“Now you are making fun,” said the professor after a reproachful pause.
“How do you mean—making fun?”
“‘I never saw a purple cow,’” quoted he patiently.
“Oh, I wasn’t!” cried Desire in distress.
Spence begged her pardon. But he did it abstractedly. His eyes were still upon the sky.
“You’ll fall over that root,” prophesied she grimly. “Do look where you are going!”
The professor returned to earth with difficulty. “Sorry!” he murmured. “I doubt if I should allow these moods to bother you. But you told me it might do me good to talk.”
“Not all the time!” said Desire a trifle tartly.
He looked surprised. “But—” he began.
“Oh, I’m so hungry!” said Desire. “Do let’s hurry.”
She hastened ahead down the slope towards the camp. The tents lay in the shadow now but, as they neared them, a flickering light shot up as if in welcome. Desire paused.
“Someone lighting a fire!” she exclaimed in surprise. “Who can it be?”
Against the glow of the new-lit blaze a tall figure lifted itself and a clear whistle cut the silence of the Bay.
Spence’s graceful melancholy dropped from him like a forgotten cloak.
“Bones!” he gasped in an agitated whisper. “Oh, my prophetic soul, my doctor!”
Another figure rose against the glow—a wider figure who called shrilly through a cupped hand.
“My Aunt!” said the professor.
He sat down suddenly behind a boulder.
To understand Aunt Caroline’s arrival at Friendly Bay we should have to understand Aunt Caroline, and that, as Euclid says, is absurd. Therefore we shall have to take the arrival for granted. The only light which she herself ever shed upon the matter was a statement that she “had a feeling.” And feelings, to Aunt Caroline, were the only reliable things in a strictly unreliable world. To follow a feeling across a continent was a trifle to a determined character such as hers. To insist upon Dr. Rogers following it, too, was a matter of course.
“I shall need an escort,” said Aunt Caroline to that astonished physician, “and you will do very nicely. If Benis is off his head, as you suggest, it is my plain duty to look into the matter and your plain duty, as his medical adviser, to accompany me. I am a woman who demands little from her fellow creatures, knowing perfectly well that she won’t get it, but I naturally refuse to undertake the undivided responsibility of a deranged nephew galavanting, by your own orders, Doctor, at the ends of the earth.”
“I did not say he was deranged,” began the doctor helplessly, “and you said you didn’t believe me anyway.”