“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.