“I am going on a conviction—on putting two and two together!” Westerling announced. “I am going on my experience as a soldier, as a chief of staff. If I am wrong, I take the responsibility. If I am right, Bordir will be ours before morning. It is settled!”
“If you are right, then,” exclaimed Turcas—“well, then it’s genius or—” He did not finish the sentence. He had been about to say coincidence; while Westerling knew that if he were right all the rising scepticism in certain quarters, owing to the delay in his programme, would be silenced. His prestige would be unassailable.
MRS. GALLAND INSISTS
“You have been in the tunnel again!” said Mrs. Galland with an emphasis on “again,” when Marta came up the stairs, lantern in hand, after telling Lanstron of her interview with Westerling.
“Again—yes!” Marta replied mechanically. Her mind was empty, burned out. She had thought herself through with deceit for the day.
“What interests you so much down there?” Mrs. Galland pursued softly.
Marta realized that she had to deal with a fresh dilemma. She could not be making frequent visits to the telephone without her mother’s knowledge; and, as yet, Mrs. Galland knew nothing of the part originally planned for Feller, let alone any inkling of her daughter’s part.
“I didn’t know but it would be a good place to hide our plate and other treasures,” said Marta, offering rather methodically the first invention that came to mind as she threw open-the reflector of the lantern and turned down the wick. She was ashamed of the excuse. It warned her how easy it was becoming for her to lie—yes, lie was the word.
“Don’t blow out the light, please,” said Mrs. Galland. “I should like to see for myself if the tunnel is a good hiding-place for the plate.”
“It’s too damp for you down there—it’s—” Marta blew out the flame with a sudden gust of breath and bolted across the room and into her chamber, closing the door and taking the lantern with her. In utter fatigue she dropped on the bed. Then came a gentle, prolonged knocking on the door.
“You forgot to leave the lantern,” called Mrs. Galland. “I have come to get it, if you please.”
Marta did not answer. Her head had sunk forward; her hands, bearing the weight of her body, were resting on her knees. All she could think was that one more lie would break the camel’s back.
“Marta, please mayn’t I come in?” rose the gentle voice on the other side of the door. “Marta, don’t you hear me? I asked if I might come in.”
“It’s too childish and silly to remain silent any longer,” thought Marta. Tired nerves revived spasmodically under another call to action. “Yes, certainly, mother—yes, do!” she said in a forced, metallic tone.