“It will come. I am positive,” said Chase, insistent in spite of his dejection. They drank their coffee in silence. He knew that the others—including the native who served them—were regarding him with the pity that one extends to the vain-glorious braggart who goes down with flying colours.
He went out upon the west gallery and paced its windswept length for half an hour or more. Then, utterly fagged, he threw himself into an unexposed chair and stared through tired eyes into the inscrutable night that hid the sea from view. The faithless, moaning, jeering sea!
When he aroused himself with a start, the grey, drizzly dawn was upon him. He had slept. His limbs were stiff and sore; his face was drenched by the fine rain that had searched him out with prankish glee.
The next instant he was on his feet, clutching the stone balustrade with a grip of iron, his eyes starting from his head. A shout arose to his lips, but he lacked the power to give it voice. For many minutes he stood there, rooted to the spot, a song of thanksgiving surging in his heart.
He looked about him at last. He was alone in the gallery. A quaint smile grew in his face; his eyes were bright and full of triumph. After a full minute of preparation, he made his way toward the breakfast room, outwardly as calm as a May morning.
Browne and Deppingham were asleep in the chairs. He shook them vigorously. As they awoke and stared uncomprehendingly at the disturber of their dreams, he said, in the coolest, most matter-of-fact way:
“There’s an American cruiser outside the harbour. Get up!”
IN THE SAME GRAVE WITH SKAGGS
Down in the village of Aratat there were signs of a vast commotion. Early risers and the guards were flying from house to house, shouting the news. The citizens piled from their couches and raced pell-mell into the streets, unbelieving, demoralised. With one accord they rushed to the water front—men, women and children. Consternation was succeeded by utter panic. Rasula’s wild shouts went unheeded. He screamed and fought to secure order among his people, but his efforts were as nought against the storm of terror that confronted him.
Outside the harbour lay the low, savage-looking ship. Its guns were pointed directly at the helpless town; its decks were swarming with white-clothed men; it was alive and it glowered with rage in its evil eyes.
The plague was forgotten! The strategy that had driven off the ships of peace was lost in the face of this ugly creature of war. No man grovelled on the dock with the convulsions of death; no man hearkened to the bitter, impotent words of the single wise man among them. Rasula’s reign of strategy was ended.
Howling like a madman, he tried to drive the company’s tug out to meet the sailors and urge them to keep away from the pest-ridden island. It was like pleading with a mountain avalanche.