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I Will Repay

Chapter XIII. Tangled meshes
Juliette waited a moment or two, until the footsteps of the six men died away up
the massive oak stairs.
For the first time, since the sword of Damocles had fallen, she was alone with her
She had but a few moments at her command in which to devise an issue out of
these tangled meshes, which she had woven round the man she loved.
Merlin and his men would return anon. The comedy could not be kept up through
another visit from them, and while the compromising letter-case remained in
Déroulède's private study he was in imminent danger at the hands of his enemy.
She thought for a moment of concealing the case about her person, but a
second's reflection showed her the futility of such a move. She had not seen the
papers themselves; any one of them might be an absolute proof of Déroulède's
guilt; the correspondence might be in his handwriting.
If Merlin, furious, baffled, vicious, were to order her to be searched! The horror of
the indignity made her shudder, but she would have submitted to that, if thereby
she could have saved Déroulède. But of this she could not be sure until after she
had looked through the papers, and this she had not the time to do.
Her first and greatest idea was to get out of this room, his private study, with the
compromising papers. Not a trace of them must be found here, if he were to
remain beyond suspicion.
She rose from the sofa, and peeped through the door. The hall was now
deserted; from the left wing of the house, on the floor above, the heavy footsteps
of the soldiers and Merlin's occasional brutish laugh could be distinctly heard.
Juliette listened for a moment, trying to understand what was happening. Yes;
they had all gone to Déroulède's bedroom, which was on the extreme left, at the
end of the first-floor landing. There might be just time to accomplish what she
had now resolved to do.
As best she could, she did the bulky leather case in the folds of her skirt. It was
literally neck or nothing now. If she were caught on the stairs by one of the men
nothing could save her or--possibly-- Déroulède.
At any rate, by remaining where she was, by leaving the events to shape
themselves, discovery was absolutely certain. She chose to take the risk.
She slipped noiselessly out of the room and up the great oak stairs. Merlin and
his men, busy with their search in Déroulède's bedroom, took no heed of what
was going on behind them; Juliette arrived on the landing, and turned sharply to
her right, running noiselessly along the tick Aubusson carpet, and thence quickly
to her own room.
All this had taken less than a minute to accomplish. The very next moment she
heard Merlin's voice ordering one of his men to stand at attention on the landing,
but by that time she was safe inside her room. She closed the door noiselessly.
Pétronelle, who had been busy all the afternoon packing up her young mistress'
things, had fallen asleep in an arm-chair. Unconscious of the terrible events