“Can’t you speak? Are you a wife?” He now began to speak so loud in his anger that everybody heard it.
Mary crouched a little and worked her hands convulsively under the torture, but she answered with such a doggedness that evidently she would have let herself be cut to pieces sooner than said more.
“You don’t know?” roared Bartley.
Mary paused, and then, with iron doggedness, “I—don’t—know.”
This apparent insult to his common-sense drove Bartley almost mad. “You have given these cursed Cliffords a triumph over me,” he cried; “you have brought shame to my door; but it shall never pass the threshold.” Here the Colonel uttered a contemptuous snort. This drove Bartley wild altogether; he rushed at the Colonel, and shook his fist in his face. “You stand there sneering at my humiliation; now see the example I can make.” Then he was down upon Mary in a moment, and literally yelled at her in his fury. “Go to your paramour, girl; go where you will. You never enter my door again.” And he turned his back furiously upon her.
This terrible denunciation overpowered poor Mary’s resolution; she clung to him in terror. “Oh, mercy, mercy, papa! I’ll explain to you, have pity on your child!”
Bartley flung her so roughly from him that she nearly fell, “You are my child no more.”
But at that moment in strode William Hope, looking seven feet high, and his eyes blazing. “Liar and hypocrite,” he roared, “she never was your child!” Then, changing to a tone of exquisite love, and stretching out both his hands to Mary, “SHE IS MINE!”
Mary, being now between the two men, turned swiftly first to one, then to the other, and with woman’s infallible eye knew her own flesh and blood in that half-moment. She uttered a cry of love and rapture that went through every heart that heard it; and she flung herself in a moment upon her father’s bosom.
He whirled her round like a feather on to his right arm, then faced both her enemies, Clifford and Bartley, with haughty defiance, head thrown back, and eyes that flashed black lightning in defense of his child.
It was a living picture. The father protecting his child like an eagle; Bartley cooled in a moment, and hanging his head apart, gloomy and alarmed at the mad blunder rage had betrayed him into; Colonel Clifford amazed and puzzled, and beginning to see the consequences of all this; Julia clasping her hands in rapture and thrilling interest at so romantic an incident; Fitzroy beaming with delight at his sweetheart being cleared; and, to complete the picture, the villainous face of Leonard Monckton, disguised as an old man, showed itself for a moment sinister and gloomy; for now all hope of pecuniary advantage to him was gone, and nothing but revenge was on the cards, and he could not see his way clear to that.