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Title: Nedra
Author: McCutcheon, George Barr, 1866-1928
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Nedra" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



NEDRA

by

GEORGE BARR McCUTCHEON

Author of _Beverly of Graustark_, _Brewster's Millions_, etc.

Illustrations by Harrison Fisher

1906



CONTENTS

Chapter

     I The Inspiration
    II The Beginning of Flight
   III The First Obstacle
    IV Ready for the Sea
     V Mr. and Miss Ridge Sail for Manila
    VI Henry Veath
   VII Glum Days for Mr. Ridge
  VIII The Beautiful Stranger
    IX Mr. Ridegway's Amazement
     X A Sharp Encounter
    XI Discovered
   XII The Harlequin's Errand
  XIII The Confession of Veath
   XIV One Love against Another
    XV The Wreck of the _Tempest Queen_
   XVI The Night and the Morning
  XVII Was the Sea Kind?
 XVIII The Wonderful Land
   XIX The First Day in the Wilds
    XX The Sign of Distress
   XXI Gods from the Sea
  XXII Flesh Succeeds Stone
 XXIII The Transformation Begins
  XXIV Nedra
   XXV The Coming of the Enemy
  XXVI On the Eve of Battle
 XXVII The Lady Tennys Reserve
XXVIII To the Victor Belongs--?
  XXIX The Other Surrender
   XXX Where There is No Minister
  XXXI The Wedding Ring
 XXXII The Cruiser _Winnetka_
XXXIII Apparitions
 XXXIV The Course of True Love
  XXXV History Repeats Itself



ILLUSTRATIONS


Lady Tennys (Frontispiece)

Grace Vernon

"'Lady Tennys ... You do not know how I thank God you are alive'"

"'Hey, there!' he yelled. 'How are you?'"

"'They have killed you! Let them kill me!'"



CHAPTER I

THE INSPIRATION

A tall young man sped swiftly up the wide stone steps leading to the
doorway of a mansion in one of Chicago's most fashionable avenues. After
pushing the button sharply he jerked out his watch and guessed at the
time by the dull red light from the panel in the door. Then he hastily
brushed from the sleeve of his coat the telltale billiard chalk, whose
presence reminded him that a general survey might be a wise precaution.
He was rubbing a white streak from his trousers' leg when the door flew
open and the butler admitted him to the hallway. This personage relieved
him of his hat, coat and stick and announced:

"Miss Vernon is w'itin' for you, sir."

"How the devil did I happen to let eight o'clock strike nine before I
knew it?" muttered the visitor. He was at the drawing-room door as he
concluded this self-addressed reproach, extending both hands toward the
young woman who came from the fireplace to meet him.

"How late you are, Hugh," she cried, half resentfully. He bent forward
and kissed her.

"Late? It isn't late, dear. I said I couldn't come before eight, didn't
I? Well, it's eight, isn't it?"

"It's nearly seventy minutes past eight, sir. I've been waiting and
watching the hands on the clock for just sixty minutes."

"I never saw such a perfect crank about keeping time as that
grandfatherly clock of yours. It hasn't skipped a second in two
centuries, I'll swear. You see, I was playing off the odd game with
Tom Ditton."

He dropped lazily into a big arm-chair, drove his hands into his pockets
and stretched out his long legs toward the grate.

"You might have come at eight, Hugh, on this night if no other. You knew
what important things we have to consider." Miss Vernon, tall and
graceful, stood before him with her back to the fire. She was
exceedingly pretty, this girl whom Hugh had kissed.

"I'm awfully sorry, Grace; but you know how it is when a fellow's in a
close, hard game--especially with a blow-hard like Tom Ditton."

"If I forgive you again, I'm afraid you'll prove a begging husband."

"Never! Deliver me from a begging husband. I shall assert all kinds of
authority in my house, Miss Vernon, and you'll be in a constant state of
beggary yourself. You'll have to beg me to get up in the morning, beg
me to come home early every night, beg me to swear off divers things,
beg me to go to church, beg me to buy new hats for you, beg me to eat
things you cook, beg me to--"

"I suppose I shall even have to beg you to kiss me," she cried.

"Not at all. That is one thing I'll beg of you. Lean over here, do, and
kiss me, please," he said invitingly.

She placed a hand on each arm of the chair and leaned forward
obediently. Their lips met in a smile.

"You lazy thing!" she exclaimed, her face slightly flushed. Then she
seated herself on one of the big arms, resting her elbow on the back of
the chair beside his head. For a few minutes both were silent, gazing at
the bright coals before them, the smile remaining upon their lips. Hugh
had been squinting between the toes of his shoes at a lonely black chunk
in the grate for some time before he finally spoke reflectively.

"I can't afford to be lazy much longer, can I? Married men never have a
minute's rest, you know."

"We're not married."

"No; but we're going to be, let me remind you. We are to--to announce it
to-morrow night, are we not? It has come to that, you see." He did not
look very cheerful, nor did she.

"Yes, I suppose it's imperative. That is why aunt is giving her
reception,--just to tell everybody we're engaged."

"And then everybody will shake hands with us and say,
'Congratulations,' 'How lovely,' 'So surprised,' 'Howdy do,' and so
forth, and we say 'Thanks,' 'How good of you,' and more so forth. It
will be great!" Another silence and inspection of the fire, he taking an
altered aim at the black chunk. "Say!" he exclaimed, "wouldn't it do
just as well if I didn't put in an appearance to-morrow night? Your aunt
can announce the thing, as agreed, and you can tell 'em that I have a
sick uncle in Indianapolis, or have had my leg broken, or something like
that. Now, there's a good girl."

"No," she said. "We fell in love because we couldn't help it, and this
is the penalty--an announcement party."

"I'll never quite understand why _you_ fell," said he dubiously.

"I think we were both too young to know," she responded. "It seems to me
that we've been in love ever since we were babies."

"And it never hurts a baby to fall, you know," said he, with fine logic.
"Of course it may cripple 'em permanently, but they don't know how it
happened."

For some moments she caressed his brown hair in silence, the smile
lingering on her lips after it had left her eyes. His eyes closed
dreamily under the gentle touch of her fingers. "But, dear," she said,
"this is no joking matter. We have been engaged for nearly three months
and not a soul knows of it. We'll have to tell them how we managed to
keep it a secret for so long, and why,--and all that. And then
everybody will want to know who the bridesmaids are to be."

"I believe I'd like to know that myself, as long as I'm to walk out of
the church ahead of them--provided I don't get lost."

"Helen Grossman is to be the maid of honor. I believe I'll ask Jean
Robertson, Eloise Grant, Harriet Noble, Mayme McMurtrie, Ellen
Boyland--"

"Are we to have no guests?"

"--and Effa Samuels. Won't it be a pretty set of girls?"

"Couldn't be prettier."

"And now, who is to be your best man?"

"Well, I thought I'd have Tom Ditton," a trifle confusedly.

"Tom Ditton! I thought you did not approve of him," she cried. "You
certainly did not when he came to see me so frequently."

"Oh, he isn't such a bad sort, after all. I'd just as soon have him as
any one. Besides, he's an expert at it. If it was left to me, I'd much
rather sit behind the pulpit until it is all over. People won't miss me
while they've got you to look at."

"We could be married so quietly and prettily if it were not for Aunt
Elizabeth," pouted Miss Vernon. "She insists on the church wedding, the
teas and receptions and--"

"All that sort of rot," he interjected, as if fearing she might not
express herself adequately. "I like your Aunt Elizabeth, Grace, but
she's--she's an awful--"

"Don't say it, Hugh. I know what you mean, but she can't help it. She
lives for society. She's perfectly crazy on the subject. Aunt Elizabeth
made up her mind we should be married in church. I have talked myself
black in the face--for your sake, dear--but it was like trying to
convert a stone wall. She is determined. You know what that means."

"No wonder she's a widow," growled Hugh Ridgeway sourly. "Your father
served you a mighty mean trick, dear, when he gave you over to her
training. She might have spoiled you beyond redemption."

"Poor father! He loathed display, too. I've no doubt that is why he left
me in her care until I reached the age of discretion. She was not always
like this. Father's money has wrought the change. Aunty was as poor as a
church mouse until father's death put her at the head of my
household--it was mine, Hugh, even if I was only six years old. You know
we could live pretty well on forty thousand a year."

"You'll have a million or so when you're twenty-three, dear, and I'll
venture to say your aunt has saved something in all these years."

"Oh, she had at least two hundred thousand dollars by the will. It has
cost her nothing to live all these years as my guardian and trustee. We
just had to do something with my income, you know."

"I don't see why you should let this fortune stand in the way, Grace,"
growled he. "Haven't I enough of my own to take its place?" Hugh
Ridgeway had a million in his own right and he could well afford to be
unreasonable. "The will says you are not to have your father's money
until you are twenty-three years old. He evidently thought that was a
discreet age. You are not to marry before you have reached that age.
I've been waiting for two years, Grace, and there still remains
two months--"

"One month and twenty-eight days, Hugh," she corrected.

"And in the meantime we have to stay here and face all this ante-nuptial
wretchedness. It's sickening, Grace. We hate it, both of us. Don't we? I
knew you'd nod your head. That's why I can't help loving you. You've got
so much real good hard sense about things. If your confounded Aunt
Lizzie--Elizabeth, I should say--would let us get married as we
want--Hang it all, Grace, it's our affair anyhow, isn't it? Why should
we permit her to dictate? It's not her wedding. She's been married
twice; why can't she let well enough alone?"

"She loves me, Hugh, after all," gently.

"Well, so do I. I'm willing--not perfectly willing, of course--but
reasonably so, that we should wait until the twenty-third of May, but I
don't see why we should have the whole town waiting with us. Why don't
you assert yourself, dear, before it is too late? Once she pulls off
this announcement party, it's all off with peace of mind and contentment
so far as we are concerned. Of course, she'll be enjoying it, but what
of us? Are you afraid of her?"

"Don't bully me, Hugh," she pleaded. He was contrite at once and
properly so. "She has lived for this time in her life. She never has
been crossed. I can't--honestly I can't go to her now and--quarrel.
That's what it would mean--a quarrel. She would never give in."

"Well, then, all hope is lost," he lamented. For some minutes Miss
Vernon gave no response, sitting upon the arm of the chair, a perplexed
pucker on her brow and a thoughtful swing to her slippered foot.

These young people had known each other since earliest childhood. They
had played together with the same neighborly toys and they had grown up
together with the same neighborly ideals. Both had whirled in the social
swing until the sensation palled. The most exclusive set in town
regarded them as among its most popular members. It was quite natural
that their wedding should be the most brilliant and fashionable of the
year. Their position in society demanded the sacrifice, and her aunt saw
the urgent need for making it, notwithstanding the opposition of the
young people themselves.

Ridgeway was a couple of years older than his affianced bride, and she
was just short of twenty-three. She, an orphan since early childhood,
lived with her widowed aunt--the social gourmand, to quote Hugh
Ridgeway--and he made his home next door with his sister and her
husband. The two brown stone houses were almost within arm's reach of
each other. She had painted dainty water colors for his rooms and he had
thrown thousands of roses from his windows into her boudoir. It had been
a merry courtship--the courtship of modern cavalier and lady fair.
Ridgeway's parents died when he was in college, and he was left to
enlarge or despise a fortune that rated him as a millionaire and the
best catch in town--at that time.

He was a member of the Board of Trade, but he was scarcely an operator
in the strictest sense of the word. If he won he whistled, if he lost he
whistled. It mattered little. Good looking, well dressed, generous to a
fault, tainted but moderately with scandal, he was a man whom everybody
admired, but who admired few in return--a perfectly natural and proper
condition if one but stops to consider.

Miss Vernon was beautiful--of that there was no question. Tall, fair,
brown-eyed and full of the life that loves, she ruled the hearts of many
and--kept her hand for one. Her short, gay life had been one of luxury
and ease. She had known few of its cares; its vicissitudes belonged to
the charities she supported with loyal persistency. Her aunt, society
mad, was her only mentor, her only guide. A path had been made for her,
and she saw no other alternative than to travel it as designed. A
careless, buoyant heart, full of love and tenderness and warmth, allowed
itself to be tossed by all of the emotions, but always sank back safely
into the path of duty and rectitude. It was not of sufficient moment to
combat her aunt's stubborn authority; it was so much easier to do her
own sweet will without conflict and then smile down on the consequences.

Possibly it is true that she did not love her aunt. If that were the
case, she kept it well to herself. She could not have been blamed,
however, for disliking the dictator. Hugh Ridgeway was more or less
right when he said that no one in town admired the old lady. She was
hard, devoid of humor, wrapped up in her own selfishness; shrewd,
capable and resourceful. Her brother, on his deathbed, signed the
instrument which made this arrogant relative the arbiter of the girl's
future for many years to come. She was appointed guardian and trustee
until legal age was attained, and as such she was absolute in her power.
The large fortune was to be held in trust by this aunt, Mrs. Torrence,
and the Hon. Stanley Goodland, until Grace was twenty-three years of
age. The income from the investments in bonds, real estate and
high-class securities was to be handled by Mrs. Torrence as she saw fit
in the effort to better the young woman's mental and social estate. To
do her justice, she performed the duties well and honorably, even though
her measure of human nature was not full to overflowing. Grace, with a
mind and heart of her own, undertook to cultivate human nature from her
own point of view after years of tolerance, and she succeeded so well
that her aunt was none the wiser.

On one point, however, the paragon was so firm and unassailable that
Grace was obliged to confess failure to her lover, after weeks and weeks
of splendid argument. Her aunt forced an issue. The marriage of her
niece was to be brilliant to the verge of confusion and the ante-nuptial
season was to be one which the city should not forget while its promoter
lived to enjoy the emoluments. She knew she was making her niece
unhappy, but she argued that her niece was too deeply in love to
appreciate the value of opportunity. Besides, on her wedding day, Grace
Vernon would be twenty-three years of age, mistress of herself, her
fortune, and her husband's home. That day would end the reign of
Elizabeth Torrence. The arbiter was determined that the reign should end
in a blaze of glory.

As for Grace and Hugh, they were to be married. That had been decided
upon by destiny years and years ago and ratified after Hugh had reached
an age of discretion. He said that twenty-five was the year of
discretion, if not of reason.

After the first transports, each began to consider the importance of the
union, not only to themselves, but to the world at large. In their
reflective moments they realized that the marriage would be the most
wonderful event in the whole history of the homes of Vernon and
Ridgeway. Never before had a Vernon married a Ridgeway, and--vice versa.
Therefore, the whole world would visit upon such a union its undivided
attention. That is the view all engaged people take of marriage.

Miss Vernon had employed six weeks of argument in convincing Mr.
Ridgeway that a church wedding was imperative, although she admittedly
preferred the simpler form, where the minister conducts the ceremony in
the presence of two witnesses and a ring. Society demanded the
exhibition. Mr. Ridgeway warned her that he could not survive the ordeal
and would leave her a widow at the altar.

Their difficulties had at last resolved themselves into that condition
which confronts every engaged pair; and they, like others, were
preparing to inform the world of their intentions.

"There's no way out of it, Hugh," she finally sighed, "unless we decide
to give up the hope of getting married. That would break my heart," she
said, with her rarest smile.

"This would be the most delightful period of my life if it were not for
that distressing announcement, the two months of purgatory between now
and the day of the wedding, and then the--calamity. I know it will be a
calamity. I can't get through it alive."

"You poor boy! I wish we could have a quiet little Wedding. It would be
so sweet, wouldn't it, dear?" she said plaintively, wistfully.

"But instead we are to have a hippodrome. Bah!" he concluded spitefully.
"I wouldn't talk this way, dear, if I didn't know that you feel just as
I do about it. But," and here he arose wearily, "this sort of talk
isn't helping matters. It's a case of church against choice. To-morrow
night we'll tell 'em, and then we'll quit sleeping for two months."

"There's only one way out of it that I can see. We might elope," she
said laughingly, standing before him and rubbing the wrinkles from
between his eyes.

Gradually his gray eyes fell until they looked into hers of brown. A
mutual thought sprang into the eyes of each like a flash of light
plainly comprehensive. He seized her hands, still staring into her eyes,
and an exultant hope leaped to his lips, bursting forth in these words:

"By George!"

"Oh, we couldn't," she whispered, divining his thought.

"We can! By all that's good and holy, we'll elope!" Hugh's voice was
quivering with enthusiasm, his face a picture of relief.

"Honestly, do you--do you think we could?" The girl's eyes were wide
with excitement, her cheeks burning.

"Can we? What's to prevent? Will you do it, Grace--will you?" cried he.

"What will everybody say?"

"Let 'em say. What do we care? Won't it be the greatest lark that ever
happened? You're the smartest woman in the world for thinking of it."

"But I wasn't in earnest," she protested.

"But you are now--we both are. Listen: We can slip away and get married
and nobody will be the wiser and then, when we come back, we can laugh
at everybody."

"And get our pictures in the papers."

"Then, by Hokey! we won't come back for five years! How's that? That'll
fool 'em, won't it? Say, this is great! Life is worth living after all.
You'll go, won't you, Grace?"

"I'd go to the end of the world with you, Hugh, but--"

"Oh, say you'll go! Now, listen to this," he urged, leaping to his feet.
"We're going to be married anyway. We love one another. You can't be
married until the twenty-third of May. Lots of people elope--even in the
best of families. Why shouldn't we? If we stay here, we'll have to face
all the sort of thing we don't like--"

"Yes, but it won't take us two months to elope," she protested. "Sh!
Don't speak above a whisper. Aunt Elizabeth has wonderful ears."

"By Jove, darling, I believe you're two-thirds willing to try it on," he
whispered.

"We must be sensible, Hugh. You see, I can't be married until the
twenty-third of May. Well, aunt is determined to announce the engagement
to-morrow night. Don't you see we couldn't elope until the twenty-second
at best, so we're doomed for two months of it in spite of ourselves. If
we get through the two months why should we elope at all? The worst
will be over?"

"We can't escape the announcement party, I'll admit, but we can get
away from all the rest. My scheme is to elope to a place that will
require seven or eight weeks' time to reach. That's a fine way to kill
time, don't you see?"

"My goodness!"

"Why not? We can do as we like, can't we? And what a bully lark! I'd be
a downright cad to ask you to do this, Grace, if I didn't love you as I
do. We can use assumed names and all that!"

"Oh, dear, dear, doesn't it sound lovely?" she cried, her cheeks red
with excitement.

"The twenty-third of May isn't so far off after all, and it won't be
half so far if we're doing something like this. Will you go?"

"If I only could! Do you really think we--we could?"

"Whoop!" he shouted, as he seized her in his arms and rained kisses upon
her face. Then he held her off and looked into her eyes for a moment.
Then he gave another whoop, kissed her, released her and did a wild
dance about the room. She stood beside the big chair, equally as
excited, laughing unrestrainedly at his hilarity. At last he brought up
at the other side of the chair.

"But where could--I mean, shall we elope to?" she finally asked.

"Anywhere. Bombay--Australia? Let's make it a stunner, dear--let's do it
up right."

"And be married away over there? Oh, Hugh!"

"Certainly. They can marry us over there as well as anywhere. Here,
I'll write the names of ten places and we'll draw one from my hat." He
sat down before a table and feverishly wrote upon the backs of a number
of his calling cards the names of as many cities, his companion looking
over his shoulder eagerly. Without ado he tossed the cards into a
jardinière in lieu of a hat. "Draw!" he said tragically.

"Wait a minute, Hugh. What have we to elope from? There isn't the
faintest objection in the world to our marriage."

"There you go--backing out!"

"No; I'm just as willing as you, but doesn't it seem rather absurd?" Her
hand hung over the jardinière irresolutely.

"It will be the greatest wedding tour that mortals ever took. Draw!"

"Well, then, there's the card. Mercy!" she cried, dropping a card on the
table. "That's a long distance, Hugh."

He picked up the card and his face paled a little as he read:

"Manila!"

They sat down in the chair, she on the arm as before. After a moment he
glanced at her perplexed face, and asked:

"Are you afraid to go, Grace?"

"It isn't that, Hugh. I was just wondering if we could reach Manila by
the twenty-third of May. It is unlucky to change the wedding day after
it has been once selected," she said softly.

"Grace Vernon, you are an angel. I was afraid you would show the white
feather. It's a go, then--Manila! We can start next week and get there
in good time."

"Next week? Impossible!" she cried in alarm.

"Nonsense! You can get ready for a trip to New York, making your
preparations for a sea voyage secretly. I'll attend to all the details.
It will be easy. No one will ever dream of what we are doing until we
cable the news home to your aunt."

"Oh, I must tell Aunt Elizabeth!"

"Not much! That's no way to elope. We must do it correctly or not at
all. Nobody is to know until we are really married. Can you get ready
in a week?"

"If I really must."

"Can't take any more time than that if we want to reach Manila in time
for the wedding."

"Oh, Hugh! We can't go to Manila!" she cried, suddenly starting to her
feet in distress. "My Uncle Harry lives there. He is my mother's only
brother and he's been there since the close of the war. He's in the hemp
business. Oh, dear! How provoking!" she concluded almost piteously.

"It's fine!" he exclaimed jubilantly. "We can be married at his home.
I'm sure he'll be happy to have us. You can write and tell him we're
coming, dear. Lord!" with great relief in his voice, "that simplifies
matters immensely. Now we have an excuse for going to Manila. But above
all things don't cable to him. Write a nice long letter and mail it just
before we start."

She was silent a long while, staring soberly at the blaze in the grate.

"There'll be no bridesmaids and ushers over there, Hugh."

"We don't want 'em."

Silence for a few minutes.

"In a week, did you say?"

"Positively."

"Well, I'll be ready," she said solemnly.

He kissed her tenderly, lovingly, pressed her cold hand and said
encouragingly:

"We'll meet in New York next Monday afternoon. Leave everything to me,
dear. It will be much pleasanter to go by way of London and it will help
to kill a good deal of time."

"Hugh," she said, smiling faintly, "I think we're proving that father
was right. I can't possibly arrive at the age of discretion until I am
twenty-three and past."



CHAPTER II

THE BEGINNING OF FLIGHT

Mr. Ridgeway paced back and forth outside the iron gates in the Grand
Central Station on the afternoon of April 1st, 190--, a smile of
anticipation and a frown of impatience alternating in his fresh, young
face. Certain lines of care seemed to have disappeared since we saw him
last, nearly a week ago, and in their stead beamed the light of a
new-found interest in life. Now and then he took from his pocket a
telegram; spectators stared amusedly at him as he read and reread:

DETROIT, MICHIGAN, March 81, 190--.

To H.B. Ridge:

Got away safely. Meet me Forty-second Street, New York, to-morrow at
three. Feel awfully queer and look a fright. Sympathetic lady, next
compartment, just offered condolences for loss of my husband. What are
the probabilities of storm? Be sure and find out before we start.

SISTER GRACE.

"Isn't that just like a girl!" he muttered to himself. "Where else would
Forty-second Street be but New York! London?"

They had decided to travel as brother and sister and to adopt Ridge as
the surname. Hugh had taken passage for Liverpool on the liner _Saint
Cloud_, to sail on the second, having first examined the list of
passengers to ascertain if there were any among them who might know him
or his companion in the adventure. The list was now complete, and he,
assured that there was no danger of recognition, felt the greatest
weight of all lifted from his mind.

He had also considerately inquired into the state of the weather and
learned that it promised well for the voyage. The whole affair was such
a glorious lark, such an original enterprise, that he could scarcely
restrain himself in his exhilaration from confiding in his chance hotel
acquaintances.

Purposely, the night before, he had gone to an hotel where he was
unknown, keeping under cover during the day as much as possible.
According to the prearranged plan, they were to go aboard ship that
evening, as the sailing hour was early in the morning.

He was waiting for her train. Every now and then his glance would shoot
through the throng of people, somewhat apprehensively, as if he feared,
instead of hoped, that some one might be there. This searching glance
was to determine whether there might be any danger of Chicago or New
York acquaintances witnessing the arrival of the person for whom he
waited. Once he recognized a friend and dodged quickly behind a knot of
people, escaping notice. That is why he audibly muttered:

"Thank Heaven!"

Every nerve was tingling with excitement; an indescribable desire to
fly, to shout, to race down the track to meet the train, swept through
him. His heart almost stopped beating, and he felt that his face was
bloodless. For the twentieth time in the last two hours Ridgeway looked
at his watch and frowningly exclaimed:

"Only five after two! Nearly an hour to wait!"

He sat down for a moment, only to arise the next and walk to the board
announcing the arrival of trains. Almost immediately one pulled into the
station. Perceiving a bystander--one of the sort that always give the
impression of being well-informed--he inquired casually where it
was from.

"Chicago," was the ready answer.

"Great Scott! Lucky I came early! Grace's idea of time--oh, well, only
the small matter of an hour out of the way."

Quickly he sprang forward, taking up a good position to watch. First
came a man hurriedly and alone. A bunch of people followed him. Hugh
peered unsuccessfully here and there among them. Another bunch; she was
not in it, and he began to feel a trifle nervous. Now came the
stragglers and he grew bewildered. Finally, the last one--a woman hove
in sight. With renewed hope he scanned her approach. It was not Grace!
His brain was in a whirl. What could have happened? Where was she?
Again he jerked out the telegram.

"Meet me Forty-second Street, New York, at three," he read half-aloud.
"Nothing could be plainer," he mused in perplexity. "No train at three;
another at--she must be on a later one."

"What time is the next Chicago train due?" he inquired anxiously at the
Information Bureau.

"Five-thirty, sir," politely answered the official.

"Five-thirty!" he repeated disgustedly.

Again the telegram was brought out and this time shown.

"On what road did you expect the lady?" was the question put with
well-simulated interest that every few minutes was practised on
different individuals.

"Road?" Hugh stared blankly at his questioner. "What road?" Then, like a
flash, the solution of the problem pierced his brain.

"What an ass I am!" he burst out, and added sheepishly: "West Shore!"

Purposely avoiding the other's face for confirmation of his
self-depreciatory exclamation, together with its unmistakable expression
of professional tolerance for the imbecilities of mankind, Hugh looked
at the time. It was two-thirty. Tearing out of the station, he hailed
a cab.

Inside, and moving fast, he winced a little as he thought of his late
strictures on girls and their ways. What a shame to have abused Grace,
when he himself had told her to take the Wabash as essential to their
plan. What a blooming idiot he was! New York in the telegram meant, of
course, the New York side of the river. He recovered his equanimity; the
world was serene again.

With a sharp pull the cabman brought up at the ferry and Hugh took his
stand among those waiting for the boat to disgorge its load of
passengers.

At that moment a thought struck him, and acting on it, he called out:

"Hi! porter!"

"Here, sir!"

"Where can I get some note paper?"

"All right, sir!" and in an instant a pad of paper was forthcoming.

Hugh took out his pencil and wrote a brief note. Then, in a low voice,
he said:

"Here, porter! I want you to do something for me."

"Yes, sir!"

"I'll make it worth your while, but I won't hare you attending to any
one else--understand?"

The porter demonstrated with a nod his perfect comprehension of what was
required, and there followed from his employer a minute description
of the lady.

"Young, slight, tall, fair, black hat and veil, and--"

"In mourning, sir, undoubtedly?"

"Mourning! No, of course not. Cannot a lady wear black without being in
mourning?" Hugh expostulated sharply.

"Certainly, sir; but generally--"

Whatever costume the worldly-wise porter would have approved as _en
régle_ for a lady, under conditions to his thinking so obviously
indiscreet, the description was forestalled by the ingenuous young man,
who, dissimilarly apprehensive and oblivious to the innuendo, was heard
to grumble:

"What on earth is the matter with people? Everybody seems to delight in
painting this most delectable of undertakings in the most funereal
colors!" and went on anxiously: "You're sure you won't miss, her?"

With an indulgent smile for the youth and inexperience of his patron,
and glancing surreptitiously at the size of the bill in his hand, the
attendant calmly announced that there was not the faintest possibility
of an error. He took his position a little to the right of and behind
Hugh, like an adjutant at dress parade. Through the ferry rushed the
weary, impatient travellers. Owing to the place Hugh had taken at one
side of the run, Grace, at first, did not perceive him. Anxiety, almost
fright, showed in her face; there passed through her a thrill of
consternation at the thought that perhaps he had not received her
telegram. The tense figure clasped the travelling-bag convulsively, and
her brown eyes flashed a look of alarm over the waiting throng. Another
moment and their gaze met; a voice ringing with happiness assailed her;
her heart throbbed again, and the blood rushed back to her
troubled face.

Hugh started forward.

"Hello, old man!" came suddenly from out of the crowd, and two heavy
bags plunked down on the floor; two strong hands grabbed Hugh by the
shoulders and their owner cried out boisterously: "What in the name of
all the gods are you doing here in New York?"

Hugh's heart was in his mouth. His blood froze within him. For, shaking
him with the embrace of a playful bear, was his old friend McLane
Woods--his chum at Princeton.

Dazed, and not daring to look up, the entangled man made a wild,
imploring gesture to the porter The latter caught it, stepped forward
and placed the note in the girl's hands.

"In case I am held up, go to the Astor. Will follow," were the words she
read quickly. With ready wit and only one stealthy glance at the two
men, Grace speedily followed in the wake of the too obsequious porter,
who placed her in a cab.

"To the Astor!" was the transferred instruction. The cabman, quick to
note the ambiguity in the direction given, prepared, with the subtlety
of his kind, for a long drive downtown.

However, the little comedy had not quite escaped attention. There was a
note of banter in the strident voice that again addressed Hugh, the
speaker accompanying it with a resounding slap on the back.

"Congratulations in order, old man? Come--you're caught--own up! Who is
she?" This with a crony-like dig in the ribs. "Runaway match, eh?"

At the other's greeting, Ridgeway promptly assured himself that all was
lost, and was about to return the welcome as best he could, when the
danger in the final words checked him, compelled a subterfuge.

Assuming a stony glare, an unnatural twist of the mouth, the "old man"
turned his bewildered glance upon the speaker, allowing it to resolve
itself into a sickening show of reproachfulness, and said in a voice
that almost made its owner laugh, it was so villainously artificial:

"You have the best of me, sir!"

An amazed expression came over the face of Mr. Woods. His glowing smile
dwindled into an incredulous stare.

"Don't you know me, Hugh?" he finally demanded, half indignantly.

"I do not, sir. My name is not Hugh, by the way. It is evident that you
mistake me for some one else," answered Mr. Ridgeway solemnly and
gutturally.

"Do you mean to say--oh, come now, old man, don't stand up there and try
to make a monkey of me. When did you get in?" cried Woods.

"Pardon me," sharply responded the other, "but I must insist that you
are mistaken. I am Dr. James Morton of Baltimore. The resemblance must
be remarkable."

Woods glared at Hugh, perfectly dumb with amazement. He passed his hand
over his eyes, cleared his throat a time or two, but seemed completely
at a loss for words to express himself.

"Are you in earnest?" he stammered. "Are you not Hugh Ridgeway of
Princeton, ninety--" but Hugh interrupted him politely.

"Assuredly not. Never was at Princeton in my life. Yale. Will you give
me your name and the address of your friend, please? By Jove, I'd like
to hunt him up some time!" Hugh was searching in his pockets as if for a
pencil and memorandum-book and waiting for his old chum to give him
his name.

"Well, of all the--" muttered Woods, looking into the other's face
penetratingly. "I never heard of anything like it. My name is McLane
Woods, and the man who looks like you is Hugh Ridgeway of Chicago.
I--I'll be hanged if it isn't too strange to be true."

"Very strange, indeed," smiled Hugh, striving to maintain the expression
he had assumed at the beginning--a very difficult task.

"But this isn't all. At Newburg, I boarded the train, and happening to
go through, I saw some one that I could have sworn was a Miss Vernon,
whom I met when visiting Ridgeway in Chicago. I started to speak to her;
but she gave me such a frigid stare that I sailed by, convinced that I
was mistaken. Two such likenesses in one day beats my time. Doesn't seem
possible, by George! it doesn't," exclaimed the puzzled New Yorker, his
eyes glued to the countenance of the man before him, who, by the way,
had almost betrayed himself at the mention of Miss Vernon's name. A
thrill of admiration ran through him when Woods announced his reception
by the clever girl who was running away with him.

"I'll do my best to meet this Mr. Ridgeway. I am frequently in Chicago,"
said he. "Glad to have met you, Mr. Woods, anyhow. If you are ever in
Baltimore, hunt me up. I am in the E--- Building."

"With pleasure, doctor; how long will you be in New York?"

"I am going away to-morrow."

"Won't you come with me to my club?" began Woods, but Hugh interrupted
by beckoning to the omnipresent porter.

"Thanks! Much obliged! Like to, you know, but have an appointment!" And,
shaking his hand, "Good-by!"

"Good-by!" gasped Woods reluctantly, as if desiring one word more. But
Hugh, with a grin on his face that awakened renewed expectations on the
part of the porter, was making, stiff and straight, for the
baggage-room. Once, looking back over his shoulder, he saw that Woods
was standing stock still; and again, with another smile, he watched his
mystified friend slowly depart.

"Now, then, my man, tell me quickly--you gave her the note? What did she
do? Where did she go? Out with it--why don't you speak?"

"All right, sir. Everything's all right. The lady has gone to the
hotel," replied the man as soon as Hugh gave him a chance to answer.

"Good. Find me another cab, quick. And here," handing him a dollar.

Meanwhile, Grace Vernon, quite sanguine of soon being with Hugh, was
approaching the lower part of the city, reasoning, quite logically, that
a downtown hotel was selected on account of the probable absence of the
ultra-fashionable set. There, their secret would be safe,--and also they
would be nearer the steamer.

Arriving at her destination, Grace dismissed the disappointed cabman,
and entered the ladies' waiting-room, where she rang for the clerk.

"Is there a Mr. Ridge staying here?" she asked of him with an assurance
that, she flattered herself, was admirably assumed.

"No such person with us, madam. Were you expecting him?"

"Why, yes," she replied, a little confused. "He should be here any
minute."

And to his inquiry as to whether she would require anything in the
meantime, there came a reply in the negative and he departed.

With a sigh of relief at being alone, she crossed over to a desk and
busied herself in writing a long letter. This accomplished, she arose,
moved over to the window and looked out. The waiting-room faced the main
artery of the city, and below her was the endless stream of humanity.
Endeavoring to check a slight feeling of uneasiness that was fast coming
over her at Hugh's unexpected non-appearance, she tried to concentrate
her thoughts on the panorama of the streets. A half hour passed. Then,
in spite of herself, nervousness assailed her. What could be keeping
him? Had he met with an accident? Or, could she have made a mistake in
the name under which he was to register--could he be waiting for her all
the time? Back and forth, to and fro the girl paced. Thoroughly alarmed
and in spite of a sense of mortification at such an undertaking, she
again interviewed the clerk.

"Will it be convenient for me to see the register?" she inquired, forced
to conceal her embarrassment.

The clerk obligingly brought the book and eagerly she scanned the list.
Unfortunately, for her, there was no mistake. Nothing like Ridgeway,
Ridge or Hugh's handwriting greeted her anxious eyes.

A silence that seemed an inconceivably long one to the almost
overwrought girl was broken by the clerk asking would she register?

Grace could hardly restrain her agitation. The critical moment had come.
Something must be done. But what? Should she register and under what
name? Or, should she wait longer; and if not, where should she go?
Finally, with a desperate effort, she looked imploringly at him, and
with heightened color, gasped:

"No, thank you; I'll wait a little longer for my--my--brother."

It was out. The prevarication had been uttered, and Grace felt as if
she had committed a crime and punishment was at hand. Tears of distress
came to her eyes; the situation was becoming intolerable.

It was just then that there came a shrill cry:

"Miss Ridge!"

Grace remained immovable. The name she had inquired for a few minutes
ago was called without bringing a sign or change of expression to the
beautiful face, on which the wondering eyes of the clerk were fixed. He
started to speak, but was withheld by her impassibility.

Again the same cry, and this time, the last word was accentuated. A boy
entered.

As the clerk, slightly raising his eyebrows, turned toward her, Grace
gave a little start; an enlightened glance shot from her eyes; the
significance of the call gradually dawned upon her.

"I am Miss Ridge!" came excitedly from her trembling lips, the hot blood
crimsoning her cheeks.

"A telephone--"

"For me?" she asked uneasily.

"From Mr. Ridge; wants you to wait," finished the boy.

"Thank you! Oh, thank you!" The girl beamed her relief on the staring
bell-boy. And, the message having been delayed, the grateful words were
hardly spoken before Hugh, almost distracted, rushed into the room.
Regardless of appearances or consequences, the tall young fellow seized
her and kissed her in a fashion that would have brought terrible
rebuke, under any other circumstance, and which certainly caused the
clerk to consider this Mr. Ridge the most demonstrative brother that in
a long experience in hotel life he had ever encountered. When Hugh held
her at arm's length to give his admiring gaze full scope, he saw tears
of joy swimming in her eyes. Her voice quivered as she sighed:

"I should have died in another moment!"

"You are the dearest girl in all the world!" Then he explained to her
the cause of the delay. After getting rid of Woods, he had rushed to the
Hotel Astor, where he expected to find her waiting for him. All
inquiries as to whether any lady answering to her description had been
seen there had resulted in failure. He would have been there yet,
growing angrier all the while, had not a gentleman who had overheard his
troubles suggested that he telephone the Astor House, in the hope that
the lady might be waiting there.

At the end of this recital of his vexatious experience Hugh seized her
travelling-bag, and together they made their way out of the hotel.

"Oh, Hugh!" cried Grace, hanging back a little. "What did Mr. Woods say
to you? What did you say? Do you know he tried to speak with me on
the train?"

"Honestly, I don't remember, dear--sister. He's the most muddled man,
though, in New York, I'll bet a dollar. And now that I think of it, it
wasn't absolutely necessary; but when he guyed me about a runaway
match, it paralyzed me, and I had to do something, so I swore that I had
never heard of such a person as Ridgeway."

Grace was too astounded to speak.

"Then he told me of meeting you," he continued, "and that settled it.
Poor old Woods! What a trump you were, Grace!"

"You wouldn't have thought so if you could have seen me when I first
boarded the train. My! I was blue! Fortunately, I did not see him until
we were nearly here. Hugh Ridgeway--Ridge, I mean--do you know what I
did? It will make you very angry!" she said as they waited for a cab.

"Nothing could make me angry." This was said ten seconds later, when
they were inside the cab and a nervous, smiling young woman at his side
was squeezing his arm expressively. "Driver!" he called out, "go
uptown--anywhere--through the park until I tell you to stop!" and
turning to her, added: "We'll have a bit of dinner somewhere and then go
aboard. Now, what did you do?"

"Well," she went on, "I actually tossed up a quarter in the compartment
to see whether I should go on or turn back."

"You did? Really? Who won?"

"I did," she answered naïvely.

"No; I did. I am beginning to feel too lucky to be awake. And would you
have turned back if you had lost? Would you have left me here with all
this anticipation to dispose of?" he cried.

"If it came tails, I was to turn back. It came tails."

"What! And you came anyhow?"

"Well, you see, after the first flip I concluded to make it two out of
three trials. So I flipped again, Hugh, and it came tails. Then I made
it three out of five. That was only fair, wasn't it?"

"Certainly. Seven out of thirteen or eleven out of twenty, just so you
won."

"I tossed that coin seventeen times, and the final count was nine for
New York and eight for Chicago. The train had started, so I didn't flip
again. Wasn't it a narrow majority, dear?"

"If it were not for appearing ridiculous, I would kiss you seventeen
times right here. Oh, how about your baggage--luggage, I mean?"
he cried.

"The transfer man will take them to the dock. I have ten big ones--new
steamer trunks. You'll never know how much trouble I had in getting them
packed and out of the house."

"Ten! Great Scott! I have but two!"

"Don't worry, dear. You can pack some of your things in mine--coming
home, of course," she said laughingly.

"Great, isn't it?" he chuckled. "Nobody on earth ever did anything like
it. But before I forget it, how did you leave your aunt?"

"Poor Aunt Elizabeth! She will be so disappointed. I promised to do a
lot of shopping for her. But she's well and can endure the delay, I
fancy. To prepare her for the shock, I told her that I might stay East
for a couple of weeks, perhaps longer. She does not suspect a thing, but
she was awfully cut up about my leaving at this time."

"I'm glad you quieted Aunt Elizabeth, for it would be just like her to
send detectives after us." Both laughed as he whispered this to her. As
the cab whirled away she said:

"What happy fools we are!"

"Sit back, quick! Cover your face," he suddenly cried.

"What--who is it?" she giggled.

"We just passed a policeman, and he looked rather hard at the windows,"
he cried, with a broad grin.

"Oh, you ninny!"

"Well, we must elope with fear and trembling or it won't count," he
cried. "Is there anything you have to buy before we sail? If there is,
we must attend to it now, because we leave at a most outlandish hour in
the morning."

Miss Vernon looked alarmed for a moment, the real enormity of the
escapade striking her with full force. But she smiled in the next and
said that she could make a few necessary purchases in a few minutes if
he would direct the cabman. "It's a long way to Manila, you know," she
said. "Hugh, I noticed in the paper the other day that this is the
season for typhoons, or whatever you call them, in the Indian Ocean. I
looked them up in the dictionary. There's a picture of one in action,
and they must be dreadful things. One of them could tear our ship to
pieces in a minute, I should judge. Wouldn't it be awful--if--if--"

"Pshaw! Typhoons are nothing! It's a simoon that you're thinking about,
and they happen only on the desert. In what dictionary did you
see that?"

"Webster's, of course."

Mr. Ridgeway did not continue along that line, but mentally resolved to
look into Webster's on the sly, and, furthermore, to ask the captain of
the _Saint Cloud_ to tell him all he knew about typhoons.

"Have him drive to Arnold's, Hugh."

She left him in the carriage in front of the store, promising to be gone
not more than five minutes. Ten minutes passed and Hugh resignedly
lighted a cigarette, stepping to the sidewalk to smoke. After he had
smoked four cigarettes a perceptible frown approached his brow. He
looked at the big doorway, then at his watch, then at the imperturbable
cabman. Her five minutes had grown to half an hour. His good nature was
going to the bad and he was about to follow in her footsteps when
suddenly he saw her emerging from the store.

"I had to mail a letter," she explained as they drove off. "Oh, Hugh,
I'm so nervous, I know that I will do something silly before we sail."

"A letter?"

"Yes; I mailed one letter to Uncle Harry before I left Chicago, you
know, but I forgot something important, so I had to write again to-day."

"What did you forget?"

"I forgot to tell him you were coming out on the same ship and would
look after me as if I were your own sister, Hugh."

Strange to say, neither of them smiled as their hands met in a warm,
confident clasp.



CHAPTER III

THE FIRST OBSTACLE

A drizzling rain began to fall and an overcast sky, cold and bleak,
dropped lower and lower until it covered the dripping park like a sombre
mantle. The glass in the hood of the hansom kept out the biting rain,
but the drear approach of a wet evening was not to be denied. For nearly
three hours Hugh and Grace had been driven through the park and up the
Riverside, killing time with a nervous energy that was beginning to
tell. The electric lights were coming on; pavements glistened with the
glare from the globes; tiny volcanoes leaped up by thousands as the
patting, swishing raindrops flounced to the sidewalks.

"Isn't it dismal?" murmured Grace, huddling closer to his side. "I
thought the weather man said it was to be nice? It's horrid!"

"I think it's lovely!" said he beamingly. "Just the sort of weather for
a mystery like this. It begins like a novel."

"I hope it ends as most of them do, commonplace as they are. Anyhow, it
will be fun to dine at Sherry's. If any one that we know should see us,
we can say--"

"No, dear; we'll not attempt to explain. In the face of what is to
follow, I don't believe an accounting is necessary. This is to be our
last dinner in good old America for many a day, dear. We'll have a good
one, just for history's sake. What kind of a bird will you have?"

"A lark, I think," she said with a bright smile.

"Oh, one doesn't eat the lark for dinner. He's a breakfast bird, you
know. One rises with him. Bedsides, we should try to keep our lark in
fine feather instead of subjecting it to the discomforts of a gridiron
in some--"

His observations came to an abrupt close as both he and his companion
pitched forward violently, barely saving themselves from projection
through the glass. The hansom had come to a sudden stop, and outside
there was a confused sound of shouting with the crunching of wood and
the scraping of wheels. The horse plunged, the cab rocked sharply and
then came to a standstill.

"What is it?" gasped Grace, trying to straighten her hat and find her
bag at the same time. Hugh managed to raise the glass and peer dazedly
forth into the gathering night. A sweep of fine rain blew into their
faces. He saw a jumble of high vehicles, a small knot of men on the
sidewalk, gesticulating hands on every side, and then came the oaths and
sharp commands.

"We've smashed into something!" he said to her.

"Some one is hurt! Confound these reckless drivers! Why can't they
watch where--"

"Come down off that!" shouted a voice at the wheel, and he saw a huge
policeman brandishing his club at the driver above. "Come down, I say!"

"Aw, the d---- fool backed into me," retorted the driver of Hugh's
hansom. His fare noticed that they were at the Sherry corner, and the
usual crowd of seven-o'clock cabs was in full evidence.

"That'll do--that'll do," roared the officer. "I saw the whole thing.
Ye've cracked his head, you dirty cur."

Two men were holding the horse's head and other policemen were making
their way to the side of their fellow-officer. Evidently something
serious had happened.

"What's the trouble?" Hugh called out to the officer.

"You'll find out soon enough," answered the policeman. "Don't butt
in--don't butt in!"

"Here, here, now!" exclaimed Mr. Ridgeway. "You've no right to talk like
that to--"

"Oh, I ain't, eh? Well, we'll see if somebody else has a right. You
dudes can't kill people and then get off with talk like that. Not much,
my Johnny. You go along, too, an' explain yer hurry to the captain."

"But I've got a lady here--"

"Tush! tush! Don't chew the rag. Stay in there!"

Other officers had dragged the driver from the cab, jostling him
roughly to the outer circle of wheels. The man was protesting loudly.
Rain had no power to keep a curious crowd from collecting. Hugh,
indignant beyond expression, would have leaped to the ground had not a
second and superior officer stepped up and raised his hand.

"Don't get down, sir," he said with gentle firmness. "I'm afraid you'll
have to go to the station for a few minutes."

"But, confound it, officer--I have nothing to do with this row."

"That may be true, sir. You can explain all that at the desk. We have to
get at the bottom of this. This is no place to argue."

A moment later the hansom, with a bent axle, was hobbling its way down
the street engineered by bluecoats. Hugh, seeing that it was useless to
remonstrate, sank back in the seat and swore audibly.

"Don't worry about it, Hugh," said a soft voice in his ear. "We can
explain, can't we?"

"You can't explain anything to asses, Grace," he lamented, "especially
if they wear buttons." They lapsed into a mournful, regretful silence.
For five full minutes the hansom wobbled painfully along and then pulled
up in front of a building which Hugh lugubriously recognized as a police
station. "We've got to make the best of it, dear. Did you ever hear of
such beastly luck? I'll see if they won't let me go in alone and square
things. You won't be afraid to sit out here alone for a few minutes,
will you? There's really nothing to be alarmed about. This driver of
ours is in trouble, that's all. We're not to blame. A word or two will
fix everything. I'll be out in a jiffy."

But the bluecoats would not see it that way. Miss Vernon was compelled
to climb down from the seat and march indignantly into the desk
sergeant's presence. Hugh at once began to explain and to expostulate
against what he called an outrage.

"What had we to do with it? The truth is, I don't know what has
happened," he was saying.

"Neither do I," said the bewhiskered sergeant shortly. "Who are you,
sir?"

"These people saw the whole thing, sir. They were in the hansom when
Bernhardt smashed him, an' this felly had ordered him to get to Sherry's
in five minutes if he had to kill some one," explained the officer who
had first addressed Hugh in the crowd.

"That's a lie," cried Hugh. "I said if he had to kill the old plug. Who
is Bernhardt? What the deuce is it all about?"

"I don't believe the gentleman saw the row," said the polite roundsman.
"It happened in the crush there."

"Somebody shall pay for this outrage," exclaimed Ridgeway. "It's beastly
to drag a lady and gentleman into a police station like common criminals
when they--"

"That will do, sir," commanded the sergeant sharply. "You'll talk when
you are asked to, sir."

Turning to the patrolman, he asked, "Has that fellow been taken to the
hospital?"

"The ambulance came up just as we left, sir."

"Bernhardt says he didn't hit him. He says the guy fell off his own
cab."

"Don't cry, dear," Hugh managed to whisper to Grace as they took the
seats designated by a brusque man in blue.

"Never!" she whispered bravely. "It's a lark!"

"Bravo! We'll have that bird yet--at Sherry's." Then he approached the
desk with determination in his eye. "Look here, officer, I demand
respectful attention. Whatever it was that happened between those
cabmen, I had nothing to do with it, and I am absolutely ignorant of the
trouble. We have a dinner engagement, and I want you to take our
statements, or whatever it is you want, and let us go our way."

"What is your name?" shortly.

"Why--er--that isn't necessary, is it?" floundered Hugh.

"Of course it is. Name, please."

"Will it get into the papers?"

"That's nothin' to me. Will you answer now, or do you want to stay here
till mornin'?"

"My name is Smith."

"Place of residence?"

"Brooklyn."

"Who's the lady?"

"My sister."

"Step up here, lady, if you please!"

Hugh felt the floor giving away beneath him. That Grace could not have
heard a word of the foregoing examination, he was perfectly aware.
Vainly, and with a movement of his lips, he essayed to convey the name
she should answer.

"Don't butt in, you!" was the instant warning given by the observant
officer, and then--

"Lady, what is _your_ name?"

For a moment the question bewildered the girl. With considerable
misgiving she discerned that another occasion for prevarication was
unavoidable, and something like a sigh escaped her lips; but as suddenly
fear gave way to a feeling of elation. How clever Hugh would consider
her remembrance of his instructions! What felicity to extricate him from
this predicament! Alone, she would save the situation!

Unblushingly, and with a glance at him for instant approval, she stepped
forward and pronounced jubilantly the alias agreed upon:

"Ridge--Miss Ridge is my name."

A smothered exclamation of dismay burst from Hugh's lips.

"Eh, what? Miss Ridge, and your brother's name--Smith?" ejaculated the
man of authority.

For a brief moment there was a pause of embarrassment; and then with a
dazzling, bewitching smile directed at her questioner, she electrified
them both:

"Most assuredly. Mr. Smith is my half-brother."

Hugh could have shouted for joy, as he watched the somewhat amused
discomfiture of the officer.

"Where do you live?"

"St. Louis," gasped she, with blind confidence in luck.

"Oh, humph! Well, wait a minute," he said, and both were gratified to
see a good-natured grin on his face. "Buckley, see if there is a family
named Smith in Brooklyn with connection in St. Louis. Sit down, Miss
Ridge, please, and don't be worried. This is what we have to do. Your
driver slugged another of his kind and he's likely to die of the fall he
got. We'll have to use you as witnesses, that's all, an' we must have
you where we can put our hands on you in the mornin'. The captain will
be here in an hour or two and you can probably manage to give some kind
of bond for your appearance. People like you don't like to appear in
court, you see, so we've got to make sure of you."

"But we must go to our--our dinner," she wailed so prettily that he
coughed to cover his official severity.

"Can't be helped, ma'am. Duty, you know. The captain will soon be here.
Would you like to telephone, sir?"

Hugh stared and looked embarrassed. Who was there for him to talk to
over the 'phone? And that brought another ghastly thought to mind. Who
could he ask to give security for his or her appearance in the morning?
He found words to say he would telephone to his friends, a bright idea
suddenly coming to the rescue. Grace looked her amazement and alarm as
he marched into the telephone booth. Bravely he called up Sherry's and,
with the sergeant listening, he sent word to the head waiter to inform
Mr. ---- (mentioning the name of a very prominent society leader) that
Mr. Smith and Miss Ridge were unavoidably detained and could not join
the party until quite late, if at all. He came from the booth very much
pleased with himself, and sat down beside Grace to await developments.

"What are we to do?" she whispered.

"Give me time to think, dear. I fooled him that time. Perhaps I can do
it again. Great bluff, wasn't it? What do you suppose Mr. ----
will think?"

"But if they should insist upon holding us till morning," she cried, on
the verge of tears, trouble looming up like a mountain.

"They won't dare do that. They'll probably send us to a hotel with a
plain-clothes man unless we give bond, but that's all. I'll try another
bluff and see how it works. There's no use kicking about it. We're not
in a position to stir up much of a row, you see, dear."

He tried it when the captain came in unexpectedly a few minutes later,
and with the most gratifying results. He obtained consent to go with a
plain-clothes man to a nearby restaurant for a "bite to eat." In the
meantime he was to send a messenger boy with a note to an influential
friend in Brooklyn, requesting him to hurry over and give security for
their appearance. If this failed, they were to go to a hotel
under guard.

"The only thing that sounds fishy about your story, Mr. Smith, is that
you say you are brother and sister," said the captain. "Driving all
afternoon in the park with your own sister? Queer."

"She's from Missouri, you know," said Hugh with a fine inspiration. The
captain laughed, even though he was not convinced.

"Now, Grace, dear," said Hugh as they waited for the cab to be called,
"our adventure is on in dead earnest. We have to give this plain-clothes
man the slip and get aboard the _Saint Cloud_ before they have time to
think. They won't look for us there and we're safe."

"Hugh, I'm frightened half to death," she whispered. "Can we do it?
Would it not be wiser to give up the whole plan, Hugh, and--"

"Oh, Grace!" he cried, deep regret in his voice. "What a cad I am to be
dragging you into all this sort of thing! Yes, dear. We'll give it up.
We'll go back to Chicago. It's too much to ask of you. I'll--"

"No, no, Hugh! Forgive me. I'll be strong and firm. I wouldn't give it
up for all the world. I--I was just a bit weak for a second, you know.
It does look pretty big and wild, dear,--all that is ahead of us. But,
after all, it's like any sea voyage, isn't it? Only we're going to be
married when it's over. We Wouldn't think anything of taking a trip to
Manila under ordinary circumstances, would we? It's all right, isn't
it?" He squeezed her hand cautiously but fervently.

To their disgust the plain-clothes man took the seat opposite them in
the brougham, remarking as he did so that he had sense enough to get in
out of the rain. They had no opportunity to concoct a plan for escape,
and it was necessary for them to go on to the restaurant in Longacre
Square. It occurred to Hugh that it would be timely to explain why they
were not dressed for dinner. They were on their way to the hotel to
dress when the fracas took place. The plain-clothes man was not
interested. Evidently the authorities did not apprehend much trouble
from the two young people; their guardian performed his duties
perfunctorily and considerately. He even disappeared from view after
they entered the restaurant.

"We'll have that bird," said Hugh, "before we do anything else. I'm
hungry. Haven't eaten since last night, dear. I've been too excited to
think of eating--or sleeping."

In a quiet corner of the big café they had their bird and just enough
champagne to give them the courage that counts. With their heads close
together they planned and plotted until they forgot the rain that
pattered against the window panes, and dreariness turned to rosy
assurance.

"Just a little nerve, dear," said he as they arose. "Do as I have told
you and trust to luck. It can't fail."

The plain-clothes man was just outside the door. Scores of people were
hurrying past, umbrellas raised in the face of the drizzle. Down
Broadway the glare of lights was broken and left hazy in the fog like
rain. The sidewalks in the distance looked like a bobbing field of black
mushrooms, shiny and sleek. The air was chill with the wet shadows of a
night that hated to surrender to the light of man.

"Where's the cab?" demanded Hugh. "Get it up here quick. I don't want to
keep my friend waiting at the station. Come in and have a drink,
officer. It's no fun standing around this kind of weather. No job for a
decent human being, I'd say. Especially when one's set to watch
respectable people and not criminals. This is a rattling good joke on
me--and my sister. I need about three good, stiff drinks? We'll go in
next door here. Get into the cab, Marian, We won't be inside
two minutes."

If the plain-clothes man was willing to take the drink, all well and
good, but if he refused--but he did not refuse. He looked carefully
about, shivered appropriately, and said he "didn't care if he did."
Grace urged them to hurry as she entered the cab and Hugh gave his
promise. Scarcely had the two men passed beyond the light screen doors
when Grace Vernon coolly stepped from the cab and hurriedly made her way
off through the crowd of umbrellas, first telling the driver to wait for
her in front of the drug store.

A moment later she boarded a Broadway car, and excited, but intent only
on reaching a place where she could safely engage a cab to take her to
the dock. And all the time she was hoping and praying, not for herself,
but for the important young gentleman who was clicking his righteous
glass in a den of iniquity.



CHAPTER IV

READY FOR THE SEA

Ridgeway, his nerves tense and his eyes gleaming, marched his thoroughly
chilled companion up to the bar. He manoeuvred so that the plain-clothes
man stood with his back toward the door, and he seemed to be in no
especial haste to attract the attention of the bartender. As they gave
their order for drinks, Hugh saw Grace, in his mind's eye, slipping from
the carriage and off into the crowd--and every fibre of his heart was
praying for success to attend her flight. He found himself talking
glibly, even volubly to the watcher, surprised that he could be doing it
with his mind so full of other thoughts.

"Awful night to be out. I'd hate to have a job like yours," he was
rattling on, heaving intermittent breaths of relief as he saw the size
of the drink the other was pouring out for himself.

"I've been at it for twelve years. I don't mind anything just so it
helps to make a comfortable home for the old lady and the kids."

"Ah, the kids," said Hugh, grasping at the subject as if it were the
proverbial straw. "How I love kids! How many have you?"

"Four. The oldest is ten."

"They're worth working for, I'll bet. Nothing like children. How many
have you?"

"Four," said the officer, looking at him in surprise.

"I'm a little deaf," explained Hugh, recovering himself quickly. "I
thought you said ten."

"No; the oldest is ten. Yes; they're worth slaving for. I've hung onto
this job all these years just because it might go hard with 'em if I
gave it up and tried something else."

Hugh looked into the sober, serious face and a lump flew to his throat.
It struck him as probable that this man was to lose his position the
next morning. A sort of pity assailed Ridgeway for an instant, but he
put it away resolutely.

After all, he had Grace to think of and not the children of the
plain-clothes man.

They had a second drink and it fired his brain with a gleeful desire for
action. The plain-clothes man shivered as he swallowed the fiery stuff.
He looked thin and haggard and ill, a condition which Hugh, in his
hatred, had failed to observe until this moment.

"You certainly have a home and some money saved up by this time," he
said, trying to suppress the eager gleam in his eyes.

"We've had lots of sickness and it's taken nearly everything. Besides,
I've been too d---- honest. It's my own fault that I haven't a big wad
put away."

"What is your name?" demanded Hugh suddenly.

"Friend."

"I understand all that. But what is your name?"

"That's it--George Friend--Street Station."

"Oh, I see." Hugh also saw the picture of this poor fellow as he stood
before his superior later on with his luckless tale, facing a
thirty-days' lay-off at the lowest. "By the way, I want to write a short
note." He secured envelope, paper and stamp from the bar and hastily
wrote a brief letter. The inscription on the outside of the envelope was
"George Friend,--Police Station, New York," and there were three
one-hundred-dollar bills inclosed with the note of explanation. "I'll
mail it later," he said. "Come on."

They went forth into the rain, Hugh's blood leaping with excitement, the
plain-clothes man shivering as if he were congealing. Mr. Ridgeway
dashed across the pavement and peered into the cab. Grace was not there,
just as he had hoped and expected.

"The lady's in the drug-store below, sir," announced the cabman.

"Wait here" called Hugh to the plain-clothes man. "I'm afraid she's ill.
She's gone to the drug-store." He hurried toward the drug-store as the
officer began to question the driver. A second later Mr. Ridgeway turned
the corner and was off like the wind toward Sixth Avenue. Turning into
an alley, he fled southward, chuckling to himself as he splashed through
the puddles and mudholes. He heard shouts in the distance and he did not
decrease his speed until he neared the street opening below. There he
ran into some one and fell. Besmeared and bespattered, he quickly
picked himself up; and when, a moment later, he gained the sidewalk, no
one would hardly have recognized in the dilapidated-looking creature the
dapper Hugh Ridgeway. Police whistles were calling behind him, nearer
and nearer, but he walked boldly out into the street and up to Sixth
Avenue. His nerves were tingling and his breathing was hard to control
after the mad dash through the alley, but he slouched along in the lee
of the buildings to escape the downpour, stopping near the corner.

Suddenly he rushed out and hailed a passing cab, climbed inside and gave
orders to drive as quickly as possible to the Twenty-third Street Ferry.
Then he sat up boldly and stared forth with all the courage that his
escape inspired.

"By Jove," he was shouting inwardly, "that poor devil was on my heels.
He looked hard as he hustled past, but I stared back just as hard. It
took nerve to face him. Hang it all, I'm sorry for him. He wasn't to
blame. But this letter will cheer him up. It's for the kids if anything
happens to him."

Apparently changing his mind at Herald Square, he instructed the driver
to go down Thirty-fifth Street to Eighth Avenue and drop him at the
corner. After leaving the cab he ventured into an all-night shop and
bought a cheap raincoat, slouch hat and umbrella. Then, like a thief, he
stole forth and warily made his way toward the dock. It was bad going
and he hailed a second cab. Before climbing into it, he crossed and
dropped an envelope into the mailbox.

"There," he muttered, "that helps my conscience. By Jove, this has been
a corking start for the adventure. Talk about dime novels!"

He instructed the driver to take him to a point not far from the dock, a
precaution which suddenly invested itself. It would be wise to approach
the liner by stealth, taking no chances. They were sailing by one of the
obscure lines, not for economy's sake, but to avoid possible contact
with friends of their own class.

As he rattled off through the night, huddled back in the blackness of
the cab, Hugh began to have the first pangs of uneasiness. The
distressing fear that all had not gone well with Grace flooded his brain
with misgivings and feverish doubts. A clock in a shop window told him
it was nearly ten o'clock. He was cursing himself for permitting her to
rush off alone in a night like this, into a quarter that reeked with
uncertainty and disorder. Vague horrors presented themselves to his
distressed mind; calamity stared at him from the mouth of every dark
alley; outrage, crime, misfortune, danced in every shadow. As for
himself, he was a sorry sight and enough to frighten Grace into
convulsions at one glance. Rain-soaked, muddy, bedraggled, it was not
the débonnaire Chicagoan of old who skulked away from the cab at a
certain black corner and made his way stealthily, even fearfully, toward
the distant dock.

Every sound startled and alarmed him; every pedestrian looked like a
pursuer in plain clothes or blue. A couple of policemen eyed him sharply
and he trembled in his boots. The sudden, overpowering recollection that
he had the passage tickets in his pockets with the reservations and the
luggage checks almost sent him flying through the air, so swift was his
pace. He lost his way twice, but was set straight by unsuspecting
bluecoats.

At last he zigzagged his way through devious channels and into the
presence of a company's official, who informed him that Miss Ridge had
not gone aboard nor had she presented herself at the dock during the
evening. Hugh's jaw dropped and a sick, damp perspiration started on his
forehead. Hardly knowing what he did, he went aboard and plied his
questions right and left, hoping that she might have come through
unobserved. But she was not there, and it was half past ten o'clock.

Out into the drizzle he sallied once more, racked by a hundred doubts
and misgivings. Reproaching himself fiercely for a fool, a dolt, he
posted himself at the approach to the dock and strained his eyes and
ears for the first sight of Grace Vernon. Other people went aboard, but
an hour passed before he gave up all hope and distractedly made up his
mind to institute a search for the missing girl. He conjectured all
manner of mishaps, even to the most dreadful of catastrophes. Runaway
accident, robbery, abduction, even murder harassed his imagination until
it became unbearable. The only cheerful alternative that he could hope
for was that she might not have escaped the authorities after all and
was still in custody, crushed and despairing. Reviling himself with a
bitterness that was explicit but impotent, he started off resolutely to
seek the aid of the police--the last extremity.

A quick little shriek came to his ears, and then the door of a cab that
had been standing at the opposite corner flew open.

"Hugh! Hugh!" called a shrill voice. His heart gave a wild leap and then
his long legs did the same--repeatedly. As he brought up beside the cab,
Grace Vernon tumbled out, sobbing and laughing almost hysterically.

"Good Heavens!" shouted he, regardless of the driver, who grinned
scornfully from his private box above, the only witness to this most
unconventional comedy of circumstances.

"I've been--been here an hour--in this cab!" she cried plaintively. "Oh,
oh, oh! You'll never know how I felt all that time. It seemed a year.
Where did you get those awful-looking clothes, and--"

"What--aw--oh, the coat? Great Jehoshaphat! You don't mean to say
that--"

"I thought you were a detective!" she sobbed. "Oh, how wretched I've
been. Pay the man, dear, and take me--take me any place where there is
light. I'm dying from the sight and sound of this awful night."

Mr. Ridgeway lost no time in paying the driver and getting her on board
the _Saint Cloud_. She tried to explain as they hurried along, but he
told her there was time enough for that.

"We may be watched, after all," he said, looking anxiously in all
directions, a habit that had grown upon him to such an extent that he
feared it would cling to him through life. "Go to your stateroom,
dearest, and I'll send you something hot to drink. Good Heavens, what an
eternity it has been! Oh, if you could only know what I've been
calling myself!"

"I'm ashamed to admit it, dear, but _I've_ been calling you things, too.
And I've been so worried about you. How did you get away from that man?"

"Not now, dear. I'll meet you out here in the library in half an hour.
I'll see about the luggage."

"You must change your clothes, Hugh. You're frightfully wet. Send my
small trunk and bag right up, dear."

Like a thief and murderer, Hugh slunk out and attended to the trunks and
bags, watching all the time for the dreaded plain-clothes man and his
cohorts, trembling with a nervous fear so unbecoming in a strong man
that the baggage master smiled in derision and imagined he was looking
upon a "greenie" who was making his first voyage and was afraid of the
sea. Offering up a prayer of thankfulness, he bolted into his own
stateroom soon afterward and came forth later on in dry clothes and a
new frame of mind. He was exuberant, happy once more.

They did not look like brother and sister as they sat on one of the
wide sofas and drank the toddy that came from below in charge of a
well-feed steward.

"Be careful, dear!" he warned, with returning reason. "They'll think
we're bride and groom."

"Oh, dear me," she lamented. "It is almost out of the question to act
like brother and sister after all we've been through to-night."

"Now, tell me all about it. How did it all work out for you," he asked
eagerly.

"Well, it was all very simple--although I was frightened half to
death--until I drove up to the spot where you saw me a little while ago.
I thought it would be wise to take a look around before I tried to go
aboard. Just as I left the cab a man rushed past me and I flew back into
my seat like a bullet. He was a tall, slouchy fellow, with a sly look.
All at once it came to me that he was a detective. You know, they're
always mysterious looking. So I stayed in the cab trying to think what
to do next. I was quite sure you had not yet arrived, for I had come
down as quickly as possible. And I wasn't real sure, either, that you
had escaped. I didn't know how many drinks it might take, dear."

"Don't let me forget to tell you how sorry I was for Mr. Plain Clothes
and what I did afterward for the kids," interposed Hugh.

"The kids?"

"Yes. His."

"Oh, I see. Well, pretty soon that awful man came out and stood at the
corner. He was waiting for some one. He was nervous and sleuth-like. He
acted so queerly that I was sure of it. He was after you and me. Of
course, I nearly fainted. All the time I was afraid you would run right
into his arms, so I was watching from both windows to warn you if
possible. My plan was to get you into the cab and drive away like mad.
Hours passed, it seemed to me, and--"

"I know the rest!" he cried, laughing so loud that the steward looked up
reprovingly.

"Is everything ready, Hugh?" she asked anxiously. "The trunks, the
tickets,--everything?"

"Yes, dear," he said tenderly, soberly. "We are ready for the sea."

"God be with us," she said wistfully.



CHAPTER V

MR. AND MISS RIDGE SAIL FOR MANILA

London. A thick fog, and the elopers on board the _Tempest Queen_, one
of the fastest and most palatial of the liners which ply between England
and the Far East, and for ten years under the command of Captain
Shadburn, formerly of the British Navy. For the elopement was now an
established fact, and Hugh, looking back on their Atlantic voyage, hoped
that in this new ship fortune would be more propitious.

Excitement, an exaggerated dread of being followed by detectives,
together with seasickness, had been too much for Grace, and all those
weary days she had scarcely left her stateroom. Alone in her bunk,
ticketed to the other side of the world, running away from nothing but a
foolish aversion, the girl had felt her heart grow cold with a nameless
dread, a clammy fear that she had undertaken something that she could
not accomplish. Almost hourly each day of that unending voyage, Hugh
would knock at her door and beg to be allowed to do something to
alleviate her sufferings; then a thrill of new tenderness would dart
into her soul as she thought of her champion for all time.

And Hugh. Never had time seemed such an eternity. Do what he would, he
could not escape the Nemesis-like conviction that he had led the girl he
loved into the most unheard-of folly; had carried her to the point where
ruin stood on equal footing with success, and joy itself was a menace.
Yet during all these days of torment concerning her enfeebled condition
and his recklessness, he remembered with sardonic satisfaction that he
had left in the safety vault, in Chicago, a full statement of their
plans and intentions, with instructions to have the seal broken on March
30th, one year after date of deposit. If anything happened to them, this
was to be the means of shedding light on the mystery. And when in New
York he had deposited a second statement, with instructions to send it
to Chicago on April 1st, one year later. In this he had made known their
itinerary as fully as he could give it at the time. And although he
cursed himself often for being a fool, there were moments, and
especially as they neared the foreign shores, when he rejoiced over this
maddest, jolliest of frolics.

The fact that the short rest in London had done wonders for Grace,
together with the hurry and bustle incident to sailing, sent Hugh's
spirits higher and higher. As the two watched the ship drawn away from
the pier and dragged slowly into clearer waters, the knowledge that they
were irrevocably consigned to the consummation of their project acted on
him like a stimulant. Just before going on board he had asked,
half-fearful that she was losing heart, if she still desired to
complete the journey. He told her that it was not too late to turn back
and that he would agree to any modification of the original plan that
she might suggest.

There was not a waver in the clear brown eyes, nor a quiver in her voice
as she replied. Instead, there was a flicker indicating injured pride,
followed by the sweetest, tenderest smile that he ever had seen on
her face.

"Dear old Hugh! Did I not tell you that I would go to the end of the
world with you?"

"But we may go to the bottom of the sea," he interposed, seizing her
hands, his face lighting up gladly.

"Then I shall go to the bottom of the sea with you. I never have felt
the faintest desire to turn back. It has been my greatest happiness to
think that some day we shall reach Manila, where our dear adventure may
have its second and most delightful epoch. Would I turn back? Would
you?" She looked divinely happy as she answered her first triumphant
question with the second.

And so they sailed again.

As on their first voyage, their staterooms adjoined. Passage and
accommodation had been booked for H.B. Ridge and Miss Ridge,
Chicago, U.S.A.

The following morning, Grace was awakened by a rattling at her stateroom
door.

"How are you feeling?" called a well-known voice rather anxiously.

"Quite well, thank you. Is it time to get up?"

"I should say so, Sis."

"All right; in ten minutes." As she set her feet upon the floor she
observed a tendency on their part to touch twice before settling
finally. A momentary dizziness came over her. She closed her eyes
quickly and waited a moment before reopening them. Suddenly Hugh's
photograph, which was leaning against her hat on the steamer trunk,
ducked slowly toward her as if bowing a polite good-morning, and then
fell face downward. Miss Vernon rubbed her eyes and stared at the
overturned picture for a full minute before resuming her toilet. Then
she laughed nervously and made all haste to get on deck. She was one of
the few women who dress quickly and yet look well. Attired in a becoming
gown, a jaunty cap, checked raincoat and rough brown gloves, she
ventured forth expecting to find Hugh waiting for her. At the same time
she was thanking her lucky stars that no longer need she fear the
authorities.

Slightly dismayed and a little bewildered, she looked to the right and
left, trying to remember which stateroom Hugh occupied. The left, she
concluded, and forthwith applied her pretty knuckles to the panel;
vigorously. The door flew open, almost taking her breath, and a tall,
dark man stood before her, but he was not Hugh Ridgeway. He looked
askance in a very polite way.

"I beg your pardon," she stammered in confusion. "I have made a mistake.
This isn't Mr.--my brother's room, is it? Oh, dear, how absurd of me."
She was turning away as she concluded.

"Can I be of service to you?" asked the stranger, stepping forth. He had
a very pleasant voice, but she did not remark it at the time.

"No, I thank you," she hastily replied. "His room is on my right, I
remember. Sorry if I disturbed you," and she was pounding on the other
door. She glanced back at the stranger's door involuntarily and then
away instantly. He was staring at her in a most uncalled-for manner.

And Hugh did not answer! She rapped again and--no response. The calm
voice of the stranger came to her reddening ears.

"The gentleman who occupies that room just passed me, going on deck.
Straight ahead. That's right." He called the last injunction after her
swiftly departing form.

"Thank you," came back to him with a breath between the words. Hugh met
her at the bottom of the steps. She rushed recklessly toward him
and cried,

"Oh, you don't know how glad I am to see you. Where have you been, Hugh
Ridgeway--"

"Sh! Ridge without the 'way.' For Heaven's sake, don't forget that. It's
every bit as important on this ship as on the other. I've been on deck
for a look. Say, are you all right? Are you still glad you're alive?" He
was holding her hands and looking into her eyes.

"Of course I am. What a ridiculous question! None but the good die
young, and I'm not very good or I wouldn't be running away with you. But
come,--take me on deck. Is it raining? Why, your coat is wet. Hurry,
Hugh; I want to take a good look," she cried, dragging him up the steps
hilariously. A peculiar smile came to his face as he followed her to
the deck.

Neither spoke for a full minute, she gazing dumbly at the bleak waste
before her, he lovingly at her pretty, bewildered face.

"Where are we, Hugh?" she finally asked, terrified for the moment.
"Where is London?"

"You are not afraid, are you, dearest?" he whispered, his strong arm
stealing about her. "We are on the bounding main, ticketed for a port
thousands of miles away. London is back there," pointing astern.

She placed her hand in his and looked out over the waters. Nothing but
rain, leaden sky and rolling waves. What her thoughts were during the
silence that followed he learned when she turned to him again, looking
imploringly into his eyes.

"Hugh, you will always be good to me?"

"So long as I live, sweetheart," he said, pressing her hand firmly. For
some time they stood alone and silent beneath the awning which covered
the promenade, the sleety rain pattering dismally over their heads. But
few of the passengers were above deck. Several officers were chatting at
the end of the deck-house.

"We have not breakfasted yet, Grace, and I'm as hungry as a bear. Isn't
it a relief, dear, not to feel the necessity any longer of keeping a
sharp lookout for detectives? Those days on the Atlantic, every other
man I met I thought was a sleuth-hound bent on capturing the
million-dollar reward that has been offered for our capture by
Chicago society."

They went below and found the dining saloon almost deserted. Two or
three late risers were drinking a last cup of coffee. Then she told him
of the mistake she had made, and together they scanned their
fellow-passengers in search of the man who occupied the stateroom
adjoining hers on the left. He did not appear for luncheon or dinner,
and Hugh cheerfully accused her of murdering him.

The next morning, however, he was seated at the table, directly across
from Hugh, a trifle pale and far from hungry. He was making a brave
effort to conquer the sickness which had seized him. She nudged Hugh and
nodded toward the quiet, subdued eater. He looked across and then gave
her a questioning glance. She winked affirmatively.

"Poor devil," muttered Hugh. "I suppose he was just beginning to feel
sick when you yanked him out, as if you were telling him the boat was
on fire."

"Yanked him out? I did nothing but rap on his door. If he were sick, why
did he open it and stare at me in such a remarkably healthy fashion?"

"Because you rapped, I suspect. It's no wonder that he stared at a
beautiful young lady who had the temerity to visit him before breakfast.
Nice-looking fellow, though, I'll say that much for your sake, sister.
And what's more, I believe he's an American," said Hugh, surveying the
stranger critically.

"I haven't observed his face," she responded curtly.

"How did you happen to recognize him? By his shoes? You naturally looked
down when you saw your mistake, of course, but I don't see how you can
get a glance of his shoes now, under the table."

"I mean I have not noticed whether his face is handsome, Hugh."

"Better take a look then. He's particularly good-looking with that piece
of beefsteak in his check."

Grace glanced slyly at the man across the table, noting his pale cheeks
and the dark rings beneath his eyes. Hugh had misrepresented the facts;
he was not eating at all. Instead, he was merely toying with his fork,
making uncertain circles in the layer of brown, gravy which covered the
plate, his cheek resting on the other hand, a faraway look of distress
in his eyes. They were directed at the plate, but saw it not.

"Poor fellow," she murmured compassionately; "he's been awfully sick,
hasn't he?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Hugh heartlessly. "They don't go to eating in a
day's time if they have been very sick."

A bright look flashed into her eyes and they danced with merriment as
she whispered something in his ear.

"By George, maybe you're right. He's a detective and chasing us to
earth."

The stranger looked at them in a half interested manner when they
laughed aloud over the harrowing supposition. They noticed that his eyes
were blue and bloodshot, wan and fatigued. He gave Grace a second
glance, sharper than the first, and politely resumed his manufacture of
circles in the brown gravy and brown study. Miss Vernon
flushed slightly.

As they left the table she said to Hugh:

"He remembers me, but he certainly understands it was a mistake, doesn't
he?" Hugh looked at her distressed face and laughed.

The weather later that morning was a delightful surprise for all. The
sky had resumed its blue and the air was fresh and clear.
Notwithstanding the pleasant weather, there was a heavy sea running, the
ship rolling uncomfortably for those who were poor sailors. Deck chairs
on all sides were occupied by persons who had heroically determined to
make the most of the brightness about them.

The elopers found their chairs and joined the long line of spectators.
Hugh glanced admiringly at Grace now and then. Her cheeks were warm and
glowing, her eyes were bright and flashing with excitement, her whole
being seemed charged with animation.

The wan-faced stranger followed them on deck a few minutes later. His
eyes were riveted on a chair nearby and his long body moved swiftly
toward it. Then came a deep roll, the deck seemed to throw itself in
the air, and, with a startled look, he plunged headlong toward Miss
Vernon's chair.

His knee struck the chair, but he managed to throw his body to one side.
He went driving against the deck-house, sinking in a heap. Miss Vernon
gave a little shriek of alarm and pity, and Ridgeway sprang to the side
of the fallen man, assisting him to his feet. The stranger's face was
drawn with momentary pain and his eyes were dazed.

"Pardon me," he murmured. "I am so very awkward. Have I hurt you?"

"Not in the least," cried she. "But I am afraid you are hurt. See! There
is blood on your forehead." She instantly extended her handkerchief, and
he accepted it in a bewildered sort of a way, placing it to his
forehead, where a tiny stream of blood was showing itself.

"A piece of court plaster will stop the flow," said Hugh critically, and
at once produced the article from his capacious pocket-book. Grace
immediately appropriated it and asked for his knife.

"You are very good," said the stranger, again pressing the handkerchief
to his head. The act revealed to him the fact that he was using her
handkerchief for the purpose, soiling it, perhaps. His face flushed
deeply and an embarrassed gleam came to his eyes. "Why, I am using your
handkerchief. I assure you I did not know what I was doing when I took
it from you. Have I ruined it?"

Miss Vernon laughed at his concern and her face brightened
considerably. As she looked into his clear blue eyes and his square,
firm face she observed for the first time that he was quite a
handsome fellow.

"It won't soil it at all," she said.

"But it was thoughtless, even rude of me, to take yours when I had my
own. I am so sorry."

"Do you think this will be large enough, Hugh?" she asked, holding up a
piece of black court plaster. The stranger laughed.

"If the cut is as big as that I'd better consult a surgeon," he said.
"About one-tenth of that, I should say."

"All right," she said cheerfully. "It is your wound."

"But you are the doctor," he protested.

"I dare say it is too big to look well. People might think you were
dynamited. Does it pain you?" she asked solicitously. For an instant
their eyes looked steadily, unwaveringly, into each other,--one of those
odd, involuntary searches which no one can explain and which never
happen but once to the same people.

"Not at all," he replied, glancing out over the tumbling waves with a
look which proved they were strange to him. Hugh dashed away and soon
returned with a glass of brandy, which the stranger swallowed meekly and
not very gracefully. Then he sat very still while Grace applied the
court-plaster to the little gash at the apex of a rapidly rising lump.

"Thank you," he said. "You are awfully good to a clumsy wretch who
might have crushed you. I shall endeavor to repay you both for your
kindness." He started to arise from Hugh's chair, but that gentleman
pushed him back.

"Keep the chair until you get straightened out a bit. I'll show you how
to walk deck in a rough sea. But pardon me, you are an American like
ourselves, are you not? I am Hugh Ridge, and this is my sister--Miss
Ridge."

"My name is Veath--Henry Veath," the other said as he bowed. "I am so
glad to meet my own countrymen among all these foreigners. Again, let me
thank you."

"Hardly a good sailor?" observed Hugh.

"As you may readily guess."

"It's pretty rough to-day. Are you going to Gibraltar and Spain?"

"Only as a bird of passage. I am going out for our government. It's a
long and roundabout way they've sent me, but poor men must go where
opportunity points the way. I assure you this voyage was not designed
for my pleasure. However, I enjoyed a couple of days in London."

"An important mission, I should say," ventured Mr. Ridge.

"I'm in the revenue service. It is all new to me, so it doesn't matter
much where I begin."

"Where are you to be stationed?" asked Hugh, and something told him what
the answer would be before it fell from the other's lips.

"Manila."



CHAPTER VI

HENRY VEATH

Mr. Veath's abrupt announcement that he was bound for Manila was a
decided shock to Grace, Hugh escaping because of his intuitive
revelation. After the revenue man had gone below to lie down awhile
before luncheon the elopers indulged in an animated discussion of
affairs under new conditions.

"Well, we can make use of him after we get there, dear," said Hugh
philosophically. "He can be a witness and swear to your age when I go
for the license."

"But, Hugh, he thinks we are brother and sister, and we cannot tell him
anything to the contrary. It would be awfully embarrassing to try
to explain."

"That's so," mused he. "I doubt whether we could make him believe that
brothers and sisters marry in Manila. There's just one thing to do."

"It seems to me there are a great many things to do that we didn't
consider when we started," ventured she.

"We must let him believe we are brother and sister until after we are
married. Then we'll have the laugh on him. I know it's not very pleasant
to explain your own joke, or to tell the other fellow when to laugh, but
it seems to be the only way. We can't escape him, you know. He is to be
at his post by the twentieth of May."

"After all, I think we ought to be nice to him. We can't put him off the
boat and we might just as well be friendly. How would you enjoy
travelling to Manila all alone? Just put yourself in his place."

"Maybe he thinks he's lucky to be travelling alone."

"That's very pretty, sir. Would you rather be travelling alone?"

"Not at all. I'm only saying what he may think. The poor devil may be
married, you know."

"Oh, do you really think so?" cried she.

"He looks a little subdued."

"That's because he's seasick."

"But, to return to our own troubles--you think, then, we would better
adopt Mr. Veath for the voyage and break the news to him impressively
after the deed is done?"

"I think so, don't you? It is sure to be embarrassing, any way you put
it, isn't it?" she asked, laughing nervously.

"Oh, I don't know," he replied airily. "People of our nerve should not
be embarrassed by anything on earth." He arose and assisted her to her
feet. Then, slipping his arm through hers, he started for the
companionway. "The prospect of being brother and sister for ten thousand
miles is rather obnoxious to me," he went on. She looked at him in
surprise and then blushed faintly. As they descended the steps, he put
his arm around her shoulder. At the bottom he stopped and glanced
around apprehensively, something like alarm appearing in his face. His
arm slipped from her shoulder to her waist and contracted suddenly.

"What is the matter, Hugh?" she whispered, looking quickly about as if
expecting a calamity.

"Is any one in sight?" he demanded anxiously.

"I don't see a soul," she answered.

"Then I'm going to give up the brother act for a moment or two. This is
a good, sequestered spot, and I'm going to kiss you." And he did so more
than once. "That's the first chance I've had to kiss you since we came
aboard. What an outrage it is that brothers cannot be more attentive to
their own sisters than to other men's sisters."

"It seems to be customary for brothers to neglect their sisters," she
suggested demurely.

"A brother who neglects his sister ought to be horsewhipped," declared
he.

"Amen to that. They use the cat-o'-nine-tails on board ship, you must
remember," she said, smiling.

Shortly afterward he dropped in to see Veath and was welcomed gladly. He
was lying in his berth, and Hugh sent for a bottle of his champagne. Two
glasses of the wine put new life into him and something of a sparkle
flew to his dull eyes, as if cast there by the bubbling liquor. His
tongue loosened a little, Hugh finding him to be a bright, sensible
fellow, somewhat ignorant of the ways of the world, but entirely capable
of taking care of himself. Moreover, with the renewed vigor displaying
itself, he was far better looking than his new acquaintance had thought.
His blue eyes, keen and clear, appealed to Hugh's love for
straightforwardness; his wide mouth bespoke firmness, good nature, and
the full ability to enjoy the humorous side of things. The lines about
his clean-cut, beardless face were a trifle deep, and there was a
network of those tiny wrinkles which belong to men of forty-five and not
to those of twenty-eight.

Evidently his had not been a life of leisure. As he lounged easily upon
the edge of the berth, Hugh could not but admire his long, straight
figure, the broad shoulders and the pale face with its tense
earnestness.

"Manila, you know, is an important post these days," said Veath.
"There's a lot of work to be done there in the next few years. I'm from
Indiana. Every able-bodied man in our district who voted right and
hasn't anything else to do wants a government job. Of course, most of
them want to be consul-generals, postmasters, or heads of bureaus, but
there are some of us who will take the best thing that is offered.
That's why I am going to Manila. Politics, you know, and my uncle's
influence with the administration." Ridgeway observed that wine made
loquacious a man who was naturally conservative. "Where are you going?"
he continued.

"We are going to Manila."

"What!" gasped Veath. "You don't mean it!"

"Certainly. Why not?" and Hugh smiled delightedly over the sensation he
had created.

"Why--why, it seems improbable," stammered Veath. "I had looked upon
Manila as the most wretched hole in the world, and yet I find you going
there, evidently from choice."

"Well, you'll have to change your opinion now," said Hugh.

"I do--forthwith. It cannot be such a bad place or you wouldn't be
taking your sister there. May I ask what is your object in going
to Manila?"

Hugh turned red in the face and stooped over to flick an imaginary
particle of dust from his trousers' leg. There was but one object in
their going and he had not dreamed of being asked what it was. He could
not be employed forever in brushing away that speck, and yet he could
not, to save his life, construct an answer to Veath's question. In the
midst of his despair a sudden resolution came, and he looked up, his
lips twitching with suppressed laughter.

"We are going as missionaries."

He almost laughed aloud at the expression on Veath's face. It revealed
the utmost dismay. There was a moment's silence, and then the man in the
berth said slowly:

"Is Miss Ridge a--a missionary also?"

"The very worst kind," replied Hugh cheerily.

"Going out among the natives, I suppose?"

"What natives?"

"Why,--the Igorrotes, or whatever they are, of course."

"Oh, of course--to be sure," cried Hugh hastily. "I am so d--d
absent-minded."

Veath stared in amazement.

"You must not think it strange that I swear," said Hugh, mopping his
brow. "I am not the missionary, you know."

"Oh," was the other's simple exclamation. Another pause and then, "You
don't mean to say that such a beautiful woman is going to waste her life
among savages?"

"She's got her head set on it and we think the only way to break her of
it is to give her a sample of the work. I am going with her ostensibly
to protect, but really to make her life miserable."

"I rather admire her devotion to the church," said Veath, still a trifle
dazed.

"She's a great crank on religion," admitted Hugh. Then he could feel
himself turn pale. He was passing Grace off as a missionary, and thereby
placing her under restrictions that never before had entered into her
gay life. Veath would treat her as if she were of fragile glass and it
would not be long until the whole boat would be staring at the beautiful
girl who was going to the heathen. Remorse struck him and he tried to
flounder out of the position.

[Illustration: GRACE VERNON]

"I should not have said that about her views. You would never take her
to be an ardent church-member, and she is particularly averse to being
called a missionary. The truth about the matter is that very few
people home know about this move of hers and there is no one on ship who
even suspects. She would not have had me tell it for the world."

"My dear Mr. Ridge, don't let that trouble you. She shall never know
that you have told me and I shall never repeat it. Please rest assured;
her wishes in the matter are most certainly to be considered sacred,"
cried Veath warmly.

"Thanks, old man," said Hugh, very much relieved. "Your hand on that. I
am not sorry I told you, for I'm sure you will be careful. She objects
to the--the--well, the notoriety of the thing, you know. Hates to be
glared at, questioned, and all that sort of thing."

"She is very sensible in that respect. I have but little use for the
people who parade their godliness."

"That's just the way she looks at it. She would be uncomfortable all the
way over if she thought that a single person knew of her intentions.
Funny girl that way."

"If I were you, I don't believe I'd tell any one else," said Veath
hesitatingly.

"That's all right, Veath. Depend upon me, I'll not breathe it to another
soul. It shall not go a bit farther. Grace wants to go about the good
work as quietly as possible. Still, I am bound to make her forget the
heathen and return to America another woman altogether." Mr. Veath, of
course, did not understand the strange smile that flitted over his
companion's face as he uttered the last remark. "I'm glad I met you,
Veath; we'll get along famously, I'm sure. There's no reason why we
shouldn't make the voyage a jolly one. I think we'd better get ready for
luncheon," said Hugh, looking at his watch.

Hugh took his departure, and fifteen minutes later was seated at one of
the tables in the dining-room with Grace beside him. He had told her of
the missionary story and was trying to smile before her display of
genuine annoyance.

"But I don't want him to treat me as if I were a missionary," she
pouted. "What fun can a missionary have?"

"Oho, you want to have fun with him, eh? That's the way the wind blows,
is it? I'll just tell Mr. Veath that you pray night and day, and that
you don't like to be disturbed. What do you suppose he'd be if he
interrupted a woman's prayers?" demanded he, glaring at her half
jealously.

"He'd be a heathen and I should have to enlighten him," she answered
sweetly.

Just then Mr. Veath entered the saloon and took a seat beside her. She
looked surprised, as did Mr. Ridgeway. They looked to the far end of the
table and saw that Veath's original chair was occupied by another man.

"I traded seats with that fellow," murmured Veath, a trifle red about
the ears. Miss Vernon's face assumed a stony expression for an instant,
but the gleam of pure frankness in his eyes dispelled her momentary
disapproval. "You don't mind, do you?" he asked hastily.

"Not at all, Mr. Veath," she said, forgetting that a moment before she
had considered him presumptuous. "On the contrary, I think it is so much
nicer to have you on this side of the table. We can talk without having
everybody in the room hear us."

"I have just heard that we are bound for the same destination and we can
certainly speculate among ourselves as to the outcome of our individual
and collective pilgrimages. We can talk about shipwrecks, pirates,
simoons, cholera, sea serpents--"

"And the heathen," said Hugh maliciously, but not looking up from his
plate.

"Ahem!" coughed loyal Mr. Veath.

"Are there any heathen over there?" asked Miss Vernon very innocently
but also very maliciously. She smiled at Hugh, who leaned far back in
his chair and winked solemnly at the bewildered Veath. That gentleman,
manlike, interpreted Hugh's wink as the means of conveying the
information that the tactful young lady asked the question merely to
throw him off the scent. So he answered very politely but very
carefully.

"I hear there are more missionaries than heathen."

"Indeed? Don't you think that the women who go out as missionaries among
those vile creatures are perfect idiots, Mr. Veath?"

"Well,--ahem, ah," stammered Veath, "I can't say that I do. I think, if
you will permit me to disagree with you, that they are the noblest
women in the world."

"Excellent sentiment, Veath," said the merry Ridgeway, "and quite worthy
of endorsement by this misguided sister of mine. She despises the
heathen, you know."

"Oh, I am sure she does not despise them," cried Veath.

"But I do--I think they ought to be burned alive!"

A dead silence, during which the two men were unnecessarily intent upon
the contents of their plates, followed this explosion. Miss Vernon
demurely smiled to herself, and finally kicked Hugh's foot. He laughed
aloud suddenly and insanely and then choked. Veath grew very red in the
face, perhaps through restraint. The conversation from that moment was
strained until the close of the meal, and they did not meet at all
during dinner.

"Perhaps we have offended him," said Grace as they strolled along the
deck that evening.

"It's probable that he thinks we are blamed fools and does not care to
waste his time on us."

"Then why did he change his seat?"

"Evidently did not want us to be staring him out of countenance all the
time. I notice, sister, that he took the seat next to yours and not to
mine," remarked he insinuatingly.

"Which proves that _he_ is no fool, brother," she retorted.



CHAPTER VII

GLUM DAYS FOR MR. RIDGE

Gibraltar. And the ship stopping only long enough to receive the mail
and take on passengers; then off again.

During the voyage in the Bay of Biscay, Veath had done all in his power
to relieve Hugh of the boredom which is supposed to fall upon the man
who has a sister clinging to him. At first Hugh rather enjoyed the
situation, but as Veath's amiable sacrifice became more intense, he grew
correspondingly uncomfortable. It was not precisely what he had
bargained for. There was nothing in Veath's manner which could have been
objectionable to the most exacting of brothers.

When he was trespassing Hugh hated him, but when they were together,
with Grace absent, he could not but admire the sunny-faced, frank,
stalwart Indianian. When Hugh's heart was sorest, a slap on the back
from Veath, a cheery word and an unspoken pledge of friendship brought
shame to take the place of resentment.

She was troubled, as well as he, by the turn of affairs; her distress
managed to keep her awake of nights, especially when she began to
realize there was no escape from consequences. That usually pleasant
word "brother" became unbearable to her; she began to despise it. To
him, the word "sister" was the foundation for unpublishable impressions.

Poor Veath knew nothing of all this and continued to "show Miss Ridge a
good time." On the second night out of Gibraltar, he and Grace were
strolling the deck. He was happy, she in deep despair. Down at the other
end of the deck-house, leaning over the rail, smoking viciously, was
Hugh, alone, angry, sulky. It was a beautiful night, cool and crisp,
calm and soft. A rich full moon threw its glorious shimmer across the
waves, flashing a million silvery blades along the watery pavement that
seemed to lead to the end of the world. Scores of passengers were
walking the deck, and all were happy, save two.

For two days Hugh had found but little chance to speak with Grace. She
had plotted and calculated and so had he, but Veath gallantly upset
the plans.

"This can't go on any longer, or I'll go back," vowed Hugh as he glared
with gloomy eyes at the innocent path of silver.

"Your brother is not very sociable of late, is he, Miss Ridge?" asked
Veath, as they turned once more up the deck toward the disconsolate
relative. "There are a great many pretty young women on board, but he
seems to ignore them completely. I haven't seen him speak to a woman in
two days."

"Perhaps he is in love," she murmured half sedately. Poor, lonely Hugh!
How she longed to steal up from behind and throw her arms about his
neck. Even though both fell overboard, it would be a pleasure, it
seemed to her.

"We ought to go over and jolly him up a bit," suggested Veath,
innocently magnanimous. She hated him at that moment.

"He is probably enjoying himself better than if we were with him," she
said rather coldly.

"Lovers usually like moonshine," he said.

"I did not say he was in love; 'perhaps' was the word, I think," said
Grace.

"I believe one of the rules of love is that a brother never confides in
his sister. At any rate, she is sure to be among the last."

"I think Hugh would tell _me_ of his love affairs," she answered, a
merry sparkle coming into her eyes. "He thinks a great deal of my
opinions."

"And I suppose you tell him of your love affairs," he said jestingly.
She blushed furiously.

"He has a whole book full of my confidences," she finally said, seeking
safety in exaggeration.

"Quite an interesting volume. How does it end? With an elopement?"

"Elopement! What do you--oh, ah, I--ha, ha! Wouldn't that be a jolly way
to end it?" She laughed hysterically, recovering quickly from the
effects of the startling, though careless question. For a few moments
her heart throbbed violently.

Hugh came swinging toward them, his cigar tilted upward at an unusual
angle because of the savage position of the lower jaw. His hands were
jammed into his pockets and his cap was drawn well down over his eyes.
He was passing without a word, ignoring them more completely than if
they had been total strangers. He would, at least, have glanced at
strangers.

"Hello, Mr. Ridge, going below?" called Veath.

"I'm going wherever the ship goes," came the sullen reply.

"Hope _she's_ not going below," laughed the disturber.

"It's my only hope," was the bitter retort from the companionway.

"He's certainly in love, Miss Ridge. Men don't have the blues like that
unless there's a woman in the case. I think you'd better talk to your
brother. Tell him she'll be true, and if she isn't, convince him that
there are just as good fish in the sea. Poor fellow, I suppose he thinks
she's the only woman on earth," commented Mr. Veath, with mock
solemnity.

"She may be as much at sea as he," she said,--and very truthfully.

"Well, if love dies, there is a consolation in knowing that the sea
casts up its dead," was his sage, though ill-timed remark.

Grace slept but little that night, and went early to breakfast in the
hope that she might see Hugh alone. But he came in late, haggard and
pale, living evidence of a sleepless night. Veath was with him and her
heart sank. During the meal the good-natured Indianian did most of the
talking, being driven at last, by the strange reticence of his
companions, to the narration of a series of personal experiences.
Struggle as he would, he could not bring a mirthful laugh from the girl
beside him, nor from the sour visaged man beyond. They laughed, of
course, but it was the laugh of politeness.

"I wonder if she is in love, too," shot through his mind, and a thrill
of regret grew out of the possibility. Once his eye caught her in the
act of pressing Hugh's hand as it was being withdrawn from sight. With a
knowing smile he bent close to her and whispered: "That's right, cheer
him up!" Grace admitted afterward that nothing had ever made her quite
so furious as that friendly expression.

But jealousy is jealousy. It will not down. The next three days were
miserable ones for Hugh. The green-eyed monster again cast the cloak of
moroseness over him--swathed him in the inevitable wet blanket, as it
were. During the first two days Veath had performed a hundred little
acts of gallantry which fall to the lot of a lover but hardly to that of
a brother--a score of things that would not have been observed by the
latter, but which were inwardly cursed by the lover. Hugh began to have
the unreasonable fear that she cared more for Veath's society than she
did for his. He was in ugly humor at lunch time and sent a rather
peremptory message to Grace's room, telling her that he was hungry and
asking her to get ready at once. The steward brought back word that she
was not in her room. She had been out since ten o'clock.

Without a word Ridgeway bolted to Veath's room and knocked at the door.
There was no response. The steward, quite a distance down the
passageway, heard the American gentleman swear distinctly and
impressively.

He ate his luncheon alone,--disconsolate, furious, miserable. Afterward
he sought recreation and finally went to his room, where he tried to
read. Even that was impossible.

Some time later he heard her voice, then Veath's.

"I wonder if Hugh is in his room?" she was asking.

"He probably thinks we've taken a boat and eloped Shall I rap and see?"
came in Veath's free voice.

"Please--and we'll tell him where we have been."

"You will like thunder!" hissed Hugh to himself, glaring at the door as
if he could demolish it.

Then came a vigorous pounding on the panel; but he made no move to
respond. Again the knocking and a smile, not of mirth, overspread
his face.

"Knock! Confound you! You can't get in!" he growled softly but
triumphantly. Veath tried the knob, but the door was locked.

"He's not in, Miss Ridge. I'll see if I can find him. Good-by--see you
at luncheon."

Then came Grace's voice, sweet and untroubled: "Tell him we'll go over
the ship another time with _him_."

"Over the ship," growled Hugh almost loud enough to be heard. "So
they're going to square it by taking brother with them another time--eh?
Well, not if I know it! I'll show her what's what!" A minute later he
rapped at Miss Vernon's stateroom. She was removing her hat before the
mirror, and turning quickly as the irate Hugh entered, she cried:

"Hello, Hugh! Where have you been, dear?"

"Dear! Don't call me dear," he rasped.

"Why, Hugh, dear,--Mr. Veath looked everywhere for you this morning. I
said I would not go unless he could find you. You would have enjoyed
it so much."

"And you really wanted me?" he asked guiltily.

"Of course, I did--we both did. Won't you ever understand that I love
you--and you alone?"

"I guess I'll never understand love at all," he mused.

"Now where were you all morning?" she demanded.

"He didn't look in the right place, that's all."

"Where was the right place?"

"It happened to be in the wrong place," he said. He had been playing a
social game of bridge in the room of one of the passengers. At this
moment Veath was heard at the door. Hugh heartily called out to him,
bidding him to enter.

"Why, here you are! Been looking everywhere for you, old man. Sorry you
were not along this morning," said the newcomer, shaking
Ridgeway's hand.

"I didn't care to see the ship," said Hugh hastily.

"Why, how funny!" cried Grace. "How did you know we had been over the
ship?"

"Instinct," he managed to gulp in the confusion.

Veath started for the dining-room, followed by Grace and Hugh,
the latter refraining from mentioning that he had already
lunched--insufficiently though it had been; but with the return of
reason had come back his appetite and gradually he felt the old
happiness sifting into his heart.



CHAPTER VIII

THE BEAUTIFUL STRANGER

They were now well along in the Mediterranean. The air was cool and
crisp, yet there were dozens of people on deck watching the sunset and
the sailors who were trimming the ship. There were passengers on board
for China, Japan, India and Australia. A half hundred soldiers,
returning to the East, after a long furlough at home, made the ship
lively. They were under loose discipline and were inclined to be
hilarious. A number were forward now, singing the battle songs of the
British and the weird ones of the natives. Quite a crowd had collected
to listen, including Ridgeway and Veath, who were strolling along the
deck, arm in arm, enjoying an after-dinner smoke, and had paused in
their walk near the group, enjoying the robust, devil-may-care tones of
the gallant subalterns.

Miss Vernon was in her stateroom trying to jot down in a newly opened
diary the events of the past ten days. She was up to ears in the work,
and was almost overcome by its enthusiasm. It was to be a surprise for
Hugh at some distant day, when she could have it printed and bound for
him alone. There was to be but one copy printed, positively, and it was
to belong to Hugh. Her lover as he strode the deck was unconscious of
the task unto which she had bent her energy. He knew nothing of the
unheard-of intricacies in punctuation, spelling and phraseology. She was
forced at one time to write Med and a dash, declaring, in chagrin, that
she would add the remainder of the word when she could get to a place
where a dictionary might tell her whether it was spelled Mediterranean
or Mediteranian.

Suddenly, Hugh pressed Veath's arm a little closer.

"Look over there near the rail. There's the prettiest girl I've ever
seen!"

"Where?"

"Can't point, because she's looking this way. Girl with a dark green
coat, leaning on an old gentleman's arm--"

"I see," interrupted Veath. "By George! she's pretty!"

"No name for it! Have you in your life ever seen anything so beautiful?"
cried Ridgeway. He stared at her so intently that she averted her face.
"Wonder who she can be? The old man must be her father. Strange we
haven't seen them before. I'm sure that she hasn't been on deck."

"You seem interested--do you want a flirtation?"

"Oh, Grace wouldn't stand for that--not for a minute."

"I don't believe she would object if you carried it on skilfully,"
smiled the other.

"It wouldn't be right, no matter how harmless. I couldn't think of
being so confoundedly brutal."

"Sisters don't usually take such things to heart."

Hugh came to himself with a start and for a moment or two could find no
word of response, so deeply engrossed was he in the effort to remember
whether he had said anything that might have betrayed his secret.

"Oh," he laughed awkwardly, "you don't understand me. Grace is so--well,
so--conscientious, that if she thought I was--er--trifling, you know,
with a girl, she'd--she'd have a fit. Funniest girl you ever saw about
those things--perfect paragon."

"Is it possible? Are you not a little strong on that point, old man? I'm
afraid you don't know your sister any better than other men
know theirs."

"What's that?" demanded Hugh, suddenly alert and forgetful of the
stranger.

"The last person on earth that a man gets acquainted with, I've heard,
is his sister," said Veath calmly. "Go ahead and have a good time, old
fellow; your sister isn't so exacting as you think--take my word
for it."

It was fully five minutes before Hugh could extract himself from the
slough of speculation into which those thoughtless words had driven him.
What did Veath know about her ideas on such matters? Where did he learn
so much? The other spoke to him twice and received no answer. Finally he
shook his arm and said:

"Must be love at first sight, Ridge. Are you spellbound?" Hugh merely
glared at him and he continued imperturbably: "She's pretty beyond a
doubt. I'll have to find out who she is."

"That's right, Veath; find out," cried Hugh, bright in an instant. "Make
her have a good time. Poor thing, she'll find it pretty dull if she
hangs to her father all the time."

"He isn't a very amusing-looking old chap, is he? If that man hasn't the
gout and half a dozen other troubles I'll jump overboard."

The couple arousing the interest of the young men stood near the forward
end of the deck-house. The young woman's face was beaming with an
inspiration awakened by the singers. Her companion, tall, gray and
unimpressionable, listened as if through coercion and not for pleasure.
His lean face, red with apoplectic hues, grim with the wrinkles of three
score years or more, showed clear signs of annoyance. The thin gray
moustache was impatiently gnawed, first on one side and then on the
other. Then the military streak of gray that bristled forth as an
imperial was pushed upward and between the lips by bony fingers. He was
a picture of dutiful rebellion, Immaculately dressed was he, and
distinguished from the soles of his pointed shoes to the beak of his
natty cap. A light colored newmarket of the most fashionable cut was
buttoned closely about his thin figure.

The young woman was not tall, nor was she short; she was of that
indefinite height known as medium. Her long green coat fitted her
snugly and perfectly; a cap of the same material was perched jauntily
upon her dark hair. The frolicking wind had torn several strands from
beneath the cap, and despite the efforts of her gloved fingers, they
whipped and fluttered in tantalizing confusion. In the dimming afternoon
the Americans could see that she was exquisitely beautiful. They could
see the big dark eyes, almost timid in the hiding places beyond the
heavy fringing lashes. Her dark hair threw the rich face into clear
relief,--fresh, bright, eager. The men were not close enough to observe
with minuteness its features, but its brilliancy was sufficient to
excite even marvelling admiration. It was one of those faces at which
one could look for ever and still feel there was a charm about it he had
not caught.

"I've never seen such a face before," again murmured Ridgeway.

"Tastes differ," said Veath. "Now, if you'll pardon me, I think Miss
Ridge is the more beautiful. She is taller and has better style.
Besides, I like fair women. What say?" The question was prompted by the
muttered oath that came from Hugh.

"Nothing at all," he almost snarled. "Say, Veath, don't always be
talking to me about my sister," he finally jerked out, barely able to
confine himself to this moderately sensible abjuration while his brain
was seething with other and stronger expressions.

"I beg your pardon, Ridge; I did not know that I talked very much about
her." There was a brief silence and then he continued: "Have a fresh
cigar, old man." Hugh took the cigar ungraciously, ashamed of his
petulance.

By this time the early shades of night had begun to settle and the
figures along the deck were growing faint in the shadows. Here and there
sailors began to light the deck lamps; many of the passengers went below
to avoid the coming chill. In her stateroom Grace was just writing: "For
over a week we have been sailing under British colors, we good
Americans, Hugh and I,--and I may add, Mr. Veath."

Another turn down the promenade and back brought Ridgeway and Veath face
to face with the old gentleman and the young lady, who were on the point
of starting below. The Americans paused to let them pass, lifting their
caps. The old gentleman, now eager and apparently more interested in
life and its accompaniments, touched the vizor of his cap in response,
and the young lady smiled faintly as she drew her skirts aside and
passed before him.

"Did you ever see a smile like that?" cried Hugh, as the couple
disappeared from view.

"Thousands," answered his companion. "They're common as women
themselves. Any woman has a pretty smile when she wants it."

"You haven't a grain of sentiment, confound you."

"They don't teach sentiment on the farm, and there's where I began this
unappreciative existence of mine. But I am able to think a lot
sometimes."

"That's about all a fellow has to do on a farm, isn't it?"

"That and die, I believe."

"And get married?"

"Naturally, in order to think more. A man has to think for two after
he's married, you see."

"Quite sarcastic that. You don't think much of women, I fancy."

"Not in the plural."

Captain Shadburn was nearing them on the way from the chart-house, and
the young men accosted him, Veath inquiring:

"Captain, who is the tall old gentleman you were talking to forward
awhile ago?"

"That is Lord Huntingford, going over to straighten out some
complications for the Crown. He is a diplomat of the first water."

"Where are these complications, may I ask?"

"Oh, in China, I think. He is hurrying across as fast as possible. He
leaves the ship at Hong Kong, and nobody knows just what his mission is;
that's between him and the prime minister, of course. But, good-evening,
gentlemen. I have a game of cribbage after dinner with his Lordship."
The captain hurried below.

"A real live lord," said Veath. "The first I've seen."

"China," Hugh repeated. "I hope we may get to know them."



CHAPTER IX

MR. RIDGEWAY'S AMAZEMENT

At dinner Hugh was strangely exuberant, jesting gaily and exchanging
rare witticisms with Veath, who also appeared immensely satisfied. As
they left the saloon he said:

"Let's take a turn on deck, Grace."

"Won't you include me?" asked Veath.

"Certainly," answered Grace promptly.

"Be delighted," echoed Hugh, swallowing as if it were an effort.

"I must get a wrap," said Grace. "I won't delay you more than five
minutes."

"I'll get my overcoat and some cigars," added Hugh.

"And I'll write a short letter to post at Malta," said Veath, and they
separated.

A short while later, a steward passed Hugh's stateroom, and he called to
him to step to the next door and tell Miss Ridge that he was ready.

"Miss Ridge just went up with her gentleman--" the man responded; but
Hugh interrupted, slamming the door. For several minutes he stood
glaring at the upper corner of his berth; then he said something strong.
Every vestige of his exuberance disappeared, his brow clouded and his
heart seemed to swell painfully within its narrow confines.

As he was about to ascend the steps of the companionway, he heard the
swish of skirts and then a sharp scream. In an instant he was half way
up, his arms extended. Lord Huntingford's daughter plunged into them,
and he literally carried her to the foot. She was pale and trembling and
he was flushed. He had looked up in time to see her falling forward,
vainly striving to reach the hand rail.

"Are you hurt?" he asked anxiously. The young lady sat down upon the
second step before answering, a delightful pink stealing over her face.

"I--I don't believe I am," she said. "My heel caught on a step and I
fell. It was so clumsy of me. I might have been badly hurt if you had
not caught me as you did."

"These steps are so uncertain," he said, scowling at them. "Somebody'll
get hurt here some day. But, really, are you quite sure you are, not
hurt? Didn't you twist your--your--"

"Ankle? Not in the least. See! I can stand on both of them. I am not
hurt at all. Let me thank you," she said, smiling into his eyes as she
moved away.

"May I assist you?" he asked eagerly.

"Oh, no; I thank you, Mr. Veath. I would not have my preserver perform
the office of a crutch. I am not hurt in the least. Good-afternoon."

Hugh, disconcerted and piqued by her confusion of names, answered her
wondrous smile with one that reflected bewildered admiration, and
finally managed to send after her:

"I wouldn't have lost the opportunity for the world."

That evening he was sitting out on deck in contemplative silence
enjoying his after-dinner smoke. Farther down were Grace and Veath.
Suddenly turning in their direction, Hugh perceived that they were not
there; nor were they anywhere in sight. He was pondering over their
whereabouts, his eyes still on the vacant chairs, when a voice tender
and musical assailed his ears--a voice which he had heard but
once before.

"Good-evening, Mr. Veath."

He wheeled about and found himself staring at the smiling face of the
young lady who had fallen into his arms but a few hours before.

"Good-evening," he stammered, amazed by her unexpected greeting.
"Have--have you fully recovered from your fall?"

"I was quite over it in a moment or two. I wanted to ask you if you were
hurt by the force with which I fell against you." She stood with one
hand upon the rail, quite close to him, the moonlight playing upon her
upturned face. He never had seen a more perfect picture of airy grace
and beauty in his life.

"Why mention an impossibility? You could not have hurt me in a fall ten
times as great."

His tall figure straightened and his eyes gleamed chivalrously. The
young woman's dark, mysterious eyes swept over him for a second,
resting at last upon those which looked admiringly into them from above.
She made a movement as if to pass on, gravely smiling a farewell.

"I beg your pardon," he said hastily. "You called me Mr. Veath a moment
ago. It may be of no consequence to you, yet I should like to tell you
that my name is Ridge--Hugh Ridge."

"It is my place to beg forgiveness. But I understood your name was
Veath, and that you were--were"--here she smiled tantalizingly--"in love
with the beautiful American, Miss Ridge."

"The dev--dick--I mean, the mischief you did! Well, of all the fool
conclusions I've ever heard, that is the worst. In love with my sister!
Ho, ho!" He laughed rather too boisterously.

"But there is a Mr. Veath on board, is there not?--a friend?"

"A Mr. Henry Veath going into the American Revenue Service at Manila."

"How stupid of me! However, I am positive that I was told it was Mr.
Veath who was in love with Miss Ridge."

"But he isn't," hastily cried Hugh, turning hot and cold by turns. "He's
just a friend. She--she is to marry another chap." Here he gulped
painfully. "But please don't breathe it to a soul. She'd hate me
forever. Can I trust you?" To himself, he was saying: "I am making a
devil of a mess of this elopement."

"This is a very large world, Mr. Ridge, and this voyage is a mere
trifle in time. When we leave the ship we may be parting forever, so her
secret would be safe, even though I shrieked it all over the East. You
will return to America before long, I presume?"

"I'm sure I don't know. We may stay a year or no."

"Then the wedding is not a thing of the immediate future?"

"Oh, yes--that is, I mean, certainly not."

"Pardon me for asking so many questions. It is very rude of me." She
said it so penitently that Hugh, unable to find words, could only wave
his hands in deprecation. "Isn't it a perfect evening?" she went on,
turning to the sea. The light breeze blew the straying raven hair away
from her temples, leaving the face clearly chiselled out of the night's
inkiness. Hugh's heart thumped strangely as he noted her evident
intention to remain on deck. She turned to him swiftly and he averted
his eyes, but not quickly enough to prevent her seeing that he had been
scrutinizing her intently. What she may have intended to say was never
uttered. Instead, she observed, a trifle coldly:

"I must bid you good-night, Mr. Ridge."

"Pray, not yet," he cried; "I was just about to ask if we might not sit
in these chairs here for a little while. It is early and it is so
charming to-night." He looked into her eyes again and found that she was
gazing searchingly into his. A light smile broke into life and she
seemed to be satisfied with the momentary analysis of the man
before her.

"It does seem silly to stay below on a night like this. Shall we sit
here?" She indicated two vacant chairs well forward. The young lady
scorned a steamer rug, so he sat beside her, conscious that, despite her
charming presence, he was beginning to feel the air keenly. But he could
not admit it to this slight Englishwoman.

For half an hour or more they sat there, finding conversation easy,
strangely interesting to two persons who had nothing whatsoever in
common. He was charmed, delighted with this vivacious girl. And yet
something mournful seemed to shade the brilliant face now and then. It
did not come and go, moreover, for the frank, open beauty was always the
same; it was revealed to him only at intervals. Perhaps he saw it in her
dark, tender eyes--he could not tell. He saw Henry Veath pacing the
deck, smoking and--alone. Hugh's heart swelled gladly and he spoke quite
cheerily to Veath as that gentleman sauntered past.

"Now, that is Mr. Veath, isn't it?" demanded his fair companion.

"Yes; do you think we should be mistaken for each other?"

"Oh, dear, no, now that I know you apart. You are utterly unlike, except
in height. How broad he is! Hasn't he a wonderful back?" she cried,
admiring the tall, straight figure of the walker.

"He got that on the farm."

"It is worth a farm to have shoulders like his, I should say. You must
introduce Mr. Veath to me."

Hugh looked at the moon very thoughtfully for a few moments and then, as
if remembering, said that he would be happy to do so, and was sure that
Veath would be even happier.

At this moment the tall, lank form of Lord Huntingford approached. He
was peering intently at the people in the chairs as he passed them,
plainly searching for some one.

"There is Lord Huntingford looking for you," said Hugh, rising. He saw a
trace of annoyance in her face as she also arose. "I overheard him
telling the captain that Lady Huntingford--your mother--plays a
miserable game of crib."

She started and turned sharply upon him.

"My mother, Mr. Ridge?" she said slowly.

"Yes; your father was guying Captain Shadburn about his game, you know."

The look of wonder in her eyes increased; she passed her hand across her
brow and then through her hair in evident perplexity, all the while
staring at his face. There was a tinge of suspicion in her voice when
she spoke.

"Mr. Ridge, don't you know?"

"Know what?"

"You surely know that I am not Lord Huntingford's--"

"You don't mean to say that you are not his daughter," gasped Hugh,
dubious as to her meaning.

"I am Lady Huntingford."

"His wife?"

"His wife."

Hugh, too dumbfounded to speak, could do no more than doff his cap as
she took the arm of the gray lord and softly said to him:

"Good-night, Mr. Ridge."



CHAPTER X

A SHARP ENCOUNTER

The _Tempest Queen_ carried a merry cargo. The young officers, the
Americans and rich pleasure seekers from other lands--young and
old--made up a happy company. Of all on board, but one was despised and
loathed by his fellow-travellers--Lord Huntingford. Not so much for his
manner toward them as for his harsh, bitter attitude toward his
young wife.

He reprimanded and criticised her openly, very much as he would have
spoken to a child, and always undeservedly. She endured patiently, to
all appearances, and her cloud of humiliation was swept away by the
knowledge that her new friends saw the injustice of his attacks. She did
not pose before them as a martyr; but they could see the subdued and
angry pride and the checked rebellion, for the mask of submission was
thin, even though it was dutiful.

The two young women, unlike as two women could be, became fast friends.
The Englishwoman was refinement, sweetness, even royalty itself; the
American, proud, equally refined, aggressive and possessed of a wit,
shrewdness and spontaneity of humor that often amazed the less subtle of
the two. Tinges of jealousy sometimes shot into Grace's heart when she
saw Hugh talking to the new friend, but they disappeared with the
recollection of her Ladyship's pure, gentle nobility of character. It is
seen rarely by one woman in another.

And Veath? The stalwart, fresh-hearted, lean-faced Indianian was happier
than he had dreamed he could be when he drearily went aboard a ship at
New York with the shadow of exile upon him. He had won the friendship of
all. The brain of the Westerner was as big as his heart, and it had been
filled with the things which make men valuable to the world. Men called
him the "real American," and women conveyed a world of meaning in the
simple, earnest expression--"I like Mr. Veath."

Veath was now unmistakably in love with Grace Vernon. The fact was borne
in upon him more and more positively as the sunny days and beautiful
nights drew them nearer to the journey's end. Occasionally he lapsed
into strange fits of dejection. These came when he stopped to ponder
over certain prospects, hopes and the stores of life. At times he cursed
the fate which had cast him into the world, big and strong, yet
apparently helpless. It had not been his ambition to begin life in the
capacity which now presented itself. His hopes had been limitless.
Poverty had made his mind a treasure; but poverty had also kept it
buried. He saw before him the long fight for opportunity, position,
honor; but he was not the sort to quail. The victory would be glorious
when he thought what it might bring to him from Grace Ridge--she who
was going to be a missionary. A long, hard fight, indeed, from revenue
officer to minister plenipotentiary, but it was ambition's war.

And Hugh? As the days went by, his jealousy of Veath became almost
intolerable. He dared not speak to Grace about it, for something told
him she was not to be censured. Even in his blind rage he remembered
that she was good and true, and was daring all for his sake. In calmer
moments he could not blame Veath, who believed the young lady to be
sister, and not sweetheart.

In view of his misery, Mr. Ridgeway was growing thin, morose, and
subject to long fits of despondency which Grace alone could comprehend.
Both were dissatisfied with the trip. That they could not be together
constantly, as they had expected, caused them hours of misery. They were
praying for the twenty-third of May to come, praying with all their
hearts. Beside whom did Hugh walk during the deck strolls and at Port
Said? With his sister? No, indeed; that would have been unnatural. Who
was Grace's natural companion? Henry Veath or any one of a dozen
attractive young officers. How could it have been otherwise?

She was popular and in constant demand. There were not many young women
aboard and certainly but two or three attractive ones. From morning till
far in the night she was besieged by men--always men. They ignored Hugh
with all the indifference that falls to the lot of a brother. Time after
time they actually pounced upon the couple and dragged her away without
so much as "By your leave." They danced with her, sang with her, walked
with her and openly tried to make love to her, all before the blazing
eyes of one Hugh Ridgeway. On more than one occasion he had gone without
his dinner because some presumptuous officer unceremoniously usurped his
seat at table, grinning amiably when Hugh appeared.

The sweet, dear little moments of privacy that Hugh and Grace obtained,
however, were morsels of joy which were now becoming more precious than
the fondest dreams of the wedded state to come. They coveted these
moments with a greediness that was almost sinful.

On many nights Grace would whisper to Hugh at the dinner table and would
creep quietly on deck, meal half finished, where he would join her like
a thief. Then they would hide from interruption as long as possible.

One night they enjoyed themselves more unrestrainedly than ever before
in their lives. They were walking self-consciously and almost guiltily
near the forward end of the deck-house when they saw Veath approaching
far behind. Their speed accelerated, and for half an hour they walked
like pedestrians in a racing match, always keeping some distance ahead
of poor Veath, who finally, like the sly fox, sat down and waited for
them to hurry around and come upon him unexpectedly. He, of course,
never knew that they were trying to avoid him, nor could he imagine why
brother and sister were so flushed, happy and excited when he at last
had the pleasure of joining them in their walk. And, strange to say,
although they had been wildly happy in this little love chase, they felt
that they had mistreated a very good fellow and were saying as much to
each other when they almost bumped into him.

Womanly perception told Grace that Veath's regard for her was beginning
to assume a form quite beyond that of ordinary friendship. She
intuitively felt that he was beginning to love her. Perhaps he was
already in love, and was releasing those helpless little signs which a
woman understands, and which a man thinks he conceals impenetrably. The
_Queen_ was leaving Port Said and she was leaning on the rail beside the
big Indianian.

"Why are you going out to be a missionary?" he suddenly asked. Then he
flushed painfully, remembering when too late that he had sworn to Hugh
that he would not speak to her of the matter. "I beg your pardon," he
hurried on; "I promised--that is, I should not have asked you that
question. I forgot, hang my stupidity."

"Mr. Veath, I am not going out to be a missionary. Nothing was ever
farther from my mind," she said, rather excitedly.

"Not going to be a--why, Hugh said you were. There I go, giving him away
again."

"Hugh was jesting. I a missionary! How could you have believed him?"

"Are you in earnest?" he cried.

"Of course I am in earnest," she said, trying to look straight in those
bright eyes, but failing dismally. Something in his glance dazzled her.
It was then that she knew the truth as well as if his mind were an
open book.

"Why are you going to the Philippines?" he persisted.

She gave him a quick, frightened glance and as hastily looked away. The
red of confusion rushed to her cheeks, her brow, her neck. What answer
could she give?

"We are--are just taking the trip for pleasure," she stammered. "Hugh
and I took a sudden notion to go to Manila and--and--well, we are going,
that's all."

"You don't mean to say you are making this as a pleasure trip?" he
asked, staring at her with a different light in his eyes.

"A mere whim, you know," she hurried on. "Look at those Arabs over
there."

"But a pleasure trip of this kind must be awfully expensive, isn't it?"
he insisted.

She hesitated for an instant and then said boldly: "You see, Mr. Veath,
Hugh and I are very rich. It may not sound well for me to say it, but we
have much more money than we know how to spend. The cost of this voyage
is a mere trifle. Please do not think that I am boasting. It is the
miserable truth." His face was very pale when she dared to look up at it
again, and his gaze was far off at sea.

"And so you are very rich," he mused aloud. "I thought you were quite
poor, because missionaries are seldom overburdened with riches,
according to tradition, or the gospel, or something like that. This is a
pleasure trip!" The bitterness of his tone could not be hidden.

"I am sorry if you have had an idol shattered," she said.

"Something has been shattered," he said, smiling. "I don't know very
much about idols," he added. "How long do you expect to remain
in Manila?"

"But a very short time," she said simply.

"And I shall have to stay there for years, I suppose," he returned
slowly. His eyes came to hers for a second and then went back to the
stretch of water like a flash. That brief glance troubled her greatly.
Her heart trembled with pity for the man beside her, even though
speculation wrought the emotion.

In her stateroom that night she lay, dry-eyed and wakeful, her inward
cry being: "It is a crime to have wounded this innocent man. Why must he
be made to suffer?"

She could not tell Hugh of her discovery, for she knew that he would be
unreasonable, perhaps do or say something which would make the wound
more painful. During the days that followed Veath was as pleasant, as
genial, as gallant as before; none but Grace observed the faint change
in his manner. She was sure she could distinguish a change, yet at
times, when he was gayest, she thrilled with the hope that her belief
was the outgrowth of a conceit which she was beginning for the first
time to know she possessed. Then came the belief again and the belief
was stronger than the doubt. She could not be mistaken.

In the meantime an unexpected complication forced itself upon Hugh
Ridgeway. Perforce he had been thrown more or less constantly into the
society of that charming creature, Lady Huntingford. Not that the young
rakes in uniform were content to pass her by, but because she plainly
preferred the young American. It had not occurred to Mr. Ridgeway that
his Lordship might be expected, with reasonable propriety, to unmask a
jealous streak in addition to other disagreeable traits. The British
subalterns probably knew the temper of the old diplomat's mind, which,
in a degree, explains their readiness to forgo the pleasure of a mild
flirtation with her Ladyship. Hugh, feeling like a despised pariah,
naturally turned to her in his banishment. She was his friend, his one
beacon of light in the dark sea of unhappiness.

Others noticed it; but Hugh was blind to the scowl which never left the
face of Lord Huntingford in these days. The old nobleman knew full well
that his wife loathed and detested him--just as the whole ship knew it;
his pride rankled and writhed with the fear that she was finding more
than friendship to enjoy in her daily intercourse with the good-looking
Mr. Ridge. Gradually it became noticeable that he was watching her every
act with spiteful eyes, and more than one observer winked softly at his
neighbor, and shook his head with a meaning unmistakable.

The clash came one night in the Red Sea, just before the ship reached
Aden. Hugh, reviling himself and the whole world, had been compelled to
stand by and see Lieutenant Gilmore, a dashing Irishman, drag the
unwilling Miss Ridge off for a waltz. Her protestations had been of no
avail; Gilmore was abominable enough to say that she had no right to
stow herself away with a stupid old brother when there were so many
"real nice chaps on board." And this in Hugh's presence, too! And he
could not resent it! Alone and miserable the pariah sent his unspoken,
bitter lamentation to the stars as he stood in savage loneliness far
aft, listening to the strains of waltz music.

"'Pon my soul! Of all the assinine idiots, bar none, the enlightened
inspirer of this glorious voyage certainly ranks supreme! And I didn't
have brains enough to foresee that this would surely happen! Brains?
Faugh! Chump!"

Hugh might have apostrophized himself in this fashion until dawn had not
a harsh, rasping voice from out of the semi-darkness broken in on his
doleful revery.

"Pardon me, sir, do you play cribbage?"

Hugh turned half about and faced the speaker. He could hardly believe
his ears, his eyes. Was it possible that the haughty Lord Huntingford
had fixed upon him as the next lamb to be fleeced? Ugly stories
concerning the government emissary's continuous winnings, disastrous
losses of the young subalterns inveigled into gambling through fear of
his official displeasure, were not unknown to Hugh. A civil declination
was on his lips; but keenly searching the shrivelled face leering into
his own, Hugh saw written there something that compelled consideration,
challenged a refusal. Promptly and in affirmative speech he reversed his
intention.

Slowly the left hand of Lord Huntingford produced from behind his back
an exquisitely carved ebony cribbage-board; and assuming the position of
host, indicated with exaggerated courtesy and a wave of his free hand
the way to the smoking-room.

Hugh, following him along the deck, was hastily reviewing the voyage;
and failing to recall any previous occasion wherein the nobleman had
addressed him his sense of perplexity increased. Was there some hidden
purpose, some crafty machination lurking behind the elaborated manner
with which the invitation was delivered? On the other hand, perhaps, his
imagination was playing him a trick, and this selection of an adversary
was merely accidental.

And yet, had he but known, it was his own absorbing jealousy of Veath
that precluded the recognition of a like sentiment directed against him,
even surpassing in intensity its owner's lust for gain at play.

The smoking-room was empty, which, to the younger man, appeared as
rather extraordinary, and served to augment his supposition that such a
condition was presupposed. This, in turn, was dimissed, for he
remembered that the usual occupants were either dancing or looking on.

Taking the initiative, as if such a course was incumbent, Lord
Huntingford placed his cribbage-board on a table and drew up chairs for
both; with equal politeness the proffered seat was accepted, Hugh
registering inwardly a determination to force high stakes, and, if
possible, recoup the losses of the young officers. Not for an instant
did he doubt his ability to detect the slightest irregularities in the
count of his discredited opponent.

"Sovereign a point?"

"Done! Five, if you like!"

This answer from the young American caused an avaricious glint to leap
into the other's eyes. Plainly, two master passions fought for
supremacy: an inordinate greed for money and a choleric determination to
prohibit any further attentions to his wife. The struggle was brief, for
the vehemence of his enmity, triumphant, the hope of immediate emolument
was sacrificed, and the rooking of the young man postponed to some
future occasion. Then, subtly concealing his purpose, he nodded an
ambiguous acceptance.

Cards were ordered. A steward fetched them and awaited further commands.

Lord Huntingford strangely distrait, it seemed to Hugh, considering the
amount at stake, shuffled the pack and offered them for the cut. This
conventional operation performed and his Lordship successful, he dealt
the hands, at the same time giving the steward a sharp order to leave.
The man's reception of his dismissal was so insolent that it attracted
Hugh's attention. Looking up, to his surprise, he recognized his
room steward.

"With whom have I the pleasure of playing?" came suddenly from Lord
Huntingford.

"Ridgeway, Hugh--"

Quick as the thought in the mind preceding it, inevitably connected, the
name escaped unwittingly from his lips; for with the discovery of the
steward's identity there flashed like a bolt from the blue an appalling
recollection! Exposed to view on the table in his stateroom were
valuable documents addressed to him by his banker, which he had
forgotten to replace in his dispatch-box!

"Eh? What's that? What name?" The interrogation, icily formal, told
nothing; but upon its answer hinged limitless consequences.

Hugh was in a dilemma. Should he correct himself, or rely on the slip
passing unobserved? The peculiar expression on the steward's face
returned to him; and he wondered if the knowledge of his adopting an
incognito had been elicited from the garrulous servant, and the
Englishman about to take advantage of it? Reddening with anger as much
against himself as against the cynical old aristocrat, who was cornering
him cavalierly, he decided to brave exposure:

"Ridge! H.B. Ridge is my name, Lord Huntingford!"

There was a reckless disregard of possibilities in the eyes that
fastened themselves on the face of the nobleman for a clue, some
enlightenment as to the impression produced; but all in vain. The
shrewd, small eyes answered the scrutiny impassively, and without as
much as the flicker of an eyelid. Taking one of the little ivory pegs,
he stuck it in the starting hole at the end of the cribbage-board.
Unconsciously, while waiting for the mental move which would determine
his future address, Hugh following the other's lead, picked up one and
pegged. Then to his infinite relief Lord Huntingford apparently allowed
the correction, accepted the alias.

"Ridge!" he pronounced with malicious uncertainty. "Ridge! I am
acquainted with the English Ridges;" and the sneer in the voice
increased. "Do I understand you to pretend that you are one of that
distinguished family?"

Hugh clenched his lips and his blood boiled at the treatment.

"I am an American, Lord Huntingford," spoken easily, his pride showing
only by a perceptible lift of the head; "and my ancestors were not
Tories in the Revolution. Relationship, if any, would be--er--distant. I
claim none."

"A trifle strained," admitted his Lordship, laughing disagreeably.

At that moment the band could be heard in the distance playing the
strains of a waltz; also the voices of the couples who were promenading
and passing the open door. To Hugh's amazement, Lord Huntingford,
obviously heedless of his peculiar action, recommenced shuffling the
stack of cards, though the dealt hands remained untouched on the table.
Instinctively, Hugh was convinced that no play was intended. There was
something on the mind of the wily old diplomat far more momentous than a
mere game of cards; yet no chance had been given to him to penetrate
into the other's motives.

It was not long forthcoming.

Suddenly, clear as a bell, Hugh distinguished the laughter of Lady
Huntingford, and involuntarily he smiled. This seemed to enrage his
Lordship. Hatred and menace shone from his eyes as he glanced at the man
opposite him. With an oath he rose, walked to the door and closed it.
Then ruthlessly laying aside the last vestige of his assumed
courtliness, he picked up his stick from the table, leaned far over,
shook it in Hugh's face, and became an irascible, shouting old man.

"Look here, young man--Ridge--Ridgeway--or whatever your blasted
name--do you think I'll allow you to carry on an affair with my wife--my
wife, sir?" he vociferated. "Henceforth, I forbid you to speak to her!
Do you hear me?"

It was debatable whether Hugh was more astonished at the mention of Lady
Huntingford's name in connection with his own, or at the stick in
dangerously close proximity to his countenance. It was some time before
he could find words; but his face from red went white.

"And if I decline?"

There was that in the low tone that should have warned the aggressor
from further insult; but forgetting that the swaggering domination he
had been accustomed to exercising over his own countrymen, officially
his inferiors, would not for a moment be tolerated by one of another
nationality, he again broke out:

"You bounder! Yankee upstart! I'll thrash you, and then have the captain
put you on shore at the first port--you infernal impostor!"

In an instant Hugh was over the table. He tore the stick from Lord
Huntingford's hand and clutched his throat, forcing him down on the seat
cushions. With the exception of the younger man's hard breathing and
some gasps from the other, the struggle was noiseless. Not until Lord
Huntingford was growing black in the face did Hugh come to his senses.
Then releasing one hand from the throat, he pinned him with the other
and a knee.

"You old scoundrel!" Hugh began, jerking out the scathing words; "if it
were not for your old age and your wife I'd drag you on deck and make
you apologize on your knees before them all. I'll spare you that
degradation; but if I ever hear of you mentioning the name
Ridegway--I've my own reasons for concealing it, and they don't concern
you--I'll make some charges in regard to your card playing that will
bar you from every club in the world, and, unlike your poor dupes, I am
in a position to substantiate them without fear of consequences."

Lord Huntingford grudgingly mumbled a throttled promise, and Hugh
allowed him to regain his feet. At that instant Veath, with Grace and
Lady Huntingford, standing behind him, opened the door of the
smoking-room.

"Here, Veath!" called out Hugh to the astonished Indianian. "I want you
to bear witness that Lord Huntingford has promised to keep absolutely
quiet about a little altercation of ours, and--"

The quick gesture of caution from Veath came too late. Lady Huntingford
with astonished eyes was gazing into the room at them. Hugh promptly
went over to her.

"You must pardon me, Lady Huntingford; I am sorry to cause you any pain
or annoyance. In a dispute over the cards with your husband I forgot
myself for a moment. Pray forgive me."

Ridgeway quietly strode away with Grace and Veath. Lady Huntingford
directed a look of unutterable contempt at her husband, turned on her
heel and left him to slink away as quickly as possible, like a cur that
has felt the whip.



CHAPTER XI

DISCOVERED

Lord Huntingford could not forgive the man who had put his aristocratic
nose out of joint in such an effective manner. He was, however, as
polite as nature would permit him to be to Miss Ridge and Mr. Veath. As
for Hugh, that young gentleman thought it the wiser plan, when
unavoidably relating a mild description of last night's encounter, to
abstain from acquainting Grace with Lord Huntingford's discovery of his
name--whether accidental or otherwise. Quite rightly he surmised that it
would unnecessarily distress her, and he preferred not to cross the
bridge until he came to it.

It was the evening following the conflict. As night approached, the sun
fell behind the shores of the Red Sea, the stars twinkled out through
the blackness above, and yet they had not caught a glimpse of her
Ladyship. At dinner, he and Grace had agreed that she had either
renounced them entirely, or had been compelled to avoid him in
particular. Veath was less concerned. He was thinking of another woman.

Hugh and Grace again stole away for a few moments of seclusion on deck.
They found chairs and sat down, neither very talkative.

"Oh, Hugh, just think where we are," she murmured at last. "Thousands
of miles from home, and no one the wiser save ourselves. Chicago is on
the other side of the world."

"Are you sorry you came, dear?"

"I am glad. But isn't it awful to consider how far we are from everybody
we know? We might just as well be dead, Hugh." She was very solemn and
wide-eyed.

"I am afraid you are losing heart," he said disconsolately.

"Why, Hugh Ridgeway--Ridge, I mean,--how can I afford to lose heart now?
Don't ever say that to me again."

"Yes; we are a long way from home, dear," mused he after a while.

"How far are we from Manila?" she asked suddenly.

"A million miles, judging by the way time goes. We'll be there in twenty
days, the captain says."

"What do you suppose Mr. Veath will say when he hears of our marriage?"
This question was propounded after a longer interval of silence
than usual.

"Why should we care what Mr. Veath says? If he doesn't approve, let him
go to--" but Hugh checked his fiery speech as abruptly as he began it.

"He will be awfully shocked to learn how we have deceived him," she went
on, as if he had not spoken.

"Well, do you care?" demanded Hugh.

"Yes, I care," she cried. "I shall be very sorry if he loses the good
opinion he may have formed. He is the kind of a man who would not
understand such an affair as this."

"But, then, we are not obliged to tell him. We can get married and leave
Manila at once without ever seeing him again. After that we will be Mr.
and Mrs. Ridgeway, and he could never find the people known as Hugh
Ridge and sister."

"That would be a shameless way to treat him. He has been so true, so
good, Hugh," she cried reproachfully. For quite a while their eyes
lingered upon the dark water without seeing it, their thoughts centred
upon the fast approaching end of their relationship with Henry Veath.

"I wish he could be told," murmured she, her voice far away.

"I couldn't do it to save my soul. What would he say?" There was an awed
anxiety in his voice.

"I don't care what other people say, but I do care what he says. He
seems so honest, so far above tricks of this kind."

"What's one man's opinion, anyhow, especially when he's to be buried in
Manila for years?"

"Oh, Hugh! How lonely he will be in that strange place. And how dreadful
it will be in us to sneak away from him like cowards, just as if we
cared nothing for him at all. He doesn't deserve that, does he?"

"No, he doesn't, that's a fact. We can't treat him like a dog."

"I wish he could be told," sighed she pensively.

"When?"

"You might try to tell him at any time," she said, a perceptible strain
in her voice.

"I'll tell you what I'll do," said he, taking her hand in his. "I will
tell him the day before we reach Manila."

"I'm afraid it will be too late," she cried, all a-flutter.

"Too late? Why?"

"I mean," she went on confusedly, "he might think we had waited too
long." She was thinking of Veath's wistful eyes.

"Hello! Here you are," cried a strong voice, and Veath loomed up through
the shadows. Hugh released her hand and dropped back in the chair from
which he had half risen to kiss her. "You hide away like a pair of silly
lovers. There's nothing prosaic about this brother and sister. Do you
know, I have often marvelled over one thing in connection with you. You
don't look any more like brother and sister than the sea looks like
dry land."

The pair caught breath sharply and Hugh almost snorted aloud. Grace
could do nothing but look up to where she saw the red fluctuating glow
of a cigar tip in the darkness. It made her think of a little moon which
could breathe like herself.

"It all goes to show how deceptive appearances can be," went on Veath
easily. "Don't you want to walk, Miss Ridge? I'm sure you need
exercise."

"I promised Hugh I would drive away his blues, Mr. Veath. Thank you,
but I believe I'll sit here for a while and then go below," she said, a
trifle disconnectedly.

"We'll take Hugh along," said Veath obligingly. "Come along, both of
you."

"Excuse me, Henry, but I don't feel like walking," said Hugh, a tinge of
sullenness in his manner.

"Lazy, eh? Well, I'll bring Miss Ridge back in half an hour. You
wouldn't have me wander about this dismal old boat alone, would you?
Smoke a cigar, Hugh, and I'll take care of your sister while you count
the stars." He offered Hugh a cigar.

Hugh rose suddenly and started away.

"Hugh!" called she, "come and walk with us." He could distinguish the
loving entreaty, the trouble in her tones, but he was unreasonable.

"Never mind me," he sang out with an assumption of cheerfulness. Grace
flushed hotly, her heart swelling with injured pride. Without another
word she rose and walked away with Veath. Indignation burned within her
soul until she went to sleep, hours afterward.

Ridgeway stamped the full length of the promenade before he came to an
understanding with himself. On reaching that understanding, he whirled
and walked back to where he had left them, expecting to find Veath
occupying the chair he had vacated. Of course they were not to be found,
so he threw himself on one of the chairs, more miserable than he had
been since they started on their voyage. The lady in the chair to his
left stirred nervously and then a soft laugh came from her lips.

"Are you sleepy, Mr. Ridge?" she asked. Hugh turned quickly and looked
into the face of Lady Huntingford.

"Not at all," he replied. "But how strange it seems that you should
always appear like the fairy queen when I am most in need of a bracer.
Oh, I beg your pardon," he went on, rising in some perturbation. "I
forgot that there is a--a barrier between us. War has been declared,
I fear."

"I am ready to make friendly overtures," she said gaily. "Isn't there
some such thing as a treaty which requires a strong power to protect its
weaker ally in time of stress?"

"You mean that we may still be friends in spite of all that happened
last night?" he cried. She nodded her head and smiled, and he shook her
hand as only an impulsive American would.

"But Lord Huntingford? What will he say?" he asked.

"His Lordship's authority can be carried to a certain limit and no
farther," she said, and her eyes flashed. "He knows when to curse and
abuse; but he also knows when that attitude might operate against him.
He is not in a position to push me to the wall."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean he knows enough not to drive me to the point where I would turn
and fight." Hugh never had seen her so entrancing as she was in that dim
light, her face the picture of proud defiance.

"I wonder not a little that you have not asked for a divorce long before
this."

"You are not a woman or you would not ask that."

"Lots of women ask for divorces."

"It should be the last resort with any woman. But let us talk of
something else. Where is your sister? I have not seen her to-day."

This question was particularly ill-timed, for it restored the forgotten
bitterness to the position from which it had been temporarily driven by
the interruption.

"I don't know," he answered.

"I thought I heard her talking to you here a few moments ago--in fact, I
saw you."

"Where were you?"

"I passed within a dozen feet of you. Neither of you saw me, I am sure.
You would not have cut me intentionally, would you?"

"I should say not. You walked past here?"

"Yes, you were tying her shoe-string."

"What!" exclaimed he, starting to his feet, "tying Grace's shoe-string?"
The first thought that rushed to his mind was that Veath had knelt to
plead his love to Grace Vernon.

"Lady Huntingford, let us walk," he exclaimed. It was a fierce,
impatient command instead of a polite invitation. The pretty young
woman calmly lay back in her chair and laughed. "If you won't come, then
please excuse me. I must go."

"Why are you so eager to walk, Mr. Ridgeway?" she asked.

"Because I want--what was that you called me?" he gasped, his heart
almost turning upside down.

"Ridgeway. That's your name, isn't it?"

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, a great many things," she said with a serious face.

Hugh was visibly annoyed. There was to be more trouble from the
nobleman; evidently he did not intend to keep his promise.

"In the first place," she continued, "I must acknowledge that I forced
from my husband an account of last night's affair; he also told me your
name. But, believe me, it will go no further. I cannot thank you enough,
Mr. Ridgeway," the color stealing into her cheeks.

Ridgeway bowed.

"In the next place," she went on playfully, "you are very jealous of Mr.
Veath. Tut, tut, yes you are," with a gesture of protest. "He thinks
Miss Ridge is your sister, and she is not your sister. And lastly,
nobody on board knows these facts but the very bright woman who is
talking to you at this moment."

"But you are mistaken, madam," with a last attempt at assumption of
dignity.

"Would I say this to you if I were not positive? You think you are very
clever; I'll admit that you are. Your secrets came to me through an
accident. Do not think that I have pried into your affairs. They really
forced themselves upon me."

"Tell me what you know, for Heaven's sake," cried the dismayed Ridgeway.

"I was in your sister's room earlier in the day. Her trunk was open and
I saw a portfolio with Vernon in silver lettering; and I was more
mystified than ever when I observed that the initials on her trunk were
'G.V.' All day yesterday I tried to solve the problem, taking into
consideration the utter absence of family resemblance between you, and I
was almost sick with curiosity. To-day I was convinced that her name is
not Ridge. She inadvertently signed her name to the purser's slip in my
presence, and she did not sign the--yours. She scratched it out quickly
and asked him to make out another one. Now, what is this mystery?" She
bent her gaze upon his face and he could not meet it.

"Do you want to know the reason why I did not see you yesterday?" she
continued.

"Yes," he murmured, mopping his brow.

"Because I was so distressed that I feared I could not face either of
you, knowing what I do."

"What do you mean?"

"I know you are running away." Not a word was spoken for a full minute.
He could scarcely breathe. "You do not deny it?" she questioned gently.
"Please do not fear me."

"I do not fear you," he half whispered, sinking his chin in his hands.
Another long silence.

"There are some circumstances and conditions under which a woman should
not be condemned for running away," she said in a strained, faraway
voice. "Has--has she children?"

"Good Heaven!" cried Hugh, leaping to his feet, horror-struck.



CHAPTER XII

THE HARLEQUIN'S ERRAND

Lady Huntingford, alarmed by his manner, arose and steadied herself
against the deck-house. His exclamation rang in her ears, filling them
with its horror. At length he roughly grasped her arm, thrusting his
face close to hers, fairly grated out the words:

"You think she is a wife?"

"I feared so."

"She is not! Do you hear me? She is not!" he cried so fiercely that
there was no room for doubt. "She is the purest, dearest girl in the
world, and she has done all this for me. For God's sake, do not expose
us." He dropped back in the chair. "It's not for my sake that I ask it,
but for hers," he went on quickly.

"I'm sure I have wronged her and I have wronged you. Will you believe
me?"

He did not answer at once. His turbulent brain was endeavoring to find
words with which to convince her of the innocence of the escapade.
Looking up into her eyes, he was struck by their tender staunchness.
Like a flash came to him the decision to tell her the true story, from
beginning to end.

"Lady Huntingford, I will tell you everything there is to tell. It is
not a long tale, and you may say it is a very foolish one. I am sure,
however, that it will interest you."

"You shall not tell me a word if you do so in order to appease my
curiosity," she began earnestly.

"I think it is best that you should know," he interrupted. "One favor
first. You will earn my eternal gratitude if you do not allow Grace to
feel that you have discovered our secret."

"You have my promise. I have kept many secrets, Mr. Ridge." He drew his
chair quite close to hers. Then he told her the full story of the
adventure, from first to last. She scarcely breathed, so deeply was her
interest centred in this little history of an impulse. He spoke
hurriedly, excitedly. Not once did she take her eyes from his earnest
face, almost indistinguishable in the darkness; nor could he remove his
from hers.

"And here we are approaching Aden, your Ladyship," he concluded. Her big
dark eyes had held him enthralled, inspiring him to paint in glorious
colors every detail of the remarkable journey. As he drew to a close,
her hand fell involuntarily on his knee. A tremor dashed through his
veins, and his heart throbbed fiercely.

"How glorious it must be to love like that," she almost whispered. There
was a catch in her voice, as she uttered that soft, dreamy sentence,
almost a sigh. She turned her face away suddenly and then arose, crying
in tones so low and despairing that he could hardly believe they came
from the usually merry lips: "Oh, how I envy her this life and love!
How wonderful it all is!"

"It has its drawbacks," he lamented. "As a brother I am a nonentity,
Lady Huntingford; it's not altogether relishable, you know. It's a sort
of pantomime, for me, by Jove. I'm the fool, and this seems to be the
fool's errand."

"If you will play a part in the pantomime, Mr. Ridge, let an
Englishwoman suggest that you be the harlequin. How I loved the
harlequin in the Drury Lane pantomimes at Christmas time! He was always
the ideal lover to me, for there was no trick, no prank this bespangled
hero could not play to success. He always went incognito, for he wore
his narrow mask of black. He performed the most marvellous things for
his Columbine,--and was she not a worthy sweetheart? No, no, Mr.
Ridge:--not the fool, I pray. Please be the harlequin," she cried in
rare good humor.

"As you like it," he said, reflecting her spirits. "I am the harlequin
and this is, perforce, the harlequin's errand." They were silent for a
long time, then he said soberly:

"It was such a foolish thing to do, after all." She looked up at him for
a moment, the bitterness fading from her hungry eyes, a smile struggling
feebly into power. Then came the radiance of enthusiasm.

"Foolish!" she exclaimed, with eyes sparkling and breast heaving. "It
was magnificent! What a brave girl she is! Oh, how clever you both are
and how much you will enjoy the memory of this wonderful trip. It will
always be fresh and novel to you--you will never forget one moment of
its raptures. How I wish I could have done something like this. If I
dared, I would kiss that brave, lucky girl a thousand times."

"But you must not let her suspect," cautioned he.

"It would ruin everything for her if she even dreamed that you had told
me, and I would not mar her happiness for the world. Really, Mr. Ridge,
I am so excited over your exploit that I can scarcely contain myself. It
seems so improbable, so immense, yet so simple that I can hardly
understand it at all. Why is it other people have not found this way to
revolutionize life? Running around the world to get married without the
faintest excuse save an impulse--a whim. How good, how glorious! It is
better than a novel!"

"I hope it is better than some novels."

"It is better than any, because it is true."

"I am afraid you are trying to lionize me," he jested.

"You have faced a British lion," she said slowly.

"My only regret is that he is old and clawless."

"We are retracing our steps over dangerous ground," she said with a
catch in her breath.

"You would have me to believe that I am a brave man, so I am determined
to court the danger of your displeasure. How did you happen to marry
this old and clawless lion?"

She did not exhibit the faintest sign of surprise or discomfiture,
certainly not of anger. Instead, she looked frankly into his eyes and
answered: "That is what I thought you would ask me. I shall not refuse
to answer. I married because I wanted to do so."

"What!" exclaimed he incredulously. "I had hoped--er--I mean, feared
that you had been--ah--sort of forced into it, you know."

"Since my marriage I have discovered, however, that there is no fool
like the ambitious fool," she went on as if he had not spoken. "Do you
understand what I mean?"

"That you married for position?"

"That I married simply to become Lady Huntingford."

"And you did not love him at all?" There was something like disgust,
horror in Hugh's voice.

"Love him?" she exclaimed scornfully, and he knew as much as if she had
spoken volumes. Then her face became rigid and cold. For the first time
he saw the hard light of self-mastery in her eyes. "I made my choice; I
shall abide by it to the end as steadfastfully as if I were the real
rock which you may think me to be. There is nothing for me to
tell--nothing more that I will tell to you. Are you not sorry that you
know such a woman as I? Have you not been picking me to pieces and
casting me with your opinions to the four winds?"

"I am truly sorry for you," was all that he could say.

"You mean that you despise me," she cried bitterly. "Men usually think
that of such women as I. They do not give us a hearing with the heart,
only with the cruel, calculating brain. Think of it, Mr. Ridge, I have
never known what it means to love. I have been loved; but in all my life
there has been no awakening of a passion like that which sends Grace
Vernon around the world to give herself to you. I know that love exists
for other people. I have seen it--have almost felt it in them when they
are near me. And yet it is all so impossible to me."

"You are young--very young," he said. "Love may come to you--some day."

"It will be envy--not love, I fear. I threw away every hope for love two
years ago--when I was transformed from the ambitious Miss Beresford to
Lady Huntingford, now thoroughly satiated. It was a bad bargain and it
has wounded more hearts than one. I am not sorry to have told you this.
It gives relief to--to something I cannot define. You despise me, I
am sure--"

"No, no! How can you say that? You are paying the penalty for your--of
your--"

"Say it! Crime."

"For your mistake, Lady Huntingford. We all make mistakes. Some of us
pay for them more bitterly than others, and none of us is a judge of
human nature except from his own point of view. I am afraid you don't
feel the true sympathy I mean to convey. Words are faulty with me
to-night. It shall be my pleasure to forget what you have confessed to
me. It is as if I never had heard."

"Some men would presume greatly upon what I have told to you. You are
too good, I know, to be anything but a true friend," she said.

"I think I understand you," he said, a flush rising to his temples.
After all, she was a divine creature. "You shall always find me the true
friend you think I am."

"Thank you." They were silent for a long time, gazing out over the
sombre plain of water in melancholy review of their own emotions. At
last she murmured softly, wistfully, "I feel like an outcast. My life
seems destined to know none of the joys that other women have in their
power to love and to be loved." The flush again crept into his cheek.

"You have not met the right man, Lady Huntingford," he said.

"Perhaps that is true," she agreed, smiling faintly.

"The world is large and there is but one man in it to whom you can give
your heart," he said.

"Why should any man desire possession of a worthless bit of ice?" she
asked, her eyes sparkling again.

"The satisfaction of seeing it melt," he responded.

She thought long over this reply.



CHAPTER XIII

THE CONFESSION OF VEATH

"Hugh, have you observed anything strange in Mr. Veath lately?"

The interrogation came suddenly from Grace, the next morning, on deck.
They had been discussing the plans for a certain day in May, and all the
time there was evidence of trouble in her eyes. At last she had broached
a subject that had been on her mind for days.

"Can't say that I have." The answer was somewhat brusque.

"I am convinced of one thing," she said hurriedly, coming direct to the
point. "He is in love with me."

"The scoundrel!" gasped Hugh, stopping short and turning very white.
"How dare he do such--"

"Now, don't be absurd, dear. I can't see what he finds in me to love,
but he has a perfect right to the emotion, you know. He doesn't
know, dear."

"Where is he? I'll, take the emotion out of him in short order. Ah, ha!
Don't look frightened! I understand. You love him. I see it all.
It's as--"

"Stop! You have no right to say that," she exclaimed, her eyes flashing
dangerously. His heart smote him at once and he sued humbly for pardon.
He listened to her views concerning the hapless Indianian, and it was
not long before he was heart and head in sympathy with Veath.

"Poor fellow! When I told him last night that I was to be married within
a year he actually trembled from head to foot. I never was so miserable
over a thing in my life," she said dismally. "Really, Hugh, I can't bear
to think of him finding out how we have played with him."

"Shall I tell him all about it?" asked he in troubled tones.

"Then I should not be able to look him in the face. Dear me, elopements
have their drawbacks, haven't they?"

Other passengers joined them, Veath and Lady Huntingford among them. In
the group were Captain Shadburn, Mr. and Mrs. Evarts, Mr. Higsworth and
his daughter Rosella, Lieutenant Hamilton--a dashing young fellow who
was an old and particularly good friend of Lady Huntingford. Hugh noted,
with strange satisfaction, that Hamilton seemed unusually devoted to
Miss Higsworth. In a most casual manner he took his stand at the rail
beside her Ladyship, who had coaxed Captain Shadburn to tell them his
story of the great typhoon.

Presently, a chance came to address her.

"Grace tells me that your name is an odd one, for a girl--woman, I
mean--Tennyson. Were you named for the poet?"

"Yes. My father knew him well. Odd, isn't it? My friends call me Lady
Tennys. By the way, you have not told Grace what I told you last night
on deck, have you?" she asked.

"I should say not. Does she suspect that you know her secret and mine?"
he asked in return.

"She does not dream that I know. Ah, I believe I am beginning to learn
what love is. I worship your sweetheart, Hugh Ridgeway."

"If you could love as she loves me, Lady Huntingford, you might know
what love really is."

"What a strange thing it must be that you and she can know it and I
cannot," she mused, looking wistfully at the land afar off.

At Aden everybody went ashore while the ship coaled at Steamer Point, on
the western side of the rock, three miles from the town proper.
Multitudes of Jewish ostrich-feather merchants and Somali boys gave the
travellers amusement at the landing and in the coast part of the town.
The Americans began to breathe what Hugh called a genuinely oriental
atmosphere.

They were far from Aden when night came down and with it the most
gorgeous sunset imaginable. Everybody was on deck. The sky was aflame,
the waters blazed and all the world seemed about to be swept up in the
wondrous conflagration. Late in the afternoon a bank of clouds had grown
up from the western line, and as the sun dropped behind them they glowed
with the intensity of fiercely fanned coals of huge dimensions. At last
the fiery hues faded away, the giant holocaust of the skies drew to an
end, and the soft afterglow spread across the dome, covering it with a
tranquil beauty more sublime than words can paint.

Grace looked eagerly among the impressed spectators for Henry Veath.
Somehow she longed for him to see all this beauty that had given her so
much pleasure. He was not there and she was conscious of a guilty
depression. She was sitting with Hugh and Lady Huntingford when, long
afterward, Veath approached.

"I'd like a word with you, Hugh," he said after the greetings, "when the
ladies have gone below."

"It is getting late and I am really very tired," said Grace. It was
quite dark, or they could have seen that her face was pale and full of
concern. She knew instinctively what it was that Veath wanted to say to
Hugh. Then she did something she had never done before in the presence
of another. She walked quickly to Hugh's side, bent over and kissed his
lips, almost as he gasped in astonishment.

"Good-night, dear," she said, quite audibly, and was gone with Lady
Huntingford. The astounded lover was some time in recovering from the
surprise inspired by her unexpected act. It was the first time she had
ever been sisterly in that fashion before the eyes of others.

"I hope I have said nothing to offend them," said Veath miserably. "Was
I too abrupt?"

"Not in the least. They've seen enough for one night anyhow, and I guess
they were only waiting for an excuse to go below," replied Hugh. To
himself he said, "I wonder what the dickens Grace did that for? And why
was Lady Huntingford so willing to leave?"

Veath sat nervously wriggling his thumbs, plainly ill at ease. His jaw
was set, however, and there was a look in his eyes which signified a
determination to brave it out.

"You know me pretty well by this time, Hugh," he said. Hugh awoke from
his abstraction and displayed immediate interest. "You know that I am
straightforward and honest, if nothing else. There is also in my make-up
a pride which you may never have observed or suspected, and it is of
this that I want to speak before attempting to say something which will
depend altogether upon the way you receive the introduction."

"Go ahead, Henry. You're serious to-night, and I can see that something
heavy is upon your mind."

"It is a very serious matter, I can assure you. Well, as you perhaps
know from my remarks or allusions on previous occasions, I am a poor
devil. I have nothing on earth but the salary I can earn, and you can
guess what that will amount to in Manila. My father educated me as best
he could, and I worked my way through college after he had given me to
understand that he was unable to send me there himself. When I was
graduated, I accepted a position with a big firm in its engineering
service. Within a year I was notified that I could have a five months'
lay-off, as they call it. At the end of that period, if matters
improved, I was to have my place back. Out of my wages I saved a couple
of hundred dollars, but it dwindled as I drifted through weeks of
idleness. There was nothing for me to do, try as I would to find a
place. It was a hard pill to swallow, after four years of the kind of
work I had done in college, but I had to throw every plan to the winds
and go to the Philippines. My uncle, who is rich, sent me money enough
to prepare for the voyage, and here I am, sneaking off to the jungles,
disgusted, discouraged and disappointed. To-night I sit before you with
less than one hundred dollars as the sum total of my earthly
possessions."

"By George, Veath, just let me know how much you need--" broke in Hugh
warmly, but the other silenced him, smiling sadly.

"I'm greatly obliged to you, but I don't believe it is money that I want
now--at least, not borrowed money. When you told me that your sister was
to become a missionary, I inferred that you were not burdened with
worldly goods, and I felt at home with you both--more so than I should,
I believe--"

"Oh, the devil!"

"But a few days ago your sister told me that she is not to be a
missionary and that she is rich enough to make this trip to the Orient
for mere pleasure--oh, well, you know better than I how rich you both
are." His voice was low and unsteady. "I don't know why you should have
told me that she--she was to be a missionary."

"It was--I did it for a little joke on her, honestly I did," mumbled
Hugh.

"And it was a serious one for me. Before I knew of her real position she
seemed more approachable to me, more as if I could claim her friendship
on the grounds of mutual sympathy. I was deceived into believing our
lots not vastly unequal, and I have suffered more than I can tell you by
the disparity which I now know exists."

"But what difference can it make whether we are rich or poor? We can
still be friends," said Hugh eagerly.

"It was when I believed your sister to be a missionary that I learned to
love her better than all else in this world. Now do you understand?"

"Great Scott!" gasped his listener, starting from his chair. Now he
realised that she had not been mistaken in her fears. "Does she know
this?" he managed to ask.

"No, and I dare not tell her--I cannot. I had to tell some one, and to
whom should I confess it if not to the brother of the woman I love? It
is no disgrace, no dishonor to her. You cannot blame me for being honest
with you. Some day after you have gone back to America you can tell her
that I love her and always will. She has intimated to me that she is to
marry another man, so what chance is there for a poor wretch like me? I
don't see how I have endured the awakening from the dreams I have had.
I even went so far as to imagine a little home in Manila, after I had
won her from the mission field and after I had laid by the savings of a
year or two. I had planned to fairly starve myself that I might save
enough to make a home for her and--and--" but he could say no more. Hugh
heard the sob and turned sick at heart. To what a pass their
elopement had come!

Above all things, how could he comfort the unfortunate man? There was no
word of encouragement, no word of hope to be given. The deepest pity he
had ever felt went out to Henry Veath; the greatest remorse he had ever
known stung his soul. Should he tell Veath the truth? Could he do it?

"Do you see my position?" asked Veath steadily, after a long silence. "I
could never hope to provide for her as she has been accustomed to
living, and I have too much pride to allow my wife to live other than
the way in which I would have to live."

"She may not love you," said Hugh, suddenly hopeful.

"But I could win her love. I'm sure I could, Hugh. Even though she is
pledged to another man, I could love her so powerfully that a new love
would be inspired in her for me. You don't know how I love her. Hugh,
you are not angry with me for having told you this?"

"Angry? Great Heavens, no! I'm heartbroken over it," cried Hugh. There
were traces of tears in his eyes.

"You know how hopeless it is for me," went on Veath, "and I hope you
will remember that I have been honest and plain with you. Before we part
in Manila I may tell her, but that is all. I believe I should like to
have her know that I love her. She can't think badly of me for it,
I'm sure."

Hugh did not answer. He arose and silently grasped the hand of the
other, who also had conic to his feet.

"I would to God that I could call you brother," said he.

"Don't say it! It is too wild an improbability," cried Veath.

"Yes; it is more than that: it is an impossibility."

"If in the end I should conclude to tell Miss Ridge of my feelings, will
you tell me now that I may do so with your permission?"

"But there is no hope," cried Hugh miserably.

"I do not ask for hope. I shall not ask her to love me or to be my wife.
I may want to tell her that I love her, that's all. You can have no
objection to that, Hugh."

"I have no objection," murmured Ridgeway, a chill striking deep into his
heart.



CHAPTER XIV

ONE LOVE AGAINST ANOTHER

Ridgeway passed another sleepless night. Had not Veath said he could win
her love, even though it were pledged to another? The thought gave birth
to a fear that he was not perfectly sure of her love, and that it might
turn to Henry Veath, after all. In the early morning hours, between
snatches of sleep, he decided to ask Lady Huntingford's advice, after
explaining to her the dilemma in full. He would also tell Grace of
Veath's declaration, putting her on guard. Breakfast time found the sea
heavy and the ship rolling considerably, but at least three people gave
slight notice to the weather. Hugh was sober and morose; Veath was
preoccupied and unnatural; Grace was restless and uneasy. Lady
Huntingford, who came in while they were eating, observed this condition
almost immediately, and smiled knowingly, yet sadly. Later Hugh Ridgeway
drew her to a secluded corner and exploded his bomb. Her cool little
head readily devised a plan which met his approval, and he hurried off
to warn Grace before it was too late. Lady Huntingford advised him to
tell Veath nothing of the elopement, allowing him to believe as he had
all along, but suggested a radical change in their future plans. It was
her advice that they go on to Japan and be married.

At first Grace demurred to this plan, which he necessarily proposed as
his own, holding that it would be absolutely cruel to desert Veath at
the last minute. Finally she agreed to the compromise and kissed him
with tears in her eyes.

Days passed and the strain grew more tense than ever. The _Tempest
Queen_ was nearing the Archipelago, after the stops at Penang and
Singapore. At Hong Kong the Manila-bound passengers were to be
transferred to one of the small China Sea steamers. The weather had been
rough and ugly for many days. Lady Huntingford had not left her
stateroom in two days. Grace was with her a greater portion of the time,
ministering to her wants gently and untiringly. Ridgeway and Veath,
anxious and troubled, wandered aimlessly about the ship, smoking cigar
after cigar, praying for a cessation of the ugly weather. Finally, all
passengers were peremptorily forbidden the deck. The skilled sailors
were in constant danger of being washed overboard. Captain Shadburn
admitted that they were being driven from their course by the fury of
the typhoon. Secretly he feared that the _Queen_ might rush upon a
reef at night.

Dinner on the second violent evening was a sombre affair. Lady
Huntingford, pale, sweet and wan, made her appearance with Grace,
occupying Veath's seat, that gentleman moving to the next chair, its
original occupant being confined to his berth. Lord Huntingford,
austere and imperturbable, entered some time before his wife and
purposely ignored her when she came in.

As the party arose from the table, a heavy lurch of the boat threw Grace
headlong into Veath's arms. By a superhuman effort he managed to keep
his feet. He smiled down at her; but there was something so insistent in
the smile that it troubled her.

"It's an ill wind that blows no good," said Veath softly.

"What blows well for one may blow ill for another," she responded a
little coldly, though she did not refuse the proffered arm; and they
staggered toward the doorway.

As they passed into the main saloon he suddenly asked her if she would
let him speak to her of a matter that long had been on his mind. She did
not look him in the face, but she knew it was white and determined. The
time had come when he was to tell her that he loved her. He begged for a
moment's time and gained her unspoken permission. They sank to a couch
near the stairway, Grace giving a last helpless, hopeless glance at Hugh
as he and his companion passed from the apartment.

"I can see by the manner in which you act that you know what I want to
say to you. It is also plain to me that you would rather not hear me,"
he said, after a moment.

"Please do not say it," she entreated, and he saw the little hope that
he had been nourishing dashed away.

"I did not dream until a few moments ago that you had discerned my love
for you, Miss Ridge, but I am not sorry that I have been so transparent.
How you have guessed my secret I cannot imagine. I tried to keep it from
you," he said, as if he had wounded her. "Perhaps your brother
told you."

She was on the point of telling him that Hugh was not her brother, but
something checked the impulse and she could only answer by shaking
her head.

"You told me that you expect to marry another man, but that has not kept
me from telling you that I love you, nor will it prevent me from trying
to win your love. Pride, if nothing else, has kept my lips sealed, for
what right have I to ask any woman to share my lot? In sheer humiliation
I must tell you that my life looks like a failure to me. I have a hard
struggle ahead of me. You may say that I am young and strong, but I
cannot, for my soul, see anything bright ahead." His voice trembled and
she glanced up at his face. He was looking at the diamond that sparkled
on her left hand.

"You have no right to say that life is a failure; you have no right to
lie down on your arms and give, up the fight. That is the act of a
coward. After all, it is not the way to win a woman's love."

"You don't mean--is it possible that you could--" he began.

"No, no! You must not hope. I love another as dearly as you love me. But
I will not have you say that you cannot succeed in life. I know you are
strong, and I know you are determined. There is nothing impossible to
you," she said hurriedly, seeking feverishly to draw him from his
purpose. "When first we met you were cheerful and hopeful, strong and
full of life. Then some one came into your life and you saw a black
cloud of despair arise. It came up easily and you can drive it away just
as easily. It is not of your nature to give up, I know. You can win fame
and fortune and the love of some one much worthier than I."

"If I live to be a thousand I shall love none as I love you," he said
simply. "If you loved me I could win against all the world. Your wealth
is a natural barrier between poor love and rich pride, both true
possessions of mine. But for the latter the former would win. Can you
understand?" he asked almost vehemently.

"I--I--no, I do not understand you," she said panic-stricken. His eyes
were flashing again in the same old way and his voice, low pitched, had
a gallant ring.

"I mean I'd win your love and I'd make you my wife."

"Mr. Veath! How can you--how dare you--" she began, arising indignantly,
yet a trifle carried away by his impetuous manner. Her heart was
thumping tumultuously and she dared not look into his eyes.

"Dare!" he cried. "You urge me to fight it out and die in the trenches,
as it were, and now you ask me why I dare tell you what I'd do under
certain conditions. I merely tell you what I could and would do if I
could change the conditions."

"You are a trifle over-confident, Mr. Veath," she said coldly.
"Good-night."

"Don't be angry, please," he cried in humility. "You have spoken to me
in a way that has awakened a new spirit--the spirit that men call 'do or
die.' To-night the storm rages and we are all in danger. I feel that in
an hour like this and in a place like this I am worth more than I have
ever been or could be in any other position. The fierceness of the night
and the sting of your advice combine to give life and nerve to my weak
heart. I am not the man who begged you a moment ago to listen to the
weakness of a despairing lover; it is another man, another Henry Veath
who talks to you now. From this instant I shall begin the battle against
old conditions and you shall be the spoils of battle. Grace, look at me!
I am going to show you what real determination means. I want you and
I'll win you." His tall figure straightened, his blue eyes gleamed and
flashed with the fire of enthusiasm. The timid, fearful Veath was gone,
and in his stead stood the valiant, aggressive, inspired contestant.

The rolling of the ship sent her staggering toward him, and he caught
her by the arms. Steadying himself against the staircase, he cried in
her bewildered ear:

"I love you better than all else in the world. You are a part of my
life, all of my joy. Do you think I can give you up now that I have
found the courage to begin the struggle? I'll win my way and I'll win
your love. Nothing but death can stop me now. Come! Don't look as though
you hate me for it."

"I do not hate you," she said humbly, almost glaring into his bright
eyes, unable to turn from the love which governed them so completely.
"But you must not talk like this. I cannot listen to you. Mr. Veath,
there is no possible hope."

"The hope to win and the will to win are two different propositions, and
it is the latter under which I am enlisted. To me it is worth fighting
for to the end of time."

"Oh, you must not say these things to me," she cried fiercely, trying to
escape from his eyes.

"I shall not say another word to you after to-night until I am sure I
have won the victory. Then I shall ask you to be my wife. To-morrow I'll
tell your brother I am bound to win. He must know my honest intentions."

"My brother!" she gasped. Her knees grew weak and a faintness assailed
her heart, almost to overpowering. "You--you must not--shall not say a
word to Hugh. I forbid you--I--"

"Why are you so agitated? Why am I not to speak to him? He is
fair-minded, and I know he likes me."

"You don't know what it would mean to me. There is something you do not
know. No, no! You shall not speak to Hugh." It was her turn to command,
and he wavered.

"Your will is the law which I obey. He shall not know--not now, at
least," he said. "There are to be but two factions in the struggle,
then, your love against mine."

"You forget the--the other man," she said, sudden tears springing to her
eyes.

"I think only of one woman," he said softly, lovingly.

She leaned wearily against the staircase, her hands clasping the
railing. There was a piteous, hopeless entreaty in the dimming eyes as
she turned them to his and tried to speak calmly.

"I have something to say to you--to-morrow. Let us say good-night."

"Nothing you can say will alter my love. When the storm to-night is at
its worst remember that I will give my life for your sake."

She did not answer, but her hand clasped his arm impulsively. In the
doorway they met Hamilton and Gregory, just from the captain, their
faces white and fear-stricken. Hugh and Lady Huntingford were hurrying
toward them.



CHAPTER XV

THE WRECK OF THE "TEMPEST QUEEN"

"What's wrong?" asked Veath, alarmed by the agitation of the two
soldiers.

"Captain Shadburn estimates that we are two hundred miles out of our
course, away to the south. It's impossible to get our bearings without
the sun, and the Lord only knows where we're running to," said Hamilton,
holding to the door casing.

Hugh and Lady Huntingford had joined the others by this time and were
listening with blanched faces to the men in uniform.

"It's as black as ink outside," said little Lieutenant Gregory,
shivering in a manner most unbecoming in a soldier. "As long as they
can keep the boat out of the trough we'll ride the waves safely, but the
deuced danger lies in the reefs and little islands. We may be dashing
into one of them at this minute."

"You're a cheerful hero," cried Hugh indignantly. "What's the use of
imagining a thing like that? It's time enough to think about it when we
strike the reef; and, besides, it can't help us any to cry. We can't
leave the ship for a walk back to dry land. We're here to see the thing
to the end, no matter where it is, and I don't believe in howling before
we're hurt."

"That's right," agreed Veath. "Possibly we're out of the course. That
happens in every storm that comes up at sea."

"But there are hundreds of reefs here that are not even on the chart,"
cried Gregory.

"Well, there have been thousands of ships to escape them all, I fancy,"
said Ridgeway boldly. The two women were speechless.

"And there have been thousands of storms, too," added Veath, a sort of
wild exultation ringing in his voice, plain to Grace if not to
the others.

"Do not try to deceive us, gentlemen," wavered Lady Tennys. "We can be a
great deal braver if we know the real situation. I know you are making
light of this dreadful storm out of consideration for Miss Ridge and
myself, but don't you think it would be better if we were told the
worst? Women are not always the greater cowards."

"Yes, Hugh, we should know the worst," said Grace firmly. "The ship is
rolling frightfully, and Lieutenant Hamilton has said enough to assure
us that Captain Shadburn is alarmed, even apprehensive."

"Perhaps I am too much of an optimist, but I stick to my statement that
while we are in some danger--any fool can see that--we are by no means
lost," said Hugh, looking at Gregory when he used the word fool.

"As long as the engine and steering apparatus hold together the crew of
the ship can pull her through," said Veath. "I have the utmost
confidence in the boat and the men."

"But all the men on the ocean cannot keep her from striking an unseen
rock, nor could any ship withstand such a shock," argued the young
Englishwoman bravely.

"That's right, Lady Tennys," quickly cried Hamilton. "I don't say the
ship will get the worst of a straight fight against the sea, but we
won't stand the ghost of a chance if we strike a reef."

"The best thing we all can do is to find some place where there is not
quite so much danger of having our brains dashed out against these
walls. It's getting so that I can't keep my feet much longer. This is no
time to be taking chances of a broken leg, or an arm or a neck, perhaps.
We'll need them all if we have to swim to Hong Kong."

Despite his attempted jocularity, Ridgeway was sorely troubled. Common
sense told him that they were now in a most perilous position. The dead
reckoning of the captain and his chartmaster, while able to determine
with a certain degree of accuracy the locality in which the ship was
beating, could not possibly account for the exact position of those
little islands. He began to think of the life preservers. A feeble smile
came to the ladies when he spoke of swimming to Hong Kong, but the men,
Veath included, looked serious.

"I think it would be wise if we make every preparation to leave the
ship, awful as the prospect may seem. My judgment is that we should
take time by the forelock. It will be too late after the crash comes."
Veath said this solemnly, and a deeper sense of realization came to all
of them. Strange to say, it inspired energy and calmness rather than
weakness and panic.

"The life preservers, you mean?" almost whispered Grace. A fearful lurch
of the boat caused the whole party to cling desperately to the supports.
Before he could answer a ship's officer came scudding down below.

"Captain Shadburn says that every one is to prepare for the worst. The
propeller's smashed and we can't live in this sea. Be quick!" cried the
pale-faced sailor, hurrying onward. In an inconceivably short space of
time the passages and saloons were crowded with rushing passengers.
Pandemonium prevailed. Women were shrieking, men yelling and praying.
Cooler heads were utterly powerless to subdue the crazy disorder.
Ridgeway and Veath hurried the two women to their staterooms, plunging
along, almost falling with the savage rolling of the boat.

"For God's sake, hurry!" called Hamilton from afar. "We are turning into
the trough."

How our friends got into the cumbersome preservers and prepared
themselves for the end they could never have told. Everything seemed a
blank, the whole world whirled, all the noises in the universe rolled in
their ears. Then they were stumbling, rolling, tearing toward the upper
deck, hardly knowing whither they went or how they progressed. Before,
behind, beside them were yelling, maddened men and women, rushing
upward ruthlessly into the very waves of the ocean, all to be lost.

On the steps Hugh and Grace, who were together in advance of Veath and
Lady Tennys, encountered the latter's husband. Pie had fallen, and was
grovelling, cursing, screaming, praying on the steps. Hugh pulled him to
his feet. With a mad yell he fled onward and upward. At the top he was
checked by the sailors, who were vainly trying to keep the people back.
He struggled past them and on toward the open deck. An officer caught
him and held him firmly until Hugh, Veath, and the two trembling
women came up.

"Get back, all of you!" yelled Shadburn. "You can't come out here. Every
sailor on deck has been washed overboard!"

"Don't let us sink! Don't let us sink! For God's sake!" shrieked Lord
Huntingford. Then he saw his wife. "Save me, Tennys; we are lost! We
are lost!"

A great wave swept over the deck, washing all of them back into the
companionway, half drowned.

"Is there any hope, Mr. Frayne?" yelled Hugh to the second officer,
holding himself and his half-dead sweetheart against the leaping of
the boat.

"One chance in a million! Stay back there and we'll try the boats. God
knows they can't live in this sea, but they're the only hope. We'll turn
clear over with the next big wave. Stay back!" he yelled. "We are trying
to get the boats ready. Stay back!"

Hugh and Grace from where they clung could see the great black
mountains of water rushing upon them, each wave a most terrifying
spectacle. Then again the whole dark, seething ocean seemed to be below
them and they were flying to the clouds. The breath of relief died
instantly, for again the helpless ship sank into the trough and the
foaming mountains towered about her. Grace hid her eyes and screamed
with terror. Those huge murderous waves already had swept many from the
ship. A score of sailors and as many courageous soldiers were in the
churn of the merciless waters.

Crash! A horrid grating sound, splintering! Then the instantaneous
shock, the awful, stunning force of a frightful blow and a shipful of
human beings were flung violently in all directions, many never to rise
again. The _Tempest Queen_ had struck! The last chance was gone!

"My God!" groaned the captain. "It's all over!" Then he roared: "All
hands! All hands! Stations! To the boats! Stand back there!
Women first!"

Ridgeway, dimly realizing that the end had come, staggered to his feet
and instinctively reached for the body of the woman who lay before him.
He did not know that she was conscious, nor did he know whether the ship
was afloat or sinking. A gigantic wave swept over her, tons of water
pouring in upon them. Blankly he dragged her to the opening which led to
the watery deck, clinging to a railing with all his might. He was
gasping for breath, his life almost crushed out of his body. It
required all his strength to drag the limp form safely away from the
passage, through which now poured their crazed companions, rushing
headlong into the sea.

"In the name of God what shall we do?" he heard a hoarse voice shout in
his ear. It was Veath, also burdened with the helpless form of a woman.

"It is death here and death there. I am going to trust to the life
preservers," gasped Ridgeway, as another wave struck. The constant
crackling and crashing told him that the Tempest Queen was being
ground to pieces on the rock and that she had but a few minutes to live.

"Wait, Hugh, we may get off in a boat," cried the other, but he was not
heard. Hugh was in the sea!

Just as Veath began his anguished remonstrance the ship gave a
tremendous lurch, an overpowering wave hurled itself upon the frail
shell and Hugh Ridgeway's frenzied grasp on the rail was broken. When he
saw that he was going, he threw both arms about the girl he had brought
to this awful fate, and, murmuring a prayer, whirled away with the
waters over the battered deck-house and into the black depths.

They shot downward into the sea and then came to the hideous surface,
more dead than alive. His one thought was that nobody in the world would
ever know what had become of Hugh Ridgeway and Grace Vernon.



Chapter XVI

THE NIGHT AND THE MORNING

Gasping for breath, blinded, terrified beyond all imagination, crying to
God from his heart, Hugh gave up all hope. Fathoms of water beneath
them, turbulent and gleeful in the furious dance of destruction;
mountains of water above them, roaring, swishing, growling out the
horrid symphony of death! High on the crest of the wave they soared,
down into the chasm they fell, only to shoot upward again, whirling like
feathers in the air.

Something bumped violently against Ridgeway's side, and, with the
instinct of a drowning man, he grasped for the object as it rushed away.
A huge section of the bowsprit was in his grasp and a cry of hope arose
in his soul. With this respite came the feeling, strong and enduring,
that he was not to die. That ever-existing spirit of confidence, baffled
in one moment, flashes back into the hearts of all men when the faintest
sign of hope appears, even though death has already begun to close his
hand upon them. Nature grasps for the weakest straw and clings to life
with an assurance that is sublime. The hope that comes just before the
end is the strongest hope of all.

"For God's sake, be brave, darling! Cling tight and be careful when you
breathe," he managed to cry in her ear. There was no answer, but he felt
that she had heard.

The night was so black that he could not see the spar to which he clung.
At no time could he see more than the fitful gleam of dark water as some
mysterious glimmer was produced by the weird machinery of the air. He
could hear the roar of the mighty waves, could feel the uplifting power
and the dash downward from seemingly improbable heights, but he could
not see the cauldron in which they were dancing.

It was fortunate that he could not, for a single glimpse of that sea in
all its fury would have terrified him beyond control. In sheer despair
he would have given up the infinitesimal claim he had for salvation and
welcomed death from the smothering tons, now so bravely battled against.

The girl to whom he clung and whose rigid clasp was still about his neck
had not spoken, and scarcely breathed since the plunge into the sea. At
times he felt utterly alone in the darkness, so death-like was her
silence. But for an occasional spasmodic indication of fear as they and
their spar shot downward from some unusual elevation, he might have
believed that he was drifting with a corpse.

Rolling, tossing, dragging through the billows, clinging to the friendly
spar, Hugh Ridegway sped onward, his body stiff and sensationless, his
brain fogged and his heart dead with that of the girl to whom he clung
so desperately. At last the monstrous waves began to show their
outlines to his blinding eyes. The blackness of the dome above became
tinged with a discernible shade of ever-increasing brightness. A thrill
shot through his fagging soul as he realized that the long night was
ending and day was dawning. The sun was coming forth to show him
his grave.

Slowly the brightness grew, and with it grew the most dreadful aspect
that ever fell upon the eye of man--the mighty sea in all its fury.
Suddenly, as he poised on the summit of a huge wave, something ahead
struck him as strange. A great mass seemed to rise from the ocean far
away, dim, indistinct, but still plain to the eye. With the next upward
sweep he strained his eyes in the waning darkness and again saw the vast
black, threatening, uneven mass.

An uncanny terror enveloped him. What could the strange thing be that
appeared to be rushing toward him? As far as the eye could see on either
side stretched the misty shape. The sky grew brighter, a faint glow
became apparent ahead, spreading into a splendor whose perfection was
soon streaked with bars of red and yellow, racing higher and higher into
the dome above. His dull brain observed with wonder that the brightness
grew, not out of the sea, but beyond the great object ahead, and he was
more mystified than ever. The tiny, fiery beams seemed to spring from
the dark, ugly, menacing cloud, or whatever it might be. Finally he
realized that it was the sun coming into the heavens from the east,
and--his heart roared within him as he began to grasp the truth--the
great black mass was land!

"Oh, God! It is land--land!" he tried to shriek. "Grace! Grace! Lookup!
See! The land!"

The arms about his neck tightened sharply and a low moan came to his
ears. Slowly and painfully he turned his head to look at the face that
had been so near in all those awful hours of the night, unseen. His
heart seemed to stop beating with that moan, for it bore the
announcement that the dear one was still alive.

It was still too dark to distinguish her features plainly. The face was
wet and slimy with the salt water; her hair was matted over the forehead
and wrapped in ugly strips about the once pretty face, now ghastly with
the signs of suffering, fear and--yes, death, he thought, as he strove
to see one familiar feature.

Into his eyes came a quizzical stare that slowly changed to an intense
look of bewilderment. Gradually they grew wider with horror.

The death-like face was not that of the girl he loved!

While he gazed numbly, almost insanely, upon the closed eyelids, they
slowly opened and a pair of wild, dark eyes gazed despairingly into his,
expressive of timidity more than fear. The trembling lips parted, but
the effort to speak ended in a moan. Again the eyes closed and her arms
slipped from his neck.

Every vestige of strength left him with this startling discovery and,
had his arm been anything but rigid with paralysis, she might have
drifted off with the billows, a fate which her voluntary action invited.

A great wave rushed them violently forward and the next moment Ridgeway,
faint, bewildered, and unable to grasp the full force of the remarkable
ending to that night in the water, found himself, still grasping his
limp burden and the broken spar, washed far upon the sands. A second
wave swept them higher, and he realized, as he lay gasping on the edge
of the waters, that the vast ocean was behind him and the beautiful
woman he had rescued by mistake.



CHAPTER XVII

WAS THE SEA KIND?

He lost consciousness in the attempt to drag himself and his companion
farther up the beach. His arms and legs refused to move in response to
his efforts, and the last he remembered was that his body was stiff and
he was absolutely powerless. When he again opened his eyes he was lying
on a grassy sward with spreading green branches above him. For some
minutes he lay perfectly still, dimly sensible that he was alive, but
utterly unable to fix his whereabouts. Through his brain there still
roared the awful waves; in his eyes there still lingered the vision of
the sea as it was when dawn first developed the picture.

Fearing that he could not lift his head, he rose to his trembling elbow.
His wide eyes swept the view before him. There was the sea not two
hundred yards down the slope, rushing and booming upon the stretch of
sand which reached within fifty feet of his grassy bed. Behind him grew
a forest of queer, tropical trees, the like of which he never had seen
before. His jacket had been rolled up as a pillow for his head; his
shoes and stockings were off, his shirt bosom unbuttoned. Two soggy life
preservers lay near by.

At last he caught sight of a woman, alone, forlorn, the picture of
despondency. Far down the beach to his right there rose a rugged, stony
formation, extending into the sea and rising several hundred feet in the
air. At the base of this rocky promontory a multitude of great boulders
lay scattered, some quite large and jagged, others insignificant
in size.

Upon one of the smaller stones, well up the slope, sat the figure of the
woman he had drugged from the sea and whom he had hated with his last
conscious breath. Her head was lying against the sheer wall that ran up
alongside, and he could tell that she was staring out toward the sea,
which roared against the rocks so close by that the spray must have
reached her feet. The distance to this rock was fully three hundred
yards. There was a fascination about her loneliness that held him
immovable for a long time. Finally he struggled to a sitting posture,
faint and dizzy. At the same moment she slowly turned her head and
looked in his direction. Half rising, she made a movement as if to come
toward him, first peering intently. Then she sank back upon the rock and
sent her gaze out to the sea again.

With all the haste he could command he scrambled eagerly toward the
rocks, carrying the crumpled jacket in his hand. Not once did she take
her eyes from the breakers. Tired and faint, he at last came to the edge
of the rocky pile. Here his strength failed him and he sank trembling
with exhaustion upon the first friendly stone, still a hundred feet from
where she sat. In his bitter rage against her he strove to shout, but
the effort was little more than a hoarse whisper. Lying there
impotently, he studied her attitude as the minutes crept by, and there
came at last into his heart a touch of pity that swelled with the
sight of her.

Pain-racked but determined, he again started toward the elevation,
crawling over and around the boulders that intervened. He was within
five feet of her before he spoke, and then not until he had studied her
face for some moments, steadying himself against a large rock. She was
more beautiful than ever with her black hair awry and matted, brushed
away from the pure white face and fastened recklessly with the shell
combs she had worn on board the _Tempest Queen_. Her blue eyes looked
mournfully from beneath their long lashes. The slender white hands lay
listlessly in the lap of the once white dress, now water-stained,
wrinkled and shapeless. In spite of all that dreadful buffeting by the
wind and water she was still the beautiful creation of nature he had
found so charming in a realm where nature seldom presents herself.

"Lady Tennys," he called hoarsely. "You do not know how I thank God you
are alive."

She turned slowly, as if she had known all along of his tortuous
approach. Her voice was low and thrilling.

[Illustration: "'LADY TENNYS, ... YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW I THANK GOD YOU
ARE ALIVE'"]

"I prayed for hours, it seemed, after we were dashed upon this shore,
that you might live and that I might die. The knowledge that you saved
me through mistake, that you were battling so long and so bravely all
through the night for the one you cherished more than all in the world,
made me pray from the first that I could be dead before you discovered
the horrid error. You picked me up when the crash came and I was too
terrified to even think of crying aloud in protest. Then we were in that
awful, awful water. It was not until hours afterward that I felt we
might escape find that I should have to face your grief." He reached up
and clasped her hand.

"Don't--don't talk like that now," he groaned. "I hated you this
morning, but--God, it is a relief to have you here to share all this
with me. God threw us into the sea and He has saved us. I would to God I
could have gone down with--with her, but--but--" and he broke down, his
head falling upon his outstretched arms at her feet. A deep sob from
Lady Tennys caused him to lift his haggard eyes to hers. "It would have
been so much better than to live without her," he cried.

"Why did you not let me go when you found who I was?" she cried almost
fiercely. "I wanted to drown, I was hungry to go to the bottom, to be
washed away to the end of the ocean, anywhere but here with you when you
thought you were saving her. You had forgotten that I existed until that
awful moment in the breakers. I heard her cry out to you as we went
overboard. All through the night I heard that cry of 'Hugh! Hugh!' It
was worse than the worst of deaths!"

At the mention of Grace's piteous cry, even though heard in
imagination, Hugh sank limply to the rock, his mouth falling open and
his eyes bulging forth in agony. Every drop of blood in his veins seemed
frozen with the realization that he had deserted her in that hour when
she had most needed him, that he had left her to go down to death
without being by her side, that she had cried out to him for help,--had
reached out to him in agony. Crazed by a sudden impulse, he sprang to
his feet and glared out over the tumbling waves,--ever moving mountains
that reached as far as the eye could see. She arose also, trembling
and alarmed.

"Where is she? Where is she?" he cried fiercely. "My God! Look at that
water! Grace, Grace! My darling, how could I have left you alone to die
in that hell of water! Let me come to you now, dearest. I will save you.
I will come! Hugh is coming, dearest! Look! She must be out there
somewhere. I can reach her if I try. I must go!"

Insane with despair, he leaped to his feet and would have dashed down
the steep into the death-dealing breakers had not his companion, with a
sharp cry, clutched his arm. He turned fiercely, ready to strike her in
his frenzy. His glaring eyes met hers, sweet, wide, and imploring, and
their influence told at once upon him. A rush of quiet almost benumbed
him, so immediate was the reaction from violence to submission.

"You must not do that!" she cried in horror.

"Let me save her, for God's sake. I cannot leave her to the sea."

"Be calm!" she wailed. "Hours ago I would have leaped into the sea
myself, but the thought came to me that she may not be lost after all.
There is something for you to live for."

"There is nothing. She is lost," he cried.

"As I stood here, I wondered if she might not have been saved as
miraculously as we. Wonder grew into hope and hope took the shape of
possibility. Hugh, she may be alive and as safe as we!"

His eyes brightened like a flash; his breath came quickly; he tried to
speak, but could not for the joy of hope.

"The hope that she may have been saved and may yet be given back to you
kept me from ending the life that did not belong to me, but to her. Hugh
Ridgeway, I have spent a thousand years on these rocks, trying to find
courage to live. But for me she would be standing here with you. You
would have saved her had I not been in the way last night," she
whispered. He could see that she suffered, but he was again blind to
everything but his own great despair.

"Yes," he cried savagely, "but for you I would have saved her. Oh, I
could curse you--curse you!" She shrank back with a low moan, covering
her eyes with her hands.

"Don't say that!" she murmured piteously. "I would to God I could have
gone down with the ship." His eyes softened and a wave of remorse
swept over him.

"Forgive me," he groaned, "I am mad or I could not have said that to
you. I did not mean it." He placed his hand on hers, clasping the
fingers firmly. "Forget that I spoke so cruelly. I devoutly thank God
that your life was spared. We both loved the one who was left behind."

She glanced down at his face doubtingly, unbelievingly, at first. Then a
gleam of joy flooded her tired eyes, illumined her face. Sinking down
beside him, she placed her head upon his shoulder and wept softly. He
did not move from his position on the rock below. His heart was full of
tenderness for the living and grief for the dead. His eyes stared out
over the sea wistfully.

"I cannot look at that water!" he suddenly shrieked, drawing back in
abject terror. "It is horrible! Horrible!"

He left her side and dashed madly away, strength having come with sudden
abhorrence. She looked after him in alarm, her eyes wide with the fear
that he was bereft of reason. Down the rocks and up the beach he fled,
disappearing among the strangely shaped trees and underbrush that marked
the outskirts of the jungle. Again she leaned back against the rock and
looked at the unfriendly billows beyond, a feeling that she sat deserted
forever on that barren shore plunging her soul into the very lowest pits
of wretchedness.

Hours afterward he crept painfully from the cool, lonely jungle into
the bright glare of the beach,--calmer, more rational, cursing no more.
A shudder swept over him, a chill penetrated to the marrow of his bones
as he looked again upon the sea. His eyes sought the rocks upon which he
had left her; his heart was full of an eagerness to comfort her and be
comforted in return.

She still sat upon the rock and he hurried toward her. As on his first
approach, she did not move. When he drew quite close, he discovered that
she was lying limply back against the supporting boulder. The fear that
she was dead and that he was left alone almost struck him to the ground.
He reached her side, pale and panting, and then breathed a prayer of
rejoicing.

Lady Tennys, her dark lashes resting tranquilly upon her cheek, was
lying easily against the staunch old rock, fast asleep.



Chapter XVIII

THE WONDERFUL LAND

He did not arouse her at once, but sat below her, looking at her sweet,
tired face, peaceful in the slumber that had been so long in coming,
wondering what her dreams could be. Far down the shore, near the tree
under which he had found himself and to whose shelter she had dragged
him,--something told him vaguely,--was the spar that had ridden the
waves with them the night before. Long, white and gleaming it lay in the
waning sunlight. The sight of it filled him with an enthusiasm he never
had known before. His heart swelled with homage to the strong, sturdy
piece of timber. It was like a living object to him now, a friend to
whom he felt like talking, to whom he could turn for proof positive of
an unparalleled experience on the deep.

His eyes grew sad and gloomy as he turned toward the setting king of
day. In his imagination, the _Tempest Queen,_ with all on board, went
down precisely at the point chosen by the sun for his disappearance.

Night coming! Where were they? Upon an unknown shore, Heaven alone
knowing how far from habitation, from all shelter save the tree-tops,
from all means of sustenance. Night coming! Behind them the mysterious
jungle, before them the devil-brewed ocean.

A chilly perspiration broke out over him; a fear even worse than that of
the night before attacked him. How far were they from human habitation?
What manner of people dwelt in this land? As these thoughts tumbled
about in his brain, suddenly came the implacable desire for water. It
seemed days since he had tasted it. Like a flash, nature began its
demands, and he was almost overcome by the prospect of night on the
rocks with no possible hope to find the food and water now so necessary.

Lady Tennys slept on, untouched by the calamities that beset him, her
breast rising full and regularly. As he looked upon her lovely face the
spirit of chivalry returned. She had thought of him in his
unconsciousness and she had been brave and true. Bound by a new
determination to find food and water for her and to provide other
shelter than the draughty crannies among the rocks, he painfully started
up the slope toward the edge of the forest. Soon he stood upon the
broad, smooth plateau, looking into the green, sunless depths.

Behind him lay the beach and the fringe of the jungle; to seaward rose
the rocky point full two hundred feet higher than the spot on which he
stood, panting for breath; to his right, descending gradually, ran the
lofty hill to a place, not more than a quarter of a mile away, where it
merged into the forest. The ridge on which he stood was not more than
one hundred feet wide, a flat, narrow, sloping table. Filled with
curiosity, he strode to the opposite side and found himself upon the
edge of a sharp decline, almost perpendicular in its fall to the valley
below, which was apparently lower than the beach from which he had come.

As far as the eye could reach inland there was a mass of bright green
trees, luxuriant and beautiful. Below him was water, a natural harbor of
tiny dimensions, running back from the sea which lay off to the far
right as he faced the head of this peculiar elevation. Plain to his eye
was the contour of this great rock. It resembled the letter L. Along the
sea line it stretched high and ugly for nearly a mile, a solid wall, he
imagined, some three hundred feet above the water, narrow at the top,
like a great backbone. The little cove below him was perhaps a mile
across. The opposite shore was low and verdure-clad. The rocky eminence
that formed the wall on two sides was the only high ground to be seen
for miles around.

Down the slope he sped, dusky shadows beginning to tell of the coming
night. His feet finally touched upon the grass-covered soil; he was off
the barren rock and at the edge of the dismal forest. Without a quiver
he hurried under the great leaves and among the trees. The ground sloped
gently downward to the now invisible harbor. He turned in that
direction. Monkeys chattered in the trees and strange birds hurtled
through the dense growth. His foot struck against a queer green object
and an instant later he gave a shout of joy. It was a cocoanut, green
and smooth.

Food! In an instant he realized that he had found something that could
appease the cravings of hunger for the time being, at least. He searched
eagerly, feverishly in the matted grass, and soon had a dozen great nuts
piled at the edge of the wood. Then he renewed his search for the water
that must keep life in their famished bodies.

The lapping of waves grew louder as he pushed his way through the trees,
and a moment later he narrowly escaped plunging into the waters of the
shimmering little bay. The coast was semicircular in shape, rising high
and black to his left, running low and green to his right. Not one
hundred feet to the left were the first signs of the rocky promontory,
small, jagged boulders standing like a picket line before the grout mass
beyond. Along the rocky side of the wall, sonic distance away, he saw an
overhanging shelf of dark gray stone, protruding over the natural floor
beneath. An inky darkness back of the projection impressed him with the
idea that a cave lay beyond.

At his feet trickled a little stream of clear, sparkling water, coming
from the crevasse above, the headquarters of a spring. He fell upon his
knees and plunged his hot face into the cool water, swallowing
great gulps.

When he arose to his feet everything looked brighter, fairer, happier.
The scene, gorgeous a few moments before, was now more than that to his
revived senses. A desire to shout jubilantly came over him. With an
exultation that he could scarcely control he dashed on up the
sand-strewn ledge toward the awning-like rock.

He found that a roomy cave ran back into the hill a dozen feet or more.
Its floor was covered with fine white sand, thrown up from the beach
during the wind storms, and it was a most perfect shelter,--this hole
fifty feet above the placid waters.

Darkness was coming, so he ran back to the little rivulet. In a broken
cocoanut shell he secured some fresh water and began his journey to the
other side of the ridge. The sun was down to the level of the sea when
he came from the rocks and within sight of the spot where he had left
his fair companion.

She was not there!

A great trembling fear assailed him and he sank back with a groan of
despair. Then he heard his name called faintly and piteously.

"Here I am!" he cried. "Where are you?" A glad cry arose from below, and
he saw her coming rapidly from the small boulders near the water, some
distance to the left. He hurried to meet her.

"Oh, I thought you had left me to die up there," she gasped as they drew
near to each other. "Mr. Ridgeway--Hugh, I am so glad you have come."

"You were asleep when I came back an hour ago. See? I have found water.
Drink!" With one hand he reached down and took hers, eagerly
upstretched, drawing her to the rock on which he stood. She gulped the
contents of the shell with the haste of one half famished.

"How good!" she cried, with eyes sparkling as she took the empty shell
from her moist lips. "I was so thirsty that I tried to drink that bitter
stuff down there. How horrible it must be to die of thirst. Can we find
food, Hugh? Is there nothing to eat? I am so hungry, so hungry." The
sparkle faded from her eyes and a look of pain filled them.

"I have found cocoanuts on the other side of the hill. We can make them
serve until I have a chance to look farther. Come. We must hurry, or the
night will make it impossible for us to cross this hill and find
the cave."

"Cave?"

"A wonderful shelter for the night. Can you walk that far? It will not
be difficult after we reach the top of this little mountain."

Together they began the tortuous ascent, following as closely as
possible the course he had taken. They were scarcely able to stand when
they at last reached the top. Neither saw the beauty in the view, so
eager were they to find rest and nourishment. As they passed painfully
down the slope, he told her of the monkeys, the nuts, the cave, the
rivulet, and the splendor of the scene, cheering her lagging spirits
with what animation he could assume. A few chattering monkeys welcomed
them to the woodland, and she was momentarily aroused to interest in her
surroundings, uttering little cries of delight. They came to the pile
of nuts, and he took up several in his free arm. The cave was reached at
last and both sank exhausted to the white sand. It was now so dark that
the stars were gathering above them and objects were indistinct to
the vision.

"Thank God!" he exclaimed, lying flat on his back, his arms
outstretched.

"I am so tired," she murmured, her head drooping against the wall as she
seated herself near the opening. After many minutes he began the task of
opening the cocoanuts.

"To-morrow I shall go hunting for something more substantial than these
nuts. There must be fruit, berries and vegetables of some kind in the
forest," said he.

"How are we to get away from here, Hugh?" she asked. "Where are we? This
may be an uninhabited island, and we may have to stay here all of our
lives." There was an awe in her voice, and he could imagine that the
prospect brought horror to her face. By this time it was almost
pitch dark.

"Have I not found food, water and shelter within an hour's time? Can
good fortune end with this? Let us sleep peacefully to-night and hope
for the best with to-morrow's developments."

"Sleep? Where are we to sleep?"

"In this cave and upon the sand. There is no other place. It is safe,
Lady Tennys, and you are to have my coat as a pillow for that tired
little head of yours." With this he arose and threw off his coat
despite her protests, rolling it into a compact little bundle. Placing
this improvised pillow on the sand near the rear of the cave, he said:

"There is your bed, my Lady. It is the very best in the hotel."

"You are so good to me, Hugh,--much better than I thought you could be
after--after--"

"Please don't say what you started to say," he interrupted, his voice
breaking suddenly. He stood with his shoulder against one of the outer
corners of the cave, she sitting quietly behind him. At last he went on,
as if the thought came slowly, "Lady Huntingford, forgive my
selfishness. I have been bewailing my own misfortune in a most unmanly
way, while you have borne your loss bravely, thinking only to comfort
me. Forgive me."

"My loss?" she asked in wonder.

"Lord Huntingford," he said gently.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, starting sharply. "Lord--Lord Huntingford! Oh,
Hugh, I had forgotten--I had not thought--," but she did not complete
the bewildered speech. He could have believed that she did not breathe
during the next few moments as she stood there, straight and rigid,
clasping his arm convulsively. Then she turned away and walked quickly
to the bed on the sand, lying down without a word. He could distinguish
nothing of her person save certain outlines in the darkness, and
although he listened intently, he heard no sob, no sigh.

Soon his eyes grew heavy and he felt the overpowering force of sleep
upon him. Removing his waistcoat, he went to the other side of the cave
and prepared to stretch himself out for rest. He paused and listened for
a sound from her. None came, so in some trepidation he stepped nearer.
Soft, regular breathing, deep and full, told him that she was asleep. In
considerable wonder he went back to his hard bed. Out of the confusion
of thoughts and impressions that followed her surprising admission, came
at last the dim, sleepy understanding of the situation.

She had not thought of Lord Huntingford until he mentioned the old
nobleman's name.

With the last faint whirl of wakefulness came the suggestion of roaming
wild beasts, creeping up to attack them in the night, but sleep greedily
swallowed the half-formed fear.



CHAPTER XIX

THE FIRST DAY IN THE WILDS

The sun was up hours before Ridgeway stretched his stiff arms, blinked
his sleepy eyes and peered wonderingly about his strange apartment.
Another and more rapid glance failed to reveal Lady Tennys. His jacket
was still there, and a round depression showed that her head had rested
upon it all night. The packed sand denoted the once present body of
the sleeper.

"Good-morning," came a sweet, clear voice from somewhere.

"Hello! Where are you?" he called, greatly relieved.

"In the kitchen, of course, getting breakfast for you. The kitchen is
down at the spring, you know. Come down."

He hurried down the path, and found her standing beside the bounding
little stream. Her wavy black hair was no longer matted and wild, for,
with the water in the cove as a mirror and her big hair comb as the
necessary toilet article, she had "done it up" in quite a presentable
fashion. Her face was bright and pure in its freshness, her hands were
white and immaculately clean; her eyes sparkled with a deeper, clearer
blue than ever. She wore an air of resolute confidence in herself.

"I have been up for two hours or more. See how nice and clean I am. Go
down there and wash your hands and face and I will comb your hair." She
produced an improvised clothes broom, a stout leafy branch from a
cocoanut-tree, and swished the sand from his clothing as he turned about
for her obediently.

"These clothes of mine are full of sand and scum from the sea, but
before the day is over I intend to give them a good scrubbing and
drying. Then I'll feel like a new man. But wait! This may be Sunday, not
Monday. Can't wash on Sunday, can I? Let's see, the wreck was on
Thursday night, yesterday was Friday and--"

"And to-day is Saturday naturally. We must have clean clothes for
Sunday. Our parlor, kitchen, and laundry are in the same room, it would
seem. Here's a pile of cocoanuts I collected while you slept, and there
are some plums or fruit of some kind. They grow back there in the wood a
short distance. I saw some gorgeous birds out there, and they were
eating the fruit, so it must be wholesome. And those dear, saucy little
monkeys! I could watch them for hours."

"Did you run across any boa constrictors or anacondas?" asked he
serenely.

"Good Heavens! I never thought of snakes. There may be dreadful serpents
in that forest, Hugh." Her eyes were full of alarm.

"I merely asked your Ladyship in order to keep the cook in her
kitchen," laughed he.

"An afternoon out is not a luxury in this land, even for the most cooped
up of cooks. Snakes! Ugh!" Hugh thought she shuddered very prettily.

"Breakfast will be cold if I don't hurry," he observed. He made his way
around the rocky bend to the point where the rivulet emptied into the
cove. When he returned to the shady spot he was put to work opening
cocoanuts and pouring the milk into the shells of others. She had
cleaned the flat surface of a large rock which stood well out from the
lower edge of the cliff, and signified her intention to use it as a
dining table. He became enthusiastic and, by the exertion of all the
strength he could muster, succeeded in rolling two boulders down the
incline, placing them in position as stools beside the queer table. Then
they stood off and laughed at the remarkable set of furniture.

"I wonder what time it is?" she said as they began to eat. He pulled his
forgotten repeater from his watch pocket and opened it with considerable
apprehension. It was not running, nor did it appear as if it would ever
be of service again.

"How are we ever to know the time of day?" she cried.

"I'll try to fix it. It is only water-clogged. My little compass on the
charm is all right and it will give us our bearings, north and south, so
that I can get the time by the sun. I'll drive a little stake out there
on the level, and when the shadow is precisely north and south, then it
is noon. It's all very simple, Lady Tennyson."

"I'm only the cook, Hugh. Won't you please call me Tennys?"

"Thank you; it's such a waste of time to say Lady Tennyson. Shall I
order dinner, cook?"

"We'll have a ten-course dinner, sir, of cocoanuts and plums, sir, if
you please, sir."

"Breakfast warmed over, I see," he murmured, gazing resignedly toward
the trees. Later on he managed to get some life into his watch and
eventually it gave promise of faithful work. He set the hands at twelve
o'clock. It was broiling hot by this time, and he was thoughtful enough
to construct a poke-bonnet for her, utilizing a huge palm leaf. Proudly
he placed the green protector upon her black hair. Then, looking into
her smiling eyes, he tied the grass cord under her up-tilted chin.

"Perfect!" she cried, with genuine pleasure. "You must make another for
yourself." Whether he took it as a command or as a request matters not.
Suffice it to say, he soon produced another palm-leaf hat, and she tied
it under his chin a great deal more deftly than he had performed the
same service for her, consequently with a speed that disappointed him.

He decided to make a short tour of the wood during the afternoon. At
first he argued it would be wise to walk far down the coast, in the hope
of finding a village of some description along the water front. Then he
decided that a trip to the north, through the wood, would be better, as
the lower coast could be surveyed from the summit of the great rock.

"You are not afraid to stay here alone for a couple of hours, are you,
Tennys?" he asked, discerning solicitude in her face.

"I am not afraid for myself, but for you. You must be very careful,
Hugh, and come back to me safely. What can I do? What shall I do if you
never come back?" she cried.

"Nothing can happen to me--nothing in the world. See, it's nearly one
o'clock now. I'll be back by five. And I'll be careful, so do not be
troubled. We must find the way out of this wilderness. Be brave and I'll
soon be with you again."

He was soon in the depths of the forest, skirting the little bay toward
the north. She stood beside their stone festal board, watching him
through uneasy eyes till he disappeared completely from view. A sense of
loneliness so overpowering that it almost crushed her fell upon this
frail, tender woman as she stood there on the edge of the South Sea
jungle, the boundless sea at her back. The luxuries and joys of a life
to which she had been accustomed came up in a great flash before her
memory's eye, almost maddening in their seductiveness. She glanced at
the dress she wore, and a faint, weary smile came to her eyes and lips.
Instead of the white, perfect yachting costume, she saw the wretched,
shrunken, stained, shapeless garment that to her eyes would have looked
appalling on the frame of a mendicant. Her costly shoes, once small and
exquisitely moulded to her aristocratic feet, were now soiled and ugly.

From the palace to the jungle! From the wealth of fashion to the poverty
of nature! From the scores of titled admirers to the single brave
American who shared life with her on the bleak rock, mourning for a love
that might never be restored by the unkind depths. A vision of yesterday
and to-day! Turning to the sea, she breathed a prayer for the salvation
of Grace Vernon, her eyes dimming as she thought of the blithe, cheery
girl who had become so dear to her, and who was all the world to
Hugh Ridgeway.

Her thoughts went then to Lord Huntingford, her husband. There was scant
regret in her heart over the fate of the old nobleman. She was not cruel
enough to rejoice, but there was a certain feeling of relief which she
could not quell, try as she would, in the belief that he had gone down
to death and a younger, nobler man spared. The last she saw of her
husband was when he broke past the officers and plunged out upon the
deck, leaving her to her fate. That he had been instantly swept
overboard she had no doubt. All she could remember of her thoughts at
that thrilling moment was the brief, womanly cry for mercy to his soul.
After that came the lurch which prostrated her, and then Ridgeway's cry,
"Be brave, dearest!"

Bitter tears streamed down her cheeks as she thought of the
strong-hearted Veath and the forsaken American girl--and all of the
others in that merry company. It was not in such anguish as this that
she summed up her individual loss.

Ridgeway was soon in the thick of the jungle. For two or three hours he
plunged through beautiful glades, over swelling knolls, across tiny
streams, but always through a waste of nature that, to all appearance,
had never been touched by a human being save himself.

At last he dropped wearily upon a grassy mound and resigned himself to
the conviction that they had been swept upon an absolutely unexplored,
perhaps undiscovered, portion of the globe. It did not occur to his
discouraged mind that he had covered less than five miles of what might
be a comparatively small piece of uninhabited land and that somewhere
not far distant lay the civilization for which he sought. His despairing
mind magnified the horrors of their position to such an extent that he
actually wondered how long it would be before death broke down their
feeble resistance. Arising despondently, he turned his steps in the
direction of the little cave.

It was not long before he reached a small sandy stretch about five
hundred yards from the spot where he had left Lady Tennys. Little waves
licked the short strip of sand lazily, seeming to invite him down to
meet them on their approach from the big sea whose tidings of woe they
bore. High, dark and ominous loomed the great rock on the south. He
could not see the cave or the rivulet on account of obstructing trees
and a curve in the shore, so he walked down to the very edge of the
water, expecting to obtain a view from that point.

A startling discovery flashed upon him as he strode upon the beach.
There, in the white, soft sand were plainly revealed the footprints of a
bare human foot. He rubbed his eyes and gazed again. Before him were a
number of small footprints, running to and from the water. In a dazed,
wondering way he sought to follow them, eventually finding where a
single line of tracks led directly toward a clump of trees to his left.
At the edge of this he found a confusion of bewildering barefoot moulds,
mixed with others unquestionably made by a shoe on the foot of a
civilized person. Hurrying through the trees, fearful that savages had
attacked Lady Tennys at this place, he was suddenly confronted by a
spectacle that made him gasp. Down at the water's edge, over near the
place where he had left her, he saw white garments spread upon the
rocks. She was nowhere to be seen. Like a flash the truth came to him,
and he looked at his watch in consternation. It was but three-thirty
o'clock. He had told her he would be away until five or after.

Turning about, he dashed back into the depths of the wood. It was after
five when he again approached the rendezvous, carrying a quantity of
plums and other fruits and a number of gaudy feathers that he had
found. Away back in the wood he began to shout to her, long before he
was in sight of the hill. She answered cheerily, venturing into the wood
to meet him. Her clothes were white, clean, even shapely.



CHAPTER XX

THE SIGN OF DISTRESS

The next morning before she was awake he arose and made a tour of the
beach in quest of shell fish, took a plunge in the cool waters of the
bay, and again inspected the little footprints in the sand. He smiled as
he placed his own foot, a number nine, beside the dainty imprint. On his
way back to the cave he killed a huge turtle, the meat of which he
promised should keep them alive for several days, if nothing better
could be found. As he turned the bend he saw her standing on the ledge
at the mouth of the cave, the wind blowing her hair and skirts freely.
He called to her, and she turned her face eagerly in his direction. They
met among the trees some distance from the spring.

"Where have you been?" she cried, her cheeks glowing.

"Hunting wild beasts," he replied valiantly.

"Pooh! Wild flowers, you mean. I thought perhaps you had gone off to
join the monkeys for an old-time frolic in the trees."

"You won't be so frivolous when I tell you of the narrow escape I have
had. See that trusty club? See the blood on it?" They were standing
close to each other as he held up the blood-spattered stick.

"Oh, Hugh," she gasped, "is it blood?"

"Life's blood," he answered laconically.

"Not yours, Hugh? You are not hurt?" she cried.

"This is the beast's blood, Tennys. I am not so much as scratched, but
it was a frightful encounter," he went on, with well-assumed gravity.

"Tell me about it. Where was it? What was it? Tell me everything," she
begged. He took her arm and together they proceeded toward their
wild home.

"After breakfast I'll take you around the bend and prove to you my
valor."

"But I cannot wait and, besides, you have proved your valor. Do tell me
where the blood came from."

"That awful thing plunged from the underbrush upon me so suddenly that I
was almost paralyzed," he said soberly. "I didn't have much time to
think, and I don't know what I should have done if it had not been for
this excellent club, which I had cut for a rather inglorious purpose.
With one of the very best strokes a golfer ever made I cracked
his skull."

"His skull!"

"Likewise his neck. Then I cut his throat."

"Oh, Hugh!" breathlessly.

"And I'm going back after breakfast to carve him up into roasts, steaks
and soups enough to last us for a month."

"Oh, it must have been something gigantic. Was it a rhinoceros?" she
cried ecstatically.

"Rhinoceros soup!" he exclaimed in disgust. She was properly contrite.
"I'll tell you what I killed, if you'll promise to endure the shock--and
not tell any one else." He placed his lips close to her little ear and
whispered in awe-struck tones, "A turtle!"

"A turtle! Why, a baby could kill a turtle. You are no longer a hero.
Enough to last a month! Hugh Ridgeway, are you delirious?" she exclaimed
in fine scorn.

"Wait till you see him. He weighs a ton," he said proudly.

After their breakfast of nuts, fruit and water they started for the
little beach, Lady Tennys vastly excited. Her exclamations on seeing the
sea monster amused Hugh beyond measure.

"I never dreamed a turtle could be so immense," she cried. "This one
must be a thousand years old."

"If he is, we'll have tough steaks," observed he grimly. Later on he
carved several fine steaks from the turtle and cleaned the upper shell
carefully, wisely concluding to retain it for the usefulness it was sure
to afford sooner or later. "There is one thing to be done," said he,
when they sat down to rest. "I must climb up that mountain and plant a
white flag to show that we are here if a ship should pass. I'll do that
as soon as I have rested, provided I can find anything white that is
large enough to be seen from a distance."

She looked far out over the harbor for a minute, a tinge of red running
to her ears.

"A handkerchief would be too small, wouldn't it?" she asked.

"I'm afraid so," he answered glumly.

Soon afterward she left him and went to the cave, bidding him to await
her return. When she came back she carried in her hand a broad piece of
white cloth, which she laid before him on the grass. There was a look of
modest reluctance in her eyes when he glanced quickly up at them. A
cherished underskirt, ripped ruthlessly from waistband to ruffle, making
one broad white flag of the finest texture, was her offering.

"Use that, Hugh." She could not resist smiling as she pointed to it.

"It will be the very thing," he said, arising and taking the garment
from the ground somewhat carefully.

"It won't hurt you," she said, laughing frankly; whereupon he waved it
rudely above his head and pointed to the pinnacle of the rock.

"With this I shall scale the rock and skirt the bay!"

Within ten minutes he was on his way up the incline, carrying his stout
stick in his hand, another heavier and stronger one being bound to his
back with the white signal attached. She accompanied him to the point
where the ascent became difficult and full of danger.

"Be careful, Hugh," she said; "it looks so dangerous. If you find there
is any possibility of falling, don't attempt to go to the top. You are
so daring, you Americans, that you do not recognize peril at all Promise
me, or I shall not allow you to go on."

He looked down into her serious upturned eyes and promised. Then he
resumed the ascent, with a queer flutter of adulation in his heart.

From time to time he paused to rest. In each instance he looked below,
waving his hand encouragingly to the anxious one who watched him so
closely. On, over fierce crags, around grim towers, along steep walls,
higher and higher he crawled. Twice he slipped and fell back several
feet. When he glanced down, cold perspiration standing on his forehead,
he saw her bending with averted face, her hands pressed to her eyes as
if she expected his body to come crashing to her feet. With recovered
energy he shouted to her, and the quick, glad glance upward was enough
to make the remainder of the ascent glorious to him. At last, his hands
and knees bleeding, he crawled upon the small, flat top of the mountain,
five hundred feet above the breakers, three hundred feet above the woman
he had left behind.

The sea wind whistled in his ears as he arose to his feet. His knees
trembled and he grew momentarily dizzy as he looked out over the vast,
blue plain before him. Fear seized upon him; there came a wild desire to
plant his flag and hurry from the death-like summit. Sitting down, he
nervously unfastened the pole and flag, looking about as he did so for a
place to plant the beacon. For one moment his heart sank only to bound
with joy in the next. Almost at his elbow ran a crevasse in the rock,
deep and narrow. It was but an instant's work to jam the pole into this
crevasse, and the white flag was fluttering to the breeze. He was
certain it would be days before the winds could whip it to shreds.

A feeling of helplessness and dismay came over him as he gave thought to
the descent. In his eagerness to begin the hazardous attempt, he almost
forgot the chief object of his climb to the top--the survey of the
surrounding country. As far as he could see there stretched the carpet
of forest land, the streak of beach and the expanse of water. In the
view there was not one atom of proof that humanity existed within a
radius of many miles. Growing calmer, he scanned the wonderful scene
closely, intently, hoping to discover the faintest trace of aught save
vegetable life, all without reward. He was about to begin the descent
when a faint cry came to him from far below. Clinging to the edge of the
topmost rock, he looked downward.

Lady Tennys was pointing excitedly toward the little bay on his left. A
single glance in that direction filled him with amazement, then
consternation. Recklessly he entered upon the descent. Obstacles that
had seemed impassable as he thought of them on the summit were passed
safely and hurriedly.

How he reached her side so quickly, he could not have explained if he
tried, but in less than five minutes he stood with her, clasping her
hand and looking anxiously toward the sands on which the great back of
the turtle lay upward to the sun.



CHAPTER XXI

GODS FROM THE SEA

Drawn up to the beach were three long canoes, near which were nearly a
score of brown-skinned, almost wholly naked savages, with spears,
shields and war clubs. They were excitedly inspecting the footprints in
the sand. Hugh and Lady Tennys looked down upon this startling picture
in speechless concern.

"Where did they come from?" whispered he.

"I did not see them until they were beaching the boats," replied his
white-faced companion. "Do you think they have seen us?"

"Hardly, but they will begin a search at once. See, they are now
starting to follow those tracks. By Heaven, they'll find us, and what
chance have we against them? Good Lord, this pocket knife is worse than
nothing. We must hide,--and quickly, too."

"Where can we go, Hugh? Where can we go?" she cried, panic-stricken.

"We must climb up among the crags and lie down. They can't see us there,
and they certainly can't track us over that stone plateau. Quick! We
have no time to lose."

He fairly pushed her ahead of him, up to the row, of sharp, jutting
stones. In an instant they were completely obscured from view.

"I'd rather leap off this rock into the sea than be captured by those
horrible things," she half sobbed. "Hugh, do you think they would
eat us?"

"The Lord knows. I can see them down there holding a consultation. Move
over here and you can see the whole valley. Don't be afraid; they can't
see us." She moved over timidly. Crouching side by side they watched the
operations below. The visitors, evidently mystified by the footprints,
were huddled together, gesticulating wildly. They ran hither and thither
like so many ants, minutely examining the mysterious tracks. After a
long time Hugh gave vent to an exclamation.

"By George! I know what's the matter. They can't understand the prints
of our shoes. Our naked footprints are clear enough to them, but I'll
bet my soul they've never seen an impression made by a shoe. They are
your and my footprints, you know, with and without shoes."

"Mine? Why, Hugh Ridgeway, I--never--oh, I never thought!" she
exclaimed, deeply embarrassed after her first expression of wonder and
incredulity. Then she leaned forward and strained her eyes as if
expecting to see the slender little bottoms of her feet in the tell-tale
sand. At that moment the brown band divided into squads, a half dozen
coming toward the mountain, the others remaining with the boats.

"They are after us, Tennys. I have no weapon but this club, but I will
use it as long as I can stand. I'll protect you to the last. If they
kill me, the only thing left for you to do is to crawl to the ledge over
there and jump off. We must not be taken."

She felt a strange sense of confidence and security in the broad back of
the man beside her. His jaw was set. His cheeks pale, his eyes burning
with the intensity that thrilled his whole being. The strong white hand
clutched the club fiercely. He was no longer the light-hearted,
inconsequent youth she had known on board the ship.

The brown figures came into sight again, flitting here and there,
pausing in wonder beside the stone table, inspecting the cracked nuts
critically, and closely examining the ground on all sides. At last four
or five of them sped up the ledge to the cave.

"They have found our hotel," said Hugh grimly. She gulped and could do
no more than nod.

A tall fellow with a long spear and a huge shield, stripped to the
loins, about which was a white cloth, ventured up the slope. Suddenly he
halted and called his companions to his side. He had found a footprint
in a bit of sand on the rocky surface. Without more ado the squad
scattered and began the ascent, each man eyeing the ground eagerly.
Occasionally those nearest the centre would pause and point to a track.
"The good Lord help us!" murmured Ridgeway.

Both were fascinated by the approach of the savages. It was not until
they were within a hundred feet of them that Hugh bethought himself and
drew her back, entirely out of sight. At least, he thought she could not
be seen, but he was mistaken. A portion of her white dress protruded,
and a triumphant yell announced the fact that it had met the eyes of a
searcher. Wondering what had caused the sudden yell, Hugh peered around
the corner of the rock, and to his dismay found the whole band staring
at their hiding place.

"They have seen us," he cried. "Remember, Tennys, what I told you. It's
probably a case of fight on my part. Let 'em come, spears and all!" He
stood erect, his eyes flashing with excitement and eagerness. Taking a
few steps to one side, he stood in full view of the searchers, glaring
down upon them defiantly, his club in his rigid right hand. He expected
a shower of spears. To his utter amazement, however, the fierce-looking
warriors, open mouthed and apparently terror-stricken, slunk backward,
huddling together, all the time staring at him with bulging eyes. His
first thought was that they were surprised to find him so bold, but the
next act on their part caused him to gasp with wonder.

With one accord the entire band cast weapons aside and fell face
downward, beating their heads against the rock, just as he had seen
Arabians and Nubians perform in saluting some mighty potentate. The
brown backs remained in that position for a full minute before he could
call his trembling companion to his side.

"What does it mean?" whispered she at last. "Are they dead?"

"They are really there, then? By George, I thought I was dreaming.
Tennys, they are actually doing us homage."

"Then they are harmless," she cried joyously.

"I believe I could go down and cut off their ears without hearing a
protest."

"But you won't, will you?"

"It would be barbarous, totally uncalled for, I'm sure. I can't
understand their warlike appearance, though. Those fellows look as if
they were out for blood."

"Perhaps they are at war with some other tribe and not with the white
people. My hus--Lord Huntingford says they fight among themselves
incessantly."

"That's it. It is a band of foragers, no doubt. But what are we going to
do about it?" Hugh was nonplussed. The brown backs and bobbing heads
still stretched before them in almost comical humbleness.

"It may be a trick."

"It stands us in hand to remain where we are until we know what they
intend to do next."

"I hope they'll get up and go away."

"I guess I'll yell down and ask them what they want."

"I wouldn't, Hugh," she entreated. "If we leave them alone, they may go
away presently." He looked at her and laughed, for he was growing less
uneasy with each passing moment.

"Hey, there!" he yelled. "How are you?"

Slowly the head-bobbing ceased and dark faces were lifted toward the
elevation. For the first time the newcomers saw the beautiful face of
Lady Tennyson. They struggled to their feet, the tall chief stepping
forward with outstretched arms. Then in some wild gibberish he began to
speak, half to the white witnesses, half to the sky and sun.

"What the dickens is he talking about?" murmured the mystified American.
"Perhaps he's asking us to surrender."

"He is either appealing to the sun or praying to the sky," said his
companion.

"I have it!" cried Hugh. "He thinks we are angels." Despite the gravity
of the moment she giggled delightedly.

"Then we may as well sit down and await developments," she said a moment
later, as they observed the whole band go face downward on the sand
again--all save the chief. The white people seated themselves on the
ledge and watched the impassioned jabberer. Presently the prostrate
figures arose and in mute submission spread forth their arms and bent
their heads, standing like bronze statues in the glaring sunlight, all
to the increased astonishment of those who had expected to become
victims of their torture.

"This beats all I ever knew," exclaimed Ridgeway. "It begins to look as
though they are either friendly or afraid of us. What shall we do?"

"I will follow you, Hugh, if you think it best to go down to them. I do
not believe they will harm us."

"We will go down to them, but we must not let them think we are in the
least afraid of them."

With some anxiety and a decided feeling of insecurity they arose to take
the risk. Putting into use all the composure he could command, he
deliberately began the descent, turning to assist her Ladyship.

"They are on the ground again, bobbing worse than ever," she whispered,
for his back was toward them. In a few minutes, after a descent made
more tortuous by the uncertainty of its ending, they found themselves on
a level with the huddled natives. Taking her hand in his left and
clutching his club nervously in his right, Hugh advanced slowly toward
the band. Every nerve in his body was quivering under the strain which
his apparent coolness cost. When within fifteen feet of the prostrate
figures they halted and Hugh cried out boldly:

"Get up!"

Instead of obeying the command instantly, the little band peeped slyly
at the strangers. Then they struggled to their feet, crowding into a
bunch, the picture of bewilderment.

"By George, they look at us as if they never had seen white people
before," said Hugh. With stately tread he approached the now trembling,
shrinking natives, holding his left hand aloft to signify graciousness.
Lady Tennys walked beside him, a smile playing on her exceedingly pale
face. "My good friends, be not afraid," said he. The brown men looked at
each other in deeper wonder than before.

The leader, a perfect giant, stepped forward hesitatingly, fairly
pushed on by his comrades. In an awed voice he gave utterance to a most
outlandish rattle of sound, the like of which his hearers never had
heard. In conclusion he touched his mouth and ears and shook his head
solemnly. Hugh, taking the cue, repeated the performance.

"That signifies that we don't understand each other. He sha'n't beat me
on the sign language," he said. "I believe this is a great time to work
in something dramatic. We can make a hit by simply going among them and
laying our hands on their heads. It will be graceful and fetching, I'm
sure. First, I am going to see if they are afraid of us." He suddenly
threw up both hands and cried "Boo!" in a loud tone. The eyes of the
watchers hung out and they jumped like so many mice at the sound. It was
so laughable that she was compelled to place her handkerchief over her
mouth and turn her head away. "I guess we've got 'em pretty well
paralyzed," grinned Hugh. Then he went among them, placing his hands
gently upon their woolly heads, Lady Tennys doing likewise. The flesh of
the savages fairly quivered at the touch, yet all seemed delighted that
the visitors had condescended to lay hands of kindness upon them. They
began to chatter and chant softly, all the time eyeing Hugh and his
companion with reverence.

"They don't seem to thaw out or show any signs of friendship," said
Hugh, very much puzzled. He and his companion walked over to the shade
of the rock and calmly sat down to await the next move. They now had no
fear of harm at the hands of the simple though savage-looking men, who
watched them from a distance jabbering excitedly.

"Hugh, I am firmly convinced that they have never seen white people
before. They don't know what we are."

For five minutes they sat and discussed possibilities and probabilities,
fully realizing that they were objects of awe to the savages. Finally
the tall one left the group and drew near the couple, approaching in
fine humility. When he was a dozen feet from them, they arose, extending
friendly hands toward him. He dropped to his knees and fairly ground his
head upon the rock. Then he arose and came directly to them. Hugh
marvelled at his size. Tremendous muscles, cords, knots and ridges
stood, out all over his symmetrical body. He peered intently at the
white man's flesh and then dubiously at his own. When he turned his
inspection to Tennys, his eyes riveted themselves upon her clear white
face, the most gorgeously beautiful flower he ever had seen. He could
not grasp the full glory of that dazzling flower; he was stupefied,
helpless before the blue eyes and dazzling smile. In mute idolatry he at
last lifted his puzzled gaze to the sun and then, extending his great
arms upward, uttered a few low, guttural appeals to the King of the sky.

"He thinks we are from the sun," said she, keenly ingenious.

"This fellow really seems quite willing to worship us. The best we can
do for the present is to set ourselves up as idols. I think I can be a
very clever idol with precious little practice. You can be one without
an effort. Shall we set up a worship shop among these decidedly willing
subjects?"

"But, Hugh, if we go away from the coast we cannot hope to see a white
man again; these poor fellows are now, for the first time, looking upon
one. Should we not stay here?" she asked, full of fear and perplexity.

"If a white man ever finds this land he will discover us. Besides, we
cannot live on this rock forever. It would only be a question of time
until we should starve or be killed by wild beasts. I am in favor of
retaining the very evident monopoly we have established in this land
of nowhere."

"But if they should prove treacherous?"

"There's no mistaking the honesty of their wonder. We are real
curiosities, and we have only to follow up the advantage to become
regular despots." He was enthused by the possibilities that thronged his
imagination.

"I will leave it all to you, Hugh. Do what you think best," she said
softly and resumed her seat on the rock.

With his heart quickened by the inspiration in that trusting face, Hugh
boldly stepped to the side of the brown giant, deliberately taking his
hand to lead him to the edge of the precipice.

There, by signs and gesticulations, he endeavored to tell him that they
came from over the sea. From the awed expression on the face of the
savage he guessed that he had increased the mystery. It was quite
evident that his auditor now believed them to be from the bottom of the
sea instead of from the sun. To Hugh it mattered little as long as he
could have the wand of power over their heads. He delighted the chief by
making him understand that he and his companion would accompany them in
the boats. The word was conveyed to his warriors, and a wild chatter of
joy went up from among them. They fell upon their faces and groaned in
mighty discord.

Within a quarter of an hour the light bark canoes were speeding toward
the harbor mouth, big brown arms manning the paddles vigorously.
Ridgeway and Tennys sat facing each other in the foremost boat, the
chief steering. Their turtle shell was in another boat, and Hugh did not
forget the good old spar that lay on the beach below. Hour after hour
passed, the oarsmen paddling the same stroke, never tiring, never
faltering. The passengers at last began to lose interest in the gorgeous
scenery along the coast they were skirting. Where would this startling
journey end? When would the indefatigable oarsmen lay down their paddles
to rest? When would they be able to procure food and drink?

The sun was sinking toward the water line, the forest along the uneven
coast was merging into one vast green shadow, the waters were growing
blacker and blacker, and yet the row of canoes continued its wearisome
glide toward a seemingly unattainable end. Lady Tennys became so tired
and sleepy that her long lashes could not be restrained from caressing
her cheeks, nor could her dreamy eyes bear the strain of wakefulness.
Hugh, observing her fatigue, persuaded her to turn about in the boat and
lie back against his shoulder. Soon she was sleeping soundly, her face
protected from the dying sun by a readjustment of her palm-leaf bonnet.

Ridgeway was beginning to fight against the effects of an ungovernable
drowsiness when the boat in which they sat suddenly turned toward the
beach. Long, powerful strokes sent the little craft whizzing in the new
direction. Just as the sun's last rays lost themselves in the night, the
prow glided upon the sand and the oarsmen sprang out to carry him and
the fair sleeper ashore.



CHAPTER XXII

FLESH SUCCEEDS STONE

Lady Tennys rubbed her eyes and stared blankly about her when Hugh awoke
her. The darkness and the strange forms frightened her, but his
reassuring words brought remembrance of the unique trip and with it the
dim realization that they had landed at last.

If their first landing place was wonderful, this was doubly so. Despite
the darkness, they were able to see quite distinctly the general outline
of the coast. Two mammoth rocks, as large apparently as the one they had
left behind, rose toward the hazy moonlit sky, far in shore, like twin
sentinels, black and forbidding. Between them a narrow stretch of sky
could be seen, with the moon just beyond. Entranced, they gazed upon the
vivid yet gloomy panorama bursting from the shades of night almost as if
it were advancing upon them. So immense, so startling, were these vast
towering columns, so brilliant was the sky behind them, that the
wonder-struck strangers found difficulty in controlling a desire to turn
about and fly from the impending rush of mountain, moon and sky. In the
first moments of breathless observation it seemed to them that the great
rocks were moving toward the sea and that the sky was falling with
them, giving the frightful impression that they were soon to be crushed
in the ponderous fall. They were exchanging expressions of relief when
the big chief came up and prostrated himself at their feet.

Ridgeway touched his shoulder and bade him arise, pointing toward the
mounts and their attendant glory. To his amazement the chief uttered an
exclamation of satisfaction and abruptly ran back to the boats. In an
incredibly short space of time the restless savages were coming up the
beach with their canoes on their shoulders, heading straight for the
opening through which the moonlight streamed. Two of them formed a
"basket," and Lady Tennys, taking her seat upon their hands, and holding
timidly to their hard, muscular shoulders, was borne swiftly onward and
upward, Ridgeway having some difficulty in keeping pace with the
human carriage.

Big rocks told them that they were at the base of the rocky columns and
the course of the little band indicated that they were to pass between
the towering, almost perpendicular monsters. Suddenly the little
cavalcade of the night came to a halt, the boats were thrown down and
Hugh arrived at the conclusion that they were to stop until morning. In
this he found himself mistaken, for with the very next moment he heard
the splashing of water, seemingly beneath his feet. Up to now he had
been looking upward at the rift in the rocks. Instead of a rocky gorge
he now saw the shimmering of water, and a fresh exclamation of surprise
fell from his lips.

"Can this be fairyland?" he cried, completely dazed.

"We must be dreaming, Hugh," murmured she. The party stood at the
water's edge, looking up through the miniature cañon, the rushing of
distant rapids coming to their ears.

The boats were lowered, and the oarsmen were soon pulling sturdily
between the tall twins. These frowning monsters formed a perfect gateway
from the sea to the home of the savages. Hugh felt that he was shut off
forever from the outside world as he surveyed, with sinking heart, the
portals through which they had passed. Soon a second landing was made,
this time upon soft, rich soil, instead of crunching sand. It was easy
to tell that they were standing on velvety grass, soft, cool and dewy.
The boats were made fast, the spar and shell were swung upon broad
shoulders, and then the party plunged straight into the wood, Lady
Tennys being carried as before.

After ten minutes of rapid walking over a well-beaten trail the band
halted, and the chief uttered several piercing cries. From afar off in
the still night came an echoing answer and again the march was resumed,
the travellers keeping close to the bank of the river. In time they
reached an open stretch, across which the escort started, turning away
from the stream.

There were fitful flashes of light ahead. Across the little plain came a
jumble of flying human beings, two or three bearing torches. They seemed
to have sprung from the ground, so abruptly did they appear before the
eyes of the dumbfounded strangers in this strange land. The chief went
forward rapidly and checked the advancing figures, preparing them for
what was to follow. The entire company prostrated itself in good form.

With the horde of stupefied recruits at their heels, the white people at
length entered the village, which nestled against the hillside. Hundreds
of dark, almost naked, savages rushed from the shadows, the news of the
great visitation having spread like wildfire. By the time the halt was
made in front of a large, odd-looking structure, her Ladyship was so
overcome with excitement that she could hardly stand. Ridgeway caught
her as she staggered from her improvised litter. Presently she grew
stronger, and with her companion entered what was apparently a palace
among the squat, queerly built houses.

The chief ordered torches stuck in the ground, and a bright, strong
light filled the interior. They found themselves in a large apartment,
twenty by thirty feet in size. A reed or grass roof provided covering.
This roof, like those in civilized lands, ran to a high point in the
centre, the sides being fully twelve feet from the ground. There were no
windows in the walls, but as they did not come within three feet of the
roof, there was ample provision for ventilation and light. The entrance
to this structure was through wide portals, reaching from ground to
eaves. There was no floor save the earth, but there were rugs made from
the skins of wild animals. Hugh noticed with a thrill of excitement that
among them were tiger and leopard skins. Directly opposite the entrance
stood a rough and peculiarly hewn stone, resembling in a general way the
form of a man, colossal, diabolical.

"An idol," whispered Lady Tennys in awed tones.

"Perhaps it would be wisdom on our part to kneel before the thing," said
Hugh calculatingly.

"I'll do anything you think best," she said reluctantly, kneeling for a
moment with him before the idol. Whereupon the chief and his attendants
shouted for joy and fell upon their much-used faces. The populace,
thronging about the temple, took up the cry, and all night long they
chanted praise to the living gods. The weird, ghastly figures flitted
from end to end of the mad village long after the chief and his party
had left the temple to the sole possession of the new divinities.

"I wonder if they expect us to sit up forever as sedately as that old
party over there," mused Hugh, after the savages had withdrawn, greatly
to the mystification of their guests. "We're evidently left here to make
the best of it. I fancy we are now supposed to be in business as real
gods with a steady job in the temple."

"I am beginning to think we have come to a terrible place, Hugh. How
fierce and wild these people are! What is to become of us?" asked she,
shivering as with a chill. "How horrible it would be if they brought us
here as a sacrifice to this beastly idol. Is there no way of escape?"

"Nonsense! We've queered this antiquated old fossil forever. Two real
live gods are worth ten thousand stone quarries like that. If you say
so, I'll have a few of his worshippers take him down and toss him in
the river."

The big room was devoid of furniture save for the rugs and several
blocks of stone grouped about the idol. Ridgeway was convinced that they
were in the sacred place of worship. Seating themselves rather
sacrilegiously upon the stone blocks, they looked about the place with
tired, hopeless eyes. The walls were hung with spears, war clubs and
other ferocious weapons, evidently the implements of defence to be used
by the stone deity in case of emergency.

"Well," quoth Hugh, after the gloomy inspection, "they must think that
gods don't sleep. I don't see anything that looks like a berth around
here. God or no god, I am going to turn in somewhere for the night. His
Reverence may be disturbed if I snore, but I dare say his kick won't
amount to much. I'll pile some of these skins over in that corner for
you and then I'll build a nest for myself near the door." Suiting the
action to the word, he proceeded to make a soft couch for her. She sat
by and watched him with troubled eyes.

"Do you think it safe to go to sleep when we don't know what they may do
during the night? They may pounce upon us and kill us." Hugh paused in
his work and walked to her side.

"Something tells me we are safe with these people. We may as well make
the best of it, anyhow. We are in for it, and I'll bet my soul we come
out all right. Go over there and sleep. I'll be the first one killed if
they attempt violence. Here's a club that will down a few of them before
they get the best of me." He took from the wall a great
murderous-looking club and swung it about his head.

"I want to be killed first, Hugh, if it comes to that. If you are
merciful, you will kill me yourself when you see that it is their
intention to do so," she said earnestly.

"Pooh, there's no danger," he said, and went back to his work, impressed
by her manner more than he cared to admit. With her chin in her hands
she resignedly watched him complete her bed of tiger skins.

"We have desecrated the temple by disturbing the rugs," she said at
length.

"I'll have 'em make some hammocks for us to-morrow and we'll hang 'em in
each end of the temple. And we'll also have this place divided into two
or three apartments, say two sleeping rooms and a parlor, perhaps a
kitchen. If necessary, an addition can be stuck on just back of where
the idol stands. There'll be great doings around here when Yankee
progress takes hold."

"You surely do not mean to ruin their temple! They will be up in arms,
Hugh."

"Well, they'll have to endure a great many things if they expect to
support such luxuries as we are. If those fellows don't quit falling
down and bumping their faces on the ground, I'm going to have a lot of
pads made for them to wear when they think there is danger of meeting
us. They'll wear their faces out." It did him good to hear her laugh.
"Well, your bed is ready, my Lady."

"I am dying for a drink of water. Do you know how long it has been since
we touched food and drink?"

"All day! I never thought of it until this minute. I am half famished
myself," he cried in dismay. Then he rushed to the door and shouted to
some natives who were standing near by eyeing the crude building
inquisitively by the light of a single torch. "Hey! you fellows!"

At the sight of his white figure and the sound of his voice, torch and
all fell to the ground.

"Get up, you blamed fools," called the white man, walking toward them in
exasperation. They arose tremblingly as he drew near, and he managed by
signs to make them understand that he wanted food and drink. Away they
dashed, and he re-entered the temple. Lady Tennys was laughing.

"What are you laughing at?" he asked in surprise.

"It was so funny to hear you call them fools."

"I hope they understood me. Anyhow, they've gone for the fatted cocoanut
or something equally as oriental."

In less time than seemed possible the happy messengers arrived at the
door with food enough for a dozen hungry people. The giant chief
followed his subjects, and it was through his hands that Hugh received
the welcome food. The white people were gratified to find in the
assortment rich bananas and oranges, raw meat, peculiar shell fish,
berries and vegetables resembling the tomato. At first the natives
looked a little dismayed over the disordered condition of the temple,
but no sign of resentment appeared, much to the relief of Lady Tennys.
The luscious offerings were placed on one of the stone blocks as fast as
they were handed to Ridgeway, the natives looking on in feeble
consternation.

The chief was the only one to enter the temple, and he started to
prostrate himself before the stone idol. He appeared to be at a loss as
to what course he should pursue. Hugh promptly relieved him. Shaking his
head vigorously, he pointed to the stone image, signifying that there
were to be no more salutations bestowed upon it, all homage being due to
himself and the lady. The fickle pagan, after a waning look of love for
their renounced idol, proceeded to treat it with scorn by devoting
himself entirely to the usurpers. He brought cocoanut shells filled with
cool water, and the thirsty ones drank.

"We seem to have got here in the fruit, fish, vegetable and novelty
season, to say the least," observed Hugh.

"Isn't it wonderful?" was all she could say, her eyes sparkling. Never
had he seen her so ravishingly beautiful as now, filled as she was with
the mingled emotions of fear, excitement, interest, even of rapture. He
could not prevent or subdue the thrill of indescribable joy which grew
out of the selfish thought that he had saved her and that she must lean
upon him solely for protection in this wild land. Turning sharply from
her, he glanced at the tempting feast and unceremoniously dismissed the
chief and his followers. The big savage stood undecided for a moment in
the centre of the room, wavering between fear of the new god's
displeasure and an evident desire to perform some service.

After an instant he boldly strode to a stone block back of and to the
left of the image. Seizing it by the top, he gave the impression that he
was about to lift the great stone. Instead, however, he merely slid from
its position a thin slab, pushing it half way off of its square base.
Instantly the sound of rushing water filled the ear, and the
unaccountable, muffled roar that had puzzled them was half explained.
The block was hollow, revealing a deep, black hole, out of which poured
the sound of the hidden stream. The mystified observers could plainly
see the water some ten feet below the surface of the earth, gliding
swiftly off through a subterranean passage. The chief made them
understand that this well was for the purpose of supplying the image
with drinking water whenever he needed it.

"That's very interesting," said Hugh to Tennys. "I'll have to see where
this water comes from to-morrow. From a practical point of view it is
the finest bit of natural sewerage I ever have seen. I'll make
arrangements to tap it, if we are to live here."

"You lawless Americans!"

Apparently satisfied, the chief and his staring companions withdrew,
devoutly prostrating themselves not to the graven image, but to the
living, breathing beings who were awaiting, with an ungodlike appetite,
an opportunity to make way with the tempting fruit.

"It is ridiculous to allow those poor things to fall down like that
every time they turn around before us," she said, when they were alone.

"We must encourage it. If we are to be idols we can't afford to give our
subjects a bit of relief from their religious obligations, and I'm quite
sure we are idols or sovereigns, more than likely the former, judging by
the snubbing our flinty friend has received."

"If we are to live among these people, Hugh Ridgeway, I, for one, intend
to tell them, if possible, of the real God, and to do what I can for a
cause I served but feebly in the past. I may be a poor missionary, but I
intend to try in my weak way to do some good among these poor, benighted
creatures."

"I think we'd better let well enough alone," said he disparagingly.

"Why, Hugh, how can you say that?"

"I haven't thought very much about God since I've been in this land.
I've been too busy," he muttered, with no little shame in his face,
although he assumed an air of indifference.

"He saved us from the sea," she said simply, with a tremor in her
voice. "Surely you remember the prayers you uttered from your very soul
on that night. Were they not to God?"

"Begin your missionary work with me, Tennys. I am worse than the
savages," he said, not in answer to her question.

Silently and greedily they ate of the delicious fruit, and found new
sensations in the taste of more than one strange viand of nature. A calm
restfulness settled down upon their tired bodies, and all the world
seemed joyfully at peace with them.

Almost overcome by sleep, he managed to toss a few tiger skins on the
ground near the door, not forgetting to place his club beside the
improvised couch. "Sleep comfortably and don't be afraid," he said. She
slowly arose from the block and threw herself on the bed of skins.

"You are so good to me and so thoughtful," she murmured sleepily.
"Good-night!"

"Good-night," came his far away voice, as out of a dream.

Outside, the celebration was at its height, but the tired idols heard
not a sound of the homage which was theirs that night.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE TRANSFORMATION BEGINS

When Ridgeway opened his eyes, the sunlight was pouring in upon him
through the doorway. He looked at his watch, and was surprised to find
that it was nearly eleven o'clock. Lady Tennys still slept on her couch
of skins; the torches had burned to the ground; the grim idol leered
malignantly upon the intruders, and the dream that he had experienced
during the night was rudely dispelled. His eyes strayed again to the
black, glossy, confused hair of the sleeper in the far corner, and a
feeling of ineffable pity for her became companion to the sad wrenches
that had grown from the misery of his own unhappiness.

She was sleeping on her side, her face from him, her right arm beneath
her head, the dainty jewelled hand lying limply upon the spotted leopard
skin. The beautifully moulded figure, slight yet perfect, swelling to
the well-turned hip, tapering to the tip of the trim shoe which
protruded from beneath the rumpled skirt, affording a tiny glimpse of a
tempting ankle, was to him a most pathetic picture. As he was about to
turn to the door, she awakened with a start and a faint cry. Sitting
half erect, she gave a terrified, bewildered glance about her, her eyes
at last falling upon him.

"Are you really here?" she cried, joy rushing to her eyes. "I dreamed
that you had fled and left me to be cut to pieces by the savages."

"Dreams go by contraries, and I am, therefore, a very brave man. But
come, it is eleven o'clock. Let us see what this place looks like in the
sunlight."

Together they went to the wide entrance. A surprise awaited them in
their first view of the village by day. Along the base of the circular
range of hills stretched the email homes of the inhabitants, but, search
as they would, they could discover no signs of life. There was not a
human form in sight.

"What the dev--dickens does this mean?" exclaimed he.

"It seemed as if there were thousands of them here last night," she
cried.

"Maybe we have lost our worshippers. I wonder if we are to be the sole
possessors of this jungle metropolis?"

A mile away they could distinguish the banks of the river, running
toward the great stone gateway of this perfect Eden. The plain between
the hills and the river was like a green, annular piece of velvet, not
over a mile in diameter, skirted on all sides by tree-covered highlands.
The river ran directly through the centre of the basin, coming from the
forest land to their right.

In some trepidation they walked to the corner of the temple and surveyed
the hillside. Rising steeply from the low ground ran the green slope, at
the top of which grew huge trees. The village lay at the base of the
hills and was over a mile long, a perfect semi-circle of strange little
huts, stretched out in a single line, with the temple as its
central point.

"There is the beginning of our underground stream," exclaimed he,
pointing up the elevation. A fierce little stream came plunging from the
very heart of the mound, half way to the summit, tearing eagerly to the
bottom, where it disappeared in the ground.

Suddenly the sound of distant shouting--or chanting, to be explicit--and
the beating of drums came to their ears. They searched the hills and
valley with alarm and dread in their eyes, but there was no sign of
humanity. For many minutes the chanting continued, growing louder in
volume as it drew nearer. At last Lady Tennys uttered an exclamation and
pointed toward an opening in the ridge far to the left of the village. A
string of natives came winding slowly, solemnly from this cleft--men,
women and children apparently without end.

The white people stood like statues in the doorway, watching the
approach of the brown figures. There were fully two thousand in that
singular procession, at the head of which strode the big chief, with
perhaps fifty native women at his heels.

"His multiplied wife," observed Hugh sententiously.

"Do you think all of them are his wives?" said she, doubtingly.

"It seems to be a heathen's choice to punish himself on earth and avoid
it in the hereafter."

Behind the women came five men wearing long white robes and carrying
unusually long spears. They were followed by the rabble. At length the
weird cavalcade, marching straight across the plain, came to a halt not
more than a hundred feet from the entrance to the temple. The chief
advanced a few steps, pausing at the edge of a bare, white spot of
ground some ten feet square. Then, after a most reverential bow, he
tossed a small reddish chunk of wood into the white square. No sooner
had the leader deposited his piece of wood than forward came the women,
the white-robed men, and then the rag-tag of the population, each person
tossing a piece upon the rapidly growing heap. In silent amusement,
Ridgeway and Lady Tennys watched this strange ceremony.

"They've been visiting somebody's woodpile," speculated Hugh.

"Perhaps they intend to roast us alive," ventured she.

The small army fell back from the pile of wood, the chief maintaining a
position several feet to the fore, a lad behind him bearing a lighted
torch. After many signs and presumably devout antics, one of the
spearmen took the torch and lighted this contribution from a combined
populace. As the thin column of smoke arose on the still, hot air, the
vast crowd fell to the ground as one person, arising almost instantly to
begin the wildest, most uncanny dance that mortal ever saw. The smoke
and flames grew, the dry wood crackled, the spearmen poked it with their
long weapons, and the vast brown audience went into a perfect frenzy
of fervor.

Not until the pile was reduced to ashes did the smoke dance cease. The
spearmen retired, and the big chief came forward with a tread so
ludicrously grand that they could scarce refrain from laughter. He
carried two short staffs in his hands, the heads of which were nothing
less than the skulls of infants. To the disgust of the white people the
chief presented to each of them a shudder-inspiring wand. Afterward they
learned that the skull-tipped staffs signified death to all who opposed
their way. They also learned that the red bits of wood that had gone up
in the flame were stained by the blood of a half dozen prisoners of war,
executed the night before as a sacrifice to the new gods.

The new monarchs accepted the sceptres gingerly and the wildest glee
broke loose in the waiting throng. While they danced and shouted, Hugh
inwardly cursed the ostentation that was delaying breakfast.

Impatiently he made the chief understand what was wanted, and that
worthy proved an excellent substitute for the genii. He rushed over and
bawled a few commands, and a dozen women and men sped away like the
wind. A few moments later the chief entered the temple and found
Ridgeway calmly measuring off the ground for the partitions that were to
transform one room into three.

So apt was the white man at sign making and so apt was the brown man at
understanding that before an hour had passed a dozen strong fellows
were at work, carrying out the designs of the new idol, the morning meal
having been disposed of in the meantime. Using the same kind of material
that comprised the outer walls, a partition was constructed lengthwise
through the centre of the temple. The front half was left as a reception
hall and living room and the rear half was divided into two apartments,
each fifteen feet square. They were to serve as sleeping rooms. These
ruthless improvements made it necessary to remove the great stone idol
from his pedestal.

"Chuck him out into the backyard," said Hugh. That evening the poor old
image, as disgusted as a piece of rock could possibly be, was carried to
the river and tossed into the rapids, his successors standing with the
multitude on the high bank to witness his disappearance and to hear his
unhappy kerplunk! The waters closed over his unhallowed head and the new
dispensation began. Back across the little plain to the torch-lit
village swarmed the fickle, joyous savages.

"Good Lord," observed Hugh, "what a ferocious crowd it is! They tear
their enemies to pieces and yet we have them under our thumbs--for the
present at least."

"I believe they are naturally intelligent, and I'm sure we can help
them. Do you know what those white robes are made from?"

"Certainly. Cotton."

"It is woven grass. They bleach it. The women do the work down by the
river, and the robes worn by their spearmen are really beautiful pieces
of fabric."

"I am going to leave my measure for a pair of white grass trousers,"
said Hugh lightly, "and an umbrella," he added, looking up at the
broiling sky.

Together the white usurpers planned many important improvements against
the probability of a long stay among the savages. A wonderful system of
sewerage was designed--and afterward carried out faithfully. A huge bath
pool was to be sunk for Lady Tennys in the rear of her apartment; a
kitchen and cold-storage cellar were to grow off the west end of the
temple and a splendid awning was to be ordered for the front porch! Time
and patience were to give them all of these changes. Time was of less
consequence than patience, it may be well to add. The slaving retinue
was willing but ignorant.

The adoring chief gave Tennys a group of ten handmaidens before the day
was over, and Hugh had a constant body guard of twenty stalwarts--which
he prosaically turned into carpenters, stone-masons, errand boys
and hunters.

"You must not try to civilize them in a day," she smilingly protested
when he became particularly enthusiastic.

"Well, just see what we have done to-day," he cried. "How can you
account for the enforced abdication of old Uncle Rocksy, the
transformation of his palace into a commodious, three-room
lodging-house, and all such things, unless you admit that we are here to
do as we please? We'll make a metropolitan place out of this hamlet in
a year if we--"

"A year! Oh, don't suggest such a possibility," she cried. "I'd die if I
thought we were to be here for a year."

"I hope we won't, but we may as well look the situation straight in the
face. There has been no white man here before us. It is by the rarest
chance in the world that we are here. Therefore, it may be years before
we are found and taken away from this undiscovered paradise."

The flickering, fitful light of the torches stuck in the ground behind
them played upon two white faces from which had fled the zeal and fervor
of the moment before, leaving then drawn and dispirited.

"All our lives, perhaps," she murmured.

"With these savages as our only companions, worse than death a thousand
times," he groaned, starting to his feet with the vehemence of new
despair. "Could anything be worse than the existence that lies
before us?"

"Yes," she cried, arising, throwing back her shoulders and arms, lifting
her face and breathing long draughts of the cool, pure air. "Yes! The
existence that lies behind is worse than the one ahead. No life can be
worse than the one from which I have escaped. Welcome, eternal solitude!
Farewell, ambition, heart-pangs and the vain mockery of womanhood! To be
free is heaven, no matter what the cost, Hugh."

"Do you mean that you would rather live here forever than go back to
the old life?"

"If I must stay here to be free, I am willing to live in this miserable
village to the very end, rejoicing and not complaining."

"I never associated you with real unhappiness until you uttered that
last sentence."

"I should not be selfish, though," she said quickly. "You are so
unhappy, you have lost so much. We are to be alone here in this land,
Hugh, you and I, forever. I will prove to you that I am more than the
frail, helpless woman that circumstances may seem to have shaped me, and
you shall have from me all the aid and encouragement that a good, true
woman can give. Sometimes I shall be despondent and regretful,--I can't
help it, I suppose--but I shall try with you to make the wilderness
cheerful. Who knows but that we may be found by explorers within a
month. Let us talk about our new subjects out there on the plain. How
many of them are there in this village?"

She won him from the despondency into which he was sinking, and, be it
said to her credit, she did not allow him to feel from that time forth
that she was aught but brave, confident and sustaining. She was a weak
woman, and she knew that if once the strong man succumbed to despair she
was utterly helpless.



CHAPTER XXIV

NEDRA

The next month passed much more quickly than any previous month within
the lives of the two castaways. Each day brought forth fresh novelties,
new sensations, interesting discoveries. Her courage was an inspiration,
a revelation to him. Despite the fact that their journeyings carried
them into thick jungles where wild beasts abounded, she displayed no
sign of fear. Jaunty, indifferent to danger, filled with an exhilaration
that bespoke the real love for adventure common among English women, she
traversed with him the forest land, the plains, the hills, the river,
and, lastly, the very heart of the jungle. They were seldom apart from
the time they arose in the morning until the hour when they separated at
night to retire to their apartments.

Exploration proved that they were on an island of considerable
dimensions, perhaps twenty miles long and nearly as wide. The only human
inhabitants were those in the village of Ridgehunt, as the new arrivals
christened it,--combining the first syllables of their own names. From
the tops of the great gate posts, christened by Lady Tennys, far across
the water to the north, could be seen the shadowy outlines of another
island. This was inhabited by a larger tribe than that which constituted
the population of Ridgehunt.

A deadly feud existed between the two tribes. There had been expeditions
of war in the past, and for months the fighting men of Ridgehunt had
been expecting an attack from the island of Oolooz. Nearly twenty miles
of water separated the two islands. The attacking force would have to
cover that distance in small craft. Shortly before the advent of the
white people, King Pootoo's men captured a small party of scouts who had
stolen across the main on a tour of exploration. They were put to death
on the night of the arrival in Ridgehunt. A traitor in their midst had
betrayed the fact that Oolooz contemplated a grand assault before many
weeks had gone. Guards stationed on the summits of the gate posts
constantly watched the sea for the approach of the great flotilla from
Oolooz. King Pootoo had long been preparing to resist the attack. There
were at least five hundred able-bodied men in his band, and Hugh could
not but feel a thrill of admiration as he looked upon the fierce,
muscular warriors and their ugly weapons.

He set about to drill them in certain military tactics, and they,
believing him to be a god whom no enemy could overthrow, obeyed his
slightest command. Under his direction breastworks were thrown up along
the western hills, trenches were dug, and hundreds of huge boulders were
carried to the summits overlooking the pass, through which the enemy
must come in order to reach the only opening in the guerdon of the
hills. It was his plan to roll these boulders from the steep crests into
the narrow valley below just as the invaders charged through, wreaking
not only disaster but disorder among them, no matter how large their
force. There was really but one means of access by land to the
rock-guarded region, and it was here that he worked the hardest during
the fourth week of their stay among the savages.

He was working for his own and her safety and freedom. In Ridgehunt they
were idols; in the hands of the unknown foe their fate might be the
cruel reverse. Pride in the man who was to lead their brown friends to
victory swelled in the heart of the fair Briton, crowding back the
occasional fear that he might be conquered or slain. She had settled
upon the course to pursue in case there was a battle and her protector
fell. A dagger made from the iron-like wood used by the natives in the
manufacture of spears and knives hung on the wall of her room. When he
died, so should she, by her own hand.

Gradually they began to grasp the meaning of certain words in the native
language. Hugh was able after many days to decide that the natives knew
nothing of the outside world and, furthermore, that no ships came into
that part of the sea on account of the immense number of hidden reefs.
The island on which they had been cast bore a name which sounded so much
like Nedra that they spelled it in that way. In course of time she
christened the spots of interest about her. Her list of good English
names for this utterly heathen community covered such places as Velvet
Valley, Hamilton Hills, Shadburn Rapids, Ridgeway River, Veath Forest
and others. Ridgeway gave name to the temple in which the natives paid
homage to them. He called it Tennys Court.

Her room in the remodelled temple was a source of great delight to Lady
Tennys. It was furnished luxuriously. There were couches, pillows,
tables, chairs, tiger-skin rugs, and--window curtains. A door opened
into her newly constructed bath pool, and she had salt or fresh water,
as she chose. The pool was deep and clay lined and her women attendants
were models of the bath after a few days. She learned the language much
easier than Hugh. He was highly edified when she told him that his new
name was Izor--never uttered without touching the head to the ground.
Her name was also Izor, but she blushed readily when he addressed her as
Mrs. Izor--without the grand curtsey. The five spearmen were in reality
priests, and they were called Mozzos. She also learned that the chief
who found them on the rock was no other than the mighty King Pootoo and
that he had fifty wives. She knew the names of her women, of many
children and of the leading men in the village.

The feeble sprout of Christianity was planted by this good British girl.
It had appeared to be a hopeless task, but she began at the beginning
and fought with Mercy as her lieutenant. Humanity was a stranger to
these people when she found them, but she patiently sowed the seeds and
hoped. A people capable of such idolatry as these poor wretches had
shown themselves to be certainly could be led into almost any path of
worship, she argued.

Late in the afternoon of their thirty-third day on the island the white
idol of Nedra swung lazily in her hammock, which was stretched from post
to post beneath the awning. Two willowy maidens in simple brown were
fanning her with huge palm leaves. She was the personification of pretty
indolence. Her dreamy eyes were turned toward the river and there was a
tender, eager longing in their depths. Hugh was off in the hills with
his workmen and the hour had passed for him to emerge from the woodland
on his way to the village.

The shadows of night were beginning to settle upon the baking earth and
a certain uneasiness was entering her bosom. Then she caught a glimpse
of his figure in the distance. With his swarm of soldiers behind him he
came from the forest and across the narrow lowlands toward the river. He
steadfastly refused to be carried to and from the "fortifications" in
the rude litter that had been constructed for him, a duplicate of which
had been made for her. A native with a big white umbrella was constantly
at his side and King Pootoo was in personal command of the workmen as
"sub-boss." Ridgeway jocosely characterized his hundred workmen as
"Micks," and they had become expert wielders of the wooden pick, shovel
and crowbar. In the village there were the three hundred tired armorers
who had worked all day among the hard saplings in the country miles to
the south. It was their duty to make an inexhaustible supply of spears,
swords, etc.

As the American came up over the bank of the river Lady Tennys could not
repress a smile of pride. The white grass trousers, the huge white hat,
and the jaunty military carriage had become so familiar to her that she
could almost feel his approach before he came into view. It was always
the same confident, aggressive stride, the walk of the master.

Although the sun had dropped behind the twin giants and the haze of the
night was on, Hugh's faithful attendant carried the umbrella over his
head. The new Izor said, more than once, that, having taught the fellow
to carry the protector, he could not unteach him. Were it darkest
midnight the umbrella was produced and carried with as much serenity as
when the sun broiled and toasted at midday. When the returning band of
laborers was half way across Velvet Valley, Tennys, as was her wont,
left her hammock and went forth to meet the man beneath the white
sunshade. His pace quickened and his face brightened as she drew near.
The hatless, graceful figure in white came up to him with the cry:

"Why are you so late? Dinner has been waiting for an hour."

"Pshaw! And the cocoanuts are cold again," he cried with mock concern.
She took his arm and they trudged happily through the deep grass on
which the never-failing dew was already settling. "But we have finished
the fortifications. By George, if those Ooloozers get through that
valley they'll be fit to try conclusions with England and America
combined. With four hundred men I can defend the pass against four
thousand. To-morrow I'll take you over to see the defences. They're
great, Tennys."

She dampened his enthusiasm somewhat.

"Won't it be an awful joke if the enemy doesn't come?"

"Joke! It will be a calamity! I'd be tempted to organize a fleet and go
over after them. By the way, I have something fine for you."

"A letter from home?" she cried laughingly. "One would think so from the
important way in which you announce it. What is it?"

"A pet--a wonder of a pet," he said. "Hey! Jing-a-ling, or whatever your
name is, bring that thing up here." A native came running up from the
rear bearing in his arms, a small, ugly cub, its eyes scarcely opened.
She gave vent to a little shriek and drew back.

"Ugh! The horrid thing! What is it?"

"A baby leopard. He's to be our house cat."

"Never! I never saw an uglier creature in my life. What a ponderous
head, what mammoth feet, and what a miserably small body! Where are
the spots?"

"He gets 'em later, just as we get gray hairs--sign of old age, you
know. And he outgrows the exaggerated extremities. In a few months he'll
be the prettiest thing you ever saw. You must teach him to stand on his
head, jump through a hoop, tell fortunes and pick out the prettiest lady
in the audience, and I'll get you a position with a circus when we go to
America. You'd be known on the bills as the Royal Izor of the Foofops
and her trained leopard, the Only One in Captivity."

"You mean the only leopard, I presume," she smiled.

"Certainly not the only lady, for there are millions of them in that
state."

They had their dinner by torchlight and then took their customary stroll
through the village.

"There seems to be no one in the world but you and I," she said, a
sudden loneliness coming over her.

"What a paradise this would be for the lover who vows that very thing to
the girl he loves."

"Do lovers mean all that they say?" she asked laughingly.

"Very few know just what they say until it is too late. A test on an
uncivilized island would bring reason to the doughtiest lover. There's
no sentiment in cold facts."

"I don't see why two people, if they loved as you say they can love,
should not be perfectly happy to live apart from the world. Do they not
live only for each other?"

"That's before the test, you see."

"I have not found existence on this island altogether unendurable," she
went on. "I am not in love, I'm cure, yet I am surprised to find myself
contented here with you. Then why should not lovers find this a real
paradise, as you say?"

"Would you be contented here with any other man as your companion?" he
asked, his head suddenly swimming.

"Oh, no!" she cried decisively. "I don't believe I'd like it here with
anybody but you. Now, don't look like that! I'm not such a fool as you
may be thinking, Hugh. I know the world pretty well. I know how other
people love, even though it has never been part of my lot. I'm not quite
a hypocrite. I was not presented at court for nothing. You see, you are
so good and we are such friends. It never occurred to me before, but I'm
sure I couldn't endure being here with any other man I know. Isn't it
queer I never thought of that?" she asked, in real wonder.

He looked at her steadily before answering. The flare of the torch
revealed a childlike sincerity in her face, and he knew she did not
realize the construction he might have been justified in according her
impulsive confession. His heart throbbed silently. A wave of tenderness
welled within him, bringing with it a longing to kiss the hem of her
raiment, to touch her soft, black hair, to whisper gently in her ear, to
clasp her hand, to do something fondly grateful.

"Are you quite sure of that?" he asked softly. She looked up into his
eyes honestly, frankly, unwaveringly, pressing his arm with a smile of
enthusiasm.

"Quite sure. Why not? Who could be better, more thoughtful, braver than
you, and for the sake of a woman who, by mistake, owes her life to you?
When you have done so much for me, why should I not say that you are the
man I like best of all I know? It is strange, perhaps, that it should
make any particular difference, but it seems to me no other man could
inspire the feeling of resignation and contentment that you do. Really,
it isn't so hard to live in the wilderness, is it?"

"Have you never known any one else with whom you could have been
contented here?" he asked persistently.

"Oh, I don't know what other men would be like if they were in your
place," she said. She appeared deeply thoughtful for some time, as if
trying to imagine others of her acquaintance in Hugh's place. "I am sure
I cannot imagine any one being just like you," she went on,
conclusively.

"No one you may have loved?"

"I have never loved anybody," she cried.

"Do you know what love means?"

"I haven't the faintest conception," she laughed, mockingly.

"I believe you said that to me some time ago," he said.

"I wish I could love," she said lightly. "But I suppose the chance is
forever lost if I am doomed to stay on this island all my life."

His smile was understood by the night.



CHAPTER XXV

THE COMING OF THE ENEMY

A fever of queer emotions plagued Hugh's mind as he sought sleep that
night. He lay awake on his couch of skins for hours, striving to put
from himself the delightful conviction that had presented itself so
suddenly. Through all his efforts to convince himself that his
impressions were the result of self-conceit or a too willing egotism,
there persistently ran the tantalizing memory of her simple confession.
When at last he slept it was to dream that a gentle hand was caressing
his forehead and loving fingers were running through his hair. For a
while the hand was Grace Vernon's, then it was Tennys Huntingford's,
then Grace's, then the other's. Its touch brought a curve to his lips.

While he lay awake in these wondering hours and slept through the
changing dream, the cause of his mingled emotions lay in the next
apartment, peacefully asleep from the moment her head touched the
pillow, totally unconscious of the minutest change in her heart or in
their relationship, as contented as the night about her.

The next morning he was speculatively quiet and she was brightly
talkative as they ate breakfast. He was awake when she took her
refreshing plunge in the pool, and heard her conversing learnedly with
her attendants, as if they understood all that she said--which they did
not. It was then that he thought what a solitude life would be if she
were not a part, of it. There was nothing in her manner to indicate that
she remembered their conversation of the night before. In fact, it was
apparent that she was wholly unconscious of the impression it had made.

Two of her white-robed attendants stood in the doorway while they ate,
another industriously fanning them. The flowing white robes were
innovations of the past few days, and their wearers were pictures of
expressive resignation. Robes had been worn only by Mozzos prior to the
revolution of customs inaugurated by the white Izor, and there was
woeful tripping of brown feminine feet over treacherous folds.

"Those ghastly gowns remind me that this is the day for our flag
raising," said he. "I guess the banner is strong enough to stand the
winds that whistle around the tops of the gateposts, isn't it?"

Her thoughts reverted to the white signal that floated from the summit
of the big mount at whose base they had been cast up from the sea. Hugh,
having completed the meal, went to the end of the room, where, stretched
along the wall, hung a huge American flag. Days had been consumed by the
women in the manufacture of this piece of woven grass. He had created
red stripes from an indelible berry stain. A blue background for the
stars was ingeniously formed by cutting out spaces through which the
sky could gleam. A strong pole lay on the floor and all was in readiness
for the raising of the Stars and Stripes over the Island of Nedra. Their
hope was that it might eventually meet the eye of some passing
navigator.

"By the way, Hugh," she said, standing beside him, a trace of antagonism
in her voice, "who discovered this island, a Briton or an American?"

"Why I--an American, of course! Great Scott! I--I certainly did, didn't
I?" he exclaimed, aghast, gradually comprehending that she had a moral
claim, at least.

"That is the question," she said simply.

He walked over and sat down rather heavily on one of the stone blocks.

"I saw it from the sea," he stammered.

"And so did I."

For some moments he sat gazing at the flag, actual distress in his eyes.
She looked away and smiled faintly.

"I didn't think, Tennys; truly I did not. You have as much right to
claim the discovery as I. Why have you not spoken of this before?"

"You seemed so happy over the flag that I couldn't, Hugh," she said,
still looking away.

"Poor old flag! It's the first time you ever tried to wave dishonestly
or where there was a doubt of your supremacy." He came to her side.
"We'll have no flag raising."

"What!" she cried, strangely disappointed.

"Not until we have made a British flag to wave beside this one."

"I was jesting, Hugh, just to see what you would say. The flag shall go
up. You--you are the master, as you should be, Hugh."

"You have as much right as I," he protested.

"Then I'll be an American," she cried. "We'll raise our flag."

"But you are not an American."

"Granting that I was the first to see the island, was I not under
protection of an American? I have been under American protection ever
since. What has Great Britain to do with the situation? I demand the
protection of the Stars and Stripes. Will you deny me?" Her eyes were
sparkling eagerly. "Could the British have landed had it not been for
the American?"

"You really don't care?"

"This is our flag, Hugh," she said seriously. "It will make me unhappy
if you continue to take my jest as an earnest. We made it and I shall be
proud to have it wave over me."

A few hours later the Stars and Stripes floated high over a new island
of the sea, far from the land of its birth.

"How good and grand it looks," she cried as they saw it straighten to
the breeze. "After all, it may be waving over its own, Hugh. The United
States bought several thousands of islands in this section of the
world, I've heard," she added, with a touch of irony.

"It's the flag I love," he cried. "May God let me kiss once more the
soil she calls home. Dear America!"

From that day he never looked at the dancing, wriggling stripes without
a surge of emotion. Its every flaunt seemed to beckon brave worshippers
from far across the sea to the forlorn island on which it was
patiently waving.

An uneventful week passed. A Nedrite who had escaped from the Island of
Oolooz brought word to King Pootoo that the enemy was completing
preparation for a stupendous assault, but a close watch on the sea
failed to reveal signs of the approach. Ridgeway and his eager followers
were fully prepared for the assault. The prospect was now assuming the
appearance of a European war cloud--all talk and no fight. But as King
Pootoo insisted in vague earnestness that the informer was trustworthy,
precautionary measures were not relaxed at any time. Hugh was now the
possessor of a heavy sword made of the metallic-like wood. It had two
edges and resembled an old-fashioned broadsword.

"I feel like a Saumeri," he announced.

When he found that fairly sharp blades could be wrought from this
timber, he had knives and hatchets made for private use, his own trusty
pocket knife being glorified by promotion. He whetted the blade to the
keenest possible edge and used it as a razor. Tennys compelled him to
seek a secluded spot for his, weekly shave, decreeing that the morals of
the natives should not be ruined in their infancy by an opportunity to
acquire first-class, fully developed American profanity.

Many of their evenings, delightfully cool in contrast with the intense
heat of the day, were spent on the river. The largest canoe of the
village was fitted out with a broad, comfortable seat in the stern, upon
which it was possible to recline lazily while several strong-armed
natives paddled the craft through the shimmering, moonlit waters above
the rapids.

One evening, a month after the raising of the flag, they came from the
river, the night having been the most perfect they had seen, dark,
sombre, picturesque. The moon was hidden behind the banks of clouds,
which foretold the coming of rain, yet there was a soft, exquisite glow
on land and water, as if blue-black tints were being cast from aloft by
some mysterious, experimenting artist among the gods. It had been a
quiet, dreamy hour for both. As they walked slowly across the little
plain, followed by the oarsmen, they became cognizant of an
extraordinary commotion in the village. Pootoo and a dozen men came
running toward them excitedly.

"What's up, I wonder?" cried Hugh.

"It is the enemy. I know they have been sighted," she exclaimed
breathlessly.

And she was right. Just before sunset the guard at the top of the
gatepost had sighted the canoes of the invaders, far to the north.
According to the king, to whom the flying messenger had come, there were
myriads of canoes and they were headed for a part of the beach about
three leagues north of the village. It was the best place for landing
along the entire coast and was, besides, the point nearest the home of
the coming foe. It was evident that the enemy had miscalculated. They
came within eye range of the island before darkness set in. A half an
hour later and it would have been impossible to discern the boats in the
gloom. By merest chance their arrival was betrayed.

"Thank God, they can't surprise us," cried Hugh after he had learned
all. He was mad with excitement, burning with eagerness for the fray.

The possibility of defeat, did not enter his head, so sure was he that
he and his warriors could overthrow the invaders. His brain was filled
with the hope that he might some day tell the story of this battle to
the fellows at his club in Chicago. He could imagine himself sitting
with his heels on the window seat, relating to envious listeners the
details of the fight in the pass, the repulsing of the enemy, the chase
to the shore; the annihilation and--but no time was to be lost in
dreaming of the future when the imperative present demanded so much
of him.

At his side hurried the distressed, trembling young Englishwoman, her
heart almost paralyzed with fear. Two or three times she tried to speak
to him; once she timidly, though frantically, sought to grasp his hand
to stay him in his excited rush toward the temple. Up to this moment she
had been brave, even confident; now a weakness assailed her and every
vestige of courage was gone. But one thought filled her mind: the
possibility of disaster befalling Hugh Ridgeway.

They reached the temple and he dashed inside, going direct to his room,
where the sword and daggers hung. She sank weakly upon one of the big
blocks in the long corridor, leaning her head against the partition,
breathing heavily, hopelessly. He, unconscious of the pain she was
suffering, began to whistle joyously as he bustled about.

"Tennys," he called, "do you know what has become of my shield?"

"It is out here," she answered shrilly, her voice pitched high with the
tension imposed. He came forth, tossing his sword on the ground at her
feet, hastily taking the shield from a peg in the wall.

"Say, we won't see a live Ooloozer for a hundred years after the fight,"
he exploded exuberantly. "Is my army out there in front?"

"Hugh," she said piteously, following him about in the hall, "it isn't
necessary for you to accompany them."

"Oh, great Scott! I wouldn't miss it for a million. I'm the biggest pig
in the puddle," stopping to look at her in amazement.

"But it isn't your--our war, Hugh. Why do you risk so much? They may
kill you and then--then what will become of me?"

In an instant his hilarity subsided and deep solicitude came in its
stead, every particle of tenderness in his heart asserting itself in
response to the rueful appeal. There was a queer rushing of blood to his
head, a dizziness, a great thrumming against, the drums of his ears,
from all of which sprung, like lightning, the remembrance of his
suspicions concerning her feelings toward him.

"You are not worried, are you? Why, there's no danger, not the
slightest. We've got them whipped before the fight. I didn't think you'd
lose courage. You've been so brave and confident all the time." He took
her hands in his own and looked tenderly down into the wavering eyes
of blue.

"It is dreadful, Hugh. I never knew how dreadful until now. I cannot
bear to see you go out there to-night, perhaps never to come back. I
shall die if you go!"

"But I must go, Tennys," he said firmly. "I'd rather die than be a
coward. Your fears are utterly ridiculous."

His rather petulant speech caused her to withdraw her hands, her wide
eyes sending a glance of wounded pride up into his. That look of
reproach haunted him the whole night long. Even in the next moment he
sought to withdraw the unintentional sting from his words by the gentle
reminder that he would come back to her a victor and that she would be
proud of him. Still the hurt eyes looked into his.

"I--I did not mean to interfere, Hugh. You must pay no attention to me.
I was selfish and absurdly afraid," she said, a trace of coldness in her
voice, her manner entirely altered.

"Any woman might well be afraid at such a time," he said quickly.

"I am not afraid for myself. It is not the kind of cowardice you think
it is."

"You just now wondered what would become of you if I were killed," he
ventured.

"I know what will become of me if the worst should come. But I must not
keep you standing here. There is much for you to do and much for me to
do. You shall never again say that I am not brave. Go and fight, Hugh,
and when you bring home the wounded I shall have a place to care for
them all." All this was spoken rapidly and in high-pitched tones. He
moved slowly toward the door, not knowing what to say or how to act
at parting.

"I'll be back all right, Tennys," he said at last. "Would you care very
much if--if I never came back?"

"Oh, Hugh!" was her wail. "How can you ask? What would it mean to me to
be left here all alone? If you would have me brave, do not ask such
questions. Go, Hugh. Good-by!"

He grasped her hand, wrung it spasmodically, glanced once in her eyes
and was off toward the horde of warriors congregating in the field.

Lady Tennys steadied her swaying figure against the doorpost and looked
out upon the preparations for departure. The light in her eyes had died.



CHAPTER XXVI

ON THE EVE OF BATTLE

Ridgeway looked at his watch as he drew up to the torch bearers. It was
then ten minutes after ten o'clock. In all probability the entire force
of the enemy had landed upon the coast and was already on its way toward
the village. He realized that these savages, friend and foe, knew
nothing of the finer stratagems of warfare. Their style of fighting was
of the cruel kind that knows no science, no quarter. A new commander had
come to revolutionize the method of warfare for at least one of the
armies. It was to be a case of strategy and a new intelligence against
superior forces and a surprised ferocity.

He was somewhat amazed to find that none of his troopers had attempted
to leave the village before he was there to lead. This, when he thought
of the eagerness and bloodthirstiness of the men, was certainly a fair
promise of submissiveness on the field of battle. To be sure, the
restraint was almost unendurable to the fierce fellows who had caught up
their shields and spears long before he came in from the river. The
excitement was intense, the jabbering frightful. Here, there, everywhere
danced the frantic warriors, tossing their weapons in the air and
screaming with a loyalty that savored very much of impotent rage.

"Heavens, I'd give little for a man's life if he crossed these devils
to-night," thought Hugh as King Pootoo detached himself from the horde
and raced unmajestically over to meet him, almost, forgetting to
prostrate himself in his frenzy. Grossly exaggerated by the flare of the
torches, the spectacle was enough to strike terror to the strongest
heart. The king subdued himself sufficiently to grasp the meaning of
Hugh's signs and set about to bring order out of chaos--a difficult task
for even a king. Gradually the excitement subsided and the band stood at
rest, awaiting the command to move to the hills across the river. They
reminded Hugh of dogs he had seen. We all have held a chunk of meat high
above a dog's nose and we have seen him sit in enforced patience, hoping
for the fall thereof. And we all know that after a certain time he will
throw patience to the winds and leap frantically upward in the effort to
secure the prize.

A force of fully one hundred young fellows was to be left in the village
as a guard against disaster in case the enemy should force its way
through the pass. Lady Tennys was to have a bodyguard, even though it
crippled the fighting force at the front. The men comprising this
reserve did not relish the plan, but their objections were relentlessly
overruled by the white Izor and King Pootoo. With sulky heads they
seated themselves as directed near the temple they were to protect with
their lives.

It required but a few minutes of time for Ridgeway to find that his
little army was ready to move. After some hesitation he went to the
temple door to bid farewell to his fellow-castaway. She was still
leaning against the doorpost and did not move as he approached.

"We're off now," he said as he came up. "Don't worry, little woman;
we'll come home victorious as sure as fate. See these fellows? They are
your guard, your own soldiers. You can command them to do as you wish."

"Mine?" she asked slowly, as if not comprehending.

"Yes; they are the Lady Tennys Reserves," he said, smiling. A glad light
suddenly broke in her eyes, her face brightened and her whole mien
changed from despair to delight.

"Thank you, Hugh. I shall never forget you for this. You will never know
how happy I am to have these men to do my bidding. If it is necessary I
will show you that a woman of England can fight as valiantly as her
brothers, the bravest men in all the world." In her eyes there were
tears as she uttered these words,--tears of courage and pride.

"Would that I could have you by my side all through this fight. There is
an inspiration in your very gentleness that could make me do prodigious
deeds of valor. But, good-by, Tennys! I'll be back for lunch to-morrow!"
he cried as he dashed away. He could look into those swimming eyes no
longer and restrain a certain impulse that was trying to force him into
the liberation of an entirely unnecessary bit of sentiment.

"Good-by, Hugh! Don't be careless. What will the Reserves be worth to me
if you are killed? I shall pray for you, Hugh--every minute of this
awful night I shall pray for you."

"God bless you," he called back from Velvet Valley, his brain whirling
with the wish that he had kissed her and the fear of the result had he
made the attempt.

A few minutes later he sent his jacket back to the temple. It was his
most valued possession. Had he seen the look of tenderness in her eyes
as she hold up the worn, blue jacket; had he seen her kiss the blue
cloth impulsively, he would have been thrilled to the bone. But had he
been there to observe the startled, mystified blush that rose to her
brow when she found that she had really kissed his coat, he might have
been as perplexed as she over the unusual act.

With heart beating violently and nerves strung to their highest tension,
Ridgeway led the way to the river. He was as confident of victory as if
he were returning from the pass with the result out of doubt. Reaching
the river, his men plunged into the water and swam across, not waiting
for the canoes. He and the king were rowed over, meeting the swimmers as
they came up from the bank, dripping and puffing. Again the march was
resumed, and within fifteen minutes the band was at the foot of the
hills. Here Hugh called a halt.

With Pootoo and a dozen men he went forward to take a look down the long
gorge. All torches were extinguished and absolute silence was enforced.
The scouting party failed to hear a sound except the cries of night
birds and their own heavy breathing. All nature seemed to be resting for
the struggle that was to come.

Six fleet fellows were sent over the hills to skirt the edge of the pass
for its full length, a mile or more. They were to wait at the opposite
end until the enemy revealed its approach and then hurry back with the
alarm. Returning to the waiting army, Hugh and the king began the work
of assigning the men to their places. Two hundred were stationed in the
trenches and behind the breastworks at the mouth of the pass, ready to
intercept those of the enemy who succeeded in escaping the boulders and
spears from the hilltops. These men stacked their spears behind them and
then, at the command of the king, who had been instructed by the Izor,
laid themselves upon the ground to sleep. This was an innovation in
warfare so great that open rebellion was threatened. The novices in
civilized and scientific fighting were fully convinced that the enemy
was nowhere in sight and that they would be called when the proper
moment came.

Then came the manning of the four hundred boulders on the top of the
hills. All along the line of heavy rocks men were stationed with
instructions to roll them into the pass when the signal was given, Both
sides of the pass were lined with these boulders, The king was as near
in ecstasies over the arrangements as one of his nature could possibly
be. He prostrated himself a dozen times before the wonderfully clever
genius who was in command, twice bumping his head against exceedingly
hard rocks that he had been unable to see when he began his precipitous
collapse to reverence.

It was after midnight before the army in ambush was ready for the
conflict. Hugh was amazed to find the men cool and submissive, obeying
every order that he managed in some way to convey to them. With
everything in readiness there was nothing to do but to wait for the
crisis, so he threw himself on the grass at the top of the highest point
on the ridge near the opening to the valley, and tried to sleep.

While he reclined there, thinking of a sweet-faced woman and her
Reserves, fully eighteen hundred warriors were stealthily coming up from
the sea. Six wakeful sentinels were waiting for them.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE LADY TENNYS RESERVES

The night passed. One, two, three o'clock went by on the trip to
sunrise. Hugh dozed at times despite the strain on his nerves. When at
last he arose to stretch himself, he saw the faint gray meeting and
mingling with the black in the skies, and knew that the crisis was
almost at hand.

Swiftly, silently through the darkness came six forms, hurrying from the
distant end of the pass with the alarm. They sped into the presence of
the king and Hugh just as the first gleam of light began to make itself
visible in the east. The messengers had seen the enemy, by that time
entering the pass from the north. In an instant Hugh's little army was
in a state of wild perturbation. One could have heard the gnashing of
teeth had he walked among the groups receiving final orders from King
Pootoo. Silence reigned again--the silence of death.

Something that sounded like the heavy breathing of a man came to the
ears of the waiters. It was the sweep of naked feet over the pebbly,
sandy bottom of the pass, the cautious movement of bodies through the
air, sounds growing plainer until they resembled the rustling of grass
through which a snake is gliding. To Hugh the intense moments seemed
like hours. Would they never come to view? Would the ambush succeed? Why
were they so slow? He could have gone ten miles while they were covering
the scant mile, he swore in his fever of anxiety.

At last the king pointed excitedly down the dark gulch, and, for the
first time, Ridgeway realized that he was facing an enemy in battle. His
eyes did not blink, so intently were they glued upon the dim, uncertain
objects that moved in the distance. The sword at his side was gripped in
a fierce but unconscious grasp. He placed his hand over his throbbing
heart; a damp chill seemed to break through every pore in his body.

"In five minutes this place will be hell!" he muttered, and the king
looked at him inquiringly.

Slowly the moving mass resolved itself into a thousand entities,
swarming towards the opening at the end of the pass. It required all of
his coolness and self-possession to control the wild impulse to begin
the fight long before the proper moment. To his surprise, not one of his
men moved from his position.

In advance of the main body of invaders was a small detachment of
scouts. Hugh saw that they would reach the trenches ahead of the army
and that the trap would be revealed. His heart almost failed him as he
looked down upon that now distinguishable mass crowding up through the
gorge. There seemed to be thousands of them, strapping, fierce,
well-armed savages. Their spears looked not unlike a field of dancing
cornstalks.

It was necessary to check the little advance guard before the plans
could go amiss. Ridgeway, suddenly calm and deliberate, despatched the
king with instructions to have his men spear the scouts as they came up,
driving them back. Pootoo wriggled stealthily to the breastworks below,
reaching the position a few moments ahead of the Oolooz squad. Perhaps
one hundred yards behind this detail came the swarm of battle men. There
was something in the advance that suggested a cat stealing upon an
unsuspecting bird.

By this time it was quite light, although sunrise was half an hour away.
In the gray, phantom-producing gloom Hugh could see his own men behind
the boulders, awaiting his command. A sudden shriek broke on the
stillness, causing him to leap as if some one had struck him violently.
Then there was a succession of yells and the rushing of feet. He glanced
nervously toward the trenches. A dozen Oolooz men were flying back
toward the main body, while not a sign of Pootoo or his men was visible.
They had delivered a few spears and had dropped back into the trench.

The main body in the pass swayed and jammed in the effort to halt, but
the rear pushed forward so clamorously that the whole mass rolled up the
ravine fairly into the death trap before it began to understand the
meaning of the yells and the sudden retreat of the scouts.

"Now is the time," thought the American. His tall form sprang from
behind the tree at the edge of the little cliff. His white face was
whiter than ever, his eyes flashed, his long frame quivered. Up went
his sword arm and loud came the cry from his lips:

"Fire!"

As if by magic two long rows of immutable boulders wabbled for a second
and then thundered down the hillside, while ten score of wild, naked
human beings sent up yells of horrid glee to the unveiling dome above.

No pen can describe the flight of those death-dealing rocks as they
bounded over the sharp declivities, gaining speed with each revolution,
scattering earth, gravel and underbrush with the force of a cyclone,
leaping at last with a crushing roar into the very midst of the
stupefied army. There was a sickening, grinding crash, an instant of
silence, then the piteous wails and groans and the spectacle of a
writhing, rolling, leaping, struggling mixture of human forms. Almost as
the first volley of rocks left its position to roll upon the vanguard of
the ambushed horde, the howling devils on the hill tops were scurrying
toward the second row, farther to the right. Down poured this second
storm of rocks, increasing the panic below, literally slaughtering the
helpless wretches by the score.

Ridgeway looked upon this scene of destruction as if fascinated. He was
powerless to move. He had not dreamed that his trap could produce such a
havoc. The bottom of the pass was strewn with grovelling, shrieking
bodies, trampled beneath the feet of their uninjured but insane
companions. Dead and wounded, crushed and maimed, made up the surging
humanity in the fatal pass. The rocks had mowed them down. Devastation
had come like lightning from the skies. It was horrible!

Closing his eyes, he turned away, utterly sick. A moment later he
glanced about, hearing the victorious, eager savages on the heights
screeching like madmen. From all sides they were swarming toward him,
concentrating for the swoop down the hillside at his command. He was
awakened to action, his mind grasped the importance of immediate
decision and he was entirely recovered from his momentary palsy. One
particular feature of the horrid scene lingered in his memory till his
dying day. The surprised Oolooz men, not knowing whence came the foe or
the nature of the charge down the hills, had quietly turned their spears
to receive the onslaught, expecting men instead of rocks. He never
forgot the brief stand they made.

At first he believed that all had been killed--that the battle was over
before it began. But even as he turned for another pitying glance below,
the recovered foemen started up the hillside, shouting and screaming
with rage. The ground was covered with prostrate or crawling forms, yet,
to his amazement, there still seemed to be thousands of vigorous,
uninjured warriors.

"Good Lord! There are a million!" he shouted. Leaping forward, he swung
his sword on high and with every nerve aquiver he cried:

"Fire!"

It was the only command he had taught them. It meant fight, pure and
simple. Across the gulch the command could not be heard, but the men
over there were only too glad to follow the example set by their
comrades, and from both sides a perfect storm of spears hissed
through the air.

Up from the rear rushed scores of Oolooz warriors. Despite the vicious
attack they crowded steadily up the hillside toward the crest on which
stood Hugh and his practically unbroken front. Through some sort of
natural generalship they confined their charge to the hills on one side
of the pass. Ridgeway saw this with alarm. He knew that they would
eventually force their way to the top. Yet the spears from above mowed
down the climbing savages like tenpins, while their weapons did little
or no damage. With each distinct volley from above the advancing foe
fell back, but rallied like heroes. By this time hundreds of them were
down; broad daylight made the pass look like a slaughter pen.

Ridgeway ran among his men, urging them to stand firm, to beat back the
foe, and they responded with an ardor that was nothing less than
fiendishness itself. Their spears were unerringly thrown, but the supply
was diminishing; it was the question of a very few minutes before they
would be without ammunition. Hugh's hope lay in the possibility that the
foe would soon retreat, believing itself unable to cope with an
adversary whose numbers were unknown and who held such an
advantageous position.

He soon saw that he would have to quickly withdraw his men from the
hill after one of the temporary repulses, taking them to the trench at
the mouth of the pass. Almost as he was forming this plan, he realized
that it would be necessary to carry it out at once.

Far down the pass, beyond his line, the enemy came swarming up the
undefended slope, steep as it was, and some of the foremost were already
scrambling over the last few feet intervening. He yelled to the men,
pointing to the danger spot and then toward the trenches, making a sign
immediately thereafter to deliver a telling volley into the
struggling ranks.

The savages seemed to understand, and he devoutly thanked God, for they
sent a shower of spears into the horde and then dashed helter-skelter in
the direction of the trenches where lay the king and two hundred men.
Wild yells of triumph came from behind, and long before the descent to
the valley was reached by the fleeing white man and his dusky army, the
Ooloozers were pouring into the tree-covered summit like so many sheep.

Down the hill sped Hugh and his men. Pootoo saw them coming and waved
his spear frantically. As the retreating army rolled headlong into the
trenches and behind the breastworks, the enemy arrived at the crest of
the hill. Breathlessly Hugh motioned for Pootoo to call the men from the
opposite hill into action at once.

A volley of spears shot into and over the trenches, followed by a
whirlwind of the long, slender messengers of death, several of them
taking effect. Pootoo's men returned the volley from behind the
breastworks, but the rampant chargers were not to be checked. Up to the
very edge of the trench they rushed, and from that moment it does not
lie within the power of the writer to depict the horrors of the conflict
in detail. Hugh's men, well protected and well armed, hurled death into
the ranks, of the fearless enemy as it crowded to the high breastworks.
And out from the mouth of the pass poured the mass of Ooloozers who had
not ascended the hill.

Ridgeway, cutting viciously away at the black bodies as they plunged
against the wall behind which they stood, felt the spears crash against
his shield, heard them hiss past, saw them penetrate the earthworks all
about him. At another time he would have wondered how he and his men
could hope to withstand such an onslaught. One thing he did have time to
observe, and that was the surprise, consternation, even fear that came
into the enraged faces of the assaulting savages when they saw him
plainly. They were looking for the first time on the face of a white
man--the new god of their enemies.

A sudden change in the tide of battle, though brief, transferred the
brunt of conflict to another quarter. A withering rain of spears struck
the enemy on the flank and rear, and down from the opposite hilltop
rushed the mob that had formed the other boulder squad at the beginning
of the fight, but who had done nothing after the first charge of the
Oolooz men up the hill. They threw themselves upon the enemy and were
soon lost in the boiling mass. Gaining fresh courage and a renewed
viciousness, the men in the trenches forsook the shelter and poured into
the open, Hugh being powerless to check them.

"It is all over," groaned he, when he saw his crazy forces jump into the
very centre of the seething mass. With a white man's shrewdness he
remained behind the friendly breastworks, a dozen of his warriors
fighting by his side. Repeated rushes against his position were broken
by the desperate resistance of this small company. Hugh's heavy sword
was dripping with blood; it had beaten in the skull of many a foe, had
been driven beneath the shields and through the bodies of others. To him
it seemed hours instead of minutes since the battle began; his arm was
growing tired, his brain was whirling, his body was dripping with
perspiration. Still his blood boiled and surged with savage enjoyment;
he was now yelling with the same frenzy that filled the wild men; pure
delight grew out of the fall of every opponent that went down under
his sword.

At last the Oolooz leader, a blood-covered savage as large as Pootoo,
led his men up to the breastworks, driving the defenders into the
trenches and down the gentle slope. Triumph was theirs apparently, and
their yelling was full of it. But inch by inch Pootoo fought them back.
Once the king looked helplessly at Hugh, as if praying for him as a god
to exert his influence in the unequal struggle. That glance was one of
entreaty, surprise, but Hugh could also see disgust in it. It stung him
strangely.

Although he had fought and killed more men than any one on either side,
perhaps, he had not gone forth from behind the breastworks; he was not
out in the thick of it. With a yell of encouragement to the men, he
flung himself over the little wall, alighting on the soft body of a
corpse. With his supporters at his heels he dashed to the king's side.
Inside of two minutes he was struck in the leg by a spear, his hand was
cut by a glancing blow from a club and his shield arm was battered so
fearfully that it required an effort to hold it in front of his body.
Blood streamed into his eyes and down his breast, his arms grew weak,
his blows were feeble, his knees trembled, and he was ready to drop.
Twice he went to his knees only to stagger to his feet again. Three
times Pootoo's mighty club beat down warriors who were about to
brain him.

His mind was chaotic, filled with the now certain defeat and the
heart-breaking thought that Lady Tennys would be left to the mercies of
the victors. Tears were mingling with the blood; his very soul was
crying for strength, for hope, for salvation. In his din-stricken ears
ran that wail: "What will become of me if you are killed?" Her face
seemed to float in front of his eyes, her voice came trembling and
lulling and soft through the hellish sounds, piercing the savagery with
gentle trustfulness, urging him to be brave, strong and true. Then Grace
Vernon's dear face, dim and indistinct, lured him forward into the
strife, her clear voice, mingling with the plaintive tones of the
other, commanding him to come to her. He must win! He must win!

But the great horde of Oolooz warriors were at last breaking down the
smaller force and all seemed lost.

Suddenly new life sprang up among the battered defenders. Joyous yells
bespoke a favorable turn of the tide. The enemy fell slowly back,
relinquishing the vantage gained. Far behind Ridgeway's fainting form
there arose the shouts of fresh factors in the fight.

He fell against the embankment and slowly turned his eyes toward the
river. Once more Pootoo's gigantic weapon saved his defenceless head
from the blow of an eager antagonist, but the white man knew naught of
his escape. His dazed eyes saw only the band of warriors flying over the
plain toward the field of battle. Far in their rear came a fluttering
white form.

Hardly was he able to realize that help was at hand before the released,
ferocious young fellows who had been left behind to guard her Ladyship
were plunging over the breastworks all about him.

The Reserves to the rescue!

Exaltation, glorious and strength-giving, flushed through him and he
leaped again into the fray. The new hope had come. He was once more
battling with a mighty vigor. Fury reigned for a moment and then came
the stampede. Down the little valley fled the foe, the conquerors in
mad pursuit.

[Illustration: "'THEY HAVE KILLED YOU! LET THEM KILL ME!'"]

He was unable to follow, but his heart glowed with joy as he
staggered blindly toward the earthworks. As he fell, half fainting,
against the bloody bank, the agonized figure in white flew up to the
opposite side.

"Hugh, Hugh," she wailed, burying her face in her hands. "They have
killed you! Let them kill me!"

"Oh, it's--nothing--" he gasped, trying to smile. "I'm all right,
little woman, but--you--got--here--just--in--time! Didn't I
say--get--home--for--lunch--or something--like--that?"

And he knew no more.



CHAPTER XXVIII

TO THE VICTOR BELONGS--?

It was a month before Ridgeway was able to leave his couch and to sit
beneath the awning in front of the temple. Not that he had been so
severely wounded in the battle of June thirtieth, but that his whole
system had collapsed temporarily.

After the first terrible fear, Tennys gave herself entirely to the task
of caring for him. Night and day she watched, worked, and prayed over
the tossing sufferer. In seasons of despair, created by the frequent
close encroachments of death, she experienced dreams that invariably
ended with the belief that she heard his dying gasps. Until she became
thoroughly awake and could hear the movements of the two savages who sat
faithfully in the next room with their Izor, her heart was still with a
terror so depressing that it well-nigh drove her mad.

The wounds in his legs and side were closed and the great bruises on his
back and head were reduced. When he, faint and weak, began to understand
what was going on about him, he saw the face of one of the two women
over whom he had raved in his delirium. In the hours when death seemed
but a step away he had plaintively called for Grace and then for
Tennys. A strange gladness filled the heart of the one beside him when
he uttered the unconscious appeal to her. Sometimes she found herself
growing red over the things he was saying to her in his ravings; again
she would chill with the tender words that went to Grace. Then came the
day when he saw and knew her. Often in the days of his convalescence she
would start from a reverie, certain that she heard him call as he did in
delirium, only to sink back and smile sadly with the discovery that she
had been dreaming.

The village of Ridgehunt was a great hospital for weeks after the fight.
Lady Tennys herself had ordered the dead to be buried in the trenches.
For the first time in the history of the island the Oolooz men had been
beaten. She spent many hours in telling Hugh of the celebrations that
followed the wonderful achievements.

"There is one thing about our friends that I have not told you, Hugh,"
she said one night as they sat under the awning. "You have been so weak
that I feared the shock might hurt you."

"You think of my comfort always," he said gratefully.

"You never knew that they brought a number of prisoners to the village
and--and--oh, it is too horrible to tell you."

"Brought them to the village? What for?"

"They intended to eat them," she said, shuddering.

"Great Scott! They are not cannibals?"

"I couldn't believe it until I saw them making ready for their awful
feast out there. I shall never be able to eat meat again. Alzam brought
me a piece of the horrid stuff. They executed the prisoners before I
could interfere."

"Oh, that's too horrible!"

"Sick and terrified, I went among the men who were dancing about the
feast they were ready to devour, and, assuming a boldness I did not
feel, commanded them to desist. The king was bewildered at first, then
chagrined, but as I threatened him ferociously--"

"I should have enjoyed seeing you ferocious."

"He called the brutes away and then I gave orders to have every one of
the bodies buried. For several days after that, however, the men were
morose and ugly looking, and I am sure it was hard for them to submit to
such a radical change."

"Talk about missionaries! You are a wonder!"

"I could not have done it as a missionary, Mr. Ridgeway. It was
necessary for me to exert my authority as a goddess."

"And so they are cannibals," he mused, still looking at her spirited
face.

"Just think what might have happened to us," she said.

That night as he lay on his couch he was forced to admit that the
inconsolable grief that had borne down so heavily upon him at first was
almost a part of the past. The pain inspired by the loss of a loved one
was being mysteriously eased. He was finding pleasure in a world that
had been dark and drear a few short months before. He was dimly
conscious of a feeling that the companionship of Tennys Huntingford was
beginning to wreak disaster to a supposedly impregnable constancy.

Tears came to his eyes as he murmured the name of the girl who had
sailed so blithely from New York with his love as her only haven. He
called himself the basest of wretches, the most graceless of lovers. He
sobbed aloud at last in his penitence, and his heart went back to the
night of the wreck. His love went down to the bottom of the sea, craving
a single chance to redeem itself before the one it had wounded and
humiliated. Before he fell asleep his conscience was relieved of part of
its weight and the strong, sweet face of Grace Vernon passed from his
vivid thoughts into vague dreams.

In the next apartment tranquilly slept the disturber, the trespasser in
the fields of memory, the undoer of a long-wrought love. He had tried to
learn the way to her heart, wondering if she cared for him as he had
more than once suspected. In pursuing this hazardous investigation he
had learned nothing, had seen nothing but perfect frankness and
innocence, but had become more deeply interested than he knew until this
night of recapitulation.

One night, two or three after he had thrown off the delirium, he heard
her praying in her room, softly, earnestly. Of that prayer one plea
remained in his memory long after her death: "Oh, God, save the soul of
Grace Vernon. Give to her the fulness of Thy love. If she be still
alive, protect and keep her safe until in Thy goodness she may be
restored to him who mourns for her. Save and bless Hugh Ridgeway."

The days and weeks went by and Hugh grew well and strong. To Tennys he
was not the same Hugh as of old. She perceived a change and wondered.
One day at sundown he sat moodily in front of the temple. She was lying
in the hammock near by. There had been one of the long, and to her
inexplicable, silences. He felt that her eyes were upon him and knew
that they were wistful and perplexed.

Try as he would, he could not keep his own eyes in leash; something
irresistible made him lift them to meet her gaze. For a moment they
looked at each other in a mute search for something neither was able to
describe. He could not hold out against the pleading, troubled,
questioning eyes, bent so solemnly upon his own. The wounds in her
heart, because of his indifference, strange and unaccountable to her,
gaped in those blue orbs.

A tremendous revulsion of feeling took possession of him; what he had
been subduing for weeks gained supremacy in an instant. He half rose to
his feet as if to rush over and crush her in his arms, but a mightier
power than his emotion held him back. That same unseen, mysterious power
compelled him to turn about and almost run from the temple, leaving her
chilled and distressed by his action. The power that checked him
was Memory.

She was deeply hurt by this last impulsive exhibition of disregard. A
bewildering sense of loneliness oppressed her. He despised her! All the
world grew black for her. All the light went out of her heart. He
despised her! There was a faintness in her knees when she essayed to
arise from the hammock. A little cry of anguish left her lips; a hunted,
friendless look came into her eyes.

Staggering to the end of the temple, she looked in the direction he had
taken. Far down the line of hills she saw him standing on a little
elevation, his back toward her, his face to the river. Some strong
influence drew her to him. Out of this influence grew the wild,
unquenchable desire to understand. Hardly realizing what she did, she
hurried through the growing dusk toward the motionless figure. As she
came nearer a strange timidity, an embarrassment she had never felt
before, seized upon her and her footsteps slackened.

He had not seen her. A panicky inclination to fly back to the temple
came over her. In her heart welled a feeling of resentment. Had he any
right to forget what she had done for him?

He heard her, turned swiftly, and--trembled in every joint. They were
but a few paces apart and she was looking unwaveringly into his eyes.

"I have followed you out here to ask why you treat me so cruelly," she
said after a long silence which she Bought to break but could not. He
distinguished in this pathetic command, meant to be firm and positive,
the tremor of tears.

"I--I do not treat you cruelly, Tennys," he answered disjointly, still
looking at the slight, graceful figure, as if unable to withdraw
his eyes.

"What do you call it?" she asked bitterly.

"You wrong me--" he began.

"Wrong you? No, I do not. You saved me from the sea and you have done
much for me until within the past few weeks. I had begun to forget that
I am here because fate substituted me for another. Hugh, do not let your
love for Grace and your regret at not having saved her turn you against
me. I am not here because I could have helped it. You must know
that I--"

"For Heaven's sake, Tennys, don't talk like that! The trouble is that I
do not regret having saved you. That's why you see the change in
me--that's why I've hurt you. I cannot be to you what I would be--I
cannot and be true to myself," he cried fiercely.

"What do you mean? Why are you so unhappy, Hugh? Have I hurt you?' she
asked, coming quite close in sudden compassion.

"Hurt me!" he exclaimed. "You will kill me!" She paled with the thought
that he was delirious again or crazed from the effects of the fever.

"Don't say that, Hugh. I care more for you than for any one in the
world. Why should I hurt you?" she asked tenderly, completely
misunderstanding him.

"You don't mean to, but you do. I have tried to conquer it but I cannot.
Don't you know why I have forced myself to be unhappy during the past
few weeks? Can't you see why I am making you unhappy, too, in my
struggle to beat down the something that has driven everything else out
of my mind?"

"Don't talk so, Hugh; it will be all right. Come home now and I will
give you some wine and put some cool bandages on your head. You are not
well." She was so gentle, so unsuspecting that he could contain himself
no longer.

"I love you--I worship you! That is why I am cruel to you!" he burst
out. A weakness assailed him and he leaned dizzily against the tree at
his side. He dared not look at her, but he marvelled at her silence. If
she loved him, as he believed, why was she so quiet, so still?

"Do you know what you say?" she asked slowly.

"I have said it to myself a thousand times since I left you at the
temple. I did not intend to tell you; I had sworn you should never know
it. What do you think of me?"

"I thought you called it love that sent you to Manila," she said
wonderingly, wounding without malice.

"It was love, I say. I loved her better than all the world and I have
not forgotten her. She will always be as dear to me as she was on the
night I lost her. You have not taken her place. You have gone farther
and inspired a love that is new, strange, overpowering--infinitely
greater, far different from the love I had known before. She was never
to me what you are. That is what drives me mad--mad, do you hear? I
have simply been overwhelmed by it."

"I must be dreaming," she murmured.

"I have tried to hide it from myself, but it has broken down all
barriers and floods the world for me."

"It is because we are here alone in this island--"

"No, no! Not that, I swear. It would have come sooner or later."

"You are not like other men. I have not thought of you as I see you now.
I cannot understand being loved by you. It hurts me to see that you are
in earnest. Oh, Hugh, how sorry I am," she cried, laying her hand upon
his arm. His heart dropped like lead. He saw that he had been
mistaken--she did not love him.

"You are learning that I am not the harlequin after all," he said
bitterly.

"There is no one in all the world so good and strong and true."

"You--you _will_ love me?"

"You must not ask that of me. I am still Lady Huntingford, a wife for
all we know. Yet if I loved you, I would tell you so. Have I not told
you that I cannot love? I have never loved. I never shall. Don't look
like that, Hugh. I would to God I could love you," she exclaimed. His
chin had sunk upon his breast and his whole body relaxed through sheer
dejection.

"I'll make you love me!" he cried after a moment's misery in the depths,
his spirits leaping high with the quick recoil. His eager hands seized
her shoulders and drew her close, so close that their bodies touched
and his impassioned eyes were within a few inches of hers of startled
blue. "I'll make you love me!"

"Please let me go. Please, Hugh," she murmured faintly.

"You must--you shall love me! I cannot live without you. I'll have you
whether you will or no," he whispered fiercely.

She did not draw back, but looked him fairly in the eye as she spoke
coldly, calmly, even with a sneer.

"You are master here and I am but a helpless woman. Would you force me
to forget that you have been my ideal man?"

"Tennys!" he cried, falling back suddenly. "You don't think I would harm
you--oh, you know I didn't mean that! What must you think of me?"

He put his hand over his eyes as if in deep pain, and, turning away,
leaned against the tree unsteadily. With his first words, his first
expression, she knew she had wronged him. A glad rush of blood to her
heart set it throbbing violently.

She could not have explained the thrill that went through her when he
grasped her shoulders, nor could she any more define the peculiar joy
that came when she took a step forward and placed her hands gently,
timidly on his arm.

"Forgive me, Hugh, I must have been mad to say what I did. You are too
noble--too good--" she began in a pleading little quaver.

"I knew you couldn't mean it," he exclaimed, facing her joyously. "How
beautiful you are!" he added impetuously. He was looking down, into that
penitent face and the cry was involuntary. She smiled faintly and he
raised his arms as if to clasp her to his breast, come what may. The
smile lingered, yet his arms dropped to his sides. She had not moved,
had not taken her eyes from his, but there was an unrelenting command in
the soft words she uttered. "Be careful. I am always to trust you,
Hugh." He bowed his head and they walked slowly homeward.



CHAPTER XXIX

_THE OTHER SURRENDER_

The first few days and nights after this episode found Ridgeway
despairing and unhappy, but as time removed the sting from defeat, his
hopes began to flounder to the surface again, growing into a resolution,
strong and arrogant. He devoted himself to her tenderly, thoughtfully,
unreservedly. There was something subtle in his gallantry, something
fascinating in his good humor, something in everything he did that
attracted her more than it had before. She only knew that she was happy
when with him and that he was unlike any man she had known.

There were times when she imagined that he was indifferent to the shock
his pride had received at her hands, and at such times she was puzzled
to find herself piqued and annoyed. A little gnawing pain kept her awake
with these intermittent fears.

She became expert in the art of making garments from the woven grass.
Her wardrobe contained some remarkable gowns, and his was enlarged by
the addition of "Sunday trousers" and a set of shirt blouses. They wore
sandals instead of shoes. Each had a pair of stockings, worn at the time
of the wreck, but they were held in sacred disuse against the hoped-for
day of deliverance.

One day, late in September, after the sun had banished the mists from
the air and the dampness from the ground by a clear day's process, they
wandered down between the gateposts to the beach where they had first
landed with Pootoo. The sun was sinking toward the water-line and they
sat wistfully watching it pass into the sea. For nearly five months they
had lived with the savages, for the greater portion not unhappily, but
always with the expectation that some day a vessel would come to take
them back to civilization.

"It has not been so unpleasant, after all, has it?" she asked. "We have
been far more comfortable than we could have prayed for."

"I should enjoy seeing a white man once in a while, though, and I'd give
my head for this morning's Chicago newspaper," he answered
rather glumly.

"I have been happier on this island than I ever was in my life. Isn't it
strange? Isn't it queer that we have not gone mad with despair? But I,
for one, have not suffered a single pang, except over the death of our
loved ones."

"Lord Huntingford included," maliciously.

"That is unkind, Hugh. I am ashamed to say it, but I want to forget that
he ever lived."

"You will have plenty of time to forget all you ever knew before we die.
We'll spend the rest of our days in that nigger village back there. If
I should die first I suppose you'd forget me in a week or so. It--"

"Why, Hugh! You know better than that! Why do you say such disagreeable
things?"

"I'm not worth remembering very long," he said lamely. She smiled and
said the statement threw a different light on the question. Whereupon he
did not know whether to laugh or scowl.

"This dear old island," she cried, looking toward the great rocks
lovingly. "Really, I should be sorry to leave it."

"When the ship comes, I'll go back to America, and you may remain here
if you like and be the only Izor in the business." He said it in jest,
but she looked at him solemnly for a moment and then turned her eyes out
to sea. She was reclining on her side, her hand supporting her head, her
elbow in the sand. He sat five feet away, digging holes in the sand with
an odd little walking stick. One of her sandalled feet protruded from
beneath the hem of her garment, showing ever so little of the bare,
white, fascinating ankle.

"I should despise the place if I had to live here a day without you,"
she said simply.

"What do you mean?" She did not answer at once. When she did, it was
earnestly and without the least embarrassment.

"Can't I make you understand how much you are to me?" she asked without
a blush. "You are the best, the noblest man I've ever known. I like you
so well that I do not know how I could live if I did not have you to
talk to, if I could not see you and be with you. Do you know what I did
last night?"

He could only shake his head and tremble with the joy of feeling once
more that she loved him and did not understand.

"I prayed that we might never be taken from the island," she said
hurriedly, as if expecting him to condemn her for the wish. He rolled
over on his back, closed his eyes, and tried to control a joyous,
leaping heart. "It was so foolish, you know, to pray for that, but I've
been so contented and happy here, Hugh. Of course, I don't expect we are
to live here always. They will find us some day." He opened his eyes and
hazarded a glance at his face. She smiled and said, "I'm afraid
they will."

There was but the space of five feet between them. How he kept from
bounding to her side and clasping her in his arms he never knew; he was
in a daze of delight. So certain of her love was he now that, through
some inexplicable impulse, he closed his eyes again and waited to hear
more of the delicious confession.

"Then we shall leave the prettiest land in the world, a land where show
and pomp are not to be found, where nature reigns without the touch of
sham, and go back to a world where all is deceit, mockery, display. I
love everything on this island," she cried ecstatically. He said
nothing, so she continued: "I may be an exile forever, but I feel richer
instead of poorer away off here in this unknown paradise. How glorious
it is to be one's self absolutely, at all times and in all places,
without a thought of what the world may say. Here I am free, I am a part
of nature."

"Do you think you know yourself fully?" he asked as quietly as he could.

"Know myself?" she laughed. "Like a book."

"Could you love this island if you were here alone?"

"Well, I--suppose--not," she said, calculatively. "It would not be the
same, you know."

"Don't you know why you feel as you do about this God-forsaken land,
Tennys Huntingford?" he demanded, suddenly drawing very near to her, his
burning eyes bent upon hers. "Don't you know why you are happy here?"
She was confused and disturbed by his manner. That same peculiar flutter
of the heart she had felt weeks ago on the little knoll attacked
her sharply.

"I--I--I'm sure--I am happy just because I am, I dare say," she
faltered, conscious of an imperative inclination to lower her eyes, but
strangely unable to do so.

"You love this island because you love me," he whispered in her ear.

"No, no! It is not that! Please don't be foolish again, Hugh. You will
make me very unhappy."

"But you do love me. You love me, and you do not know it," he said,
thrilled with exultation. She looked at him wonderingly, a half
scornful, half dubious smile flitting over her face.

"I will try to be patient with you. Don't you think I know my own mind?"
she asked.

"No; you do not," he said vigorously. "Let me ask you a few questions,
and I beg of you, for your own sake and mine, to answer them without
equivocation. I'll prove to you that you love me."

"Who is to be the judge?" she asked merrily. She trembled and turned
cold as he took her hand in his and--she was not merry.

"First, is there another man in the world that you would rather have
here? Answer, dear." The blood mounted to her cheek at the term of
endearment.

"Not one," she answered firmly, trying to smile.

"Have you never thought--be honest, now--that you don't want to leave
the island because it would mean our separation?"

"Yes, but--but it would be the same with anybody else if I cared for
him," she exclaimed quickly.

"But there is no one else, is there?" She looked at him helplessly.
"Answer!"

"Oh, Hugh, I--it would not be right for me to encourage you by answering
that. Please let us go back to the village," she pleaded.

"Well, I know there is no one else. Tell me that you don't want to leave
me because we should drift apart in the big world," he persisted.

"I had thought of that," she said so low that he could barely hear.

"You have prayed that Grace may be alive. What would it mean to you if
she should be alive and we should be reunited?"

"I--I don't know," she muttered blankly.

"Would you be willing and happy to give me up to her?"

"I never thought of that," she said. Then a terror leaped to her eyes
and her breast heaved as with pain. "Oh, Hugh, what would that mean to
me? I could not give you up--I could not!" she cried, clasping his hand
feverishly in both of hers.

"Would you be glad to see us married, to see us living together, to see
children come to us? Would you be happy if I forgot you in my love for
her?" he went on remorselessly, yet delightedly.

"You couldn't forget me," she whispered, faint and trembling now. "You
don't mean to say I never could be near you again!" There was dismay in
her face and a sob in her voice.

"Oh, occasionally, but in a very formal way."

"I believe I should die," she cried, unable to restrain herself.

"You admit then that you want me for yourself only," he said.

"Yes, yes I do, Hugh! I want you every minute of my life!"

"Now you are beginning to know what love is," he breathed in her ear.
His eager arm stole slowly around her shoulders and, as she felt herself
being drawn close to him irresistibly, a sweet wonder overwhelmed her.
The awakening had come. With singing heart she lifted her hands to his
cheeks, bewitched by the new spell, holding his face off from her own
while she looked long and yearningly into his eyes. A soft flush crept
over her brow and down her neck, her eyes wavered and melted into
mirrors of love, her lips parted, but she could not speak. The clasp
tightened, his face came nearer, his words sounded like music in her
enchanted ears.

"Have I proved that you love me, darling?" "I never knew till now--I
never knew till now," she whispered.

Their lips met, their eyes closed, and the world was far, far away from
the little stretch of sand.



CHAPTER XXX

_WHERE THERE IS NO MINISTER_

Six savages lying on the sand far above them saw the strange scene down
near the splashing surf and looked blankly at each other. They had never
known their Izors to act in that manner, and their benighted minds
were troubled.

"Oh, Hugh, those men are looking at us," she protested, after the first
moments of joy.

"Let them look," he cried. "You should pity them, dear, for until a few
moments ago you were as much in the dark as to the meaning of love as
they are now. You were a perfect heathen."

"You are no longer the harlequin. You have become the wizard."

"But it isn't a pantomine," he said.

The shadows were falling and darkness was settling about them as they
passed between the giant rocks and into Velvet Valley, his arm around
her waist. This new emotion deprived them of the desire to talk. There
was a conscious flush in her cheeks, a queer restraint in her voice, a
curious timidity in her manner when they sat before the rude table in
the temple and partook of food that had never tasted so sweet before;
though neither could eat of it. Something had satisfied the grosser
appetite; something was tugging and choking the old into submission
while the new was crowding into its realm, buoyantly, inflatingly.

They sat in front of the temple until far in the night, revelling in the
beauty of the new nature. The whole world seemed different to them as
they regarded it through the eyes of love; the moonlit sky was more
glorious than ever before; the sombre stillness of the night was more
restful; the atmosphere was sweet with the breath of passion; the sports
of the savages had a fresh novelty; the torches in front of the king's
home flickered with a merrier brilliancy.

All Ridgehunt was awake and celebrating, for it was a festal night. King
Pootoo had taken unto himself a new wife, adding one more to the
household of his heart. There were dances and sports and all manner of
festivities in honor of the event, for it was not oftener than twice a
year that the king took a new wife unto his bosom. The white people
never knew where the ceremony began. They only knew that on this night
of all nights the father of the bride had led her to the king and had
drawn with his spear a circle in the soft earth.

Inside of this circle the girl prostrated herself before the groom-elect
and the marriage was complete when the royal giant stepped into the
wedding ring and lifted her to her feet, leading her to a place among
her predecessors, who sat on the ground near by. Then the celebration
ran to its highest pitch. Late in the night the weird revelry ceased and
the two spectators entered the temple, her hand in his. He led her to
the curtained door of her apartment.

"Good-night, dear one," he said softly. She turned her face to his and
he held her for an instant to his heart, their lips meeting in a long
thrill of ecstasy.

"Good-night," she whispered. He pulled the curtain aside and she slowly
entered the room. For an hour afterward he lay awake, wondering what
manner of love it was he had given to Grace Vernon. It was not
like this.

It was barely daylight when he arose from his couch, dressed and started
for a brisk walk over the hills. His ramble was a long one and the
village was astir when he came through the woodland, some distance from
the temple. Expecting to find Tennys waiting for him, he hastened to
their abode. She evidently had not arisen, so, with a tinge of
disappointment, he went to his room. Then he heard her, with her women,
taking her morning plunge in the pool. The half hour before she made her
appearance seemed a day to him. They met in the hallway, he glad and
expectant, she shy and diffident. The red that burned in her cheeks
turned to white when he kissed her, and her eyelids fell tremblingly
with the proof positive that she had not dreamed the exquisite story of
the night before.

Later in the morning they called on the king, and that individual
promptly prostrated himself. They found the new bride repairing a
section of the king's palace that had been blown down by a recent
hurricane. Before the white people left, Tennys had the satisfaction
and Hugh the amusement of seeing the big chief repairing the rent and
the bride taking a rest.

"I've been thinking pretty hard this morning, dear," he said as they
walked back to the temple, "especially when I was alone in the forest."

"Can't you think unless you are alone?" she asked, smiling.

"We all think differently sometimes when we are alone, you know. I was
just thinking what a dickens of a position we are in for a pair
of lovers."

"It seems to me that it is ideal."

"But where is the minister or magistrate?"

"What have they to do with it?"

"Everything, I should say. We can't get married without one or the
other," he blurted out. She stopped stockstill with a gasp.

"Get married? Why--why, we have said nothing of getting married."

"And that's just why I am speaking of it now. I want you to be my wife,
Tennys. Will you be my wife, dear?" he asked nervously.

"How absurd, Hugh. We may be on this island forever, and how are we to
be married here? Besides, I had not thought of it."

"But you must think of it. I can't do all the thinking."

"Lord Huntingford may not be dead," she said, turning pale with the
possibility.

"I can swear that he is. He was one of the first to perish. I don't
believe you know what love is even now, or you would answer my
question."

"Don't be so petulant, please. It is a serious matter to consider, as
well as an absurd one, situated as we are. Now, if I should say that I
will be your wife, what then?"

"But you haven't said it," he persisted.

"Hugh, dear, I would become your wife to-day, to-morrow--any time, if it
were possible."

"That's what I wanted you to say."

"But until we are taken from this island to some place where there is an
altar, how can we be married, Hugh?"

"Now, that's something for you to think about. It's almost worried the
life out of me."

By this time they had reached the temple. She flung herself carelessly
into the hammock, a contented sigh coming from her lips. He leaned
against a post near by.

"I am perfectly satisfied here, Hugh," she said tantalizingly. "I've
just been thinking that I am safer here."

"Safer?"

"To be sure, dear. If we live here always there can be no one to disturb
us, you know. Has it ever occurred to you that some one else may claim
you if we go back to the world? And Lord Huntingford may be waiting for
me down at the dock, too. I think I shall object to being rescued," she
said demurely.

"Well, if he is alive, you can get a divorce from him on the ground of
desertion. I can swear that he deserted you on the night of the wreck.
He all but threw you overboard."

"Let me ask a question of you. Suppose we should be rescued and you find
Grace alive and praying for your return, loving you more than ever. What
would become of her if you told her that you loved me and what would
become of me if you married her?"

He gulped down a great lump and the perspiration oozed from his pores.
Her face was troubled and full of earnestness.

"What could I say to her?" He began to pace back and forth beneath the
awning. She watched him pityingly, understanding his struggle.

"Now you know, Hugh, why I want to live here forever. I have thought of
all this," she said softly, holding out her hand to him. He took it
feverishly, gaining courage from its gentle touch.

"It is better that she should mourn for me as dead," he said at last,
"than to have me come back to her with love for another in my breast.
Nedra is the safest place in all the world, after all, dearest. I can't
bear to think of her waiting for me if she is alive, waiting to--to be
my wife. Poor, poor girl!"

"We have been unhappy enough for to-day. Let us forget the world and all
its miseries, now that we both love the island well enough to live and
die on its soil. Have you thought how indescribably alone we are,
perhaps for the rest of our lives? Years and years may be spent here.
Let them all be sweet and good and happy. You know I would be your wife
if I could, but I cannot unless Providence takes us by the hands and
lifts us to the land where some good man can say: 'Whom God hath joined,
let not man put asunder.'"

The next day after breakfast she took him by the hand and led him to the
little knoll down by the hills. Her manner was resolute; there was a
charm in it that thrilled him with expectancy.

"If we are not rescued within a year's time, it is hardly probable that
we will ever be found, is it?" she asked reflectively.

"They may find us to-morrow and they may never see the shores of this
island."

"But as they have not already discovered it, there is certainly some
reason. We are in a part of the sea where vessels do not venture, that
is evident," she argued persuasively.

"But why do you ask?"

"Because you want me to be your wife," she said, looking him frankly in
the eye.

"I can only pray that we may be found," he said wistfully.

"And in case we are never found?"

"I shall probably die an old bachelor," he laughed grimly. For some
moments she was in a deep study, evidently questioning the advisability
or propriety of giving expression to what was in her mind.

"Are there not a great many methods of observing the marriage ceremony,
Hugh? And are they not all sacred?" she asked seriously.

"What are you trying to get at, dear?"

"I may as well tell you what I have been thinking of since last night.
You will not consider me bold and unwomanly, I know, but I want to be
your wife. We may never leave this island, but we can be married here."

"Married here!" he exclaimed. "You mean--"

"I mean that the ceremony of these natives can be made as sacred in the
eye of God as any in all the world. Nine-tenths or more of all the
marriages in the world are crimes, because man, not God, welds the
bonds. Therefore, I say frankly to you, Hugh, that I will marry you some
day according to the custom of these people, as sacred to me as that of
any land on earth."

At first he could hardly believe that he had heard aright, but as she
progressed and he saw the nobility, the sincerity, of her declaration, a
wave of reverential love swept through his heart. The exaltation of a
moment before was quelled, destroyed by a sacred, solemn regard for her.
There was a lump in his throat as he bent over and gently took her hand
in his, lifting it to his lips.

"Are you sure of yourself, darling?" he whispered.

"I could not have spoken had I not been sure. I am very sure of myself.
I trust you so fully that I am sure of you as well."

He kissed her rapturously.

"God bless you. I can hardly breathe for the joy I feel."

"But you do not say you will marry me," she smiled.

"You shall be my wife to-day," he cried.

"I beg your pardon," she said gaily, "but as the bride I am the arbiter
of time. If in a year from now we are still here, I will be your wife."

"A year! Great heaven! Impossible! I won't wait that long. Now be
sensible, Tennys."

"I am very sensible. While I am willing to recognize the sacredness of
the marriage laws here, I must say that I prefer those of my own land.
We must wait a year for deliverance. If it does not come, then I will--"

"But that's three hundred and sixty-five days--an age. Make it a month,
dear. A month is a long, long time, too."

"A year is a long time," she mused. "I will marry you on the
twenty-third of next May."

"Six months!" he exclaimed reprovingly.

"You must accept the decision. It is final."



CHAPTER XXXI

_THE WEDDING RING_

The six months passed and the strange wedding was near at hand. The
underlying hope that they might be discovered and restored to the life
that seemed so remotely far behind them was overshadowed, obliterated by
the conditions and preparations attending their nuptials. Sincerity of
purpose and the force of their passion justified beyond all question the
manner in which they were to become man and wife in this heathen land
of Nedra.

Wedding garments had been woven in the most artistic and approved
fashion. Lady Tennys's trousseau was most elaborate, far more extensive
than even the most lavish desires of civilization could have produced.

Their subjects vied with each other in the work of decorating their
idols for the ceremony. Never before had native ingenuity and native
endurance been put to such a test. Worship was the master workman and
energy its slave.

"If they keep on bringing in clothes, dear, we'll have a bargain-day
stock to dispose of some time. We'd have to live two hundred years in
order to try 'em on and thereby set the fashion in exclusive wedding
garments." Hugh made this comment as they stood surveying the latest
consignment of robes, which reposed with considerable reverence on the
specially constructed tables in the new part of Tennys Court. Amused
perplexity revealed itself in the faces of the couple.

"I think this last pair of trousers, if you should ever wear them, will
revolutionize the habits of the island. You will look especially killing
in green, Hugh."

"That seashell parasol of yours is unique, but I imagine it will be too
heavy for you to carry in Piccadilly. I observed that it required two
able-bodied men to bring it here, and they seemed immensely relieved
when it was off their shoulders--to say nothing of their hands. How do
you like this crocodile skin necktie of mine?"

"It is particularly becoming to you--as a belt."

"I'm glad we're to be married soon, Tennys," said he with a grin. "If we
put it off a month longer there won't be enough material on land or sea
to supply the demand for ready-made garments. As it is, I'm afraid the
poor devils will have to go naked themselves until a new crop springs
up. I saw one of Pootoo's wives patching his best suit of breech clothes
to-day, so he must be hard put for wearing apparel."

"I wonder if it would offend them if we were to distribute what we can't
use among the poor."

"I am sure it would please the poor as much as it would please us.
They'll all be poor, you know. I have two hundred and eighty-three pairs
of trousers and only seven shirts. If I could trade in two hundred and
fifty pants for an extra shirt or two, I'd be a much happier
bridegroom."

"I dare say they can cut down some of my kimonas to fit you. I have at
least three hundred."

"I'd like that blue one and the polka dot up there. They'd make corking
shirts. I'll trade you twelve of my umbrellas for one of those grass
bonnets of yours. They've been showing too much partiality. Here you've
got nearly one hundred suits of pajamas and I have but eleven."

"Yes, but think of the suits of armor they've made for you and not one
for me."

"But I wouldn't have time to change armor during a battle, would I? One
suit is enough for me. By George, they look worse than football suits,
don't they? One couldn't drive a javelin through this chunk of stuff
with a battering ram."

Everywhere about them were proofs of the indefatigable but lamentable
industry of their dusky friends. Articles inconceivable in more ways
than one were heaped in the huge room. Nondescript is no word to
describe the heterogeneous collection of things supposed to be useful as
well as ornamental. Household utensils, pieces of furniture, bric-a-brac
of the most appalling design, knickknacks and gewgaws without end or
purpose stared the bewildered white people in the face with an intensity
that confused and embarrassed them beyond power of expression.

Shortly after their strange betrothal, Lady Tennys had become a strong
advocate of dress reform for women on the island of Nedra. Neat, loose
and convenient pajamas succeeded the cumbersome petticoats of everyday
life. She, as well as her subjects, made use of these thrifty garments
at all times except on occasions of state. They were cooler, more
rational--particularly becoming--and less troublesome than skirts, and
their advent created great rejoicing among the natives, who, prior to
the arrival of their white leaders, had worn little more than nothing
and yet had been quite fashionable.

Tennys was secretly rehearsing the marriage ceremony in the privacy of
her chamber, prompted and praised by her faithful handmaidens. To her,
this startling wedding meant but one thing: the resignation of all
intent to leave the island. The day she and Hugh Ridgeway were united
according to the custom sacred to these people, their fate was to be
sealed forever. It was to bind them irrevocably to Nedra, closing
forever to them the chance of returning to the civilization they had
known and were relinquishing.

Ridgeway daily inventoried his rapidly increasing stock of war
implements, proud of the prowess that had made him a war-god. He soberly
prohibited the construction of a great boat which might have carried him
and his fair companion back to the old world.

"If we are rescued before the wedding, dear, all well and good; but if
not, then we want no boat, either of our own or other construction, to
carry us away. Our wedding day will make us citizens of Ridgehunt until
death ends the regime. Our children may depart, but we are the Izors of
Nedra to the last hour of life."

"Yes," she said simply.

The fortnight immediately prior to the day set for the wedding was an
exciting one for the bride and groom-to-be. Celebration of the great
event was already under way by the natives. Great feasts were planned
and executed; war dances and riots of worship took place, growing in
fervor and splendor as the day approached; preparations never flagged
but went on as if the future existence of the whole world depended
entirely upon the outcome of this great ceremony.

"Yesterday it was a week, now it is but six days," said Hugh early one
morning as they set forth to watch their adorers at work on the great
ceremonial temple with its "wedding ring." The new temple was a huge
affair, large enough to accommodate the entire populace.

"To-morrow it will be but five days," she said; "but how long the days
are growing." They sat beside the spring on the hillside and musingly
surveyed the busy architects on the plain below.

"How are the rehearsals progressing?" he asked.

"Excellently, but I am far from being a perfect savage. It doesn't seem
possible that I shall ever learn how to fall gracefully into that ring.
I believe I shall insist that you turn your head at the particular
juncture, for I know you'll laugh at me," she said with a great show
of concern.

"I don't like that part of the service. It's a shame for me to stand by
and to see you tumble at my feet. Firstly, it's not your place;
secondly, it's liable to hurt you; lastly, I'd feel a most unmanly
brute. Wonder if we can't modify that part of it somehow?"

"I might be carried in on a litter and set down in the ring, or we might
stretch a hammock," she said, laughing merrily.

"I'm determined on one point and that is in regard to the pile of soft
grass. Pootoo promised to cut a lot of it and put it in the ring. You
shan't break any bones if I can help it."

"Pootoo is to be master of ceremonies in every sense of the word, I can
see. I am the ward of a king."

At last the day arrived.

They were to enter the ceremonial temple at high noon and in their ears
were to be the sound of timbrels and brass, trumpets and drums and the
glad though raucous songs of a kingdom.

Early in the day Tennys Huntingford submitted herself to be arrayed for
the ceremony by her proud, jealous maidens. She remained alone and
obscure in her chamber, awaiting the moment when King Pootoo should come
for her. Her gown was of the purest white. It was her own handiwork, the
loving labor of months. True, it would have looked odd in St. James or
in the cathedral, but no bride ever walked to those chancels in more
becoming raiment--no bride was ever more beautiful, no woman ever more
to be coveted. Her heart was singing with love and joy; the dreams of
months were coming true in these strangely wakeful hours.

Ridgeway wandered nervously through the village, watching the sun as it
crept nearer and nearer to the middle of its daily reign--would the
minutes never end? Why had the sun stopped in its course across the sky?
Why was time so tantalizing?

At last! The sudden clangor of weird instruments filled his ears. He
held his hand to his throbbing heart as he turned his gaze toward the
door through which she was to come.

Inside the great temple the people of Nedra were singing and chanting
with anticipant joy; outside the world was smiling benignly. All Nedra
gathered about the circle of earth in which Tennys Huntingford was to
cast herself at the feet of her husband and lord for all time.

Hugh had not seen her since the night before, and his eyes were starving
for the vision. She came forth, her white hand in the great broad palm
of King Pootoo, and she smiled gloriously upon the man who stood below
and waited for her to come to him. Together they were to approach the
circle. The priests were there to receive them--Hugh first and then his
bride; the people were shouting, the instruments were jangling with a
fiercer fervor, the sun was passing across the line with his fairest
smile and wedding bells were ringing in two red, full hearts.

But even as she came up to him and touched his arm, outside the temple
doors, the hand of Fate was lifted and a rigid finger stayed them on
the verge.

A mighty intonation, sharp and deafening, came to their ears like a clap
of thunder from a clear sky!

Paralysis, stupefaction, fell upon the multitude. There was a silence as
of death. Every sound ceased, every heart stood still and every sense
was numb. It seemed an hour before Hugh Ridgeway's stiff lips muttered:

"A gun! A ship's gun!"



CHAPTER XXXII

_THE CRUISER "WINNETKA"_

A moment later pandemonium broke loose. The ceremony was forgotten in
the panic that seized the startled savages. There was a rush, a stampede
of terror and the great temple was emptied as if by magic. Hugh and his
fair companion stood alone in the little plain, staring at the distant
gateposts, over which a faint cloud of smoke was lifting, coming up from
the sea beyond. The terrified savages had fled to their homes in
wildest alarm.

Minutes passed before Hugh could speak again. Power of comprehension
seemed to have left them. They were looking dumbly into each
other's eyes.

"It _was_ a gun--a big gun. Our flag."

Without knowing what they did the two started across the plain, their
eyes glued to the great rocks that screened the mystery.

"Can it be the Oolooz men?" she asked.

"The whole Oolooz army, dead or alive, couldn't have made a noise like
that. It might have been a volcano breaking through the rocks."

"Then we must not venture down there," she cried, holding back. He threw
his big right arm around her waist and broke into a brisk run, taking
her along resistlessly.

Together they walked and ran across the plain and through the pass which
led to the sea. Far behind straggled a few of the villagers, emboldened
by curiosity.

"The rocks seem to be all right," he said, as if a pet theory had been
destroyed.

By this time they had passed over the rocks and were upon the sand.
Simultaneously they turned their eyes toward the sea, and the sight that
burst upon them fairly took the breath from their lungs, leaving them so
weak that they staggered. A mile or so out at sea lay a huge ship, white
hulled and formidable. There were gun turrets above deck and a swarm of
men on board.

Hugh's eyes seemed to turn round and round in his head, his legs began
to tremble and his palsied lips parted helplessly, as he pointed to the
colors she flew. The American flag fluttered from the mizzen-mast of the
great vessel!

Almost crazed by the sight, the castaways, overcoming their
stupefaction, forgetting all that had gone before, danced frantically on
the sand hill, their ecstasy knowing no bounds.

"Will they see us?" she sobbed, falling at last to the ground in sheer
exhaustion, digging her fingers feverishly, unconsciously into the sand.

"Yes, yes! They must see us! We are saved! Saved!" he yelled hoarsely.
Then he threw himself beside her, and they were clasped in each other's
arms, crying like children. Afterward they could remember only that they
saw a boat lowered from the ship. It came toward them, a white uniformed
officer standing in the bow. As the boat drew near Tennys began to
regain her equanimity. She withdrew hastily from Hugh's arms and arose.
With streaming eyes she waved her hands in response to the faraway
salute of the officer. Hugh, not so easily restrained, jumped to his
feet and shouted:

"Hurrah! Hurrah! God bless you! American sailors! Angels of heaven,
every one of you! Hurrah!"

Holding their hands to their temples, the castaways finally calmed
themselves enough to look rationally at each other. Their minds began to
regain order, their nerves were quieted, their hearts forgot the tumult,
and they could think and talk and reason again. In the fierce ecstasy of
seeing the long-looked-for rescuers, they had forgotten their expressed
desire to live always on the island. Human nature had overcome sentiment
and they rejoiced in what they had regarded as a calamity an hour
before. Now they realized that a crisis had come.

"Hugh, will they take us away?" she cried, real anguish mingling with
triumphant joy.

"Shall we go or stay?" cried he, torn by two emotions.

"It may be the end of our happiness," she whispered, pale as death. "I
will stay here forever, Hugh, if you like."

"Do you want to go?"

"I want to go and I want to stay. What shall we do?"

"Go! We shall be happy. Nothing shall part us, darling."

"But Grace? What if she is alive?" she asked faintly.

"God grant she is. I'll throw myself at her feet and she shall be made
to understand," he said, but a nameless chill crossed him.

"You would break her heart," moaned she. "Our poor, poor wedding day."

"There will be another glad and joyous day," he said, trying to find
heart.

"I will go where you go, Hugh," she said.

A few long sweeps of the oars and the white boat, with its blue
trimmings, shot upon the beach, and the officer leaped forward to meet
the waiting pair.

"I am Ensign Carruthers, United States cruiser _Winnetka_, Captain
Hildebrand commanding. We saw your flag and were considerably
mystified," he said, doffing his cap to her Ladyship. But Ridgeway,
forgetting politeness, dignity and reserve, rushed up and grabbed him by
the hand, mad with the exuberance of joy.

"Saved! Saved! Saved!"

Carruthers, dumbfounded, looked from one to the other of the now frantic
couple. He saw white people dressed in most unusual garments, the woman
possessing a gloriously beautiful face and the air of royalty, the man
bushy haired and stalwart, every inch a gentleman and an American.

"What does this mean?" he demanded.

"You are the first white man we have seen in more than a year," cried
Hugh.

"We have seen none but savages," added she, tears of happiness starting
afresh down her cheeks.

"You were wrecked?" exclaimed the sailor, appalled.

It was an incoherent recital that the two poured into his ears, first
one, then the other talking excitedly, but it was not long before he was
in possession of all the facts.

"You were on the _Tempest Queen_," he cried, doubting his ears.

"Was no one saved?" they cried breathlessly.

"The captain and five or six passengers, I think, were picked up, almost
starved, in a boat, some days after the wreck. All others were lost."

"Who were the passengers?" asked Hugh, trembling with eagerness.

"I don't recall the names."

"Was there a Miss Ridge among them?"

"Was Lord Huntingford saved?"

"I can't say as to the lady, but I know that Lord Huntingford was lost.
I remember the papers were full of headlines about him and his young
wife. His dead body was picked up by a steamer. She was not found."

"She has just been found," said Hugh. "This it Lady Huntingford."

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Winnetka_ was on a three years' cruise. Her engines had broken down
a few days before, during a storm, and she was carried out of her
course. The machinery being repaired, she was now picking her way toward
Manila. The sailors were sent back to the warship, with information for
the commander, and Carruthers accompanied the joyous couple to the
village. The natives had seen the ship and the white men, and there was
intense excitement among them.

Then came the struggle for Hugh and Tennys Huntingford. For an hour they
wavered and then the die was cast. Back to the old world!

When it became known that the Izors who had done so much for them were
to leave the island on the big, strange thing of the deep, the greatest
consternation and grief ensued. Chattering disconsolately, the whole
village accompanied the belongings of the Izors to the beach. Lady
Tennys and Ridgeway went among their savage friends with the promise to
return some day, a promise which they meant to fulfil.

"I'll have missionaries out here in a month," vowed Hugh, biting his
lips and trying to speak calmly through the grip that was choking him
involuntarily.

King Pootoo, the picture of despair, stood knee-deep in the water. As
the sailors pushed off, he threw up his hands and wailed aloud; and then
the whole tribe behind him fell grovelling in the sand. Two white-robed
figures flung themselves in the water and grasped the gunwales as the
boat moved away. The sailors tried to drive them off, but they screamed
and turned their pleading faces toward their mistress.

"Please take them in," she cried, and strong arms drew the dusky women
into the boat. They were Alzam and Nattoo, the devoted handmaidens of
the beautiful Izor. Trembling and in fear of dire punishment for their
audacity, they sank to the bottom of the boat. Nor did they cease their
moaning until they were on the broad deck of the _Winnetka_, where
astonishment overcame fear.

Slowly the boat moved away from the island of Nedra, just one year after
its new passengers had set foot on its shores. High upon the top of the
tall gatepost fluttered the frayed remnants of an American flag. The
captain pointed toward it, removed his cap proudly, and then there arose
a mighty cheer from the men on board the man o' war.



CHAPTER XXXIII

_APPARITIONS_

The _Winnetka_ passed Corregidor Island and dropped anchor in Manila
harbor on the morning of June 1st. On the forward deck stood Hugh
Ridgeway and Tennys Huntingford. They went ashore with Captain
Hildebrand, Ensign Carruthers, the paymaster and several others. Another
launch landed their nondescript luggage--their wedding possessions--and
the faithful handmaidens. The captain and his passengers went at once to
shipping quarters, where the man in charge was asked if he could produce
a list of those on board the _Tempest Queen_ at the time she went down.

"I have a list of those who left Aden and of those who were rescued. Did
you have friends on board?"

"Yes, we had friends," answered Hugh, in a choking voice. "First, let me
see a list of the lost." The clerk found the book containing the list,
alphabetically arranged, and placed it on the desk before the trembling
man and woman. Both had an insane desire to rush from the office and
back to the _Winnetka_, where they could hide from the very knowledge
they were seeking. In their hearts they were wishing for the solitude
and happiness of the Island of Nedra. The clerk, observing their
anxiety, considerately offered to read the names to them.

"No, I thank you; I'll look," said Hugh, resolutely turning to the
pages. Lady Tennys leaned weakly against the counter and looked through
blurred eyes at the racing lines of ink. Hugh rapidly ran his fingers
through the list, passing dozens of passengers they had known. As the
finger approached the "R's" it moved more slowly, more tremblingly.
"Reed--Reyer--Ridge!" "Hugh Ridge, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A." He grew
sick when he saw his own name among those who were dead.

"She was saved," he murmured, for there was but one Ridge there.

"Look for Vernon," whispered his companion.

"Van Camp--Valentine--Wilson." It was not there--nor was Veath's!

"Are they on the list?" asked the clerk.

"Let me see the names of those who were saved," said Hugh bravely, joy
and anxiety welling to the surface like twin bubbles.

"Two pages over, sir."

Over went the pages so ruthlessly that the scribe was in trepidation
lest they should be crumpled beyond redemption. Hugh read aloud in an
unnatural voice:

"Costello--Hamilton--Ridge--Shadburn--Veath."

His hand fell upon the page and his head dropped forward till his lips
touched the name that danced before his eyes.

"Here it is! Here it is!" he shouted, hugging the book.

"Thank God!" cried she, tears rushing to her eyes. Together they read
and re-read the name, scarcely able to believe that she was truly one of
the few to escape. "And Henry Veath, too. Oh, Hugh, it is a miracle--a
real miracle!"

"Old Veath saved her! I knew he would if he had a ghost of a chance.
Tennys, Tennys, I can't believe it is true." He was beside himself in
his excitement. Captain Hildebrand, the clerk, and the other attachés
looked on with happy smiles. In this moment of relief they forgot
completely that, in leaving the island, they had been filled with a sort
of dread lest they should find her who might come between them.

"We must find Veath," went on Hugh rapidly. "Is he in Manila?"

"He is in the Government Building, sir," answered the clerk. Already
Hugh was edging toward the door, holding Lady Tennys by the arm. "Is Mr.
Veath a relative?"

"No; he's more than that. He's a friend. We were on the _Tempest Queen_
together when she went down."

"You were--on--the--what did you say, sir?" gasped the clerk.

"He doesn't know who we are, Hugh."

"That's so. Add two more names to the list of saved and scratch 'em off
the other. Put down Lady Huntingford and Hugh Ridge."

The clerk's eyes bulged. Every man in the office came forward in
amazement.

"It's the truth," volunteered the _Winnetka's_ captain. "I picked them
up last week."

"Where's the cable office? I must send a message to Miss Ridge. When did
she sail for the United States?"

"She hasn't sailed, sir. Her name is Vernon, and she's been waiting in
Manila for news of you ever since. Get some water there, Cleary! He's
going to faint." Ridgeway collapsed against the counter, his face going
deadly pale. Lady Tennys sank into her chair, huddling limply as if to
withstand a shock, while from her stricken face two wide blue eyes
centred themselves hopelessly on her lover.

"Needn't mind the water. I'm all right," stammered Hugh, moving away
with legs as stiff as rods. "Where is she now?"

"At the home of her uncle, Mr. Coleman. There were seven of them saved,
after being buffeted about by the sea for three days in the boat in
which they left the wreck. When they were picked up by the _Sea Gull_,
they were almost dead with hunger, thirst and madness. It seems Miss
Vernon had written her uncle before sailing; and the letter, coming by
way of San Francisco, got here two or three weeks before she was
expected. Afterward, Mr. Coleman got the government to send ships out to
find the wreck. It was many weeks before Miss Vernon was fully
recovered."

"Thank you," muttered he. "Come, Lady Huntingford, we will go to a
hotel." She arose and silently followed him to the door. The men in the
office glanced at each other, completely mystified, Captain Hildebrand
as much so as any one.

For a long time the occupants of a certain carriage looked straight
before them as if bereft of the power of speech or comprehension. A
great abyss of thought confronted them; they were apparently struggling
on the edge, utterly unable to grasp a single inspiration or idea.

"She's been waiting a year, Tennys. Do you know what that means?"

"Yes, Hugh; I know too well. She has prayed and hoped and loved, and now
you are come to her. It means that she will be happy--oh, so happy!"
murmured his white-lipped companion, cold as ice.

"But I can't go to her and tell her what we know. It would kill her. I
can't go to her--it is impossible! I'd die if she looked at me,"
he groaned.

"You must go to her," she said intensely. "She will know you have been
rescued. She will thank God and wait for you to come to her. Think of
that poor girl waiting, waiting, waiting for you, filled with a joy that
we can never know. Oh, I will not have you break her heart. You shall
go to her!"

"I cannot, I tell you! I cannot tell her that I love you! That would be
worse than any cruelty I can imagine."

"You are not to tell her that you love me. I release you, Hugh. You were
hers first; you are hers now. I would kill myself rather than lake you
from her. Go to her--go to her at once. You must!" She was nervous,
half-crazed, yet true nobility shone above all like a gem of purest ray.

"Don't force me to go, Tennys," he pleaded, as she left him to go to her
room.

"Go now, Hugh--go if you love me," she said, turning her miserable face
from him.

"But what is to become of you--of me?" he protested.

"We must think only of her. Go! and bring her to see me here! I want to
tell her how happy I am that she has found you again;" and then she
was gone.

The dominant impulse was to rush after her, grasp her and carry her back
to the waves from which he had unwittingly saved her. Then the strong
influence that she had exerted over him, together with the spark of
fair-mindedness that remained, forced him to obey the dictates of honor.
He slowly, determinedly, dejectedly re-entered the carriage and started
toward the end.



CHAPTER XXXIV

_THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE_

Ridgeway had been directed to the home of Mr. Henry Coleman. He was
never able to describe his emotions as he drove through the streets
toward that most important place in all the world at that hour. The cab
drew up in front of the rather pretentious home and he stepped forth,
dazed and uncertain, his knees stiff, his eyes set. Had some one shouted
"Run!" he would have fled with his resolution.

Every window in the home seemed to present Grace Vernon's glad face to
his misty eyes; she was in there somewhere, he knew, waiting as she had
been waiting for a whole year.

Slowly he mounted the steps and stood before the screen door. After what
seemed an hour of deliberation, during which he sought to resurrect the
courage that had died, he timidly tapped on the casement with his
knuckles. The sound could not have been heard ten feet, yet to him it
was loud enough to wake people blocks away. There was no response and
his heart, in its cowardice, took a hopeful bound. No one at home! He
turned to leave the place, fearing that some one might appear to admit
him before he could retreat. At the top of the steps he paused,
reasoning that if no one was at home he could at least rap again. His
conscience would be easier for the extra effort. He rapped once more,
quite boldly. A man appeared in the doorway so suddenly that he caught
his breath and put out his hand to steady himself.

The screen flew open and Henry Veath grasped him by the arms, fairly
dragging him into the hallway.

"Hugh! Hugh! Is it really you?" For a moment he stood like one suddenly
gone mad.

"Henry, I can't believe it!" gasped Ridgeway. Both of them stood looking
at one another for more than a full minute. "What a wonderful escape!"
fell hazily from the newcomer's stiff lips.

"How did you escape?" cried the other in the same breath. Pale as ghosts
they wrung each other's hands spasmodically, dazed and bewildered.

"Where is Grace?" demanded Hugh.

"She is out just at present," said the other slowly and with an effort.
"Come in and sit down. She will be here presently." He staggered as he
drew back.

"Has--has my sister given up all hope of ever seeing me again?" said
Ridgeway. Their hands were still clasped.

"Miss Vernon feared that you were lost, Hugh," said Veath. A cold
perspiration was showing itself on his brow. "She has told me all. How
ill and white you look. Sit down here and I'll get you some wine."

"Never mind, old man. I'm well enough. When will she return? Great
heaven, man, I can't wait!" He sank limply into a chair. His
companion's heart was freezing.

"Be calm, old friend. She shall be sent for at once."

"Break it to her gently, Veath, break it to her gently," murmured Hugh.

Veath excused himself and left the room. In the hall, out of Hugh's
sight, he stopped, clenched his hands, closed his eyes and shivered as
if his blood had turned to ice. Presently he returned to the room,
having gone no farther than the hall.

"I have sent for her," he said in a strange voice.

Grace was coming down stairs when Veath admitted Hugh. Startled and
almost completely prostrated, she fell back, where Veath found her when
he went to announce the news. Finally, with throbbing heart, she crept
to the curtain that hung in the door between the parlors and peered
through at the two men. Ridgeway was standing in the centre of the room,
nervously handling a book that lay on the table. His face was white and
haggard; his tall, straight figure was stooped and lifeless. Veath stood
on the opposite side of the table, just as pale and just as discomposed.

"Does she often speak of me?" she heard Hugh ask hoarsely. The other did
not answer at once.

"Frequently, Hugh, of course," he said finally.

"And--do--you--think she--she loves me as much as ever?" There was fear
in his voice; but poor Grace could only distinguish pathetic eagerness.
Veath was silent, his hands clasped behind his back, his throat closed
as by a vise. "Why don't you answer? Does she still love me?"

Grace glanced at the drawn face of Henry Veath and saw there the
struggle that was going on in his mind. With a cry she tore aside the
curtains and rushed into the room, confronting the questioner and the
questioned.

"Grace!" gasped the former, staggering back as if from the effect of a
mighty blow. Through his dizzy brain an instant later shot the necessity
for action of some kind. There stood Grace, swaying before him, ready to
fall. She loved him! He must clasp her to his heart as if he loved her.
This feeble impulse forced him forward, his arms extended. "Don't be
afraid, dear. I am not a ghost!"

Veath dropped into a chair near the window, and closed his eyes, his
ears, his heart.

"Oh, Hugh, Hugh," the girl moaned, putting her hands over her face, even
as he clasped her awkwardly, half-heartedly in his arms. He was saying
distressedly to himself: "She loves me! I cannot break her heart!"

Neither moved for a full minute, and then Hugh drew her hands from her
eyes, his heart full of pity.

"Grace, look at me," he said. "Are you happy?"

Their eyes met and there was no immediate answer. What each saw in the
eyes of the other was strange and puzzling. She saw something like
hopeless dread, struggling to suppress itself beneath a glassy film; he
saw pitiful fear, sorrow, shame, everything but the glad lovelight he
had expected. If their hearts had been cold before, they were
freezing now.

"Happy?" she managed to articulate. "Happy?"

"Yes, happy," he repeated as witlessly.

"Don't look at me, Hugh. Don't! I cannot bear it," she wailed
frantically, again placing her hands over her eyes. His arms dropped
from their unwilling position and he gasped in amazement.

"What is it, Grace? What is the matter? What is it, Veath?" he gasped.
She sank to her knees on the floor and sobbed.

"Oh, Hugh! I am not worthy to be loved by you." He tried to lift her to
her feet, absolutely dumb with amazement. "Don't! Don't! Let me lie here
till you are gone. I can't bear to have you see my face again.

"Grace!" he cried blankly.

"Oh, if I had been drowned this could have been avoided. Why don't you
say something, Henry? I cannot tell him." Veath could only shake his
head in response to Ridgeway's look of amazed inquiry.

"Is she mad?" groaned the returned lover.

"Mad? No, I am not mad," she cried shrilly, desperately. "Hugh, I know I
will break your heart, but I must tell you. I cannot deceive you. I
cannot be as I once was to you."

"Cannot be--deceived me--once was--" murmured he, bewildered.

"While I mourned for you as dead I learned to love another. Forgive me,
forgive me!" It was more than a minute before he could grasp the full
extent of her confession and he could not believe his ears.

Gradually his mind emerged from its oblivion and the joy that rushed to
his heart passed into every vein in his body. At his feet the unhappy
girl; at the window the rigid form of the man to whom he knew her love
had turned; in the centre of this tableau he stood, his head erect, his
lungs full, his face aglow.

"Say you will forgive me, Hugh. You would not want me, knowing what you
do."

"For Heaven's sake, Hugh," began Veath; but the words choked him.

"So you love another," said Hugh slowly, and cleverly concealing his
elation at the unexpected change in the situation. He was not without a
sense of humor, and forgetting, for the moment, the seriousness of her
revelation, he could not resist the temptation to play the martyr.

"My dear girl," he went on with mock gravity, "I would sacrifice my life
to see you happy! Whoever he may be, I give you to him. Be happy,
Grace;" and with decided histrionic ability concluded heart-brokenly:
"Forget Hugh Ridgeway!"

A portrait of a buxom lady hanging on the wall received the full benefit
of his dejected glance; and she could have told the unhappy lovers that
the wretched man had winked at her most audaciously.

"When are you to be married?" he resumed solemnly.

"To-night," she choked out, then added quickly:

"But I won't, Hugh--I won't marry him if you say--"

"Not for the world! You must marry him, Grace, and I'll bless you," he
interrupted quickly, even eagerly. Then there came a new thought: "Tell
me truly, do you love him better than you loved me?"

"I love him better than the world!"

"Thank God!" exclaimed the discarded lover devoutly. "Give me your hand,
Henry, old man--there is no one in all the world whom I'd rather see get
her than you. You saved her and you deserve her. Take her and be good to
her, that's all I ask; and think of me once in a while, won't you?
you? Good-by."

Without waiting for an answer he broke away, as if starting for the
hall.

"Please don't go away like that!"

The cry of anguish came from Grace, and she threw herself sobbing on
Veath's breast.

Hugh turned like a flash. Contrition and the certainty of his power to
dispel her grief showed plainly in his face.

"Don't cry, Grace dear," he begged, going over to them. "I was only
fooling, dear. I'm not a bit unhappy." Grace looked up wonderingly at
him through her tears. "You must take me for a brute," he stumbled on
penitently. "You see--you see--er--the fact is, I'm in love myself." He
did not know he could be so embarrassed. Veath actually staggered, and
the girl's tear-stained face and blinking eyes were suddenly lifted
from the broad breast, to be turned, in mute surprise, upon the speaker.

"What did you say?" she gasped.

"I'm in love--the very worst way," he hurried on, fingering his cap.

"And not with me?" she cried, as if it were beyond belief.

"Well, you see, I--I thought you were drowned--couldn't blame me for
that, could you? So--I--she was awfully good and sweet and--by George!
I'd like to know how a fellow could help it! You don't know how happy I
am that you are in love with Veath, and you don't know how happy it will
make her. We were to have been married a week ago but--" he gulped and
could not go on.

Grace's eyes were sparkling, her voice was trembling with joy as she
cried, running to his side:

"Is it really true--really true? Oh, how happy I am! I was afraid you
would--"

"And I was equally afraid that you might--Whoop!" exploded Hugh, unable
to restrain his riotous glee a second longer. Clasping her in his arms,
he kissed her fervently; and all three joining hands, danced about the
room like children, each so full of delight that there was no possible
means of expressing it, except by the craziest of antics.

"But who is she?" broke out Grace excitedly, as soon as she could catch
her breath.

"And where is she--can't we see her?" put in Veath, slapping Hugh
insanely on the back.

"She's a goddess!" burst out Hugh, grabbing his cap and running out of
the room, shouting hilariously: "Follow on, both of you, to the hotel,
and see me worship at her shrine!"



CHAPTER XXXV

_HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF_

Hugh lost no time on the way back to the hotel. The lazy driver awoke
his lazy horse and, to the intense amazement of both, the vehicle held
together during the return trip. At least a dozen rattling bumps over
rough places in the street caused the driver to glance apprehensively
over his shoulder in the unusual fear that his fare and the cab had
parted company. For the first time in ten years he was sufficiently
interested to be surprised. It astonished him to find that the vehicle
stuck together as a whole.

On the way back, Hugh suddenly bethought himself of his financial
condition. He was attired in a suit of clothes belonging to Mr.
Carruthers and the garments fitted him well. In one of the pockets
rested his small leather purse. When he plunged into the sea on that
memorable night a year ago it contained a half dozen small American
coins and some English money, amounting in all to eleven dollars and
thirty cents. Carefully he had treasured this wealth on the island and
he had come away with the principal untouched. Now, as he jogged along
in the cab, he emptied the contents of the purse upon the seat.

"Eleven thirty," he mused. "A splendid dowry. Not enough to buy the
ring. No flowers, no wine--nothing but pins. My letter of credit is at
the bottom of the sea. Borrowed clothes on my back and home-made clothes
on hers. I have a watch, a knife, and a scarf pin. She has diamond rings
and rubies, but she has no hat. By Jove, it looks as though I'll have to
borrow money of Veath, after all."

Lady Tennys was in her room, strangely calm and resigned. She was
wondering whether he would ever come back to her, whether she was ever
to see him again. Her tired, hopeless brain was beginning to look
forward to the dismal future, the return to England, the desolate life
in the society she now despised, the endless regret of losing that which
she had never hoped to possess--a man's love in exchange for her own.
She kept to her room, avoiding the curious stare of people, denying
herself to the reporters and correspondents, craving only the loneliness
that made the hour dark for her. It seemed to her that she had lived a
lifetime since he went forth to find the girl who had waited so long
for him.

Then came the rush of footsteps in the hall. They were not those of the
slow-moving servants, they were not--a vigorous thumping on the door was
followed by the cry of a strong, manly, vigorous voice. Her head swam,
her heart stood still, her lips grew white and she could utter no sound
in response.

He was coming at last to commit her to everlasting misery.

The door flew open and Ridgeway bounded into the room. Before she could
move, he rushed over and drew her limp form from the chair, up into his
strong embrace. She heard a voice, tender and gladsome, as from afar
off, singing into her ear.

"Look up, darling! This is to be our wedding day--yours and mine! You
are mine--mine!"

The glad light slowly struggled back into her eyes, but it was as if she
had come from a death-like swoon. He poured into her dull ears the story
of the visit to Grace Vernon, but he was compelled to repeat it. Her
ears were unbelieving.

"Grace is coming here with Henry Veath," he said in the end. "By Jove, I
am happy!"

She held his face close to hers and looked deep into his eyes for a
long, long time.

"Are you sure?" she whispered at last. "Is it all true?"

"They'll be here in half an hour; but I haven't told them it was you
they are going to see. She loves Veath--loves him more than she ever
cared for me. I don't blame her, do you? Veath's a man--worthy of any
woman's love and confidence. Tennys, do you know what I've been thinking
ever since I left them fifteen minutes ago? I've been calling myself a
cad--a downright cad."

"And why, may I ask?"

"Because Veath isn't one--that's all."

"But you are a man--a true, noble, enduring one. The year just gone has
changed you from the easy, thoughtless boy into the strong man that you
are, just as it has made of me a woman."

"I am no longer the harlequin?" he interposed eagerly.

"The harlequin's errand is accomplished, dear. The spangles and glitter
are gone. Pure gold has come in their stead. It won't wear out. God has
worked out this end for all of us. In His own good time He rectifies our
errors and points the new way."

"I am but a year older than when I began."

"It isn't time that makes the man."

"It's opportunity, after all. I wasn't a man when I dragged Grace Vernon
away from home; I was a fool--a callow boy in--"

"That was a year ago, Hugh, dear. What was I two years ago?"

"A rich man's wife. I was a rich man's son."

"You were the rich man's son by chance. I was a rich man's wife from
choice."

"History repeats itself with variations, dearest. Although I have but
eleven dollars and thirty cents in my purse, I have a million at home.
You don't mind, do you?"

"I suppose it was foreordained that I should always marry from choice,"
she said with her most entrancing smile.





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