UNDER THE LIVE OAKS
“See!” said Keela shyly. “It is the camp of my people.”
It lay ahead, a fire-blot in the darkling swamp, a primitive mirage of primitive folk, of palmetto wigwams and log-wheel fires among the live oaks of a lonely island.
Keela’s wagon presently forded a shallow creek and crossed an island plain. Thence it came by a winding road to the village, where, with the halting of the wagon, the travelers became the hub of a vast and friendly wheel of excitement.
Hospitable hands were already leading Keela’s horses away when Mr. Poynter rode sedately into camp and, descending to terra firma in the light of the nearest camp fire, guilefully proceeded to assure himself of a welcome and immediate attention by spectacular means; he simply unwound the hullabaloo.
Cymbals clashed, the drum cannonaded fearfully and to the sprightly measures of “The Glowworm,” the Indians who had collected about Keela’s wagon to stare at Diane, decamped in a body to the side of Mr. Poynter, who smiled and proceeded in pantomime to make friends with all about him.
This, by virtue of the entertaining music-machine, was not difficult. Having exhausted the repertoire of the hullabaloo, he initiated the turbaned warriors into the mystery of unwinding tunes, thereby cementing the friendship forever.
The general din and excitement grew fearful. Presently the Thunder-Man was warmly assigned a wigwam, made of palmetto and the skins of wild animals above a split-log floor, to which he retired at the heels of Sho-caw, a copper-colored young warrior who had learned a little English from the traders.
Already rumor was rife among the staring tribe that Diane had strayed from the legendary clan of beautiful Indians in the O-kee-fee-ne-kee wilderness. The assignment of her wigwam, therefore, had been made with marked respect.
Here, as the Indian camp settled into quiet and the fires died lower, as the wild night sounds of the Glades awoke in the marsh outside, Diane lay still and wakeful and a little frightened. Wilderness and Seminole were still primeval. The world seemed very far away. The thought of the music-machine brought with it somehow a feeling of security.
With the broad white daylight, courage returned. From her wigwam Diane watched the silent village, wrapped in fog, wake to the busy life of the Glades. Somber-eyed little Indian lads carried water and gathered wood, fires brightened, there was a pleasant smell of pine in the morning air. Later, by Keela’s fire, she furtively watched Philip ride forth with a band of hunters.
So at last in the heart of the wildwood, among primitive folk whose customs had not varied for a century, Diane drank deep of the wild, free, open life her gypsy heart had craved. There were times when a great peace dwarfed the memory of the moon above the marsh; there were times when the thought of Ronador and Philip sent her riding wildly across the plains with Keela; there were still other times when a nameless disquiet welled up within her, some furtive distrust of the gypsy wildness of her blood. But in the main the days were quiet and peaceful.