It cost us an hour and a half to reach the maire's first châlet, where we were to lunch on such food as the old woman who managed it might have on hand; that is to say, possibly bread, and, beyond that, milk only, in some shape or other. The forms under which milk can be taught to appear are manifold.
A long white garden wall overhung by some thick chestnuts, a door with a letter-box, and an iron bell- pull, that was all that could be seen of the Maire's domicile. Leon took the bell-pull in both hands, and danced furiously upon the side-walk. The bell itself was just upon the other side of the wall, it responded to his activity, and scattered an alarming clangour far and wide into the night.
In the Maire's house, which I had fixed upon to be her home, the telephone was set up in an alcove adjoining a very stately salon Louis Quinze; and though I knew that these little dry batteries would not be run down in twenty odd years, yet, fearing any weakness, I broke open the box, and substituted a new one from the Company's stores two streets away, at the same time noting the exchange-number of the instrument.
As soon as she had left the room, Leigh dropped the ten louis into the adjoint's hand. "I thank you with all my heart," he said. "You have done a good action, and I can assure you that it can do no harm to the Republic, against whom I have no intention of conspiring. There is no fear, I suppose, that the maire's signature may be questioned?"
The mayoress came in with the dessert, and sat on the end of the bench, below the hats and the bread-tin, eating the remaining onions off the dish with the spoon of nature. During one of the maire's frequent visits to the cellar, I propounded a question to the schoolmaster which had puzzled me for some time: Was I to pay the maire?
The author of the "Histoire des Navigationes aux Terres Australes," in his account of La Maire's voyage, has given a vocabulary of the language that is spoken in an island near New Britain, and we find, by comparing that vocabulary with the words which we learnt in New Holland, that the languages are not the same.
Eh ben! And would you believe it?" At the approaching statement Monsieur le Maire's countenance assumed a look of righteous indignation. He raised his fist and brought it down savagely on the table as he declared: "Would you believe it? We were thirty-four hours without eating and twenty-nine hours, mon Dieu! without drinking!" I looked up in pained astonishment.
And she gave him some rather vague information on that point. "Stay you here, Elvira," said Léon, "lest I should miss him by the way. If, when I return, I find you here no longer, I shall follow at once to the Black Head." And he set out to find the Maire's. It took him some ten minutes' wandering among blind lanes, and when he arrived it was already half an hour past midnight.
In the year 1623, the Dutch found a shorter passage into the Pacific, by the Straits of Nassau, north-west of La Maire's Strait; and another still shorter, by Brewer's Straits, in the year 1643.
A long white garden wall overhung by some thick chestnuts, a door with a letter-box, and an iron bell-pull that was all that could be seen of the Maire's domicile. Léon took the bell-pull in both hands, and danced furiously upon the side-walk. The bell itself was just upon the other side of the wall; it responded to his activity, and scattered an alarming clangour far and wide into the night.