'It isn't a case of vulgar cheating!' cried the forsaken one presently. 'Don't go away thinking that. She writes in real distress and penitence--she does indeed. Oh, the devil! Why did I let her go to Birmingham? A fortnight more, and I should have had her safe. But it's just like my luck. Do you know that this is the third time I've been engaged to be married?--no, by Jove, the fourth! And every time the girl has got out of it at the last moment. What an unlucky beast I am! A girl who was positively my ideal! I haven't even a photograph of her to show you; but you'd be astonished at her face. Why, in the devil's name, did I let her go to Birmingham?'
The visitors had risen. They felt uncomfortable, for it seemed as if Whelpdale might find vent for his distress in tears.
'We had better leave you,' suggested Biffen. 'It's very hard--it is indeed.'
'Look here! Read the letter for yourselves! Do!'
They declined, and begged him not to insist.
'But I want you to see what kind of girl she is. It isn't a case of farcical deceiving--not a bit of it! She implores me to forgive her, and blames herself no end. Just my luck! The third-- no, the fourth time, by Jove! Never was such an unlucky fellow with women. It's because I'm so damnably poor; that's it, of course!'
Reardon and his companion succeeded at length in getting away, though not till they had heard the virtues and beauty of the vanished girl described again and again in much detail. Both were in a state of depression as they left the house.
'What think you of this story?' asked Biffen. 'Is this possible in a woman of any merit?'