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“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 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 P Was it the prompting of some obscure instinct P Or was it simply a delusion of his own senses P 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 Po
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 P
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 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 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 P 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 P” “I don't.”
“You want him out of the way ?” 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 exasperated that he didn’t know what he might have done. He said at last: “You want poor, harmless Peter out of the way before you let me take you to see the governor—is that it P” “Yes, that is it.” “H’ml 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