Yet not quite the same, it seemed to me. There were some little things missing, just as there were some little things missing from her appearance. For instance, these draperies at the right, which formerly had cut off the Napoleon bed at its end of the room, now were of blankets and not of silk. The bed itself was not piled deep in down, but contained, as I fancied from my hurried glance, a thin mattress, stuffed perhaps with straw. A roll of blankets lay across its foot. As I gazed to the farther extremity of this side of the long suite, I saw other evidences of change. It was indeed as though Helena von Ritz, creature of luxury, woman of an old, luxurious world, exotic of monarchical surroundings, had begun insensibly to slip into the ways of the rude democracy of the far frontiers.
I saw all this; but ere I had finished my first hurried glance I had accepted her, as always one must, just as she was; had accepted her surroundings, preposterously impossible as they all were from any logical point of view, as fitting to herself and to her humor. It was not for me to ask how or why she did these things. She had done them; because, here they were; and here was she. We had found England’s woman on the Columbia!
“Yes,” said she at length, slowly, “yes, I now believe it to be fate.”
She had not yet smiled. I took her hand and held it long. I felt glad to see her, and to take her hand; it seemed pledge of friendship; and as things now were shaping, I surely needed a friend.
At last, her face flushing slightly, she disengaged her hand and motioned me to a seat. But still we stood silent for a few moments. “Have you no curiosity?” said she at length.
“I am too happy to have curiosity, my dear Madam.”
“You will not even ask me why I am here?” she insisted.
“I know. I have known all along. You are in the pay of England. When I missed you at Montreal, I knew you had sailed on the Modeste for Oregon We knew all this, and planned for it. I have come across by land to meet you. I have waited. I greet you now!”
She looked me now clearly in the face. “I am not sure,” said she at length, slowly.
“Not sure of what, Madam? When you travel on England’s warship,” I smiled, “you travel as the guest of England herself. If, then, you are not for England, in God’s name, whose friend are you?"
“Whose friend am I?” she answered slowly. “I say to you that I do not know. Nor do I know who is my friend. A friend—what is that? I never knew one!”
“Then be mine. Let me be your friend. You know my history. You know about me and my work. I throw my secret into your hands. You will not betray me? You warned me once, at Montreal. Will you not shield me once again?”
She nodded, smiling now in an amused way. “Monsieur always takes the most extraordinary times to visit me! Monsieur asks always the most extraordinary things! Monsieur does always the most extraordinary acts! He takes me to call upon a gentleman in a night robe! He calls upon me himself, of an evening, in dinner dress of hides and beads—”