“I couldn’t ’elp, some of it. ’Twas about the fight, sir. ’But you lost,’ says she again and again when ’e speaks to ’er soft-like. ’You lost. You let that ugly gorilla’—them’s ‘er words, sir, speakin’ o’ Clancy—’you let that gorilla beat you, you, my fightin’ god.’ I remember the words, sir, ’er hexact words, sir, she said them again and again. Queer talk for a drawin’ room, Mr. Canby, in a lady’s mouth, an’ Master Jerry talkin’ low all the time and tellin’ her he loved ‘er—not darin’ even to touch ’er ‘and, sir, an’ lookin’ at her pleadin’ like; ’im with his soft eyes, ’im with ‘is great strength an’ manhood, like a child before ‘er, not even touchin’ ’er, sir, with ’er temptin’ and tantalizing.” He broke off with a shrug. “’Tis a queer world, sir, where them that calls themselves ladies comes a visitin’ gentlemen alone at night, an’ goes away clean with a laugh on their lips. A gentleman Master ‘Jerry is, sir, too good for the likes o’ her.” The man paused and looked toward the door with a startled air. “I ‘ave no business sayin’ what’s in my mind, even to you, Mr. Canby. You’ll not tell ’im, sir?”
“No. I’m glad you’ve spoken. You’ve said nothing of this—to anyone?”
“I’d cut my tongue out first, sir,” he muttered, wagging his head.
I led the way to the door and opened it.
“I like her no better than you, Christopher. Something must be done—something—It’s too bad—”
“Good night, sir,” he said.
“Good night, Christopher.”
There was something particularly brutal to me in hearing this estimate of Marcia Van Wyck’s visit to Jerry through the lips of a servant. And yet I felt no remorse at encouraging the confession. Good Christopher was not brilliant, and only the most obvious of things impressed him, but he had seen, and like me, had judged. And his judgment was even more damning than mine, for Christopher was an amicable person, who doddered along, accepting life as it came, too weary for enmities, or too well trained to show them. It must have been at the cost of a severe wrench to his habits and traditions that he had dared to speak so freely. Good old Christopher! Ten years of the monastic life had narrowed your vision and mine, but they had made that vision singularly clear.
During that night in my hours of wakefulness before sleep came, I studied Jerry’s infatuation from every angle. I feared for him. The moment of awakening was approaching, and then? Whatever the hidden weaknesses in his moral fiber, thus suddenly subjected to strain, he was not one to be lightly dealt with by man or woman. He was gentle, soft, if you please, childlike with those he loved, but there was dangerous mettle in him not to be tampered with by trickery or guile. Christopher had shown me with his uncompromising bluntness what I had merely suspected; the girl loved danger and saw it in Jerry’s eyes, fascinated by the imminence of peril that lurked in his innocence. A strange passion, calculating, cold, abnormal. And Jerry loved this girl—adored her, as though she were a sacred vessel, a fragile thing, that would break in his fingers! I began to hope that he would break her (and to fear it), crush her and discover her emptiness.