She saw a foaming thresh that melted into darkness....
Time seemed to have stopped for her. She waited, waited, waited in a world wherein only Death waited with her.... Ban was now limp and lifeless somewhere far downstream, asprawl in the swiftness, rolling a pasty face to the sky like that grisly wayfarer who had hailed them silently in the upper reach of the river, a messenger and prophet of their fate. The rising waters eddied about her feet. The boat stirred uneasily. Mechanically she drew it back from the claim of the flood. A light blow fell upon her cheek and neck.
It was the rope.
Instantly and intensely alive, Io tautened it and felt the jerk of Ban’s signal. With expert hands she made it fast, shipped the oars, twitched the cord thrice, and, venturing as far as she dared into the deluge, pushed with all her force and threw herself over the stern.
The rope twanged and hummed like a gigantic bass-string. Io crawled to the oars, felt the gunwale dip and right again, and, before she could take a stroke, was pressed against the far bank. She clambered out and went to Banneker, guiding herself by the light. His face, in the feeble glow, shone, twisted in agony. He was shaking from head to foot. The other end of the rope which had brought her to safety was knotted fast around his waist.... So he would have followed, as he said!
Through Io’s queer, inconsequent brain flitted a grotesque conjecture: what would the newspapers make of it if she had been found, washed up on the river-bank, and the Manzanita agent of the Atkinson and St. Philip Railroad Company drowned and haltered by a long tether to his boat, near by? A sensational story!...
She went to Banneker, still helplessly shaking, and put her firm, slight hands on his shoulders.
“It’s all right, Ban,” she said soothingly. “We’re out of it.”
“Arrived safe” was the laconic message delivered to Miss Camilla Van Arsdale by Banneker’s substitute when, after a haggard night, she rode over in the morning for news.
Banneker himself returned on the second noon, after much and roundabout wayfaring. He had little to say of the night journey; nothing of the peril escaped. Miss Welland had caught a morning train for the East. She was none the worse for the adventurous trip. Camilla Van Arsdale, noting his rapt expression and his absent, questing eyes, wondered what underlay such reticence.... What had been the manner of their parting?
It had, indeed, been anti-climax. Both had been a little shy, a little furtive. Each, perhaps feeling a mutual strain, wanted the parting over, restlessly desiring the sedative of thought and quiet memory after that stress. The desperate peril from which they had been saved seemed a lesser crisis, leading from a greater and more significant one; leading to—what? For his part Banneker was content to “breathe and wait.” When they should meet again, it would be determined. How and when the encounter might take place, he did not trouble himself to consider. The whole universe was moulded and set for that event. Meantime the glory was about him; he could remember, recall, repeat, interpret....