For a moment none of them stirred; then slowly Enschede turned away. To Spurlock’s observing eye, Enschede’s wrinkles multiplied and the folds in his clothes. The young man’s imagination suddenly pictured the man as a rock, loosed from its ancient bed, crumbling as it fell. But why did he turn away?
“Wait!” Ruth called to her father.
The recollection of all her unhappiness, the loveless years, the unending loneliness, the injustice of it, rolled up to her lips in verbal lava. It is not well that a daughter should talk to her father as Ruth talked to hers that day.
The father, granite; the daughter, fire: Spurlock saw the one and heard the other, his amazement indescribable. Never before had he seen a man like Enschede nor heard a voice like Ruth’s. But as the mystery which surrounded Ruth fell away that which enveloped her father thickened.
“I used to cry myself to sleep, Hoddy, I was so forlorn and lonely. He heard me; but he never came in to ask what was the matter. For fifteen years!—so long as I can remember! All I wanted was a little love, a caress now and then. But I waited in vain. So I ran away, blindly, knowing nothing of the world outside. Youth! You denied me even that,” said Ruth, her glance now flashing to her father. “Spring!—I never knew any. I dared not sing, I dared not laugh, except when you went away. What little happiness I had I was forced to steal. I am glad you found me. I am out of your life forever, never having been in it. Did you break my mother’s heart as you tried to break mine? I am no longer accountable to you for anything. Wanton! Had I been one, even God would have forgiven me, understanding. Some day I may forgive you; but not now. No, no! Not now!”
Ruth turned abruptly and walked toward the bungalow, mounted the veranda steps, and vanished within. Without a word, without a sign, Enschede started toward the beach, where his proa waited.
For a time Spurlock did not move. This incredible scene robbed him of the sense of locomotion. But his glance roved, to the door through which Ruth had gone, to Enschede’s drooping back. Unexpectedly he found himself speeding toward the father.
“Enschede!” he called.
Enschede halted. “Well?” he said, as Spurlock reached his side.
“Are you a human being, to leave her thus?”
“It is better so. You heard her. What she said is true.”
“But why? In the name of God, why? Your flesh and blood! Have you never loved anything?”
“Are you indeed my daughter’s lawful husband?” Enschede countered.
“I am. You will find the proof in McClintock’s safe. You called her a wanton!”
“Because I had every reason to believe she was one. There was every indication that she fled the island in company with a dissolute rogue.” Still the voice was without emotion; calm, colourless.
Fired with wrath, Spurlock recounted the Canton episode. “She travelled alone; and she is the purest woman God ever permitted to inhabit the earth. What!—you know so little of that child? She ran away from you. Somebody tricked you back yonder—baited you for spite. She ran away from you; and now I can easily understand why. What sort of a human being are you, anyhow?”