Leroy surveyed him for a moment.
“You are impertinent,” he said, in his clear tones. “Stand aside, and let me pass.”
Mr. Wilfer thrust his hands into his pockets, and stood his ground.
“That won’t go down with me,” he said insolently. “I want to know where my niece is; and by Heaven, I’ll know too!”
Leroy stopped short.
“She was your niece, you say?”
“She was,” said the man, “though it’s no business of yours; she belonged to me.”
“So I presume, or you would not have ill-treated her,” retorted Adrien dryly. “When did you see her last?”
“Over a month ago—as well you know,” returned Wilfer coarsely. “She ran off the morning you came gallivanting after her.”
Adrien could have knocked the man down, but he restrained the longing, and said instead:
“I thought you told me she’d robbed you, and had run away? That was a lie, I suppose?”
“’Course it was. Who wouldn’t lie to save his gal from such as you fine gentlemen? I know yer, so it’s no use coming this talky-talky surprise with me. You just tell me where she is.”
“I tell you,” reiterated Adrien, “I have never seen the child since the night I took her from the cold. Stand out of my path, or I shall hand you over to the police.”
Mr. Wilfer laughed.
“So that’s your answer, is it? Call away, my fine gentleman, call away.”
He glanced round the deserted path from the corner of his shifty eyes; then, with a snarl of a savage beast, he sprang upon Leroy, and strove to bring him to the ground.
But he was no match for Adrien, who beneath all his listless mannerism possessed a grasp of steel and the strength of a gladiator. Almost shuddering at the touch of the man’s greasy clothes, Leroy seized his arms, and lifting him off the ground as though he were a terrier, gave him a good shake; then he dropped him, lightly and easily, over the park railings, which edged the by-path, where they stood.
Johann Wilfer was too astonished for a moment to do anything but recover his breath, and Leroy, settling his disarranged cuffs, walked calmly away.
With a furious oath Wilfer sprang up, jumped back over the railings, and was about to pursue Leroy, when from behind him a hand was put on his collar, and he was borne rapidly and silently to the ground.
Meanwhile, Adrien, all unconscious of his deliverance from further disturbance, pursued his way to the theatre.
Mr. Johann Wilfer glared vengefully at the smooth face of his assailant, and, struggling still, breathed out, with a choice assortment of oaths, the question:
“Who are you? What do you want?”
“Questions we will leave for the present, my friend,” was the reply. “Are you going to struggle much longer? because if so, I shall be under the painful necessity of using still greater force.”