“Ah, yes; that coat. Probably a sick man’s whim. Certainly, there wasn’t a thing in the pockets. But be very careful not to let him know. If he awoke and caught you at it, there might be a set-back. By the way, what did he say when he was out of his head?”
“The word ‘Fool.’ He muttered it continually. There was another phrase which sounded something like ‘Gin in a blue-serge coat’. I wonder what he meant by that?”
“The Lord knows!”
The patient was restless during the first watch of the night. He stirred continually, thrusting his legs about and flinging his arms above his head. Gently each time Ruth drew down the arms. There was a recurrence of fever, but nothing alarming. Once she heard him mutter, and she leaned down.
“Ali Baba, in a blue-serge coat!... God-forsaken fool!”
One day Ruth caught the patient’s eyes following her about; but there was no question in the gaze, no interest; so she pretended not to notice.
“Where am I?” asked Spurlock.
“How long have I been in bed?”
“My coat, please.”
“It is folded under your pillow.”
“Did I ask for it?”
“Yes. But perhaps you don’t know; there was nothing in the pockets. You were probably robbed in Hong-Kong.”
“Nothing in the pockets.”
“You see, we didn’t know but you might die; and so we had to search your belongings for the address of your people.”
“I have no people—anybody who would care.”
She kindled with sympathy. He was all alone, too. Nobody who cared.
Ruth was inflammable; she would always be flaring up swiftly, in pity, in tenderness, in anger; she would always be answering impulses, without seeking to weigh or to analyse them. She was emerging from the primordial as Spurlock was declining toward it. She was on the rim of civilization, entering, as Spurlock was on the rim, preparing to make his exit. Two souls in travail; one inspired by fresh hopes, the other, by fresh despairs. Both of them would be committing novel and unforgettable acts.
“How long shall I be here?” he asked.
“That depends upon you. Not very long, if you want to get well.”
“Are you a nurse?”
“Yes. Don’t ask any more questions. Wait a little; rest.”
There was a pause. Ruth flashed in and out of the sunshine; and he took note of the radiant nimbus above her head each time the sunshine touched her hair.
“Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”
“The first day you came. Don’t you remember? There were four of us, and we went touring in the city.”
“As in a dream.” There was another pause. “Was I out of my head?”
“What did I say?”
“Only one word,” she said, offering her first white lie.