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again. At one time I thought that intelligent observation of facts was the best way of cheating the time which is allotted to us whether we want it or not; but now I have done with observation, too."
Imagine poor, simple Davidson being addressed in such terms_alongside an abandoned, decaying wharf jutting out of tropical bush. He had never heard anybody speak like this before; certainly not Heyst, whose conversation was concise, polite, with a faint ring of playfulness in the cultivated tones of his voice.
"He's gone mad,” Davidson thought to himself.
But, looking at the physiognomy above him on the wharf, he was obliged to dismiss the notion of common, crude lunacy. It was truly most unusual talk. Then he remembered-in his surprise he had lost sight of it—that Heyst now had a girl there. This bizarre discourse was probably the effect of the girl. Davidson shook off the absurd feeling, and asked, wishing to make clear his friendliness, and not knowing what else to say:
"You haven't run short of stores or anything like that ?"
Heyst smiled and shook his head.
"No, no. Nothing of the kind. We are fairly well off here. Thanks, all the same. If I have taken the liberty to detain you, it is not from any uneasi
ness for myself and my--companion. The person I was thinking of when I made up my mind to invoke your assistance is Mrs. Schomberg."
“I have talked with her," interjected Davidson. “Oh! You ? Yes, I hoped she would find means
“But she didn't tell me much," interrupted Davidson, who was not averse from hearing something-he hardly knew what. “H'm-yes.
But that note of mine ? Yes ? She found an opportunity to give it to you? That's good, very good. She's more resourceful than one would give her credit for."
“Women often are,” remarked Davidson. The strangeness from which he had suffered, merely because his interlocutor had carried off a girl, wore off as the minutes went by. “There's a lot of unexpectedness about women," he generalised with a didactic aim which seemed to miss its mark; for the next thing Heyst said was:
“This is Mrs. Schomberg's shawl.” He touched the stuff hanging over his arm. “An Indian thing, I believe,” he added, glancing at his arm sideways.
"It isn't of particular value," said Davidson.
“Very likely. The point is that it belongs to Schomberg's wife. That Schomberg seems to be an unconscionable ruffian—don't you think so ?"
Davidson smiled faintly.
"We out here have got used to him," he said, as if excusing a universal and guilty toleration of a manifest nuisance. "I'd hardly call him that. I only know him as a hotel-keeper."
“I never knew him even as that—not till this time, when you were so obliging as to take me to Sourabaya, I went to stay there from economy. The Netherlands House is very expensive, and they expect you to bring your own servant with you. It's a nuisance."
“Of course, of course," protested Davidson hastily.
After a short silence Heyst returned to the matter of the shawl. He wanted to send it back to Mrs. Schomberg. He said that it might be very awkward for her if she were unable, if asked, to produce it. This had given him, Heyst, much uneasiness. She was terrified of Schomberg. Apparently she had reason to be.
Davidson had remarked that, too. Which did not prevent her, he pointed out, from making a fool of him, in a way, for the sake of a stranger.
“Oh! You know!” said Heyst. “Yes, she helped me--us."
“She told me so. I had quite a talk with her," Davidson informed him. “Fancy any one having a
talk with Mrs. Schomberg! If I were to tell the fellows they wouldn't believe me.
How did you get round her, Heyst? How did you think of it ? Why, she looks too stupid to understand human speech and too scared to shoo' a chicken away. Oh, the women, the women! You don't know what there may be in the quietest of them.'
“She was engaged in the task of defending her position in life,” said Heyst. "It's a very respectable task.”
“Is that it ? I had some idea it was that,” confessed Davidson.
He then imparted to Heyst the story of the violent proceedings following on the discovery of his flight. Heyst's polite attention to the tale took on a sombre cast; but he manifested no surprise, and offered no comment. When Davidson had finished he handed down the shawl into the boat, and Davidson promised to do his best to return it to Mrs. Schomberg in some secret fashion. Heyst expresed his thanks in a few simple words, set off by his manner of finished courtesy. Davidson prepared to depart. They were not looking at each other. Suddenly Heyst spoke:
“You understand that this was a case of odious persecution, don't you ? I became aware of it and—”
It was a view which the sympathetic Davidson was capable of appreciating.
“I am not surprised to hear it,” he said placidly. “Odious enough, I dare say. And you, of coursenot being a married man—were free to step in. Ah, well!"
He sat down in the stern-sheets, and already had the steering lines in his hands when Heyst observed abruptly: “The world is a bad dog.
It will bite you if you give it a chance; but I think that here we can safely defy the fates."
When relating all this to me, Davidson's only comment was:
“Funny notion of defying the fates—to, take a woman in tow!”