“He’s got her!” thought Billy, and first his heart leaped and then it sank. For very dear to that boy’s heart had been the dream of rescuing her himself. And then he hated himself for that base envy. For what did it matter as long as little Arlee was safe, and that she was gone with Falconer, the empty room and the signs of hasty departure all spoke in witness. He wondered sharply how they had gone and whether he had better try to follow them and then thought it was shrewder to go back the way he had come and from below to try to guard whatever descent they must make.
He turned swiftly and crossed to the door. With a hand outstretched toward it he caught suddenly, beneath all the distant din, the click of a sliding lock, and he whirled about, dropping his right hand into his pocket, to see a pale face staring at him from the other side of the bed.
“Not a move—or you drop!” said Captain Kerissen. The candle lights glinted on the muzzle of a gun leveled steadily at him.
“Stay where you are,” the Captain added, and Billy stayed, and through the dusk the two men stood eyeing each with a glare of hatred. But Kerissen’s eyes held hatred triumphant.
“So, Monsieur,” said the Turk. “This is the midnight call you gentlemen pay—in the chamber of my wife.”
“Your wife!” Billy gave a snort of unbelief. “She says you did not marry her!”
“When you are found dead—if you are found,” the other continued, looking lovingly along the sight, “there will not even be a question into the cause. You will be carted off like carrion—carrion that prowled too near.”
“Just the same you’ve made a mistake,” said Billy in a dogged and argumentative tone. “I’m not interested in visiting any wife of yours. The lady I’m representing says you didn’t marry her. But she says you did keep back most of her jewelry and she’s giving the story to the papers to-morrow unless I return with the stuff to-night.”
He could not guess what impression this speech was making.
“I am not interested in your stories, Monsieur,” the Turk returned blandly. “I am interested only in your dispatching—which I feel should be prolonged beyond the mercy of a shot.”
“Look here, I’m not a common robber and you know it,” said Billy, and his voice sounded rough and angry. “I’m here to collect the property of the lady you detained here, while she was under contract in Vienna. I don’t want anything more than belongs to her. She left——”
“With a great deal more upon her than she brought! But am I to suppose, Monsieur, that you have made your way here, at some personal inconvenience, I should say, to discuss the generosity of my remuneration to the lady?” There was a tense silence and the Captain continued in a low, almost purring voice, “You do not appear, even now, to comprehend the thing you have done. I shall do my best to make you comprehend—and before I have finished it may be that I shall have a clearer explanation of this impulsive call. You have no notion, Monsieur, how certain things unloose the tongue—but you shall discover.”