“I shall be back”—he paused—“eventually, if not sooner!”
“Certainly, sir!” said Mrs. Morrisey, who had no sense of humour.
“Meanwhile, send on any letters to the Northborough Hotel. I shall catch the seven-thirty,” said Hugh.
“I’ll order the car round, sir,” said Mrs. Morrisey.
And this very day at Starden pride broke down; the need was so great. It was not the money that the man demanded, but the bonds that paying it would forge about her, bind her for all time.
“Please come to me here.
I want your help. I am in great trouble,
and there is no one I can turn to but you.
And not till after the letter was in the post did she remember that she had signed it with her Christian name only.
“My dear Connie!” Helen Everard was amazed. “My dear Connie, why talk such nonsense? This marriage between Joan and Johnny is the best, the very best possible thing in the world for him. Joan is—”
“I know all she is, Helen,” said Connie; “no one knows better than I do. I know she is lovely; she is good, she is rich, and she is cold—cold to Johnny. She doesn’t love him; and I love him, Helen, and I hate to think that Johnny should give his life to a woman who does not care for him!”
Helen shrugged her shoulders. “Sometimes, Connie with her queer unworldly notions annoys me,” she thought.
“At any rate, dear child, it is all arranged, and whatever you and I say will not matter in the least. But, all the same, I am sorry you are opposed to the marriage.”
“I am!” said Connie briefly.
She had declared herself, as she had known sooner or later she must, and she had declared on the side of the girl who loved Johnny Everard better than her life.
At home Johnny wondered at the change that had come to the two women whom he loved and believed in. It seemed to him that somehow they were antagonistic to him, they seemed to cling together.
Ellice deliberately avoided him. When he asked her to go out, as in the old days, she refused, and when he felt hurt Connie sided with her.
“Con, what does it mean?” he cried in perplexity.
“Nothing. What should it mean?”
“But it does. Ellice hardly speaks to me. When I speak to her she just answers. You—you”—he paused—“and you are different even. What have I done?”
“You have done nothing—yet, Johnny. It is what you are going to do—that troubles me and makes me anxious.”
He stared, open-eyed.
“With Joan. You mean that you are against her?”
“I am against any woman who would have you for a husband and give you none of her heart,” cried Connie.
“Why—why?” he stammered. “Con, you couldn’t expect that Joan would fall in love with a chap like me?”