A sort of sob caught in his throat. “I was wrong!” he cried suddenly. “I always say the wrong word, do the wrong thing, take the wrong way. But—don’t you remember about Martin Luther? He said he couldn’t help himself. ’Here stand I, I can not otherwise, God help me!’ That’s just the way with me—you blame me, but I tell you I can not otherwise. And I’ve told the truth. I’ve made wreck of everything right now. You ask me to make plans; and I tell you I can not. I would take you off the boat by force rather than see you go away from me. This thing is not yet worked out to the end. I’m not yet done. That’s all I know. You’ll have to go along with me.”
A sudden revulsion swept over him. He trembled as he stood, and reached out a hand.
“Give me a chance!” he broke out, sobered now. “It was a new thing, this feeling. Come, you sent for me—you asked me—that other man placed me in his stead as your guardian. He didn’t know I would act in this way, that’s true. I own I’ve been brutal. I know I’ve forgotten everything, but it came over me all at once, something new. Why, look at us two together—what could stop us? Always I’ve lacked something: I did not know what. Now I know. Give me my chance. Let me try again!”
In this strange, strained position, she caught, in spite of herself, some sort of genuine note underneath the frankness of his ungovernable passion. For once, she was in a situation where she could neither fathom motives nor arrange remedies. She stood in sheer terror, half fascinated in spite of all.
They both were silent for a while, but at length she resumed, not so ungently: “Then let there be this contract between us, sir. Neither of us shall make any further scene. We’ll temporize, since we can do no better. I gave parole once. I’ll not give it again, but I’ll go a little farther on westward, until I decide what to do.”
Impulsively he held out his hand to her, his mouth twitching with emotion, some sort of strange impulse shining in his eyes,
“Be my enemy, even,” he said, “only, do not leave me. I’ll not let you go.”
A CONFUSION IN CHATTELS
Their conversation was brought to an end by sounds of hurrying feet upon the decks above them. The hoarse boom of the steamer’s whistle indicated an intended landing. A swift thought of possible escape came to the mind of Josephine St. Auban. When Dunwody turned in his troubled pacing up and down the narrow floor of the cabin, he found himself alone.
“Jeanne!” cried she, running from the stair to the door of her state-room. “Hurry! Quick, get your valises! We’ll leave the boat here, at once!” Escape, in some fashion, to some place, at once, that was her sole thought in the panic which assailed her.
But when presently, as the boat drew in along the dock, she made ready to go ashore and hurriedly sought a servant to take care of the luggage, it was the captain of the Mount Vernon himself who came to meet her.