But such is the perversity of the human that frequently thereafter he purposely crooked the part in his hair, to give her the excuse to fetch the comb. Not that he deliberately courted danger; it was rather the searcher, seeking analysis, the why and wherefore of this or that invading emotion.
He was always tenderly courteous; he answered her ordinary questions readily and her extraordinary ones patiently; he always rose when she entered or left the room. This formality irked her: she wanted to play a little, romp. The moment she entered the room and he rose, she felt that she was immediately consigned to the circle of strangers; and it emptied her heart of its joy and filled it with diffidence. There was a wall; she was always encountering it; the one time she was able to break through this wall was when the part in his hair was crooked.
She began to exercise those lures which were bred in her bone—the bones of all women. She required no instructions from books; her wit and beauty were her own. What lends a tragic mockery to all these tender traps of hers was that she was within lawful bounds. This man was her husband in the eyes of both God and man.
But Spurlock was ever on guard, even when she fussed over his hair. His analytical bent saved him many times, though he was not sensitive to this. The fire—if there was any in him—never made headway against this insistant demand to know the significance of these manifold inward agitations.
Thus, more and more Ruth turned to the mongrel dog who bore the name of Rollo unflinchingly—the dog that adored her openly, shamelessly, who now without a whimper took his diurnal tubbing. Upon this grateful animal she lavished that affection which was subtly repelled by its lawful object.
Spurlock was by nature orderly, despite his literary activities. Before the first month was gone, McClintock admitted that the boy was a find. Accounts were now always where he could put his hand on them. The cheating of the boys in the stores ceased. If there were any pearls, none came into the light. Gradually McClintock shifted the burden to Spurlock’s shoulders and retired among his books and music rolls.
Twice Spurlock went to Copeley’s—twenty miles to the northwest—for ice and mail. It was a port of call, since fortnightly a British mail-boat dropped her mudhook in the bay. All sorts of battered tramps, junks and riff-raff of the seas trailed in and out. Spurlock was tremendously interested in these derelicts, and got a good deal of information regarding them, which he stored away for future use. There were electric and ice plants, and a great store in which one could buy anything from jewsharps to gas-engines. White men and natives dealt conveniently at Copeley’s. It saved long voyages and long waits; and the buyers rarely grumbled because the prices were stiff. There were white men with families, a fine mission-house, and a club-house for cards and billiards.