Adrien Leroy (Chapter 3, page 1 of 4)


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Chapter 3

The night was bitterly cold; but, disdaining a taxi for so short a
distance, Leroy buttoned up his coat and strode swiftly along towards
his chambers in Jermyn Court, W. As he turned the corner of the square,
he stumbled sharply over the slight figure of a girl, crouched near one
of the doorsteps, and, with his habitual courtesy, he stopped to see if
any harm had been done.

"Have I hurt you?" he asked gently, placing his hand on her shoulder.

At his touch the girl started up with a cry of distress; and, as the
shawl fell back from her head, Leroy was almost startled by the vivid
freshness of her beauty.

"Oh," she exclaimed in terrified accents, "I wasn't doing any harm! I
will move on--I--I was only resting." Then, as she saw the kindly face
looking into hers, she subsided into silence.

She was quite young, not more than about sixteen, and so slenderly
formed as to appear almost a child. Her features were clear-cut as a
cameo and she had a slightly foreign air. Her eyes were brown, but as
the light of the gas-lamp fell full on her upturned face, they showed so
dark and velvety as almost to appear black, while masses of dark hair
clustered in heavy waves round her forehead.

Unconsciously Leroy raised his hat as he repeated his question. She
shook her head at him as he bent over her, but made no reply.

"How is it you are out on such a night as this?" he asked. "Have you no
home? Where do you live?"

"Cracknell Court, Soho," she replied, in tones singularly free from any
trace of Cockney accent.

"With your parents?" queried Leroy, feeling for some money.

"No," said the girl, her red lips quivering for a moment. "Haven't got
any--only Johann and Martha--and they don't care."

"Who is Johann?" said Leroy, with an encouraging smile.

"I don't know," she answered listlessly. "He's Johann Wilfer, that's
all."

"Why have you run away, then?"

"Johann came home drunk and beat me--so I ran out."

She pushed back her ragged shawl and held up her arm, on which bruises
showed up cruelly distinct. Leroy uttered an exclamation of anger.

"You poor child!" he said almost tenderly. "What can I do for you? If I
give you money----"

"Johann will take it and make me beg for more," she interrupted; and
Leroy withdrew his hand from his pocket, fearing this to be but too
true.

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