"One thing," muttered Cairness.
"Yes," he said shortly, "I realize it."
[Pg 193] Cairness was surprised almost into showing his surprise. Felipa had said nothing of it to him. And he[Pg 317] knew well enough that she never forgot a face. He felt that he was in a false position, but he answered "Yes?" non-committally.
"It might for me," he said, "but not for her, and I[Pg 15] told Cabot I'd do my best for her." It had seemed to him his plain duty, and he had done it, and he asked no approbation. Cairness dropped him and went into the corrals to see for himself. The fire roared and hissed, flung charred wood into the air, and let it fall back again. He remembered, in an inconsequent flash, how one night in the South Pacific he had taken a very pretty girl below to see the engines. They had stood in the stoke-hole on a heap of coal, hand in hand, down beneath the motion of the decks where the only movement seemed to be the jar of the screw working against the thrust block and the reverberation of the connecting-rod and engines. A luckless, dust-caked wretch of a stoker had thrown open the door of a furnace in front of them, and they had seen the roaring, sputtering, seething whirl of fire within. They had given a simultaneous cry, hiding their scorched faces in their arms, and stumbled blindly over the coal beds back to the clattering of the engine rooms.
"It brought back too much that was unpleasant for me. I did not want to talk about it. He saw that I did not, too, and I can't understand why he should have spoken of it. I should have told you after he had gone." She was not disconcerted in the slightest, only a little vindictive toward Forbes, and he thought it would hardly be worth his while to point out the curious position her silence put him in.