"Yes. I hate his men--his life--sometimes I almost hate him!"
Venters paused in his rapid-fire questioning, as if to brace him self to ask for a truth that would be abhorrent for him to confirm, but which he seemed driven to hear.
"What are--what were you to Oldring?"
Like some delicate thing suddenly exposed to blasting heat, the girl wilted; her head dropped, and into her white, wasted cheeks crept the red of shame.
Venters would have given anything to recall that question. It seemed so different--his thought when spoken. Yet her shame established in his mind something akin to the respect he had strangely been hungering to feel for her.
"D--n that question!--forget it!" he cried, in a passion of pain for her and anger at himself. "But once and for all--tell me--I know it, yet I want to hear you say so--you couldn't help yourself?"
"Well, that makes it all right with me," he went on, honestly.
"I--I want you to feel that...you see--we've been thrown together--and--and I want to help you--not hurt you. I thought life had been cruel to me, but when I think of yours I feel mean and little for my complaining. Anyway, I was a lonely outcast.
And now!...I don't see very clearly what it all means. Only we are here--together. We've got to stay here, for long, surely till you are well. But you'll never go back to Oldring. And I'm sure helping you will help me, for I was sick in mind. There's something now for me to do. And if I can win back your strength--then get you away, out of this wild country--help you somehow to a happier life--just think how good that'll be for me!"