“I was—trying—to understand you.”
“I don’t understand myself sometimes—certainly not to-day!”
“I thought you were a gentleman!”
(I wonder if Eve didn’t say that to Adam in the garden!)
“I have been accustomed to entertain that same idea myself,” he said, “but, after all, what is it to be a gentleman? All men can be gentle when they get what they want. That’s no test of gentility. It takes circumstances outside the normal to prove man’s civilization. When his desires meet with opposition the brute comes to the surface—that’s all.”
Another rush of passion lighted his eyes and sought its reflection in hers. Opal turned and fled.
* * * * *
In the seclusion of her stateroom Opal faced herself resolutely. A sensation of outrage mingled with a strange sense of guilt. Her resentment seemed to blend with something resembling a strange, fierce joy. She tried to fight it down, but it would not be conquered.
Why was he so handsome, so brilliant, this strange foreign fellow whom she felt intuitively to be more than he claimed to be? What was the secret of his power that even in the face of this open insult she could not be as angry as she knew she should have been?
She looked in the mirror apprehensively. No, there was no sign of that terrible kiss. And yet she felt as though all the world must have seen had they looked at her—felt that she was branded forever by the burning touch of his lips!
It was not until the dinner hour on the following day that Paul and Opal met again. One does not require an excuse for keeping to one’s stateroom during an ocean voyage—especially during the first few days—and the girl, though in excellent health and a capital sailor, kept herself secluded.
She wanted to understand herself and to understand this stranger who was yet no stranger. For a girl who had looked upon life as she had she felt woefully unsophisticated. But the Boy? He was certainly not a man of the world, who through years of lurid experience had learned to look upon all women as his legitimate quarry. If he had been that sort, she told herself, she would have been on her guard instinctively from the very first. But she knew he was too young for that—far too young—– and his eyes were frank and clear and open, with no dark secrets behind their curtained lids. But what was he—and who?
When the day was far spent, she knew that she was no nearer a solution than she had been at dawn, so she resolved to join the group at table and put behind her the futile labor of self-examination. She would not, of course, deign to show any leniency toward the offender—indeed not! She would not vouchsafe one unnecessary word for his edification.
But she took elaborate care with her toilet, selected her most becoming gown and drove her maid into a frenzy by her variations of taste and temper.