“You do know. You know me. If we weren’t such friends I wouldn’t argue with you like this, but—I can’t bear it. And to-night of all—” He broke off sharply. “My God! I’d forgotten that I’m married! Suppose Gertrudis hears of this! If it ever gets to her— I—believe I could kill him.”
“Don’t talk like that.”
“I never really thought I could take a person’s life, but if she heard she might believe; everybody else seems to believe. Understand, she hardly knows me. She might—she might—” Anthony seized his temples in despair.
Runnels took a sudden illogical decision. He never knew exactly what had influenced him, but his whole past knowledge of Anthony surged up in him with a force that he could not resist. He found that he could not really believe him capable of this abomination any more than he could believe it of himself. Little of our life is ruled by reason, and it is something else than logic that produces the last feeling of conviction. Here, this something was present where logic was lacking.
He laid his hand on Kirk’s shoulder. “Take it easy, old man,” he said. “I believe you. I’ve always known that they didn’t get along together, although—well, I won’t try to understand it. He may not do anything further, and these fellows won’t mention what happened here; they can’t.”
“You know we’re only half married,” moaned Kirk, hardly heeding him. “Women are apt to be jealous, aren’t they, Runnels? What do you suppose she’d do?”
“Don’t worry about that. I’m thinking about Cortlandt. If he finds out he’s mistaken, what will he do?”
“He’ll have to find out. I’m going to tell him. His wife will tell him. Good God! Do you see what an awful light it puts me in? You don’t doubt me, do you, really, old man?”
“No—but what a night this has been! It seems a year old. Come along, now, you must get out of here. You must turn in.”
“Oh, I don’t feel as if I’d ever sleep again until this thing is cleared up.” His anguish swept over him in a fresh tide. “Those boys think I did that trick to the man who befriended me!”
“Well, don’t let’s talk about it any more; we can’t stay here all night, anyhow. The waiters are wondering what this row is about. I think we’d better take a walk.” Runnels dragged his companion out, trying to calm him as best he could.
In passing through the deserted lobby of the hotel, they saw Clifford idling about; but they were too much absorbed to wonder what had kept him up so late. By the clock across the Plaza they saw it was two hours after midnight as they stepped into the street; then, finding no coaches in sight, they set out to walk toward Ancon, both badly in need of the open air.
A moment later Clifford followed them, taking pains to keep at a distance.