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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 342 pages of information about The Ne'er-Do-Well.

“No, no.  One of these houses.  Lord, I’m glad to see you!  We’d begun to feel like real castaways.  I’ve been up all night.”

“What happened?” It was plain that Mr. Cortlandt was deeply agitated.

“Our boatmen evidently got drunk and pulled out.  I tried to get a sail-boat, but there weren’t any, and it was too rough to try crossing with a skiff.”

It took them but a moment to reach the house, and soon the three were back at the water-front.

“What a miserable night!” Mrs. Cortlandt complained, stifling a yawn.  “I thought you’d never come, Stephen!”

“I didn’t get back to the Tivoli until midnight, and then I had trouble in finding a boat to bring me over.”

“I suppose they were alarmed at the hotel?”

“I said nothing about it,” he returned, quietly, at which his wife’s face flushed.  Seizing the first occasion, he exclaimed, in a low voice:  “God!  How unfortunate—­at this time.  Were you mad?”

She looked at him and her eyes burned, but she said nothing.

XIII

CHIQUITA

The next day Kirk borrowed a shot-gun and went hunting.  The events of the night before seemed like a dream.  Could it be that he had really blundered irretrievably?  Was it possible that he had offended his best friend past forgiveness?  He wanted to get away somewhere and collect his thoughts.  For the present, at least, he wished to avoid an interview with Mrs. Cortlandt.

A mile or two beyond the railroad track, to the north and east, began what appeared to be an unbroken wilderness, and thither he turned his steps.  Low, rolling hills lay before him, densely over-grown and leading upward to a mountain range which paralleled the coast until the distant haze swallowed it up.  These mountains, he reflected with a thrill of interest, led on to South America, the land of the Incas, hidden in mystery as the forests close at hand were veiled in faint purple.  The very thought was romantic.  Balboa had strained his eyes along these self-same placid shores; Pizarro, the swineherd, had followed them in search of Dabaiba, that fabled temple of gold, leaving behind him a trail of blood.  It was only yonder, five miles away, that Pedrarias, with the murder of a million victims on his soul, had founded the ancient city which later fell to Morgan’s buccaneers.  Even now, a league back from the ocean, the land seemed as wild as then.  Anthony suspected that there were houses—­perhaps villages—­hidden from his view; but vast stretches of enchanted jungle intervened, which he determined to explore, letting his feet stray whither they would.  If game, of which he had heard great stories, fell to his hand, so much the better.

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