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is only when we come up to that place, and I look at all that water and all that light—"
"We will never come here again, then," he interrupted her.
She remained silent for a while, returning his gaze till he removed it.
"It seems as if everything that there is had gone under," she said.
"Reminds you of the story of the deluge," muttered the man, stretched at her feet and looking at them. "Are you frightened at it?"
"I should be rather frightened to be left behind alone. When I say 1, of course I mean we."
"Do you?" . . . Heyst remained silent for a while. "The vision of a world destroyed," he mused aloud, "Would you be sorry for it?"
"I should be sorry for the happy people in it," she said simply.
His gaze travelled up her figure and reached her face, where he seemed to detect the veiled glow of intelligence, as one gets a glimpse of the sun through the clouds.
"I should have thought it's they specially who ought to have been congratulated. Don't you?"
"Oh, yes—I understand what you mean; but there were forty days before it was all over."
"You seem to be in possession of all the details."
Heyst spoke just to say something rather than to gaze at her in silence. She was not looking at him.
"Sunday school," she murmured. "I went regularly from the time I was eight till I was thirteen. We lodged in the north of London, off Kingsland Road. It wasn't a bad time. Father was earning good money then. The woman of the house used to pack me off in the afternoon with her own girls. She was a good woman. Her husband was in the postoffice. Sorter or something. Such a quiet man. He used to go off after supper for night duty, sometimes. Then one day they had a row, and broke up the home. I remember I cried when we had to pack up all of a sudden and go into other lodgings. I never knew what it was, though—"
"The deluge," muttered Heyst absently.
He felt intensely aware of her personality, as if this were the first moment of leisure he had found to look at her since they had come together. The peculiar timbre of her voice, with its modulations of audacity and sadness, would have given interest to the most inane chatter. But she was no chatterer. She was rather silent, with a capacity for immobility, an upright stillness, as when resting on the concert platform between the musical numbers, her feet crossed, her hands reposing on her lap. But in the intimacy of their life her grey, unabashed gaze forced upon him the sensation of something inexplicable reposing within her; stupidity or inspiration, weakness or force—or simply an abysmal emptiness, reserving itself even in the moments of complete surrender.
During a long pause she did not look at him. Then suddenly, as if the word "deluge" had stuck in her mind, she asked, looking up at the cloudless sky:
"Does it ever rain here?"
"There is a season when it rains almost every day," said Heyst, surprised. "There are also thunderstorms. We had once a mud-shower."
"Our neighbour there was shooting up ashes. He sometimes clears his red-hot gullet like that; and a thunderstorm came along at the same time. It was very messy; but our neighbour is generally well behaved—just smokes quietly, as he did that day when I first showed you the smudge in the sky from the schooner's deck. He's a good-natured, lazy fellow of a volcano."
"I saw a mountain smoking like that before," she said, staring at the slender stem of a tree-fern some dozen feet in front of her. "It wasn't very long after we left England—some few days, though. I was so ill at first that I lost count of days. A smoking mountain—I can't think how they called it."
"Vesuvius, perhaps," suggested Heyst.
"That's the name."
"I saw it, too, years, ages ago," said Heyst.
"On your way here?"
"No, long before I ever thought of coming into this part of the world. I was yet a boy."
She turned and looked at him attentively, as if seeking to discover some trace of that boyhood in the mature face of the man with the hair thin at the top and the long, thick moustaches. Heyst stood the frank examination with a playful smile, hiding the profound effect these veiled grey eyes produced— whether on his heart or on his nerves, whether sensuous or spiritual, tender or irritating, he was unable to say.
"Well, princess of Samburan," he said at last, "have I found favour in your sight?"
She seemed to wake up, and shook her head.
"I was thinking," she murmured very low.
"Thought, action—so many snares! If you begin to think you will be unhappy."
"I wasn't thinking of myself," she declared with a simplicity which took Heyst aback somewhat.
"On the lips of a moralist that would sound like a rebuke," he said, half seriously; "but I won't suspect you of being one. Moralists and I haven't been friends for many years."
She had listened with an air of attention.
"I understood you had no friends," she said, "I am pleased that there's nobody to find fault with you for what you have done. I like to think that I am in no one's way."
Heyst would have said something, but she did not give him time. Unconscious of the movement he made, she went on:
"What I was thinking to myself was, why are you here?"
Heyst let himself sink on his elbow again.
"If by 'you' you mean 'we'—well, you know why we are here."
She bent her gaze down at him.
"No, it isn't that. I meant before—all that time before you came across me and guessed at once that I was in trouble, with no one to turn to. And you know it was desperate trouble, too."
Her voice fell on the last words, as if she would end there; but there was something so expectant in Heyst's attitude as he sat at her feet, looking up at her steadily, that she continued, after drawing a short, quick breath:
"It was, really. I told you I had been worried before by bad fellows. It made me unhappy, disturbed—angry, too. But oh, how I hated, hated, hated that man!"
"That man," was the florid Schomberg with the military bearing, benefactor of white men ("decent food to eat in decent company")—mature victim of belated passion. The girl shuddered. The characteristic harmoniousness of her face became, as it were, decomposed for an instant. Heyst was startled.
"Why think of it now?" he cried.
"It's because I was cornered that time. It wasn't as before. It was worse, ever so much. I wished I could die of my fright;—and yet it's only now that I begin to understand what a horror it might have been. Yes, only now, since we—"
Heyst stirred a little.
"Came here," he finished.
Her tenseness relaxed, her flushed face went gradually back to its normal tint. .
"Yes," she said indifferently, but at the same time she gave him a stealthy glance of passionate appreciation; and then her face took on a melancholy cast, her whole figure drooped imperceptibly. "But you were coming back here anyhow?" she asked.
"Yes. I was only waiting for Davidson. Yes, I was coming back here, to these ruins—to Wang, who perhaps did not expect to see me again. It's impos