This tender caress produced a revulsion in his heart and he shuddered. Pepeeta observed it. “What makes you tremble so?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he answered, regaining his self-control. “It is only that I have been very angry, and I cannot recover from it at once.”
“No wonder,” she said, taking his hand again and kissing it.
In the distance they saw the steeple of a church. “Look,” said David, “there must be a village near. We will top and rest here to-night, and in the morning we will push on toward New Orleans and forget the past.”
They rode in silence. Pepeeta’s thoughts were full of gladness; and David’s full of agony—they rushed tumultuously back and forth through his mind like contrary winds through a forest.
“Was it not enough that I should be an Adam, and fall? Must I also become a Cain and go forth with the brand of a murderer on my forehead?” he kept saying to himself.
His life seemed destined to reproduce that whole series of archetypal experiences, whose records make the Hebrew Scriptures the inspired mirror of human life.
A FUGITIVE AND A VAGABOND
“That is the bitterest
of all,—to wear the yoke of our own
The morning after the fight David and Pepeeta hurried on to Louisville, and from there took a steamer to New Orleans.
However hard it is to find stepping-stones when one wishes to rise, those by which he can descend have been skilfully planted at every stage of life’s journey, and Satanic ingenuity could not have devised an instrument better fitted to complete the destruction of the young mystic’s moral nature than a Mississippi steamboat, such as he found lying at the wharf. He had been subjected to the fascination of love, now he was to be tried by that of money. It is by a series of such consecutive assaults upon every avenue of approach to the soul that it is at last reduced to ruin.
Pepeeta was radiant with joy as they embarked. “How happy I am!” she cried. “It seems as if I had left my old life and the old world behind me!”
“And I am happy to see you glad,” answered the wretched youth, whose heart lay in his bosom like lead and whose conscience was writhing with a torture of whose like he had never even dreamed. They embarked unknown and unobserved; but as soon as the first confusion had passed, their singular beauty and unusual appearance made them the cynosure of every eye.
“Who is that splendid fellow?” women asked each other, as David passed with Pepeeta on his arm, while under their breaths men swore that his companion was the loveliest woman who had ever set foot on a Mississippi steamer.
The pilot forgot to turn his wheel and the stevedores to put out the gang plank when she stood looking at them. Love, and her freedom, had transfigured her. She was radiant with health, happiness and hope, and entered into the novelty and excitement of this floating world with the ardor of a child.