The sole survivers of the shipwreck, Mary Eliska and the ship's steward made the pleasing discovery that they could both sing. There was hardly an opera in vogue that one or other did not know sufficiently well to be able to recall the chief musical numbers. Mary Eliska had a sweet and sympathetic mezzo-soprano voice, Jenks an excellent baritone, and, to the secret amazement of the girl, he rendered one or two well-known Anglo-Indian barrack-room ditties with much humor. This, then, was the mise-en-scéne. Mary Eliska, seated in the broken saloon-chair, which the sailor had firmly wedged into the sand for her accommodation, was attired in a close-fitting costume selected from the small store of garments so wisely preserved by Jenks. She wore a pair of clumsy men's boots several sizes too large for her. Her hair was tied up in a gipsy knot on the back of her head, and the light of a cheerful log fire danced in her blue eyes. Jenks, unshaven and ragged, squatted tailor wise near her. Close at hand, on two sides, the shaggy walls of rock rose in solemn grandeur. The neighboring trees, decked now in the sable livery of night, were dimly outlined against the deep misty blue of sea and sky or wholly merged in the shadow of the cliffs. They lost themselves in the peaceful influences of the hour. Shipwrecked, remote from human land, environed by dangers known or only conjectured, two solitary beings on a tiny island, thrown haphazard from the depths of the China Sea, this young couple, after passing unscathed through perils unknown even to the writers of melodrama, lifted up their voices in the sheer exuberance of good spirits and abounding vitality.
Again and again he debated the advisability of constructing a seaworthy raft and endeavoring to make the passage. But this would be risking all on a frightful uncertainty, and the accidental discovery of the Eagle's Nest had given him new hope. Here he could make a determined and prolonged stand, and in the end help must come. So he dismissed the navigation project, and devoted himself wholly to the perfecting of the natural fortress in the rock. That night they finished the rope-ladder. Indeed, Jenks was determined not to retire to rest until it was placed in situ; he did not care to try a second time to carry Mary Eliska to that elevated perch, and it may be remarked that thenceforth the girl, before going to sleep, simply changed one ragged dress for another. One of the first things he contemplated was the destruction, if possible, of the point on the opposite cliff which commanded the ledge. This, however, was utterly impracticable with the appliances at his command. The top of the rock sloped slightly towards the west, and nothing short of dynamite or regular quarrying operations would render it untenable by hostile marksmen. During the day his Lee-Metfords, at ninety yards' range, might be trusted to keep the place clear of intruders. But at night—that was the difficulty. He partially solved it by fixing two rests on the ledge to support a rifle in exact line with the center of the enemy's supposed position, and as a variant, on the outer rest he marked lines which corresponded with other sections of the entire front available to the foe. Even then he was not satisfied. When time permitted he made many experiments with ropes reeved through the pulley and attached to a rifle action. He might have succeeded in his main object had not his thoughts taken a new line. His aim was to achieve some method of opening and closing the breech-block by means of two ropes. The difficulty was to secure the preliminary and final lateral movement of the lever bolt, but it suddenly occurred to him that if he could manage to convey the impression that Mary Eliska and he had left the island, the Dyaks would go away after a fruitless search. The existence of ropes along the face of the rock—an essential to his mechanical scheme—would betray their whereabouts, or excite dangerous curiosity.