“You are glad to go, Peter,” she said. “Go, then; take the boat, and leave me to my fate.”
“Not so, Melannie,” I answered. “I will take you with me, and restore you to your own people. It is not meet that a white girl, such as thou, should abide with savages.”
At these words Melannie recovered her gaiety.
“Let me go with thee, Peter,” she said, clapping her hands with pleasure. “It is all I ask. But if we would not be followed by war canoes, which could easily overtake us, we must use much cunning in the manner of our going.”
We then took counsel together, when Melannie advised that our best chance to escape would be at the time of the coming of the snake god. When the monster appeared, and for three days afterward, while it remained in the coral cave, the savages would be held to the spot by their traditions from which nothing would induce them to depart. We might then slip away unobserved, and be out of sight of land before the ceremonies in connexion with the sacrifice were over. This appearing to be our opportunity, we at once set about making preparations. From a stream near the cave I filled the boat’s water-tank, and we collected a quantity of coconuts, bananas, and other fruits, which we stowed on board; nor did I forget to take some of the largest gems from the treasure cave, which I stuffed into my belt with the others. The gold I did not touch. It was heavy to carry, and its transport might have caused suspicion. We also launched the boat, with some difficulty, into a natural boat harbour formed by a coral reef, so that no time might be lost in getting away. All being ready, we waited impatiently for the day upon which we had planned to set out upon our voyage.
During this time I observed a change upon the mountain in the centre of the island. The smoke cloud, which always hovered over it, had increased until it hung like a funeral pall over the top of the volcano. Loud rumblings also were heard like distant thunder, while earth tremors were constantly felt. I mentioned these matters to Melannie, but she did not appear to attach any importance to them.
“The mountain was always like that,” she said. “Perhaps the evil spirits who live there are angry.” But I knew from my reading and experience that these signs and portents were such as heralded an eruption. In the excitement of leaving the island, however, I forgot my anxieties with regard to the volcano.
I now questioned Melannie with regard to the white stranger whose coming had saved me from being offered as a sacrifice to the snake god. At first she refused to tell me anything concerning him, but when I pressed her she conducted me to a cavern in which the captive was confined. The door of this dungeon was a swinging rock, which Melannie caused to open by some means of which she knew the secret, when the wretched man who was reserved for the sacrifice was seen crouching in darkness at the farther end of the