“Now you know all, monsieur, for I remember nothing more until I found myself travelling back with M. Hewlett in the sleigh. You say I was in New York. Well, I do not remember it.
“And as for Louis d’Epernay, I know nothing of him—but I will die before he claims me as his wife!”
She had grown breathless as she proceeded with her scathing denunciation and now stood facing him with an aspect of fearless challenge on her face. And then I had the measure of Leroux. He laughed, and he beat down her scorn with scorn.
“You have underestimated your price, madame,” he sneered. “Since you have learned so much, I will tell you more. You have cost me twenty thousand dollars, and not ten; for besides the ten thousand paid to your father, Louis got ten thousand also, upon the signing of the marriage contract. So swallow that, and be proud of being priced so high! And the seigniory is already his, and I am waiting for him to return and sell me the ground rights for twenty-five thousand more, and if I know Louis d’Epernay he will not wait very long to get his fingers round it.”
Jacqueline stood watching him with supreme indifference.
The man’s coarse gibes had flown past her without wounding her, as they would have hurt a lower nature.
“No doubt he will return,” she answered quietly. “If he would take ten thousand for me, surely he will take twenty-five thousand for the seigniory. You have us in your power.”
“Then why the devil doesn’t he come?” roared Leroux. “If he is intriguing with Carson, by God, I know enough to shut him up in jail the rest of his life. And so, madame,” he ended quietly, “it will perhaps be worth your while to tell me why Tom Carson sent this Hewlett back to the chateau; for no doubt the wolves have picked him pretty clean by now.”
“Listen to me, Simon Leroux,” said Jacqueline, standing up before him, as indomitable in spirit as he. “All your plots and schemes mean nothing to me. My only aim is to take my father away from here, from you and M. d’Epernay, and let you wrangle over your spoil. There are more than four-legged wolves, M. Leroux; there are human ones, and, like the others, when food is scarce they prey upon each other.”
“I like your spirit!” exclaimed Simon, staring at her with frank admiration.
And Jacqueline’s head drooped then. Unwittingly Simon had pierced her defences.
But he never knew, for before he had time to know the grey-beard rose upon his feet and rubbed his thin hands together, chuckling.
“Never mind your money, Simon,” he said. “I’m going to be richer than any of you. Do you know what I did with that ten thousand? I gave it to my little daughter, and she has gone to New York to make our fortunes at Mr. Daly’s gaming-house. No, there she is!” he suddenly exclaimed. “She has come back!”
Leroux wheeled round and looked from one to the other.