Now, the gesture of a woman piqued had called up the deathless past. Hurrying through nearly empty squalid streets, he found himself longing to pronounce a name, to hear it spoken that he might linger over its bitter sweetness. To this longing he presently succumbed, and:
“Inez,” he whispered, and again more loudly, “Inez.”
Such a wave of lonely wretchedness and remorse swept up about his heart that he was almost overwhelmed by it, yet he resigned himself to its ruthless cruelty with a sort of savage joy. The shadowed ways of Limehouse ceased to exist for him, and in spirit he stood once more in a queer, climbing, sunbathed street of Gibraltar looking out across that blue ribbon of the Straits to where the African coast lay hidden in the haze.
“I never knew,” he said aloud. And one meeting this man who hurried along and muttered to himself must have supposed him to be mad. “I never knew. Oh, God! if I had only known.”
But he was one of those to whom knowledge comes as a bitter aftermath. When his regiment had received orders to move from the Rock, and he had informed Inez of his departure, she had turned aside, just as Zahara had done; scornfully and in silence. Because of his disbelief in her he had guarded his heart against this beautiful Spanish girl who (as he realized too late) had brought him the only real happiness he had ever known. Often she had told him of her brother, Miguel, who would kill her—would kill them both—if he so much as suspected their meetings; of her affianced husband, absent in Tunis, whose jealousy knew no bounds.
He had pretended to believe, had even wanted to believe; but the witchery of the girl’s presence removed, he had laughed—at himself and at Inez. She was playing the Great Game, skilfully, exquisitely. When he was gone—there would soon be someone else. Yet he had never told her that he doubted. He had promised many things—and had left her.
She died by her own hand on the night of his departure.
Now, as a wandering taxi came into view: “Inez!” he moaned—“I never knew.”
That brother whom he had counted a myth had succeeded in getting on board the transport. Before Grantham’s inner vision the whole dreadful scene now was reenacted: the struggle in the stateroom; he even seemed to hear the sound of the shot, to see the Spaniard, drenched with blood from a wound in his forehead, to hear his cry:
“I cannot see! I cannot see! Mother of Mercy! I have lost my sight!”
It had broken Grantham. The scandal was hushed up, but retirement was inevitable. He knew, too, that the light had gone out of the world for him as it had gone for Miguel da Mura.
It is sometimes thus that a scallywag is made.
THE STAR OF EGYPT
As Grantham went out by the side door, Hassan, soft of foot, appeared. Crossing to the main door he opened it and walked down the narrow corridor beyond. Presently came the tap, tap, tap of a stick and a sound of muttered conversation in some place below.