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sticks, had busied himself outside in lighting a fire, on which he placed a ready filled kettle handed to him by Wang impassively, at arm's length, as if across a chasm. Having received the thanks of his guests, Heyst wished them good night and withdrew, leaving them to their repose.
Heyst walked away slowly. There was still no light in his bungalow, and he thought that perhaps it was just as well. By this time he was much less perturbed. Wang had preceded him with the lantern, as if in a hurry to get away from the two white men and their hairy attendant. The light was not dancing along any more; it was standing perfectly still by the steps of the veranda.
Heyst glancing back casually, saw behind him still another light,--the light of the strangers' open fire. A black, uncouth form, stooping over it monstrously, staggered away into the outlying shadows. The kettle had boiled, probably.
With that weird vision of something questionably human impressed upon his senses, Heyst moved on a pace or two.
What could the people be who had such a creature for their familiar attendant ? He stopped. The vague apprehension of a distant future, in which he saw Lena unavoidably separated from
him by profound and subtle differences; the sceptical carelessness which had accompanied every one of his attempts at action, like a secret reserve of his soul, fell away from him. He no longer belonged to himself. There was a call far more imperious and august. He came up to the bungalow, and, at the very limit of the lantern's light, on the top step, he saw her feet and the bottom part of her dress. The rest of her person was suggested dimly as high as her waist. She sat on a chair, and the gloom of the low eaves descended upon her head and shoulders. She didn't stir.
"You haven't gone to sleep here ?” he asked. "Oh, no! I was waiting for you—in the dark.”
Heyst, on the top step, leaned against a wooden pillar, after moving the lantern to one side.
"I have been thinking that it is just as well you had no light. But wasn't it dull for you to sit in the dark ?"
"I don't need a light to think of you." Her charming voice gave a value to this banal answer, which had also the merit of truth. Heyst laughed a little, and said that he had had a curious experience. She made no remark. He tried to figure to himself the outlines of her easy pose. A spot of dim light here and there hinted at the unfailing grace of attitude which was one of her natural possessions.
She had thought of him, but not in connection with the strangers. She had admired him from the first; she had been attracted by his warm voice, his gentle eye, but she had felt him too wonderfully difficult to know. He had given to life a savour, a movement, a promise mingled with menaces, which she had not suspected were to be found in it--or, at any rate, not by a girl wedded to misery as she was. She said to herself that she must not be irritated because he seemed too self-contained, and as if shut up in a world of his own. When he took her in his arms, she felt that his embrace had a great and compelling force, that he was moved deeply, and that perhaps he would not get tired of her so very soon. She thought that he had opened to her the feelings of delicate joy, that the very uneasiness he caused her was delicious in its sadness, and that she would try to hold him as long as she could—till her fainting arms, her sinking soul, could cling to him no more.
“Wang's not here, of course ?” Heyst said suddenly. She answered as if in her sleep.
"He put this light down here without stopping, and ran."
"Ran, did he ? H'm! Well, it's considerably later than his usual time to go home to his Alfuro wife; but to be seen running is a sort of degradation for Wang, who has mastered the art of vanishing.
Do you think he was startled out of his perfection by something?"
"Why should he be startled ?" Her voice remained dreamy, a little uncertain. "I have been startled," Heyst said.
She was not listening to him. The lantern at their feet threw the shadows of her face upward. Her eyes glistened, as if frightened and attentive, above a lighted chin and a very white throat.
“Upon my word,” mused Heyst, “now that I don't see them, I can hardly believe that those fellows exist!"
“And what about me ?" she asked, so swiftly that he made a movement like somebody pounced upon from an ambush. “When you don't see me, do you believe that I exist ?"
"Exist? Most charmingly! My dear Lena, you don't know your own advantages. Why, your voice alone would be enough to make you unforgettable!"
"Oh, I didn't mean forgetting in that way. I dare say if I were to die you would remember me right enough. And what good would that be to anybody ? It's while I am alive that I want—"
Heyst stood by her chair, a stalwart figure imperfectly lighted. The broad shoulders, the martial face that was like a disguise of his disarmed soul, were lost in the gloom above the plane of light in