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Chapter III
 For several days the Cubans were almost invisible, appearing only for a daily drive, a twilight1 saunter on the beach, or a brief visit to the ballroom2, there to enjoy the excitement of the pastime in which they both excelled. Their apartments were in the quietest wing of the hotel, and from the moment of their occupancy seemed to acquire all the charms of home. The few guests admitted felt the atmosphere of poetry and peace that pervaded3 the nest which Love, the worker of miracles, had built himself even under that tumultuous roof. Strollers in the halls or along the breezy verandas4 often paused to listen to the music of instrument or voice which came floating out from these sequestered5 rooms. Frequent laughter and the murmur6 of conversation proved that ennui7 was unknown, and a touch of romance inevitably8 enhanced the interest wakened by the beautiful young pair, always together, always happy, never weary of the dolce far niente of this summer life.  
In a balcony like a hanging garden, sheltered from the sun by blossoming shrubs9 and vines that curtained the green nook with odorous shade, Pauline lay indolently swinging in a gaily10 fringed hammock as she had been wont11 to do in Cuba, then finding only pleasure in the luxury of motion which now failed to quiet her unrest. Manuel had put down the book to which she no longer listened and, leaning his head upon his hand, sat watching her as she swayed to and fro with thoughtful eyes intent upon the sea, whose murmurous12 voice possessed13 a charm more powerful than his own. Suddenly he spoke14:
“Pauline, I cannot understand you! For three weeks we hurried east and west to find this man, yet when found you shun15 him and seem content to make my life a heaven upon earth. I sometimes fancy that you have resolved to let the past sleep, but the hope dies as soon as born, for in moments like this I see that, though you devote yourself to me, the old purpose is unchanged, and I marvel17 why you pause.”
Her eyes came back from their long gaze and settled on him full of an intelligence which deepened his perplexity. “You have not learned to know me yet; death is not more inexorable or time more tireless than I. This week has seemed one of indolent delight to you. To me it has been one of constant vigilance and labor18, for scarcely a look, act, or word of mine has been without effect. At first I secluded19 myself that Gilbert might contrast our life with his and, believing us all and all to one another, find impotent regret his daily portion. Three days ago accident placed an unexpected weapon in my hand which I have used in silence, lest in spite of promises you should rebel and end his trial too soon. Have you no suspicion of my meaning?”
“None. You are more mysterious than ever, and I shall, in truth, believe you are the enchantress I have so often called you if your spells work invisibly.”
“They do not, and I use no supernatural arts, as I will prove to you. Take my lorgnette that lies behind you, part the leaves where the green grapes hang thickest, look up at the little window in the shadowy angle of the low roof opposite, and tell me what you see.”
“Nothing but a half-drawn20 curtain.”
“Ah! I must try the ruse21 that first convinced me. Do not show yourself, but watch, and if you speak, let it be in Spanish.”
Leaving her airy cradle, Pauline bent22 over the balcony as if to gather the climbing roses that waved their ruddy clusters in the wind. Before the third stem was broken Manuel whispered, “I see the curtain move; now comes the outline of a head, and now a hand, with some bright object in it. Santo Pablo! It is a man staring at you as coolly as if you were a lady in a balcony. What prying23 rascal24 is it?”
“Impossible! He is a gentleman.”
“If gentlemen play the traitor25 and the spy, then he is one. I am not mistaken; for since the glitter of his glass first arrested me I have watched covertly26, and several trials as successful as the present have confirmed the suspicion which Babie's innocent complaints of his long absences aroused. Now do you comprehend why I remained in these rooms with the curtains seldom drawn? Why I swung the hammock here and let you sing and read to me while I played with your hair or leaned upon your shoulder? Why I have been all devotion and made this balcony a little stage for the performance of our version of the honeymoon27 for one spectator?”
Still mindful of the eager eyes upon her, Pauline had been fastening the roses in her bosom28 as she spoke, and ended with a silvery laugh that made the silence musical with its heartsome sound. As she paused, Manuel flung down the lorgnette and was striding past her with ireful impetuosity, but the white arms took him captive, adding another figure to the picture framed by the green arch as she whispered decisively, “No farther! There must be no violence. You promised obedience29 and I exact it. Do you think detection to a man so lost to honor would wound as deeply as the sights which make his daily watch a torment30? Or that a blow would be as hard to bear as the knowledge that his own act has placed you where you are and made him what he is? Silent contempt is the law now, so let this insult pass, unclench your hand and turn that defiant31 face to me, while I console you for submission32 with a kiss.”
He yielded to the command enforced by the caress33 but drew her jealously from sight, and still glanced rebelliously34 through the leaves, asking with a frown, “Why show me this if I may not resent it? How long must I bear with this man? Tell me your design, else I shall mar16 it in some moment when hatred35 of him conquers love of you.”
“I will, for it is tune36, because though I have taken the first step you must take the second. I showed you this that you might find action pleasanter than rest, and you must bear with this man a little longer for my sake, but I will give you an amusement to beguile37 the time. Long ago you told me that Gilbert was a gambler. I would not believe it then, now I can believe anything, and you can convince the world of this vice38 of his as speedily as you will.”
“Do you wish me to become a gambler that I may prove him one? I also told you that he was suspected of dishonorable play—shall I load the dice39 and mark the cards to catch him in his own snares40?”
Manuel spoke bitterly, for his high spirit chafed41 at the task assigned him; womanly wiles42 seemed more degrading than the masculine method of retaliation43, in which strength replaces subtlety44 and speedier vengeance45 brings speedier satisfaction. But Pauline, fast learning to play upon that mysterious instrument, the human heart, knew when to stimulate46 and when to soothe47.
“Do not reproach me that I point out a safer mode of operation than your own. You would go to Gilbert and by a hot word, a rash act, put your life and my happiness into his hands, for though dueling48 is forbidden here, he would not hesitate to break all laws, human or divine, if by so doing he could separate us. What would you gain by it? If you kill him he is beyond our reach forever, and a crime remains49 to be atoned50 for. If he kill you your blood will be upon my head, and where should I find consolation51 for the loss of the one heart always true and tender?”
With the inexplicable52 prescience which sometimes foreshadows coming ills, she clung to him as if a vision of the future dimly swept before her, but he only saw the solicitude53 it was a sweet surprise to find he had awakened54, and in present pleasure forgot past pain.
“You shall not suffer from this man any grief that I can shield you from, rest assured of that, my heart. I will be patient, though your ways are not mine, for the wrong was yours, and the retribution shall be such as you decree.”
“Then hear your task and see the shape into which circumstances have molded my design. I would have you exercise a self-restraint that shall leave Gilbert no hold upon you, accept all invitations like that which you refused when we passed him on the threshold of the billiard room an hour ago, and seem to find in such amusements the same fascination55 as himself. Your skill in games of chance excels his, as you proved at home where these pastimes lose their disreputable aspect by being openly enjoyed. Therefore I would have you whet56 this appetite of his by losing freely at first—he will take a grim delight in lessening57 the fortune he covets—then exert all your skill till he is deeply in your debt. He has nothing but what is doled58 out to him by Babie's father, I find; he dare not ask help there for such a purpose; other resources have failed else he would not have married; and if the sum be large enough, it lays him under an obligation which will be a thorn in his flesh, the sharper for your knowledge of his impotence to draw it out. When this is done, or even while it is in progress, I would have you add the pain of a new jealousy59 to the old. He neglects this young wife of his, and she is eager to recover the affections she believes she once possessed. Help her, and teach Gilbert the value of what he now despises. You are young, comely60, accomplished61, and possessed of many graces more attractive than you are conscious of; your southern birth and breeding gift you with a winning warmth of manners in strong contrast to the colder natures around you; and your love for me lends an almost tender deference62 to your intercourse63 with all womankind. Amuse, console this poor girl, and show her husband what he should be; I have no fear of losing your heart nor need you fear for hers; she is one of those spaniel-like creatures who love the hand that strikes them and fawn64 upon the foot that spurns65 them.”
“Am I to be the sole actor in the drama of deceit? While I woo Babie, what will you do, Pauline?”
“Let Gilbert woo me—have patience till you understand my meaning; he still loves me and believes I still return that love. I shall not undeceive him yet, but let silence seem to confess what I do not own in words. He fed me with false promises, let me build my life's happiness on baseless hopes, and rudely woke me when he could delude66 no longer, leaving me to find I had pursued a shadow. I will do the same. He shall follow me undaunted, undeterred by all obstacles, all ties; shall stake his last throw and lose it, for when the crowning moment comes I shall show him that through me he is made bankrupt in love, honor, liberty, and hope, tell him I am yours entirely68 and forever, then vanish like an ignis-fatuus, leaving him to the darkness of despair and defeat. Is not this a better retribution than the bullet that would give him peace at once?”
Boy, lover, husband though he was, Manuel saw and stood aghast at the baleful spirit which had enslaved this woman, crushing all generous impulses, withering69 all gentle charities, and making her the saddest spectacle this world can show—one human soul rebelling against Providence70, to become the nemesis71 of another. Involuntarily he recoiled72 from her, exclaiming, “Pauline! Are you possessed of a devil?”
“Yes! One that will not be cast out till every sin, shame, and sorrow mental ingenuity74 can conceive and inflict75 has been heaped on that man's head. I thought I should be satisfied with one accusing look, one bitter word; I am not, for the evil genii once let loose cannot be recaptured. Once I ruled it, now it rules me, and there is no turning back. I have come under the law of fate, and henceforth the powers I possess will ban, not bless, for I am driven to whet and wield76 them as weapons which may win me success at the price of my salvation77. It is not yet too late for you to shun the spiritual contagion78 I bear about me. Choose now, and abide79 by that choice without a shadow of turning, as I abide by mine. Take me as I am; help me willingly and unwillingly80; and in the end receive the promised gift—years like the days you have called heaven upon earth. Or retract81 the vows82 you plighted83, receive again the heart and name you gave me, and live unvexed by the stormy nature time alone can tame. Here is the ring. Shall I restore or keep it, Manuel?”
Never had she looked more beautiful as she stood there, an image of will, daring, defiant, and indomitable, with eyes darkened by intensity84 of emotion, voice half sad, half stern, and outstretched hand on which the wedding ring no longer shone. She felt her power, yet was wary85 enough to assure it by one bold appeal to the strongest element of her husband's character: passions, not principles, were the allies she desired, and before the answer came she knew that she had gained them at the cost of innocence86 and self-respect.
As Manuel listened, an expression like a dark reflection of her own settled on his face; a year of youth seemed to drop away; and with the air of one who puts fear behind him, he took the hand, replaced the ring, resolutely87 accepted the hard conditions, and gave all to love, only saying as he had said before, “Soul and body, I belong to you; do with me as you will.”
A fortnight later Pauline sat alone, waiting for her husband. Under the pretext88 of visiting a friend, she had absented herself a week, that Manuel might give himself entirely to the distasteful task she set him. He submitted to the separation, wrote daily, but sent no tidings of his progress, told her nothing when they met that night, and had left her an hour before asking her to have patience till he could show his finished work. Now, with her eye upon the door, her ear alert to catch the coming step, her mind disturbed by contending hopes and fears, she sat waiting with the vigilant
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