“Oh!” she gasped. “I did not know ... that it was ... like that!” She stepped back; but as his hands fell she caught and held them tightly. “Please, Hoddy, always tell me when do I things wrong. I never want you to be ashamed of me. I will do anything and everything I can to become your equal.”
“You will never become that, Ruth. But if God is kind to me, someday I may climb up to where you are. I’d like to be alone now. Would you mind?”
She wanted another kiss, but she did not know how to go about it; so she satisfied the hunger by pressing his hands to her thundering heart. She let them fall and sped to the companion, where she stood for a moment, the moonlight giving her a celestial touch. Then she went below.
Spurlock bent his head to the rail. The twists in his brain had suddenly straightened out; he was normal, wholly himself; and he knew now exactly what he had done.
McClintock’s island was twelve miles long and eight miles wide, with the shape of an oyster. The coconut plantation covered the west side. From the white beach the palms ran in serried rows quarter of a mile inland, then began a jungle of bamboo, gum-tree, sandalwood, plantain, huge fern, and choking grasses. The south-east end of the island was hillocky, with volcanic subsoil. There was plenty of sweet water.
The settlement was on the middle west coast. The stores, the drying bins, McClintock’s bungalows and the native huts sprawled around an exquisite landlocked lagoon. One could enter and leave by proa, but nothing with a keel could cross the coral gate. The island had evidently grown round this lagoon, approached it gradually from the volcanic upheaval—an island of coral and lava.
There were groves of cultivated guava, orange, lemon, and pomegranate. The oranges were of the Syrian variety, small but filled with scarlet honey. This fruit was McClintock’s particular pride. He had brought the shrubs down from Syria, and, strangely enough, they had prospered.
“Unless you have eaten a Syrian orange,” he was always saying, “you have only a rudimentary idea of what an orange is.”
The lemons had enormously thick skins and were only mildly acidulous—sweet lemons, they were called; and one found them delicious by dipping the slices in sugar.
But there was an abiding serpent in this Eden. McClintock had brought from Penang three mangosteen evergreens; and, wonders of wonders, they had thrived—as trees. But not once in these ten years had they borne blossom or fruit. The soil was identical, the climate; still, they would not bear the Olympian fruit, with its purple-lined jacket and its snow-white pulp. One might have said that these trees grieved for their native soil; and, grieving, refused to bear.
Of animal life, there was nothing left but monkeys and wild pig, the latter having been domesticated. Of course there were goats. There’s an animal! He thrives in all zones, upon all manner of food. He may not be able to eat tin-cans, but he tries to. The island was snake-free.