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After a long silence, Hazel asked her in a low voice if she could be there in half an hour. She said yes, in the same tone, but without turning her head. On reaching the graves, she found that Hazel had spared her a sad sight; nothing remained but to perform the service. When it was over she went slowly away in deep distress on more accounts than one. In due course Hazel came to her bower, but she was not there. Then he lighted the fire, and prepared everything for supper; and he was so busy, and her foot so light, he did not hear her come. But by and by, lifting his head, he saw her looking wistfully at him, as if she would read his soul in his minutest actions. He started and brightened all over with pleasure at the sudden sight of her, and said eagerly, "Your supper is quite ready."
"Thank you, sir," said she, sadly and coldly (she had noted that expression of joy), "I have no appetite; do not wait for me." And soon after strolled away again.
Hazel was dumfounded. There was no mistaking her manner; it was chilly and reserved all of a sudden. It wounded him; but he behaved like a man. "What! I keep her out of her own house, do I?" said he to himself. He started up, took a fish out of the pot, wrapped it in a leaf, and stalked off to his boat. Then he ate a little of the fish, threw the rest away, and went down upon the sands, and paced them in a sad and bitter mood.
But the night calmed him, and some hours of tranquil thought brought him fortitude, patience and a clear understanding. He went to his boat, elevated by generous and delicate resolutions. Now worthy resolves are tranquilizing, and he slept profoundly.
Not so she, whose sudden but very natural change of demeanor had hurt him. When she returned and found he was gone for the night, she began to be alarmed at having offended him.
For this and other reasons she passed the night in sore perplexity, and did not sleep till morning; and so she overslept her usual time. However, when she was up, she determined to find her own breakfast; she felt it would not do to be too dependent, and on a person of uncertain humor; such for the moment she chose to pretend to herself was Hazel. Accordingly she went down to the sea to look for crayfish. She found abundance. There they lay in the water; you had but to stoop and pick them up.
But alas! they were black, lively, viperish; she went with no great relish for the task to take one up; it wriggled maliciously; she dropped it, and at that very moment, by a curious coincidence, remembered she was sick and tired of crayfish; she would breakfast on fruits. She crossed the sand, took off her shoes, and paddled through the river, and; having put on her shoes again, was about to walk up through some rank grass to the big wood, when she heard a voice behind her, and it was Mr. Hazel. She bit her lip (it was broad daylight now), and prepared quietly to discourage this excessive assiduity. He came up to her panting a little, and, taking off his hat, said, with marked respect, "I beg your pardon, Miss Rolleston, but I know you hate reptiles; now there are a few snakes in that long grass; not poisonous ones."
"Snakes!" cried Helen; "let me get home; there--I'll go without my breakfast."
"Oh, I hope not," said Hazel, ruefully; "why, I have been rather fortunate this morning, and it is all ready."
"That is a different thing," said Helen, graciously; "you must not have your trouble for nothing, I suppose."
Directly after breakfast, Hazel took his ax and some rope from the boat, and went off in a great hurry to the jungle. In half an hour or so he returned, dragging a large conical shrub, armed with spikes for leaves, incredibly dense and prickly.
"There," said he, "there's a vegetable porcupine for you. This is your best defense against that roaring bugbear."
"That little tree!" said Helen; "the tiger would soon jump over that."
"Ay, but not over this and sixty more; a wall of stilettos. Don't touch it, please."
He worked very hard all day, and brought twelve of these prickly trees to the bower by sunset. He was very dissatisfied with his day's work; seemed quite mortified.
"This comes of beginning at the wrong end," he said; "I went to work like a fool. I should have begun by making a cart."
"But you can't do that," said Helen, soothingly; "no gentleman can make a cart."
"Oh, surely anybody can make a cart, by a little thinking," said he.
"I wish," said Helen, listlessly, "you would think of something for me to do; I begin to be ashamed of not helping."
"Hum! you can plait?"
"Yes, as far as seven strands."
"Then you need never be unemployed. We want ropes, and shall want large mats for the rainy weather."
He went to the place where he had warned her of the snakes, and cut a great bundle of long silky grass, surprisingly tough, yet neither harsh nor juicy; he brought it her and said he should be very glad of a hundred yards of light cord, three ply and five ply.
She was charmed with the grass, and the very next morning she came to breakfast with it nicely prepared, and a good deal of cord made and hanging round her neck. She found some preparations for carpenter's work lying about.
"Is that great log for the cart?" said she.
"Yes! it is a section of a sago-tree."
"What, our sago?"
"The basis. See, in the center it is all soft pith." He got from the boat one of the augers that had scuttled the Proserpine, and soon turned the pith out. "They pound that pith in water, and run it through linen; then set the water in the sun to evaporate. The sediment is the sago of commerce, and sad insipid stuff it is."
"Oh, please don't call anything names one has eaten in England," said Helen, sorrowfully.
After a hasty meal, she and Mr. Hazel worked for a wager. Her taper fingers went like the wind, and though she watched him, and asked questions, she never stopped plaiting. Mr. Hazel was no carpenter, he was merely Brains spurred by Necessity. He went to work and sawed off four short disks of the sago-log.
"Now what are those, pray?" asked Helen.
"The wheels--primeval wheels. And here are the linchpins, made of hard wood; I wattled them at odd times."
He then produced two young lime-trees he had rooted up that morning and sawed them into poles in a minute. Then he bored two holes in each pole, about four inches from either extremity, and fitted his linchpins; then he drew out his linchpins, passed each pole first through one disk, and then through another, and fastened his linchpins. Then he ran to the boat, and came back with the stern and midship thwarts. He drilled with his center-bit three rows of holes in these, two inches from the edge. And now Helen's work came in; her grass rope bound the thwarts tight to the horizontal poles, leaving the disks room to play easily between the thwarts and the linchpins; but there was an open space thirteen inches broad between the thwarts; this space Hazel herring-boned over with some of Helen's rope drawn as tight as possible. The cart was now made. Time occupied in its production, three hours and forty minutes.
The coachmaker was very hot, and Helen asked him timidly whether he had not better rest and eat. "No time for that," said he. "The day is not half long enough for what I have to do." He drank copiously from the stream; put the carpenter's basket into the cart, got the tow-rope from the boat and fastened it to the cart in this shape: A, putting himself in the center. So now the coachmaker was the horse, and off they went, rattling and creaking, to the jungle.
Helen turned her stool and watched this pageant enter the jungle. She plaited on, but not so merrily. Hazel's companionship and bustling way somehow kept her spirits up.
But, whenever she was left alone, she gazed on the blank ocean, and her heart died within her. At last she strolled pensively toward the jungle, plaiting busily as she went, and hanging the rope round her neck as fast as she made it.
At the edge of the jungle she found Hazel in a difficulty. He had cut down a wagon load of prickly trees, and wanted to get all this mass of noli me tangere on to that wretched little cart, but had not rope enough to keep it together. She gave him plenty of new line, and partly by fastening a small rope to the big rope and so making the big rope a receptacle, partly by artful tying, they dragged home an incredible load. To be sure some of it draggled half along the ground, and came after like a peacock's tail.
He made six trips, and then the sun was low; so he began to build. He raised a rampart of these prickly trees, a rampart three feet wide and eight feet high; but it only went round two sides and a half of the bower. So then he said he had failed again; and lay down worn out by fatigue.
Helen Rolleston, though dejected herself, could not help pitying him for his exhaustion in her service, and for his bleeding hands. She undertook the cooking, and urged him kindly to eat of every dish; and, when he rose to go, she thanked him with as much feeling as modesty for the great pains he had taken to lessen those fears of hers which she saw he did not share.
These kind words more than repaid him. He went to his little den in a glow of spirits; and the next morning went off in a violent hurry, and, for once, seemed glad to get away from her.
"Poor Mr. Hazel," said she softly, and watched him out of sight. Then she got her plait, and went to the high point where he had barked a tree, and looked far and wide for a sail. The air was wonderfully clear; the whole ocean seemed in sight; but all was blank.
A great awe fell upon her, and sickness of heart; and then first she began to fear she was out of the known world, and might die on that island; or never be found by the present generation. And this sickening fear lurked in her from that hour, and led to consequences that will be related shortly.
She did not return for a long while, and, when she did, she found Hazel had completed her fortifications. He invited her to explore the western part of the island, but she declined.
"Thank you," said she; "not to-day; there is something to be done at home. I have been comparing my abode with yours, and the contrast makes me uncomfortable, if it doesn't you. Oblige me by building yourself a house."
"What, in an afternoon?"
"Why not? you made a cart in a forenoon. How can I tell your limits? you are quite out of my poor little depth. Well, at all events, you must roof the boat, or something. Come, be good for once, and think a little of yourself. There, I'll sit by and--what shall I do while you are working to oblige me?"
"Make a fishing-net of cocoanut fiber, four feet deep. Here's plenty of material all prepared."
"Why, Mr. Hazel, you must work in your sleep."
"No; but of course I am not idle when I am alone; and luckily I have made a spade out of hard wood at odd hours, or all the afternoon would go in making that."
"A spade! You are going to dig a hole in the ground and call it a house. That will not do for me."
"You will see," said Hazel.
The boat lay in a little triangular creek; the surrounding earth was alluvial clay; a sort of black cheesy mould, stiff, but kindly to work with the spade. Hazel cut and chiseled it out at a grand rate, and, throwing it to the sides, raised by degrees two mud banks, one on each side the boat; and at last he dug so deep that he was enabled to draw the boat another yard inland.
As Helen sat by netting and forcing a smile now and then, though sad at heart, he was on his mettle, and the mud walls he raised in four hours were really wonderful. He squared their inner sides with the spade. When he had done, the boat lay in a hollow, the walls of which, half natural, half artificial, were five feet above her gunwale, and, of course, eight feet above her bottom, in which Hazel used to lie at night. He then made another little wall at the boat's stern, and laid palm-branches over all, and a few huge banana-leaves from the jungle; got a dozen large stones out of the river, tied four yards'-lengths of Helen's grass-rope from stone to stone, and so, passing the ropes over the roof, confined it, otherwise a sudden gust of wind might lift it.
"There," said he; "am I not as well off as you?--I, a great tough man. Abominable waste of time, I call it."
"Hum!" said Helen, doubtfully. "All this is very clever; but I doubt whether it will keep out much rain."
"More than yours will," said Hazel, "and that is a very serious thing. I am afraid you little know how serious. But, to-morrow, if you please, I will examine our resources, and lay our whole situation before you, and ask your advice. As to your bugbear, let him roar his heart out, his reign is over. Will you not come and see your wooden walls?"
He then took Helen and showed her the tremendous nature of her fortification, and assured her that no beast of prey could face it, nor even smell at it, with impunity. And as to the door, here the defense was double and treble; but attached to four grass cords; two passed into the abode round each of the screw pine-trees at the east side, and were kept in their places by pegs driven into the trees.
"When you are up," said Hazel, "you pull these four cords steadily, and your four guards will draw back right and left, with all their bayonets, and you can come out."
Helen was very much pleased with this arrangement, and did not disguise her gratitude. She slept in peace and comfort that night. Hazel, too, profited by the mud walls and leafy roof she had compelled him to rear; for this night was colder, as it happened, than any preceding night since they came ashore. In the morning, Hazel saw a green turtle on the shore, which was unusual at that time of year. He ran and turned her, with some difficulty; then brought down his cart, cut off her head with a blow, and, in due course, dragged her up the slope. She weighed two hundred pounds. He showed Miss Rolleston the enormous shell, gave her a lecture on turtles, and especially on the four species known to South Sea navigators--the trunk turtle, the loggerhead, the green turtle, and the hawks-bill, from which last, and not from any tortoise, he assured her came the tortoise-shell of commerce.
"And now," said he, "will you not give up or suspend your reptile theory, and eat a little green turtle, the king of them all?"
"I think I must, after all that," said she; and rather relished it.
That morning he kept his word, and laid their case before her.
He said: "We are here on an island that has probably been seen and disregarded by a few whalers, but is not known to navigators nor down on any chart. There is a wide range of vegetation, proving a delightful climate on the whole, and one particularly suited to you, whose lungs are delicate. But then, comparing the beds of the rivers with the banks, a tremendous fall of rain is indicated. The rainy months (in these latitudes) are at hand, and if these rains catch us in our present condition, it will be a calamity. You have walls, but no roof to keep it out. I tremble when I think of it. This is my main anxiety. My next is about our sustenance during the rains; we have no stores under cover; no fuel; no provisions but a few cocoanuts. We use two lucifer matches a day; and what is to become of us at that rate? In theory, fire can be got by rubbing two pieces of wood together; Selkirk is said to have so obtained it from pimento wood on Juan Fernandez; but, in fact, I believe the art is confined to savages. I never met a civilized man who could do it, and I have questioned scores of voyagers. As for my weapons, they consist of a boat-hook and an ax; no gun, no harpoon, no bow, no lance. My tools are a blunt saw, a blunter ax, a wooden spade, two great augers, that I believe had a hand in bringing us here, but have not been any use to us since, a center-bit, two planes, a hammer, a pair of pincers, two brad-awls, three gimlets, two scrapers, a plumb-lead and line, a large pair of scissors, and you have a small pair, two gauges, a screw-driver, five clasp-knives, a few screws and nails of various sizes, two small barrels, two bags, two tin bowls, two wooden bowls, and the shell of this turtle, and that is a very good soup-tureen, only we have no meat to make soup with."
"Well, sir," said Miss Rolleston, resignedly, "we can but kneel down and die."
"That would be cutting the gordian knot, indeed," said Hazel. "What, die to shirk a few difficulties? No. I propose an amendment to that. After the words 'kneel down,' insert the words, 'and get up again, trusting in that merciful Providence which has saved us so far, but expects us to exert ourselves too.'"
"It is good and pious advice," said Helen, "and let us follow it this moment."
* * * * * * *
"Now," said Hazel, "I have three propositions to lay before you. 1st. That I hereby give up walking and take to running; time is so precious. 2d. That we both work by night as well as day. 3d. That we each tell the other our principal wants, so that there may be four eyes on the lookout, as we go, instead of two."
"I consent," said Helen; "pray what are your wants?"
"Iron, oil, salt, tar, a bellows, a pickax, planks, thread, nets, light matting for roofs, bricks, chimney-pots, jars, glass, animal food, some variety of vegetable food, and so on. I'll write down the entire list for you."
"You will be puzzled to do that without ink or paper."
"Not in the least. I shall engrave it in alto-rilievo, make the words with pebbles on the turf just above high-water mark. Now tell me your wants."
"Well, I want--impossibilities."
"What is the use?"
It is the method we have agreed upon."
"Oh, very well, then. I want--a sponge."
"Good. What next?"
"I have broken my comb."
"I'm glad you think so. I want--Oh, Mr. Hazel, what is the use?--well, I should like a mattress to lie on."
"Hair or wool?"
"I don't care which. And it is a shame to ask you for either."
"I want a looking-glass."
"Great Heaven! What for?"
"Oh, never mind; I want one. And some more towels, and some soap, and a few hair-pins; and some elastic bands; and some pen, ink and paper, to write my feelings down in this island for nobody ever to see."
When she began Hazel looked bright, but the list was like a wasp, its sting lay in its tail. However, he put a good face on it. "I'll try and get you all those things; only give me time. Do you know I am writing a dictionary on a novel method."
"That means on the sand."
"No; the work is suspended for the present. But two of the definitions in it are--DIFFICULTIES--things to be subdued; IMPOSSIBILITIES--things to be trampled on."
"Well, subdue mine. Trample on--a sponge for me."
"That is just what I was going to do," said he; opened a clasp-knife and jumped coolly into the river.
Helen screamed faintly, but after all the water was only up to his knees.
He soon cut a large sponge off a piece of slimy rock, and held it up to her. "There," said he, "why, there are a score of them at your very door and you never saw them."
"Oh, excuse me, I did see them and shuddered; I thought they were reptiles; dormant and biding their time."
When he was out of the river again, she thought a little, and asked him whether old iron would be of any use to him.
"Oh, certainly," said he; "what, do you know of any?"
"I think I saw some one day. I'll go and look for it."
She took the way of the shore; and he got his cart and spade, and went posthaste to his clay-pit.
He made a quantity of bricks, and brought them home, and put them to dry in the sun. He also cut great pieces of the turtle, and wrapped them in fresh banana-leaves, and inclosed them in clay. He then tried to make a large narrow-necked vessel, and failed utterly; so he made the clay into a great rude platter like a shallow milk-pan. Then he peeled the sago-log off which he had cut his wheels, and rubbed it with turtle fat, and, using it as a form, produced two clay cylinders. These he set in the sun, with bricks round them to keep them from falling. Leaving all these to dry and set before he baked them, he went off to the marsh for fern-leaves. The soil being so damp, the trees were covered with a brownish-red substance, scarce distinguishable from wool. This he had counted on. But he also found in the same neighborhood a long cypress-haired moss that seemed to him very promising. He made several trips, and raised quite a stack of fern-leaves. By this time the sun had operated on his thinner pottery; so he laid down six of his large thick tiles, and lighted a fire on them with dry banana-leaves, and cocoanut, etc., and such light combustibles, until he had heated and hardened the clay; then he put the ashes on one side, and swept the clay clean; then he put the fire on again, and made it hotter and hotter, till the clay began to redden.
While he was thus occupied, Miss Rolleston came from the jungle radiant, carrying vegetable treasures in her apron. First she produced some golden apples with reddish leaves.
"There," said she; "and they smell delicious."
Hazel eyed them keenly.
"You have not eaten any of them?"
"What! by myself?" said Helen.
"Thank Heaven!" said Hazel, turning pale. "These are the manchanilla, the poison apple of the Pacific."
"Poison!" said Helen, alarmed in her turn.
"Well, I don't know that they are poison; but travelers give them a very bad name. The birds never peck them; and I have read that even the leaves, falling into still water have killed the fish. You will not eat anything here till you have shown it me, will you?" said he, imploringly.
"No, no," said Helen; and sat down with her hand to her heart a minute. "And I was so pleased when I found them," she said; "they reminded me of home. I wonder whether these are poison, too?" and she opened her apron wide, and showed him some long yellow pods, with red specks, something like a very large banana.
"Ah, that is a very different affair," said Hazel, delighted; "these are plantains, and the greatest find we have made yet. The fruit is meat, the wood is thread, and the leaf is shelter and clothes. The fruit is good raw, and better baked, as you shall see, and I believe this is the first time the dinner and the dish were both baked together."
He cleared the now heated hearth, put the meat and fruit on it, then placed his great platter over it, and heaped fire round the platter, and light combustibles over it. While this was going on, Helen took him to her bower, and showed him three rusty iron hoops, and a piece of rotten wood with a rusty nail, and the marks where others had been. "There," said she; "that is all I could find."
"Why, it is a treasure," cried he; "you will see. I have found something, too."
He then showed her the vegetable wool and vegetable hair he had collected, and told her where they grew. She owned they were wonderful imitations, and would do as well as the real things; and, ere they had done comparing notes, the platter and the dinner under it were both baked. Hazel removed the platter or milk-pan, and served the dinner in it.
If Hazel was inventive, Helen was skillful and quick at any kind of woman's work; and the following is the result of the three weeks' work under his direction. She had made as follows:
1. Thick mattress, stuffed with the vegetable hair and wool described above. The mattress was only two feet six inches wide; for Helen found that she never turned in bed now. She slept as she had never slept before. This mattress was made with plantain-leaves sewed together with the thread furnished by the tree itself, and doubled at the edges.
2. A long shallow net four feet deep--cocoa-fiber.
3. A great quantity of stout grass rope, and light but close matting for the roof, and some cocoanut matting for the ground and to go under the mattress. But Hazel, instructed by her, had learned to plait--rather clumsily--and he had a hand in the matting.
Hazel in the meantime heightened his own mud banks in the center, and set up brick fireplaces with hearth and chimney; one on each side; and now did all the cooking; for he found the smoke from wood made Miss Rolleston cough. He also made a number of pigeon-holes in his mud walls and lined them with clay. One of these he dried with fire, and made a pottery door to it, and there kept the lucifer-box. He made a vast number of bricks, but did nothing with them. After several failures he made two large pots, and two great pans, that would all four bear fire under them, and in the pans he boiled sea-water till it all evaporated and left him a sediment of salt. This was a great addition to their food, and he managed also to put by a little. But it was a slow process.
He made a huge pair of bellows, with a little assistance from Miss Rolleston; the spout was a sago-stick, with the pith driven out, and the substitute for leather was the skin of a huge eel he found stranded at the east point.
Having got his bellows and fixed them to a post he drove into the ground, he took for his anvil a huge flint stone, and a smaller one for hammer; heated his old iron to a white heat, and hammered it with a world of trouble into straight lengths; and at last with a portion of it produced a long saw without teeth, but one side sharper than the other. This, by repeated experiments of heating and immersing in water, he at last annealed; and when he wanted to saw he blew his embers to a white heat (he kept the fire alive now night and day); heated his original saw red-hot, and soon sawed through the oleaginous woods of that island. If he wanted to cut down a tree in the jungle, he put the bellows and a pot of embers on his cart with other fuel, and came and lighted the fire under the tree and soon had it down. He made his pickax in half an hour, but with his eyes rather than his hands. He found a young tree growing on the rock, or at least on soil so shallow that the root was half above ground and at right angles to the stem. He got this free up, shortened the stem, shaped the root, shod the point with some of his late old iron; and with this primitive tool, and a thick stake baked at the point, he opened the ground to receive twelve stout uprights, and he drove them with a tremendous mallet made upon what might be called the compendious or Hazelian method; it was a section of a hard tree with a thick shoot growing out of it, which shoot, being shortened, served for the handle. By these arts he at last saw a goal to his labors. Animal food, oil, pitch, ink, paper, were still wanting; but fish were abundant, and plantains and cocoanuts stored. Above all, Helen's hut was now weather-tight. Stout horizontal bars were let into the trees, and, being bound to the uprights, they mutually supported each other; smaller horizontal bars at intervals kept the prickly ramparts from being driven in by a sudden gust. The canvas walls were removed and the nails stored in a pigeon-hole, and a stout network substituted, to which huge plantain leaves were cunningly fastened with plantain thread. The roof was double: first, that extraordinary mass of spiked leaves which the four trees threw out, then several feet under that the huge piece of matting the pair had made. This was strengthened by double strips of canvas at the edges and in the center, and by single strips in other parts. A great many cords and strings made of that wonderful grass were sewn to the canvas-strengthened edges, and so it was fastened to the trees and fastened to the horizontal bars.
When this work drew close to its completion, Hazel could not disguise his satisfaction.
But he very soon had the mortification of seeing that she for whom it was all done did not share his complacency. A change took place in her; she often let her work fall, and brooded. She spoke sometimes sharply to Mr. Hazel, and sometimes with strained civility. She wandered away from him and from his labors for her comfort, and passed hours at Telegraph Point, eying the illimitable ocean. She was a riddle. All sweetness at times, but at others irritable, moody, and scarce mistress of herself. Hazel was sorry and perplexed, and often expressed a fear she was ill. The answer was always in the negative. He did not press her, but worked on for her, hoping the mood would pass. And so it would, no doubt, if the cause had not remained.
Matters were still in this uncomfortable and mysterious state when Hazel put his finishing stroke to her abode.
He was in high spirits that evening, for he had made a discovery; he had at last found time for a walk, and followed the river to its source, a very remarkable lake in a hilly basin. Near this was a pond, the water of which he had tasted and found it highly bituminous; and, making further researches, he had found at the bottom of a rocky ravine a very wonderful thing--a dark resinous fluid bubbling up in quite a fountain, which, however, fell down again as it rose, and hardly any overflowed. It was like thin pitch.
Of course in another hour he was back there with a great pot, and half filled it. It was not like water, it did not bubble so high when some had been taken; so he just took what he could get. Pursuing his researches a little further he found a range of rocks with snowy summits apparently; but the snow was the guano of centuries. He got to the western extremity of the island, saw another deep bay or rather branch of the sea, and on the other side of it a tongue of high land running out to sea. On that promontory stood a gigantic palmtree. He recognized that with a certain thrill, but was in a great hurry to get home with his pot of pitch; for it was in truth a very remarkable discovery, though not without a parallel. He could not wait till morning, so with embers and cocoanut he made a fire in the bower, and melted his pitch, which had become nearly solid, and proceeded to smear the inside of the matting in places, to make it thoroughly watertight.
Helen treated the discovery at first with mortifying indifference. But he hoped she would appreciate Nature's bounty more when she saw the practical use of this extraordinary production. He endeavored to lead her to that view. She shook her head sorrowfully. He persisted. She met him with silence. He thought this peevish, and ungrateful to Heaven; we have all different measures of the wonderful; and to him a fountain of pitch was a thing to admire greatly and thank God for; he said as much.
To Helen it was nasty stuff, and who cares where it came from? She conveyed as much by a shrug of the shoulders, and then gave a sigh that told her mind was far away.
He was a little mortified, and showed it. One word led to another, and at last what had been long fermenting came out.
"Mr. Hazel," said she, "you and I are at cross purposes. You mean to live here. I do not."
Hazel left off working, and looked greatly perplexed; the attack was so sudden in its form, though it had been a long time threatening. He found nothing to say, and she was impatient now to speak her mind, so she replied to his look.
"You are making yourself at home here. You are contented. Contented? You are happy in this horrible prison."
"And why not?" said Hazel. But he looked rather guilty. "Here are no traitors; no murderers. The animals are my friends, and the one human being I see makes me better to look at her."
"Mr. Hazel, I am in a state of mind, that romantic nonsense jars on me. Be honest with me, and talk to me like a man. I say that you beam all over with happiness and content, and that you-- Now answer me one question; why have you never lighted the bonfire on Telegraph Point?"
"Indeed I don't know," said he, submissively. "I have been so occupied."
"You have, and how? Not in trying to deliver us both from this dreadful situation, but to reconcile me to it. Yes, sir, under pretense (that is a harsh word, but I can't help it) of keeping out the rain. Your rain is a bugbear; it never rains, it never will rain. You are killing yourself almost to make me comfortable in this place. Comfortable?" She began to tremble all over with excitement long restrained. "And do you really suppose you can make me live on like this, by building me a nice hut. Do you think I am all body and no soul, that shelter and warmth and enough to eat can keep my heart from breaking, and my cheeks from blushing night and day? When I wake in the morning I find myself blushing to my fingers' ends." Then she walked away from him. Then she walked back. "Oh, my dear father, why did I ever leave you! Keep me here? make me live months and years on this island? Have you sisters? Have you a mother? Ask yourself, is it likely? No; if you will not help me, and they don't love me enough to come and find me and take me home, I'll go to another home without your help or any man's." Then she rose suddenly to her feet. "I'll tie my clothes tight round me, and fling myself down from that point on to the sharp rocks below. I'll find a way from this place to heaven, if there's no way from it to those I love on earth."
Then she sank down and rocked herself and sobbed hard.
The strong passion of this hitherto gentle creature quite frightened her unhappy friend, who knew more of books than women. He longed to soothe her and comfort her; but what could he say? He cried out in despair, "My God, can I do nothing for her?"
She turned on him like lightning. "You can do anything--everything. You can restore us both to our friends. You can save my life, my reason. For that will go first, I think. What had I done? what had I ever done since I was born, to be so brought down? Was ever an English lady-- And then I have such an irritation on my skin, all over me. I sometimes wish the tiger would come and tear me all to pieces; yes, all to pieces." And with that her white teeth clicked together convulsively. "Do?" said she, darting back to the point as swiftly as she had rushed away from it. "Why, put down that nasty stuff; and leave off inventing fifty little trumpery things for me, and do one great thing instead. Oh, do not fritter that great mind of yours away in painting and patching my prison; but bring it all to bear on getting me out of my prison. Call sea and land to our rescue. Let them know a poor girl is here in unheard-of, unfathomable misery--here, in the middle of this awful ocean."
Hazel sighed deeply. "No ships seem to pass within sight of us," he muttered.
"What does that matter to you? You are not a common man; you are an inventor. Rouse all the powers of your mind. There must be some way. Think for me. THINK! THINK! or my blood will be on your head."
Hazel turned pale and put his head in his hands, and tried to think.
She leaned toward him with great flashing eyes of purest hazel.
The problem dropped from his lips a syllable at a time. "To diffuse--intelligence--a hundred leagues from a fixed point--an island?"
She leaned toward him with flashing, expectant eyes.
But he groaned, and said: "That seems impossible."
"Then trample on it," said she, bringing his own words against him; for she used to remember all he said to her in the day, and ponder it at night--"trample on it, subdue it, or never speak to me again. Ah, I am an ungrateful wretch to speak so harshly to you. It is my misery, not me. Good, kind Mr. Hazel, oh, pray, pray, pray bring all the powers of that great mind to bear on this one thing, and save a poor girl, to whom you have been so kind, so considerate, so noble, so delicate, so forbearing; now save me from despair."
Hysterical sobs cut her short here, and Hazel, whose loving heart she had almost torn out of his body, could only falter out in a broken voice, that he would obey her. "I'll work no more for you at present," said he, "sweet as it has been. I will think instead. I will go this moment beneath the stars and think all night."
The young woman was now leaning her head languidly back against one of the trees, weak as water after her passion. He cast a look of ineffable love and pity on her, and withdrew slowly to think beneath the tranquil stars.
Love has set men hard tasks in his time. Whether this was a light one, our reader shall decide.
TO DIFFUSE INTELLIGENCE FROM A FIXED ISLAND OVER A HUNDRED LEAGUES OF OCEAN.
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