“Did you—know this, madame?” cried Leroux fiercely to Jacqueline.
“Yes,” she replied.
“So this is why you pretended to have forgotten. You remembered everything?”
“You lied to shield yourself?”
“No, to shield him,” she cried. “Because he was my only friend when I was helpless in a strange city. You did not steal my money, did you, Paul?” she added, turning swiftly upon me. “No, you have paid me. You were keeping it for me.”
“You lie!” yelled Leroux, and he struck her across the mouth as he had struck me.
I writhed in my bonds. I pulled the heavy table after me as I tried impotently to crawl toward him, sending the wheel flying and all the papers whirling through the air. I cursed Leroux as blasphemously as he was cursing Jacqueline. I saw a trickle of blood on her cut lip, and the proud smile upon her face as she defied him.
And at the door was the pale face of Philippe Lacroix.
Leroux turned on me and kicked me savagely, and dragged the table to the far end of the room, and struck me repeatedly, while I struggled like a madman. The oaths and execrations that streamed from my lips seemed to be uttered by another man, for I heard them indifferently, or rather something that was I, deep in the maze of my personality, heard them—not that pitiful, puny, goaded thing that fought in its bonds until it ceased, panting and exhausted.
There followed a long silence, while Leroux strode furiously about the room. At last he stopped; he seemed to have made up his mind.
“I understand now,” he said, nodding his head. “So you are the man who took this woman to the Merrimac. And then to your home, and Louis d’Epernay followed you there, and, naturally, you killed him. Well, it is intelligible. You were not acting for Carson after all, but were infatuated with this woman. Well—but——” He wheeled and turned to Jacqueline. “I will marry you still!”
She did not deign to answer him nor to wipe away the blood that trickled down her chin.
“Do you know why?” he bawled.
She raised her eyes indifferently to his. I saw that, though her spirit was unbroken, she was weary to death.
“Because you become part heir of the seigniory by your husband’s death!” he shouted; and then he took Charles Duchaine by the arm and began shaking him violently.
“Listen, you old fool!” he cried. “Your son-in-law is dead—Louis d’Epernay!”
Charles Duchaine looked at Leroux in his mild way. He had put one arm round his daughter, and he seemed to understand that Simon was maltreating her, and to wish to defend her; but his wits were still wandering, and I saw that he understood only a little of what was passing.
“Louis d’Epernay is dead!” cried Simon, shaking the old man again.
“Well, well!” answered Duchaine, stroking his long beard with his free hand. “So Louis is dead! Did you kill him, Simon?”