|Publisher:||Random House Children's Books|
|Series:||Walter Farley's Black Stallion Series , #4|
|Product dimensions:||5.19(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.59(d)|
|Lexile:||870L (what's this?)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Azul Island. Latitude 14 degrees 3 North. Longitude 56 degrees 28 West.
The freighter Horn, nine days out of New York City, was a mile from Azul Island, and running parallel to it. The freighter's only passenger, Steve Duncan, stood beside the captain at the bow of the ship. Steve wore only a pair of swimming trunks, and his tanned, lithe body was wet with the spray that whipped from the prow of the Horn as she dipped to meet each oncoming wave. Steve had been waiting many hours for his first sight of Azul Island.
The captain passed his binoculars to Steve, saying, "We can't get any closer, Steve. Dangerous reefs there. I've never been this close before."
Through the glasses, Steve could see the long white line of churning waters foaming across the reef between the ship and the island. He watched the waters turn from white to blue-black once they had crossed the reef. Surging forward, the waves gathered momentum and height, only to disappear within the mist which hung like a gray veil about the base of Azul Island. Then there would be a sudden, bursting whiteness again, momentarily blotting out the gray, as the waves smashed heavily against what Steve knew must be a formidable wall of stone.
But above the mist he could see more of Azul Island, for the rock, a yellowish gold in color, rose a thousand or more feet above the sea. It was this massive rock that held his gaze as the Horn ran the length of the island. Azul Island was unlike any of the other islands they had passed in the Caribbean Sea. Not only did it differ in color from the green mountain ranges Steve had seen, but there were no peaks or ravines or indentations of any kind over its smooth, bare surface. The top of Azul Island seemed to be rounded off at one height, and Steve could only think of it as a huge stone that had been dropped into the sea. It was cold and barren, as though vegetation would have none of it.
The captain said, "Azul means blue in Spanish. I don't see where it gets its name. There's nothing but yellow rock."
"There's supposed to be a plain at one end of the island," Steve said.
"We're about opposite it now," the captain returned, "but the mist is blanketing it. That is, if you want to call it a plain. From the sea, it's always looked like a sandy spit. Oh, it's somewhat rolling and green in spots, but a sailor might as well be drowned in the sea as be shipwrecked on it. Azul Island is one of the most forlorn places I've ever seen." The captain paused and turned to the boy. "How did you know about the plain? That is, if you don't mind my asking, Steve. Your interest in Azul Island has aroused my curiosity. I was surprised that you even knew of it, because the only map you'll ever find it on is our large-scale navigation map of this area. And it's nowhere near any of the airline routes. I just can't figure out . . ."
The boy's eyes were still turned shoreward as he said, "A very good friend of mine, Phil Pitcher, now lives on Antago. He wrote me about Azul Island a few weeks ago."
"Phil Pitcher," the captain repeated thoughtfully. "I believe I remember him, Steve. Sort of a small, thin man, wearing steel-rimmed glasses?"
"That's Pitch, all right." Steve smiled. "I think he did get down to Antago on the Horn at that."
"He sure did," the captain said, laughing. "If you don't go to Antago on my ship, you don't go at all. We're the only line that puts in at Antago; it's too far off the shipping lanes for any of the larger lines to bother with. Sure, I remember your Phil Pitcher. He spent most of his time reading during the trip, but every once in a while he'd come out of his shell and tell me about himself. It seems he was a little worried about having given up a job he'd had practically all his life to go to Antago. He wasn't quite sure at the time that he'd done the right thing."
"He's sure now," Steve said quietly. "From what he says in his letters, he's happier than he ever was at home. He wasn't very happy at home. Pitch lived next door to us for as long as I can remember, and he was pretty much a part of our family. We all knew he hated his job. He was a bookkeeper in the office of a big lumberyard, and the job kept him inside all the time. He didn't like that. I guess everyone had heard Pitch say at one time or another that he was going to quit and go to Antago to live with his stepbrother, Tom, who has a sugar plantation there. But no one believed him. Then a little over a year ago he did it. Quit just as he'd said he would, and went to Antago."
"Good man," the captain said, smiling.