“Good God!” the man exclaimed.
It was Sir Cyril Smart.
THE SHEATH OF THE DAGGER
That was one of those supremely trying moments which occur, I suppose, once or twice in the lives of most men, when events demand to be fully explained while time will on no account permit of the explanation. I felt that I must know at once the reason and purpose of Sir Cyril’s presence with me in the underground chamber, and that I could do nothing further until I had such knowledge. And yet I also felt that explanations must inevitably wait until the scene enacting above us was over. I stood for a second silent, irresolute. The match went out.
“Are you here to protect her?” whispered Sir Cyril.
“Yes, if she is in danger. I will tell you afterwards about things. And you?”
“I was passing through Paris, and I heard that Deschamps was threatening Rosa. Everyone is talking of it, and I heard of the scene at the rehearsal, and I began to guess.... I know Deschamps well. I was afraid for Rosa. Then this morning I met Yvette, Rosa’s maid—she’s an old acquaintance of mine—and she told me everything. I have many friends in Paris, and I learnt to-night that Deschamps had sent for Rosa. So I have come up to interfere. They are up-stairs, are they not? Let us watch.”
“You know the house, then?”
“I have been here before, to one of Deschamps’ celebrated suppers. She showed me all over it then. It is one of the strangest houses round about Paris—and that’s saying something. The inside was rebuilt by a Russian count who wanted to do the Louis Quinze revelry business over again. He died, and Deschamps bought the place. She often stays here quite alone.”
I was putting all the questions. Sir Cyril seemed not to be very curious concerning the origin of my presence.
“What is Rosa to you?” I queried with emphasis.
“What is she to you?” he returned quickly.
“To me she is everything,” I said.
“And to me, my young friend!”
I could not, of course, see Sir Cyril’s face, but the tone of his reply impressed and silenced me. I was mystified—and yet I felt glad that he was there. Both of us forgot to be surprised at the peculiarity of the scene. It appeared quite natural that he should have supervened so dramatically at precisely the correct moment, and I asked him for no more information. He evidently did know the place, for he crept immediately to the ledge, and looked into the room above. I followed, and stood by his side. The two women were still talking.
“Can’t we get into the room, or do something?” I murmured.
“Not yet. How do we know that Deschamps means harm? Let us wait. Have you a weapon?”
Sir Cyril spoke as one in command, and I accepted the assumption of authority.