“I’d walk up to the chateau if I were you,” he said, when they clamoured for a jinriksha apiece. “It will help pass away the time.”
“By Jove,” said Saunders, hunting for the Enemy’s hand. “I’m going to ’nform L-Lord Deppingham that he’s ‘nsufferable ass an’—an’ I don’t care who knows it.”
“Saunders,” said Britt, with rare dignity, “take your hand out of my pocket.”
THE SLOUGH OF TRANQUILLITY
Three months stole by with tantalising slowness. How the strangers on the island of Japat employed those dull, simmering, idle weeks it would not be difficult to relate. There was little or no incident to break the monotony of their enforced residence among the surly Japatites; the same routine obtained from day to day. Sultry, changeless, machine-like were those hundred days and nights. They looked forward with hopeful, tired eyes; never backward. There was nothing behind them but a dour waste, a bog through which they had driven themselves with a lash of resolution.
Autumn passed on into winter without a change of expression in the benign face of nature. Christmas day was as hot as if it had come in midsummer; the natives were as naked, the trees as fully clad. The curious sun closed his great eye for a few hours in the twenty-four; the remainder of the time he glared down upon his victims with a malevolence that knew no bounds. Soft, sweet winds came with the typhoon season, else the poor whites must have shrivelled and died while nature revelled. Rain fell often in fitful little bursts of joyousness, but the hungry earth sipped its moisture through a million greedy lips, eager to thwart the mischievous sun. Through it all, the chateau gleamed red and purple and gray against the green mountainside, baked where the sun could meet its face, cool where the caverns blew upon it with their rich, damp breath.
The six months were passing away, however, in spite of themselves; ten weeks were left before the worn, but determined heirs could cast off their bonds and rush away to other climes. It mattered little whether they went away rich or poor; they were to go! Go! That was the richest thing the future held out to them—more precious than the wealth for which they stayed. Whatever was being done for them in London and Boston, it was no recompense for the weariness of heart and soul that they had found in the green island of Japat.
True, they rode and played and swam and romped without restraint, but beneath all of their abandon there lurked the ever-present pathos of the jail, the asylum, the detention ward. The blue sky seemed streaked with the bars of their prison; the green earth clanked as with the sombre tread of feet crossing flagstones.
Not until the end of January was there a sign of revolt against the ever-growing, insidious condition of melancholy. As they turned into the last third of their exile, they found heart to rejoice in the thought that release was coming nearer and nearer. The end of March! Eight weeks off! Soon there would be but seven weeks—then six!