He looked at the object in his hand as though it were utterly beneath consideration.
“Vase! what is a vase, I ask? Do you not suppose, before relinquishing what I ask of you, I would dash a hundred vases such as this into ten thousand fragments to the earth?” He raised his arm above his head as though on the point of carrying his threat into execution.
Vera uttered a scream.
“Good gracious! What on earth are you doing? It is Mrs. Hazeldine’s favourite piece of china; she values it more than anything she has got. If you were to break it, she would go half out of her mind.”
“Never mind this wretched vase. Answer me, Mademoiselle Nevill, will you give that parcel to Captain Kynaston?”
“I am not at all likely to meet him; I assure you nothing is so improbable. I know him very little. Ah! what are you doing?”
The infuriated Frenchman was whirling the blue-and-white treasure madly round in the air.
“You are, then, determined to humiliate and to insult me; and to prove to you how great is my just indignation, I will dash——”
“No, no, no!” cried Vera, frantically; “for Heaven’s sake, do not be so mad. Mrs. Hazeldine will never forgive me. Put it down, I entreat you. Yes, yes, I will promise anything you like. I am sure I have no wish to insult you.”
“Ah, then, you will give that to him?” He paused with the vase still uplifted, looking at her.
Vera felt convinced by this time that she had to do with a raving lunatic. After all, was it not better to do this small thing for him, and to get rid of him. She knew that, sooner or later, down at Sutton, or up in London, she and Maurice were likely to meet. It would not be much trouble to her to place the small parcel in his hands. Surely, to deliver herself from this man—to save Cissy’s beloved china, and, perchance, her own throat—for what might he not take a fancy to next!—from the clutches of this madman, it would be easier to do what he wanted.
“Yes, I will give it to him. I promise you, if you will only put that vase down and go away.”
“You will promise me faithfully?”
“On your word of honour, and as you hope for salvation?”
“Yes, yes. There is no need for oaths; if I have promised, I will do it.”
“Very well.” He placed the vase back upon the table and walked to the door. “Mademoiselle,” he said, making her a low bow, “I am infinitely obliged to you;” and then, without another word, he opened the door and was gone.
Three minutes later Mrs. Hazeldine came in. She was just back from her drive. She found Vera lying back exhausted and breathless in an arm-chair.
“My dear, what have you done to Monsieur D’Arblet? I met him running out of the house like a madman, and laughing to himself like a little fiend. He nearly knocked me down. What has happened! Have you accepted him?”