“I’ll write,” he thought. He looked at her.
“Good-bye, Joan. I’ll come back; you’ll hear from me soon. Meanwhile, remember—not a word, not a word to a living soul. You’re all right, trust me!”
Meanwhile Johnny Everard wandered about the sweet, old-world garden, and did not appreciate its beauties in the least. He was waiting, and there is nothing so dreary as waiting for one one longs to see and who comes not.
But presently there came a maid, that same maid who had earned Johnny’s temporary hatred.
“Miss Meredyth wished me to say, sir, that she would be very glad if you would excuse her. She’s been taken with a bad headache, and has had to go to her own room to lie down.”
“Oh!” said Johnny. The sun seemed to shine less brightly for him for a few moments. “I’m sorry. All right, tell her I am very sorry, and—and shall hope to see her soon!”
Ten minutes later Johnny Everard was driving back along the hot high-road, utterly unconscious that the car was running very badly and misfiring consistently.
In her own room Joan sat, her elbows on the dressing-table, her eyes staring unseeingly out into a garden, all glowing with flowers and sunlight.
She was not thinking of Johnny Everard; his very existence had for the time being passed from her memory. She was thinking of that man, and of what he had said, the horror and the shame of it. And that other man—Hugh Alston—had brought this upon her—with his insulting lie, his insolent, lying statement, he had brought it on her! Because of him she was to be subjected to the shame and humiliation of such an attack as Slotman had made on her just now.
“Oh, what—what can I do?” she whispered. “And he—he dared to call me—me ungenerous! Ungenerous for resenting, for hating him for the position he has put me into. Why did he do it? Why, why, why?” she asked of herself frantically, and receiving no answer, rose and for a time paced the room, then came back to the table and sat down once again.
Slotman had said he would return, that she would hear. She could imagine how that the man, believing her good name in his power, and at his mercy, would not cease to torment and persecute her.
What could she do? To whom could she turn? She thought of Johnny Everard for a fleeting moment. There was something so big and strong and honest about him that he reminded her of some great, noble, clean dog, yet she could not appeal to him. Had he been her brother—that would have been different—but how explain to him? No, she could not. Yet she must have protection from this man, this Slotman. Lady Linden, General Bartholomew, Helen Everard, name after name came into her mind, and she dismissed each as it came. To whom could she turn? And then came the idea on which she acted at once. Of course it must be he!
She rose and sought for pen and paper, and commenced a letter that was difficult to write. She crushed several sheets of paper and flung them aside, but the letter was written at last.