By Hugh J. Cannon
The visit of the Redfields and Jessie was made shorter than had been anticipated. An unexpected demand was made for the judge’s services at home, but, though important, this call alone would perhaps have remained unheeded except for the fact that the tropical climate did not agree with Mrs. Redfield who was advised by the local doctor to return to the States as soon as possible.
In vain Nell was urged to accompany them, but they all were forced to acknowledge her good judgment in determining to remain until after Nate and Jessie were married and away for Egypt.
The most trying of all farewells are those said to loved ones who are leaving on board ship, the pain of parting is so greatly prolonged. As the vessel steamed slowly out of the harbor of Pago Pago, to which place the travelers were obliged to go because through steamers do not touch at Apia, the dispirited Nell felt as one who, after tasting of heavenly bliss, has suddenly been cast down to infernal darkness.
During the long sojourn on the islands she had learned that her grief could best be borne in solitude, and therefore declined the pressing invitation of Captain and Mrs. Evans to remain with them for a time.
Back in her own modest home it required some days and a vast amount of determined self-discipline to recover a fair measure of her usual external composure. Hardly had she done so when word came from Dick Hawley that official notice of his promotion had been received and he was to leave for home as soon as certain matters on the islands which during recent months had been in his hands, could be adjusted. This would require several weeks but would admit of but one visit to Apia.
He hoped they would not have to say goodby but that she could be persuaded to go with him to Pago Pago, be married there and accompany him home. Within a few days he would write her again, telling just when she might expect him. On the morning that the small boat was due from Pago Pago with mail and passengers, Nell walked down to the post office. Before reaching her destination she was intercepted by a young native who was one of the largest boys in her school when she began teaching and was now almost in his own feelings quite a man.
“You have some ice cream with me, Misi Re’field?”
“Why, yes, Sua, of course I will.”
As the two sat in the one recently established ice cream parlor of Apia the girl wondered what some of her friends at home would think if they could see her. Sua was dressed in approved Samoan fashion, bare from the hips up and the knees down, but in spite of that, or because of it, he was a handsome fellow and his genuine pleasure at being able to entertain his former teacher was gratifying to her. Almost daily now Nell saw some of the fruits of her labors. The dreary months spent on the Island were not profitless.
“I goin’ to get married, Misi Re’field,” Sua surprised her by saying.
“Going to get married, Sua? Why, you’re only a boy! What put such an idea into your head?”
“I’m a man,” he said proudly. “Me and Tina get married.”
“Tina? That child? And you haven’t a thing.”
“Yes, we got plenty things. I make a bamboo pillow and Tina already make some mats and mosquito net.”
They were, therefore, quite prepared to commence housekeeping.
At the post office was a letter from Dick. Before reading it she looked forward with some trepidation to the news of his coming, but after its perusal was a little amused at the paradoxical feeling of disappointment that his visit must be postponed for a few days. Walking homeward she admitted to herself that she liked the young seaman immensely – so well, in fact, that at times it made her fearful. His oft-repeated and subtly expressed arguments that she was doing herself an irreparable injustice by pursuing this spartan-like course were becoming alarmingly fascinating. Now with the knowledge that no allegiance was due Nate, she realized it would be doubly difficult to keep the ardent young fellow within purely fraternal bounds.
She remembered with a pang how anxious Nate had been to marry her in spite of everything, but she also remembered the Everett pride of ancestry which would not fail to remind him that by birth she was inferior. Dick would have no such feelings. Though himself well-born, he was not inclined to draw fine distinctions and was fully convinced that the girl’s heroic determination to sacrifice herself was unnecessary.
Instead of the expected call from Hawley, a wireless came on the day he should have arrived stating that he had been dispatched direct to Nukualofa, and would be obliged to remain in Tonga two or three weeks. He begged her to gratify the long delayed desire to visit that place. The S.S. Tofua was due to leave Apia within a few days, and he would meet it at Nukualofa with the hope that she would be one of its passengers.
It was a thoughtful but excited young lady who walked along the sea shore that evening. Her feelings were as tumultuous as the restless waves which broke with a roar upon the reef. In her loneliness her heart went out to Dick; it must never again go out to Nate. She thought of her boyhood friend as a big brother and wished she could go to his arms for comfort as a sister would. And yet all the time she realized that his regard was vastly different from that of a brother, and as she walked and pondered she wondered if her own feelings were altogether sisterly. Never having had a brother she could not be quite sure.
Ere her home was reached she had concluded to go to Tonga. It was an opportunity which must not be missed. She would be very circumspect and not be weakened in any degree by Dick’s persistent appeals. Late as it was she called her friend Sua and asked him to take her in his father’s cart to the cemetery where her parents slept.
If the spirits which have passed on can hear the pitiful cries of their loved ones, surely her father must have been deeply moved. She knelt on his grave. The soft music of the sea, the cocoanut palms, majestic in the moonlight, the sanctified spirit of the burial place dispelled terrestrial and instilled celestial thoughts. She spoke to her father as though in his visible presence and implored God to let him direct her in this uncertainty.
Suddenly she sprang to her feet. “Another, too, lies here,” she exclaimed, “the mother whom I have been tempted to hate because she first gave me life and then saved the useless life which she had given. But the wrong she did me was unintentional, and she died for me. It is a thousand times better to pursue my outlined course alone, to die childless, than to rear an offspring who might sometime regard me with the abhorrence which I so often feel for my mother.”
She sank down on the companion grave. “I thank heaven, Mother, for giving me that thought. Every drop of your polluted blood shall go to the grave with me.”
It was an exquisite tropical evening when Nell went aboard the Tofua. Some of her friends had rowed out with her to the vessel which lay at anchor within the crescent, had well nigh smothered her in flowers, and as the good ship got under way had sung the plaintiff Samoan farewell, never to be forgotten when once heard at parting, Tofa mai feleni (goodbye, my friend) which was composed and sung as the bruised sailors, nursed so tenderly by the hospitable natives, were leaving for home after the disastrous hurricane.
Nell felt she could appreciate the exquisite pain of the girl who, according to tradition, had written the song and had swum after the ship, singing it as long as her head remained above the waves, to a departing officer who was sailing away to another land and to other loves.
It was customary for the Tofua to stop at Vauvau on the way to Nukualofa. Freight had to be unloaded, but in this instance there were no passengers to land and none in sight to come aboard, so the crew did not take the trouble to let down the gang-plank. The freight was unloaded with the powerful swinging crane which reached from deck to pier. Just as this task was completed and the vessel beginning to move away, a belated native passenger rushed excitedly and noisily up to the wharf. The crane was hastily swung out to him. Throwing his belongings, which were tied in a bundle, to the deck, he grasped the rope with both hands and was swung up into the air.
But horrors! His exertions in running for the boat, aided by the breeze, had loosened his lava lava, which it may be needless to say was his only covering. Here he was hanging by his hands between sky and water and his clothing, every thread of it, slipping from him. He tried to hold on with one hand while he grasped the cloth with the other, but the crane which was swung more violently than necessary by the hilarious sailors made that impossible. He had to choose between the alternatives of coming aboard ship as naked as he had come into this life or loosing his hold and going with his clothing into the sea. He chose the former much to the amusement of the male passengers and the discomfiture of the ladies who fled precipitately to their cabins.
As the Tofua, shortly after sunrise, slowly made its way through the devious entrance to the Nukualofa harbor, Nell enjoyed the wondrous beauties of the place as completely as her agitated mood would permit. On a nearby reef was the wrecked and crumbling steamer, Prince George, the elements rapidly completing the work of destruction commenced by the rocks. “It’s like me,” she thought, “lost, useless, waiting for the end.”
To this place Nelly Alder had followed this girl’s father and finally inveigled him with marriage. She hoped no more information would be forthcoming which would intensify the harsh feelings entertained toward this woman to whom she owed her life.
Dick Hawley was awaiting her on the wharf. Her pleasure at seeing from the deck the bronzed face of the young lieutenant was too apparent to escape notice and aroused in him more excitement than a dignified representative of the Untied States Navy is expected to show. The girl was the first of the passengers to land, and their mutual delight as they clasped hand augured ill for her determination to check any attempt on his part to refer to the forbidden subject.
In the hope that she would accept the suggestion to visit Tonga, he had engaged rooms for her in a cottage overlooking the harbor and the spot where his vessel lay at anchor, and after she had expressed a liking for the quarters and her appreciation of his thoughtfulness, he spent an unnecessary amount of time in explaining a system of signals comprehensible to them alone. Before leaving for his gunboat, the Mystic, the young fellow obtained from her a promise that later she would drive about the island with him.
Nothing could satisfy her excitement except activity, and therefore she was ready for Dick when he called. He had secured a cart and steed which, whatever its other faults, could not be called fiery. The two crowded into the small conveyance.
“Can you manage a horse as well as you do a boat?” she asked.
“I’m afraid not. I can get a little speed out of most any kind of water craft, but I think there’s something wrong with this nag’s propeller.”
“Do you mind taking me to Mr. Hunt, the minister? I shall never be quite satisfied until I see with my own eyes the record of my parents’ marriage.”
Mr. Hunt was at home and very willingly produced his father’s records. At the same time he could not refrain from asking why such frequent enquiries were made concerning the marriage of John Terry and Nelly Alder. However, a donation to his missionary work and the statement that a small legacy was involved, satisfied him fully.
The books, poorly kept and so blurred as to be almost illegible, showed clearly that John Z. Terry and Nelly Alder were married by Mr. Hunt. Neither the records nor the interview with the son revealed anything new. Having expected nothing, the young lady, though sobered, was not so downcast as she had feared this final and conclusive investigation would make her.
It was soon evident that Hawley had entered upon this campaign with the determination to win the girl by storm, and the skill with which he managed the affair was a credit to his training and stamped him as a strategist of high order. They had barely squeezed themselves into the narrow seat of the cart after the visit to Mr. Hunt when the bombardment commenced.
The lazy horse had covered but little ground before the girl rather unwillingly confirmed the statement of Judge Redfield that Nate and Jessie would doubtless marry.
Dick spoke vehemently. “A fine pair of friends you have, Nell! I hope you’ll excuse my energy, but that’s the way I feel about them. As for Nate, if he had dinner with me I’d want to count the spoons afterward.”
“The trouble with you, Dick, is that you’re filled with foolish jealousy. Nate is all that a man should be. I’ve told you that many times, and you know what a beautiful character Jessie is. I’ve compared her with hundreds of others and have never yet seen a girl that I think is her equal. Now, honestly, don’t you think she’s an exceptionally fine young woman?”
“Well, my knowledge of women is pretty limited, but I suppose she is. Anyhow, I shouldn’t blame her. But this man Everett!”
“You’ll have to take my word about him. He is not to be reproached with lack of devotion, and this shows Jessie’s character. Although she has always admired Nate, almost to the point of loving him, she would not accept even casual attentions until she was told the reason for my leaving. Then she refused to permit a lover-like situation to develop without my full approval. Now, if they marry, she proposes to expatriate herself by going away to Egypt for years, so that I may return home. She feels that with Nate gone I am as well off there as here. Nate can be nothing more to me than a friend, but no one ever had truer friends than he and Jessie.”
“Now can’t you see what the solution is? Marry me, and they can stay at home and so can you. I’ll admit that Jessie is a great girl and shouldn’t be sent off to Egypt, with only a fellow like Nate to keep her company. But I suppose there must be something to this Everett chap to have two such girls fall in love with him. And to be perfectly honest with you, Nell, I haven’t felt exactly right about the way I’ve acted in this matter. After you had told me of your former engagement, I should’ve tried to persuade you to return to the States and marry your old lover. I’d much rather you’d do that than to remain here after I’m gone.”
“That’s easy for you to say now that they are engaged.”
“I’ll admit I should have done it sooner. But that’s past. Now, I’ll be satisfied with whatever you are able to give me in the way of love – that is, for the present, but I’m determined to make you think so much of me that if Nate and I both stood before you for your choice, I would be the lucky dog.”
The girl’s defenses crumbled before Dick’s resolute attack. At most she had no more than a sixteenth of foreign blood in her veins. That mixture, he assured her, had made of her the most perfect woman it was ever his privilege to meet. Herself perfectly white as far as any human being could tell, it was useless to worry, as she always did when the subject came up, about her offspring whose colored blood would be reduced to a thirty-second part. She need never return to the States, or at least not to her former home. If she would not be moved by her own sufferings she should consider the suffering of those who loved her.
“Run up the white flag, my girl,” Dick urged. “The ship is sinking; don’t go down with it.”
Nell could not withstand the assault. But, though utterly defeated she would not capitulate.
“Oh, Dick,” she pleaded wearily, “I’m no match for you in skillful argument, perhaps not in will power, but still I’m not ready to do as you request. As you say, Nate will marry Jessie and I shall try to feel reconciled, but I have not ceased to love him. We shall never meet again, and my love can do neither of us harm.”
“But my dear girl, answer this: If you’ll forget for a moment your birth, and it should be forgotten forever, aren’t you beginning to love me just a little?”
The question elicited no immediate answer. When it was tenderly repeated, she said:
“One of the troubles is, Dick, that I can’t forget even for a moment. The thing to do is for you to forget.”
“I can make you forget more easily than I can make myself.”
“I am exhausted and must not hear anything more on this subject, at least not today.”
The last words of the sentence kindled a new light in the lieutenant’s eyes. He manifested his versatility by talking of other things and doing it most effectively. So delightfully companionable was he that at the conclusion of the drive she reluctantly bade him goodbye until the following day.
“And haven’t you anything more encouraging for me than a simple good-night?” he asked wistfully.
The girl hesitated, on the point of yielding. It was unfair to keep him in suspense, but she could not say yes, though the thought that he might never again make love to her was not easy to face.
“Nothing more now, Dick – dear,” the last word inaudible.
“The goodby for today. Should you at any time need assistance, remember to hang a white sheet from your porch, see, I have the nails already driven, and I’ll be with you in ten minutes.”
From an easy chair on her porch Nell watched Dick’s cutter race through the water to the gunboat. The little open cottage was quiet and restful after the sea voyage and the subsequent ride about the island. Long she sat resting and dreaming of Nate, of Jessie, but more of Dick than of either. From time to time she endeavored to turn her thoughts into other channels, but thoughts of him were as resistless as he himself was. What was to become of him and of her? Would she finally succumb to his insistent pleadings? Heretofore there had been something almost terrifying in the idea, but now to her surprise it induced a feeling akin to sweetness. A storm-battered schooner which recently had come to safe and peaceful anchorage in the Apia harbor arose before her mind. Had she reached port? Nell wondered what was changing her standards. Was it close association with colored races? Or was the weakening due to the fact that Nate, hitherto a source of great moral strength, had been taken out of her life? Would it not be wiser again to flee from temptation? She remembered an expression of her adopted father’s, repeated often as she grew up, “My daughter, it is much easier to avoid temptation than to overcome it.”
The mail was due to leave Nukualofa the next morning and Nell composed a long letter to Jessie in which she laid bare her heart, as the two girls until recently had always done.
“Dick is so forceful,” a part of the letter ran, “that today he almost swept me off my feet, and at this moment I am more perplexed than at any previous period of my life. Of course more difficult tasks have confronted me, but then it was easier to decide what was right.
“I can see you asking yourself, ‘Why should she consider Dick’s proposal after refusing to marry Nate?’ Perhaps I can’t explain the difference even to my own satisfaction and much less to yours, but in my mind there is a great one. First of all I could never go into a family where I was not wanted. Dick’s parents are dead, so that question is not a disturbing one. Dick assures me they loved me so intensely as a child that they would be delighted to have me as a daughter-in-law. Then Nate himself has been taught all his life the importance of marrying into a good family. I think you will remember one occasion when Mr. Everett and Judge Redfield discussed this subject in our presence and how pronounced they went in their opinions. Despite all this, however, you will never know how near I came to giving up the struggle and marrying Nate in Honolulu. Perhaps I should have yielded to his pleading, had it not been for the fact that when I mentioned children whose blood was not pure and who called him father, he gave an involuntary shudder, ever so slight but unmistakable. I do not blame him for it. The same thing would have happened to me had our positions been reversed, but if that had occurred after we were married and had children it would have killed me.
“Dick, on the other hand, doesn’t view things in the same light. From all I can learn, his people were as reputable in every particular as the Everetts, but they were not born aristocrats. His father must have been a sturdy, honest man who left a splendid name on these islands, and his mother is revered as an angel. But Dick is sincere in thinking I magnify this defect in my birth. By constantly reminding me that my corrupted blood will be reduced to a thirty-second part in my offspring, he has almost convinced me that I am making too much of a trifle.
“Of course I don’t love Dick as I once loved Nate, but perhaps that is because my trials have sobered me and killed much of the romance in my nature. You suggested there was something of the kind in Nate. However, I do think more of him than I thought it possible ever to think of a man again and it would wound me cruelly to see him suffer as he surely will do if he is rejected.
“Jessie, what shall I do? Oh, if you were only here to advise me, but the matter must be decided long before this can possibly come into your hands.
“it would break my heart to grieve Father and Mother, and after all the impressive lessons they have given me on the importance of devotion to principle. I fear they will be sadly disappointed if I give up now.
“But, Jessie, on board the steamer en route here, I saw a mother cuddling her curly-headed little boy to her breast. His big blue eyes looked up into her face, and he smiled as I have dreamed ever since girlhood that my own baby would some time do. Perhaps it’s selfish or even wicked to feel this way, but to face life with no prospect of a fulfillment of my dreams seems today more than I can bear.”
For a long time after finishing the letter, Nell sat looking over the harbor in the gathering darkness and wondered whether she dare mail it.
Her reverie was abruptly terminated by the entrance of her native hostess, Mrs. Brooke. The newcomer was a kindly soul, evidently partly white, and with an excellent knowledge of English, which she used volubly.
“I suppose you would rather have your meals served on the table than on the floor,” she remarked as she made preparations for the evening repast.
Receiving an affirmative reply, she continued: “My father was white, so was my husband and I’m used to white folks’ ways. That’s why I brought this furniture from my home in Vauvau.”
“Nukualofa isn’t your home then?”
“I was born not a mile away and lived here until I was married. Came back a little while ago after my husband died. I’m almost sorry I did, for now nearly all the people I meet are strangers, and I used to know everybody.” The lonely woman continued to talk until the weary visitor, who had slept but little the night before, concluded her hostess must be closely related to Tennyson’s brook which went on forever.
South Sea Islanders are never known to hurry, and Mrs. Brooke took her time in placing breakfast upon the table on the following morning. More that once her eyes lingered enquiringly upon the guest, and while the latter was eating the woman stared at her almost rudely.
“You remind me of someone, Miss Redfield,” she said apologetically, noting the look of annoyance on the other’s face, “but I can’t quite remember who it is or was, for it must have been a long time ago. Were you ever in Nukualofa before?”
“No, I was born in Samoa but left there as a small child, and this is my first visit to any of the Tongan islands. Were you ever in Samoa?”
Remembering that General Howcroft had seen, or imagined he did, a resemblance between Miss Redfield and Nelly Alder, the girl was anxious to give another direction to Mrs. Brooke’s thoughts.
Dick’s arrival interrupted the conversation. It was evident the young officer was in a hopeful mood. After the woman had left the room, Nell commented on his joyousness.
“Your promotion seems to have made you very happy, Dick.”
“That’s so; I have been promoted, but this is the first time I’ve thought of it today. I’ve been thinking of something very much more interesting. Are you acquainted with sailor’s lore?”
“Only to a very limited extent.”
“Some ignorant people call it superstition, but I resent that. Well, last night I saw two meteors going in different directions. You will admit of course that means I am to have good luck today. You can’t beat two meteors, even if there was nothing else. But there was. Couldn’t sleep for thinking of you, but finally did doze and dreamed we were to be married. An east wind was blowing, too, which makes that a sure sign. Before daylight I went up on deck and stumbled on the stairs when near the top, indicating that the marriage will soon take place.
“Toward morning I managed to drop off to sleep again and this time dreamed of an anchor, the best kind of an omen. All these things were surely enough to satisfy any reasonable man that a lot of good luck was coming to him, but this morning a crowd of sailors who were out in one of the boats caught a porpoise, cut off its tail and upon their return tied it to the masthead. Now, even you’ll have to agree with me that there’s now ay of beating such a combination.”
“But, Dick, doesn’t Shakespeare refer somewhere to the porpoise as an omen of ill?”
“Does he? I’m not much up on Shakespeare, but you surely won’t claim that he knew as much about porpoises as a sailor does.”
Nell knew he was watching her closely to note the effect of his raillery.
“Being more expert with boats than with horses,” he went on, “I wish you’d go for a ride in the cutter today. We’ll have a better propeller and can make more headway.”
“Under those circumstances, perhaps I should decline. You made rather too much headway yesterday, I’m afraid.”
The young fellow looked at her eagerly. “You mean that I did succeed a little in making you reconsider your foolish decision?”
“I mean nothing, except that shall be glad to have the ride, but on condition that you talk of your novels, your parents, your fights and such subjects.”
“And my hopes? Surely you’ll not bar them.”
“No; you mustn’t talk of them this morning.”
“All right, I agree, but with the understanding that you go with me again this afternoon or evening and no holds barred.”
“What does that mean?”
“Only an expression used mostly by wrestlers. What I mean is that you’ll let me talk about anything I please.”
“No. I’ll not accept your invitation on any such terms, but I will go this morning, if you like, on the conditions named, and we’ll decide later about an evening ride.”
On the way to the boat they came to the post office, and the letter to Jessie was mailed.
The excursion among the small islands dotting the harbor was delightful. One could not be sure where the most gorgeous colors were on the water or the fish therein, or the tints of the early morning sun on green tropical islands. One of these, low-lying in the distance, looked like man of war, the stately cocoanut trees forming the masts. In a scenic little cove, Dick, landed and returned in a few moments loaded with bananas, cocoanuts, oranges and guavas. The young chap was on his best behavior, and at the conclusion of the ride his companion was in readiness to accept a later invitation and to place no restrictions upon it.
She was more nearly her natural self than at any time since leaving the States. Never had Dick seen her so young and gay. As they parted Nell wondered whether the trip was an enjoyable as it might have been if she had permitted her companion to speak of the things which were nearest his heart. Actually there was a trace of disappointment that he had been so implicitly obedient.
“You’ll go again this afternoon?” he asked. “I have to entertain some of these native officials until three. It’s great fun, and I wish you could be with us. Their ceremonious compliments are as thick as oaths on shipboard. You’ll be ready about four?” As she indicated a willingness, he added, “And no holds barred?” She laughed gaily and left him without answer.
Toward the middle of the afternoon Mrs. Brooke came to where Nell was dreaming on the porch, nearer complete happiness than she had been for many months.
“I’m going to call on some friends, Miss Redfield. Would you like to walk with me?”
“I think not today, thank you. But there are places I want you to show me sometimes. My father and a friend of his owned an orange plantation here, and I would like to see it. If you were in Nukualofa about twenty-five years ago, did you happen to know John Z. Terry?”
“John Z. Terry! Why, I should say I did.” Then a startled expression came over the woman’s face as she scanned the other’s features. The girl, fearing that the humiliating resemblance had been detected, could not meet the searching gaze.
“I remember now!” Mrs. Brooke was shrilly triumphant. “You look like Nelly Alder who married John Terry. Are you related to her?”
The girl shuddered convulsively. Was the resemblance to her mother so marked that a total stranger could detect it? And this was the second time! In both instances where she had talked with old residents of the islands about Mr. and Mrs. Terry the result was the same.
Evading the woman’s question, Nell walked out of the house and down the long pier leading to the landing place. The Tofoa was still at the wharf taking on a cargo of oranges, and the temptation came strongly over her to continue with it to Fiji and new Zealand. There were sure to be other people in this place who knew her mother, and her feelings would constantly be wounded by reference to the detestable resemblance. Learning that the Tofoa would not leave before morning she decided to make no definite plan until later.
It was a vastly different Nell who met Dick at the appointed hour. The brief conversation with Mrs. Brooke had taken all the sweetness out of life. Again it had become colorless and dreary, and she wondered how her condition could have been forgotten even for a moment. That the sun could shine amid such gloom was surprising. She was so like her mother that it attracted the notice of all who knew them both. And to be thinking even vaguely of love and marriage!
The afternoon ride was not a cheerful one. She made no effort to hide form Dick, the cause of her mental distress, and his attempts to show her that this natural likeness made not the slightest difference in the case were wholly unsuccessfully.
Mrs. Brooke was bustling about the house as her guest came up the steps after the ride. It was evident form the woman’s manner that the revelation of the afternoon was on her mind.
“You didn’t answer the question I asked this morning. Are you related to Nelly Alder?”
Nell had been in doubt as to how this question, if repeated, should be answered. Now the woman stood before her and put it directly. There could be no evasion.
“Was she kin of yours?” Mrs. Brooke asked.
“She was my mother,” the girl answered impulsively.
Her distress was attributed to an entirely different cause. The surprised attendant took Nell tenderly in her arms, then held the girl before her.
“You, Nelly Alder’s daughter! Why, how can that be possible? Yet when I look into your face it is the easiest thing in the world to believe. You’re a beautiful image of her, child.”
She continued to caress the worrying girl.
“I can understand your feelings. If you are as tender-hearted and sensitive as your mother was, it is very hard for you to come to the place where she is buried and where you were born, for you were born less than ten minutes walk from here, not in Samoa.”
The girl looked dazedly at the other.
“You are mistaken,” she said. “My mother and father are buried side by side in Samoa. I have seen their graves often. And I was born in that land. At least I have always understood so, though now that I think of it, I don’t know where that idea came from.”
“If you are Nelly Alder’s daughter, and there can’t possibly be a mistake about that, you were born here, and I was the first one to care for you. Nelly and I often played together when she visited Tonga with her father. Then for a long time she was in England at school. On her first visit after that she met John Terry. I introduced them to each other. They fell in love and soon were married. I helped her to get ready for the wedding; was with her when the baby came; and a few days later dressed her for burial.”
“But I don’t understand,” said the bewildered girl. “My parents were acquainted for a long time in Fiji.”
“Nelly Alder was never in Fiji in her life. For some unknown reason her father would not permit her to go there.”
The girl was clinging excitedly to the woman.
“Tell me everything you know about my parents. Tell it! Tell it quickly! John Terry was my father, Nelly Alder my mother, and they are both buried in Samoa.”
“Nelly Alder is buried here. I can easily show you her grave. Surely you can’t be Elinor’s child!”
With brain awhirl and consciousness fast leaving her, the startled girl staggered to a chair.
“Hang a white sheet on the front porch quickly! I’m going to faint.”