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by HELEN ELLSWORTH WRIGHT
Illustrated by StanleyClisby Arthur
of home, and again there came the
A long, ing for her husband. When, lithe body swung itself from the atthree months before he had been tops to the veranda. It glided into detailed by the “L & D," a London the bedroom and coiled and uncoiled syndicate, to locate claims at Sin- in the shadow. The moon had risen ghi Mountain, she had insisted upon above the black line of the jungle. going out with him.
Higher and higher she crept, till The trip had been a delight to the lagoon lay a stream of molten her, and their quaint little house of
silver. Nipa palm, with its attop thatch, Something was gliding across the its long verandas and many doors, floor. Slowly it advanced. Its flat had seemed a big plaything. But head swayed rhythmically, its breast to-night she was home-sick. She gleaming white as it reared itself. rolled up the bamboo curtains, and Florence felt a touch upon her hair; the warm, damp breath of the trop- she turned, half-expecting to find ics pressed in. The air hummed her husband, and then . There with the drowsy voice of insects. was no outcry, but the violin slipped Picking up her violin, she drew the to the matting, and the player sank bow half unconsciously across it. A beside it. long, yearning note replied. It When she opened her eyes, Warquivered, clung about her like a ren was bending over her. The live thing, and dissolved reluctantly. room was filled with lamp-light, and With it there came a shivering in the curtains were drawn. She lookthe thatch. She looked uneasily ed bewilderedly about; then, all at about; the wind was still, not even once, the horror of the last hour the tips of the palm trees quivered
came upon her. against the copper sky.
“Where is it?" she cried, clinging The sun hung lazily at the edge to him. "Oh, Warren, where is it?" of the horizon a burning, crim- Her husband held her close. son ball. It kissed the mountains, "Where is what, dear?” he asked. and the river, and dropped suddenly "Poor little girl," he ,
went on, into the sea. Then the swift, equa- soothingly, "it's lonely for you here torial darkness was
all day; no wonder you are nerTorches of the natives began to vous !" glimmer from the hills, but still That night, when the lights had Warren did not come.
been extinguished, Florence lay The music had drifted into a with her eyes open.
In the darkminor key, a little wailing melody ness she seemed to feel again that
touch upon her hair. The rising A wave of something Armstrong wind whispered in the camphor trees could not analyze swept over him and all the superstitions of the as he held her; he shivered a little, Dyaks came crowding fast upon her. and gently pushed her aside. He al“The cobra brought death to the most wished he had left her at home. head of the house where he was Shinghi was no place for a woman. made unwelcome.” The omens had "Do you know, Flossie," he sugall been bad. The night before a gested, “I must arrange for earlier “deer had cried,” and a vulture in hours. You're too much by yourthe morning had "wheeled away to self." the left.” The cobra must be pro- Her eyes were wistful, but she pitiated. There was not a woman in turned so he should not see them. the hill tribes who would not tell "Why-I like it, Warren," she you so.
said, at last. “I like the solitude and She seemed to see again the Dyak the darkness and the stars.” charmer squatting beside his hut "So do I," he laughed, but she of sticks and palms—to hear the shook her head. shrill notes of the native Aute. Be- "No, don't come,” she urged. “Infore him coiled a big, brown snake, deed, I'd rather be alone.' its head advancing, retreating. Her words hurt him, and he
"Why, Florence, in the dark shrugged his shoulders. again?” asked Warren, a week later. "As you like," he said indifferent"You used to light the lamps before ly. the sun went down.”
The next night Armstrong came He picked up the violin she had down the hill path with his torch been playing, and ran the bow unlighted. He cautiously picked his across the strings, then turned way among the ferns and rhodosharply and looked behind him. dendrons to the front veranda. The There was a sound of something be- curtains were rolled high, and the ing dragged wearily over the mat- wail of the violin floated out to him. ting. He struck a match, but Flor- The white-frocked figure of his wife ence caught his hand and drew him was just visible in the moonlight. down to her.
She was swaying as she played, “Put your arms about me—close," and singing as the natives do. Now she whispered. “There!" She laid she bent over something on the mat, her head against him with a little and Warren was sure that he heard sigh. “I'm so tired," she said. her speak. A fierce jealousy seized
That night Armstrong watched him. This, then, was why she his wife furtively. She had changed wished to be alone. But who could in the last ten days, and there was it be? He would wait there in the a pathetic look in her eyes that night and know. haunted him. He drew her into the The hours dragged by; he was lamp-light, at last, and lifted her drenched with the heavy dew, and face to his.
still she played over and over the "Flossie," he said, "there is some- one melody. There was something thing the matter! What is it?" infinitely weary in the tones. At last
She longed to tell him—to beg the music ended, and the watcher him to take her away somewhere- without crept near.
There was no anywhere-away from the Dyaks word of parting, but he could have and the omens-away from the la- sworn that a figure slunk away in goon and the coffee-colored river, the shadow. and that writhing, torturing thing When he came in a little later, that came in the dark from the Florence was half lying in a big thatch. Yet the cobra was revenge- cane chair, the violin in her lap. He ful,--and it was for Warren's sake. lighted the lamps and drew the
shades without a word. She did not crossed over to his wife, and stood seem to notice him. The tea was looking down at her. still waiting on the little table, and “Three hours late," he said ironithere were no traces of a guest. He cally. "How worried you
must have been !” She gave
startled lookstretched one hand half way towards him—let it languidly drop again, and closed her eyes. She had grown very white of late, and Armstrong observed with alarm the violet shadows on her face. He quenched a momentary impulse to put his arms about her. But this sudden drowsiness was feigned; he had heard her play and speak, not ten minutes before, so he argued with himself, and sat down to a solitáry tea.
Florence rose just as he had finished, and he watched her covertly. There was a look in her face that puzzled him. She took her place at the table and helped herself abundantly, but seemingly forgot to eat; her tea remained untasted in the cup. Her husband did not speak, and soon she went into her own room, and he heard her fastening the curtains.
Armstrong lighted his pipe, but it failed to solace him. The air was murky and oppressive; he impatiently threw down his book and strode out to the veranda. The sky had become suddenly overcast; large drops of rain were already pattering about him; a damp sickly smell came up from the lagoon, and somewhere, in the distance, he heard the peculiar cry of a wahwah. The jungle stood, a dense, impenetrable fortress, teeming with death and disease. Turning from
. it with a shudder, he re-entered the house, and threw himself, fully clothed, across the bed.
The rain was increasing; it spurted in little jets from the attops, and was caught in splashing pools below the thatch. All at once, Armstrong sat erect and listened. Then he rose and tip-toed to the door of his wife's
room. For a moment he stood ir"Put your arms about me," she whispered.
resolute, then quietly turned the
knob. He could see distinctly by He had not long to wait. As the the light upon his
his own dresser. sun pressed his last scorching caress Florence, seated in the middle of the upon the palm trees, Florence came bed, was swaying from side to side, from her room. She walked to the and singing in a low, droning mono- veranda, and stood leaning against tone. Warren's brows contracted. the supports. The light tangled itIt reminded him of old Nimuck self in her hair; she looked half a writhing over his snakes.
child in her white frock. But the "Flossie!" he called. She raised sun was going down. Gray shadher eyes unseeingly, to his. "Flos
ows crept among the ferns; they sie!” he called again, starting to- touched the woman's face, and wards her. The old tenderness was chased the brightness from her hair. in his voice.
Then all at once the burning sphere An expression of fear crept over dropped out of sight; a chorus of her; she began talking hurriedly. frog voices rose in shrill treble from
“You must go away,” she said, the lagoon, and twilight had come. bending over an imaginary object. Florence, as she stood there, seemed "You must go away, for he'll be to have suddenly grown old; her coming soon." She extended both step became listless, heavy. She her slender hands, as if pushing turned automatically and re-entered something.
the house, took the violin out of its Warren grasped her by the shoul- case, and drew a long, sobbing note der and shook her roughly.
from its heart. "Florence,” he said, as conscious- There was sound like the ness flooded her eyes, "you have rubbing together of dried
cornbeen dreaming." His voice was stalks; it came from the attop overharsh, unnatural. "And by the head. The violin wailed out the way,” he added indifferently, "I shall melody of night before; Armstrong be off early to-morrow; you will knew its every cadence. He heard a breakfast alone.”
whispering, like the wind of OcIn his own room, Armstrong sat tober in the leaves at home, and looking blankly ahead of him. "She then a dull, continuous pressure of is like all other women," he said, the mat. with a shrug, as he began divesting He raised his eyes to the rim of himself, "and I've been the regula- the water-jar. The waking moon tion fool; but I'll find who he is, had sent a silver herald through the and then -”. His eyes narrowed bamboo curtains; it fell half way themselves into unpleasant little across the floor. His wife
was slits and he blew out the light. standing in the shadow just beyond.
The next day was the semi-weekly Warren had a vague consciousness cleansing of the water jars. If Mrs. of a presence near him. MechaniArmstrong had looked into her hus- cally his hand slipped to his belt. band's jar late that afternoon, she It was there, the little "Smith and would have been surprised at its Wesson"; he felt of its cold throat, contents. The native servant had and grimly smiled. "The price of trundled the huge thing up from the the game is death,” he told himself, river with unusual care, had “no matter who the man!” shoved it into place in his master's Something was pushing past his bathroom, and sunk down beside hiding place. Armstrong, quiverit, perspiring, exhausted. Warren ing with rage, stood half upright found his position somewhat in the jar, but all he saw was the cramped, but the cool dampness figure of his wife. The creeping was grateful to him, and it afforded moonbeam had reached her now. excellent opportunities for observa- She stood for a moment in its light, tion.
and then a Aying cloud shut her