“It is later than I thought,” I remarked calmly.
“It is half-past five o’clock,” answered Louis.
He accompanied me all the way to the hotel. He asked for no explanation, nor did I volunteer any. As we drove into the Place Vendome, however, he leaned towards me.
“Monsieur is aware,” he said, “that he has run a great risk to-night?”
“Very likely,” I answered, “but, Louis, there are some things which one is forced to do, whatever the risk may be. This was one of them.”
“You have courage,” Louis whispered. “Let me tell you this. There were men there to-night, men on every side of you, to whom courage is as the breath of life. They have seen a man whom nobody loved treated as he probably deserved. Let me tell you that there is no place in the world where you could have struck so safely as to-night. Remain in the hotel to-morrow until you hear from some of us. I may not promise too much, but I think—I believe—that we can save you.”
At that moment Louis’ words meant little to me. I was still under the spell of those few wonderful moments, still mad with the joy of having taken the vengeance for which every nerve in my body had craved. It was not until afterwards that their practical import came home to me.
AN INFORMAL TRIBUNAL
I was awakened about midday by the valet de chambre, who informed me that a gentleman was waiting below to see me—a gentleman who had given the name of Monsieur Louis. I ordered him to prepare my bath and bring my coffee. When Louis was shown upstairs I was seated on the edge of my bed in my dressing-gown, smoking my first cigarette.
Louis had the appearance of a man who had not slept. As for myself, I had never opened my eyes from the moment when my head had touched the pillow. I had no nerves, and I had done nothing which I regretted. I fancy, therefore, that my general appearance and reception of him somewhat astonished my early visitor. He seemed, indeed, to take my nonchalance almost as an affront, and he proceeded at once to try and disturb it.
“Monsieur was expecting, perhaps, another sort of visitor?” he asked.
I shook my head.
“I really hadn’t thought about it,” I said. “After what you told me last night I have been feeling quite comfortable.”
“Do you know that it is doubtful whether Monsieur Tapilow will live?” Louis asked.
“It was the just payment of a just debt,” I answered.
“The law,” he objected, “does not permit such adjustments.”
“The law,” I answered, “can do what it pleases with me.”
Louis regarded me steadily for a moment or two, and I fancied that there was something of that admiration in his gaze which a cautious man sometimes feels for the foolhardy.
“Monsieur has slept well?” he asked.