At last there came a day when they let her walk down to the porch, and she felt the flickering of her strength again. Yet she looked different; her buxom comeliness was spiritualized; her face looked smaller, and her masses of hair, brought low about her ears, heightened her ghostly beauty; her skin was darkly transparent, and her eyes looked out from velvet veils of gloom. For a while she lay in her chair, in happy, dreamy pleasure at sun and bird and tree. Bles did not know yet that she was down; but soon he would come searching, for he came each hour, and she pressed her little hands against her breast to still the beating of her heart and the bursting wonder of her love.
Then suddenly a panic seized her. He must not find her here—not here; there was but one place in all the earth for them to meet, and that was yonder in the Silver Fleece. She rose with a fleeting glance, gathered the shawl round her, then gliding forward, wavering, tremulous, slipped across the road and into the swamp. The dark mystery of the Swamp swept over her; the place was hers. She had been born within its borders; within its borders she had lived and grown, and within its borders she had met her love. On she hurried until, sweeping down to the lagoon and the island, lo! the cotton lay before her! A great white foam was spread upon its brown and green; the whole field was waving and shivering in the sunlight. A low cry of pleasure burst from her lips; she forgot her weakness, and picking her way across the bridge, stood still amid the cotton that nestled about her shoulders, clasping it lovingly in her hands.
He heard that she was down-stairs and ran to meet her with beating heart. The chair was empty; but he knew. There was but one place then for these two souls to meet. Yet it was far, and he feared, and ran with startled eyes.
She stood on the island, ethereal, splendid, like some tall, dark, and gorgeous flower of the storied East. The green and white of the cotton billowed and foamed about her breasts; the red scarf burned upon her neck; the dark brown velvet of her skin pulsed warm and tremulous with the uprushing blood, and in the midnight depths of her great eyes flamed the mighty fires of long-concealed and new-born love.
He darted through the trees and paused, a tall man strongly but slimly made. He threw up his hands in the old way and hallooed; happily she crooned back a low mother-melody, and waited. He came down to her slowly, with fixed, hungry eyes, threading his way amid the Fleece. She did not move, but lifted both her dark hands, white with cotton; and then, as he came, casting it suddenly to the winds, in tears and laughter she swayed and dropped quivering in his arms. And all the world was sunshine and peace.
Harry Cresswell was scowling over his breakfast. It was not because his apartment in the New York hotel was not satisfactory, or his breakfast unpalatable; possibly a rather bewildering night in Broadway was expressing its influence; but he was satisfied that his ill-temper was due to a paragraph in the morning paper: