Captain Magnus looked more ill at ease than usual. “Did you think o’ rowin’ the whole way round the dinged chunk o’ rock?” he inquired.
“Certainly not,” said Mr. Shaw with an impatient frown. So the man, in addition to his other unattractive qualities, was turning out a shirk! Hitherto, with his strength and feverish if intermittent energy, plus an almost uncanny skill with boats, he had been of value. “Certainly not. We are going to make a careful survey of the cliffs, and explore every likely opening as thoroughly as possible. It will be slow work and hard. As to circumnavigating the island, I see no point in it, for I don’t believe the chest can have been carried any great distance from the cove.”
“Oh—all right,” said Captain Magnus.
Mr. Tubbs, who had been whispering with Aunt Jane and Miss Browne, now with a very made-to-order casualness proposed to the two ladies that they take a stroll on the beach. This meant that the triumvirate were to withdraw for discussion, and amounted to notice that henceforth the counsels of the company would be divided.
Captain Magnus, after an uneasy wriggle or two, said he guessed he’d turn in. Cookie’s snores were already audible between splashes of the waves on the sands. The Scotchman, Cuthbert Vane and I continued to sit by the dying fire. Mr. Shaw had got out his pipe and sat silently puffing at it. He might have been sitting in solitude on the topmost crag of the island, so remote seemed that impassive presence. Was it possible that ever, except in the sweet madness of a dream, I had been in his arms, pillowed and cherished there, that he had called me lassie—
I lifted my eyes to the kind honest gaze of Cuthbert Vane. It was as faithful as Crusoe’s and no more embarrassing. A great impulse of affection moved me. I was near putting out a hand to pat his splendid head. Oh, how easy, comfortable, and calm would be a life with Cuthbert Vane! I wasn’t thinking about the title now—Cuthbert would be quite worth while for himself. For a moment I almost saw with Aunt Jane’s eyes. Fancy trotting him out before the girls! stole insidiously into my mind. How much more dazzling than a plain Scotch sailor—
I turned in bitterness and yearning from the silent figure by the fire.
I think in an earlier lifetime I must have been a huntress and loved to pursue the game that fled.
THE ISLAND QUEEN’S FREIGHT
I woke next morning with a great thrill of exhilaration. Perhaps before the sun went down again I should know the secret of the island.
The two divisions of our party, which were designated by me privately the Land and Sea Forces, went their separate ways directly after breakfast, which we ate in the cool of earliest morning, I could retire to the perusal of the journal which I had recovered from the wrecked sloop without fear of interruption.