But the wedding-ring—what hopes, then, had begun to spring up in my heart? I could not fathom them; I only knew that my exaltation had given place to profound dejection.
As I passed up the street the taxicab which I had seen at the east end came rapidly toward me. It passed, and I stopped and looked after it. I was certain that it slackened speed outside the door of the old building, but again it went on quickly, until it was lost to view in the distance.
Had I given the pursuers a clue by my reappearance?
I watched for a few moments longer, but the vehicle did not return, and I dismissed the idea as folly. In truth, there was no reason to suppose that the man I had seen in Herald Square was connected with the two others, or that any of the three had followed us. No doubt the third man was but a street-loafer of the familiar type, attracted by Jacqueline’s unusual appearance.
And, after all, New York was a civilized city, and I could be sure of the girl’s safety behind the street door-lock and that of my apartment door. So I refused to yield to the impulse to go back and assure myself that she was all right. I must find a hotel and get a good night’s sleep. In the morning, undoubtedly, I would see the episode in a less romantic fashion.
As I went on, new thoughts began to press on my imagination. Such an event as this, told in any gathering of men, why, they would smile at me and call me the victim of an adventuress. The tale about the father, the assumed ignorance of the conventions—how much could be believed?
Had she not probably left her husband in some Canadian city and come to New York to enjoy her holiday in her own fashion? Could she innocently have adventured to Daly’s door and actually have succeeded in gaining admission? Why, many a would-be gambler had had the wicket of the grille slammed in his face by the old colored butler.
Perhaps she was worse than I was even now imagining!
I had turned up Fifth Avenue, and had reached Twelfth or Thirteenth Street when I thought I heard the patter of the Eskimo dog’s feet behind me. I spun, around, startled, but there was only the long stretch of pavement, wet from a slight recent shower, and the reflection of the white arc-lights in it.
I had resumed my course when I was sure I heard the pattering again. And again I saw nothing.
A moment later I was hurrying back toward the apartment-house. My nerves had suddenly become unstrung. I felt sure now that some imminent danger was threatening Jacqueline. I could not bear the suspense of waiting till morning. I wanted to save her from something that I felt intimately, but did not understand, and at which my reason mocked in vain.
And as I ran I thought I heard the patter of the dog’s feet, pacing mine.
I was rounding the corner of Tenth Street now, and again the folly of my behaviour struck home to me. I stopped and tried to think. Was it some instinct that was taking me back, or was it the remembrance of Jacqueline’s beauty? Was it not the desire to see her, to ask her about the ring?