“You speak like a prophet,” she remarked.
“A prophet of evil then!”
She looked at him steadfastly. The lightness had gone out of her tone.
“Do you know,” she said, “I am almost sorry that I ever knew you?”
He shook his head.
“You can’t mean it,” he declared.
“I have done you the greatest service one human being can render another! I have saved you from being bored!”
“That may be true,” she admitted. “But can you conceive no worse state in the world than being bored?”
“There is no worse state,” he answered drily. “I was bored once,” he added, “for ten years or so; I ought to know!”
“Were you married?” she asked.
He shook his head.
“Not quite so bad as that,” he answered. “I was in prison!”
She turned a startled face towards him.
“It is perfectly true,” he said coolly. “Are you horrified?”
“What did you do?” she asked in a low tone.
“I killed a man.”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“He attacked me! I had to defend myself.”
She said nothing for several moments.
“Shall I go?” he asked.
“No! Sit still,” she answered. “I am frightened of you, but I don’t want you to go away. I want to think . . . . Yes! I can understand you better now! Your life was spoilt!”
“By no means,” he answered. “I am still young! I am going to make up for those ten years.”
She shook her head.
“You cannot,” she answered. “The years can carry no more than their ordinary burden of sensations. If you try to fill them too full, you lose everything.”
“I shall try what I can do!” he remarked calmly.
She rose abruptly.
“I am afraid of you tonight,” she said. “I am going downstairs. Will you give my rug and cushion to the deck steward? And—good night.”
She gave him her hand, but she did not look at him, and she hurried away a little abruptly.
Wingrave yawned, and lighting a cigar, strolled up and down the deck. A figure loomed out of the darkness and almost ran into him. It was the young man in the serge suit. He muttered a clumsy apology and hurried on.
A COCKNEY CONSPIRATOR
“The bar closes in ten minutes, sir!” the smoking room steward announced.
The young man who had been the subject of Wingrave’s remarks hastily ordered another drink, although he had an only half-emptied tumbler in front of him. Presently he stumbled out on to the deck. It was a dark night, and a strong head wind was blowing. He groped his way to the railing and leaned over, with his head half buried in his hands. Below, the black tossing sea was churned into phosphorescent spray, as the steamer drove onwards into the night.