Read CHAPTER VI - ARMISTICE of The Firing Line, free online book, by Robert W. Chambers, on ReadCentral.com.

The young girl beside him had finished her guava, and now, idly swinging her tennis-bat, stood watching the games in the sunken courts below.

“Please don’t consider me a burden,” he said.  “I would be very glad to sit here and watch you play.”

“I have been playing, thank you.”

“But you won’t let me interfere with anything that ­”

“No, Mr. Hamil, I won’t let you interfere ­with anything.”

She stood swinging her bat, apparently preoccupied with her own thoughts ­like a very grave goddess, he thought, glancing at her askance ­a very young goddess, immersed in celestial reverie far beyond mortal comprehension.

“Do you like guavas?” she inquired.  And, closing her own question:  “But you had better not until you are acclimated.  Do you feel very sleepy, Mr. Hamil?”

“No, I don’t,” he said.

“Oh!  You ought to conform to tradition.  There’s a particularly alluring hammock on the veranda.”

“To get rid of me is it necessary to make me take a nap?” he protested.

“So you refuse to go to sleep?”

“I certainly do.”

She sighed and tucked the tennis-bat under her left arm.  “Come,” she said, moving forward, “my father will ask me what I have done to amuse you, and I had better hunt up something to tell him about.  You’ll want to see the groves of course ­”

“Yes, but I’m not going to drag you about with me ­”

“Come,” she repeated; and as he stood his ground obstinately:  “Please?” ­with a rising inflection hinting at command.

“Why on earth don’t you play tennis and let me sit and watch you?” he asked, joining and keeping step with her.

“Why do you ask a woman for reasons, Mr. Hamil?”

“It’s too bad to spoil your morning ­”

“I know it; so in revenge I’m going to spoil yours.  Our trip is called ‘Seeing Florida,’ so you must listen to your guide very attentively.  This is a pomelo grove ­thank you,” to the negro who opened the gate ­“here you see blossoms and ripe fruit together on the same tree.  A few palmettos have been planted here for various agricultural reasons.  This is a camphor bush” ­touching it with her bat ­“the leaves when crushed in the palm exhale a delightful fragr ­”

“Calypso!”

She turned toward him with coldest composure. “That never happened, Mr. Hamil.”

“No,” he said, “it never did.”

A slight colour remained in his face; hers was cool enough.

“Did you think it happened?” she asked.  He shook his head.  “No,” he repeated seriously, “I know that it never happened.”

She said:  “If you are quite sure it never happened, there is no harm in pretending it did....  What was it you called me?”

“I could never remember, Miss Cardross ­unless you tell me.”

“Then I’ll tell you ­if you are quite sure you don’t remember.  You called me ‘Calypso.’”

And looking up he surprised the rare laughter in her eyes.

“You are rather nice after all,” she said, “or is it only that I have you under such rigid discipline?  But it was very bad taste in you to recall so crudely what never occurred ­until I gave you the liberty to do it.  Don’t you think so?”

“Yes, I do,” he said.  “I’ve made two exhibitions of myself since I knew you ­”

One, Mr. Hamil.  Please recollect that I am scarcely supposed to know how many exhibitions of yourself you may have made before we were formally presented.”

She stood still under a tree which drooped like a leaf-tufted umbrella, and she said, swinging her racket:  “You will always have me at a disadvantage.  Do you know it?”

“That is utterly impossible!”

“Is it?  Do you mean it?”

“I do with all my heart ­”

“Thank you; but do you mean it with all your logical intelligence, too?”

“Yes, of course I do.”

She stood, head partly averted, one hand caressing the smooth, pale-yellow fruit which hung in heavy clusters around her.  And all around her, too, the delicate white blossoms poured out fragrance, and the giant swallow-tail butterflies in gold and black fluttered and floated among the blossoms or clung to them as though stupefied by their heavy sweetness.

“I wish we had begun ­differently,” she mused.

“I don’t wish it.”

She said, turning on him almost fiercely:  “You persisted in talking to me in the boat; you contrived to make yourself interesting without being offensive ­I don’t know how you managed it!  And then ­last night ­I was not myself....  And then ­that happened!”

“Could anything more innocent have happened?”

“Something far more dignified could have happened when I heard you say ‘Calypso.’” She shrugged her shoulders.  “It’s done; we’ve misbehaved; and you will have to be dreadfully careful.  You will, won’t you?  And yet I shall certainly hate you heartily if you make any difference between me and other women.  Oh, dear! ­Oh, dear!  The whole situation is just unimportant enough to be irritating.  Mr. Hamil, I don’t think I care for you very much.”

And as he looked at her with a troubled smile, she added: 

“You must not take that declaration too literally.  Can you forget ­various things?”

“I don’t want to, Miss Cardross.  Listen:  nobody could be more sweet, more simple, more natural than the girl I spoke to ­I dreamed that I talked with ­last night.  I don’t want to forget that night, or that girl.  Must I?”

“Are you, in your inmost thoughts, fastidious in thinking of that girl?  Is there any reservation, any hesitation?”

He said, meeting her eyes:  “She is easily the nicest girl I ever met ­the very nicest.  Do you think that I might have her for a friend?”

“Do you mean this girl, Calypso?”

“Yes.”

“Then I think that she will return to you the exact measure of friendship that you offer her....  Because, Mr. Hamil, she is after all not very old in years, and a little sensitive and impressionable.”

He thought to himself:  “She is a rather curious mixture of impulse and reason; of shyness and audacity; of composure and timidity; of courage and cowardice and experience.  But there is in her no treachery; nothing mentally unwholesome.”

They stood silent a moment smiling at each other rather seriously; then her smooth hand slid from his, and she drew a light breath.

“What a relief!” she said.

“What?”

“To know you are the kind of man I knew you were.  That sounds rather Irish, doesn’t it?...”  And under her breath ­“perhaps it is.  God knows!” Her face grew very grave for a moment, then, as she turned and looked at him, the shadow fell.

“Do you know ­it was absurd of course ­but I could scarcely sleep last night for sheer dread of your coming to-day.  And yet I knew what sort of a man you must be; and this morning” ­she shook her head ­“I couldn’t endure any breakfast, and I usually endure lots; so I took a spin down the lake in my chair.  When I saw you just now I was trying to brace up on a guava.  Listen to me:  I am hungry!”

“You poor little thing ­”

“Sympathy satisfies sentiment but appetite prefers oranges.  Shall we eat oranges together and become friendly and messy?  Are you even that kind of a man?  Oh, then if you really are, there’s a mixed grove just beyond.”

So together, shoulder to shoulder, keeping step, they passed through the new grove with its enormous pendent bunches of grape-fruit, and into a second grove where limes and mandarins hung among clusters of lemons and oranges; where kum-quat bushes stood stiffly, studded with egg-shaped, orange-tinted fruit; where tangerines, grape-fruit, and king-oranges grew upon the same tree, and the deep scarlet of ripe Japanese persimmons and the huge tattered fronds of banana trees formed a riotous background.

“This tree!” she indicated briefly, reaching up; and her hand was white even among the milky orange bloom ­he noticed that as he bent down a laden bough for her.

“Pine-oranges,” she said, “the most delicious of all.  I’ll pick and you hold the branch.  And please get me a few tangerines ­those blood-tangerines up there....  Thank you; and two Japanese persimmons ­and two more for yourself....  Have you a knife?  Very well; now, break a fan from that saw-palmetto and sweep a place for me on the ground ­that way.  And now please look very carefully to see if there are any spiders.  No spiders?  No scorpions?  No wood-ticks?  Are you sure?”

“There may be a bandersnatch,” he said doubtfully, dusting the ground with his palmetto fan.

She laughed and seated herself on the ground, drew down her short white tennis-skirt as far as it would go over her slim ankles, looked up at him confidently, holding out her hand for his knife.

“We are going to be delightfully messy in a moment,” she said; “let me show you how they prepare an orange in Florida.  This is for you ­you must take it....  And this is for me.  The rind is all gone, you see.  Now, Ulysses.  This is the magic moment!”

And without further ceremony her little teeth met in the dripping golden pulp; and in another moment Hamil was imitating her.

They appeared to be sufficiently hungry; the brilliant rind, crinkling, fell away in golden corkscrews from orange after orange, and still they ate on, chattering away together between oranges.

“Isn’t this primitive luxury, Mr. Hamil?  We ought to wear our bathing-clothes....  Don’t dare take my largest king-orange!  Yes ­you may have it; ­I won’t take it....  Are you being amused?  My father said that you were to be amused.  What in the world are you staring at?”

“That!” said Hamil, eyes widening.  “What on earth ­”

“Oh, that’s nothing ­that is our watchman.  We have to employ somebody to watch our groves, you know, or all the negroes in Florida would be banqueting here.  So we have that watchman yonder ­”

“But it’s a bird!” insisted Hamil, “a big gray, long-legged, five-foot bird with a scarlet head!”

“Of course,” said the girl serenely; “it’s a crane.  His name is Alonzo; he’s four feet high; and he’s horridly savage.  If you came in here without father or me or some of the workmen who know him, Alonzo would begin to dance at you, flapping his wings, every plume erect; and if you didn’t run he’d attack you.  That big, dagger-like bill of his is an atrocious weapon.”

The crane resembled a round-shouldered, thin-legged old gentleman with his hands tucked under his coat-tails; and as he came up, tiptoeing and peering slyly at Hamil out of two bright evil-looking eyes, the girl raised her arm and threw a kum-quat at him so accurately that the bird veered off with a huge hop of grieved astonishment.

“Alonzo!  Go away this instant!” she commanded.  And to Hamil:  “He’s disgustingly treacherous; he’ll sidle up behind you if he can.  Give me that palmetto fan.”

But the bird saw her rise, and hastily retreated to the farther edge of the grove, where presently they saw him pretending to hunt snails and lizards as innocently as though premeditated human assassination was farthest from his thoughts.

There was a fountain with a coquina basin in the grove; and here they washed the orange juice from their hands and dried them on their handkerchiefs.

“Would you like to see Tommy Tiger?” she asked.  “I’m taming him.”

“Very much,” he said politely.

“Well, he’s in there somewhere,” pointing to a section of bushy jungle edging the grove and around which was a high heavy fence of closely woven buffalo wire.  “Here, Tommy, Tommy, Tommy!” she called, in her fresh young voice that, at times, broke deliciously in a childish grace-note.

At first Hamil could see nothing in the tangle of brier and saw-palmetto, but after a while he became aware of a wild-cat, tufted ears flattenend, standing in the shadow of a striped bush and looking at him out of the greenest eyes he had ever beheld.

“Pretty Tom,” said the girl caressingly.  “Tommy, come and let Shiela scratch his ears.”

And the lynx, disdainfully shifting its blank green gaze from Hamil, hoisted an absurd stub of a tail and began rubbing its lavishly whiskered jowl against the bush.  Nearer and nearer sidled the lithe grayish animal, cautiously the girl advanced, until the cat was rubbing cheek and flank against the woven-wire fence.  Then, with infinite precaution, she extended her hand, touched the flat fierce head, and slowly began to rub it.

“Don’t!” said Hamil, stepping forward; and at the sound of his voice and step the cat whirled and struck, and the girl sprang back, white to the lips.

For a moment she said nothing, then looked up at Hamil beside her, as pale as she.

“I am not hurt,” she said, “only startled.”

“I should not have spoken,” he faltered.  “What an ass I am!”

“It is all right; I ought to have cautioned you about moving or speaking.  I thought you understood ­but please don’t look that way, Mr. Hamil.  It was not your fault and I am not hurt.  Which teaches me a lesson, I hope.  What is the moral? ­don’t attempt to caress the impossible? ­or something similarly senseless,” she added gaily.  And turning on the crouching lynx:  “Bad Tommy!  Wicked, treacherous, bad ­no! Poor old Tom!  You are quite right.  I’d do the same if I were trapped and anybody tried to patronize me.  I know how you feel ­yes, I do, Tommy Tiger.  And I’ll tell old Jonas to give you lots and lots of delicious mud-fish for your dinner to-night ­yes, I will, my friend.  Also some lavender to roll on....  Mr. Hamil, you are still unusually colourless.  Were you really afraid?”

“Horribly.”

“Oh, the wire is too strong for him to break out,” she observed coolly.

“I was not afraid of that,” he retorted, reddening.

She turned toward him, smilingly remorseful.

“I know it!  I say such things ­I don’t know why.  You will learn how to take them, won’t you?”

They walked on, passing through grove after grove, Alonzo tiptoeing after them, and when, as a matter of precaution from time to time, Shiela looked back, the bird pretended not to see them until they passed the last gate and locked it.  Then the great crane, half flying, half running, charged at the closed gate, dancing and bounding about; and long after they were out of sight Alonzo’s discordant metallic shrieks rang out in baffled fury from among the trees.

They had come into a wide smooth roadway flanked by walks shaded by quadruple rows of palms.  Oleander and hibiscus hedges ran on either side as far as the eye could see, and long brilliant flower-beds stretched away into gorgeous perspective.

“This is stunning,” he said, staring about him.

“It is our road to the ocean, about two miles long,” she explained.  “My father designed it; do you really like it?”

“Yes, I do,” he said sincerely; “and I scarcely understand why Mr. Cardross has called me into consultation if this is the way he can do things.”

“That is generous of you.  Father will be very proud and happy when I tell him.”

They were leaning over the rail of a stone bridge together; the clear stream below wound through thickets of mangrove, bamboo, and flowering vines all a-flutter with butterflies; a school of fish stemmed the current with winnowing fins; myriads of brown and gold dragon-flies darted overhead.

“It’s fairyland ­the only proper setting for you after all,” he said.

Resting one elbow on the stone parapet, her cheek in the hollow of her hand, she watched the smile brightening in his face, but responded only faintly to it.

“Some day,” she said, “when we have blown the froth and sparkle from our scarcely tasted cup of acquaintance, you will talk to me of serious things sometimes ­will you not?”

“Why ­yes,” he said, surprised.

“I mean ­as you would to a man.  You will find me capable of understanding you.  You once said to me, in a boat, that no two normal people of opposite sex can meet without experiencing more or less wholesome interest in one another.  Didn’t you say that?  Very well, then; I now admit my normal interest in you ­untinged by sentiment.  Don’t disappoint me.”

He said whimsically:  “I’m not intellectual; I don’t know very much about anything except my profession.”

“Then talk to me about it.  Goodness!  Don’t I deserve it?  Is a girl to violate precept and instinct on an ill-considered impulse only to find the man in the case was not worth it?  And how do you know what else I violated ­merely to be kind.  I must have been mad to do it!”

He flushed up so vividly that she winced, then added quickly:  “I didn’t mean that, Mr. Hamil; I knew you were worth it when I did it.”

“The worst of it is that I am not,” he said.  “I’m like everybody who has been through college and chooses a profession for love of it.  I do know something about that profession; outside of it, the least I can say for myself is that I care about everything that goes on in this very jolly world.  Curiosity has led me about by the nose.  The result is a series of acquired smatterings.”

She regarded him intently with that clear gaze he found so refreshing ­a direct, fearless scrutiny which straightened her eyebrows to a fascinating level and always made him think of a pagan marble, with delicately chiselled, upcurled lips, and white brow youthfully grave.

“Did you study abroad?”

“Yes ­not long enough.”

She seemed rather astonished at this.  Amused, he rested both elbows on the parapet, looking at her from between the strong, lean hands that framed his face.

“It was droll ­the way I managed to scurry like a jack-rabbit through school and college on nothing a year.  I was obliged to hurry post-graduate courses and Europe and such agreeable things.  Otherwise I would probably be more interesting to you ­”

“You are sufficiently interesting,” she said, flushing up at his wilful misinterpretation.

And, as he laughed easily: 

“The horrid thing about it is that you are interesting and you know it.  All I asked of you was to be seriously interesting to me ­occasionally; and instead you are rude ­”

“Rude!”

“Yes, you are! ­pretending that I was disappointed in you because you hadn’t dawdled around Europe for years in the wake of an education.  You are, apparently, just about the average sort of man one meets ­yet I kicked over several conventions for the sake of exchanging a few premature words with you, knowing all the while I was to meet you later.  It certainly was not for your beaux yeux; I am not sentimental!” she added fiercely.  “And it was not because you are a celebrity ­you are not one yet, you know.  Something in you certainly appealed to something reckless in me; yet I did not really feel very sinful when I let you speak to me; and, even in the boat, I admit frankly that I enjoyed every word that we spoke ­though I didn’t appear to, did I?”

“No, you didn’t,” he said.

She smiled, watching him, chin on hand.

“I wonder how you’ll like this place,” she mused.  “It’s gay ­in a way.  There are things to do every moment if you let people rob you of your time ­dances, carnivals, races, gambling, suppers.  There’s the Fortnightly Club, and various charities too, and dinners and teas and all sorts of things to do outdoors on land and on water.  Are you fond of shooting?”

“Very.  I can do that pretty well.”

“So can I. We’ll go with my father and Gray.  Gray is my brother; you’ll meet him at luncheon.  What time is it?”

He looked at his watch.  “Eleven ­a little after.”

“We’re missing the bathing.  Everybody splashes about the pool or the ocean at this hour.  Then everybody sits on the veranda of The Breakers and drinks things and gossips until luncheon.  Rather intellectual, isn’t it?”

“Sufficiently,” he replied lazily.

She leaned over the parapet, standing on the tips of her white shoes and looked down at the school of fish.  Presently she pointed to a snake swimming against the current.

“A moccasin?” he asked.

“No, only a water snake.  They call everything moccasins down here, but real moccasins are not very common.”

“And rattlesnakes?”

“Scarcer still.  You hear stories, but ­” She shrugged her shoulders.  “Of course when we are quail shooting it’s well to look where you step, but there are more snakes in the latitude of Saint Augustine than there are here.  When father and I are shooting we never think anything about them.  I’m more afraid of those horrid wood-ticks.  Listen; shall we go camping?”

“But I have work on hand,” he said dejectedly.

“That is part of your work.  Father said so.  Anyway I know he means to camp with you somewhere in the hammock, and if Gray goes I go too.”

“Calypso,” he said, “do you know what I’ve been hearing about you?  I’ve heard that you are the most assiduously run-after girl at Palm Beach.  And if you are, what on earth will the legions of the adoring say when you take to the jungle?”

“Who said that about me?” she asked, smiling adorably.

“Is it true?”

“I am ­liked.  Who said it?”

“You don’t mean to say,” he continued perversely, “that I have monopolised the reigning beauty of Palm Beach for an entire morning.”

“Yes, you have and it is high time you understood it. Who said this to you?”

“Well ­I gathered the fact ­”

“Who?”

“My aunt ­Miss Palliser.”

“Do you know,” said Shiela Cardross slowly, “that Miss Palliser has been exceedingly nice to me?  But her friend, Miss Suydam, is not very civil.”

“I’m awfully sorry,” he said.

“I could tell you that it mattered nothing,” she said, looking straight at him; “and that would be an untruth.  I know that many people disregard such things ­many are indifferent to the opinion of others, or say they are.  I never have been; I want everybody to like me ­even people I have not the slightest interest in ­people I do not even know ­I want them all to like me.  For I must tell you, Mr. Hamil, that when anybody dislikes me, and I know it, I am just as unhappy about it as though I cared for them.”

“It’s absurd for anybody not to like you!” he said.

“Well, do you know it really is absurd ­if they only knew how willing I am to like everybody....  I was inclined to like Miss Suydam.”

Hamil remained silent.

The girl added:  “One does not absolutely disregard the displeasure of such people.”

“They didn’t some years ago when there were no shops on Fifth Avenue and gentlemen wore side-whiskers,” said Hamil, smiling.

Shiela Cardross shrugged.  “I’m sorry; I was inclined to like her.  She misses more than I do because we are a jolly and amusing family.  It’s curious how much energy is wasted disliking people.  Who is Miss Suydam?”

“She’s a sort of a relative.  I have always known her.  I’m sorry she was rude.  She is sometimes.”

They said no more about her or about his aunt; and presently they moved on again, luncheon being imminent.

“You will like my sister, Mrs. Carrick,” said Shiela tranquilly.  “You know her husband, Acton, don’t you?  He’s at Miami fishing.”

“Oh, yes; I’ve met him at the club.  He’s very agreeable.”

“He is jolly.  And Jessie ­Mrs. Carrick ­is the best fun in the world.  And you are sure to like my little sister Cecile; every man adores her, and you’ll do it, too ­yes, I mean sentimentally ­until she laughs you out of it.”

“Like yourself, Calypso, I’m not inclined to sentiment,” he said.

“You can’t help it with Cecile.  Wait!  Then there are others to lunch with us ­Marjorie Staines ­very popular with men, and Stephanie Anan ­you studied with her uncle, Winslow Anan, didn’t you?”

“Yes, indeed!” he exclaimed warmly, “but how did you ­”

“Oh, I knew it; I know lots about you, you see....  Then there is Phil Gatewood ­a perfectly splendid fellow, and Alex Anan ­a dear boy, ready to adore any girl who looks sideways at him....  I don’t remember who else is to lunch with us, except my brother Gray.  Look, Mr. Hamil!  They’ve actually sat down to luncheon without waiting for us!  What horrid incivility!  Could your watch have been wrong? ­or have we been too deeply absorbed?”

“I can speak for one of us,” he said, as they came out upon the lawn in full view of the table which was spread under the most beautiful live-oaks he had ever seen.

Everybody was very friendly.  Gray Cardross, a nice-looking boy who wore spectacles, collected butterflies, and did not look like a “speed-mad cub,” took Hamil to the house, whither Shiela had already retired for an ante-prandial toilet; but there is no dust in that part of the world, and his preparations were quickly made.

“Awfully glad you came,” repeated young Cardross with all the excessive cordiality of the young and unspoiled.  “Father has been checking off the days on the calendar since your letter saying you were coming by way of Nassau.  The Governor is dying to begin operations on that jungle yonder.  When we camp I’m going ­and probably Shiela is ­she began clamoring to go two weeks ago.  We all had an idea that you were a rather feeble old gentleman ­like Mr. Anan ­until Shiela brought us the picture they published of you in the paper two weeks ago; and she said immediately that if you were young enough to camp she was old enough to go too.  She’s a good shot, Mr. Hamil, and she won’t interfere with your professional duties ­”

“I should think not!” said Hamil cordially; “but ­as for my camping ­there’s really almost nothing left for me to do except to familiarise myself with the character of your wilderness.  Your father tells me he has the surveys and contour maps all ready.  As a matter of fact I really could begin the office work at once ­”

“For Heaven’s sake don’t do that! and don’t say it!” exclaimed the young fellow in dismay.  “Father and Shiela and I are counting on this trip.  There’s a butterfly or two I want to get at Ruffle Lake.  Don’t you think it extremely necessary that you go over the entire territory? ­become thoroughly saturated with the atmosphere and ­”

“Malaria?” suggested Hamil, laughing.  “Of course, seriously, it will be simply fine.  And perhaps it is the best thing to do for a while.  Please don’t mistake me; I want to do it; I ­I’ve never before had a vacation like this.  It’s like a trip into paradise from the sordid horror of Broadway.  Only,” he added slowly as they left the house and started toward the luncheon party under the live-oaks, “I should like to have your father know that I am ready to give him every moment of my time.”

“That’s what he wants ­and so do I,” said young Cardross....  “Hello!  Here’s Shiela back before us!  I’d like to sit near enough to talk to you, but Shiela is between us.  I’ll tell you after luncheon what we propose to do on this trip.”

A white servant seated Hamil on Mrs. Cardross’s right; and for a while that languid but friendly lady drawled amiable trivialities to him, propounding the tritest questions with an air of pleased profundity, replying to his observations with harmlessly complacent platitudes ­a good woman, every inch of her ­one who had never known an unkindly act or word in the circle of her own family ­one who had always been accustomed to honor, deference, and affection ­of whom nothing more had ever been demanded than the affections of a good wife and a good mother.

Being very, very stout, and elaborately upholstered, a shady hammock couch suited her best; and as she was eternally dieting and was too stout to sit comfortably, she never remained very long at table.

Gray escorted her houseward in the midst of the festivities.  She nodded a gracious apology to all, entered her wheel-chair, and was rolled heavily away for her daily siesta.

Everybody appeared to be friendly to him, even cordial.  Mrs. Acton Carrick talked to him in her pretty, decisive, animated manner, a feminine reflection of her father’s characteristic energy and frankness.

Her younger sister, Cecile, possessed a drawl like her mother’s.  Petite, distractingly pretty, Hamil recognised immediately her attraction ­experienced it, amused himself by yielding to it as he exchanged conventionally preliminary observations with her across the table.

Men, on first acquaintance, were usually very easily captivated, for she had not only all the general attraction of being young, feminine, and unusually ornamental, but she also possessed numberless individualities like a rapid fire of incarnations, which since she was sixteen had kept many a young man, good and true, madly guessing which was the real Cecile.  And yet all the various and assorted Ceciles seemed equally desirable, susceptible, and eternally on the verge of being rounded up and captured; that was the worst of it; and no young man she had ever known had wholly relinquished hope.  For even in the graceful act of side-stepping the smitten, the girl’s eyes and lips seemed unconsciously to unite in a gay little unspoken promise ­“This serial story is to be continued in our next ­perhaps.”

As for the other people at the table Hamil began to distinguish one from another by degrees; the fair-haired Anans, sister and brother, who spoke of their celebrated uncle, Winslow Anan, and his predictions concerning Hamil as his legitimate successor; Marjorie Staines, willowy, active, fresh as a stem of white jasmine, and inconsequent as a very restless bird; Philip Gatewood, grave, thin, prematurely saddened by the responsibility of a vast inheritance, consumed by a desire for an artistic career, looking at the world with his owlish eyes through the prismatic colors of a set palette.

There were others there whom as yet he had been unable to differentiate; smiling, well-mannered, affable people who chattered with more or less intimacy among themselves as though accustomed to meeting one another year after year in this winter rendezvous.  And everywhere he felt the easy, informal friendliness and goodwill of these young people.

“Are you being amused?” asked Shiela beside him.  “My father’s orders, you know,” she added demurely.

They stood up as Mrs. Carrick rose and left the table followed by the others; and he looked at Shiela expecting her to imitate her sister’s example.  As she did not, he waited beside her, his cigarette unlighted.

Presently she bent over the table, extended her arm, and lifted a small burning lamp of silver toward him; and, thanking her, he lighted his cigarette.

“Siesta?” she asked.

“No; I feel fairly normal.”

“That’s abnormal in Florida.  But if you really don’t feel sleepy ­if you really don’t ­we’ll get the Gracilis ­our fastest motor-boat ­and run down to the Beach Club and get father.  Shall we ­just you and I?”

“And the engineer?”

“I’ll run the Gracilis if you will steer,” she said quietly.

“I’ll do whichever you wish, Calypso, steer or run things.”

She looked up with that quick smile which seemed to transfigure her into something a little more than mortal.

“Why in the world have I ever been afraid of you?” she said.  “Will you come?  I think our galley is in commission....  Once I told you that Calypso was a land-nymph.  But ­time changes us all, you know ­and as nobody reads the classics any longer nobody will perceive the anachronism.”

“Except ourselves.”

“Except ourselves, Ulysses; and we’ll forgive each other.”  She took a step out from the shadow of the oaks’ foliage into the white sunlight and turned, looking back at him.

And he followed, as did his heroic namesake in the golden noon of the age of fable.

As they came in sight of the sea he halted.

“That’s curious!” he exclaimed; “there is the Ariani again!”

“The yacht you came on?”

“Yes.  I wonder if there’s been an accident.  She cleared for Miami last night.”

They stood looking at the white steamer for a moment.

“I hope everything’s all right with the Ariani” he murmured; then turned to the girl beside him.

“By the way I have a message for you from a man on board; I forgot to deliver it.”

“A message for me?”

“From a very ornamental young man who desired to be particularly remembered to Shiela Cardross until he could pay his respects in person.  Can you guess?”

For a moment she looked at him with a tremor of curiosity and amusement edging her lips.

“Louis Malcourt,” he said, smiling; and turned again to the sea.

A sudden, still, inward fright seized her; the curious soundless crash of her own senses followed ­as though all within had given way.

She had known many, many such moments; one was upon her now, the clutching terror of it seeming to stiffen the very soul within her.

“I hope all’s well with the Ariani” he repeated under his breath, staring at the sea.

Miss Cardross said nothing.