“The Black Palmer!” said Keela naively.
“Lady of Gold and Black!” said Carl and bowed profoundly.
The reckoning of Ronador and the Baron came by the cypress pool.
“It is useless to rave and storm,” said Tregar quietly. “I hold the cards.”
“Was it necessary to humiliate me in the presence of Miss Westfall?” demanded Ronador bitterly. With all his sullenness there was in his tone a marked respect for the older man.
“It was necessary to end this romantic masquerade!” insisted Tregar. “Why are you here?”
“I—I came in a flash of panic. It seemed to me that after all I—I could not trust to other hands when the dead thing stirred.” Ronador’s face was white and haggard. In that instant his forty-four years lay heavily upon his shoulders.
“Have I ever misplaced your trust?” reminded Tregar sombrely. “Have I not even kept your secret from your father?”
“Then tell me,” asked the Baron bluntly, “why you must come to America and hysterically complicate this damnable mess by—a bullet!”
Greatly agitated, Ronador fell to pacing to and fro. Heavy cypress shadows upon the water moved like pointing fingers.
“Is there nothing I may keep from you?” broke from him a little bitterly.
“Why,” insisted the older man, “have you seen fit to conduct yourself with the irrationality of a madman by trundling a music-machine about the country and making love to a girl you tried in a moment of fright and frenzy—to kill?”
“I—I lost my head,” said the Prince with an effort. “It—it seemed at first that she must die. The other, I thought to myself, I will leave to Themar and the Baron. This I must do for myself. They will spare her and years hence the thing may stir again. I—I can not bear to think of it even now, Tregar. I have paid heavily for my moment of madness. For nights after, I did not sleep. Even now the memory is unspeakable torture!” And Ronador admitted with stiff, white lips that some nameless God of Malice had made capital of his bullet, stirring his heart into admiration for the fearless girl who had stood so gallantly by the fire in a storm-haunted wood. In the heart of the forest a happier solution had come to him and eliminated the sinister thought of murder.
The Baron coldly heard the passionate avowal through to the end.
“And the Princess Phaedra?” he begged formally. “What of her? What of the marriage that is to dissolve the bitter feud of a century between Houdania and Galituria, this marriage to which already you are informally bound?”
“It is nothing to me. I shall marry Miss Westfall.”
“So!” The Baron matched his heavy fingertips. “So! And this is another infernal complication of the freedom of marital choice we grant our princes!”