Authors: Gerald Bullet
The Happy Mariners
The adventure really began on Saturday afternoon, but the story must begin with the day before, when, at about half-past three, the four young Robinsons stood at the pond's edge admiring their island, while the cat called Fandy sat a few yards away languidly washing his face. The pond, a round one, was about twelve feet in diameter; and the island in the middle of it was only just about big enough for one boy to stand on. This pleasant brickfield, of which the pond and the island were the most exciting features, adjoined the Robinsons' back-garden and was reached by means of a little door in the fence. There was
scaffolding too in the field, and a huge stack of new bricks. The Robinsons' house, one of a long row, was visible from where they now stood; and in the opposite direction, a mile or two away, rose the glittering dome of the Crystal Palace. But they had better things to do than look at that: for the moment it was this island that occupied their thoughts.
âIt's a jolly good island,' said Guy. âIf it were a little bigger we might build a raft and sail out to it.'
âThere's treasure hidden on that island, and I shouldn't wonder.' It was Rex, the eldest, who made this remark. He had just been reading
and was making very free with some of Long John Silver's expressions.
âLet's make a map of the island,' cried Elizabeth, âand mark the place where the treasure is, and put false clues all over it to deceive the enemy. Shall we?'
do it,' Martin pleaded, âwith my paints.'
Only Fandy the cat had nothing to say. He went on washing his face without a word.
There were, you will have observed, four children; and they were arranged like this:
Guy and Elizabeth, 10Â½ (each)
They were dark-haired, all four of them, but Rex was the darkest and slimmest of the boys. Being twelve, he knew quite a lot, and Elizabeth sometimes called
him âbossy', but it was more teasing on his part than anything else. Guy, the second brother, was rather plump and impulsive; and he was very fond of his twin-sister Elizabeth. The chief thing to remember about Elizabeth, who was a quiet thoughtful one, very cool and very dark, is that she would never answer if you called her Lizzie or Betty or Lisbeth, or anything but her own beautiful name. As for Martin, he was only just seven, and you know what that means. It means that whenever they all went adventuring in the fields young Martin had to be taken special care of. Martin's particular friend was the yellow cat, Fandy, who would purr louder for him than for anybody else. They were a very happy and united family; the children didn't quarrel much, and the parents, so far as I know, didn't quarrel at all. Mr Robinson thought Mrs Robinson quite nice, as indeed she was; and Mrs Robinson never wearied of telling the children what a good and clever father they had chosen.
âThat's a good idea of yours, Elizabeth, about a map,' said Rex. âI vote we go and do it now, before tea-time.'
Less than five minutes later they were all gathered round their own particular table, which stood in the play-room. Martin, having made several attractive messes with his paints on a piece of paper, had at last consented to let Elizabeth do the painting for him. Rex drew the map, with Guy's help, and Elizabeth stood ready, brush in hand, to paint in the false clues.
âThere must be a creek,' said Guy.
âThere'll be lots of creeks, I expect,' answered Rex. âYou'll see.'
âYes, but there must be a special creek called Gunpowder Creek.'
âWell, I think there would be on an island like this, don't you?'
âOh, all right,' said Rex. âAnd the treasure is in a black oak chest, of course, and it's buried just
.' The island had by now assumed roughly the shape of a crouching leopard, and Rex's forefinger pointed at a spot not far from where the beast's left ear would have been. âIt's here, buried four fathoms deep.'
âWhat's four fathoms mean?' asked Martin.
âIt means where the treasure is buried,' answered Rex.
âBut how deep is it?' asked Elizabeth.
âAs a matter of fact,' said Rex, âI don't quite know, not exactly. But we shall know when we come to dig for the treasure, shan't we?'
âPut some trees in,' suggested Guy. âAnd a log-cabin or something. There'll be a forest there, sure to be, with heaps of wild animals in it. We shall have to sleep in a ring of fire the first night; p'r'aps longer. Depends how long we take to build the log-cabin.'
On occasion Martin could beat them all at the pretence game, but this time he was deceived into asking innocently: âWhen are we going to build it? And where shall we get the planks and things from?'
Elizabeth pointed to a group of trees that Rex was busy sketching into the map. âWe shall cut down some of those trees, don't you see? But of course we've got to get to the island first.'
âShall we swim there, or paddle?'
âWe shall go,' said Elizabeth, âin a huge and lovely ship with brown sails. It will take days and days to get there, and â¦'
âWill Fandy come with us?'
âHe'd rather stay at home, I expect.' Martin's face fell. âBut
shall come, Martin, if you're good.'
âThere! That's a start anyhow!' exclaimed Rex in a highly satisfied tone. âNow you can do your bit, Elizabeth, if you like.'
So Elizabeth put in the green footprints, a long trail of them leading right past the treasure, and then stood back to examine the total effect.
âOf course it's not finished yet,' Rex hastily reminded her. âI've got to put rivers and things in.'
âStill it's nice, isn't it?' said Elizabeth. âGunpowder Creek's specially nice.'
âThat's only because precious Guy thought of it,' sneered Rex.
âPrecious yourself!' retorted Guy, giving his brother a punch.
âNow, young Guy â¦!'
âAnd that big bay at the back of the leopard's neck,' went on Elizabeth, paying no attention to the
quarrel, âthat's Cannibal Bay. There's sure to be cannibals on the island.'
âOr if not, there soon will be,' amended Guy. âThey'll come in long canoes and land thereâ¦'
âRight across the middle of him,' announced Rex, âwe'll have a range of mountains.' He became busy with his pen again.
âWill there be any pirates, do you think?' asked Martin anxiously.
âCertainly there will,' said Guy.
Rex agreed that pirates was a good idea. That was the pleasant thing about Rex; even though he
the eldest he was never above taking suggestions from the others, and they all found it impossible to be cross with him for many minutes together. âWe'll put the pirates the other side of the mountains.' And he did so, as you will see if you look at the map. âWe don't want 'em too near. They might be troublesome.'
âBut I want to
the pirates,' complained Martin.
âWell, see them, my lamb,' said Rex loftily. âThere they are!'
âBut I want to see them when we're on the island,' Martin explained.
Guy said he did too. âAnd if it's a big islandâ¦'
âTwenty miles long at least,' put in Rex.
ââ¦ if it's a big island, and we have the log-cabin here, on the leopard's nose, the pirates'll be miles away.'
âWhen you're a bit older,' remarked Rex, âyou'll
learn that pirates aren't such pleasant fellows to have about the place.'
âOh stow that!' Guy meant the when-you're-a-bit-older part. âIt's all cribbed from father, anyhow'.
Rex looked a little sheepish, but he answered boldly enough: âWhat if it is!'
want a pirate,' Martin said. âCan't I have just one, Rex, near where the thingummy is?'
Rex grinned. âAll right!' he agreed generously. âHere, I'll put him on this bit of land to the east of Gunpowder Creek. A nice big pirate he is, and all for you, Martin. See, there's blood on his cutlass. He's the captain of them all.'
Martin's eyes shone. âHow lovely! Does he wallop the others when they're bad?'
âNo, when they're good,' laughed Guy. âPirates have to be bad. That's what they're there for. It's only when they're good that they have to be walloped. Isn't it, Elizabeth?'
âHe must have got lost, that pirate captain,' said Martin. âI say, he'll have a job getting across those mountains, won't he?'
At this moment Nancy the maid came to say that tea was ready.
waiting,' said she. âAnd your Pa's come home early from business. So you must all try to behave nicely for once.'
They were still having tea when the strange sailor came, and all four crowded to the window to look at him. He was a squat tough-looking fellow about the body, but his hands were of the lean and sinewy sort, and his face was the colour of new kid gloves. Gleaming black hair clustered in ringlets about his ears.
âWhat queer clothes!' said Elizabeth. âAnd look at his ear-rings!'
He was standing at the back door, and Nancy the housemaid was asking him what he wanted. The children couldn't hear what was being said, but they could guess. The sailor was smiling at Nancy in a coaxing fashion; and Nancy, whose eyes were bright with suspicion, had that air of stand-no-nonsense which they all knew so wellâespecially Martin, who had it with his supper nearly every night.
Mrs Robinson called them back to the tea-table. âIt's not very polite to stare,' she said. âAnd you haven't finished your teas, have you?'
âComing, mummy,' said Rex. âComing, mummy,' echoed Guy and Elizabeth. And even Martin, his
nose flattened against the window-pane, absently murmured âComing.'
But they lingered long enough to see Nancy shut the door upon the sailor, and would perhaps not have come away from the window even then had not Nancy herself at that moment entered the room. Everybody looked at her questioningly. Even Mrs Robinson seemed to be a little excited; there was a pretty flush in her cheeks and her eyes were big.
âWho is it, Nancy?'
âIt's a strange man, m'm. I don't like the looks of him.'
do,' said Elizabeth. âWe like him very much. Don't we, Guy?'
âBet your life,' said Guy.
Mr Robinson interrupted. âBe quiet, every one! What does the fellow want, Nancy?'
But Nancy was gazing curiously at Elizabeth. âNow it's funny that you should say that, Miss Elizabeth. Very funny indeed, that is.' They all hung on her words, so mysterious was her manner. âBecause, you see,' she went on, âit's Miss Elizabeth herself that he's asking to see.'
âMe!' exclaimed Elizabeth.
âElizabeth!' exclaimed Rex and Guy.