“Breitmann?” exclaimed Laura. She caught her dressing-gown closer about her throat.
“Yes. The temptation was too great. How did you get here?” He ought to have struggled to his feet at once, but it was very comfortable to feel her breath upon his forehead.
“I heard a fall and then some one running. Are you badly hurt?”
The anguish in her voice was as music to his ears.
“Dizzy, that’s all. Better tell your father immediately. No, no; I can get up alone. I’m all right. Fine rescuer of princesses, eh?” with an unsteady laugh.
“You might have been killed!”
“Scarcely that. I tried to talk like they do in stories, with this result. The maxim is, always strike first and question afterward. You warn your father quietly while I hunt up Ferraud and Cathewe.”
Seeing that he was really uninjured she turned and flew down the dark corridor and knocked at her father’s door.
Fitzgerald stumbled along toward M. Ferraud’s room, murmuring: “All right, Mr. Breitmann; all right. But hang me if I don’t hand you back that one with interest. Where the devil is that Frenchman?” as he hammered on Ferraud’s door and obtained no response. He tried the knob. The door opened. The room was black, and he struck a match. M. Ferraud, fully dressed, lay upon his bed. There was a handkerchief over his mouth and his hands and feet were securely bound. His eyes were open.
CATHEWE ASKS QUESTIONS
The hunter of butterflies rubbed his released wrists and ankles, tried his collar, coughed, and dropped his legs to the floor.
“I am getting old,” he cried in self-communion; “near-sighted and old. I’ve worn spectacles so long in jest that now I must wear them in earnest.”
“How long have you been here?” asked Fitzgerald.
“I should say about two hours. It was very simple. He came to the door. I opened it. He came in. Zut! He is as powerful as a lion.”
“Why didn’t you call?”
“I was too busy, and suddenly it became too late. Gone?”
“Yes.” And Fitzgerald swore as he rubbed the side of his head. Briefly he related what had befallen him.
“You have never hunted butterflies?”
“No,” sharply. “Shall we start for him while his heels are hot?”
“It is very exciting. It is the one thing I really care for. There is often danger, but it is the kind that does not steal round your back. Hereafter I shall devote my time to butterflies. You can make believe—is that what you call it?—each butterfly is a great rascal. The more difficult the netting, the more cunning the rascal . . . What did you say?”
“Look here, Ferraud,” cried Fitzgerald angrily; “do you want to catch him or not? He’s gone, and that means he has got the odd trick.”