As Irvin seized her hands and looked at her eagerly, half-fearfully, Rita achieved
sufficient composure to speak.
"Oh, Mr. Irvin," she said, and found that her voice was not entirely normal, "what
must you think--"
He continued to hold her hands, and:
"I think you are very indiscreet to be out alone at three o'clock in the morning," he
answered gently. "I was recalled to London by urgent business, and returned by
road--fortunately, since I have met you."
"How can I explain--"
"I don't ask you to explain--Miss Dresden. I have no right and no desire to ask. But
I wish I had the right to advise you."
"How good you are," she began, "and I--"
Her voice failed her completely, and her sensitive lips began to tremble. Monte
Irvin drew her arm under his own and led her back to meet the car, which the
chauffeur had turned and which was now approaching.
"I will drive you home," he said, "and if I may call in the morning. I should like to do
Rita nodded. She could not trust herself to speak again. And having placed her in
the car, Monte Irvin sat beside her, reclaiming her hand and grasping it
reassuringly and sympathetically throughout the short drive. They parted at her
"Good night," said Irvin, speaking very deliberately because of an almost
uncontrollable desire which possessed him to take Rita in his arms, to hold her
fast, to protect her from her own pathetic self and from those influences, dimly
perceived about her, but which intuitively he knew to be evil.
"If I call at eleven will that be too early?"
"No," she whispered. "Please come early. There is a matinee tomorrow."
"You mean today," he corrected. "Poor little girl, how tired you will be. Good night."
"Good night," she said, almost inaudibly.
She entered, and, having closed the door, stood leaning against it for several
minutes. Bleakness and nausea threatened to overcome her anew, and she felt
that if she essayed another step she must collapse upon the floor. Her maid was in
bed, and had not been awakened by Rita's entrance. After a time she managed to
grope her way to her bedroom, where, turning up the light, she sank down
helplessly upon the bed.
Her mental state was peculiar, and her thoughts revolved about the journey from
Oxford Street homeward. A thousand times she mentally repeated the journey,
speaking the same words over and over again, and hearing Monte Irvin's replies.
In those few minutes during which they had been together her sentiments in regard
to him had undergone a change. She had always respected Irvin, but this respect
had been curiously compounded of the personal and the mercenary; his well-
ordered establishment at Prince's Gate had loomed behind the figure of the man