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“Mr. Kemp! I say, Kemp! Aren't you coming in
“To say good-by,” I said, approaching him. It had fallen dark already.
“Good-by? No. The carpenter must have a day at least.”
Carpenter! What had a carpenter to do in this? However, nothing mattered-as though I had managed to spoil the whole scheme of creation.
“You didn't think of making a start to-night, did you?” Sebright wondered. “Where would be the sense of it?”
“Sense,” I answered contemptuously. “There is no sense in anything. There is necessity. Necessity."
He remained silent for a time, peering at me.
“Necessity, to be sure,” he said slowly. “And I don't see why you should be angry at it.”
I was thinking that it was easy enough for him to keep cool—the necessity being mine. He continued to philosophize with what seemed to me a shocking freedom of mind.
"Must try to put some sense into it. That's what we are here for, I guess. Anyhow, there's some room for sense in arranging the way a thing is to be done, be it as hard as it may. And I don't see any sense, either, in exposing a woman to more hardship than is absolutely necessary. We have talked it out now, and I can do no more. Do go inside for a bit. Mrs. Williams is worrying the señorita, rather, I'm afraid.”
I paused a moment to try and regain the command of my faculties. But it was as if a bombshell had exploded inside my skull, scattering all my wits to the four winds of heaven. Only the conviction of failure remained, attended by a profound distress.
I fancy, though, I presented a fairly bold front. The lamp was lit, and small changes had occurred during my absence. Williams had turned his bulk sideways to che table. Mrs. Williams had risen from her place, and was now sitting upright close to Seraphina, holding one little hand inclosed caressingly between her frail palms, as if she had there something alive that needed cherishing. And in that position she looked up at me with a strange air of worn-out youth, cast by a rosy flush over her forehead and face. Seraphina still leaned her head on her other hand, and I noted, through the soft shadow of falling hair, the heightened colour on her cheek and the augmented brilliance of her eye.
“How I wish she had been an English girl,” Mrs. Williams sighed regretfully, and leaned forward to look into Seraphina's half-averted face.
“My dear, did you quite, quite understand what I have been saying to you?”
She waited. “Si Señora,” said Seraphina. None of us moved. Then, after a time, turning to me with sudden animation, “This woman asked me if I believed in your love,” she cried. “She is old. Oh, Juan, can the years change the heart? your heart?” Her voice dropped. “How am I to know that?” she went on piteously. “I am young—and we may not live so long. I believe in mine...,
The corners of her delicate lips drooped; but she mastered her desire to cry, and steadied her voice which, always rich and full of womanly charm, took on, when she was deeply moved, an imposing gravity of timbre.
“But I am a Spaniard, and I believe in my lover's honour; in your-your English honour, Juan.”
With the dignity of a supreme confidence she extended her hand. It was one of the culminating moments of our love. For love is like a journey in mountainous country, up through the clouds, and down into the shadows to an unknown destination. It was a moment rapt and full of feeling, in which we seemed to dwell together high up and alone till she withdrew her hand from my lips, and I found myself back in the cabin, as if precipitated from a lofty place.
Nobody was looking at us. Mrs. Williams sat with downcast eyelids, with her hands reposing on her lap: her husband gazed discreetly at a gold moulding on the deck-beam; and the upward cast of his eyes invested his red face with an air of singularly imbecile ecstasy. And there was Castro, too, whom I had not seen till then, though I must have brushed against him on entering. He had stood by the door a mute, and, as it were, a voluntarily unmasked conspirator with the black round of the hat lying in front of his feet. He, alone, looked at us. He looked from Seraphina to me from me to Seraphina. He looked unutterable things, rolling his crow-footed eyes in pious horror and glowering in turns. When Seraphina addressed him, he hastened to incline his head with his usual deference for the daughter of the Riegos.
She said, “There are things that concern this caballero, and that you can never understand. Your fidelity is proved. It has sunk deep here.... It shall give you a contented old age on the word of Seraphina Riego.”
He looked down at his feet with gloomy submission.
“There is a proverb about an enamoured woman,” he muttered to himself, loud enough for me to overhear. Then, stooping deliberately to pick up his hat, he flourished it with a great sweep lower than his knees. His dumpy black back flitted out of the cabin; and almost directly we heard the sharp click of his flint and blade outside the door.
How often the activity of our life is the least real part of it! Life, looked upon as a whole, presents itself to my fancy as a pursuit with open arms of a winged and magnificent dream, hovering just over our heads and casting its glory upon our hopes. It is in this simple vision, which is one and enduring, and not in the changing facts, that we must look for meaning and for truth. The three quiet days we spent together on board the Lion remain to me memorable and full of import, eventless and containing the very quintessence of existence. We shared the sunshine, always together, very close, turning hand in hand to the sea, whose unstained blueness continued under our feet the blue above our heads, as though we had been snatched up into the sky. The insignificant words we exchanged seemed informed by a sustaining certitude and an admirable gravity, as though there had been some quality of unerring wisdom in the blind love of man and woman. From the inexhaustible treasure of her feelings she drew words, glances, gestures that appeased every uneasiness of my heart. In some brief moment of illumination whose advent my man's eyes had utterly missed, she had learned all at once everything there was to know. She knew. She no longer needed to survey my actions, my words, my thoughts; but she accorded me the sincere flattery of spell-bound attention, and it was made intoxicating by her smile. In those short days of a pause, when, like a swimmer turning on his back, we lived in the trustful confidence
of the sustaining depths, instead of struggling with the agitation of the surface in these days we had the time to look at each other profoundly; and I saw her smile come back again a little changed, more meaning and a little less mirthful, as if her lips had been made stiff þy sorrow. But she was young; and youth, the time of softness, of tenderness, of enthusiasm, and of pity, presents a surface as hard as marble to the finality of death.
Breathing side by side, drinking in the sunshine, and talking of ourselves not at all, but casting the sense of our love like a magnificent garment over the wide significance of a world already conquered, we could not help being made aware of the currents of excitement and sympathy that converged upon our essential isolation from the life of the ship. It was the excitement of the adventure brewing for our drinking according to Sebright's recipe. People approached us-spoke to us. We attended to them as if called down from an elevation; we were aware of the kind tone; and, remaining indistinct, they retreated, leaving us free to regain the heights of the lovers' paradise-a region of tender whispers and intense silences. Suddenly there would be a short, throaty laugh behind our backs, and Williams would begin, “I say, Kemp; do you call to mind so-and-so?” Invariably some planter or merchant in Jamaica. I never could.
Williams would grunt, “No? I wonder how you passed your time away these two years or more. The place isn't that big." His purpose was to cheer me up by some gossip, if only he could find a common acquaintance to talk over. I believe he thought me a queer fish. He told me once that everybody he knew in Jamaica had that precise opinion of me. Then with a chuckle and muttering, “Warrants-assault-Top