“Why—why, darling, why?”
“To ask her if she can be generous—and oh, I believe she can—to ask her why she is taking him away from me when I love him so, and when—oh, Con—Con, when I believe that he cares a little for me.”
Con held out her arms, she caught the girl tightly.
“My love and my prayers and my wishes will go with you, darling.”
“Walls we cannot Batter down”
“Why?” Helen asked. “Why isn’t Johnny here to-day, Joan?”
“I do not know,” Joan said. She had scarcely given a thought to Johnny Everard that morning. All her thoughts had been of two men, the men she had left in the darkness by the roadside. She blamed herself bitterly now that she had left them; she trembled to think what might have happened.
“Helen, if Johnny Everard does come, I wish to speak to him. I have a good deal to say to him. I want to be alone with him for some time.”
“Of course, darling.” But there was anxious enquiry in Helen’s face.
Surely, surely there had been no quarrel between them? Johnny was not one to quarrel with anyone, yet it was strange that he had not been here for so many days, and that this being Sunday still he was not here.
“When he comes,” Joan was thinking, “I shall tell him—everything.” She knew she would hate it; she knew that she would feel that in some way she was lowering herself. It would be a horrible confession for one with her stubborn pride to have to make. Not of guilt and wrongdoing, but that such should be ascribed to her.
Helen was watching from the window, her mind filled with worries and doubts.
A man had turned in by the gates, was walking slowly up the winding drive.
It was Johnny, of course. Helen saw it all. The car had gone wrong, but Johnny, not to miss this Sunday, had walked.
“Joan, Johnny is coming,” she called out. “He is walking. He—” She paused; it was not Johnny. She was silent; she stared for a moment. The man looked familiar, then she knew who it was.
“Joan, it is Mr. Alston,” she said quietly. “What does he want here?” And Helen’s voice was filled with suspicion.
“Thank Heaven,” Joan thought, “thank Heaven that he is here.”
For the first time Hugh Alston knocked for admission on the Starden door. A score of times he had asked himself, “Shall I go?” And he could find no answer. He had come at last.
“What can he want? I did not know he was here in Starden. I didn’t even know that he knew where Joan was. I don’t understand this business at all,” Helen was thinking.
A servant shewed him in. Joan shook hands with him. Helen did so, under an air of graciousness which hid a cold hostility. What was this man doing here? If he was nothing to Joan, and Joan was nothing to him, why did he come? And how could he be anything to Joan when she was to marry Johnny?