Chapter 126323001

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberXIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article126323001
Full Date1896-12-26
Page Number7
Corrections0
Word Count5424
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Weekly Mercury (NSW : 1892-1931)
Trove TitleThe Gold Seekers
article text

THE @010 SEEKERS.

CHAPTER XIII.— {Continued.)

He sat down beside the cache, and burst out laughing. ' What's the matter ?' said Ivor. 'I am laughing at the absurdity of the situation, of course.' » Why ?' ; ' ' This is the very tamest shipwreck in the ?wholo annals of disaster at sea. Here we are

thrown on an island hundreds of miles from anywh'ere, to find meat and drink ready to our Lands. We might just as well have been ' wrecked in Piccadilly.' '?'? ' I see nothing to laugh at,' answered Ivor. ; , ' If we had not been wrecked here on this particular spot, I don't think there would have been much to laugh at. I don't kuow whether there is a cache on Inaccessible or not. T only know of this one from the engineer who ' told mo a grisly tale about some poor devils who were wrecked here some years ago.' ' It will certainly be slow work until we are picked up. Got any baccy, old chap?' ' Only a doddle in my pipe, and that is soaked with sea-water.' ' Good Lord ! the prospect of life on a desert island without tobacco is certainly not pleasant.' 'There are a good many other things which you will feel the want of before long, I am afraid. It will take us all our time to be civil to one another after a month or two, i I expect. The society is strictly limited. There is no club. ? There are no books, no amusements, nothing but the bear means of existence and our ingenuity.' 'I daresay we shall manage on that all : right. You have forgotten clothes — of sorts, k. Didn't you see those bales of cotton stuff on a' the beach ? There must be two or three '/ dozen of them washed tip.' ' Yes, I saw them. We shall have the necessaries of life — even fire — if we get ?any- thin k sufficiently dried to burn.'

' What do you mean . Ivor pointed to his belt, which held some sixty or seventy cartridges. If we can get some tow dried, if there is any washed up, or seaweed, or anything in flammable, we can soon light it with one of these.' ... Beausire put his hand to his belt, and said : ' By Jove ! I left my revolver in the cabin before I went up to the chart-house, but I ? have some cartridges. We shall do all right. What are you looking so glum about, old chap — one would almost think that you are sorry you were not drowned ?' Ivor smiled as Iig answered : ' Not exactly ; but I see rocks ahead.' ' How do you mean ?' 'Wait till we reach them — perhaps we won't, after all — and then we can steer clear of them.' ' I am sure I don't know what you are driving at. I for one am contented enough to have escaped as easily as I have.' 'What lam most afraid of,' said Ivor, .prevaricating with intention, ' is the weather. I believe this infernal damp mist is practi cally the only sample of weather wo got here.' ' It is better than the damper damp of a grave in the sea,' said Beausire, .with a laugh. ' There I agree with you. Come, we must go down to the others, or they will be think ing of a meal of raw penguin. Take a tin of that beef and a bottle of brandy. I'll take

Beausire burst out laughing. ' This is too sublimely ridiculous for words. We ought to rush up to our comrades who aro on the point of death with starvation, fall exhausted at their feet, and bring them back to life by pouring down their throats the ?warm blood of an antelope which we havo just managed to run down after a chase on foot of five hours over the prairie. Instead of that, you calmly ask me to pick up a tin of pressed beef and a bottle of brandy and come along to breakfast. ' Doesn't it strike you as funny ?' 'It strikes mo as being extremely conven ient, however prosaic ; and I don't doubt but that our companions in misfortuno will prefer the. beef and brandy to the antelope's blood of tradition. Come on. Lot us try them.' 'It's a poor-class shipwreck,' said Beausiro as they started along the shore. It Was scarcely six hours since the ship had struck, but as the Frenchman and Lola had,

owing to unrorseen circumstances, not touched any solid food for nearly forty hours, they ?were particularly sharp-set, and they had told each other in Spanish several dozen times that ihoy were hungry. The morose English sailor was of no serv ice to them, for he know neither the French nor Spanish for liungor. He certainly had mentioned four or fivo j times, in responso to tho frantic signs of the Frenchman, that ho was ' ? 'ungry.' When Ivor and Beausiro came in sight, tho sailor was actually engaged in slaughtering some silly penguins, who could do 110 more thau waddle a yard or two at his approach. He was obviously about to try a meal of penguin, which if accomplished, would prob ably have rendered any thought of food nauseous to him for some timo to como. The Frenchman, whose sprained ankle in capacitated him for walking, hailed tho food with delight. A slow smile of satisfaction spread over the features of Lola, but she had no words.

' The sailor, called away from his work of slaughter, dropped tho penguins and saun tered up, and seeing the tinned beef and bis cuits said in a surly tone : ' One of these ? islands where thoy've put provisions, I suppose. I 'ave 'eard say that there iras some on 'em about 'ere, but I never believed it till now.' He showed no surprise, nor, indeed, had ho shown any feeling of any sort since they had been cast ashore. After feeling his per son to seo if he had broken no bones, ho had cursed freely, spat on the ground, hitched his trousers, and strolled to see if there was any one else saved. He was not surprised that they were wrecked. He was not sur prised that ho should have been saved or escaped any injury on that rock-bound coast. Ho took everything as a matter of course, and would have cursed equally heartily if ho had not been wrecked and if there had been no storm. He ate his food heartily, and took his brandy with evident relish. There was, happily, no necessity for short rations ; there was sufficient food for at least fifty people for a year. The sailor, after taking stock of Ivor for some minutes, asked with an oath for some more brandy. Ivor's brows contracted : this was one of the difficulties which he had foreseen. ' You have had enough, and will get no more to-day.' ' Who says so ?' demanded the sailor, in a menacing tono of voice. 'I do,' answered Ivor, rising. ' And who in thunder gave you the right to say how much I am to have ?' ' I have assumed the right,' said Ivor, quickly, ' and if you pretend to question it in any way, my answer, is here.' As he

said this, he touched the pistol which lay in its case fixed on to his belt. The sailor glared from Ivor to Beausire, and made as though he would speak. He thought better of it, however, and solaced himself with oaths. ' I quite agree with my friend,' said Beau sire, ' and am fully prepared to recognize him as tho head of this little community, and to help him in the exercise of his authority, if necessity should arise.' Beausire was rather proud of this little speech, and metaphorically patted himself on the back. The Frenchman, aware that these heavy islanders were in dispute, looked up and said : ' Hullo, what's the matter ?' Beausire explained, and asked him if he was prepared to recognize Ivor as the chief of the party. ' Why, certainly,' answered Anatole. Lola was not asked, for obvious reasons. The question of cold or hunger did not come into consideration in this matter. ' Then that is all right. You see you are in a minority of one,' said Beausire to the sailor, ' and the best thing you can do under the circumstances is to climb down.' The sailor expectorated freely, and mutter ed that he ' didn't care a darn who was boss, so long as 'e got 'is grub reg'lar.' So the matter was satisfactorily settled. After all, the man -»ritk the gun usually has the best of the argument. ' The first thing we have to do,' said Ivor, ' is to put up some sort of shelter for tho night. There is enough wreckage about to build a dozen huts.' Beausire, glancing at Lola's exceedingly scanty attire, said : 'Hadn't we better get hold of some of those cotton things- for the girl first ? A night-dress and a pilot-coat are hardly full dress for a girl even on Hog Island.' Lola, aware that she was the subject of conversation, turned' her glorious eyes on Ivor and Beausire, and smiled at them. Con scious of the inadequacy of her costume, she had remained in a sitting posture all the time that the men were' present. 'Yes, you are right, Beausire. Toll her' that we are going to get her more clothes, and ask the Frenchman if he can walk if' we help him along.' Beausire laughed as he said : ' I can't tell the girl, because I don't know how. I must get Anatole to try to explain to her.' He told Anatole to tell her that ? they were going across to the north side of tho island

-'ci, uuu 1 Liiiu sue was not to be afraid. Anatole obeyed with alacrity. ' Don't be afraid ; we are going, but ? Confound it all, she don't understand a word !' Lola, thinking that in all probability Anatolo was paying hoi- a compliment, smiled at him. Ho then proceeded, by a series of grotesque signs, to show her that they wore going to return. Lola, after a time, signified, also by signs, that she understood, and the four men retired

to the other sido of the island. Tho Frenchman limped along between Ivor and Beausire, and was occupied in a labour of lovo in opening out a bale of variegated cotton stuff and selecting suitable colours for his be loved. Sep sickness and his subsequent immersion had consideraly damped his ardour temporarily, but now that he. was safe on land again, and everything pointed to a prolonged enjoyment of her society, his passion returned with an added piquancy. After some hours' work the men had man aged to erect a temporary shelter for them selves, and another, some hundred yards away, for Lola, purposing to make them more stable in the course of timo. The sailor worked well, though sullenly. Ho seemed to have a ' scunner' against tlio entire world. Everything was practically ready to their hands. The ship had been shattered within ten yards of tho mainland, and her timbers wero thrown up to and covered all' that part of tho shore. Even a few odd tools were found among tho debris. . Their labours were saddened by the discovery of tho bodies of many of tho crow. These they collected and covered up temporarily— to bo buried on tho morrow— to protect them from tho mass of birds, albatrosses and gulls of all kinds, which, now that the storm had ceased, were flying around in myriads and rending tho air with their piercing shrieks. By nightfall they had made all preparations possible, and despito the fact that tlieir clothes were by no means yet dried, they all managed to sleop the sleep of exhaustion. This was the one great drawback to their comfort— nothing was dry, tho air was damp and clammy . Everything saved from tho sea — -soddon with salt water— would take long to dry. ! ° As Beausire lay in his damp clothes, sheltered by the still dripping timbers of the snip which went to form their tomporary hut, n inT.-° con,£ess- after all, it was a respectable shipwreck, '

They spent tho three following dayB in finding and burying all the bodies which they could, and aftor that they were compelled to desist. Even the coarse sailor could no longer suffer the sights and odours which were sub mitted to him, and tho immense crowd of birds which wheeled and screamed above theja, or rose in a dense mass from some particular spot, had well-nigh rendered their work unnecessary. In their wanderings, .they found that thof island consisted mainly of one mountain, which they guessed to be about a thousand feet high. Around its base was a slender shelf of shingly and rocky beach, and on the north side the beach was much narrower than in other parts. It seemed to bo as barren a spot as could well be conceived. Trees there were nono; a sort of rusty, course grass formod the only vegetation, with the ex ception of a tough, cabbage-like shrub which grew in places. It was indeed tho abomina tion of desolation. All along the rocky ledges of. the shore were myriads of silly penguins, which cither made no attempt to escape on their approach, or which flopped into the water in a lumpish, helpless manner. The FrenchmaA alone seemed to find some amusement in ces droles ; and the sailor, with tho true Englishman's desire of slaughter, killed two or three from pure wantonness, until warned by Ivor to desist. After four days, perambulation of the shore, Beausire left bound to confess that from the romantic point of view the island, would do, but that from other standpoints tho ship wreck was not by any means in accordanco with accepted precedent. : CHAPTER XIV. LIFE ON HOG ISLAND — IVOR'S PEAKS ARE REALIZED. r\- ? ~ ? j ? i ? j-i ? ? 1 . . .. _

uii wiuBu itiru ua-ys wjjtjn wie misc was en tirely absent, they could see, some fifty or sixty miles away, the rugged outline of another island, which Ivor said was Inaccess ible, and he told Beausiro tho story of the girl who had the misfortune to be born on that island, on which her parents had been wrecked. Thinking to impress this incident | on the infant's memory, and to record their sense of thankfulness a't being saved from the sea, they christened her ' Inaccessible as her surname was Onions, the combination was not a happy one, but tho poor girl had to faco the world weighed with these two cacophonous names. They were certainly a drawback to matrimony. One would pause before having one's engagement to Miss In accessible Onions published in the Morninn Tost. Being in the ' Roaring Forties,' the wind always blew from the west with a touch of north in it, and nearly always with the same force, amounting to something more than a strong breeze. On the lee side of the island, however, where they had erected their hnts, it was al ways comparatively calm and pleasant enough when the mist cleared off and gave them a view of the deep-blue waves, crested with foam, which rolled off eastwest. Under the shelter of the island itself the tiny wavelets rippled on to the tawny sand timidly, as though they had never known what it was to be anything but inoffensive little creatures, born to lap in and out of tliw bays, and softly caress the shore. It was hard to believe that this was the same sea which had tossed about their ship as a plaything, and had hurled it with irre sistible force on to the land which was now their home. It was hard to believe that the

wind which, in their shelter, passed over them sighing and whispering was the same wind which' for twenty-four hours had shrieked and howled like a thing possessed. At first the bird life of the island served to amuse and interest them. . The incessant clatter of the penguins, as they sat' upright in rows upon the ledges of rock — thousands upon thousands of them — interested for a time. At times they would slide off into the water, and return with a fish in their mouths. This appeared to constitute tlieir whole exist ence — to chatter, and eat, and sleep. Sailors will tell you that if . you put a wick down a ? penguin's throat and set it alight it will burn just as though it wero in a bowl of oil. Beausire had suggested that possibly a fresh penguin might be a change from everlasting ' tinned nigger,' as he called the beef ?, but being informed that. penguin probably had tho flavor of rancid oil, he made no farther sug gustion on the point. The sailor improvised fishing lines and caught some fish from time to time. They had already a fire. Ivor's revolver shot into a heap of dry paper and chips of wood had caused a little excitement; but when it was seen that even fire was easily procurable, life had but little interest for them. Food, fire, fuel and shelter they had, and this they had in abundance — a great deal more than about a fourth of the population of London

can even hope to have — and yet life was not worth living — at any rate, to at least two of them. 1 Even the fact that in the course of time — be it longer or shorter— they were bound to be rescued should they bo alive, did not serve to remove the feeling of impatience and fretfulness from the minds of Ivor and Beau sire. Had there been difficulty in keeping body and soul together they would have felt none of this ennui. ' There was nothing to complain of but the weather, and they had exhausted all the possible epithets to describe that any time during the last twenty years in England. Lola had, with deft feminine fingers, made herself garments which supplied all the needs of decency and comfort. When the weather was colder than usual, sho donned the pilot coat, the buttons of which she kept brightly polished with sand. After a month's residence on the Island there was nothing more to bo doue in the way of making matters more comfortable. The men's hut and Lola's wore separated, somo hundred yards apart. After his ankle had become sufficiently strong to allow him to work, Anatole had dono so with a will, using all his skill and ingenuity in order to render her as comfort ablo as possible. Her bed of dry seaweed was selected carefully by him ; he picked out any little thing from it which might possibly hurt her as she lay upon it. He stuffed an improvised pillow with the softest grass which he could find, and, whon possible, talked to her incessantly. By degrees sho began to pick up somo French and English words and phrases, until1 her conversation, though consisting, of tho strangest agglomeration of words culled from three separate languages, was more or less in telligible.

f Tho dining-hut was close to Lola's. Ivor had insisted on- the construction of this in order to prolong as much as possible the time of action, knowing full well that when everything -which was necessary had been done, the time would hang heavily on evory one's hands. It was Lola's duty to look after tho com missariat, and Ivor sot tho Frenchman and tho sailor, who both had clasp-knives, to cut some rude platters for their food. Tho time inevitably camo when there was nothing to do but wait. Tho sailor did not mind, because his ideal existence consisted of plenty of food, nothing to do, and too much to drink. Tho last re quirement ho — luckily for himself and tho others — could not gratify. Ivor had given him distinctly to understand that any at tempt on his part to steal or obtain moro brandy or rum than was served out to him would meet with summary punishment. The sailor, awaro from Ivor's eyo that he meant what he said, forbore to steal, but used all the arts of which he was master to obtain an extra glass now and then from Lola. His efforts, however, were in vain. Lola was contented enough. She, too, had enough to eat, had no desire for brandy, and was thoroughly engrossed in thinking of nothing at all, She could have done with a larger and moro varied wardrobe, it is truo ; but as things went, she was not so badly off. Anatole was happy and in despair at the same time. He was madly, passionately in love with Lola, who received all his protesta tion's of adoration and fidelity with the same sweet smile as ever. She simply would not take the trouble to learn anything but tho simplest and most necessary phrases, and in consequence her conversations with Anatole consisted maiuly of disjointed words ef Spanish and French. He followed her about like a dog, and it was nbvions that his devotion was Gradually

awakening something more than interest in her heart. ? She had a horror of the gruff sailor who had no manners. The exaggerated politeness and deference of Anatole corresponded more nearly with the outward devotion shown to all her sex, in all grades of society in Spain. In Ivor and Beausire she recognised the superiority in station, which made her address them as cahcdleros. Anatole was already Anatole to her, and the sailor el burron — i.e., the great donkey. Ivor did his utmost to provide work for the men, but in that little republic of which he had assumed the presidency labor, being unprofitable, was at a discount. He and Beausire spent many days in ex ploring the island. They had never reached the top of the hill — the mist, as a rule*, mak ing climbing dangerous, and they had dis covered that on the most precipitious parts the albatrosses had begun to nest and approach was, in consequence, a matter of great danger. The sailor spent most of the day stolidly Sshing, so Anatole and Lola had the field to themselves. Lola was quite prepared to flirt indefinitely with him. Two months passed, and life became burdensome to Ivor and Beausire. Beausire became fretful and querulous, while Ivor was very silent, almost morose. They made various efforts to make matters lively, but tho utter sameness of existence was beginning to pall on them. Every morning, when they, rose, their first glance was over the sea. Every evening, at dusk, their last look was again seaward. So far no ship had been seen passing, and as each slow day came to a close Ivor felt a dull, sinking pam at his heart that another day had been put between him and the ac complishment of his desires. What a mad fool he had been ever to leave England ! He chafed at this powerlessness to do anything even more than at his imprison ment at Kimberley. Nearly six months gone, and he had not even yet reached his destination ; nor, in deed, did there appear to be an early prospect of his doing so. The amount of provisions stored in the cache boded ill for a frequent visit from the relieving ship.' The fact that the ship in which they had started from Cape Town was lost would help her owners little in their conjectures as to where she had been lost. Hog Island was much to the southward of tho course of any vessel going to Australia, and no ships took that course on their journey westward. What, would Gwen think of his silence ? By this time his second promised letter was long duo, and it might be months before he could write again. He had never told her that he loved her — that his desire of life was only for her ; and in the interval many things might happen. Why should a magnificent girl such as she was — an heiress, too, in a small way — think of a poor penniless fellow ? Although lialf-believing in his own mind that . his passion for Gwen was to a certain extent reciprocated, yet at the same time he was uuable to rid himself of that selfdepre ciation which any man who is worth tho name must feel when ho compares himself with the lady of his love. Poor Ivor ! How ho wished that he had asked her to marry him, and had been refused! There would have beon somo noErative RaHsfn.n.t.inn in flint. 0+

least. The knowledge that a suit is hopeless deadens some part of the craving, and pre cludes that restlessness, born of deferred hope, which makes tho world so gray. This silent torture was at times more than Ivor could bear, and lio would wandor away by himself and abandoned himself to a frenzy of despair. _ It was at times such as these that lie curscd himself for evor having left England. It scemod impossible that lifo at twenty- three could hold such bittorness. Before the other members of the party' he maintained an evon, an almost gay tempora 'ment. ? Not one of them but regarded him as tho most cheerful member of the party, and one and all recognized in him tho man who had tho_ moral right to dictate to them tlioir actions. Aftor the sailor's one and only attempt to kick against the pricks, everything had gone smoothly. Each may havo had his private chagrin, but they managed to successfully hido it from their follows. No one guessed at tlio secvet pain which was gnawing at Ivor's heart. Ho was silont for tho most part, but ever ready with' a cheerful answer to any question, and I10 often managed to perform the necessary facial contortion to I effect a smile. Throe months had passed, and Beausire was restless and captious. A man who had lived in idleness, which consisted of amuse ment provided in a thousand different ways amusement which posts no effort to secure — -

naturally felt the loss of the relaxtion of lifo much more than those who had regarded amusement not as the ' be-all and end-all' of oxistenco, but merely as an accessory to it. The horror of having nothing to do was certainly telling on them all, with the ex ception of Lola. Sho seemed happy enough. Anatole had reached that stage of his pas ion when ho assured himself a thousand times a day that sho loved him, and again ton thousand times a day that she did not. He found life resolve itself into periods of delirious joy and gnawing despair, which followed so quickly on each other that the most picrcing emotion — the despair— seemed always to be present. ? More than threo months had passed, and on one afternoon Ivor had wandered away by himself, leaving Beausire seated on a ledge of rock and idly throwing pebbles into the sea. Ivor had noticed that for a week or so Beausire had been singularly silent. When he had spoken it had not been to rail furi ously against his imprisonment on this cursed, mist-encircled island, but about his idle days at Cambridge — his escapades on an exeat to town — those stolen hours of dolight in under | graduate days which live green in every man's memory, be they days spent in honest, boyish amusements, as had been Ivor's, or in raking and deviltry, as Beausire had passed them. Toward dusk Ivor camo slowly along tho .narrow beach, which was studded with boulders. His head was bent, and on his face was that expression which tolls that a man's soul and body are things apart. As he paced along this miserable island in the Southern Seas the true Ivor was on tho banks of the Usk, walking sido by side with a tall and stately maiden. He came slowly round the side of a lai'go boulder, and stopped suddenly as though he had been petrified. Not three yards from him, with their backs turned toward him, were Lola and — Beausire. Beausire. had his arm round her waist, and, when Ivor caught sight o£ them, was in the act of kissing her. From the little that Ivor could see of Lola's face, sho ap peared to be enjoying it. Ivor stood still, and Beausire, happening to look round, saw him. To do him justice, one must say that ho blushed and rose from tho ground. Lola then looked round, saw Ivor, and smiled. She did not seem in the least degree embarrassed. Aftor the first momentary blush of shame — or was it vexation at being discovered ? — a hard, stubborn look over spread Beausire's face. Ivor advanced towards the pair, and said to Beausire in a low voice : ' Would you mind asking her to go back to her hut ?' Beausire looked undecided. Then his natural aversion to a scene in the presence of a woman came to his assistance, and he- mut tered a few disconnected French words, and Lola, looking first from one to the other, slowly walked away. These two fine Ingleses were going to fight — about her. That was so far satisfactory. She hoped the smaller would win. Ho was not so fine-looking as the other, but the tall one was so stern — a thorough gentleman, but uninteresting. She did not care one snap of the fingers for Beausiro, but it was pleasant after all those years of surveillance in Spain, to be able 'to flirt, with no one to say her nay. Anatole would be angry, and then all three would fight.i ' ? WTien Lola had g ope some fifty yards away, Ivor turned to Beausire. ' This must stop, and instantly, Beausiro.'' 'Why, may I ask ?' Beausire felt that he had a poor case, and was in consequence all the moro determined to make the most of it. ' Because I say so.' ' And supposing I refuse to recognise your right to dictate?' ' You have already recognised it in the case of the sailor,' said Ivor. He knew this was a weak argument the moment the word had passed his lips. ' That is a very different matter. I sup ported you then because it was the case of a superior being flouted by an inferior. Be tween you and mo . there is no difference of that kind. ' None the less do I insist that this shall go no further.' ' And I absolutely decline now to obey you on the point. I shall do exactly as I please in this matter without reference ,to. yon or any one else.' They were both exceeding calm. TVnv. lm

cause ho was determined that, como what might, he should havo his way in the matter. Beausire, because he was doing his utmost to hide the tumult of conflicting emotions which were raging in him. 'Then you must tajjo the consequences.' ' And what are the consequences ? Do you intend to constitute yourself king of this cursed island ? I won't stand any of your hectoring nonsense. You go your way, and I will go mine, and wo can take the con sequence of our own acted on our own shoulders.' ' It won't help matters for you to lose your temper, Beausire. I am absolutely deter mined on this point. If it is necessary, I shall even uso force.' 'You have the pull there,' said Beausire, sneeringly. 'I unfortunately, left my re volver in my cabin when tho . ship went down.' ' I didn't refer to that, and you know it.' ' To what did you refer, then ?.' (To \e continued.)