This unique proceeding on Cookie’s part necessarily awoke the interest both of the recovered Cuthbert Vane, just emerging after his prolonged slumbers, and of the trio who had that moment returned from the woods. Importuned for an explanation, Cookie arose from his devotional posture and put the portentous query:
“Mistah Vane, sah, be dey any propah coffin-wood on dis yere island?”
Instantly connecting my absence with this terrible question, Aunt Jane shrieked and fell into the arms of Mr. Tubbs. I got the story from Cuthbert Vane, and I must say I was unpleasantly struck by the facility with which my aunt seemed to have fallen into Mr. Tubbs’s embrace—as if with the ease of habit. Mr. Tubbs, it appeared, had staggered a little under his fair burden, which was not to be wondered at, for Aunt Jane is of an overflowing style of figure and Mr. Tubbs more remarkable for brain than brawn. Violet, however, had remained admirably calm, and exhorted Aunt Jane to remember that whatever happened it was all for the best.
“Poor Violet,” I commented. “To think that after all it didn’t happen!”
A slow flush rose to the cheeks of the beautiful youth. He was sitting beside the hammock, where I was supposed to be recuperating. Of course it was to please Aunt Jane that I had to be an invalid, and she had insisted on mounting guard and reading aloud from one of Miss Browne’s books about Psycho-evolution or something until Cuthbert Vane came along and relieved her—and me.
“It would have happened, though,” said the Honorable Cuthbert solemnly, “if it hadn’t been for old Shaw. I can’t get over it, Vir—Miss Virginia, that I wasn’t on deck myself, you know. Here’s old Dugald been doing the heroic all his life, and now he gets his chance again while I’m sleeping off those bally cocoanuts. It’s hard on a chap. I—I wish it had been me.”
However dubious his grammar, there was no mistaking the look that brightened like the dawn in the depths of his clear eyes. My breath went from me suddenly.
“Oh,” I cried excitedly, “isn’t that—–yes, I thought it was the dinner gong!”
For as if in response to my dire need, the clang of Cookie’s gong echoed through the island silences.
WHAT CRUSOE AND I FOUND
When after those poignant moments in the boat I met Dugald Shaw in commonplace fashion at the table, a sudden, queer, altogether unprecedented shyness seized me. I sat looking down at my plate with the gaucherie of a silly child.
The episode of the afternoon provided Mr. Tubbs with ammunition for a perfect fusillade of wit. He warned Mr. Shaw that hereafter he might expect Neptune to have a grudge against him for having robbed the sea-god of his beauteous prey. I said I thought most likely it was not Neptune that was robbed but sharks, but sharks not being classic, Mr. Tubbs would have none of them. He said he believed that if Mr. Shaw had not inopportunely arrived, Neptune with his tripod would soon have up-reared upon the wave.