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Chapter 19 BREITMANN MAKES HIS FIRST BLUNDER

  • 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.
  • "Goodnight."
  • "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.
  • "Karl!"
  • 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."
  • "About what?"
  • "To-night, to-night!"
  • And the wiry little man released himself and bustled away to his chair wher_e became buried in rugs and magazines.