It was lined with books arranged in shelves of dark brown oak running round the four walls, but sunk level with them and reaching up to a broad band of perfectly plain white plasterwork. It was a cheerful, comfortable, eminently modern room, half library, half office. The oak was solid, but uncompromisingly new.

When this pile had burned for seven or ten days, the coral had been reduced to excellent lime, and the plasterwork made therefrom shone like marble. On one of these trips the Natives performed an extraordinary feat. The boat with full load was struck heavily by a wave, and the reef drove a hole in her side.

The rust-hued lichens gnawed away at the rough plasterwork like fiery leprosy. Then the thyme-plants thrust their roots between the bricks like so many iron wedges. The lavenders insinuated hooked fingers into the loosened stonework, and by slow persistent efforts tore the blocks asunder.

It was, in its way, a very charming room, with its high panelled wainscoting of olive-stained oak, its cream-coloured frieze and ceiling of raised plasterwork, and its brickdust felt carpet strewn with silk, long-fringed Persian rugs.

The dust taken from it, once more kneaded into mortar, is reapplied outside, more or less everywhere, and forms a rubble under which the original beauties end by disappearing. The neatly-pitted masterpiece is swamped by a layer of brown plasterwork; not always entirely, however, even when the structure reaches its final dimensions.