“I love you—I love you!” he repeated fiercely. “Don’t you trust me? You will—you shall listen to me. I can’t leave you like this; it may be months before we shall see each other again. It is your right to be happy—to be loved—every woman has—Why don’t you take it?”
“What do you mean?” she stammered, her blood running cold.
“I mean that neither he nor your daughter loves you—that you are mine—not theirs.”
She lay back in the wicker chair, scarcely breathing.
“Yes, it’s my fault,” he continued pitilessly; “but it is because I love you—because you are dearest to me. I want you near me—close to me always. I’ve thought it all out. Come to New York; there we shall find an enchanted island, the paradise I have longed for—that we’ve both longed for.”
Her eyes looked straight into his own. They were wide open—filled for the instant with a strange look of amazement.
Her breath came in quick little gasps; a subtle anger seemed to close her throat.
She sprang to her feet, steadied herself by the chair back, and without another word, her white hands clenched to her side, turned slowly into the opening leading to the hall.
Her astonishment and disgust were genuine.
At this instant the door of Holcomb’s cabin swung back and a flow of light streamed out. Sperry halted and stood immovable in a protecting shadow. Thayor moved slowly across the compound. As his foot touched the lower step of the veranda a thin, dry laugh escaped the doctor’s white lips.
“I’ve been waiting patiently for a nightcap with you,” he said.
“Mental telepathy,” returned his host. “I was just thinking of it myself. It’s so late everybody has gone to bed, but I expect we can——No—here’s Blakeman. Brandy and soda, Blakeman, and some cracked ice.”
“Very good, sir—anything else, sir,” replied Blakeman, pulling his face into shape—he had heard every word that had passed.
“No, that will do.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Sperry studied the butler’s impassible face for a moment, measured with his eye the distance from the pantry window to the corner of the veranda, then he drew a long breath—the first he had drawn in some minutes.
Sperry left early the next morning; only his host and Blakeman saw him off. When he had reached his train and had slipped off his overcoat, he found all the tips he had given Blakeman in its outside pocket.
The doctor was not the only man that morning that awoke with an anxious mind. His host was equally preoccupied; all through breakfast he had caught his thoughts straying from those usually given to a departing guest. In his talk with Holcomb, the night before, his manager had gone straight to the point.
“You remember, do you not,” he had said, “that a horse Bergstein bought died a week after its arrival—the first horse we lost, I mean?”