The Camp Fire Girls by the Blue Lagoon
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"Good gracious, what a tale on a night like this! No matter how beautiful a place is, nor how shut off from the world, it seems never able to escape sorrow."
Allan Drain looked more closely at his companion, whose expression was scarcely discernible in the flickering lights made by the Chinese lanterns, swinging like censers between the trees that led to the blue lagoon. The winter before she would not have been capable of a speech like this!
"I am sorry, perhaps I should not have told you so unhappy a story. I should have remembered that you have been ill and in trouble. I have not had an opportunity before to express my sympathy. I have been through such a lot of bad health myself, at least I appreciate what it means."
"You are all right now, or a great deal stronger? Certainly you look so. You are kind to be so good to me. I was so stupid and disagreeable when you were ill and lonely during the winter in the Adirondacks. I seem to be one of the persons who has to learn through experience. Until recently I have always been so well and I am afraid spoiled. I hope I shall never be so impossible again. Tell me do you feel more interested in your medical studies, or is writing still your one ambition?"
"I am ashamed to say that it is, ashamed because I seem to have so little talent to justify all the time and thought I give to it, when I should be hard at work trying to learn my profession. I often fear I am one of the people who shall fall between the two, a failure in both. I did not intend to be so dismal, but I have had a pretty severe disappointment of late."
"I am sorry, would you rather tell me of it, or not?"
By this time they had reached the edge of the lagoon and stood looking down at the water, so deep a blue it was nearly black under the night sky with the stars reflected in its surface.
There were few waves and only a light breeze; a small row-boat tied to a stake lapped gently to and fro.
"Would you like to go for a row? I am not a skillful oarsman, but I can manage. We need not be out long."
"I would like it very much, but we must be sure to return before the dance is over. I won't be able to help with the rowing, I have never attempted it in my life. You know I am an inland person and never have spent any time near the sea until now. I never saw the ocean until we crossed to France."
With the boat untied, Allan helped his companion in and Gill sat down facing him.
Neither of them spoke until they were a few yards from the shore and moving toward the opening into the bay.
"Yes, I would like to tell you of my disappointment. I have not wished to speak of it to any one else, why you will understand when I explain the circumstances.
"Last winter in New York Mrs. Graham suggested that, when I came to make her a visit in the spring at the 'House by the Blue Lagoon', I might bring with me the manuscript of the play, which I have been at work upon for a year and that she would persuade Mrs.Burton to allow me to read it to her. Of course with this possibility I have worked doubly hard until there have been moments, not many I confess, when my play has not seemed altogether bad. I have had Mrs. Burton in mind as I wrote; I could not help this, she is the only great actress I have ever known personally and in some ways the greatest I have ever seen act. I don't believe I have been mad enough to dream that she would like my play well enough to appear in it, but I hoped that she might say a few words of encouragement, perhaps give me a letter of introduction to a manager who would read my play if she made the request."
"Well, what has happened?" Gill demanded, leaning forward with her lips slightly parted, her eyes large and interested fixed upon her companion's face.
"Only that Mrs. Burton declines to be annoyed. Mrs. Graham did not offer exactly this explanation, but what she said amounted to the same thing. Please don't think I am blaming Mrs. Burton, I understand her position. She sent word to me that she was very tired after a winter of hard work and that for the present wished to forget the stage altogether. She begged me to appreciate that she was not a producer of plays and that her opinion of what I have written would be of small value. In case she did not like my work she might disappoint me, when a manager might be delighted with what I have accomplished."
"Yes, that is true," Gill returned, "so why feel especially disappointed? I am sure Mrs. Burton will give you a letter to a manager, even if she prefers not to read your play."
With the peculiar despondency which is an attribute of the artistic temperament, Allan Drain shook his head.
"No, if Mrs. Burton is not interested, I do not care to interest any one else. With every line I have written I have thought and dreamed of her as my heroine. I don't want any one else to play it, at least this is the way I feel at present."
In several moments Gill did not speak, while Allan Drain pulled hard at his oars, wishing to conquer his discouragement through strenuous physical exercise.
He was surprised when his boat so soon shot out of the lagoon into the broader waters of the bay. The waves were not high and he rowed quietly and steadfastly, keeping close, as he believed to the shores of the small island.
Still Gill dreamed on, feeling wonderfully peaceful and happier than in many months. She never had forgiven herself for her carelessness in throwing the manuscript of Allan Drain's verses into the fire in their winter cabin at Half Moon Lake. Now it was a consolation to discover that Allan Drain really had forgiven her; there was no pretence in his words and friendliness to-night. If only she had possessed sufficient influence with their Camp Fire guardian to persuade her to do what he so greatly wished! After all it was not so tremendous a favor, in Gill's estimation. However, if Mrs. Burton had refused the request made by her hostess and most dearly loved friend, no one else would avail.
"I am so sorry, I do wish I could be of service," Gill murmured, speaking as much to herself as to her companion. "Don't you think perhaps we had better start home? I don't wish to, I did not realize that I was so tired watching the dancing and being in the midst of so many people until you brought me out into this beauty and quiet."
"Yes, well I'll go on only a few moments longer and then turn around. Once we are inside the lagoon we can reach our landing in a quarter of an hour."
When he spoke Allan was not aware that the wind was growing stronger and that the tide was turning and running out toward the sea. Neither did he realize the length of time he and Gill had been on the water, nor the distance they had gone, so swiftly and smoothly his oars worked, as the beat moved in unison with the tide.
Ten minutes after their brief conversation, in attempting to swing around, Allan discovered that he had a task ahead of him. To his surprise and consternation he also found that already he was fatigued. He had been out on the water only once since his arrival at the island and then in company with David Hale who was an excellent oarsman. It had not occurred to him that as he had rowed only two or three times in several years he was not in training.
Fortunately his companion was not aware of his difficulty and was remaining blessedly silent, so that he could give his entire attention to his rowing.
Allan strained and pulled, realizing that the wind was blowing him out of his course.
A half hour he kept on without faltering, always with the intention of reaching the shores of the island and skirting it until he could discover the lagoon. And always his companion continued silent.
When he had time to think, Allan concluded that she had fallen asleep and was grateful.
If he could not get in to shore he was managing not be driven far out of the course.
At midnight the small steamboat would call at the island to take the guests back to the mainland, who were not to spend the night, and with luck he might be able to signal them.
"Don't you think you had better rest for a few moments, Mr. Drain?" A quiet voice suggested. "Please don't be worried, I am not uneasy. At the worst, if we cannot reach the lagoon and no boat comes to our rescue, we shall only drift about until the tide turns. When daylight arrives we shall have no difficulty. I hate your wearing yourself out and wish I could help."
Gill laughed, a more courageous, gayer laugh than he had heard from her since their earlier acquaintance.
"Why, you did not think I was asleep? I am not so stupid as all that! I did not wish to trouble you by talking."
Compelled to follow Gill's advice, resting his oars, Allan allowed their boat to move with the tide. Another half hour went by; at length both of them appreciated that it must be well past midnight and there was little chance of rescue by their friends. The small steamboat crossed directly from the island to the mainland and made no circuit of the bay.
Without comment Allan picked up his oars again.
"I think I can manage to reach the island, even if we do not discover the lagoon before dawn. I have walked around the island several times and there are a number of places where one can land. We will be more comfortable than in this cramped little boat and warmer. Besides we are in some danger with the waves growing higher and stronger and the night darker. I am not going to attempt to disguise the fact from you, you are as courageous as I am, in truth you are more courageous as I remember you. If you wish to have the score settled with me in regard to the accidental burning of my manuscript, I have accomplished it with a vengeance to-night by bringing you out on the water and getting you into this difficulty. I only hope you may not be ill again as a result of my stupidity. But I must not talk, I have no breath to spare. Once we are safe and ashore I'll offer my apology."
"Don't worry about me. If it were not that the others may be troubled, and I trust Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Burton went to their rooms before anyone missed us, and if you were not wearing yourself out, do you know I could enjoy this experience. I am not in the slightest degree frightened, I suppose I am a kind of an adventurer."
A quarter of an hour after, Allan and Gill beheld a darker line of land and rowing closer their boat grounded in the sand amid shallow water.
"I'll carry you ashore, it will be simpler than trying to get in by any other method. Then I'll wade out and drag the boat after us."
"I can wade, please don't, I am far too heavy," Gill protested, remembering the character of illness from which Allan Drain had suffered at the time of their first meeting.
As he lifted her from her place and her arms closed about his throat, there was no sign of weakness in her companion.
Five minutes later she was seated on the dry sand, able to see the tall figure struggling in the darkness and drawing the heavy boat ashore.
"You should have allowed me to help, it was not fair," Gill argued almost angrily, as, panting for breath, he dropped down at her side with the boat only a few feet away.