“So that was the purpose of your visit to New York?” he asked the girl. “So—you have not quite forgotten that, madame! Your price was not too vile a thing for you to take it to New York with you! Your shame was not too great for you to remember that your father had ten thousand dollars!”
“It was not mine,” she flashed back at Leroux. “My father would have lost it again to you. I took it to New York because I thought that I could make enough to give him a home during the rest of his days. Do you think I would have touched a penny of it, monsieur?”
“I don’t know,” answered Leroux. “But we will soon find out. Where is that money, madame?”
Jacqueline’s lips quivered. I saw her glance involuntarily toward the door behind which I was standing.
And suddenly the last phase of the problem became clear to me. Jacqueline thought I had robbed her.
I stepped from behind the door and faced Leroux. “I have that money,” I said curtly.
I saw his face turn white. He staggered back, and then, with a bull’s bellow, rushed at me, his heavy fists aloft. I think he could have beaten out my brains with them.
But he stopped short when he saw my automatic pistol pointing at his chest. And he saw in my face that I was ready to shoot to kill.
“You thief—you spy—you treacherous hound, I’ll murder you!” he roared.
The dotard, who had been looking at me, came forward.
“No, no, I won’t have him murdered, Simon,” he protested, laying a trembling hand on Leroux’s shoulder. “He has almost as good a roulette system as I have.”
We must have stood confronting each other for fully a minute. Then Leroux dropped his hands and smiled sourly at me.
“You seem—temporarily—to have the advantage of me, M. Hewlett,” he said. “I respect your pertinacity, and now at last I am content in having discovered the motive of your enterprise. I thought you were hired by Carson. If you had been frank with me we might have come to an understanding long ago.
“So, since you have managed to come thus far, and since I am a man of business, the best thing we can do is to talk over our difficulties and try to adjust them. You will recall that on the occasion of our meeting in New York I asked you what your price was. But of course you were not then prepared to answer me, since you had your price already. Well, have you come here to get more?”
There was an indescribable insolence in his tone. In spite of the fact that I had him at my mercy, the man’s force and courage almost made him my master then.
“You may leave us, Mme. d’Epernay,” he said to Jacqueline. “No doubt your absence will spare your feelings, for we are going to be frank in our speech.”