A lost daughter leads a father on a search into the deepest parts of the forest, were strange creatures and stranger men live.
Walker impatiently tossed aside the magazine he had been reading. "Why can't people write stories which are plausible?" he exclaimed in disgusted tones. "It's an insult to common sense and intelligence to print such rot—such things never happen."
"What things?" asked Blake. "What's the yarn that arouses your ire?"
Walker snorted. "About a crusty millionaire,” he replied. "Gets shipwrecked and floats about in mid-ocean. At the psychological moment a yacht turns up and a sailor rescues the old Croesus. Yacht belongs to a society snob engaged to millionaire's daughter. Sailor turns out to be an impecunious rival who has shipped in disguise to protect the girl from the dissolute chap who owns the yacht. Of course the latter proves to be a crook and the rescued millionaire bestows daughter, blessing and all on the sailor. As I said before, such things don't happen in real life—no such coincidences."
While Walker was talking, Belmont had entered the room. He had returned a few days previously from South America, where he had been on some sort of a scientific expedition, but this was the first time he had joined us at the club.
"I can't agree with you, Walker," he remarked, as he dropped into a chair. "And no one has a right to say what is possible and what impossible," he added. "Moreover, even more remarkable coincidences than those in your story do happen. I've seen a lot of things which you would declare impossible if they were written as fiction. There was the case of Meredith, for example. Not one of you would credit the story if you read it in a magazine."
"We can judge better when we've heard it," said Thurston. "Go ahead; lot's have the yarn."
"I heard the story on my trip up from South America," Belmont commenced, while we drew our chairs closer in anticipation of a good story. "We were lying off San Marcos," Belmont continued, "and I was leaning idly on the ship's rail, gazing at the little red-roofed town with its sea of unbroken green jungle behind it, and the snowcapped cordilleras in the far distance—an unknown, mysterious world, the haunt of strange beasts and stranger men. I turned just in time to see a man and woman step from the gangway-ladder to the deck. He was tall and lean, broad-shouldered and with a bronzed face, and he walked with the soft alert step of an Indian or an experienced bushman. At first glance I mistook him for a native. But he spoke to the officer at the rail in good English, and I saw that his eyes were of that unmistakable keen blue that spells Anglo-Saxon. But striking as was his appearance in this out-of-the-way spot, I gave him merely a passing glance, for my whole attention was riveted upon his companion. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Rather less than medium height, she had a superb figure, and was obviously white, for her skin, although a soft golden-olive, was not lacking in pink as are those tainted with negro blood, nor did it have the dull coppery tint of the Indian strain; neither was it the sallow shade of the mestizo or of the Latin American. Her hair was lustrous bronze and her eyes were as blue as the Caribbean water along the shore. She was dressed in a plain gown of white linen; her feet were encased in canvas shoes, and she wore a broad Panama. But her walk! She seemed almost to float along, and she had the carriage of a queen.
"Gee!” ejaculated Peters, the wireless operator who stood beside me. “Did you ever see a female woman walk like that? Where the dickens do you suppose she dropped from, and what’s she doing in this God-forsaken hole with that old Robinson Crusoe?”
I shook my head. "I've seen women walk like that before," I said. "But they were all Indians. That girl’s no Indian and she doesn't look like any race of European I've ever met, either."
"I'll soon find out who they are," declared Peters, as he hurried off to find the purser.
Presently he returned, a disappointed expression on his face, "He doesn't know any more than we do," Peters announced, "Says they've booked as 'Henry Meredith and Miss Meredith.' Thinks they're father and daughter and some sort of Creoles, although registered as Americans."
We saw nothing more of the two new passengers until dinner time, when they appeared at the captain's table. Without her hat, Miss Meredith was even more charming, and I saw Peters gazing at her with undisguised admiration.
Meredith himself seemed a quiet, rather taciturn man, but a wonderful knowledge on a great variety of subjects, and he conversed in perfect English with captain and myself in just as perfect Spanish with the native passengers and waiters.