The wild look came into his eyes again.
“No, no!” he screamed, trying to wrest himself from my grasp and measuring the distance across the ledge with his eye. “I will not go away. This is my home. I want to live here in peace. I want my wheel! Monsieur, give me my wheel. I have perfected a system. Listen!” He took me by the arm and spoke in that cunning madman’s way: “I will make your fortune if you will let me go free. You shall have millions. We will go to Quebec together and play at the tables, as I did when I was a young man. My system cannot fail!”
“M. Duchaine,” I pleaded, “won’t you come back with me and let us talk it over? Jacqueline is with me——”
“No, no,” he cried, laughing. “You can’t catch me with such a trick as that. My little daughter has gone to New York to make our fortunes at M. Daly’s gaming-house. She will be back soon, loaded down with gold.”
I saw an opening here.
“She has come back,” I answered. “She is not fifty yards away.”
“With gold?” he inquired, looking at me doubtfully.
“With gold,” I answered, trying to allure his imagination as Leroux had done. “She has rich gold, red gold, such as you will love. You can take up the coins in your fingers and let the gold stream slip through them. Come with me, monsieur.”
He hesitated and looked back into the darkness.
“I am afraid!” he exclaimed. “Listen, monsieur! There is a man hiding there—a man with a sword. He tried to capture me to-day. But I was too clever for him.” He laughed with senile glee and rubbed his hands together. “I was too clever for him,” he chuckled. “No, no, monsieur, I do not know who you are, but I am not going into that tunnel alone with you. Perhaps you have a gallows there.”
“Do you not want the gold, monsieur?” I cried in exasperation. “Do you not want to see the gold that your daughter Jacqueline has brought back from New York for you?”
I grasped him by the arm and tried to lead him with me. My argument had moved him; cupidity had banished for the moment the dreadful picture of the gallows that he had conjured up. I thought I had won him.
But just as I started back into the tunnel, holding the arm of the old man, who lingered reluctantly and yet began to yield, a pebble leaped from the rocky platform and rebounded from the cliff. I cast a backward glance, and there upon the opposite side I saw Leroux standing.
There was something appalling in the man’s presence there. I think it was his unchanging and implacable pursuit that for the moment daunted me. And this was symbolized in his fur coat, which he wore open in the front exactly as he had worn it that day when we met in the New York store, and as I had always seen him wear it.
He stood bareheaded, and his massive, lined, hard, weather-beaten face might have been a sneering gargoyle’s, carved out of granite on some cathedral wall.