Chapter XV. The Other Castaways
 

"Well, we're all alive, at any rate," announced Tom, when the bright sun, shining into his eyes, had awakened him. He sat up, tossed aside his blankets, and stood up. The day was a fine one, and the violence of the sea had greatly subsided during the night, their shack had suffered not at all from the slight shock in the darkness.

"Now for a dip in old Briney," the lad added, as he walked down to the surf, "I think it will make me feel better."

"I'm with you," added Mr. Fenwick, and Mr. Damon also joined the bathers. They came up from the waves, tingling with health, and their bruises and bumps, including Tom's cut leg, felt much better.

"You did get quite a gash; didn't you," observed Mr. Fenwick, as he noticed Tom's leg. "Better put something on it. I have antiseptic dressings and bandages in the airship, if we can find them."

"I'll look for them, after breakfast," Tom promised, and following a fairly substantial meal, considering the exigencies under which it was prepared, he got out the medicine chest, of which part remained in the wreck of the Whizzer, and dressed his wound. He felt much better after that.

"Well, what's our program for to-day?" Mr. Damon wanted to know, as they sat about, after they had washed up what few dishes they used.

"Let's make a better house to stay in," proposed Mr. Fenwick. "We may have to remain here for some time, and I'd like a more substantial residence."

"I think the one we now have will do," suggested Tom. "I was going to propose making it even less substantial."

"Why so?"

"Because, in the event of an earthquake, while we are sleeping in it, we will not be injured. Made of light pieces of wood and canvas it can't harm us very much if it falls on us."

"That's right," agreed Mr. Damon. "In earthquake countries all the houses are low, and built of light materials."

"Ha! So I recollect now," spoke Mr. Fenwick. "I used to read that in my geography, but I never thought it would apply to me. But do you think we will be subject to the quakes?"

"I'm afraid so," was Tom's reply. "We've had two, now, within a short time, and there is no way of telling when the next will come. We will hope there won't be any more, but--"

He did not finish his sentence, but the others knew what he meant. Thereupon they fell to work, and soon had made a shelter that, while very light and frail, would afford them all the protection needed in that mild climate, and, at the same time, there would be no danger should an earthquake collapse it, and bring it down about their heads while they were sleeping in it.

For they decided that they needed some shelter from the night dews, as it was exceedingly uncomfortable to rest on the sands even wrapped in blankets, and with a driftwood fire burning nearby.

It was noon when they had their shack rebuilt to their liking, and they stopped for dinner. There was quite a variety of stores in the airship, enough for a much larger party than that of our three friends, and they varied their meals as much as possible. Of course all the stuff they had was canned, though there are some salted and smoked meats. But canned food can be had in a variety of forms now- a-days, so the castaways did not lack much.

"What do you say to an exploring expedition this afternoon?" asked Tom, as they sat about after dinner. "We ought to find out what kind of an island we're on."

"I agree with you," came from Mr. Fenwick. "Perhaps on the other side we will stand a much better chance of speaking some passing vessel. I have been watching the horizon for some time, now, but I haven't seen the sign of a ship."

"All right, then we'll explore, and see what sort of an island we have taken possession of," went on Tom.

"And see if it isn't already in possession of natives--or cannibals," suggested Mr. Damon. "Bless my frying pan! but I should hate to be captured by cannibals at my time of life."

"Don't worry; there are none here," Tom assured him again.

They set out on their journey around the island. They agreed that it would be best to follow the beach around, as it was easier walking that way, since the interior of the place consisted of rugged rocks in a sort of miniature mountain chain.

"We will make a circuit of the place," proposed Tom, "and then, if we can discover nothing, we'll go inland. The centre of the island is quite high, and we ought to be able to see in any direction for a great distance from the topmost peak. We may be able to signal a vessel."

"I hope so!" cried Mr. Damon. "I want to send word home that I am all right. My wife will worry when she learns that the airship, in which I set out, has disappeared."

"I fancy we all would like to send word home," added Mr. Fenwick. "My wife never wanted me to build this airship, and, now that I have sailed in it, and have been wrecked, I know she'll say 'I told you so,' as soon as I get back to Philadelphia."

Tom said nothing, but he thought to himself that it might be some time before Mrs. Fenwick would have a chance to utter those significant words to her husband.

Following the beach line, they walked for several miles. The island was larger than they had supposed, and it soon became evident that it would take at least a day to get all around it.

"In which case we will need some lunch with us." said Tom. "I think the best thing we can do now is to return to camp, and get ready for a longer expedition to-morrow."

Mr. Fenwick was of the same mind, but Mr. Damon called out:

"Let's go just beyond that cliff, and see what sort of a view is to be had from there. Then we'll turn back."

To oblige him they followed. They had not gone more than a hundred yards toward the cliff, than there came the preliminary rumbling and roaring that they had come to associate with an earthquake. At the same time, the ground began to shiver and shake.

"Here comes another one!" cried Tom, reeling about. He saw Mr. Damon and Mr. Fenwick topple to the beach. The roaring increased, and the rumbling was like thunder, close at hand. The island seemed to rock to its very centre.

Suddenly the whole cliff toward which they had been walking, appeared to shake itself loose. In another instant it was flung outward and into the sea, a great mass of rock and stone.

The island ceased trembling, and the roaring stopped. Tom rose to his feet, followed by his companions. He looked toward the place where the cliff had been. Its removal by the earthquake gave them a view of a part of the beach that had hitherto been hidden from them.

And what Tom saw caused him to cry out in astonishment. For he beheld, gathered around a little fire on the sand, a party of men and women. Some were standing, clinging to one another in terror. Some were prostrate on the ground. Others were running to and fro in bewilderment.

"More castaways!" cried Tom. "More castaways," and, he added under his breath, "more unfortunates on earthquake island!"