THE MASTER OF THE ISLAND.
But here, as Captain Branscome leaned back and caught feebly at the main rigging for support, there appeared above the after companion (like a cognisance above an escutcheon) a bent fore-arm, the hand grasping a beaver hat. It was presently followed by the head of Miss Belcher, who nodded cheerfully, blinking a little in the level light of the sunset.
“Hallo!” said she, addressing Plinny, while she adjusted the hat upon her brow. “Have you been telling the Captain about our visitor?”
“Miss Plinlimmon, ma’am, has given me a shock, and I won’t deny it,” answered the Captain, recovering himself.
Miss Belcher continued to nod like a china mandarin.
“I don’t wonder,” she agreed. “For my part, you might have knocked me down with a feather. The fellow came down the creek, cool as you please, and pulling a nice easy stroke, in Harry’s cockboat. Where is Harry, by the way?”—her eyes lit and fastened upon me— “Good Lord! what have you been doing to the child?”
“Nothing, ma’am. He has been exploring, and lost his way; that’s all.”
“H’m! he seems to have lost it pretty badly. Well, he deserved it. But, as I was saying, along comes my gentleman, pulling with just the easy jerk which is the way to make a boat of that sort travel. Goodfellow was keeping watch. They say that a sailor will recognize a boat half a mile further off than he’ll recognize the man in it, but Goodfellow isn’t a sailor, so that explanation won’t fit. We’ll say that he was prepared for the boat returning, but not to find an entire stranger pulling her. At all events, he let her come within a couple of gunshots before calling down to the cabin and giving the alarm. I had my legs up on a locker, and was taking a siesta over a book—’Parkinson On The Dog’—and, by the way, we were a set of fools not to bring a dog; but I ran up the companion in a jiffy, and had the sense to catch up your spyglass as I went. Goodfellow by this time had begun to dance about the deck in a flutter. He had the tinder-box in his hand, and wanted to know if he should touch off a rocket. I ordered him to drop it, and fetch me a musket, which he did. By this time I could see that the man in the boat was unarmed, so I put up the musket at the ‘present,’ got the sight on him, and called out to know his business.
“The man jerked the cockboat round with her stern to the schooner— these boats come right-about with a single twist—and says he, very politely lifting his hat, ’You’ll pardon me, ma’am, but (as you see) I have borrowed your young friend’s boat. My own was not handy, and this seemed the quickest way to pay my respects.’ ‘Indeed?’ said I, ‘and who may you be?’ ‘My name, ma’am,’ said he, ’is Beauregard—Dr. Beauregard.’ ‘I never heard of you,’ said I. ’That, ma’am, is entirely my misfortune,’ said he, lifting his hat again; ’but allow me to say that I am the proprietor of this island, and very much at your service.’