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- The Window-Gazer - 20/55 -
"Then you think--"
"Oh no," hastily, "I don't. I observe results with interest, that is all."
Desire began to collect the breakfast dishes. "That was where the book seemed weak," she said thoughtfully. "It hadn't much to say about results. It dealt mostly with consequences. They," she added after a pause, "were rather frightening."
The professor glanced at her sharply. Had she been worrying over this? Had she connected it with that dreadful old man whom she called father? But her face was quite untroubled as she went on.
"I think they've missed something, though," she said. "There must be something more than the things they tabulate. Some subtle force of life which isn't physical at all. Something that uses physical things as tools. If its tools are fine, it will do finer work, but if its tools are blunt it will work with them anyway. And it gets things done."
"By Jove!" said Spence. This was one of Desire's "windows with a view." He was always stumbling upon them. But he knew she was shy of comment. "We'll tell Aunt Caroline that," he murmured hopefully. "It may distract her mind." . . .
That day they found and followed the trail to the shack of Hawk-Eye Charlie. It proved to be neither long nor arduous. The professor managed it with ease. But he would have been quite unable to manage the hawk-eyed one without the expert aid of his secretary. To his unaccustomed mind their quarry was almost witless and exceedingly dirty. But Desire knew her Indian.
"It isn't what he is, but what he knows," she explained. "And he has a retiring nature."
So very retiring was it that only fair words, aided by tactful displays of tea and tobacco, could penetrate its reservations. Desire was quite unhurried. But presently she began to extract bits of carefully hidden knowledge. It had to be slow work, for, witless as he of the hawk-eye seemed, he was well aware of the value (in tobacco) of a wise conservation. He who babbles all he knows upon first asking is a fool. But he who withholds beyond patience is a fool also. Was it not so? Desire agreed that a middle course is undoubtedly the path of wisdom. She added, carelessly, that the white-man-who-wished-stories was in no hurry. Neither had he come seeking much for little. Payment would be made strictly on account of value received. The tea was good. And the tobacco exceptionally strong, as anyone could tell from a distance. Why then should the hawk-eyed one delay his own felicity?
This hastened matters considerably and the secretary's note-book was soon busy. Spence felt his oldtime keenness revive. And Desire was happy for was not this her work at last? It was a profitable day. Should anyone care to know its results, and the results of others like it, they may look up chapter six, section two, of Spence's Primitive Psychology, unabridged edition. Here they will find that the fables of Hawk-Eye Charlie, properly classified and commented upon, have added considerably to our knowledge of a fascinating subject. But far be it from us to steal the professor's thunder. We are not writing a book upon primitive psychology. We are interested only in the sigh of pleasurable satisfaction with which the professor's secretary closed her fat note-book and called it a day.
From that point our interest leads us back to camp along the trail through the warm June woods with the late sunlight hanging like golden gauze behind the fretted screens of green. We are interested in sunsets and in basket suppers eaten in the dim coolness of a miniature canyon through which rushed and tumbled an icy stream from, the snow peaks far above. We are interested in a breathless race with a chattering squirrel during which Desire's hair came down--a bit of glorious autumn in the deep green wood--and the tying of it up again (a lengthy process) by the professor with cleverly plaited stems of tender bracken. All these trifles interest us because, to those two who knew them, they remained fresh and living memories when the note-book and its contents were buried in the dust of yesterday.
It was twilight when they came out of the wood. The sun had gone and taken its golden trappings with it. A clear, still light was everywhere and, in the brilliant green of the far sky, a pale star shone. They watched it brighten as the green grew dark. A wonderful purple blueness spread upon the distant hills.
Desire sighed happily.
"It is the end of the first day of real work," she said. "The end and the beginning."
Her companion, usually like wax to her moods, made no answer. He did not seem to hear. His gaze seemed drowned in that wonderful blue. Desire, who had been unaccountably content, felt suddenly lonely and disturbed.
"What is it?" she asked. Her voice had fallen from its glad note. She put out her hand, touching his coat sleeve timidly. It was the first time she had ever touched him save in service. But if her touch brought a thrill there was no> sign of it. Her voice dropped still lower, "What are you thinking of?" she almost whispered.
The professor did not answer. Instead he turned to her with a sad smile. (Very well done, too!)
Desire dropped her hand with a sharp exclamation. "Oh," she said, "I forgot! You were thinking--"
The professor's smile smote her.
"Her eyes were blue like that!" he said.
Desire tripped over a fallen branch. And, when she recovered herself, "Purple, do you mean?" she asked. "I have always thought purple eyes were a myth."
"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."
"Don't quote me to excuse yourself." Aunt Caroline sailed serenely on. "At least preserve the courage of your convictions. There is certainly something the matter with Benis. He has answered none of my letters. He has completely ignored my lettergrams. To my telegram of Thursday telling him that I had been compelled to discharge my third cook since Mabel for wiping dishes on a hand towel, he replied only by silence. And the telegraph people say that the message was never delivered owing to lack of address. Easy as I am to satisfy, things like this cannot be allowed to continue. My nephew must be
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