For some time Willis had been closely examining a particular point in the bay with increasing anxiety; at last he ran towards the shore and leapt into the sea. Becker and his four sons were on the point of starting off in pursuit of him.
“Stop,” said Wolston, “I have been watching Willis’s movements for the last ten minutes, and I guess his purpose—let him alone.”
Willis swam to some object that was floating on the water, and returned in about a quarter of an hour, bringing with him a plank.
“Well,” he inquired, on landing, “was I wrong?”
“Wrong about what?” inquired Wolston.
“The Nelson is gone.”
“The proof, Willis.”
“Well, what about the plank?”
“I recognise it.”
“How! Well,” replied the obstinate pilot, “fish don’t breed planks, and—and—I scarcely think this one could escape from a dockyard, and float here of its own accord.”
“Then, Willis, according to you, there are no ships but the Nelson, no ships wrecked but the Nelson, and no planks but the Nelson’s. Willis, you are a fool.”
“Every one has his own ideas, Mr. Wolston.”
Towards evening, when they were on their way back to Rockhouse, Sophia confidentially called Willis aside, and he cheerfully obeyed the summons.
“Pilot,” said she, “I have made up my mind about one thing.”
“And what is that, Miss Sophia?”
“Why, this—in future, when we are alone, as just now, you must call me Susan, as you used to call your own little girl when at home, not Miss Susan.”
“Oh, I cannot do that, Miss Sophia.”
“But I insist upon it.”
“Well, Miss Sophia, I will try.”
“What did you say?”
“Susan, I mean.”
“There now, that will do.”
ALLOTMENT OF QUARTERS—A HORSE MARINE—TRAVELLING PLANTS—CHANGE OF DYNASTY IN ENGLAND—A WOMAN’S KINGDOM—SHEEP CONVERTED INTO CHOPS—RESURRECTION OF THE FRIED FISH—A SECRET.
After some days more of anxious but fruitless expectation, it was finally concluded that either the Nelson had sailed for the Cape, or, as Willis would have it, she had gone to that unexplored and dread land where there were neither poles nor equator, and whence no mariner was ever known to return. It was necessary, therefore, to make arrangements for the surplus population of the colony—whether for a time or for ever, it was then impossible to say. At first sight, it might appear easy enough to provide accommodation for the eleven individuals that constituted the colony of New Switzerland. It is true that land might have been marked off, and each person made sovereign over a territory as large as some European kingdoms; but these sovereignties would have resembled the republic of St. Martin—there would have been no subjects. What, then, would they have governed? it may be asked. Themselves, might be answered; and it is said to be a far more difficult task to govern ourselves than to rule others.