The secretary nerved himself and waited; and yet he knew what her reply woul_e, even before she framed it, knew it with that indescribable certainty whic_rescience occasionally grants in the space of a moment. Before he had spoke_here had been hope to stand upon, for she had always been gentle and kindl_oward him, not a whit less than she had been to the others.
"Mr. Breitmann, I am sorry. I never dreamed of this;" nor had she. She ha_orgotten Europeans seldom understand the American girl as she is or believ_hat the natural buoyancy of spirit is as free from purpose or intent as th_lay of a child. But in this moment she remembered her little and perfectl_nconsequent attentions toward this man, and seeing them from his viewpoin_he readily forgave him. Abroad, she was always on guard; but here, among he_wn compatriots who accepted her as she was, she had excusably forgotten. "_m sorry if you have misunderstood me in any way."
"I could no more help loving you than that those stars should cease to shin_o-night," his voice heavy with emotion.
"I am sorry," she could only repeat. Men had spoken to her like this before,
and always had the speech been new to her and always had a great and tende_ity charged her heart. And perhaps her pity for this one was greater than an_he had previously known; he seemed so lonely.
"Sorry, sorry! Does that mean there is no hope?"
"None, Mr. Breitmann, none."
"Is there another?" his throat swelling. But before she could answer: "Pardo_e; I did not mean that. I have no right to ask such a question."
"And I should not have answered it to any but my father, Mr. Breitmann." Sh_xtended her hand. "Let us forget that you have spoken. I should like you fo_ friend."
Without a word he took the hand and kissed it. He made no effort to hold it,
and it slipped from his clasp easily.
"Good night." And he never lost sight of her till she entered the salon-cabin.
He saw a star fall out of nothing into nothing. She was sorry! The momen_rewed a thousand wild suggestions. To abduct her, to carry her away into th_ountains, to cast his dream to the four winds, to take her in spite o_erself. He laid his hand on the teak railing, wondering at the sudde_racking pain, a pain which unlinked coherent thought and left his min_tagnant and inert. For the first time he realized that his pain was _ecurrence of former ones similar. Why? He did not know. He only remembere_hat he had had the pain at the back of his head and that it was generall_ollowed by a burning fury, a rage to rend and destroy things. What was th_atter?
The damp rail was cool and refreshing, and after a spell the pain diminished.
He shook himself free and stood straight, his jaws hard and his eyes,
absorbing what light there was from the stars, chatoyant. Sorry! So be it. T_ave humbled himself before this American girl and to be snubbed for hi_ains! But, patience! Two million francs and his friends awaiting the wor_rom him. She was sorry! He laughed, and the laughter was not unlike tha_hich a few nights gone had startled the ears of the other woman to whom h_ad once appealed in passionate tones and not without success.
The sight of Hildegarde at this moment neither angered nor pleased him. H_ermitted her hand to lay upon his arm.
"My head aches," he said, as if replying to the unspoken question in her eyes.
"Karl, why not give it up?" she pleaded.
"Give it up? What! when I have come this far, when I have gone through what _ave? Oh, no! Do not think so little of me as that."
"But it is a dream!"
He shook off her hand angrily. "If there is to be any reckoning I shall pay,
never fear. But it will not, _shall_ not fail!"
She would have liked to weep for him. "I would gladly give you my eyes, Karl,
if you might see it all as I see it. Ruin, ruin! Can you touch this mone_ithout violence? Ah, my God, what has blinded you to the real issues?"
"I have not asked you to share the difficulties."
"No. You have not been that kind to me."
To-night there were no places in his armor for any sentiment but his own. "_ant nothing but revenge."
"I think I can read," her own bitterness getting the better of her tongue.
"Miss Killigrew has declined."
"You have been listening?" with a snarl.
"It has not been necessary to listen; I needed only to watch."
"Well, what is it to you?"
"Take care, Karl! You can not talk to me like that."
"Don't drive me, then. Oh," with a sudden turn of mind, "I am sorry that yo_an not understand."
"If I hadn't I should never have given you my promise not to speak. There wa_ time when you had right on your side, but that time ceased to be when yo_ied to me. How little you understood me! Had you spoken frankly an_enerously at the start, God knows I shouldn't have refused you. But you se_ut to walk over my heart to get that miserable slip of paper. Ah! had I bu_nown! I say to you, you will fail utterly and miserably. You are either blin_r mad!"
Without a word in reply to this prophecy he turned and left her; and as soo_s he had vanished she kissed the spot on the rail where his hand had reste_nd laid her own there. When at last she raised it, the rail was no longe_erely damp, it was wet.
"Now there," began Fitzgerald, taking M. Ferraud firmly by the sleeve, "I hav_ome to the end of my patience. What has Breitmann to do with all thi_usiness?"
"Will you permit me to polish my spectacles?" mildly asked M. Ferraud.
"It's the deuce of a job to get you into a corner," Fitzgerald declared. "Bu_ have your promise, and you should recollect that I know things which migh_nterest Mr. Breitmann."
" _Croyez-vous qu'il pleuve? Il fait bien du vent_ ," adjusting his spectacle_nd viewing the clear sky and the serene bosom of the Mediterranean. Then M.
Ferraud turned round with: "Ah, Mr. Fitzgerald, this man Breitmann is what yo_all 'poor devil,' is it not? At dinner to-night I shall tell a story, at onc_arvelous past belief and pathetic. I shall tell this story against my bes_onvictions because I wish him no harm, because I should like to save him fro_lack ruin. But, attend me; my efforts shall be as wind blowing upon stone;
and I shall not save him. An alienist would tell you better than I can.
Listen. You have watched him, have you not? To you he seems like any othe_an? Yes? Keen-witted, gifted, a bit of a musician, a good deal of a scholar?
Well, had I found that paper first, there would have been no treasure hunt. _hould have torn it into one thousand pieces; I should have saved him in spit_f himself and have done my duty also. He is mad, mad as a whirlwind, as _empest, as a fire, as a sandstorm."
And the wiry little man released himself and bustled away to his chair wher_e became buried in rugs and magazines.