“Enter, my lord,” she said simply.
“This is the hour you said,” he began; and she answered:
“My lord, it is the hour.”
“But come, what’s the matter, then? You act solemn, as though this were a funeral, and not—just a kiss,” I heard him add.
He must have advanced toward her. Continually I was upon the point of stepping out from my concealment, but as continually she left that not quite possible by some word or look or gesture of her own with him.
“Oh, hang it!” I heard him grumble, at length; “how can one tell what a woman’ll do? Damn it, Helen!”
“‘Madam,’ you mean!”
“Well, then, Madam, why all this hoighty-toighty? Haven’t I stood flouts and indignities enough from you? Didn’t you make a show of me before that ass, Tyler, when I was at the very point of my greatest coup? You denied knowledge that I knew you had. But did I discard you for that? I have found you since then playing with Mexico, Texas, United States all at once? Have I punished you for that? No, I have only shown you the more regard.”
“My lord, you punish me most when you most show me your regard.”
“Well, God bless my soul, listen at that! Listen at that—here, now, when I’ve—Madam, you shock me, you grieve me. I—could I have a glass of wine?”
I heard her ring for Threlka, heard her fasten the door behind her as she left, heard him gulp over his glass. For myself, although I did not yet disclose myself, I felt no doubt that I should kill Pakenham in these rooms. I even pondered whether I should shoot him through the temple and cut off his consciousness, or through the chest and so let him know why he died.
After a time he seemed to look about the room, his eye falling upon the littered floor.
“My key!” he exclaimed; “broken! Who did that? I can’t use it now!”
“You will not need to use it, my lord.”
“But I bought it, yesterday! Had I given you all of the Oregon country it would not have been worth twenty thousand pounds. What I’ll have to-night—what I’ll take—will be worth twice that. But I bought that key, and what I buy I keep.”
I heard a struggle, but she repulsed him once more in some way. Still my time had not come. He seemed now to stoop, grunting, to pick up something from the floor.
“How now? My memorandum of treaty, and torn in two! Oh, I see—I see,” he mused. “You wish to give it back to me—to be wholly free! It means only that you wish to love me for myself, for what I am! You minx!”
“You mistake, my lord,” said her calm, cold voice.
“At least, ’twas no mistake that I offered you this damned country at risk of my own head. Are you then with England and Sir Richard Pakenham? Will you give my family a chance for revenge on these accursed heathen—these Americans? Come, do that, and I leave this place with you, and quit diplomacy for good. We’ll travel the continent, we’ll go the world over, you and I. I’ll quit my estates, my family for you. Come, now, why do you delay?”