Beatrice Ethel Grimshaw.

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Author of "The Terrible Island"

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All rights reserved


Set up and electrotyped. Published February, 1921.



"TVT ARRIAGES '" said my father ' " would n

-L* A the whole be quite as successful as they are
if they were arranged by the Lord Chancellor with-
out reference to the will of the parties."

" That's not your own," said old Ivory, throwing
a piece of driftwood on the fire. The log, sea-
salted, snapped into flames of vivid green and blue.

" Of course not," replied my father. "I don't
even remember who said it. But it's true."

" It may be," said old Ivory caustically, " but if
the Lord Chancellor only managed to be ' quite as
successful ' as existing arrangements are, I wouldn't
give much for his chance of a long life."

" Perhaps you and I are a trifle prejudiced," of-
fered my father. The smoke rose up in a steady
stream to the dark roof of the cave. There was an
opening there, invisible by day.

" We've had some cause. . . . Son and grandson
in my case; your father's and your well, well!
for you."

I saw he had bitten off what he was going to
say. I knew what it was, of course. Mother and
father hadn't got on. Mother was dead in the dark
ages, before I remembered. Father and I and Lor-
raine my aunt had come to Hiliwa Dara Island with
old Mr. Ivory and his great-grandson, Luke. I
didn't know when, and didn't know why. They



owned the island among them. Nobody else lived
there but a score or two of native laborers whom
we had brought with us. Nobody ever came. Once
or twice a year our cutter went away, and came back
again with goods from another island. There were
many other islands in the world; there was one, very,
very big, that was called Australia, whence I had
come, I did not know when or how. I could not
remember it. I could not remember anything but
what I knew the island and my father and aunt,
old Ivory and his boy, the laborers, the gardens, the
great cave house where we lived. These were my
world ringed round by the pathless sea.

" Luke's parents' marriage had its good points,"
said my father consideringly.

Luke, at this, raised his head from the arrow he
was shaping by the firelight. (We always used a
driftwood fire by night, since the main hall of the
cave was never warm.) I saw his blue eyes glitter
under their heavily carved brow arches. Boy
though he was, he had a masculine face, in nothing
at all like the small, pointed countenance, with the
dark eyes and delicate forehead, that met me every
morning in my glass.

" Certainly Mark was fond of the boy's mother,"
said the old, old man in the corner of the cave.
" She spent his fortune and more. But we won't
discuss her before the boy."

Luke looked up again, and then down at his work
once more. His lips were set rather tightly. I
thought he had been near speaking, but he uttered
no word. In the pause that followed, the sea, a
long way outside, talked on the coral beach; a puff
of wind, blown down the entrance tunnel, set the
driftwood to leaping and blazing.

Lorraine, her hands round her knees, sat staring at


the light. Her eyes, green as the flames, her hair,
black as charred ashes, seemed to relate her in
some strange way to those wild fires of our far-off
island. I could not have put the thought into words
then. I can now. Child as I was, I knew her to
be the flame under ashes. I had the wisdom that
those older than I had not.

It was she who spoke next. I was sitting with
my bare, sunburned legs stretched out under my
blue tunic, staring at her, and wondering if she was
not very, very old. She must be very aged, I
thought thirty at the least. Or maybe sixty.
Perhaps it was her black clothing made her look
old. My father and Ivory wore light khaki clothes,
Luke and I had blue tunics very much alike, but Lor-
raine went always dressed in loose, thin robes of
black. No one, I knew, had seen her in any other
color, since the wedding day that had left her a
widow before she was a wire, in the world I had
never seen, long ago.

She said, looking at the green of the fire :

" I grant you that most marriages are unhappy,
love matches as often as the rest. But the happy
marriage is a Paradise that's worth taking any risk
for. Any risk ! " Her voice died down, as the
flames were dying. The wind that whipped them
into life had blown itself away.

Old Ivory settled himself more comfortably on
the wrack-filled cushion of his seat.

" It's just that looking for Paradise that does the
mischief," he said. " I'm too old to deny that you
see the Paradise business once in a way oh, in
a very long way indeed! But it's a million to one
sort of chance at the best. As for it's being worth
any risk, that's poppycock. And the usual love
match isn't a risk at all, it's a practical certainty


of the wrong kind. Marriage is the great danger
of life. Nature has to make us drunk to drive us
into it. When I think of all the fine men I've seen
spoiled " He looked at his great-grandson. I
thought he checked a sigh.

" And all the fine women made miserable by
brutes," added father. His eyes were on me as he

" How typical you are of your ages ! " commented
Lorraine. " Mr. Ivory all for the man, as they
used to be; Arthur more for the women, as people
are now."

"What are you for, Lorraine?" I asked curi-

" The children," she said, with more sadness in
her tone than I could believe altogether natural
there is such a temptation in having a golden voice !
" We three are wrecks of one sort and another, but
you two are boats still in harbor. You'll have to
face the gales some day."

For it was understood that I, and Luke, were
going to school going to see the world in a
very few years.

" I shall just love to face the gales," I said.

" They won't be wanting," answered Lorraine.

" Now what do you mean by that? " asked father,
alert to any tone of disparagement directed towards

For answer, my aunt took my small face in her
hands, and silently turned it up to father's view.
I do not know what he saw in it, to make him
look so long. A strange light dawned in his

" Yes, Lorraine," he said, as she released me.
" You're right; she is." And he drew a long, long


" Well," he said presently, " so much the wiser
I think myself."

" / think," spoke Lorraine, " that there's never
any use in trying to play chess with Fate."

" Poppycock ! " exploded old Ivory again.

It was clear to me by this time and I think to
Luke also, though he did not look from his arrow

that our elders were talking secrets of some kind.
Curiosity began to burn me. But, with the cunning
of childhood, I kept all expression out of my face,
in the hope of hearing more.

" Luke," spoke old Ivory from his throne, " go
to bed."

The boy rose instantly, and put his knife and his
arrow on a shelf.

" Good night, Miss Hamilton," he said. " Good
night, Dara. Good night, grandfather. Good
night, Mr. Hamilton."

He walked off down the dark corridor at the
far end of the cave without a backward glance.

" Hamilton," said old Ivory, " you spoil her."

" Ivory," countered father, in his pleasant voice

I have never heard sweeter tones than father's
and Lorraine's " you're too hard with him, some-

" If I am, it's in your interests. Yours. I wish
you considered mine as carefully."

u I don't think they're neglected. And there's
five years or so to look round in, at the very least."

" Luke's like our family," observed Ivory, with
what appeared to be an abrupt change of subject.
" A mighty good fourteen. Mark was ready for
college at sixteen, I remember, if they would have
taken him so early. I was preaching at eighteen.
As for Matthew my son he was precocious
enough in other ways. He'd raise the devil in the


village, before he was seventeen, with well, I
hope Luke won't follow the rule of a skip-a-genera-
tion. Rather skip two, and model after me. But
he's an Ivory, all right. We start soon, and keep
going along, if you don't kill us."

I could not make anything interesting out of all
this, but so convinced was I that there was some-
thing interesting in it, if one could only track it
out, that I feigned sleep, and lay with my face buried
in my long hair, on the comfortable fire-warmed sand
beside my father. I knew he liked to have me thus
sleeping near him, and I hoped to gain an unob-
served half hour.

But I had reckoned without Lorraine.

" Get up," she said, in a low, penetrating whisper;
" don't sham, or I'll tell your father."

At this (though I could cheerfully have slapped
her) I thought fit to awake by slow degrees,
stretch, yawn, and rise to my feet. I knew she
would carry out her threat if I persisted, and my
father was not to be trifled with, on any question of
lying or trickery.

So I bade them good night in proper order
father first, then Lorraine, then old Mr. Ivory
and went off to my room, leaving them sitting there
round the great driftwood fire, with the smoke
springing up into the dark arch of the roof, and the
sea sounding on outside.

When I look back, across the seas and the years,
to those island days, I think always of the long sound
of waves, the fresh, weedy smell of sands at low
water, the silver shining of a full tide after rain. I
can see, on a still afternoon, the oyster gray of the
sky meet the oyster gray of the sea, with just so
much division as might mark the hinge of a giant


shell. I can see, on northwest mornings, the wide
lagoon lie smooth and green as emerald, silver-set in
the ring of white tumbling surf that barred it away
from the blue thunderous seas outside. . . . Sea,
always sea the sounds, the sights, the scents of the
great South Seas these were my picture books, my
library, my school. . . . We had books and pictures
of the common kind in plenty, and I got plenty of
schooling, too, from my father and Lorraine. But
I think it was the sea that taught and made me,
most of all.

My room was at the end of a long cave passage,
some way from the main hall. It was by no means
the damp, rough cell that the nature of our dwelling
might have led one to expect. Father and old Ivory,
on our coming to the island, had chosen to leave the
main hall just as it was, sand-floored, limestone-
roofed, with rough arches leading away in all direc-
tions, and a low, wide tunnel running out towards
the beach and the sea. But the rest of the place
was fitted up almost with luxury.

Have you not thought, when you were a boy, and
spent long summer holidays wandering through the
sea-scented, echoing halls of some little city of caves,
how you could, if only you might, make a splendid
residence of such a place, given time and labor and
the delightful possibility that never, never came
about? You never even dared to speak to your
elders of such a dream. You knew how they would
laugh, and tell you it was impossible. . . .

Well, let me tell you now that it is not. Many
men have made such homes, in many parts of the
world. Father and old Ivory were not blazing the
trail of inventors when they turned the caves of
Hiliwa Dara into a house good to look at, and very


fit to live in. They had heard of such things, and
seen them, so they knew how to go about it. They
made coral concrete by the ton, burning masses of
white coral down on the shore into heaps of flour-
like lime; mixing it with sand and gravel, puddling
it with water. They concreted the floors of the
caves meant for living rooms, and the floors of the
passageways. They stopped the cracks through
which water trickled. They blasted openings to the
outer air, and put shutters in them to keep out rains
and tempests. They made, in fine, a sound, tight,
airy, beautiful house out of the dark and muddy caves
of Hiliwa Dara, and they did it in a fourth of the
time that would have been needed to build any other
kind of house. Our cave ancestors even yet can
teach us a thing or two worth learning.

I carried a brand from the fire with me to my
room, and lit with it the lamp that hung from the
roof a great " baler " shell, cream-lined, crimson-
lipped, filled with cocoanut oil, and floating a wick
of cotton. We had kerosene, matches, and most
other civilized necessities, in store. But since com-
munication was always uncertain, it was the invio-
lable rule of Hiliwa Dara to use native material as
much as possible. And I do not think more beauti-
ful pure light ever fell from a more beautifully
shaped vessel than fell upon my little drift-timber
bed, and on the cedar chest that held my clothes,
and on the gleaming frieze of pearl shell set about
the roof of the room, from the lamp made in the
depths of the great sea.

On my mattress of dried sea wrack I slept well.
But all through the night, and all through the long
sounding of the sea that penetrated even to the
depths of my sheltered little chamber, ran through


my dreams the echo of the words I had heard in the
great hall: " There are five years to look round
in " " You are right; she is." And in my dreams,
I wondered What was I that I did not know?
After the five years, what should come to me?


AS soon as there was light to tell gray sea from
gray sand, Luke and I were out upon the
beach. We always began the day with a swim, and
as we were dressed practically alike, in a loose
short smock and knickers of blue linen, there was
not much undressing to do. Luke threw off his
smock, I kept mine on, and we both changed after-

The routine of the bath was always the same.
We ran out of our cave rooms, met in the main hall,
and raced together down the slope of clinking coral
that led to the lagoon. We shrieked and leaped
as we ran, because it was very cold in the gray of
the morning, and the night had been hot, and our
bodies were aching for the kiss of the green salt sea.
There was a shallow space to run through first of
all, kicking up the water as we went, and throwing
aside great carven shells that a collector would have
knelt to save. Then came the deep, with gold chain-
work of sunrise already knitting over and over it,
and dazzling us as we lifted our heads from the
ripples we had made in our lemming-like rush for
the full sea. Then the outer coral reef, sharp and
spear-pointed, not to be mounted without care. . . .
There was always the temptation to stand on its
farther edge and look and long for the tumbling
white and blue waves outside, where we were for-
bidden to go. Luke had caught a thrashing or two
from old Ivory, and I had been shut up in my cave
for a day, more than once, before we had given in



to the hard law. I don't know that we should have
done so, even then for it was so invigorating to
breast those huge breakers, and ride, shouting, in a
chariot of foam, over the reef into the lagoon
had not an ugly thing frightened me one morning.
We were used to the sight of shark fins riving
through the deep, and like most Pacific folk, had
little fear of them (indeed the shark is not so black
as he is painted), but what we saw that day was
different. It was just a flash in the sun, a whipping
up of something long and black, and very thin
more like a thirty-foot length of rope than anything
else, except for the oily glitter. It wasn't an octo-
pus feeler; that is thick. It wasn't the whip-like,
dagger-armed tail of a giant stingaree ; we knew the
look and the lash of that, as well as we knew the
look of its brown-marbled fin, big as a dining table,
heaving up into sight and sinking again before you
had time to take a real look. I do not know what
it was I never did; and no naturalist has been
able to tell me. But one of the great gulfs of the
Pacific, a chasm five miles deep, lies near the outer
reef of Hiliwa Dara Islands, and the devil of the
deep seas alone knows what horrors may be hidden
there. . . .

I never wanted to swim " outside " again. Luke
not only wanted to, but did it, not a minute after we
had seen the awful thing, while I stood staggering
about in the midst of the foam and thunder of the
reef, sick at heart, and crying to him to come back.
He did come back, a little pale, but with a wonder-
ful light in his blue eyes.

" Grandfather can lick me if he likes now," was
his only remark, shouted through the pounding surf.
" I've proved it to myself."

By the freemasonry that lived between us two, I


knew that he meant he had proved his courage. I
knew that he had doubted it; I knew that Luke,
made as he was, could not have endured that doubt,
and endured to live.

Running up to the great hall of the cave house,
all wet, with my mermaid hair streaming down, I
had shown my courage then by fearlessly bearding
the formidable Ivory, and telling him why Luke had,
once more, broken his rule. I could not endure my
boy mate should suffer punishment for such a noble

Ivory heard me in silence, and then told Lorraine
to take me to dry myself. I don't know what he
said to Luke. Luke only told me that " grandad
was very decent to him."* He did not go beyond
the reef again. For myself, not all the treasures of
all the world poured out at my feet would have
tempted me to venture. I might break sensible
rules through childish bravado, but I was never the
boy-girl type that courts an actual danger. As for
Luke's horror of " being afraid " I saw it, and ad-
mired it, but I did not understand it.

In truth, I felt then, as I felt on the morning
when we rushed down into the lagoon, that Luke
was somehow or other getting away from me. He
was changing. How, I did not know. But it
seemed to me that Luke and I were somehow
no longer one. We had been used to speak with-
out thinking, to talk as we breathed, to understand
without talking. Now . . .

It came back right in the middle of our swim, as
we landed together on a coral " horsehead " to rest
after a vigorous bout of the misnamed " crawl." I
was examining a grazed elbow with some attention,
when I looked up, and saw Luke's eyes fixed on my


" Don't look at me like that," I snapped.

"Like what?"

" Don't look at me as if you as if you saw

" You talk a great deal of nonsense," he said

" There's more sense in it than in some of your
sense," I retorted (more wisely than I knew) and
immediately did a sitting dive.

But I had been right. Luke was changed.

That very morning he amazed the household, al-
ready collected for prayers in the main hall, by
walking in clad only in a bathing towel, and drop-
ping the entire collection of his tunics and knickers
at his grandfather's feet. >

"What's the meaning of this conduct?" de-
manded old Ivory, looking, with the Bible in his
hand, quite frightfully like an ancient Hebrew law-
giver. I do not mean that there was any Jewish an-
cestry about the Ivorys. I only mean that old Ivory
was amazingly Michael-Angeloesque, in moments
of any stress.

" Grandfather," replied Luke, with a courage
that turned me cold, " you have dressed me like a
girl or a child long enough. I want clothes like
yours and Mr. Hamilton's. Proper clothes."

" Do you know how old you are ? " demanded
the prophet with the Book, in a windy voice.

" Of course. I'm fourteen and two weeks."

" And you want a set of grown-up clothes."

" Yes, sir." There was no " please " attached.
I trembled. I thought old Ivory would crush him
with the mighty Book.

Ivory put down the Bible without a word, went,
still without a word, to my father's room, and re-
turned with a shirt and trousers belonging to him.


" I'll square with you, Hamilton," he said briefly.
" Let Lorraine take up the legs of these a bit.
Mine are too big altogether."

Lorraine did take up the legs, after prayers.
During prayers, Luke, holding firmly on to his point,
sat and knelt, draped in the bath towel only. I
whispered to him that he was just like the infant
Samuel, and had the satisfaction of seeing a vexed
flash in his eyes. It was pleasant, I thought, to
make him feel. I would try it again in some other
way. Making people feel was sport except with

..." Be with us all for evermore. Hamil-

'What is it?"

" If Dara had heard, or joined in, a single word
of the prayers, I am very much mistaken."

"Is this accusation true?" asked father, pulling
me to him, and pinching my ear.

Ivory looked at him, and at me, disapprovingly.

" Train up a child . . ." he said. " I suppose
breakfast's ready."

" There's fried flying fish. And honeycake," I
said, jumping up and down, and clapping my hands.
" I love them both."

" You should never say you ' love ' things," chid
Lorraine, sweeping on in her black dress.

" But I do," I said. " I love everything in all
the world sometimes. Things to eat, and things
to see, and things to feel, things to ... I wouldn't
care to live if I couldn't go on loving."

" Dara, Dara ! " said my father, half reproach-
fully, half sadly. But he did not check me; he
never checked my childish running-on.

;< When I go to the world," I said, scampering in
front of him (we always called the projected exodus


of Luke and of myself " going to the world "
I don't know why) " it will be delightful, for there
will be new things to love there."

" True, for you," said my father, somewhat sar-
castically. No one else took any notice at all. We
were entering the dining hall now, and the smell of
the good things on the table seemed to occupy all
thoughts. . . .

I must tell about our dining hall. It was the
glory of Hiliwa Dara, and would have been the
wonder of all that part of the Pacific, had tourists
ever come within five miles of it. But no one ever
did; and so its beauties were ours and ours alone.

Nowadays, when famous caves are becoming
common, and when thousands of people every year
go through the Mammoth Caves of Kentucky, the
Jenolan Caves of New South Wales, and other show
places, one need not fear to be accused of " travel-
ers' tales " if one describes an underground miracle.
And a miracle inded was the Hall of Persephone,
as my scholarly father had named it. I used
to think, in my earliest days, that it was the very
palace hall to which Demeter's daughter had been
rapt away, in the arms of enamored Pluto. And I
thought, too, privately, that Persephone had been a
" fuss-cat " for objecting to Pluto or anything else,
so long as she had that magnificent home to live in.

It was a hall of diamonds.

I believe, in geology, such things are known as
" drusy cavities " a singularly ugly name for a
singularly beautiful thing. I did not know even so
much in those days, nor, I think, did my father.
We were quite content to be ignorant of the scientific
titles rightly owned by Persephone's Hall and its
crystals. I called them diamonds, because they
were exactly like the small shiny stones in Lor-


raine's half-hoop ring, but even I knew that you
didn't have diamonds the size of a dinner plate.

The hall was about forty feet long by twenty to
twenty-five in width. You came into it from a long,
dark passage, designedly left unlighted, that led you
with almost startling suddenness into a blaze of
crystalline splendor like nothing else in the heavens
above, or the earth beneath, or the waters under the
earth. Father and Ivory, with much blasting and
digging away, had contrived one immense oblong
window, open towards the rising of the sun. Its em-
brasure must have been full ten feet deep, but it
let in a splendor of sun, in the early morning hours,
that burned and dazzled upon the thick-set crystal
masses lining roof and walls, till one could scarcely
bear the glory of it. The drooping chandeliers,
set by Nature's hand alone; the glassy curtain that
fell like a frozen waterfall down all one end of the
hall; the curious tall " candlesticks " beside the win-

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Online LibraryBeatrice Ethel GrimshawMy South Sea sweetheart → online text (page 1 of 20)