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The Angel of Terror
Edgar Wallace (1922) Country of origin: USA
Available texts by the same author here
Lydia took up her quarters in a quiet hotel in Nice and Mrs. Cole-Mortimer agreed to stay on and chaperon her.
Though she had felt no effects from her terrifying experience on the first day, she found herself a nervous wreck when she woke in the morning, and wisely decided to stay in bed.
Jack, who had expected the relapse, called in a doctor, but Lydia refused to see him. The next day she received the lawyer.
She had only briefly outlined the part which Marcus Stepney had played in her rescue, but she had said enough to make Jack call at Stepney's hotel to thank him in person. Mr. Stepney, however, was not at home--he had not been home all night, but this information his discreet informant did not volunteer. Nor was the disappearance of the Jungle Queen noticed for two days. It was Mrs. Cole-Mortimer, in settling up her accounts with Jack, who mentioned the "yacht."
"The Jungle Queen," said Jack, "that's the motor-launch, isn't it? I've seen her lying in the harbour. I thought she was Stepney's property."
His suspicions aroused, he called again at Stepney's hotel, and this time his inquiry was backed by the presence of a detective. Then it was made known that Mr. Stepney had not been seen since the night of Briggerland's arrest.
"That is where they've gone. Stepney was very keen on the girl, I think," said Jack.
The detective was annoyed.
"If I'd known before we could have intercepted them. We have several destroyers in the harbour at Villafrance. Now I am afraid it is too late."
"Where would they make for?" asked Jack.
The officer shrugged his shoulders.
"God knows," he said. "They could get into Italy or into Spain, possibly Barcelona. I will telegraph the Chief of the Police there."
But the Barcelona police had no information to give. The Jungle Queen had not been sighted. The weather was calm, the sea smooth, and everything favourable for the escape.
Inquiries elicited the fact that Mr. Stepney had bought large quantities of petrol a few days before his departure, and had augmented his supply the evening he had left. Also he had bought provisions in considerable quantities.
The murder was a week old, and Mr. Briggerland had undergone his preliminary examination, when a wire came through from the Spanish police that a motor-boat answering the description of the Jungle Queen had called at Malaga, had provisioned, refilled, and put out to sea again, before the police authorities, who had a description of the pair, had time to investigate.
"You'll think I have a diseased mind," said Lydia, "but I hope she gets away."
"If you had been with her much longer, Lydia, she would have turned you into a first-class criminal," he said. "I hope you do not forget that she has exactly a hundred thousand pounds of yours--in other words, a sixth of your fortune."
Lydia shook her head.
"That is almost a comforting thought," she said. "I know she is what she is, Jack, but her greatest crime is that she was born six hundred years too late. If she had lived in the days of the Italian Renaissance she would have made history."
"Your sympathy is immoral," said Jack. "By the way, Briggerland has been handed over to the Italian authorities. The crime was committed on Italian soil and that saves his head from falling into the basket."
"What will they do to him?"
"He'll be imprisoned for life," was the reply "and I rather think that's a little worse than the guillotine. You say you worry for Jean--I'm rather sorry for old man Briggerland. If he hadn't tried to live up to his daughter he might have been a most respectable member of society."
They were strolling through the quaint, narrow streets of Grasse, and Jack, who knew and loved the town, was showing her sights which made her forget that the Perfumerie Factory, the Mecca of the average tourist, had any existence.
"I suppose I'll have to settle down now," she said with an expression of distaste.
"I suppose you will," said Jack, "and you'll have to settle up, too; your legal expenses are something fierce."
"Why do you say that?" she asked, stopping in her walk and looking at him gravely.
"I am speaking as your mercenary lawyer," said Jack.
"You are trying to put your service on another level," she corrected. "I owe everything I have to you. My fortune is the least of these. I owe you my life three times over."
"Four," he corrected, "and to Marcus Stepney once."
"Why have you done so much for me? Were you interested?" she asked after a pause.
"Very," he replied. "I was interested in you from the moment I saw you step out of Mr. Mordon's taxi into the mud, but I was especially interested in you----"
"When?" she asked.
"When I sat outside your door night after night and discovered you didn't snore," he said shamelessly, and she went red.
"I hope you'll never refer to your old Jaggs's adventures. It was very----"
"I was going to say horrid, but I shouldn't be telling the truth," she admitted frankly. "I liked having you there. Poor Mrs. Morgan will be disconsolate when she discovers that we've lost our lodger."
They walked into the cool of the ancient cathedral and sat down.
"There's something very soothing about a church, isn't there?" he whispered. "Look at that gorgeous window. If I were ever rich enough to marry the woman I loved, I should be married in a cathedral like this, full of old tombs and statues and stained glass."
"How rich would you have to be?" she asked.
"As rich as she is."
She bent over toward him, her lips against his ear.
"Tell me how much money you have," she whispered, "and I'll give away all I have in excess of that amount."
He caught her hand and held it fast, and they sat there before the altar of St. Catherine until the sun went down and the disapproving old woman who acted as the cathedral's caretaker tapped them on the shoulder.