“It is hardly a subject to be deliberately selected for jest,” he replied coolly, “but if you prefer you might wait and see.”
She stepped back from him, leaning heavily against the frame of the door, her face again hidden behind uplifted hands. The man did not move, his face emotionless, his lips tightly set. He was watching her with the intentness of a hawk, absolutely certain now of his victim. Suddenly she looked up, her eyes picturing the courage of desperation. One glance into his face and the woman stood transformed, at bay, the fierce spirit of battle flaming into her face.
“Have it so, then,” she exclaimed sharply. “I pledge myself to do everything possible to prevent his remaining here.” She drew herself up, her eyes darkening from sudden, uncontrollable anger. “Oh, how I despise you, you coward, you cur! I know you, what you are capable of, and I do this to preserve the life of a friend; but my detestation of you is beyond expression in words. My one and greatest shame is that I ever trusted you; that I once believed you to be a man. Good God! how could I ever have been so blind!”
She opened the door with her hand extended behind her, and backed slowly away, facing him where he stood motionless, smiling still as though her sudden outburst of passion merely served to feed his conceit.
“Then I may trust you in this?”
Her eyes shone fairly black with the depth of scorn glowing in them.
“Have—have you ever known me to lie?” she asked, her voice faltering from reaction.
The door closed.
A NEW ALLIANCE
Her eyes blinded by a strange mist of tears, Beth Norvell clung to the latch of the closed door, fearful lest the man within might decide to follow, endeavoring to gaze about, while gaining control over her sorely shattered nerves. Strong as she had appeared when nerved by indignation and despair, that stormy interview with Farnham—his scarcely veiled threats, his heartless scoffing—had left her a wreck, for the moment scarcely mistress of her own mind. One thing alone stood forth as a rallying point for all her benumbed energies—she must save Winston from a real danger, the nature of which she did not in the least doubt. The gambler’s boast was no idle one; she, who had before tasted of his depravity, felt fully convinced of his intention now. Yet what could she hope to do? How best might she accomplish that imperative duty of rescue?
There occurred to her only one feasible plan—a complete surrender of her womanly pride, an immediate acceptance of the young man’s proffered aid to Denver, with an insistence that he also accompany her. Woman enough to realize her power, she could not but have faith in the results. The color crept back in her cheeks at this daring conception, for, after those hastily uttered words of the previous