|Chapter I.||The First of the Monkey Man.|
|Chapter II.||Under Way|
|Chapter III.||A Fight for Life|
|Chapter IV.||A Conflict of Authority|
|Chapter V.||The Mutinous Crew|
|Chapter VI.||An Agreement|
|Chapter VII.||The Storm|
|Chapter VIII.||The Wreck|
|Chapter IX.||The Search of the Eddies|
|Chapter X.||Tracks in the Sand|
|Chapter XI.||A Midnight Caller|
|Chapter XII.||The Passing Ship|
|Chapter XIII.||The Sight of the Monkey- Man|
|Chapter XIV.||Over the Cliff|
|Chapter XV.||On the Ledge|
|Chapter XVI.||The Fight on the Beach|
|Chapter XVII.||Anxious Days.|
|Chapter XVIII.||The Chase of the Monkey- Man|
|Chapter XIX.||The Cave on the Ledge|
|Chapter XX.||The Last of the Monkey- Man|
He was a small, nerve-strung man, with a disposition that disliked to give up and seek rest under any circumstances.
Finally, however, under the insistent urging of his physician, he departed for California, accompanied by his daughter and Richard Wainwright, who had been his assistant in many of his experiments during the past few years.
Professor Bucknell, while giving up his chair in the Eastern university, had no intention of entirely dropping his researches into the evolution of man, and, consequently, he persuaded Wainwright to accompany him.
For six months, however, after the arrival of the three in San Francisco, little work was accomplished, the time being spent by Miss Bucknell and Wainwright in an endeavor to keep the professor from overtaxing his strength, as his nervous system showed an inclination to break completely.
All might have been well, and Bucknell would, undoubtedly, have been content to rest, had not a friend returned from a long voyage in the Pacific, and finding Bucknell in San Francisco, spent a week in his company. At first it seemed that the visit of Professor Haverill worked for the better, and that the long talks and discussions that the two indulged in revived Bucknell's waning strength.
It was at the very end of Haverill's stay that he came to speak of his trip.
"I'm going East, Bucknell," he suggested.
"I'm obliged to return, and cannot undertake a certain affair which I believe should prove decidedly interesting. I have not mentioned it before; I do not know as I should even now. If you had your usual health, your leisure, being here in San Francisco, I should like to see you follow up the information I secured on my voyage."
Bucknell leaned forward, his long, nervous fingers intertwining.
"What is it, Haverill --- something that substantiates our theories?"
"It seems to substantiate the Darwinian theory, if it is true."
"Indeed, you surprise me!" The gray eyes took on an added fervor. "You have made a discovery, then?"
As he spoke he drew a small vial from his pocket and slipped a tablet between his lips.
"If you were in a position to follow it up," Haverill mused, rising slowly to pace up and down the room.
"What is it?" Bucknell demanded excitedly.
Haverill hesitated before answering. He realized quite fully that Bucknell was in poor health. He rather doubted the wisdom in speaking of a matter which would only rouse his friend's curiosity, his desire to investigate, when he was actually in no condition to do so.
"Well, well!" Bucknell ejaculated. "You have said either too much or too little."
"Yes," Haverill agreed. "I fear so.'' And then, overburdened with the story he had heard, desiring to discuss its plausibility with his friend, he sank down into a chair close to Bucknell.
"It may be nothing. I came, you know, from the Fiji group on a sailing vessel, and on board there was an old sailor, the second mate, and it was from him that I heard this story."
"Yes," Bucknell agreed, his nervous, excitable manner departing. "You say it partially confirms the Darwinian theory?"
"If it is true, it establishes that theory."
"The evolution of man from the monkey," Bucknell mused.
"This sailor," Haverill went on, "told me of an island the exact location of which he was hardly able to state. It appears that some two years ago the ship he was then sailing on was blown from its course and came upon this island, which, by the way, he claims to be uncharted. They stopped for the purpose of filling their water-casks, and the sailor spent a day ashore with two of his companions. They explored the island --- it was not a large one --- and came upon some peculiar tracks."
"He described them as being round, some four or five inches in diameter. Following the tracks, they caught a glimpse of a creature, short in stature, covered with hair, which moved with great agility, and which they finally lost as it swung into a tall tree and clambered from that to another.
"That's the substance of the story. Of course, I questioned the man closely, but really obtained no more definite information than I have given you."
"Was it a monkey?"
"The sailor asserts that the creature was able to speak; at least, he was very positive that it uttered a cry and called out in tones closely resembling the human voice." "And you are satisfied that his story was authentic?"
"He talked with me on several occasions, and I questioned him at considerable length, but without shaking my belief. It is very certain that he saw an animal of some kind, but whether of the nature he describes could only be determined by an investigation."
"The animal was covered with hair?" Bucknell demanded.
"So the sailor asserts; covered with hair, with human features, and was about four feet tall. The arms were long, and he traveled over the ground by leaps and bounds, swinging into the trees by his hands, and clambering with great agility from limb to limb."
"A species of monkey," Bucknell mused.
"Apparently, yes. The point that impressed me particularly was the description the sailor gave of the face. He was very certain that there was a large nose, which, of course, is usually lacking in monkeys."
"And the voice?" Bucknell demanded.
"That was another point. The man was so impressed with the occurrence that, on his return to the boat, he urged the captain to put a party ashore for the purpose of capturing the creature. No such attempt was made, however, as the captain was anxious to get under way. The weather had cleared, they had filled their water-casks, and so they set sail."
"And only one glimpse was caught of the creature?"
"As the ship put out, it appeared on a high promontory, and my informant studied it through a pair of glasses. He says that it waved to them, and I gathered that he was more impressed by its actions at that time, although he claims its shouts and cries, as he pursued it, convinced him of its ability to talk.''
As Bucknell listened to his friend's story his eyes took on an added glitter. Finally he rose, and began pacing up and down the room.
"Where is this island?" he demanded.
"That's the question. I have a rough chart" --- Haverill drew a paper from his pocket --- "but I doubt very much if it can be relied upon, as the sailor stated that the captain made no observation or attempt to place the island's position."
"Yet it was an uncharted island, you say? Rather strange, is it not, that no record was made?"
"Possibly the captain did make one; but, at least, the sailor with whom I talked had no definite information. He locates it, however, rather vaguely, in the southern Pacific, either slightly north or south of the equator."
"And as to latitude?" Bucknell questioned."
"Approximately in the vicinity of the one hundred and thirty-fifth degree west." "We should locate it fairly accurately from that, if the man's information is at all correct. A search should settle the question." "If you were able to take up the matter?"
"Why not defer your trip East? We will fit out an expedition. Come, Haverill, this is an opportunity not to be lost."
"Don't urge me. I had thought of undertaking it; but on my arrival here, as you know, I received a letter from Professor Verten, and I must hurry back at once. I have, even now, overstayed my time. If you felt able to undertake it, certainly Wainwright would be glad to go with you." "Would he? Would he?" Bucknell suggested. Wainwright and my daughter would object. They think my health is broken. They would argue that such a trip would be suicidal. If you could go, then there would be an excuse. I could insist upon accompanying you, but for me to fit out an expedition myself --- "He shook his head.
"I should be glad to see it undertaken," Haverill urged. "If this creature at all resembles what the sailor said, it would be a tremendous thing to have found it. Bucknell, if you could capture this monkey-man, so the sailor named it, it might go far toward settling many theories."
"Yes...yes!" Bucknell agreed, still pacing up and down the room. "You are right, it should be attempted. I will do it. This six months of rest has restored my health sufficiently for me to undertake such an expedition. I have the means; there is no reason why I should hesitate."
"Wainwright and your daughter?" Haverill suggested.
In answer Bucknell stepped to the door and called his assistant.
Wainwright --- tall, slender, his dark wavy hair marking a face filled with resolution and earnestness --- responded to the summons. In the six years of his association with Professor Bucknell he had become a settled member of the household, and his interest and concern over his employer's health was more marked on that account.
Professor Haverill repeated his story; and, though Wainwright exhibited a keen interest in the narrative, he looked upon the suggestion of an expedition with disfavor.
"I told you," Bucknell reiterated, turning to his friend "I am dependent upon Wainwright here. I am --- in a way --- in his
"Florence would object," Dick Wainwright suggested.
"There you are!" Bucknell snapped. "I told you my daughter would disapprove. She and Dick, here, side together upon every possible occasion. They're against me, both of them."
Wainwright laughed softly, and spoke in a soothing tone.
"We are looking out for your health, Mr. Bucknell, that's all. A trip into the tropical zone would hardly be advisable. We could wait for a while; another six months." "Another six months!" Bucknell roared. "Two years ago this creature was discovered. It may be too late even now. Man, the opportunity should not be lost, not a day allowed to pass; an expedition should be fitted out at once."
A long discussion followed, growing more and more excited, more determined to undertake the matter, until Wainwright suggested deferring the settlement of the question until the following day, and, leaving the matter open, he hurried away to find Miss Bucknell, to whom he explained the subject. With a worried frown on her fair forehead, the girl heard Wainwright through.
"It is out of the question," she insisted.
"Just what I told him," he nodded. "But he seems determined to undertake it." "Did he grow very nervous or excited"
"He did when I opposed the idea. I'm afraid there will be no way of satisfying him but to give in."
"But that's out of the question," she insisted.
"If it comes to the point of his growing worse because of our refusal, we might as well go."
She laid down her book with a troubled glance.
"I should have to accompany him, I presume?"
"Yes," he agreed, "you have always done so heretofore."
"But before he had his health, while now the strain of such a trip, the excitement, if it prove successful --- or unsuccessful --- would, I fear, be too much for his strength." "'If he insists?" Wainwright questioned.
A plaintive little smile touched her red lips, and she glanced up with wide-open brown eyes.
"We will give in, I presume, as we always have."
"At the best, it will be a long, monotonous voyage; you should not undertake it."
"If he decides to go, it being impossible to persuade him not to do so, I shall of course accompany him."
"Professor Haverill leaves in the morning. After he has gone, we may be able to change your father's decision."
It proved, however, in the morning that Professor Bucknell was more determined than ever. Long into the night he and his friend had discussed the matter, and immediately upon Professor Haverill's departure, following breakfast, Bucknell announced his determination to undertake the trip.
"Look up a boat, Dick, at once. You know what will be needed. Florence, you must pack to-day. We'll not lose a moment more than is necessary. You should be able to find some vessel able to put to sea at once. Charter it, and let us get under way."
With all her winning personality, Florence Bucknell was unable to persuade her father to alter his plans; and when she and Dick Wainwright saw that he only grew more and more nervous and excited as they entered objections, they finally bowed to the inevitable.
"All right," Wainwright agreed; "I'll see what I can do."
"Hurry! Bucknell urged. "We'll get the monkey-man, Dick. Think what it means. Florence, your father may be the one to solve the question that has been vexing the scientific world for years!"
While he had been connected with the professor and his researches for a period of six years, and had lived with him a greater part of the time, he had seen very little of Florence, as during the greater part of that period she had been at college, and afterward away from home visiting friends.
During the six months there had, however, grown up a close intimacy between the two, starting with the common point of interest, the care of Professor Bucknell, and Wainwright had in that time found his interest in the dark-haired girl increasing daily.
When it became very evident that Professor Bucknell could not be shaken from his determination to undertake the search for the island on which he hoped to find the monkey-man, Wainwright had bowed to the inevitable and consented to go in search of a vessel proper for their expedition.
Before leaving the house, however, he secured the opportunity to talk with Florence, and saw instantly that while she had at first objected, she was now thoroughly in favor of the trip.
Knowing her father as she did, she felt that to oppose him in his nervous condition of health would be more disastrous than to undertake the voyage, and Wainwright was at last obliged to agree that her reasons for consenting were sound, and that there was actually nothing to do but make final arrangements.
If a proper boat could be found, they could get under way immediately, and so Wainwright set off for the shipping center, at first with the idea of making only a meager effort to secure a vessel, and reporting back to the professor that delay would have to follow; and then, as he came to consider the matter more thoroughly, with the resolve to secure a necessary ship at once.
He visited several agencies, to meet with no success, and was just about to give up for the day, when coming out of an office, he was accosted by a tall, weather-beaten man with the marks of the sea in face and bearing.
"I understand you are looking for a vessel, sir," the man suggested, touching his cap."
"Yes," Wainwright agreed. "Have you something to offer?"
"I know the very boat. I heard you stating what you wanted to the agent. Will you look it over? It's but a stone's throw from here."
Wainwright contented to accompany Captain Stockman, as the man named himself, and the two proceeded to the water- front and aboard the captain's vessel.
"She's a reconverted yacht, sir. Been using her up and down the coast. You can see for yourself that she's got good lines, seaworthy, speed, and fair accommodations. Have you a large party?"
"Not at all; only three of us," Wain-wright replied.
"As I understand from what I overheard, you want to run down the coast in the direction of South America?"
The question was put rather eagerly; and when Wainwright nodded the sailor hurried on: "She's just the one for the purpose. I'm owner, sir; and, as the times are a bit dull, I'm willing to make a fair bargain. Crew's signed; we can put out the instant you are ready to come aboard."
The more Wainwright talked with the man, the more convinced he became that he had by good fortune found the very boat for their expedition, and so finally the two came to discuss terms.
"If you will wait a moment; I'm owner, as I say, but my mate has an interest in the boat, and I'd like to talk with him first. As I understand, it, you're simply going for a cruise?"
"Not exactly that." Wainwright shook his head. "The fact is, I am chartering the boat for Mr. Bucknell, a professor of biology, who is anxious to make some researches on an island in the Pacific. The, exact location of this island is a matter of question, but Mr. Bucknell has a rough chart, and, though I have not examined it closely, my impression is that the trip would take us in the vicinity of the equator, somewhere near South America. I presume, however, that part of it is immaterial to you, if Mr. Bucknell is ready to meet your figure."
"Absolutely immaterial," Captain Stockman agreed. "Put down the money, and the ship is yours to go where you will. How many did you say would be, in the party?" "Professor Bucknell, his daughter, and myself."
"Rather a long trip for a lady, sir."
"True; but she will accompany us. Now, as to your price?"
The captain put a chair at Wainwright's disposal and hurried off to look up the mate. In the forecastle, half a dozen men were eagerly awaiting the arrival of Stockman. They had been loitering on the water-front when he came down the wharf with Wainwright, but at a sign from him had hurried aboard the Sea- Gull, as the vessel was named.
Stockman came down the companion into the forecastle with a look of absolute exultation on his face.
"We have hit on it!" he whispered. "We can turn the trick now!"
"Who is the chap? " a short, swarthy man demanded, pushing back his chair.
"Wainwright's his name. I ran into him in Clare's agency. He was looking for a boat, and all we've got to do now is to put the price low enough to land him."
"What does he want it for?" Munroe demanded.
"He's chartering for a professor who's on the hunt for an island the location of which he doesn't know anything about."
"Where away? " Munroe asked.
"Off South America, in the neighborhood of the equator." The men exchanged significant glances. "It's just rare good fortune, that's all it is," Stockman laughed hoarsely, pounding the table with his huge fist. "There's but three in the party, the professor, this man Wainwright, and a young lady."
"We don't want any women in this racket," one of the men growled.
"It would be better if there weren't any," Stockman agreed, "but beggars can't be choosers. We're in luck to find somebody to charter who will pass muster with the government."
"Right! " Munroe nodded, pulling at his black mustache. "We'll have no trouble clearing under such conditions."
"Not a bit," Stockman agreed. "We've got the arms stored in the hold, and when we come to clear, with this professor and his expedition as our object-point, we pass muster without a doubt. I wanted to be sure you were of a mind before settling the matter. What do you say?"
The men nodded, with the exception of Munroe, whose swarthy countenance was screwed into a doubtful expression.
"Well, Jack?" Captain Stockman demanded, turning to his mate.
"I dare say it'll go. Don't know as we can do less than make the try. But you and I know --- all of us know --- the government's looking out for filibusters sharp and plenty." "I don't know as they've got their eye on us particular, but they are watching every boat of small tonnage, and it seems to me as if this professor's destination was pretty nigh too close to South America for our own good. Won't the government chaps suspect a trick right away?"
"That's the risk we've got to take," Stockman asserted. "Here we've been laying off a month, waiting' for a chance to weigh anchor. We've had these rifles aboard every bit of that time. If we don't hurry up and get south with 'em, we'll have our pains for nothing."
"What's the idea when we do get out?" Munroe questioned.
Stockman chuckled. "There's but three of 'em. Two men --- landsmen, both of 'em --- and it'll be easy enough to hold to our course without their suspecting any trick. Varno will meet us somewhere off the South America coast, and give us the point to land. A code message will tell him when we leave."
"And when we meet Varno?" Munroe questioned.
"It's easy enough. What can this professor do? We'll land the rifles, and then, if he is ready to bargain with us, and pay the price, we'll look up the island. Now, the point is to put our figure low enough so that we can close with him. All we need is some good respectable person to answer for our character while we get out of port"
A deep guffaw ended the speech.
"Go ahead!" Munroe nodded. "Make your bargain. Let's clear, and get the job done and pocket the money."
Stockman rejoined Wainwright and the two adjourned to the cabin, where, with more or less dickering, for Wainwright was determined to go to as little expense as possible in the matter, the bargain was finally concluded to his satisfaction.
The captain agreed to have the necessary papers drawn up that afternoon, and to call on Professor Bucknell for his signature. A payment was made to bind the bargain, and Wainwright returned to report the result of his quest.
It thus happened that, two days later, the Sea- Gull successfully cleared, and steamed out through the Golden Gate on her voyage into the southern Pacific.
Wainwright and Florence Bucknell stood side by side on the aft deck as the distant shore faded from view. Florence turned; her dark eyes alight, her tall, slender figure leaning gracefully against the rail of the swift little vessel.
"I don't believe you could have done better if you had searched and searched. The appointments are perfect. It's just like a private yacht."
"And we haven't got a bad crew," Wainwright nodded. "Captain Stockman is a very decent sort of a man. He's really taken a keen interest in our search. I have told him enough to give him a fair idea of what we are after."
A plaintive smile flashed over Florence's red lips, and from out the corner of narrowing eyes she glanced earnestly at her companion.
"I hope we are successful," she mused; her eyes had traveled to her father, who was nervously pacing up and down the forward deck. "He was terribly put out to lose that chest. It's funny it didn't come aboard with the rest of the baggage."
"It's a small matter," Wainwright asserted. "There was nothing in it of any importance."
"Father didn't seem to think so when he spoke with me about it."
"Just the excitement over our departure." He spoke confidently. "If we get the monkey-man, all will be well."
"I wonder if we will." And then, with a laugh, casting aside her anxiety for her father's health: "Look! Land is gone; only ocean ahead. I wonder what the voyage will bring forth."
She really had no serious doubts or misgivings. Loving the sea, she anticipated no end of pleasure in the trip; and yet, had she or Wainwright been able to note the satisfaction in the forecastle, they might have wondered more than they did as to what the coming days would hold.
At first both Wainwright and Florence attributed it to the excitement of the trip; but, as it continued, Wainwright grew more and more worried.
The chest which had been inadvertently left behind, seemed never out of Bucknell's mind.
"It's a small matter," Wainwright urged. "There were only a few odds and ends in it."
"It contained medicines," Bucknell insisted.
"Some few bottles," Wainwright admitted. "I packed most or them in my trunk."
"You did!" Bucknell demanded, leaping to his feet. "Let me see."
And, without waiting, he rushed below.
Wainwright followed, to arrive in his state-room as the professor was rapidly throwing the contents of his trunk onto the floor and seizing up bottle after bottle. Standing in the doorway, he viewed the old man's agitation with a troubled frown on his face.
"It is not here --- it is not here," Bucknell muttered, as if unmindful of Wainwright's presence. "It is left behind. It is left behind!"
"What is it?" Wainwright questioned, stepping into the stateroom and closing the door. "Are you looking for something in particular?"
The professor wheeled and glared savagely at the younger man.
"That chest never should have been left behind," he growled, and without another word he pushed by Wainwright and went on deck.
The incident worried Wainwright considerably, but he made no mention of it to Florence until she spoke of her father's increasing nervousness, and of how she had found him in her stateroom overhauling her boxes.
"He is looking for something," she asserted. Did you question him?"
"Yes. But he refused to explain. What can it be?"
"I don't believe it's anything of importance,"Wainwright insisted, endeavoring to allay Florence's anxiety, although secretly very much worried and alarmed over his employer's actions.
It was a day or two later that he came upon the professor on the forward deck in an excited discussion with Captain Stockman."
"I know what I am. talking about!" Bucknell roared as Wainwright came forward. "You are not holding to the course I ordered. Do you think I know nothing! You're keeping altogether too close to the coast."
"My dear sir," the captain smiled, appealing to Wainwright more than to the professor, "we are not near the coast. You haven't sighted land since we left San Francisco."
"It makes no difference. Dick, I tell you, there is something wrong here. This man isn't following his instructions." Wainwright endeavored to calm Bucknell, and appealed to the captain for help. "Possibly there's a purpose in keeping near shore?"
"To be sure there is," Stockman agreed. "We could make out, but we'll get a heavier sea and a rougher passage."
"We've got to cruise about more or less," Wainwright urged. "Don't you see, Mr. Bucknell, it will be as well to run due south until we reach the equator, and then we can turn east. I think Captain Stockman is following the best course. At least, isn't it safe to leave the matter to his judgment?" Stockman smiled and nodded. "You are quite right, Mr. Wainwright. Let us reach the equator, and then it will be time enough to make east."
Professor Bucknell, however, while momentarily accepting the captain's explanation, reverted again and again to the subject, and showed as much anxiety over what he felt was the wrong course of the vessel as he had over the chest which had failed to come aboard with the other supplies.
It was a day later, and Wainwright, noting Professor Bucknell's absence from the deck, went in search of him. He made it a point to keep his eye on his employer, for his increasing nervousness not only alarmed him greatly, but he saw that it worried Florence to such an extent that she was only easy in mind when her father was within sight.
A search of the cabin and the staterooms failed to disclose the professor, and, with his anxiety increasing, he hurried forward. In the forecastle he stirred up the crew, and questioned them. One of the men had seen Professor Bucknell descending into the hold, and Wainwright went down the ladder.
In the dim light of a lantern he caught a glimpse of the small, wiry figure leaning over an open chest. Pausing on the lower step, he studied the man with a perplexed frown. What could this continuous search of trunks and boxes mean?
"Not here; not here! Bucknell muttered.
He made no effort to replace the articles he had tossed out, but straightened and gazed about him, his face twitching strangely.
The lantern threw a meager light about the hold, casting the boxes and overhead rafters in weird shadows, in the midst of which stood Bucknell, a grotesque figure. There was something sinister, inexplicable, in the situation, and Wainwright hesitated to make his presence known.
As he stood studying his employer, the professor drew a vial from his pocket and rattled the single pellet that remained in the glass.
"The last one --- the last one!" he muttered. "The rest were left. I thought they were in my bag --- in that chest. The last one!"
Wainwright leaned forward, his breath caught. He had in the past few years noted that Professor Bucknell indulged in these tablets, and he recalled suddenly that his nervousness and excitable disposition were allayed following the taking of what he supposed, up to then, was medicine. His alarm prompted him to step forward quickly.
"Mr. Bucknell, what does this mean?" The professor straightened, his eyes blinked, and then with the fury of a maddened animal he sprang at Wainwright.
The attack came unexpectedly, but the younger man in an instant seized the lifted arms and held his employer so that he was unable to move. "Come, come," he spoke soothingly. "There's no reason for such excitement. Come to your stateroom. You are not well."
It took some time to quiet the nerve-strung man, but at last Wainwright led him to his room and persuaded him to go to bed.
"Tell me," he urged after a little "just what it is that you are searching for."
Bucknell, however, refused to answer any of the questions; and calling Florence to sit with her father, Wainwright hurried to his stateroom, with the vial containing the single tablet.
It took him but a brief time to make a superficial analysis, and he saw then the truth of his fears. His employer was addicted to a drug, first taken, undoubtedly, when his strength had begun to ebb, and he had found his nervous system breaking down under his exacting duties.
It was now very evident why he had shown such concern over the chest. It contained a supply of the tablets which he required, by force of habit.
Wainwright realized that while it might be possible to gradually break the hold the drug had acquired over the professor it could not with safety be done abruptly. Yet that was exactly the difficulty, for even should they turn back, they would never reach San Francisco in time to procure the medical aid Professor Bucknell's growing nervousness clearly indicated as essential.
Face to face with the dilemma, Wainwright hurried back to relieve Florence in her watch. She saw the anxious look on his face, even though he tried to smile reassuringly."
"We should turn back," she suggested in a low tone.
Wainwright avoided a direct answer, for he knew only too well that such a course would prove of no avail. Urging Florence to go on deck, he closed the door and sat down by the berth.
Bucknell lay with eyes closed, his face muscles twitching now and then, his long thin fingers straightening and drawing up with nervous jerks.
Wainwright drew a deep sigh, puzzled to know what he was to do. He felt the responsibility of the situation, and yet he saw no possibility of avoiding the conditions with which he was face to face.
His knowledge of drugs was more or less slight, and yet he tried to think of some substitute which he could prepare, for he knew only too well that Professor Bucknell must be supplied with the poison to which he had undoubtedly become thoroughly addicted. With anxious eyes he studied the shrunken figure, and suddenly there was a convulsive shudder, and the man, throwing aside the sheets, sprang from the bed.
"Come, come!" Wainwright urged. "Mr. Bucknell, stop!"
His tone was sharp. He realized that he could only control his employer by exerting the stronger will-power.
For an instant the small, wiry figure stood in the middle of the floor, nerves tense, eyes flashing, teeth showing under parted lips, and then with a cry of madness he leaped straight at Wainwright.
The force of the charge carried the two crashing against the side of the bed; and for an instant, Wainwright was absolutely powerless against the strength of the other's grip.
Recovering himself, he made no move to free the encircling arms, but spoke soothingly, urging Mr., Bucknell to return to bed.
"You left the chest! You left the chest!"shrieked the professor, and springing back, he seized the pitcher and hurled it straight at Wainwright's head. The young man strove to dodge the missile, but for an instant, as the pitcher caught him on the forehead, and crashed into a thousand pieces against the wall, he reeled back, partially stunned.
Before he could make a move, Bucknell turned and, with a shriek, threw open the stateroom door and dashed into the passage. Like a shot Wainwright was after him, but too late to see in which direction the scantily clad figure had fled.
Dashing toward the stern he ran up the companion steps and reached the aft deck. One glance showed him that the professor had not turned in that direction, and on the run, he raced forward. Shouts and cries came to his ears, before he had covered a dozen feet, and the next instant the crew came flying aft.
"A madman, a madman!" came the cry.
"You fools; come on!" Wainwright broke the flying ranks and rushed toward the bow.
Still there was no sign of Bucknell, but a cry from the galley told the direction in which the professor had turned. As Wainwright dashed to the companion, the cook came reeling onto the deck, his face laid open to the bone.
"Help, help!" he shouted and dashed into Wainwright.
The next instant Professor Bucknell leaped to the deck, a huge cleaver in his hand.
He caught sight of Wainwright.
"You left the chest! You left the chest!" he shrieked, and leaped at his assistant.
There was no disguising the fact that the man was stark mad, and realizing that unarmed he was no match for his employer, Wainwright leaped to one side just in time to avoid the murderous blow aimed at his head.
Bucknell reeled and staggered to his knees, the impetus with which he struck out carrying him forward.
Like a shot Wainwright flung himself upon the prostrate figure, but even as quick as he was, his hands hardly grasped Bucknell's arm, when, with a shriek, the man broke clear and dashed for the bridge. Up the ladder he went with the agility of a cat, the cleaver swinging above his head.
"You altered the course of the ship; you altered the course of the ship!"
Like an animal he charged upon the captain.
By now, a state of panic prevailed, and the man at the wheel leaped for the deck as the captain and Bucknell came together in a struggling embrace. For an instant the captain forced the madman against the rail, as, with a shout, Wainwright leaped up the ladder.
For a second it was impossible to get at the professor round the captain's body, and so he made a dive for the bare feet.
As he stopped, Bucknell threw the captain back, brought the cleaver down on the sailor's uplifted arm, and springing clear of Wainwright's hands, dashed wildly for the deck.
The crew, gathered aft, saw him coming, turned and fled, and as Wainwright struggled to his feet, the captain having fallen over him, his eyes caught sight of the sailors seeking safety in flight, a shrieking, wild, disheveled figure in pursuit, a bloody cleaver swinging aloft.
For an instant Wainwright paused, to turn his handkerchief about the captain's arm, and then he and the officer leaped to the deck.. Calling to the crew, they started in pursuit of the professor.
By now he had dashed aft, and as they came on him, he turned and fled into the cabin. Wainwright followed, Munroe and the captain after him.
Through the passage they rushed, up on deck again, and into the midst of a shouting, terror-stricken group of sailors. The vessel, left to itself, had swung around into the trough of the sea, and was pitching dangerously.
For an instant there was a lull. Bucknell stood mad and defiant at the bow.
"Put somebody onto the bridge!" Wainwright cried, and with a call to Munroe for help, he made a dash at Bucknell.
But ten feet separated the two men, when Bucknell swung the cleaver over his head and hurled it straight at Wainwright. He dodged the missile and closed.
The professor's shrieks were horrible, and suddenly, as Wainwright struggled to throw him to the deck, he heard Florence's voice above the cries of the sailors.
A wave struck the ship broadside, lifting the port rail and the two struggling men went careening across the slanting deck.
They struck the rail with a dull thud, there was a crash of splintering wood, and as the ship careened still farther, the two were flung into the seething waves, locked in each other's arms.
For an instant it seemed that he would strangle; and then, fighting clear, he broke the other's hold, and, seizing him by the arm, reached the surface.
Striking out, he cast a glance toward the vessel, now some distance away, and made out a group of sailors frantically endeavoring to lower a boat.
The next instant he felt a weight upon his neck, and he turned as Bucknell's arms closed about it.
There was but one thing to do, and, clenching his fist, Wainwright struck at his employer. In the struggle his blow failed to reach its mark, and the two men sank, Wainwright striving to unlock the clinging fingers as Bucknell kicked and struggled.
The professor's legs twined themselves about Wainwright's body, and yet he was able to strike out and force himself to the surface, burdened as he was with the clinging figure.
Catching his breath, Wainwright struck out again; but, though his fist fell on the professor's temple, he failed to break the grip. Twice a wave broke over them, and then filling his lungs, Wainwright let himself sink, as he fought and tore at the encircling arms.
There was a pounding in his ears, he felt that his lungs would burst, when suddenly the grip loosened, and, throwing himself back, he again seized the professor by the arm, and with his free hand drove himself to the surface.
He came up, caught his breath, and as Bucknell snatched his arm, a wave rolled over the two, separating them for an instant. As Wainwright shook the water from his eyes he looked in vain for the professor.
A shout caused him to turn, and in the next instant a boat swung into the trough of the waves and came alongside. Clambering aboard, almost exhausted, he scanned the surface for some sign of his employer.
Throwing off his coat, he dived twice, in the hope of finding Bucknell's body; but was at last obliged to clamber into the boat again, and finally to turn back to the vessel alone.
As he climbed to the deck, Florence rushed forward, wild-eyed, her breath coming in quick gasps.
Wainwright stood, a dripping figure, panting with the exertion of the fight, unable to meet the searching eyes of the tall, fair girl.
"My father! " she cried.
"Come," he at last whispered. "We can do nothing."
She stared at him, hardly understanding; but turned to the aft deck. "Florence," he whispered, "it is terrible, but it is best."
She wheeled, dry-eyed, a haunted, terror-stricken look on her face.
"What was it? I saw him. What did it mean?"
He told her as briefly as he could of what he had learned of her father's illness, and finally left her to go below and change his clothes.
When he came on deck again he sank into a chair close at her side, and his hand fell on hers. She looked up then, her large eyes searching his face.
"I have known it for a long time. I thought that perhaps this voyage would help him. That was why I was so willing to come, and it has ended in this way."
He did all that he could to console her, and finally spoke of their position, and what they should now do, in the hope of changing the current of her thoughts.
"There is only one thing to do. We must turn back."
"Yes," he agreed, noting as he glanced up that the vessel was keeping on its course.
"I will go and talk with the captain." He found Stockman on the bridge, his arm bandaged, his face set and stern.
"What set him off?" the captain demanded gruffly."
"He was ill," Wainwright replied. "You'll have to turn back at once."
"Well?" Wainwright demanded when no order was issued.
"We are pretty close to South America. Hadn't we better go on and make a stop there?"
"No!" Wainwright insisted, rather puzzled at the captain's manner. "We must turn, and make back for San Francisco."
The captain issued an order to the wheel, and the yacht veered slightly to starboard.
"How long will it take?" Wainwright questioned.
"You know how long it has taken us to get here."
"What's the matter?" making certain now of the gruffness in the captain's tone. "This is a terrible thing to have had happen. You don't mean to say that you are resenting our turning back?".
"You chartered the boat for at least three months."
"To be sure I did," Wainwright agreed. "For three months or longer. You will be paid for the entire time."
The captain nodded, and Wainwright left the bridge.
The day passed slowly, Wainwright doing all that he could to relieve Florence's sorrow. If she had broken down, he would have felt better. Her dry-eyed acceptance of the calamity that had befallen her worried him more than if her grief had brought the tears.
In the darkness of the early evening they sat together on the afterdeck, when suddenly Florence glanced up.
"Didn't you tell them to put about?" "To be sure; of course."
She turned and pointed to the Dipper.
"It was on our right side last night." "And it is on our right now!" he ex-claimed.
"That's it," she agreed. "If they had put about, it would be on our left."
He studied the stars for some time in perplexity, thinking of Stockman's peculiar actions when he suggested they should return, and finally went in search of the captain. That individual was nowhere to be found, and so he finally climbed to the bridge, where Munroe was in charge.
"I gave Captain Stockman orders to make back," he suggested.
"So I understand," Munroe nodded.
"Why haven't you done so?"
"We have. We are headed for San Francisco now."
"How does it happen then that the Dipper is on the right?"
Munroe's bright eyes studied Wainwright for a second, and then he glanced at the heavens.
"What's the Dipper got to do with it?"
"It simply proves that my order has not been followed out, and that you are continuing south. Look here!" Wainwright pointed at the compass. "We are headed due south."
"You can't go by that," Munroe declared. "It's out of order."
Wainwright considered the mate for a second.
"Where's the captain'?" he demanded.
"In bed and asleep. Laid up by that nice slash he got from your crazy professor." Without another word, Wainwright turned and hurried below, to run into the captain on the forward deck.
By now he was thoroughly convinced that his orders were being disregarded for a purpose, and he faced Stockman angrily.
"I ordered this vessel turned. What do you mean by disobeying my instructions?"
"She has turned. You heard me give the order. You were on the bridge when we swung about."
"You veered off slightly, but since then you have turned again. I have just come from the bridge."
"Did Mr. Munroe tell you we hadn't turned?"
"He told me that we had; but the compass proves that he lied."
"You are a landsman, Mr. Wainwright. I am afraid you don't know how to read the compass."
"I know enough to tell whether we are traveling north or south; and besides, even if your compass is wrong, as your mate insists, the stars are not. We are traveling south, and I want to know what it means!" "We are traveling north."
Wainwright stepped close to the captain.
"Go onto the bridge and turn this vessel. If we are going north now, turn it and head south."
Stockman began to chuckle.
"What do you want to turn south for?"
"I want this vessel turned; no more fooling! With Professor Bucknell's death, I became master, and if there is any further hesitation in obeying my orders, there is only one thing to do --- to consider your act as mutiny."
"And you want the vessel turned at once?"
As the captain slowly clambered from the ladder to the bridge, Wainwright stood on the forward deck watching his movements. He saw the man speak to the mate, and gradually the steamer swung to starboard.
Puzzled by the action of the captain, he moved aft.
"It's all right," he remarked to Florence. I think they misunderstood my orders. They are swinging now."
She glanced at the heavens.
"We haven't turned completely" she remarked. "See, the Dipper is almost dead ahead. We are running west."
Wainwright leaned forward, a puzzled, perplexed frown on his forehead. The ship held its course, making no farther turn north, but, if anything, veering slightly in a southerly direction.
"I don't understand it, Dick; what does it mean? Why shouldn't they turn?"
He was as much at a loss for an explanation as she, but he did not want to arouse her anxieties, although puzzled in his own mind more and more as to the attitude of the ship's officers. When he was certain, in the course of half an hour, that the ship was still holding to a southwesterly course, he rose and went forward again.
The captain was still on the bridge, but as he saw Wainwright approach, he swung down the ladder to the deck.
Beckoning Stockman forward, where he was certain they would be out of earshot of the aft deck, he again demanded an explanation.
"Your orders are being obeyed," came the gruff reply. "You may have chartered this boat, but I'm in command, and I don't want any interference with the running of the ship."
"I want you to turn and head directly north. I don't want to give that order again." "I want you to understand that I want no further orders from you."
"What do you mean!" Wainwright's face flushed angrily,
"What I say. I'll run this ship where I please, and how I please!"
"Do, you mean that you refuse to obey my orders; that you refuse to return to San Francisco?"
The captain slowly unbuttoned his coat, the next instant a revolver was drawn from his pocket.
"I'm going to make a stop. In three days we'll be off the South American coast." "You will do no such thing; you will turn ---
Wainwright leaped forward, but drew up as he gazed into the barrel of the leveled revolver.
His grief was somewhat deadened by the thought of the position in which Florence stood, made more alarming by the strange actions of Captain Stockman and his mate.
He was certain that there had been some inexplicable significance in their refusal to obey orders, and his inability to fathom the meaning had aroused his anger as much as had their disobedience.
Facing the leveled revolver, a deep, angry flush stole into his cheeks, his teeth set grimly, and without a thought save that he had a mutinous crew to deal with, he leaped straight at the captain.
The sailor hardly anticipated the attack, believing his passenger's position would compel him to give in.
Wainwright's fist fell on the captain's cheek, and the next instant he had wrenched the revolver from Stockman's grasp and had him by the throat.
He caught an ejaculation from the bridge, realized the crew was forward and that to hold his present position would mean that he might be overpowered at any instant. Like a shot he turned toward the stern.
Stockman had wrenched himself free as Wainwright struck out a second time and, recovering, he leaped for his antagonist, to be met by another blow.
The sailor was checked only for a second, and though his left arm was practically useless from the wound received in his encounter with Professor Bucknell, he came again.
Wainwright wheeled, side-stepped as the officer struck out, and the next instant his arm circled the man's neck. With a wrench he drew Stockman to him, half threw him from his feet, and dragging him along, started on a run for the stern.
Struggle as he would, the captain was held, his head thrown back against Wainwright's side, his breath nearly choked from him by the encircling arm.
The sailors on the bridge had hesitated an instant, but as the mate saw the captain getting the worst of the encounter, he called for help and dashed to the deck.
Wainwright and his prisoner reached the stern before the crew could be mustered forward. To his relief he saw that Florence had gone below, and flinging Stockman to the deck, he covered him with his revolver.
"You fool!" he hissed. "Give in, or it's the end of you!" And then, as Munroe and half a dozen seamen came charging down upon him; "Stand back, or I'll put a bullet into your captain!"
Stockman's anger was thoroughly roused at the treatment he had received, but he had the sense to realize that the tall, wild-eyed man who had handled him so easily was no mean antagonist, and that a conciliatory course would perhaps be the best.
"Get back, Munroe; get back!" Stockman shouted, without attempting to move as he lay at Wainwright's feet. "Get back, I say. I'll settle this matter." Wainwright straightened slightly and caught his breath. His eyes shifted from the hesitating group of sailors to the captain, for he was angry enough to carry out his threat and his pistol hung, ready to be turned upon the mate and his backers, if they charged, or upon Stockman, if he attempted to rise.
Munroe held off, and at a motion the sailors retreated slightly, though making no move to retire forward.
"Do you give in?" Wainwright demanded. Stockman essayed a smile.
"I don't blame you a bit, sir. I shouldn't have drawn that pistol, but I guess I was too much put out and excited over the way your professor cut up. You, too, Mr. Wainwright, you were a little excited, and I don't blame you."
"Excited! Yes," Wainwright echoed. You refused to obey my orders. There's no reason for such actions!"
"But you were wrong, sir."
"Cut that out," Wainwright shouted. "Don't try to tell me you turned this ship." And then suddenly glancing at Munroe: "Get onto the bridge there and obey the order I gave you a while ago!"
Munroe made a step forward.
"Quick!" Wainwright shouted. "Order the ship about, captain."
Stockman made a sign to Munroe.
"You had better do what I say," Wainwright broke in, not understanding the gesture.
"Go ahead," Stockman cried. "We are headed the way he wants now, but turn, if he insists."
Munroe, his dark swarthy face filled with anger, hesitated, turned, as if to obey, and then at a cry he wheeled sharply.
Florence Bucknell suddenly appeared at the companionway, and stood with wide open eyes, not understanding the scene which met her gaze.
"Dick, Dick," she called. " What is it?"
"Go below, Florence, quick! Go below!"
Before Wainwright could be obeyed, Munroe made a leap for the girl. He figured, with fair plausibility, that it was the easiest way to rescue his captain, and before Wainwright could divine his purpose, he had her by the arm. It was too late to fire, without the risk of hitting Florence, and for an instant Wainwright made no move. Florence fought desperately, and for a second she broke from Munroe's grasp and dashed toward Wainwright, still standing over the captain. With a leap, Munroe seized her again and dragged her back toward the companionway.
"Let go!" Wainwright shouted, or I'll finish Stockman."
He made a step over the prostrate captain, who, on the instant, leaped suddenly to his feet, throwing Wainwright half off his balance as he dashed forward.
Wainwright fired as the captain fled, but the bullet went wide of its mark. Florence was struggling in Munroe's grasp, and he dashed to the rescue.
The butt of his pistol fell on the mate's head, and the man staggered back.
"Get below, quick!" he cried. "Into your cabin."
Florence turned and fled as Munroe, recovering from the blow, his dark face distorted, leaped for Wainwright.
The pistol rang out, the man staggered, but came on, and the next instant Wainwright was surrounded by half a dozen men.
He, fought them off for a second; one man dropped as the pistol blazed out, and then, suddenly, shrieks and cries for help from the cabin startled him to frenzied madness.
It was Florence's voice calling out, and he knew she must have been attacked again.
He had retreated nearly to the rail, and finding his pistol practically useless in the pressing crowd, he seized a deck-chair and cleared a circle about him. Two sailors went down as the chair struck them, and brandishing it over his head, Wainwright charged into the crowd.
A path opened and he leaped through, making for the cabin, when suddenly a man hurled himself forward and seized Wainwright's legs.
With a crash he went to the deck, the chair flying from his hands, but before he could be seized and held, he was on his feet and down into the cabin.
Florence's cries still echoed in his ears, and desperate and frenzied, he hurled himself upon Stockman and two sailors who were striving to drag the girl down the passage-way.
"You scoundrels!" he panted; and with a crash he brought the butt of his pistol down on the nearest sailor.
The captain and the second sailor leaped at Wainwright.
He flung his empty pistol into the sailor's face and met the captain with clenched fists. Stockman, injured as he was, was no match for Wainwright, and he retreated hastily down the passage.
There was a brief lull --- an instant in which Wainwright caught his breath. One sailor lay stunned on the cabin floor; the second one, who had been struck by the revolver, struggled to his feet, a deep cut across his forehead, and followed the captain down the passage.
"Dick! Dick!" Florence exclaimed. "What is it? What does it mean?"
"I don't know," he panted, casting his eyes about for some means of defense. On the floor lay the empty pistol, and he seized it as Munroe appeared on the steps leading down from the deck.
"Stand back!" Wainwright roared, threatening the mate with the empty revolver. "Stand back, or I'll fire!".
Munroe, his evil face black with rage, stood hesitating, and Wainwright saw that his left arm hung helplessly at his side and his shirt was dyed red from the wound inflicted by the bullet.
"Get onto the deck!" Wainwright roared again. Munroe made a motion to the back, and slowly retreated up the steps. As he passed out of sight, Wainwright glanced about the cabin. His anger was so great that he hardly realized the hopelessness of his position.
"Dick!" Florence whispered, coming out from behind the table, "why did they attack us? What is going to happen?"
He glanced at the girl, and then the real horror of their position flashed over him. Yet it seemed impossible that the crew should have suddenly mutinied, when there had been no signs of discontent up to the moment when Professor Bucknell went mad.
Alone, he might have felt that he could face them, but with Florence in his charge, he realized suddenly that as little as he longed to parley, he must make terms, and before all other conditions, see to it that her safety was assured.
"I don't know what it means, Florence," he panted, moving his right arm, growing numb from a blow that had fallen on his shoulder. "I can't understand their actions. They wouldn't turn as I ordered, and the captain threatened me when I insisted that we go back home."
"But, Dick," she pleaded, her hand falling on his arm beseechingly, "they must make back! Where else can we go?"
He was beside himself with anxiety, but he strove to steady his voice.
"It's just a misunderstanding, I guess. Perhaps I was too insistent. We'll get at the bottom of it some way. I'll fix it up."
He moved a step toward the passage.
"Don't go!" she begged, her face blanching.
He slipped his arm about her as she swayed toward him.
"It's all right, Florence," he whispered. "It looks bad now, but no harm shall come to you. I'll see to that."
"There are so many. Oh, it is terrible!"
"Yes, yes," he nodded. "But they'll give up, you'll see. They're not going to make another attack. You can reach your state-room?"
"Dick!" she begged. "You musn't leave me!"
He cast a glance about, striving to decide what course to pursue, trying to think at what point it would be best for them to take up their stand.
The steady throbbing of the engines, the faint rise and fall of the ship as it glided on over a comparatively smooth sea, were the only signs of life, the only evidence that the crew still manned the vessel.
"Wait a minute," he urged. "I will try to get Stockman down here."
He stepped toward the companion.
"Hallo there, on deck!" he called.
Some one moved; but no answer was made to the hail, and he repeated it. Still no answer, and he turned doubtfully. The lights had been put out in the passage, and in the shadows he thought he caught a glimpse of some one moving.
"Steward," he bellowed, "tell Captain Stockman I want to see him."
"Aye, aye, sir!" came the answer.
"Sit down, do," he begged of Florence, who stood, wide-eyed, in the middle of the cabin, her face flushed with alarm. "I'll make terms with the captain." She sank into a near-by chair, elbow on knee, her long, delicate fingers clasped tightly together. It seemed as if she must be moving in a horrible nightmare; that the attack of the crew, following her father's sudden madness and death, could not be real.
Suddenly she should awake and know then that the steady vibration of the engines was bearing them on, as it had for days past, on their voyage to an unknown island.
She glanced at Wainwright, a tense figure, holding to the middle of the cabin, revolver in hand, his eyes turning first to the companionway, then to the passage.
Ten minutes --- ten nerve-racking, anxious minutes --- passed, and still the captain failed to appear. Then a step came along the port deck, and a man's feet appeared at the aft companion-way.
"Captain Stockman?" Wainwright questioned.
"Captain Stockman's, laid up, sir." "Who's that, then?"
"Davis, sir; second mate. Mr. Munroe is done for, too"
"Are you in command now?"
"Of the deck, sir; yes."
"Isn't it possible for Captain Stockman to see me?"
"I think not, sir."
"How's the ship headed?"
Wainwright moved forward and glanced at the sky. He was unable, however, is make out from the stars whether the man spoke the truth of not.
Florence had straightened with a look closely approaching relief, but as she caught sight of the doubtful expression on Wainwright's face she sank back in her chair, the momentary hope quickly passing. Wainwright was absolutely puzzled, and dared not move from Florence's side.
"Go tell Captain Stockman that he must see him. He's not so badly hurt but what he can come here. It's imperative."
"If you would go to him," the second mate suggested.
"No!" Wainwright thundered; scenting a trick. "Tell him to join me at once."
It occurred to him that, no matter for what reason the Sea-Gull was being held to her southern course, the only thing desired by Stockman was to keep him from insisting upon the ship being turned back.
"I'll see, sir," the second mate replied. Wainwright moved forward, and at that instant there was a shriek from Florence's lips as she leaped to her feet.
Out of the darkness of the passage charged four men, as at the same instant the second mate wheeled and with one leap was in the cabin, two sailors after him.
Wainwright flung the empty pistol at the nearest man, and backed up against the wall. Two sailors then seized Florence, and, Wainwright dashed through the encircling men in an effort to reach her side.
A foot went out, he tripped and fell heavily, and the next instant was borne down and held, as Florence, a rough hand stifling her cries, was dragged from the cabin.
It was the second mate who spoke, and in an instant Wainwright's arms were bound to his sides and a cord passed round his ankles. The men who held him leaped back as he was made fast, and stood for an instant, stolidly indifferent as he struggled to free himself.
"All right!" Davis ordered, and he motioned toward the prisoner.
Two sailors stooped and lifted Wainwright from the floor and deposited him in a chair.
"Job done, sir," Davis called, and the next instant Stockman came down the companionway.
With a motion he ordered the men back on deck, and dropped into a chair opposite his prisoner.
"You cur!" Wainwright hissed, and, struggling up, he attempted to throw himself upon the captain. His feet, tied as they were, made it impossible for him to stand, and he reeled and would have fallen had not Stockman thrown out a hand and pushed him down into the chair.
"Come, come, sir!" the captain spoke in a fairly smooth tone, "there is no need for you to cut up rough. I had to do it. But, listen to me. There's no harm meant either to you or the young lady."
Wainwright, fully realizing the folly of further resistance, grasped at what hope he could find in the captain's words. His face, however, was dark with anger and his eyes flashed dangerously.
"What do you mean, by such actions? Don't you know that when I get back to San Francisco I can have every one of you thrown into prison?"
"You won't do anything of the kind," the captain shook his head. "You see, sir, I'd have had to shut you up sooner or later, and I'd have done it quiet-like. It would have been better that way."
"What do you mean? You'd had to shut who up?"
"You and the young lady; and the professor, if he hadn't ended himself."
"Shut us up! What for?"
"I've got a little job on hand. It isn't well for you or Miss Bucknell to know anything. about it."
"A job on hand!" Wainwright demanded. "What do you mean? I want an explanation."
Stockman leaned forward, a frown and a smile blending.
"You've done up a good share of my crew, and they're sore. They'd like to take it out of you; but I'm for having no trouble, even if your Mr. Bucknell did come pretty near to putting me out of commission." "That's got nothing to do with this job, as you call it. Your crew brought it on themselves, and all they got they deserved. You are still heading south, when I have ordered you to turn."
"Yes, we're heading south; and if you hadn't fussed over that matter, none of this trouble would have come."
"Look here!", Wainwright choked back the anger which seemed to preclude sane thought. "Chartering this boat makes you nothing more than an employee. You've got no more right to alter the course I prescribed than has one of your sailors. I demand again that you put about for San Francisco."
"And I tell you right now that we are not going to put about yet a while. We are close down on the coast of South America, Mr. Wainwright, and I expect to meet a friend of mine somewhere in these waters." "You won't know anything about it, for I'm going to shut you up in your cabin. After I've seen my friend, we'll turn about if you say so. I don't care then whether we chase up this island and the monkey-man I heard you and your professor talking about or not."
"My order to turn back shows clearly that I have no intention of searching out the island now that Professor Bucknell is dead." "I see. Well, we'll turn back after a while."
"But again I demand that you turn now."
Stockman got up with a shrug.
"There's no use in discussing the thing," he suggested, pacing up and down the cabin. "You can be well satisfied when I tell you that no harm will be done to Miss Bucknell or to you. We'll land you safe enough in America, provided you agree to say nothing to the authorities about what has happened."
"You see," the captain rattled on, "even after you dragged me to the stern-deck, I'd have let the thing pass, for a quiet settlement would have been best, and just shut you up while we went on with our business. Munroe, however, lost his head, and, with a fight started, there was nothing to do but just to put you away safely."
The explanation of the captain's motives seemed rather preposterous; but Florence's safety was Wainwright's first concern, and he took heart from the explanation and felt half ready to accept the sailor's assurances.
"I'm to understand, then, that you are going on about some affair of your own, and after that has been carried out we'll turn back?"
"Exactly," Stockman nodded.
"Then release me; release Miss Bucknell. There's no necessity for treating us in this way. If you'd explained the thing before, you'd have saved a few broken heads and a good deal of anxiety."
"If I'd told you what I wanted to do, would you have consented? I guess not!" the captain shrugged.
Wainwright struggled to his feet.
"You insist; you assure me --- this is man to man now, all differences buried --- that no harm is to be done to Miss Bucknell?"
"Absolutely none," Stockman agreed. "I'm a gentleman, though you may not see it that way."
"Unloosen this rope, and let me go to her."
The captain considered Wainwright through narrowing eyes.
"Don't you understand, man?" Wainwright hurried on. "Miss Bucknell has had a terrible shock. Think of it --- her father's death, and this attack on your part! It's enough to drive any one mad."
The captain nodded.
"I'm not much of a hand dealing with women. I guess you're right. She's a likely-looking girl. I'm kind of sorry the fuss had to come."
He knelt down as he spoke, and untied the rope round Wainwright's legs. "She's in her stateroom; go ahead. Give her all the assurance you want."
He handed a bunch of keys to his prisoner.
"I'm taking your word for it."
"You may. The agreement is that we're going on and tend to the business I have in hand; you and the young lady shut up, so as not to interfere. After that we land you at home, but you say nothing of what's happened."
"Nothing, if you will hold to your agreement that no harm is done."
"Right!" Stockman nodded. "It's bargain."
Wainwright turned down the passage with a feeling of tremendous relief. There was something about the captain's manner that confirmed the impression of truthfulness; and he decided that, after all, the explanation of the attack was to be found in Stockman's desire to carry out undisturbed some undertaking which at the moment he found no time to puzzle over.
"I'll wait here," Stockman called as Wainwright paused before Florence's stateroom. "You come back. I want to talk with you further."
Wainwright knocked on the door.
"Florence," he called, "it's all right."
"Dick, Dick!" came a sobbing voice.
"Yes," in reassuring tones; and, though his arms were bound to his side, he managed to insert the key Stockman had given him in the lock. Throwing the door open, he stepped across the threshold.
"Florence, Florence!" he whispered, his voice breaking as he gazed upon her sitting with bound hands by the port. Tears flooded her eyes and great sobs shook her body.
"Dick," she begged, rising, "what is it? What does it mean?
"It's all right, he assured her. "Don't
you worry another moment. I've had a talk with the captain. It's all right --- all right."
"But your arms are bound. Look at me!" She held out her hands.
"He'll have to take those things off, and at once."
"But why have they done this?"
Speaking in a soothing tone, he imparted briefly what little information he had secured from Stockman.
"But do you believe him?" she demanded.
"I do. Why, it is hard to say; but I think, some way, he's honest. When I spoke of your position and demanded the right to come to you, he agreed instantly, and something in his manner then convinced me of his sincerity more than anything else."
"But where are they going to take us? What are they going to do?"
"I don't know. He won't tell us. I suppose we must be thankful that it's no worse."
For half an hour the two talked together, and gradually Florence's alarm passed, as did Wainwright's anger. There was nothing for them to do but accept the inevitable, and they did so with the best grace possible.
At last the captain came down the passage.
"Look here," Wainwright demanded instantly, "loosen these ropes. There's no sense in keeping either of us tied up."
"I'll set the young lady free; but I'm taking no chances with you, Mr. Wainwright."
"Why?" came the instant demand. "Because what you told me was a lie?"
Wainwright's suspicions and anger flashed up anew as he studied the man in the doorway.
"Not a bit of it," Stockman replied. "I made a bargain, and I'll hold to it."
"You made a bargain in San Francisco, when I chartered this boat, but you don't hold to that."
The captain shrugged.
"This job I've got on hand, I purposed carrying out, even then. I might as well tell you now."
"So you chartered the boat under false colors?"
"If you will."
He stepped across the room and unloosened the rope about Florence's wrists.
"There you are, Miss Bucknell." His tone was less gruff. "I'll ask you to keep to your stateroom. Come, Mr. Wainwright."
"To your room. It's just as well for you to keep out of sight of the crew. They don't feel very kindly toward you."
"Dick, don't go," Florence begged. "Stay here with me. I can't be left alone!"
Wainwright cast a glance at the captain.
"You'll have to come."
He spoke in a low voice to Florence.
"I know it's all right," he urged. "I'll get him to let me join you again."
She sank back resignedly, and Wainwright followed the captain to his cabin. The rope which bound his arms was loosened, Stockman stepped into the passage, closed the door and the bolt turned,
For an instant Wainwright stood undecided, hesitating, his alarm and fear springing up anew as he found himself locked in. He felt that at the last he should have offered further resistance, and yet the hopelessness of such an attempt was too apparent to make him think that he could have bettered their position in any way.
Still, he could not put out of mind the thought of Florence, shut up in her stateroom alone, surrounded by the dread and anxiety which must be hers. He realized then, vaguely, how much she was to him, what the six months in San Francisco had meant, and his anxiety grew apace.
What if the captain had lied to him? A man who was guilty of chartering his boat under false pretenses, who had led the attack upon him, was certainly capable of a lie. No means of escape opened before them.
They were prisoners of a crew bent on a mission of which he had no knowledge, controlled, he had no doubt, by impulses which might yet place their safety in greater jeopardy.
Once a day Stockman allowed them to meet, but the balance of the time he kept them locked in their staterooms.
To do the man justice, such a course was against his wish, but he bowed to the prevailing opinion among the crew, who had suffered at Wainwright's hands, and objected strenuously to his being given his liberty.
The plight in which Florence found herself was in a way a relief, for the danger and anxiety seemed to soften her grief more than anything else could have done. She realized, from what Dick had told her, that Captain Stockman would have first undertaken his own venture, and she knew that if her father had lived and such a course had been attempted, it would have worked upon his nervous condition with disastrous results.
For a year she had labored under the fear that her father was addicted to a drug, and as much as she bemoaned his death, she had the courage to acknowledge that the bereavement which had come to her was for the best. She had never hidden the truth of her father's condition from herself, but had acknowledged that the time would come when his impaired health must fall a victim to the cause.
The horror attending the end would have been far more awful, had not her own plight and that of Wainwright's forced itself upon her mind. With courage she spoke of these things when she and Wainwright met, and found added help in his presence.
Her appeal to him stirred more and more his regard for her, and on one occasion he was tempted to voice the love he felt, but hesitated, with the feeling that such a declaration should wait their return home.
"We'll go East as soon as we get back to San Francisco," she suggested.
"Yes," he agreed. "You'll go to your aunt?"
"I shall return. There are many things for me to finish up. I think your father would have wanted the work continued."
"This trip, however, which he seemed to think meant so much, will have to go uncompleted."
"True," he agreed. "I think we will let the island and the monkey-man rest."
"And yet it would have been a tremendous thing, if he could have accomplished it."
"If it had turned out as he expected. It ought to be settled some day," he agreed, his professional nature longing for a solution of the question. "It will have to be left for some one else. Possibly Professor Haverill will undertake it."
They had been running through a smooth, glassy sea for two days, when the wind began to freshen, and the third night a violent storm swept down upon the ship.
The Sea-Gull, while a small boat, had been built for ocean-cruising, and yet the tempest in which she found herself made it virtually impossible for Captain Stockman to hold his course.
At last he was forced to veer eastward, and with the rolling, hissing waves astern, the engines were slowed down, and the boat allowed to run with the wind. The rain hissed and fell, the wind drove the sea into wild, mad masses of towering waves, and gradually to Stockman and his crew it became apparent that they were in the grip of a storm which, unless it spent itself quickly, would tax the Sea-Gull's staunchness to the full.
Two attempts were made after they changed their course, to run toward the coast, and each effort proved futile, and finally, they were forced to come about and surrender themselves to the mad fury of the rushing waves.
The towering green ocean swept about them, wave after wave beat down upon the stern. The Sea-Gull rose on a crest, to plunge bow down, creaking in every joint, the blades racing madly as the stern lifted, until it seemed that she would never rise again.
Boats, lashed as they were, were swept overboard, the deck-rail broken and carried away, while over the deck ran a torrent of water, making it impossible for anyone to stand against it.
The captain, with his mates and three sailors, held to the bridge, lashed in their places, and did all that seamen could do to spare the boat.
The blackness of the night changed but little when dawn broke, for overhead, for an unlimited distance, the storm- clouds enveloped the towering gray-green waves, and soon it became impossible to tell the course they were pursuing or the distance they had been swept on by the raging sea. On the second day the deck-house forward was carried away as the vessel plunged, nose down, into a gigantic wave. An hour later water was reported to be making rapidly in the hold, and the pumps were started.
Sleep was impossible: there was not a dry spot on the entire boat. Cabin windows were smashed, battered, to be smashed again, and down the passage and into the staterooms the sea made its way, to run inches deep
Up and up the vessel mounted, to a dizzy height, only to plunge down into the trough of the sea when, crashing, with a roar of thunder, a wave would break over its entire length.
The steward had served Florence and Wainwright at noon, bringing them the best that he could prepare under existing conditions, and had left, promising Wainwright to send Captain Stockman to him.
The captain, however, failed to respond, and night settled down without the reappearance of the steward. That individual had endeavored to carry out his promise, only to emerge from the companionway as a wave came aboard and hurled him down the stairs and a torrent of water poured through the open doorway.
It was an hour later when a sailor found him dead, and closed the door against the further flooding of the ship.
The night came on, the storm apparently increasing in fury, and at last Wainwright, driven desperate, undertook to gain his liberty.
The door resisted his blows, and at last, seizing upon a chair, he demolished the upper panels. Above the fury of the storm and the creaking and groaning of the ship the sound of his blows could hardly be heard.
At last he forced his way into the passage, to stand ankle-deep in the running water.
Grasping the door-knob, he hung for an instant, and then started to make his way aft.
With the pitching of the ship, he was thrown first against one wall, then the other. Twice he fell to his knees, but at last came to Florence's stateroom, bruised and battered. He pounded frantically on the panel, and then, realizing that his blows were hardly audible even to himself, he began to shout.
"Florence! Florence!" he cried.
No answer came, and, filled with fear and apprehension lest something might have befallen her, he rained blow after blow upon the panels. It was virtually impossible to keep to his feet without hanging to the doorknob, and consequently his efforts proved futile.
He cast about for some implement with which to demolish the door, and, seeing none, staggered aft toward the cabin.
Forcing the door open, he stepped into the darkness, to leap back as, with a tilt of the ship, the furniture came hurling down upon him. The table in the middle of the room had broken from its fastenings, and that, with the chairs and other appointments, was dashing from one side to another, splintering the walls and playing havoc with the interior of the cabin.
As the ship lurched to starboard and the mass of furniture went crashing across the room, he again threw open the door and leaped in, in the hope of seizing a chair with which he could return to the attack of Florence's stateroom.
There was a quick lifting of the ship, she shot downward, bow first, and Wainwright was hurled against the wall, striking his head. Stunned with the blow, he still had sense enough to realize that he must get clear of the charging mass of furniture. Crawling on hands and knees, he reached the door into the passage.
With all his strength he threw it open, and was about to leap through when he was hurled against the port-wall, and the furniture came crashing toward him.
He made a move to get out of the way as the mass, with the fury of a frenzied animal, swept on, and the next instant, carried by the force of the blow and his effort, he was hurled senseless into the passage.
Struggling to his feet, it took him an instant to grasp the situation, and then he realized that the ship was pitching less than when he had entered the cabin. Above deck, however, the storm still raged, timbers creaked and groaned, while aft the mass of loose furniture still dashed about.
Making his way down the passage, he pounded at Florence's cabin, and this time was able to make his shouts heard.
"Are you all right?" he cried.
"Yes, yes. Open the door!"
"One moment," he begged, and making his way forward, he found a chair in one of the staterooms, and with it returned to the attack on the door.
Reeling back and forth, keeping his feet as best he could, he struck again end again, and finally, with the chair splintered to bits, he drove in the lock of the door.
Leaping through, he seized Florence as she clung frantically to the berth.
"The worst is over, I think," he shouted. "The storm seems to be abating." She nodded, hardly able to. speak.
"We are pitching less," he cried again."
"Can't we get to the cabin?"
He shook his head.
"Go forward; it's the only way."
With his. arm about her, he drew her into the passage, and they moved slowly toward midship.
A sailor came dashing down the stairs and paused as he saw them.
"You're clear, are you?" he bellowed. "The captain sent me down."
Before Wainwright could answer, the man turned and dashed for the deck again, a bunch of keys dangling in his hand.
Florence clung to Wainwright and together they managed to reach the dining-saloon.
"Wait here," he suggested. "I'll see what's going on."
"Don't, Dick; don't go on deck. You'll be swept overboard!"
"The sailor made it. I can. I must try and find out what's happened. The engines seem to be stopped."
He struggled back into the passage, floundered through the water which was everywhere about, and crawled on hands and knees up the steps. The door at the head opened out, and he threw it back as the ship rolled into the trough of the waves.
Clinging to the door-jamb, he peered across the deck, through a blinding, driving mist of flying spray, to where the waves rose and fell like angry, hissing monsters. They seemed terrible in their height, although the worst of the storm was over and the sea was a little bit quieter than it had been for the past two days.
Watching the cant of the vessel, Wainwright leaped through the open doorway and closed it after him.
A life-line was stretched along the deck, and, seizing that, he started forward. Halfway to the bridge, the ship again settled into the trough, and he clung, waiting for it to right itself.
It's nose was buried under a wave which came rushing down the decks, and, with all his strength, Wainwright was just barely able to cling to the life-line and keep himself from being washed overboard.
He started to draw back, feeling the folly of attempting to go farther, when, above the wind, a shout came to his ears.
The next instant, straight ahead of him, he seemed to see for a second a black, tumbling mass, and suddenly there was a terrific crash.
The ship shook from bow to stern, she lifted slightly at the head as a wave rolled under her, and then came down again with a shock that threw him to his knees.
There was a sound of grinding, splintering wood, a mass of wreckage swept by, and then shouts and cries rung in his ear.
"We've struck! We've struck."
Sailors seemed to spring up from every point.
A man dashed by as another wave swept from stern to bow, and, before Wainwright could move, a sailor, who had been checked by the rushing water, was swept from sight over the deck.
Turning, Wainwright crawled back toward the companion- door, clinging to the life-line, and, once within, dashed down the steps. Again the ship lifted, to come crashing down on the rocks.
"Florence, Florence!" he cried.
The girl, wild-eyed, rushed from the dining-saloon to meet him.
"We have struck!"
"Yes!" she panted. Suddenly she drew taut. "It's the end!"
"No, no!" he cried. "Quick!"
He drew her back into the saloon.
"What are we to do?" she demanded.
He turned with a ghost of a smile on his lips.
As they dashed into the passage, a life-preserver was washed by, and, seizing it, he drew Florence against the wall. "Here," he panted, and, as the vessel again lifted, hurling them across the passage, he managed to slip it about her.
Men, calling and shouting, dashed by, and, with one arm round Florence, Wainwright went struggling up the steps.
"Get hold of this line!" he called, and, pushing Florence in front of him, the two grasped the rope."
"Can you hold there?" he demanded.
She nodded, and he started forward.
A hissing wave came rolling aboard as he moved, and, with a leap, he was again at her side, his arms about her, his hands grasping the life-line on both sides of her waist. So they clung as wave after wave swept over them.
It seemed as if the ship must break to pieces any instant, that it was impossible for it to live in such a sea, that before they could move a step the deck would give way under their feet, sweeping them into the angry, seething, green ocean.
"Forward!" Wainwright bellowed. With one hand on the life-line, the other round Florence's waist, he pushed her ahead of him, and slowly they gained the forward deck. One glance showed the bridge deserted.
"Where's the captain? Where are the men?" she begged.
On the forward deck they were comparatively sheltered, although the ship trembled with each wave that broke over it.
"I will look for a boat," he called. "Stay here."
He attempted to make his way aft along the starboard side, to be met by a wave that drove him back. Hurled from his feet, he was washed forward, clawing out and struggling to grasp the smooth deck, and then save himself from being carried overboard. At last the rushing water swept by, and he managed to crawl to his hands and his knees.
From his eyes he brushed the salt spray, and shook his head like a huge animal.
"It's no use!" he cried. "No one can live on that deck!"
"But the crew!" Florence begged.
He straightened with a great intaking of breath, and stood beside her in the shelter of the deck-house.
"Heaven knows! If there was a boat left, they've put off in it."
Through wide-open eyes she stared into the gray mist of flying spray. It seemed that at last the end of the horrors that possessed her had come. Help was impossible, and together they must face whatever might follow.
Wainwright strained his eyes to catch some sight of the black mass he had seen loom up as the ship struck.
"There must be land somewhere," he shouted. "We're on the rocks. On a reef. I think I saw land ahead of us."
She turned, hope springing up at his words.
"Get a life-preserver; we may be able to get ashore!"
"Not in this sea. If the ship will only hold out!" he cried. "If we can stay here until the storm ceases."
They dropped to the deck, partially sheltered from the wind and waves, although a couple of inches of curling green water ran about their limbs. For an hour they waited, speaking but little, seeing no signs of the crew. Twice the vessel rose, to crash again upon the rocks.
"If it will only hold," Wainwright whispered. He ventured once as far as the stern, but returned almost instantly, as there seemed no possibility of getting below and nothing was to be gained by such an attempt. As he came back, Florence sat, her head sunk on her bosom, her dark hair hanging damp about her forehead.
"I think the storm's abating." He spoke encouragingly. "The ship's holding out well; we'll get ashore."
"But where can we be? What land?" "I don't know," he shook his head. "There's no way of telling where we were driven. But land, any land, is better than this. That's our only hope."
"Dick," her land slipped into his, "it's the end!"
"No, no!" he urged, drawing her to him.
"It is the end," she sobbed, her head sinking to his shoulder. "I feel it, I know it!"
"You're unstrung --- nervous," he whispered. "It is horrible, terrible, all that you have had to go through. But we'll win out; don't you fear," and hardly realizing what he did, his lips touched her forehead.
She glanced up with a little plaintive smile.
"Well be together."
"Yes," he whispered, "you and I, Florence, but it isn't the end. We'll win, out." As he spoke, a huge wave lifted the stern, and as, the ship settled again, she was swung broadside on the reef. The deck canted dangerously, but the two managed to cling to their position.
"This is better," he urged. "She's almost on her side. And see, the waves break against her; they don't lift her any more." The encouragement he strove to put into his words failed when the next roller threw the vessel farther onto the reef and more on her keel. The second wave caught her under the stern again, and she was swung farther around.
"Quick!" Wainwright cried, noting a roller coming down on them.
He leaped to his feet, seized Florence to drag her to the port side, for as the ship changed her position they we left where the waves broke down on them. Before they could move the towering mass of green came thundering aboard.
Wainwright reached out, a cry echoed from Florence's lips.
He heard it above the seething, rushing torrent of water, and then as he strove to gain her side, she was carried from him.
He went to his knees and his arms clutched out, as though he strove to check the force of the water. He saw Florence swept across the deck and out of sight, and then, as a second wave picked him up, he crashed head first into the deck-house.
The blow stunned him for a second, but the driving, salt water, though it blinded his sight, seemed to make him realize his position; he must reach Florence. In a way he had the feeling that she was still on deck. His fingers clawed at the wet plank; another wave swept him to the edge, and there, clinging to the broken rail, he hung, trying to regain his senses.
What could he do; how could he get back to the deck? That was the one thought that seemed to beat upon his brain. Florence was on the deck. He could not, some way, remember that she had been swept overboard. He must clamber back.
There was a dull, heavy pain in his head, and gradually his fingers grew numb with their grip upon the rail.
The deck, the deck! That was the beating cry that seemed literally to possess him; although, coupled to it, was the thought of Florence.
Wave after wave pounded down upon him, and then gradually he seemed to lose all sense of reason.
There was no object in life, he just lay there, thrown back and forth, striking the broken rail, and then the deck, while his fingers grew more and more numb, and at last slipped from their hold on the stanchion.
Another comber came pounding down, and he was swept into the green, angry water.
He dimly recalled being washed over-board and he had a hazy recollection of what seemed an interminable length of time during which he clung to a rock, beaten and tossed by the waves. This immediately followed his being washed from the deck, and was the period in which he hung to the reef upon which the vessel had stranded.
While it seemed that he was tossed, pounded and battered until his flesh had lost all feeling, he really lay but a short time in the shelter of the ship's hull, where the sea was comparatively quiet.
He had no recollection of being swept from his position, but finally, as he was borne across the open water between the reef and a sandy stretch of beach, he partially regained his senses, and as a wave picked him and bore him toward the shore, he made a feeble attempt to swim.
His limbs, however, refused to respond to the effort, and he gave up the struggle with a feeling that it was useless to fight against the sea. He was tossed back forth, closer to the sand, then, on a receding wave carried seaward.
If he had had his senses, he could easily reached the beach, and although in a dull way he was conscious of the land ahead of him, he had neither the will-power nor the desire to fight for safety.
At last, however, his leaden feet dragged down, and as they touched the sand, he stirred to the point of making a final effort to gain safety.
He attempted to stand erect, floundered forward and fell in less than four feet of water, face down.
His fingers, numb and bleeding, dug into the sand, while there was a tremendous rush of water in his ears and mouth.
He might, even then, have drowned, had not the thought of Florence come to him in a dull way. It seemed that he heard her calling, and straight ahead was the sloping deck of the boat. He thought that he still clung to the broken rail, while she was only a few feet above him, begging for his aid.
He drew his knees under him, floundered to his feet, and, with outstretched arms, staggered ahead. In two steps he was down; but now certain that he heard Florence's voice, positive that he could save her, he again struggled forward.
The boom of the surf was in his ears; his eyes, filled with the salt rime, stung like fire, and his throat was puckered from the water he had swallowed, until, when he tried to answer the cry which his imagination heard, no sound came from between his lips.
He tossed back his wet hair, went on, fell, rose again, and finally pitched onto the sand.
There was no strength left to urge his tired limbs to action --- the voice that had called to him was gone, and he lay for a second, feeling that a hundred men had charged down upon him, that the chair he tried to swing above his head flew from his hand, that the revolver clicked and clicked, and would not go off.
So he lay, face downward, a dripping, disheveled figure, and the night passed, and dawn broke.
It was then that his senses began to return, and finally he crawled to his knees and sank down on the beach. At first the incidents of the night came back in a vague, disjointed way, while he sat, head bowed, without the desire or strength to move, but drawing deep breaths, and gradually his mind cleared, and he looked about him with some show of interest.
He was on a long, sandy stretch of beach; behind him the ground rose rough and rocky, while to right and left a few palm-trees bent in the breeze.
A shrub or two, close down by the shore, broke the line between the white sands and the red-brown rocks. Up over the beach, to his very feet, the waves curled in long, white foam, while overhead innumerable gulls circled close to the cliff.
As the desire to take notice first came to him, he had turned to the land, but now he rose and staggered forward, with the thought of bathing his face and hands in the waves.
His fingers stung and smarted, and, as he went on trying to wash the wounds, he realized that it was the salt water which brought the pain, and he drew back hastily and straightened to gaze out ahead of him.
A hundred yards from where he stood the ship lay on her side, and the gaping hole in her hull was clearly visible. The bow, crushed in when she struck, was being riddled by the waves.
They dashed against her, and foamed and curled and broke through the gaps in her side with a hoarse roar. The sight fascinated him, and he stood watching, his eyes on a loosened plank, wondering how long it would hold out against the sea.
The sun, mounting higher in the heavens, partially dried his clothes, and in the brilliant glitter on the sweeping gray-green ocean even the ship, battered and torn as it was, took on a look of beauty.
It seemed that, for all the gaping holes, she must be able, if brought to an even keel, to again ride the waves. Her decks swept clean gave the impression of having been dressed by the hand of man, rather than the elements, and although the forward deck-house and a portion of the bridge were swept away, the substructure, for all its broken and battered appearance, looked fit to again house a crew.
It was Wainwright's impression for an instant that he should make back to the vessel, and he stepped forward into the waves at his feet, half thinking to plunge in and swim out.
And then he glanced along the shore --- planks bobbed and danced on the waves; a mattress floated back and forth, borne on, swept seaward, like some creature chained to the will of the sea.
Where was the crew --- where were the men against whom he had fought --- where was Captain Stockman --- Munroe?
Then he thought of Florence, and recalled suddenly that she had been swept overboard, when, for the instant, as he stood staring at the wreck, he had almost unconsciously been possessed of the feeling that she was still aboard. That thought had prompted the desire to make out to the vessel.
He wheeled, and cast his eyes over the high, rocky cliff, and then half --- frenzied at the thought of what his companion's fate must have been --- he raced up and down the beach.
The bobbing bits of wreckage he scanned with wild, anxious eyes. He dashed out into the surf to capture a floating plank which, to his horror-stricken gaze, he had pictured with the form of the girl who was so much to him.
Up and down the beach he ran half a dozen times, to pause finally and charge himself with the necessity of sane action; yet, what could he do?
Straight in front lay the wreck; he had scanned the beach from the high promontory on the left to the jutting rocks on the right, and nowhere had he caught sight of Florence. She had gone overboard, as he had, and if the waves had carried her to the beach he must have found her.
The crew had apparently perished. Her fate must have been the same.
He remembered then that he had slipped a life- preserver about her, and that thought gave him hope and prompted him to search the shore again and again.
He stopped finally where the rocks came down on the left, and then he noted that a plank torn from the ship made in on the crest of a wave, hung steady not over twenty feet from the vessel, turned as if guided by some unseen hand, and floated off round the ledge of rocks.
He watched, fascinated, and finally, as another bit of wreckage performed the same queer action, he realized that the reefs which broke the rollers and formed a smooth sheet of water in front of the ledge must create a current which dragged the planks across the face of the rocks and out of his sight.
Hope, wild hope, sprang up on the instant.
If Florence had been caught in that current, she might yet have reached land, and he raced along the beach in an effort to find some way of rounding the perpendicular barrier of rock.
Twice he attempted to ascend the face of the cliff, to clamber up for five or six feet, and find farther ascent impossible. The stones under his hands were smooth and rounding, but here and there was a tiny rough spot, as if a bubble had formed on the surface and broken.
He noted that peculiarity as he hung to the face of the cliff, staring above him for some means of farther ascent, and it came to him then that the formation was volcanic, and with that, for the first time, he was impressed with the thought that he was on an island.
Foot by foot he worked along the cliff, finding no possible means of ascent until he finally reached the eastern edge of the beach.
Forcing his way through a clump of bushes, he clambered over a mass of boulders, and came suddenly upon what seemed be a well-worn track leading up the cliff.
It turned and twisted, but at last brought him out on top of the ledge directly above the narrow beach. Back of him a mass of cane and palms prevented his looking southward and across the island.
He was in a clearing, shut in by undergrowth on three sides. Straight below he saw the ship. He strove to make out the direction in which the current carried the wreckage, but was unable to do so.
An opening in the cane led toward the west, and as it was round that side of the land the planks had been swept, he pushed ahead.
So anxious was he to reach the shore that he failed to note that he traveled a fairly well worn path. His only thought was that the cane opened to his progress, and so he dashed on.
At last he turned into the brush, for the path led to the left, and he was anxious to get down close to the shore on the right.
Falling, breaking his way through the mass, he suddenly paused, with a wild beating of his heart, and wheeled with a cry. He had heard a sound behind him, and his only thought was that it must be Florence.
He called, and dashed back to the path he had left.
"Florence, Florence! It's Dick!"
There was a crackle in the underbrush ahead of him, and he leaped in that direction, calling out again and again.
At last he paused; the sound was gone, no answer came.
He turned into the dense undergrowth.
Fighting his way through thicket after thicket, clambering over rough piles of stone, he finally came out on a narrow ledge. Ahead of him was the endless sweep of ocean, straight below a sheer drop of one hundred feet, to where the green waves curled and eddied about the base of the cliff.
By hanging to a palm and leaning far out he could catch a glimpse of the broken end of the vessel. He looked down, a plank turned and twisted in a tiny whirlpool close in by the shore.
It seemed then that his heart ceased to beat.
He pictured Florence floating, as did the plank, her dark hair streaming like wet sea-weed; her face, which he had so often seen touched with laughter and animation, cold in death.
He dropped to his hands and knees and crawled to the edge of the cliff; and then, at the risk of falling to the waters below, he crawled along the narrow space between the sheer drop and the close-growing cane, with his eyes searching the curling foam directly under him.
Out ahead, at a distance of a hundred yards, the waves broke over the hidden reef, and it was between it and the cliff that the water ran smooth. A plank swept down past him, and he watched it with fascinated eyes.
It went on behind where he hung to the tangled cane; and so he turned, hope springing up again in his breast.
He strove first to follow the edge of the cliff; but, finding that impossible, and noting that the last bit of wreckage had passed from sight, he came back to the path.
Turning to the right, he pushed on, for, although under foot the ground was smooth and worn, the brush and vines arched overhead, and through them he was obliged to beat his way.
A sound at his back caused him to pause suddenly. There was no mistaking the fact that this time something had moved close at hand.
"What is it? Who is it?" he shouted.
A guttural exclamation, half a groan, came to his ears, and he wheeled to take two steps in the direction from which he had come
"Hallo!" he called; "some one there?" The wind rustled the leaves overhead; no other sound broke the silence.
"Florence, Florence!" he cried.
No answer; but the echo of his own words came to his ears, and so he turned and pushed on through the cane.
The path had swung closer to the edge, and he fought through the almost impenetrable undergrowth to have another look at the ocean.
In the smooth-running waters behind the reef he caught no sight of what he feared his eyes might fall upon; and, again making back to the path, he pushed on. The ground began to fall away, and suddenly he came out of the rank mass of trees through which he had been fighting his way since reaching the top of the cliff.
Smooth, round, glossy boulders dotted the slope, and over them he picked his way. Half-way down he caught a glimpse on his left of a second beach; while to the right, and straight ahead, larger boulders were piled up along the shore.
He stared about him, moved ahead a trifle, and a glance to the left convinced him that he was right in the thought that he was on an island, although a fair-sized one.
He made across the boulders toward the western shore, and his eyes again searched the water. A broken chair, caught between two rocks, flooded directly beneath him, and he clambered down the cliff, not over ten feet high, until he stood on a round boulder just sticking its head above the sea.
From this point he could look along the cliff he had been following, and with a single glance he turned back and again reached the sloping ground.
Then on he ran. He dashed to the beach, and swept it in one swift look. He suddenly leaned forward; again he had heard a sound, although it was impossible to locate the exact direction from which it had come.
The beach was empty.
He turned to his right, and suddenly he caught the flutter of a dark object from behind a rock.
"Florence, Florence!" From the shelter of a boulder, close down to the shore, a figure suddenly straightened, and with a shout he leaped forward.
"Dick, Dick!" she cried, and her eyes opened wide, and then filled with tears.
It seemed almost beyond belief that they both had escaped from the wreck.
"Are you hurt?" he demanded.
"No, no!" she answered, her voice trembling, her nerves so unstrung that she felt as if she must scream.
The tears which had been held back so many days flooded her eyes and she sank down, his arm about her. He drew her close, with her head on his shoulder, and whispered softly in her ear.
What he said he hardly knew, and certainly she was only conscious of his protecting arms, the sound of his voice, not the substance of his words.
"It's all right, all right, little girl. Don't you know," he, too, laughed hysterically, "I said we'd win out. We are safe --- safe!"
It seemed that in finding her all his anxiety passed; for the moment he had no thought of their position.
"Dick, Dick!" she sobbed. "Is it really you?"
Her arms clung closer and closer, as if she feared that the horrors of the night had brought her to the verge of madness, and that in a moment she would realize that she was still alone.
"Of course it is, Florence. It's Dick. But don't talk, don't ask questions; cry --- only cry."
He brushed back her tangled locks, and his lips touched her forehead.
She lay, her head buried on his shoulders for some time, and still he spoke in low whispers, and now and then he pressed her hand resting in his.
At last her sobs grew less; she sighed and, raising her head, smiled faintly upon him.
"We're all right, Florence. We're safe --- you and I."
And then he pressed her two hands.
"Think of it, Dick; it's been terrible —horrible! I thought I was going mad."
"I think I was mad," he laughed, "until I saw you. I don't know how I got ashore; but I came to on the beach, and I searched and searched. I couldn't believe that I would ever find you."
"I have been here I don't know how long," she whispered, her eyes turning to the curling froth about the rocks, and then out across the reef where the waves boomed and broke in white-flaked foam. "I tried to swim," she went on, speaking slowly, "but it seemed impossible. I was tossed back and forth by one wave and then another, and if it had not been for the life-preserver I should have sunk."
"But you got here!"
"Yes," she nodded. "I think I was swept on by the waves. It was so dark, only the shriek of the storm sounded in my ears. At first I called --- called for you." A faint little smile touched her lips. "And then I just let the waves carry me where they would. I don't know what I thought then; but suddenly the water grew smooth, and I was carried along, and then I bumped against the rocks; and, though it was impossible to see, I crawled up here."
"Yes," he agreed.
"How long the night was, and when dawn broke, I hadn't the courage or the strength to move. The waves on the reef seemed to fascinate me, and I sat watching them. I think I was dazed, and then I heard you call."
He urged her not to talk; and for a long while they sat side by side, and gradually the horror of her plight grew less; she came to speak in a more natural tone while in her eyes and on her lips the old winning smile he knew so well flashed again.
Finally he rose and held out his hand.
"I have only looked over a little of the island. Shall we explore? Do you feel strong enough?"
"Yes," she agreed, springing to her feet. "Strong enough and hungry enough, Dick." She looked at him doubtfully, and then a smile touched her lips. "What are we going to eat?"
"To eat!" He stared blankly; the thought of how they were going to live had hardly entered his mind in the crowding events of the morning. "We must look round; the ship is still on the reef; perhaps we can get something there."
"But look!" she cried, pointing."
"To be sure, of course; come on, there's our first breakfast!
They hurried up the slope to where the trees began, and finally Wainwright managed to dislodge a couple of coconuts from a tall tree. Drinking the milk, they went on their way to explore the island.
"I've been on this part; it's nothing but a tangled mass of cane and brush. Let's see what there is on the other side."
Crossing the slope at the bottom of which Florence had landed, they came to a sandy beach more extensive than the one on which Wainwright had been tossed.
Inland the trees and brush sprang up, and behind the green foliage the towering red-brown rocks could be plainly seen. He stood, pointing over the trees.
"That's the cliff up there that I was on. There's a beach the other side of it, and straight out is the wreck We should be able to go round through the woods. Shall we try?".
She nodded, and they started along the hard sand. Suddenly Florence paused and pointed to the beach.
"Look!" she cried.
Wainwright dropped to his knees and gazed at a series of marks in the sand. They were between four and five inches in diameter, and about a foot apart. He glanced up. into Florence's face.
"Tracks of some kind."
She knelt down, and together they examined the marks more carefully. The impressions were clear in the sand, each circle being almost perfect. Straight from the front of each was a triangular mark, much lighter than the round undulations.
"What kind of animal can it be? What a peculiar track."
He nodded, with a frown, and went on a little, to pause again, where in the sand was the imprint of a hand. The fingers had been set deep, the palm was indistinctly marked; but it was so large that when Wainwright came to lay his hand over it he only partially covered the indentation.
A puzzled thought suddenly came to him, but he said nothing for a moment. They went along."
"It looks as though it only had two feet," Florence suggested.
"Yes," he agreed. "It has only two feet."
"The hand-mark?" she questioned. "Could it be possible some of the crew escaped?"
"They may have, but they never made these marks."
The tracks leading on, crossed the beach, but where the sand was soft the imprint was less distinct. A fairly clear path led info the underbrush, and Wainwright stopped.
"I didn't think of it before, but there was a path over the cliff. I followed it."
He turned and went back to the beach, and, with a troubled brow and folded arms, stood studying the marks"
"What is it, Dick?" she questioned, stepping to his side. "Is it some terrible creature?"
"No, no." He shook his head, and then he glanced at her. "Don't you remember, Professor Haverill told us a story at breakfast the morning he left?"
A startled look flashed in her eyes.
"Yes," she whispered. "He spoke of tracks like these."
"Yes," she agreed.
"The monkey-man! he added.
"Dick, Dick!" Her hand fell on his-arm.
"Can it be possible?"
"The monkey-man," he mused. "We were well on our way; there's no telling how far or where the storm carried us."
She stood silent, as puzzled as was he, for it hardly seemed that chance could have brought them to the island which had been their destination when they set out.
Turning from the beach, they pressed through the brush and undergrowth, and traveled some time through a mass of twisting paths. Now and then they saw the tracks again; but, though they listened --- for Wainwright now recalled the sounds he had heard when on the cliff --- they caught no sight of any living creature, and heard no snapping twig or breaking bough which would indicate a near-by presence.
Coming out of the undergrowth, they emerged into a deep gorge. On their right a perpendicular wall of rock rose to a height of fifty feet. The cliff cut straight across the island, and under its shade the ground was bare and rocky.
Following along, they entered a defile which penetrated the ledge upon which Wainwright had clambered from the beach. The gorge ended in a point, the rocks on the right and left meeting and leaving between them a V-shaped space.
Up overhead on the right wall a ledge could be plainly seen, and above that the green palms and tropical trees waved in the air, almost shutting out a sky of turquoise blue.
The silence was oppressive, almost ominous, as they both searched the rocks and tangled brush with the thought that, possibly, behind the nearest cover the creature might be watching them.
"It is cold in here," Wainwright agreed. "Let's get out and back onto the beach. Up above is the ledge I was on. We can't get back there in this direction."
They turned toward the wider part of the gorge, and were about to enter the woods when Florence glanced back.
He wheeled sharply, and shot a look toward a five- foot ledge which broke the right-hand cliff half-way up.
"What was it?" he questioned.
"I thought I saw something move." They drew back into the shadow of the cane, and waited for some time, in the hope of again catching sight of the creature Florence had noted.
"I barely saw it," she explained. "It looked black, but it moved so quickly, I am not at all certain that it might not, by chance, have been a trick of the imagination."
"Or a shadow," he suggested. "I can't imagine how any animal could get onto that ledge."
He followed the narrow shelf of rock with his eyes. It ran from the end of the V-shaped gorge along the cliff, gradually sloping downward.
"Perhaps it drops suddenly to the shore," Florence suggested.
The trees shut out a sight of the farther end of the shelf, which, to all appearances, was formed as if a huge slice of the upper part of the cliff had been cut away, leaving the lower section some five feet thicker through.
"We can see later," he agreed. "We had better go back now. Coconuts are hardly a satisfying meal."
"But can we get anything from the wreck?"
"I doubt it, but we must try. The storm has gone down. Perhaps it will yet be possible to save some stores."
Her hand fell on his arm.
"Dick," she urged, "if this is the island Professor Haverill spoke of, think of what it means! The sailor told him it was uncharted."
That thought had been in his mind ever since they had caught sight of the tracks on the beach.
"You must remember that it was a good two years ago that the monkey man was first seen. Ten to one, it isn't the island, But even so, no doubt there are plenty of ships passing."
"Could we signal to them?"
"To be sure," he agreed. "We'll rig up a signal, and at any rate, if it is the island, and those are the tracks of the monkey-man, why, don't you see, he has lived here, and if that is possible, then, certainly, we can get along. We'll be rescued. Don't fear about that."
No further sight being had of the shadow which Florence had seen moving along the cliff, they went back through the brush and came out again on the beach.
The tracks were examined carefully once again, and the more Wainwright looked at them, the more convinced he was that they corresponded exactly with the description given by Professor Haverill. If it were true, they certainly could verify the question, perhaps capture the monkey-man.
The island was not so large but that it would be easy to trace and hunt down the animal. And yet the peculiarity of the marks in the sand!
The thought of a creature, of even the monkey species, with human features and the ability to talk, was startling; to be housed on a desert island with it, was a position to be approached and considered with due caution.
Wainwright looked in the direction indicated and, bidding her wait, hurried down over the rocks. One glance was sufficient, and his eyes turned apprehensively in Florence's direction and then back to the water, where floated the body of Captain Stockman.
He hesitated an instant and then passed round the boulder. When he glanced up again, Florence was standing by his side, her wide-open eyes on the face of the dead sailor.
"Dick!" she whispered.
"Go back and wait," he urged, "I will join you in a little while."
She divined his meaning.
"Let me help you?"
"No, no!" he insisted. "I'll do all that can be done for him. You go back."
She glanced toward the heavily wooded portion of the island. He seemed to read her thoughts.
"Wait here, then, behind the rock, if you don't want to go far away. Though, you know, Florence," he spoke with positiveness, "there is no danger, even if it is the monkey-man."
He realized that the fear of the unknown had seized upon her, even as it had on him to a slight extent, and so he did his best to allay her fears.
"I'd rather help," she begged.
"Come down to the beach, then."
She crossed the slope to the sands, while Wainwright secured a plank, caught in the rocks, and with it managed to bring Stockman's body around to the sandy shore.
Breaking the board in two, he dug a shallow grave, and silently, sobered in thought, with their plight made more terrible by the presence of death, they laid the captain of the Sea-Gull at rest.
Driving the boards at the head and the foot of the grave, Wainwright straightened himself.
"Come, Florence," he held out his hand. We have done all that we could. We must think now only of ourselves."
Up over the slope and through the tangled cane they made their way, to reach at last the beach where Wainwright had gained consciousness.
Straight ahead the vessel lay, battered and torn.
"We must move quickly," he suggested. "She's going to pieces fast. If we are to save anything, there is not a moment to lose."
"But how can we possibly reach her?"
The air-filled mattress which he had seen floating on the waves in the morning was still close to shore, and wading out, Wainwright dragged it to the beach.
"A weird kind of craft," he laughed, assuming a bantering tone, "but I think it will answer our purpose."
"What are you going to do?"
"The water's comparatively smooth between here and the ship. The reef, you see, breaks the force of the waves. I'll go aboard and save all that I can."
"Could I come with you?"
"It will never bear your weight. I'll swim and push it ahead of me."
He threw off his coat and shoes, and leaving Florence on the beach, pushed the mattress into the water. Wading out until up to his armpits, he began to swim, and finally felt the reef under his feet.
Climbing up, he found a rope hanging over the ship's side, and making the mattress fast by its lacings, he stood knee- deep in the water, searching for a means of clambering aboard.
Getting a grip on the broken deck-rail, he finally pulled himself up and stood on the canting deck of the ship. There was nothing left above board, and crawling along to the midship companionway, he started below.
He found the passageway and the stairs dry; but, going into the hold, he plunged waist-deep into water. Turning back, he hunted round until he secured a lamp, and lighting it, went down into the hold again.
In the engine-room he secured a number of tools and carried them to the cabin.
The hull was fairly steady; but he realized that, with the gaps in the side; it would be but a brief time before it would break apart, and so he hurried about the ship, collecting whatever he could that might prove of service to them.
He cleaned out the galley, packed up Florence's clothing that her dress-suit case would hold, collected his own effects, and then, realizing that the work had taken a considerable length of time, he went onto the deck.
"First load coming ashore!" he shouted.
Florence waved back.
The mattress proved an unwieldy craft when he came to load it down, and he was only able to carry a small portion of what he had collected in the cabin. It was necessary for him to drop over the side with each handful, and the first tins that he put on the mattress were lost as a wave canted his craft. Going back, he collected what he could in his arms and, swinging down, placed them on the mattress and pushed off.
Florence helped him unload, and, pulling the mattress up onto the beach, he waded back into the water.
"You can keep it," he laughed. "It will make a good bed. I'll build a raft as soon as I get back to the ship."
With a tin in one hand, she held out some water- soaked biscuit."
"Have luncheon?" she suggested."
"A good idea," he agreed, wading ashore. "Let's see what we have in hand."
He carried two boxes into the shadow of the cliff, and they made a rather unpalatable meal.
"Crackers are terribly dry."
"That sailor who discovered the monkey-man said that they stopped to fill their water-casks."
"That's so," she agreed, leaping to her feet.
They searched the beach, to find a tiny stream bubbling out of the rock. One of the tins was placed so that it caught the fall of water; and Wainwright, quenching his thirst, turned back toward the ship.
"I'll dry the crackers and get all the water I can," she called.
"And I'll bring ashore everything the boat holds."
He swam out to the reef, clambered aboard, and going into the cabin secured the tools he had brought from the engine- room. He carried the table-top and the stateroom doors to the aft- deck, and with a rope lashed them together. A search below disclosed a number of life-preservers and these he fastened about the raft.
When it was completed he made fast a long rope, and pushed it across the canting deck. It dropped overboard and floated serenely alongside the battered hull, a good six inches out of water.
Making the raft fast by the bow, he went below again, after shouting across to Florence on the beach. In the forecastle he discovered that he was able to wade through a couple of feet of water to where a gaping hole let the daylight in through the hull. With an ax he smashed the side away, and, drawing the raft forward, was able to load it from that point with less difficulty than from the high, canting deck.
All the afternoon Wainwright made trip after trip, and finally paused as the sun touched the horizon.
"Where are we going to sleep?" Florence questioned.
"We ought to have a palace out of that supply of stuff"; he pointed to the beach, lined with the articles he had brought ashore. At least, I should fix up something pretty fine to do you justice," he surveyed her laughingly.
Florence had, during one of his trips, availed herself of a change of clothing.
"We have saved as much as they did in the 'Swiss Family Robinson,'" she nodded.
"We'll live sumptuously," he declared. "Fruit for breakfast. There must be fish in the sea. I tried to get hold of a rifle or a revolver. If we had either, I might knock down a sea gull."
"Look at my cooking utensils. I think you could have left the waffle-iron aboard." "Oh, you can't tell," he shook his head. "If we don't have waffles, we'll use it for an anchor on our launch."
"Our launch?" she questioned.
He pointed to the raft drawn upon the beach.
"Could we build a boat?"
"I believe we could build anything. That is, if we had a day or two of rest. Come, we'll make provision for the night, and tomorrow we'll see where the corner-stone of our mansion is to be laid."
Erecting two oars in the sand, he lashed a spar across the top, guyed them with ropes, and stretched a sail-cloth across. Four rocks weighted down the corners.
"There you are," he pointed. "You will have to be content with a canvas shelter your first night in Monkey-Land."
"But you?" she suggested.
"The raft's light. Help me pull it on shore."
They drew it across the beach, and propping up one side, he nailed two slanting bars to the edge. In this way it formed a sloping roof.
"I shall sleep soundly under that." During the day Florence had dried what blankets he had brought ashore, and a box of matches had been among the supplies Wainwright found on the vessel. Making a circular stone fireplace, they cooked some bacon, and finally sank down before the glowing embers, tired out in mind and body.
They both felt that, with the supplies they had secured from the ship, there would be no danger of starvation, and as yet they had not faced their plight long enough to think of what chance they had of being rescued.
At last Florence rose and held out her hand.
"Good night, Dick," she smiled down on him.
He leaped to his feet, and held her hand for a minute as his eyes searched her face.
"I'll be close at hand, remember, and there is nothing to worry about. We are both half done for, but a good night's sleep will put a new complexion on our surroundings." She nodded and turned toward the tent. As the flap of canvas fell behind her, he turned to look out across the reef, where in the darkness the hull of the ship could be seen dimly.
Then, wheeling, he threw himself down on the blanket he had spread under the raft, and before he realized it, he was fast asleep.
How long he slept he never knew.
Suddenly a shriek brought him to his feet, his head crashed against the raft, and he staggered out, dazed and stunned, onto the sand.
Again the shriek came, and then he realized that he had heard it even as he slept.
"Florence, Florence!" He gazed about in the darkness, for a moment uncertain in which direction the tent stood, and then, be-fore he could move, she came running toward him.
"Dick, Dick!" She was atremble from head to foot.
"Yes, yes! What is it?" He seized her in his arms.
"What happened? Were you dreaming?"
"No, no! Something came into the tent!"
"Florence, there is nothing here." But he realized that her agitation, the sob in her voice, had been awakened by something terrible and real.
"There was something, Dick; something!" she sobbed.
He seized up an oar, and threw back the flap of canvas. The place was empty.
"There is nothing, Florence."
"It was there. I don't know what it was, but it touched my face."
She was a little calmer now, but stood trembling where he had left her.
Searching out a lantern, he lighted it.
As its flame flared up, she sprang to his side.
He followed her gesture. In the sand were the same round imprints they had seen on the southern beach earlier in the day.
He had finally quieted Florence's fears, and she, once realizing what had awakened her, returned to the tent, with less apprehension than he had anticipated.
He took up his position, however, on the sand directly before her improvised shelter, and though he had assured himself that he would watch the night through, it had been but a little while when his eyes closed, to open again as the sun reached the spot where he lay on the sand.
He listened for a moment, and, satisfied that Florence was still asleep, hurried off to prepare breakfast.
Getting things under way, and finding that she had not awakened, he pushed the raft down to the water and made a trip to the vessel.
As he clambered on deck, he heard a call, and glanced about. Florence stood, tall and beautiful, by the water's edge, waving to him.
"Breakfast is started," he called back. "I'll be ashore in no time."
He loaded some supplies and returned, sculling the raft over the rolling waves.
In the bright, glorious sunlight, the sparkling sea before them, the fears of the night seemed far away, and the two made merry over their first real meal.
Two more trips were made to the stranded vessel, which had broken apart during the night until it was almost impossible to board her. Then they clambered up the cliff and searched the island for the best location to build a hut.
The tracks that they had seen twice were encountered again.
"It must be the monkey-man," Florence suggested."
"I dare say," he agreed. "But there's nothing to fear even if it is. Don't you see that as soon as you called out, it fled? It was more afraid of us than we of it."
"But why did it come?"
"Curiosity; no doubt it has been watching us."
She glanced about, and laughed nervously.
"I have the feeling, even now, that every thicket hides a pair of eyes."
"What's that!" she clung to his arm.
Crackling boughs behind them caused both to turn, and with a leap Wainwright dashed into the brush. He heard something make off, without catching a glimpse of any moving object, but was satisfied that it must have been a large body, from the way it tore through the thick undergrowth. He made no effort to pursue, but turned back and joined Florence.
At last they decided on the beach as the best place for their hut, and returning there, Wainwright started to erect a shelter close up against the cliff.
"If a storm comes up, we'll be protected," he suggested.
"Yes," she agreed, "and the spring is here, close at hard. We couldn't find a better spot."
The cliff served as a back to the hut, and Wainwright soon had two sides built. Down the middle he hung a heavy piece of sail, dividing the whole into two rooms, and over the top stretched another canvas.
"We'll hang one at the front for a door, but later I'll put on a roof and close up the front. We could do so now, by using the raft, but we'll save that."
"We've got to have firewood," Florence suggested.
"To be sure," he agreed. "I tell you what we'll do. Come with me to the ship, the raft will bear both of us, and we'll bring back what wood we can."
They followed out this plan, Wainwright sculling the raft, and in the course of the day what was left of the wreck was demolished and thrown overboard. Florence, sitting on the raft, gathered the lumber as he tossed it down, and lashed together, it was brought to shore.
That night they both slept soundly, undisturbed by the creature that had visited them previously, but in the morning they found its tracks close down by the water. With apprehensive eyes, Florence glanced up.
"Don't you see?" Wainwright laughed. "It's afraid, as I said."
"I'll feel better when you get a door on the hut."
"A door to my lady's boudoir! She shall have it at once, and a substantial roof, too."
From the pile of lumber that had been brought from the wreck the front and top of the hut were completed, a door hung, a window inserted in each side, and then in the afternoon they again boarded the raft and started exploring the island from the waterfront.
On the western shore, among the rocks, they found a broken and battered dory, and leaving their trip uncompleted, they rowed it back to the beach. Dragging it onto shore, Wainwright went to work repairing it, although it seemed a rather hopeless task, in view of the fact that one side was completely smashed in.
In the course of three or four days they had fallen into the monotonous routine of their life, as if they had never lived anywhere except on a deserted island in the Pacific.
Improvements were added to the hut, an open shelter was built for a kitchen, and down by the shore a washstand was erected. The sand under the stream of water that came out of the rock was scooped away, and a stone basin built.
Many trips were made over the island, and on the very highest point Wainwright selected a tall palm, and clambering up, fastened a flag of sail-cloth to the trunk. Their chances of rescue had been discussed many times.
"We can't stay here forever, that's certain," Wainwright insisted. "It may be a week or two, or a month, but, of course, in the end, some ship will stop and take us off."
"Yes," Florence agreed. "It's so lazy and ideal, it doesn't seem as though time counted."
Yet they both scanned the horizon day by day, and Wainwright piled on the edge of the cliff a tremendous stack of wood, and set close to it a can of kerosene, so that if a ship was seen, a signal fire might be lighted at a moment's notice.
Fruit was gathered, and with the supplies saved from the wreck, the two fared almost sumptuously.
The position in which they found themselves was decidedly novel, and both took a keen interest in exploring the island and adding improvements to the hut on the beach. Wainwright fixed snares and caught a number of sea gulls; the fish they found excellent, and a long ladder made by lashing pieces across two slender palms which were cut and brought to the beach, enabled them to secure gulls' eggs from the nests on the cliff.
One morning the two started off in a systematic search of the island in an endeavor to find some trace of the creature which had twice visited the beach, but of which they had not as yet caught any sight.
They passed through the shadow of the close growing cane, came out on the slope, and from there reached the beach where they had first seen the tracks.
A heavy wind had been blowing from the south for a couple of days, and the surf rolled in on the stretch of shore, in white, curling combers.
The sand was wet and hard under the pounding of the waves, and although they searched diligently, they found no tracks which would indicate that the creature had lately crossed the beach.
Passing along, with the waves breaking at their feet, they came to the wood through which the way led into the V-shaped gorge. A number of broken coconut shells and the white bones of fish indicated clearly that some animal had made a meal in a small clearing under two gigantic palms.
"We have traveled the whole island so many times, and seen nothing of the monkey-man, it seems certain that it must keep to the gorge. There is no other place where it could hide so well," Florence asserted.
"Unless on the ledge where you thought you saw it the first day."
"Yes," she agreed. "We haven't as yet tried to find if the shelving rock can be reached from the shore."
They made the effort, breaking through the cane to the right, but found their progress impeded by the close growing brush, and so finally turned back and entered the gorge.
At one or two points they made out indistinct tracks, but although they spent the morning under the cliff, they found no sign of the creature.
They went along up the slope unmindful of their observer, and had just reached the top when, with a cry, Wainwright sprang forward.
Far away on the horizon they saw the smoke of a passing steamer.
"Dick, Dick!" Florence cried, seizing him by the arm.
"Hush!" he whispered, for it seemed as though a sound might turn the vessel from its course. They sat tense and waiting. On the ship came, growing larger, and it seemed that it was heading directly for the island.
"It's going to pass!" he exclaimed in a tense voice.
"Pass!" she cried.
"I mean, near enough."
They glanced overhead, where in the sun their sailcloth flag flapped in the breeze.
"They certainly should see it," he asserted. Half an hour passed, and, suddenly, Florence uttered a cry.
"Dick it has turned!"
He leaned forward, clinging to a tree that grew at the very edge of the rock. His eyes were big, his nerves a- quiver, as with stilled breath he saw the vessel which had been heading towards them swing side on.
"Dick, Dick!" she urged. "Can't we stop it?"
He shouted, hardly conscious of the folly. The ship was some two miles off shore, and in altering its course headed westward.
He called again, his voice a wild bellow, and then springing to the pile of wood, he touched a match to the oil soaked rags.
A dense volume of smoke rolled up, the light wood snapped and kindled into flame, and in an instant the crackling fire leaped high in the air.
"They'll see it!" he shouted.
The ship went on, stately, black, her funnels pouring forth a mass of smoke, to be caught by the wind, and carried away until it faded in gray clouds and the green ocean.
Florence watched, hope springing up when the signal fire lighted, hope dying down when the ship failed to turn, and then, for the first time, the full horror of their position flooded over her.
Her lips trembled, her eyes dimmed, and she sank down on the rock.
"We shall never --- never be saved!" she moaned.
Wainwright did his best to encourage Florence; he argued that the sight of the vessel indicated that they had been cast on an island not far from the beaten track of commerce, and that, even if the slip had passed without stopping, it could be but a few days before another went by, and that even if the second one failed to note their flag of distress, the third or fourth must.
Florence, with all the courage she could find, tried to look upon the situation bravely, and yet the disappointment that had swept over her was so great that she found it next to impossible to look upon their plight with the slightest feeling of assurance that ultimately they would be rescued.
"We can't stay here forever," Dick argued.
"Why?" she demanded, almost provoked that he could speak with so much conviction and appear cheerful, and sanguine of their rescue, when to her hope was almost dead.
"Because we are alive," he smiled. "That old saying about while there's life there's hope has a whole lot of truth in it. You and I, of all the ship's company, are alone saved. It doesn't stand to reason that we'll have to spend the rest of our lives in this spot."
"It's a false argument, because we hope for rescue is no reason that we will be rescued."
"Oh, yes, it is!" he laughed. "Hope for a thing, and it's bound to come in the end."
"In the end!" she whispered. "But how long before the end, and what will happen to us while we wait? We can't go on living in this way. It's too terrible to contemplate!"
"Not a bit of it!" he insisted. "We are not so badly off. There isn't a whole lot of company. That has its advantages. No dressing for afternoon tea; we can't quarrel with the butcher over a poor steak; and you don't have to remember how many lumps of sugar I take in my coffee, for we haven't got any coffee or any sugar."
A plaintive little smile touched her lips as, with chin cupped in hands, she sat on the warm sand and gazed out upon the keel of the Sea-Gull, which was all that was to be seen of the wrecked ship.
"I should be braver," she agreed.
"Not a bit of it."
He came and sat close by her side.
"You are brave. Think of all we have been through. Think of the days we may have to wait. It is well to think of them, and then our disappointment in the waiting will not be as great. You are brave; you couldn't be otherwise. Yet, why look upon it in any other way?"
"But home," she murmured. "Home and one's friends, and all that it means."
"Yes," he agreed. "And we'll win back finally. Never lose sight of that fact, Florence; we'll win out; we'll be rescued! In the meantime I will gather eggs from our sea gull farm, catch the fish, and you can scour pots and pans. Remember, the polishing of a brass knocker once brought its reward, and who can tell what the polishing of a sauce-pan may result in?"
His cheerfulness could not be denied; and she turned with a smile and held out her hands to him.
"I suppose we have a great deal to be thankful for. Think, if I had been left alone-if you had not been saved!"
"Think of what it would have meant if you had not been saved, Florence!"
Their eyes held for a second, as her hand rested in his, and she smiled as flush stole into her cheeks. Then she turned, and withdrawing her hand slowly, she sat, elbow on knee, her eyes searched the gray-green ocean.
His look had quickened her pulse; it was the counterpart of the light she had seen in his eyes as they talked together on shipboard. It answered a longing in her heart, and whispered to her of the joy that had come as they stood together on the storm-swept deck of the Sea-Gull, his strong arm about her, as he held her from being carried from him.
Her love grew stronger to give her, perhaps, more courage than the cheerfulness with which he spoke; for it did seem that they must win back, and the time come when the words that she realized had often trembled on his lips could be uttered aloud.
Fate could never be so cruel as to bring day and month, and year upon year, and still leave them on the sandy beach, in the shadow of the brown-red rocks, and only green palms overhead.
With new courage she sprang to her feet and they went together to the cliff, where once more they rebuilt the signal fire Cane and dead branches were brought and piled high, and in the midst a pocket was formed in which oil-soaked rags were placed.
"When we light it again," he laughed, surveying the pile, over which heavy logs had been stacked to keep it from being blown away, "it will be answered. The ship must come some day."
"Yes," she agreed, "sooner or later. But even if it is a long wait, I'll try to face it with your courage."
"But where would my courage be," he demanded in a low voice, his eyes searching her face, "if it were not for you? Where would hope and desire to win back come from. There would be no hope and no place to which I should care to return."
He hesitated, started to say more, and turned abruptly from her.
It was indeed hard for him to hold back the words that came again and again to his lips as together they tramped over the island or fished, side by side, from the ledge of rocks, or as he stood on the beach of a morning and watched her moving quickly from hut to fire, preparing their meal
If he could only tell her of his love for her, it seemed that their days would be less hard, the longing for the arrival of their rescuers easier to bear.
But he held silent --- silent in words, though look and voice spoke often; and it came to the time when he felt that she understood what he longed to say, when his heart leaped, and a wild exultation seemed to thrill his whole body; for he caught an answering glance; he saw a light in her eyes that seemed but an echo of the light in his.
So, without spoken word, they understood --- or, at least, felt that they understood --- and it helped and made easier the passing days.
But for all their cheerfulness, for all the sanguine assurance Wainwright had, they needed some such help; for one day, followed another with dogged persistency; time ran away, a mark upon a board alone telling of their stay upon the island.
During all this time, while their search failed to reveal the creature that they knew was also in possession of the island, there was never absent the feeling that it was near at hand.
In the morning, when they first awoke, they looked for the tracks on the beach, and often found them, showing that during the darkness of the night their mysterious caller had been prowling close at hand.
The inability to get any trace of its hiding-place provoked Wainwright; and yet at last he came to give up the search which seemed hopeless, although he realized, as night came on, that Florence cast apprehensive glances up and down the beach; or when they crossed the island, he caught a strained manner as she listened to some sound in the flanking cane.
It was mysterious, awe-inspiring; for, day by day, they grew more certain that they were watched and followed, and yet the stalking creature was never seen.
Torn and half-eaten fruit, partly devoured fish, were met with on the southern beach; and on a number of occasions they heard the snapping of the cane, but when they came to dash into the thicket, no sign of any living animal was met with.
On such occasions they would pause, dumfounded over their failure, and their eyes searched the tall trees; for somewhere over-head, or perhaps close at hand, each expected to find beady eyes peering at them.
If they could only have known exactly what manner of animal it was that moved when they moved, that came prowling about when they slept, it would have been a far easier situation to bear.
The spring in the gorge showed them where the animal drank, and for a whole day, they lay in a near-by clump of bushes, in the hope of catching sight of it when it came down to quench its thirst. But even such a ruse failed,, making them more certain that they were watched the instant they stirred from the beach.
In fact, both came to pause apprehensively in their labors about the hut, and to glance toward the cliff overhead. "It's ridiculous!" Wainwright exclaimed with a provoked laugh, as on one occasion he had straightened suddenly, apparently with no reason, to scan the cliff.
Florence turned, for she, too, was searching the rocks. "It seems as though it must be directly above us, looking down." "Yes," he agreed; "it does. I feel that every move we have made was known. Yet, of course," he spoke hastily, noting the expression of alarm in her eyes, "we shouldn't let it bother us, for certainly it's too timid to venture out."
It was seldom that he allowed himself to refer to the creature's presence; and Florence turned away as Wainwright went back to his labors. He was building a large boat out of the remains of the Sea-Gull. He had little hope that they would ever be able to put off, for in which direction land lay it was hard to say, and their island had already been swept by storms as terrific as the one which had wrecked the ship.
He knew that it would be impossible for him to build a boat that would live in such a sea. Yet he went on with the work, for it gave him something to do; and Florence took great interest in his labors, and often helped him. He was busy over the ribs, when he heard a cry.
He wheeled suddenly, to see Florence dashing up the path to the cliff.
"What is it? Florence, come back!" He seized up a hammer and raced across the beach in pursuit. Her voice as she cried out to him had been filled with excitement; and, though he had seen nothing, it came over him that she must have caught sight of the creature which they had just been discussing.
So intent was he on catching up with her that he paid no attention to his steps, and, half-way across the beach, tripped over a pile of stone and fell heavily. When he gained his feet she was out of sight, and seizing the hammer, which had fallen some distance away, he dashed on.
Up the path he raced, to come to the top quite out of breath.
"Florence, Florence!" he called.
No answer came to his shouts, but he heard through the cane a crackling sound. Wheeling like a flash, he dove into the brush; and as he struggled through a thicket he caught sight of a black, hairy creature.
For an instant he paused and glared at it.
Startled by the sight of the animal, he hesitated an instant in pressing forward.
The face was covered with hair, as was the body; but the features, the nose and eyes particularly, were almost human in appearance. The eye-balls were glaring white in contrast with the black face, and suddenly the lips parted over shining teeth and it uttered an almost human sound.
The cry was like a shout of defiance. The two long arms were lifted and the clenched fists swung over the animal's head, and then, like a shot, it plunged forward, running on hands and feet through a small opening in the cane.
Wainwright tore the brush aside and leaped across the few feet of open ground. He had caught sight of the animal's legs, short and stumpy, round at the bottom and without toes, and he knew then, beyond question, that it was the creature whose tracks they had seen, the same one as described by Professor Haverill.
He started to follow, then thought of Florence.
Putting his hands to his mouth, he shouted her name again and again.
His voice echoed back to him, and he could no longer hear the crackling brush as the monkey-man made off.
"Florence! Florence! Where are you!" No answering shout, but an ominous silence, broken only by the rustle of the leaves in the wind.
One glance at the beach showed him that it was deserted, and, on the run, shouting as he raced on, he cleared the woods and came out on the open slope.
From where he paused he could catch a glimpse of the southern beach and the rough, rock-strewed hillside.
"Florence! Florence!" he shouted again and again through his trumpet-formed hands.
Still no answer; only a silence that grew more terrible with each moment of suspense.
He dashed over the rocks, searched the shore, even glanced to the eddying waters within the reef, then raced to the beach. Up and down he ran, calling and shouting, and finally turned back through the woods.
What could her cry have meant? Why had she dashed so suddenly up the path? Had she seen the monkey-man peering down from the rocks and, without thought, perhaps attracted by the dread she felt for the creature, been compelled by some unknown force to fly toward it?
He gained the spot on the path where he had turned off into the brush and, with the wild hope that perhaps she had gone to the left, and thus he had missed her, but would now find her by the hut, he peered down on the beach.
His voice was filled with anxiety and unspeakable horror gripped him. What had happened? What could have befallen her? If she had seen the creature and followed it, possibly she had dashed into the cane.
Had she tripped, perhaps, and even now lay stunned, unable to answer his shouts, or --- the thought came with bloodstilling horror --- had the creature seized her and carried her off?
With mad frenzy he plunged into the thicket, almost unmindful of his course, breaking back impeding branches and tearing his way on until his hands and face were cut and bleeding, his coat torn into shreds.
With each foot of ground covered the hopelessness of the search was borne in more and more upon him. It was almost impossible to move in an upright position, and again and again he was turned back and forced to make a detour about a clump of cane through which he could neither break his way nor crawl on hands and knees.
Again and again he stopped and shouted aloud, until at last he found himself in the path, spent in breath, almost exhausted with his efforts.
He had thought that his search had carried him toward the center of the island, but now he realized that he had been moving in a circle, and that in reality he had covered but very little ground.
Their efforts to find the hiding-place of the monkey- man were suddenly recalled, and he became convinced that the creature must have carried Florence off. In such an event how was he to find her, when, in the weeks they had been on the island, their combined efforts to find the creature's haunts had been unsuccessful?
With a deep breath he pulled himself together, and his hand, which still hung to the hammer in a grip so tense that the blood was driven from his fingers, relaxed.
He went back along the path and, getting his bearings by a tall pine tree that towered above the surrounding cane, started afresh to search the thicket. He strove to keep a straight course, but was again and again forced to a detour, until in desperation he turned and, fighting back, dashed to the beach for a hatchet.
With that in his hand, he returned to the hunt, and strove to work up and down through the cane, cutting his way foot by foot.
Faint and exhausted, he finally sank down, bewildered by his companion's disappearance, almost unable to make himself believe that she was lost, crying out against his waning strength, when never before had he so longed for the ability to struggle on indefinitely.
Hardly catching his breath, he once more plunged into a thicket, to come finally to a clearing, on the further side of which he noted a fairly open path. He had never been so far into the brush, and even now he was not certain whether he stood on the spot where he had seen the monkey-man or not.
Dashing into the path, he fought his way on, and suddenly stooped down with a cry of exultation. Hanging to a twig was, a bit of cloth and, in his joy at the discovery, he pressed it again and again to his lips.
He was on the right track and, shouting aloud, he plunged ahead. For a dozen feet he made his way between close- growing brush, to reach, finally, a small grove of palms.
There he paused and glanced about him.
There was no hope in his breast, for it suddenly struck him that, if the creature had carried her off, she would at least have heard his shouts, as he gained the top of the cliff, and would have answered him. And, too, he suddenly convinced himself that she must have missed the monkey-man, and was only lost somewhere in the tangled undergrowth.
From the grove of palms he plunged ahead, but was suddenly brought to a pause; a barrier of close-glowing cane blocked the path.
About to turn and search to the right, he noted that at one point the stalks were slightly bent. Forcing his way through, he suddenly stumbled and touched only space.
For just a second he reeled; clutching at the cane, and drew back barely in time to save himself from going straight down into the V-shaped gorge.
Moving cautiously, he regained his feet, and then, cutting and clearing at the brush, he stepped close to the edge of rock. It sloped away into the chasm more gradually than he had supposed, although the descent was steep. The face of the rock, however, was covered with brush, and here and there, in a crevice, a stunted tree sprung up.
Below, hidden by the foliage, was the ledge they had seen on entering the gorge from the other side of the island.
"Florence, Florence!" He shouted her name with little hope, but suddenly it seemed that an answer was borne to him. He leaned forward. Was it the echo of his own voice, or had an answer come at last? There it was again, faintly; now he recognized her voice, straight below him!" "Florence!" he shouted, "where are you?"
"I have fallen. I'm caught in the brush."
"I'm coming," he cried, and dropping to his knees he backed over the edge, clinging to the cane.
"I'm coming," he called again, as he glanced over his shoulder for some footing. The reeds under his hand bent dangerously, and he realized that if he let go, or if they broke, he would only be pitched downward, and fall, perhaps, straight into the chasm. Drawing himself up, he peered to right and left for some possible means of descent.
"Dick!" the cry came faintly in a weak trembling voice to his ears.
"I'm coming, Florence. Hold on. I'll be down."
No means of descent opened before him.
"Can you hold on?" He knelt down as he called.
"Yes, Yes! I'm caught on a, ledge --- on a bush. Come quick."
"I'll have to get a rope. Hang on!"
"Hurry!" she begged.
"Yes, yes!" he answered. "I'll be back."
Leaping to his feet, he turned and dashed with frenzied haste through the grove of palms, on into the thicket, and finally, wild with anxiety, out upon the edge of the cliff.
Leaping and bounding, he gained the beach and cast his eye about for a rope long enough to answer his purpose. With maddening haste he pulled at the canvas covering the supplies piled against the cliff, and box after box was swept aside, as he searched for a coil of rope which he remembered bringing from the boat. It was nowhere to be found, and he paused, wild-eyed, when suddenly his glance fell on a stake driven in the beach.
He remembered then that the rope he searched for had been used in running a line from the shore to the wreck, by means of which, employing it as a cable, they had dragged the raft back and forth. He leaped at the stake, and one swing of the ax severed the rope. Laying hold of it, he tugged and pulled, to recall, when his efforts failed, that he had fastened it to the keel of the wreck.
The seconds seemed like hours, and, flinging down the rope, he cast hopelessly about. He found a small coil in the hut, but one glance showed it was too short to answer his purpose. There was nothing to do but to swim out to the wreck and unfasten the rope, and, throwing aside his clothing, he dashed into the surf.
It seemed as though his strokes had never been so weak, his ability to make headway never so feeble.
At last, however, he clambered onto the reef, and with nervous fingers tugged at the water-soaked knot. Why hadn't he brought an ax, or a knife, or something! The rope had been pulled until the knot had tightened and, wet as it was, he found it impossible to untie. He tore his nails till the blood started, the skin of his fingers ripped away, and finally he attacked the knot with his teeth.
Was it an hour or a day since he had heard the last feeble cry for help that came up the cliff from the thicket in which Florence lay? Would he ever get the knot free? And when he did, would he return only to have a jeering echo answer his shouts?
At last, with his bleeding fingers, he loosened the first knot, and then, after what seemed an interminable time, the second, the third, and finally the fourth.
Flinging the rope into the water, he plunged from the reef and swam desperately for the shore. Pulling on his clothes, he dragged the rope out of the waves and unthinkingly started up the path, the long length trailing behind him.
Half up, he was flung from his feet as the rope caught and drew taut.
It seemed as if nature and his folly contrived to add minute upon minute of delay. He flung the rope down, dashed to the beach, unloosened it where it had caught between two rocks; and stopped long enough to coil it up. Water-soaked and covered with sand as it was, he found he could just barely swing it onto his back, and bending under the load, he staggered to the path.
The sweat standing in huge beads on his forehead, the salt on his cut and torn fingers stinging like fire, he staggered on.
Twice he slipped and, under the weight of his burden, fell to his hands and knees. He gained the edge of the cliff, to stumble over a root, and the next instant, as he grasped out, the coil of rope bounded from his hands and fell with a dull thud to the sand of the beach.
He stood with outstretched arms and laughed. It seemed as though he as near enough to madness to leap after the rope.
He turned and dashed down the path and, again seizing up his burden, undertook the ascent. His knees seemed ready to give way at any instant, and in his ears again and again rang the call for help.
The girl he loved more than life lay clinging to the cliff, and he, like a bungler, could only totter to her aid. At the top of the path he flung down the burden for a second, gained his breath, and then, seizing it in his arms, backed along the path on the edge of the cliff, taking no chances of again losing the rope.
To make a way through the tangled mass of cane was an even harder task than the climb up the cliff. He turned and backed into the brush, his arms through the coil of rope; and so he dragged it after him into the grove of palms.
From there he fought his way desperately toward the edge of the cliff, and finally lurched to the spot where he had cleared away the cane.
"Florence! Florence!" He leaned over, every nerve tense, hoping against the wild anxiety that possessed him.
And then the fatigue --- the desperation --- with which he had fought his way back fled as her voice came in answer.
"I'm coming down in a moment in a second."
"Yes, Dick. Hurry!" Her voice to him sounded weaker, but shouting again encouragingly, he cast about for some means of making the rope fast. The cane was hardly strong enough, and he was finally forced to carry one end of the rope back through the tangled underbrush to the grove of palms.
With frenzied haste he made it fast to the first tree he came to, and then dashed to the edge of the cliff.
"Do you hear my voice?"
"I am here, on the edge of the cliff. Are you to the right or the left?"
"I don't know." He hesitated, afraid to cast the heavy rope down the cliff, with the danger of striking her.
"Call again, as loud as you can," he begged.
"I'm here --- here!" She raised her voice.
It seemed to him that the sound came a little to the right, and lifting the rope, he held it over the edge. He was afraid to lower it slowly, for fear that it would catch in some of the bushes, as he was afraid to let it play out as he went down. Dropping it from his hands, it crashed through the cane, and on straight toward the gorge.
"Florence!" he shouted, even as the rope disappeared.
"It didn't hit you?"
"It went to the left."
"I'm coming down." Seizing the rope in his hands, he slipped over the edge and, with his feet pressed against the cliff, began to go down slowly. His progress was harder than he anticipated, for the brush held him back, often impeding his progress.
As he paused once, resting against a sturdy bush, he called aloud.
"Yes, Dick." The voice was nearer and sounded stronger in his ears.
"I'm coming," he called. As he spoke, the roots of the bush against which the weight of his body rested more heavily than he thought, tore from the crevice in which it had sprouted, and he slipped downward.
His grip on the rope had slightly relaxed as he strove to straighten his cramped fingers, the giving way of the bush came unexpectedly, and as he grasped at the rope, it slipped through his hands, burning the skin like fire.
He tried to stay his descent, struck a slight projection, and shot straight down into the gorge, his hold upon the rope breaking completely.
"Dick!" she called. "Dick!" But no answer came.
She had fallen over the cliff when, on the impulse of the moment, and without thought of the danger, she had dashed from the beach in pursuit of the monkey-man.
Breaking through the cane, she had gone over the ledge suddenly, and though she had partly stayed her descent by grasping a bush, she had slipped on down and down, through one clump of bushes into another, until finally her fall had been stopped by the thicket of shrubs where she now lay.
Her position, dangerous in the extreme, was such that, so long as she lay still, there was little chance of her falling further. She had tried to move, but, glancing below, she caught a glimpse of the ledge some feet further down, and below that the chasm formed by the V-shaped split in the rock.
First, she had called without attempting to move; but when no answer came; she seized a bush above her head and endeavored to draw her feet under her. The effort nearly threw her from the narrow space, and she sank back into her cramped position, while a feeling of nausea crept over her.
The horror of her position came to her fully. She called again and again, and then, with beating heart, lay perfectly still, unable for the moment to think at all clearly, uncertain what move she could possibly make in an effort to save herself. A sound overhead caused her to glance up, and she saw a red-black face peering down through the cane.
At first a wild hope came.
Then she realized that it was the monkey-man whom she had pursued. Fascinated, she watched. The gleaming white eyeballs, under shaggy brows, glared like burning disks, and then the heavy, hairy lips parted in a half-snarling grimace, disclosing the white teeth.
"Help!" She whispered the word, conscious of the folly of an appeal made to the strange creature overhead, but hoping against hope that it might understand, though, even in the peril of her position, she realized the fallacy of such a thought. She held out her hand, the creature leaned further over, and then, glancing about, drew back and disappeared in the cane.
"Help! Help! Dick!" she called again, louder, and her voice echoed back from the cliff to the further side.
A long, interminable wait followed. At intervals she called aloud, and finally she heard an answer and, with leaping pulse she recognized Dick's voice.
While he had gone for the rope she managed to draw herself into a half-kneeling position and, clinging close to the cliff turned her face to the rocky wall, not daring to glance below. The drop made her head swim, her' hands tremble, her knees so weak that they seemed unable to bear the weight of her body.
At last he returned. She answered his call, and the coil of rope crashed down through the bushes at her back.
She was unable to watch his descent, but she heard the snapping of twigs, and finally his voice, a little above her and a trifle behind, and she answered him, when he called.
Then had come a wild exclamation, the sound of his falling body, and a dull thud below her.
In terror her eyes opened wide, and again and again she called Wainwright by name, but received no response. At first she failed to understand, and then slowly the horrible thought came that he had fallen, and that now her plight was more terrible, all hope of rescue gone, his danger even greater than her own.
If he had fallen straight down into the chasm, she realized that he must have been killed. Her throat filled, a sob escaped her lips, and it seemed as if her knees would slip from under her, her fingers relax in their grip upon the bush, and she would go falling, bounding downward to her death.
What else was there to do? She could not possibly clamber back; to descend was out of the question. And even if a herculean effort ended in her safety, why should she make the attempt?
She pictured herself again on the cliff above her head. There was a visionary glimpse of her making her way through the wood, down across the sloping hillside, and. into the gorge alone, to find — what!
She saw, even as her eyes rested on the rock not three inches from her face, the body of the man she loved, crushed and bleeding, as he had fallen in his effort to rescue her. Tears, dimmed her eyes, it seemed impossible for her to swallow, her whole body was a-tremble with a nervous chill.
He had come on this trip against his will; she realized that when they set out, although he had hardly voiced his opposition to the plan.
She had brought him to his death, first to the terrible encounter with her father, then the struggle with the crew on the Sea-Gull, and finally to a life which he alone had, by his courage and indomitable pluck, made possible of existence, and now, at last, in her folly, she had rushed headlong into danger, while he followed, unheeding his own safety, thinking alone of her.
It was a few minutes only, but in those minutes her whole life seemed to pass in review before her, the innumerable acts of kindness which had marked Wainwright's care of her on the ship, on the island. And then, to take the place of her regret and despair, came a strong resolve.
There was a chance, a hope. He himself had said it — while there was life there was hope. Her fall over the cliff had left her only bruised and frightened. Perhaps she might find that he, in turn, was clinging to some narrow crevice, if she could but get clear.
Her strength seemed to return. Through her veins the blood leaped like fire, and with set face, nerves tense, the horror and danger of her position was forgotten as the call to action moved her.
A moment before she would have believed it impossible to have stirred at all; now, with trembling hands, she drew herself to her feet and stood on the ledge that had saved her, face to the cliff. She glanced to the right, and her eyes fell on the dangling rope.
She strove to look below to catch some sight of her companion, and failing, searched the rock upon which she stood. She moved as far as possible along, it, setting her fingers in the crevices, and then paused, undecided, for an instant.
There was no thought of the risk; that fear had passed. The desire which possessed her was to get down the cliff, and she stepped out boldly, planting one tiny foot on a slight projection.
Under ordinary circumstances she could never have balanced herself as she did. Now she boldly lifted her other foot and bore her weight on the right one.
Clinging close to the cliff, she drew herself along and, in a second, was clear of the ledge on which she had fallen. A clump of bushes above her prompted her to think that she might clamber upward, and she lifted her left foot in an effort to find a higher projection.
Her skirts balked the move, and finally she crouched low, grasped a shrub, and slipped downward until she rested on a bare projection three feet below.
Thus she worked along, slipping once, to catch herself just as it seemed as though she, too, would go crashing straight down the face of the rock.
At last she paused, a distance of four feet between her and the rope, and nothing but an unbroken surface of rock intervening.
How, could she get across? She reached out one hand, clinging with the other to a crevice in the rock, and still the rope dangled just out of reach. Her breath seemed gone as she clung to her perilous position, her whole body shaken with a nervous tremor. To go back was out of the question; to go on seemed as impossible.
Could it be that she had won her way thus far, only to be balked at the last? Must she cling where she stood until her strength gave way and at last she slipped down to her death, her fingers no longer able to hold her weight, her feet finding no support?
She fought against the thought. She dared not look below her, and for what seemed an interminable moment her eyes sought the edge of the cliff overhead. That bare rock, topped with cane, was the only spot where she could feel safe.
There was a snapping of twigs below. She glanced to the rock and saw the rope trembling and swaying back and forth. The coil, when flung over the cliff by Wainwright, had caught in a clump of bushes, which at that instant gave way under its weight, and it rolled down and, uncoiling, shot into the chasm. As it fell it struck the ledge of rock, bounded to one side, and, falling, swung a foot nearer the spot where Florence clung.
Fearful that it would sway back to its original position, she reached out and sprang toward it. Her hands closed over the rope and, though she slipped downward a couple of feet and the skin was torn from her fingers, she clung desperately, and finally found a footing and stayed her descent.
She was safe; she could get down; and yet for a moment she hung, trembling, to her new position.
Then, with her feet braced against the cliff, clinging to the rope with a grip that drove the blood from her fingers, she worked inch by inch down the intervening ten feet to the ledge which they had seen from the bottom of the gorge.
As her feet touched the five-foot space of rock, and she realized that for the moment she had won safety, her knees gave way and she sank down, a trembling, sobbing figure.
She dared not look up; to glance out over the swaying tops of the palms, to the restless, green-gray ocean, was equally impossible. There was no strength left, only a trembling dread, as the full horror of her climb swept over her.
With her face buried in her hands, she crouched close to the cliff, when suddenly a groan came to her ears, and she raised her head, her eyes wide, her pulse leaping with horror.
It was on this ledge that she had thought she saw the monkey-man, and as she stared straight along the narrow path a terrible fear rushed over her. The creature must be at her back, and at any moment she would feel its encircling arms.
Again came the groan and, like a flash, she wheeled.
Close to the edge, not five feet beyond where she had descended, lay Wainwright, the blood oozing slowly from a gash in his forehead.
"Dick! With a cry she sprang forward and dragged him back close to the cliff.
His face was deadly pale, his clothes torn to shreds, and, besides the cut on the head, there was a deeper gash in his right arm.
"Dick! Dick!" she cried, pillowing his head in her lap. "Dick!"
He seemed to hear, his lips opened with a feeble catching of the breath, and there was a flutter of the closed lids.
She chafed his wrists and wiped the blood from his wounds, calling to him repeatedly.
If she could get some water! With the thought she sprang to her feet. The narrowness of the ledge had no terrors now, and she dashed along in the direction of the shore, thinking to reach the ground below where, in the clump of palms, they had found the second spring.
With her skirts gathered in her hand, she raced ahead. The ledge sloped downward, past the wood that flanked the southern shore, to come finally to an abrupt end. Straight below, the waves beat against the cliff, for on the eastern shore there were no protecting reefs.
She stood, a tall, nerve-tense figure, the wind from the ocean draping her skirts about her limbs and touching her pale cheeks to bring a slight dash of color. A tall palm, broken by the gales, rested against the ledge, forming a sloping bridge spanning the intervening ten feet to the ground. To pass over it seemed utterly impossible, and so she turned back with a feeling of loss.
What could she possibly do, how revive her companion? And even if his injuries were slight, it would be impossible for them to get off the ledge.
As she ran on, she glanced upward with the thought that she might possibly scale the cliff, and yet with the idea came again the horror of her descent, the utter impossibility of their seeking safety in that direction.
Spent in breath, she ran up the sloping ledge, and suddenly came to a startled pause. With no thought of their peril, but rather a mad joy, she leaped to Wainwright's side.
"Dick! Dick!" He had drawn himself up against the cliff with coming consciousness, and he glanced into her face as she knelt beside him, a ghost of a smile touching his lips.
"You got down?" he muttered.
"I heard you fall and I reached the rope. If you had gone on into the gorge!"
A smile touched his lips and he nodded.
"Lucky I didn't," he agreed.
"Are you hurt? Did you break any bones?
He shook his head, opening and closing his cut and torn fingers.
"Guess not," he muttered. "Left arm kind of done." He moved it slowly. "Nothing broken, but I do feel as though I had been pounded from head to foot. You?" he questioned.
"Never mind me, Dick. I'm all right. Don't sit there. Come." She drew him down gently, until his head rested in her lap.
"There!" she whispered, wiping the blood from his forehead again. "Lie still; you mustn't try to move yet a while."
He had no inclination to stir, for his head throbbed like a pulsing engine, while the gash in his forehead and the torn fingers stung like fire. Every muscle in his body ached, and his strength was completely gone.
With closed eyelids he lay, hardly breathing, the touch of Florence's cool hand on his head as soothing as were the low-voiced words she whispered in his ear.
"Think of what you have suffered, and it was I — I who brought it on you. It is good to find that you are uninjured. You are only bruised, are you not, Dick?"
He nodded, and she scanned his face with a troubled, apprehensive look, her fears increasing one instant, dashed aside the next, only to return again; for it seemed that he must be hurt even worse than she thought.
At last he stirred and, opening his eyes, met her anxious regard.
How beautiful she seemed, leaning down, her face close to his, her hand brushing back his dark, wavy locks. Her cheeks were dyed deep with color, her brown eyes anxious and pleading, and he felt that she had never been so near to him — so much — in all the time he had known her.
He could have lain there indefinitely, perfectly content, the desire to move far away. At last, against her urging, he struggled to an upright position, and sat studying his torn hands.
"We are on the ledge?" he questioned.
"Yes; and there seems to be no way down. I went along it, hoping to get some water."
"No way out?" He glanced about with a puzzled frown."
"It runs straight to the sea."
"Doesn't it slope?"
"Yes. It's only about ten feet or so from the ground at the lower end."
"And twenty-five or thirty here," he mused. "Let's see," he suggested, and struggled to his feet.
He felt weaker than he had expected, and leaned against the rock.
"Let me help." She slipped her arm about him. "Come, we'll go along slowly." He was puzzled at the weakness in his knees, but gradually as they moved along the ledge, and he filled his lungs with deep breaths of air, his head cleared slightly and his strength seemed to return.
This made him feel better, for he argued that even the fall should not have left him so completely done up.
"You see there is no way down," she suggested, when they came to a pause at the end.
He glanced at the palm and leaned forward.
"Something's been up that many times."
"The monkey-man!" she whispered.
"To be sure!" he cried, glancing back. "This is where you saw him the first day. That's the way he gets up."
"But we couldn't get down."
"No," he shook his head. "But it's only ten feet. I'll get the rope" — he paused — "but it's fastened at the top."
"We could cut it."
"Of course" and he drew his knife from his pocket.
"Let me!" she urged. "Sit down."
"But you're no more able than I."
"My fall didn't hurt me. It was only a little way. I just slipped through the bushes."
He glanced at her questioningly. A frown crossed his forehead, for it struck him that, in accepting her aid, he had been more than selfish. He hadn't even as yet asked whether she had been hurt.
"You didn't injure yourself ?"
"Not a bit." She pointed to her torn skirt. That is all."
He took her two hands in his and turned them palms up.
"The rope cut them a little," she admitted, "but nowhere nearly as bad as it did yours."
"I'll get the rope.''
"No," she asserted. "You sit down. I'm in command now." Her face lighted with a bewitching glance. "You must obey."
He smiled faintly and yet, when she still insisted, he sank down, while she hurried along the ledge to where the rope hung over the cliff.
Cutting it as high up as she could reach, she drew the lower end to the rock and, dragging it behind her, returned to where Wainwright waited.
Making the rope fast under Florence's arms, he lowered her over the edge of the cliff. When she was safely on the ground, he stood debating as to how he should make the descent.
He could have tied the rope to the palm where it touched the ledge, but, if he did so, it would necessitate leaving it; and finally he tossed it down and crawled out onto the tree trunk. It should have been an easy enough descent over the smooth bark, but he caught himself hesitating, his arms and legs encircling the tree, fearing to fall.
At last he pushed himself along but, with a dozen feet, stopped again, his head dizzy. He swayed dangerously, Florence cried out, and then he pulled himself together and worked downward.
He was puzzled over the nervous tremor that shook his body; he lacked strength in arms and legs. There was no reason for such dizziness, the hot flush that swept over him was unexplainable, and yet he could not shake off the feeling.
A few feet from the bottom, when in another second he would have been safely on the ground, his arms relaxed and he rolled around the trunk and fell the balance of the distance.
As Florence sprang to his side he leaped to his feet, a trifle dazed. He was angry with himself, and he laughed harshly.
"I don't know what's the matter with me!" he growled, and with a deep intaking of his breath he seized up the rope.
They passed through the trees up the slope, and so back to the hut.
Wainwright threw himself down on the sand. The cold perspiration stood out on his forehead and a chill shook his frame. He was hardly able to eat the food Florence prepared, and at last, satisfying himself that she had not suffered any ill effects from her fall, he went into the hut and threw himself down on the blankets which made up his bed.
He lay, strangely restless, the blood throbbing in temple and wrist, and it was a long time before he found relief in sleep.
How long a time had passed since his eyes closed he had no idea, but when he opened them again he realized that it was night. His first thought was that possibly Florence was still waiting up, and he stained his ears to catch some sound. The sail cloth divided the building into two rooms, and from the other side of the thin partition could be heard the faint breathing of his companion.
His throat was dry and parched, his skin burning, and he struggled out of bed, his steps unsteady. In the darkness he made his way to the spring under the ledge of rocks, and, quenching his thirst, turned back with a dipper of water in his hand.
His eyes followed the ground, for it seemed that he could hardly trust his feet to pick their way even over the hard sand.
A sound ahead of him brought him to a startled pause, and, glancing up, he thought he saw something move close to the doorway of the hut, and then, before he could make certain, a terrified scream broke the stillness of the night.
With a leap he dashed across the sand, and was not over five feet from the door when a small black shadow sprang through it
It came over him on the instant — it was the monkey-man!
"Florence! Florence! It's all right!" he shouted, and dashed at the creature.
It made a quick move to evade him, but he flung himself upon it, his hands clinging to the shaggy hair.
Down the two went, the creature snarling, spitting and fighting to get clear of Wainwright's body.
For a second he held it down.
"Get a rope!" he cried.
The creature redoubled its efforts; he was flung hack, his grip broken, the animal free.
Rolling over on the sand, Wainwright started to struggle to his feet, when a tremendous weight struck him and he went down, the monkey-man's long fingers closing about his throat.
For a second it seemed that he could never catch another breath, and then he struck the evil, leering face with his clenched fist and threw the creature to one side.
They both gained their feet at the same instant, the monkey-man, short in stature, horribly grotesque in the darkness, not three feet from Wainwright, where it stood snapping and snarling, its long arms reaching out, the fingers, like talons, closing and opening as if they would gladly tear him asunder.
Florence was behind him somewhere; he could hear her hunting for the rope and, though he longed to secure a weapon, he seemed rooted in his tracks, fascinated by the animal's regard.
"There's no rope, Dick!"
Before he could answer, the creature came at him, springing from its crouching position like a shot from a bow.
He struck out with clenched fist, stayed its progress a second, and then the two clenched in a fierce struggle.
Striking out when he could, Wainwright tried to beat off the mad attack of his adversary.
There seemed to be no strength in his blows. He lifted an arm and swung it weakly. It was as if he was striving to knock aside a visionary antagonist, for more often, when he thought his fist would encounter the snarling face, it missed it entirely.
The long, claw-like fingers were again on his throat, and he seized the wrists and tugged and pulled till he thought that his neck would be torn asunder.
Yet at last he broke free, gained his feet, and stood, shaking in every limb, ready to beat off again the mad fury of a charge which he felt must overpower him at any instant.
The hopelessness of his position struck him with horror; he was confident that he was a match for the creature if he could only cast aside the apathy which possessed him, the burning, strength-taking fire which pulsed in his veins.
Again the animal leaped for him. Again he struck out and finally turned and fled up the beach. He had no desire to run, and yet it seemed impossible for him to hold his ground.
If only he could find a weapon —something!
Florence called and, stirred up by the sound of her voice, he faced about, stepped quickly to one side, and struck the monkey-man as it plunged toward him.
The blow had some strength in it, and the creature reeled as Wainwright turned and dashed back toward the hut.
"Get inside — inside!" he cried, and his hands fell on a broken oar.
The little strength he had left was stirred now by a mad anger that came rather from his inability to fight than because of any feeling against his antagonist.
With lifted weapon he charged to meet the oncoming, stoop-shouldered animal. In the middle of the beach they clenched, the oar falling again and again upon the black, hairy head.
But there was no strength in the blows. Wainwright realized that, even as the claw-like hand seized the weapon and the two reeled down toward the water, back against the cliff, up and down, fighting for possession of the club.
He must cling to it. That was the one thought, even as he felt it gradually torn from his hands.
If he could not deal a crushing blow with the weapon, the monkey-man could.
"Let go! Let go!" he shrieked, without being conscious of the futility of such an appeal.
The strength in his fingers was gone, the broken oar wrenched from his grasp, and again he turned.
After him, in prodigious leaps and bounds, dashed the monkey-man.
A snarling shout and cry of exultation came from the creature's lips, and the next instant it hurled itself on Wainwright's back, bearing him down.
Before he could rise it leaped to its feet, the oar poised to strike.
Florence had been a silent, wild-eyed witness of the encounter. At times it had been impossible to follow the fast- moving struggle, but she had seen Wainwright fall, and had dashed forward as the final blow was struck.
"Stop! Stop!" She raced on and reached the prostrate man as the creature disappeared from sight.
"Dick! Dick! Speak to me!" she cried, turning him over.
A white, still face met her gaze, and for a second she thought he was dead.
How she lifted him in her arms and bore him back to the hut, reeling and falling, she never knew. Placing him on his blankets, she brought water and bathed his head and forced a trifle between his lips.
The long night wore away, Florence, wild with alarm, calling again and again to the unconscious man, doing everything in her power to revive him. As daylight broke, Wainwright's eyes opened, and he gazed about him with a vacant and glassy stare.
"It's all right," he muttered; "all right." Then his voice rose in a shout. "Wait! I'm coming down! Are you safe?"
"Yes, yes!" she answered. "Dick, don't you understand? You are in the hut. We're all right."
"In the hut, in the hut," he repeated. "You don't know what you're saying. It's the cliff. She's down the cliff. Florence, Florence, I'm coming to you! Florence, it's just you. Don't you understand? I am coming. Dick's coming!"
She leaned down and her lips touched his forehead, the tears that welled to her eyes falling hot upon his cheek.
"Dick," she begged, "listen! You are safe in the hut."
"On the cliff!" he shouted. "I'm coming down. Ah! It's broken, the rope's broken. Look at my hands! It burns like fire. I'm falling! Florence, Florence!"
His eyes closed, and a tremendous convulsion shook his frame.
By afternoon he seemed to be easier in mind, and yet, though she urged him again and again to be still, she could not stop the wild words that flowed from his lips.
"Don't you know me, Dick? It's Florence," she whispered, holding him close when he refused to lay back on his bed.
"Florence?" he questioned, feeling out with his hand and touching her face. "Is it Florence? I — I — I know there was a Florence, but she fell down — down. What was it — what was it!"
"It was down the cliff," she—answered him. "But it's past. We're safe now, safe, here in the hut — on the beach !" "On the beach," he muttered. "And there's current. Look! See the floating logs? It's the boat; it's going to pieces. Here, put this about you."
In his madness he made an effort to fasten an imaginary life-preserver under her arms.
"It's all right," she whispered, when he moaned that the buckles would not clasp. "Yes; it's all right, Dick. You've put it on." She tried to humor him.
"Put it on? What! Look out! Go below. He's got a cleaver. Come on, you cowards!"
He broke into a wild hysterical laugh.
"Run; that's it, run! There isn't any courage in the lot of you. Steady now! What! There's nothing in the chest?"
"I know. Yes, it was left; but it couldn't be helped."
"Don't think of the chest, Dick."
"The chest?" he laughed. "What of the chest? Who cares for that? Why, we are turning back! Hallo, there, Stockman, we are turning back, I say! What! Did you ever know the stars to lie? Turn back, man! Think of her — think of Florence!"
He would eat nothing, though she tempted him again and again, and at last the sun sank, a red, burning globe behind the long, distant stretch of ocean.
As darkness settled down, Wainwright fell into a troubled sleep. Florence sank down by his side, with a feeling of relief, as she made herself believe he would awake with his delusions gone.
Exhausted, she dozed, leaning against the side of the hut, to wake at a sound without.
With tense muscles and checked breath, she listened. It was the monkey-man! Of course, he was coming back, and she was alone in the darkness of the hut, with no one to protect her.
What would happen? Would he break in the door?
In frantic alarm she leaped to her feet and dragged forth the mattress from her bed. Placing it against the door, she clung to the wall as she heard the creature down on the beach. If it came near the hut, what should she do?
She felt about, hoping to find some weapon, and when her fingers touched nothing that she could use, she dropped to her knees, with head sunk on her breast, waiting, momentarily expecting to hear the door crash in, certain that she should never live to know her fate if the creature seized her.
And then, as on the face of the cliff, there flooded over her the thought of the man she loved. Between him and the danger that threatened, she alone barred the way. She rose, muscles tense, her bosom rising and heaving, her eyes wide, the light in them one of defiance.
She could fight. He had fought for her; now she would fight for him. And so she stood, until the stumping footsteps passed out of ear-shot.
It seemed an interminable length of time before the sun again rose in the heavens and she dared to drag the mattress back from the door and step out upon the beach. Seeing that the sands were deserted, she hurried to the spring for water. Returning, she heard a call, and, stepping into the hut, she found Wainwright propped up on his elbow.
"Dick!" she cried.
He glanced at her, and her heart sank, for there was no recognition in his look. As she pressed the dipper to his lips, he drank a little of the water.
"Lie down, do!" she begged.
He sank back, as obedient as a child.
"Down the cliff! I'm coming, Florence."
Her long, delicate fingers locked together, and over her face flooded a look of horror. Would he never stop talking of the cliff and of the terrors through which he had passed? Was he forever to go on with his wild ravings, and finally pass from life, leaving her there on the island, alone with that horrible creature!
She knelt down and bathed his forehead.
"That's like Florence's touch. I knew a Florence once. 'Twas a long, long time ago. We sailed together." A childlike smile touched his lips. "We sailed out over an endless ocean, and I wanted to sail on and on."
"We will, Dick; you and I. We'll sail on — on and on!"
"Florence and I. I couldn't tell her. If we'd won out. If we'd got back, then I might have spoken. Yet I think, perhaps, she understood. I wonder — I wonder — if Florence understood."
His eyes suddenly opened, and he looked straight at her.
"Do you think Florence understood?" he demanded.
"Yes," she nodded. "Florence understood."
"I wonder if you know. You didn't know Florence. She was tall and fair, and the sun touched her cheeks; her eyes, how they had a way of speaking! You should have known my Florence! Yes," he nodded, "you should have known her!"
"I knew her," she whispered.
A frown crossed his forehead, and he looked at her again searchingly.
"Did you know? Then you know how brave she was. It didn't much matter what happened, she stood the racket, and I loved her. I wonder if she knew?"
Her head sank with a sob. "Why cry?" He sat up. " Florence never cried."
She stifled the sound of her grief, but the tears coursed down her cheeks, hot and burning.
"Dick, Dick!" she moaned. "Don't you know me?"
Her arm went about his shoulders, and she drew him close, and cheek to cheek they sat, his eyes staring blankly through the open door, where the hot sand glittered in the sun and the green waves broke over the reef upon which the Sea- Gull had met its death.
"I know, Florence?" he muttered. "Look!"
He pointed straight ahead of him, and she started with the thought that he had really seen something. And then she realized that it was only the delusion that possessed him, and she whispered agreement, then drew him still nearer to her.
"See! See!" He laughed, his shaking hands pointing to the ocean. "It's Florence; she's going by; she doesn't know I am here. Some day — some day — will we win out? Will there be any other day but this?"
He turned and looked at her an instant, and then glanced back as his hand fell heavily on her own.
"If we don't win out, if no ship comes. They've all gone by. If no ship comes, and we have to stay on and on. But we can't stay on. See the eyes, look at the teeth! We can't stay on with that creature!" He sank back with a sigh, and she hurried for another dipper of water, and knelt down beside him, laying wet cloths across his burning forehead.
The second day his madness wore away. At times, he talked wildly, at others in a low, rambling, pleading voice; but toward night she managed to persuade him to eat a little food.
Her eyeballs ached like fire, her limbs seemed leaden as she moved about, and the fear grew that she, in turn, would give way under the strain.
In the early evening, when he seemed to be sleeping soundly, she lay down at his feet, realizing that she must get a little rest, that their safety depended upon her strength.
Exhausted, she fell into a troubled sleep, but as the soft night air wafted in through the door, the anxieties that clouded her brain seemed to pass. Once she awoke, to find him still sleeping, and, closing the door and barring it with the mattress, she lighted a lamp.
Again lying down, she rested, encouraged by the quietness of his breathing, and finally she dropped off again into peaceful slumber.
When she awoke, it was with the feeling that she had heard a movement, and her first glance was toward the door. Then her eyes shifted, and with a cry she reached out her hand.
Wainwright was sitting up.
"I have been asleep?" he questioned.
"Dick, do you know me?"
"Why, yes! What do you mean?"
"Nothing! Nothing!" She went to his side. "Don't ask any questions. Lie down, do."
"What is it? Why do you ask me if I know you?"
"You have been ill. Now, no more questions. Lie down."
Impulsively she leaned over, and her lips touched his forehead.
He uttered a sigh, sank back, content to obey her bidding, his heart leaping at the look in her eyes, the touch of her lips.
When she thought that he had again fallen into a quiet sleep she passed to the other side of the sail-cloth and, drawing her mattress to the rude couch that he had built for her, lay down to rest.
Wainwright had only closed his eyes, and had heard her move into the other part of the hut. For a long hour he lay in a blissful state of uncertainty. He did not try to puzzle over his position, or the question she had put to him, nor did he wonder much at the caress. Someway, it seemed the most natural thing in the world, especially when his heart had cried out so long for her lips.
In the dim light of the lamp he studied the dark shadows of the hut with a satisfied smile, when there came to his ears a sound. At, first he didn't understand it, but as the door flew open he leaped to his feet.
The monkey-man! For the first time since he had regained his senses he remembered his encounter with the creature.
A cry issued from his lips, the creature turned, and he saw that it bore a huge log in its arms. He made a step forward, the creature leaped toward him, and the next instant he went down as the log hit him full in the breast.
He tried to gain his feet as the monkey-man tore aside the sail-cloth and leaped toward Florence, who, awakened by his cry, had struggled to her elbow.
With a shriek the Creature seized her, and before Wainwright could struggle from under the log, dashed out of the hut, bearing her in its arms.
In the stillness of the night Florence's shriek floated back to him, and he dashed to the beach, tottering like a drunken man.
The monkey-man was nowhere in sight; but without an instant's hesitation he broke into a run, heading for the path that led up the cliff. In a half dozen steps his knees gave way, and he pitched heavily to the sand.
Desperation brought strength; he crawled to his knees, struggled to his feet and went on — stumbling, reeling, falling -- to rise again, and at last came to the path, up which he clambered to gain the top of the cliff, where he sank down, his breath gone, his legs apparently unable to bear his weight.
In his ears was a wild pounding, and he seemed to hear the boom of surf, as if he lay on the very rocks against which it thundered. He staggered to his feet at last and started ahead, hardly conscious of the direction he took.
His eyes refused to penetrate the darkness, and he seemed unable to tell whether he was making into the thicket or following one of the innumerable paths.
"Florence, Florence!" he called, his voice hardly rising above a whisper, although the name seemed to come echoing back to him in a tone that mocked and jeered.
Where was his strength? Why this terrible weakness? He had no recollection of his illness. It seemed that he had just fought with the monkey-man, and losing in the struggle against its strength, which he had found almost superhuman, had raised his head as Florence was carried off.
She was in the grasp of a creature as terrible as the hideous imageries of a dream, and he had no power to aid her, no sense of the direction in which he struggled on.
It was a hideous, unbelievable situation that faced him. The woman he loved had been torn from his side, and like a mere child he groped his way over ground that tripped him and brought him to his knees again and again as he strove to cover what seemed an interminable distance.
He tried to run, and fell; and for a minute rested on hands and knees, without strength to more than raise his head. Again he struggled into an upright position, and clung to a near- by palm.
Where was the justice, the right, in such a plight as he now faced? They had suffered all that mortal could be called upon to endure — why this added burden? "Florence, Florence!" he pleaded, and went on.
The folly in attempting to move beyond a staggering walk was clearly impressed upon him, and he made no further effort to quicken his steps; but tottered through the cane, stopping now and then to lean wearily against a tree-trunk, to sink down, even at periods when his mind was a complete blank.
When he reached the open hillside he was endowed with the thought that he had but at the moment gained the beach, flung up by the waves. The days they had spent on the island were forgotten, the wreck a vivid memory; and, following this trend of thought, he struggled on and sank down in the darkness, trying to search the eddies along the cliff.
A dark, black fog floated by — at least, so it seemed — although the water was unbroken. In a moment Florence would pass; he would find her at last, the seaweed would be her hair, and the face as white as driven snow.
He reached out his trembling hands. "Florence, Florence!" he whispered. "Come, come! If you only knew how I want you! Come!"
His arms fell, his eyes closed, and for an hour his body hardly stirred, so faint was his breath.
The rest brought a slight return of strength; and when he finally rose again to his feet, the plight that had befallen the girl whom he loved was clear in his mind. Little strength he had to go on; but on he went, down over the hillside to the beach, searching for the tracks he had first seen there in the sands, and then on through the thicket, and finally into the gorge.
He called again, and from rock to rock his voice went echoing. When no answer came he turned and went back, falling twice before he cleared the woods. The sound of the waves led him down to the shore, and, staggering out ankle-deep, he stooped down to bathe his face.
The throbbing in his temples was unbearable. The cold water seemed to bring relief, and with a great intaking of his breath he straightened, with the feeling that his strength had come back. Then his legs crumpled under him, and he pitched headlong into the surf.
He was conscious of falling, he felt the water curl about him, and he struggled to rise; then knew nothing until, opening his eyes, he found himself in the surf and the sun high in the heavens.
He had turned about as he struggled to gain his feet, and lay, head to the shore, on his back.
For a full minute it was quite impossible for him to collect his shattered wits; and he lay, blinking at the sun, the waves curling up over him.
Then he remembered in a vague way what had happened. He had no knowledge of tramping the island over; but he did recall what had befallen Florence, and with wild-eyed frenzy he sprang to the dry sands.
There was no thought of his wet and bedraggled condition, no crying out against the weakness which still possessed him; but with mad determination he dashed up the hillside, through the cane and back to the beach. One glance into the hut and he saw that his mind had played no false trick; Florence was gone.
His voice, stronger now, echoed back as he called her by name. Just an instant he stood so; and then, seizing a hammer from among the tools, he raced up the path.
On the cliff he paused, with the thought that his search must have some system to it; and then, recalling the palm that lay against the rocky ledge, he dashed back through the tangled undergrowth, over the hill, and into the gorge.
With frenzied blows he beat a path through the cane, and he realized the weakness of his arms as he swung the hammer again and again; and yet he did feel that his legs bore him more steadily than they had, and that the pain in temple and eye-ball grew less and less.
At last he came to a narrow path, and through that reached the spot where they had descended from the ledge. He gazed about blankly.
Where was the palm? And then he saw that it had been flung to the ground. He stared, dumfounded. It had been there — was it yesterday, the day before, or a week ago? At least, it had been there. It had not always lain on the ground, for he himself had gone down it after lowering Florence from the ledge.
Throwing down his hammer, he sprang into the brush and seized one end of the log. With the first effort he barely moved it, but he was desperate now. Convinced in mind that the monkey-man's hiding-place was on the ledge, he felt that he must gain that point, if he was to rescue Florence.
He dragged the log over the brush and lifted it in his two arms, so that it rested against the cliff. Then he tried to raise it, and straightened, the effort not having moved it an inch. He gazed up the cliff, then back at the log, with beating heart, unable to think what was best for him to do, so frantic was his alarm.
She was a prisoner, in the grip of a wild creature, the nature of which he had no knowledge. The monkey-man, they called it; yet no monkey left tracks such as they had seen. Often they had spoken of the oddity of the round marks on the beach. Could it be a monkey-man? No, no, no! It was some horrible animal, endowed with a strength and fierceness unthinkable, and in that creature's power was the woman he loved.
He tore at the log until great beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead, and no strength was left in his arms. Why could he not raise it — where was the ability that had always been his? His muscles had been like steel bands, and now they were flabby, with no more strength than possessed by a child.
He looked at the cliff again; no way up, no possibility of scaling the rock; and then came the thought, if he couldn't get up, he could get down. He had made the descent once; he could do so again, and with that thought he turned and dashed from the gorge.
Reaching the cliff, he charged through the cane, and came to the grove of palm. The upper end of the rope which he had used before had been left hanging over the cliff, and he planned to descend in that way.
Pushing into the undergrowth beyond the grove, he missed his direction and found his progress halted by a heavy bank of cane.
Desperate in his desire to reach Florence's side, he tore through the impeding stalks, and parted them to find himself face to face with the wild-eyed, snarling creature.
For a second the two glared at each other, the dark, hairy animal as surprised as Wainwright; and then over their faces flashed a wild look of hatred, the man's as distorted with rage as that of the creature.
As if shot from a catapult, the monkey-man leaped at Wainwright, threw him onto his back, and with a shriek dashed on through the brush.
Leaping to his feet, Wainwright turned, and for a second he searched for the hammer which had fallen from his grasp; and, failing to find it, started off in pursuit. Ahead of him he could hear the snapping, breaking boughs, and he hurried on, heedless of all impediments, his one thought to seize the animal and crush out its life.
Twice he caught sight of the flying figure, lost it, and went on, guided only by the sound of its flight. Through the cane, out onto the cliff, along the path, and down over the hillside the two raced.
On the southern beach, the animal came to a pause, and for the first time in the light of day Wainwright caught a good glimpse of it.
In that one glance he noted the massive shoulders, the almost human appearance of the face, the glaring white eyes. Down over the animal's chest the long, straggling, red-brown beard hung, and its limbs were covered with a shaggy, tangled mass of hair.
Seizing a rock, Wainwright charged at the animal, as it crouched, its arms reaching out toward him, the fingers bent, clawlike, as if only longing to close about his throat. A deep, guttural cry echoed from the creature's lips, sounding like a human utterance, a shout of defiance, a challenge of combat.
Ten feet from the animal Wainwright hurled the rock; and then, as if released by a spring, the monkey-man shot into the air, coming down five feet from where it had waited. Wainwright wheeled, and the creature set off up the beach, its short stumpy legs carrying it with surprising swiftness over the ground.
For an instant he thought it would seek refuge in the paths leading to the gorge, but it turned, dodged his effort to seize it, and raced back in the direction from which they had come.
Up and down the sands, sometimes in the surf, then over the rocks, the pursuit continued, the animal apparently conscious of its ability to escape, and tantalizingly halting now and then to raise aloft a clenched fist and shake it savagely as, in an ugly snarl, its lips parted over white teeth.
Weary and spent, his strength almost gone, Wainwright finally paused, with the grove at his back. Then the creature seemed to feel its moment had come, and charging forward, it leaped at its pursuer.
Wainwright met the attack with clenched fists, and struck with all the power he had, and the animal gave back, snarling under the punishment it received.
There they faced each other, Wainwright without strength to force the fight, the monkey-man apparently undecided as to its course. It hesitated a full minute, and then, turning to one side, dashed by and into the woods.
Wainwright was after it like a shot.
He saw it for a second in the path ahead of him, and then it suddenly disappeared from view. He came to a pause, a sound over his head drew his gaze upward, as the creature, swinging from limb to limb, from one tree to another, made off in the direction of the sloping ground.
Turning and dashing across the beach and up the hillside, Wainwright thought to head it off. As he raced on, he caught a glimpse now and then of the monkey-man in the tree-tops, but he was positive that he was ahead of it in reaching the higher ground. He waited on a bare ledge for it to appear, straining his eyes to catch some sight of its movements in the branches of the trees, and when he failed to see it again he hurried forward with the thought that it must have turned to the right.
Forcing his way through the cane, he came out on the upper side of the gorge, close to the point of the V-shaped cleft in the rocks. Six feet across the other cliff was topped with cane; straight below was a tangled mass of shrubbery, and the ledge to which he had intended to descend when he encountered the creature.
He thought he caught a faint call, and stood, with strained ears, eyes searching the trees.
Was it Florence's voice, or was the sound only an hallucination of the brain? Still he called: "Florence, Florence," and again there was borne faintly to his ears what he though must be an answer.
"Florence, it's Dick!" No answer this time, only the silent trees about him and beyond over their tops the even, sliding swell of the sea.
A palm straight ahead of him swayed suddenly; he leaned forward, muscles taught. There was no breeze to stir it. Was the monkey-man coming toward him, and had the call he heard been only its angry snarl? "Florence, Florence!" he shouted once again, a wild hope that he might have been right.
He drew taut, leaned down, for an answer had come, and this tine there was no mistake.
As his lips parted to utter her name again there came from across the open chasm a crackling of bush, as a heavy body lunged through, and he straightened. Straight before stood the monkey-man, a huge rock poised in its uplifted arms.
Wainwright's aim had been true, but so had the monkey- man's. The rock struck him at the knee, his legs doubled under him, and he pitched head first over the cliff.
He saw, even as he fell, that the creature had either leaped or been carried downward by the rock he had thrown, and then he went crashing and tearing through the bushes that grew over the face of the cliff.
He tried to stay his fall, his fingers closed over a branch that tore away under his grip.
He went on, striking a rock, hanging for a second, bounded into a clump of bushes, and still he fell on and on for what seemed an interminable length of time.
His senses reeled, the wind was knocked out of him; he struck again, and then something seemed to rise up and hit him, and he knew no more.
When he opened his eyes he gazed in blank astonishment. He lay on the ledge where he had fallen once before.
Crawling on his hands and knees, he peered down into the gorge.
He was certain that the monkey-man had fallen, as he had, but he could catch no sight of the creature.
Perhaps it had only leaped to the ledge. He glanced up, and, muddled as was his brain, he felt certain that, with the agility the animal possessed, it would not have been an impossible feat for it to have sprung to the spot where he lay. He glanced to right and left. In that event, it might be near him, and he struggled to an upright position, and backed against the cliff.
Was he to be attacked again?Would the creature come hurtling down upon him, and there upon the five-foot crevice renew the fight?
His eyes were wide and staring. It must not come; he had no strength to meet the attack. He would hurl himself down into the chasm before he would face again those blazing eyes, the gnashing teeth.
"Keep back, keep back!" He uttered the appeal in a whisper and raised his hand as if to ward off the coming terror. Then, for the first time, he realized that his left arm was broken. It had refused to lift from his side.
Suddenly he felt a dull pain, and gazed curiously at the shattered arm.
He was not a coward, then; he could not fight with one hand; he had not dreaded another attack because of the fear that seemed to grip his heart in a band of steel.
He tried to move his broken arm, and a pain shot through it as if a knife had been driven deep in the flesh and turned and twisted. His lips trembled, a nauseated feeling gripped him in the pit of his stomach, and great beads of perspiration broke out on his forehead.
"It is broken — broken!" he moaned, as a child might cry over a ruined toy. "I can't lift it! The pain!"
For an instant he leaned weakly against the stones, his right hand covering his eyes. He stood so, a torn and battered figure, swaying with weakness, hardly able to draw a breath.
Slowly he drew his hand across his forehead and let it drop to his side. The motion bespoke the anguish he felt, the utter hopelessness with which he faced his plight.
A deep breath filled his lungs, and he turned to the right, hardly realizing the direction his staggering footsteps led him.
In a dozen feet he paused; he had come to the end of the ledge; straight ahead of him was the sharp "V" end of the gorge. Then he turned. The rope which hung over the cliff must be some distance farther on.
He stepped to the edge of the footway and glanced upward. He saw then, one hundred feet beyond, the broken bushes through which he had fallen the day he rescued Florence. He started along, keeping close to the cliff, afraid that his uncertain steps might at any moment send him reeling across the ledge, to fall again into the chasm.
There was a slight turn in the path, and he halted suddenly, for he heard a sound ahead of him.
It was the monkey-man. He would have to face him again, and the horror that he had felt before seized him once more. And, then he leaned forward, eyes wide, breath stilled.
The sound — the sound of a sob! "Florence! Florence!" he cried.
He staggered round the curve to where the dark mouth of a cave met his gaze.
"Florence!" There was a cry in the darkness, and the next instant the girl leaped into the opening and came reeling toward him with outstretched arms.
"Florence! Florence!" he whispered, drawing her close to him.
She buried her face on his shoulder.
Just an instant he held her to his breast, surging now with a hope and exultation that seemed to lift him above all the horror of the night.
She straightened suddenly. "Dick! Dick!" she cried, her voice strong, a look of infinite relief in her eyes, a smile on her red lips. "You have come again, Dick!"
Then she saw the limp arm, the torn clothes, and the tiny stream of blood that flowed from the scalp.
"Dick!" in horror, alarm, and anxiety. "What has happened? What is it?"
He tried to laugh, but his mirth sounded strangely forced.
"I fell," he gasped, and nodded back of him.
She gazed with wide-eyed question.
"I thought you came down the rope." "No," he mumbled. "I just fell."
"And your arm, Dick; it's broken!" "Yes, it's broken."
It didn't seem to matter very much to him if it was.
"Oh," she cried, "how you have suffered! To think, sick and weak as you were, that you had to search for me!"
"But I found you!" He said it as if nothing else on earth made the slightest difference.
"But your arm?"
"It doesn't pain so much, if I keep it still. But you — how did you ever get here?" She glanced behind her into the dark cave. "The monkey-man carried me off." "Yes, I know; I saw him. He threw a log that held me down, but I came as soon as I could."
"I don't know what happened. I saw the creature spring upon me, I felt his arms close about me, and, I screamed and called, and then everything was a blank. I seemed to be tossed back and forth, and there was a drumming and buzzing in my ears; and then I opened my eyes to find that I was in this cave."
"And the monkey-man?"
"I haven't seen him since. But, Dick, your arm? What can we do?"
He turned without speaking and started along the ledge. In finding, Florence, the wild, disjointed, rambling thoughts that had possessed his brain cleared; and, although every muscle and fiber in his body ached and stung, and his left arm hung at his side like a leaded weight, it seemed that a new strength had come to him, and he walked with a firmer tread.
They reached the end of the ledge, and he paused, remembering, dumfounded." The log's gone!" she cried. "Yes, the monkey-man must have thrown it down after he brought you to the cave."
"But how are we going to get down? We must get back to the beach." He stood with shaking head.
"Dick, we can't stay here."
He looked at her with a smile.
"Of course we can't." He glanced behind him.
"There's the rope."
"But I cut it off."
He sat down. "Let's think. It's only ten feet. I could drop over."
"With your broken arm?"
He looked at the useless hand. "You might hang over. Try it. I can hold you with one hand. You'd only have a few feet to drop."
"But you never could do it!"
"Try. You slip over; I can lower you nearly to the ground."
"But how would you get down?"
"Just drop." He glanced at her. "I don't know but what I've got so used to dropping that one more fall will matter very little."
"No, no!" she insisted. "You never, never can do it!"
"But we have got to get back to the beach. Come, we must make the try."
"Then let me lower you."
He shook his head.
"You go down first. See. I tried to put the log back. It rests against the cliff about two feet from the ground. I could lower you down until your feet touched it." It seemed the only way of descent, and Florence finally consented. Sitting on the edge, she turned about, while he took up his position, lying flat, her hand grasping his right wrist. Slowly she slipped over, one hand holding his, the other clinging to the edge of the rock. Down and down she slipped.
"Let go!" he ordered. She loosened her hold upon the rock and held to her position, grasping his hand with both of hers. Like a shot she slipped straight down, and as he felt his grip breaking, the load upon his arm suddenly relaxed, and the next instant she loosened her hold upon his wrist and stood on the log, balancing herself against the cliff. Then she leaped lightly to the earth.
"Good!" he exclaimed. "Look out! I'm coming down."
"I'm going to help," she insisted.
"See; I'll lean against the cliff. You slip over and let your feet rest on my shoulders."
"Yes," she insisted. "You know I can do it."
"But I am heavy."
"What if you are? I'll stoop as soon as I feel your weight, and you can balance yourself against the cliff, and then it will be but a second when you can spring to the ground."
He nodded, and slipped over the edge, clinging to the rock with his right hand. In a second his feet touched her shoulders.
"All right!" she cried, and, stooping, dropped to her knees. In an instant he leaped and she straightened.
"Dick! Dick!" she cried, seizing his hand. "We are safe!"
They hurried back through the woods, up the slope, and on to the cliff overlooking the beach where the hut stood. As they started down the path, Florence suddenly glanced seaward; with a cry, she pointed.
Far out over the rolling waves a ship was to be seen. It was the fourth one they had sighted.
"We must stop it! It must see our signals!" she cried, turning and racing back to the level rock.
He followed, and quickly the signal-fire was kindled. Side by side they stood, two wind-swept, disheveled figures, as the ship moved majestically on over the waves.
"It's nearer than any other!" He spoke in a whisper, as if fearful that a sound might turn the vessel from its course.
"Yes," she murmured, her heart beating slowly, mingled fear and hope stilling her breath. On -- on came the ship, nearer and nearer; and, when two miles offshore, it turned eastward, as had all the others that they had sighted, all the others that had passed.
The steamer held to its course, and in desperation they watched it head along the eastern coast.
"It's going by, Dick, it's going by!" Florence moaned.
He stared, wide-eyed, the helplessness of their position appalling in his inability to stop the swift-moving boat.
"Dick, it's going by!"
He tried to voice some word of assurance, but he could not even turn to meet the pleading eyes of his companion.
A whiff of smoke suddenly burst from the ship's side, and then over the water came the faint sound of a gun.
"Florence!" Now he was alive, pulsing hope in his voice. "They've seen the signal!"
The vessel turned with a majestic sweep and headed toward the southern shore.
"They are going to land on the other beach," he cried, and they turned and raced through the cane, down the slope, and on to the sands where first they had seen, the tracks of the monkey-man, the final resting place of Captain Stockman.
Closer and closer drew the ship; another whiff of smoke broke from the side, and more quickly, with a louder roar, they heard the sound of a shot.
"A boat; look, Dick!" She swayed, his arm went about her, and with relief and laughter blended on her face, she stood with him there, on the sea-touched sands, as the rowboat, manned by two sailors and an officer, came dancing over the waves.
It seemed too good for belief. A human face met their gaze; the man in the stern stood up and waved his hand, and they heard him call.
"Come on, come on!" Wainwright shouted. "Florence, Florence, we are saved!" The boat grated on the beach, and the officer leaped ashore, the sailors turning and eying them curiously.
"Hallo!" the man exclaimed. "Who in the world are you?"
"We have been wrecked. Cast up here. It's been months and months."
"Weeks," Florence laughed.
Wainwright was wringing the sailor's hand.
"Wainwright's my name. This is Miss Bucknell."
The man gazed about, a puzzled look on his face. "You have been here for weeks? Have you seen any one else?"
Wainwright shook his head in surprise.
"Didn't you stop for us. Didn't you see our signal?"
"We saw your signal all right. But we were stopping at any rate. I'm looking for a man who was left here some six years ago. He goes by the name of Jimmy Stubbs."
"Jimmy Stubbs!" Wainwright shook his head. "There's no one else."
"The captain doubted if we'd find him, but we were under orders to stop." "Was he wrecked on the island, too?" Wainwright questioned.
"No, he was put ashore. Our owners only heard of it a while ago. A sailor who was one of the crew died in a San Francisco hospital three months ago. He told the story."
"What story?" Wainwright felt dazed, and his eyes shifted to the beach as if he expected to see the man the officer spoke of rise up out of the sands.
"I only know the gist of it. It seems that this fellow was a cook on a steamer. He went off his head and ran amuck, and in punishment the crew, when they stopped here for water, left him marooned."
"Jimmy Stubbs!" Wainwright muttered.
"That wasn't his name. No one seems to know who he was, but that's what they called him. His legs were cut off at the knees.
Wainwright looked at Florence.
"The monkey-man! He had human features. Can it be; is it possible! What did he look like? Dark, swarthy, all covered with hair?"
"I don't know," the officer answered.
"What do you mean by the monkey-man?"
Quickly, Wainwright told of the creature that inhabited the island, and led the sailor up the beach to point out the round, queer-shaped tracks in the sand.
"That's it! Then, he is here."
"He was," Wainwright admitted, still puzzled by the strange explanation of the identity of the creature that, up to that instant, he had thought of as anything but a poor human being, marooned by revengeful mates to live a life of solitude and horror on an island in the Pacific.
No wonder, if the man had been mad before being put ashore, he had lost all human instincts in the last six years, during which he had lived without sight of a human being, save, possibly, the sailor from whom Professor Haverill had had the story, and themselves.
It was no wonder that he had watched their movements with a weird, strange interest, and had finally, when attacked, turned upon those who, if they had only known the truth, would have been glad to have given him help and succor.
A human being! It seemed preposterous. And yet how else explain his features and the strange tracks that marked the sands? No known species of the monkey family had round stumps of legs, without toes. None had the straight nose and wide-set eyes which Wainwright had noted in his several encounters with what he had supposed to be a wild, ferocious animal.
"You say he is here somewhere?"
"I don't know," Wainwright answered, and then he spoke of his last encounter with the creature.
"He was mad, no doubt," the officer nodded. "And, by Jove, sir, you're done up!" "A little," Wainwright admitted.
"Well, get aboard. We've got a doctor with us. That arm needs attention."
"Yes, yes!" Florence urged.
"Go ahead," the officer insisted. "One of my men will take you out. I'll search the island with the other.
Wainwright pointed up through the grove of trees. "If he is anywhere, you will find him in the gorge. I'm certain I saw him go down over the cliff. I think the rock I hurled hit him, but it seemed to me that he was carried off his feet and pitched forward as he threw the boulder which knocked me over the cliff."
"You get aboard. I'll look him up." Wainwright's arm was set, and then he told his story to the captain.
"The Sea-Gull, you say! What happened to its crew?"
"They were lost. At least, we never saw any of them after the ship struck, save Captain Stockman; he is buried on the beach."
The officer who had searched the island had come aboard again.
"We found him, sir," he reported to his superior."
"Dead, in the gorge."
"How about marks?"
"Anchor tattooed on the breast, full-rigged ship and three stars on the right arm, mermaid and whale on the left."
The captain nodded. "And the legs?" "Cut off, sir."
"We buried him on the beach."
The captain nodded the officer away, and turned with a queer smile on his lips.
"Odd, isn't it, the way things turn out? Resting alongside the man who allowed him to be put ashore."
"To be sure," the captain nodded. "He was cook on the Sea-Gull."
The ship which had rescued them had headed down from the north, but they learned that it was really on its way to San Francisco, and had missed the island on its trip out, passed it again, and had just turned when they discovered it.
The days that followed before land was again sighted were ones of lazy, luxuriant rest to the two who had endured so much.
As the moon overhead touched the restless green water with a shaft of gold, Florence and Wainwright stood by the stern- rail, watching the white churn of the racing blades.
"San Francisco tomorrow: Home again," he whispered, as his hand closed over hers on the rail.
"Home again," he repeated softly, "and, now, when we are safe, I must speak — I can no longer hold silent. Florence, is there need for me to tell you how much I care, how much my heart cries out for your love? Lips have not spoken, but, surely, eyes, and your woman's intuition must have whispered long ago of my love for you."
His arm slipped about her waist and her head slowly sank to his shoulder.
"Florence, sweetheart, tell me if the days of strife and waiting have brought love into your heart. Do you care?"
"Dick!" she whispered, her eyes lifting to his, "is there need to ask? You know."
His lips touched hers, and there they stood side by side, the night breeze touching their cheeks, the steady throb of the engines pulsing through the ship.
Overhead myriad stars studded the dome of sky, while on and ever on the racing blades sped, tossing the white, churned waves and leaving a trailing path behind, which, in the far-off distance, could it have stretched that far, led to the land where the monkey-man slept beside the one who had brought him to such a sea-swept grave.
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