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talking. Let me take you to him this evening. He ain't at all well; and he can't make up his mind to go away without having a talk with you.”
Heyst, looking up, met Lena's eyes. Their expression of candour seemed to hide some struggling intention. Her head, he fancied, had made an imperceptible affirmative movement. Why? What reason could she have? Was it the prompting of some obscure instinct? Or was it simply a delusion of his own senses? But in this strange complication invading the quietude of his life, in his state of doubt and disdain and almost of despair with which he looked at himself, he would let a delusive appearance guide him through a darkness so dense that it made for indifference.
"Well, suppose I do say so?”
Ricardo did not conceal his satisfaction, which for a moment interested Heyst.
"It can't be my life they are after,” he said to himself. "What good could it be to them?”
He looked across the table at the girl. What did it matter whether she had nodded or not? As always when looking into her unconscious eyes, he tasted something like the dregs of tender pity. He had decided to go. Her nod, imaginary or not imaginary, advice or illusion, had tipped the scale. He reflected that Ricardo's invitation could scarcely be anything in the nature of a trap. It would have been too absurd. Why carry subtly into a trap someone already bound hand and foot, as it were?
All this time he had been looking fixedly at the girl he called Lena. In the submissive quietness of her being, which had been her attitude ever since they had begun their life on the island, she remained as secret as ever. Heyst got up abruptly, with a smile of such enigmatic and despairing character that Mr. Secretary Ricardo, whose abstract gaze had an all-round efficiency, made a slight crouching start, as if to dive under the table for his leg-knife—a start that was repressed as soon as
begun. He had expected Heyst to spring on him or draw a revolver, because he created for himself a vision of him in his own image. Instead of doing either of these obvious things, Heyst walked across the room, opened the door, and put his head through it to look out into the compound.
As soon as his back was turned, Ricardo's hand sought the girl's arm under the table. He was not looking at her, but she felt the groping, nervous touch of his search, felt suddenly the grip of his fingers above her wrist. He leaned forward a little; still he dared not look at her. His hard stare remained fastened on Heyst's back. In an extremely low hiss, his fixed idea of argument found expression scathingly:
"See! He's no good. He's not the man for you!"
He glanced at her at last. Her lips moved a little, and he was awed by that movement without a sound. Next instant the hard grasp of his fingers vanished from her arm. Heyst had shut the door. On his way back to the table, he crossed the path of the girl they had called Alma-she didn't know why-also Magdalen, whose mind had remained so long in doubt as to the reason of her own existence. She no longer wondered at that bitter riddle, since her heart found its solution in a blinding, hot glow of passionate purpose.
SHE passed by Heyst as if she had indeed been blinded by some secret, lurid, and consuming glare into which she was about to enter. The curtain of the bedroom door fell behind her into rigid folds. Ricardo's vacant gaze seemed to be watching the dancing flight of a fly in mid air.
"Extra dark outside, ain't it?” he muttered.
“Not so dark but that I could see that man of yours prowling about there,” said Heyst in measured tones.
"What-Pedro? He's scarcely a man, you know; or else I wouldn't be so fond of him as I am.'
"Very well. Let's call him your worthy associate.”
"Ay! Worthy enough for what we want of him. A great stand-by is Peter in a scrimmage. A growl and a bite-oh, my! And you don't want him about?"
7?" insisted Ricardo with an affectation of incredulity which Heyst accepted calmly, though the air in the room seemed to grow more oppressive with every word spoken.
“That's it. I do want him out of the way." He forced himself to speak equably.
“Lor'! That's no great matter. Pedro's not much use here. The business my governor's after can be settled by ten minutes' rational talk with—with another gentleman Quiet talk!"
He looked up suddenly with hard, phosphorescent eyes. Heyst didn't move a muscle. Ricardo congratulated himself on having left his revolver behind. He was so ex.
asperated that he didn't know what he might have done. He said at last:
"You want poor, harmless Peter out of the way bet fore you let me take you to see the governor—is that it?"
"Yes, that is it."
“H'm! One can see," Ricardo said with hidden venom, that you are a gentleman; but all that gentlemanly fancifulness is apt to turn sour on a plain man's stomach. However—you'll have to pardon me.'
He put his fingers into his mouth and let out a whistle which seemed to drive a thin, sharp shaft of air solidly against one's nearest ear-drum. Though he greatly enjoyed Heyst's involuntary grimace, he sat perfectly stolid waiting for the effect of the call.
It brought Pedro in with an extraordinary, uncouth, primeval impetuosity. The door flew open with a clatter, and the wild figure it disclosed seemed anxious to devastate the room in leaps and bounds; but Ricardo raised his open palm, and the creature came in quietly. His enormous half-closed paws swung to and fro a little in front of his bowed trunk as he walked. Ricardo looked on truculently.
"You go to the boat-understand ? Go now !"
The little red eyes of the tame monster blinked with painful attention in the mass of hair.
"Well? Why don't you get? Forgot human speech, eh? Don't you know any longer what a boat is?"
"Si-boat," the creature stammered oui doubtfully.
"Well, go there—the boat at the jetty. March off to it and sit there, lie down there, do anything but go to sleep there—till you hear my call, and then fly here. Them's your orders. March! Get, vamos! No, not that way—out through the front door. No sulks !"
Pedro obeyed with uncouth alacrity. When he had gone, the gleam of pitiless savagery went out of Ricardo's yellow eyes, and his physiognomy took on, for the
first time that evening, the expression of a domestic cat which is being noticed.
“You can watch him right into the bushes, if you like. Too dark, eh? Why not go with him to the very spot, then?”
Heyst made a gesture of vague protest.
“There's nothing to assure me that he will stay there. I have no doubt of his going; but it's an act without a guarantee.'
"There you are!" Ricardo shrugged his shoulders philosophically. “Can't be helped. Short of shooting our Pedro, nobody can make absolutely sure of his staying in the same place longer than he has a mind to; but I tell you, he lives in holy terror of my temper. That's why I put on my sudden-death air when I talk to him. And yet I wouldn't shoot him-not I, unless in such a fit of rage as would make a man shoot his favourite dog. Look here, sir! This deal is on the square. I didn't tip him a wink to do anything else. He won't budge from the jetty. Are you coming along now, sir?"
A short silence ensued. Ricardo's jaws were working ominously under his skin. His eyes glided voluptuously here and there, cruel and dreamy. Heyst checked a sudden movement, reflected for a while, then said:
“You must wait a little."
“Wait a little! Wait a little! What does he think a fellow is—a graven image?" grumbled Ricardo half audibly.
Heyst went into the bedroom, and shut the door after him with a bang. Coming from the light, he could not see a thirig in there at first; yet he received the impression of the girl getting up from the floor. On the less opaque darkness of the shutter-hole, her head detached itself suddenly, very faint, a mere hint of a round, dark shape without a face.
“I am going, Lena. I am going to confront these scoundrels." He was surprised to feel two arms falling