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“We ought to be nearing this island,” remarked Armstrong, looking up from his map. “I say, Pratt, you’ve been here before: can’t you remember something about it?”
Pratt thrummed his strings, smiled sweetly, and sang, in the head notes of a light tenor–
“The roses have made me remember
All that I tried to forget;
The past with its pain comes back again,
Filling my heart with—-
Sorry, old man, I’ve pitched it a bit too high. Lend me your ears while I modulate from G to E flat.”
“Keep your Percy’s Reliques for serenading the moon. You were here as a kid; aren’t we nearly there?”
“‘The past with its pain’–fact! It was pain. My old uncle could beat any beak at licking. He made a very pretty criss-cross pattern on me that day–all for pinching a peach! Frightful temper he had. My people said it was due to sunstroke on his travels. Jolly lot of good being a famous traveller, if it makes you a beast. He was more ratty every time he came home. I don’t wonder my pater had a royal row with him, and hasn’t been near the place since. Rough luck, to have to desert your ancestral dust-heap.
“I try, try to forget you,
But I only love you more.”
“Isn’t that the island? Away there to starboard?” Warrender interposed. “But I thought you said we might camp there, my Percy?”
“True, sober Philip. We picnicked there in the days of yore.”
“Well, we’d have to do a week’s clearing before we camped there now. Look at it!”
Pratt swung lazily round on his elbow, and gazed over the starboard quarter towards the left bank. The river was parted by what was evidently an island. The channel between it and the left bank was very narrow, and almost impassable by reason of the low, overhanging branches, which formed a tunnel of foliage. Warrender steered across the broader channel towards the right bank, all three scanning the island intently as they coasted along.
“Shows how old Tempus fugit,” said Pratt. “In the dim and distant ages when I was a kid that island was a lawn; now it’s a wilderness. Think what your beardless cheeks will be like in ten years’ time, Armstrong. See what Nature will do unless you use the razor. The place seems quite changed somehow. But I’d never have believed trees could grow so fast. As we’re not dicky birds, we certainly can’t pitch our camp there. Drive on, old shover.”
The island was, indeed, to all appearances, more densely wooded than the river banks. By the map scale it was about a third of a mile long, and at its widest part fully half as broad. Nowhere along its whole extent did they see a spot suitable for camping.
They ran past the island. The stream narrowed; the wooded character of the mainland banks was unchanged.
“We might as well be on the Congo,” growled Armstrong. “Are you sure your uncle didn’t bring back a bit of Africa in his carpet bag, Pratt, and plank it down here?”
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