“Heartless, then. But you great nobles are that, a little, eh, mon ami?”
He shrugged and returned quickly to that other more interesting subject.
“Elle va m’epouser!” he exclaimed violently. “I will stake my life on it. She will; she must!”
“Must!” The woman raised her hand. “You say that to an American girl?”
“We’re not at the finis yet!” An ugly crispness was manifest in his tones. “There are ports and priests a-plenty, and this voyage is apt to be a long one, unless she consents—”
“Charming man!” She spoke almost absently now.
“Haven’t I anything to offer? Diable! One would think I was a beggar, not—am I ill-looking, repugnant? Your sex,” with a suspicion of a sneer, “have not always found me so. I have given my heart before, you will say! But never as now! For she is a witch, like those that come out of the reeds on the Volga—to steal, alike, the souls of fisherman and prince.” He paused; then went on moodily. “I suppose I should have gone—allowed myself to be dismissed as a boy from school. ’I have played with you; you have amused me; you no longer do so. Adieu!’ So she would have said to me, if not in words, by implication. No, merci,” he broke off angrily. “Tant s’en faut! I, too, shall have something to say—and soon—to-night—!”
He made a swift gesture, threw his cigar into the sea and walked off.
“How tiresome!” But the words fell from the woman’s lips uneasily. She stretched her lithe form and looked up into the night. Then she, too, disappeared. Mr. Heatherbloom stood motionless. She knew who he was and yet she had not revealed his secret to the prince. Because she deemed him but a pawn, paltry, inconsequential? Because she wished to save the hot-headed nobleman from committing a deed of violence—a crime, even—if he should learn?
The reason mattered little. In Mr. Heatherbloom’s mind his excellency’s last words—all they portended—excluded now consideration of all else. He gazed uncertainly in the direction the nobleman had gone; suddenly started to follow, stealthily, cautiously, when another person approached. Mr. Heatherbloom would have drawn back, but it was too late—he was seen. His absence from the stokers’ quarters had been discovered; after searching for him below and not finding him, the giant foreman had come up here to look around. He was swinging his long arms and muttering angrily when he caught sight of his delinquent helper. The man uttered a low hoarse sound that augured ill for Mr. Heatherbloom. The latter knew what he had to expect—that no mercy would be shown him. He stepped swiftly backward, at the same time looking about for something with which to defend himself.
Prince Boris, upon leaving Sonia Turgeinov, ascended to the officers’ deck. For some moments he paced the narrow confines between the life-boats, then stepped into the wheel-house.