He pushed her aside roughly.
“I’ll talk to you presently,” he declared. “It’s him that my business is with now.”
Maraton’s eyes flashed a little dangerously.
“Keep your hands off that young lady,” he ordered.
“You’d like her to protect you, would you?” Graveling taunted. “Listen here. I’m not the sort of man to have my girl taken away and made another man’s plaything. Is she going to stop here? Answer me quickly.”
“As long as she chooses,” Maraton replied.
“Then take that!” Graveling shouted.
Maraton stepped lightly to one side. Graveling was overbalanced by his fierce blow into the empty air. The next moment he was lying on his back, and the room seemed to be spinning around him. Maraton was standing with his finger upon the bell. Julia was by his side, her eyes blazing. She spoke never a word, but as Graveling struggled back to his senses he could see the scorn upon her face.
Aaron and a man servant entered the room simultaneously. Maraton pointed to the figure upon the floor.
“Aaron,” he said, “your friend Mr. Graveling has met with a slight accident. You had better take him outside and put him in a taxicab.”
Graveling rose painfully to his feet. He was very pale, and there was blood upon his cheek. He leaned on Aaron’s arm and he looked towards Maraton and Julia.
“Better apologise and shake hands,” Maraton advised quietly.
Graveling seemed not to have heard him. He looked towards them both, and his fingers gripped Aaron’s shoulder so that the young man winced with pain. Then without a single word he turned towards the door.
“Let him go!” Julia cried fiercely. “I am only thankful that you punished him. We do not want his apologies. I hope that I may never see him again!”
Graveling, who had reached the door, leaning heavily upon Aaron, turned around. His face, with the streak of blood upon his cheek, was ghastly. He left the room between Aaron and the servant. They heard his unsteady footsteps in the hall, a whistle, the departure of the cab. “Aaron has gone with him,” Maraton remarked quietly. “Perhaps it is as well.”
Her face suddenly relaxed and softened. The fury left her eyes; she sank back into the easy chair.
“I am ashamed,” she moaned. “Oh, I am ashamed!”
The sound of traffic outside had died away. The silence became almost unnaturally prolonged. Only the echo of Julia’s last words seemed, somehow or other, to remain, words which inspired Maraton with a curious and indefinable emotion, a pity which he could not altogether analyse. Twice he had turned softly as though to leave the room, and twice he had returned. He stood now upon the hearthrug, looking down at her, perplexed, himself in some degree agitated. She was not weeping, although every