AT THE MERCY OF THE SEA
When morning broke on the day after our escape from the burning island we shaped a course with the wind, for I had no fixed purpose, and our only hope of returning to civilization lay in a chance meeting with some passing vessel. Yet I knew how remote that chance would be. The sea in these latitudes was not in the course of trade between any of the countries of the known world, and voyages of discovery such as those undertaken by Dirk Hartog and other navigators of the time were few and far between. Still I conceived it to be my duty to make the best use of the means which Providence had placed in my hands of returning to home and friends, and as the cutter danced over the waves, and the salt spray moistened our faces, I felt my spirits rise.
Melannie, in her new-found freedom, was like a happy child.
“Let us sail on for ever, Peter,” she said. “I never want to put my foot on land again.”
I tried to tell her that we could not live long upon the ocean; that our food and water would fail us; and that unless we fell in with a ship, or landed upon some friendly island, our doom was sealed. But Melannie refused to look upon the graver side of our situation, and seemed so happy and contented that I did not like to spoil her enjoyment with my dismal forebodings. Time enough, I thought, to meet trouble when it comes. Meanwhile we continued our voyage as a pleasure trip, eating the fruit we had brought with us when we felt hungry, and quenching our thirst from the boat’s water-tank, with no care for the future.
During this time Van Luck resumed his former air of abstraction, which I had noticed in him on board the “Arms of Amsterdam”. For hours at a time he would remain silent, looking across the sea with his hand shading his eyes in the watchful attitude which had become habitual to him during his solitary vigils at the island upon which we had found him. If spoken to when this fit was upon him, he would not answer, nor did he, at such times, appear to realize where he was. I could see that his mind was deranged, and I dreaded some violent outbreak, such as that which had come over him when, by his treachery, I was cast into the sea. But Melannie showed no fear of him; in, her delight at being with me upon the ocean away from the savages, among whom she had been reared, she seemed to have forgotten his presence.
For the next week after leaving what had been once the Island of Gems, we experienced a spell of fine weather, with bright sun and cool breeze. The elements seemed kind to the exiled queen without a throne, who had trusted herself to the wind and the sea, and but for the anxiety which I felt for the future, the voyage would have been a pleasant one.