In order to protect Melannie from the heat of midday, and to ensure her some measure of privacy, I constructed a temporary cabin for her, with some spare canvas which I found on board the boat, but at night she preferred to sleep in the open so that she might watch the stars, which shone with extraordinary brilliancy. It was then that I lowered the sails when our boat drifted upon the moonlit sea. Melannie would at such times creep into my arms, and with her head pillowed upon, my breast would listen to the wonders I had to tell of the world of white people to which I hoped I was taking her.
“Something warns me I shall never see that country, Peter,” she said to me one night with a sigh, “but I like to hear you speak of it. It must be a happy land where there are no black men to frighten a poor girl and make her weep. But I shall not see it. The white spirits would not welcome me to their country if they knew of the sights I had seen and the pain I had caused to be inflicted on those whom Ackbau hated.”
“It was not your will, but Ackbau’s, Melannie, which caused such suffering,” I answered. “None could blame you for being the mouthpiece of his villainy.”
But Melannie shook her head.
“The white man’s country is not for me, Peter,” she declared sorrowfully. “I am too steeped in blood to take the white girls’ hands in friendship.”
Then she clung to me weeping, with her head upon my breast, and so she would sob herself to sleep like a child disappointed in play.
But, knowing her history, I could not find it in my heart to blame her for what had been done at the dictation of others. I pictured her a queen, among the whites, by reason of her wealth from the sale of her jewels, who would doubtless have many noble suitors at her feet. Her beauty was such as I had never seen equalled, and her imperious and sometimes wilful ways only added to her indescribable charms. It was now forced upon me that unless help came soon we must starve. Our stock of fruit was almost exhausted, and scarce three quarts of water remained in the tank. I had not been able to impress upon Melannie the necessity for economy in our eating and drinking. She had always been used to an abundance of simple fare, and, like a child, lived for the hour, with no thought of the future. Van Luck had also been in the habit of helping himself to what he wanted from our stock, nor had I liked to interfere with him lest I might cause trouble. But now I resolved to take a firmer stand with both my passengers.
To add to my anxieties I could see that Van Luck had been attracted by the bag of jewels which Melannie had so imprudently displayed on the night of our escape from the burning island. He was continually watching it when his eyes were not employed in gazing across the sea, and once I caught him creeping toward Melannie when she slept as if with the intention of robbing her of the treasure. I spoke to him roughly, and ordered him back to the fore part of the boat. He obeyed, but his looks were so threatening that I momentarily expected him to attack me.