Domini felt hot and rather sick. She wondered why she had stood there watching. Yet she had not been able to turn away. Now, as she stepped back into the middle of the alley and walked on with the man beside her she wondered what he was thinking of her. She could not talk to him any more. She was too conscious of the lighted stairways, one after one, succeeding each other to right and left of them, of the still figures, of the watching eyes in which the yellow rays of the candles gleamed. Her companion did not speak; but as they walked he glanced furtively from one side to the other, then stared down steadily on the white road. When they turned to the right and came out by the gardens, and Domini saw the great tufted heads of the palms black against the moon, she felt relieved and was able to speak again.
“I should like you to know that I am quite a stranger to all African things and people,” she said. “That is why I am liable to fall into mistakes in such a place as this. Ah, there is the hotel, and my maid on the verandah. I want to thank you again for looking after me.”
They were at a few steps from the hotel door in the road. The man stopped, and Domini stopped too.
“Madame,” he said earnestly, with a sort of hardly controlled excitement, “I—I am glad. I was ashamed—I was ashamed.”
“Of my conduct—of my awkwardness. But you will forgive it. I am not accustomed to the society of ladies—like you. Anything I have done I have not done out of rudeness. That is all I can say. I have not done it out of rudeness.”
He seemed to be almost trembling with agitation.
“I know, I know,” she said. “Besides, it was nothing.”
“Oh, no, it was abominable. I understand that. I am not so coarse-fibred as not to understand that.”
Domini suddenly felt that to take his view of the matter, exaggerated though it was, would be the kindest course, even the most delicate.
“You were rude to me,” she said, “but I shall forget it from this moment.”
She held out her hand. He grasped it, and again she felt as if a furnace were pouring its fiery heat upon her.
“Good-night, Madame. Thank you.”
She was going away to the hotel door, but she stopped.
“My name is Domini Enfilden,” she said in English.
The man stood in the road looking at her. She waited. She expected him to tell her his name. There was a silence. At last he said hesitatingly, in English with a very slight foreign accent:
“My name is Boris—Boris Androvsky.”
“Batouch told me you were English,” she said.
“My mother was English, but my father was a Russian from Tiflis. That is my name.”
There was a sound in his voice as if he were insisting like a man making an assertion not readily to be believed.
“Good-night,” Domini said again.