He found his chair, stood a moment with his back toward his wife, then very slowly let himself down into the chair and sat facing her. There was moisture on his soft, pallid skin, a nervous twitching of the under lip; he passed one heavily ringed hand across his closely shaven jaw, still staring at her.
“I want to tell you something,” he said. “You’ve got to stop your interference with my affairs, and stop it now.”
“I am not interested in your affairs,” she said unsteadily, still shaken by her own revolt, still under the shock of her own arousing to a resistance that had been long, long overdue. “If you mean,” she went on, “that the ruin of this boy is your affair, then I’ll make it mine from this moment. I’ve told you that he shall not play; and he shall not. And while I’m about it I’ll admit what you are preparing to accuse me of; I did make Sandon Craig promise to keep away; I did try to make that little fool Scott Innis promise, too; and when he wouldn’t I informed his father. . . . And every time you try your dirty bucket-shop methods on boys like that, I’ll do the same.”
He swore at her quite calmly; she smiled, shrugged, and, imprisoning her knees in her clasped hands, leaned back and looked at him.
“What a ninny I have been,” she said, “to be afraid of you so long!”
A gleam crossed his faded eyes, but he let her remark pass for the moment. Then, when he was quite sure that violent emotion had been exhausted within him:
“Do you want your bills paid?” he asked. “Because, if you do, Fane, Harmon & Co. are not going to pay them.”
“We are living beyond our means?” she inquired disdainfully.
“Not if you will be good enough to mind your business, my friend. I’ve managed this establishment on our winnings for two years. It’s a detail; but you might as well know it. My association with Fane, Harmon & Co. runs the Newport end of it, and nothing more.”
“What did you marry me for?” she asked curiously.
A slight colour came into his face: “Because that damned Rosamund Fane lied about you.”
“Oh! . . . You knew that in Manila? You’d heard about it, hadn’t you—the Western timber-lands? Rosamund didn’t mean to lie—only the titles were all wrong, you know. . . . And so you made a bad break, Jack; is that it?”
“Yes, that is it.”
“And it cost you a fortune, and me a—husband. Is that it, my friend?”
“I can afford you if you will stop your meddling,” he said coolly.
“I see; I am to stop my meddling and you are to continue your downtown gambling in your own house in the evenings.”
“Precisely. It happens that I am sufficiently familiar with the stock-market to make a decent living out of the Exchange; and it also happens that I am sufficiently fortunate with cards to make the pleasure of playing fairly remunerative. Any man who can put up proper margin has a right to my services; any man whom I invite and who can take up his notes, has a right to play under my roof. If his note goes to protest, he forfeits that right. Now will you kindly explain to yourself exactly how this matter can be of any interest to you?”