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"You might have wished to explore the island a little," said Heyst, studying the man, who, to render him justice, did not try to free his captured gaze. "I may remind you that it wouldn't be a perfectly safe proceeding."
Ricardo presented a picture of innocence.
"Oh, yes!—meaning that Chink that has run away from you. He ain't much!"
"He has a revolver," observed Heyst meaningly.
"Well, and you have a revolver, too," Mr. Ricardo argued unexpectedly. "I don't worry myself about that."
"I? That's different. I am not afraid of you,'* Heyst made answer after a short pause. "Of me?" "Of all of you."
"You have a queer way of putting things," began Ricardo.
At that moment the door on the compound side of the house came open with some noise, and Pedro entered, pressing the edge of a loaded tray to his breast. His big, hairy head rolled a little, his feet fell in front of each other with a short, hard thump on the floor. The arrival changed the current of Ricardo's thought, perhaps, but certainly of his speech.
"You heard me whistling a little while ago outside? That was to give him a hint, as I came along, that it was time to bring in the dinner; and here it is."
Lena rose and passed to the right of Ricardo, who lowered his glance for a moment. They sat down at the table. The enormous gorilla back of Pedro swayed out through the door.
"Extraordinary strong brute, ma'am," said Ricardo. He had a propensity to talk about "his Pedro," as some men will talk of their dog. "He ain't pretty, though. No, he ain't pretty. And he has got to be kept under. I am his keeper, as it might be. The governor don't trouble his head much about dee-tails. All that's left to Martin. Martin, that's me, ma'am."
Heyst saw the girl's eyes turn toward Mr. Jones's secretary and rest blankly on his face. Ricardo, however, looked vaguely into space, and, with faint flickers of a smile about his lips, made conversation indefatigably against the silence of his entertainers. He boasted largely of his long association with Mr. Jones—over four years now, he said. Then, glancing rapidly at Heyst:
"You can see at once he's a gentleman, can't you?"
"You people," Heyst said, his habitual playful intonation tinged with gloom, "are divorced from all reality in my eyes."
Ricardo received this speech as if he had been expecting to hear those very words, or else did not mind at all what Heyst might say. He muttered an absent-minded "Ay, ay," played with a bit of biscuit, sighed, and said, with a peculiar stare which did not seem to carry any distance, but to stop short at a point in the air very near his face:
"Anybody can see at once you are one. You and the governor ought to understand each other. He expects to see you to-night. The governor isn't well, and we've got to think of getting away from here."
While saying these words he turned himself full toward Lena, but without any marked expression. Leaning back with folded arms, the girl stared before her as if she had been alone in the room. But under that aspect of almost vacant unconcern the perils and emotion that had entered into her life warmed her heart, exalted her mind with a sense of an inconceivable intensity of existence.
"Really? Thinking of going away from here?" Heyst murmured.
"The best of friends must part," Ricardo pronounced slowly. "And, as long as they part friends, there's no harm done. We two are used to be on the move. You, I understand, prefer to stick in one place."
It was obvious that all this was being said merely for the sake of talking, and that Ricardo's mind was concentrated on some purpose unconnected with the words that were coming out of his mouth.
"I should like to know," Heyst asked with incisive politeness, "how you have come to understand this or anything else about me? As far as I can remember, I've made you no confidences."
Ricardo, gazing comfortably into space out of the back of bis chair—for some time all three had given up any pretence of eating—answered abstractedly:
"Any fellow might have guessed it." He sat up suddenly, and uncovered all his teeth in a grin of extraordinary ferocity, which was belied by the persistent amiability of his tone. "The governor will be the man to tell you something about that. I wish you would say you would see my governor. He's the one who does all our 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
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 even 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 some one 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 allround 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 life in his own image. Instead of doing either of these evident 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