“I think the natives saw you coming out of the lagoon, one dawn. For you say that you swim. Wonderful! The water, dripping from you, must have looked like pearls. Do you know what? You’re some sea goddess and you’re only fooling us.”
He opened his eyes, to behold hers large with wonder.
“And you saw all that in your mind?”
“It wasn’t difficult. You yourself supplied the details. All I had to do was to piece them together.”
“But I never told you how the natives fished.”
“Perhaps I read of it somewhere.”
“Still, you forgot something.”
“What did I forget?”
“The breathless days and the faded, pitiless sky. Nothing to do; nothing for the hands, the mind, the heart. To wait for hours and hours for the night! The sea empty for days! You forgot the monotony, the endless monotony, that bends you and breaks you and crushes you—you forgot that!”
Her voice had steadily risen until it was charged with passionate anger. It was his turn to express astonishment. Fire; she was full of it. Pearls in the dawn light, flashing and burning!
“You don’t like your island?”
“I hate it!... But, there!”—weariness edging in. “I am sorry. I shouldn’t talk like that. I’m a poor nurse.”
“You are the most wonderful human being I ever saw!” And he meant it.
She trembled; but she did not know why. “You mustn’t talk any more; the excitement isn’t good for you.”
Drama. To get behind that impenetrable curtain, to learn why she hated her island. Never had he been so intrigued. Why, there was drama in the very dress she wore! There was drama in the unusual beauty of her, hidden away all these years on a forgotten isle!
“You’ve been lonely, too.”
“You mustn’t talk.”
He ignored the command. “To be lonely! What is physical torture, if someone who loves you is nigh? But to be alone ... as I am!... yes, and as you are! Oh, you haven’t told me, but I can see with half an eye. With nobody who cares ... the both of us!”
He was real in this moment. She was given a glimpse of his soul. She wanted to take him in her arms and hush him, but she sat perfectly still. Then came the shock of the knowledge that soon he would be going upon his way, that there would be no one to depend upon her; and all the old loneliness came smothering down upon her again. She could not analyse what was stirring in her: the thought of losing the doll, the dog, and the cat. There was the world besides, looming darker and larger.
“What would you like most in this world?” he asked. Once more he was the searcher.
“Red apples and snow!” she sent back at him, her face suddenly transfixed by some inner glory.
“Red apples and snow!” he repeated. He returned figuratively to his bed—the bed he had made for himself and in which he must for ever lie. Red apples and snow! How often had these two things entered his thoughts since his wanderings began? Red apples and snow!—and never again to behold them!