“I should not be selfish, though,” she said quickly. “You are so unhappy, you have lost so much. We are to be alone here in this land, Hugh, you and I, forever. I will prove to you that I am more than the frail, helpless woman that circumstances may seem to have shaped me, and you shall have from me all the aid and encouragement that a good, true woman can give. Sometimes I shall be despondent and regretful,—I can’t help it, I suppose—but I shall try with you to make the wilderness cheerful. Who knows but that we may be found by explorers within a month. Let us talk about our new subjects out there on the plain. How many of them are there in this village?”
She won him from the despondency into which he was sinking, and, be it said to her credit, she did not allow him to feel from that time forth that she was aught but brave, confident and sustaining. She was a weak woman, and she knew that if once the strong man succumbed to despair she was utterly helpless.
The next month passed much more quickly than any previous month within the lives of the two castaways. Each day brought forth fresh novelties, new sensations, interesting discoveries. Her courage was an inspiration, a revelation to him. Despite the fact that their journeyings carried them into thick jungles where wild beasts abounded, she displayed no sign of fear. Jaunty, indifferent to danger, filled with an exhilaration that bespoke the real love for adventure common among English women, she traversed with him the forest land, the plains, the hills, the river, and, lastly, the very heart of the jungle. They were seldom apart from the time they arose in the morning until the hour when they separated at night to retire to their apartments.
Exploration proved that they were on an island of considerable dimensions, perhaps twenty miles long and nearly as wide. The only human inhabitants were those in the village of Ridgehunt, as the new arrivals christened it,—combining the first syllables of their own names. From the tops of the great gate posts, christened by Lady Tennys, far across the water to the north, could be seen the shadowy outlines of another island. This was inhabited by a larger tribe than that which constituted the population of Ridgehunt.
A deadly feud existed between the two tribes. There had been expeditions of war in the past, and for months the fighting men of Ridgehunt had been expecting an attack from the island of Oolooz. Nearly twenty miles of water separated the two islands. The attacking force would have to cover that distance in small craft. Shortly before the advent of the white people, King Pootoo’s men captured a small party of scouts who had stolen across the main on a tour of exploration. They were put to death on the night of the arrival in Ridgehunt. A traitor in their midst had betrayed the fact that Oolooz contemplated a grand assault before many weeks had gone. Guards stationed on the summits of the gate posts constantly watched the sea for the approach of the great flotilla from Oolooz. King Pootoo had long been preparing to resist the attack. There were at least five hundred able-bodied men in his band, and Hugh could not but feel a thrill of admiration as he looked upon the fierce, muscular warriors and their ugly weapons.