“Oh yes, you were proud of your name,” she was saying, with bitter emphasis; “and I thought you belonged to a race of gentlemen, to whom lying was unknown. And you were no longer murderous and revengeful; but you can take your revenge on a woman, for all that! And you ask me to come and see you, because you are ill! And you have laid a trap—like a coward!”
“And if I am what you say, Gerty,” said he, quite gently, “it is the love of you that has made me that. Oh, you do not know!”
She saw nothing of the lines that pain had written on this man’s face; she recognized nothing of the very majesty of grief in the hopeless eyes. He was only her gaoler, her enemy.
“Of course—of course,” she said. “It is the woman—it is always the woman who is in fault! That is a manly thing, to put the blame on the woman! And it is a manly thing to take your revenge on a woman! I thought, when a man had a rival, that it was his rival whom he sought out. But you—you kept out of the way—”
He strode forward and caught her by the wrist. There was a look in his face that for a second terrified her into silence.
“Gerty,” said he, “I warn you! Do not mention that man to me—now or at any time; or it will be bad for him and for you!”
She twisted her hand from his grasp.
“How dare you come near me!” she cried.
“I beg your pardon,” said he, with an instant return to his former grave gentleness of manner. “I wish to let you know how you are situated, if you will let me, Gerty. I don’t wish to justify what I have done, for you would not hear me—just yet. But this I must tell you, that I don’t wish to force myself on your society. You will do as you please. There is your cabin; you have occupied it before. If you would like to have this saloon, you can have that too; I mean I shall not come into it unless it pleases you. And there is a bell in your cabin; and if you ring it, Christina will answer.”
She heard him out patiently. Her reply was a scornful, perhaps nervous, laugh.
“Why, this is mere folly,” she exclaimed. “It is simple madness. I begin to believe that you are really ill, after all; and it is your mind that is affected. Surely you don’t know what you are doing?”
“You are angry, Gerty,” said he,
But the first blaze of her wrath and indignation had passed away; and now fear was coming uppermost.
“Surely, Keith, you cannot be dreaming of such a mad thing! Oh, it is impossible! It is a joke: it was to frighten me; it was to punish me, perhaps. Well, I have deserved it; but now—now you have succeeded; and you will let me go ashore, farther down the river.”
Her tone was altered. She had been watching his face.