Victory By Joseph Conrad Part 4: Chapter 5

"He asked me to look at the state he was in. Had I been all alone here, as they think I am, I should have laughed at him. But not being alone — I say, Lena, you are sure you haven't shown yourself where you could be seen?"

"Certain," she said promptly.

He looked relieved.

"You understand, Lena, that when I ask you to keep so strictly out of sight, it is because you are not for them to look at — to talk about. My poor Lena! I can't help that feeling. Do you understand it?"

She moved her head slightly in a manner that was neither affirmative nor negative.

"People will have to see me some day," she said.

"I wonder how long it will be possible for you to keep out of sight?" murmured Heyst thoughtfully. He bent over the table. "Let me finish telling you. I asked him point blank what it was he wanted with me; he appeared extremely unwilling to come to the point. It was not really so pressing as all that, he said. His secretary, who was in fact his partner, was not present, having gone down to the wharf to look at their boat. Finally the fellow proposed that he should put off a certain communication he had to make till the day after tomorrow. I agreed; but I also told him that I was not at all anxious to hear it. I had no conception in what way his affairs could concern me.

"'Ah, Mr. Heyst,' he said, 'you and I have much more in common than you think.'"

Heyst struck the table with his fist unexpectedly.

"It was a jeer; I am sure it was!"

He seemed ashamed of this outburst and smiled faintly into the motionless eyes of the girl.

"What could I have done — even if I had had my pockets full of revolvers?"

She made an appreciative sign.

"Killing's a sin, sure enough," she murmured.

"I went away," Heyst continued. "I left him there, lying on his side with his eyes shut. When I got back here, I found you looking ill. What was it, Lena? You did give me a scare! Then I had the interview with Wang while you rested. You were sleeping quietly. I sat here to consider all these things calmly, to try to penetrate their inner meaning and their outward bearing. It struck me that the two days we have before us have the character of a sort of truce. The more I thought of it, the more I felt that this was tacitly understood between Jones and myself. It was to our advantage, if anything can be of advantage to people caught so completely unawares as we are. Wang was gone. He, at any rate, had declared himself, but as I did not know what he might take it into his head to do, I thought I had better warn these people that I was no longer responsible for the Chinaman. I did not want Mr. Wang making some move which would precipitate the action against us. Do you see my point of view?"

She made a sign that she did. All her soul was wrapped in her passionate determination, in an exalted belief in herself — in the contemplation of her amazing opportunity to win the certitude, the eternity, of that man's love.

"I never saw two men," Heyst was saying, "more affected by a piece of information than Jones and his secretary, who was back in the bungalow by then. They had not heard me come up. I told them I was sorry to intrude.

"'Not at all! Not at all,' said Jones.

"The secretary backed away into a corner and watched me like a wary cat. In fact, they both were visibly on their guard.

"'I am come,' I told them, 'to let you know that my servant has deserted — gone off.'

"At first they looked at each other as if they had not understood what I was saying; but very soon they seemed quite concerned.

"'You mean to say your Chink's cleared out?' said Ricardo, coming forward from his corner. 'Like this — all at once? What did he do it for?'

"I said that a Chinaman had always a simple and precise reason for what he did, but that to get such a reason out of him was not so easy. All he told me, I said, was that he 'didn't like'.

"They were extremely disturbed at this. Didn't like what, they wanted to know.

"'The looks of you and your party,' I told Jones.

"'Nonsense!' he cried out, and immediately Ricardo, the short man, struck in.

"'Told you that? What did he take you for, sir — an infant? Or do you take us for kids? — meaning no offence. Come, I bet you will tell us next that you've missed something.'"

"'I didn't mean to tell you anything of the sort,' I said, 'but as a matter of fact it is so.'

"He slapped his thigh.

"'Thought so. What do you think of this trick, governor?'

"Jones made some sort of sign to him, and then that extraordinary cat-faced associate proposed that he and their servant should come out and help me catch or kill the Chink.

"My object, I said, was not to get assistance. I did not intend to chase the Chinaman. I had come only to warn them that he was armed, and that he really objected to their presence on the island. I wanted them to understand that I was not responsible for anything that might happen.

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