West was almost convinced, but not quite; the explanation had not been sufficiently explicit.
“This man Hobart—who is he? What connection does he have with your affairs?”
She hesitated slightly, yet her eyes did not fall, or her apparent cordiality change.
“Mr. Hobart,” she explained, “I have known for years. I told you before he was once in my father’s employ. Now he is a private detective, and was employed on my case, before I advertised for you. I thought then he was not accomplishing anything, but at our interview Sunday, all was cleared up.”
“In the presence of Percival Coolidge?”
“Yes; he was given a week in which to straighten matters. That was why he killed himself.”
“But why is it necessary for you to meet Hobart in a place like this—a veritable thieves’ den?”
She shrugged her shoulders, releasing his hand.
“He has not completed his work, and does not think it best for us to be seen together. I know him so well I am not at all afraid, even here. Is that all, Captain West?”
“It seems to explain everything,” he admitted, yet far from satisfied.
“And you will drop the whole affair?” she asked anxiously.
“If I say yes—what?”
“You will be released from here of course, and the whole misunderstanding forgotten.”
“I have no means of knowing what the men intend to do. They will accept your pledge, I am sure.”
“Possibly, but I am not so sure I will consent to give such a pledge.”
“Then you do not accept my word; do not believe what I have told you?”
“Not that exactly, Miss Natalie; I could have faith in your word, except that I believe you to be mistaken, deceived. Hobart is not square; he is using you for his own ends. Under these conditions, I would be a coward to give such a promise, and leave you helpless in this man’s power.”
“You intend then to refuse?”
“I do; I’ll fight it out.”
She stared at him, scarcely believing her own ears, her lips parted, a look of angry fright in her eyes.
“You are a fool, Captain West,” she burst forth at last, unable to hold back the words. “I have done my best for you, and you spurn that. Now look out.”
She stepped backward, still fronting him, and, with hand behind her, rapped sharply on the panel of the door.
The change in the girl was so pronounced, her action so impetuous, as to leave West startled and silent. The thought came to him instantly that she was not the innocent victim he had supposed. Her words, and movements expressed disappointment, rather than regret. She was angry at his choice, ready to withdraw from him all sympathy, all assistance. Her plea had failed, and the woman had become a tigress.