“I will never change,” he said, fervently.
It was a strange, ill-omened promise of marriage, and a bitter realization of how little it meant was suddenly borne home to Nevill. He touched the girl’s hand—more he dared not do, though he longed to take her in his arms and kiss her red lips. The coldness of her manner repelled him. They turned and walked slowly along the river, while the shadows deepened around them.
A SHOCK FOR SIR LUCIUS.
They lingered but a moment at the house, standing irresolutely by the steps. Madge did not invite Nevill to stop, which suited him in his present mood. He pressed the girl’s cold hand and strode away into the darkness. His thoughts were not pleasant, and there was a sneering smile on his face.
“I have won her,” he reflected. “Won her at last! She will be my wife. But it is not a victory to be proud of—not worth the infamy I’ve waded through. She consented because she has been hard driven—because I compelled her father to put the screws on. How calmly she told me that she did not love me! I can read her like a book. I hoped she had forgotten Jack, but I see now that she cares for him as much as ever. Oh, how I hate him! Is his influence to ruin my life? I ought to be satisfied with the blow I have dealt him, but if I get a chance to strike another—”
A harsh laugh finished the sentence, and he hit out viciously with his stick at a cat perched on a garden wall.
A Waterloo train conveyed him cityward, and, avoiding the haunts of his associates, he dined at a restaurant in the Strand. It was eight o’clock when he went to his rooms in Jermyn street, intending to change his clothes and go to a theatre. A card lay inside the door. It bore Sir Lucius Chesney’s name, and Morley’s Hotel was scribbled on the corner of it. Nevill scowled, and a look that was closely akin to fear came into his eyes.
“So my uncle is back!” he muttered. “I knew he would be turning up some time, but it’s rather a surprise all the same. He wants to see me, of course, and I don’t fancy the interview will be a very pleasant one. Well, the sooner it is over the better. It will spoil my sleep to-night if I put it off till to-morrow.”
He dressed hurriedly and went down to Trafalgar Square. Sir Lucius had just finished dinner, and uncle and nephew met near the hotel office. They greeted each other heartily, and Sir Lucius invited the young man upstairs to his room. He was in a good humor, and expressed his gratification that Nevill had come so promptly.
“I want a long chat with you, my boy,” he said. “Have you dined?”
Sir Lucius lighted a cigar, and handed his case to Nevill.
“Been out of town this summer?” he asked.
“The usual thing, that’s all—an occasional run down to Brighton, a month at country houses, and a week’s shooting on the Earl of Runnymede’s Scotch moor.”