe between his teeth, and smoked with studied
unconcern, his lips twitched a little.

And he dared not look at her, for the girl's wondering eyes were fixed
upon him, and the blush had disappeared as quickly as it came.

"I remember something of this," she said slowly, never once averting
her gaze. "There was some gossip concerning it when I first came to
Hong Kong. You are Captain Robert Anstruther?"

"I am."

"And you publicly thrashed Lord Ventnor as the result of a quarrel
about a woman?"

"Your recollection is quite accurate."

"Who was to blame?"

"The lady said that I was."

"Was it true?"

Robert Anstruther, late captain of Bengal Cavalry, rose to his feet. He
preferred to take his punishment standing.

"The court-martial agreed with her, Miss Deane, and I am a prejudiced
witness," he replied.

"Who was the--lady?"

"The wife of my colonel, Mrs. Costobell."

"Oh!"

Long afterwards he remembered the agony of that moment, and winced even
at the remembrance. But he had decided upon a fixed policy, and he was
not a man to flinch from consequences. Miss Deane must be taught to
despise him, else, God help them both, she might learn to love him as
he now loved her. So, blundering towards his goal as men always blunder
where a woman's heart is concerned, he blindly persisted in allowing
her to make such false deductions as she chose from his words.

Iris was the first to regain some measure of self-control.

"I am glad you have been so candid, Captain Anstruther," she commenced,
but he broke in abruptly--

"Jenks, if you please, Miss Deane. Robert Jenks."

There was a curious light in her eyes, but he did not see it, and her
voice was marvelously subdued as she continued--

"Certainly, Mr. Jenks. Let me be equally explicit before we quit the
subject. I have met Mrs. Costobell. I do not like her. I consider her a
deceitful woman. Your court-martial might have found a different
verdict had its members been of her sex. As for Lord Ventnor, he is
nothing to me. It is true he asked my father to be permitted to pay his
addresses to me, but my dear old dad left the matter wholly to my
decision, and I certainly never gave Lord Ventnor any encouragement. I
believe now that Mrs. Costobell lied, and that Lord Ventnor lied, when
they attributed any dishonorable action to you, and I am glad that you
beat him in the Club. I am quite sure he deserved it."

Not one word did this strange man vouchsafe in reply. He started
violently, seized the axe lying at his feet, and went straight among
the trees, keeping his face turned from Iris so that she might not see
the tears in his eyes.

As for the girl, she began to scour her cooking utensils with much
energy, and soon commenced a song. Considering that she was compelled
to constantly endure the company of a degraded officer, who had been
expelled from the service with ignominy, she was absurdly contented.
Indeed, with the happy inconsequence of youth, she quickly threw all
care to the winds, and devoted her thoughts to planning a surprise for
the next day by preparing some tea, provided she could surreptitiously
open the chest.




CHAPTER VII

SURPRISES


Before night closed their third day on the island Jenks managed to
construct a roomy tent-house, with a framework of sturdy trees selected
on account of their location. To these he nailed or tied crossbeams of
felled saplings; and the tarpaulins dragged from the beach supplied
roof and walls. It required the united strength of Iris and himself to
haul into position the heavy sheet that topped the structure, whilst he
was compelled to desist from active building operations in order to
fashion a rough ladder. Without some such contrivance he could not get
the topmost supports adjusted at a sufficient height.

Although the edifice required at least two more days of hard work
before it would be fit for habitation Iris wished to take up her
quarters there immediately. This the sailor would not hear of.

"In the cave," he said, "you are absolutely sheltered from all the
winds that blow or rain that falls. Our villa, however, is painfully
leaky and draughty at present. When asleep, the whole body is relaxed,
and you are then most open to the attacks of cold or fever, in which
case, Miss Deane, I shall be reluctantly obliged to dose you with a
concoction of that tree there."

He pointed to a neighboring cinchona, and Iris naturally asked why he
selected that particular brand.

"Because it is quinine, not made up in nice little tabloids, but _au
naturel_. It will not be a bad plan if we prepare a strong infusion,
and take a small quantity every morning on the excellent principle that
prevention is better than cure."

The girl laughed.

"Good gracious!" she said; "that reminds me--"

But the words died away on her lips in sudden fright. They were
standing on the level plateau in front of the cave, well removed from
the trees, and they could see distinctly on all sides, for the sun was
sinking in a cloudless sky and the air was preternaturally clear, being
free now from the tremulous haze of the hot hours.

Across the smooth expanse of sandy ground came the agonized shrieks of
a startled bird--a large bird, it would seem--winging its way towards
them with incredible swiftness, and uttering a succession of loud
full-voiced notes of alarm.

Yet the strange thing was that not a bird was to be seen. At that hour
the ordinary feathered inhabitants of the island were quietly nestling
among the branches preparatory to making a final selection of the
night's resting-place. None of them would stir unless actually
disturbed.

Iris drew near to the sailor. Involuntarily she caught his arm. He
stepped a half-pace in front of her to ward off any danger that might
be heralded by this new and uncanny phenomenon. Together they strained
their eyes in the direction of the approaching sound, but apparently
their sight was bewitched; as nothing whatever was visible.

"Oh, what is it?" wailed Iris, who now clung to Jenks in a state of
great apprehension.

The clucking noise came nearer, passed them within a yard, and was
already some distance away towards the reef when the sailor burst into
a hearty laugh, none the less genuine because of the relief it gave to
his bewildered senses.

Reassured, but still white with fear, Iris cried: "Do speak, please,
Mr. Jenks. What was it?"

"A beetle!" he managed to gasp.

"A beetle?"

"Yes, a small, insignificant-looking fellow, too--so small that I did
not see him until he was almost out of range. He has the loudest voice
for his size in the whole of creation. A man able to shout on the same
scale could easily make himself heard for twenty miles."

"Then I do not like such beetles; I always hated them, but this latest
variety is positively detestable. Such nasty things ought to be kept in
zoological gardens, and not turned loose. Moreover, my tea will be
boiled into spinach."

Nevertheless, the tea, though minus sugar or milk, was grateful enough
and particularly acceptable to the sailor, who entertained Iris with a
disquisition on the many virtues of that marvelous beverage. Curiously
enough, the lifting of the veil upon the man's earlier history made
these two much better friends. With more complete acquaintance there
was far less tendency towards certain passages which, under ordinary
conditions, could be construed as nothing else than downright
flirtation.

They made the pleasing discovery that they could both sing. There was
hardly an opera in vogue that one or other did not know sufficiently
well to be able to recall the chief musical numbers. Iris had a sweet
and sympathetic mezzo-soprano voice, Jenks an excellent baritone, and,
to the secret amazement of the girl, he rendered one or two well-known
Anglo-Indian barrack-room ditties with much humor.

This, then, was the _mise-en-scene_.

Iris, seated in the broken saloon-chair, which the sailor had firmly
wedged into the sand for her accommodation, was attired in a
close-fitting costume selected from the small store of garments so
wisely preserved by Jenks. She wore a pair of clumsy men's boots
several sizes too large for her. Her hair was tied up in a gipsy knot
on the back of her head, and the light of a cheerful log fire danced in
her blue eyes.

Jenks, unshaven and ragged, squatted tailor wise near her. Close at
hand, on two sides, the shaggy walls of rock rose in solemn grandeur.
The neighboring trees, decked now in the sable livery of night, were
dimly outlined against the deep misty blue of sea and sky or wholly
merged in the shadow of the cliffs.

They lost themselves in the peaceful influences of the hour.
Shipwrecked, remote from human land, environed by dangers known or only
conjectured, two solitary beings on a tiny island, thrown haphazard
from the depths of the China Sea, this young couple, after passing
unscathed through perils unknown even to the writers of melodrama,
lifted up their voices in the sheer exuberance of good spirits and
abounding vitality.

The girl was specially attracted by "The Buffalo Battery," a rollicking
lyric known to all Anglo-India from Peshawur to Tuticorin. The air is
the familiar one of the "Hen Convention," and the opening verse runs in
this wise:

  I love to hear the sepoy with his bold and martial tread,
  And the thud of the galloping cavalry re-echoes through my head.
  But sweeter far than any sound by mortal ever made
  Is the tramp of the Buffalo Battery a-going to parade.
    _Chorus_: For it's "Hainya! hainya! hainya! hainya!"
      Twist their tails and go.
    With a "Hathi! hathi! hathi!" ele-_phant_ and buffa_lo_,
    "Chow-chow, chow-chow, chow-chow, chow-chow,"
      "Teri ma!" "Chel-lo!"
    Oh, that's the way they shout all day, and drive the buffalo.

Iris would not be satisfied until she understood the meaning of the
Hindustani phrases, mastered the nasal pronunciation of "hainya,"
and placed the artificial accent on _phant_ and _lo_ in the
second line of the chorus.

Jenks was concluding the last verse when there came, hurtling through
the air, the weird cries of the singing beetle, returning, perchance,
from successful foray on Palm-tree Rock. This second advent of the
insect put an end to the concert. Within a quarter of an hour they were
asleep.

Thenceforth, for ten days, they labored unceasingly, starting work at
daybreak and stopping only when the light failed, finding the long
hours of sunshine all too short for the manifold tasks demanded of
them, yet thankful that the night brought rest. The sailor made out a
programme to which he rigidly adhered. In the first place, he completed
the house, which had two compartments, an inner room in which Iris
slept, and an outer, which served as a shelter for their meals and
provided a bedroom for the man.

Then he constructed a gigantic sky-sign on Summit Rock, the small
cluster of boulders on top of the cliff. His chief difficulty was to
hoist into place the tall poles he needed, and for this purpose he had
to again visit Palm-tree Rock in order to secure the pulley. By
exercising much ingenuity in devising shear-legs, he at last succeeded
in lifting the masts into their allotted receptacles, where they were
firmly secured. Finally he was able to swing into air, high above the
tops of the neighboring trees, the loftiest of which he felled in order
to clear the view on all sides, the name of the ship _Sirdar_,
fashioned in six-foot letters nailed and spliced together in sections
and made from the timbers of that ill-fated vessel.

Meanwhile he taught Iris how to weave a net out of the strands of
unraveled cordage. With this, weighted by bullets, he contrived a
casting-net and caught a lot of small fish in the lagoon. At first they
were unable to decide which varieties were edible, until a happy
expedient occurred to the girl.

"The seabirds can tell us," she said. "Let us spread out our haul on
the sands and leave them. By observing those specimens seized by the
birds and those they reject we should not go far wrong."

Though her reasoning was not infallible it certainly proved to be a
reliable guide in this instance. Among the fish selected by the
feathered connoisseurs they hit upon two species which most resembled
whiting and haddock, and these turned out to be very palatable and
wholesome.

Jenks knew a good deal of botany, and enough about birds to
differentiate between carnivorous species and those fit for human food,
whilst the salt in their most fortunate supply of hams rendered their
meals almost epicurean. Think of it, ye dwellers in cities, content
with stale buns and leathery sandwiches when ye venture into the wilds
of a railway refreshment-room, these two castaways, marooned by queer
chance on a desert island, could sit down daily to a banquet of
vegetable soup, fish, a roast bird, ham boiled or fried, and a sago
pudding, the whole washed down by cool spring water, or, should the
need arise, a draught of the best champagne!

From the rusty rifles on the reef Jenks brought away the bayonets and
secured all the screws, bolts, and other small odds and ends which
might be serviceable. From the barrels he built a handy grate to
facilitate Iris's cooking operations, and a careful search each morning
amidst the ashes of any burnt wreckage accumulated a store of most
useful nails.

The pressing need for a safe yet accessible bathing place led him and
the girl to devote one afternoon to a complete survey of the
coast-line. By this time they had given names to all the chief
localities. The northerly promontory was naturally christened North
Cape; the western, Europa Point; the portion of the reef between their
habitation and Palm-tree Rock became Filey Brig; the other section
North-west Reef. The flat sandy passage across the island, containing
the cave, house, and well, was named Prospect Park; and the extensive
stretch of sand on the south-east, with its guard of broken reefs, was
at once dubbed Turtle Beach when Jenks discovered that an immense
number of green turtles were paying their spring visit to the island to
bury their eggs in the sand.

The two began their tour of inspection by passing the scene of the
first desperate struggle to escape from the clutch of the typhoon. Iris
would not be content until the sailor showed her the rock behind which
he placed her for shelter whilst he searched for water. For a moment
the recollection of their unfortunate companions on board ship brought
a lump into her throat and dimmed her eyes.

"I remember them in my prayers every night," she confided to him. "It
seems so unutterably sad that they should be lost, whilst we are alive
and happy."

The man distracted her attention by pointing out the embers of their
first fire. It was the only way to choke back the tumultuous feelings
that suddenly stormed his heart. Happy! Yes, he had never before known
such happiness. How long would it last? High up on the cliff swung the
signal to anxious searchers of the sea that here would be found the
survivors of the _Sirdar_. And then, when rescue came, when Miss
Deane became once more the daughter of a wealthy baronet, and he a
disgraced and a nameless outcast--! He set his teeth and savagely
struck at a full cup of the pitcher-plant which had so providentially
relieved their killing thirst.

"Oh, why did you do that?" pouted Iris. "Poor thing! it was a true
friend in need. I wish I could do something for it to make it the best
and leafiest plant of its kind on the island."

"Very well!" he answered; "you can gratify your wish. A tinful of fresh
water from the well, applied daily to its roots, will quickly achieve
that end."

The moroseness of his tone and manner surprised her. For once her quick
intuition failed to divine the source of his irritation.

"You give your advice ungraciously," she said, "but I will adopt it
nevertheless."

A harmless incident, a kindly and quite feminine resolve, yet big with
fate for both of them.

Jenks's unwonted ill-humor--for the passage of days had driven from his
face all its harshness, and from his tongue all its assumed
bitterness--created a passing cloud until the physical exertion of
scrambling over the rocks to round the North Cape restored their normal
relations.

A strong current raced by this point to the south-east, and tore away
the outlying spur of the headland to such an extent that the sailor was
almost inclined to choose the easier way through the trees. Yet he
persevered, and it may be confessed that the opportunities thus
afforded of grasping the girl's arm, of placing a steadying hand on her
shoulder, were dominant factors in determining his choice.

At last they reached the south side, and here they at once found
themselves in a delightfully secluded and tiny bay, sandy, tree-lined,
sheltered on three sides by cliffs and rocks.

"Oh," cried Iris, excitedly, "what a lovely spot! a perfect Smugglers'
Cove."

"Charming enough to look at," was the answering comment, "but open to
the sea. If you look at the smooth riband of water out there, you will
perceive a passage through the reef. A great place for sharks, Miss
Deane, but no place for bathers."

"Good gracious! I had forgotten the sharks. I suppose they must live,
horrid as they are, but I don't want them to dine on me."

The mention of such disagreeable adjuncts to life on the island no
longer terrified her. Thus do English new-comers to India pass the first
three months' residence in the country in momentary terror of snakes,
and the remaining thirty years in complete forgetfulness of them.

They passed on. Whilst traversing the coral-strewn south beach, with
its patches of white soft sand baking in the direct rays of the sun,
Jenks perceived traces of the turtle which swarmed in the neighboring
sea.

"Delicious eggs and turtle soup!" he announced when Iris asked him why
he was so intently studying certain marks on the sand, caused by the
great sea-tortoise during their nocturnal visits to the
breeding-ground.

"If they are green turtle," he continued, "we are in the lap of luxury.
They lard the alderman and inspire the poet. When a ship comes to our
assistance I will persuade the captain to freight the vessel with them
and make my fortune."

"I suppose, under the circumstances, you were not a rich man, Mr.
Jenks," said Iris, timidly.

"I possess a wealthy bachelor uncle, who made me his heir and allowed
me four hundred a year; so I was a sort of Croesus among Staff Corps
officers. When the smash came he disowned me by cable. By selling my
ponies and my other belongings I was able to walk out of my quarters
penniless but free from debt."

"And all through a deceitful woman!"

"Yes."

Iris peeped at him from under the brim of her sou'wester. He seemed to
be absurdly contented, so different was his tone in discussing a
necessarily painful topic to the attitude he adopted during the attack
on the pitcher-plant.

She was puzzled, but ventured a further step.

"Was she very bad to you, Mr. Jenks?"

He stopped and laughed--actually roared at the suggestion.

"Bad to me!" he repeated. "I had nothing to do with her. She was
humbugging her husband, not me. Fool that I was, I could not mind my
own business."

So Mrs. Costobell was not flirting with the man who suffered on her
account. It is a regrettable but true statement that Iris would
willingly have hugged Mrs. Costobell at that moment. She walked on air
during the next half-hour of golden silence, and Jenks did not remind
her that they were passing the gruesome Valley of Death.

Rounding Europa Point, the sailor's eyes were fixed on their immediate
surroundings, but Iris gazed dreamily ahead. Hence it was that she was
the first to cry in amazement--

"A boat! See, there! On the rocks!"

There was no mistake. A ship's boat was perched high and dry on the
north side of the cape. Even as they scrambled towards it Jenks
understood how it had come there.

When the _Sirdar_ parted amidships the after section fell back
into the depths beyond the reef, and this boat must have broken loose
from its davits and been driven ashore here by the force of the western
current.

Was it intact? Could they escape? Was this ark stranded on the island
for their benefit? If it were seaworthy, whither should they steer--to
those islands whose blue outlines were visible on the horizon?

These and a hundred other questions coursed through his brain during
the race over the rocks, but all such wild speculations were promptly
settled when they reached the craft, for the keel and the whole of the
lower timbers were smashed into matchwood.

But there were stores on board. Jenks remembered that Captain Ross's
foresight had secured the provisioning of all the ship's boats soon
after the first wild rush to steady the vessel after the propeller was
lost. Masts, sails, oars, seats--all save two water-casks--had gone;
but Jenks, with eager hands, unfastened the lockers, and here he found
a good supply of tinned meats and biscuits. They had barely recovered
from the excitement of this find when the sailor noticed that behind
the rocks on which the craft was firmly lodged lay a small natural
basin full of salt water, replenished and freshened by the spray of
every gale, and completely shut off from all seaward access.

It was not more than four feet deep, beautifully carpeted with sand,
and secluded by rocks on all sides. Not the tiniest crab or fish was to
be seen. It provided an ideal bath.

Iris was overjoyed. She pointed towards their habitation.

"Mr. Jenks," she said, "I will be with you at tea-time."

He gathered all the tins he was able to carry and strode off, enjoining
her to fire her revolver if for the slightest reason she wanted
assistance, and giving a parting warning that if she delayed too long
he would come and shout to her.

"I wonder," said the girl to herself, watching his retreating figure,
"what he is afraid of. Surely by this time we have exhausted the
unpleasant surprises of the island. Anyhow, now for a splash!"

She was hardly in the water before she began to be afraid on account of
Jenks. Suppose anything happened to him whilst she was thoughtlessly
enjoying herself here. So strongly did the thought possess her that she
hurriedly dressed again and ran off to find him.

He was engaged in fastening a number of bayonets transversely to a long
piece of timber.

"What are you doing that for?" she asked.

"Why did you return so soon? Did anything alarm you?"

"I thought you might get into mischief," she confessed.

"No. On the other hand, I am trying to make trouble for any unwelcome
visitors," he replied. "This is a _cheval de frise_, which I
intend to set up in front of our cave in case we are compelled to
defend ourselves against an attack by savages. With this barring the
way they cannot rush the position."

She sighed. Rainbow Island was a wild spot after all. Did not thorns
and briers grow very close to the gates of Eden?

On the nineteenth day of their residence on the island the sailor
climbed, as was his invariable habit, to the Summit Rock whilst Iris
prepared breakfast. At this early hour the horizon was clearly cut as
the rim of a sapphire. He examined the whole arc of the sea with his
glasses, but not a sail was in sight. According to his calculations,
the growing anxiety as to the fate of the _Sirdar_ must long ere
this have culminated in the dispatch from Hong Kong or Singapore of a
special search vessel, whilst British warships in the China Sea would
be warned to keep a close lookout for any traces of the steamer, to
visit all islands on their route, and to question fishermen whom they
encountered. So help might come any day, or it might be long deferred.
He could not pierce the future, and it was useless to vex his soul with
questionings as to what might happen next week. The great certainty of
the hour was Iris--the blue-eyed, smiling divinity who had come into
his life--waiting for him down there beyond the trees, waiting to
welcome him with a sweet-voiced greeting; and he knew, with a fierce
devouring joy, that her cheek would not pale nor her lip tremble when
he announced that at least another sun must set before the expected
relief reached them.

He replaced the glasses in their case and dived into the wood, giving a
passing thought to the fact that the wind, after blowing steadily from
the south for nearly a week, had veered round to the north-east during
the night. Did the change portend a storm? Well, they were now prepared
for all such eventualities, and he had not forgotten that they
possessed, among other treasures, a box of books for rainy days. And a
rainy day with Iris for company! What gale that ever blew could offer
such compensation for enforced idleness?

The morning sped in uneventful work. Iris did not neglect her cherished
pitcher-plant. After luncheon it was her custom now to carry a dishful
of water to its apparently arid roots, and she rose to fulfil her
self-imposed task.

"Let me help you," said Jenks. "I am not very busy this afternoon."

"No, thank you. I simply won't allow you to touch that shrub. The dear
thing looks quite glad to see me. It drinks up the water as greedily as
a thirsty animal."

"Even a cabbage has a heart, Miss Deane."

She laughed merrily. "I do believe you are offering me a compliment,"
she said. "I must indeed have found favor in your eyes."

He had schooled himself to resist the opening given by this class of
retort, so he turned to make some corrections in the scale of the
sun-dial he had constructed, aided therein by daily observations with
the sextant left by the former inhabitant of the cave.

Iris had been gone perhaps five minutes when he heard a distant shriek,
twice repeated, and then there came faintly to his ears his own name,
not "Jenks," but "Robert," in the girl's voice. Something terrible had
happened. It was a cry of supreme distress. Mortal agony or
overwhelming terror alone could wring that name from her lips.
Precisely in such moments this man acted with the decision, the
unerring judgment, the instantaneous acceptance of great risk to
accomplish great results, that marked him out as a born soldier.

He rushed into the house and snatched from the rifle-rack one of the
six Lee-Metfords reposing there in apple-pie order, each with a filled
magazine attached and a cartridge already in position.

Then he ran, with long swift strides, not through the trees, where he
could see nothing, but towards the beach, whence, in forty yards, the
place where Iris probably was would become visible.

At once he saw her, struggling in the grasp of two ferocious-looking
Dyaks, one, by his garments, a person of consequence, the other a
half-naked savage, hideous and repulsive in appearance. Around them
seven men, armed with guns and parangs, were dancing with excitement.

Iris's captors were endeavoring to tie her arms, but she was a strong
and active Englishwoman, with muscles well knit by the constant labor
of recent busy days and a frame developed by years of horse-riding and
tennis-playing. The pair evidently found her a tough handful, and the
inferior Dyak, either to stop her screams--for she was shrieking
"Robert, come to me!" with all her might--or to stifle her into
submission, roughly placed his huge hand over her mouth.

These things the sailor noticed instantly. Some men, brave to rashness,
ready as he to give his life to save her, would have raced madly over
the intervening ground, scarce a furlong, and attempted a heroic combat
of one against nine.

Not so Jenks.

With the methodical exactness of the parade-ground he settled down on
one knee and leveled the rifle. At that range the Lee-Metford bullet
travels practically point-blank. Usually it is deficient in "stopping"
power, but he had provided against this little drawback by notching all
the cartridges in the six rifles after the effective manner devised by
an expert named Thomas Atkins during the Tirah campaign.

None of the Dyaks saw him. All were intent on the sensational prize
they had secured, a young and beautiful white woman so contentedly
roaming about the shores of this Fetish island. With the slow speed
advised by the Roman philosopher, the backsight and foresight of the
Lee-Metford came into line with the breast of the coarse brute
clutching the girl's face.

Then something bit him above the heart and simultaneously tore half of
his back into fragments. He fell, with a queer sob, and the others
turned to face this unexpected danger.

Iris, knowing only that she was free from that hateful grasp, wrenched
herself free from the chief's hold, and ran with all her might along
the beach, to Jenks and safety.

Again, and yet again, the rifle gave its short, sharp snarl, and two
more Dyaks collapsed on the sand. Six were left, their leader being
still unconsciously preserved from death by the figure of the flying
girl.

A fourth Dyak dropped.

The survivors, cruel savages but not cowards, unslung their guns. The
sailor, white-faced, grim, with an unpleasant gleam in his deep-set
eyes and a lower jaw protruding, noticed their preparations.

"To the left!" he shouted. "Run towards the trees!"

Iris heard him and strove to obey. But her strength was failing her,
and she staggered blindly. After a few despairing efforts she lurched
feebly to her knees, and tumbled face downwards on the broken coral
that had tripped her faltering footsteps.

Jenks was watching her, watching the remaining Dyaks, from whom a
spluttering volley came, picking out his quarry with the murderous ease
of a terrier in a rat-pit. Something like a bee in a violent hurry
hummed past his ear, and a rock near his right foot was struck a
tremendous blow by an unseen agency. He liked this. It would be a
battle, not a battue.

The fifth Dyak crumpled into the distortion of death, and then their
leader took deliberate aim at the kneeling marksman who threatened to
wipe him and his band out of existence. But his deliberation, though
skilful, was too profound. The sailor fired first, and was
professionally astonished to see the gaudily attired individual tossed
violently backward for many yards, finally pitching headlong to the
earth. Had he been charged by a bull in full career he could not have
been more utterly discomfited. The incident was sensational but
inexplicable.

Yet another member of the band was prostrated ere the two as yet
unscathed thought fit to beat a retreat. This they now did with
celerity, but they dragged their chief with them. It was no part of
Jenks's programme to allow them to escape. He aimed again at the man
nearest the trees. There was a sharp click and nothing more. The
cartridge was a mis-fire. He hastily sought to eject it, and the rifle
jammed. These little accidents will happen, even in a good weapon like
the Lee-Metford.

Springing to his feet with a yell he ran forward. The flying men caught
a glimpse of him and accelerated their movements. Just as he reached
Iris they vanished among the trees.

Slinging the rifle over his shoulder, he picked up the girl in his
arms. She was conscious, but breathless.

"You are not hurt?" he gasped, his eyes blazing into her face with an
intensity that she afterwards remembered as appalling.

"No," she whispered.

"Listen," he continued in labored jerks. "Try and obey me--exactly. I
will carry you--to the cave. Stop there. Shoot any one you see--till I
come."

She heard him wonderingly. Was he going to leave her, now that he had
her safely clasped to his breast? Impossible! Ah, she understood. Those
men must have landed in a boat. He intended to attack them again. He
was going to fight them single-handed, and she would not know what
happened to him until it was all over. Gradually her vitality returned.
She almost smiled at the fantastic conceit that _she_ would desert
_him_.

Jenks placed her on her feet at the entrance to the cave.

"You understand," he cried, and without waiting for an answer, ran to
the house for another rifle. This time, to her amazement, he darted
back through Prospect Park towards the south beach. The sailor knew
that the Dyaks had landed at the sandy bay Iris had christened
Smugglers' Cove. They were acquainted with the passage through the reef
and came from the distant islands. Now they would endeavor to escape by
the same channel. They must be prevented at all costs.

He was right. As they came out into the open he saw three men, not two,
pushing off a large sampan. One of them, _mirabile dictu_, was the
chief. Then Jenks understood that his bullet had hit the lock of the
Dyak's uplifted weapon, with the result already described. By a miracle
he had escaped.

He coolly prepared to slay the three of them with the same calm purpose
that distinguished the opening phase of this singularly one-sided
conflict. The distance was much greater, perhaps 800 yards from the
point where the boat came into view. He knelt and fired. He judged that
the missile struck the craft between the trio.

"I didn't allow for the sun on the side of the foresight," he said. "Or
perhaps I am a bit shaky after the run. In any event they can't go
far."

A hurrying step on the coral behind him caught his ear. Instantly he
sprang up and faced about--to see Iris.

"They are escaping," she said.

"No fear of that," he replied, turning away from her.

"Where are the others?"

"Dead!"

"Do you mean that you killed nearly all those men?"

"Six of them. There were nine in all."

He knelt again, lifting the rifle. Iris threw herself on her knees by
his side. There was something awful to her in this chill and
business-like declaration of a fixed purpose.

"Mr. Jenks," she said, clasping her hands in an agony of entreaty, "do
not kill more men for my sake!"

"For my own sake, then," he growled, annoyed at the interruption, as
the sampan was afloat.

"Then I ask you for God's sake not to take another life. What you have
already done was unavoidable, perhaps right. This is murder!"

He lowered his weapon and looked at her.

"If those men get away they will bring back a host to avenge their
comrades--and secure you," he added.

"It may be the will of Providence for such a thing to happen. Yet I
implore you to spare them."

He placed the rifle on the sand and raised her tenderly, for she had
yielded to a paroxysm of tears. Not another word did either of them
speak in that hour. The large triangular sail of the sampan was now
bellying out in the south wind. A figure stood up in the stern of the
boat and shook a menacing arm at the couple on the beach.

It was the Malay chief, cursing them with the rude eloquence of his
barbarous tongue. And Jenks well knew what he was saying.




CHAPTER VIII

PREPARATIONS


They looked long and steadfastly at the retreating boat. Soon it
diminished to a mere speck on the smooth sea. The even breeze kept its
canvas taut, and the sailor knew that no ruse was intended--the Dyaks
were flying from the island in fear and rage. They would return with a
force sufficient to insure the wreaking of their vengeance.

That he would again encounter them at no distant date Jenks had no
doubt whatever. They would land in such numbers as to render any
resistance difficult and a prolonged defence impossible. Would help
come first?--a distracting question to which definite answer could not
be given. The sailor's brow frowned in deep lines; his brain throbbed
now with an anxiety singularly at variance with his cool demeanor
during the fight. He was utterly unconscious that his left arm
encircled the shoulder of the girl until she gently disengaged herself
and said appealingly--

"Please, Mr. Jenks, do not be angry with me. I could not help it. I
could not bear to see you shoot them."

Then he abruptly awoke to the realities of the moment.

"Come." he said, his drawn features relaxing into a wonderfully
pleasing smile. "We will return to our castle. We are safe for the
remainder of this day, at any rate."

Something must be said or done to reassure her. She was still
grievously disturbed, and he naturally ascribed her agitation to the
horror of her capture. He dreaded a complete collapse if any further
alarms threatened at once. Yet he was almost positive--though search
alone would set at rest the last misgiving--that only one sampan had
visited the island. Evidently the Dyaks were unprepared as he for the
events of the preceding half-hour. They were either visiting the island
to procure turtle and _beche-de-mer_ or had merely called there
_en route_ to some other destination, and the change in the wind
had unexpectedly compelled them to put ashore. Beyond all doubt they
must have been surprised by the warmth of the reception they
encountered.

Probably, when he went to Summit Rock that morning, the savages had
lowered their sail and were steadily paddling north against wind and
current. The most careful scrutiny of the sea would fail to reveal them
beyond a distance of six or seven miles at the utmost.

After landing in the hidden bay on the south side, they crossed the
island through the trees instead of taking the more natural open way
along the beach. Why? The fact that he and Iris were then passing the
grown-over tract leading to the Valley of Death instantly determined
this point. The Dyaks knew of this affrighting hollow, and would not
approach any nearer to it than was unavoidable. Could he twist this
circumstance to advantage if Iris and he were still stranded there when
the superstitious sea-rovers next put in an appearance? He would see.
All depended on the girl's strength. If she gave way now--if, instead
of taking instant measures for safety, he were called upon to nurse her
through a fever--the outlook became not only desperate but hopeless.

And, whilst he bent his brows in worrying thought, the color was
returning to Iris's cheeks, and natural buoyancy to her step. It is the
fault of all men to underrate the marvelous courage and constancy of
woman in the face of difficulties and trials. Jenks was no exception to
the rule.

"You do not ask me for any account of my adventures," she said quietly,
after watching his perplexed expression in silence for some time.

Her tone almost startled him, its unassumed cheerfulness was so
unlooked for.

"No," he answered. "I thought you were too overwrought to talk of them
at present."

"Overwrought! Not a bit of it! I was dead beat with the struggle and
with screaming for you, but please don't imagine that I am going to
faint or treat you to a display of hysteria now that all the excitement
has ended. I admit that I cried a little when you pushed me aside on
the beach and raised your gun to fire at those poor wretches flying for
their lives. Yet perhaps I was wrong to hinder you."

"You were wrong," he gravely interrupted.

"Then you should not have heeded me. No, I don't mean that. You always
consider me first, don't you? No matter what I ask you to do you
endeavor to please me, even when you know all the time that I am acting
or speaking foolishly."

The unthinking _naivete_ of her words sent the blood coursing
wildly through his veins.

"Never mind," she went on with earnest simplicity. "God has been very
good to us. I cannot believe that He has preserved us from so many
dangers to permit us to perish miserably a few hours, or days, before
help comes. And I _do_ want to tell you exactly what happened."

"Then you shall," he answered. "But first drink this." They had reached
their camping-ground, and he hastened to procure a small quantity of
brandy.

She swallowed the spirit with a protesting _moue_. She really
needed no such adventitious support, she said.

"All right," commented Jenks. "If you don't want a drink, I do."

"I can quite believe it," she retorted. "_Your_ case is very
different. _I_ knew the men would not hurt me--after the first
shock of their appearance had passed, I mean--I also knew that you
would save me. But you, Mr. Jenks, had to do the fighting. You were
called upon to rescue precious me. Good gracious! No wonder you were
excited."

The sailor mentally expressed his inability to grasp the complexities
of feminine nature, but Iris rattled on----

"I carried my tin of water to the pitcher-plant, and was listening to
the greedy roots gurgling away for dear life, when suddenly four men
sprang out from among the trees and seized my arms before I could reach
my revolver."

"Thank Heaven you failed."

"You think that if I had fired at them they would have retaliated. Yes,
especially if I had hit the chief. But it was he who instantly gave
some order, and I suppose it meant that they were not to hurt me. As a
matter of fact, they seemed to be quite as much astonished as I was
alarmed. But if they could hold my hands they could not stop my voice
so readily. Oh! didn't I yell?"

"You did."

"I suppose you could not hear me distinctly?"

"Quite distinctly."

"Every word?"

"Yes."

She bent to pick some leaves and bits of dry grass from her dress.
"Well, you know," she continued rapidly, "in such moments one cannot
choose one's words. I just shouted the first thing that came into my
head."

"And I," he said, "picked up the first rifle I could lay hands on. Now,
Miss Deane, as the affair has ended so happily, may I venture to ask
you to remain in the cave until I return?"

"Oh, please--" she began.

"Really, I must insist. I would not leave you if it were not quite
imperative. You _cannot_ come with me."

Then she understood one at least of the tasks he must perform, and she
meekly obeyed.

He thought it best to go along Turtle Beach to the cove, and thence
follow the Dyaks' trail through the wood, as this line of advance would
entail practically a complete circuit of the island. He omitted no
precautions in his advance. Often he stopped and listened intently.
Whenever he doubled a point or passed among the trees he crept back and
peered along the way he had come, to see if any lurking foes were
breaking shelter behind him.

The marks on the sand proved that only one sampan had been beached.
Thence he found nothing of special interest until he came upon the
chief's gun, lying close to the trees on the north side. It was a very
ornamental weapon, a muzzle-loader. The stock was inlaid with gold and
ivory, and the piece had evidently been looted from some mandarin's
junk surprised and sacked in a former foray.

The lock was smashed by the impact of the Lee-Metford bullet, but close
investigation of the trigger-guard, and the discovery of certain
unmistakable evidences on the beach, showed that the Dyak leader had
lost two if not three fingers of his right hand.

"So he has something more than his passion to nurse," mused Jenks.
"That at any rate is fortunate. He will be in no mood for further
enterprise for some time to come."

He dreaded lest any of the Dyaks should be only badly wounded and
likely to live. It was an actual relief to his nerves to find that the
improvised Dum-dums had done their work too well to permit anxiety on
that score. On the principle that a "dead Injun is a good Injun" these
Dyaks were good Dyaks.

He gathered the guns, swords and krisses of the slain, with all their
uncouth belts and ornaments. In pursuance of a vaguely defined plan of
future action he also divested some of the men of their coarse
garments, and collected six queer-looking hats, shaped like inverted
basins. These things he placed in a heap near the pitcher-plants.
Thenceforth, for half an hour, the placid surface of the lagoon was
disturbed by the black dorsal fins of many sharks.

To one of the sailor's temperament there was nothing revolting in the
concluding portion of his task. He had a God-given right to live. It
was his paramount duty, remitted only by death itself, to endeavor to
save Iris from the indescribable fate from which no power could rescue
her if ever she fell into the hands of these vindictive savages.
Therefore it was war between him and them, war to the bitter end, war
with no humane mitigation of its horrors and penalties, the last dread
arbitrament of man forced to adopt the methods of the tiger.

His guess at the weather conditions heralded by the change of wind was
right. As the two partook of their evening meal the complaining surf
lashed the reef, and the tremulous branches of the taller trees voiced
the approach of a gale. A tropical storm, not a typhoon, but a belated
burst of the periodic rains, deluged the island before midnight. Hours
earlier Iris retired, utterly worn by the events of the day. Needless
to say, there was no singing that evening. The gale chanted a wild
melody in mournful chords, and the noise of the watery downpour on the
tarpaulin roof of Belle Vue Castle was such as to render conversation
impossible, save in wearying shouts.

Luckily, Jenks's carpentry was effective, though rough. The building
was water-tight, and he had calked every crevice with unraveled rope
until Iris's apartment was free from the tiniest draught.

The very fury of the external turmoil acted as a lullaby to the girl.
She was soon asleep, and the sailor was left to his thoughts.

Sleep he could not. He smoked steadily, with a magnificent prodigality,
for his small stock of tobacco was fast diminishing. He ransacked his
brains to discover some method of escape from this enchanted island,
where fairies jostled with demons, and hours of utter happiness found
their bane in moments of frightful peril.

Of course he ought to have killed those fellows who escaped. Their
sampan might have provided a last desperate expedient if other savages
effected a landing. Well, there was no use in being wise after the
event, and, scheme as he might, he could devise no way to avoid
disaster during the next attack.

This, he felt certain, would take place at night. The Dyaks would land
in force, rush the cave and hut, and overpower him by sheer numbers.
The fight, if fight there was, would be sharp, but decisive. Perhaps,
if he received some warning, Iris and he might retreat in the darkness
to the cover of the trees. A last stand could be made among the
boulders on Summit Rock. But of what avail to purchase their freedom
until daylight? And then----

If ever man wrestled with desperate problem, Jenks wrought that night.
He smoked and pondered until the storm passed, and, with the
changefulness of a poet's muse, a full moon flooded the island in
glorious radiance. He rose, opened the door, and stood without,
listening for a little while to the roaring of the surf and the crash
of the broken coral swept from reef and shore by the backwash.

The petty strife of the elements was soothing to him. "They are
snarling like whipped dogs," he said aloud. "One might almost fancy her
ladyship the Moon appearing on the scene as a Uranian Venus, cowing sea
and storm by the majesty of her presence."

Pleased with the conceit, he looked steadily at the brilliant luminary
for some time. Then his eyes were attracted by the strong lights thrown
upon the rugged face of the precipice into which the cavern burrowed.
Unconsciously relieving his tired senses, he was idly wondering what
trick of color Turner would have adopted to convey those sharp yet
weirdly beautiful contrasts, when suddenly he uttered a startled
exclamation.

"By Jove!" he murmured. "I never noticed that before."

The feature which so earnestly claimed his attention was a deep ledge,
directly over the mouth of the cave, but some forty feet from the
ground. Behind it the wall of rock sloped darkly inwards, suggesting a
recess extending by haphazard computation at least a couple of yards.
It occurred to him that perhaps the fault in the interior of the tunnel
had its outcrop here, and the deodorizing influences of rain and sun
had extended the weak point thus exposed in the bold panoply of stone.

He surveyed the ledge from different points of view. It was quite
inaccessible, and most difficult to estimate accurately from the ground
level. The sailor was a man of action. He chose the nearest tall tree
and began to climb. He was not eight feet from the ground before
several birds flew out from its leafy recesses, filling the air with
shrill clucking.

"The devil take them!" he growled, for he feared that the commotion
would awaken Iris. He was still laboriously worming his way through the
inner maze of branches when a well-known voice reached him from the
ground.

"Mr. Jenks, what on earth are you doing up there?"

"Oh! so those wretched fowls aroused you?" he replied.

"Yes; but why did you arouse them?"

"I had a fancy to roost by way of a change"

"Please be serious."

"I am more than serious. This tree grows a variety of small sharp thorn
that induces a maximum of gravity--before one takes the next step."

"But why do you keep on climbing?"

"It is sheer lunacy, I admit. Yet on such a moonlit night there is some
reasonable ground for even a mad excuse."

"Mr. Jenks, tell me at once what you are doing."

Iris strove to be severe, but there was a touch of anxiety in her tone
that instantly made the sailor apologetic. He told her about the ledge,
and explained his half-formed notion that here they might secure a safe
retreat in case of further attack--a refuge from which they might defy
assault during many days. It was, he said, absolutely impossible to
wait until the morning. He must at once satisfy himself whether the
project was impracticable or worthy of further investigation.

So the girl only enjoined him to be careful, and he vigorously renewed
the climb. At last, some twenty-five feet from the ground, an
accidental parting in the branches enabled him to get a good look at
the ledge. One glance set his heart beating joyously. It was at least
fifteen feet in length; it shelved back until its depth was lost in the
blackness of the shadows, and the floor must be either nearly level or
sloping slightly inwards to the line of the fault.

The place was a perfect eagle's nest. A chamois could not reach it from
any direction; it became accessible to man only by means of a ladder or
a balloon.

More excited by this discovery than he cared for Iris to know, he
endeavored to appear unconcerned when he regained the ground.

"Well," she said, "tell me all about it."

He described the nature of the cavity as well as he understood it at
the moment, and emphasized his previous explanation of its virtues.
Here they might reasonably hope to make a successful stand against the
Dyaks.

"Then you feel sure that those awful creatures will come back?" she
said slowly.

"Only too sure, unfortunately."

"How remorseless poor humanity is when the veneer is stripped off! Why
cannot they leave us in peace? I suppose they now cherish a blood feud
against us. Perhaps, if I had not been here, they would not have
injured you. Somehow I seem to be bound up with your misfortunes."

"I would not have it otherwise were it in my power," he answered. For
an instant he left unchallenged the girl's assumption that she was in
any way responsible for the disasters which had broken up his career.
He looked into her eyes and almost forgot himself. Then the sense of
fair dealing that dominates every true gentleman rose within him and
gripped his wavering emotions with ruthless force. Was this a time to
play upon the high-strung sensibilities of this youthful daughter of
the gods, to seek to win from her a confession of love that a few brief
days or weeks might prove to be only a spasmodic, but momentarily
all-powerful, gratitude for the protection he had given her?

And he spoke aloud, striving to laugh, lest his words should falter--

"You can console yourself with the thought, Miss Deane, that your
presence on the island will in no way affect my fate at the hands of
the Dyaks. Had they caught me unprepared today my head would now be
covered with a solution of the special varnish they carry on every
foreign expedition."

"Varnish?" she exclaimed.

"Yes, as a preservative, you understand."

"And yet these men are human beings!"

"For purposes of classification, yes. Keeping to strict fact, it was
lucky for me that you raised the alarm, and gave me a chance to
discount the odds of mere numbers. So, you see, you really did me a
good turn."

"What can be done now to save our lives? Anything will be better than
to await another attack."

"The first thing to do is to try to get some sleep before daylight. How
did you know I was not in the Castle?"

"I cannot tell you. I awoke and knew you were not near me. If I wake in
the night I can always tell whether or not you are in the next room. So
I dressed and came out."

"Ah!" he said, quietly. "Evidently I snore."

This explanation killed romance.

Iris retreated and the sailor, tired out at last, managed to close his
weary eyes.

Next morning he hastily constructed a pole of sufficient length and
strong enough to bear his weight, by tying two sturdy young trees
together with ropes. Iris helped him to raise it against the face of
the precipice, and he at once climbed to the ledge.

Here he found his observations of the previous night abundantly
verified. The ledge was even wider than he dared to hope, nearly ten
feet deep in one part, and it sloped sharply downwards from the outer
lip of the rock. By lying flat and carefully testing all points of
view, he ascertained that the only possible positions from which even a
glimpse of the interior floor could be obtained were the branches of a
few tall trees and the extreme right of the opposing precipice, nearly
ninety yards distant. There was ample room to store water and
provisions, and he quickly saw that even some sort of shelter from the
fierce rays of the sun and the often piercing cold of the night might
be achieved by judiciously rigging up a tarpaulin.

"This is a genuine bit of good luck," he mused. "Here, provided neither
of us is hit, we can hold out for a week or longer, at a pinch. How can
it be possible that I should have lived on this island so many days and
yet hit upon this nook of safety by mere chance, as it were?"

Not until he reached the level again could he solve the puzzle. Then he
perceived that the way in which the cliff bulged out on both sides
prevented the ledge from becoming evident in profile, whilst, seen
_en plein face_ in the glare of the sunlight, it suggested nothing
more than a slight indentation.

He rapidly sketched to Iris the defensive plan which the Eagle's Nest
suggested. Access must be provided by means of a rope-ladder, securely
fastened inside the ledge, and capable of being pulled up or let down
at the will of the occupants. Then the place must be kept constantly
stocked with a judicious supply of provisions, water, and ammunition.
They could be covered with a tarpaulin, and thus kept in fairly good
condition.

"We ought to sleep there every night," he went on, and his mind was so
engrossed with the tactical side of the preparations that he did not
notice how Iris blanched at the suggestion.

"Surely not until danger actually threatens?" she cried.

"Danger threatens us each hour after sunset. It may come any night,
though I expect at least a fortnight's reprieve. Nevertheless, I intend
to act as if tonight may witness the first shot of the siege."

"Do you mean that?" she sighed. "And my little room is becoming so very
cozy!"

Belle Vue Castle, their two-roomed hut, was already a home to them.

Jenks always accepted her words literally.

"Well," he announced, after a pause, "it may not be necessary to take
up our quarters there until the eleventh hour. After I have hoisted up
our stores and made the ladder, I will endeavor to devise an efficient
cordon of sentinels around our position. We will see."

Not another word could Iris get out of him on the topic. Indeed, he
provided her with plenty of work. By this time she could splice a rope
more neatly than her tutor, and her particular business was to prepare
no less than sixty rungs for the rope-ladder. This was an impossible
task for one day, but after dinner the sailor helped her. They toiled
late, until their fingers were sore and their backbones creaked as they
sat upright.

Meanwhile Jenks swarmed up the pole again, and drew up after him a
crowbar, the sledge-hammer, and the pickaxe. With these implements he
set to work to improve the accommodation. Of course he did not attempt
seriously to remove any large quantity of rock, but there were
projecting lumps here and inequalities of floor there which could be
thumped or pounded out of existence.

It was surprising to see what a clearance he made in an hour. The
existence of the fault helped him a good deal, as the percolation of
water at this point had oxidized the stone to rottenness. To his great
joy he discovered that a few prods with the pick laid bare a small
cavity which could be easily enlarged. Here he contrived a niche where
Iris could remain in absolute safety when barricaded by stores, whilst,
with a squeeze, she was entirely sheltered from the one dangerous point
on the opposite cliff, nor need she be seen from the trees.

Having hauled into position two boxes of ammunition--for which he had
scooped out a special receptacle--the invaluable water-kegs from the
stranded boat, several tins of biscuits and all the tinned meats,
together with three bottles of wine and two of brandy, he hastily
abandoned the ledge and busied himself with fitting a number of
gun-locks to heavy faggots.

Iris watched his proceedings in silence for some time. At last the
interval for luncheon enabled her to demand an explanation.

"If you don't tell me at once what you intend to do with those strange
implements," she said, "I will form myself into an amalgamated engineer
and come out on strike."

"If you do," he answered, "you will create a precedent. There is no
recorded case of a laborer claiming what he calls his rights when his
life is at stake. Even an American tramp has been known to work like a
fiend under that condition."

"Simply because an American tramp tries, like every other mere male, to
be logical. A woman is more heroic. I once read of a French lady being
killed during an earthquake because she insisted on going into a
falling house to rescue that portion of her hair which usually rested
on the dressing-table whilst she was asleep."

"I happen to know," he said, "that you are personally unqualified to
emulate her example."

She laughed merrily, so lightly did yesterday's adventure sit upon her.
The allusion to her disheveled state when they were thrown ashore by
the typhoon simply impressed her as amusing. Thus quickly had she
become inured to the strange circumstances of a new life.

"I withdraw the threat and substitute a more genuine plea--curiosity,"
she cried.

"Then you will be gratified promptly. These are our sentinels. Come
with me to allot his post to the most distant one."

He picked up a faggot with its queer attachment, shouldered a
Lee-Metford, and smiled when he saw the business-like air with which
Iris slung a revolver around her waist.

They walked rapidly to Smugglers' Cove, and the girl soon perceived the
ingenuity of his automatic signal. He securely bound the block of wood
to a tree where it was hidden by the undergrowth. Breaking the bullet
out of a cartridge, he placed the blank charge in position in front of
the striker, the case being firmly clasped by a bent nail. To the
trigger, the spring of which he had eased to a slight pressure, he
attached a piece of unraveled rope, and this he carefully trained among
the trees at a height of six inches from the ground, using as carriers
nails driven into the trunks. The ultimate result was that a mere swish
of Iris's dress against the taut cord exploded the cartridge.

"There!" he exclaimed, exultantly. "When I have driven stakes into the
sand to the water's edge on both sides of the cove, I will defy them to
land by night without giving us warning."

"Do you know," said Iris, in all seriousness, "I think you are the
cleverest man in the world."

"My dear Miss Deane, that is not at all a Trades Unionist sentiment.
Equality is the key-note of their propaganda."

Nevertheless he was manifestly pleased by the success of his ingenious
contrivance, and forthwith completed the cordon. To make doubly sure,
he set another snare further within the trees. He was certain the Dyaks
would not pass along Turtle Beach if they could help it. By this time
the light was failing.

"That will suffice for the present," he told the girl. "Tomorrow we
will place other sentries in position at strategic points. Then we can
sleep in the Castle with tolerable safety."

By the meager light of the tiny lamp they labored sedulously at the
rope-ladder until Iris's eyes were closing with sheer weariness.
Neither of them had slept much during the preceding night, and they
were both completely tired.

It was with a very weak little smile that the girl bade him "good
night," and they were soon wrapped in that sound slumber which comes
only from health, hard work, and wholesome fare.

The first streaks of dawn were tipping the opposite crags with roseate
tints when the sailor was suddenly aroused by what he believed to be a
gunshot. He could not be sure. He was still collecting his scattered
senses, straining eyes and ears intensely, when there came a second
report.

Then he knew what had happened. The sentries on the Smugglers' Cove
post were faithful to their trust. The enemy was upon them.

At such a moment Jenks was not a man who prayed. Indeed, he was prone
to invoke the nether powers, a habit long since acquired by the British
army, in Flanders, it is believed.

There was not a moment to be lost. He rushed into Iris's room, and
gathered in his arms both her and the weird medley of garments that
covered her. He explained to the protesting girl, as he ran with her to
the foot of the rock, that she must cling to his shoulders with
unfaltering courage whilst he climbed to the ledge with the aid of the
pole and the rope placed there the previous day. It was a magnificent
feat of strength that he essayed. In calmer moments he would have
shrunk from its performance, if only on the score of danger to the
precious burden he carried. Now there was no time for thought. Up he
went, hand over hand, clinging to the rough pole with the tenacity of a
limpet, and taking a turn of the rope over his right wrist at each
upward clutch. At last, breathless but triumphant, he reached the
ledge, and was able to gasp his instructions to Iris to crawl over his
bent back and head until she was safely lodged on the broad platform of
rock.

Then, before she could expostulate, he descended, this time for the
rifles. These he hastily slung to the rope, again swarmed up the pole,
and drew the guns after him with infinite care.

Even in the whirl of the moment he noticed that Iris had managed to
partially complete her costume.

"Now we are ready for them," he growled, lying prone on the ledge and
eagerly scanning both sides of Prospect Park for a first glimpse of
their assailants.

For two shivering hours they waited there, until the sun was high over
the cliff and filled sea and land with his brightness. At last, despite
the girl's tears and prayers, Jenks insisted on making a reconnaissance
in person.

Let this portion of their adventures be passed over with merciful
brevity. Both watch-guns had been fired by the troupe of tiny wou-wou
monkeys! Iris did not know whether to laugh or cry, when Jenks, with
much difficulty, lowered her to mother earth again, and marveled the
while how he had managed to carry forty feet into the air a young woman
who weighed so solidly.

They sat down to a belated breakfast, and Jenks then became conscious
that the muscles of his arms, legs, and back were aching hugely. It was
by that means he could judge the true extent of his achievement. Iris,
too, realized it gradually, but, like the Frenchwoman in the
earthquake, she was too concerned with memories of her state of
deshabille to appreciate, all at once, the incidents of the dawn.




CHAPTER IX

THE SECRET OF THE CAVE


The sailor went after those monkeys in a mood of relentless severity.
Thus far, the regular denizens of Rainbow Island had dwelt together in
peace and mutual goodwill, but each diminutive wou-wou must be taught
not to pull any strings he found tied promiscuously to trees or stakes.
As a preliminary essay, Jenks resolved to try force combined with
artifice. Failing complete success, he would endeavor to kill every
monkey in the place, though he had in full measure the inherent dislike
of Anglo-India to the slaying of the tree-people.

This, then, is what he did. After filling a biscuit tin with good-sized
pebbles, he donned a Dyak hat, blouse, and belt, rubbed earth over his
face and hands, and proceeded to pelt the wou-wous mercilessly. For
more than an hour he made their lives miserable, until at the mere
sight of him they fled, shrieking and gurgling like a thousand
water-bottles. Finally he constructed several Dyak scarecrows and
erected one to guard each of his alarm-guns. The device was thoroughly
effective. Thenceforth, when some adventurous monkey--swinging with
hands or tail among the treetops in the morning search for appetizing
nut or luscious plantain--saw one of those fearsome bogies, he raised
such a hubbub that all his companions scampered hastily from the
confines of the wood to the inner fastnesses.

In contriving these same scarecrows--which, by the way, he had vaguely
intended at first to erect on the beach in order to frighten the
invaders and induce them to fire a warning volley--the sailor paid
closer heed to the spoils gathered from the fallen. One, at least, of
the belts was made of human hair, and some among its long strands could
have come only from the flaxen-haired head of a European child. This
fact, though ghastly enough, confirmed him in his theory that it was
impossible to think of temporizing with these human fiends. Unhappily
such savage virtues as they possess do not include clemency to the weak
or hospitality to defenceless strangers. There was nothing for it but a
fight to a finish, with the law of the jungle to decide the terms of
conquest.

That morning, of course, he had not been able to visit Summit Rock
until after his cautious survey of the island. Once there, however, he
noticed that the gale two nights earlier had loosened two of the
supports of his sky sign. It was not a difficult or a long job to
repair the damage. With the invaluable axe he cut several wedges and
soon made all secure.

Now, during each of the two daily examinations of the horizon which he
never omitted, he minutely scrutinized the sea between Rainbow Island
and the distant group. It was, perhaps, a needless precaution. The
Dyaks would come at night. With a favorable wind they need not set sail
until dusk, and their fleet sampans would easily cover the intervening
forty miles in five hours.

He could not be positive that they were actual inhabitants of the
islands to the south. The China Sea swarms with wandering pirates, and
the tribe whose animosity he had earned might be equally noxious to
some peaceable fishing community on the coast. Again and again he
debated the advisability of constructing a seaworthy raft and
endeavoring to make the passage. But this would be risking all on a
frightful uncertainty, and the accidental discovery of the Eagle's Nest
had given him new hope. Here he could make a determined and prolonged
stand, and in the end help _must_ come. So he dismissed the
navigation project, and devoted himself wholly to the perfecting of the
natural fortress in the rock.

That night they finished the rope-ladder. Indeed, Jenks was determined
not to retire to rest until it was placed _in situ_; he did not
care to try a second time to carry Iris to that elevated perch, and it
may be remarked that thenceforth the girl, before going to sleep,
simply changed one ragged dress for another.

One of the first things he contemplated was the destruction, if
possible, of the point on the opposite cliff which commanded the ledge.
This, however, was utterly impracticable with the appliances at his
command. The top of the rock sloped slightly towards the west, and
nothing short of dynamite or regular quarrying operations would render
it untenable by hostile marksmen.

During the day his Lee-Metfords, at ninety yards' range, might be
trusted to keep the place clear of intruders. But at night--that was
the difficulty. He partially solved it by fixing two rests on the ledge
to support a rifle in exact line with the center of the enemy's
supposed position, and as a variant, on the outer rest he marked lines
which corresponded with other sections of the entire front available to
the foe.

Even then he was not satisfied. When time permitted he made many
experiments with ropes reeved through the pulley and attached to a
rifle action. He might have succeeded in his main object had not his
thoughts taken a new line. His aim was to achieve some method of
opening and closing the breech-block by means of two ropes. The
difficulty was to secure the preliminary and final lateral movement of
the lever bolt, but it suddenly occurred to him that if he could manage
to convey the impression that Iris and he had left the island, the
Dyaks would go away after a fruitless search. The existence of ropes
along the face of the rock--an essential to his mechanical
scheme--would betray their whereabouts, or at any rate excite dangerous
curiosity. So he reluctantly abandoned his original design, though not
wholly, as will be seen in due course.

In pursuance of his latest idea he sedulously removed from the foot of
the cliff all traces of the clearance effected on the ledge, and,
although he provided supports for the tarpaulin covering, he did not
adjust it. Iris and he might lie _perdu_ there for days without
their retreat being found out. This development suggested the necessity
of hiding their surplus stores and ammunition, and what spot could be
more suitable than the cave?

So Jenks began to dig once more in the interior, laboring manfully with
pick and shovel in the locality of the fault with its vein of antimony.
It was thus that he blundered upon the second great event of his life.

Rainbow Island had given him the one thing a man prizes above all
else--a pure yet passionate love for a woman beautiful alike in body
and mind. And now it was to endow him with riches that might stir the
pulse of even a South African magnate. For the sailor, unmindful of
purpose other than providing the requisite _cache_, shoveling and
delving with the energy peculiar to all his actions, suddenly struck a
deep vein of almost virgin gold.

To facilitate the disposal at a distance of the disturbed debris, he
threw each shovelful on to a canvas sheet, which he subsequently
dragged among the trees in order to dislodge its contents. After doing
this four times he noticed certain metallic specks in the fifth load
which recalled the presence of the antimony. But the appearance of the
sixth cargo was so remarkable when brought out into the sunlight that
it invited closer inspection. Though his knowledge of geology was
slight--the half-forgotten gleanings of a brief course at Eton--he was
forced to believe that the specimens he handled so dubiously contained
neither copper nor iron pyrites but glittering yellow gold. Their
weight, the distribution of the metal through quartz in a transition
state between an oxide and a telluride, compelled recognition.

Somewhat excited, yet half skeptical, he returned to the excavation and
scooped out yet another collection. This time there could be no
mistake. Nature's own alchemy had fashioned a veritable ingot. There
were small lumps in the ore which would need alloy at the mint before
they could be issued as sovereigns, so free from dross were they.

Iris had gone to Venus's Bath, and would be absent for some time. Jenks
sat down on a tree-stump. He held in his hand a small bit of ore worth
perhaps twenty pounds sterling. Slowly the conjectures already pieced
together in his mind during early days on the island came back to him.

The skeleton of an Englishman lying there among the bushes near the
well; the Golgotha of the poison-filled hollow; the mining tools, both
Chinese and European; the plan on the piece of tin--ah, the piece of
tin! Mechanically the sailor produced it from the breast-pocket of his
jersey. At last the mysterious sign "32/1" revealed its
significance. Measure thirty-two feet from the mouth of the tunnel, dig
one foot in depth, and you came upon the mother-lode of this
gold-bearing rock. This, then, was the secret of the cave.

The Chinese knew the richness of the deposit, and exploited its
treasures by quarrying from the other side of the hill. But their crass
ignorance of modern science led to their undoing. The accumulation of
liberated carbonic acid gas in the workings killed them in scores. They
probably fought this unseen demon with the tenacity of their race,
until the place became accursed and banned of all living things. Yet
had they dug a little ditch, and permitted the invisible terror to flow
quietly downwards until its potency was dissipated by sea and air, they
might have mined the whole cliff with impunity.

The unfortunate unknown, J.S.--he of the whitened bones--might have
done this thing too. But he only possessed the half-knowledge of the
working miner, and whilst shunning the plague-stricken quarry, adopted
the more laborious method of making an adit to strike the deposit. He
succeeded, to perish miserably in the hour when he saw himself a
millionaire.

Was this a portent of the fate about to overtake the latest comers?
Jenks, of course, stood up. He always, stood square on his feet when
the volcano within him fired his blood.

"No, by God!" he almost shouted. "I will break the spell. I am sent
here by Providence, not to search for gold but to save a woman's life,
and if all the devils of China and Malay are in league against me I
will beat them!"

The sound of his own voice startled him. He had no notion that he was
so hysterical. Promptly his British phlegm throttled the demonstration.
He was rather ashamed of it.

What was all the fuss about? With a barrow-load of gold he could not
buy an instant's safety for Iris, not to mention himself. The language
difficulty was insuperable. Were it otherwise, the Dyaks would simply
humbug him until he revealed the source of his wealth, and then murder
him as an effective safeguard against foreign interference.

Iris! Not once since she was hurled ashore in his arms had Jenks so
long forgotten her existence. Should he tell her? They were partners in
everything appertaining to the island--why keep this marvelous
intelligence from her?

Yet was he tempted, not ignobly, but by reason of his love for her.
Once, years ago, when his arduous professional studies were distracted
by a momentary infatuation for a fair face, a woman had proved fickle
when tempted by greater wealth than he possessed. For long he was a
confirmed misogynist, to his great and lasting gain as a leader of men.
But with more equable judgment came a fixed resolution not to marry
unless his prospective bride cared only for him and not for his
position. To a Staff Corps officer, even one with a small private
income, this was no unattainable ideal. Then he met with his
_debacle_ in the shame and agony of the court-martial. Whilst his
soul still quivered under the lash of that terrible downfall, Iris came
into his life. He knew not what might happen if they were rescued. The
time would quickly pass until the old order was resumed, she to go back
to her position in society, he to become again a disgraced ex-officer,
apparently working out a mere existence before the mast or handing
plates in a saloon.

Would it not be a sweet defiance of adversity were he able, even under
such conditions, to win her love, and then disclose to her the
potentialities of the island? Perchance he might fail. Though rich as
Croesus he would still be under the social ban meted out to a cashiered
officer. She was a girl who could command the gift of coronets. With
restoration to her father and home, gratitude to her preserver would
assuredly remain, but, alas! love might vanish like a mirage. Then he
would act honorably. Half of the stored wealth would be hers to do as
she chose with it.

Yes, this was a possible alternative. In case of accident to himself,
and her ultimate escape, he must immediately write full details of his
discovery, and entrust the document to her, to be opened only after his
death or six months after their release.

The idea possessed him so thoroughly that he could brook no delay. He
searched for one of the note-books taken from the dead officers of the
_Sirdar_, and scribbled the following letter:

    "DEAR MISS DEANE:

    "Whether I am living or dead when you read these words, you will
    know that I love you. Could I repeat that avowal a million times,
    in as many varied forms, I should find no better phrase to express
    the dream I have cherished since a happy fate permitted me to
    snatch you from death. So I simply say, 'I love you.' I will
    continue to love you whilst life lasts, and it is my dearest hope
    that in the life beyond the grave I may still be able to voice my
    love for you.

    "But perhaps I am not destined to be loved by you. Therefore, in
    the event of my death before you leave the island, I wish to give
    you instructions how to find a gold mine of great value which is
    hidden in the rock containing the cave. You remember the sign on
    the piece of tin which we could not understand. The figure 32
    denotes the utmost depth of the excavation, and the 1 signifies
    that one foot below the surface, on reaching the face of the rock,
    there is a rich vein of gold. The hollow on the other side of the
    cliff became filled with anhydrate gas, and this stopped the
    operations of the Chinese, who evidently knew of the existence of
    the mine. This is all the information the experts employed by Sir
    Arthur Deane will need. The facts are unquestionable.

    "Assuming that I am alive, we will, of course, be co-partners in
    the mine. If I am dead, I wish one-sixth share to be given to my
    uncle, William Anstruther, Crossthwaite Manor, Northallerton,
    Yorkshire, as a recompense for his kindness to me during my early
    life. The remainder is to be yours absolutely.

    "ROBERT ANSTRUTHER."


He read this remarkable document twice through to make sure that it
exactly recorded his sentiments. He even smiled sarcastically at the
endowment of the uncle who disinherited him. Then, satisfied with the
perusal, he tore out the two leaves covered by the letter and began to
devise a means of protecting it securely whilst in Iris's possession.

At that moment he looked up and saw her coming towards him across the
beach, brightly flushed after her bath, walking like a nymph clothed in
tattered garments. Perceiving that he was watching her, she waved her
hand and instinctively quickened her pace. Even now, when they were
thrown together by the exigencies of each hour, she disliked to be long
separated from him.

Instantly the scales fell from his mental vision. What! Distrust Iris!
Imagine for one second that riches or poverty, good repute or ill,
would affect that loyal heart when its virginal font was filled with
the love that once in her life comes to every true woman! Perish the
thought! What evil spirit had power to so blind his perception of all
that was strong and beautiful in her character. Brave, uncomplaining
Iris! Iris of the crystal soul! Iris, whose innocence and candor were
mirrored in her blue eyes and breathed through her dear lips! Here was
Othello acting as his own tempter, with not an Iago within a thousand
miles.

Laughing at his fantastic folly, Jenks tore the letter into little
pieces. It might have been wiser to throw the sheets into the embers of
the fire close at hand, but for the nonce he was overpowered by the
great awakening that had come to him, and he unconsciously murmured the
musical lines of Tennyson's "Maud":

  "She is coming, my own, my sweet;
      Were it ever so airy a tread.
  My heart would hear her and beat
      Were it earth in an earthy bed;
  My dust would hear her and beat,
      Had I lain for a century dead,
  Would start and tremble under her feet,
      And blossom in purple and red."

"Good gracious! Don't gaze at me in that fashion. I don't look like a
ghost, do I?" cried Iris, when near enough to note his rapt expression.

"You would not object if I called you a vision?" he inquired quietly,
averting his eyes lest they should speak more plainly than his tongue.

"Not if you meant it nicely. But I fear that 'specter' would be a more
appropriate word. _V'la ma meilleure robe de sortie_!"

She spread out the front widths of her skirt, and certainly the
prospect was lamentable. The dress was so patched and mended, yet so
full of fresh rents, that a respectable housemaid would hesitate before
using it to clean fire-irons.

"Is that really your best dress?" he said.

"Yes. This is my blue serge. The brown cloth did not survive the
soaking it received in salt water. After a few days it simply crumbled.
The others are muslin or cotton, and have been--er--adapted."

"There is plenty of men's clothing," he began.

"Unfortunately there isn't another island," she said, severely.

"No. I meant that it might be possible to--er--contrive some sort of
rig that will serve all purposes."

"But all my thread is gone. I have barely a needleful left."

"In that case we must fall back on our supply of hemp."

"I suppose that might be made to serve," she said. "You are never at a
loss for an expedient."

"It will be a poor one, I fear. But you can make up for it by buying
some nice gowns at Doucet's or Worth's."

She laughed delightedly. "Perhaps in his joy at my reappearance my dear
old dad may let me run riot in Paris on our way home. But that will not
last. We are fairly well off, but I cannot afford ten thousand a year
for dress alone."

"If any woman can afford such a sum for the purpose, you are at least
her equal."

Iris looked puzzled. "Is that your way of telling me that fine feathers
would make me a fine bird?" she asked.

"No. I intend my words to be understood in their ordinary sense. You
are very, very rich, Miss Deane--an extravagantly wealthy young
person."

"Of course you know you are talking nonsense. Why, only the other day
my father said--"

"Excuse me. What is the average price of a walking-dress from a leading
Paris house?"

"Thirty pounds."

"And an evening dress?"

"Oh, anything, from fifty upwards."

He picked up a few pieces of quartz from the canvas sheet.

"Here is your walking-dress," he said, handing her a lump weighing
about a pound. "With the balance in the heap there you can stagger the
best-dressed woman you meet at your first dinner in England."

"Do you mean by pelting her?" she inquired, mischievously.

"Far worse. By wearing a more expensive costume."

His manner was so earnest that he compelled seriousness. Iris took the
proffered specimen and looked at it.

"From the cave, I suppose? I thought you said antimony was not very
valuable?"

"That is not antimony. It is gold. By chance I have hit upon an
extremely rich lode of gold. At the most modest computation it is worth
hundreds of thousands of pounds. You and I are quite wealthy people,
Miss Deane."

Iris opened her blue eyes very wide at this intelligence. It took her
breath away. But her first words betokened her innate sense of fair
dealing.

"You and I! Wealthy!" she gasped. "I am so glad for your sake, but tell
me, pray, Mr. Jenks, what have _I_ got to do with it?"

"You!" he repeated. "Are we not partners in this island? By squatter's
right, if by no better title, we own land, minerals, wood, game, and
even such weird belongings as ancient lights and fishing privileges."

"I don't see that at all. You find a gold mine, and coolly tell me that
I am a half owner of it because you dragged me out of the sea, fed me,
housed me, saved my life from pirates, and generally acted like a
devoted nursemaid in charge of a baby. Really, Mr. Jenks--"

"Really, Miss Deane, you will annoy me seriously if you say another
word. I absolutely refuse to listen to such an argument."

Her outrageously unbusiness-like utterances, treading fast on the heels
of his own melodramatic and written views concerning their property,
nettled him greatly. Each downright syllable was a sting to his
conscience, but of this Iris was blissfully unaware, else she would not
have applied caustic to the rankling wound caused by his momentary
distrust of her.

For some time they stood in silence, until the sailor commenced to
reproach himself for his rough protest. Perhaps he had hurt her
sensitive feelings. What a brute he was, to be sure! She was only a
child in ordinary affairs, and he ought to have explained things more
lucidly and with greater command over his temper. And all this time
Iris's face was dimpling with amusement, for she understood him so well
that had he threatened to kill her she would have laughed at him.

"Would you mind getting the lamp?" he said softly, surprised to catch
her expression of saucy humor.

"Oh, please may I speak?" she inquired. "I don't want to annoy you, but
I am simply dying to talk."

He had forgotten his own injunction.

"Let us first examine our mine," he said. "If you bring the lamp we can
have a good look at it."

Close scrutiny of the work already done merely confirmed the accuracy
of his first impressions. Whilst Iris held the light he opened up the
seam with a few strokes of the pick. Each few inches it broadened into
a noteworthy volcanic dyke, now yellow in its absolute purity, at times
a bluish black when fused with other metals. The additional labor
involved caused him to follow up the line of the fault. Suddenly the
flame of the lamp began to flicker in a draught. There was an
air-passage between cave and ledge.

"I am sorry," cried Jenks, desisting from further efforts, "that I have
not recently read one of Bret Harte's novels, or I would speak to you
in the language of the mining camp. But in plain Cockney, Miss Deane,
we are on to a good thing if only we can keep it."

They came back into the external glare. Iris was now so serious that
she forgot to extinguish the little lamp. She stood with outstretched
hand.

"There is a lot of money in there," she said.

"Tons of it."

"No need to quarrel about division. There is enough for both of us."

"Quite enough. We can even spare some for our friends."

He took so readily to this definition of their partnership that Iris
suddenly became frigid. Then she saw the ridiculous gleam of the tiny
wick and blew it out.

"I mean," she said, stiffly, "that if you and I do agree to go shares
we will each be very rich."

"Exactly. I applied your words to the mine alone, of course."

A slight thing will shatter a daydream. This sufficed. The sailor
resumed his task of burying the stores.

"Poor little lamp!" he thought. "When it came into the greater world
how soon it was snuffed out."

But Iris said to herself, "What a silly slip that was of mine! Enough
for both of us, indeed! Does he expect me to propose to him? I wonder
what the letter was about which he destroyed as I came back after my
bath. It must have been meant for me. Why did he write it? Why did he
tear it up?"

The hour drew near when Jenks climbed to the Summit Rock. He shouldered
axe and rifle and set forth. Iris heard him rustling upwards through
the trees. She set some water to boil for tea, and, whilst bringing a
fresh supply of fuel, passed the spot where the torn scraps of paper
littered the sand.

She was the soul of honor, for a woman, but there was never a woman yet
who could take her eyes off a written document which confronted her.
She could not help seeing that one small morsel contained her own name.
Though mutilated it had clearly read--Miss Deane."

"So it _was_ intended for me!" she cried, throwing down her bundle
and dropping to her knees. She secured that particular slip and
examined it earnestly. Not for worlds would she pick up all the scraps
and endeavor to sort them. Yet they had a fascination for her, and at
this closer range she saw another which bore the legend--"I love you!"

Somehow the two seemed to fit together very nicely.

Yet a third carried the same words--"I love you!" They were still quite
coherent. She did not want to look any further. She did not even turn
over such of the torn pieces as had fluttered to earth face downwards.

Opening the front of her bodice she brought to light a small gold
locket containing miniatures of her father and mother. Inside this
receptacle she carefully placed the three really material portions of
the sailor's letter. When Jenks walked down the hill again he heard her
singing long before he caught sight of her, sedulously tending the
fire.

As he came near he perceived the remains of his useless document. He
stooped and gathered them up, forthwith throwing them among the glowing
logs.

"By the way, what were you writing whilst I had my bath?" inquired
Iris, demurely.

"Some information about the mine. On second thoughts, however, I saw it
was unnecessary."

"Oh, was that all?"

"Practically all."

"Then some part was impracticable?"

He glanced sharply at her, but she was merely talking at random.

"Well, you see," he explained, "one can do so little without the
requisite plant. This sort of ore requires a crushing-mill, a smelting
furnace, perhaps big tanks filled with cyanide of potassium."

"And, of course, although you can do wonders, you cannot provide all
those things, can you?"

Jenks deemed this query to be unanswerable.

They were busy again until night fell. Sitting down for a little while
before retiring to rest, they discussed, for the hundredth time, the
probabilities of speedy succor. This led them to the topic of available
supplies, and the sailor told Iris the dispositions he had made.

"Did you bury the box of books?" she asked.

"Yes, but not in the cave. They are at the foot of the cinchona over
there. Why? Do you want any?"

"I have a Bible in my room, but there was a Tennyson among the others
which I glanced at in spare moments."

The sailor thanked the darkness that concealed the deep bronze of face
and neck caused by this chance remark. He vaguely recollected the
manner in which the lines from "Maud" came to his lips after the
episode of the letter. Was it possible that he had unknowingly uttered
them aloud and Iris was now slily poking fun at him? He glowed with
embarrassment.

"It is odd that you should mention Tennyson," he managed to say calmly.
"Only today I was thinking of a favorite passage."

Iris, of course, was quite innocent this time.

"Oh, do tell me. Was it from 'Enoch Arden'?"

He gave a sigh of relief. "No. Anything but that," he answered.

"What then?"

"'Maud.'"

"Oh, 'Maud.' It is very beautiful, but I could never imagine why the
poet gave such a sad ending to an idyllic love story."

"They too often end that way. Moreover, 'Enoch Arden' is not what you
might call exhilarating."

"No. It is sad. I have often thought he had the 'Sonata Pathetique' in
his mind when he wrote it. But the note is mournful all through. There
is no promise of happiness as in 'Maud.'"

"Then it is my turn to ask questions. Why did you hit upon that poem
among so many?"

"Because it contains an exact description of our position here. Don't
you remember how the poor fellow


  "'Sat often in the seaward-gazing gorge,
  A shipwrecked sailor, waiting for a sail.'


"I am sure Tennyson saw our island with poetic eye, for he goes on--


  "'No sail from day to day, but every day
  The sunrise broken into scarlet shafts
  Among the palms and ferns and precipices;
  The blaze upon the waters to the east;
  The blaze upon his island overhead;
  The blaze upon the waters to the west;
  Then the great stars that globed themselves in Heaven,
  The hollower-bellowing ocean, and again
  The scarlet shafts of sunrise--but no sail."


She declaimed the melodious verse with a subtle skill that amazed her
hearer. Profoundly moved, Jenks dared not trust himself to speak.

"I read the whole poem the other day," she said after a silence of some
minutes. "Sorrowful as it is, it comforted me by comparison. How
different will be our fate to his when 'another ship stays by this
isle'!"

Yet neither of them knew that one line she had recited was more
singularly applicable to their case than that which they paid heed to.
"The great stars that globed themselves in Heaven," were shining clear
and bright in the vast arch above. Resplendent amidst the throng rose
the Pleiades, the mythological seven hailed by the Greeks as an augury
of safe navigation. And the Dyaks--one of the few remaining savage
races of the world--share the superstition of the people who fashioned
all the arts and most of the sciences.

The Pleiades form the Dyak tutelary genius. Some among a bloodthirsty
and vengeful horde were even then pointing to the clustering stars that
promised quick voyage to the isle where their kinsmen had been struck
down by a white man who rescued a maid. Nevertheless, Grecian romance
and Dyak lore alike relegate the influence of the Pleiades to the sea.
Other stars are needed to foster enterprise ashore.




CHAPTER X

REALITY _V_. ROMANCE--THE CASE FOR THE PLAINTIFF


Night after night the Pleiades swung higher in the firmament; day after
day the sailor perfected his defences and anxiously scanned the ocean
for sign of friendly smoke or hostile sail. This respite would not have
been given to him, were it not for the lucky bullet which removed two
fingers and part of a third from the right hand of the Dyak chief. Not
even a healthy savage can afford to treat such a wound lightly, and ten
days elapsed before the maimed robber was able to move the injured limb
without a curse.

Meanwhile, each night Jenks slept less soundly; each day his face
became more careworn. He began to realize why the island had not been
visited already by the vessel which would certainly be deputed to
search for them--she was examining the great coast-line of China and
Siam.

It was his habit to mark the progress of time on the rudely made
sun-dial which sufficiently served their requirements as a clock. Iris
happened to watch him chipping the forty-fourth notch on the edge of
the horizontal block of wood.

"Have we really been forty-four days here?" she inquired, after
counting the marks with growing astonishment.

"I believe the reckoning is accurate," he said. "The _Sirdar_ was
lost on the 18th of March, and I make this the 1st of May."

"May Day!"

"Yes. Shall we drive to Hurlingham this afternoon?"

"Looked at in that way it seems to be a tremendous time, though indeed,
in some respects, it figures in my mind like many years. That is when I
am thinking. Otherwise, when busy, the days fly like hours."

"It must be convenient to have such an elastic scale."

"Most useful. I strive to apply the quick rate when you are grumpy."

Iris placed her arms akimbo, planted her feet widely apart, and
surveyed Jenks with an expression that might almost be termed impudent.
They were great friends, these two, now. The incipient stage of
love-making had been dropped entirely, as ludicrously unsuited to their
environment.

When the urgent necessity for continuous labor no longer spurred them
to exertion during every moment of daylight, they tackled the box of
books and read, not volumes which appealed to them in common, but
quaint tomes in the use of which Jenks was tutor and Iris the scholar.

It became a fixed principle with the girl that she was very ignorant,
and she insisted that the sailor should teach her. For instance, among
the books he found a treatise on astronomy; it yielded a keen delight
to both to identify a constellation and learn all sorts of wonderful
things concerning it. But to work even the simplest problem required a
knowledge of algebra, and Iris had never gone beyond decimals. So the
stock of notebooks, instead of recording their experiences, became
covered with symbols showing how x plus y equaled x squared minus 3,000,000.

As a variant, Jenks introduced a study of Hindustani. His method was to
write a short sentence and explain in detail its component parts. With
a certain awe Iris surveyed the intricacies of the Urdu compound verb,
but, about her fourth lesson, she broke out into exclamations of
extravagant joy.

"What on earth is the matter now?" demanded her surprised mentor.

"Don't you see?" she exclaimed, delightedly. "Of course you don't!
People who know a lot about a thing often miss its obvious points. I
have discovered how to write Kiplingese. All you have to do is to tell
your story in Urdu, translate it literally into English, and there you
are!"

"Quite so. Just do it as Kipling does, and the secret is laid bare. By
the same rule you can hit upon the Miltonic adjective."

Iris tossed her head.

"I don't know anything about the Miltonic adjective, but I am sure
about Kipling."

This ended the argument. She knitted her brows in the effort to master
the ridiculous complexities of a language which, instead of simply
saying "Take" or "Bring," compels one to say "Take-go" and "Take-come."

One problem defied solution--that of providing raiment for Iris. The
united skill of the sailor and herself would not induce unraveled
cordage to supply the need of thread. It was either too weak or too
knotty, and meanwhile the girl's clothes were falling to pieces. Jenks
tried the fibers of trees, the sinews of birds--every possible
expedient he could hit upon--and perhaps, after experiments covering
some weeks, he might have succeeded. But modern dress stuffs, weakened
by aniline dyes and stiffened with Chinese clay, permit of no such
exhaustive research. It must be remembered that the lady passengers on
board the _Sirdar_ were dressed to suit the tropics, and the hard
usage given by Iris to her scanty stock was never contemplated by the
Manchester or Bradford looms responsible for the durability of the
material.

As the days passed the position became irksome. It even threatened
complete callapse during some critical moment, and the two often
silently surveyed the large number of merely male garments in their
possession. Of course, in the matter of coats and waistcoats there was
no difficulty whatever. Iris had long been wearing those portions of
the doctor's uniform. But when it came to the rest--

At last, one memorable morning, she crossed the Rubicon. Jenks had
climbed, as usual, to the Summit Rock. He came back with the exciting
news that he thought--he could not be certain, but there were
indications inspiring hopefulness--that towards the west of the far-off
island he could discern the smoke of a steamer.

Though he had eyes for a faint cloud of vapor at least fifty miles
distant he saw nothing of a remarkable change effected nearer home.
Outwardly, Iris was attired in her wonted manner, but if her
companion's mind were not wholly monopolized by the bluish haze
detected on the horizon, he must have noticed the turned-up ends of a
pair of trousers beneath the hem of her tattered skirt.

It did occur to him that Iris received his momentous announcement with
an odd air of hauteur, and it was passing strange she did not offer to
accompany him when, after bolting his breakfast, he returned to the
observatory.

He came back in an hour, and the lines on his face were deeper than
before.

"A false alarm," he said curtly in response to her questioning look.

And that was all, though she nerved herself to walk steadily past him
on her way to the well. This was disconcerting, even annoying to a
positive young woman like Iris. Resolving to end the ordeal, she stood
rigidly before him.

"Well," she said, "I've done it!"

"Have you?" he exclaimed, blankly.

"Yes. They're a little too long, and I feel very awkward, but they're
better than--than my poor old dress unsupported."

She blushed furiously, to the sailor's complete bewilderment, but she
bravely persevered and stretched out an unwilling foot.

"Oh. I see!" he growled, and he too reddened.

"I can't help it, can I?" she demanded piteously. "It is not unlike a
riding-habit, is it?"

Then his ready wit helped him.

"An excellent compromise," he cried. "A process of evolution, in fact.
Now, do you know, Miss Deane, that would never have occurred to me."

And during the remainder of the day he did not once look at her feet.
Indeed, he had far more serious matters to distract his thoughts, for
Iris, feverishly anxious to be busy, suddenly suggested that it would
be a good thing were she able to use a rifle if a fight at close
quarters became necessary.

The recoil of the Lee-Metford is so slight that any woman can
manipulate the weapon with effect, provided she is not called upon to
fire from a standing position, in which case the weight is liable to
cause bad aiming. Though it came rather late in the day, Jenks caught
at the idea. He accustomed her in the first instance to the use of
blank cartridges. Then, when fairly proficient in holding and
sighting--a child can learn how to refill the clip and eject each empty
shell--she fired ten rounds of service ammunition. The target was a
white circle on a rock at eighty yards, and those of the ten shots that
missed the absolute mark would have made an enemy at the same distance
extremely uncomfortable.

Iris was much pleased with her proficiency. "Now," she cried, "instead
of being a hindrance to you I may be some help. In any case, the Dyaks
will think there are two men to face, and they have good reason to fear
one of us."

Then a new light dawned upon Jenks.

"Why did you not think of it before?" he demanded. "Don't you see, Miss
Deane, the possibility suggested by your words? I am sorry to be
compelled to speak plainly, but I feel sure that if those scoundrels do
attack us in force it will be more to secure you than to avenge the
loss of their fellow tribesmen. First and foremost, the sea-going Dyaks
are pirates and marauders. They prowl about the coast looking not so
much for a fight as for loot and women. Now, if they return, and
apparently find two well-armed men awaiting them, with no prospect of
plunder, there is a chance they may abandon the enterprise."

Iris did not flinch from the topic. She well knew its grave importance.

"In other words," she said, "I must be seen by them dressed only in
male clothing?"

"Yes, as a last resource, that is. I have some hope that they may not
discover our whereabouts owing to the precautions we have adopted.
Perched up there on the ledge we will be profoundly uncomfortable, but
that will be nothing if it secures our safety."

She did not reply at once. Then she said musingly--"Forty-four days!
Surely there has been ample time to scour the China Sea from end to end
in search of us? My father would never abandon hope until he had the
most positive knowledge that the _Sirdar_ was lost with all on
board."

The sailor, through long schooling, was prepared with an answer--"Each
day makes the prospect of escape brighter. Though I was naturally
disappointed this morning, I must state quite emphatically that our
rescue may come any hour."

Iris looked at him steadily.

"You wear a solemn face for one who speaks so cheerfully," she said.

"You should not attach too great significance to appearances. The owl,
a very stupid bird, is noted for its philosophical expression."

"Then we will strive to find wisdom in words. Do you remember, Mr.
Jenks, that soon after the wreck you told me we might have to remain
here many months?"

"That was a pardonable exaggeration."

"No, no. It was the truth. You are seeking now to buoy me up with false
hope. It is sixteen hundred miles from Hong Kong to Singapore, and half
as much from Siam to Borneo. The _Sirdar_ might have been driven
anywhere in the typhoon. Didn't you say so, Mr. Jenks?"

He wavered under this merciless cross-examination.

"I had no idea your memory was so good," he said, weakly.

"Excellent, I assure you. Moreover, during our forty-four days
together, you have taught me to think. Why do you adopt subterfuge with
me? We are partners in all else. Why cannot I share your despair as
well as your toil?"

She blazed out in sudden wrath, and he understood that she would not be
denied the full extent of his secret fear. He bowed reverently before
her, as a mortal paying homage to an angry goddess.

"I can only admit that you are right," he murmured. "We must pray that
God will direct our friends to this island. Otherwise we may not be
found for a year, as unhappily the fishermen who once came here now
avoid the place. They have been frightened by the contents of the
hollow behind the cliff. I am glad you have solved the difficulty
unaided, Miss Deane. I have striven at times to be coarse, even brutal,
towards you, but my heart flinched from the task of telling you the
possible period of your imprisonment."

Then Iris, for the first time in many days, wept bitterly, and Jenks,
blind to the true cause of her emotion, picked up a rifle to which, in
spare moments, he had affixed a curious device, and walked slowly
across Prospect Park towards the half-obliterated road leading to the
Valley of Death.

The girl watched him disappear among the trees. Through her tears shone
a sorrowful little smile.

"He thinks only of me, never of himself," she communed. "If it pleases
Providence to spare us from these savages, what does it matter to me
how long we remain here? I have never been so happy before in my life.
I fear I never will be again. If it were not for my father's terrible
anxiety I would not have a care in the world. I only wish to get away,
so that one brave soul at least may be rid of needless tortures. All
his worry is on my account, none on his own."

That was what tearful Miss Iris thought, or tried to persuade herself
to think. Perhaps her cogitations would not bear strict analysis.
Perhaps she harbored a sweet hope that the future might yet contain
bright hours for herself and the man who was so devoted to her. She
refused to believe that Robert Anstruther, strong of arm and clear of
brain, a Knight of the Round Table in all that was noble and chivalric,
would permit his name to bear an unwarrantable stigma when--and she
blushed like a June rose--he came to tell her that which he had
written.

The sailor returned hastily, with the manner of one hurrying to perform
a neglected task. Without any explanation to Iris he climbed several
times to the ledge, carrying arm-loads of grass roots which he planted
in full view. Then he entered the cave, and, although he was furnished
only with the dim light that penetrated through the distant exit, she
heard him hewing manfully at the rock for a couple of hours. At last he
emerged, grimy with dust and perspiration, just in time to pay a last
visit to Summit Rock before the sun sank to rest. He asked the girl to
delay somewhat the preparations for their evening meal, as he wished to
take a bath, so it was quite dark when they sat down to eat.

Iris had long recovered her usual state of high spirits.

"Why were you burrowing in the cavern again?" she inquired. "Are you in
a hurry to get rich?"

"I was following an air-shaft, not a lode," he replied. "I am
occasionally troubled with after wit, and this is an instance. Do you
remember how the flame of the lamp flickered whilst we were opening up
our mine?"

"Yes."

"I was so absorbed in contemplating our prospective wealth that I
failed to pay heed to the true significance of that incident. It meant
the existence of an upward current of air. Now, where the current goes
there must be a passage, and whilst I was busy this afternoon among the
trees over there,"--he pointed towards the Valley of Death--"it came to
me like an inspiration that possibly a few hours' hewing and delving
might open a shaft to the ledge. I have been well rewarded for the
effort. The stuff in the vault is so eaten away by water that it is no
more solid than hard mud for the most part. Already I have scooped out
a chimney twelve feet high."

"What good can that be?"

"At present we have only a front door--up the face of the rock. When my
work is completed, before tomorrow night I hope, we shall have a back
door also. Of course I may encounter unforeseen obstacles as I advance.
A twist in the fault would be nearly fatal, but I am praying that it
may continue straight to the ledge."

"I still don't see the great advantage to us."

"The advantages are many, believe me. The more points of attack
presented by the enemy the more effective will be our resistance. I
doubt if they would ever be able to rush the cave were we to hold it,
whereas I can go up and down our back staircase whenever I choose. If
you don't mind being left in the dark I will resume work now, by the
light of your lamp."

But Iris protested against this arrangement. She felt lonely. The long
hours of silence had been distasteful to her. She wanted to talk.

"I agree," said Jenks, "provided you do not pin me down to something I
told you a month ago."

"I promise. You can tell me as much or as little as you think fit. The
subject for discussion is your court-martial."

He could not see the tender light in her eyes, but the quiet sympathy
of her voice restrained the protest prompt on his lips. Yet he blurted
out, after a slight pause--

"That is a very unsavory subject."

"Is it? I do not think so. I am a friend, Mr. Jenks, not an old one, I
admit, but during the past six weeks we have bridged an ordinary
acquaintanceship of as many years. Can you not trust me?"

Trust her? He laughed softly. Then, choosing his words with great
deliberation, he answered--"Yes, I can trust you. I intended to tell
you the story some day. Why not tonight?"

Unseen in the darkness Iris's hand sought and clasped the gold locket
suspended from her neck. She already knew some portion of the story he
would tell. The remainder was of minor importance.

"It is odd," he continued, "that you should have alluded to six years a
moment ago. It is exactly six years, almost to a day, since the trouble
began."

"With Lord Ventnor?" The name slipped out involuntarily.

"Yes. I was then a Staff Corps subaltern, and my proficiency in native
languages attracted the attention of a friend in Simla, who advised me
to apply for an appointment on the political side of the Government of
India. I did so. He supported the application, and I was assured of the
next vacancy in a native state, provided that I got married."

He drawled out the concluding words with exasperating slowness. Iris,
astounded by the stipulation, dropped her locket and leaned forward
into the red light of the log fire. The sailor's quick eye caught the
glitter of the ornament.

"By the way," he interrupted, "what is that thing shining on your
breast?"

She instantly clasped the trinket again. "It is my sole remaining
adornment," she said; "a present from my father on my tenth birthday.
Pray go on!"

"I was not a marrying man, Miss Deane, and the requisite qualification
nearly staggered me. But I looked around the station, and came to the
conclusion that the Commissioner's niece would make a suitable wife. I
regarded her 'points,' so to speak, and they filled the bill. She was
smart, good-looking, lively, understood the art of entertaining, was
first-rate in sports and had excellent teeth. Indeed, if a man selected
a wife as he does a horse, she--"

"Don't be horrid. Was she really pretty?"

"I believe so. People said she was."

"But what did _you_ think?"

"At the time my opinion was biased. I have seen her since, and she
wears badly. She is married now, and after thirty grew very fat."

Artful Jenks! Iris settled herself comfortably to listen.

"I have jumped that fence with a lot in hand," he thought.

"We became engaged," he said aloud.

"She threw herself at him," communed Iris.

"Her name was Elizabeth--Elizabeth Morris." The young lieutenant of
those days called her "Bessie," but no matter.

"Well, you didn't marry her, anyhow," commented Iris, a trifle sharply.

And now the sailor was on level ground again.

"Thank Heaven, no," he said, earnestly. "We had barely become engaged
when she went with her uncle to Simla for the hot weather. There she
met Lord Ventnor, who was on the Viceroy's staff, and--if you don't
mind, we will skip a portion of the narrative--I discovered then why
men in India usually go to England for their wives. Whilst in Simla on
ten days' leave I had a foolish row with Lord Ventnor in the United
Service Club--hammered him, in fact, in defence of a worthless woman,
and was only saved from a severe reprimand because I had been badly
treated. Nevertheless, my hopes of a political appointment vanished,
and I returned to my regiment to learn, after due reflection, what a
very lucky person I was."

"Concerning Miss Morris, you mean?"

"Exactly. And now exit Elizabeth. Not being cut out for matrimonial
enterprise I tried to become a good officer. A year ago, when
Government asked for volunteers to form Chinese regiments, I sent in my
name and was accepted. I had the good fortune to serve under an old
friend, Colonel Costobell; but some malign star sent Lord Ventnor to
the Far East, this time in an important civil capacity. I met him
occasionally, and we found we did not like each other any better. My
horse beat his for the Pagoda Hurdle Handicap--poor old Sultan! I
wonder where he is now."

"Was your horse called 'Sultan'?"

"Yes. I bought him in Meerut, trained him myself, and ferried him all
the way to China. I loved him next to the British Army."

This was quite satisfactory. There was genuine feeling in his voice
now. Iris became even more interested.

"Colonel Costobell fell ill, and the command of the regiment devolved
upon me, our only major being absent in the interior. The Colonel's
wife unhappily chose that moment to flirt, as people say, with Lord
Ventnor. Not having learnt the advisability of minding my own business,
I remonstrated with her, thus making her my deadly enemy. Lord Ventnor
contrived an official mission to a neighboring town and detailed me for
the military charge. I sent a junior officer. Then Mrs. Costobell and
he deliberately concocted a plot to ruin me--he, for the sake of his
old animosity--you remember that I had also crossed his path in
Egypt--she, because she feared I would speak to her husband. On
pretence of seeking my advice, she inveigled me at night into a
deserted corner of the Club grounds at Hong Kong. Lord Ventnor
appeared, and as the upshot of their vile statements, which created an
immediate uproar, I--well, Miss Deane, I nearly killed him."

Iris vividly recalled the anguish he betrayed when this topic was
inadvertently broached one day early in their acquaintance. Now he was
reciting his painful history with the air of a man far more concerned
to be scrupulously accurate than aroused in his deepest passions by the
memory of past wrongs. What had happened in the interim to blunt these
bygone sufferings? Iris clasped her locket. She thought she knew.

"The remainder may be told in a sentence," he said. "Of what avail were
my frenzied statements against the definite proofs adduced by Lord
Ventnor and his unfortunate ally? Even her husband believed her and
became my bitter foe. Poor woman! I have it in my heart to pity her.
Well, that is all. I am here!"

"Can a man be ruined so easily?" murmured the girl, her exquisite tact
leading her to avoid any direct expression of sympathy.

"It seems so. But I have had my reward. If ever I meet Mrs. Costobell
again I will thank her for a great service."

Iris suddenly became confused. Her brow and neck tingled with a quick
access of color.

"Why do you say that?" she asked; and Jenks, who was rising, either did
not hear, or pretended not to hear, the tremor in her tone.

"Because you once told me you would never marry Lord Ventnor, and after
what I have told you now I am quite sure you will not."

"Ah, then you _do_ trust me?" she almost whispered.

He forced back the words trembling for utterance. He even strove weakly
to assume an air of good-humored badinage.

"See how you have tempted me from work, Miss Deane," he cried. "We have
gossiped here until the fire grew tired of our company. To bed, please,
at once."

Iris caught him by the arm.

"I will pray tonight, and every night," she said solemnly, "that your
good name may be cleared in the eyes of all men as it is in mine. And I
am sure my prayer will be answered."

She passed into her chamber, but her angelic influence remained. In his
very soul the man thanked God for the tribulation which brought this
woman into his life. He had traversed the wilderness to find an oasis
of rare beauty. What might lie beyond he neither knew nor cared.
Through the remainder of his existence, be it a day or many a year, he
would be glorified by the knowledge that in one incomparable heart he
reigned supreme, unchallenged, if only for the hour. Fatigue, anxiety,
bitter recollection and present danger, were overwhelmed and forgotten
in the nearness, the intangible presence of Iris. He looked up to the
starry vault, and, yielding to the spell, he, too, prayed.

It was a beautiful night. After a baking hot day the rocks were
radiating their stored-up heat, but the pleasant south-westerly breeze
that generally set in at sunset tempered the atmosphere and made sleep
refreshing. Jenks could not settle down to rest for a little while
after Iris left him. She did not bring forth her lamp, and, unwilling
to disturb her, he picked up a resinous branch, lit it in the dying
fire, and went into the cave.

He wanted to survey the work already done, and to determine whether it
would be better to resume operations in the morning from inside the
excavation or from the ledge. Owing to the difficulty of constructing a
vertical upward shaft, and the danger of a sudden fall of heavy
material, he decided in favor of the latter course, although it
entailed lifting all the refuse out of the hole. To save time,
therefore, he carried his mining tools into the open, placed in
position the _cheval de frise_ long since constructed for the
defence of the entrance, and poured water over the remains of the fire.

This was his final care each night before stretching his weary limbs on
his couch of branches. It caused delay in the morning, but he neglected
no precaution, and there was a possible chance of the Dyaks failing to
discover the Eagle's Nest if they were persuaded by other indications
that the island was deserted.

He entered the hut and was in the act of pulling off his boots, when a
distant shot rang sharply through the air. It was magnified tenfold by
the intense silence. For a few seconds that seemed to be minutes he
listened, cherishing the quick thought that perhaps a turtle, wandering
far beyond accustomed limits, had disturbed one of the spring-gun
communications on the sands. A sputtering volley, which his trained ear
recognized as the firing of muzzle-loaders, sounded the death-knell of
his last hope.

The Dyaks had landed! Coming silently and mysteriously in the dead of
night, they were themselves the victims of a stratagem they designed to
employ. Instead of taking the occupants of Rainbow Island unawares they
were startled at being greeted by a shot the moment they landed. The
alarmed savages at once retaliated by firing their antiquated weapons
point-blank at the trees, thus giving warning enough to wake the Seven
Sleepers.

Iris, fully dressed, was out in a moment.

"They have come!" she whispered.

"Yes," was the cheery answer, for Jenks face to face with danger was a
very different man to Jenks wrestling with the insidious attacks of
Cupid. "Up the ladder! Be lively! They will not be here for half an
hour if they kick up such a row at the first difficulty. Still, we will
take no risks. Cast down those spare lines when you reach the top and
haul away when I say 'Ready!' You will find everything to hand up
there."

He held the bottom of the ladder to steady it for the girl's climb.
Soon her voice fell, like a message from a star--

"All right! Please join me soon!"

The coiled-up ropes dropped along the face of the rock. Clothes, pick,
hatchet, hammer, crowbars, and other useful odds and ends were swung
away into the darkness, for the moon as yet did not illumine the crag.
The sailor darted into Belle Vue Castle and kicked their leafy beds
about the floor. Then he slung all the rifles, now five in number, over
his shoulders, and mounted the rope-ladder, which, with the spare
cords, he drew up and coiled with careful method.

"By the way," he suddenly asked, "have you your sou'wester?"

"Yes."

"And your Bible?"

"Yes. It rests beneath my head every night. I even brought our
Tennyson."

"Ah," he growled fiercely, "this is where the reality differs from the
romance. Our troubles are only beginning now."

"They will end the sooner. For my part, I have utter faith in you. If
it be God's will, we will escape; and no man is more worthy than you to
be His agent."




CHAPTER XI

THE FIGHT


The sailor knew so accurately the position of his reliable sentinels
that he could follow each phase of the imaginary conflict on the other
side of the island. The first outbreak of desultory firing died away
amidst a chorus of protest from every feathered inhabitant of the isle,
so Jenks assumed that the Dyaks had gathered again on the beach after
riddling the scarecrows with bullets or slashing them with their heavy
razor-edged parangs, Malay swords with which experts can fell a stout
sapling at a single blow.

A hasty council was probably held, and, notwithstanding their fear of
the silent company in the hollow, an advance was ultimately made along
the beach. Within a few yards they encountered the invisible cord of
the third spring-gun. There was a report, and another fierce outbreak
of musketry. This was enough. Not a man would move a step nearer that
abode of the dead. The next commotion arose on the ridge near the North
Cape.

"At this rate of progress," said Jenks to the girl, "they will not
reach our house until daylight."

"I almost wish they were here," was the quiet reply. "I find this
waiting and listening to be trying to the nerves."

They were lying on a number of ragged garments hastily spread on the
ledge, and peering intently into the moonlit area of Prospect Park. The
great rock itself was shrouded in somber shadows. Even if they stood up
none could see them from the ground, so dense was the darkness
enveloping them.

He turned slightly and took her hand. It was cool and moist. It no more
trembled than his own.

"The Dyaks are far more scared than you," he murmured with a laugh.
"Cruel and courageous as they are, they dare not face a spook."

"Then what a pity it is we cannot conjure up a ghost for their benefit!
All the spirits I have ever read about were ridiculous. Why cannot one
be useful occasionally?"

The question set him thinking. Unknown to the girl, the materials for a
dramatic apparition were hidden amidst the bushes near the well. He
cudgeled his brains to remember the stage effects of juvenile days; but
these needed limelight, blue flares, mirrors, phosphorus.

The absurdity of hoping to devise any such accessories whilst perched
on a ledge in a remote island--a larger reef of the thousands in the
China Sea--tickled him.

"What is it?" asked Iris.

He repeated his list of missing stage properties. They had nothing to
do but to wait, and people in the very crux and maelstrom of existence
usually discuss trivial things.

"I don't know anything about phosphorus," said the girl, "but you can
obtain queer results from sulphur, and there is an old box of Norwegian
matches resting at this moment on the shelf in my room. Don't you
remember? They were in your pocket, and you were going to throw them
away. Why, what are you doing?"

For Jenks had cast the rope-ladder loose and was evidently about to
descend.

"Have no fear," he said; "I will not be away five minutes."

"If you are going down I must come with you. I will not be left here
alone."

"Please do not stop me," he whispered earnestly. "You must not come. I
will take no risk whatever. If you remain here you can warn me
instantly. With both of us on the ground we will incur real danger. I
want you to keep a sharp lookout towards Turtle Beach in case the Dyaks
come that way. Those who are crossing the island will not reach us for
a long time."

She yielded, though unwillingly. She was tremulous with anxiety on his
account.

He vanished without another word. She next saw him in the moonlight
near the well. He was rustling among the shrubs, and he returned to the
rock with something white in his arms, which he seemingly deposited at
the mouth of the cave. He went back to the well and carried another
similar burthen. Then he ran towards the house. The doorway was not
visible from the ledge, and she passed a few horrible moments until a
low hiss beneath caught her ear. She could tell by the creak of the
rope-ladder that he was ascending. At last he reached her side, and she
murmured, with a gasping sob--

"Don't go away again. I cannot stand it."

He thought it best to soothe her agitation by arousing interest. Still
hauling in the ladder with one hand, he held out the other, on which
luminous wisps were writhing like glow-worms' ghosts.

"You are responsible," he said. "You gave me an excellent idea, and I
was obliged to carry it out."

"What have you done?"

"Arranged a fearsome bogey in the cave."

"But how?"

"It was not exactly a pleasant operation, but the only laws of
necessity are those which must be broken."

She understood that he did not wish her to question him further.
Perhaps curiosity, now that he was safe, might have vanquished her
terror, and led to another demand for enlightenment, but at that
instant the sound of an angry voice and the crunching of coral away to
the left drove all else from her mind.

"They are coming by way of the beach, after all," whispered Jenks.

He was mistaken, in a sense. Another outburst of intermittent firing
among the trees on the north of the ridge showed that some, at least,
of the Dyaks were advancing by their former route. The appearance of
the Dyak chief on the flat belt of shingle, with his right arm slung
across his breast, accompanied by not more than half a dozen followers,
showed that a few hardy spirits had dared to pass the Valley of Death
with all its nameless terrors.

They advanced cautiously enough, as though dreading a surprise. The
chief carried a bright parang in his left hand; the others were armed
with guns, their swords being thrust through belts. Creeping forward on
tip-toe, though their distant companions were making a tremendous row,
they looked a murderous gang as they peered across the open space, now
brilliantly illuminated by the moon.

Jenks had a sudden intuition that the right thing to do now was to
shoot the whole party. He dismissed the thought at once. All his
preparations were governed by the hope that the pirates might abandon
their quest after hours of fruitless search. It would be most unwise,
he told himself, to precipitate hostilities. Far better avoid a
conflict altogether, if that were possible, than risk the immediate
discovery of his inaccessible retreat.

In other words he made a grave mistake, which shows how a man may err
when over-agonized by the danger of the woman he loves. The bold course
was the right one. By killing the Dyak leader he would have deprived
the enemy of the dominating influence in this campaign of revenge. When
the main body, already much perturbed by the unseen and intangible
agencies which opened fire at them in the wood, arrived in Prospect
Park to find only the dead bodies of their chief and his small force,
their consternation could be turned into mad panic by a vigorous
bombardment from the rock.

Probably, in less than an hour after their landing, the whole tribe
would have rushed pell-mell to the boats, cursing the folly which led
them to this devil-haunted island. But it serves no good purpose to say
what might have been. As it was the Dyaks, silent now and moving with
the utmost caution, passed the well, and were about to approach the
cave when one of them saw the house.

Instantly they changed their tactics. Retreating hastily to the shade
of the opposite cliff they seemed to await the coming of
reinforcements. The sailor fancied that a messenger was dispatched by
way of the north sands to hurry up the laggards, because the distant
firing slackened, and, five minutes later, a fierce outbreak of yells
among the trees to the right heralded a combined rush on the Belle Vue
Castle.

The noise made by the savages was so great--the screams of bewildered
birds circling overhead so incessant--that Jenks was compelled to speak
quite loudly when he said to Iris--

"They must think we sleep soundly not to be disturbed by the volleys
they have fired already."

She would have answered, but he placed a restraining hand on her
shoulder, for the Dyaks quickly discovering that the hut was empty, ran
towards the cave and thus came in full view.

As well as Jenks could judge, the foremost trio of the yelping horde
were impaled on the bayonets of the _cheval de frise_, learning
too late its formidable nature. The wounded men shrieked in agony, but
their cries were drowned in a torrent of amazed shouts from their
companions. Forthwith there was a stampede towards the well, the cliff,
the beaches, anywhere to get away from that awesome cavern where ghosts
dwelt and men fell maimed at the very threshold. The sailor, leaning as
far over the edge of the rock as the girl's expostulations would
permit, heard a couple of men groaning beneath, whilst a third limped
away with frantic and painful haste.

"What is it?" whispered Iris, eager herself to witness the tumult.
"What has happened?"

"They have been routed by a box of matches and a few dried bones," he
answered.

There was no time for further speech. He was absorbed in estimating the
probable number of the Dyaks. Thus far, he had seen about fifty.
Moreover, he did not wish to acquaint Iris with the actual details of
the artifice that had been so potent. Her allusion to the box of
water-sodden Taendstickors gave him the notion of utilizing as an active
ally the bleached remains of the poor fellow who had long ago fallen a
victim to this identical mob of cut-throats or their associates. He
gathered the principal bones from their resting-place near the well,
rubbed them with the ends of the matches after damping the sulphur
again, and arranged them with ghastly effect on the pile of rubbish at
the further end of the cave, creeping under the _cheval de frise_
for the purpose.

Though not so vivid as he wished, the pale-glimmering headless skeleton
in the intense darkness of the interior was appalling enough in all
conscience. Fortunately the fumes of the sulphur fed on the bony
substance. They endured a sufficient time to scare every Dyak who
caught a glimpse of the monstrous object crouching in luminous horror
within the dismal cavern.

Not even the stirring exhortations of the chief, whose voice was raised
in furious speech, could induce his adherents to again approach that
affrighting spot. At last the daring scoundrel himself, still wielding
his naked sword, strode right up to the very doorway. Stricken with
sudden stupor, he gazed at the fitful gleams within. He prodded the
_cheval de frise_ with the parang. Here was something definite and
solid. Then he dragged one of the wounded men out into the moonlight.

Again Jenks experienced an itching desire to send a bullet through the
Dyak's head; again he resisted the impulse. And so passed that which is
vouchsafed by Fate to few men--a second opportunity.

Another vehement harangue by the chief goaded some venturesome spirits
into carrying their wounded comrade out of sight, presumably to the
hut. Inspired by their leader's fearless example, they even removed the
third injured Dyak from the vicinity of the cave, but the celerity of
their retreat caused the wretch to bawl in agony.

Their next undertaking was no sooner appreciated by the sailor than he
hurriedly caused Iris to shelter herself beneath the tarpaulin, whilst
he cowered close to the floor of the ledge, looking only through the
screen of tall grasses. They kindled a fire near the well. Soon its
ruddy glare lit up the dark rock with fantastic flickerings, and drew
scintillations from the weapons and ornaments of the hideously
picturesque horde gathered in its vicinity.

They spoke a language of hard vowels and nasal resonance, and ate what
he judged to be dry fish, millets, and strips of tough preserved meat,
which they cooked on small iron skewers stuck among the glowing embers.
His heart sank as he counted sixty-one, all told, assembled within
forty yards of the ledge. Probably several others were guarding the
boats or prowling about the island. Indeed, events proved that more
than eighty men had come ashore in three large sampans, roomy and fleet
craft, well fitted for piratical excursions up river estuaries or along
a coast.

They were mostly bare-legged rascals, wearing Malay hats, loose jackets
reaching to the knee, and sandals. One man differed essentially from
the others. He was habited in the conventional attire of an Indian
Mahommedan, and his skin was brown, whilst the swarthy Dyaks were
yellow beneath the dirt. Jenks thought, from the manner in which his
turban was tied, that he must be a Punjabi Mussulman--very likely an
escaped convict from the Andamans.

The most careful scrutiny did not reveal any arms of precision. They
all carried muzzle-loaders, either antiquated flintlocks, or guns
sufficiently modern to be fitted with nipples for percussion caps.

Each Dyak, of course, sported a parang and dagger-like kriss; a few
bore spears, and about a dozen shouldered a long straight piece of
bamboo. The nature of this implement the sailor could not determine at
the moment. When the knowledge did come, it came so rapidly that he was
saved from many earlier hours of abiding; dread, for one of those
innocuous-looking weapons was fraught with more quiet deadliness than a
Gatling gun.

In the neighborhood of the fire an animated discussion took place.
Though it was easy to see that the chief was all-paramount, his
fellow-tribesmen exercised a democratic right of free speech and
outspoken opinion.

Flashing eyes and expressive hands were turned towards cave and hut.
Once, when the debate grew warm, the chief snatched up a burning branch
and held it over the blackened embers of the fire extinguished by
Jenks. He seemed to draw some definite conclusion from an examination
of the charcoal, and the argument thenceforth proceeded with less
emphasis. Whatever it was that he said evidently carried conviction.

Iris, nestling close to the sailor, whispered--

"Do you know what he has found out?"

"I can only guess that he can tell by the appearance of the burnt wood
how long it is since it was extinguished. Clearly they agree with him."

"Then they know we are still here?"

"Either here or gone within a few hours. In any case they will make a
thorough search of the island at daybreak."

"Will it be dawn soon?"

"Yes. Are you tired?"

"A little cramped--that is all."

"Don't think I am foolish--can you manage to sleep?"

"Sleep! With those men so near!"

"Yes. We do not know how long they will remain. We must keep up our
strength. Sleep, next to food and drink, is a prime necessity."

"If it will please you, I will try," she said, with such sweet
readiness to obey his slightest wish that the wonder is he did not kiss
her then and there. By previous instruction she knew exactly what to
do. She crept quietly back until well ensconced in the niche widened
and hollowed for her accommodation. There, so secluded was she from the
outer world of horror and peril, that the coarse voices beneath only
reached her in a murmur. Pulling one end of the tarpaulin over her, she
stretched her weary limbs on a litter of twigs and leaves, commended
herself and the man she loved to God's keeping, and, wonderful though
it may seem, was soon slumbering peacefully.

The statement may sound passing strange to civilized ears, accustomed
only to the routine of daily life and not inured to danger and wild
surroundings. But the soldier who has snatched a hasty doze in the
trenches, the sailor who has heard a fierce gale buffeting the walls of
his frail ark, can appreciate the reason why Iris, weary and surfeited
with excitement, would have slept were she certain that the next
sunrise would mark her last hour on earth.

Jenks, too, composed himself for a brief rest. He felt assured that
there was not the remotest chance of their lofty perch being found out
before daybreak, and the first faint streaks of dawn would awaken him.

These two, remote, abandoned, hopelessly environed by a savage enemy,
closed their eyes contentedly and awaited that which the coming day
should bring forth.

When the morning breeze swept over the ocean and the stars were
beginning to pale before the pink glory flung broadcast through the sky
by the yet invisible sun, the sailor was aroused by the quiet
fluttering of a bird about to settle on the rock, but startled by the
sight of him.

His faculties were at once on the alert, though he little realized the
danger betokened by the bird's rapid dart into the void. Turning first
to peer at Iris, he satisfied himself that she was still asleep. Her
lips were slightly parted in a smile; she might be dreaming of summer
and England. He noiselessly wormed his way to the verge of the rock and
looked down through the grass-roots.

The Dyaks were already stirring. Some were replenishing the fire,
others were drawing water, cooking, eating, smoking long thin-stemmed
pipes with absurdly small bowls, or oiling their limbs and weapons with
impartial energy. The chief yet lay stretched on the sand, but, when
the first beams of the sun gilded the waters, a man stooped over the
prostrate form and said something that caused the sleeper to rise
stiffly, supporting himself on his uninjured arm. They at once went off
together towards Europa Point.

"They have found the boat," thought Jenks. "Well, they are welcome to
all the information it affords."

The pair soon returned. Another Dyak advanced to exhibit one of Jenks's
spring-gun attachments. The savages had a sense of humor. Several
laughed heartily when the cause of their overnight alarms was revealed.
The chief alone preserved a gloomy and saturnine expression.

He gave some order at which they all hung back sheepishly. Cursing them
in choice Malay, the chief seized a thick faggot and strode in the
direction of the cave. Goaded into activity by his truculent demeanor,
some followed him, and Jenks--unable to see, but listening
anxiously--knew that they were tearing the _cheval de frise_ from
its supports. Nevertheless none of the working party entered the
excavation. They feared the parched bones that shone by night.

"Poor J.S.!" murmured the sailor. "If his spirit still lingers near the
scene of his murder he will thank me for dragging him into the fray. He
fought them living and he can scare them dead."

As he had not been able to complete the communicating shaft it was not
now of vital importance should the Dyaks penetrate to the interior. Yet
he thanked the good luck that had showered such a heap of rubbish over
the spot containing his chief stores and covering the vein of gold.
Wild as these fellows were, they well knew the value of the precious
metal, and if by chance they lighted upon such a well-defined lode they
might not quit the island for weeks.

At last, on a command from the chief, the Dyaks scattered in various
directions. Some turned towards Europa Point, but the majority went to
the east along Turtle Beach or by way of the lagoon. Prospect Park was
deserted. They were scouring both sections of the island in full force.

The quiet watcher on the ledge took no needless risks. Though it was
impossible to believe any stratagem had been planned for his special
benefit an accident might betray him. With the utmost circumspection he
rose on all fours and with comprehensive glance examined trees,
plateau, and both strips of beach for signs of a lurking foe. He need
have no fear. Of all places in the island the Dyaks least imagined that
their quarry had lain all night within earshot of their encampment.

At this hour, when the day had finally conquered the night, and the
placid sea offered a turquoise path to the infinite, the scene was
restful, gently bewitching. He knew that, away there to the north, P.
and O. steamers, Messageries Maritimes, and North German Lloyd liners
were steadily churning the blue depths _en route_ to Japan or the
Straits Settlements. They carried hundreds of European passengers, men
and women, even little children, who were far removed from the
knowledge that tragedies such as this Dyak horror lay almost in their
path. People in London were just going to the theater. He recalled the
familiar jingle of the hansoms scampering along Piccadilly, the more
stately pace of the private carriages crossing the Park. Was it
possible that in the world of today--the world of telegraphs and
express trains, of the newspaper and the motor car--two inoffensive
human beings could be done to death so shamefully and openly as would
be the fate of Iris and himself if they fell into the hands of these
savages! It was inconceivable, intolerable! But it was true!

And then, by an odd trick of memory, his mind reverted, not to the
Yorkshire manor he learnt to love as a boy, but to a little French
inland town where he once passed a summer holiday intent on improving
his knowledge of the language. Interior France is even more remote,
more secluded, more provincial, than agricultural England. There no
breath of the outer world intrudes. All is laborious, circumspect, a
trifle poverty-stricken, but beautified by an Arcadian simplicity. Yet
one memorable day, when walking by the banks of a river, he came upon
three men dragging from out a pool the water-soaked body of a young
girl into whose fair forehead the blunt knob often seen on the back of
an old-fashioned axe had been driven with cruel force. So, even in that
tiny old-world hamlet, murder and lust could stalk hand in hand.

He shuddered. Why did such a hateful vision trouble him? Resolutely
banning the raven-winged specter, he slid back down the ledge and
gently wakened Iris. She sat up instantly and gazed at him with
wondering eyes.

Fearful lest she should forget her surroundings, he placed a warning
finger on his lips.

"Oh," she said in a whisper, "are they still here?"

He told her what had happened, and suggested that they should have
something to eat whilst the coast was clear beneath. She needed no
second bidding, for the long vigil of the previous night had made her
very hungry, and the two breakfasted right royally on biscuit, cold
fowl, ham, and good water.

In this, the inner section of their refuge, they could be seen only by
a bird or by a man standing on the distant rocky shelf that formed the
southern extremity of the opposite cliff, and the sailor kept a close
lookout in that direction.

Iris was about to throw the remains of the feast into an empty oil-tin
provided for refuse when Jenks restrained her.

"No," he said, smilingly. "Scraps should be the first course next time.
We must not waste an atom of food."

"How thoughtless of me!" she exclaimed. "Please tell me you think they
will go away today."

But the sailor flung himself flat on the ledge and grasped a
Lee-Metford.

"Be still, on your life," he said. "Squeeze into your corner. There is
a Dyak on the opposite cliff."

True enough, a man had climbed to that unhappily placed rocky table,
and was shouting something to a confrere high on the cliff over their
heads. As yet he had not seen them, nor even noticed the place where
they were concealed. The sailor imagined, from the Dyak's gestures,
that he was communicating the uselessness of further search on the
western part of the island.

When the conversation ceased, he hoped the loud-voiced savage would
descend. But no! The scout looked into the valley, at the well, the
house, the cave. Still he did not see the ledge. At that unlucky moment
three birds, driven from the trees on the crest by the passage of the
Dyaks, flew down the face of the cliff and began a circling quest for
some safe perch on which to alight.

Jenks swore with an emphasis not the less earnest because it was mute,
and took steady aim at the Dyak's left breast. The birds fluttered
about in ever smaller circles. Then one of them dropped easily on to
the lip of the rock. Instantly his bright eyes encountered those of the
man, and he darted off with a scream that brought his mates after him.

The Dyak evidently noted the behavior of the birds--his only lore was
the reading of such signs--and gazed intently at the ledge. Jenks he
could not distinguish behind the screen of grass. He might perhaps see
some portion of the tarpaulin covering the stores, but at the distance
it must resemble a weather-beaten segment of the cliff. Yet something
puzzled him. After a steady scrutiny he turned and yelled to others on
the beach.

The crucial moment had arrived. Jenks pressed the trigger, and the Dyak
hurtled through the air, falling headlong out of sight.

The sound of this, the first shot of real warfare, awoke Rainbow Island
into tremendous activity. The winged life of the place filled the air
with raucous cries, whilst shouting Dyaks scurried in all directions.
Several came into the valley. Those nearest the fallen man picked him
up and carried him to the well. He was quite dead, and, although amidst
his other injuries they soon found the bullet wound, they evidently did
not know whence the shot came, for those to whom he shouted had no
inkling of his motive, and the slight haze from the rifle was instantly
swept away by the breeze.

Iris could hear the turmoil beneath, and she tremulously asked--

"Are they going to attack us?"

"Not yet," was the reassuring answer. "I killed the fellow who saw us
before he could tell the others."

It was a bold risk, and he had taken it, though, now the Dyaks knew for
certain their prey had not escaped, there was no prospect of their
speedy departure. Nevertheless the position was not utterly hopeless.
None of the enemy could tell how or by whom their companion had been
shot. Many among the excited horde jabbering beneath actually looked at
the cliff over and over again, yet failed to note the potentialities of
the ledge, with its few tufts of grass growing where seeds had
apparently been blown by the wind or dropped by passing birds.

Jenks understood, of course, that the real danger would arise when they
visited the scene of their comrade's disaster. Even then the wavering
balance of chance might cast the issue in his favor. He could only
wait, with ready rifle, with the light of battle lowering in his eyes.
Of one thing at least he was certain--before they conquered him he
would levy a terrible toll.

He glanced back at Iris. Her face was pale beneath its mask of
sunbrown. She was bent over her Bible, and Jenks did not know that she
was reading the 91st Psalm. Her lips murmured--

"I will say unto the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in
Him will I trust."

The chief was listening intently to the story of the Dyak who saw the
dead man totter and fall. He gave some quick order. Followed by a score
or more of his men he walked rapidly to the foot of the cliff where
they found the lifeless body.

And Iris read--

"Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow
that flieth by day."

Jenks stole one more hasty glance at her. The chief and the greater
number of his followers were out of sight behind the rocks. Some of
them must now be climbing to that fatal ledge. Was this the end?

Yet the girl, unconscious of the doom impending, kept her eyes
steadfastly fixed on the book.

"For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy
ways.

"They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot
against a stone....

"He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in
trouble: I will deliver him and honour him."

Iris did not apply the consoling words to herself. She closed the book
and bent forward sufficiently in her sheltering niche to permit her to
gaze with wistful tenderness upon the man whom she hoped to see
delivered and honored. She knew he would dare all for her sake. She
could only pray and hope. After reading those inspired verses she
placed implicit trust in the promise made. For He was good: His was the
mercy that "endureth forever." Enemies encompassed them with words of
hatred--fought against them without a cause--but there was One who
should "judge among the heathen" and "fill the places with dead
bodies."

Suddenly a clamor of discordant yells fell upon her ears. Jenks rose to
his knees. The Dyaks had discovered their refuge and were about to open
fire. He offered them a target lest perchance Iris were not thoroughly
screened.

"Keep close," he said. "They have found us. Lead will be flying around
soon."

She flinched back into the crevice; the sailor fell prone. Four bullets
spat into the ledge, of which three pierced the tarpaulin and one
flattened itself against the rock.

Then Jenks took up the tale. So curiously constituted was this man,
that although he ruthlessly shot the savage who first spied out their
retreat, he was swayed only by the dictates of stern necessity. There
was a feeble chance that further bloodshed might be averted. That
chance had passed. Very well. The enemy must start the dreadful game
about to be played. They had thrown the gage and he answered them. Four
times did the Lee-Metford carry death, unseen, almost unfelt, across
the valley.

Ere the fourth Dyak collapsed limply where he stood, others were there,
firing at the little puff of smoke above the grass. They got in a few
shots, most of which sprayed at various angles off the face of the
cliff. But they waited for no more. When the lever of the Lee-Metford
was shoved home for the fifth time the opposing crest was bare of all
opponents save two, and they lay motionless.

The fate of the flanking detachment was either unperceived or unheeded
by the Dyaks left in the vicinity of the house and well. Astounded by
the firing that burst forth in mid-air, Jenks had cleared the dangerous
rock before they realized that here, above their heads, were the white
man and the maid whom they sought.

With stupid zeal they blazed away furiously, only succeeding in
showering fragments of splintered stone into the Eagle's Nest. And the
sailor smiled. He quietly picked up an old coat, rolled it into a ball
and pushed it into sight amidst the grass. Then he squirmed round on
his stomach and took up a position ten feet away. Of course those who
still carried loaded guns discharged them at the bundle of rags,
whereupon Jenks thrust his rifle beyond the edge of the rock and leaned
over.

Three Dyaks fell before the remainder made up their minds to run. Once
convinced, however, that running was good for their health, they moved
with much celerity. The remaining cartridges in the magazine slackened
the pace of two of their number. Jenks dropped the empty weapon and
seized another. He stood up now and sent a quick reminder after the
rearmost pirate. The others had disappeared towards the locality where
their leader and his diminished troupe were gathered, not daring to
again come within range of the whistling Dum-dums. The sailor, holding
his rifle as though pheasant-shooting, bent forward and sought a
belated opponent, but in vain. In military phrase, the _terrain_
was clear of the enemy. There was no sound save the wailing of birds,
the soft sough of the sea, and the yelling of the three wounded men in
the house, who knew not what terrors threatened, and vainly bawled for
succor.

Again Jenks could look at Iris. Her face was bleeding. The sight
maddened him.

"My God!" he groaned, "are you wounded?"

She smiled bravely at him.

"It is nothing," she said. "A mere splash from the rock which cut my
forehead."

He dared not go to her. He could only hope that it was no worse, so he
turned to examine the valley once more for vestige of a living foe.




CHAPTER XII

A TRUCE


Though his eyes, like live coals, glowered with sullen fire at the
strip of sand and the rocks in front, his troubled brain paid
perfunctory heed to his task. The stern sense of duty, the ingrained
force of long years of military discipline and soldierly thought,
compelled him to keep watch and ward over his fortress, but he could
not help asking himself what would happen if Iris were seriously
wounded.

There was one enemy more potent than these skulking Dyaks, a foe more
irresistible in his might, more pitiless in his strength, whose
assaults would tax to the utmost their powers of resistance. In another
hour the sun would be high in the heavens, pouring his ardent rays upon
them and drying the blood in their veins.

Hitherto, the active life of the island, the shade of trees, hut or
cave, the power of unrestricted movement and the possession of water in
any desired quantity, robbed the tropical heat of the day of its chief
terrors. Now all was changed. Instead of working amidst grateful
foliage, they were bound to the brown rock, which soon would glow with
radiated energy and give off scorching gusts like unto the opening of a
furnace-door.

This he had foreseen all along. The tarpaulin would yield them some
degree of uneasy protection, and they both were in perfect physical
condition. But--if Iris were wounded! If the extra strain brought fever
in its wake! That way he saw nothing but blank despair, to be ended,
for her, by delirium and merciful death, for him by a Berserk rush
among the Dyaks, and one last mad fight against overwhelming numbers.

Then the girl's voice reached him, self-reliant, almost cheerful--

"You will be glad to hear that the cut has stopped bleeding. It is only
a scratch."

So a kindly Providence had spared them yet a little while. The cloud
passed from his mind, the gathering mist from his eyes. In that instant
he thought he detected a slight rustling among the trees where the
cliff shelved up from the house. Standing as he was on the edge of the
rock, this was a point he could not guard against.

When her welcome assurance recalled his scattered senses, he stepped
back to speak to her, and in the same instant a couple of bullets
crashed against the rock overhead. Iris had unwittingly saved him from
a serious, perhaps fatal, wound.

He sprang to the extreme right of the ledge and boldly looked into the
trees beneath. Two Dyaks were there, belated wanderers cut off from the
main body. They dived headlong into the undergrowth for safety, but one
of them was too late. The Lee-Metford reached him, and its
reverberating concussion, tossed back and forth by the echoing rocks,
drowned his parting scream.

In the plenitude of restored vigor the sailor waited for no counter
demonstration. He turned and crouchingly approached the southern end of
his parapet. Through his screen of grass he could discern the long
black hair and yellow face of a man who lay on the sand and twisted his
head around the base of the further cliff. The distance, oft measured,
was ninety yards, the target practically a six-inch bull's-eye. Jenks
took careful aim, fired, and a whiff of sand flew up.

Perhaps he had used too fine a sight and ploughed a furrow beneath the
Dyak's ear. He only heard a faint yell, but the enterprising head
vanished and there were no more volunteers for that particular service.

He was still peering at the place when a cry of unmitigated anguish
came from Iris--

"Oh, come quick! Our water! The casks have burst!"

It was not until Jenks had torn the tarpaulin from off their stores,
and he was wildly striving with both hands to scoop up some precious
drops collected in the small hollows of the ledge, that he realized the
full magnitude of the disaster which had befallen them.

During the first rapid exchange of fire, before the enemy vacated the
cliff, several bullets had pierced the tarpaulin. By a stroke of
exceeding bad fortune two of them had struck each of the water-barrels
and started the staves. The contents quietly ebbed away beneath the
broad sheet, and flowing inwards by reason of the sharp slope of the
ledge, percolated through the fault. Iris and he, notwithstanding their
frenzied efforts, were not able to save more than a pint of gritty
discolored fluid. The rest, infinitely more valuable to them than all
the diamonds of De Beers, was now oozing through the natural channel
cut by centuries of storm, dripping upon the headless skeleton in the
cave, soaking down to the very heart of their buried treasure.

Jenks was so paralyzed by this catastrophe that Iris became alarmed. As
yet she did not grasp its awful significance. That he, her hero, so
brave, so confident in the face of many dangers, should betray such
sense of irredeemable loss, frightened her much more than the incident
itself.

Her lips whitened. Her words become incoherent.

"Tell me," she whispered. "I can bear anything but silence. Tell me, I
implore you. Is it so bad?"

The sight of her distress sobered him. He ground his teeth together as
a man does who submits to a painful operation and resolves not to
flinch beneath the knife.

"It is very bad," he said; "not quite the end, but near it."

"The end," she bravely answered, "is death! We are living and
uninjured. You must fight on. If the Lord wills it we shall not die."

He looked in her blue eyes and saw there the light of Heaven.

"God bless you, dear girl," he murmured brokenly. "You would cheer any
man through the Valley of the Shadow, were he Christian or
Faint-heart."

Her glance did not droop before his. In such moments heart speaks to
heart without concealment.

"We still have a little water," she cried. "Fortunately we are not
thirsty. You have not forgotten our supply of champagne and brandy?"

There was a species of mad humor in the suggestion. Oh for another
miracle that should change the wine into water!

He could only fall in with her unreflective mood and leave the dreadful
truth to its own evil time. In their little nook the power of the sun
had not yet made itself felt. By ordinary computation it was about nine
o'clock. Long before noon they would be grilling. Throughout the next
few hours they must suffer the torture of Dives with one meager pint of
water to share between them. Of course the wine and spirit must be
shunned like a pestilence. To touch either under such conditions would
be courting heat, apoplexy, and death. And next day!

He tightened his jaws before he answered--

"We will console ourselves with a bottle of champagne for dinner.
Meanwhile, I hear our friends shouting to those left on this side of
the island. I must take an active interest in the conversation."

He grasped a rifle and lay down on the ledge, already gratefully warm.
There was a good deal of sustained shouting going on. Jenks thought he
recognized the chief's voice, giving instructions to those who had come
from Smugglers' Cove and were now standing on the beach near the
quarry.

"I wonder if he is hungry," he thought. "If so, I will interfere with
the commissariat."

Iris peeped forth at him.

"Mr. Jenks!"

"Yes," without turning his head. He knew it was an ordinary question.

"May I come too?"

"What! expose yourself on the ledge!"

"Yes, even that. I am so tired of sitting here alone."

"Well, there is no danger at present. But they might chance to see you,
and you remember what I--"

"Yes, I remember quite well. If that is all--" There was a rustle of
garments. "I am very mannish in appearance. If you promise not to look
at me I will join you."

"I promise."

Iris stepped forth. She was flushed a little, and, to cover her
confusion, may be, she picked up a Lee-Metford.

"Now there are two guns," she said, as she stood near him.

He could see through the tail of his eye that a slight but elegantly
proportioned young gentleman of the sea-faring profession had suddenly
appeared from nowhere. He was glad she had taken this course. It might
better the position were the Dyaks to see her thus.

"The moment I tell you, you must fall flat," he warned her. "No
ceremony about it. Just flop!"

"I don't know anything better calculated to make one flop than a
bullet," she laughed. Not yet did the tragedy of the broken kegs appeal
to her.

"Yes, but it achieves its purpose in two ways. I want you to adopt the
precautionary method."

"Trust me for that. Good gracious!"

The sailor's rifle went off with an unexpected bang that froze the
exclamation on her lips. Three Dyaks were attempting to run the
gauntlet to their beleaguered comrades. They carried a jar and two
wicker baskets. He with the jar fell and broke it. The others doubled
back like hares, and the first man dragged himself after them. Jenks
did not fire again.

Iris watched the wounded wretch crawling along the ground. Her eyes
grew moist, and she paled somewhat. When he vanished she looked into
the valley and at the opposing ledge; three men lay dead within twenty
yards of her. Two others dangled from the rocks. It took her some time
to control her quavering utterance sufficiently to say--

"I hope I may not have to use a gun. I know it cannot be helped, but if
I were to kill a human being I do not think I would ever rest again."

"In that case I have indeed murdered sleep today," was the unfeeling
reply.

"No! no! A man must be made of sterner stuff. We have a right to defend
ourselves. If need be I will exercise that right. Still it is horrid,
oh, so horrid!"

She could not see the sailor's grim smile. It would materially affect
his rest, for the better, were he able to slay every Dyak on the island
with a single shot. Yet her gentle protest pleased him. She could not
at the same time be callous to human suffering and be Iris. But he
declined the discussion of such sentiments.

"You were going to say something when a brief disturbance took place?"
he inquired.

"Yes. I was surprised to find how hot the ledge has become."

"You notice it more because you are obliged to remain here."

After a pause--

"I think I understand now why you were so upset by the loss of our
water supply. Before the day ends we will be in great straits, enduring
agonies from thirst!"

"Let us not meet the devil half-way," he rejoined. He preferred the
unfair retort to a confession which could only foster dismay.

"But, please, I am thirsty now."

He moved uneasily. He was only too conscious of the impish weakness,
common to all mankind, which creates a desire out of sheer inability to
satisfy it. Already his own throat was parched. The excitement of the
early struggle was in itself enough to engender an acute thirst. He
thought it best to meet their absolute needs as far as possible.

"Bring the tin cup," he said. "Let us take half our store and use the
remainder when we eat. Try to avoid breathing through your mouth. The
hot air quickly affects the palate and causes an artificial dryness. We
cannot yet be in real need of water. It is largely imagination."

Iris needed no second bidding. She carefully measured out half a pint
of the unsavory fluid--the dregs of the casks and the scourings of the
ledge.

"I will drink first," she cried.

"No, no," he interrupted impatiently. "Give it to me."

She pretended to be surprised.

"As a mere matter of politeness----"

"I am sorry, but I must insist."

She gave him the cup over his shoulder. He placed it to his lips and
gulped steadily.

"There," he said, gruffly. "I was in a hurry. The Dyaks may make
another rush at any moment."

Iris looked into the vessel.

"You have taken none at all," she said.

"Nonsense!"

"Mr. Jenks, be reasonable! You need it more than I. I d-don't want
to--live w-without--you."

His hands shook somewhat. It was well there was no call for accurate
shooting just then.

"I assure you I took all I required," he declared with unnecessary
vehemence.

"At least drink your share, to please me," she murmured.

"You wished to humbug me," he grumbled. "If you will take the first
half I will take the second."

And they settled it that way. The few mouthfuls of tepid water gave
them new life. One sense can deceive the others. A man developing all
the symptoms of hydrophobia has been cured by the assurance that the
dog which bit him was not mad. So these two, not yet aflame with
drought, banished the arid phantom for a little while.

Nevertheless, by high noon they were suffering again. The time passed
very slowly. The sun rose to the zenith and filled earth and air with
his ardor. It seemed to be a miracle--now appreciated for the first
time in their lives--that the sea did not dry up, and the leaves wither
on the trees. The silence, the deathly inactivity of all things, became
intolerable. The girl bravely tried to confine her thoughts to the task
of the hour. She displayed alert watchfulness, an instant readiness to
warn her companion of the slightest movement among the trees or by the
rocks to the north-west, this being the arc of their periphery assigned
to her.

Looking at a sunlit space from cover, and looking at the same place
when sweltering in the direct rays of a tropical sun, are kindred
operations strangely diverse in achievement. Iris could not reconcile
the physical sensitiveness of the hour with the careless hardihood of
the preceding days. Her eyes ached somewhat, for she had tilted her
sou'wester to the back of her head in the effort to cool her throbbing
temples. She put up her right hand to shade the too vivid reflection of
the glistening sea, and was astounded to find that in a few minutes the
back of her hand was scorched. A faint sound of distant shouting
disturbed her painful reverie.

"How is it," she asked, "that we feel the heat so much today? I have
hardly noticed it before."

"For two good reasons--forced idleness and radiation from this
confounded rock. Moreover, this is the hottest day we have experienced
on the island. There is not a breath of air, and the hot weather has
just commenced."

"Don't you think," she said, huskily, "that our position here is quite
hopeless?"

They were talking to each other sideways. The sailor never turned his
gaze from the southern end of the valley.

"It is no more hopeless now than last night or this morning," he
replied.

"But suppose we are kept here for several days?"

"That was always an unpleasant probability."

"We had water then. Even with an ample supply it would be difficult to
hold out. As things are, such a course becomes simply impossible."

Her despondency pierced his soul. A slow agony was consuming her.

"It is hard, I admit," he said. "Nevertheless you must bear up until
night falls. Then we will either obtain water or leave this place."

"Surely we can do neither."

"We may be compelled to do both."

"But how?"

In this, his hour of extremest need, the man was vouchsafed a shred of
luck. To answer her satisfactorily would have baffled a Talleyrand. But
before he could frame a feeble pretext for his too sanguine prediction,
a sampan appeared, eight hundred yards from Turtle Beach, and
strenuously paddled by three men. The vague hallooing they had heard
was explained.

The Dyaks, though to the manner born, were weary of sun-scorched rocks
and salt water. The boat was coming in response to their signals, and
the sight inspired Jenks with fresh hope. Like a lightning flash came
the reflection that if he could keep them away from the well and
destroy the sampan now hastening to their assistance, perhaps conveying
the bulk of their stores, they would soon tire of slaking their thirst,
on the few pitcher-plants growing on the north shore.

"Come quick," he shouted, adjusting the backsight of a rifle. "Lie down
and aim at the front of that boat, a little short if anything. It
doesn't matter if the bullets strike the sea first."

He placed the weapon in readiness for her and commenced operations
himself before Iris could reach his side. Soon both rifles were
pitching twenty shots a minute at the sampan. The result of their
long-range practice was not long in doubt. The Dyaks danced from seat
to seat in a state of wild excitement. One man was hurled overboard.
Then the craft lurched seaward in the strong current, and Jenks told
Iris to leave the rest to him.

Before he could empty a second magazine a fortunate bullet ripped a
plank out and the sampan filled and went down, amidst a shrill yell of
execration from the back of the cliff. The two Dyaks yet living
endeavored to swim ashore, half a mile through shark-invested reefs.
The sailor did not even trouble about them. After a few frantic
struggles each doomed wretch flung up his arms and vanished. In the
clear atmosphere the on-lookers could see black fins cutting the
pellucid sea.

This exciting episode dispelled the gathering mists from the girl's
brain. Her eyes danced and she breathed hard. Yet something worried
her.

"I hope I didn't hit the man who fell out of the boat," she said.

"Oh," came the prompt assurance, "I took deliberate aim at that chap.
He was a most persistent scoundrel."

Iris was satisfied. Jenks thought it better to lie than to tell the
truth, for the bald facts hardly bore out his assertion. Judging from
the manner of the Dyak's involuntary plunge he had been hit by a
ricochet bullet, whilst the sailor's efforts were wholly confined to
sinking the sampan. However, let it pass. Bullet or shark, the end was
the same.

They were quieting down--the thirst fiend was again slowly salting
their veins--when something of a dirty white color fluttered into sight
from behind the base of the opposite cliff. It was rapidly withdrawn,
to reappear after an interval. Now it was held more steadily and a
brown arm became visible. As Jenks did not fire, a turbaned head popped
into sight. It was the Mahommedan.

"No shoot it," he roared. "Me English speak it."

"Don't you speak Hindustani?" shouted Jenks in Urdu of the Higher
Proficiency.

"Han, sahib!"[Footnote: Yes, sir.] was the joyful response. "Will your
honor permit his servant to come and talk with him?"

"Yes, if you come unarmed."

"And the chief, too, sahib?"

"Yes, but listen! On the first sign of treachery I shoot both of you!"

"We will keep faith, sahib. May kites pick our bones if we fail!"

Then there stepped into full view the renegade Mussulman and his
leader. They carried no guns; the chief wore his kriss.

[Illustration: THE TWO HALTED SOME TEN PACES IN FRONT OF THE CAVERN.
AND THE BELLIGERENTS SURVEYED EACH OTHER.]

"Tell him to leave that dagger behind!" cried the sailor imperiously.
As the enemy demanded a parley he resolved to adopt the conqueror's
tone from the outset. The chief obeyed with a scowl, and the two
advanced to the foot of the rock.

"Stand close to me," said Jenks to Iris. "Let them see you plainly, but
pull your hat well down over your eyes."

She silently followed his instructions. Now that the very crisis of
their fate had arrived she was nervous, shaken, conscious only of a
desire to sink on her knees, and pray.

One or two curious heads were craned round the corner of the rock.

"Stop!" cried Jenks. "If those men do not instantly go away I will fire
at them."

The Indian translated this order and the chief vociferated some
clanging syllables which had the desired effect. The two halted some
ten paces in front of the cavern, and the belligerents surveyed each
other. It was a fascinating spectacle, this drama in real life. The
yellow-faced Dyak, gaudily attired in a crimson jacket and sky-blue
pantaloons of Chinese silk--a man with the _beaute du diable_,
young, and powerfully built--and the brown-skinned white-clothed
Mahommedan, bony, tall, and grey with hardship, looked up at the
occupants of the ledge. Iris, slim and boyish in her male garments, was
dwarfed by the six-foot sailor, but her face was blood-stained, and
Jenks wore a six weeks' stubble of beard. Holding their Lee-Metfords
with alert ease, with revolvers strapped to their sides, they presented
a warlike and imposing tableau in their inaccessible perch. In the path
of the emissaries lay the bodies of the slain. The Dyak leader scowled
again as he passed them.

"Sahib," began the Indian, "my chief, Taung S'Ali, does not wish to
have any more of his men killed in a foolish quarrel about a woman.
Give her up, he says, and he will either leave you here in peace, or
carry you safely to some place where you can find a ship manned by
white men."

"A woman!" said Jenks, scornfully. "That is idle talk! What woman is
here?"

This question nonplussed the native.

"The woman whom the chief saw half a month back, sahib."

"Taung S'Ali was bewitched. I slew his men so quickly that he saw
spirits."

The chief caught his name and broke in with a question. A volley of
talk between the two was enlivened with expressive gestures by Taung
S'Ali, who several times pointed to Iris, and Jenks now anathematized
his thoughtless folly in permitting the Dyak to approach so near. The
Mahommedan, of course, had never seen her, and might have persuaded the
other that in truth there were two men only on the rock.

His fears were only too well founded. The Mussulman salaamed
respectfully and said--

"Protector of the poor, I cannot gainsay your word, but Taung S'Ali
says that the maid stands by your side, and is none the less the woman
he seeks in that she wears a man's clothing."

"He has sharp eyes, but his brain is addled," retorted the sailor. "Why
does he come here to seek a woman who is not of his race? Not only has
he brought death to his people and narrowly escaped it himself, but he
must know that any violence offered to us will mean the extermination
of his whole tribe by an English warship. Tell him to take away his
boats and never visit this isle again. Perhaps I will then forget his
treacherous attempt to murder us whilst we slept last night."

The chief glared back defiantly, whilst the Mahommedan said--

"Sahib, it is beet not to anger him too much. He says he means to have
the girl. He saw her beauty that day and she inflamed his heart. She
has cost him many lives, but she is worth a Sultan's ransom. He cares
not for warships. They cannot reach his village in the hills. By the
tomb of Nizam-ud-din, sahib, he will not harm you if you give her up,
but if you refuse he will kill you both. And what is one woman more or
less in the world that she should cause strife and blood-letting?"

The sailor knew the Eastern character too well not to understand the
man's amazement that he should be so solicitous about the fate of one
of the weaker sex. It was seemingly useless to offer terms, yet the
native was clearly so anxious for an amicable settlement that he caught
at a straw.

"You come from Delhi?" he asked.

"Honored one, you have great wisdom."

"None but a Delhi man swears by the tomb on the road to the Kutub. You
have escaped from the Andamans?"

"Sahib, I did but slay a man in self-defence."

"Whatever the cause, you can never again see India. Nevertheless, you
would give many years of your life to mix once more with the
bazaar-folk in the Chandni Chowk, and sit at night on a charpoy near
the Lahore Gate?"

The brown skin assumed a sallow tinge.

"That is good speaking," he gurgled.

"Then help me and my friend to escape. Compel your chief to leave the
island. Kill him! Plot against him! I will promise you freedom and
plenty of rupees. Do this, and I swear to you I will come in a ship and
take you away. The miss-sahib's father is powerful. He has great
influence with the Sirkar."[Footnote: The Government of India.]

Taung S'Ali was evidently bewildered and annoyed by this passionate
appeal which he did not understand. He demanded an explanation, and the
ready-witted native was obliged to invent some plausible excuse. Yet
when he raised his face to Jenks there was the look of a hunted animal
in his eyes.

"Sahib," he said, endeavoring to conceal his agitation. "I am one among
many. A word from me and they would cut my throat. If I were with you
there on the rock I would die with you, for I was in the Kumaon
Rissala[Footnote: A native cavalry regiment.] when the trouble befell
me. It is of no avail to bargain with a tiger, sahib. I suppose you
will not give up the miss-sahib. Pretend to argue with me. I will help
in any way possible."

Jenks's heart bounded when this unlooked-for offer reached his ears.
The unfortunate Mahommedan was evidently eager to get away from the
piratical gang into whose power he had fallen. But the chief was
impatient, if not suspicious of these long speeches.

Angrily holding forth a Lee-Metford the sailor shouted--

"Tell Taung S'Ali that I will slay him and all his men ere tomorrow's
sun rises. He knows something of my power, but not all. Tonight, at the
twelfth hour, you will find a rope hanging from the rock. Tie thereto a
vessel of water. Fail not in this. I will not forget your services. I
am Anstruther Sahib, of the Belgaum Rissala."

The native translated his words into a fierce defiance of Taung S'Ali
and his Dyaks. The chief glanced at Jenks and Iris with an ominous
smile. He muttered something.

"Then, sahib. There is nothing more to be said. Beware of the trees on
your right. They can send silent death even to the place where you
stand. And I will not fail you tonight, on my life," cried the
interpreter.

"I believe you. Go! But inform your chief that once you have
disappeared round the rock whence you came I will talk to him only with
a rifle."

Taung S'Ali seemed to comprehend the Englishman's emphatic motions.
Waving his hand defiantly, the Dyak turned, and, with one parting
glance of mute assurance, the Indian followed him.

And now there came to Jenks a great temptation. Iris touched his arm
and whispered--

"What have you decided? I did not dare to speak lest he should hear my
voice."

Poor girl! She was sure the Dyak could not penetrate her disguise,
though she feared from the manner in which the conference broke up that
it had not been satisfactory.

Jenks did not answer her. He knew that if he killed Taung S'Ali his men
would be so dispirited that when the night came they would fly. There
was so much at stake--Iris, wealth, love, happiness, life itself--all
depended on his plighted word. Yet his savage enemy, a slayer of women,
a human vampire soiled with every conceivable crime, was stalking back
to safety with a certain dignified strut, calmly trusting to the white
man's bond.

Oh, it was cruel! The ordeal of that ghastly moment was more trying
than all that he had hitherto experienced. He gave a choking sob of
relief when the silken-clad scoundrel passed out of sight without even
deigning to give another glance at the ledge or at those who silently
watched him.

Iris could not guess the nature of the mortal struggle raging in the
sailor's soul.

"Tell me," she repeated, "what have you done?"

"Kept faith with that swaggering ruffian," he said, with an odd feeling
of thankfulness that he spoke truly.

"Why? Have you made him any promise?"

"Unhappily I permitted him to come here, so I had to let him go. He
recognized you instantly."

This surprised her greatly.

"Are you sure? I saw him pointing at me, but he seemed to be in such a
bad temper that I imagined that he was angry with you for exchanging a
prepossessing young lady for an ill-favored youth."

Jenks with difficulty suppressed a sigh. Her words for an instant had
the old piquant flavor.

Keeping a close watch on the sheltering promontory, he told her all
that had taken place. Iris became very downcast when she grasped the
exact state of affairs. She was almost certain when the Dyaks proposed
a parley that reasonable terms would result. It horrified her beyond
measure to find that she was the rock on which negotiations were
wrecked. Hope died within her. The bitterness of death was in her
breast.

"What an unlucky influence I have had on your existence!" she
exclaimed. "If it were not for me this trouble at least would be spared
you. Because I am here you are condemned. Again, because I stopped you
from shooting that wretched chief and his companions they are now
demanding your life as a forfeit. It is all my fault. I cannot bear
it."

She was on the verge of tears. The strain had become too great for her.
After indulging in a wild dream of freedom, to be told that they must
again endure the irksome confinement, the active suffering, the slow
horrors of a siege in that rocky prison, almost distracted her.

Jenks was very stern and curt in his reply.

"We must make the best of a bad business," he said. "If we are in a
tight place the Dyaks are not much better off, and eighteen of their
number are dead or wounded. You forget, too, that Providence has sent
us a most useful ally in the Mahommedan. When all is said and done,
things might be far worse than they are."

Never before had his tone been so cold, his manner so abrupt, not even
in the old days when he purposely endeavored to make her dislike him.

She walked along the ledge and timidly bent over him.

"Forgive me!" she whispered; "I did forget for the moment, not only the
goodness of Providence, but also your self-sacrificing devotion. I am
only a woman, and I don't want to die yet, but I will not live unless
you too are saved."

Once already that day she had expressed this thought in other words.
Was some shadowy design flitting through her brain? Suppose they were
faced with the alternatives of dying from thirst or yielding to the
Dyaks. Was there another way out? Jenks shivered, though the rock was
grilling him. He must divert her mind from this dreadful brooding.

"The fact is," he said with a feeble attempt at cheerfulness, "we are
both hungry and consequently grumpy. Now, suppose you prepare lunch. We
will feel ever so much better after we have eaten."

The girl choked back her emotion, and sadly essayed the task of
providing a meal which was hateful to her. In doing so she saw her
Bible, lying where she had placed it that morning, the leaves still
open at the 91st Psalm. She had indeed forgotten the promise it
contained--

"For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy
ways."

A few tears fell now and made little furrows down her soiled cheeks.
But they were helpful tears, tears of resignation, not of despair.
Although the "destruction that wasteth at noonday" was trying her
sorely she again felt strong and sustained.

She even smiled on detecting an involuntary effort to clear her stained
face. She was about to carry a biscuit and some tinned meat to the
sailor when a sharp exclamation from him caused her to hasten to his
side.

The Dyaks had broken cover. Running in scattered sections across the
sands, they were risking such loss as the defenders might be able to
inflict upon them during a brief race to the shelter and food to be
obtained in the other part of the island.

Jenks did not fire at the scurrying gang. He was waiting for one man,
Taung S'Ali. But that redoubtable person, having probably suggested
this dash for liberty, had fully realized the enviable share of
attention he would attract during the passage. He therefore discarded
his vivid attire, and, by borrowing odd garments, made himself
sufficiently like unto the remainder of his crew to deceive the sailor
until the rush of men was over. Among them ran the Mahommedan, who did
not look up the valley but waved his hand.

When all had quieted down again Jenks understood how he had been
fooled. He laughed so heartily that Iris, not knowing either the cause
of his merriment or the reason of his unlooked-for clemency to the
flying foe, feared the sun had affected him.

He at once quitted the post occupied during so protracted a vigil.

"Now," he cried, "we can eat in peace. I have stripped the chief of his
finery. His men can twit him on being forced to shed his gorgeous
plumage in order to save his life. Anyhow, they will leave us in peace
until night falls, so we must make the best of a hot afternoon."

But he was mistaken. A greater danger than any yet experienced now
threatened them, though Iris, after perusing that wonderful psalm,
might have warned him of it had she known the purpose of those long
bamboos carried by some of the savages.

For Taung S'Ali, furious and unrelenting, resolved that if he could not
obtain the girl he would slay the pair of them; and he had terrible
weapons in his possession--weapons that could send "silent death even
to the place where they stood."




CHAPTER XIII

REALITY _V_. ROMANCE--THE CASE FOR THE DEFENDANT


Residents in tropical countries know that the heat is greatest, or
certainly least bearable, between two and four o'clock in the
afternoon.

At the conclusion of a not very luscious repast, Jenks suggested that
they should rig up the tarpaulin in such wise as to gain protection
from the sun and yet enable him to cast a watchful eye over the valley.
Iris helped to raise the great canvas sheet on the supports he had
prepared. Once shut off from the devouring sun rays, the hot breeze
then springing into fitful existence cooled their blistered but
perspiring skin and made life somewhat tolerable.

Still adhering to his policy of combatting the first enervating attacks
of thirst, the sailor sanctioned the consumption of the remaining
water. As a last desperate expedient, to be resorted to only in case of
sheer necessity, he uncorked a bottle of champagne and filled the tin
cup. The sparkling wine, with its volume of creamy foam, looked so
tempting that Iris would then and there have risked its potency were
she not promptly withheld.

Jenks explained to her that when the wine became quite flat and insipid
they might use it to moisten their parched lips. Even so, in their
present super-heated state, the liquor was unquestionably dangerous,
but he hoped it would not harm them if taken in minute quantities.

Accustomed now to implicitly accept his advice, she fought and steadily
conquered the craving within her. Oddly enough, the "thawing" of their
scorched bodies beneath the tarpaulin brought a certain degree of
relief. They were supremely uncomfortable, but that was as naught
compared with the relaxation from the torments previously borne.

For a long time--the best part of an hour, perhaps--they remained
silent.

The sailor was reviewing the pros and cons of their precarious
condition. It would, of course, be a matter of supreme importance were
the Indian to be faithful to his promise. Here the prospect was
decidedly hopeful. The man was an old _sowar_, and the ex-officer
of native cavalry knew how enduring was the attachment of this poor
convict to home and military service. Probably at that moment the
Mahommedan was praying to the Prophet and his two nephews to aid him in
rescuing the sahib and the woman whom the sahib held so dear, for the
all-wise and all-powerful Sirkar is very merciful to offending natives
who thus condone their former crimes.

But, howsoever willing he might be, what could one man do among so
many? The Dyaks were hostile to him in race and creed, and assuredly
infuriated against the foreign devil who had killed or wounded, in
round numbers, one-fifth of their total force. Very likely, the hapless
Mussulman would lose his life that night in attempting to bring water
to the foot of the rock.

Well, he, Jenks, might have something to say in that regard. By
midnight the moon would illumine nearly the whole of Prospect Park. If
the Mahommedan were slain in front of the cavern his soul would travel
to the next world attended by a Nizam's cohort of slaughtered slaves.

Even if the man succeeded in eluding the vigilance of his present
associates, where was the water to come from? There was none on the
island save that in the well. In all likelihood the Dyaks had a store
in the remaining sampans, but the native ally of the beleaguered pair
would have a task of exceeding difficulty in obtaining one of the jars
or skins containing it.

Again, granting all things went well that night, what would be the
final outcome of the struggle? How long could Iris withstand the
exposure, the strain, the heart-breaking misery of the rock? The future
was blurred, crowded with ugly and affrighting fiends passing in
fantastic array before his vision, and mouthing dumb threats of madness
and death.

He shook restlessly, not aware that the girl's sorrowful glance,
luminous with love and pain, was fixed upon him. Summarily dismissing
these grisly phantoms of the mind, he asked himself what the Mahommedan
exactly meant by warning him against the trees on the right and the
"silent death" that might come from them. He was about to crawl forth
to the lip of the rock and investigate matters in that locality when
Iris, who also was busy with her thoughts, restrained him.

"Wait a little while," she said. "None of the Dyaks will venture into
the open until night falls. And I have something to say to you."

There was a quiet solemnity in her voice that Jenks had never heard
before. It chilled him. His heart acknowledged a quick sense of evil
omen. He raised himself slightly and turned towards her. Her face,
beautiful and serene beneath its disfigurements, wore an expression of
settled purpose. For the life of him he dared not question her.

"That man, the interpreter," she said, "told you that if I were given
up to the chief, he and his followers would go away and molest you no
more."

His forehead seamed with sudden anger.

"A mere bait," he protested. "In any event it is hardly worth
discussion."

And the answer came, clear and resolute--

"I think I will agree to those terms."

At first he regarded her with undisguised and wordless amazement. Then
the appalling thought darted through his brain that she contemplated
this supreme sacrifice in order to save him. A clammy sweat bedewed his
brow, but by sheer will power he contrived to say--

"You must be mad to even dream of such a thing. Don't you understand
what it means to you--and to me? It is a ruse to trap us. They are
ungoverned savages. Once they had you in their power they would laugh
at a promise made to me."

"You may be mistaken. They must have some sense of fair dealing. Even
assuming that such was their intention, they may depart from it. They
have already lost a great many men. Their chief, having gained his main
object, might not be able to persuade them to take further risks. I
will make it a part of the bargain that they first supply you with
plenty of water. Then you, unaided, could keep them at bay for many
days. We lose nothing; we can gain a great deal by endeavoring to
pacify them."

"Iris!" he gasped, "what are you saying?"

The unexpected sound of her name on his lips almost unnerved her. But
no martyr ever went to the stake with more settled purpose than this
pure woman, resolved to immolate herself for the sake of the man she
loved. He had dared all for her, faced death in many shapes. Now it was
her turn. Her eyes were lit with a seraphic fire, her sweet face
resigned as that of an angel.

"I have thought it out," she murmured, gazing at him steadily, yet
scarce seeing him. "It is worth trying as a last expedient. We are
abandoned by all, save the Lord; and it does not appear to be His holy
will to help us on earth. We can struggle on here until we die. Is that
right, when one of us may live?"

Her very candor had betrayed her. She would go away with these
monstrous captors, endure them, even flatter them, until she and they
were far removed from the island. And then--she would kill herself. In
her innocence she imagined that self-destruction, under such
circumstances, was a pardonable offence. She only gave a life to save a
life, and greater love than this is not known to God or man.

The sailor, in a tempest of wrath and wild emotion, had it in his mind
to compel her into reason, to shake her, as one shakes a wayward child.

He rose to his knees with this half-formed notion in his fevered brain.
Then he looked at her, and a mist seemed to shut her out from his
sight. Was she lost to him already? Was all that had gone before an
idle dream of joy and grief, a wizard's glimpse of mirrored happiness
and vague perils? Was Iris, the crystal-souled--thrown to him by the
storm-lashed waves--to be snatched away by some irresistible and malign
influence?

In the mere physical effort to assure himself that she was still near
to him he gathered her up in his strong hands. Yes, she was there,
breathing, wondering, palpitating. He folded her closely to his breast,
and, yielding to the passionate longings of his tired heart, whispered
to her--

"My darling, do you think I can survive your loss? You are life itself
to me. If we have to die, sweet one, let us die together."

Then Iris flung her arms around his neck.

"I am quite, quite happy now," she sobbed brokenly. "I
didn't--imagine--it would come--this way, but--I am thankful--it has
come."

[Illustration: LOVE, TREMENDOUS IN ITS POWER, UNFATHOMABLE IN ITS
MYSTERY, HAD CAST ITS SPELL OVER THEM.]

For a little while they yielded to the glamour of the divine knowledge
that amidst the chaos of eternity each soul had found its mate. There
was no need for words. Love, tremendous in its power, unfathomable in
its mystery, had cast its spell over them. They were garbed in light,
throned in a palace built by fairy hands. On all sides squatted the
ghouls of privation, misery, danger, even grim death; but they heeded
not the Inferno; they had created a Paradise in an earthly hell.

Then Iris withdrew herself from the man's embrace. She was delightfully
shy and timid now.

"So you really do love me?" she whispered, crimson-faced, with shining
eyes and parted lips.

He drew her to him again and kissed her tenderly. For he had cast all
doubt to the winds. No matter what the future had in store she was his,
his only; it was not in man's power to part them. A glorious effulgence
dazzled his brain. Her love had given him the strength of Goliath, the
confidence of David. He would pluck her from the perils that environed
her. The Dyak was not yet born who should rend her from him.

He fondled her hair and gently rubbed her cheek with his rough fingers.
The sudden sense of ownership of this fair woman was entrancing. It
almost bewildered him to find Iris nestling close, clinging to him in
utter confidence and trust.

"But I knew, I knew," she murmured. "You betrayed yourself so many
times. You wrote your secret to me, and, though you did not tell me, I
found your dear words on the sands, and have treasured them next my
heart."

What girlish romance was this? He held her away gingerly, just so far
that he could look into her eyes.

"Oh, it is true, quite true," she cried, drawing the locket from her
neck. "Don't you recognize your own handwriting, or were you not
certain, just then, that you really did love me?"

Dear, dear! How often would she repeat that wondrous phrase! Together
they bent over the tiny slips of paper. There it was again--"I love
you"--twice blazoned in magic symbols. With blushing eagerness she told
him how, by mere accident of course, she caught sight of her own name.
It was not very wrong, was it, to pick up that tiny scrap, or those
others, which she could not help seeing, and which unfolded their
simple tale so truthfully? Wrong! It was so delightfully right that he
must kiss her again to emphasize his convictions.

All this fondling and love-making had, of course, an air of grotesque
absurdity because indulged in by two grimy and tattered individuals
crouching beneath a tarpaulin on a rocky ledge, and surrounded by
bloodthirsty savages intent on their destruction. Such incidents
require the setting of convention, the conservatory, with its wealth of
flowers and plants, a summer wood, a Chippendale drawing-room. And yet,
God wot, men and women have loved each other in this grey old world
without stopping to consider the appropriateness of place and season.

After a delicious pause Iris began again----

"Robert--I must call you Robert now--there, there, please let me get a
word in even edgeways--well then, Robert dear, I do not care much what
happens now. I suppose it was very wicked and foolish of me to speak as
I did before--before you called me Iris. Now tell me at once. Why did
you call me Iris?"

"You must propound that riddle to your godfather."

"No wriggling, please. Why did you do it?"

"Because I could not help myself. It slid out unawares."

"How long have you thought of me only as Iris, your Iris?"

"Ever since I first understood that somewhere in the wide world was a
dear woman to love me and be loved."

"But at one time you thought her name was Elizabeth?"

"A delusion, a mirage! That is why those who christened you had the
wisdom of the gods."

Another interlude. They grew calmer, more sedate. It was so undeniably
true they loved one another that the fact was becoming venerable with
age. Iris was perhaps the first to recognize its quiet certainty.

"As I cannot get you to talk reasonably," she protested, "I must appeal
to your sympathy. I am hungry, and oh, so thirsty."

The girl had hardly eaten a morsel for her midday meal. Then she was
despondent, utterly broken-hearted. Now she was filled with new hope.
There was a fresh motive in existence. Whether destined to live an hour
or half a century, she would never, never leave him, nor, of course,
could he ever, ever leave her. Some things were quite impossible--for
example, that they should part.

Jenks brought her a biscuit, a tin of meat, and that most doleful cup
of champagne.

"It is not exactly _frappe_," he said, handing her the insipid
beverage, "but, under other conditions, it is a wine almost worthy to
toast you in."

She fancied she had never before noticed what a charming smile he had.

"'Toast' is a peculiarly suitable word," she cried. "I am simply
frizzling. In these warm clothes----"

She stopped. For the first time since that prehistoric period when she
was "Miss Deane" and he "Mr. Jenks" she remembered the manner of her
garments.

"It is not the warm clothing you feel so much as the want of air,"
explained the sailor readily. "This tarpaulin has made the place very
stuffy, but we must put up with it until sundown. By the way, what is
that?"

A light tap on the tarred canvas directly over his head had caught his
ear. Iris, glad of the diversion, told him she had heard the noise
three or four times, but fancied it was caused by the occasional
rustling of the sheet on the uprights.

Jenks had not allowed his attention to wander altogether from external
events. Since the Dyaks' last escapade there was no sign of them in the
valley or on either beach. Not for trivial cause would they come again
within range of the Lee-Metfords.

They waited and listened silently. Another tap sounded on the tarpaulin
in a different place, and they both concurred in the belief that
something had darted in curved flight over the ledge and fallen on top
of their protecting shield.

"Let us see what the game is," exclaimed the sailor. He crept to the
back of the ledge and drew himself up until he could reach over the
sheet. He returned, carrying in his hand a couple of tiny arrows.

"There are no less than seven of these things sticking in the canvas,"
he said. "They don't look very terrible. I suppose that is what my
Indian friend meant by warning me against the trees on the right."

He did not tell Iris all the Mahommedan said. There was no need to
alarm her causelessly. Even whilst they examined the curious little
missile another flew up from the valley and lodged on the roof of their
shelter.

The shaft of the arrow, made of some extremely hard wood, was about ten
inches in length. Affixed to it was a pointed fish-bone, sharp, but not
barbed, and not fastened in a manner suggestive of much strength. The
arrow was neither feathered nor grooved for a bowstring. Altogether it
seemed to be a childish weapon to be used by men equipped with lead and
steel.

Jenks could not understand the appearance of this toy. Evidently the
Dyaks believed in its efficacy, or they would not keep on
pertinaciously dropping an arrow on the ledge.

"How do they fire it?" asked Iris. "Do they throw it?"

"I will soon tell you," he replied, reaching for a rifle.

"Do not go out yet," she entreated him. "They cannot harm us. Perhaps
we may learn more by keeping quiet. They will not continue shooting
these things all day."

Again a tiny arrow traveled towards them in a graceful parabola. This
one fell short. Missing the tarpaulin, it almost dropped on the girl's
outstretched hand. She picked it up. The fish-bone point had snapped by
contact with the floor of the ledge.

She sought for and found the small tip.

"See," she said. "It seems to have been dipped in something. It is
quite discolored."

Jenks frowned peculiarly. A startling explanation had suggested itself
to him. Fragments of forgotten lore were taking cohesion in his mind.

"Put it down. Quick!" he cried.

Iris obeyed him, with wonder in her eyes. He spilled a teasponful of
champagne into a small hollow of the rock and steeped one of the
fish-bones in the liquid. Within a few seconds the champagne assumed a
greenish tinge and the bone became white. Then he knew.

"Good Heavens!" he exclaimed, "these are poisoned arrows shot through a
blowpipe. I have never before seen one, but I have often read about
them. The bamboos the Dyaks carried were sumpitans. These fish-bones
have been steeped in the juice of the upas tree. Iris, my dear girl, if
one of them had so much as scratched your finger nothing on earth could
save you."

She paled and drew back in sudden horror. This tiny thing had taken the
semblance of a snake. A vicious cobra cast at her feet would be less
alarming, for the reptile could be killed, whilst his venomous fangs
would only be used in self-defence.

Another tap sounded on their thrice-welcome covering. Evidently the
Dyaks would persist in their efforts to get one of those poisoned darts
home.

Jenks debated silently whether it would be better to create a
commotion, thus inducing the savages to believe they had succeeded in
inflicting a mortal wound, or to wait until the next arrow fell, rush
out, and try conclusions with Dum-dum bullets against the sumpitan
blowers.

He decided in favor of the latter course. He wished to dishearten his
assailants, to cram down their throats the belief that he was
invulnerable, and could visit their every effort with a deadly
reprisal.

Iris, of course, protested when he explained his project. But the
fighting spirit prevailed. Their love idyll must yield to the needs of
the hour.

He had not long to wait. The last arrow fell, and he sprang to the
extreme right of the ledge. First he looked through that invaluable
screen of grass. Three Dyaks were on the ground, and a fourth in the
fork of a tree. They were each armed with a blowpipe. He in the tree
was just fitting an arrow into the bamboo tube. The others were
watching him.

Jenks raised his rifle, fired, and the warrior in the tree pitched
headlong to the ground. A second shot stretched a companion on top of
him. One man jumped into the bushes and got away, but the fourth
tripped over his unwieldy sumpitan and a bullet tore a large section
from his skull. The sailor then amused himself with breaking the
bamboos by firing at them. He came back to the white-faced girl.

"I fancy that further practice with blowpipes will be at a discount on
Rainbow Island," he cried cheerfully.

But Iris was anxious and distrait.

"It is very sad," she said, "that we are obliged to secure our own
safety by the ceaseless slaughter of human beings. Is there no offer we
can make them, no promise of future gain, to tempt them to abandon
hostilities?"

"None whatever. These Borneo Dyaks are bred from infancy to prey on
their fellow-creatures. To be strangers and defenceless is to court
pillage and massacre at their hands. I think no more of shooting them
than of smashing a clay pigeon. Killing a mad dog is perhaps a better
simile."

"But, Robert dear, how long can we hold out?"

"What! Are you growing tired of me already?"

He hoped to divert her thoughts from this constantly recurring topic.
Twice within the hour had it been broached and dismissed, but Iris
would not permit him to shirk it again. She made no reply, simply
regarding him with a wistful smile.

So Jenks sat down by her side, and rehearsed the hopes and fears which
perplexed him. He determined that there should be no further
concealment between them. If they failed to secure water that night, if
the Dyaks maintained a strict siege of the rock throughout the whole of
next day, well--they might survive--it was problematical. Best leave
matters in God's hands.

With feminine persistency she clung to the subject, detecting his
unwillingness to discuss a possible final stage in their sufferings.

"Robert!" she whispered fearfully, "you will never let me fall into the
power of the chief, will you?"

"Not whilst I live."

"You _must_ live. Don't you understand? I would go with them to
save you. But I would have died--by my own hand. Robert, my love, you
must do this thing before the end. I must be the first to die."

He hung his head in a paroxysm of silent despair. Her words rung like a
tocsin of the bright romance conjured up by the avowal of their love.
It seemed to him, in that instant, they had no separate existence as
distinguished from the great stream of human life--the turbulent river
that flowed unceasingly from an eternity of the past to an eternity of
the future. For a day, a year, a decade, two frail bubbles danced on
the surface and raced joyously together in the sunshine; then they were
broken--did it matter how, by savage sword or lingering ailment? They
vanished--absorbed again by the rushing waters--and other bubbles rose
in precarious iridescence. It was a fatalist view of life, a dim and
obscurantist groping after truth induced by the overpowering nature of
present difficulties. The famous Tentmaker of Naishapur blindly sought
the unending purpose when he wrote:--

  "Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh Gate
  I rose, and on the throne of Saturn sate,
      And many a Knot unravel'd by the Road;
  But not the Master-Knot of Human Fate.

  "There was the Door to which I found no Key;
  There was the Veil through which I could not see:
      Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
  There was--and then no more of Thee and Me."

The sailor, too, wrestled with the great problem. He may be pardoned if
his heart quailed and he groaned aloud.

"Iris," he said solemnly, "whatever happens, unless I am struck dead at
your feet, I promise you that we shall pass the boundary hand in hand.
Be mine the punishment if we have decided wrongly. And now," he cried,
tossing his head in a defiant access of energy, "let us have done with
the morgue. For my part I refuse to acknowledge I am inside until the
gates clang behind me. As for you, you cannot help yourself. You must
do as I tell you. I never knew of a case where the question of Woman's
Rights was so promptly settled."

His vitality was infectious. Iris smiled again. Her sensitive highly
strung nerves permitted these sharp alternations between despondency
and hope.

"You must remember," he went on, "that the Dyak score is twenty-one to
the bad, whilst our loss stands at love. Dear me, that cannot be right.
Love is surely not a loss."

"A cynic might describe it as a negative gain."

"Oh, a cynic is no authority. He knows nothing whatever about the
subject."

"My father used to say, when he was in Parliament, that people who knew
least oft-times spoke best. Some men get overweighted with facts."

They chatted in lighter vein with such pendulum swing back to
nonchalance that none would have deemed it possible for these two to
have already determined the momentous issue of the pending struggle
should it go against them. There is, glory be, in the Anglo-Saxon race
the splendid faculty of meeting death with calm defiance, almost with
contempt. Moments of panic, agonizing memories of bygone days, visions
of dear faces never to be seen again, may temporarily dethrone this
proud fortitude. But the tremors pass, the gibbering specters of fear
and lamentation are thrust aside, and the sons and daughters of Great
Britain answer the last roll-call with undaunted heroism. They know how
to die.

And so the sun sank to rest in the sea, and the star, pierced the
deepening blue of the celestial arch, whilst the man and the woman
awaited patiently the verdict of the fates.

Before the light failed, Jenks gathered all the poisoned arrows and
ground their vemoned points to powder beneath his heel. Gladly would
Iris and he have dispensed with the friendly protection of the
tarpaulin when the cool evening breeze came from the south. But such a
thing might not be even considered. Several hours of darkness must
elapse before the moon rose, and during that period, were their foes so
minded, they would be absolutely at the mercy of the sumpitan shafts if
not covered by their impenetrable buckler.

The sailor looked long and earnestly at the well. Their own bucket,
improvised out of a dish-cover and a rope, lay close to the brink. A
stealthy crawl across the sandy valley, half a minute of grave danger,
and he would be up the ladder again with enough water to serve their
imperative needs for days to come.

There was little or no risk in descending the rock. Soon after sunset
it was wrapped in deepest gloom, for night succeeds day in the tropics
with wondrous speed. The hazard lay in twice crossing the white sand,
were any of the Dyaks hiding behind the house or among the trees.

He held no foolhardy view of his own powers. The one-sided nature of
the conflict thus far was due solely to his possession of Lee-Metfords
as opposed to muzzle-loaders. Let him be surrounded on the level at
close quarters by a dozen determined men and he must surely succumb.

Were it not for the presence of Iris he would have given no second
thought to the peril. It was just one of those undertakings which a
soldier jumps at. "Here goes for the V.C. or Kingdom Come!" is the
pithy philosophy of Thomas Atkins under such circumstances.

Now, there was no V.C., but there was Iris.

To act without consulting her was impossible, so they discussed the
project. Naturally she scouted it.

"The Mahommedan may be able to help us," she pointed out. "In any event
let us wait until the moon wanes. That is the darkest hour. We do not
know what may happen meanwhile."

The words had hardly left her mouth when an irregular volley was fired
at them from the right flank of the enemy's position. Every bullet
struck yards above their heads, the common failing of musketry at night
being to take too high an aim. But the impact of the missiles on a rock
so highly impregnated with minerals caused sparks to fly, and Jenks saw
that the Dyaks would obtain by this means a most dangerous index of
their faulty practice. Telling Iris to at once occupy her safe corner,
he rapidly adjusted a rifle on the wooden rests already prepared in
anticipation of an attack from that quarter, and fired three shots at
the opposing crest, whence came the majority of gun-flashes.

One, at least, of the three found a human billet. There was a shout of
surprise and pain, and the next volley spurted from the ground level.
This could do no damage owing to the angle, but he endeavored to
disconcert the marksmen by keeping up a steady fire in their direction.
He did not dream of attaining other than a moral effect, as there is a
lot of room to miss when aiming in the dark. Soon he imagined that the
burst of flame from his rifle helped the Dyaks, because several bullets
whizzed close to his head, and about this time firing recommenced from
the crest.

Notwithstanding all his skill and manipulation of the wooden supports,
he failed to dislodge the occupants. Every minute one or more ounces of
lead pitched right into the ledge, damaging the stores and tearing the
tarpaulin, whilst those which struck the wall of rock were dangerous to
Iris by reason of the molten spray.

He could guess what had happened. By lying flat on the sloping plateau,
or squeezing close to the projecting shoulder of the cliff, the Dyaks
were so little exposed that idle chance alone would enable him to hit
one of them. But they must be shifted, or this night bombardment would
prove the most serious development yet encountered.

"Are you all right, Iris?" he called out.

"Yes, dear," she answered.

"Well, I want you to keep yourself covered by the canvas for a little
while--especially your head and shoulders. I am going to stop these
chaps. They have found our weak point, but I can baffle them."

She did not ask what he proposed to do. He heard the rustling of the
tarpaulin as she pulled it. Instantly he cast loose the rope-ladder,
and, armed only with a revolver, dropped down the rock. He was quite
invisible to the enemy. On reaching the ground he listened for a
moment. There was no sound save the occasional reports ninety yards
away. He hitched up the lower rungs of the ladder until they were six
feet from the level, and then crept noiselessly, close to the rock, for
some forty yards.

He halted beside a small poon-tree, and stooped to find something
embedded near its roots. At this distance he could plainly hear the
muttered conversation of the Dyaks, and could see several of them prone
on the sand. The latter fact proved how fatal would be an attempt on
his part to reach the well. They must discover him instantly once he
quitted the somber shadows of the cliff. He waited, perhaps a few
seconds longer than was necessary, endeavoring to pierce the dim
atmosphere and learn something of their disposition.

A vigorous outburst of firing sent him back with haste. Iris was up
there alone. He knew not what might happen. He was now feverishly
anxious to be with her again, to hear her voice, and be sure that all
was well.

To his horror he found the ladder swaying gently against the rock. Some
one was using it. He sprang forward, careless of consequence, and
seized the swinging end which had fallen free again. He had his foot on
the bottom rung when Iris's voice, close at hand and shrill with
terror, shrieked--

"Robert, where are you?"

"Here!" he shouted; the next instant she dropped into his arms.

A startled exclamation from the vicinity of the house, and some loud
cries from the more distant Dyaks on the other side of Prospect Park,
showed that they had been overheard.

"Up!" he whispered. "Hold tight, and go as quickly as you can."

"Not without you!"

"Up, for God's sake! I follow at your heels."

She began to climb. He took some article from between his teeth, a
string apparently, and drew it towards him, mounting the ladder at the
same time. The end tightened. He was then about ten feet from the
ground. Two Dyaks, yelling fiercely, rushed from the cover of the
house.

"Go on," he said to Iris. "Don't lose your nerve whatever happens. I am
close behind you."

"I am quite safe," she gasped.

Turning, and clinging on with one hand, he drew his revolver and fired
at the pair beneath, who could now faintly discern them, and were
almost within reach of the ladder. The shooting made them halt. He did
not know or care if they were hit. To frighten them was sufficient.
Several others were running across the sands to the cave, attracted by
the noise and the cries of the foremost pursuers.

Then he gave a steady pull to the cord. The sharp crack of a rifle came
from the vicinity of the old quarry. He saw the flash among the trees.
Almost simultaneously a bright light leapt from the opposite ledge,
illumining the vicinity like a meteor. It lit up the rock, showed Iris
just vanishing into the safety of the ledge, and revealed Jenks and the
Dyaks to each other. There followed instantly a tremendous explosion
that shook earth and air, dislodging every loose stone in the
south-west pile of rocks, hurling from the plateau some of its
occupants, and wounding the remainder with a shower of lead and debris.

The island birds, long since driven to the remote trees, clamored in
raucous peal, and from the Dyaks came yells of fright or anguish.

The sailor, unmolested further, reached the ledge to find Iris
prostrate where she had fallen, dead or unconscious, he knew not which.
He felt his face become grey in the darkness. With a fierce tug he
hauled the ladder well away from the ground and sank to his knees
beside her.

He took her into his arms. There was no light. He could not see her
eyes or lips. Her slight breathing seemed to indicate a fainting fit,
but there was no water, nor was it possible to adopt any of the
ordinary expedients suited to such a seizure. He could only wait in a
dreadful silence--wait, clasping her to his breast--and dumbly wonder
what other loss he could suffer ere the final release came.

At last she sighed deeply. A strong tremor of returning life stirred
her frame.

"Thank God!" he murmured, and bowed his head. Were the sun shining he
could not see her now, for his eyes were blurred.

"Robert!" she whispered.

"Yes, darling."

"Are you safe?"

"Safe! my loved one! Think of yourself! What has happened to you?"

"I fainted--I think. I have no hurt. I missed you! Something told me
you had gone. I went to help you, or die with you. And then that noise!
And the light! What did you do?"

He silenced her questioning with a passionate kiss. He carried her to a
little nook and fumbled among the stores until he found a bottle of
brandy. She drank some. Under its revivifying influence she was soon
able to listen to the explanation he offered--after securing the
ladder.

In a tall tree near the Valley of Death he had tightly fixed a loaded
rifle which pointed at a loose stone in the rock overhanging the ledge
held by the Dyaks. This stone rested against a number of percussion
caps extracted from cartridges, and these were in direct communication
with a train of powder leading to a blasting charge placed at the end
of a twenty-four inch hole drilled with a crowbar. The impact of the
bullet against the stone could not fail to explode some of the caps. He
had used the contents of three hundred cartridges to secure a
sufficiency of powder, and the bullets were all crammed into the
orifice, being tamped with clay and wet sand. The rifle was fired by
means of the string, the loose coils of which were secreted at the foot
of the poon. By springing this novel mine he had effectually removed
every Dyak from the ledge, over which its contents would spread like a
fan. Further, it would probably deter the survivors from again
venturing near that fatal spot.

Iris listened, only half comprehending. Her mind was filled with one
thought to the exclusion of all others. Robert had left her, had done
this thing without telling her. She forgave him, knowing he acted for
the best, but he must never, never deceive her again in such a manner.
She could not bear it.

What better excuse could man desire for caressing her, yea, even
squeezing her, until the sobs ceased and she protested with a weak
little laugh----

"Robert, I haven't got much breath--after that excitement--but
please--leave me--the remains!"




CHAPTER XIV

THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS


"You are a dear unreasonable little girl," he said. "Have you breath
enough to tell me why you came down the ladder?"

"When I discovered you were gone, I became wild with fright. Don't you
see, I imagined you were wounded and had fallen from the ledge. What
else could I do but follow, either to help you, or, if that were not
possible--"

He found her hand and pressed it to his lips.

"I humbly crave your pardon," he said. "That explanation is more than
ample. It was I who behaved unreasonably. Of course I should have
warned you. Yet, sweetheart, I ran no risk. The real danger passed a
week ago."

"How can that be?"

"I might have been blown to pieces whilst adjusting the heavy stone in
front of the caps. I assure you I was glad to leave the place that day
with a whole skin. If the stone had wobbled, or slipped, well--it was a
case of determined _felo-de-se_."

"May I ask how many more wild adventures you undertook without my
knowledge?"

"One other, of great magnitude. I fell in love with you."

"Nonsense!" she retorted. "I knew that long before you admitted it to
yourself."

"Date, please?"

"Well, to begin at the very beginning, you thought I was nice on board
the _Sirdar_. Now, didn't you?"

And they were safely embarked on a conversation of no interest to any
other person in the wide world, but which provided them with the most
delightful topic imaginable.

Thus the time sped until the rising moon silhouetted the cliff on the
white carpet of coral-strewn sand. The black shadow-line traveled
slowly closer to the base of the cliff, and Jenks, guided also by the
stars, told Iris that midnight was at hand.

They knelt on the parapet of the ledge, alert to catch any unusual
sound, and watching for any indication of human movement. But Rainbow
Island was now still as the grave. The wounded Dyaks had seemingly been
removed from hut and beach; the dead lay where they had fallen. The sea
sang a lullaby to the reef, and the fresh breeze whispered among the
palm fronds--that was all.

"Perhaps they have gone!" murmured Iris.

The sailor put his arm round her neck and gently pressed her lips
together. Anything would serve as an excuse for that sort of thing, but
he really did want absolute silence at that moment. If the Mussulman
kept his compact, the hour was at hand.

An unlooked-for intruder disturbed the quietude of the scene. Their old
acquaintance, the singing beetle, chortled his loud way across the
park. Iris was dying--as women say--to remind Jenks of their first
meeting with that blatant insect, but further talk was impossible;
there was too much at stake--water they must have.

Then the light hiss of a snake rose to them from the depths. That is a
sound never forgotten when once heard. It is like unto no other.
Indeed, the term "hiss" is a misnomer for the quick sibilant expulsion
of the breath by an alarmed or angered serpent.

Iris paid no heed to it, but Jenks, who knew there was not a reptile of
the snake variety on the island, leaned over the ledge and emitted a
tolerably good imitation. The native was beneath. Probably the flight
of the beetle had helped his noiseless approach.

"Sahib!"

The girl started at the unexpected call from the depths.

"Yes," said Jenks quietly.

"A rope, sahib."

The sailor lowered a rope. Something was tied to it beneath. The
Mahommedan apparently had little fear of being detected.

"Pull, sahib."

"Usually it is the sahib who says 'pull,' but circumstances alter
cases," communed Jenks. He hauled steadily at a heavy weight--a
goatskin filled with cold water. He emptied the hot and sour wine out
of the tin cup, and was about to hand the thrice-welcome draught to
Iris when a suspicious thought caused him to withhold it.

"Let me taste first," he said.

The Indian might have betrayed them to the Dyaks. More unlikely things
had happened. What if the water were poisoned or drugged?

He placed the tin to his lips. The liquid was musty, having been in the
skin nearly two days. Otherwise it seemed to be all right. With a sigh
of profound relief he gave Iris the cup, and smiled at the most
unladylike haste with which she emptied it.

"Drink yourself, and give me some more," she said.

"No more for you at present, madam. In a few minutes, yes."

"Oh, why not now?"

"Do not fret, dear one. You can have all you want in a little while.
But to drink much now would make you very ill."

Iris waited until he could speak again.

"Why did you----" she began.

But he bent over the parapet--

"_Koi hai_!"[Footnote: Equivalent to "Hello, there!"]

"Sahib!"

"You have not been followed?"

"I think not, sahib. Do not talk too loud; they are foxes in cunning.
You have a ladder, they say, sahib. Will not your honor descend? I have
much to relate."

Iris made no protest when Jenks explained the man's request. She only
stipulated that he should not leave the ladder, whilst she would remain
within easy earshot. The sailor, of course, carried his revolver. He
also picked up a crowbar, a most useful and silent weapon. Then he went
quietly downwards. Nearing the ground, he saw the native, who salaamed
deeply and was unarmed. The poor fellow seemed to be very anxious to
help them.

"What is your name?" demanded the sailor.

"Mir Jan, sahib, formerly _naik_[Footnote: Corporal.] in the
Kumaon Rissala."

"When did you leave the regiment?"

"Two years ago, sahib. I killed--"

"What was the name of your Colonel?"

"Kurnal I-shpence-sahib, a brave man, but of no account on a horse."

Jenks well remembered Colonel Spence--a fat, short-legged warrior, who
rolled off his charger if the animal so much as looked sideways. Mir
Jan was telling the truth.

"You are right, Mir Jan. What is Taung S'Ali doing now?"

"Cursing, sahib, for the most part. His men are frightened. He wanted
them to try once more with the tubes that shoot poison, but they
refused. He could not come alone, for he could not use his right hand,
and he was wounded by the blowing up of the rock. You nearly killed me,
too, sahib. I was there with the bazaar-born whelps. By the Prophet's
beard, it was a fine stroke."

"Are they going away, then?"

"No, sahib. The dogs have been whipped so sore that they snarl for
revenge. They say there is no use in firing at you, but they are
resolved to kill you and the miss-sahib, or carry her off if she
escapes the assault."

"What assault?"

"Protector of the poor, they are building scaling-ladders--four in all.
Soon after dawn they intend to rush your position. You may slay some,
they say, but you cannot slay three score. Taung S'Ali has promised a
gold _tauk_[Footnote: A native ornament.] to every man who
survives if they succeed. They have pulled down your signal on the high
rocks and are using the poles for the ladders. They think you have a
_jadu_[Footnote: A charm.] sahib, and they want to use your own
work against you."

This was serious news. A combined attack might indeed be dangerous,
though it had the excellent feature that if it failed the Dyaks would
certainly leave the island. But his sky-sign destroyed! That was bad.
Had a vessel chanced to pass, the swinging letters would surely have
attracted attention. Now, even that faint hope was dispelled.

"Sahib, there is a worse thing to tell," said Mir Jan.

"Say on, then."

"Before they place the ladders against the cliff they will build a fire
of green wood so that the smoke will be blown by the wind into your
eyes. This will help to blind your aim. Otherwise, you never miss."

"That will assuredly be awkward, Mir Jan."

"It will, sahib. Soul of my father, if we had but half a troop with
us----"

But they had not, and they were both so intent on the conversation that
they were momentarily off their guard. Iris was more watchful. She
fancied there was a light rustling amidst the undergrowth beneath the
trees on the right. And she could hiss too, if that were the correct
thing to do.

So she hissed.

Jenks swarmed half way up the ladder.

"Yes, Iris?" he said.

"I am not sure, but I imagine something moved among the bushes behind
the house."

"All right, dear. I will keep a sharp look-out. Can you hear us
talking?"

"Hardly. Will you be long?"

"Another minute."

He descended and told Mir Jan what the miss-sahib said. The native was
about to make a search when Jenks stopped him.

"Here,"--he handed the man his revolver--"I suppose you can use this?"

Mir Jan took it without a word, and Jenks felt that the incident atoned
for previous unworthy doubts of his dark friend's honesty. The
Mahommedan cautiously examined the back of the house, the neighboring
shrubs, and the open beach. After a brief absence he reported all safe,
yet no man has ever been nearer death and escaped it than he during
that reconnaissance. He, too, forgot that the Dyaks were foxes, and
foxes can lie close when hounds are a trifle stale.

Mir Jan returned the revolver.

"Sahib," he said with another salaam, "I am a disgraced man, but if you
will take me up there with you, I will fight by your side until both my
arms are hacked off. I am weary of these thieves. Ill chance threw me
into their company: I will have no more of them. If you will not have
me on the rock, give me a gun. I will hide among the trees, and I
promise that some of them shall die to-night before they find me. For
the honor of the regiment, sahib, do not refuse this thing. All I ask
is, if your honor escapes, that you will write to Kurnal
I-shpence-sahib, and tell him the last act of Mir Jan, _naik_ in B
troop."

There was an intense pathos in the man's words. He made this
self-sacrificing offer with an utter absence of any motive save the old
tradition of duty to the colors. Here was Anstruther-sahib, of the
Belgaum Rissala, in dire peril. Very well, then, Corporal Mir Jan, late
of the 19th Bengal Lancers, must dare all to save him.

Jenks was profoundly moved. He reflected how best to utilize the
services of this willing volunteer without exposing him to certain
death in the manner suggested. The native misinterpreted his silence.

"I am not a _budmash_,[Footnote: Rascal.] sahib," he exclaimed
proudly. "I only killed a man because--"

"Listen, Mir Jan. You cannot well mend what you have said. The Dyaks,
you are sure, will not come before morning?"

"They have carried the wounded to the boats and are making the ladders.
Such was their talk when I left them."

"Will they not miss you?"

"They will miss the _mussak_,[Footnote: Goatskin.] sahib. It was
the last full one."

"Mir Jan, do as I bid, and you shall see Delhi again, Have you ever
used a Lee-Metford?"

"I have seen them, sahib; but I better understand the Mahtini."

"I will give you a rifle, with plenty of ammunition, Do you go inside
the cave, there, and----"

Mir Jan was startled.

"Where the ghost is, sahib?" he said.

"Ghost! That is a tale for children. There is no ghost, only a few
bones of a man murdered by these scoundrels long ago. Have you any
food?"

"Some rice, sahib; sufficient for a day, or two at a pinch."

"Good! We will get water from the well. When the fighting begins at
dawn, fire at every man you see from the back of the cave. On no
account come out. Then they can never reach you if you keep a full
magazine. Wait here!"

"I thought you were never coming," protested Iris when Jenks reached
the ledge. "I have been quite creepy. I am sure there is some one down
there. And, please, may I have another drink?"

The sailor had left the crowbar beneath. He secured a rifle, a spare
clip, and a dozen packets of cartridges, meanwhile briefly explaining
to Iris the turn taken by events so far as Mir Jan was concerned. She
was naturally delighted, and forgot her fears in the excitement caused
by the appearance of so useful an ally. She drank his health in a
brimming beaker of water.

She heard her lover rejoin Mir Jan, and saw the two step out into the
moonlight, whilst Jenks explained the action of the Lee-Metford.
Fortunately Iris was now much recovered from the fatigue and privation
of the earlier hours. Her senses were sharpened to a pitch little
dreamed of by stay-at-home young ladies of her age, and she deemed it
her province to act as sentry whilst the two men conferred. Hence, she
was the first to detect, or rather to become conscious of, the stealthy
crawl of several Dyaks along the bottom of the cliff from Turtle Beach.
They advanced in Indian file, moving with the utmost care, and
crouching in the murky shadows like so many wild beasts stalking their
prey.

"Robert!" she screamed. "The Dyaks! On your left!"

But Iris was rapidly gaining some knowledge of strategy. Before she
shrieked her warning she grasped a rifle. Holding it at the
"Ready"--about the level of her waist--and depressing the muzzle
sufficiently, she began firing down the side of the rock as fast as she
could handle lever and trigger. Two of the nickel bullets struck a
projection and splashed the leading savages with molten metal.

Unfortunately the Lee-Metford beneath was unloaded, being in Mir Jan's
possession for purposes of instruction. Jenks whipped out his revolver.

"To the cave!" he roared, and Mir Jan's unwillingness to face a goblin
could not withstand the combined impetus of the sahib's order and the
onward rush of the enemy. He darted headlong for the entrance.

[Illustration: IRIS BEGAN FIRING DOWN THE SIDE OF THE ROCK AS FAST AS
SHE COULD HANDLE LEVER AND TRIGGER.]

Jenks, shooting blindly as he, too, ran for the ladder, emptied the
revolver just as his left hand clutched a rung. Three Dyaks were so
close that it would be folly to attempt to climb. He threw the weapon
into the face of the foremost man, effectually stopping his onward
progress, for the darkness made it impossible to dodge the missile.

The sailor turned to dive into the cave and secure the rifle from Mir
Jan, when his shin caught the heavy crowbar resting against the rock.
The pain of the blow lent emphasis to the swing with which the
implement descended upon some portion of a Dyak anatomy. Jenks never
knew where he hit the second assailant, but the place cracked like an
eggshell.

He had not time to recover the bar for another blow, so he gave the
point in the gullet of a gentleman who was about to make a vicious
sweep at him with a parang. The downfall of this worthy caused his
immediate successor to stumble, and Jenks saw his opportunity. With the
agility of a cat he jumped up the ladder. Once started, he had to go
on. He afterwards confessed to an unpleasant sensation of pins and
needles along his back during that brief acrobatic display; but he
reached the ledge without further injury, save an agonizing twinge when
the unprotected quick of his damaged finger was smartly rapped against
the rock.

These things happened with the speed of thought. Within forty seconds
of Iris's shrill cry the sailor was breast high with the ledge and
calling to her--

"All right, old girl. Keep it up!"

The cheerful confidence of his words had a wonderful effect on her.
Iris, like every good woman, had the maternal instinct strong within
her--the instinct that inspires alike the mild-eyed Sister of Charity
and the tigress fighting for her cubs. When Jenks was down below there,
in imminent danger of being cut to pieces, the gentle, lovable girl,
who would not willingly hurt the humblest of God's creatures, became
terrible, majestic in her frenzied purpose. Robert must be saved. If a
Maxim were planted on the rock she would unhesitatingly have turned the
lever and sprayed the Dyaks with bullets.

But here he was close to her, unhurt and calmly jubilant, as was his
way when a stiff fight went well. He was by her side now, firing and
aiming too, for the Dyaks broke cover recklessly in running for
shelter, and one may do fair work by moonlight, as many a hunter of
wild duck can testify by the rheumatism in his bones.

She had strength enough left to place the rifle out of harm's way
before she broke down and sobbed, not tearfully, but in a paroxysm of
reaction. Soon all was quiet beneath, save for the labored efforts of
some wounded men to get far away from that accursed rock. Jenks was
able to turn to Iris. He endeavored to allay her agitation, and
succeeded somewhat, for tears came, and she clung to him. It was
useless to reproach him. The whole incident was unforeseen: she was
herself a party to it. But what an escape!

He lifted her in his arms and carried her to a seat where the tarpaulin
rested on a broken water-cask.

"You have been a very good little girl and have earned your supper," he
said.

"Oh, how can you talk so callously after such an awful experience?" she
expostulated brokenly.

The Jesuits, say their opponents, teach that at times a "white lie" is
permissible. Surely this was an instance.

"It is a small thing to trouble about, sweetheart," he explained. "You
spotted the enemy so promptly, and blazed away with such ferocity, that
they never got within yards of me."

"Are you sure?"

"I vow and declare that after we have eaten something, and sampled our
remaining bottle of wine, I will tell you exactly what happened."

"Why not now?"

"Because I must first see to Mir Jan. I bundled him neck and crop into
the cave. I hope I did not hurt him."

"You are not going down there again?"

"No need, I trust."

He went to the side of the ledge, recovered the ladder which he had
hastily hauled out of the Dyaks' reach after his climb, and cried--

"Mir Jan."

"Ah, sahib! Praised be the name of the Most High, you are alive. I was
searching among the slain with a sorrowful heart."

The Mahommedan's voice came from some little distance on the left.

"The slain, you say. How many?"

"Five, sahib."

"Impossible! I fired blindly with the revolver, and only hit one man
hard with the iron bar. One other dropped near the wood after I
obtained a rifle."

"Then there be six, sahib, not reckoning the wounded. I have accounted
for one, so the miss-sahib must have--"

"What is he saying about me?" inquired Iris, who had risen and joined
her lover.

"He says you absolutely staggered the Dyaks by opening fire the moment
they appeared."

"How did _you_ come to slay one, Mir Jan?" he continued.

"A son of a black pig followed me into the cave. I waited for him in
the darkness. I have just thrown his body outside."

"_Shabash!_[Footnote: "Well done!"] Is Taung S'Ali dead, by any
lucky chance?"

"No, sahib, if he be not the sixth. I will go and see."

"You may be attacked?"

"I have found a sword, sahib. You left me no cartridges."

Jenks told him that the clip and the twelve packets were lying at the
foot of the rock, where Mir Jan speedily discovered them. The
Mahommedan gave satisfactory assurance that he understood the mechanism
of the rifle by filling and adjusting the magazine. Then he went to
examine the corpse of the man who lay in the open near the quarry path.

The sailor stood in instant readiness to make a counter demonstration
were the native assailed. But there was no sign of the Dyaks. Mir Jan
returned with the news that the sixth victim of the brief yet fierce
encounter was a renegade Malay. He was so confident that the enemy had
had enough of it for the night that, after recovering Jenks's revolver,
he boldly went to the well and drew himself a supply of water.

During supper, a feast graced by a quart of champagne worthy of the
Carlton, Jenks told Iris so much of the story as was good for her: that
is to say, he cut down the casualty list.

It was easy to see what had happened. The Dyaks, having missed the
Mahommedan and their water-bag, searched for him and heard the
conversation at the foot of the rock. Knowing that their presence was
suspected, they went back for reinforcements, and returned by the
shorter and more advantageous route along Turtle Beach.

Iris would have talked all night, but Jenks made her go to sleep, by
pillowing her head against his shoulder and smoothing her tangled
tresses with his hand. The wine, too, was helpful. In a few minutes her
voice became dreamy: soon she was sleeping like a tired child.

He managed to lay her on a comfortable pile of ragged clothing and then
resumed his vigil. Mir Jan offered to mount guard beneath, but Jenks
bade him go within the cave and remain there, for the dawn would soon
be upon them.

Left alone with his thoughts, he wondered what the rising sun would
bring in its train. He reviewed the events of the last twenty-four
hours. Iris and he--Miss Deane, Mr. Jenks, to each other--were then
undiscovered in their refuge, the Dyaks were gathered around a roaring
fire in the valley, and Mir Jan was keen in the hunt as the keenest
among them. Now, Iris was his affianced bride, over twenty of the enemy
were killed and many wounded, and Mir Jan, a devoted adherent, was
seated beside the skeleton in the gloom of the cavern.

What a topsy-turvy world it was, to be sure! What alternations between
despair and hope! What rebound from the gates of Death to the threshold
of Eden! How untrue, after all, was the nebulous philosophy of Omar,
the Tentmaker. Surely in the happenings of the bygone day there was
more than the purposeless


  "Magic Shadow-show,
      Play'd in a Box whose Candle is the Sun,
     Round which we Phantom Figures come and go."


He had, indeed, cause to be humbly thankful. Was there not One who
marked the fall of a sparrow, who clothed the lilies, who knew the
needs of His creatures? There, in the solemn temple of the night, he
gave thanks for the protection vouchsafed to Iris and himself, and
prayed that it might be continued. He deplored the useless bloodshed,
the horror of mangled limbs and festering bodies, that converted this
fair island into a reeking slaughter-house. Were it possible, by any
personal sacrifice, to divert the untutored savages from their deadly
quest, he would gladly condone their misdeeds and endeavor to assuage
the torments of the wounded.

But he was utterly helpless, a pawn on that tiny chessboard where the
game was being played between Civilization and Barbarism. The fight
must go on to the bitter end: he must either vanquish or be vanquished.
There were other threads being woven into the garment of his life at
that moment, but he knew not of them. Sufficient for the day was the
evil, and the good thereof. Of both he had received full measure.

A period of such reflection could hardly pass without a speculative
dive into the future. If Iris and he were rescued, what would happen
when they went forth once more into the busy world? Not for one instant
did he doubt her faith. She was true as steel, knit to him now by bonds
of triple brass. But, what would Sir Arthur Deane think of his
daughter's marriage to a discredited and cashiered officer? What was it
that poor Mir Jan called himself?--"a disgraced man." Yes, that was it.
Could that stain be removed? Mir Jan was doing it. Why not he?--by
other means, for his good name rested on the word of a perjured woman.
Wealth was potent, but not all-powerful. He would ask Iris to wait
until he came to her unsoiled by slander, purged of this odium cast
upon him unmerited.

And all this goes to show that he, a man wise beyond his fellows, had
not yet learned the unwisdom of striving to lift the veil of tomorrow,
behind whose mystic curtain what is to be ever jostles out of place
what is hoped for.

Iris, smiling in her dreams, was assailed by no torturing doubts.
Robert loved her--that was enough. Love suffices for a woman; a man
asks for honor, reputation, an unblemished record.

To awake her he kissed her; he knew not, perchance it might be their
last kiss on earth. Not yet dawn, there was morning in the air, for the
first faint shafts of light were not visible from their eyrie owing to
its position. But there was much to be done. If the Dyaks carried out
the plan described by Mir Jan, he had a good many preparations to make.

The canvas awning was rolled back and the stores built into a barricade
intended to shelter Iris.

"What is that for?" she asked, when she discovered its nature. He told
her. She definitely refused to avail herself of any such protection.

"Robert dear," she said, "if the attack comes to our very door, so to
speak, surely I must help you. Even my slight aid may stem a rush in
one place whilst you are busy in another."

He explained to her that if hand-to-hand fighting were necessary he
would depend more upon a crowbar than a rifle to sweep the ledge clear.
She might be in the way.

"Very well. The moment you tell me to get behind that fence I will do
so. Even there I can use a revolver."

That reminded him. His own pistol was unloaded. He possessed only five
more cartridges of small caliber. He placed them in the weapon and gave
it to her.

"Now you have eleven men's lives in your hands," he said. "Try not to
miss if you must shoot."

In the dim light he could not see the spasm of pain that clouded her
face. No Dyak would reach her whilst he lived. If he fell, there was
another use for one of those cartridges.

The sailor had cleared the main floor of the rock and was placing his
four rifles and other implements within easy reach when a hiss came
from beneath.

"Mir Jan!" exclaimed Iris.

"What now?" demanded Jenks over the side.

"Sahib, they come!"

"I am prepared. Let that snake get back to his hole in the rock, lest a
mongoose seize him by the head."

Mir Jan, engaged in a scouting expedition on his own account,
understood that the officer-sahib's orders must be obeyed. He vanished.
Soon they heard a great crackling among the bushes on the right, but
Jenks knew even before he looked that the Dyaks had correctly estimated
the extent of his fire zone and would keep out of it.

The first physical intimation of the enemy's design they received was a
pungent but pleasant smell of burning pine, borne to them by the
northerly breeze and filling the air with its aroma. The Dyaks kindled
a huge fire. The heat was perceptible even on the ledge, but the
minutes passed, and the dawn broadened into day without any other
result being achieved.

Iris, a little drawn and pale with suspense, said with a timid giggle--

"This does not seem to be so very serious. It reminds me of my efforts
to cook."

"There is more to follow, I fear, dear one. But the Dyaks are fools.
They should have waited until night fell again, after wearing us out by
constant vigilance all day. If they intend to employ smoke it would be
far worse for us at night."

Phew! A volume of murky vapor arose that nearly suffocated them by the
first whiff of its noisome fumes. It curled like a black pall over the
face of the rock and blotted out sea and sky. They coughed incessantly,
and nearly choked, for the Dyaks had thrown wet seaweed on top of the
burning pile of dry wood. Mir Jan, born in interior India, knew little
about the sea or its products, and when the savages talked of seaweed
he thought they meant green wood. Fortunately for him, the ascending
clouds of smoke missed the cave, or infallibly he must have been
stifled.

"Lie flat on the rock!" gasped Jenks. Careless of waste, he poured
water over a coat and made Iris bury her mouth and nose in the wet
cloth. This gave her immediate relief, and she showed her woman's wit
by tying the sleeves of the garment behind her neck. Jenks nodded
comprehension and followed her example, for by this means their hands
were left free.

The black cloud grew more dense each few seconds. Nevertheless, owing
to the slope of the ledge, and the tendency of the smoke to rise, the
south side was far more tenable than the north. Quick to note this
favorable circumstance, the sailor deduced a further fact from it. A
barrier erected on the extreme right of the ledge would be a material
gain. He sprang up, dragged the huge tarpaulin from its former
location, and propped it on the handle of the pickaxe, driven by one
mighty stroke deep into a crevice of the rock.

It was no mean feat of strength that he performed. He swung the heavy
and cumbrous canvas into position as if it were a dust cloth. He
emerged from the gloom of the driven cloud red-eyed but triumphant.
Instantly the vapor on the ledge lessened, and they could breathe, even
talk. Overhead and in front the smoke swept in ever-increasing density,
but once again the sailor had outwitted the Dyaks' manoeuvres.

"We have won the first rubber," he whispered to Iris.

Above, beneath, beyond, they could see nothing. The air they breathed
was hot and foetid. It was like being immured in a foul tunnel and
almost as dark. Jenks looked over the parapet. He thought he could
distinguish some vague figures on the sands, so he fired at them. A
volley of answering bullets crashed into the rock on all sides. The
Dyaks had laid their plans well this time. A firing squad stationed
beyond the smoke area, and supplied with all the available guns,
commenced and kept up a smart fusillade in the direction of the ledge
in order to cover the operations of the scaling party.

Jenks realized that to expose himself was to court a serious wound and
achieve no useful purpose. He fell back out of range, laid down his
rifle and grabbed the crowbar. At brief intervals a deep hollow boom
came up from the valley. At first it puzzled them until the sailor hit
upon an explanation. Mir Jan was busy.

The end of a strong roughly made ladder swung through the smoke and
banged against the ledge. Before Jenks could reach it those hoisting it
into position hastily retreated. They were standing in front of the
cave and the Mahommedan made play on them with a Lee-Metford at thirty
feet.

Jenks, using his crowbar as a lever, toppled the ladder clean over. It
fell outwards and disconcerted a section of the musketeers.

"Well done," cried Iris.

The sailor, astounded by her tone, gave her a fleeting glance. She was
very pale now, but not with fear. Her eyes were slightly contracted,
her nostrils quivering, her lips set tight and her chin dimpled. She
had gone back thirty generations in as many seconds. Thus might one of
the daughters of Boadicea have looked whilst guiding her mother's
chariot against the Roman phalanx. Resting on one knee, with a revolver
in each hand, she seemed no puling mate for the gallant man who fought
for her.

She caught his look.

"We will beat them yet!" she cried again, and she smiled, not as a
woman smiles, but with the joy of a warrior when the fray is toward.

There was no time for further speech. Three ladders were reared against
the rock. They were so poised and held below that Jenks could not force
them backwards. A fourth appeared, its coarse shafts looming into sight
like the horns of some gigantic animal. The four covered practically
the whole front of the ledge save where Mir Jan cleared a little space
on the level.

The sailor was standing now, with the crowbar clenched in both hands.
The firing in the valley slackened and died away. A Dyak face, grinning
like a Japanese demon, appeared at the top of the ladder nearest to
Iris.

"Don't fire!" shouted Jenks, and the iron bar crushed downwards. Two
others pitched themselves half on to the ledge. Now both crowbar and
revolver were needed. Three ladders were thus cumbered somewhat for
those beneath, and Jenks sprang towards the fourth and most distant.
Men were crowding it like ants. Close to his feet lay an empty
water-cask. It was a crude weapon, but effective when well pitched, and
the sailor had never made a better shot for a goal in the midst of a
hard-fought scrimmage than he made with that tub for the head of the
uppermost pirate.

Another volley came from the sands. A bullet ploughed through his hair,
and sent his sou'wester flying. Again the besiegers swarmed to the
attack. One way or the other, they must succeed. A man and a
woman--even such a man and such a woman--could not keep at bay an
infuriated horde of fifty savages fighting at close quarters and under
these grievous conditions.

Jenks knew what would happen. He would be shot in the head or breast
whilst repelling the scaling party. And Iris! Dear heart! She was
thinking of him.

"Keep back! They can never gain the ledge!" she shrieked.

And then, above the din of the fusillade, the yells of the assailants
and the bawling of the wounded, there came through the air a screaming,
tearing, ripping sound which drowned all others. It traveled with
incredible speed, and before the sailor could believe his ears--for he
well knew what it meant--a shrapnel shell burst in front of the ledge
and drenched the valley with flying lead.

Jenks was just able to drag Iris flat against the rock ere the time
fuse operated and the bullets flew. He could form no theory, hazard no
conjecture. All he knew was that a 12-pounder shell had flown towards
them through space, scattering red ruin among the amazed scoundrels
beneath. Instantly he rose again, lest perchance any of the Dyaks
should have gained a foothold on the ledge.

The ladders were empty. He could hear a good deal of groaning, the
footsteps of running men, and some distant shouting.

"Sahib!" yelled Mir Jan, drawn from his retreat by the commotion
without.

"Yes," shouted Jenks.

The native, in a voice cracked with excitement, told him something. The
sailor asked a few rapid questions to make quite sure that Mir Jan was
not mistaken.

Then he threw his arms round Iris, drew her close and whispered--

"My darling, we are saved! A warship has anchored just beyond the south
reef, and two boats filled with armed sailors are now pulling ashore."

And she answered proudly--

"The Dyaks could never have conquered us, Robert. We were manifestly
under God's protection. Oh, my love, my love, I am so happy and
thankful!"




CHAPTER XV

THE DIFFICULTY OF PLEASING EVERYBODY


The drifting smoke was still so dense that not even the floor of the
valley could be discerned. Jenks dared not leave Iris at such a moment.
He feared to bring her down the ladder lest another shell might be
fired. But something must be done to end their suspense.

He called to Mir Jan--

"Take off your turban and hold it above your head, if you think they
can see you from the warship."

"It is all right, sahib," came the cheering answer. "One boat is close
inshore. I think, from the uniforms, they are English sahibs, such as I
have seen at Garden Reach. The Dyaks have all gone."

Nevertheless Jenks waited. There was nothing to gain by being too
precipitate. A false step now might undo the achievements of many
weeks.

Mir Jan was dancing about beneath in a state of wild excitement.

"They have seen the Dyaks running to their sampans, sahib," he yelled,
"and the second boat is being pulled in that direction. Yet another has
just left the ship."

A translation made Iris excited, eager to go down and see these
wonders.

"Better wait here, dearest," he said. "The enemy may be driven back in
this direction, and I cannot expose you to further risk. The sailors
will soon land, and you can then descend in perfect safety."

The boom of a cannon came from the sea. Instinctively the girl ducked
for safety, though her companion smiled at her fears, for the shell
would have long preceded the report, had it traveled their way.

"One of the remaining sampans has got under way," he explained, "and
the warship is firing at her."

Two more guns were fired. The man-o'-war evidently meant business.

"Poor wretches!" murmured Iris. "Cannot the survivors be allowed to
escape?"

"Well, we are unable to interfere. Those caught on the island will
probably be taken to the mainland and hanged for their crimes, so the
manner of their end is not of much consequence."

To the girl's manifest relief there was no more firing, and Mir Jan
announced that a number of sailors were actually on shore. Then her
thoughts turned to a matter of concern to the feminine mind even in the
gravest moments of existence. She laved her face with water and sought
her discarded skirt!

Soon the steady tramp of boot-clad feet advancing at the double was
heard on the shingle, and an officer's voice, speaking the crude
Hindustani of the engine-room and forecastle, shouted to Mir Jan--

"Hi, you black fellow! Are there any white people here?"

Jenks sang out--

"Yes, two of us! Perched on the rock over your heads. We are coming
down."

He cast loose the rope-ladder. Iris was limp and trembling.

"Steady, sweetheart," he whispered. "Don't forget the slip between the
cup and the lip. Hold tight! But have no fear! I will be just beneath."

It was well he took this precaution. She was now so unnerved that an
unguarded movement might have led to an accident. But the knowledge
that her lover was near, the touch of his hand guiding her feet on to
the rungs of the ladder, sustained her. They had almost reached the
level when a loud exclamation and the crash of a heavy blow caused
Jenks to halt and look downwards.

A Dyak, lying at the foot of one of the scaling ladders, and severely
wounded by a shell splinter, witnessed their descent. In his left hand
he grasped a parang; his right arm was bandaged. Though unable to rise,
the vengeful pirate mustered his remaining strength to crawl towards
the swaying ladder. It was Taung S'Ali, inspired with the hate and
venom of the dying snake. Even yet he hoped to deal a mortal stroke at
the man who had defied him and all his cut-throat band. He might have
succeeded, as Jenks was so taken up with Iris, were it not for the
watchful eyes of Mir Jan. The Mahommedan sprang at him with an oath,
and gave him such a murderous whack with the butt of a rifle that the
Dyak chief collapsed and breathed out his fierce spirit in a groan.

At the first glance Jenks did not recognize Taung S'Ali, owing to his
change of costume. Through the thinner smoke he could see several
sailors running up.

"Look out, there!" he cried. "There is a lady here. If any Dyak moves,
knock him on the head!"

But, with the passing of the chief, their last peril had gone. The next
instant they were standing on the firm ground, and a British naval
lieutenant was saying eagerly--

"We seem to have turned up in the nick of time. Do you, by any chance,
belong to the _Sirdar_?"

"We are the sole survivors," answered the sailor.

"You two only?"

"Yes. She struck on the north-west reef of this island during a
typhoon. This lady, Miss Iris Deane, and I were flung ashore--"

"Miss Deane! Can it be possible? Let me congratulate you most heartily.
Sir Arthur Deane is on board the _Orient_ at this moment."

"The _Orient_!"

Iris was dazed. The uniforms, the pleasant faces of the English
sailors, the strange sensation of hearing familiar words in tones other
than those of the man she loved, bewildered her.

"Yes," explained the officer, with a sympathetic smile. "That's our
ship, you know, in the offing there."

It was all too wonderful to be quite understood yet. She turned to
Robert--

"Do you hear? They say my father is not far away. Take me to him."

[Illustration: "WE ARE THE SOLE SURVIVORS," ANSWERED THE SAILOR.]

"No need for that, miss," interrupted a warrant officer. "Here he is
coming ashore. He wanted to come with us, but the captain would not
permit it, as there seemed to be some trouble ahead."

Sure enough, even the girl's swimming eyes could distinguish the
grey-bearded civilian seated beside an officer in the stern-sheets of a
small gig now threading a path through the broken reef beyond Turtle
Beach. In five minutes, father and daughter would meet.

Meanwhile the officer, intent on duty, addressed Jenks again.

"May I ask who you are?"

"My name is Anstruther--Robert Anstruther."

Iris, clinging to his arm, heard the reply.

So he had abandoned all pretence. He was ready to face the world at her
side. She stole a loving glance at him as she cried--

"Yes, Captain Anstruther, of the Indian Staff Corps. If he will not
tell you all that he has done, how he has saved my life twenty times,
how he has fought single-handed against eighty men, ask me!"

The naval officer did not need to look a second time at Iris's face to
lengthen the list of Captain Anstruther's achievements, by one more
item. He sighed. A good sailor always does sigh when a particularly
pretty girl is labeled "Engaged."

But he could be very polite.

"Captain Anstruther does not appear to have left much for us to do,
Miss Deane," he said. "Indeed," turning to Robert, "is there any way in
which my men will be useful?"

"I would recommend that they drag the green stuff off that fire and
stop the smoke. Then, a detachment should go round the north side of
the island and drive the remaining Dyaks into the hands of the party
you have landed, as I understand, at the further end of the south
beach. Mir Jan, the Mahommedan here, who has been a most faithful ally
during part of our siege, will act as guide."

The other man cast a comprehensive glance over the rock, with its
scaling ladders and dangling rope-ladder, the cave, the little groups
of dead or unconscious pirates--for every wounded man who could move a
limb had crawled away after the first shell burst--and drew a deep
breath.

"How long were you up there?" he asked.

"Over thirty hours."

"It was a great fight!"

"Somewhat worse than it looks," said Anstruther. "This is only the end
of it. Altogether, we have accounted for nearly two score of the poor
devils."

"Do you think you can make them prisoners, without killing any more of
them?" asked Iris.

"That depends entirely on themselves, Miss Deane. My men will not fire
a shot unless they encounter resistance."

Robert looked towards the approaching boat. She would not land yet for
a couple of minutes.

"By the way," he said, "will you tell me your name?"

"Playdon--Lieutenant Philip H. Playdon."

"Do you know to what nation this island belongs?"

"It is no-man's land, I think. It is marked 'uninhabited' on the
chart."

"Then," said Anstruther, "I call upon you, Lieutenant Playdon, and all
others here present, to witness that I, Robert Anstruther, late of the
Indian Army, acting on behalf of myself and Miss Iris Deane, declare
that we have taken possession of this island in the name of His
Britannic Majesty the King of England, that we are the joint occupiers
and owners thereof, and claim all property rights vested therein."

These formal phrases, coming at such a moment, amazed his hearers. Iris
alone had an inkling of the underlying motive.

"I don't suppose any one will dispute your title," said the naval
officer gravely. He unquestionably imagined that suffering and exposure
had slightly disturbed the other man's senses, yet he had seldom seen
any person who looked to be in more complete possession of his
faculties.

"Thank you," replied Robert with equal composure, though he felt
inclined to laugh at Playdon's mystification. "I only wished to secure
a sufficient number of witnesses for a verbal declaration. When I have
a few minutes to spare I will affix a legal notice on the wall in front
of our cave."

Playdon bowed silently. There was something in the speaker's manner
that puzzled him. He detailed a small guard to accompany Robert and
Iris, who now walked towards the beach, and asked Mir Jan to pilot him
as suggested by Anstruther.

The boat was yet many yards from shore when Iris ran forward and
stretched out her arms to the man who was staring at her with wistful
despair.

"Father! Father!" she cried. "Don't you know me?"

Sir Arthur Deane was looking at the two strange figures on the sands,
and each moment his heart sank lower. This island held his final hope.
During many weary weeks, since the day when a kindly Admiral placed the
cruiser _Orient_ at his disposal, he had scoured the China Sea,
the coasts of Borneo and Java, for some tidings of the ill-fated
_Sirdar_.

He met naught save blank nothingness, the silence of the great ocean
mausoleum. Not a boat, a spar, a lifebuoy, was cast up by the waves to
yield faintest trace of the lost steamer. Every naval man knew what had
happened. The vessel had met with some mishap to her machinery, struck
a derelict, or turned turtle, during that memorable typhoon of March 17
and 18. She had gone down with all hands. Her fate was a foregone
conclusion. No ship's boat could live in that sea, even if the crew
were able to launch one. It was another of ocean's tragedies, with the
fifth act left to the imagination.

To examine every sand patch and tree-covered shoal in the China Sea was
an impossible task. All the _Orient_ could do was to visit the
principal islands and institute inquiries among the fishermen and small
traders. At last, the previous night, a Malay, tempted by hope of
reward, boarded the vessel when lying at anchor off the large island
away to the south, and told the captain a wondrous tale of a
devil-haunted place inhabited by two white spirits, a male and a
female, whither a local pirate named Taung S'Ali had gone by chance
with his men and suffered great loss. But Taung S'Ali was bewitched by
the female spirit, and had returned there, with a great force, swearing
to capture her or perish. The spirits, the Malay said, had dwelt upon
the island for many years. His father and grandfather knew the place
and feared it. Taung S'Ali would never be seen again.

This queer yarn was the first indication they received of the
whereabouts of any persons who might possibly be shipwrecked Europeans,
though not survivors from the _Sirdar_. Anyhow, the tiny dot lay
in the vessel's northward track, so a course was set to arrive off the
island soon after dawn.

Events on shore, as seen by the officer on watch, told their own tale.
Wherever Dyaks are fighting there is mischief on foot, so the
_Orient_ took a hand in the proceedings.

But Sir Arthur Deane, after an agonized scrutiny of the weird-looking
persons escorted by the sailors to the water's edge, sadly acknowledged
that neither of these could be the daughter whom he sought. He bowed
his head in humble resignation, and he thought he was the victim of a
cruel hallucination when Iris's tremulous accents reached his ears--

"Father, father! Don't you know me?"

He stood up, amazed and trembling.

"Yes, father dear. It is I, your own little girl given back to you. Oh
dear! Oh dear! I cannot see you for my tears."

They had some difficulty to keep him in the boat, and the man pulling
stroke smashed a stout oar with the next wrench.

And so they met at last, and the sailors left them alone, to crowd
round Anstruther and ply him with a hundred questions. Although he fell
in with their humor, and gradually pieced together the stirring story
which was supplemented each instant by the arrival of disconsolate
Dyaks and the comments of the men who returned from cave and beach, his
soul was filled with the sight of Iris and her father, and the happy,
inconsequent demands with which each sought to ascertain and relieve
the extent of the other's anxiety.

Then Iris called to him--

"Robert, I want you."

The use of his Christian name created something akin to a sensation.
Sir Arthur Deane was startled, even in his immeasurable delight at
finding his child uninjured--the picture of rude health and happiness.

Anstruther advanced.

"This is my father," she cried, shrill with joy. "And, father darling,
this is Captain Robert Anstruther, to whom alone, under God's will, I
owe my life, many, many times since the moment the _Sirdar_ was
lost."

It was no time for questioning. Sir Arthur Deane took off his hat and
held out his hand--

"Captain Anstruther," he said, "as I owe you my daughter's life, I owe
you that which I can never repay. And I owe you my own life, too, for I
could not have survived the knowledge that she was dead."

Robert took the proffered hand--

"I think, Sir Arthur, that, of the two, I am the more deeply indebted.
There are some privileges whose value cannot be measured, and among
them the privilege of restoring your daughter to your arms takes the
highest place."

Then, being much more self-possessed than the older man, who was
naturally in a state of agitation that was almost painful, he turned to
Iris.

"I think," he said, "that your father should take you on board the
_Orient_, Iris. There you may, perhaps, find some suitable
clothing, eat something, and recover from the exciting events of the
morning. Afterwards, you must bring Sir Arthur ashore again, and we
will guide him over the island. I am sure you will find much to tell
him meanwhile."

The baronet could not fail to note the manner in which these two
addressed each other, the fearless love which leaped from eye to eye,
the calm acceptance of a relationship not be questioned or gainsaid.
Robert and Iris, without spoken word on the subject, had tactily agreed
to avoid the slightest semblance of subterfuge as unworthy alike of
their achievements and their love. Yet what could Sir Arthur Deane do?
To frame a suitable protest at such a moment was not to be dreamed of.
As yet he was too shaken to collect his thoughts. Anstruther's
proposal, however, helped him to blurt out what he intuitively felt to
be a disagreeable fact. Yet something must be said, for his brain
reeled.

"Your suggestion is admirable," he cried, striving desperately to
affect a careless complaisance. "The ship's stores may provide Iris
with some sort of rig-out, and an old friend of hers is on board at
this moment, little expecting her presence. Lord Ventnor has
accompanied me in my search. He will, of course, be delighted--"

Anstruther flushed a deep bronze, but Iris broke in--

"Father, why did _he_ come with you?"

Sir Arthur, driven into this sudden squall of explanation, became
dignified.

"Well, you see, my dear, under the circumstances, he felt an anxiety
almost commensurate with my own."

"But why, why?"

Iris was quite calm. With Robert near, she was courageous. Even the
perturbed baronet experienced a new sensation as his troubled glance
fell before her searching eyes. His daughter had left him a joyous,
heedless girl. He found her a woman, strong, self-reliant, purposeful.
Yet he kept on, choosing the most straightforward means as the only
honorable way of clearing a course so beset with unsuspected obstacles.

"It is only reasonable, Iris, that your affianced husband should suffer
an agony of apprehension on your account, and do all that was possible
to effect your rescue."

"My--affianced--husband?"

"Well, my dear girl, perhaps that is hardly the correct phrase from
your point of view. Yet you cannot fail to remember that Lord
Ventnor--"

"Father, dear," said Iris solemnly, but in a voice free from all
uncertainty, "my affianced husband stands here! We plighted our troth
at the very gate of death. It was ratified in the presence of God, and
has been blessed by Him. I have made no compact with Lord Ventnor. He
is a base and unworthy man. Did you but know the truth concerning him
you would not mention his name in the same breath with mine. Would he,
Robert?"

Never was man so perplexed as the unfortunate shipowner. In the instant
that his beloved daughter was restored to him out of the very depths of
the sea, he was asked either to undertake the role of a disappointed
and unforgiving parent, or sanction her marriage to a truculent-looking
person of most forbidding if otherwise manly appearance, who had
certainly saved her from death in ways not presently clear to him, but
who could not be regarded as a suitable son-in-law solely on that
account.

What could he do, what could he say, to make the position less
intolerable?

Anstruther, quicker than Iris to appreciate Sir Arthur Deane's dilemma,
gallantly helped him. He placed a loving hand on the girl's shoulder.

"Be advised by me, Sir Arthur, and you too, Iris," he said. "This is no
hour for such explanations. Leave me to deal with Lord Ventnor. I am
content to trust the ultimate verdict to you, Sir Arthur. You will
learn in due course all that has happened. Go on board, Iris. Meet Lord
Ventnor as you would meet any other friend. You will not marry him, I
know. I can trust you." He said this with a smile that robbed the words
of serious purport. "Believe me, you two can find plenty to occupy your
minds today without troubling yourselves about Lord Ventnor."

"I am very much obliged to you," murmured the baronet, who,
notwithstanding his worry, was far too experienced a man of the world
not to acknowledge the good sense of this advice, no matter how
ruffianly might be the guise of the strange person who gave it.

"That is settled, then," said Robert, laughing good-naturedly, for he
well knew what a weird spectacle he must present to the bewildered old
gentleman.

Even Sir Arthur Deane was fascinated by the ragged and hairy giant who
carried himself so masterfully and helped everybody over the stile at
the right moment He tried to develop the change in the conversation.

"By the way," he said, "how came you to be on the _Sirdar_? I have
a list of all the passengers and crew, and your name does not appear
therein."

"Oh, that is easily accounted for. I shipped as a steward, in the name
of Robert Jenks."

"Robert Jenks! A steward!"

This was worse than ever. The unhappy shipowner thought the sky must
have fallen.

"Yes. That forms some part of the promised explanation."

Iris rapidly gathered the drift of her lover's wishes. "Come, father,"
she cried merrily. "I am aching to see what the ship's stores, which
you and Robert pin your faith to, can do for me in the shape of
garments. I have the utmost belief in the British navy, and even a
skeptic should be convinced of its infallibility if H.M.S.
_Orient_ is able to provide a lady's outfit."

Sir Arthur Deane gladly availed himself of the proffered compromise. He
assisted Iris into the boat, though that active young person was far
better able to support him, and a word to the officer in command sent
the gig flying back to the ship. Anstruther, during a momentary delay,
made a small request on his own account. Lieutenant Playdon, nearly as
big a man as Robert, despatched a note to his servant, and the gig
speedily returned with a complete assortment of clothing and linen. The
man also brought a dressing case, with the result that a dip in the
bath, and ten minutes in the hands of an expert valet, made Anstruther
a new man.

Acting under his advice, the bodies of the dead were thrown into the
lagoon, the wounded were collected in the hut to be attended to by the
ship's surgeon, and the prisoners were paraded in front of Mir Jan, who
identified every man, and found, by counting heads, that none was
missing.

Robert did not forget to write out a formal notice and fasten it to the
rock. This proceeding further mystified the officers of the
_Orient_, who had gradually formed a connected idea of the great
fight made by the shipwrecked pair, though Anstruther squirmed inwardly
when he thought of the manner in which Iris would picture the scene. As
it was, he had the first innings, and he did not fail to use the
opportunity. In the few terse words which the militant Briton best
understands, he described the girl's fortitude, her unflagging
cheerfulness, her uncomplaining readiness to do and dare.

Little was said by his auditors, save to interpolate an occasional
question as to why such and such a thing was necessary, or how some
particular drawback had been surmounted. Standing near the well, it was
not necessary to move to explain to them the chief features of the
island, and point out the measures he had adopted.

When he ended, the first lieutenant, who commanded the boats sent in
pursuit of the flying Dyaks--the _Orient_ sank both sampans as
soon as they were launched--summed up the general verdict--

"You do not need our admiration, Captain Anstruther. Each man of us
envies you from the bottom of his soul."

"I do, I know--from the very bilge," exclaimed a stout midshipman, one
of those who had seen Iris.

Robert waited until the laugh died away.

"There is an error about my rank," he said. "I did once hold a
commission in the Indian army, but I was court-marshaled and cashiered
in Hong Kong six months ago. I was unjustly convicted on a grave
charge, and I hope some day to clear myself. Meanwhile I am a mere
civilian. It was only Miss Deane's generous sympathy which led her to
mention my former rank, Mr. Playdon."

Had another of the _Orient's_ 12-pounder shells suddenly burst in
the midst of the group of officers, it would have created less dismay
than this unexpected avowal. Court-martialed! Cashiered! None but a
service man can grasp the awful significance of those words to the
commissioned ranks of the army and navy.

Anstruther well knew what he was doing. Somehow, he found nothing hard
in the performance of these penances now. Of course, the ugly truth
must be revealed the moment Lord Ventnor heard his name. It was not
fair to the good fellows crowding around him, and offering every
attention that the frank hospitality of the British sailor could
suggest, to permit them to adopt the tone of friendly equality which
rigid discipline, if nothing else, would not allow them to maintain.

The first lieutenant, by reason of his rank, was compelled to say
something--

"That is a devilish bad job, Mr. Anstruther," he blurted out.

"Well, you know, I had to tell you."

He smiled unaffectedly at the wondering circle. He, too, was an
officer, and appreciated their sentiments. They were unfeignedly sorry
for him, a man so brave and modest, such a splendid type of the soldier
and gentleman, yet, by their common law, an outcast. Nor could they
wholly understand his demeanor. There was a noble dignity in his
candor, a conscious innocence that disdained to shield itself under a
partial truth. He spoke, not as a wrong-doer, but as one who addresses
those who have been and will be once more his peers.

The first lieutenant again phrased the thoughts of his juniors--

"I, and every other man in the ship, cannot help but sympathize with
you. But whatever may be your record--if you were an escaped convict,
Mr. Anstruther--no one could withhold from you the praise deserved for
your magnificent stand against overwhelming odds. Our duty is plain. We
will bring you to Singapore, where the others will no doubt wish to go
immediately. I will tell the Captain what you have been good enough to
acquaint us with. Meanwhile we will give you every assistance,
and--er--attention in our power."

A murmur of approbation ran through the little circle. Robert's face
paled somewhat. What first-rate chaps they were, to be sure!

"I can only thank you," he said unsteadily. "Your kindness is more
trying than adversity."

A rustle of silk, the intrusion into the intent knot of men of a young
lady in a Paris gown, a Paris hat, carrying a Trouville parasol, and
most exquisitely gloved and booted, made every one gasp.

"Oh, Robert dear, how _could_ you? I actually didn't know you!"

Thus Iris, bewitchingly attired, and gazing now with provoking
admiration at Robert, who certainly offered almost as great a contrast
to his former state as did the girl herself. He returned her look with
interest.

"Would any man believe," he laughed, "that clothes would do so much for
a woman?"

"What a left-handed compliment! But come, dearest, Captain Fitzroy and
Lord Ventnor have come ashore with father and me. They want us to show
them everything! You will excuse him, won't you?" she added, with a
seraphic smile to the others.

They walked off together.

"Jimmy!" gasped the fat midshipman to a lanky youth. "She's got on your
togs!"

Meaning that Iris had ransacked the _Orient's_ theatrical
wardrobe, and pounced on the swell outfit of the principal female
impersonator in the ship's company.

Lieutenant Playdon bit the chin strap of his pith helmet, for the
landing party wore the regulation uniform for service ashore in the
tropics. He muttered to his chief--

"Damme if I've got the hang of this business yet."

"Neither have I. Anstruther looks a decent sort of fellow, and the girl
is a stunner. Yet, d'ye know, Playdon, right through the cruise I've
always understood that she was the fiancee of that cad, Ventnor."

"Anstruther appears to have arranged matters differently. Wonder what
pa will say when that Johnnie owns up about the court-martial."

"Give it up, which is more than the girl will do, or I'm much mistaken.
Funny thing, you know, but I've a sort of hazy recollection of
Anstruther's name being mixed up with that of a Colonel's wife at Hong
Kong. Fancy Ventnor was in it too, as a witness. Stand by, and we'll
see something before we unload at Singapore."




CHAPTER XVI

BARGAINS, GREAT AND SMALL


Lord Ventnor was no fool. Whilst Iris was transforming herself from a
semi-savage condition into a semblance of an ultra _chic_
Parisienne--the _Orient's_ dramatic costumier went in for strong
stage effects in feminine attire--Sir Arthur Deane told the Earl
something of the state of affairs on the island.

His lordship--a handsome, saturnine man, cool, insolently polite, and
plentifully endowed with the judgmatical daring that is the necessary
equipment of a society libertine--counseled patience, toleration, even
silent recognition of Anstruther's undoubted claims for services
rendered.

"She is an enthusiastic, high-spirited girl," he urged upon his
surprised hearer, who expected a very different expression of opinion.
"This fellow Anstruther is a plausible sort of rascal, a good man in a
tight place too--just the sort of fire-eating blackguard who would fill
the heroic bill where a fight is concerned. Damn him, he licked me
twice."

Further amazement for the shipowner.

"Yes, it's quite true. I interfered with his little games, and he gave
me the usual reward of the devil's apothecary. Leave Iris alone. At
present she is strung up to an intense pitch of gratitude, having
barely escaped a terrible fate. Let her come back to the normal.
Anstruther's shady record must gradually leak out. That will disgust
her. In a week she will appeal to you to buy him off. He is hard
up--cut off by his people and that sort of thing. There you probably
have the measure of his scheming. He knows quite well that he can never
marry your daughter. It is all a matter of price."

Sir Arthur willingly allowed himself to be persuaded. At the back of
his head there was an uneasy consciousness that it was not "all a
matter of price." If it were he would never trust a man's face again.
But Ventnor's well-balanced arguments swayed him. The course indicated
was the only decent one. It was humanly impossible for a man to chide
his daughter and flout her rescuer within an hour of finding them.

Lord Ventnor played his cards with a deeper design. He bowed to the
inevitable. Iris said she loved his rival. Very well. To attempt to
dissuade her was to throw her more closely into that rival's arms. The
right course was to appear resigned, saddened, compelled against his
will to reveal the distressing truth. Further, he counted on
Anstruther's quick temper as an active agent. Such a man would be the
first to rebel against an assumption of pitying tolerance. He would
bring bitter charges of conspiracy, of unbelievable compact to secure
his ruin. All this must recoil on his own head when the facts were laid
bare. Not even the hero of the island could prevail against the
terrible indictment of the court-martial. Finally, at Singapore, three
days distant, Colonel Costobell and his wife were staying. Lord
Ventnor, alone of those on board, knew this. Indeed, he accompanied Sir
Arthur Deane largely in order to break off a somewhat trying
entanglement. He smiled complacently as he thought of the effect on
Iris of Mrs. Costobell's indignant remonstrances when the baronet asked
that injured lady to tell the girl all that had happened at Hong Kong.

In a word, Lord Ventnor was most profoundly annoyed, and he cursed
Anstruther from the depths of his heart. But he could see a way out.
The more desperate the emergency the more need to display finesse.
Above all, he must avoid an immediate rupture.

He came ashore with Iris and her father; the captain of the
_Orient_ also joined the party. The three men watched Robert and
the girl walking towards them from the group of officers.

"Anstruther is a smart-looking fellow," commented Captain Fitzroy. "Who
is he?"

Truth to tell, the gallant commander of the _Orient_ was secretly
amazed by the metamorphosis effected in Robert's appearance since he
scrutinized him through his glasses. Iris, too, unaccustomed to the
constraint of high-heeled shoes, clung to the nondescript's arm in a
manner that shook the sailor's faith in Lord Ventnor's pretensions as
her favored suitor.

Poor Sir Arthur said not a word, but his lordship was quite at ease--

"From his name, and from what Deane tells me, I believe he is an
ex-officer of the Indian Army."

"Ah. He has left the service?"

"Yes. I met him last in Hong Kong."

"Then you know him?"

"Quite well, if he is the man I imagine."

"That is really very nice of Ventnor," thought the shipowner. "The last
thing I should credit him with would be a forgiving disposition."

Meanwhile Anstruther was reading Iris a little lecture. "Sweet one," he
explained to her, "do not allude to me by my former rank. I am not
entitled to it. Some day, please God, it will be restored to me. At
present I am a plain civilian."

"I think you very handsome."

"Don't tease, there's a good girl. It is not fair with all these people
looking."

"But really, Robert, only since you scraped off the upper crust have I
been able to recognize you again. I remember now that I thought you
were a most distinguished looking steward."

"Well, I am helpless. I cannot even squeeze you. By the way, Iris,
during the next few days say nothing about our mine."

"Oh, why not?"

"Just a personal whim. It will please me."

"If it pleases you, Robert, I am satisfied."

He pressed her arm by way of answer. They were too near to the waiting
trio for other comment.

"Captain Fitzroy," cried Iris, "let me introduce Mr. Anstruther to you.
Lord Ventnor, you have met Mr. Anstruther before."

The sailor shook hands. Lord Ventnor smiled affably.

"Your enforced residence on the island seems to have agreed with you,"
he said.

"Admirably. Life here had its drawbacks, but we fought our enemies in
the open. Didn't we, Iris?"

"Yes, dear. The poor Dyaks were not sufficiently modernized to attack
us with false testimony."

His lordship's sallow face wrinkled somewhat. So Iris knew of the
court-martial, nor was she afraid to proclaim to all the world that
this man was her lover. As for Captain Fitzroy, his bushy eyebrows
disappeared into his peaked cap when he heard the manner of their
speech.

Nevertheless Ventnor smiled again.

"Even the Dyaks respected Miss Deane," he said.

But Anstruther, sorry for the manifest uneasiness of the shipowner,
repressed the retort on his lips, and forthwith suggested that they
should walk to the north beach in the first instance, that being the
scene of the wreck.

During the next hour he became auditor rather than narrator. It was
Iris who told of his wild fight against wind and waves, Iris who showed
them where he fought with the devil-fish, Iris who expatiated on the
long days of ceaseless toil, his dauntless courage in the face of every
difficulty, the way in which he rescued her from the clutch of the
savages, the skill of his preparations against the anticipated attack,
and the last great achievement of all, when, time after time, he foiled
the Dyaks' best-laid plans, and flung them off, crippled and
disheartened, during the many phases of the thirty hours' battle.

She had an attentive audience. Most of the _Orient's_ officers
quietly came up and followed the girl's glowing recital with breathless
interest. Robert vainly endeavored more than once to laugh away her
thrilling eulogy. But she would have none of it. Her heart was in her
words. He deserved this tribute of praise, unstinted, unmeasured,
abundant in its simple truth, yet sounding like a legend spun by some
romantic poet, were not the grim evidences of its accuracy visible on
every hand.

She was so volubly clear, so precise in fact, so subtle in her clever
delineations of humorous or tragic events, that her father was
astounded, and even Anstruther silently admitted that a man might live
until he equaled the years of a Biblical patriarch without discovering
all the resources of a woman.

There were tears in her eyes when she ended; but they were tears of
thankful happiness, and Lord Ventnor, a silent listener who missed
neither word nor look, felt a deeper chill in his cold heart as he
realized that this woman's love could never be his. The knowledge
excited his passion the more. His hatred of Anstruther now became a
mania, an insensate resolve to mortally stab this meddler who always
stood in his path.

Robert hoped that his present ordeal was over. It had only begun. He
was called on to answer questions without number. Why had the tunnel
been made? What was the mystery of the Valley of Death? How did he
manage to guess the dimensions of the sun-dial? How came he to acquire
such an amazing stock of out-of-the-way knowledge of the edible
properties of roots and trees? How? Why? Where? When? They never would
be satisfied, for not even the British navypoking its nose into the
recesses of the world--often comes across such an amazing story as the
adventures of this couple on Rainbow Island.

He readily explained the creation of quarry and cave by telling them of
the vein of antimony embedded in the rock near the fault. Antimony is
one of the substances that covers a multitude of doubts. No one, not
excepting the doctors who use it, knows much about it, and in Chinese
medicine it might be a chief factor of exceeding nastiness.

Inside the cavern, the existence of the partially completed shaft to
the ledge accounted for recent disturbances on the face of the rock,
and new-comers could not, of course, distinguish the bones of poor
"J.S." as being the remains of a European.

Anstruther was satisfied that none of them hazarded the remotest guess
as to the value of the gaunt rock they were staring at, and chance
helped him to baffle further inquiry.

A trumpeter on board the _Orient_ was blowing his lungs out to
summon them to luncheon, when Captain Fitzroy put a final query.

"I can quite understand," he said to Robert, "that you have an
affection for this weird place."

"I should think so indeed," muttered the stout midshipman, glancing at
Iris.

"But I am curious to know," continued the commander, "why you lay claim
to the island? You can hardly intend to return here."

He pointed to Robert's placard stuck on the rock.

Anstruther paused before he answered. He felt that Lord Ventnor's dark
eyes were fixed on him. Everybody was more or less desirous to have
this point cleared up. He looked the questioner squarely in the face.

"In some parts of the world," he said, "there are sunken reefs,
unknown, uncharted, on which many a vessel has been lost without any
contributory fault on the part of her officers?"

"Undoubtedly."

"Well, Captain Fitzroy, when I was stationed with my regiment in Hong
Kong I encountered such a reef, and wrecked my life on it. At least,
that is how it seemed to me then. Fortune threw me ashore here, after a
long and bitter submergence. You can hardly blame me if I cling to the
tiny speck of land that gave me salvation."

"No," admitted the sailor. He knew there was something more in the
allegory than the text revealed, but it was no business of his.

"Moreover," continued Robert smilingly, "you see I have a partner."

"There cannot be the slightest doubt about the partner," was the prompt
reply.

Then every one laughed, Iris more than any, though Sir Arthur Deane's
gaiety was forced, and Lord Ventnor could taste the acidity of his own
smile.

Later in the day the first lieutenant told his chief of Anstruther's
voluntary statement concerning the court-martial. Captain Fitzroy was
naturally pained by this unpleasant revelation, but he took exactly the
same view as that expressed by the first lieutenant in Robert's
presence.

Nevertheless he pondered the matter, and seized an early opportunity of
mentioning it to Lord Ventnor. That distinguished nobleman was vastly
surprised to learn how Anstruther had cut the ground from beneath his
feet.

"Yes," he said, in reply to the sailor's request for information, "I
know all about it. It could not well be otherwise, seeing that next to
Mrs. Costobell I was the principal witness against him."

"That must have been d----d awkward for you," was the unexpected
comment.

"Indeed! Why?"

"Because rumor linked your name with that of the lady in a somewhat
outspoken way."

"You astonish me. Anstruther certainly made some stupid allegations
during the trial; but I had no idea he was able to spread this
malicious report subsequently."

"I am not talking of Hong Kong, my lord, but of Singapore, months
later."

Captain Fitzroy's tone was exceedingly dry. Indeed, some people might
deem it offensive.

His lordship permitted himself the rare luxury of an angry scowl.

"Rumor is a lying jade at the best," he said curtly. "You must
remember, Captain Fitzroy, that I have uttered no word of scandal about
Mr. Anstruther, and any doubts concerning his conduct can be set at
rest by perusing the records of his case in the Adjutant-General's
office at Hong Kong."

"Hum!" said the sailor, turning on his heel to enter the chart-room.
This was no way to treat a real live lord, a personage of some
political importance, too, such as the Special Envoy to Wang Hai.
Evidently, Iris was no mean advocate. She had already won for the
"outcast" the suffrages of the entire ship's company.

The girl and her father went back to the island with Robert. After
taking thought, the latter decided to ask Mir Jan to remain in
possession until he returned. There was not much risk of another Dyak
invasion. The fate of Taung S'Ali's expedition would not encourage a
fresh set of marauders, and the Mahommedan would be well armed to meet
unforeseen contingencies, whilst on his, Anstruther's, representations
the _Orient_ would land an abundance of stores. In any event, it
was better for the native to live in freedom on Rainbow Island than to
be handed over to the authorities as an escaped convict, which must be
his immediate fate no matter what magnanimous view the Government of
India might afterwards take of his services.

Mir Jan's answer was emphatic. He took off his turban and placed it on
Anstruther's feet.

"Sahib," he said, "I am your dog. If, some day, I am found worthy to be
your faithful servant, then shall I know that Allah has pardoned my
transgressions. I only killed a man because--"

"Peace, Mir Jan. Let him rest."

"Why is he worshiping you, Robert?" demanded Iris.

He told her.

"Really," she cried, "I must keep up my studies in Hindustani. It is
quite too sweet."

And then, for the benefit of her father, she rattled off into a
spirited account of her struggles with the algebraic x and the Urdu
compound verb.

Sir Arthur Deane managed to repress a sigh. In spite of himself he
could not help liking Anstruther. The man was magnetic, a hero, an
ideal gentleman. No wonder his daughter was infatuated with him. Yet
the future was dark and storm-tossed, full of sinister threats and
complications. Iris did not know the wretched circumstances which had
come to pass since they parted, and which had changed the whole aspect
of his life. How could he tell her? Why should it be his miserable lot
to snatch the cup of happiness from her lips? In that moment of silent
agony he wished he were dead, for death alone could remove the burthen
laid on him. Well, surely he might bask in the sunshine of her laughter
for another day. No need to embitter her joyous heart until he was
driven to it by dire necessity.

So he resolutely brushed aside the woe-begone phantom of care, and
entered into the _abandon_ of the hour with a zest that delighted
her. The dear girl imagined that Robert, her Robert, had made another
speedy conquest, and Anstruther himself was much elated by the sudden
change in Sir Arthur Deane's demeanor.

They behaved like school children on a picnic. They roared over Iris's
troubles in the matter of divided skirts, too much divided to be at all
pleasant. The shipowner tasted some of her sago bread, and vowed it was
excellent. They unearthed two bottles of champagne, the last of the
case, and promised each other a hearty toast at dinner. Nothing would
content Iris but that they should draw a farewell bucketful of water
from the well and drench the pitcher-plant with a torrential shower.

Robert carefully secured the pocket-books, money and other effects
found on their dead companions. The baronet, of course, knew all the
principal officers of the _Sirdar_. He surveyed these mournful
relics with sorrowful interest.

"The _Sirdar_ was the crack ship of my fleet, and Captain Ross my
most trusted commander," he said. "You may well imagine, Mr.
Anstruther, what a cruel blow it was to lose such a vessel, with all
these people on board, and my only daughter amongst them. I wonder now
that it did not kill me."

"She was a splendid sea-boat, sir. Although disabled, she fought
gallantly against the typhoon. Nothing short of a reef would break her
up."

"Ah, well," sighed the shipowner, "the few timbers you have shown me
here are the remaining assets out of L300,000."

"Was she not insured?" inquired Robert.

"No; that is, I have recently adopted a scheme of mutual
self-insurance, and the loss falls _pro rata_ on my other
vessels."

The baronet glanced covertly at Iris. The words conveyed little meaning
to her. Indeed, she broke in with a laugh--

"I am afraid I have heard you say, father dear, that some ships in the
fleet paid you best when they ran ashore."

"Yes, Iris. That often happened in the old days. It is different now.
Moreover, I have not told you the extent of my calamities. The
_Sirdar_ was lost on March 18, though I did not know it for
certain until this morning. But on March 25 the _Bahadur_ was sunk
in the Mersey during a fog, and three days later the _Jemadar_
turned turtle on the James and Mary shoal in the Hooghly. Happily there
were no lives lost in either of these cases."

Even Iris was appalled by this list of casualties.

"My poor, dear dad!" she cried. "To think that all these troubles
should occur the very moment I left you!"

Yet she gave no thought to the serious financial effect of such a
string of catastrophes. Robert, of course, appreciated this side of the
business, especially in view of the shipowner's remark about the
insurance. But Sir Arthur Deane's stiff upper lip deceived him. He
failed to realize that the father was acting a part for his daughter's
sake.

Oddly enough, the baronet did not seek to discuss with them the
legal-looking document affixed near the cave. It claimed all rights in
the island in their joint names, and this was a topic he wished to
avoid. For the time, therefore, the younger man had no opportunity of
taking him into his confidence, and Iris held faithfully to her promise
of silence.

The girl's ragged raiment, sou'wester, and strong boots were already
packed away on board. She now rescued the Bible, the copy of Tennyson's
poems, the battered tin cup, her revolver, and the Lee-Metford which
"scared" the Dyaks when they nearly caught Anstruther and Mir Jan
napping. Robert also gathered for her an assortment of Dyak hats,
belts, and arms, including Taung S'Ali's parang and a sumpitan. These
were her trophies, the _spolia opima_ of the campaign.

His concluding act was to pack two of the empty oil tins with all the
valuable lumps of auriferous quartz he could find where he shot the
rubbish from the cave beneath the trees. On top of these he placed some
antimony ore, and Mir Jan, wondering why the sahib wanted the stuff,
carried the consignment to the waiting boat. Lieutenant Playdon, in
command of the last party of sailors to quit the island, evidently
expected Mir Jan to accompany them, but Anstruther explained that the
man would await his return, some time in June or July.

Sir Arthur Deane found himself speculating on the cause of this
extraordinary resolve, but, steadfast to his policy of avoiding
controversial matters, said nothing. A few words to the captain
procured enough stores to keep the Mahommedan for six months at least,
and whilst these were being landed, the question was raised how best to
dispose of the Dyaks.

The commander wished to consult the convenience of his guests.

"If we go a little out of our way and land them in Borneo," he said,
"they will be hanged without troubling you further. If I take them to
Singapore they will be tried on your evidence and sent to penal
servitude. Which is it to be?"

It was Iris who decided.

"I cannot bear to think of more lives being sacrificed," she protested.
"Perhaps if these men are treated mercifully and sent to their homes
after some punishment their example may serve as a deterrent to
others."

So it was settled that way. The anchor rattled up to its berth and the
_Orient_ turned her head towards Singapore. As she steadily passed
away into the deepening azure, the girl and her lover watched the
familiar outlines of Rainbow Island growing dim in the evening light.
For a long while they could see Mir Jan's tall, thin figure motionless
on a rock at the extremity of Europa Point. Their hut, the reef, the
ledge, came into view as the cruiser swung round to a more northerly
course.

Iris had thrown an arm across her father's shoulders. The three were
left alone just then, and they were silent for many minutes. At last,
the flying miles merged the solitary palm beyond the lagoon with the
foliage on the cliff. The wide cleft of Prospect Park grew less
distinct. Mir Jan's white-clothed figure was lost in the dark
background. The island was becoming vague, dream-like, a blurred
memory.

"Robert," said the girl devoutly, "God has been very good to us."

"Yes," he replied. "I was thinking, even this instant, of the verse
that is carved on the gate of the Memorial Well at Cawnpore: 'These are
they which came out of great tribulation.' We, too, have come out of
great tribulation, happily with our lives--and more. The decrees of
fate are indeed inscrutable."

Iris turned to him a face roseate with loving comprehension.

"Do you remember this hour yesterday?" she murmured--"how we suffered
from thirst--how the Dyaks began their second attack from the
ridge--how you climbed down the ladder and I followed you? Oh father,
darling," she went on impulsively, tightening her grasp, "you will
never know how brave he was, how enduring, how he risked all for me and
cheered me to the end, even though the end seemed to be the grave."

"I think I am beginning to understand now," answered the shipowner,
averting his eyes lest Iris should see the tears in them. Their Calvary
was ended, they thought--was it for him to lead them again through the
sorrowful way? It was a heartrending task that lay before him, a task
from which his soul revolted. He refused even to attempt it. He sought
forgetfulness in a species of mental intoxication, and countenanced his
daughter's love idyll with such apparent approval that Lord Ventnor
wondered whether Sir Arthur were not suffering from senile decay.

The explanation of the shipowner's position was painfully simple. Being
a daring yet shrewd financier, he perceived in the troubled condition
of the Far East a magnificent opportunity to consolidate the trading
influence of his company. He negotiated two big loans, one, of a
semi-private nature, to equip docks and railways in the chief maritime
province of China, the other of a more public character, with the
Government of Japan. All his own resources, together with those of his
principal directors and shareholders, were devoted to these objects.
Contemporaneously, he determined to stop paying heavy insurance
premiums on his fleet and make it self-supporting, on the well-known
mutual principle.

His vessels were well equipped, well manned, replete with every modern
improvement, and managed with great commercial skill. In three or four
years, given ordinary trading luck, he must have doubled his own
fortune and earned a world-wide reputation for far-seeing sagacity.

No sooner were all his arrangements completed than three of his best
ships went down, saddling his company with an absolute loss of nearly
L600,000, and seriously undermining his financial credit. A
fellow-director, wealthy and influential, resigned his seat on the
board, and headed a clique of disappointed stockholders. At once the
fair sky became overcast. A sound and magnificent speculation
threatened to dissolve in the Bankruptcy Court.

Sir Arthur Deane's energy and financial skill might have enabled him to
weather this unexpected gale were it not for the apparent loss of his
beloved daughter with the crack ship of his line. Half-frenzied with
grief, he bade his enemies do their worst, and allowed his affairs to
get into hopeless confusion whilst he devoted himself wholly to the
search for Iris and her companions. At this critical juncture Lord
Ventnor again reached his side. His lordship possessed a large private
fortune and extensive estates. He was prudent withal, and knew how
admirably the shipowner's plans would develop if given the necessary
time. He offered the use of his name and money. He more than filled the
gap created by the hostile ex-director. People argued that such a
clever man, just returning from the Far East after accomplishing a
public mission of some importance, must be a reliable guide. The mere
cabled intelligence of his intention to join the board restored
confidence and credit.

But--there was a bargain. If Iris lived, she must become the Countess
of Ventnor. His lordship was weary of peripatetic love-making. It was
high time he settled down in life, took an interest in the legislature,
and achieved a position in the world of affairs. He had a chance now.
The certain success of his friend's project, the fortunate completion
of his own diplomatic undertaking, marriage with a beautiful and
charming woman--these items would consolidate his career. If Iris were
not available, plenty of women, high-placed in society, would accept
such an eligible bachelor. But his heart was set on Iris. She was
honest, high-principled, pure in body and mind, and none prizes these
essentials in a wife more than a worn-out _roue_.

He seized the first opportunity that presented itself to make Sir
Arthur Deane acquainted with a decision already dreaded by the
unfortunate shipowner. Iris must either abandon her infatuation for
Anstruther or bring about the ruin of her father. There was no mean.

"If she declines to become Countess of Ventnor, she can marry whom she
likes, as you will be all paupers together," was the Earl's caustic
summing up.

This brutal argument rather overshot the mark. The shipowner's face
flushed with anger, and Lord Ventnor hastened to retrieve a false step.

"I didn't exactly mean to put it that way, Deane, but my temper is a
little short these days. My position on board this ship is intolerable.
As a matter of fair dealing to me, you should put a stop to your
daughter's attitude towards Anstruther, on the ground that her
engagement is neither approved of by you nor desirable under any
consideration."

It may be assumed from this remark that even the Earl's sardonic temper
was ruffled by the girl's outrageous behavior. Nor was it exactly
pleasant to him to note how steadily Anstruther advanced in the favor
of every officer on the ship. By tacit consent the court-martial was
tabooed, at any rate until the _Orient_ reached Singapore. Every
one knew that the quarrel lay between Robert and Ventnor, and it is not
to be wondered at if Iris's influence alone were sufficient to turn the
scale in favor of her lover.

The shipowner refused point-blank to interfere in any way during the
voyage.

"You promised your co-operation in business even if we found that the
_Sirdar_ had gone down with all hands," he retorted bitterly. "Do
you wish me to make my daughter believe she has come back into my life
only to bring me irretrievable ruin?"

"That appears to be the result, no matter how you may endeavor to
disguise it."

"I thought the days were gone when a man would wish to marry a woman
against her will."

"Nonsense! What does she know about it? The glamour of this island
romance will soon wear off. It would be different if Anstruther were
able to maintain her even decently. He is an absolute beggar, I tell
you. Didn't he ship on your own vessel as a steward? Take my tip,
Deane. Tell him how matters stand with you, and he will cool off."

He believed nothing of the sort, but he was desperately anxious that
Iris should learn the truth as to her father's dilemma from other lips
than his own. This would be the first point gained. Others would
follow.

The two men were conversing in the Earl's cabin. On the deck overhead a
very different chat was taking place.

The _Orient_ was due in Singapore that afternoon. Iris was invited
into the chart-room on some pretext, and Lieutenant Playdon, delegated
by the commander and the first lieutenant, buttonholed Robert.

With sailor-like directness he came straight to the point--

"A few of us have been talking about you, Anstruther, and we cannot be
far wrong in assuming that you are hard up. The fact that you took a
steward's job on the _Sirdar_ shows your disinclination to appeal
to your own people for funds. Now, once you are ashore, you will be
landed in difficulties. To cut any further explanations, I am
commissioned to offer you a loan of fifty pounds, which you can repay
when you like."

Robert's mouth tightened somewhat. For the moment he could not find
words. Playdon feared he was offended.

"I am sorry, old chap, if we are mistaken," he said hesitatingly; "but
we really thought--"

"Please do not endeavor to explain away your generous act," exclaimed
Anstruther. "I accept it thankfully, on one condition."

"Blow the condition. But what is it?"

"That you tell me the names of those to whom I am indebted besides
yourself."

"Oh, that is easy enough. Fitzroy and the first luff are the others. We
kept it to a small circle, don't you know. Thought you would prefer
that."

Anstruther smiled and wrung his hand. There were some good fellows left
in the world after all. The three officers acted in pure good nature.
They were assisting a man apparently down in his luck, who would soon
be called on to face other difficulties by reason of his engagement to
a girl apparently so far removed from him in station. And the last
thing they dreamed of was that their kindly loan was destined to yield
them a better return than all the years of their naval service, for
their fifty pounds had gone into the pocket of a potential millionaire,
who was endowed with the faculty, rare in millionaires, of not
forgetting the friends of his poverty-stricken days.




CHAPTER XVII

RAINBOW ISLAND AGAIN--AND AFTERWARD


Sir Arthur Deane was sitting alone in his cabin in a state of deep
dejection, when he was aroused by a knock, and Robert entered.

"Can you give me half an hour?" he asked. "I have something to say to
you before we land."

The shipowner silently motioned him to a seat.

"It concerns Iris and myself," continued Anstruther. "I gathered from
your words when we met on the island that both you and Lord Ventnor
regarded Iris as his lordship's promised bride. From your point of view
the arrangement was perhaps natural and equitable, but since your
daughter left Hong Kong it happens that she and I have fallen in love
with each other. No; please listen to me. I am not here to urge my
claims on you. I won her fairly and intend to keep her, were the whole
House of Peers opposed to me. At this moment I want to tell you, her
father, why she could never, even under other circumstances, marry Lord
Ventnor."

Then he proceeded to place before the astounded baronet a detailed
history of his recent career. It was a sordid story of woman's perfidy,
twice told. It carried conviction in every sentence. It was possible,
of course, to explain matters more fully to the baronet than to Iris,
and Anstruther's fierce resentment of the cruel wrong inflicted upon
him blazed forth with overwhelming force. The intensity of his wrath in
no way impaired the cogency of his arguments. Rather did it lend point
and logical brevity. Each word burned itself into his hearer's
consciousness, for Robert did not know that the unfortunate father was
being coerced to a distasteful compact by the scoundrel who figured in
the narrative as his evil genius.

At the conclusion Sir Arthur bowed his head between his hands.

"I cannot choose but believe you," he admitted huskily. "Yet how came
you to be so unjustly convicted by a tribunal composed of your brother
officers?"

"They could not help themselves. To acquit me meant that they
discredited the sworn testimony not only of my Colonel's wife, but of
the civil head of an important Government Mission, not to mention some
bought Chinese evidence. Am I the first man to be offered up as a
sacrifice on the altar of official expediency?"

"But you are powerless now. You can hardly hope to have your case
revised. What chance is there that your name will ever be cleared?"

"Mrs. Costobell can do it if she will. The vagaries of such a woman are
not to be depended on. If Lord Ventnor has cast her off, her hatred may
'prove stronger than her passion. Anyhow, I should be the last man to
despair of God's Providence. Compare the condition of Iris and myself
today with our plight during the second night on the ledge! I refuse to
believe that a bad and fickle woman can resist the workings of destiny,
and it was a happy fate which led me to ship on board the
_Sirdar_, though at the time I saw it in another light."

How different the words, the aspirations, of the two suitors. Quite
unconsciously, Robert could not have pleaded better. The shipowner
sighed heavily.

"I hope your faith will be justified. If it be not--the more likely
thing to happen--do I understand that my daughter and you intend to get
married whether I give or withhold my sanction?"

Anstruther rose and opened the door.

"I have ventured to tell you," he said, "why she should not marry Lord
Ventnor. When I come to you and ask you for her, which I pray may be
soon, it will be time enough to answer that question, should you then
decide to put it."

It must be remembered that Robert knew nothing whatever of the older
man's predicament, whilst the baronet, full of his own troubles, was in
no mood to take a reasonable view of Anstruther's position. Neither
Iris nor Robert could make him understand the long-drawn-out duel of
their early life on the island, nor was it easy to depict the
tumultuous agony of that terrible hour on the ledge when the girl
forced the man to confess his love by suggesting acceptance of the
Dyaks' terms.

Thus, for a little while, these two were driven apart, and Anstruther
disdained to urge the plea that not many weeks would elapse before he
would be a richer man than his rival. The chief sufferer was Sir Arthur
Deane. Had Iris guessed how her father was tormented, she would not
have remained on the bridge, radiant and mirthful, whilst the
grey-haired baronet gazed with stony-eyed despair at some memoranda
which he extracted from his papers.

"Ten thousand pounds!" he muttered. "Not a great sum for the
millionaire financier, Sir Arthur Deane, to raise on his note of hand.
A few months ago men offered me one hundred times the amount on no
better security. And now, to think that a set of jabbering fools in
London should so destroy my credit and their own, that not a bank will
discount our paper unless they are assured Lord Ventnor has joined the
board! Fancy me, of all men, being willing to barter my child for a few
pieces of gold!"

The thought was maddening. For a little while he yielded to utter
despondency. It was quite true that a comparatively small amount of
money would restore the stability of his firm. Even without it, were
his credit unimpaired, he could easily tide over the period of
depression until the first fruits of his enterprise were garnered.
Then, all men would hail him as a genius.

Wearily turning over his papers, he suddenly came across the last
letter written to him by Iris's mother. How she doted on their only
child! He recalled one night, shortly before his wife died, when the
little Iris was brought into her room to kiss her and lisp her
infantile prayers. She had devised a formula of her own--"God bless
father! God bless mother! God bless me, their little girl!"

And what was it she cried to him from the beach?

"Your own little girl given back to you!"

Given back to him! For what--to marry that black-hearted scoundrel
whose pastime was the degradation of women and the defaming of honest
men? That settled it. Instantly the cloud was lifted from his soul. A
great peace came upon him. The ruin of his business he might not be
able to avert, but he would save from, the wreck that which he prized
more than all else--his daughter's love.

The engines dropped to half speed--they were entering the harbor of
Singapore. In a few hours the worst would be over. If Ventnor
telegraphed to London his withdrawal from the board, nothing short of a
cabled draft for ten thousand pounds would prevent certain creditors
from filing a bankruptcy petition. In the local banks the baronet had
about a thousand to his credit. Surely among the rich merchants of the
port, men who knew the potentialities of his scheme, he would be able
to raise the money needed. He would try hard. Already he felt braver.
The old fire had returned to his blood. The very belief that he was
acting in the way best calculated to secure his daughter's happiness
stimulated and encouraged him.

He went on deck, to meet Iris skipping down the hatchway.

"Oh, there you are!" she cried. "I was just coming to find out why you
were moping in your cabin. You are missing the most beautiful view--all
greens, and blues, and browns! Run, quick! I want you to see every inch
of it."

She held out her hand and pulled him gleefully up the steps. Leaning
against the taffrail, some distance apart from each other, were
Anstruther and Lord Ventnor. Need it be said to whom Iris drew her
father?

"Here he is, Robert," she laughed. "I do believe he was sulking because
Captain Fitzroy was so very attentive to me. Yet you didn't mind it a
bit!"

The two men looked into each other eyes. They smiled. How could they
resist the contagion of her sunny nature?

"I have been thinking over what you said to me just now, Anstruther,"
said the shipowner slowly.

"Oh!" cried Iris. "Have you two been talking secrets behind my back?"

"It is no secret to you--my little girl--" Her father's voice lingered
on the phrase. "When we are on shore, Robert, I will explain matters to
you more fully. Just now I wish only to tell you that where Iris has
given her heart I will not refuse her hand."

"You darling old dad! And is that what all the mystery was about?"

She took his face between her hands and kissed him. Lord Ventnor,
wondering at this effusiveness, strolled forward.

"What has happened, Miss Deane?" he inquired. "Have you just discovered
what an excellent parent you possess?"

The baronet laughed, almost hysterically. "'Pon my honor," he cried,
"you could not have hit upon a happier explanation."

His lordship was not quite satisfied.

"I suppose you will take Iris to Smith's Hotel?" he said with cool
impudence.

Iris answered him.

"Yes. My father has just asked Robert to come with us--by inference,
that is. Where are you going?"

The adroit use of her lover's Christian name goaded his lordship to
sudden heat.

"Indeed!" he snarled. "Sir Arthur Deane has evidently decided a good
many things during the last hour."

"Yes," was the shipowner's quiet retort. "I have decided that my
daughter's happiness should be the chief consideration of my remaining
years. All else must give way to it."

The Earl's swarthy face grew sallow with fury. His eyes blazed, and
there was a tense vibrato in his voice as he said--

"Then I must congratulate you, Miss Deane. You are fated to endure
adventures. Having escaped from the melodramatic perils of Rainbow
Island you are destined to experience another variety of shipwreck
here."

He left them. Not a word had Robert spoken throughout the unexpected
scene. His heart was throbbing with a tremulous joy, and his lordship's
sneers were lost on him. But he could not fail to note the malignant
purpose of the parting sentence.

In his quietly masterful way he placed his hand on the baronet's
shoulder.

"What did Lord Ventnor mean?" he asked.

Sir Arthur Deane answered, with a calm smile--"It is difficult to talk
openly at this moment. Wait until we reach the hotel."

The news flew fast through the settlement that H.M.S. _Orient_ had
returned from her long search for the _Sirdar_. The warship
occupied her usual anchorage, and a boat was lowered to take off the
passengers. Lieutenant Playdon went ashore with them. A feeling of
consideration for Anstruther prevented any arrangements being made for
subsequent meetings. Once their courteous duty was ended, the officers
of the _Orient_ could not give him any further social recognition.

Lord Ventnor was aware of this fact and endeavored to turn it to
advantage.

"By the way, Fitzroy," he called out to the commander as he prepared to
descend the gangway, "I want you, and any others not detained by duty,
to come and dine with me tonight."

Captain Fitzroy answered blandly--"It is very good of you to ask us,
but I fear I cannot make any definite arrangements until I learn what
orders are awaiting me here."

"Oh, certainly. Come if you can, eh?"

"Yes; suppose we leave it at that."

It was a polite but decided rebuff. It in no way tended to sweeten Lord
Ventnor's temper, which was further exasperated when he hurt his shin
against one of Robert's disreputable-looking tins, with its
accumulation of debris.

The boat swung off into the tideway. Her progress shorewards was
watched by a small knot of people, mostly loungers and coolies. Among
them, however, were two persons who had driven rapidly to the
landing-place when the arrival of the _Orient_ was reported. One
bore all the distinguishing marks of the army officer of high rank, but
the other was unmistakably a globetrotter. Only in Piccadilly could he
have purchased his wondrous _sola topi_, or pith helmet--with its
imitation _puggri_ neatly frilled and puckered--and no tailor who
ever carried his goose through the Exile's Gate would have fashioned
his expensive garments. But the old gentleman made no pretence that he
could "hear the East a-callin'." He swore impartially at the climate,
the place, and its inhabitants. At this instant he was in a state of
wild excitement. He was very tall, very stout, exceedingly red-faced.
Any budding medico who understood the pre-eminence enjoyed by _aq.
ad_ in a prescription, would have diagnosed him as a first-rate
subject for apoplexy.

Producing a tremendous telescope, he vainly endeavored to balance it on
the shoulder of a native servant.

"Can't you stand still, you blithering idiot!" he shouted, after futile
attempts to focus the advancing boat, "or shall I steady you by a clout
over the ear?"

His companion, the army man, was looking through a pair of
field-glasses.

"By Jove!" he cried, "I can see Sir Arthur Deane, and a girl who looks
like his daughter. There's that infernal scamp, Ventnor, too."

The big man brushed the servant out of his way, and brandished the
telescope as though it were a bludgeon.

"The dirty beggar! He drove my lad to misery and death, yet he has come
back safe and sound. Wait till I meet him. I'll--"

"Now, Anstruther! Remember your promise. I will deal with Lord Ventnor.
My vengeance has first claim. What! By the jumping Moses, I do
believe--Yes. It is. Anstruther! Your nephew is sitting next to the
girl!"

The telescope fell on the stones with a crash. The giant's rubicund
face suddenly blanched. He leaned on his friend for support.

"You are not mistaken," he almost whimpered. "Look again, for God's
sake, man. Make sure before you speak. Tell me! Tell me!"

"Calm yourself, Anstruther. It is Robert, as sure as I'm alive. Don't
you think I know him, my poor disgraced friend, whom I, like all the
rest, cast off in his hour of trouble? But I had some excuse. There!
There! I didn't mean that, old fellow. Robert himself will be the last
man to blame either of us. Who could have suspected that two
people--one of them, God help me! my wife--would concoct such a hellish
plot!"

The boat glided gracefully alongside the steps of the quay, and Playdon
sprang ashore to help Iris to alight. What happened immediately
afterwards can best be told in his own words, as he retailed the story
to an appreciative audience in the ward-room.

"We had just landed," he said, "and some of the crew were pushing the
coolies out of the way, when two men jumped down the steps, and a most
fiendish row sprang up. That is, there was no dispute or wrangling, but
one chap, who, it turned out, was Colonel Costobell, grabbed Ventnor by
the shirt front, and threatened to smash his face in if he didn't
listen then and there to what he had to say. I really thought about
interfering, until I heard Colonel Costobell's opening words. After
that I would gladly have seen the beggar chucked into the harbor. We
never liked him, did we?"

"Ask no questions, Pompey, but go ahead with the yarn," growled the
first lieutenant.

"Well, it seems that Mrs. Costobell is dead. She got enteric a week
after the _Orient_ sailed, and was a goner in four days. Before
she died she owned up."

He paused, with a base eye to effect. Not a man moved a muscle.

"All right," he cried. "I will make no more false starts. Mrs.
Costobell begged her husband's forgiveness for her treatment of him,
and confessed that she and Lord Ventnor planned the affair for which
Anstruther was tried by court-martial. It must have been a beastly
business, for Costobell was sweating with rage, though his words were
icy enough. And you ought to have seen Ventnor's face when he heard of
the depositions, sworn to and signed by Mrs. Costobell and by several
Chinese servants whom he bribed to give false evidence. He promised to
marry Mrs. Costobell if her husband died, or, in any event, to bring
about a divorce when the Hong Kong affair had blown over. Then she
learnt that he was after Miss Iris, and there is no doubt her fury
helped on the fever. Costobell said that, for his wife's sake, he would
have kept the wretched thing secret, but he was compelled to clear
Anstruther's name, especially as he came across the other old
Johnnie--"

"Pompey, you are incoherent with excitement. Who is 'the other old
Johnnie'?" asked the first luff severely.

"Didn't I tell you? Why, Anstruther's uncle, of course, a heavy old
swell with just a touch of Yorkshire in his tongue. I gathered that he
disinherited his nephew when the news of the court-martial reached him.
Then he relented, and cabled to him. Getting no news, he came East to
look for him. He met Costobell the day after the lady died, and the two
swore--the stout uncle can swear a treat--anyhow, they vowed to be
revenged on Ventnor, and to clear Anstruther's character, living or
dead. Poor old chap! He cried like a baby when he asked the youngster
to forgive him. It was quite touching. I can tell you----"

Playdon affected to search for his pocket-handkerchief.

"Do tell us, or it will be worse for you," cried his mentor.

"Give me time, air, a drink! What you fellows want is a phonograph. Let
me see. Well, Costobell shook Ventnor off at last, with the final
observation that Anstruther's court-martial has been quashed. The next
batch of general orders will re-instate him in the regiment, and it
rests with him to decide whether or not a criminal warrant shall be
issued against his lordship for conspiracy. Do you fellows know what
conspir----?"

"You cuckoo! What did Miss Deane do?"

"Clung to Anstruther like a weeping angel, and kissed everybody all
round when Ventnor got away. Well--hands off. I mean her father,
Anstruther and the stout uncle. Unfortunately I was not on in that
scene. But, for some reason, they all nearly wrung my arm off, and the
men were so excited that they gave the party a rousing cheer as their
rickshaws went off in a bunch. Will no Christian gentleman get me a
drink?"

The next commotion arose in the hotel when Sir Arthur Deane seized the
first opportunity to explain the predicament in which his company was
placed, and the blow which Lord Ventnor yet had it in his power to
deal.

Mr. William Anstruther was an interested auditor. Robert would have
spoken, but his uncle restrained him.

"Leave this to me, lad," he exclaimed. "When I was coming here in the
_Sirdar_ there was a lot of talk about Sir Arthur's scheme, and
there should not be much difficulty in raising all the brass required,
if half what I heard be true. Sit you down, Sir Arthur, and tell us all
about it."

The shipowner required no second bidding. With the skill for which he
was noted, he described his operations in detail, telling how every
farthing of the first instalments of the two great loans was paid up,
how the earnings of his fleet would quickly overtake the deficit in
capital value caused by the loss of the three ships, and how, in six
months' time, the leading financial houses of London, Paris, and Berlin
would be offering him more money than he would need.

To a shrewd man of business the project could not fail to commend
itself, and the Yorkshire squire, though a trifle obstinate in temper,
was singularly clear-headed in other respects. He brought his great
fist down on the table with a whack.

"Send a cable to your company, Sir Arthur," he cried, "and tell them
that your prospective son-in-law will provide the ten thousand pounds
you require. I will see that his draft is honored. You can add, if you
like, that another ten will be ready if wanted when this lot is spent.
I did my lad one d--er--deuced bad turn in my life. This time, I think,
I am doing him a good one."

"You are, indeed," said Iris's father enthusiastically. "The unallotted
capital he is taking up will be worth four times its face value in two
years."

"All the more reason to make his holding twenty instead of ten," roared
the Yorkshireman. "But look here. You talk about dropping proceedings
against that precious earl whom I saw to-day. Why not tell him not to
try any funny tricks until Robert's money is safely lodged to your
account? We have him in our power. Dash it all, let us use him a bit."

Even Iris laughed at this naive suggestion. It was delightful to think
that their arch enemy was actually helping the baronet's affairs at
that very moment, and would continue to do so until he was flung aside
as being of no further value. Although Ventnor himself had carefully
avoided any formal commitment, the cablegrams awaiting the shipowner at
Singapore showed that confidence had already been restored by the
uncontradicted use of his lordship's name.

Robert at last obtained a hearing.

"You two are quietly assuming the attitude of the financial magnates of
this gathering," he said. "I must admit that you have managed things
very well between you, and I do not propose for one moment to interfere
with your arrangements. Nevertheless, Iris and I are really the chief
moneyed persons present. You spoke of financial houses in England and
on the Continent backing up your loans six months hence, Sir Arthur.
You need not go to them. We will be your bankers."

The baronet laughed with a whole-hearted gaiety that revealed whence
Iris got some part, at least, of her bright disposition.

"Will you sell your island, Robert?" he cried. "I am afraid that not
even Iris could wheedle any one into buying it."

"But father, dear," interrupted the girl earnestly, "what Robert says
is true. We have a gold mine there. It is worth so much that you will
hardly believe it until then? can no longer be any doubt in your mind.
I suppose that is why Robert asked me not to mention his discovery to
you earlier."

"No, Iris, that was not the reason," said her lover, and the older men
felt that more than idle fancy inspired the astounding intelligence
that they had just heard. "Your love was more to me than all the gold
in the world. I had won you. I meant to keep you, but I refused to buy
you."

He turned to her father. His pent-up emotion mastered him, and he spoke
as one who could no longer restrain his feelings.

"I have had no chance to thank you for the words you uttered at the
moment we quitted the ship. Yet I will treasure them while life lasts.
You gave Iris to me when I was poor, disgraced, an outcast from my
family and my profession. And I know why you did this thing. It was
because you valued her happiness more than riches or reputation. I am
sorry now I did not explain matters earlier. It would have saved you
much needless suffering. But the sorrow has sped like an evil dream,
and you will perhaps not regret it, for your action today binds me to
you with hoops of steel. And you, too, uncle. You traveled thousands of
miles to help and comfort me in my anguish. Were I as bad as I was
painted, your kind old heart still pitied me; you were prepared to
pluck me from the depths of despair and degradation. Why should I hate
Lord Ventnor? What man could have served me as he did? He has given me
Iris. He gained for me at her father's hands a concession such as
mortal has seldom wrested from black-browed fate. He brought my uncle
to my side in the hour of my adversity. Hate him! I would have his
statue carved in marble, and set on high to tell all who passed how
good may spring out of evil--how God's wisdom can manifest itself by
putting even the creeping and crawling things of the earth to some
useful purpose."

"Dash it all, lad," vociferated the elder Anstruther, "what ails thee?
I never heard you talk like this before!"

The old gentleman's amazement was so comical that further tension was
out of the question.

Robert, in calmer mood, informed them of the manner in which he hit
upon the mine. The story sounded like wildest romance--this finding of
a volcanic dyke guarded by the bones of "J.S." and the poison-filled
quarry--but the production of the ore samples changed wonder into
certainty.

Next day a government metallurgist estimated the value of the contents
of the two oil-tins at about L500, yet the specimens brought from the
island were not by any means the richest available.

And now there is not much more to tell of Rainbow Island and its
castaways. On the day that Captain Robert Anstruther's name appeared in
the _Gazette_, reinstating him to his rank and regiment, Iris and
he were married in the English Church at Hong Kong, for it was his
wife's wish that the place which witnessed his ignominy should also
witness his triumph.

A good-natured admiral decided that the urgent requirements of the
British Navy should bring H.M.S. _Orient_ to the island before the
date fixed for the ceremony. Lieutenant Playdon officiated as best man,
whilst the _Orient_ was left so scandalously short-handed for many
hours that a hostile vessel, at least twice her size, might have
ventured to attack her.

Soon afterwards, Robert resigned his commission. He regretted the
necessity, but the demands of his new sphere in life rendered this step
imperative. Mining engineers, laborers, stores, portable houses,
engines, and equipment were obtained with all haste, and the whole
party sailed on one of Sir Arthur Deane's ships to convoy a small
steamer specially hired to attend to the wants of the miners.

At last, one evening, early in July, the two vessels anchored outside
Palm-tree Rock, and Mir Jan could be seen running frantically about the
shore, for no valid reason save that he could not stand still. The
sahib brought him good news. The Governor of Hong Kong felt that any
reasonable request made by Anstruther should be granted if possible. He
had written such a strong representation of the Mahommedan's case to
the Government of India that there was little doubt the returning mail
would convey an official notification that Mir Jan, formerly
_naik_ in the Kumaon Rissala--he who once killed a man--had been
granted a free pardon.

The mining experts verified Robert's most sanguine views after a very
brief examination of the deposit. Hardly any preliminary work was
needed. In twenty-four hours a small concentrating plant was erected,
and a ditch made to drain off the carbonic anhydride in the valley.
After dusk a party of coolies cleared the quarry of its former
occupants. Towards the close of the following day, when the great
steamer once more slowly turned her head to the north-west, Iris could
hear the steady thud of an engine at work on the first consignment of
ore.

Robert had been busy up to the last moment. There was so much to be
done in a short space of time. The vessel carried a large number of
passengers, and he did not wish to detain them too long, though they
one and all expressed their willingness to suit his convenience in this
respect.

Now his share of the necessary preparations was concluded. His wife,
Sir Arthur and his uncle were gathered in a corner of the promenade
deck when he approached and told them that his last instruction ashore
was for a light to be fixed on Summit Rock as soon as the dynamo was in
working order.

"When we all come back in the cold weather," he explained gleefully,
"we will not imitate the _Sirdar_ by running on to the reef,
should we arrive by night."

Iris answered not. Her blue eyes were fixed on the fast-receding
cliffs.

"Sweetheart," said her husband, "why are you so silent?"

She turned to him. The light of the setting sun! illumined her face
with its golden radiance.

"Because I am so happy," she said. "Oh, Robert, dear, so happy and
thankful."

       *       *       *       *       *

POSTSCRIPT

The latest news of Col. and Mrs. Anstruther is contained in a letter
written by an elderly maiden lady, resident in the North Riding of
Yorkshire, to a friend in London. It is dated some four years after the
events already recorded.

Although its information is garbled and, to a certain extent,
inaccurate, those who have followed the adventures of the young couple
under discussion will be able to appreciate its opinions at their true
value. When the writer states facts, of course, her veracity is
unquestionable, but occasionally she flounders badly when she depends
upon her own judgment.

Here is the letter:

    "MY DEAR HELEN:

    "I have not seen or heard of you during so long a time that I am
    _simply dying_ to tell you all that is happening here. You
    will remember that some people named Anstruther bought the Fairlawn
    estate near our village some three years ago. They are, as you
    know, _enormously_ rich. The doctor tells me that when they
    are not squeezing money out of the wretched Chinese, they dig it in
    _barrow-loads_ out of some magic island in the Atlantic or the
    Pacific--I really forget which.

    "Anyhow, they could afford to _entertain_ much more than they
    do. Mrs. Anstruther is very nice looking, and could be a leader of
    society if she chose, but she _seems_ to care for no one but
    her husband and her babies. She has a boy and a girl, very charming
    children, I admit, and you seldom see her without them. They have a
    French _bonne_ apiece, and a most _murderous_-looking
    person--a Mahommedan native, I believe--stalks alongside and
    behaves as if he would _instantly decapitate_ any person who
    as much as looked at them. Such a procession you never saw! Mrs.
    Anstruther's devotion to her husband is _too_ absurd. He is a
    tall, handsome man, of distinguished appearance, but on the few
    occasions I have spoken to him he impressed me as somewhat
    _taciturn_. Yet to see the way in which his wife even
    _looks_ at him you would imagine that he had not his equal in
    the world!

    "I believe there is some _secret_ in their lives. Colonel
    Anstruther used to be in the army--he is now in command of our
    local yeomanry--and although his name is 'Robert,' _tout
    court_, I have often heard Mrs. Anstruther call him 'Jenks.'
    Their boy, too, is christened Robert _Jenks_ Anstruther.' Now,
    my dear Helen, _do_ make inquiries about them in town circles.
    I _particularly_ wish you to find out who is this person
    'Jenks'--a most vulgar name. I am sure you will unearth something
    curious, because Mrs. Anstruther was a Miss Deane, daughter of the
    baronet, and Anstruther's people are well known in Yorkshire. There
    are absolutely no Jenkses connected with them on either side.

    "I think I can help you by another _clue_, as a very
    _odd_ incident occurred at our hunt ball last week. The
    Anstruthers, I must tell you, usually go away for the winter, to
    China, or to their fabulous island. This year they remained at
    home, and Colonel Anstruther became M.F.H., as he is certainly a
    most liberal man so far as _sport_ and _charity_ are
    concerned.

    "Well, dear, the Dodgsons--you remember the Leeds clothier
    people--having _contrived_ to enter county society, invited
    the Earl of Ventnor down for the ball. He, it seems, knew nothing
    about Anstruther being M.F.H., and of course Mrs. Anstruther
    _received_. The moment Lord Ventnor heard her name he was very
    angry. He said he did not care to meet her, and left for London by
    the next train. The Dodgsons were _awfully_ annoyed with him,
    and Mrs. Dodgson had the bad taste to tell Mrs, Anstruther all
    about it. And what do you think _she_ said--'Lord Ventnor need
    not have been so frightened. My husband has not brought his
    hunting-crop with him!'

    "I was not there, but young Barker told me that Mrs. Anstruther
    looked very _impressive_ as she said this. 'Stunning!' was the
    word he used, but young Barker is a _fool_, and thinks Mrs. A.
    is the most beautiful woman in Yorkshire. Her dress, they say, was
    _magnificent_, which I can hardly credit, as she usually goes
    about in the _plainest_ tailor-made clothes. By the way. I
    forgot to mention that the Anstruthers have restored our parish
    church. The vicar, of course, is enraptured with them. I dislike
    people who are so free with their money and yet reserved in their
    friendship. It is a sure sign, when they _court_ popularity,
    that they dread something leaking out about the _past_.

    "_Do_ write soon. Don't forget 'Jenks' and 'Lord Ventnor';
    those are the lines of _inquiry_.

    "Yours,

    "MATILDA.

    "PS.--Perhaps I am misjudging them. Mrs. Anstruther has just sent
    me an invitation to an 'At Home' next Thursday.--M.

    "PPS.--Dear me, this letter will never get away, I have just
    destroyed another envelope to tell you that the vicar came in to
    tea. From what he told me about Lord Ventnor, I imagine that Mrs.
    Anstruther said no more than he deserved.--M."

NOTE.--Colonel Anstruther's agents discovered, after long and costly
inquiry, that a Shields man named James Spence, a marine engineer,
having worked for a time as a miner in California, shipped as third
engineer on a vessel bound for Shanghai. There be quitted her. He
passed some time ashore in dissipation, took another job on a Chinese
river steamer, and was last heard of some eighteen months before the
_Sirdar_ was wrecked. He then informed a Chinese boarding-house
keeper that he was going to make his fortune by accompanying some
deep-sea fishermen, and he bought some stores and tools from a
marine-store dealer. No one knew when or where he went, but from that
date all trace of him disappeared. The only persons who mourned his
loss were his mother and sister. The last letter they received from him
was posted in Shanghai. Though the evidence connecting him with the
recluse of Rainbow Island was slight, and purely circumstantial,
Colonel Anstruther provided for the future of his relatives in a manner
that secured their lasting gratitude.



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