“Doubtful about what?” I asked.
He averted his eyes and did not answer this. It was impossible to make them out. For instance, his niece was weeping for Falk. Now he (Hermann) would like to wring his neck—but then . . . He supposed he had too tender a heart. “Frankly,” he asked at last, “what do you think of what we heard last night, captain?”
“In all these tales,” I observed, “there is always a good deal of exaggeration.”
And not letting him recover from his surprise I assured him that I knew all the details. He begged me not to repeat them. His heart was too tender. They made him feel unwell. Then, looking at his feet and speaking very slowly, he supposed that he need not see much of them after they were married. For, indeed, he could not bear the sight of Falk. On the other hand it was ridiculous to take home a girl with her head turned. A girl that weeps all the time and is of no help to her aunt.
“Now you will be able to do with one cabin only on your passage home,” I said.
“Yes, I had thought of that,” he said brightly, almost. “Yes! Himself, his wife, four children—one cabin might do. Whereas if his niece went . . .”
“And what does Mrs. Hermann say to it?” I inquired.
Mrs. Hermann did not know whether a man of that sort could make a girl happy—she had been greatly deceived in Captain Falk. She had been very upset last night.
Those good people did not seem to be able to retain an impression for a whole twelve hours. I assured him on my own personal knowledge that Falk possessed in himself all the qualities to make his niece’s future prosperous. He said he was glad to hear this, and that he would tell his wife. Then the object of the visit came out. He wished me to help him to resume relations with Falk. His niece, he said, had expressed the hope I would do so in my kindness. He was evidently anxious that I should, for though he seemed to have forgotten nine-tenths of his last night’s opinions and the whole of his indignation, yet he evidently feared to be sent to the right-about. “You told me he was very much in love,” he concluded slyly, and leered in a sort of bucolic way.
As soon as he had left my ship I called Falk on board by signal—the tug still lying at the anchorage. He took the news with calm gravity, as though he had all along expected the stars to fight for him in their courses.
I saw them once more together, and only once—on the quarter-deck of the Diana. Hermann sat smoking with a shirt-sleeved elbow hooked over the back of his chair. Mrs. Hermann was sewing alone. As Falk stepped over the gangway, Hermann’s niece, with a slight swish of the skirt and a swift friendly nod to me, glided past my chair.