“Suppose he doesn’t love me, after all!”
THE YELLOW FLAG
The departing whistle of the yacht Polly struck sharply to the heart of a desolate figure seated on a bench in the blazing, dusty, public square of Puerto del Norte, waiting out his first day of pain. A kiskadee bird, the only other creature foolish enough to risk the hot bleakness of the plaza at that hour, flitted into a dust-coated palm, inspected him, put a tentative query or two, decided that he was of no possible interest, and left the Unspeakable Perk to his own cogitations.
So deep in wretchedness were the cogitations that he did not hear the light, hesitant footstep. But he felt in every vein and fiber the appealing touch on his shoulder.
“Good God! What are you doing here?” he cried, leaping to his feet. There was no awkwardness or shyness in his speech now; only wonder-stricken joy.
“I came back to see you.”
“But the yacht! Your ship!”
“She has left.”
“No! She mustn’t! Not without you! You can’t stay here. It’s too dangerous.”
“I must. They think I’m aboard. I left a note for papa. He won’t get it until they’re at sea. And they can’t come back for me, can they?”
“No—yes—they must! I must see Stark and Wisner at once.”
“To send me away?”
“Without forgiving me?”
“Forgiving? There’s no question of that between you and me.”
“There is. Fitzhugh told me everything—all about the poor dead woman.”
“Ah, he shouldn’t have done that.”
“He should!” She stamped a little willful foot. “What else could he do?”
“Why, yes,” he agreed thoughtfully. “I suppose that’s so. After all, a man can’t bear the names that Carroll does and go wrong on the big inner things. He has met his test, and stood it. For he cares very deeply for you.”
“Poor Fitz!” she sighed.
“But here we’re wasting time!” he cried in a panic. “Where can I leave you?”
“Do you want to leave me?”
“Want to!” he groaned. “Can’t you understand that I’ve got to get you to the yacht!”
“Oh, beetle man, beetle man, don’t you want me?” she cried dolorously. “Didn’t you mean your note?”
“Mean it? I meant it as I’ve never meant anything in the world. But you—what do you mean? Do you mean that you’ll—you’ll let the yacht go without you—and—and—and stay here, and m-m-marry me?”
“If you should ask me,” she said, half-laughing, half-crying, “what else could I do? I’m alone and deserted. And there’s only you in the world.”
“Miss P-P-Polly,” he began, “I—I can’t believe—”
“It’s true!” she cried, and held out two yearning hands to him. “And if you stammer and stutter and—and—and act like the Unspeakable Perk now, I’ll—I’ll howl!”