Chapter II

The shelter that Amos Swan had built stood on a small bare knoll, at an elevation of fifty or sixty feet above the sea. Behind it and sheltering it from easterly and southerly winds rose the island in sharp and rugged ridges to a high hilltop perhaps a mile away. Between lay ascending stretches of dark fir woods, rough outcroppings of stone and patches of hardy grass and bushes. The crown of the hill was a bare granite ledge, as round and nearly as smooth as an inverted bowl.

Jeremy, scrambling through the last bit of clinging undergrowth in the late afternoon, came up against the steep side of this rocky summit and paused for breath. He had left Jock with the sheep, which comfortably chewed the cud in their pen, and, slipping a sort pistol, heavy and brass-mounted, into his belt, had started to explore a bit.

He must have worked halfway round the granite hillock before he found a place that offered foothold for a climb. A crevice in the side of the rock in which small stones had become wedged gave him the chance he wanted, and it took him only a minute to reach the rounded surface near the top. The ledge on which he found himself was reasonably flat, nearly circular, and perhaps twenty yards across.

Its height above the sea must have been several hundred feet, for in the clear light Jeremy could see not only the whole outline of the island but most of the bay as well, and far to the west the blue masses of the Camden Mountains. He was surprised at the size of the new domain spread out at his feet. The island seemed to be about seven miles in length by five at its widest part. Two deep bays cut into its otherwise rounded outline. It was near the shore of the northern one that the hut and sheep-pen were built. Southwesterly from the hill and farther away, Jeremy could see the head of the second and larger inlet. Between the bays the distance could hardly have been more than two miles, but a high ridge, the backbone of the island, which ran westward from the hilltop, divided them by its rugged barrier.

Jeremy looked away up the bay where he could still see the speck of white sail that showed his father hurrying landward on a long tack with the west wind abeam. The boy's loneliness was gone. He felt himself the lord of a great maritime province, which, from his high watchtower, he seemed to hold in undisputed sovereignty.

Beneath him and off to the southward lay a little island or two, and then the cold blue of the Atlantic stretching away and away to the world's rim.

Even as he glowed with this feeling of dominion, he suddenly became aware of a gray spot to the southwest, a tiny spot that nevertheless interrupted his musing. It was a ship, apparently of good size, bound up the coast, and bowling smartly nearer before the breeze. The boy's dream of empire was shattered. He was no longer alone in his universe.

The sun was setting, and he turned with a yawn to descend. Ships were interesting, but just now he was hungry. At the edge of the crevice he looked back once more, and was surprised to see a second sail behind the first--a smaller vessel, it seemed, but shortening the distance between them rapidly. He was surprised and somewhat disgusted that so much traffic should pass the doors of this kingdom which he had thought to be at the world's end. So he clambered down the cliff and made his way homeward, this time following the summit of the ridge till he came opposite the northern inlet.