In a certain way, his kindness was cruelty. It threw too much upon her. She believed that if she were to assume that a marriage ceremony performed by a black man from the wilds of Africa, was as binding, at least, as a solemn engagement, he would accept her construction and all its consequences. She also believed that if she declared that ceremony to be of no value whatever, now that the occasion had passed, he would agree with that conclusion. Everything depended upon her. It was too hard for her.
To exist in this state of uncertainty was impossible for a woman of Edna’s organization. At any hour Captain Horn might appear. How should she receive him? What had she to say to him?
For the rest of that day and the whole of the night, her mind never left this question: “What am I to say to him?” She had replied to his letter by a telegram, and simply signed herself “Edna.” It was easy enough to telegraph anywhere, and even to write, without assuming any particular position in regard to him. But when he came, she must know what to do and what to say. She longed for Ralph’s coming, but she knew he could not help her. He would say but one thing—that which he had always said. In fact, he would be no better than Mrs. Cliff. But he was her own flesh and blood, and she longed for him.
Since the affair with the Rackbird, Cheditafa had done his duty more earnestly than ever before. He said nothing to Mok about the Rackbird. He had come to look upon his fellow-African as a very low creature, not much better than a chimpanzee. During Ralph’s absence Mok had fallen into all sorts of irregular habits, going out without leave whenever he got a chance, and disporting himself generally in a very careless and unservant-like manner.
On the evening that Ralph was expected from Brussels, Mok was missing. Cheditafa could not find him in any of the places where he ought to have been, so he must be out of doors somewhere, and Cheditafa went to look for him.
This was the first time that Cheditafa had gone into the streets alone at night since the Rackbird incident in the Tuileries Gardens. As he was the custodian of Mok, and responsible for him, he did not wish to lose sight of him, especially on this evening.
It so happened that when Cheditafa went out of the hotel, his appearance was noticed by Mr. Banker. There was nothing remarkable about this, for the evening was the time when the ex-Rackbird gave the most attention to the people who came out of the hotel. When he saw Cheditafa, his soul warmed within him. Here was the reward of patience and steadfastness—everything comes to those who wait.
A half-hour before, Banker had seen Mok leave the hotel and make his way toward the Black Cat. He did not molest the rapidly walking negro. He would not have disturbed him for anything. But his watchfulness became so eager and intense that he almost, but not quite, exposed himself to the suspicion of a passing gendarme. He now expected Cheditafa, for the reason that the manner of the younger negro indicated that he was playing truant. It was likely that the elder man would go after him, and this was exactly what happened.