“The Island! The Island!”
He caught up his oar and called to Tilda. She struggled up sleepily, and gasped at the sight.
“You must take an oar and help!” he called. “There must be a landing near, if we work her round the point—”
And, sure enough, around the point they opened a small cove, running inwards to a narrow beach of shingle. A grassy gully wound up from the head of the cove, broadening as it trended to the left, away from the tall rocks of the headland; and at the sight of this ’Dolph began barking furiously, scaring fresh swarms of sea-birds from their roosting-ledges.
They were in quiet water here, and in less than two minutes—the boy steering—the boat’s stem grated softly on the shingle and took ground. ’Dolph sprang ashore at once, but the children followed with some difficulty, for they were cold and stiff, and infinitely weary yet. It seemed to them that they had reached a new world: for a strange light filled the sky and lay over the sea; a light like the sheen upon grey satin, curiously compounded of moonlight and dawn; a light in which the grass shone a vivid green, but all else was dim and ghostly.
Scarcely knowing what they did, they staggered up the beach a little way, and flung themselves down on the shingle.
Two hours passed before Arthur Miles awoke. The sun had climbed over the low cliff to the eastward of the cove, and shone on his lids. It seemed to him that his feet were lying in water.
So indeed they were, for the tide had risen and .was running around his ankles. But while he sat up, wondering at this new marvel, Tilda gave a cry and pointed.
The boat had vanished.
“Be not afraid; the isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.”—THE TEMPEST.
“Well,” said Tilda dolefully, “I guess that about settles us!”
The boy, his hands thrust into his breeches’ pockets, stared over the sea for a while.
“I don’t see that it matters much,” he answered at length, withdrawing his gaze. “You know well enough we could never have worked her back again.”
“Oh, indeed? And ‘ow are we goin’ to pick up our vittles? I don’t know what you feel like, but I could do with breakfast a’ready.”
“Perhaps ’Dolph can catch us a rabbit,” he suggested hopefully after a pause. “I heard Roger say last night that Holmness swarmed with rabbits.”
“Rabbits?” said Tilda with scorn. “D’yer know ’ow to skin one if we caught ’im?”
“No, I don’t,” he confessed.
“And when he’s skinned, there’s the cookin’; and we ’aven’t so much as a box of matches. . . . That’s the worst of boys, they ’re so unpractical.”
“Well, then, we can hunt for gulls’ eggs.”
“That’s better; if,” she added on an afterthought, “gulls ’appen to lay eggs at this time of year—which I’ll bet they don’t.”