In apparent agitation, she whispered, “To-morrow! To-morrow I will give you your answer.”
Everett did not trust her, did not release her. He regarded her jealously, with quick suspicion. To warn her that he knew she could not escape from Matadi, or from him, he said, “The train to Leopoldville does not leave for two days!”
“I know!” whispered Madame Ducret soothingly. “I will give you your answer to-morrow at ten.” She emphasized the hour, because she knew at sunrise a special train would carry her husband and herself to Leopoldville, and that there one of her husband’s steamers would bear them across the Pool to French Congo.
“To-morrow, then!” whispered Everett, grudgingly. “But I must kiss you now!”
Only an instant did Madame Ducret hesitate. Then she turned her cheek. “Yes,” she assented. “You must kiss me now.”
Everett did not rejoin the others. He led her back into the circle of light, and locked himself in his cabin.
At ten the next morning, when Ducret and his wife were well advanced toward Stanley Pool, Cuthbert handed Everett a note. Having been told what it contained, he did not move away, but, with his back turned, leaned upon the rail.
Everett, his eyes on fire with triumph, his fingers trembling, tore open the envelope.
Madame Ducret wrote that her husband and herself felt that Mr. Everett was suffering more severely from the climate than he knew. With regret they cancelled their invitation to visit them, and urged him, for his health’s sake, to continue as he had planned, to northern latitudes. They hoped to meet in Paris. They extended assurances of their distinguished consideration.
Slowly, savagely, as though wreaking his suffering on some human thing, Everett tore the note into minute fragments. Moving unsteadily to the ship’s side, he flung them into the river, and then hung limply upon the rail.
Above him, from a sky of brass, the sun stabbed at his eyeballs. Below him, the rush of the Congo, churning in muddy whirlpools, echoed against the hills of naked rock that met the naked sky.
To Everett, the roar of the great river, and the echoes from the land he had set out to reform, carried the sound of gigantic, hideous laughter.
My going to Valencia was entirely an accident. But the more often I stated that fact, the more satisfied was everyone at the capital that I had come on some secret mission. Even the venerable politician who acted as our minister, the night of my arrival, after dinner, said confidentially, “Now, Mr. Crosby, between ourselves, what’s the game?”
“What’s what game?” I asked.
“You know what I mean,” he returned. “What are you here for?”
But when, for the tenth time, I repeated how I came to be marooned in Valencia he showed that his feelings were hurt, and said stiffly: “As you please. Suppose we join the ladies.”