The White Moll HTML version

On The Brink
Rhoda Gray moved quietly, inch by inch, along the side of the wall to gain a point of
vantage more nearly opposite the lighted doorway. And then she stopped again. She
could see quite clearly now - that is, there was nothing now to obstruct her view; but the
light was miserable and poor, and the single gas-jet that wheezed and flickered did little
more than disperse the shadows from its immediate neighborhood in that inner room. But
she could see enough - she could see the bent and ill-clad figure of Nicky Viner, as she
remembered him, an old, gray-bearded man, wringing his hands in groveling misery,
while the mumbling voice, now whining and pleading, now servile, now plucking up
courage to indulge in abuse, kept on without even, it seemed, a pause for breath. And she
could see the Adventurer, quite unmoved, quite debonair, a curiously patient smile on his
face, standing there, much nearer to her, his right hand in the side pocket of his coat, a
somewhat significant habit of his, his left hand holding a sheaf of folded, legal-looking
And then she heard the Adventurer speak.
"What a flow of words!" said the Adventurer, in a bored voice. "You will forgive me, my
dear Mr. Viner, if I appear to be facetious, which I am not - but money talks."
"You are a thief, a robber!" The old gray-bearded figure rocked on its feet and kept
wringing its hands. "Get out of here! Get out! Do you hear? Get out! You come to steal
from a poor old man, and -"
"Must we go all over that again?" interrupted the Adventurer wearily. "I have not come to
steal anything; I have simply come to sell you these papers, which I am quite sure, once
you control yourself and give the matter a little calm consideration, you are really most
anxious to buy - at any price.
"It's a lie!" the other croaked hoarsely. "Those papers are a lie! I am innocent. And I
haven't got any money. None! I haven't any. I am poor - an old man - and poor."
Rhoda Gray felt the blood flush hotly to her cheeks. Somehow she could feel no
sympathy for that cringing figure in there; but she felt a hot resentment toward that
dapper, immaculately dressed and self-possessed young man, who stood there, silently
now, tapping the papers with provoking coolness against the edge of the plain deal table
in front of him. And somehow the resentment seemed to take a most peculiar phase. She
resented the fact that she should feel resentment, no matter what the man did or said. It
was as though, instead of anger, impersonal anger, at this low, miserable act of his, she
felt ashamed of him. Her hand clenched fiercely as she crouched there against the wall. It
wasn't true! She felt nothing of the sort! Why should she be ashamed of him? What was
he to her? He was frankly a thief, wasn't he? And he was at his pitiful calling now - down
to the lowest dregs of it. What else did she expect? Because he had the appearance of a
gentleman, was it that her sense of gratitude for what she owed him had made her, deep
down in her soul, actually cherish the belief that he really was one - made her hope it, and