Other means to enhance his physical comfort chance afforded him; the fleshpots were supplemented with a beverage, stronger and more welcome than that which bubbled and trickled so musically at his feet. One day a box was washed ashore; a message from the civilized centers to the field of primitive man! On its cover were the words, “Via sailing vessel, Lord Nelson” followed by the address. The convict pried the boards apart and gave a shout. Rum!—and plenty of it!—bottle after bottle, in an overcoat of straw, nestling lovingly one upon another. The man licked his lips; knocked off a neck, drank deep, and then, stopping many times, carried his treasure to his bower.
Day after day turned its page, merged into the past; sometimes, perforce, he got up, and, not a pleasant thing to look at, staggered to the beach with his club. There he would slay some crawling thing from the sea, return with his prize to mingle eating with drinking, until sated with both, he would fall back unconscious among the flowers. But the prolonged indulgence began to have a marked effect on his store; bottle after bottle was tossed off; the empty shells flung aside to the daisies. At length the day came when only two bottles remained in the case, one full pair, sole survivors of the lot. The man took them out, set them up and regarded them; a sense of impending disaster, of imminent tragedy, shivered through his dulled consciousness. He reached for the bottles and fondled them, started to knock the head from one and put it down. Resisting desire, he told himself he would have a look at the beach; the ocean had generously cast one box of well-primed bottles at his feet; perhaps it would repeat its hospitable action and make him once more the recipient of its bounty. The thought buoyed him to the shore; the sea lapped the sand with Lydian whispers, and there, beyond the edge of the soft singing ripples, he saw something that made him rub his dazed eyes.
A box!—a big box!—a box as tall as he was! No paltry dozen or two this time! Perhaps there was whisky, too; and the bubbling stuff the long-necked lords had sometimes pressed upon him in the past, when he had “ousted” his man and put quids in their pockets; or some of that fiery vin—something he had once indulged in with a Johnny Frenchman before he took to the tunnel, when he had been free to swagger through old Leicester Square. Anyhow, he would soon find out, and, rushing through the water, he laid a proprietary hand on the box. But to his disappointment, he could not move it; strong though he was, its great weight defied him. Ingenuity came to his aid, for, after a moment’s pondering, he left the box to the sea and made his way back to the forest. When he returned he bore on his shoulder a straight, stout limb which he had wrenched from a tree, and in his hand he carried a great stone. The former became a lever, the latter, a fulcrum; and, by patient exercise of one of the simple principles of physics, he managed, at length, to transfer the large box from ocean to land.