He caught the revolver from her hand and fired three slow shots. The woman turned. Snatching off his hat, he signalled violently with it. The woman rose and, as it seemed to Polly Brewster, moved in humble submissiveness back to the shelter.
White consternation was stamped on the Unspeakable Perk’s face as he handed the revolver to its owner.
“Do you need me?” he asked quickly. “If not, I must go back at once.”
“I do not need you,” said the girl, in level tones. “You lied to me.”
His expression changed. She read in it the desperation of guilt.
“I can explain,” he said hurriedly, “but not now. There isn’t time. Wait here. I’ll be back. I’ll be back the instant I can get away.”
As he spoke, he was halfway down the rock, headed for the lower trail. The bushes closed behind him.
Painfully Polly Brewster made her way down the treacherous footing of the cliff path to her place on the rock. From her bag she drew one of her cards, wrote slowly and carefully a few words, found a dry stick, set it between two rocks, and pinned her message to it. Then she ran, as helpless humans run from the scourge of their own hearts.
Half an hour later the hermit, sweat-covered and breathless, returned to the rock. For a moment he gazed about, bewildered by the silence. The white card caught his eye. He read its angular scrawl.
“I wish never to see you again. Never! Never! Never!”
A sulphur-yellow inquisitor, of a more insinuating manner than the former participant in their conversation, who had been examining the message on his own account, flew to the top of the cliff.
“Qu’est-ce qu’elle dit? Qu’est-ce qu’elle dit?” he demanded.
For the first time in his adult life the beetle man threw a stone at a bird.
Luncheon on the day following the kiskadee bird’s narrow squeak for his life was a dreary affair for Mr. Fitzhugh Carroll. Business had called Mr. Brewster away. This deprivation the Southerner would have borne with equanimity. But Miss Brewster had also absented herself, which was rather too much for the devoted, but apprehensive, lover. Thus, ample time was given him to consider how ill his suit was prospering. The longer he stayed, the less he saw of Miss Polly. That she was kinder and more gentle, less given to teasing him than of yore, was poor compensation. He was shrewd enough to draw no good augury from that. Something had altered her, and he was divided between suspicion of the last week’s mail, the arrival of which had been about contemporaneous with her change of spirit, and some local cause. Was a letter from Smith, the millionaire, or Bobby, the friend of her childhood, responsible? Or was the cause nearer at hand?