"You stand here gossiping with that man loose in the house?" exclaimed Bellward vehemently, "why the next thing we know the fellow will escape us again!"
"Oh, no, he won't" retorted the other. "Every window on the ground floor is barred... this is a home for neurasthenics, you know, and that is sometimes a polite word for a lunatic, my friend... and the doors, both front and back are locked. The keys are here!"
Desmond heard a jingle as Strangwise slapped his pocket.
"All the same," the latter went on, "it is as well to be prepared for a sudden change of quarters. That's why I want you to finish off the girl at once. Come along, we'll start now..."
"No, no!" declared Bellward. "I'm far too upset. You seem to think you can turn me on and off like you do the gas!"
"Well, as you like," said Strangwise, "but the sooner we clear up this thing the better. I'm going to see if our clever young friend has taken refuge in the servants' quarters upstairs. He's not on this floor, that's certain!"
Desmond drew back in terror. He heard the green baize door on the floor below swing back as Strangwise went out to the back stairs and Bellward's heavy step ascended the main staircase. There was something so horribly sinister in that firm, creaking tread as it mounted towards him that for the moment he lost his head. He looked round wildly for a place of concealment; but the corridor was bare. Facing him was the red enamel door. Boldly he turned the handle and walked in, softly closing the door behind him.
It was as though he had stepped into another world. The room in which he found himself was a study in vivid red emphasized by black. Red and black; these were the only colors in the room. The curtains, which were of black silk, were drawn, though it was not yet dark outside, and from the ceiling was suspended a lamp in the shape of a great scarlet bowl which cast an eerie red light on one of the most bizarre apartments that Desmond had ever seen.