W. H. Allen and Co., Limited,
Text on page 235
THE MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO.
sidered it an impertinence on his part, but that his face betrayed unwonted sadness. For two days he made no further allusion to the subject, and I was left to speculate upon the probable cause of his emotion ; someone he loved, perhaps, fell overboard opposite that identical island into the jaws of a ravenous shark. Or maybe, a quarrel arose among his Lascars, who forthwith ran amuck, staining his decks with blood, and branding his good ship with an evil reputation.
Or, if both these conjectures were erroneous, he may have been driven ashore through carelessness or a storm, suffering thereby pecuniary loss as well as bodily injury.
As usual, my speculations were all at fault. One evening after dinner, my fellow-passenger told me his tale; and as it will serve as a warning to those of my readers who are given to dwelling in airy castles, besides affording a more specific description of the general characteristics of these islands than my own personal experience would enable me to give, I make no apology for reproducing it, while we are still in sight of the archipelago.
He was, as I have already mentioned, a trader, the owner of a sailing-vessel, in which he conveyed merchandise between the various ports along the coast. It was an independent and profitable method of doing business, and his Lascars were all hard-working, steady men.
Sailing to and fro past these islands, the idea of residing on one of them for a time, Crusoe fashion, grew upon him with such force, that it finally became irresistible.
The first move in the wrong direction was landing, and roaming about the islandathe identical one thatThe first move in the wrong direction was landing, and roaming about the islanda the identical one that