During all this recital, which Kitty listened to with staring eyes, Vandeloup had stood quite still, revolving in his own mind how he could escape from the position in which he found himself. When Villiers finished his recital he raised his head and looked defiantly at both his victims.
‘Fate has placed the game in your hands,’ he said coolly, while they stood and looked at him; ’but I’m not beaten yet, my friend. May I ask what you intend to do?’
‘Prove my innocence,’ said Villiers, boldly.
‘Indeed!’ sneered Gaston, ‘at my expense, I presume.’
‘Yes! I will denounce you as the murderer of Pierre Lemaire.’
‘And I,’ said Kitty, quickly, ‘will prove Villiers’ innocence.’
Vandeloup turned on her with all the lithe, cruel grace of a tiger.
‘First you must prove your own innocence,’ he said, in a low, fierce voice. ’Yes; if you can hang me for the murder of Pierre Lemaire, I can hang you for the murder of Selina Sprotts; yes, though I know you did not do it.’
‘Ah!’ said Kitty, quickly, springing forward, ’you know who committed the crime.’
‘Yes,’ replied Vandeloup, slowly, ’the man who committed the crime intended to murder Madame Midas, and he was the man who hated her and wished her dead—her husband.’
‘I?’ cried Villiers, starting forward, ‘you lie.’
Vandeloup wheeled round quickly on him, and, getting close to him, spoke rapidly.
‘No, I do not lie,’ he said, in a concentrated voice of anger; ’you followed me up to the house of M. Meddlechip, and hid among the trees on the lawn to watch the house; you saw Bebe throw the bottle out, and picked it up; then you went to St Kilda and, climbing over the wall, committed the crime, as she,’ pointing to Kitty, ’saw you do; I met you in the street near the house after you had committed it, and see,’ plunging his hand into Villiers’ pocket, ’here is the bottle which contained the poison,’ and he held up to Kitty the bottle with the two red bands round it, which she had thrown away.
‘It is false!’ cried Villiers, in despair, seeing that all the evidence was against him.
‘Prove it, then,’ retorted Vandeloup, knocking at the door to summon the warder. ‘Save your own neck before you put mine in danger.’
The door opened, and the warder appeared. Kitty and Villiers gazed horror-struck at one another, while Vandeloup, without another word, rapidly left the cell. The warder beckoned to Villiers to come, and, with a deep sigh, he obeyed.
‘Where are you going?’ asked Kitty, as he moved towards the door.
‘Going?’ he repeated, mechanically. ‘I am going to see my wife.’
He left the cell, and when he got outside the gaol he saw the hansom with Vandeloup in it driving rapidly away. Villiers looked at the retreating vehicle in despair. ‘My God,’ he murmured, raising his face to the blue sky with a frightful expression of despair; ’how am I to escape the clutches of this devil?’