With this knowledge there flamed up in his heart an uncontrollable anger, fanned to white heat by hatred of the man who had caused it all. His fingers tightened and his teeth ground together. That reckoning, he said to himself, would come later, once he got his hands on him. If she were a thief, Dalton had made her so. If she were an outcast and a menace to society, Dalton had done it. By what hellish process, he could not divine, knowing Lady Barbara as he did, but the fact was undeniable.
What then was he to do? Go back to London and leave her, or stay here and fight on in the effort to save her? Save her! Who could save her? She had stolen the goods; been arrested with them in her possession; was in the Tombs; and, in a few weeks, would be lost to the world for a term of years.
He could even now see the vulgar, leering crowd; watch the jury, picked from the streets, file in and take their seats; hear the few, curt, routine words, cold as bullets, drop from the lips of the callous judge, the frail, desolate woman deserted by every soul, paying the price without murmur or protest—glad that the end had come.
And then, with one of those tricks that memory sometimes plays, he saw the altar-rail, where he had stood beside her—she in her bridal robes, her soft blue eyes turned toward his; he heard again the responses, “for better or for worse”—“until death do us part,” caught the scent of flowers and the peal of the organ as they turned and walked down the aisle, past the throng of richly dressed guests.
“Great God!” he choked, worming his way through the crowd, unconscious of his course, unmindful of his steps, oblivious to passers-by—alone with an agony that scorched his very soul.
When Martha, on her return from Stephen’s, had climbed the dimly lighted stairs leading to her apartment, she ran against a thick-set man, in brown clothes and derby. hat, seated on the top step. He had interviewed the faded old wreck who served as janitress and, learning that Mrs. Munger would be back any minute, had taken this method of being within touching distance when the good woman unlocked her door. She might decide to leave him outside its panels while she got in her fine work of hiding the thing he had climbed up three flights of stairs to find. In that case, a twist of his foot between the door and the jamb would block the game.
“Are you the man who has been waiting for me?” she exclaimed, as the detective’s big frame became discernible under the faint rays from the “Paul Pry” skylight.
“Yes, if you are the woman who is living with Mrs. Stanton.” He had risen to his feet and had moved toward the door.
“I’m Mrs. Munger, if that’s who you are looking for, and we live together. She’s not back yet, so the woman down-stairs has just told me. Are you from Rosenthal’s?”