The prison doors were open at length, but only on the death of her parent, and there she was at forty years of age, helpless and friendless, with no knowledge of the world, and nothing to aid her besides her brush and pencil. The struggle was indeed a hard one, and it looked like ending at length when she came in contact with Louis Delahay. She had no strong passion to give him, nothing but the tranquil affection of approaching middle age."So you have your doubts on that score?" Walter cried eagerly. "Now is it not a fact that the Countess Flavio was notoriously a woman of evil disposition?"Maria was thinking all these things over now that Walter Lance had gone. She wondered that her sister had so completely passed out of her mind. But, then, she had had so many terrible anxieties to weigh her down. She could not sleep for thinking of the tragedy. She paced up and down the room in a vain attempt to get away from herself. The clocks outside were striking the hour of midnight, but the roar of the Strand was going on still as if it were high noon. A sudden resolve came to the woman. She would go out at once and try her luck at Isleworth Road again."I suppose there is nothing more you have to tell me?" he said at length. "This is evidently going to be one of those crimes which thrill a whole community for a week, and then are never heard of again. Still, if there is anything I can do for you, pray do not hesitate to ask for my assistance. I suppose we can do no more till after the inquest is over?" 幸运飞艇推算公式图 "There is no reason why Mrs. Delahay should not know this just yet?" Walter asked. "You may be sure that she feels her position keenly. Would there be any objection to getting her to accompany us as far as Cannon Green tonight? You will understand why.""Oh, that is true enough," Walter laughed. "It was old Bruno. I suppose he managed to get away from Park Lane. At any rate, he followed us here and I found him holding up some people in one of the drawing-rooms. I thought he might just as well come to the station with us, so I tied him up in the shrubbery. When I went to see if he was all right just now I found the rascal had got away again. He came back when I whistled, but I couldn't get him to come to my side. I suppose he was afraid of getting a thrashing. However, he is lying down quite good in the shrubbery now, so there is no cause for worry. I daresay that it would be rather alarming for some of these women to be suddenly confronted with the dog when they were carrying on a tender flirtation in one of the arbours." "I knew him quite well, sir," the witness said. "I have seen him scores of times when I have been watching in Fitzjohn Square."Silva threw the door wide open and strode out into the corridor. As he struck a match and lighted the candle, Walter could dimly see up the next flight of stairs. It was only for a moment, but he distinctly saw the outline of a figure there, and a signal made by the waving of a white arm. It was with difficulty that he repressed a cry. He now knew that the Italian had been lying to him, and that Vera was in the house. When he glanced up again the figure had vanished, and Walter dropped into the easy chair again. It seemed to him that there was something in the signal which bade him to be cautious. Otherwise, what was to prevent Vera coming down the stairs and appealing to Walter for his protection?"To the extent of a couple of sovereigns," Venables put in."Nothing," Vera said curtly. "All I want you to do is to show me to my room. I wish to be alone." "It is not altogether a fresh trouble," she murmured; "it is only the old one become more acute. Do you remember my telling you the other day that I felt how impossible it is for me to remain here any longer? But I must go away.""I thought the brute was going to tear the throat out of me," the stranger said. "I came down here on business----"Still, the miscreant must be near at hand. He might even be watching the solitary occupant of the studio at that moment. Walter made up his mind what to do. He switched off all the lights and shut the door of the studio, at the same time affecting to turn the key in the lock. If Valdo were hiding close at hand, he would take this for an indication that the studio was locked and closed for the night. They all raced together down the garden path in the direction of the gate. There was no mistaking where the trouble lay, for that mumbling snarl was close at hand now. It seemed to proceed from the foot of a tree. Even Perks, hardened as he was, shuddered and turned pale as the shining disc of the lantern showed a picture so horrible and revolting that Perks staggered back.A grim, silent moment or two followed. Then, surely enough, Walter came back with the whispered information that the kitchen door was locked. Perks chuckled to himself as he snatched up another instrument and squeezed through the window. He set to work in business-like fashion, so that the kitchen door was forced at length without the slightest noise, and the way to the hall was clear."I think I understand," she murmured. "If my suspicions are correct, this is a great blow to me; but, having said so much, I think I must know the rest. And now, now you see how impossible it is that I can remain here much longer.""That will be very inconvenient," he said, in quite another voice. "I hope you will be able to manage without that if you can. However, if you will give me an hour's notice, I daresay----""You scoundrel!" she cried. "You have murdered him!" 幸运飞艇推算公式图 "This is amazing," he said. "Yet I cannot believe that Mrs. Delahay has been deliberately deceiving us. I will go up and see what she has to say for herself. I suppose I am at liberty to tell her what you have just said to me?""Ungrateful," Walter laughed. He came and stood close to the speaker's side so that he could see down into the depths of her eyes, which were now turned fully upon his. "There are thousands of girls who envy your fortunate lot." "Oh, that is an easy one," Perks grinned cheerfully. "We'll just carry him as far as the common, and dump him down on a nice bed of bracken where he can pass the time studying astronomy. I haven't any fear that he can get rid of these bandages. When everything is settled, I'll come back and fetch him. Then I can take him home, and give him some breakfast. He won't bear any malice. That is a very good point about John Stevens: he never bears malice for long. As a matter of fact, he ain't got pluck enough."As Lance spoke he saw a swift and subtle change pass over the face of his companion. A flame of colour stained either cheek; then it was gone, leaving her still more ghastly white than before. "Oh, quite," the offending guest said hastily. "Still, it is a most lovely face. Now who does it remind me of?""How long is it," Walter asked, "since you wanted to run away and leave us? I won't ask you why you wanted to go, because my uncle has told me that. My dearest girl, there is no occasion for you to blush and look uncomfortable. I am sure that your motives did you every credit. But we will pass over that. We need never allude to it again. I have spoken to your mother, and what my uncle's feelings are you know for yourself. All the dangers and troubles have gone now. Everything lies fair and smooth between us. And now, little Vera, when are we to be married?""And you saw nothing of him?" Walter asked."Oh, that part will be managed for us all right," Venables said coolly. "The housebreaking item of the programme will be carried out by Perks. The rascal knows he is quite safe in our hands, and he will do all that is necessary for about a ten-pound note. Once his work is accomplished we will send him about his business. The rest we can manage ourselves. It will go hard, indeed, with us if Miss Rayne is not back in our hands again before daylight." "You seem to have forgotten me," the girl said. "I waited upon you when you were here last spring.""Nothing of the kind," the man said indignantly. "I've been here three nights now, and I know something about mechanics, too. If you think that wires are used you are just mistaken. A friend of mine is stage carpenter here, and he told me all about it. Depend upon it, that chap has got the knack right enough." 幸运飞艇推算公式图 Ravenspur stumbled to his feet. He was dazed and numbed with surprise; and yet the more he came to think of it, the more plausible it seemed. No, the nurse had no objection, it would not harm the patient. He was very near to his end now. Weak as he was, his eyes gleamed as he caught sight of Lord Ravenspur, the old wolfish look was on his face.They made their way behind the stage to a dingy little room, insufficiently lighted with one gas jet. The back of the stage was in a turmoil. It was almost impossible to hear for the din. Then very briefly and modestly Valdo told his history. He had found out his peculiar powers by a series of experiments with the parachute. The whole secret lay, he explained, in the enormously powerful muscles between his shoulders and the backs of his arms. The rest was worked by the amazing rapidity with which he had learnt to move his arms. So far the thing was effective enough, but the strain was so great that, hitherto, he had found it impossible to rise to a height of more than forty feet. This naturally prevented him from obtaining engagements in the larger theatres and halls where so limited a flight would have been far less imposing than it appeared to be when performed in a place like the Imperial Palace. There was nothing more to be said, and the two friends were turning away when a woman put her head into the door, and looked inquiringly at Valdo. He muttered something to the effect that he would be ready in a moment or two, and the woman vanished.An hour or so passed pleasantly enough; then, as the heat grew more intense Vera's mind turned to the garden. There were huge blocks of ice, looking deliciously cool, behind banks of ferns. The air hummed with the noise of electric fans, and yet the atmosphere was heavy and enervating. Supper was a thing of the past, and Vera stood at the head of a flight of marble steps, which led to the garden. She was quite alone. She was looking for Walter, whom she had not seen for some little time. She turned with a smile as someone murmured her name. She saw that it was Ravenspur's friend, Sir James Seton, who was standing by her side."I am afraid not, my boy," Ravenspur said in a dull, mechanical way. "I know that you won't chatter about this thing. And, perhaps, a little later on, I shall be able to speak more plainly. I shall be glad if you will help me up the stairs and get me into bed. I have had a great shock tonight." "Not even after it was known that you were at work in the studio that night?"