Out of the dark unruffled sapphire of the lagoon came vertical flashes of burning silver, singly and in groups.
“What in the world is it?” he asked.
“Flying fish. Something is feeding upon them. I thought you might like to see. You might be able to use the picture some day.”
“I don’t know.” He bent his head to his knees. “Something’s wrong. I can’t invent; the thing won’t come.”
“Shall I tell you a real story?”
“Something you have seen?”
“Tell it. Perhaps what I need is something to bite in.”
So she told him the adventure of the two beachcombers in the typhoon, and how they became regenerated by their magnificent courage.
“That’s tremendous!” he cried. “Lord, if I can only remember to write it exactly as you told it!” He jumped to his feet. “I’ll tackle it to-night!”
“But it’s after ten!”
“What’s that got to do with it? ... The roofs of the native huts scattering in the wind! ... the absolute agony of the twisting palms!.... and those two beggars laughing as they breasted death! Girl, you’ve gone and done it!”
He leaned down and caught her by the hand, and then raced with her to the bungalow.
Five hours later she tiptoed down the hall and paused at the threshold of what they now called his study. There were no doors in the bungalow; instead, there were curtains of strung bead and bamboo, always tinkling mysteriously. His pipe hung dead in his teeth, but the smoke was dense about him. His hand flew across the paper. As soon as he finished a sheet, he tossed it aside and began another. Occasionally he would lean back and stare at the window which gave upon the sea. But she could tell by the dullness of his eyes that he saw only some inner vision.
Unobserved, she knelt and kissed the threshold: for she knew what kisses were now. The curtain tinkled as her head brushed it, but he neither saw nor heard.
Every morning at dawn it was Spurlock’s custom to take a plunge in the lagoon. Ruth took hers in the sea, but was careful never to go beyond her depth because of the sharks. She always managed to get back to the bungalow before he did.
As she came in this morning she saw that the lamp was still burning in the study; so she stopped at the door. Spurlock lay with his head on his arms, asleep. The lamp was spreading soot over everything and the reek of kerosene was stronger than usual. She ran to the lamp and extinguished it. Spurlock slept on. It was still too dark for reading, but she could see well enough to note the number of the last page—fifty-six.
Ruth wore a printed cotton kimono. She tied the obi clumsily about her waist, then gently laid her hand on the bowed head. He did not move. Mischief bubbled up in her. She set her fingers in the hair and tugged, drawing him to a sitting posture and stooping so that her eyes would be on the level with his when he awoke.