Unleashed by drug and drink and ceaseless brooding, nerve centers had rebelled, an infernal blood pressure born of mental agony had inspired the droning, his will had slipped its moorings. That his body was not ill, he now knew for the first time. Fever, nausea, pain and droning, they had all leaped at the infernal manipulation of his disordered mind with sickening intensity. Now with a terrible effort he summoned each tattered remnant of the splendid mental strength he had indifferently abused, disciplined his fleeing faculty of concentration and sat very quiet.
Philip trusted him. He must not forget! Keela’s face had made its delicate appeal to his finer side until that appeal had been hushed by the call of his blood. And there were times when Diane had been kind. He must not forget. Like the stirring of a faint shadow, he felt the first dawning sense of self-mastery he had known for days.
The horrible Circe with infamous eyes and scarlet robes no longer lured . . . the terrible sirocco of unbridled passion which had dominated his body almost to destruction was burning itself out . . . the droning in his head was very faint. He must not forget Philip, truest and best of friends.
Carl lay down again beside the fire with a great sigh. He was very tired—very sleepy.
He slept soundly until morning.
When he awoke it was broad daylight. There was a curious sense of utter rest in his veins and meeting Keela’s solicitous glance, he said, a little diffidently, that he was better and that he thought they might go on. After a breakfast of quail and wild cassava they rode on, Keela on Themar’s horse. Her own obediently followed.
An hour later they came to an aquatic jungle haunted by noisome reptiles. Here fallen trees and a matted underbrush of poisonous vines lay submerged in dank black water. Cypress gloomed in forbidding shadow above the stagnant water; the swamp itself was rife with horrible quacks and croaks and off somewhere the distant bellow of an alligator.
So dense and dark this terrible haunt of snake and bird and brilliant lizard that Carl shuddered, but Keela, dismounting, tethered her horses to the nearest tree and struck off boldly across a narrow trail of dry land above the level of the water. Carl followed. Presently the matted jungle thinned and they came to a rude foot-bridge made of twisted roots. It led to the first of a series of fertile islands which threaded the terrible swamp with a riot of color. Here royal poinciana flared gorgeously beside the orange-colored blossoms of wild cassava, and hordes of birds flamed by on brilliant wings.
Through rude avenues of palm and pine and cypress, through groves of wild orange and banana fringed with mulberry and persimmon trees, over rustic bridges which led from island to island, they came at last to a larger hummock and the wild, vine-covered log lodge of Mic-co, the Indians’ white friend.