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"The idea being," she observed monotonously, "that, being safely away, and the necklace being left safely on the floor, you are left safely in possession of - the necklace. Well, my answer is - no!"
His face hardened a little.
"I'm sorry, then," he said. "For in that case, in so far as your project is concerned, I, too, must say - no!"
It was an impasse. She studied his face, the strong jaw set a little now, the lips molded in sterner lines, and for all her outward show of composure, she knew a sick dismay. And for a moment she neither moved nor spoke. What he would do next, she did not know; but she knew quite well that he had not the slightest intention of leaving her here undisturbed to carry out her plan, unless - unless, somehow, she could outwit him. She bit her lips again. And then inspiration came. She turned, and with a sudden leap gained the wall, and the next instant, holding him back with her revolver as she reached up with her left hand, she caught at the great metal shield with its encircling cluster of small arms, and wrenched it from its fastenings. It crashed to the floor with a din infernal that, in the night silence, went racketing through the house like the reverberations of an explosion.
"My God, what have you done!" he cried out hoarsely.
"What I said I'd do!" she answered. She was white-faced, frightened at her own act, fighting to maintain her nerve. "You'll go now, I imagine!" she flung at him passionately. "You haven't much time."
"No!" he said. His composure was instantly at command again. "No," he repeated steadily; "not until after you have gone. I refuse - positively - to let you run any such risk as that. It is far too dangerous."
"Yes, you will!" she burst out wildly. "You will! You must! You shall! I - I -" The house itself seemed suddenly to have awakened. From above doors opened and closed. Indistinctly there came the sound of a voice. She clenched her hand in anguished desperation. "Go, you - you coward!" she whispered frantically.
"Miss Gray, for God's sake, do as I tell you!" he said between his teeth. "You don't realize the danger. It's not the pursuit. They are not coming down here unarmed after that racket. I know that you came in by that door there. Go out that way. I will play the game for you. I swear it!"
There were footsteps, plainly audible now, out in the main hall.
"Quick!" he urged. "Are we both to be caught? See!" He backed suddenly toward the window.
"See! I am too far away now to touch that necklace before they get here. Throw it down, and get behind the portiere of the rear door!"
Mechanically she was retreating. They were almost at the other door now, those footsteps outside in the main hall. With a backward spring she reached the portiere. The door handle across the room rattled. She glanced at the Adventurer. He was close to the window. It was true, he could not get the necklace and at the same time hope to escape. She whipped it from her pocket, tossed it from her to the floor near the plush-lined case - and slipped behind the portiere.
The door opposite to her was wrenched violently open. She could see through the corner of the portiere. There was a sharp, excited exclamation, as a gray-haired man, in pajamas, evidently Mr. Hayden-Bond himself, sprang into the room. He was followed by another man in equal dishabille.
And the Adventurer was leaping for the window.
There was a blinding flash, the roar of a report, as the millionaire flung up a revolver and fired; it was echoed by the splatter and tinkle of falling glass. The Adventurer was astride the window sill now, his face deliberately and unmistakably in view.
"A foot too high, and a bit to the right!" said the Adventurer debonairly - and the window sill was empty.
Rhoda Gray stole silently through the doorway behind her. She could hear the millionaire and his companion, the butler, probably, rush across the library to the window. As she gained the pantry, she heard another shot. Tight-lipped, using her flashlight, she ran through the kitchen. In a moment more, she was standing at the garage door, listening, peering furtively outside. The street itself was empty; there were shouts, though, from the direction of the Avenue. She stepped out on the side street, and walking composedly that she might not attract attention, though very impulse urged her to run with frantic haste, she reached the corner and the waiting taxicab. She gave the chauffeur an address that would bring her to the street in the rear of Gypsy Nan's and within reach of the lane where she had left her clothes, and, with an injunction to hurry, sprang into the cab.
And then for a long time she sat there with her hands tightly clasped in her lap. Her mind, her brain, her very soul itself seemed in chaos and turmoil. There was the Sparrow, who was safe; and Danglar, who would move heaven and hell to get her now; and the Adventurer, who - Her mind seemed to grope around in cycles; it seemed to moil on and on and arrive at nothing. The Adventurer had played the game - perhaps because he had had to; but he had not risked that revolver shot in her stead because he had had to. Who was he? How had he come there? How had he found her there? How had he known that she had entered by that rear door behind the portiere? She remembered how that he had offered not a single explanation.
Almost mechanically she dismissed the taxi when at last it stopped; and almost mechanically, as Gypsy Nan, some ten minutes later, she let herself into the garret, and lighted the candle. She was conscious, as she hid the White Moll's clothes away, that she was thankful she had regained in safety even the questionable sanctuary of this wretched place; but, strangely, thoughts of her own peril seemed somehow to be temporarily relegated to the background.
She flung herself down on the bed - it was not Gypsy Nan's habit to undress - and blew out the light. But she could not sleep. And hour after hour in the darkness she tossed unrestfully. It was very strange! It was not as it had been last night. It was not the impotent, frantic rebellion against the horrors of her own situation, nor the fear and terror of it, that obsessed her to-night. It was the Adventurer who plagued her.
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