CHAPTER XVII - FRIENDS IN DESOLATION
She turned her face that way and stood
for a moment with the faint breeze blowing her hair.
Then she came running up the beach to the caves.
In the men’s cave she stood glancing rapidly
about her like a person in a burning house seeking
what he may save.
She picked up the tinder box and the
box of matches and put them in her pocket. Then
she began to remove everything from the cave.
Making a sack of one of the blankets, she filled it
with as much as she could drag along and brought it
to the break in the cliffs where she dumped the contents.
It took her three journeys. Then,
having collected everything in a big pile, she sat
down for a moment to rest. The things would be
safe here till she could fetch them to her new home,
and the weather would not hurt them, except, maybe,
The thought of the biscuits troubled
her, and the picture of them lying exposed in one
of the torrential rains. Then she caught sight
of a cleft in the basalt. It was dry and big
enough to contain the bags and she placed them there
having taken out some of their contents.
These and a couple of tins of meat
she placed in one of the blankets, making a sack of
it. Then she remembered the knife she had left
lying on the sand before the cave where the dead man
She fought against the idea of returning
for it. Then her will made her go.
As she picked up the knife she glanced
once again into the cave and once again caught a glimpse
of the naked foot with the toe dug into the sand;
then, placing the knife in its sheath and running like
a frightened child she reached the break, caught up
the sack, the extra blanket and the axe, which she
had hidden among the bushes, and started.
It was not a heavy load, fortunately.
Had it been heavy she would have dropped it, for,
once moving, she had to run. The idea that she
was deserting people who did not want to be deserted
pursued her; now and again she stopped and turned
for a moment nothing; the Lizard rocks lay
just the same and the beach and the forsaken boat,
just the same, and the jeering gulls; yet, when she
turned again to go on she had to run.
Near the great skull her right bootlace,
getting loose, nearly tripped her. She sat down
and tied it and then went on, walking now, but swiftly,
till, nearing the river and in full sight of her new
companions, she found herself suddenly free.
The hounds of Fear had given up the
chase. The great sea elephants had driven them
away. Here was no longer loneliness.
The great beasts sunning themselves
on the flat rocks seemed more numerous and, as she
crossed the river, a monster coming in from the sea
in a thunder of foam saluted the land with a roar.
She recognized, or thought she recognized,
the great bull that had followed her, he was lying,
to-day, half-tilted to one side, he looked drunk with
sun and laziness and as she came amongst them and sat
down, as she had sat that day, she found that though
a hundred pairs of eyes were watching her, scarcely
a burly figure moved.
They had grown used to her, perhaps,
or perhaps they recognized that she did not fear them
now in the least, or that she had come for refuge and
Then she rose up and passing amongst
them as a friend amongst friends came towards the
caves in the basalt cliffs. They were smaller
than the caves to the west but they were dry and free
from water drip. She chose one and put her bundle
down with the axe beside it.