Here, where opposing currents had met and become congested, utter confusion reigned; from the masses of vehicles of all kinds, constituting a seemingly inextricable blockade, arose the din of hoarse voices. With the fellow’s figure a vague swaying shadow before him, John Steele, too, stopped; stared at the dim blotches of light; listened to the anathemas, the angry snapping of whips. Would Dandy Joe plunge into the melee; attempt to pass through that tangle of horses and men? Apparently he found discretion the better part of valor and moving back so quickly he almost touched John Steele, he walked down the intersecting avenue.
Several blocks farther on, the turmoil seemed less marked, and here he essayed to cross; by dint of dodging and darting between restless horses he reached the other side. A sudden closing in of cabs and carts midway between curbs held John Steele back; he caught quickly at the bridle of the nearest horse and forced it aside. An expostulating shout, a half-scream from somewhere greeted the action; a whip snapped, stung his cheek. An instant he paused as if to leap up and drag the aggressor from his seat, but instead with closed hands and set face he pushed on; to be blocked again by an importunate cab.
“Turn back; get out of this somehow, cabby!” He heard familiar tones, saw the speaker, Sir Charles, and, by his side—yes, through the curtain of fog, so near he could almost reach out and touch her, he saw as in a flash, Jocelyn Wray!
She, too, saw him, the man in the street, his pale face lifted up, ghost-like, from the mist. A cry fell from her lips, was lost amid other sounds. An instant eyes looked into eyes; hers, dilated; his, unnaturally bright, burning! Then as in a daze the beautiful head bent toward him; the daintily clad figure leaned forward, the sensitive and trembling lips half parted.
John Steele sprang back, to get free, to get out of there at once! Did she call? he did not know; it might be she had given voice to her surprise, but now only the clatter and uproar could be heard. In the fog, however, her face seemed still to follow; confused, for a moment, he did not heed his way. Something struck him—a wheel? He half fell, recovered himself, managed to reach the curb.
He was conscious now of louder shoutings; of the sting on his cheek; of the traffic, drifting on—slowly. Then he, too, started to walk away, in the opposite direction; it mattered little whither he bent his footsteps now. Dandy Joe had disappeared; the hope of attaining his end through him, of being led to the retreat of one he had so long desired to find, had proved illusive. The last moment’s halt had enabled him to escape, to fade from view like a will-o’-the-wisp.
John Steele did not go far in mere aimless fashion; leaning against a wall he strove once more to plan, but ever as he did so, through his thought the girl’s fair face, looking out from enshrouding lace, intruded. Again he felt the light of her eyes, all the bitterness of spirit their surprise, consternation, had once more awakened in him.