Previous to his illness, Spurlock’s mind had been tortured by an appalling worry, so that now, in the process of convalescence, it might be compared to a pool which had been violently stirred: there were indications of subsidence, but there were still strange forms swirling on the surface—whims and fancies which in normal times would never have risen above sub-consciousness.
Little by little the pool cleared, the whims vanished: so that both Ruth and the doctor, by the middle of the third week, began to accept Spurlock’s actions as normal, whereas there was still a mote or two which declined to settle, still a kink in the gray matter that refused to straighten out.
Spurlock began to watch for Ruth’s coming in the morning; first, with negligent interest, then with positive eagerness. His literary instincts were reviving. Ruth was something to study for future copy; she was almost unbelievable. She was not a reversion to type, which intimates the primordial; she suggested rather the incarnation of some goddess of the South Seas. He was not able to recognize, as the doctor did, that she was only a natural woman.
His attitude toward her was purely intellectual, free of any sentimentality, utterly selfish. Ruth was not a woman; she was a phenomenon. So, adroitly and patiently, he pulled Ruth apart; that is, he plucked forth a little secret here, another there, until he had quite a substantial array. What he did not know was this: Ruth surrendered these little secrets because the doctor had warned her that the patient must be amused and interested.
From time to time, however, he was baffled. The real tragedy—which he sensed and toward which he was always reaching—eluded all his verbal skill. It was not a cambric curtain Ruth had drawn across that part of her life: it was of iron. Ruth could tell the doctor; she could bare many of her innermost thoughts to that kindly man; but there was an inexplicable reserve before this young man whom she still endued with the melancholy charm of Sydney Carton. It was not due to shyness: it was the inherent instinct of the Woman, a protective fear that she must retain some elements of mystery in order to hold the interest of the male.
When she told him that the natives called her The Dawn Pearl, his delight was unbounded. He addressed her by that title, and something in the tone disturbed her. A sophisticated woman would have translated the tone as a caress. And yet to Spurlock it was only the title of a story he would some day write. He was caressing an idea.
The point is, Spurlock was coming along: queerly, by his own imagination. The true creative mind is always returning to battle; defeats are only temporary set-backs. Spurlock knew that somewhere along the way he would write a story worth while. Already he was dramatizing Ruth, involving her, now in some pearl thieving adventure, now in some impossible tale of a white goddess. But somehow he could not bring any of these affairs to an orderly end. Presently he became filled with astonishment over the singular fact that Ruth was eluding him in fancy as well as in reality.