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.”