“You may take it as such if you will,” he answered, with a note of sullenness in his tone. “You know very well that I have but to lift my finger and the gendarmes will be here. Yes, we will call it a challenge. All my life I have wanted you. Now I think that my time has come. Even Souspennier has deserted you. You are alone, and let me tell you that danger is closer at your heels than you know of. I can save you, and I will. But I have a price, and it must be paid.”
“If I refuse?” she asked.
“I send for the chief of the police.”
She looked him up and down, a measured, merciless survey. He was a tall, big man, but he seemed to shrink into insignificance.
“You are a coward and a bully,” she said slowly. “You know quite well that I am innocent of any knowledge even concerning Duson’s death. But I would sooner meet my fate, whatever it might be, than suffer even the touch of your fingers upon my hand. Your presence is hateful to me. Send for your chief of the police. String your lies together as you will. I am satisfied.”
She left him and swept from the room, a spot of colour burning in her cheeks, her eyes lit with fire. The pride of her race had asserted itself. She felt no longer any fear. She only desired to sever herself at once and completely from all association with this man. In the hall she sent for her maid.
“Fetch my cloak and jewel case, Celeste,” she ordered. “I am going across to the Bristol. You can return for the other luggage.”
“Do as I say at once,” Lucille ordered.
The girl hesitated and then obeyed. Lucille found herself suddenly addressed in a quiet tone by a man who had been sitting in an easy-chair, half hidden by a palm tree.
“Will you favour me, madam, with a moment’s conversation?”
Lucille turned round. She recognised at once the man with whom she had conversed upon the steamer. In the quietest form of evening dress, there was something noticeable in the man’s very insignificance. He seemed a little out of his element. Lucille had a sudden inspiration, The man was a detective.
“What do you wish to say?” she asked, half doubtfully.
“I overheard,” he remarked, “your order to your maid. She had something to say to you, but you gave her no opportunity.”
“And you?” she asked, “what do you wish to say?”
“I wish to advise you,” he said, “not to leave the hotel.”
She looked at him doubtfully.
“You cannot understand,” she said, “why I wish to leave it. I have no alternative.”
“Nevertheless,” he said, “I hope that you will change your mind.”
“Are you a detective?” she asked abruptly.
“Madam is correct!”
The flush of colour faded from her cheeks.
“I presume, then,” she said, “that I am under your surveillance?”