“How could I bring about what you ask?” he interrupted.
“I don’t know. You are a man. I believed you could plan a way, but I see now how foolish I have been. It is impossible.” Her hand reached slowly for the knob of the door.
“Yes, you are foolish,” he agreed, and his voice was softer. “Don’t let such thoughts overcome you, Miss Standish. Go back to your cabin and get a night’s sleep. Don’t let Rossland worry you. If you want me to settle with that man—”
“Good night, Mr. Holt.”
She was opening the door. And as she went out she turned a little and looked at him, and now she was smiling, and there were tears in her eyes.
The door closed behind her. He heard her retreating footsteps. In half a minute he would have called her back. But it was too late.
For half an hour Alan sat smoking his cigar. Mentally he was not at ease. Mary Standish had come to him like a soldier, and she had left him like a soldier. But in that last glimpse of her face he had caught for an instant something which she had not betrayed in his cabin—a stab of what he thought was pain in her tear-wet eyes as she smiled, a proud regret, possibly a shadow of humiliation at last—or it may have been a pity for him. He was not sure. But it was not despair. Not once had she whimpered in look or word, even when the tears were in her eyes, and the thought was beginning to impress itself upon him that it was he—and not Mary Standish—who had shown a yellow streak this night. A half shame fell upon him as he smoked. For it was clear he had not come up to her judgment of him, or else he was not so big a fool as she had hoped he might be. In his own mind, for a time, he was at a loss to decide.
It was possibly the first time he had ever deeply absorbed himself in the analysis of a woman. It was outside his business. But, born and bred of the open country, it was as natural for him to recognize courage as it was for him to breathe. And the girl’s courage was unusual, now that he had time to think about it. It was this thought of her coolness and her calm refusal to impose her case upon him with greater warmth that comforted him after a little. A young and beautiful woman who was actually facing death would have urged her necessity with more enthusiasm, it seemed to him. Her threat, when he debated it intelligently, was merely thrown in, possibly on the spur of the moment, to give impetus to his decision. She had not meant it. The idea of a girl like Mary Standish committing suicide was stupendously impossible. Her quiet and wonderful eyes, her beauty and the exquisite care which she gave to herself emphasized the absurdity of such a supposition. She had come to him bravely. There was no doubt of that. She had merely exaggerated the importance of her visit.