THE DISCOVERER RETURNS
In about an hour and a half the two boys from up the river returned with provisions.
“Any news from the discoverer?” they asked.
“I think he’s being held as a hostage by the cook,” said Townsend. “Shall we land and lay waste to his home?”
“Oh, I think we can safely leave everything to him,” said Billy. “What do you think of the discoverer, anyway?”
“I’m for the discoverer first, last and always,” said Townsend. “He has only to lead and I’ll follow. Now that we’ve met him I feel that life without the discoverer would not be worth living. I’m glad that next week is Easter vacation, because we couldn’t think of school and the discoverer at the same time. He’s more than a scout, he’s an institution.
“Do you know, Charlie, I think we’re moving? We were almost opposite that old railroad car a few minutes ago. Either Bridgeboro is going down or we’re going up. Do you feel the climate changing? You don’t suppose this island is going to go up the river again and join old Trimmer’s orchard, do you?”
“Maybe it’s homesick,” said a boy they called Brownie.
“I hope the discoverer will discover it,” said Billy.
“We’d better scatter something in our trail,” said Townsend soberly, “so that he can follow. I think that’s the regulation thing for scouts to do, isn’t it?”
He had been whittling a stick and now with a sober look he began throwing the chips into the water as if to indicate the path of the departing island. “That’s what you call blazing a trail,” he said; “if he’s a scout he can follow.”
The little island was now moving slowly upstream by the incoming tide. It caught on the flats, performed a slow pirouette like some drowsy toe-dancer or exhausted merry-go-round, then extricated itself and floated majestically in the channel till the little apple tree became involved with the foliage along shore.
“Do you know this seems like a very funny kind of an island to me?” Townsend Ripley drawled. “I wonder what makes it hold together? It ought to disintegrate.”
“Dis what?” asked Billy.
“Disintegrate—that’s Latin for falling to pieces.”
“Maybe the roots hold it together,” said Roland.
“It ought to dissolve,” said Townsend. “This land doesn’t seem to be soluble in water. The coast all around ought to wash away. There is something mysterious here. This island is as solid as a pancake; I don’t understand it. By all the rules of the game there shouldn’t be anything left here but the tree by this evening. There doesn’t seem to be any process of erosion.”
“What will we do If the island washes away from under us?” asked the boy they called Brownie. “The tree’ll fall over sideways, won’t it? I don’t want to camp on an island that keeps getting smaller all the time. It’s bad enough to have a tent shrink after a rain, but an island!”