“—— her, we have her now!” he said, between his teeth; and he called aloud: “Hold the jib to weather there! Off with the moorings, John Cameron! —— her, we have her now!—and it is not yet that she has put a shame on Macleod of Dare!”
The sudden noise overhead and the hurried trampling of the men on deck were startling enough; but surely there was nothing to alarm her in the calm and serious face of this man who stood before her. He did not advance to her. He regarded her with a sad tenderness, as if he were looking at one far away. When the beloved dead come back to us in the wonder-halls of sleep, there is no wild joy of meeting: there is something strange. And when they disappear again, there is no surprise: only the dull aching returns to the heart.
“Gertrude,” said he, “you are as safe here as ever you were in your mother’s arms. No one will harm you.”
“What is it? What do you mean?” said she, quickly.
She was somewhat bewildered. She had not expected to meet him thus suddenly face to face. And then she became aware that the companion-way by which she had descended into the saloon had grown dark: that was the meaning of the harsh noise.
“I want to go ashore, Keith,” said she hurriedly. “Put me on shore. I will speak to you there.”
“You cannot go ashore,” said he, calmly.
“I don’t know what you mean,” said she; and her heart began to beat hurriedly. “I tell you I want to go ashore, Keith. I will speak to you there.”
“You cannot go ashore, Gertrude,” he repeated. “We have already left Erith. * * * Gerty, Gerty,” he continued, for she was struck dumb with a sudden terror, “don’t you understand now? I have stolen you away from yourself. There was but the one thing left: the one way of saving you. And you will forgive me, Gerty, when you understand it all—”
She was gradually recovering from her terror. She did understand it now. And he was not ill at all.
“Oh, you coward! you coward! you coward!” she exclaimed, with a blaze of fury in her eyes. “And I was to confer a kindness on you—a last kindness! But you dare not do this thing! I tell you, you dare not do it! I demand to be put on shore at once! Do you hear me?”
She turned wildly round, as if to seek for some way of escape. The door in the ladies’ cabin stood open; the clay-light was streaming down into that cheerful little place; there were some flowers on the dressing-table. But the way by which she had descended was barred over and dark.
She faced him again, and her eyes were full of fierce indignation and anger; she drew herself up to her full height; she overwhelmed him with taunts, and reproaches, and scorn. That was a splendid piece of acting, seeing that it had never been rehearsed. He stood unmoved before all this theatrical rage.