“What you may think, Diane,” he said unsteadily, “I do not know. But part of the answer to every question is my love for you. No—you must listen! We have crossed swords and held a merry war, but through it all ran the strong thread of friendship. We must not break it now. Do you know what I thought that day on the lake when I saw you coming through the trees? I said, I have found her! God willing, here is the perfect mate with whom I must go through life, hand in hand, if I am to live fully and die at the last having drained the cup of life to the bottom. If, knowing this, you can not trust me and will tell me so—”
But Ronador’s eloquent voice rang again in the girl’s ears. Her glance met Philip’s inexorably. And there was something in her eyes that hurt him cruelly. For an instant his face flamed scarlet, then it grew white and hard and very grim.
“Go!” said Diane and buried her face in her hands.
With no final word of extenuation Philip went.
Diane stumbled hurriedly through the trees to Keela’s camp and touched the Indian girl frantically upon the shoulder.
“Keela,” she cried desperately, “wake! wake! It’s sunrise. Let us go somewhere—anywhere—and leave this treacherous world of civilization behind us. I—I am tired of it all.”
“Very well,” she said sedately a little later. “You and I, Diane, we will journey to my home in the Glades. There—as it was a century back—so it is now.”
THE WIND OF THE OKEECHOBEE
Southward along the beautiful Kissimmee river, where the fabled young grandee of Spain kissed the plaintive Seminole maid, rumbled the great green van and the camp of Keela. Southward, unremittingly protective, followed the silent music-machine. For though the dear folly and humor were things of the past, like Arcadia, a true knight may surely see that his willful lady comes to no harm though he must worship from afar. And at length they came to the final fringe of civilization edging the Everglades where, despite repeated protests, Johnny must stay behind with the cumbrous van.
And now the Southern woods were gloriously a-riot with blossoms; with dogwood and magnolia, with wild tropical blossoms of orange and scarlet; and the moon hung wild and beautiful above the Everglades.
“Little Spring Moon!” said Keela softly in Seminole.
Diane thought suddenly of a late moon above a marsh.
“He—he can not follow me into those terrible wilds ahead,” she thought with sudden bitterness. “I shall be free at last from his dreadful spying.”
At sunrise one morning they bade Johnny adieu and struck off boldly with the Indian wagon into the melancholy world of the Everglades.
“It is better,” said Keela gravely, “if you wear the Seminole clothes you wore at Sherrill’s. They are in the wagon. My people love not the white man.”