The Open Sea
Our haste, however, availed us little, for there was no wind at all. We lay for over two
hours under the weird light, over-canopied by the red- brown cloud, while the explosions
shook the foundations of the world. Nobody ventured below. The sails flapped idly from
the masts: the blocks and spars creaked: the three-cornered waves rose straight up and fell
again as though reaching from the deep.
When the men first began to sweat the sails up, evidently in preparation for an immediate
departure, I objected vehemently.
"You aren't going to leave him on the island," I cried. "He'll die of starvation."
They did not answer me; but after a little more, when my expostulations had become
more positive, Handy Solomon dropped the halliard, and drew me to one side.
"Look here, you," he snarled, "you'd better just stow your gab. You're lucky to be here
yourself, let alone botherin' your thick head about anybody else, and you can kiss the
Book on that! Do you know why you ain't with them carrion?" He jerked his thumb
toward the beach. "It's because Solomon Anderson's your friend. Thrackles would have
killed you in a minute 'count of his bit hand. I got you your chance. Now don't you be a
fool, for I ain't goin' to stand between you and them another time. Besides, he won't last
long if that volcano keeps at it."
He left me. Whatever truth lay in his assumption of friendship, and I doubted there
existed much of either truth or friendship in him, I saw the common sense of his advice. I
was in no position to dictate a course of action.
After the sails were on her we gathered at the starboard rail to watch the shore. There the
hills ran into inky blackness, as the horizon sometimes merges into a thunder squall. A
dense white steam came from the creek bed within the arroyo. The surges beat on the
shore louder than the ordinary, and the foam, even in these day hours, seemed to throw
up a faint phosphorescence. Frequent earthquakes oscillated the landscape. We watched, I
do not know for what, our eyes straining into the murk of the island. Nobody thought of
the chest, which lay on the cabin table aft. I contributed maliciously my bit to their fear.
"These volcanic islands sometimes sink entirely," I suggested, "and in that case we'd be
carried down by the suction."
It was intended merely to increase their uneasiness, but, strangely enough, after a few
moments it ended by imposing itself on my own fears. I began to be afraid the island
would sink, began to watch for it, began to share the fascinated terror of these men.
The suspense after a time became unbearable, for while the portent-- whether physical or
moral we were too far under its influence to distinguish--grew momentarily, our own
souls did not expand in due correspondence. We talked of towing, of kedging out, of