As the door slammed after the departing Admiral, Lord Julian turned to Arabella, and actually smiled. He felt that he was doing better, and gathered from it an almost childish satisfaction — childish in all the circumstances. “Decidedly I think I had the last word there,” he said, with a toss of his golden ringlets.
Miss Bishop, seated at the cabin-table, looked at him steadily, without returning his smile. “Does it matter, then, so much, having the last word? I am thinking of those poor fellows on the Royal Mary. Many of them have had their last word, indeed. And for what? A fine ship sunk, a score of lives lost, thrice that number now in jeopardy, and all for what?”
“You are overwrought, ma’am. I....”
“Overwrought!” She uttered a single sharp note of laughter. “I assure you I am calm. I am asking you a question, Lord Julian. Why has this Spaniard done all this? To what purpose?”
“You heard him.” Lord Julian shrugged angrily. “Blood-lust,” he explained shortly.
“Blood-lust?” she asked. She was amazed. “Does such a thing exist, then? It is insane, monstrous.”
“Fiendish,” his lordship agreed. “Devil’s work.”
“I don’t understand. At Bridgetown three years ago there was a Spanish raid, and things were done that should have been impossible to men, horrible, revolting things which strain belief, which seem, when I think of them now, like the illusions of some evil dream. Are men just beasts?”
“Men?” said Lord Julian, staring. “Say Spaniards, and I’ll agree.” He was an Englishman speaking of hereditary foes. And yet there was a measure of truth in what he said. “This is the Spanish way in the New World. Faith, almost it justifies such men as Blood of what they do.”
She shivered, as if cold, and setting her elbows on the table, she took her chin in her hands, and sat staring before her.
Observing her, his lordship noticed how drawn and white her face had grown. There was reason enough for that, and for worse. Not any other woman of his acquaintance would have preserved her self-control in such an ordeal; and of fear, at least, at no time had Miss Bishop shown any sign. It is impossible that he did not find her admirable.
A Spanish steward entered bearing a silver chocolate service and a box of Peruvian candies, which he placed on the table before the lady.
“With the Admiral’s homage,” he said, then bowed, and withdrew.
Miss Bishop took no heed of him or his offering, but continued to stare before her, lost in thought. Lord Julian took a turn in the long low cabin, which was lighted by a skylight above and great square windows astern. It was luxuriously appointed: there were rich Eastern rugs on the floor, well-filled bookcases stood against the bulkheads, and there was a carved walnut sideboard laden with silverware. On a long, low chest standing under the middle stern port lay a guitar that was gay with ribbons. Lord Julian picked it up, twanged the strings once as if moved by nervous irritation, and put it down.