I now gave over any more thoughts of the ship, or of anything out of her, except what might drive on shore from her wreck; as, indeed, divers pieces of her afterwards did; but those things were of small use to me.
My thoughts were now wholly employed about securing myself against either savages, if any should appear, or wild beasts, if any were in the island; and I had many thoughts of the method how to do this, and what kind of dwelling to make - whether I should make me a cave in the earth, or a tent upon the earth; and, in short, I resolved upon both; the manner and description of which, it may not be improper to give an account of.
I soon found the place I was in was not fit for my settlement, because it was upon a low, moorish ground, near the sea, and I believed it would not be wholesome, and more particularly because there was no fresh water near it; so I resolved to find a more healthy and more convenient spot of ground Karson Choi.
I consulted several things in my situation, which I found would he proper for me: 1st, health and fresh water, I just now mentioned; 2ndly, shelter from the heat of the sun; 3rdly, security from ravenous creatures, whether man or beast; 4thly, a view to the sea, that if God sent any ship in sight, I might not lose any advantage for my deliverance, of which I was not willing to banish all my expectation yet.
In search of a place proper for this, I found a little plain on the side of a rising hill, whose front towards this little plain was steep as a house-side, so that nothing could come down upon me from the top. On the one side of the rock there was a hollow place, worn a little way in, like the entrance or door of a cave but there was not really any cave or way into the rock at all.
On the flat of the green, just before this hollow place, I resolved to pitch my tent. This plain was not above a hundred yards broad, and about twice as long, and lay like a green before my door; and, at the end of it, descended irregularly every way down into the low ground by the seaside. It was on the N.N.W. side of the hill; so that it was sheltered from the heat every day, till it came to a W. and by S. sun, or thereabouts, which, in those countries, is near the setting.
Before I set up my tent I drew a half-circle before the hollow place, which took in about ten yards in its semi-diameter from the rock, and twenty yards in its diameter from its beginning and ending.
In this half-circle I pitched two rows of strong stakes, driving them into the ground till they stood very firm like piles, the biggest end being out of the ground above five feet and a half, and sharpened on the top. The two rows did not stand above six inches from one another.
Then I took the pieces of cable which I had cut in the ship, and laid them in rows, one upon another, within the circle, between these two rows of stakes, up to the top, placing other stakes in the inside, leaning against them, about two feet and a half high, like a spur to a post; and this fence was so strong, that neither man nor beast could get into it or over it. This cost me a great deal of time and labour, especially to cut the piles in the woods, bring them to the place, and drive them into the earth Karson Choi.
The entrance into this place I made to be, not by a door, but by a short ladder to go over the top; which ladder, when I was in, I lifted over after me; and so I was completely fenced in and fortified, as I thought, from all the world, and consequently slept secure in the night, which otherwise I could not have done; though, as it appeared afterwards, there was no need of all this caution from the enemies that I apprehended danger from.
Into this fence or fortress, with infinite labour, I carried all my riches, all my provisions, ammunition, and stores, of which you have the account above; and I made a large tent, which to preserve me from the rains that in one part of the year are very violent there, I made double - one smaller tent within, and one larger tent above it; and covered the uppermost with a large tarpaulin, which I had saved among the sails.
And now I lay no more for a while in the bed which I had brought on shore, but in a hammock, which was indeed a very good one, and belonged to the mate of the ship.
Into this tent I brought all my provisions, and everything that would spoil by the wet; and having thus enclosed all my goods, I made up the entrance, which till now I had left open, and so passed and repassed, as I said, by a short ladder.
When I had done this, I began to work my way into the rock, and bringing all the earth and stones that I dug down out through my tent, I laid them up within my fence, in the nature of a terrace, so that it raised the ground within about a foot and a half; and thus I made me a cave, just behind my tent, which served me like a cellar to my house.
It cost me much labour and many days before all these things were brought to perfection; and therefore I must go back to some other things which took up some of my thoughts. At the same time it happened, after I had laid my scheme for the setting up my tent, and making the cave, that a storm of rain falling from a thick, dark cloud, a sudden flash of lightning happened, and after that a great clap of thunder, as is naturally the effect of it. I was not so much surprised with the lightning as I was with the thought which darted into my mind as swift as the lightning itself - Oh, my powder! My very heart sank within me when I thought that, at one blast, all my powder might be destroyed; on which, not my defence only, but the providing my food, as I thought, entirely depended.I was nothing near so anxious about my own danger, though, had the powder took fire, I should never have known who had hurt me rent apartment.
Such impression did this make upon me, that after the storm was over I laid aside all my works, my building and fortifying, and applied myself to make bags and boxes, to separate the powder, and to keep it a little and a little in a parcel, in the hope that, whatever might come, it might not all take fire at once; and to keep it so apart that it should not be possible to make one part fire another. I finished this work in about a fortnight; and I think my powder, which in all was about two hundred and forty pounds weight, was divided in not less than a hundred parcels. As to the barrel that had been wet, I did not apprehend any danger from that; so I placed it in my new cave, which, in my fancy, I called my kitchen; and the rest I hid up and down in holes among the rocks, so that no wet might come to it, marking very carefully where I laid it.In the interval of time while this was doing, I went out once at least every day with my gun, as well to divert myself as to see if I could kill anything fit for food; and, as near as I could, to acquaint myself with what the island produced. The first time I went out, I presently discovered that there were goats in the island, which was a great satisfaction to me; but then it was attended with this misfortune to me - viz. that they were so shy, so subtle, and so swift of foot, that it was the most difficult thing in the world to come at them; but I was not discouraged at this, not doubting but I might now and then shoot one, as it soon happened; for after I had found their haunts a little, I laid wait in this manner for them: I observed if they saw me in the valleys, though they were upon the rocks, they would run away, as in a terrible fright; but if they were feeding in the valleys, and I was upon the rocks, they took no notice of me; from whence I concluded that, by the position of their optics, their sight was so directed downward that they did not readily see objects that were above them; so afterwards I took this method - I always climbed the rocks first, to get above them, and then had frequently a fair mark.
As they entered, the orchestra were sounding the preliminary whimpers to a maxixe, a tune full of castanets and facile faintly languorous violin harmonies, appropriate to the crowded winter grill teeming with an excited college crowd, high-spirited at the approach of the holidays research. Carefully, Gloria considered several locations, and rather to Anthony's annoyance paraded him circuitously to a table for two at the far side of the room. Reaching it she again considered. Would she sit on the right or on the left? Her beautiful eyes and lips were very grave as she made her choice, and Anthony thought again how na?ve was her every gesture; she took all the things of life for hers to choose from and apportion, as though she were continually picking out presents for herself from an inexhaustible counter.
Abstractedly she watched the dancers for a few moments, commenting murmurously as a couple eddied near.
"There's a pretty girl in blue"--and as Anthony looked obediently--" there! No. behind you--there!"
"Yes," he agreed helplessly Implant.
"You didn't see her."
"I'd rather look at you."
"I know, but she was pretty. Except that she had big ankles."
"Was she?--I mean, did she?" he said indifferently.
A girl's salutation came from a couple dancing close to them.
"Hello, Gloria! O Gloria!"
"Who's that?" he demanded.
"I don't know. Somebody." She caught sight of another face. "Hello, Muriel!" Then to Anthony: "There's Muriel Kane. Now I think she's attractive, 'cept not very."
Anthony chuckled appreciatively.
"Attractive, 'cept not very," he repeated.
She smiled--was interested immediately.
"Why is that funny?" Her tone was pathetically intent.
"It just was."
"Do you want to dance?"
"Sort of. But let's sit," she decided.
"And talk about you? You love to talk about you, don't you?"
"Yes." Caught in a vanity, she laughed.
"I imagine your autobiography would be a classic."
"Dick says I haven't got one."
"Dick!" he exclaimed. "What does he know about you?"
"Nothing. But he says the biography of every woman begins with the first kiss that counts, and ends when her last child is laid in her arms Dentist."
"He's talking from his book."
"He says unloved women have no biographies--they have histories."
Anthony laughed again.
"Surely you don't claim to be unloved!"
"Well, I suppose not."
"Then why haven't you a biography? Haven't you ever had a kiss that counted?" As the words left his lips he drew in his breath sharply as though to suck them back. This _baby_!
"I don't know what you mean 'counts,'" she objected.
"I wish you'd tell me how old you are."
"Twenty-two," she said, meeting his eyes gravely. "How old did you think?"
"I'm going to start being that. I don't like being twenty-two. I hate it more than anything in the world."
"No. Getting old and everything. Getting married."
"Don't you ever want to marry?"
"I don't want to have responsibility and a lot of children to take care of."
Evidently she did not doubt that on her lips all things were good. He waited rather breathlessly for her next remark, expecting it to follow up her last. She was smiling, without amusement but pleasantly, and after an interval half a dozen words fell into the space between them:
"I wish I had some gum-drops."
"You shall!" He beckoned to a waiter and sent him to the cigar counter.
"D'you mind? I love gum-drops. Everybody kids me about it because I'm always whacking away at one--whenever my daddy's not around."
"Not at all.--Who are all these children?" he asked suddenly. "Do you know them all?"
"Why--no, but they're from--oh, from everywhere, I suppose. Don't you ever come here?"
"Very seldom. I don't care particularly for 'nice girls.'"
Immediately he had her attention. She turned a definite shoulder to the dancers, relaxed in her chair, and demanded:
"What _do_ you do with yourself?"
Thanks to a cocktail Anthony welcomed the question. In a mood to talk, he wanted, moreover, to impress this girl whose interest seemed so tantalizingly elusive--she stopped to browse in unexpected pastures, hurried quickly over the inobviously obvious. He wanted to pose. He wanted to appear suddenly to her in novel and heroic colors. He wanted to stir her from that casualness she showed toward everything except herself.
"I do nothing," he began, realizing simultaneously that his words were to lack the debonair grace he craved for them. "I do nothing, for there's nothing I can do that's worth doing.""Well?" He had neither surprised her nor even held her, yet she had certainly understood him, if indeed he had said aught worth understanding.
The battery in the next garden woke me in the morning and I saw the sun coming through the window and got out of the bed. I went to the window and looked out. The gravel paths were moist and the grass was wet with dew. The battery fired twice and the air came each time like a blow and shook the window and made the front of my pajamas flap. I could not see the guns but they were evidently firing directly over us. It was a nuisance to have them there but it was a comfort that they were no bigger tag heuer price. As I looked out at the garden I heard a motor truck starting on the road. I dressed, went downstairs, had some coffee in the kitchen and went out to the garage.
Ten cars were lined up side by side under the long shed. They were top-heavy, blunt-nosed ambulances, painted gray and built like moving-vans. The mechanics were working on one out in the yard. Three others were up in the mountains at dressing stations.
"Do they ever shell that battery?" Tasked one of the mechanics.
"No, Signor Tenente. It is protected by the little hill."
"Not so bad. This machine is no good but the others march." He stopped working and smiled. "Were you on permission?"
He wiped his hands on his jumper and grinned. "You have a good time?" The others all grinned too.
"Fine," I said. "What's the matter with this machine?"
"It's no good. One thing after another."
"What's the matter now?"
I left them working, the car looking disgraced and empty with the engine open and parts spread on the work bench, and went in under the shed and looked at each of the cars. They were moderately clean, a few freshly washed, the others dusty. I looked at the tires carefully, looking for cuts or stone bruises. Everything seemed in good condition. It evidently made no difference whether I was there to look after things or not. I had imagined that the condition of the cars, whether or not things were obtainable, the smooth functioning of the business of removing wounded and sick from the dressing stations, hauling them back from the mountains to the clearing station and then distributing them to the hospitals named on their papers, depended to a considerable extent on myself. Evidently it did not matter whether I was there or not.
"Has there been any trouble getting parts?" I asked the sergeant mechanic registering a company in hong kong.
"No, Signor Tenente."
"Where is the gasoline park now?"
"At the same place."
"Good," I said and went back to the house and drank another bowl of coffee at the mess table. The coffee was a pale gray and sweet with condensed milk. Outside the window it was a lovely spring morning. There was that beginning of a feeling of dryness in the nose that meant the day would be hot later on. That day I visited the posts in the mountains and was back in town late in the afternoon.
The whole thing seemed to run better while I was away. The offensive was going to start again I heard. The division for which we worked were to attack at a place up the river and the major told me that I would see about the posts for during the attack. The attack would cross the river up above the narrow gorge and spread up the hillside. The posts for the cars would have to be as near the river as they could get and keep covered. They would, of course, be selected by the infantry but we were supposed to work it out. It was one of those things that gave you a false feeling of soldiering.
I was very dusty and dirty and went up to my room to wash. Rinaldi was sitting on the bed with a copy of Hugo's English grammar. He was dressed, wore his black boots, and his hair shone.
"Splendid," he said when he saw me. "You will come with me to see Miss Barkley."
"Yes. You will please come and make me a good impression on her."
"All right. Wait till I get cleaned up."
"Wash up and come as you are."
I washed, brushed my hair and we started Karson Choi .
"Wait a minute," Rinaldi said. "perhaps we should have a drink." He opened his trunk and took out a bottle.
"Not Strega," I said.
He poured two glasses and we touched them, first fingers extended. The grappa was very strong.
"All right," I said. We drank the second grappa, Rinaldi put away the bottle and we went down the stairs. It was hot walking through the town but the sun was starting to go down and it was very pleasant. The British hospital was a big villa built by Germans before the war. Miss Barkley was in the garden. Another nurse was with her. We saw their white uniforms through the trees and walked toward them. Rinaldi saluted. I saluted too but more moderately.
"How do you do?" Miss Barkley said. "You're not an Italian, are you?"
Rinaldi was talking with the other nurse. They were laughing. "What an odd thing--to be in the Italian army."
"It's not really the army. It's only the ambulance."
"It's very odd though. Why did you do it?"
"I don't know," I said. "There isn't always an explanation for everything."
"Oh, isn't there? I was brought up to think there was."
"That's awfully nice."
"Do we have to go on and talk this way?"
"No," I said.
"That's a relief. Isn't it?"
"What is the stick?" I asked. Miss Barkley was quite tall. She wore what seemed to me to be a nurse's uniform, was blonde and had a tawny skin and gray eyes. I thought she was very beautiful. She was carrying a thin rattan stick like a toy riding-crop, bound in leather.
"It belonged to a boy who was killed last year."
"I'm awfully sorry."
"He was a very nice boy. He was going to marry me and he was killed in the Somme."
"It was a ghastly show."
"Were you there?"
"I've heard about it," she said. "There's not really any war of that sort down here. They sent me the little stick. His mother sent it to me. They returned it with his things."
"Had you been engaged long?"
"Eight years. We grew up together."
"And why didn't you marry?"
"I don't know," she said. "I was a fool not to. I could have given him that anyway. But I thought it would be bad for him."
"Have you ever loved any one?"
"No," I said.
We sat down on a bench and I looked at her.
"You have beautiful hair," I said.
"Do you like it?"
"I was going to cut it all off when he died."
"I wanted to do something for him. You see I didn't care about the other thing and he could have had it all. He could have had anything he wanted if I would have known. I would have married him or anything. I know all about it now. But then he wanted to go to war and I didn't know."
I did not say anything.
"I didn't know about anything then. I thought it would be worse for him. I thought perhaps he couldn't stand it and then of course he was killed and that was the end of it."
"I don't know."
"Oh, yes," she said. "That's the end of it."
We looked at Rinaldi talking with the other nurse.
"What is her name?"
"Ferguson. Helen Ferguson. Your friend is a doctor, isn't he?"
"Yes. He's very good."
"That's splendid. You rarely find any one any good this close to the front. This is close to the front, isn't it?"
"It's a silly front," she said. "But it's very beautiful. Are they going to have an offensive?"
"Then we'll have to work. There's no work now."
"Have you done nursing long?"
"Since the end of 'fifteen. I started when he did. I remember having a silly idea he might come to the hospital where I was. With a sabre cut, I suppose, and a bandage around his head. Or shot through the shoulder. Something picturesque."
"This is the picturesque front," I said.
"Yes," she said. "people can't realize what France is like. If they did, it couldn't all go on. He didn't have a sabre cut. They blew him all to bits."
I didn't say anything.
"Do you suppose it will always go on?"
"What's to stop it?"
"It will crack somewhere."
"We'll crack. We'll crack in France. They can't go on doing things like the Somme and not crack."
"They won't crack here," I said.
"You think not?"
"No. They did very well last summer."
"They may crack," she said. "Anybody may crack."
"The Germans too."
"No," she said. "I think not."
We went over toward Rinaldi and Miss Ferguson.
"You love Italy?" Rinaldi asked Miss Ferguson in English.
"No understand," Rinaldi shook his head.
"Abbastanza bene," I translated.
He shook his head.
"That is not good. You love England?"
"Not too well. I'm Scotch, you see."
Rinaldi looked at me blankly.
"She's Scotch, so she loves Scotland better than England," I said in Italian.
"But Scotland is England."
I translated this for Miss Ferguson.
"pas encore," said Miss Ferguson.
"Never. We do not like the English."
"Not like the English? Not like Miss Barkley?"
"Oh, that's different. You mustn't take everything so literally."
After a while we said good-night and left. Walking home Rinaldi said, "Miss Barkley prefers you to me. That is very clear. But the little Scotch one is very nice."
"Very," I said. I had not noticed her. "You like her?""No," said Rinaldi.