Speaking of Crusoe, where was he? I realized that a moment ago he had plunged into the passage. I heard the patter of his feet—a pause. A queer, dismal little whine echoed along the passage. I heard Crusoe returning—but before his nose appeared around the angle of the tunnel, his mistress had reached the top of the cliff at a bound and was vanishing at a brisk pace into the woods.
With bitterness, as I pursued my way to camp, I realized that I was not a heroine. Here was a mystery—it was the business of a heroine to solve it. Now that I was safely away from the cave, I began to feel the itch of a torturing curiosity. How, without going into the terrifying place alone, should I find out what was there? Should I pretend to have accidentally discovered the grave, lead the party to it, and then—again accidentally—discover the tunnel? This plan had its merits—but I discarded it, for fear that something would be found in the cave to direct attention to the Island Queen. Then I reflected that very likely the explorers would work round the island far enough to find the sea-mouth of the cave. This would take matters entirely out of my hands. I should perhaps be enlightened as to the fate of Peter and the last remaining bags of doubloons, but might also have to share the secret of the derelict with the rest. And then all my dreams of playing fairy godmother and showering down on certain heads—like coals of fire—torrents of beautiful golden doubloons, would be over.
On the whole I could not tell whether I burned with impatience to have the cave discovered, or was cold with the fear of it.
And then, so vigorous is the instinct to see one’s self in heroic postures, I found I was trying to cheat myself with the pretense that I meant presently to abstract Aunt Jane’s electric torch and returning to the tunnel-mouth plunge in dauntlessly.
MR. TUBBS INTERRUPTS
I had determined as an offset to my pusillanimous behavior about the cave to show a dogged industry in the matter of the Island Queen. It would take me a long while to get down through the sand to the chest, but I resolved to accomplish it, and borrowed of Cookie, without his knowledge, a large iron spoon which I thought I could wield more easily than a heavy spade. Besides, Cookie would be less sleuth-like in getting on the trail of his missing property than Mr. Shaw—though there would be a certain piquancy in having that martinet hale me before him for stealing a spade.
But that afternoon I was tired and hot—it really called for a grimmer resolve than mine to shovel sand through the languor of a Leeward Island afternoon. Instead, I slept in my hammock, and dreamed that I was queen of a cannibal island, draped in necklaces made of the doubloons now hidden under the sand in the cabin of the derelict.