“But he seems to be,” said the shrewd Angela, looking at Morgan Pell with his wily countenance.
“Oh, these New York fellers!” Hardy deprecated. “You never can tell!”
“Finished?” asked Pell.
“Quite.” And young Jones handed him the option on the property.
WHEREIN LUCIA SEES TREACHERY BREWING, PELL PROVES
HIMSELF A BRUTE, AND AN
UNEXPECTED GUEST APPEARS
When Lucia saw Gilbert pass the paper to her husband, she thought she could not stand it. It was not her concern; and yet it was. Vitally, whatever affected young Jones affected her. She could not see him tricked, duped. And she knew that he was being played with, made a fool of. Some ulterior motive lay beneath this seeming generosity. She tried to control herself; but suddenly she found herself speaking.
“No! Don’t! I can’t—”
But she could get no farther. Something seemed to choke her, and make it impossible for her to continue.
Her husband looked at her in amazement. She turned away, and was silent.
“Thank you,” said Pell to Gilbert. Then, to his wife he said: “And now that this is settled, we shall proceed to other business of even more importance. This gentle soul,” looking at Uncle Henry, “has said that our friend loves you and that you love him. Is it true?” He was perfectly calm.
Once more he was the crafty, cruel, scheming man; and back into his eyes came that glitter she so feared.
Gilbert, astonished, got to the other side of the table.
“I thought we were through with all that!” he said. “What’s the use of harping on it?”
“You were wrong,” answered Pell, coldly. “I am a business man, as I told you before. I do one thing at a time.” His lids half closed, his hands clenched. He swerved abruptly on his wife. “Well?” he said. “Well?”
“You mean to say,” said Gilbert, “that you took seriously what my doddering old uncle said? I told you I thought he was crazy, and you seemed to agree with me. What are you talking about now?”
Morgan Pell’s steel-gray eyes fastened themselves on Jones, “I am talking to my wife. I am not ready for you—yet. One thing at a time, you know.” He looked again at Lucia. “Well? I am waiting. Answer me: Do you love him?”
Alarm at Pell’s manner was rife in the room. What a brute he was, and how terrible was his verbal attack!
Lucia could not trust herself to speak. She knew she would have to reply to her husband’s question, and though she knew her answer would be but a monosyllable, she could not get it out.
“Well?” Pell repeated, and the word was like a hammer-blow.
“No!” Lucia managed to say.
The husband now turned on Gilbert. “Do you love her?” he asked with great deliberation, as though he had rehearsed it in his mind for days.