Then, without vouchsafing any further information, she flounced away, leaving Mr. Wilfer staring blankly after her, and wishing for once that he had stayed his hand, instead of driving the girl into the miseries and dangers of the streets.
Little did Wilfer or Miss Lester imagine that Jessica had found safety and refuge in Adrien Leroy’s chambers.
Love is the universal epidemic, effectual in all climes and conditions; there is no inoculation that will secure exemption from its influence; only given a warm human heart, and there is the natural susceptibility.
So it is from high to low. The little blind god takes no count of difference in fortune or rank in life. Dynasties fall, thrones totter to the ground, crowns tumble to dust on kingly heads; but love rules and lives on, immortal, triumphant, unconquerable.
Jessica had never heard of Romeo and Juliet, of Faust and Marguerite, or King Cophetua and the beggar maid. All she knew was that she loved, was conscious only that for a kind word from the lips of the man who had befriended her, for a glance from those dark eyes; she would gladly have given up all the other glories the world could have put before her.
Poor Jessica, how sweet and yet how bitter had been the awakening in that gilded cabinet. How sweet to find herself there in reality, and not only in a dream; how bitter to know that she had no right there and that she must go!
That splendid golden room, with, all the wonderful undreamt-of things, was not for her. She looked down at her wet, dirt-stained dress, at her worn, ragged shoes, at her cold, red hands, and shuddered. She had no right there. Should she take advantage of his goodness to remain and sully the beauty of his palace—for to her it seemed little less—by her unworthy presence? No, woman-child as she was, she shrank from the thought; then caught up her hat and arose, resolute.
“He will think me ungrateful,” she murmured with half-closed eyes. “He will think—no matter, he will forget me before half an hour. I will go back to Johann and chance the beating. This is no place for one like me.”
With a little graceful gesture she bent over the mantel and pressed her lips to the spot where Adrien had rested his arm; then with noiseless steps she stole from the room.
The sun was breaking through the morning mist, but she shivered as its warm rays touched her, and with a weary sigh turned towards Soho.
It was all over, the little patch of fairy-light in the dreary darkness of her existence, and as she reminded herself of this fact she shuddered again.
Looking back, she remembered but little beyond the days she had passed with Johann and his shrewish wife. This strange adventure had been the first ray of sunshine in her poor existence. No wonder that she was unhappy at parting with it.