It was the old fashioned desk in the corner, however, upon which Diane’s thoughtful gaze rested as she ate her supper. The thought of it had primarily inspired her coming. Surely the old desk, locked this many a year, might hold some breath of the tragedy that had ghostlike trailed her footsteps. Ann Westfall had kept the key until her death. She had bravely put her brother’s house in order at his tragic death and transferred all the papers of value. The key hung now in a sliding panel beneath the ledge of the desk. The spirit which had kept the old room unchanged, even to the faded books of Orientalism and the old pictures strangely mellowed, had led to the hiding of the key away from vandal fingers.
Once Diane herself had unlocked the desk and peered timidly within. She remembered now the faultless order of the few dry, uninteresting papers, an ink well made of the skull of a tiny monkey, a bamboo pen, a half-finished manuscript of wild adventure in some out-of-the-world spot in the South Pacific. There had been nothing more. But the desk was one of intricate drawers and panels.
With a sudden distaste for the food before her, Diane pushed the little table back, lighted a small lamp and crossed to her father’s desk. She unlocked it with nervous fingers. The monkey skull, the bamboo pen, the few irrelevant papers were all as she remembered them.
Diane glanced hurriedly over the scribbled manuscript of adventure with a wild, choking sensation in her throat. There was no mention of the Indian wife. Hurriedly she opened each tiny drawer and panel. They were for the most part empty. Only in one, a small drawer within a drawer, lay a faded packet of letters directed to Ann Westfall in the hand that had penned the manuscript—Norman Westfall’s.
EXTRACTS FROM THE LETTERS OF NORMAN WESTFALL
Reluctantly, Diane opened the letters of long ago and read them:
Grant and I have had wild sport killing alligators with the Seminoles. A wild, dark, unexplored country, Ann, these Florida Everglades! How I wish you were with us! Tyson had an Indian guide, evoked somewhere from the wild by smoke signals, waiting for us. We traversed miles and miles of savage, uninhabitable marsh before at last we came to the isolated Indian camp. Small wonder the Seminole is still unconquered. It is a world here for wild men. I’ll write as I feel inclined and bunch the letters when there is an Indian going out to the fringe of civilization.
We hunt the ’gators by night in cypress canoes. Grant sat in the bow of our boat to-night with a bull’s-eye lantern in his cap. The fan of it over the silent, black water, the eyes of the ’gators blazing in the dark, these cool, bronze, turbaned devils with axes to sever the spinal cord and rifles to shatter the skull—it’s a wild and thrilling scene.