Suddenly Harz cried: “You coward, I defy you!”
“Coward!” Herr Paul repeated. “That is indeed the last word. Look to yourself, my friend!”
Stooping and fumbling on the floor, he picked up his hat. Christian had already vanished; the sound of her hurrying footsteps was distinctly audible at the top of the dark stairs. Herr Paul stood still a minute.
“Look to yourself, my dear friend!” he said in a thick voice, groping for the wall. Planting his hat askew on his head, he began slowly to descend the stairs.
Nicholas Treffry sat reading the paper in his room by the light of a lamp with a green shade; on his sound foot the terrier Scruff was asleep and snoring lightly—the dog habitually came down when Greta was in bed, and remained till Mr. Treffry, always the latest member of the household, retired to rest.
Through the long window a little river of light shone out on the veranda tiles, and, flowing past, cut the garden in two.
There was the sound of hurried footsteps, a rustling of draperies; Christian, running through the window, stood before him.
Mr. Treffry dropped his paper, such a fury of passion and alarm shone in the girl’s eyes.
“Chris! What is it?”
“Oh! Uncle! He’s insulted, threatened! And I love his little finger more than all the, world!”
Her passionate voice trembled, her eyes were shining.
Mr. Treffry’s profound discomfort found vent in the gruff words: “Sit down!”
“I’ll never speak to Father again! Oh! Uncle! I love him!”
Quiet in the extremity of his disturbance, Mr. Treffry leaned forward in his chair, rested his big hands on its arms, and stared at her.
Chris! Here was a woman he did not know! His lips moved under the heavy droop of his moustache. The girl’s face had suddenly grown white. She sank down on her knees, and laid her cheek against his hand. He felt it wet; and a lump rose in his throat. Drawing his hand away, he stared at it, and wiped it with his sleeve.
“Don’t cry!” he said.
She seized it again and clung to it; that clutch seemed to fill him with sudden rage.
“What’s the matter? How the devil can I do anything if you don’t tell me?”
She looked up at him. The distress of the last days, the passion and fear of the last hour, the tide of that new life of the spirit and the flesh, stirring within her, flowed out in a stream of words.
When she had finished, there was so dead a silence that the fluttering of a moth round the lamp could be heard plainly.
Mr. Treffry raised himself, crossed the room, and touched the bell. “Tell the groom,” he said to Dominique, “to put the horses to, and have ’em round at once; bring my old boots; we drive all night....”