“By George! so the girl’s an heiress!”
“And a very considerable one!”
“We won’t say a word about it—not a word, Hudson. We’ll get the girl here, and patch up this quarrel between her and her young husband. When that’s done we’ll spring the news on ’em, eh?”
“I think it would be a good idea, General,” Hudson said.
“In spite of everything”
Slotman leaned across his table. His eyes were glaring his face was flushed a dusky red.
Against the wall, her face white as death, but her eyes unafraid, the girl stood staring at him, in silent amazement.
“And you—you’ve given yourself airs, set yourself up to be all that you are not! You’ve held me at arm’s length, and all the time—all the time you’re nothing—nothing!” the man shouted. “I know all about you! I know that a man offered you marriage to atone for the past—to atone—you hear me? I tell you I know about you, and yet you dare—dare to give yourself airs—dare to pretend to be a monument of innocence—you!”
“You are mad!” the girl said quietly.
“Yes, that’s it—mad—mad for you! Mad with love for you!” Slotman laughed sharply. “I’m a fool—a blind, mad fool; but you’ve got me as no other woman ever did. I tell you I know about you and the past, but it shall make no difference. I repeat my offer now—I’ll marry you, in spite of everything!”
It seemed to Joan that a kind of madness came to her, born of her fear and her horror of this man.
She forced her way past him, and gained the door, how she scarcely remembered. She could only recall a great and burning sense of rage and shame. She remembered seeing, as in some distant vision, a man with scared eyes and sagging jaw—a man who, an utter coward by nature, had given way at her approach, whose passion had melted into fear—fear followed later by senseless rage against himself and against her.
So she had made her retreat from the office of Mr. Philip Slotman, and had shaken the dust of the place off her feet.
It was all very well to bear up and show a brave and determined face to the enemy, to give no sign of weakness when the danger threatened. But now, alone in her own room in the lodging-house, she broke down, as any sensitive, highly strung woman might.
Joan looked at her face in the glass. She looked at it critically. Was it the face, she asked herself, of a girl who invited insult? For insult on insult had been heaped on her. She had been made the butt of one man’s senseless joke or lie, whatever it might be; the butt of another man’s infamous passion.
“Oh!” she said, “Oh!” She clasped her cheeks between her hands, and stared at her reflection with wide grey eyes. “I hate myself! I hate this face of mine that invites such—such—” She shuddered, and moaned softly to herself.