Chapter XXXVII
 

Probably Jean Briggerland never gave a more perfect representation of shocked surprise than when old Jaggs announced that he was Jack Glover.

"Mr. Glover," she said incredulously.

"If you'll be kind enough to release my hands," said Jack savagely, "I will convince you."

Jean, all meekness, obeyed, and presently he stood up with a groan.

"You've nearly blinded me," he said, turning to the glass.

"If I'd known it was you----"

"Don't make me laugh!" he snapped. "Of course you knew who it was!" He took off the wig and peeled the beard from his face.

"Was that very painful?" she asked, sympathetically, and Jack snorted.

"How was I to know that it was you?" she demanded, virtuously indignant, "I thought you were a wicked old man----"

"You thought nothing of the sort, Miss Briggerland," said Jack. "You knew who I was, and you guessed why I had taken on this disguise. I was not many yards from you when it suddenly dawned upon you that I could not sleep at Lydia Meredith's flat unless I went there in the guise of an old man."

"Why should you want to sleep at her flat at all?" she asked innocently. "It doesn't seem to me to be a very proper ambition."

"That is an unnecessary question, and I'm wasting my time when I answer you," said Jack sternly. "I went there to save her life, to protect her against your murderous plots!"

"My murderous plots?" she repeated aghast. "You surely don't know what you're saying."

"I know this," and his face was not pleasant to see. "I have sufficient evidence to secure the arrest of your father, and possibly yourself. For months I have been working on that first providential accident of yours--the rich Australian who died with such remarkable suddenness. I may not get you in the Meredith case, and I may not be able to jail you for your attacks on Mrs. Meredith, but I have enough evidence to hang your father for the earlier crime."

Her face was blank--expressionless. Never before had she been brought up short with such a threat as the man was uttering, nor had she ever been in danger of detection. And all the time she was eyeing him so steadily, not a muscle of her face moving, her mind was groping back into the past, examining every detail of the crime he had mentioned, seeking for some flaw in the carefully prepared plan which had brought a good man to a violent and untimely end.

"That kind of bluff doesn't impress me," she said at last. "You're in a poor way when you have to invent crimes to attach to me."

"We'll go into that later. Where is Lydia?" he said shortly.

"I tell you I don't know, except that she has gone out for a drive. I expect her back very soon."

"Is your father with her?"

She shook her head.

"No, father went out early. I don't know who gave you authority to cross-examine me. Why, Jack Glover, you have all the importance of a French examining magistrate," she smiled.

"You may learn how important they are soon," he said significantly. "Where is your chauffeur, Mordon?"

"He is gone, too--in fact, he is driving Lydia. Why?" she asked with a little tightening of heart. She had only just been in time, she thought. So they had associated Mordon with the forgery!

His first words confirmed this suspicion.

"There is a warrant for Mordon which will be executed as soon as he returns," said Jack. "We have been able to trace him in London and also the woman who presented the cheque. We know his movements from the time he left Nice by aeroplane for Paris to the time he returned to Nice. The people who changed the money for him will swear to his identity."

If he expected to startle her he was disappointed. She raised her eyebrows.

"I can't believe it is possible. Mordon was such an honest man," she said. "We trusted him implicitly, and never once did he betray our trust. Now, Mr. Glover," she said coolly, "might I suggest that an interview with a gentleman in my bedroom is not calculated to increase my servants' respect for me? Will you go downstairs and wait until I come?"

"You'll not attempt to leave this house?" he said, and she laughed.

"Really, you're going on like one of those infallible detectives one reads about in the popular magazines," she said a little contemptuously. "You have no authority whatever to keep me from leaving this house and nobody knows that better than you. But you needn't be afraid. Sit on the stairs if you like until I come down."

When he had gone she rang the bell for her maid and handed her an envelope.

"I shall be in the saloon, talking to Mr. Glover," she said in a low voice. "I want you to bring this in and say that you found it in the hall."

"Yes, miss," said the woman.

Jean proceeded leisurely to her toilet. In the struggle her dress had been torn, and she changed it for a pale green silk gown, and Jack, pacing in the hall below, was on the point of coming up to discover if she had made her escape, when she sailed serenely down the stairs.

"I should like to know one thing, Mr. Glover," she said as she went into the saloon. "What do you intend doing? What is your immediate plan? Are you going to spirit Lydia away from us? Of course, I know you're in love with her and all that sort of thing."

His face went pink.

"I am not in love with Mrs. Meredith," he lied.

"Don't be silly," she said practically, "of course you're in love with her."

"My first job is to get that money back, and you're going to help me," he said.

"Of course I'm going to help you," she agreed. "If Mordon has been such a scoundrel, he must suffer the consequence. I'm sure that you are too clever to have made any mistake. Poor Mordon. I wonder what made him do it, because he is such a good friend of Lydia's, and seriously, Mr. Glover, I do think Lydia is being indiscreet."

"You made that remark before," he said quietly. "Now perhaps you'll explain what you mean."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"They are always about together. I saw them strolling on the lawn last night till quite a late hour, and I was so scared lest Mrs. Cole-Mortimer noticed it too----"

"Which means that Mrs. Cole-Mortimer did not notice it. You're clever, Jean! Even as you invent you make preparations to refute any evidence that the other side can produce. I don't believe a word you say."

There was a knock at the door and the maid entered bearing a letter on a salver.

"This was addressed to you, miss," she said. "It was on the hall table--didn't you see it?"

"No," said Jean in surprise. She took the letter, looked down at the address and opened it.

He saw a look of amazement and horror come to her face.

"Good God!" gasped Jean.

"What is it?" he said, springing up.

She stared at the letter again and from the letter to him.

"Read it," she said in a hollow voice.

"Dear Mademoiselle,

"I have returned from London and have confessed to Madame Meredith that I have forged her name and have drawn 100,000 from her bank. And now I have learnt that Madame Meredith loves me. There is only one end to this--that which you see----"

Jack read the letter twice.

"It is in his writing, too," he muttered. "It's impossible, incredible! I tell you I've had Mrs. Meredith under my eyes all the time she has been here. Is there a letter from her?" he asked suddenly. "But no, it is impossible, impossible!"

"I haven't been into her room. Will you come up with me?"

He followed her up the stairs and into Lydia's big bedroom, and the first thing that caught his eye was a sealed letter on a table near the bed. He picked it up. It was addressed to him, in Lydia's handwriting, and feverishly he tore it open.

His face, when he had finished reading, was as white as hers had been.

"Where have they gone?" he asked.

"They went to San Remo."

"By car?"

"Of course."

Without a word he turned and ran down the stairs out of the house.

The taxi that had brought him in the role of Jaggs had gone, but down the road, a dozen yards away, was the car he had hired on the day he came to Monte Carlo. He gave instructions to the driver and jumped in. The car sped through Mentone, stopped only the briefest while at the Customs barrier whilst Jack pursued his inquiries.

Yes, a lady had passed, but she had not returned.

How long ago?

Perhaps an hour; perhaps less.

At top speed the big car thundered along the sea road, twisting and turning, diving into valleys and climbing steep headlands, and then rounding a corner, Jack saw the car and a little crowd about it. His heart turned to stone as he leapt to the road.

He saw the backs of two Italian gendarmes, and pushing aside the little knot of idlers, he came into the centre of the group and stopped. Mordon lay on his face in a pool of blood, and one of the policemen was holding an ivory-handled revolver.

"It was with this that the crime was committed," he said in florid Italian. "Three of the chambers are empty. Now, at whom were the other two discharged?"

Jack reeled and gripped the mud-guard of the car for support, then his eyes strayed to the opening in the wall which ran on the seaward side of the road.

He walked to the parapet and looked over, and the first thing he saw was a torn hat and veil, and he knew it was Lydia's.