Pasque Florida by Robert W. Chambers
THE steady flicker of lightning in the southwest continued; the wind
freshened, blowing in cooler streaks across acres of rattling rushes and
dead marsh-grass. A dull light grew through the scudding clouds, then
faded as the mid-day sun went out in the smother, leaving an ominous red
Gun in hand, Haltren stood up among the reeds and inspected the
landscape. Already the fish-crows and egrets were flying inland, the
pelicans had left the sandbar, the eagles were gone from beach and dune.
High in the thickening sky wild ducks passed over Flyover Point and
dropped into the sheltered marshes among the cypress.
As Haltren stood undecided, watching the ruddy play of lightning, which
came no nearer than the horizon, a squall struck the lagoon. Then, amid
the immense solitude of marsh and water, a deep sound grew—the roar of
the wind in the wilderness. The solemn pæon swelled and died away as
thunder dies, leaving the air tremulous.
“I’d better get out of this,” said Haltren to himself. He felt for the
breech of his gun, unloaded both barrels, and slowly pocketed the
Eastward, between the vast salt river and the ocean, the dunes were
smoking like wind-lashed breakers; a heron, laboring heavily, flapped
inland, broad pinions buffeting the gale.
“Something’s due to happen,” said Haltren, reflectively, closing the
breech of his gun. He had hauled his boat up an alligator-slide; now he
shoved it off the same way, and pulling up his hip-boots, waded out,
laid his gun in the stern, threw cartridge-sack and a dozen dead ducks
after it, and embarked among the raft of wind-tossed wooden decoys.
There were twoscore decoys bobbing and tugging at their anchor-cords
outside the point. Before he had fished up a dozen on the blade of his
oar a heavier squall struck the lagoon, blowing the boat out into the
river. He had managed to paddle back and had secured another brace of
decoys, when a violent gale caught him broadside, almost capsizing him.
“If I don’t get those decoys now I never shall!” he muttered, doggedly
jabbing about with extended oar. But he never got them; for at that
moment a tropical hurricane, still in its infancy, began to develop, and
when, blinded with spray, he managed to jam the oars into the oar-locks,
his boat was half a mile out and still driving.
For a week the wind had piled the lagoons and lakes south of the
Matanzas full of water, and now the waves sprang up, bursting into
menacing shapes, knocking the boat about viciously. Haltren turned his
unquiet eyes towards a streak of green water ahead.
“I don’t suppose this catspaw is really trying to drive me out of
Coquina Inlet!” he said, peevishly; “I don’t suppose I’m being blown out
It was a stormy end for a day’s pleasure—yet curiously appropriate,
too, for it was the fourth anniversary of his wedding-day; and the storm
that followed had blown him out into the waste corners of the world.
Perhaps something of this idea came into his head; he laughed a
disagreeable laugh and fell to rowing.
The red lightning still darted along the southern horizon, no nearer;
the wilderness of water, of palm forests, of jungle, of dune, was bathed
in a sickly light; overhead oceans of clouds tore through a sombre sky.
After a while he understood that he was making no headway; then he saw
that the storm was shaping his course. He dug his oars into the thick,
gray waves; the wind tore the cap from his head, caught the boat and
wrestled with it.
Somehow or other he must get the boat ashore before he came abreast of
the inlet; otherwise—
He turned his head and stared at the whitecaps tumbling along the deadly
raceway; and he almost dropped his oars in astonishment to see a
gasoline-launch battling for safety just north of the storm-swept
channel. What was a launch doing in this forsaken end of the earth? And
the next instant developed the answer. Out at sea, beyond the outer bar,
a yacht, wallowing like a white whale, was staggering towards the open
He saw all this in a flash—saw the gray-green maelstrom between the
dunes, the launch struggling across the inlet, the yacht plunging
seaward. Then in the endless palm forests the roar deepened. Flash!
Bang! lightning and thunder were simultaneous.
“That’s better,” said Haltren, hanging to his oars; “there’s a fighting
The rain came, beating the waves down, seemingly, for a moment, beating
out the wind itself. In the partial silence the sharp explosions of the
gasoline-engine echoed like volleys of pistol-shots; and Haltren half
rose in his pitching boat, and shouted: “Launch ahoy! Run under the lee
shore. There’s a hurricane coming! You haven’t a second to lose!”
He heard somebody aboard the launch say, distinctly, “There’s a Florida
cracker alongside who says a hurricane is about due.” The shrill roar of
the rain drowned the voice. Haltren bent to his oars again. Then a young
man in dripping white flannels looked out of the wheel-house and hailed
him. “We’ve grounded on the meadows twice. If you know the channel you’d
better come aboard and take the wheel.”
Haltren, already north of the inlet and within the zone of safety,
rested on his oars a second and looked back, listening. Very far away he
heard the deep whisper of death.
On board the launch the young man at the wheel heard it, too; and he
hailed Haltren in a shaky voice: “I wouldn’t ask you to come back, but
there are women aboard. Can’t you help us?”
“All right,” said Haltren.
A horrible white glare broke out through the haze; the solid vertical
torrent of rain swayed, then slanted eastward.
A wave threw him alongside the launch; he scrambled over the low rail
and ran forward, deafened by the din. A woman in oilskins hung to the
companion-rail; he saw her white face as he passed. Haggard, staggering,
he entered the wheel-house, where the young man in dripping flannels
seized his arm, calling him by name. Haltren pushed him aside.
“Give me that wheel, Darrow,” he said, hoarsely. “Ring full speed ahead!
Now stand clear—”
Like an explosion the white tornado burst, burying deck and wheel-house
in foam; a bellowing fury of tumbling waters enveloped the launch.
Haltren hung to the wheel one second, two, five, ten; and at last
through the howling chaos his stunned ears caught the faint staccato
spat! puff! spat! of the exhaust. Thirty seconds more—if the engines
could stand it—if they only could stand it!
They stood it for thirty-three seconds and went to smash. A terrific
squall, partly deflected from the forest, hurled the launch into the
swamp, now all boiling in shallow foam; and there she stuck in the good,
thick mud, heeled over and all awash like a stranded razor-back after a
Twenty minutes later the sun came out; the waters of the lagoon turned
sky blue; a delicate breeze from the southeast stirred the palmetto
Presently a cardinal-bird began singing in the sunshine.
Haltren, standing in the wrecked wheel-house, raised his dazed eyes as
Darrow entered and looked around.
“So that was a white tornado! I’ve heard of them—but—good God!” He
turned a bloodless visage to Haltren, who, dripping, bareheaded and
silent, stood with eyes closed leaning heavily against the wheel.
“Are you hurt?”
Haltren shook his head. Darrow regarded him stupidly.
“How did you happen to be in this part of the world?”
Haltren opened his eyes. “Oh, I’m likely to be anywhere,” he said,
vaguely, passing a shaking hand across his face. There was a moment’s
silence; then he said:
“Darrow, is my wife aboard this boat?”
“Yes,” said Darrow, under his breath. “Isn’t that the limit?”
Through the silence the cardinal sang steadily.
“Isn’t that the limit?” repeated Darrow. “We came on the yacht—that was
Brent’s yacht, the Dione, you saw at sea. You know the people aboard.
Brent, Mrs. Castle, your wife, and I left the others and took the launch
to explore the lagoons.… And here we are. Isn’t it funny?” he added,
with a nerveless laugh.
Haltren stood there slowly passing his hand over his face.
“It is funnier than you know, Darrow,” he said. “Kathleen and I—this is
“Well, that is the limit,” muttered Darrow, as Haltren turned a
stunned face to the sunshine where the little cardinal sang with might
“Come below,” he added. “You are going to speak to her, of course?”
“If she cared to have me—”
“Speak to her anyway. Haltren; I”—he hesitated—“I never knew why you
and Kathleen separated. I only knew what everybody knows. You and she
are four years older now; and if there’s a ghost of a chance— Do you
“Then we’ll go below,” began Darrow. But Major Brent appeared at that
moment, apoplectic eyes popping from his purple face as he waddled
forward to survey the dismantled launch.
Without noticing either Haltren or Darrow, he tested the slippery angle
of the deck, almost slid off into the lagoon, clutched the rail with
both pudgy hands, and glared at the water.
“I suppose,” he said, peevishly, “that there are alligators in that
water. I know there are!”
He turned his inflamed eyes on Haltren, but made no sign of recognition.
“Major,” said Darrow, sharply, “you remember Dick Haltren—”
“Eh?” snapped the major. “Where the deuce did you come from, Haltren?”
“He was the man who hailed us. He took the wheel,” said Darrow,
“Nice mess you made of it between you,” retorted the major, scowling his
acknowledgments at Haltren.
Darrow, disgusted, turned on his heel; Haltren laughed. The sound of his
own laugh amused him, and he laughed again.
“I don’t see the humor,” said the major. “The
Dione is blown half-way
to the Bermudas by this time.” He added, with a tragic gesture of his
fat arms; “Are you aware that Mrs. Jack Onderdonk is aboard?”
The possible fate of Manhattan’s queen regent so horrified Major Brent
that his congested features assumed the expression of an alarmed
But Haltren, the unaccustomed taste of mirth in his throat once more,
stood there, dripping, dishevelled, and laughing. For four years he had
missed the life he had been bred to; he had missed even what he despised
in it, and his life at moments had become a hell of isolation. Time
dulled the edges of his loneliness; solitude, if it hurts, sometimes
cures too. But he was not yet cured of longing for that self-forbidden
city in the North. He desired it—he desired the arid wilderness of its
treeless streets, its incessant sounds, its restless energy; he desired
its pleasures, its frivolous days and nights, its satiated security, its
ennui. Its life had been his life, its people his people, and he longed
for it with a desire that racked him.
“What the devil are you laughing at, Haltren?” asked the major, tartly.
“Was I laughing?” said the young man. “Well—now I will say good-bye,
Major Brent. Your yacht will steam in before night and send a boat for
you; and I shall have my lagoons to myself again.… I have been here a
long time.… I don’t know why I laughed just now. There was, indeed, no
reason.” He turned and looked at the cabin skylights. “It’s hard to
realize that you and Darrow and—others—are here, and that there’s a
whole yacht-load of fellow-creatures—and Mrs. Van Onderdonk—wobbling
about the Atlantic near by. Fashionable people have never before come
here—even intelligent people rarely penetrate this wilderness.… I—I
have a plantation a few miles below—oranges and things, you know.” He
hesitated, almost wistfully. “I don’t suppose you and your guests would
care to stop there for a few hours, if your yacht is late.”
“No,” said the major, “we don’t care to.”
“Perhaps Haltren will stay aboard the wreck with us until the
comes in,” suggested Darrow.
“I dare say you have a camp hereabouts,” said the major, staring at
Haltren; “no doubt you’d be more comfortable there.”
“Thanks,” said Haltren, pleasantly; “I have my camp a mile below.” He
offered his hand to Darrow, who, too angry to speak, nodded violently
towards the cabin.
“How can I?” asked Haltren. “Good-bye. And I’ll say good-bye to you,
“Good-bye,” muttered the major, attempting to clasp his fat little hands
behind his back.
Haltren, who had no idea of offering his hand, stood still a moment,
glancing at the cabin skylights; then, with a final nod to Darrow, he
deliberately slid over-board and waded away, knee-deep, towards the
Darrow could not contain himself. “Major Brent,” he said, “I suppose you
don’t realize that Haltren saved the lives of every soul aboard this
The major’s inflamed eyes popped out.
“Eh? What’s that?”
“More than that,” said Darrow, “he came back from safety to risk his
life. As it was he lost his boat and his gun—”
“Damnation!” broke out the major; “you don’t expect me to ask him to
stay and meet the wife he deserted four years ago!”
nd he waddled off to the engine-room, where the engineer and his
assistant were tinkering at the wrecked engine.
Darrow went down into the sloppy cabin, where, on a couch, Mrs. Castle
lay, ill from the shock of the recent catastrophe; and beside her stood
an attractive girl stirring sweet spirits of ammonia in a tumbler.
Her eyes were fixed on the open port-hole. Through that port-hole the
lagoon was visible; so was Haltren, wading shoreward, a solitary figure
against the fringed rampart of the wilderness.
“Is Mrs. Castle better?” asked Darrow.
“I think so; I think she is asleep,” said the girl, calmly.
There was a pause; then Darrow took the tumbler and stirred the
“Do you know who it was that got us out of that pickle?”
“Yes,” she said; “my husband.”
“I suppose you could hear what we said on deck.”
There was no answer.
“Could you, Kathleen?”
Darrow stared into the tumbler, tasted the medicine, and frowned.
“Isn’t there—isn’t there a chance—a ghost of a chance?” he asked.
“I think not,” she answered—“I am sure not. I shall never see him
“I meant for myself,” said Darrow, deliberately, looking her full in the
She crimsoned to her temples, then her eyes flashed violet fire.
“Not the slightest,” she said.
“Thanks,” said Darrow, flippantly; “I only wanted to know.”
“You know now, don’t you?” she asked, a trifle excited, yet realizing
instinctively that somehow she had been tricked. And yet, until that
moment, she had believed Darrow to be her slave. He had been and was
still; but she was not longer certain, and her uncertainty confused her.
“Do you mean to say that you have any human feeling left for that
vagabond?” demanded Darrow. So earnest was he that his tanned face grew
tense and white.
“I’ll tell you,” she said, breathlessly, “that from this moment I have
no human feeling left for you! And I never had! I know it now; never!
never! I had rather be the divorced wife of Jack Haltren than the wife
of any man alive!”
The angry beauty of her young face was his reward; he turned away and
climbed the companion. And in the shattered wheel-house he faced his own
trouble, muttering: “I’ve done my best; I’ve tried to show the pluck he
showed. He’s got his chance now!” And he leaned heavily on the wheel,
covering his eyes with his hands; for he was fiercely in love, and he
had destroyed for a friend’s sake all that he had ever hoped for.
But there was more to be done; he aroused himself presently and wandered
around to the engine-room, where the major was prowling about, fussing
and fuming and bullying his engineer.
“Major,” said Darrow, guilelessly, “do you suppose Haltren’s appearance
has upset his wife?”
“Eh?” said the major. “No, I don’t! I refuse to believe that a woman of
Mrs. Haltren’s sense and personal dignity could be upset by such a man!
By gad! sir, if I thought it—for one instant, sir—for one second—I’d
reason with her. I’d presume so far as to express my personal opinion of
this fellow Haltren!”
“Perhaps I’d better speak to her,” began Darrow.
“No, sir! Why the devil should you assume that liberty?” demanded Major
Brent. “Allow me, sir; allow me! Mrs. Haltren is my guest!”
The major’s long-latent jealousy of Darrow was now fully ablaze; purple,
pop-eyed, and puffing, he toddled down the companion on his errand of
consolation. Darrow watched him go. “That settles him!” he said. Then he
called the engineer over and bade him rig up and launch the portable
“Put one paddle in it, Johnson, and say to Mrs. Haltren that she had
better paddle north, because a mile below there is a camp belonging to a
man whom Major Brent and I do not wish to have her meet.”
The grimy engineer hauled out the packet which, when put together, was
warranted to become a full-fledged canoe.
“Lord! how she’ll hate us all, even poor Johnson,” murmured Darrow. “I
don’t know much about Kathleen Haltren, but if she doesn’t paddle south
I’ll eat cotton-waste with oil-dressing for dinner!”
At that moment the major reappeared, toddling excitedly towards the
“What on earth is the trouble?” asked Darrow. “Is there a pizen sarpint
“Trouble!” stammered the major. “Who said there was any trouble? Don’t
be an ass, sir! Don’t even look like an ass, sir! Damnation!”
And he trotted furiously into the engine-room.
Darrow climbed to the wheel-house once more, fished out a pair of
binoculars, and fixed them on the inlet and the strip of Atlantic
“If the Dione isn’t in by three o’clock, Haltren will have his
chance,” he murmured.
He was still inspecting the ocean and his watch alternately when Mrs.
Haltren came on deck.
“Did you send me the canoe?” she asked, with cool unconcern.
“It’s for anybody,” he said, morosely. “Somebody ought to take a
snap-shot of the scene of our disaster. If you don’t want the canoe,
I’ll take it.”
She had her camera in her hand; it was possible he had noticed it,
although he appeared to be very busy with his binoculars.
He was also rude enough to turn his back. She hesitated, looked up the
lagoon and down the lagoon. She could only see half a mile south,
because Flyover Point blocked the view.
“If Mrs. Castle is nervous you will be near the cabin?” she asked,
“I’ll be here,” he said.
“And you may say to Major Brent,” she added, “that he need not send me
further orders by his engineer, and that I shall paddle wherever caprice
A few moments later a portable canoe glided out from under the stern of
the launch. In it, lazily wielding the polished paddle, sat young Mrs.
Haltren, bareheaded, barearmed, singing as sweetly as the little
cardinal, who paused in sheer surprise at the loveliness of song and
singer. Like a homing pigeon the canoe circled to take its bearings
once, then glided away due south.
Blue was the sky and water; her eyes were bluer; white as the sands her
bare arms glimmered. Was it a sunbeam caught entangled in her burnished
hair, or a stray strand, that burned far on the water.
Darrow dropped his eyes; and when again he looked, the canoe had
vanished behind the rushes of Flyover Point, and there was nothing
moving on the water far as the eye could see.
About three o’clock that afternoon, the pigeon-toed Seminole Indian who
followed Haltren, as a silent, dangerous dog follows its master, laid
down the heavy pink cedar log which he had brought to the fire, and
stood perfectly silent, nose up, slitted eyes almost closed.
Haltren’s glance was a question. “Paddl’um boat,” said the Indian,
After a pause Haltren said, “I don’t hear it, Tiger.”
“Hunh!” grunted the Seminole. “Paddl’um damn slow. Bime-by you hear.”
And bime-by Haltren heard.
“Somebody is landing,” he said.
The Indian folded his arms and stood bolt upright for a moment; then,
“Hunh!” he muttered, disgusted. “Heap squaw. Tiger will go.”
Haltren did not hear him; up the palmetto-choked trail from the landing
strolled a girl, paddle poised over one shoulder, bright hair blowing.
He rose to his feet; she saw him standing in the haze of the fire and
made him a pretty gesture of recognition.
“I thought I’d call to pay my respects,” she said. “How do you do? May I
sit on this soap-box?”
Smiling, she laid the paddle on the ground and held out one hand as he
They shook hands very civilly.
“That was a brave thing you did,” she said. “Mes compliments, monsieur.”
And that was all said about the wreck.
“It’s not unlike an Adirondack camp,” she suggested, looking around at
the open-faced, palm-thatched shanty with its usual hangings of blankets
and wet clothing, and its smoky, tin-pan bric-à-brac.
Her blue eyes swept all in rapid review—the guns leaning against the
tree; the bunch of dead bluebill ducks hanging beyond; the improvised
table and bench outside; the enormous mottled rattlesnake skin tacked
lengthways on a live-oak.
“Are there many of those about?” she inquired.
“Very few”—he waited to control the voice which did not sound much like
his own—“very few rattlers yet. They come out later.”
“That’s amiable of them,” she said, with a slight shrug of her
There was a pause.
“I hope you are well,” he ventured.
“Perfectly—and thank you. I hope you are well, Jack.”
“Thank you, Kathleen.”
She picked up a chip of rose-colored cedar and sniffed it daintily.
“Like a lead-pencil, isn’t it? Put that big log on the fire. The odor of
burning cedar must be delicious.”
He lifted the great log and laid it across the coals.
“Suppose we lunch?” she proposed, looking straight at the simmering
“Would you really care to?” Then he raised his voice: “Tiger! Tiger!
Where the dickens are you?” But Tiger, half a mile away, squatted
sulkily on the lagoon’s edge, fishing, and muttering to himself that
there were too many white people in the forest for him.
“He won’t come,” said Haltren. “You know the Seminoles hate the whites,
and consider themselves still unconquered. There is scarcely an instance
on record of a Seminole attaching himself to one of us.”
“But your tame Tiger appears to follow you.”
“He’s an exception.”
“Perhaps you are an exception, too.”
He looked up with a haggard smile, then bent over the fire and poked the
ashes with a pointed palmetto stem. There were half a dozen
sweet-potatoes there, and a baked duck and an ash-cake.
“Goodness!” she said; “if you knew how hungry I am you wouldn’t be so
deliberate. Where are the cups and spoons? Which is Tiger’s? Well, you
may use his.”
The log table was set and the duck ready before Haltren could hunt up
the jug of mineral water which Tiger had buried somewhere to keep cool.
When he came back with it from the shore he found her sitting at table
with an exaggerated air of patience.
They both laughed a little; he took his seat opposite; she poured the
coffee, and he dismembered the duck.
“You ought to be ashamed of that duck,” she said. “The law is on now.”
“I know it,” he replied, “but necessity knows no law. I’m up here
looking for wild orange stock, and I live on what I can get. Even the
sacred, unbranded razor-back is fish for our net—with a fair chance of
a shooting-scrape between us and a prowling cracker. If you will stay to
dinner you may have roast wild boar.”
“That alone is almost worth staying for, isn’t it?” she asked,
There was a trifle more color in his sunburned face.
She ate very little, though protesting that her hunger shamed her; she
sipped her coffee, blue eyes sometimes fixed on the tall palms and oaks
overhead, sometimes on him.
“What was that great, winged shadow that passed across the table?” she
“A vulture; they are never far away.”
“Ugh!” she shuddered; “always waiting for something to die! How can a
man live here, knowing that?”
“I don’t propose to die out-doors,” said Haltren, laughing.
Again the huge shadow swept between them; she shrank back with a little
gesture of repugnance. Perhaps she was thinking of her nearness to death
in the inlet.
“Are there alligators here, too?” she asked.
“Yes; they run away from you.”
“And moccasin snakes?”
“Some. They don’t trouble a man who keeps his eyes open.”
“A nice country you live in!” she said, disdainfully.
“It is one kind of country. There is good shooting.”
“Sunshine all the year round. I have a house covered with scented things
and buried in orange-trees. It is very beautiful. A little lonely at
times—one can’t have Fifth Avenue and pick one’s own grape-fruit from
the veranda, too.”
A silence fell between them; through the late afternoon stillness they
heard the splash! splash! of leaping mullet in the lagoon. Suddenly a
crimson-throated humming-bird whirred past, hung vibrating before a
flowering creeper, then darted away.
“Spring is drifting northward,” he said. “To-morrow will be Easter
She rose, saying, carelessly, “I was not thinking of to-morrow; I was
thinking of to-day,” and, walking across the cleared circle, she picked
up her paddle. He followed her, and she looked around gayly, swinging
the paddle to her shoulder.
“You said you were thinking of to-day,” he stammered. “It—it is our
She raised her eyebrows. “I am astonished that you remembered.… I
think that I ought to go. The Dione will be in before long—”
“We can hear her whistle when she steams in,” he said.
“Are you actually inviting me to stay?” she laughed, seating herself on
the soap-box once more.
They became very grave as he sat down on the ground at her feet, and, a
silence threatening, she hastily filled it with a description of the
yacht and Major Brent’s guests. He listened, watching her intently. And
after a while, having no more to say, she pretended to hear sounds
resembling a distant yacht’s whistle.
“It’s the red-winged blackbirds in the reeds,” he said. “Now will you
let me say something—about the past?”
“It has buried itself,” she said, under her breath.
“To-morrow is Easter,” he went on, slowly. “Can there be no resurrection
for dead days as there is for Easter flowers? Winter is over; Pasque
Florida will dawn on a world of blossoms. May I speak, Kathleen?”
“It is I who should speak,” she said. “I meant to. It is this: forgive
me for all. I am sorry.”
“I have nothing to forgive,” he said. “I was a—a failure. I—I do not
“Nor I men. They are not what I understand. I don’t mean the mob I’ve
been bred to dance with—I understand them. But a real man—” she
laughed, drearily—“I expected a god for a husband.”
“I am sorry,” he said; “I am horribly sorry. I have learned many things
in four years. Kathleen, I—I don’t know what to do.”
“There is nothing to do, is there?”
“I am free.”
“I am afraid you will need more freedom than you have, some day.”
She looked him full in the eyes. “Do you desire it?”
A faint sound fell upon the stillness of the forest; they listened; it
came again from the distant sea.
“I think it is the yacht,” she said.
They rose together; he took her paddle, and they walked down the jungle
path to the landing. Her canoe and his spare boat lay there, floating
“It will be an hour before a boat from the yacht reaches the wrecked
launch,” he said. “Will you wait in my boat?”
She bent her head and laid her hand in his, stepping lightly into the
“Cast off and row me a little way,” she said, leaning back in the stern.
“Isn’t this lagoon wonderful? See the color in water and sky. How green
the forest is!—green as a young woodland in April. And the reeds are
green and gold, and the west is all gold. Look at that great white
bird—with wings like an angel’s! What is that heavenly odor from the
forest? Oh,” she sighed, elbows on knees, “this is too delicious to be
A moment later she began, irrelevantly: “Ethics! Ethics! who can teach
them? One must know, and heed no teaching. All preconceived ideas may be
wrong; I am quite sure I was wrong—sometimes.”
And again irrelevantly, “I was horribly intolerant once.”
“Once you asked me a question,” he said. “We separated because I refused
to answer you.”
She closed her eyes and the color flooded her face.
“I shall never ask it again,” she said.
But he went on: “I refused to reply. I was an ass; I had theories, too.
They’re gone, quite gone. I will answer you now, if you wish.”
Her face burned. “No! No, don’t—don’t answer me; don’t, I beg of you!
I—I know now that even the gods—” She covered her face with her hands.
The boat drifted rapidly on; it was flood-tide.
“Yes, even the gods,” he said. “There is the answer. Now you know.”
Overhead the sky grew pink; wedge after wedge of water-fowl swept
through the calm evening air, and their aërial whimpering rush sounded
faintly over the water.
She made no movement.
Far away a dull shock set the air vibrating. The
Dione was saluting
her castaways. The swift Southern night, robed in rose and violet,
already veiled the forest; and the darkling water deepened into purple.
He rose and crept forward to the stern where she was sitting. Her hands
hung idly; her head was bent.
Into the purple dusk they drifted, he at her feet, close against her
knees. Once she laid her hands on his shoulders, peering at him with wet
And, with his lips pressed to her imprisoned hands, she slipped down
into the boat beside him, crouching there, her face against his.
So, under the Southern stars, they drifted home together. The
fired guns and sent up rockets, which they neither heard nor saw; Major
Brent toddled about the deck and his guests talked scandal; but what did
Darrow, standing alone on the wrecked launch, stared at the stars and
waited for the search-boat to return.
It was dawn when the truth broke upon Major Brent. It broke so suddenly
that he fairly yelped as the Dione poked her white beak seaward.
It was dawn, too, when a pigeon-toed Seminole Indian stood upon the
veranda of a house which was covered with blossoms of Pasque Florida.
Silently he stood, inspecting the closed door; then warily stooped and
picked up something lying on the veranda at his feet. It was a gold
“Heap squaw,” he said, deliberately. “Tiger will go.”
But he never did.