It was very hard to answer her. Arnold found himself divided between his loyalty towards the man who, in his way, had been kind to him, and the woman who seemed to be stepping with such fascinating ease into the empty places of his life.
“Mr. Weatherley is very much devoted to you,” he remarked.
A shadow of derision parted her lips.
“Mr. Weatherley is a very worthy man,” she said, “but it would have been better for him as well as for me if he had kept away from the Island of Sabatini. Tell me, what did Lady Blennington say about us last night?”
His eyes twinkled.
“She told me that Mr. Weatherley was wrecked upon the Island of Sabatini, and that your brother kept him in a dungeon till he promised to marry you.”
“And you? What did you think of that?”
“I thought,” he replied, “that if adventures of that sort were to be found in those seas, I would like to beg or borrow the money to sail there myself and steer for the rocks.”
“For a boy,” she declared, “you say very charming things. Tell me, how old are you?”
“You would not look so old if it were not for that line. You know, I read characters and fortunes. All the women of my race have done so. I can tell you that you had a youth of ease and happiness and one year of terrible life. Then you started again. It is true, is it not?”
“Very nearly,” he admitted.
She never finished her sentence. From their table, which was nearest to the door, they were suddenly aware of a commotion of some sort going on just outside. Through the glass door Rosario was plainly visible, his sleekness ruffled, his white face distorted with terror. The hand of some unseen person was gripping him by the throat, bearing him backwards. There was a shout and they both saw the cloakroom attendant spring over his counter. Something glittered in the dim light—a flash of blue polished steel. There was a gleam in the air, a horrible cry, and Rosario collapsed upon the floor. Arnold, who was already on his feet and half-way to the door, caught one glimpse of the upstretched hand, and all his senses were thrilled with what he saw. Upon the little finger was a signet ring with a scarlet stone!
The whole affair was a matter of seconds, yet Arnold dashed through the door to find Rosario a crumpled-up heap, the cloakroom attendant bending over him, and no one else in the vestibule. Then the people began to stream in—the hall porter, the lift man, some loiterers from the outer hall. The cloakroom attendant sprang to his feet. He seemed dazed.
“Stop him!” he shouted. “Stop him!”
The little group in the doorway looked at one another.
“He went that way!” the cloakroom attendant cried out again. “He passed through that door!”
Some of them rushed into the street. One man hurried to the telephone, the others pressed forward to where Rosario lay on his back, with a thin stream of blood finding its way through his waistcoat. Arnold was suddenly conscious of a woman’s arm upon his and a hoarse whisper in his ear.