I now released Van Luck from his bonds, and bidding him and Melannie follow me, I led the way along the secret path to where the boat lay, ready to put to sea. I was rewarded for my rescue of Van Luck by his ability to help me. Not a breath of wind stirred, so that we could not use the sail, and it became necessary to sweep the boat with the oars away from the burning island. Alone I could not have accomplished this, and I doubt if Melannie could have helped me, ignorant as she was of the use of the heavy oar. But Van Luck and I had no difficulty in sweeping the boat out to sea. Thus does Providence recompense a merciful action.
When we had gained a safe distance from the island we rested awhile in order to look back on the strangest and most terrific sight I had ever beheld. The island seemed to be blown to atoms. Flames and masses of rock shot up from the quickly-widening crater until the island, which had lately risen like a beauty-spot in the ocean, became a mass of fire. The lava, now pouring in red-hot streams into the sea, caused steam-clouds to rise, so that the island disappeared behind a luminous veil. None of the savages escaped, for we saw no canoes making from the shore. Thus vanished the Island of Gems, with its treasure of jewels and gold, the dross of the world, in the pursuit of which so many risk their lives.
A light breeze now coming from the south-east, we hoisted the sails, and taking the helm, I placed Van Luck in charge of the foresail, whilst Melannie and I sat together in the stern. The queen did not appear to regret the loss of her country.
“I am queen no longer,” she said, clapping her hands at the thought of her freedom. “Ackbau cannot frighten me any more, nor shall I see again those dreadful sights I was compelled to witness.”
“You will be happy,” I whispered, “among your own people. You will be rich also, for half my jewels will make you wealthy in the land to which you are going.”
“Nay, Peter,” she answered. “I need not take your jewels. I have jewels of my own. When I saw that you valued the bright stones, I knew they would be of value to me also. I have a bagful of jewels, larger than yours, and brighter.” And, laughing to see the surprise she had given me, Melannie drew out a handful of gems from a bag which she carried at her girdle, which glowed with a wonderful lustre under the light of the moon.
It was then that I saw Van Luck watching us from the bow of the boat. His countenance wore a cunning, greedy look, and his eyes were fastened upon the jewels in Melannie’s hand.
“Put them away,” I whispered. “Such toys are often the cause of much trouble.”
Melannie replaced the jewels, but seemed disappointed at my words.
“I thought you would be glad I had brought away the bright stones,” she said. “But if they are unlucky I will cast them into the sea.”
“Nay, Melannie,” I answered. “Keep them, for they will make you the richest among the women of your own country. But do not show them to anyone or let it be known that you have them with you, should we fall in with a passing ship, or they may cause our ruin, perhaps our death.” Melannie seemed to understand me, but her pleasure in the bright stones had received a check since her display of them had brought a rebuke from my lips.