And Jimmie Dale, still standing there, watched her. How gloriously her eyes shone, dimmed and misty with the tears that filled them though they were! And there was nothing incongruous in the rags that clothed her, in the squalour and poverty of the bare room, in the white furrows that the tears had plowed through the grime and make-up on her cheeks.
“You wonderful, wonderful woman!” Jimmie Dale whispered.
She shook her head as though almost in self-reproach.
“I am not wonderful, Jimmie,” she said, in a low voice. “I”—and then she caught his arm, and her voice broke a little—“I’ve brought you into this—probably to your death. Jimmie, tell me what happened last night, and since then. I—I’ve thought at times to-day I should go mad. Oh, Jimmie, there is so much to say to-night, so much to do if—if we are ever to be together for—for always. Last night, Jimmie—the telephone—I knew there was danger—that all had gone wrong—what was it?”
His arms were around her shoulders, drawing her close to him again.
“I found the wires tapped,” he said slowly.
“Yes, and—and the man you met—the chauffeur?”
“He is dead,” Jimmie Dale answered gently.
He felt her hand close with a quick, spasmodic clutch upon his arm; her face grew white—and for a moment she turned away her head.
“And—and the package?” she asked presently.
“I do not know,” replied Jimmie Dale. “He did not have it with him; he—”
“Wait!” she interrupted quickly. “We are only wasting time like this! Tell me everything, everything just as it happened, everything from the moment you received my letter.”
And, holding her there in his arms, softening as best he could the more brutal details, he told her. And, at the end, for a little while she was silent; then in a strained, impulsive way she asked again:
“The chauffeur—you are sure—you are positive that he is dead?”
“Yes,” said Jimmie Dale grimly; “I am sure.” And then the pent-up flood of questions burst from his lips. Who was the chauffeur? The package, the box numbered 428, and John Johansson? And the Crime Club? And the issue at stake? The danger, the peril that surrounded her? And she—above all—more than anything else—about herself—her strange life, its mystery?
She checked him with a strangely wistful touch of her finger upon his lips, with a queer, pathetic shake of her head.
“No, Jimmie; not that way. You would never understand. I cannot—”
“But I am to know—now! Surely I am to know now!” he cried, a sudden sense of dismay upon him. Three years! Three years—and always the “next” time! “I must know now, if I am to help you!”
She smiled a little wanly at him, as she drew herself away, and, dropping into a chair, placed her elbows on the rickety table, cupping her chin in her hands.