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Molly was now aware that she was being held fast in the arms of a young man whose gaze was directed with a certain comic ruefulness at the drifting boat. Then he glanced at her.
“ Frightened ?” he asked.
“Not at all,” said Molly weakly, and she sťrove to disengage herself. “Thank you."
“I don't think you'd better do that,” said the young man, observing her. “You see if I let go we'll probably both go in and join the canoe. But I'll see if we can't get ashore.”
He scrambled into a standing posture on the bough by the aid of smaller branches, and still holding her againsť him crawled carefully to the island. Then he released her.
"Thank you," said Molly, a little breathlessly, as she smoothed her frock. The young man contemplated her, and she met his glance when she had finished. He was about thirty, good to look at and had a quiet and per
" I'm afraid you've wet your dress a little," said the young man.
“Oh, it's of no consequence," said Molly quickly, conscious of a damp skirt.
“ You see you went over too quickly for me,” he went on; "I never saw a canoe stagger so before.”
Molly, her gaze wandering afield, beheld the two children across the intervening space of water. They were gazing enthralled and it somehow annoyed her.
“ Eilean, go away,” she called. “Run and ask them to bring a boat. Quick!”
“ Did you fall in, Molly?” screamed back Eilean with great interest.
"Oh, Molly, did you say your prayers this morning?" wailed Marjorie.
Quick !” cried their elder sister. “I can't stay here all day. Find Stubbs or some one."
And how long will it take to find Stubbs or some one, do you suppose?” inquired the young man, as the children started to run along the field. He leaned against a
tree and surveyed the river, withdrawing from a pocket his cigarette case.
“I should say about twenty minutes," said Molly reflecting
Another twenty minutes for Stubbs to get here — and then the rescue, say a third period of twenty minutes," mused the young man aloud, as he softened a cigarette between his fingers. “ I'm afraid you must reconcile yourself to an hour on a desert island then.”
Molly eyed him askance. “It's the Duke," she thought with a beating heart; and aloud, “I'm afraid we both must."
“Oh, as for me,” said the young man. “I shall enjoy it," he paused and added, "now. You see, it was different before. I was, so to speak, marooned.”
“ Marooned ! she echoed.
“ Yes. My canoe marooned me, as it has done you. It's a little beast. Only I have less excuse than you; in fact I've none. I was asleep under that tree yonder, and woke up to find the wretch gone."
“It is very hot,” said Molly sympathetically.
“Do you mind my lighting a cigarette?" he inquired politely, and, receiving her answer struck a match. “You see," he resumed, are in a way shipwrecked strangers who are forced to make the best of the situation. Not thať the situation is so bad," he added, with a pensive glance at his companion. “But I am forgetting my hospitality as host. I must find you a seat."
Molly thanked him, but assured him that she was not in need of a seat, and to show her independence hooked herself up on a low-lying branch, and swung there, watching him with interest. It really was the Duke!
“Of course," he resumed, in his casual, polite voice, the real difficulty will come if those young ladies get lost in the wilds or overtaken by the storm.
“Oh, they're not likely to do that,” said Molly, dryly.
"Indeed! Well, I suppose I ought to be glad to hear it, but I confess it would have been an experience to be benighted here. Don't you agree with me?"
“ Certainly not,” said Molly with decision.
“In that case let us hope the storm won't fall just yet," he said, glancing at the sky.
Molly followed his example. The sky was certainly very lowering and darkness was rolling up from the south.
“Do you think it will rain ?" she asked anxiously. He examined his cigarette.
“Speaking as one marooned or shipwrecked traveller to another, I will not deny the probability," he said. And as if in answer to his words heavy drops began to fall, the first fruits of the thunderstorm.
Molly started. “Oh, I do wish they would be quick,” she said. She looked down the river, where the canoe tossed gently a hundred yards away. Couldn't isn't there any chance of getting the boat?” she asked.
“You are suggesting to me,” said the young man deliverately, after a pause, “that I might plunge into the water, swim to shore and bring back the canoe. Frankly I do not feel equal to the occasion."
Molly felt contempt and enger rise in her. “You might as well get wet that way as any other, and we shall both be drenched in this storm,” she said, scarcely veiling her indignation.
“That is true," he remarked thoughtfully, “and since we are partners in distress perhaps one should make an effort to " -. He moved toward the water as he spoke, but a thought struck Molly.
“Can you swim?" she called out.
Then, how absurd of you to think of it,” she declared. “ Don't be so foolish. Perhaps we sha'n't get so very wet. I thought all men could swim,” she added contemptuously. And this was the Duke!
"It is good of you to let me off," he said philosophically, returning to her. “But I dare say I could have floundered across. You see, when you were so kind as to bring my canoe back”
“I didn't bring it back," said Molly shortly. “I didn't know any one was here. If I'd known it, of course, I would have got some one to take it over to you."
“Stubbs, for example?" said he. “It might have been more effective, but I doubt if it would have been as pleasant."
"I shouldn't have been shut up here helpless,” said Molly, ignoring his insinuated compliment. She did not like his imperturbability, and she suspected him of irony. Moreover, he did not appear to be at all ashamed of not being able to swim. It all came of being a Duke and superior. "If
you hadn't shouted out and startled me it wouldn't have happened,” said she, resolved that he should be put in the wrong. "I apologize," he said. “But you must remember
" that I thought you knew I was waiting here."
That was reasonable, but Molly was not to be pacified. She was determined to show him that he was in disgrace and she turned her shoulder to him. Suddenly a burst of thunder opened the heavens above him, and the rain streamed down. She cried out in dismay.
“You will be drenched to the skin in that light dress," said the stranger, in quite another voice, and he put out his hand and felt her arm. She shook it off.
“ Please come this way,” he commanded, and obeying the new note of authority in his tone she followed him to the further edge of the island, where she was surprised to find an easel erected. Quickly he unfolded a hugh white artists' umbrella and pushed a stool forward.
Sit under this, please. It will keep the worst off," he said.
Molly obeyed again, and the rain beat upon the umbrella. The young man stood a few paces away, regarding the black sky critically.
“You are getting wet yourself," she said presently. “Won't you come under ?”
"Not wetter than if I had plunged after the canoe,” he observed gravely, as he stooped to her invitation.
Molly made no answer to this; she had done her duty in asking him to share him own umbrella, and was going to leave it at that. The rain plumped heavily in dense, straight sheets about them. The umbrella wabbled and would have fallen, but he put out a hand and saved it, holding it in position. His arm was thus at the back of her, and it irked her as a sort of familiarity.
“Shall we tell each other stories?” he asked. “ It will while away the time till the rescue party arrives. My story is the story of the man who could not swim.”
“I think every man should be able to swim," said Molly disdainfully.
“And I think every woman should be she turned her face slightly toward him beautiful,'' he ended.
Whať did he mean? Was he insinuating that
“ Even if we are compelled to be like this I don't see any necessity to talk," she said curtly.
"No?” he said, and added amenably, “Very well."
Thereafter was silence, which only the rain broke, falling on the thick foliage of the trees, on the water and on the easel and canvas in front of them. Molly after a little began to wish she had said anything rather than what she had said. The silence was awful; it was far worse than anything he might say. There he sat, with his arm in a suggestive position behind her, stolidly looking forth upon the streaming river, without so much as the movement of a muscle in his face, so far as she could see. She herself kept her gaze fixed in front of her for a long time, while only the storm talked overhead. The heavens thundered and the clouds opened in a red streak; the deluge continued. Across the river were “ empty pastures blind with rain.”
The earth, now soaked and soft, ran gutters down the little slope, and the leg of Molly's stool suddenly sank on the side toward her companion. She toppled over upon him hands foremost and struck him in the chest.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" she cried.
"Not of the slightest consequence,” he replied formally, struggling with politeness in his prostrate condition and battling wildly with the pole of the umbrella. But the latter contest was in vain; the next moment it collapsed, and they were involved in the damp folds together. Molly was conscious only of a hurly burly of wet and misery and despair; she gave up the attempt to extricate herself and sat still, which was perhaps the best thing she could have done in the circum