The face of his opponent was a study. His eyebrows went up in pleasant expostulation at the other’s eagerness. “So, then,” said he, “I suppose I must pay my stake, much to my regret. Ah! how fortune has run against me to-day. And so, here it is,—I write her name for you once more—this time her real name, so far as any in America know it—thus,—Josephine, Countess St. Auban, of France, of Hungary, of America, abolitionist, visionary, firebrand. There, then,—though I think you will find the matter of taking possession somewhat difficult to compass—so far as I am concerned, she is, with all my heart, yours to have and to hold, if you can! My duty to her is over. Yours begins, I hope!”
Dunwody found no speech. He was pale, and breathing fast.
Gravity increased in the other’s demeanor. His face now looked drawn, weary. “I beg, my dear sir,” he said, “nay, I entreat and command you, to make all gentle and kind use of this which the gods have given you. I confess nothing whatever, except that I am hungry and tired to extinction. I congratulate the winner, and consider myself fortunate to be allowed to go in peace to my own place—penniless, it is true, but at least with a conscience quite clear.” The frown on his face, the troubled gaze of his eyes, belied his last words. “It’s no part of my conscience to coerce a woman,” he added defiantly. “I can’t do it—not any longer.”
“It is well to be a cheerful loser,” returned Dunwody, at last. “I couldn’t blame any man for being coerced by—her! I admit that I am. But after this, what will be your plans?”
“I purpose leaving the boat at the first suitable stop, not farther down than Louisville, at least. Perhaps Cincinnati would be yet better. By the fortunes of war you will, therefore, stand in my stead. I’ve changed my mind, suddenly. I told the young lady that we would continue on together, even beyond Cairo. But now—well, to the victor, as Mr. Marcy has said, belong the spoils. Only, there are some titles which may not be negotiated. A quitclaim is by no means a warranty. You’ll discover that.” He smiled grimly.
The other made no answer. He only stood to his full height and stretched out his great arms. He seemed a figure come down unchanged from some savage day.
THE NEW MASTER
Alone in her state-room all these hours, Josephine St. Auban had abundant time to reflect upon the singular nature of her situation. At first, and very naturally, she was disposed to seek the protection of the boat’s officers, but a second thought convinced her of the unwisdom of that course. As to this stranger, this stalwart man of the West, she had appealed to him and he had made no sign. She had no friend, no counselor. A feeling of inefficiency, of smallness and helplessness, swept over her. For