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A PROFOUND stillness reigned in the Casa Gould. The master of the house,
walking along the corredor, opened the door of his room, and saw his wife sitting
in a big armchair--his own smoking armchair--thoughtful, contemplating her little
shoes. And she did not raise her eyes when he walked in.
"Tired?" asked Charles Gould.
"A little," said Mrs. Gould. Still without looking up, she added with feeling, "There
is an awful sense of unreality about all this."
Charles Gould, before the long table strewn with papers, on which lay a hunting
crop and a pair of spurs, stood looking at his wife: "The heat and dust must have
been awful this afternoon by the waterside," he murmured, sympathetically. "The
glare on the water must have been simply terrible."
"One could close one's eyes to the glare," said Mrs. Gould. "But, my dear
Charley, it is impossible for me to close my eyes to our position; to this awful . . ."
She raised her eyes and looked at her husband's face, from which all sign of
sympathy or any other feeling had disappeared. "Why don't you tell me
something?" she almost wailed.
"I thought you had understood me perfectly from the first," Charles Gould said,
slowly. "I thought we had said all there was to say a long time ago. There is
nothing to say now. There were things to be done. We have done them; we have
gone on doing them. There is no going back now. I don't suppose that, even from
the first, there was really any possible way back. And, what's more, we can't
even afford to stand still."
"Ah, if one only knew how far you mean to go," said his wife. inwardly trembling,
but in an almost playful tone.
"Any distance, any length, of course," was the answer, in a matter-of-fact tone,
which caused Mrs. Gould to make another effort to repress a shudder.
She stood up, smiling graciously, and her little figure seemed to be diminished
still more by the heavy mass of her hair and the long train of her gown.
"But always to success," she said, persuasively.
Charles Gould, enveloping her in the steely blue glance of his attentive eyes,
answered without hesitation--
"Oh, there is no alternative."
He put an immense assurance into his tone. As to the words, this was all that his
conscience would allow him to say.
Mrs. Gould's smile remained a shade too long upon her lips. She murmured--
"I will leave you; I've a slight headache. The heat, the dust, were indeed--I
suppose you are going back to the mine before the morning?"
"At midnight," said Charles Gould. "We are bringing down the silver to-morrow.
Then I shall take three whole days off in town with you."
"Ah, you are going to meet the escort. I shall be on the balcony at five o'clock to
see you pass. Till then, good-bye."
Charles Gould walked rapidly round the table, and, seizing her hands, bent
down, pressing them both to his lips. Before he straightened himself up again to