Victor Nevill heard the refrain as he left the brasserie and looked warily about. He stepped into a cab, gave the driver hurried instructions, and was whirled away at a rattling pace toward the Seine.
“He will never suspect me,” he muttered complacently, as he lit a cigar.
With head erect, and coat buttoned tightly over his breast, Jack went on through the enticing streets of Paris. He had moved from his former lodgings to a house that fronted on the Boulevard St. Germain. Here he had the entresol, which he had furnished lavishly to please his wife. He let himself in with a key, mounted the stairs, and opened the studio door. A lamp was burning dimly, and the silence struck a chill to his heart.
“Diane,” he called.
There was no reply. He advanced a few feet, and caught sight of a letter pinned to the frame of an easel. He turned up the lamp, opened the envelope, and read the contents:
“Good-by forever. You will never see me again. Forgive me and try to forget. It is better that we should part, as I could not endure a life of poverty. I love you no longer, and I am sure that you have tired of me. I am going with one who has taken your place in my heart—one who can gratify my every wish. It will be useless to seek for me. Again, farewell. Diane.”
The letter fell from Jack’s hand, and he trampled it under foot. He reeled into the dainty bedroom, and his burning eyes noted the signs of confusion and flight—the open and empty drawers, the despoiled dressing table, the discarded clothing strewn on the floor.
“Gone!” he cried hoarsely. “Gone at the bidding of some scoundrel—perhaps a trusted friend and comrade! God help my betrayer when the day of reckoning comes! But I am well rid of her. She was heartless and mercenary. She never could have loved me—she has left me because she knew that my money was nearly spent. But I love her still. I can’t tear her out of my heart. Diane, my wife, come back! Come back!”
His voice rang through the empty, deserted rooms. He threw himself on the bed, and tore the lace coverings with his finger nails. He wept bitter tears, strong man though he was, while out on the boulevard the laughter of the midnight revelers mocked at his grief.
Finally he rose; he laughed harshly.
“Damn her, she would have dragged me down to her own level,” he muttered. “It is for the best. I am a free man once more.”
Five years afterwards.
Jack Vernon looked discontentedly at the big canvas on the easel, and with a shrug of the shoulders he turned his back on it. He dropped his palette and flung his sheaf of brushes into an open drawer.
“I am not fit for anything to-day,” he said petulantly. “I was up too late last night. No, most decidedly, I am not in the mood for work.”