“Well, Van Luck,” I said to him. “It seemeth to me that the hand of Providence is in this business. But for your conduct we had both now been on board the ‘Arms of Amsterdam,’ yet no sooner was I cast into the sea by your treachery than you were made to follow me, to be brought to this island, where, but for your coming, I would have been subject to the cruel fate which now awaits you.”
“Mercy!” he cried. “I do not fear death. But the death that I am to suffer is not for a human to contemplate. If you cannot save me, at least kill me, so that I may escape the torture of being devoured alive.”
But I was powerless to aid him, and at a sign from Melannie, who was fearful lest our visit might be discovered, I stepped back, as the rock at the mouth of the cave returned to its place, and consigned the miserable captive to a darkness from which he would not emerge until the time for the sacrifice.
A PLAN OF ESCAPE
I was now of two minds, whether to make terms with Ackbau or to endeavour to escape with Melannie from the Island of Gems in the boat we had made ready for sea. On the one hand was immediate safety, and the prospect of some ship calling at the island in which I might return to civilization. On the other was a hazardous journey alone with a young girl, who could not be expected to realize the dangers which lay before her. Was I justified, I asked myself, in exposing the queen to the tragedy which might await us upon the ocean? If captured I had no doubt that both of us would be condemned by Ackbau to a cruel death, and if we succeeded in getting away how should we exist until some chance vessel came to our rescue? I mentioned my fears to Melannie, but she would not hear of abandoning the project we had formed.
“Let us go, Peter,” she urged. “Nothing but death, or worse, awaits us here. As for you, at the next coming of the snake god after the one that is about to take place you will assuredly be offered as a sacrifice, for I may tell you that a solemn vow has been made by the council to that effect. While I, at the same time, am to be given in marriage to Ackbau, a fate from which I shrink more than from death. Why, then, should we exchange the chance of reaching the country you speak of for the tortures which must certainly await us here? Let us trust ourselves to the sea rather than cling to this land of sorrow. If we perish, we perish.”