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These committed many depredations among the settlements

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"Get a boat, quick," said John to me; and with his coat flung off he was in the river, whose current Hortense could scarce have reckoned with; for they were both already astern as I ran out on the port boat boom.

These committed many depredations among the settlements

Gazza was dancing and shrieking, "Man overboard!" which, indeed, was the correct expression, only it did not apply to himself. Gazza was a very sensible person. I had, as I dropped into the nearest boat, a brisk sight of the sailing-master, springing like a jack-in-the-box on the deserted deck, with a roar of "Where's that haymaker?" His reference was to the anchor watch. The temptation to procure good matches to light his pipe had ended (I learned later) by proving too much for this responsible sailor-man, and he had unfortunately chosen for going below just the unexpected moment when it had entered the daring head of Hortense to perform this extravagance. Of course, before I had pulled many strokes, the deck of the Hermana was alive with many manifestations of life-saving and they had most likely been in time. But I am not perfectly sure of this; the current was strong, and a surprising distance seemed to broaden between me and the Hermana before another boat came into sight around her stern. By then, or just after that (for I cannot clearly remember the details of these few anxious minutes), I had caught up with John, whose face, and total silence, as he gripped the stern of the boat with one hand and held Hortense with the other, plainly betrayed it was high time somebody came. A man can swim (especially in salt water) with his shoes on, and his clothes add nothing of embarrassment, if his arms are free; but a woman's clothes do not help either his buoyancy or the freedom of his movement. John now lifted Hortense's two hands, which took a good hold of the boat. From between her lips the dishevelled cigarette, bitten through and limp, fell into the water. The boat felt the weight of the two hands to it.

These committed many depredations among the settlements

Hortense opened her eyes and looked at me; she knew that I meant her. "I'll not swamp you." This was her first remark. Her next was when, after no incautious haste, I had hauled her in over the stern, John working round to the bow for the sake of balance: "I was not dressed for swimming." Very quietly did Hortense speak; very coolly, very evenly; no fainting--and no flippancy; she was too game for either.

These committed many depredations among the settlements

After this, whatever emotions she had felt, or was feeling, she showed none of them, unless it was by her complete silence. John's coming into the boat we managed with sufficient dexterity; aided by the horrified Charley, who now arrived personally in the other boat, and was for taking all three of us into that. But this was altogether unnecessary; he was made to understand that such transferences as it would occasion were superfluous, and so one of his men stepped into our boat to help me to row back against the current; and for this I was not unthankful.

Our return took, it appeared to me, a much longer time than everything else which had happened. When I looked over my shoulder at the Hermana, she seemed an incredible distance off, and when I looked again, she had grown so very little nearer that I abandoned this fruitless proceeding. Charley's boat had gone ahead to announce the good news to General Rieppe as soon as possible. But if our return was long to me, to Hortense it was not so. She sat beside her lover in the stern, and I knew that he was more to her than ever: it was her spirit also that wanted him now. Poor Kitty's words of prophecy had come perversely true: "Something will happen, and that boy'll be conspicuous." Well, it had happened with a vengeance, and all wrong for Kitty, and all wrong for me! Then I remembered Charley, last of all. My doubt as to what he would have done, had he been on deck, was settled later by learning from his own lips that he did not know how to swim.

Yes, the sentimental world (and by that I mean the immense and mournful preponderance of fools, and not the few of true sentiment) would soon be exclaiming: "How romantic! She found her heart! She had a glimpse of Death's angel, and in that light saw her life's true happiness!" But I should say nothing like that, nor would Miss Josephine St. Michael, if I read that lady at all right. She didn't know what I did about Hortense. She hadn't overheard Sophistication confessing amorous curiosity about Innocence; but the old Kings Port lady's sound instinct would tell her that a souse in the water wasn't likely to be enough to wash away the seasoning of a lifetime; and she would wait, as I should, for the day when Hortense, having had her taste of John's innocence, and having grown used to the souse in the water, would wax restless for the Replacers, for excitement, for complexity, for the prismatic life. Then it might interest her to corrupt John; but if she couldn't, where would her occupation be, and how were they going to pull through?

But now, there sat Hortense in the stern, melted into whatever best she was capable of; it had come into her face, her face was to be read--for the first time since I had known it--and, strangely enough, I couldn't read John's at all. It seemed happy, which was impossible.

"Way enough!" he cried suddenly, and, at his command, the sailor and I took in our oars. Here was Hermana's gangway, and crowding faces above, and ejaculations and tears from Kitty. Yes, Hortense would have liked that return voyage to last longer. I was first on the gangway, and stood to wait and give them a hand out; but she lingered, and; rising slowly, spoke her first word to him, softly:--

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