to rls, my uttermost admiration; to slo, good show
he considered their position with a sinking heart. the ship was a stolen ship; the stores, either from initial carelessness or ill administration during the voyage, were insufficient to carry them to any port except back to papeete; and there retribution waited in the shape of a gendarme, a judge with a queer-shaped hat, and the horror of distant noumea. upon that side, there was no glimmer of hope. here, at the island, the dragon was roused; attwater with his men and his winchesters watched and patrolled the house; let him who dare approach it. what else was then left but to sit there, inactive, pacing the decks--until the trinity hall arrived and they were cast into irons, or until the food came to an end, and the pangs of famine succeeded? for the trinity hall davis was prepared; he would barricade the house, and die there defending it, like a rat in a crevice. but for the other? the cruise of the farallone, into which he had plunged only a fortnight before, with such golden expectations, could this be the nightmare end of it? the ship rotting at anchor, the crew stumbling and dying in the scuppers? it seemed as if any extreme of hazard were to be preferred to so grisly a certainty; as if it would be better to up-anchor after all, put to sea at a venture, and, perhaps, perish at the hands of cannibals on one of the more obscure paumotus. his eye roved swiftly over sea and sky in quest of any promise of wind, but the fountains of the trade were empty. where it had run yesterday and for weeks before, a roaring blue river charioting clouds, silence now reigned; and the whole height of the atmosphere stood balanced. on the endless ribbon of island that stretched out to either hand of him its array of golden and green and silvery palms, not the most volatile frond was to be seen stirring; they drooped to their stable images in the lagoon like things carved of metal, and already their long line began to reverberate heat. there was no escape possible that day, none probable on the morrow. and still the stores were running out!
then came over davis, from deep down in the roots of his being, or at least from far back among his memories of childhood and innocence, a wave of superstition. this run of ill luck was something beyond natural; the chances of the game were in themselves more various; it seemed as if the devil must serve the pieces. the devil? he heard again the clear note of attwater's bell ringing abroad into the night, and dying away. how if god . . . ?