Now, if Diane proved readily adaptable to the wild life about her, no less did Philip. At night he smoked comfortably by his camp fire, unwound the hullabaloo upon request or lent it to Sho-caw. He rode hard and fearlessly with the warriors, hunted bear and alligator, acquired uncommon facility in the making of sof-ka, the tribal stew, and helped in the tanning of pelts and the building of cypress canoes.
Presently the unmistakable whir of a sewing machine which Sho-caw had bought from a trader, floated one morning from Philip’s wigwam. Keela reported literally that Mr. Poynter had said he was building himself a much-needed tunic, though he had experienced considerable difficulty in the excavation of the sleeves.
IN THE GLADES
“What the devil is the matter with you, Carl?” demanded Dick Sherrill irritably. “If I’d known you were going to moon under a tree and whistle through that infernal flute half the time, I’d never have suggested camping. Are you coming along to-night or not?”
“No. I’ve murdered enough wild turkeys now.”
Sherrill plunged off swampwards with the guides.
Left to himself Carl laid aside his flute and sat very quiet, staring at the cloud-haunted moon which hung above the Glades. He had been drinking and gaming heavily for weeks. Now floundering deeper and deeper into the mire of debt and dissipation, forced to a fevered alertness by distrust of all about him, he found the weird gloom of the Everglades of a piece with the blackness of his mood. For days he had taken wild chances that horrified Sherrill inexpressibly; drinking clear whiskey in the burning white tropical sunlight, tramping off into trackless wilds without a guide, conducting himself, as Sherrill aggrievedly put it, with the general irrationality of a drunken madman.
“The climate or a moccasin will get you yet!” exclaimed Sherrill heatedly. “And it will serve you right. Or you’ll get lost. And to lose your way in this infernal swamp is sure death. They used to enter runaway niggers who came here, on the undertaker’s list. I swear I won’t tell your aunt if you do disappear. That’s a job for a deaf mute. And only yesterday I saw you corner a moccasin and tantalize him until the chances were a hundred to one that he’d get you, and then you blazed your gun down his throat and walked away laughing. Faugh!”
With the perversity of reckless madmen, however, Carl went his foolhardy way unharmed. But his nights were fevered and sleepless and haunted by a face which never left him, and the locked hieroglyphics on Themar’s cuff danced dizzily before his eyes.
Carl presently lighted a lantern, seated himself at the camp table and fell moodily to poring over the tormenting hieroglyphics which had haunted him for days.