Came ashore on his coral isle; the girl caught at the words. Of course he had been saved, he who had saved her from the wild sea; she had realized that after their last meeting at Strathorn House. But how? He had reached an island, then—by what means? Some day her uncle would tell her; she understood now why he had sent for Sir Charles, the motive that had prompted him to an ordeal, not at all easy. She was glad; she would never have told herself, and yet she could realize, divine, the poignant pain this lifting of the curtain, this laying bare the past, must cost him. She, too, seemed to feel a part of that pain; why? It was unaccountable.
“Exactly!” said John Steele succinctly. “And never were angels in disguise more foully welcomed!”
“Bless my soul!” Sir Charles’ amazed voice could only repeat. “I remember most of those books well—a brave array; poets, philosophers, lawmakers! Then that accounts for your—! It is like a fairy tale.”
“A fairy tale!” Jocelyn Wray gazed around her; at books, books, on every side. She regarded the door leading out; was half-mindful to go; but heard the man-servant in the hall—and lingered.
“Nothing so pleasant, I assure you,” John Steele answered Sir Charles shortly. Then with few words he painted a picture uncompromisingly; the girl shrank back; perhaps she wished she had not come. This, truly, was no fairy tale, but a wild, savage drama, primeval, the picture of a soul battling with itself on the little lonely isle. She could see the hot, angry sun, feel its scorching rays, hear the hissing of the waves. All the man’s strength for good, for ill, went into the story; the isle became as the pit of Acheron; at first there were no stars overhead. The girl was very pale; she could not have left now; she had never imagined anything like this. She had looked into Greek books, seen pictures of men chained to rocks and struggling against the anger of the gods—but they had appeared the mere fantasies of mythology. The drama of the little coral isle seemed to unfold a new and real vista of life into which she had unconsciously strayed. She hardly breathed; her hand had leaped to her breast; she felt alternately oppressed, thrilled. Her eyes were star-like; but like stars behind mist. Strange! strange!
“When the man woke,” he had said, “he cursed the sea for bringing him as he thought nothing. One desire tormented him. It became intolerable. Day after day he went down to the ocean, but the surf only leaped in derision. For the thousandth time he cursed it, the isle to which he was bound. Weeks passed, until, almost mad through the monotony of the long hours, one day he inadvertently picked up a book. The brute convict could just read. Where, how he ever learned, I forget. He began to pick out the words. After that—”