For a moment there was silence. Diane waited with rigid face. She had forgotten the purpose that brought her to the studio—a womanly impulse, started to life by the memories of the past, had softened her heart. But Jack, blinded by passion and his great wrongs, little dreamed of the chance that he was throwing away.
“You talk of forgiveness!” he cried. “Why, I only wonder that I can keep my hands off your throat. I hate the sight of you—I curse the day I first saw your face! Do you know what you have done, by letting me believe that you were dead? You have probably broken the heart of one who is as good and pure as you are vile and treacherous—the woman whom I love and would have married.”
Diane’s features hardened, and a sudden rage flashed in her half-veiled eyes; her repentant impulse died as quickly.
“So that is your answer!” she exclaimed, harshly. “And there is another woman! You shall never marry her—never!”
The threat goaded Jack to fury, and he might have lost his self-control. But just then quick footsteps fell timely on his ear.
“Get behind that screen, or go into the next room,” he muttered. “No; it won’t matter—it must be Nevill.”
Diane held her ground.
“I don’t care who it is,” she said, shrilly. “I will tell the world that I am your wife.”
The next instant the door was thrown open, and a woman entered the studio and came hesitatingly forward under the glare of the gas-jets. With a rapid movement she partly tore off her long, hooded cloak, which was dripping with rain. Jack quivered as though he had been struck a blow.
“Madge!” he gasped, recognizing the lovely, agitated face.
The girl caught her breath, and looked from one to the other—from the painted and powdered woman to the man who had won her love. Her bosom heaved, and her flushed cheeks turned to the whiteness of marble.
“Jack, tell me—is it true?” she pleaded, struggling with each word. “I should not have come, but—but I received this an hour ago.” She flung a crumpled letter at his feet, and he picked it up mechanically. “It said that I would find you here with your—your—” She could not utter the word. “I had to come,” she added. “I could not rest. And now—who is that woman? Speak!”
No answer. Jack’s lips and throat were dry, and a red mist was before his eyes.
“Is she your wife?”
“God help me, yes!” Jack cried, hoarsely. “I can explain. Believe me, Madge, I was not false—I told you only the truth. If you will listen to me for a moment—”
She shrank from him with horror, and the color surged back to her cheeks.
“Don’t touch me!” she cried. “Let me go—this is no place for me! I pray heaven to forgive you, Jack!”
The look that she gave him, so full of unspeakable agony and reproach, cut him like a knife. She pressed one hand to her heart, and with the other tried to draw her cloak around her. She swayed weakly, but recovered herself in time. Jack, watching her as a man might watch the gates of paradise close upon him, had failed to hear a cab stop in the street. He suddenly saw Stephen Foster in the room.