“Jacqueline!” I cried. “It is I, Paul! You know me, Jacqueline?”
Jacqueline inclined her head. “Oh, yes; I know you, monsieur,” she answered. “Why have you come here?”
“To see you, Jacqueline! To save you, Jacqueline!”
She made me a mocking courtesy. “I am infinitely obliged to you, monsieur, for your good will,” she said; “but I do not need your aid. I am with friends now, M.—M. Paul!”
I withdrew a little way and leaned my hand against the table for support, breathing heavily. Behind me I heard the click, click of the roulette-ball as it pursued its course around the wheel. The old dotard had already forgotten me, and was playing with his right hand against his left again.
“Do you not want to see me, Jacqueline?” I asked, watching her through a whirling fog.
“No, monsieur,” she answered chillingly. “No, monsieur!”
“Do you wish me to go?”
She said nothing, and I walked unsteadily toward the door. She followed me slowly. I went out of the room and pulled the door to behind me. I knew that after it had closed I should never see Jacqueline again.
She opened it and stood confronting me; and then burst into a flood of impassioned speech.
“Why have you followed me here to persecute me?” she cried. “Are you under the illusion that I am helpless? Do you think the friends who rescued me from you have forgotten that you exist? You took advantage of my helplessness. I do not want to see you. I hate you!”
“You told me that you loved me, and I believed you, Jacqueline,” I answered miserably, watching the colour flame to her lovely face. And I could see she remembered that.
“When I was ill you used me for your own base schemes,” she went on with cutting emphasis. “And you—you followed me here. Do you think that I am unprotected, and that you are dealing only with an old man and a helpless woman? Why, I have friends who would come in and kill you if I but raised my voice!”
“Raise your voice, mademoiselle. I am ready for your friends,” I answered.
She looked less steadily at me and seemed to waver.
“What have you come for?” she asked. “Have you not had money enough? Do you want more?”
I seized her by the wrists. Thus I held her at arm’s length, and my fingers tightened until I saw the flesh grow white beneath them. The intensity of my rage beat hers down and made it a puny thing.
“Jacqueline! You take me for an adventurer?” I cried. “Is that what they told you? Why do you think I brought you so near your home when you were, as you said, helpless? Only a few nights ago you said you loved me; that you would never send me away until I wished to go. What is it that has happened to change you so, Jacqueline?”
I had her in my arms. She struggled fiercely, and I let her go.