“The end will be the same for you. As matters stand, Sir Charles no doubt thinks still that you would make a desirable parti for his niece. His wife, Lady Wray, unquestionably shares that opinion. Their combined influence might in time prevail, and Jocelyn Wray yield to their united wishes. This misfortune,” with cutting deadliness of tone, “it is obvious must be averted. You will consent to withdraw all pretensions in that direction, or you will force me to make public this paper. A full exposition of the case I think would materially affect Sir Charles and Lady Wray’s attitude as to the desirability of an alliance between their family and yours.”
“And yourself? You forget,” with a sneer, “how it would affect you!”
“Myself!” John Steele laughed. “You fool! Do you imagine I would hesitate for that reason?”
The nobleman looked at him, at the glowing, contemptuous eyes. “Hesitate? Perhaps not! You love her yourself, and—”
John Steele stepped toward him. “Stop, or—I have once been almost on the point of killing you to-night—don’t—” he broke off. “The condition? You consent or not?”
“And if I—? You would—?”
“Keep your cowardly secret? Yes!”
To this the other had replied; of necessity the scene had dragged along a little farther; then John Steele found himself on the stairway, going down.
It was over, this long, stubborn contest; he hardly heard or saw a cab drive up and stop before the house as he went out to the street, was scarcely conscious of some one leaving it, some one about to enter who suddenly stopped at sight of him and exclaimed eagerly, warmly. He was not surprised; with apathy he listened to the new-comer’s words; rambling, disconnected, about a letter that had intercepted him at Brighton and brought him post-haste to London.
A letter? John Steele had entered the cab; he sank back; when had he written a letter? Weeks ago; he looked at this face, familiar, far-off; the fog was again rising around him. He could hardly see; he was glad he did not have to stir; he seemed to breathe with difficulty.
“Where—are we going?”
“To Rosemary Villa.”
“I—should prefer—my own chambers”—John Steele spoke with an effort—“it is nearer—and I’m a bit done up. Besides, after a little rest, there are—some business matters—to be attended to—that will need looking after as soon as—”
His head fell forward; Captain Forsythe looked at him; called up loudly, excitedly to the driver.
* * * * *
NEAR THE RIVER