“Sure, it bain’t no great trip to Witless Bay an’ back agin,” he mumbled, staring at the girl in the big chair. The light that entered the room from the gray afternoon, by way of the small window, was more of a shadow than an illumination. The red fire in the wide chimney warmed a little of it, painted the low ceiling and touched the girl’s eyes with a sunset tint. The skipper shuffled his feet on a rag mat and crumpled his cap between his big hands. He felt like a slave—aye, and something of a rogue—here in his own house. But he tried to brace himself with the thought that he was master of the situation.
“Please sit down and talk to me, Mr. Nolan,” said Flora.
The skipper glanced around the room. Mother Nolan had gone, leaving the door ajar behind her. A small wooden stool stood near the fire, directly across it from Flora. The skipper advanced to the stool and sat down, the thumping of his heart sounding in his ears like the strokes of a sledgehammer on wood. For a moment the sight of his strong eyes was veiled by a mist—by an inner mist smoking up from the heat and commotion of his blood. When his sight cleared he saw the beautiful young woman regarding him with a slight smile on her red lips and in her wonderful eyes. There was inquiry in the smile—yes, and pity and amusement were in it, too. The young man felt short of breath and at the same time a choking sensation as of uncomfortable fulness of the lungs. He stared across at her like one spellbound. The girl’s glance wavered, but her smile deepened. A brief note of laughter, like a chime of glass bells, parted her lips.
“Dear me, you look very tragic,” she said. “You look as if you saw a ghost.”
The skipper started violently and turned his face to the fire. He laughed huskily, then got to his feet and looked down at her with the firelight red as blood in his black eyes. Suddenly he groaned, stooped and snatched up one of her white, bejewelled hands. He pressed it passionately to his lips, crushing the delicate fingers with his. For a second or two the singer was far too amazed and horrified to speak or act; then, recovering suddenly, she wrenched her hand free and struck him on the cheek. He flung his head back and stood straight. A short, thin, red line showed beneath his right eye where a diamond in one of her rings had scratched the skin.
“How dare you?” she cried, her voice trembling and her face colorless. “Go away! You forget—who I am! You are a coward!”
The skipper did not flinch, his eyes did not waver. She was but a woman, after all, for all her talk of queens and fame. He had kissed her hand—and she had struck him. Well? He was rich. He would marry her—and she would soon learn to love him. He looked down at her with a smile on his lips and the light of mastery in his black eyes.
“Go away—you coward!” she cried. Then she hid her face in her hands and began to sob. Tears glinted between her fingers, beside the diamonds. At that moment Mother Nolan entered and clutched her grandson by the elbow.