There were all varieties of bird-life known in these latitudes, from the bird of paradise down to the tiny scarlet-beaked love-birds. There were always parrots and parrakeets screaming in the fruit groves.
The bungalows and stores were built of heavy bamboo and gum-wood; sprawly, one-storied affairs; for the typhoon was no stranger in these waters. Deep verandas ran around the bungalows, with bamboo drops which were always down in the daytime, fending off the treacherous sunshine. White men never went abroad without helmets. The air might be cool, but half an hour without head-gear was an invitation to sunstroke.
Into this new world, vivid with colour, came Spurlock, receptively. For a few days he was able to relegate his conscience to the background. There was so much to see, so much to do, that he became what he had once been normally, a lovable boy.
McClintock was amused. He began really to like Spurlock, despite the shadow of the boy’s past, despite his inexplicable attitude toward this glorious girl. To be sure, he was attentive, respectful; but in his conduct there was none of that shameless camaraderie of a man who loved his woman and didn’t care a hang if all the world knew it. If the boy did not love the girl, why the devil had he dragged her into this marriage?
Spurlock was a bit shaky bodily, but his brain was functioning clearly; and, it might be added, swiftly—as the brain always acts when confronted by a perplexing riddle. No matter how swiftly he pursued this riddle, he could not bring it to a halt. Why had Ruth married him? A penniless outcast, for she must have known he was that. Why had she married him, off-hand, like that? She did not love him, or he knew nothing of love signs. Had she too been flying from something and had accepted this method of escape? But what frying-pan could be equal to this fire?
All this led him back to the original circle. He saw the colossal selfishness of his act; but he could not beg off on the plea of abnormality. He had been ill; no matter about that: he recollected every thought that had led up to it and every act that had consummated the deed.
To make Ruth pay for it! He wanted to get away, into some immense echoless tract where he could give vent to this wild laughter which tore at his vitals. To make Ruth pay for the whole shot! To wash away his sin by crucifying her: that was precisely what he had set about. And God had let him do it! He was—and now he perfectly understood that he was—treading the queerest labyrinth a man had ever entered.
Why had he kissed her? What had led him into that? Neither love nor passion—utter blankness so far as reducing the act to terms. He had kissed his wife on the mouth ... and had been horrified! There was real madness somewhere along this road.
He was unaware that his illness had opened the way to the inherent conscience and that the acquired had been temporarily blanketed, or that there was any ancient fanaticalism in his blood. He saw what he had done only as it related to Ruth. He would have to go on; he would be forced to enact all the obligations he had imposed upon himself.