So the wagons filed back again into the little hamlet where Johnny waited, daily astonishing the natives by a series of lies profoundly adventurous and thrilling. Rex’s furious bark of welcome at the sight of his young mistress was no whit less hysterical than Johnny’s instant groan of relief, or the incoherent manner in which he detailed an unforgettable interview with Aunt Agatha, who had appeared one night from heaven knows where and pledged him with tears and sniffs innumerable to telegraph her when from the melancholy fastnesses of the Everglades, Diane or her scalp emerged.
“She wouldn’t go North,” finished Johnny graphically, his apple cheeks very red and his eyes very bright, “she certainly would not—she’d like to see herself—she would indeed!—and this no place for me to wait. Them very words, Miss Diane. And she went and opened your grandfather’s old house in St. Augustine—the old Westfall homestead—and she’s there now waitin’. Likely, Miss Diane, I’d better telegraph now—this very minute—afore she takes it in her head to come again!”
Johnny’s dread of another Aunt Agathean visitation was wholly candid and sincere. He departed on a trot to telegraph, hailing Philip warmly by the way.
Here upon the following morning Diane and Keela parted—for the Indian girl was pledged to return to the lodge of Mic-co.
“Six moons, now,” she explained with shining eyes, “I stay at the lodge of Mic-co, my foster father. When the Falling Leaf Moon of November comes, I shall still be there, living the ways of white men.” She held out her hand. “Aw-lip-ka-shaw!” she said shyly, her black eyes very soft and sorrowful. “It is a prettier parting than the white man’s. By and by, Diane, you will write to the lodge of Mic-co? The Indian lads ride in each moon to the village for Mic-co’s books and papers.” Her great eyes searched Diane’s face a little wistfully. “Sometime,” she added shyly, “when you wish, I will come again. You will not ride away soon to the far cities of the North?”
“No!” said Diane. “No indeed! Not for ever so long. I’m tired. Likely I’ll hunt a quiet spot where there’s a lake and trees and lilies, and camp and rest. You won’t forget me, Keela?”
Keela had a wordless gift of eloquence. Her eyes promised.
Diane smiled and tightened her hold of the slim, brown Indian hand.
“Aw-lip-ka-shaw, Keela!” she said. “Some day I’m coming back and take you home with me.”
The Indian girl drove reluctantly away; presently her canvas wagon was but a dim gray silhouette upon the horizon.
THE RIVAL CAMPERS
Northward by lazy canal and shadowy hummock, northward by a river freckled with sand bars, Diane came in time to a quiet lake where purple martins winged ceaselessly over a tangled float of lilies—where now and then an otter swam and dipped with a noiseless ripple of water—where ground doves fluttered fearlessly about the camp as Johnny pitched the tents at noonday.