“Oh, don’t talk drivel. It makes me sick. Leave Adrian alone and listen to a living man,” he shouted, all the pent-up intellectual disgusts and sex-jealousies bursting out in a mad gush. “A real live man who would walk through Hell for you!” He caught her frail body in his great grasp, and she vibrated like a bit of wire caught up by a dynamo. “My love for you has nothing whatever to do with Adrian. I’ve been as loyal to him as one man can be to another, living and dead. By God, I have! Ask Hilary and Barbara. But I want you. I’ve wanted you since the first moment I set eyes on you. You’ve got into my blood. You’re going to love me. You’re going to marry me, Adrian or no Adrian.”
He bent over her and she met the passion in his eyes bravely. She did not lack courage. And her eyes were hard and her lips were white and her face was pinched into a marble statuette of hate. And unconscious that his grip was giving her physical pain he continued:
“I’ve waited for you. I’ve waited for you from the moment I heard you were engaged to the other man. And I’ll go on waiting. But, by God!”—and, not knowing what he did, he shook her backwards and forwards—“I’ll not go on waiting for ever. You—you little bit of mystery—you little bit of eternity—you—you—ah!”
With a great gesture he released her. But the poor ogre had not counted on his strength. His unwitting violence sent her spinning, and she fell, knocking her head against a sofa. He uttered a gasp of horror and in an instant lifted her and laid her on the sofa, and on his knees beside her, with remorse oversurging his passion, behaved like a penitent fool, accusing himself of all the unforgivable savageries ever practised by barbaric male. Doria, who was not hurt in the least, sat up and pointed to the door.
“Go!” she said. “Go. You’re nothing but a brute.”
Jaffery rose from his knees and regarded her in the hebetude of reaction.
“I suppose I am, Doria, but it’s my way of loving you.”
She still pointed. “Go,” she said tonelessly. “I can’t turn you out, but if Adrian was alive—Ha! ha! ha!—” she laughed with a touch of hysteria. “How do you dare, you barren rascal—how do you dare to think you can take the place of a man like Adrian?”
[Illustration: “Go! You are nothing but a brute.”]
The whip of her tongue lashed him to sudden fury. He picked her up bodily and held her in spite of struggles, just as you or I would hold a cat or a rabbit.
“You little fool,” said he, “don’t you know the difference between a man and a—”
Realisation of the tragedy struck him as a spent bullet might have struck him on the side of the head. He turned white.
“All right,” said he in a changed voice. “Easy on. I’m not going to hurt you.”
He deposited her gently on the sofa and strode out of the room.