« Prev Chapter IV Next »

CHAPTER IV

FOR three days after the monkey had been ‘hanged’ it did not come near the shepherd or his house. A monkey has feelings. To be nearly hanged is bad enough, but to have a boa-constrictor and a pump-handle tied to your neck is more than any self-respecting animal would stand. So Tricky devoted himself exclusively to the sheep. For the space of three days, with the invaluable aid of the pump-handle, Tricky shepherded that flock. Not a blade of grass was nibbled during this period; one prolonged stampede was kept up night and day. The lambs dropped with hunger. The old sheep tottered with fatigue. The whole flock was demoralised. In fact, when the ‘Reign of Terror’ closed there was not a pound of sound mutton left on the island.

Why did not the shepherd interfere? Because, as we shall see, for these three days he had more urgent work to do. When the shepherd’s wife went out to the pump that morning for water to make the porridge with, she found it a heap of ruins. She came back and broke the tidings to the shepherd, and said she believed it had been struck with lightning. The shepherd discreetly said nothing, but presently stole sullenly out to inspect the damage once more. It was worse than he thought. A pump must hold in both air and water; this pump was rent and split in a dozen places. There was no water either to drink or make the porridge with till the tube was mended. So all that day the shepherd was splicing, and hammering, and glueing, and bandaging. All the next day he was doing the same. He got nothing to eat or drink; nobody got anything to eat or drink. The poor children were kept alive on a single bowlful, which happened to be in the house, but this was now finished, and they were crying out from want. Positively, if this drought and famine had been kept up for a few days more the island would certainly have been restored to the condition described on the chart— ‘uninhabited.’

On the morning of the fourth day the pump stood erect, and wind and water-tight once more. Only one thing was wanting—there was no handle. The only thing left was to try to catch Tricky, for there was nothing else on the island which would make a handle. But just then Tricky required no catching. At that moment he was sitting on the doorstep contemplating the group round the pump. Everybody being out, he had seized the opportunity to have a good breakfast—consisting of every particle of meal in the barrel—and was now enjoying a period of repose before recommencing hostilities. The shepherd made a rush at him, but, alas! what he wanted was no longer there. A piece of frayed rope dangled on its neck, but the pump-handle was gone.

It took two days more to find it. Every inch of the island was patiently examined. Even the child next the baby had to join in the search. Night and day they were all at it; and at last it was found by the shepherd’s wife—stuck in a rabbit-hole. All this time no one had leisure to kill Tricky. But on the seventh day the shepherd rose with murder written on his brow. The monkey would not shoot, and he would not hang; it remained to try what drowning would do. So he tied a large stone round the monkey’s neck, and led him forth to the edge of the great sea-cliff.

A hundred feet below, the sea lay like a mirror; and the shepherd, as he looked over for a deep place, saw the great fronds of the sea-weeds and the jelly-fish and the anemones lying motionless in the crystal waters. Then he took the monkey and the stone in his great hands, examined the knots hastily, and, with one sudden swing, heaved them over the cliff.

picture

He Took the Monkey and Stone and Heaved Them Over the Cliff

The shepherd would much rather at this point have retired from the scene. But he dared not. He could not trust that monkey. An actual certificate of death was due to himself and to his family. So he peered over the cliff and saw the splash in the sea, and watched the ripples clearing off till the sea-bottom stood out again with every shell distinct. And there, sure enough, was Tricky, down among the star-fish, safely moored to his gravestone, and the yard of good rope holding like a chain-cable. The shepherd rose for the first time since that monkey set foot upon the island and breathed freely. Then he slowly went back to the house and told the tale of the end of Tricky.

It was not till midnight that Tricky came back. Of course you knew Tricky would come back. You knew the rope would slip over the stone, or break, or be eaten through by a great fish, or something, and, though none of these things happened, it is certainly true that that night at midnight Tricky did turn up. Perhaps I should say turn down, for he came in, as usual, by the chimney. But the exact way in which this singular creature escaped from its watery grave must be reserved for another chapter.

picture

With the Stone in His Arms He Walked Calmly Towards the Shore

« Prev Chapter IV Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |