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would be frightened at the first sight of it. She would scream.
The capacity for sympathy in these stout, placid men! Davidson was stirred to the depths; and it was easy to see that it was about Heyst that he was concerned. We asked him if he had passed that way lately.
"Oh, yes. I always do—about half a mile off."
"Seen anybody about?"
"No, not a soul. Not a shadow."
"Did you blow your whistle?"
"Blow the whistle? You think I would do such a thing?"
He rejected the mere possibility of such an unwarrantable intrusion. Wonderfully delicate fellow, Davidson!
"Well, but how do you know that they are there?" he was naturally asked.
Heyst had entrusted Mrs. Schomberg with a message for Davidson—a few lines in pencil on a scrap of crumpled paper. It was to the effect that an unforeseen necessity was driving him away before the appointed time. He begged Davidson's indulgence for the apparent discourtesy. The woman of the house—meaning Mrs. Schomberg—would give him the facts, though unable to explain them, of course.
"What was there to explain?" wondered Davidson dubiously. "He took a fancy to that fiddle-playing girl, and"
"And she to him, apparently," I suggested.
"Wonderfully quick work," reflected Davidson. "What do you think will come of it?"
"Repentance, I should say. But how is it that Mrs. Schomberg has been selected for a confidante?"
For indeed a waxwork figure would have seemed more useful than that woman whom we all were accustomed to see sitting elevated above the two billiard-tables— without expression, without movement, without voice, without sight.
"Why, she helped the girl to bolt," said Davidson turning at me his innocent eyes, rounded by the state of constant amazement in which this affair had left him, like those shocks of terror or sorrow which sometimes leave their victim afflicted by nervous trembling. It looked as though he would never get over it.
"Mrs. Schomberg jerked Heyst's note, twisted like a pipe-light, into my lap while I sat there unsuspecting," Davidson went on. "Directly I had recovered my senses, I asked her what on earth she had to do with it that Heyst should leave it with her. And then, behaving like a painted image rather than a live woman, she whispered, just loud enough for me to hear:
'"I helped them. I got her things together, tied them up in my own shawl, and threw them into the compound out of a back window. I did it.'
"That woman that you would say hadn't the pluck to lift her little finger!" marvelled Davidson in his quiet, slightly panting voice. "What do you think of that?"
I thought she must have had some interest of her own to serve. She was too lifeless to be suspected of impulsive compassion. It was impossible to think that Heyst had bribed her. Whatever means he had, he had not the means to do that. Or could it be that she was moved by that disinterested passion for delivering a woman to a man which in respectable spheres is called matchmaking?—a highly irregular example of it!
"It must have been a very small bundle," remarked Davidson further.
"I imagine the girl must have been specially attractive," I said. y
"I don't know. She was miserable. I don't suppose it was more than a little linen and s white frocks they wear on the pVatform."
Davidson pursued his own train of thougl supposed that such a thing h:ad never been heard o the history of the tropic.^. For where could you find any one to steal a girl out of an orchestra? No doubt fellows here and there,, took a fancy to some pretty one-^ but it was not for n^nning away with her. Oh dear noT* It needed a lunatic like Heyst.
Only think /what it means," wheezed Davidson, imaginative yJnder his invincible placidity. "Just only try to Jthhik! Brooding alone on Samburan has upset his Krain. He never stopped to consider, or he couldn'i have done it. No sane man.... How is a thingf like that to go on? What's he going to do with hei/in the end? It's madness."
Youf say that he's mad. Schomberg tells us that he must l»e starving on his island; so he may end yet by eating* her," I suggested.
7s- Schomberg had had no time to enter into details, 1*ison told us. Indeed, the wonder was that they jeen left alone so long. The drowsy afternoon was ing by. Footsteps and voices resounded on the dah—I beg pardon, the piazza; the scraping of rs, the ping of a smitten bell. Customers were turnup. Mrs. Schomberg was begging Davidson riedly, but without looking at him, to say nothing any one, when on a half-uttered word her nervous lisper was cut short. Through a small inner door omberg came in, his hair brushed, his beard combed atly, but his eyelids still heavy from his nap. He oked with suspicion at Davidson, and even glanced his wife; but he was baffled by the natural placidity the one and the acquired habit of immobility in the
"Was s L eyst's exploit from another point of vie^
^^V i ^d try. It was successful in a rather starl
\}W * ^^a-use the hotel-keeper's point of view was hi
\s^ °Usive. All of a sudden, in the same hoarse
^i . tone, he proceeded to call Heyst many name:
ich. "pig-dog" was not the worst, with such vet
Ce that he actually choked himself. Profiting f
't"e pause, Davidson, whose temperament could w
Stand worse shocks, remonstrated in an undertone
"It's unreasonable to get so angry as that. Ev<
he had run off with your cash-box"
The big hotel-keeper bent down and put his inf uri face close to Davidson's.
"My cash-box! My—he—look here, Captain Davidson! He ran off with a girl. What do I care for the girl? The girl is nothing to me."
He shot out an infamous word which made Davidson start. That's what the girl was; and he reiterated the assertion that she was nothing to him. What he was concerned for was the good name of his house. Wherever he had been established, he had always had "artist parties" staying in his house. One recommended him to the others; but what would happen now, when it got about that leaders ran the risk in his house—his house—of losing members of their troupe? And just now, when he had spent seven hundred and thirty-four guilders in building a concert-hall in his compound. Was that a thing to do in a respectable hotel? The cheek, the indecency, the impudence, the atrocity! Vagabond, imposter, swindler, ruffian, schwein-hund I
He had seized Davidson by a button of his coat, detaining him in the doorway, and exactly in the line of Mrs. Schomberg's stony gaze. Davidson stole a glance in that direction and thought of making some sort of reassuring sign to her, but she looked so bereft of senses, and almost of life, perched up there, that it seemed not worth while. He disengaged his button with firm placidity. Thereupon, with a last stifled curse, Schomberg vanished somewhere within, to try and compose his spirits in solitude. Davidson stepped out on the verandah. The party of customers there had become aware of the explosive interlude in the doorway. Davidson knew one of these men, and nodded to him in passing; but his acquaintance called
t: Isn't he in a filthy temper? He's been like that ever te«ince."