“I am going out for a little while,” she said. She wanted to be alone. “Otherwise you will not get your morning’s sleep.”
He did not reply. His curiosity, his literary instincts, had been submerged by the recurring thought of the fool he had made of himself. He heard the door close; and in a little while he fell into a doze; and there came a dream filled with broken pictures, each one of which the girl dominated. He saw her, dripping with rosy pearls, rise out of the lagoon in the dawn light: he saw her flashing to and fro among the coco palms in the moonshine: he saw her breasting the hurricane, her body as full of grace and beauty as the Winged Victory of the Louvre. The queer phase of the dream was this, she was at no time a woman; she was symbolical of something, and he followed to learn what this something was. There was a lapse of time, an interval of blackness; then he found his hand in hers and she was leading him at a run up the side of the mountain.
His heart beat wildly and he was afraid lest the strain be too much; but the girl shook her head and smiled and pointed to the top of the mountain. All at once they came to the top, the faded blue sky overhead, and whichever way he looked, the horizon, the great rocking circle which hemmed them in. She pointed hither and yon, smiled and shook her head. Then he understood. Nowhere could he see that reaching, menacing Hand. So long as she stood beside him, he was safe. That was what she was trying to make him understand.
He awoke, strangely content. As it happens sometimes, the idea stepped down from the dream into the reality; and he saw it more clearly now than he had seen it in the dream. It filled his thoughts for the rest of the day, and became an obsession. How to hold her, how to keep her at his side; this was the problem with which he struggled.
When she came in after dinner that night, Ruth was no longer an interesting phenomenon, something figuratively to tear apart and investigate: she was talismanic. So long as she stood beside him, the Hand would not prevail.
Ah cum began to worry. Each morning his inquiry was properly answered: the patient was steadily improving, but none could say when he would be strong enough to proceed upon his journey. The tourist season would soon be at ebb, and it would be late in September before the tide returned. So, then, fifty gold was considerable; it would carry Ah Cum across four comparatively idle months. And because of this hanging gold Ah Cum left many doors open to doubt.
Perhaps the doctor, the manager and the girl were in collusion: perhaps they had heard indirectly of the visit paid by Mr. O’Higgins, the American detective, and were waiting against the hour when they could assist the young man in a sudden dash for liberty. Why not? Were not his own sentiments inclined in favour of the patient? But fifty gold was fifty gold.