So there had been no quarrel, why should there have been? Certainly there had not been. Joan had spoken handsomely of Johnny, and she had said only what was true.
“I shall tell Connie exactly what Joan said, and probably Connie will repeat it to Johnny,” Helen thought, which was exactly what she wished Connie would do.
In her own room Joan hesitated a moment, then tore open the envelope, and drew out Mr. Philip Slotman’s letter.
“My dear Joan (her eyes flashed at the insolent familiarity of it). Since my visit of a week ago, when you received me so charmingly, I have constantly thought of you and your beautiful home, and you cannot guess how pleased I am to feel that the wheel of fortune had taken a turn to lift you high above all want and poverty.”
She went on reading steadily, her lips compressed, her face hard and bitter.
“Unfortunately of late, things have not gone well with me. It is almost as if, when you went, you took my luck away with you. At any rate, I find myself in the immediate need of money, and to whom should I appeal for a timely loan, if not to one between whom and myself there has always been warm affection and friendship, to say the least of it? That I am in your confidence, that I know so much of the past, and that you trust in me so completely to respect all your secrets, is a source of pleasure and pride to me. So knowing that we do not stand to one another in the light of mere ordinary friends, I do not hesitate to explain my present embarrassment to you, and ask you frankly for the loan of three thousand pounds, which will relieve the most pressing of my immediate liabilities. Secure in the knowledge that you will immediately come to my aid, as you know full well I would have come to yours, had the positions been reversed, I am, my dear Joan,
The letter dropped from her hands to the carpet. Blackmail! Cunningly and cleverly wrapped up, but blackmail all the same, the reference to his knowledge of what he believed to be her past! He knew that she was one who would read and understand, that she would read, as is said, between the lines.
Three thousand pounds, to her a few short weeks ago a fortune; to her now, a mere row of figures. She could spare the money. It meant no hardship, no difficulty, and yet—how could she bring herself to pay money to the man?
She would not do it. She would return the letter, she would write across it some indignant refusal, and then—No, she would think it over, take time, consider. She was strong, and she was brave—she had faced an unkindly world without losing heart or courage. Yet this was an experience new to her. She was, after all, only a woman, and this man was assailing that thing which a woman prizes beyond all else—her good name, her reputation, and she knew full well how he might circulate a lying story that she would have the utmost difficulty in disproving now. He could fling mud, and some of it must stick!