Thrusting pen and paper from him, he rose and went to the liquor-stand. The cut-glass bottle containing brandy dropped from his shaking hand and was shattered to fragments. The crash drowned the opening of the studio door, and as he surveyed the wreck he heard footsteps, and turned sharply around, expecting to see Nevill. Diane stood before him, in a costume that would have better suited a court presentation; the shaded gas-lamps softened the rouge and pearl-powder on her cheeks, and lent her a beauty that could never have survived the test of daylight. Her expression was one of half defiance, half mute entreaty.
The audacity of the woman staggered Jack, and for an instant he was speechless with indignation. His dull, bloodshot eyes woke to a fiery wrath.
“You!” he cried. “How dare you come here? Go at once!”
“Not until I am ready,” she replied, looking at him unflinchingly. “One would think that my presence was pollution.”
“It is—you know that. Did Nevill permit you to come? Have you seen him?”
“No; I kept out of his way. He is searching for me in town now, I suppose. It was you I wanted to see.”
“You are dead to all shame, or you would never have come to London. I don’t know what you want, and I don’t care. I won’t listen to you, and unless you leave, by heavens, I will call the police and have you dragged out!”
“I hardly think you will do that,” said Diane. “I am going presently, if you will be a little patient. I am your wife, Jack—”
He laughed bitterly.
“You were once—you are not now. If I thought it would be any punishment to you, that disgrace could soil you, I would take advantage of the law and procure a divorce.”
“I am your wife,” she repeated, “but I do not intend to claim my rights. We were both to blame in the past—”
“That is false!” he cried. “You only were to blame—I have nothing to reproach myself with, except that I was a mad fool when I married you for your pretty face. You tried to pull me down to your own level—the level of the Parisian kennels. You squandered my money, tempted me to reckless extravagances, and when the shower of gold drew near its end, you ran off with some scoundrel who no doubt proved as simple a victim as myself. I trusted you, and my honor was betrayed. But you did me a greater wrong when you allowed me to believe that you were dead. By heavens, when I think of it all—”
“You forget that we drifted apart toward the last,” Diane interrupted. “Was that entirely my fault? I believed that you no longer cared for me, and it made me reckless.” There was a sudden ring of sincerity in her voice, and the insolent look in her eyes was replaced by a softer expression. “I did wrong,” she added. “I am all that you say I am. I have sinned and suffered. But is there no pity or mercy in your heart? Remember the past—that first year when we loved each other and were happy. Wait; I have nearly finished. I am going out of your life forever—it is the only atonement I can make. But will you let me go without a sign of forgiveness?—without a soft word?”