“I know you are unhappy,” replied Virginia, gently. “I am truly sorry for that.”
“Are you? Are you, indeed?” he cried. “Unhappiness is worth such pity as yours.” He brooded for a moment, then threw his hands out with what might have been a gesture of desperate indifference. Suddenly his mood changed in the whimsical, bewildering fashion of the man. “Ah, a star shoots!” he exclaimed, gayly. “That means a kiss!”
Still laughing, he attempted to draw her to him. Angry, mortified, outraged, she fought herself free and leaped to her feet.
“Oh!” she cried, in insulted anger.
“Oh!” she cried, in a red shame.
“Oh!” she cried, in sorrow.
Her calm broke. She burst into the violent sobbing of a child, and turned and ran hurriedly to the factory.
Ned Trent stared after her a minute from beneath scowling brows. He stamped his moccasined foot impatiently.
“Like a rat in a trap!” he jeered at himself. “Like a rat in a trap, Ned Trent! The fates are drawing around you close. You need just one little thing, and you cannot get it. Bribery is useless! Force is useless! Craft is useless! This afternoon I thought I saw another way. What I could get no other way I might get from this little girl. She is only a child. I believe I could touch her pity—ah, Ned Trent, Ned Trent, can you ever forget her frightened, white face begging you to be kind?” He paced back and forth between the two bronze guns with long, straight strides, like a panther in a cage. “Her aid is mine for the asking—but she makes it impossible to ask! I could not do it. Better try la Longue Traverse than take advantage of her pity—she’d surely get into trouble. What wonderful eyes she has. She thinks I am a brute—how she sobbed, as though her little heart had broken. Well, it was the only way to destroy her interest in me. I had to do it. Now she will despise me and forget me. It is better that she should think me a brute than that I should be always haunted by those pleading eyes.” The door of the distant church house opened and closed. He smiled bitterly. “To be sure, I haven’t tried that.” he acknowledged. “Their teachings are singularly apropos to my case—mercy, justice, humanity—yes, and love of man. I’ll try it. I’ll call for help on the love of man, since I cannot on the love of woman. The love of woman—ah——yes.”
He set his feet reflectively toward the chapel.
After a moment he pushed open the door without ceremony, and entered. He bent his brows, studying the Reverend Archibald Crane, while the latter, looking up startled, turned pink.