Jacqueline swung round on Leroux. I saw her fists clench and her bruised lip quiver.
“Never, Simon Leroux!” she said. “And, what is more, my father is not competent to transfer his property, and I will fight you through every court in the land.”
“I was coming to you, madame,” sneered Simon. “I don’t know much about the courts in this part of the country, but you will marry me to save the life of your lover.”
“No!” she answered, setting her teeth.
He seized her by the wrists and dragged her across the floor to me.
“Look at him!” he yelled. “Look into his face. Will you marry me if I let him go free?”
“No!” answered Jacqueline.
“I swear to you that he shall be thrown from the top of the cataract unless you give your consent within five minutes.”
“Never!” she answered firmly.
“I will denounce your father!”
“You can’t frighten me with such stuff. I am not a weak old man!”
“You will think differently after Charles Duchaine has been hanged in Quebec jail,” he sneered.
His words received a wholly unexpected answer. The dotard leaped forward, stooped down, and picked up the heavy roulette-wheel.
He raised it aloft and staggered wildly toward Leroux.
THE HIDDEN CHAMBER
Simon turned just in time. The wheel went crashing to the floor and bounded and rebounded out of the room and along the little hall. Philippe jumped in terror from the place where he crouched.
And then the last strand broke, and I was free to slip the cords from my limbs.
“You old fool!” screamed Leroux, catching Duchaine by the wrists. But Charles Duchaine possessed the strength of a madman. He grasped Leroux round the waist and clung to him, and would not be shaken off.
“Kill him!” he screamed. “He is a spy! He has come to betray me to the government!”
What followed was the work of a moment. I saw Jacqueline pull down both broadswords from the wall. She flung one down beside me just as I was staggering to my feet.
Leroux shook off the old man at last. He turned on me. I swung the sword aloft and brought it down upon his skull.
Heaven knows I struck to kill; but my wrist was feeble from the ropes, and the blade fell flat. It drew no blood, but Leroux dropped like a stricken ox upon the floor.
“This way!” gasped the old man.
He pulled at Jacqueline’s arm, and half led and half dragged her through the open door behind his chair, I following. Lacroix sprang into the room, called, but whether to us or to the other ruffians I did not know. Leroux sat up and looked about him, dazed and bewildered.
Then I was in the little room with Jacqueline and Duchaine, and he turned and bolted the door behind us. He seemed possessed of all the strength and decision of youth again.