The priest did not come to dinner that night, but Androvsky was already at his table when Domini came into the salle-a-manger. He got up from his seat and bowed formally, but did not speak. Remembering his outburst of the morning she realised the suspicion which her second interview with the priest had probably created in his mind, and now she was not free from a feeling of discomfort that almost resembled guilt. For now she had been led to discuss Androvsky with Father Roubier, and had it not been almost an apology when she said, “I know he is not evil”? Once or twice during dinner, when her eyes met Androvsky’s for a moment, she imagined that he must know why she had been at the priest’s house, that anger was steadily increasing in him.
He was a man who hated to be observed, to be criticised. His sensitiveness was altogether abnormal, and made her wonder afresh where his previous life had been passed. It must surely have been a very sheltered existence. Contact with the world blunts the fine edge of our feeling with regard to others’ opinion of us. In the world men learn to be heedless of the everlasting buzz of comment that attends their goings out and their comings in. But Androvsky was like a youth, alive to the tiniest whisper, set on fire by a glance. To such a nature life in the world must be perpetual torture. She thought of him with a sorrow that—strangely in her—was not tinged with contempt. That which manifested by another man would certainly have moved her to impatience, if not to wrath, in this man woke other sensations—curiosity, pity, terror.
Yes—terror. To-night she knew that. The long day, begun in the semidarkness before the dawn and ending in the semidarkness of the twilight, had, with its events that would have seemed to another ordinary and trivial enough, carried her forward a stage on an emotional pilgrimage. The half-veiled warnings of Count Anteoni and of the priest, followed by the latter’s almost passionately abrupt plain speaking, had not been without effect. To-night something of Europe and her life there, with its civilised experience and drastic training in the management of woman’s relations with humanity in general, crept back under the palm trees and the brilliant stars of Africa; and despite the fatalism condemned by Father Roubier, she was more conscious than she had hitherto been of how others—the outside world—would be likely to regard her acquaintance with Androvsky. She stood, as it were, and looked on at the events in which she herself had been and was involved, and in that moment she was first aware of a thrill of something akin to terror, as if, perhaps, without knowing it, she had been moving amid a great darkness, as if perhaps a great darkness were approaching. Suddenly she saw Androvsky as some strange and ghastly figure of legend; as the wandering Jew met by a traveller at cross roads and distinguished for an instant in an oblique lightning flash; as Vanderdecken passing in the hurricane and throwing a blood-red illumination from the sails of his haunted ship; as the everlasting climber of the Brocken, as the shrouded Arab of the Eastern legend, who announced coming disaster to the wanderers in the desert by beating a death-roll on a drum among the dunes.