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Chapter 18

  • The doctor reached for the key and studied it sombrely. The act wa_echanical, a bit of sparring for time: his anger was searching about for _ew vent. He was a just man, and he did not care to start any thunder whic_as not based upon fairness. He had no wish to go foraging in Spurlock'_runk. He had already shown the covering envelope and its instructions t_uth, and she had ignored or misunderstood the warning. The boy was right.
  • Ruth could not be told now. There would be ultimate misery, but it would b_eedless cruelty to give her a push toward it. But all these hours, trying t_each the child wariness toward life, and the moment his back was turned, this!
  • He was, perhaps, still dazed by the inner revelation—his own interest in Ruth.
  • The haste to send her upon her way now had but one interpretation—th_ecognition of his own immediate danger, the fear that if this tende_ssociation continued, he would end in offering her a calamity quite a_mpossible as that which had happened—the love of a man who was in al_robability older than her father! The hurt was no less intensive because i_as so ridiculous.
  • He would talk to Spurlock, but from the bench; as a judge, not as a chagrine_over. He dropped the key on the counterpane.
  • "If I could only make you realize what you have done," he said, lamely.
  • "I know exactly what I have done," replied Spurlock. "She is my lawful wife."
  • "I should have opened that letter in the beginning," said the doctor. "But _appen to be an honest man myself. Had you died, I should have fully obeye_he instructions on that envelope. You will make her suffer."
  • "For every hurt she has, I shall have two. I did not lay any traps for her. _sked her to marry me, and she consented."
  • "Ah, yes; that's all very well. But when she learns that you are a fugitiv_rom justice…."
  • "What proof have you that I am?"—was the return bolt.
  • "A knowledge of the ways of men. I don't know what you have done; I don't wan_o know now. But God will punish you for what you have done this day."
  • "As for that, I don't say. But I shall take care of Ruth, work for her an_ight for her." A prophecy which was to be fulfilled in a singular way. "Give_ chance, I can make bread and butter. I'm no mollycoddle. I have only on_uestion to ask you."
  • "And what might that be?"
  • "Will McClintock take us both?"
  • "You took that chance. There has never been a white woman at McClintock's."
  • He paused, and not without malice. He was human. The pause lengthened, and h_ad the satisfaction of seeing despair melt the set mockery of Spurlock'_outh.
  • "You begin to have doubts, eh? A handful of money between you, and nothin_lse. There are only a few jobs over here for a man of your type; and eve_hese are more or less hopeless if you haven't trained mechanical ability."
  • Then he became merciful. "But McClintock agrees to take you both—because he'_s big a fool as I am. But I give you this warning, and let it sink in. Yo_ill be under the eye of the best friend I have; and if you do not treat tha_hild for what she is—an innocent angel—I promise to hunt you across the wid_orld and kill you with bare hands."
  • Spurlock's glance shot up, flaming again. "And on my part, I shall not lift _and to defend myself."
  • "I wish I could have foreseen."
  • "That is to say, you wish you had let me die?"
  • "That was the thought."
  • This frankness rather subdued Spurlock. His shoulders relaxed and his gaz_avered. "Perhaps that would have been best."
  • "But what, in God's name, possessed you? You have already wrecked your ow_ife and now you've wrecked hers. She doesn't love you; she hasn't the leas_dea what it means beyond what she has read in novels. The world isn't rea_et; she hasn't comparisons by which to govern her acts. I am a physicia_irst, which gives the man in me a secondary part. You have just passe_hrough rather a severe physical struggle; just as previously to your collaps_ou had gone through some terrific mental strain. Your mind is still subtl_ick. The man in me would like to break every bone in your body, but th_hysician understands that you don't actually realize what you have done. Bu_n a little while you will awake; and if there is a spark of manhood in you, you will be horrified at this day's work."
  • Spurlock closed his eyes. Expiation. He felt the first sting of the whip. Bu_here was no feeling of remorse; there was only the sensation of exaltation.
  • "If you two loved each other," went on the doctor, "there would be somethin_o stand on—a reason why for this madness. I can fairly understand Ruth; bu_ou…!"
  • "Have you ever been so lonely that the soul of you cried in anguish? Twenty- four hours a day to think in, alone?… Perhaps I did not want to go mad fro_oneliness. I will tell you this much, because you have been kind. It is tru_hat I do not love Ruth; but I swear to you, before the God of my fathers, that she shall never know it!"
  • "I'll be getting along." The doctor ran his fingers through his hair, despairingly. "A hell of a muddle! But all the talk in the world can't und_t. I'll put you aboard _The Tigress_ to-morrow after sundown. But remember m_arning, and play the game!"
  • Spurlock closed his eyes again. The doctor turned quickly and made for th_oor, which he opened and shut gently because he was assured that Ruth wa_istening across the hall for any sign of violence. He had nothing more to sa_ither to her or to Spurlock. All the king's horses and all the king's me_ould not undo what was done; nor kill the strange exquisite flower that ha_rown up in his own lonely heart.
  • Opals. He wondered if, after all, McClintock wasn't nearest the truth, tha_uth was one of those unfortunate yet innocent women who make havoc with th_earts of men.
  • Marriage!—and no woman by to tell the child what it was! The shocks an_isillusions she would have to meet unsuspectingly—and bitterly. Unless ther_as some real metal in the young fool, some hidden strength with which t_reast the current, Ruth would become a millstone around his neck and soon h_ould become to her an object of pity and contempt.
  • There was once a philanthropist who dressed with shameful shabbiness an_arried pearls in his pocket. The picture might easily apply to _The Tigress_ : outwardly disreputable, but richly and comfortably appointed below. Th_lush deck was without wells. The wheel and the navigating instruments wer_ternward, under a spread of heavy canvas, a protection against rain and sun.
  • Amidship there was also canvas, and like that over the wheel, drab and dirty.
  • The dining saloon was done in mahogany and sandalwood, with eight cabins, fou_o port and four to starboard. The bed-and table-linen were of the fines_exture. From the centre of the ceiling hung a replica of the temple lamp i_he Taj Mahal. The odour of coconut prevailed, delicately but abidingly; for, save for the occasioned pleasure junket, _The Tigress_ was a copra carrier, shell and fibre.
  • McClintock's was a plantation of ten thousand palms, yielding him annuall_bout half a million nuts. Natives brought him an equal amount from th_eighbouring islands. As the palm bears nuts perennially, there were alway_oconut-laden proas making the beach. Thus, McClintock carried to Copeley'_ress about half a million pounds of copra. There was a very substantia_rofit in the transaction, for he paid the natives in commodities—coloure_otton cloths, pipes and tobacco, guns and ammunition, household utensils, cutlery and glass gewgaws. It was perfectly legitimate. Money was no_ecessary; indeed, it would have embarrassed all concerned.. A native sold hi_upply of nuts in exchange for cloth, tobacco and so forth. In the South Seas, money is the eliminated middleman.
  • Where the islands are grouped, men discard the use of geographical names an_imply refer to "McClintock's" or "Copeley's," to the logical dictator of thi_r that island.
  • * * * * *
  • At sundown Spurlock was brought aboard and put into cabin 2, while Ruth wa_ssigned to cabin 4, adjoining. From the Sha-mien to the yacht, Spurlock ha_ttered no word; though, even in the semi-darkness, no gesture or word o_uth's escaped him.
  • Now that she was his, to make or mar, she presented an extraordinar_ascination. She had suddenly become as the jewels of the Madonna, as th_dol's eye, infinitely beyond his reach, sacred. He could not pull her sou_part now to satisfy that queer absorbing, delving thing which was hi_iterary curiosity; he had put her outside that circle. His lawful wife; bu_othing more; beyond that she was only an idea, a trust.
  • An incredible road he had elected to travel; he granted that it wa_ncredible; and along this road somewhere would be Desire. There were menacin_ossibilities; the thought of them set him a-tremble. What would happen whe_onfronted by the actual? He was young; she was also young and physicall_eautiful—his lawful wife. He had put himself before the threshold o_amnation; for Ruth was now a vestal in the temple. Such was the condition o_is mind that the danger exhilarated rather than depressed him. Here would b_he true test of his strength. Upon this island whither he was bound ther_ould be no diversions, breathing spells; the battle would be constant.
  • All at once it came to him what a fool he was to worry over this phase whic_as wholly suppositional. He did not love Ruth. They would be partners only i_oneliness. He would provide the necessities of life and protect her. He woul_each her all he knew of life so that if the Hand should ever reach hi_houlder, she would be able to defend herself. He was always anticipating, stepping into the future, torturing himself with non-existent troubles. Thes_ogitations were interrupted by the entrance of the doctor.
  • "Good-bye, young man; and good luck."
  • "You are offering your hand to me?"
  • "Without reservations." The doctor gave Spurlock's hand a friendly pressure.
  • "Buck up! While there's life there's hope. Play fair with her. You don't kno_hat you have got; I do. Let her have her own way in all things, for she wil_lways be just."
  • Spurlock turned aside his head as he replied: "Words are sometimes useles_hings. I might utter a million, and still I doubt if I could make yo_nderstand."
  • "Probably not. The thing is done. The main idea now is of the future. You wil_ave lots of time on your hands. Get out your pad and pencil. Go to it. Rut_ill be a gold mine for a man of your peculiar bent."
  • "You read those yarns?" Spurlock's head came about, and there was eagerness i_is eyes. "Rot, weren't they?"
  • "No. You have the gift of words, but you haven't started to create yet. Go t_t; and the best of luck!"
  • He went out. This farewell had been particularly distasteful to him. There wa_till in his heart that fierce anger which demands physical expression; but h_ad to consider Ruth in all phases. He proceeded to the deck, where Ruth an_cClintock were waiting for him by the ladder. He handed Ruth a letter.
  • "What is this?" she wanted to know.
  • "A hundred dollars which was left from your husband's money."
  • "Would you be angry if I offered it to you?"
  • "Very. Don't worry about me."
  • "You are the kindest man I have ever known," said Ruth, unashamed of he_ears. "I have hurt you because I would not trust you. It is useless to talk.
  • I could never make you understand."
  • Almost the identical words of the boy. "Will you write," asked the doctor,
  • "and tell me how you are getting along?"
  • "Oh, yes!"
  • "The last advice I can give you is this: excite his imagination; get hi_tarted with his writing. Remember, some day you and I are going to have tha_ook." He patted her hand. "Good-bye, Mac. Don't forget to cut out al_ffervescent water. If you will have your peg, take it with plain water.
  • You'll be along next spring?"
  • "If the old tub will float. I'll watch over these infants, if that's you_orry. Good-bye."
  • The doctor went down the side to the waiting sampan, which at once set out fo_he Sha-mien. Through a blur of tears Ruth followed the rocking light until i_anished. One more passer-by; and always would she remember his patience an_enderness and disinterestedness. She was quite assured that she would neve_ee him again.
  • "Yon's a dear man," said McClintock. His natal burr was always in evidenc_hen he was sentimentally affected. He knocked his pipe on the teak rail.
  • "Took a great fancy to you. Wants me to look out for you a bit. I take it, down where we're going will be nothing new to you. But I've stacks of book_nd a grand piano-player."
  • "Piano-player? Do you mean someone who plays for you?"
  • "No, no; one of those mechanical things you play with your feet. Play_eethoven, Rubenstein and all those chaps. I'm a bit daffy about music."
  • "That sounds funny … to play it with your feet!"
  • McClintock laughed. "It's a pump, like an organ."
  • "Oh, I see. What a wonderful world it is!" Music. She shuddered.
  • "Ay. Well, I'll be getting this tub under way."
  • Ruth walked to the companion. It was one of those old sliding trap affairs, narrow and steep of descent. She went down, feeling rather than seeing th_ay. The door of cabin 2 was open. Someone had thoughtfully wrapped a bit o_issue paper round the electric bulb.
  • She did not enter the cabin at once, but paused on the threshold and stared a_he silent, recumbent figure in the bunk. In the subdued light she could no_ell whether he was asleep or awake. Never again to be alone! To fit hersel_nto this man's life as a hand into a glove; to use all her skill to force hi_nto the position of depending upon her utterly; to be the spark to the divin_ire! He should have his book, even if it had to be written with her heart'_lood.
  • What she did not know, and what she was never to know, was that the divin_ire was hers.
  • "Ruth?" he called.
  • She entered and approached the bunk. "I thought you were asleep. Is ther_nything you want?" She laid her hand on his forehead, and found it withou_ever. She had worried in fear that the excitement would be too much for him.
  • "Call me Hoddy. That is what my mother used to call me."
  • "Hoddy," she repeated. "I shall like to call you that. But now you must b_uiet; there's been too much excitement. Knock on the partition if you wan_nything during the might. I awaken easily. Good night!" She pressed his han_nd went out.
  • For a long time he stared at the empty doorway. He heard the panting of th_onkey-engine, then the slithering of the anchor chains. Presently he fel_otion. He chuckled. The vast ironic humour of it: he was starting on hi_oneymoon!