“I told you so,” said Bonavent. “A duke’s a duke.”
When the door closed behind the two detectives Lupin tottered across the room, dropped
on to the couch with a groan of exhaustion, and closed his eyes. Presently the door opened, Victoire came in, saw his attitude of exhaustion, and with a startled cry ran to his side.
“Oh, dearie! dearie!” she cried. “Pull yourself together! Oh, do try to pull yourself together.” She caught his cold hands and began to rub them, murmuring words of endearment like a mother over a young child. Lupin did not open his eyes; Charolais came in.
“Some breakfast!” she cried. “Bring his breakfast … he’s faint … he’s had nothing to eat this morning. Can you eat some breakfast, dearie?”
“Yes,” said Lupin faintly.
“Hurry up with it,” said Victoire in urgent, imperative tones; and Charolais left the room at a run.
“Oh, what a life you lead!” said Victoire, or, to be exact, she wailed it. “Are you never going to change? You’re
as white as a sheet…. Can’t you speak, dearie?”
She stooped and lifted his legs on to the couch.
He stretched himself, and, without opening his eyes, said in a faint voice: “Oh, Victoire, what a fright I’ve had!”
“You? You’ve been frightened?” cried Victoire, amazed.
“Yes. You needn’t tell the others, though. But I’ve had a night of it … I did play the fool so … I must have been absolutely mad. Once I had changed the coronet under that fat old fool Gournay-Martin’s very eyes … once you and Sonia were out of their clutches, all I had to do was to slip away. Did I? Not a bit 长沙桑拿休闲场所推荐 of it! I stayed there out of sheer bravado, just to score off Guerchard…. And then I … I, who pride myself on being as cool as a cucumber … I did the one thing I ought not to have done…. Instead of going quietly away as the Duke of
Charmerace … what do you think I did? … I bolted … I started running … running like a thief…. In about two seconds I saw the slip I had made. It did not take me longer; but that was too long—Guerchard’s men were on my track … I was done for.”
“Then Guerchard understood—he recognized you?” said Victoire anxiously.
“As soon as the first paralysis had passed, Guerchard dared to see clearly … to see the truth,” said Lupin. “And then it was a chase. There were ten—fifteen of them on my heels. Out of breath—grunting, furious—a mob—a regular mob. I had passed the night before in 湖南长沙桑拿论坛 a motor-car. I was dead beat. In fact, I was done for before I started … and they were gaining ground all the time.”
“Why didn’t you hide?” said Victoire.
“For a long while they were too close. They must have been within five feet of me. I was done. Then I was crossing one of the bridges. … There was the Seine … handy … I made up my mind that, rather than be taken, I’d make an end of it … I’d throw myself over.”
“Good Lord!—and then?” cried Victoire.
“Then I had a revulsion of feeling. At any rate, I’d stick it out to the end. I gave myself another minute… one more minute—the last, and I had my revolver on me… but during that minute I put forth every ounce of strength I had left … I began to gain ground … I had them pretty well strung out already … they were blown too. The knowledge gave me back my 长沙夜网论坛注册 courage, and I plugged on … my feet did not feel so much as though they were made of lead. I began to run away from them … they were dropping behind … all of them but one … he stuck to me. We went at a jog-trot, a slow jog-trot, for I don’t know how long. Then we dropped to a walk—we could run no more; and on we went. My strength and wind began to come back. I suppose my pursuer’s did too; for exactly what I expected happened. He gave a yell and dashed for me. I was ready for him. I pretended to start running, and when he was within three yards of me I dropped on one knee, caught his ankles, and chucked him over my head. I don’t know whether he broke his neck or not. I hope he did.”