Lost Island/Chapter 8

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CHAPTER VIII
IN WHICH DAVE FINDS A FRIEND

When the boy opened his eyes again he was lying full length on the sand, some distance above the water's edge. A man was bending over him.

"Where am I?" Dave asked, still dazed.

"Here," the man replied, with a curious smile.

"Where's here?"

"Where you 've no right to be, judging by the way you and your friends chose to come ashore. Really, you ought all to be drowned."

"I remember now," said Dave. "Are the others all right?"

"Four of them are fit to return to their jolly old families," the man replied. "Don't worry about the others till you feel a bit better. Can you stand up?"

Dave tried to get on his legs, but his knee hurt him considerably. He looked at his companion attentively for the first time. The man was shabbily clothed and did not appear to have shaved for days. His hair was crying aloud for the attention of a pair of scissors, and his shoes consisted chiefly of holes and cracks. There was something about his face, however, which was not in keeping with his odd attire, in spite of its unshaven condition. His eyes were clear and intelligent, but they had a lazy look, as though care sat with difficulty on his shoulders. Humorous lines were drawn about the comers of his mouth, which was good-tempered but too easy-going. His tattered clothes were flapping in the wind, wet through.

"You fetched me out of the water?" Dave asked wearily.

"I took that liberty," was the reply. "I was n't doing anything else just then, and I kind of guessed you might prefer it that way."

"I'm ever so grateful," the boy said. "Where are the others?"

"Gone up to the farm," the man replied, waving his arm airily in the direction of some trees. "You had better come along too. You ought to have something hot to drink."

"Was MacTavish saved?" Dave asked.

"If you mean a Scottish gentleman with a fiery light in his eyes, an accent you can cut with a knife, and an infinite flow of language on the subject of some mysterious engines, yes."

"I guess that's MacTavish," Dave said, unable to resist a smile. "I'm glad the Kingfisher did n't drown him. My name is Hallard—David Hallard, of Brooklyn, New York."

"Glad to know you. I am pleased you called, though the method you adopted of coming ashore has its disadvantages. My name is Bruce Tempest."

Dave thought his companion's slight accent was familiar.

"Are you an American?" he asked.

"Well, I am in a way. I started out under the Stars and Stripes, but I have been a bit of a wanderer. Since we 've got to know one another so well, may I offer you such hospitality as I can in my shack? It's nearer than the farm. Come along, or you 'll get cold."

A little way above the rim of the trees Tempest led Dave to a log hut.

"It's my home for the present," he said, thrusting open the door and showing its bare interior. "I'm sorry the piano has been taken away to be tuned, and both the cook and the parlor-maid are having the day off, but I 'll have a cup of hot coffee ready for you inside of two shakes. In the meanwhile, slip off those wet things until they 're dry and I 'll allow you to wear my best trousers. There's only one hole in them and I mean to mend that some day."

While he continued to talk in a careless, half-bantering tone, he was busying himself with an oil-stove and "Billie" kettle; and soon a rough-and-ready meal had been prepared. Dave, now rapidly recovering from the effects of his immersion, was beginning to feel ravenous, for nobody on the Kingfisher had eaten anything since the previous day. Canned salmon, thick slices of bread and butter, and coffee, set out on an upturned box innocent of a table-cover, formed the repast, and Bruce Tempest played host politely.

"Do you live here all the time?" Dave asked, looking around at the shack. Besides the box which served as a table, it contained two chairs, one of which had a leg missing. Tempest was sitting on that by the simple process of tilting it backward and putting his feet on a ledge in the wall of the shack. In one corner were a couple of shelves on which stood a frying-pan, cups and saucers, and a few plates, most of them badly chipped. A mattress and bedding in another corner virtually completed the inventory in that room. Through an open door the boy saw a second room, as scantily furnished.

"Been here a month, resting," replied Tempest. "I don't think that game knee of yours will carry you very far just now, will it?"

"I must have bumped it pretty hard,*" said the boy. "It's swelling."

"Well, this is n't exactly a first-class hotel," Tempest went on, "but I shall be glad to have you stay here till you get on your pins again. Your four companions will probably go on to Albany, and be fed like fighting-cocks by the Mariners' Aid Society, or whatever it's called. I'm afraid there is n't much chance of rescuing your kit from the wreck. She 'll break up mighty soon with a sea like this running."

Dave arose and took the binoculars from a capacious pocket which he had torn while jamming them in.

"Glad I saved those," he said, handing them over for inspection. "Dad specially told me to take care of them."

"They certainly are too good to lose. Have you been at sea long?"

"Only a few months," the boy explained. "I wanted to get back to America, but this doesn't look much like it, does it?"

"It's quite a step, so to speak, from here to New York," agreed Tempest, filling his pipe with strong black tobacco and balancing himself precariously on the two back legs of the chair again. "Did you come all the way on that little steamer?"

Dave recounted his adventures, which seemed to interest his companion, who asked several questions which showed that he had an intimate knowledge of ships.

"Have you been a sailor?" the boy asked.

"Sometimes," Tempest replied. "I 've knocked about the world a bit before the mast, though I'm willing to admit it is more comfortable in the passengers' passengers' quarters. But funds don't always run to taking a passenger's ticket, and a spell of sailoring keeps one in good trim, besides providing the necessary cash for such things as tobacco and having one's trousers pressed. By the way, we ought to do something for your knee. Let's have a squint at it."

Tempest made a careful examination of the damaged limb. The skin was scarcely broken, but the joint was puffed up and beginning to turn blue.

"I'm no doctor," said Tempest, "but I reckon you 'll be fairly all right in a day or two if you rest it as much as possible. If not, there's a doctor lives about ten miles away."

"Doctor!" cried Dave. "If he's ten miles away, that 'll be twenty for the round trip, and I have n't got a red cent."

"That's all right. He is a particular friend of mine," replied Tempest, "and he just loves to admire the scenery in this neighborhood."

He caught a questioning look in the boy's eyes.

"Well, he won't take us for a couple of bloated millionaires, anyway, if he has two eyes in his head," Tempest went on. "For the present you 've got to lie on a mattress outside in the sun and be as comfortable as possible. The weather is beautiful now. It's so long since I entertained a guest that I'm enjoying the novelty of it."

In spite of the sudden change in his circumstances and the exciting incidents which he had just passed through, Dave felt very peaceful lying there and listening to the easy chatter of his new friend, who had a wonderful fund of tales to tell about many lands. He had drifted almost all over the surface of the globe, picking up a living in various casual ways, from diamond-mining in Kimberley to salmon-fishing for the canneries. He spoke very modestly of what he had done, as though nothing was more natural than to wander off a few thousand miles and take up the threads of life there just as though he had always lived in that particular spot.

"But have n't you got a home?" David asked, thinking of the cottage at Brooklyn.

"Yes," said Tempest, grinning; "It's under my hat. The beauty of having a home like that is that you don't have a lot of fuss when the time comes for moving on. My baggage has consisted of a toothbrush and a banjo for years. Now I only have the toothbrush. I had to part with the banjo some time ago, owing to the fact that the landlady of a boarding-house considered it necessary for me to pay my bill. That was in England. It was a wrench, parting from the old banjo, because we'd had some good times together, especially when we had n't got the price of a ham sandwich for supper. It's wonderful what power a little music has to soothe the hungry beast in you. I often wonder whether somebody else with a healthy appetite takes that banjo for supper these days."

That night Dave slept for ten solid hours in Tempest's "guest chamber," awakening with a delightful sense of freedom. It was a sort of vacation for him, and he was not allowed to do any of the cooking or dish-washing. His knee, however, troubled him a good deal, and after breakfast Tempest went to summon the doctor. He walked all the way there, riding back with the man of medicine in his buggy.

"Nothing broken," was the doctor's verdict, "and if you keep it in a cold compress for a few days, you 'll have it all right again. How did it happen?"

Dave told him.

"Tush, lad, you 're evidently not born to be drowned," said the doctor cheerily as he departed. Tempest followed him outside.

"What do I owe you, Doc?" he asked. "It's no use your sending the bill on afterward, as this is only our summer residence."

He produced a purse from a pocket, containing a sadly depleted store of coins. The doctor glanced at them.

"When I take money for patching up a shipwrecked kid," he said pleasantly, "I 'll change my profession. Good-by. Don't hesitate to call me again if it does n't go on all right."

Under the new treatment, however, Dave's knee rapidly began to grow well, and by the time he could walk comfortably he and Tempest had cemented a warm friendship. Altogether, they spent ten days in the log-cabin. At the end of a week the boy, although he was thoroughly happy, began to realize that it was about time for him to make for the nearest port and find a ship.

"Why hurry?" Tempest protested. "We shall have to get a move on when funds are finished. Besides, we have n't made any plans. Leave it for a day or two."

Toward the end of their stay they lived largely on rabbits, which were plentiful, caught in snares, supplementing these with bread and potatoes bought at the farm.

"Where are you bound for when you leave here?" Dave asked when necessity demanded that something must be done.

"Albany, I guess, the same as you," replied Tempest. "One can nearly always get a job on a ship there. I vote we make a start in the morning and take to the road. My automobile is n't running satisfactorily at the moment."

Dave felt real regret in breaking camp, for the simple life they had been leading there appealed to him greatly after many weeks of hard work at sea.

"Some day I'd like to come back and spend another holiday here," he said.

"Rubbish," replied Tempest. "The world's full of places like this if you only take the trouble to find 'em. Don't worry. That's my motto. Take things as they come, and you can't help enjoying yourself. If I had a million dollars for every little camp like that that I 've had a good time in, I should be quite rich, but I should n't be nearly as happy, because I'd have to spend most of my time wondering how to spend the millions. There's nothing like having an easy conscience and nothing to bother about."

After breakfast they packed up a huge parcel of sandwiches, for it was extremely doubtful where their next meal was to come from, and then set off in quest of further adventure.