“I thank you for your consideration, M. Leroux,” replied Jacqueline, and walked quietly out of the room. It occurred to me that Leroux could hardly be more frank than he had been, but I sat down and waited. The ball was clicking round the wheel again, and very faintly, through the roar of the cataracts, I heard the sound of the fiddle below.
Leroux sat down heavily.
“I will put down my cards,” he said. “I have you here in my power. I have four men with me. This dotard”—he glanced contemptuously at old Duchaine—“has no bearing on the situation. You can, of course, kill me; but that would not help you. You are in possession of some money belonging to Mme. d’Epernay, and also of certain information that I shall be glad to receive. There is no law in this valley except my will. Give me the information I want, keep your money, and go.”
“In the first place, are you, or are you not, in Carson’s pay? I shall believe your answer because, if you are, I shall offer you a better price to join me, and therefore it will not pay you to lie. But you will not be able to deceive me by pretending to be.”
“I am not,” I answered.
“Then why did he send you here?”
“I left his employ three days before I met Mme. d’Epernay. If you were in New York you must have seen that I was not there.”
“Good. Second, where is Louis d’Epernay?”
“I have never seen the man,” I replied.
Leroux glanced incredulously at me.
“Then your meeting with madame was purely an accident?” he inquired. “Your only desire, then, was to get the money you knew she was carrying with her? But how did you know that she was carrying that money?”
I shrugged my shoulders. How was it possible for us to reach an understanding?
“I don’t know why you are lying to me,” he said. “It is not to your advantage. You must have known that she was in New York; Louis must have told Carson, and he must have told you. And Louis must have told you the secret of the entrance, unless——”
“Listen to me!” I cried furiously. “I will not be badgered with any more questions. I have told you the truth. I met Mme. d’Epernay by accident, and I escorted her toward the chateau, and followed her after you kidnapped her, to protect her from you.”
He grunted and glanced at me with an inscrutable expression upon his hard features.
“You are in love with her?” he asked.
“Put it that way if you choose,” I answered.
He scowled at me ferociously, and then he began studying my face. I returned stare for stare. Finally he banged his big fist down upon the table.
“Well, it doesn’t matter,” he said, “because, whatever your purpose, you cannot do any harm. And you understand that she is a married woman. So you will, no doubt, agree to take your money and depart?”