“If you had told those detectives,” he said at length, without looking up, “you must have known very soon. They must have found me out without too much delay. And who in the world would ever believe anybody else guilty when they learned that Andre Duchemin, your guest for three weeks, was only an alias for Michael Lanyard, otherwise the Lone Wolf?”
“But you are wrong, monsieur,” she replied, without the long pause of surprise he had anticipated. “I should not have believed you guilty.”
Dumb with wonder, he showed her a haggard face. And she had for him, in the agony and the abasement of his soul, still quivering from the rack of emotion that alone could have extorted his confession—she had for him the half-smile, tender and compassionate, that it is given to most men to see but once in a lifetime on the lips and in the eyes of the woman beloved. “Then you knew—!”
“Since the night those strange people were here and tried to make you unhappy with their stupid talk of the Lone Wolf. I suspected, then; and when I came to know you better, I felt quite sure...”
“And now you know—yet hesitate to turn me over to the police!”
“No such thought has ever entered my head. You see—I’m afraid you don’t quite understand me—I have faith in you.”
She shook her head. “You mustn’t ask me that.”
At the end of a long moment he said in a broken voice: “Very well: I won’t ... Not yet awhile ... But this great gift of faith in me—I can’t accept that without trying to repay it.”
“If you accept, my friend, you repay.”
“No,” said Michael Lanyard—“that’s not enough. Your jewels must come back to you, if I go to the ends of the earth to find them. And”—man’s undying vanity would out—“if there’s anyone living who can find them for you, it is I.”
Early in the afternoon Eve de Montalais made it possible for Lanyard to examine the safe in her boudoir without exciting comment in the household. He was nearly an hour thus engaged, but brought back to the drawing-room, in addition to the heavy magnifying glass which he had requisitioned to eke out his eyesight, only a face of disappointment.
“Nothing,” he retorted to Eve. “Evidently a gentleman of rigidly formal habits, our friend of last night—wouldn’t dream of calling at any hour without his gloves on.... I’ve been over every inch of the safe, outside and in, and the frame of the screen too, but—nothing. However, I’ve been thinking a bit as well, I hope to some purpose.”
The woman nodded intently as he drew up his chair and sat down.
“You have made a plan,” she stated rather than enquired.
“I won’t call it that, not yet. We’ve got too little to go on. But one or two things seem fairly obvious, therefore must not be left out of consideration. Assuming for the sake of argument that Mr. Whitaker Monk and his lot had a hand in this—”