“What’s your hurry?” he remarked, with a certain insinuating emphasis.
I began to tremble.
“I am on my way back to camp, Captain Magnus. Please let me pass.”
“It won’t do no harm if you’re a little late. There ain’t no one there keepin’ tab. Ain’t you always a-strayin’ off with the Honorable? I ain’t so pretty, but—”
“You are impertinent. Let me pass.”
“Oh, I’m impert’nent, am I? That means fresh, maybe. I’m a plain man and don’t use frills on my langwidge. Well, when I meets a little skirt that takes my eyes there ain’t no harm in lettin’ her know it, is there? Maybe the Honorable could say it nicer—”
With a forward stride he laid a hand upon my arm. I shook him off and stepped back. Fear clutched my throat. I had left my revolver in my quarters. Oh, the dreadful denseness of these woods, the certainty that no wildest cry of mine could pierce them!
And then Crusoe, who had been waiting quietly behind me in the path, slipped in between us. Every hair on his neck was bristling. The lifted upper lip snarled unmistakably. He gave me a swift glance which said, Shall I spring?
Quite suddenly the gorilla blandishments of Captain Magnus came to an end.
“Say,” he said harshly, “hold back that dog, will you? I don’t want to kill the cur.”
“You had better not,” I returned coldly. “I should have to explain how it happened, you know. As it is I shall say nothing. But I shall not forget my revolver again when I go to walk.”
And Crusoe and I went swiftly down the path which the captain no longer disputed.
“LASSIE, LASSIE. . .”
Two or three days later occurred a painful episode. The small unsuspected germ of it had lain ambushed in a discourse of Mr. Shaw’s, delivered shortly after our arrival on the island, on the multifarious uses of the cocoa-palm. He told how the juice from the unexpanded flower-spathes is drawn off to form a potent toddy, so that where every prospect pleases man may still be vile. Cookie, experimentally disposed, set to work. Mr. Vane, also experimentally, sampled the results of Cookie’s efforts. The liquor had merely been allowed to ferment, whereas a complicated process is necessary for the manufacture of the true arrack, but enough had been achieved to bring about dire consequences for Cuthbert Vane, who had found the liquid cool and refreshing, and was skeptical about its potency.
Aunt Jane took the matter very hard, and rebuked the ribald mirth of Mr. Tubbs. He had to shed tears over a devastating poem called “The Drunkard’s Home,” before she would forgive him. Cookie made his peace by engaging to vote the prohibition ticket at the next election. My own excuses for the unfortunate were taken in very ill part. My aunt said she had always understood that life in the tropics was very relaxing to the moral fiber, and mine was certainly affected—and besides she wasn’t certain that barons wore coronets anyhow.