“Look!” whispered Jimmie. “The Lass of Richmond Hill! There’s something nice for you.”
“Not for me,” Jack laughed.
The woman, coming opposite to the three young men, shot a bold glance at them. She stopped with a little scream, and pressed one hand agitatedly to her heart.
“Jack!” she cried in an eager whisper. “My Jack!”
That once familiar voice woke the chords of his memory, bridged the gulf of years. His blood seemed to turn to ice in his veins. He stared at the handsome face, with its expression of mingled insolence and terror—met the scrutiny of the large, flashing eyes. Then doubt fled. His brain throbbed, and the world grew black.
“Diane! My God!” fell from his lips.
“Fancy her turning up!” Nevill whispered to Drexell.
“It’s a bad business,” Jimmie replied; he, as well as Nevill, had known Diane Merode while she was Jack’s wife.
The woman came closer; she shrugged her shoulders mockingly.
“Jack—my husband,” she said. “Have you no welcome for me?”
With a bitter oath he caught her arm. His face indicated intense emotion, which he vainly tried to control.
“Yes, it is you!” he said, hoarsely. “You have come back from the grave to wreck my life. I heard you were dead, and I believed it—”
“You read it in a Paris paper,” interrupted Diane, speaking English with a French accent. “It was a lie—a mistake. It was not I who was dragged from the river and taken to the Morgue. It would have been better so, perhaps. Jack, why do you glare at me? Listen, I am not as wicked as you think. There were circumstances—I was not to blame. I can explain all—”
“Hush, or I will kill you!” he said, fiercely. He snatched at a chain that encircled her white throat, and as it broke in his grasp a sparkling jewel fell to the ground. The most stinging name that a man can call a woman hissed from his clenched teeth. She shrank back, terrified, into the shadow, and he followed her. “Are you dead to all shame, that you dare to make yourself known to me?” he cried. “The life you lead is blazoned on your painted cheeks! You are no wife of mine! Begone! Out of my sight! Merciful God, what have I done to deserve this?”
“For Heaven’s sake, don’t make a scene!” urged Jimmie. “Control yourself, old man.” He looked anxiously about, but as yet the altercation had not been observed by the few persons in the vicinity. “Nevill, we must stop this,” he added.
“I won’t go away,” Diane vowed, obstinately. “You are my husband, Jack, and you know it. Let your friends, who knew us in the old days, deny it if they can! I have a wife’s claim on you.”
“Take her away!” Jack begged.
Nevill drew the woman to one side, and though she made a show of resistance at first, she quickly grew calm and listened quietly to his whispered words. He whistled for a passing hansom, and it stopped at the edge of the street. He helped Diane into it, and rejoined his companions.