And thus it came about that Beekman once more found himself lying on the strand near the waterfall at the foot of the cliff in the great cup-like harbor where he had landed on the island not many months before. Although the lashings had not been cast off by those who had lowered him to the strand, yet they had been loosened in the descent, and he realized that by patient application he could presently free himself from his bonds. That, of course, was the first thing to be done.
When he had finally cast off the loose piece of coir rope, he rose to his feet and looked about him. The place was entirely familiar. It had been etched upon his consciousness in those agonized days when he had dreamed of getting to the top. There had been no change whatever. Indeed, since the blocking up of the original opening through which the Good Intent had been hurled so many years before, there had been no change, unless the slow disintegration of the rock had slightly altered the face of nature.
He had been dropped by the lowering ropes to the very spot where he had found the pineapple bedded in the sand. He had no immediate need of any such providential happening now, for behind him lay one of the cocoanut-fiber sacks or bags which had been packed full of food enough to last him for a week. Truda had insisted upon that, and they had grudgingly consented, all the women in the settlement being more or less openly on her side. But they had failed to give him either boat-hook or sheath-knife.
Beekman had no shelter, but he could get along very well without that. Here were food, water, liberty, life, within the circumscribed limits of the great cylinder. He had stepped back to the extreme edge of the stretch of sand, the tide being low, and scanned the bed of the creek up which he had once before climbed to the top. In the narrowest part he could see the natives piling up huge stones, making an impassable barricade. Of course, any considerable increase in the quantity of water flowing down would eventually roll them away. The island must have a rainy season, but unless or until it came, that wall of rock, especially if it should be guarded, as he fancied it would at first, would render ascent to the upland impossible.
There was absolutely nothing he could do. Unless help came to him from above, or from the sea, he would die of starvation eventually. He did not fear that, however, because he believed that Truda would find some means to get food to him. Indeed, going over the incidents of the afternoon, he marvelled at the resourcefulness and courage she had displayed. If it had not been for her escape from her guardians, and her replacement of the books in the temple, he would be now lying there bound hand and foot, slowly starving to death.
He knew how hard it must have been for Truda to have broken the taboo a second time, and alone. That was the first bold action which had saved him, and the second was when she had stood on the brink of the cliff and threatened to cast herself down unless he were lowered to the beach rather than thrown bodily over. And she would have done it, too, as he very well knew. That was the second time that day she had saved his life. True, she had been compelled to make some kind of a promise to marry Hano, but he knew her well enough to realize that she would never keep it. Love, such as had not been known upon that island for two hundred years of quiet mating, had entered her heart, and she was made of the stuff that would willingly die rather than profane it.
She said that she would join him on the strand, and he was confident that somehow she would, and that her presence would bring him fortune; yet, what would happen if she came? His own condition would be changed for the worse immediately, since he would have no friend above to look after his interests. It was to her influence alone that he could look for food. If she were with him, her open defiance of Kobo, Hano, and the others might, and probably would, result in the abandonment of them both. Yet, illogically, but naturally, he longed for her presence as never before. He was proud of her wit and courage, and he longed to tell her that-and other things. He did not think any of the islanders, unless it were Hano, would dare descend into the harbor, which he shrewdly suspected was as taboo as the temple. If any did come, they would have to come one by one, and he could deal with them, if necessary.
The day was almost gone. Before nightfall he was minded to do one thing. He clambered around the rocks to the outer edge of the island and stared eagerly at the barrier. Yes, there on the reef, where it had been hurled or lifted by an unusually great wave or tide coming at the same time, lay the wreck of the whaleboat. It had been firmly fixed on the jagged rocks of the barrier, and as it was just above the assault of any but the highest seas coming at the full flood of the tide, it was still in much the same condition as when he had left it some months before.
There was no way by which he could repair the boat and make it seaworthy. It was of no earthly use to him, yet the sight of it gave him strange comfort. It was something which somehow tied him to his own land and people. He waded and swam out to it and looked it over carefully, observing before he did so that the copper tanks which he had taken from the boat and put in the niche where he had slept the first night on the island, were still there and apparently in good condition. With some vague idea that it might be well if he replaced them in the boat, he swam back across the lagoon, launched the tanks, which floated, proving that they were air-tight; paddled across the lagoon a third time and set them back in their compartments. In one instance, the after end, he found this difficult as he had been compelled to break the catches aft to get it out, but at the other end, the bow compartment, he experienced no trouble. The boards had warped, but by exerting all his strength he got the clamps caught and the tanks replaced. Exactly why he did it, or what he expected from it, he could not tell, but, at any rate, it was occupation. The boat could not take anyone anywhere, but, unless the clamps broke, the tanks would keep it afloat, even if awash, if it were ever washed off that reef.
He got back to the ledge when night fell with the startling suddenness of the tropics. He had made up his mind to sleep where he had slept before: beneath the ledge; but thought better of it. He decided that he ought to be where he had been seen last in case Truda should make any effort to communicate with him. He reasoned, naturally enough, that such an effort would have to be made in the dark to avoid observation. The air at the bottom of the great cylinder, its sides rising about him like the walls of a tower, was cooler than he had been accustomed to. He emptied the mat-like sack, or basket, piling its precious contents high up on the rocks, above any possible tide, and, after he had made a very frugal meal, although he was ravenously hungry after all he had gone through, he ripped the mat apart, hollowed a place for himself in the sand, drew the mat over him and lay there thinking; and, for the first time in days, Stephanie Maynard came into his mind!
Now, there was no disloyalty to Truda in his thoughts of the other woman. He realized that he never had loved her, and he was pretty confident that she had never loved him. The marriage which had been arranged had been one of convenience, purely. He was glad that he had escaped; glad for every experience except that terrible one in the cabin of the Susquehanna. He wondered if, in her heart, Stephanie would not be glad also, and George Harnash. Little things which he had not noticed at the time bulked larger in his imagination now, and he wondered if his friend had not been more interested in his former betrothed than any one had suspected. He thought whimsically that it would be a strange thing if Stephanie and George married eventually, and then his thoughts went further.
Suppose they could prevail upon old Maynard to consent, they might come to search for him as a wedding trip on the great Maynard yacht, the Stephanie. It would be strange, he thought, lifting his head and peering seaward, to wake up some morning and find the yacht in the offing. He knew that was absurd. If he were to get off that island, it would have to be by some other means, and the possibility of escape had grown much fainter since his present misfortune. Well, whatever had been back of that shanghaiing process, and he was as bitterly resentful over it as if it had not brought him happiness, it had resulted in his meeting with the sweetest and most innocent woman on earth, whose love for him had led her to the most amazing sacrifices and exhibitions of courage.
It was a singular commentary on the man's mind that he was as bitter against the men who had shanghaied him as if only misery and sorrow had come to him. He had promised himself many a time if he ever did get free and could find out who was responsible, it would go hard with that man. He would not let the law take charge of his vengeance. He would make it a personal matter. One does not live in the forecastle of a hell-ship like the Susquehanna, where there is no law but that of force, and no right but that of the strong, without getting a new view of individual relation to individual and to the mass. Nor does one live in a tropic island with no law at all, except the taboos of vague superstition, without intensifying that personal element.
Presently, Beekman's thoughts turned to Truda. Lightly, he forgot Stephanie. All his hardships, the horrors of that forecastle, the tragedy of that cabin, even the events of the day, faded from his mind. He saw her white-skinned, golden-haired, blue-eyed and passing fair. He recalled her passionate devotion, her wit, her courage. He stared upward to the top of the cliff, cutting a black line across the stars at the place where he had seen her for the first time. He could shut his eyes and see her still. He tried it again and again, and by and by his eyes did not open. He fell sound asleep.
He was not aware that in the still watches of the night a figure bent over him. Someone knelt beside him. A listening ear was held close to him as if seeking for reassurance that he breathed, and then there was a stealthy withdrawal and the figure slipped down upon the sand and sat watching him. It was not until the sun struck through the entrance upon his face that he opened his eyes. The first object that met his vision was Truda. She was half seated, half reclining on the sand just out of touch, looking at him as she had watched throughout the night.
"Truda," he cried, raising himself at once and throwing aside the mat, "how did you come here?"
She pointed to the cliff, through which the brook plunged. He noticed a long rope hanging down, buffeted by the leaping waters into which it swayed back from time to time.
"Amazing," he cried, rising to his feet and stepping toward her.
"Do you think anything could keep me there when you were here?" said the girl, stretching out her hands to him, and then he noticed, for the first time, that her palms were cut and scratched and had been bleeding. Her knees, her feet, were in the same sorry condition. He sank down on his knees before her. He took the hands which she yielded to him without question and pressed them tenderly against his cheek.
"You have hurt yourself," he said, that petty little fact bulking larger at the moment than any other; "and for me, my poor child."
"The joy in my heart," said the girl, laying one bruised palm beneath her tender breast, "when I saw you asleep and safe here, made me forget this."
"Why didn't you wake me?" asked the man, looking up at her.
"You were so tired," said the girl, laying her other maimed hand on his head.
He could feel her wince as she did so. He had opened a cocoanut the night before. The broken shell lay at hand. He lifted her up, carried her to the bank of the brook, set her poor, torn feet in the cool water, and, with the shell, laved her hands and knees. It was all he could do. He had nothing else. Then he bent and kissed her lips, her hands, her feet. He strained her to his breast.
"You shall not walk a step or carry a thing until those precious hands and feet are well."
"They are well now since you kissed them. See, I feel no pain."
She took him in her arms, in turn. What mattered that the white hands left little blood marks on his shoulder?
"First, you must eat," said the man, "and then you must tell me how you came."
He pressed upon her the cooked food and fruit which she herself had forced the islanders to provide.
"We may not get any more when this is gone," she said.
"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof," he quoted recklessly; "eat now."
She did not understand, but the command was simple, and she obeyed. Whatever her lover said was right, of course.
"Now, tell me," he said, when they had stayed their hunger, "how did you come here?"
"They put me in the house with the two women to guard me after they had lowered you down here. I was to be married to Hano today. I would have died rather than that. I had told you I would join you here. I persuaded the women. They like you, Beek-man. They don't like Hano. They let me escape. I went to your house, and brought the bright-tipped staff and the thing that cuts. I crept down the brook where you had come up."
"There was no watcher?"
"Did he let you pass?"
"He could not help it."
"What do you mean?"
"I struck him with the staff, and-" She shuddered and hid her face in her hands.
"Don't cry over that," said the man; "in all probability you only stunned him. He will be all right by now."
"I hope so. He had done nothing to me, but if the whole island had stood in my way, I was determined to come to you."
"I climbed over the rock wall. At first I thought I would push it down, but it was too much for me. Besides, the stones might have fallen upon you. I had a rope with a piece of wood at the end. I fastened the wood in the rock and came down. The rope cut my hands."
"And the staff and the knife?"
"I threw them over. You will find them there."
"Wait." He ran and brought them back. "Arms," he said, shaking them exultingly before her. "With these we can defy everything."
Indeed, the boat-hook and the sheath knife would be invaluable should it come to a fight in the end.
"Yes," said Truda. "In all the days of my life there has been no anger, no bloodshed on this island; but since you came-"
"Are you sorry I came?"
"Glad. You have taught me life, love. They are worth the price we have paid."
"Always a price has to be paid for these things. Whether they are worth it or not is another matter."
The sun was well above the horizon now. Truda glanced upward, stopped, and pointed. In the ravine whence the brook fell, clustered against the wall, stood the islanders. Their cries came faintly into the vast gulf in which the two lovers stood. Their gestures of hatred and scorn were unmistakable, but they made no effort to come down. The rope was still fast. Presently, they observed it, for it was quickly drawn up, and, after a time, the islanders went away, leaving a watcher at the wall.
"This place is like the temple," said Truda; "it is taboo. I think none will come here."
"But you came."
"I would go anywhere for you," said the girl, simply.
There was nothing they could do to better their condition, but if there had been, it was not in Beekman's mind to attempt it then. Their near touch with death, Truda's sleepless night, the condition of her hands and feet, the nervous reaction in him, warned Beekman that no demands upon her must be made yet. He decided that they should have one day of complete and utter happiness, whatever the future held for them; so he devoted himself to her.
Again and again he bathed her hands. He tore up the tattered remains of his shirt sleeves to make bandages for her feet. He compassed her with such sweet observances as he could achieve under such conditions. He told her how he loved her. He pictured what their life beyond the seas would be when they got away. He told her that they should escape, although he had no idea how. His determination was contagious. She thought nothing could he impossible, ultimately, to this god-like creature who had come from across the seas to enlighten her as to what love really was, and she believed him.
He carried her around the broken point of rock where she had never been; he showed her the wreck of the whaleboat which had brought him there. He made her a bed for the night in the niche of rocks, facing seaward. He covered her over with the mat he had made for himself. He sat down by her side, holding tenderly the bruised palm, which really appeared to be very much better; clean flesh, such as she had, healed quickly. She went to sleep with the trustfulness of a child, yet not with the emotions of one. Indeed, her strange feelings matched his own as he sat there on the sand by the woman who was his, body and soul.
Was he minded to take her? He prayed God, as he watched through the long hours, that whether he were minded or not, he might be given strength to treat this little child of nature as he would have treated the proudest woman of his own world. Let no man think that he had an easy task, or that he passed pleasant hours. When she was sound asleep he laid her hand gently, palm upward, on the sand, and walked away, pacing up and down the strip of beach the long night through.
It was well that he remained awake, for, just before sunrise, when the short dawn had already come, happening to pass the jutting rocks around which he must go to get into the harbor, he saw the outlines of a dark figure in the gloom; seen faintly against the brighter sand, the figure of a crouching man! Something bright and slender quivered in his hand. He was peering forward eagerly. Beekman snatched the boat-hook and the knife from the sand where he had laid them and ran toward the figure. It was Hano. He rose to his feet as the American approached. He lifted his arm. Something flew through the air and cut a gash along the side of Beekman's face and then struck the rock behind him with a metallic clang, later he found it was an old Dutch knife.
The next moment the American closed with him. Hano, mad with passion, struggled desperately, but he was as a child in the hands of the white man. Beekman broke his hold and dragged the man's arms from about him, lifted him in the air, threw him headlong on the beach. He lay sprawled in a heap, motionless, stunned, apparently, his head bleeding where he had struck an outlying stone on the sand. Beekman was sorry that it had happened. He could enter so fully into the feelings of the man that he could not blame him.
He turned back and awakened Truda. He gave her the knife and boat-hook and told her to watch the prostrate man until he went around the rocks and got the ropes with which he had been bound. He did not think that Hano was likely to recover consciousness, but, nevertheless, he had never gone so fast as he did then. Lightly binding the feet and hands of the man so that he could make no further mischief, he set himself to restore him to consciousness, which he presently accomplished.
Hano would say nothing, nor would he answer questions, not even to Truda. He turned his head away, and suddenly his eyes filled with tears. Otherwise, he was as silent as a stoic on the beach before them. After the two made their breakfast on the rapidly diminishing store of food, they brought a share for Hano. Beekman unbound his hands and stood over him while he ate and drank, then he lashed him again and drew him up into the niche where Truda had passed the night. Then he examined the wounded feet and hands of Truda, and found them in much better condition, but he did not allow the girl to walk over the rough and broken rocks. He picked her up in his arms and carried her into the bay, that they might have the benefit of the fresh water of the brook. Then, and not until then, did he take time to look at the sky and observe the weather, which, if he had been a more experienced sailor, he would not have deferred for so long a period.
He was alarmed beyond measure by what he saw. There was no sun visible, yet the sky did not seem heavily overcast. A strange, coppery light seemed to filter through an unusually thin but very absorbing mist that spread over the whole heavens. The sea had been very still throughout the night. Apparently, a calm had extended far and wide over the waters. There was always some slight motion on the shore, and the silken slithering of the waves on the barrier came to him very faintly. The absence of any wind at all had aroused no attention. There was no wind now, yet the surface of the deep was troubled.
After he had washed the girl's feet and hands and had set her down on the sand, his attention was attracted by a sudden resounding crash on that stretch of barrier that he could see through the entrance. It was as if some mighty heave had raised and lowered the surface of the ocean. As he stared seaward, he thought that the mist was thickening on the horizon. It was growing darker there. Indeed, on the line where the sky and sea would have met on the horizon, if he had been able to see, it was suddenly black dark. The sun was more than an hour high, he judged, although he could see nothing but the coppery light through the mist, and the mist was in rapid wraith-like motion far above his head and far beyond the reef. He could see that clearly enough, although even yet no wind came to him.
Presently, there was another of those long, swinging undulations, which broke with tremendous force on the barrier, sending a cloud of water and spray twenty feet into the air. It was uncanny. There was no cause for it. It was as if some subterranean monster had turned over in the depths and upheaved the surface. Truda joined him.
"I never saw anything like that before, and I have seen the sea ever since I was a child," she said. "The waves broke on the rocks, but not like this. It is so still. Oh, look."
Another of the great undulations struck the reef, and a gust of wind from nowhere, apparently, and gone almost as quickly as it had come, carried the spray across the lagoon and into the still harbor. They saw it patter upon the smooth surface. They marked the wide circles spread, interlace, break. It was a warning to the man, at least.
"Some terrible storm is brewing," he said. "If it equals the promise of these waves, it will flood this gulf. We must seek shelter."
Now he had marked before-indeed, in his first exploration he had essayed to get to the top by it-a broad shelf of rock fifty or more feet above the level of the sea. It was inconceivable that any tide or storm could ever reach that shelf.
"We must go there and wait," he said.
The ascent was not particularly difficult for a man alone, but burdened as he was with the girl, it was almost impossible. He carried her up in his arms as far as he could that way and then set her down.
"You can leave me here," she urged.
"Nonsense; I'll have to take you the rest of the way on my back."
So, in the old-fashioned way by which children were carried pick-a-back, her arms and legs tight around him to leave his hands free to help him climb, he scrambled up to the shelf with his burden. It took some time to get her there, and the labor was tremendous. Although there was a strange chill in the air, sweat bedewed his brow.
"It was wonderful," said the girl. "I didn't know you were so strong. No man on the island could have done that."
"Well, we shall be safe here," said Beekman. "Look yonder."
They were directly opposite the entrance. As he pointed seaward the black clouds on the horizon were torn by flashes of lightning. There was a deep sigh of wind in the air, and the next moment, with a terrific roar, the strange and terrible storm broke. Truda shrank closer to the man. She was still sufficiently a child of nature to be awed by this display of its terrible force.
"It's worse than I thought it would be," said Beekman.
They were still more or less sheltered from the wind, and conversation was not yet difficult.
"I must go down again."
"I forgot Hano."
"He tried to kill you."
"Yes; but he is lying there, bound hand and foot. He would have no chance at all if the water came flooding in."
"Is that the white man's way?" asked the girl.
"It is the way of the white man's God."
"Has He told you to do this?"
"I think so."
He kissed her and climbed down the declivity until he reached the sand. It was already covered. The tide was at full flood and the wind was now driving into the gulf with increasing force. The barrier was a mass of white mist and spray shining eerie and ghost-like against the black horizon, torn with lightning, fast merging into the copper-misted sky above.
He must hurry. He scrambled over the rocky promontory with reckless haste. Hano was lying where he had left him. The waves were sliding over the little mound of sand into the hollow. His face was grey with terror. As Beekman bent over him with the sheath-knife, he shrieked, but what he feared did not occur. His lashings were cut. Beekman dragged him to his feet. He pointed to the sea and upward to the rocks. He took him by the hand and started to lead him, but Hano broke away and ran in the other direction. There were ledges of rock there, and, dumbly and dimly alive to the danger, he chose to go that way. Beekman followed, but he could not prevail upon the islander to go with him.
His own position was becoming precarious. The wind was beating upon him with amazing power. The waves were sweeping over the barrier as if it were not there. He must think of Truda. She would be mad with anxiety. He even feared she might attempt to descend if he did not return. He waved his hand at Hano, whom he saw climbing up the rocks, and turned back to the harbor. As he had suspected, Truda had started to come down. She stopped when he appeared, and waited until he joined her. He brought up what he could carry in his hands of the provisions which he had stored in the rock.
"I was coming for you. Where is Hano?" asked the girl as he drew himself up by her side.
"He climbed the cliff and went the other way. I tried to bring him here, for this is the better place."
"He is in the hands of his god," said the girl.
"As we are in the hands of ours," answered Beekman.
He turned toward her, and for a moment his back was to the sea.
"Look," she cried, peering over his shoulder.
He turned his head. What had happened before was child's play to what met them now.
"My God!" cried Beekman, staring into the white mist, appalled by what he saw.
A wall of water thirty feet high, although, to the man, it looked to be a hundred, was rolling in from seaward with the speed of an express train. Its top was curling, the spray whipping from it, but it was yet an unbroken mass. The thoughts of men take strange turns in such emergencies. It reminded him, for a second, of the pictures in his mother's Bible of the passage of the Red Sea, the waters a curling wall, concave over the heads of the pursuing Egyptians, about to break.
"What is it?" screamed the girl.
"A tidal wave."
The words meant nothing to her, but the voice of the man told her that there was death in the moving water.
"Whatever happens, don't let go of me," he shouted.
He stooped and kicked off his heavy shoes, clasped an arm around the girl's waist. Her arms met around his neck. He was staring seaward, ready for a plunge. Woman-like, she kissed him, and then the wave struck the island-wall of water meeting wall of rock. For a second, Beekman thought he could feel the massive cliff on which he stood quivering. The next moment the great bore tore its way into the harbor. It leaped and surged through the narrow entrance in a madly foaming, green avalanche. Constricted by the walls, it rose and rose. He had one glimpse of the mighty wave towering above his head where he stood fifty feet above the sea level, and the next moment it broke, and, with a crash like a thousand thunderbolts, fell upon them.