Infomotions, Inc.The Passenger from Calais / Griffiths, Arthur, 1838-1908



Author: Griffiths, Arthur, 1838-1908
Title: The Passenger from Calais
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): blackadder; lord blackadder; falfani; tiler; henriette; colonel annesley; colonel; claire; lady henriette; lady claire; lady blackadder; hotel; ludovic tiler
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Size: 59,906 words (short) Grade range: 8-10 (high school) Readability score: 66 (easy)
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Title: The Passenger from Calais

Author: Arthur Griffiths

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                               Works of
                           ARTHUR GRIFFITHS

          *       *       *       *       *

                   The Passenger from Calais $1.25
                   The Rome Express           1.25

          *       *       *       *       *

                          L.C. PAGE & COMPANY
                  New England Building, Boston, Mass.






                             The Passenger
                              from Calais


                          By Arthur Griffiths

                  Author of "The Rome Express," etc.





                         Boston--L.C. Page and
                          Company--Publishers


                   _First Impression, January, 1906
                    Second Impression, February, 1906
                    Third Impression, February, 1906
                    Fourth Impression, March, 1908_

                            Colonial Press
                         _C.H. Simonds & Co.
                            Boston, U.S.A._





FOREWORD


_I desire to state that the initial
fact upon which I have founded
this story is within my own experience.
I travelled from Calais to
Basle by the Engadine Express in
the latter end of July, 1902, when
my wife and myself were the only
passengers. The rest is pure fiction._

A.G.








CHAPTER I.

[_Colonel Annesley's Story_]


The crossing from Dover to Calais had been rough; a drizzling rain
fell all the time, and most of the passengers had remained below.
Strange to say, they were few enough, as I saw on landing. It was a
Sunday in late July, and there ought to have been a strong stream
setting towards Central Europe. I hardly expected to find much room in
the train; not that it mattered, for my place was booked through in
the Lucerne sleeping-car of the Engadine express.

Room! When I reached the siding where this train de luxe was drawn up,
I saw that I was not merely the first but the only passenger. Five
sleeping-cars and a dining-car attached, with the full staff,
attendants, chef, waiters--all lay there waiting for me, and me
alone.

"Not very busy?" I said, with a laugh to the conductor.

"_Parbleu_," replied the man, polyglot and cosmopolitan, like most of
his class, but a Frenchman, or, more likely from his accent, a Swiss.
"I never saw the like before."

"I shall have a compartment to myself, then?"

"Monsieur may have the whole carriage if he wishes--the whole five
carriages. It is but to arrange." His eyes glistened at the prospect
of something special in this obvious scarcity of coming tips.

"The train will run, I hope? I am anxious to get on."

"But assuredly it will run. Even without monsieur it would run. The
carriages are wanted at the other end for the return journey. Stay,
what have we here?"

We stood talking together on the platform, and at some little distance
from the railway station, the road to which was clear and open all the
way, so that I could see a little party of four approaching us, and
distinguish them. Two ladies, an official, probably one of the guards,
and a porter laden with light luggage.

As they came up I discreetly withdrew to my own compartment, the
window of which was open, so that I could hear and see all that
passed.

"Can we have places for Lucerne?" It was asked in an eager, anxious,
but very sweet voice, and in excellent French.

"Places?" echoed the conductor. "Madame can have fifty."

"What did I tell madame?" put in the official who had escorted her.

"I don't want fifty," she replied, pettishly, crossly, "only two. A
separate compartment for myself and maid; the child can come in with
us."

Now for the first time I noticed that the maid was carrying a bundle
in her arms, the nature of which was unmistakable. The way in which
she swung it to and fro rhythmically was that of a nurse and child.

"If madame prefers, the maid and infant can be accommodated apart,"
suggested the obliging conductor.

But this did not please her. "No, no, no," she answered with much
asperity. "I wish them to be with me. I have told you so already; did
you not hear?"

"_Parfaitement_, as madame pleases. Only, as the train is not
full--very much the reverse indeed--only one other passenger, a
gentleman--no more--"

The news affected her strangely, and in two very different ways. At
first a look of satisfaction came into her face, but it was quickly
succeeded by one of nervous apprehension, amounting to positive fear.
She turned to talk to her maid in English, while the conductor busied
himself in preparing the tickets.

"What are we to do, Philpotts?" This was said to the maid in English.
"What if it should be--"

"Oh, no, never! We can't turn back. You must face it out now. There is
nothing to be afraid of, not in that way. I saw him, the gentleman, as
we came up. He's quite a gentleman, a good-looking military-looking
man, not at all the other sort--you know the sort I mean."

Now while I accepted the compliment to myself, I was greatly mystified
by the allusion to the "other sort of man."

"You think we can go on, that it's safe, even in this empty train? It
would have been so different in a crowd. We should have passed
unobserved among a lot of people."

"But then there would have been a lot of people to observe us; some
one, perhaps, who knew you, some one who might send word."

"I wish I knew who this passenger is. It would make me much easier in
my mind. It might be possible perhaps to get him on our side if he is
to go with us, at least to get him to help to take care of our
treasure until I can hand it over. What a burden it is! It's terribly
on my mind. I wonder how I could have done it. The mere thought makes
me shiver. To turn thief! Me, a common thief!"

"Stealing is common enough, and it don't matter greatly, so long as
you're not found out. And you did it so cleverly too; with such a
nerve. Not a soul could have equalled you at the business. You might
have been at it all your life," said the maid, with affectionate
familiarity, that of a humble performer paying tribute to a great
artist in crime.

She was a decent, respectable-looking body too, this confederate whom
I concluded was masquerading as maid. The very opposite of the younger
woman (about her more directly), a neatly dressed unassuming person,
short and squat in figure, with a broad, plain, and, to the casual
observer, honest face, slow in movement and of no doubt sluggish
temperament, not likely to be moved or distressed by conscience,
neither at the doing or the memory of evil deeds.

Now the conductor came up and civilly bowed them towards their
carriage, mine, which they entered at the other end as I left it
making for the restaurant, not a little interested in what I had
heard.

Who and what could these two people be with whom I was so strangely
and unexpectedly thrown? The one was a lady, I could hardly be
mistaken in that; it was proved in many ways, voice, air, aspect, all
spoke of birth and breeding, however much she might have fallen away
from or forfeited her high station.

She might have taken to devious practices, or been forced into them;
whatever the cause of her present decadence she could not have been
always the thief she now confessed herself. I had it from her own
lips, she had acknowledged it with some show of remorse. There must
surely have been some excuse for her, some overmastering temptation,
some extreme pressure exercised irresistibly through her emotions, her
affections, her fears.

What! this fair creature a thief? This beautiful woman, so richly
endowed by nature, so outwardly worthy of admiration, a despicable
degraded character within? It was hard to credit it. As I still
hesitated, puzzled and bewildered, still anxious to give her the
benefit of the doubt, she came to the door of the buffet where I was
now seated at lunch, and allowed me to survey her more curiously and
more at leisure.

"A daughter of the gods, divinely tall and most divinely fair."

The height and slimness of her graceful figure enhanced by the
tight-fitting tailor-made ulster that fell straight from collar to
heel; her head well poised, a little thrown back with chin in the air,
and a proud defiant look in her undeniably handsome face. Fine eyes of
darkest blue, a well-chiseled nose with delicate, sensitive nostrils,
a small mouth with firm closely compressed lips, a wealth of glossy
chestnut hair, gathered into a knot under her tweed travelling cap.

As she faced me, looking straight at me, she conveyed the impression
of a determined unyielding character, a woman who would do much, dare
much, who would go her own road if so resolved, undismayed and
undeterred by any difficulties that might beset her.

Then, to my surprise, although I might have expected it, she came and
seated herself at a table close to my elbow. She had told her
companion that she wanted to know more about me, that she would like
to enlist me in her service, questionable though it might be, and here
she was evidently about to make the attempt. It was a little
barefaced, but I admit that I was amused by it, and not at all
unwilling to measure swords with her. She was presumably an
adventuress, clever, designing, desirous of turning me round her
finger, but she was also a pretty woman.

"I beg your pardon," she began almost at once in English, when the
waiter had brought her a plate of soup, and she was toying with the
first spoonful, speaking in a low constrained, almost sullen voice, as
though it cost her much to break through the _convenances_ in thus
addressing a stranger.

"You will think it strange of me," she went on, "but I am rather
awkwardly situated, in fact in a position of difficulty, even of
danger, and I venture to appeal to you as a countryman, an English
officer."

"How do you know that?" I asked, quickly concluding that my light
baggage had been subjected to scrutiny, and wondering what subterfuge
she would adopt to explain it.

"It is easy to see that. Gentlemen of your cloth are as easily
recognizable as if your names were printed on your back."

"And as they are generally upon our travelling belongings." I looked
at her steadily with a light laugh, and a crimson flush came on her
face. However hardened a character, she had preserved the faculty of
blushing readily and deeply, the natural adjunct of a cream-like
complexion.

"Let me introduce myself in full," I said, pitying her obvious
confusion; and I handed her my card, which she took with a shamefaced
air, rather foreign to her general demeanour.

"Lieut.-Colonel Basil Annesley, Mars and Neptune Club," she read
aloud. "What was your regiment?"

"The Princess Ulrica Rifles, but I left it on promotion. I am
unattached for the moment, and waiting for reemployment."

"Your own master then?"

"Practically, until I am called upon to serve. I hope to get a staff
appointment. Meanwhile I am loafing about Europe."

"Do you go beyond Lucerne?"

"Across the St. Gothard certainly, and as far as Como, perhaps beyond.
And you? Am I right in supposing we are to be fellow travellers by the
Engadine express?" I went on by way of saying something. "To Lucerne
or further?"




CHAPTER II.


"Probably." The answer was given with great hesitation. "If I go by
this train at all, that is to say."

"Have you any doubts?"

"Why, yes. To tell you the truth, I dread the journey. I have been
doing so ever since--since I felt it must be made. Now I find it ever
so much worse than I expected."

"Why is that, if I may ask?"

"You see, I am travelling alone, practically alone that is to say,
with only my maid."

"And your child," I added rather casually, with no second thought, and
I was puzzled to understand why the chance phrase evoked another vivid
blush.

"The child! Oh, yes, the child," and I was struck that she did not say
"my" child, but laid rather a marked stress on the definite article.

"That of course increases your responsibility," I hazarded, and she
seized the suggestion.

"Quite so. You see how I am placed. The idea of going all that way in
an empty train quite terrifies me."

"I don't see why it should."

"But just think. There will be no one in it, no one but ourselves. We
two lone women and you, single-handed. Suppose the five attendants and
the others were to combine against us? They might rob and murder us."

"Oh, come, come. You must not let foolish fears get the better of your
common sense. Why should they want to make us their victims? I believe
they are decent, respectable men, the employes of a great company,
carefully selected. At any rate, I am not worth robbing, are you? Have
you any special reason for fearing thieves? Ladies are perhaps a
little too reckless in carrying their valuables about with them. Your
jewel-case may be exceptionally well lined."

"Oh, but it is not; quite the contrary," she cried with almost
hysterical alacrity. "I have nothing to tempt them. And yet something
dreadful might happen; I feel we are quite at their mercy."

"I don't. I tell you frankly that I think you are grossly exaggerating
the situation. But if you feel like that, why not wait? Wait over for
another train, I mean?"

I am free to confess that, although my curiosity had been aroused, I
would much rather have washed my hands of her, and left her and her
belongings, especially the more compromising part, the mysterious
treasure, behind at Calais.

"Is there another train soon?" she inquired nervously.

"Assuredly--by Boulogne. It connects with the train from Victoria at
2.20 and the boat from Folkestone. You need only run as far as
Boulogne with this Engadine train, and wait there till it starts. I
think about 6 P.M."

"Will that not lose time?"

"Undoubtedly you will be two hours later at Basle, and you may lose
the connection with Lucerne and the St. Gothard if you want to get on
without delay. To Naples I think you said?"

"I did not say Naples. You said you were going to Naples," she replied
stiffly. "I did not mention my ultimate destination."

"Perhaps not. I have dreamt it. But I do not presume to inquire where
you are going, and I myself am certainly not bound for Naples. But if
I can be of no further use to you I will make my bow. It is time for
me to get back to the train, and for my part I don't in the least want
to lose the Engadine express."

She got up too, and walked out of the buffet by my side.

"I shall go on, at any rate as far as Boulogne," she volunteered,
without my asking the question; and we got into our car together, she
entering her compartment and I mine. I heard her door bang, but I kept
mine still open.

I smoked many cigarettes pondering over the curious episode and my new
acquaintance. How was I to class her? A young man would have sworn she
was perfectly straight, that there could be no guile in this
sweet-faced, gentle, well-mannered woman; and I, with my greater
experience of life and the sex, was much tempted to do the same. It
was against the grain to condemn her as all bad, a depredator, a woman
with perverted moral sense who broke the law and did evil things.

But what else could I conclude from the words I had heard drop from
her own lips, strengthened and confirmed as they were by the
incriminating language of her companion?

"Bother the woman and her dark blue eyes. I wish I'd never come across
her. A fine thing, truly, to fall in love with a thief. I hope to
heaven she will really leave the train at Boulogne; we ought to be
getting near there by now."

I had travelled the road often enough to know it by heart, and I
recognized our near approach only to realize that the train did not
mean to stop. I turned over the leaves of Bradshaw and saw I had been
mistaken; the train skirted Boulogne and never entered the station.

"Well, that settles it for the present, anyhow. If she still wants to
leave the train she must wait now until Amiens. That ought to suit her
just as well."

But it would not; at least, she lost no time in expressing her
disappointment at not being able to alight at Boulogne.

We had hardly passed the place when her maid's (or companion's) square
figure filled the open doorway of my compartment, and in her strong
deep voice she addressed a brief summons to me brusquely and
peremptorily:

"My lady wishes to speak to you."

"And pray what does 'my lady' want with me?" I replied carelessly,
using the expression as a title of rank.

"She is not 'my lady,' but 'my' lady, my mistress, and simply Mrs.
Blair." The correction and information were vouchsafed with cold
self-possession. "Are you coming?"

"I don't really see why I should," I said, not too civilly. "Why
should I be at her beck and call? If she had been in any trouble, any
serious trouble, such as she anticipated when talking to me at the
buffet, and a prey to imaginary alarms since become real, I should
have been ready to serve her or any woman in distress, but nothing of
this could have happened in the short hour's run so far."

"I thought you were a gentleman," was the scornful rejoinder. "A nice
sort of gentleman, indeed, to sit there like a stock or a stone when a
lady sends for you!"

"A lady!" There was enough sarcasm in my tone to bring a flush upon
her impassive face, a fierce gleam of anger in her stolid eyes; and
when I added, "A fine sort of lady!" I thought she would have struck
me. But she did no more than hiss an insolent gibe.

"You call yourself an officer, a colonel? I call you a bounder, a
common cad."

"Be off!" I was goaded into crying, angrily. "Get away with you; I
want to have nothing more to say to you or your mistress. I know what
you are and what you have been doing, and I prefer to wash my hands of
you both. You're not the kind of people I like to deal with or wish to
know."

She stared at me open-mouthed, her hands clenched, her eyes half out
of her head. Her face had gone deadly white, and I thought she would
have fallen there where she stood, a prey to impotent rage.

Now came a sudden change of scene. The lady, Mrs. Blair, as I had just
heard her called, appeared behind, her taller figure towering above
the maid's, her face in full view, vexed with varying acute emotions,
rage, grief, and terror combined.




CHAPTER III.


"What's all this?" she cried in great agitation. "Wait, do not speak,
Philpotts, leave him to me.... Do you go back to our place this
instant; we cannot be away together, you know that; _it_ must not be
left alone, one of us must be on guard over it. Hurry, hurry, I never
feel that _it_ is safe out of our sight.

"Now, sir," Mrs. Blair turned on me fiercely, "will you be so good as
to explain how I find you quarrelling with my maid, permitting
yourself to cast aspersions, to make imputations upon two unprotected
women?"

"How much have you overheard?" I asked, feeling very small already. My
self-reproach was aroused even before I quailed under the withering
contempt of her tone.

"Enough to expect ample apology. How dare you, how dare you say such
things? What you may imagine, what unworthy idea you may have formed,
is beyond me to guess, but you can know nothing. You can have no real
reason for condemning me."

"Let me admit that, and leave the matter there," I pleaded. I could
not bring myself to tell her that she was self-condemned, that she was
the principal witness against herself. It would have been too cruel,
ungenerous, to take an unfair advantage. Why should I constitute
myself her judge?

She looked at me very keenly, her eyes piercing me through and
through. I felt that she was penetrating my inmost thoughts and
turning me inside out.

"I will not leave it at that. I insist upon your speaking plainly. I
must know what is in your mind."

"And if I refuse, distinctly, positively, categorically; if I deny
your contention, and protest that I have nothing to tell you?"

"I shall not believe you. Come, please, let there be no more evasion.
I must have it out. I shall stay here until you tell me what you think
of me, and why."

She seated herself by my side in the narrow velvet seat of the small
compartment, so close that the folds of her tweed skirt (she had
removed her ulster) touched and rubbed against me. I was invaded by
the sweet savour of her gracious presence (she used some delightful
scent, _violette ideale_, I believe), by putting forth my hand a few
inches I might have taken hers in mine. She fixed her eyes on me with
an intent unvarying gaze that under other conditions would have been
intoxicating, but was now no more than disquieting and embarrassing.

As I was still tongue-tied, she returned to her point with resolute
insistence.

"Come, Colonel Annesley, how long is this to go on? I want and will
have an explanation. Why have you formed such a bad opinion of me?"

"How do you know I have done so?" I tried to fence and fight with her,
but in vain.

"I cannot be mistaken. I myself heard you tell my maid that you wished
to have nothing to say to us, that we were not your sort. Well! why is
that? How do I differ from the rest of--your world, let us call it?"

"You do not, as far as I can see. At least you ought to hold your own
anywhere, in any society, the very best."

"And yet I'm not 'your sort.' Am I a humbug, an impostor, an
adventuress, a puppet and play-actress? Or is it that I have
forfeited my right, my rank of gentlewoman, my position in the world,
your world?"

I was silent, moodily, obstinately silent. She had hit the blot, and
could put but one interpretation upon it. I saw she guessed I knew
something. Not how much, perhaps, but something to her discredit. She
still was not satisfied; she would penetrate my reserve, overcome my
reticence, have it out of me willy nilly, whether I would or no.

"You cannot surely refuse me? I have my reasons for desiring to know
the very worst."

"Why drive me to that?" I schooled myself to seem hard and
uncompromising. I felt I was weakening under the subtle charm of her
presence, and the pretty pleading of her violet eyes; but I was still
resolute not to give way.

"If you will only tell me why you think such evil I may be able to
justify myself, or at least explain away appearances that are against
me."

"You admit there are such appearances? Remember, I never said so."

"Then on what do you condemn me? You do condemn me, I am certain of
it," she insisted, seeing my gesture of negation. "Are you treating
me fairly, chivalrously, as a gentleman and a man of honour should?
How can you reconcile it to your conscience?"

"Some people talk very lightly of conscience, or use it when it is an
empty meaningless word," I said severely.

"You imply that I have no conscience, or that I should feel the
qualms, the prickings of conscience?"

"After what you've done, yes," I blurted out.

"What have I done? What do you know of it, or what led me to do it?
How dare you judge me without knowing the facts, without a shadow of
proof?" She sprang to her feet and passed to the door, where she
turned, as it were, at bay.

"I have the very best proof, from your own lips. I heard you and your
maid talking together at Calais."

"A listener, Colonel Annesley? Faugh!"

"It was forced on me. You stood under my window there." I defended
myself indignantly. "I wish to heaven I had never heard. I did not
want to know; your secrets are your own affair."

"And my actions, I presume?" she put in with superb indifference.

"And their consequences, madam," but the shot failed rather of effect.
She merely smiled and shook her head recklessly, contemptuously. Was
she so old a hand, so hardened in crime, that the fears of detection,
arrest, reprisals, the law and its penalties had no effect upon her?
Undoubtedly at Calais she was afraid; some misgiving, some haunting
terror possessed her. Now, when standing before me fully confessed for
what she was, and practically at my mercy, she could laugh with cool
and unabashed levity and make little of the whole affair.

If I had hoped that I had done with her now, when the murder was out,
I was very much mistaken. She had some further designs on me, I was
sure. She wanted to make use of me, how or in what way I could not
imagine; but I soon perceived that she was anxious to be friends. The
woman was in the ascendant, and, as I thought, the eternal feminine
ever agog to attract and subjugate the male, she would conquer my
admiration even if she could not secure my esteem.

Suddenly, and quite without my invitation or encouragement, she
reseated herself by my side.

"See, Colonel Annesley, let us come to an understanding." She said it
quite gaily and with no shadow of apprehension left in her, not a sign
of shame or remorse in her voice. Her mood had entirely changed. She
was _debonnaire_, frolicsome, overflowing with fun.

"What do you mean to do? Give me into custody? Call in the gendarmes
at the next station? Have me taken red-handed with the--stolen
property--the 'swag,' you know the word, perhaps, in my possession?"

"I am not a police officer; it's not my business," I answered gruffly.
I thought this flippancy very much misplaced.

"Or you might telegraph back to England, to London, to Scotland Yard:
'The woman Blair in the Engadine express. Wire along the line to
authorities, French and Swiss, to look out for her and arrest
preparatory to extradition.'"

"I would much rather not continue this conversation, Mrs. Blair."

"I am not 'Mrs. Blair,'" she cried, laughing merrily as at a
tremendous joke. "It is only one of my aliases. I am better known as
Slippery Sue, and the Countess of Plantagenet, and the Sly American,
and dashing Mrs. Mortimer, and--"

"Oh, please, please spare me. It does not matter, not a row of pins,
what you are called. I would rather not have the whole list," I
interrupted her, but could not check her restless tongue.

"You shall hear, you must know all about me and my famous exploits. I
was the heroine of that robbery at Buckingham Palace. I was at the
State Ball, and made a fine harvest of jewels. I have swept a dozen
country-houses clean; I have picked pockets and lifted old lace from
the shop counters, and embezzled and forged--"

"And turned pirate, and held up trains, and robbed the Bank of
England," I added, falling into her humour and laughing as she rose to
her full height; and again her mood changed, dominating me with
imperious air, her voice icily cold in manner, grave and repellent.

"Why not? I am a thief; you believe me to be a common thief."




CHAPTER IV.


I was too much taken aback to do better than stammer out helplessly,
hopelessly, almost unintelligibly, a few words striving to remind her
of her own admission. Nothing, indeed, could take the sting out of
this, and yet it was all but impossible to accuse her, to blame her
even for what she had done.

She read that in my eyes, in my abashed face, my hands held out
deprecating her wrath, and her next words had a note of conciliation
in them.

"There are degrees of wrong-doing, shades of guilt," she said.
"Crimes, offences, misdeeds, call them as you please, are not
absolutely unpardonable; in some respects they are excusable, if not
justifiable. Do you believe that?"

"I should like to do so in your case," I replied gently. "You know I
am still quite in the dark."

"And you must remain so, for the present at any rate," she said
firmly and sharply. "I can tell you nothing, I am not called upon to
do it indeed. We are absolute strangers, I owe you no explanation, and
I would give you none, even if you asked."

"I have not asked and shall not ask anything."

"Then you are willing to take it so, to put the best construction on
what you have heard, to forget my words, to surrender your
suspicions?"

"If you will tell me only this: that I may have confidence in you,
that I may trust you, some day, to enlighten me and explain what seems
so incomprehensible to-day."

"I am sorely tempted to do so now," she paused, lost for a time in
deep and anxious thought; and then, after subjecting me to a long and
intent scrutiny, she shook her head. "No, it cannot be, not yet. You
must earn the right to my confidence, you must prove to me that you
will not misuse it. There are others concerned; I am not speaking for
myself alone. You must have faith in me, believe in me or let it be."

She had beaten me, conquered me. I was ready to be her slave with
blind, unquestioning obedience.

"As you think best. I will abide by your decision. Tell me all or
nothing. If the first I will help you, if the latter I will also help
you as far as lies in my power."

"Without conditions?" And when I nodded assent such a smile lit up her
face that more than repaid me, and stifled the doubts and qualms that
still oppressed me. But, bewitched by the sorcery of her bright eyes,
I said bravely:

"I accept service--I am yours to command. Do with me what you please."

"Will you give me your hand on it?" She held out hers, gloveless,
white and warm, and it lay in mine just a second while I pressed it to
my lips in token of fealty and submission.

"You shall be my knight and champion, and I say it seriously. I may
call you to fight for me, at least to defend and protect me in my
present undertaking. The way is by no means clear. I cannot foresee
what may happen on this journey. There are risks, dangers before me. I
may ask you to share them. Do you repent already?"

She had been watching me closely for any sign of wavering, but I
showed none, whatever I might feel in my inmost heart.

"I shall not disappoint you," was what I said, and, in a firm assured
voice, added, "You have resolved then to travel forward in this
train?"

"I must, I have no choice. I dare not tarry by the way. But I no
longer feel quite alone and unprotected. If trouble arises, I tell you
candidly I shall try to throw it on you."

"From what quarter do you anticipate it?" I asked innocently enough.
"You expect to be pursued, I presume?"

She held up a warning finger.

"That is not in the compact. You are not to be inquisitive. Ask me no
questions, please, but wait on events. For the present you must be
satisfied so, and there is nothing more to be said."

"I shall see you again, I trust," I pleaded, as she rose to leave me.

"If you wish, by all means. Why should we not dine together in the
dining-car by and by?" she proposed with charming frankness, in the
lighter mood that sat so well upon her. "The waiters will be there to
play propriety, and no Mrs. Grundy within miles."

"Or your maid might be chaperon at an adjoining table."

"Philpotts? Impossible! She cannot leave--she must remain on duty; one
of us must be in charge always. Who knows what might happen when our
backs were turned? We might lose it--it might be abstracted. Horrible
thought after all it has cost us."

"'It' has evidently an extraordinary value in your eyes. If only I
might be allowed to--" know more, I would have said, but she chose to
put other words into my mouth.

"To join us in the watching? Take your turn of 'sentry go'--isn't that
your military term? Become one of us, belong to a gang of thieves,
liable like the rest of us to the law? Ah, that would be trying you
too far. I see your face fall."

"I am ready to do much to serve you. I would gladly help you, see you
through any difficulty by the way, but I'm afraid I must draw the line
at active partnership," I answered a little lamely under her mocking
eyes. Once more, as suddenly as before, she veered round.

"There is a limit, then, to your devotion?" She was coldly sarcastic
now, and I realized painfully that I had receded in her favour. "I
must not expect unhesitating self-sacrifice? So be it; it is well to
know how far I may go. I sincerely hope I may have no need of you at
all. How thankful I am that I never let you into my secrets! Good
afternoon," and with a contemptuous whisk of her skirts and a laugh,
she was gone.

"I'll have nothing more to say to her," I cried in great heat, vexed
and irritated beyond measure at her capricious temper. I should only
be dragged into some pitfall, some snare, some dire unpleasantness.
But what did I know of her real character? What of my first doubts and
suspicions? She had by no means dispelled them. She had only
bamboozled me by her insinuating ways, had drawn me on by her guileful
cleverness to pity and promises to befriend her. I had accorded her an
active sympathy which in my more sober moments I felt she did not,
could not, deserve; if I were not careful she would yet involve me in
some inextricable mess.

So for half an hour I abused her fiercely; I swore at myself hotly as
an ass, a hopeless and unmitigated ass, ever ready to be betrayed and
beguiled by woman's wiles, the too easy victim of the first pretty
face I saw. The fit lasted for quite half an hour, and then came the
reaction. I heard her rich deep voice singing in my ears, I felt the
haunting glamour of her eyes, remembered her gracious presence, and my
heart went out to her. I was so sorry for her: how could I cast her
off? How could I withhold my countenance if she were in real distress?
She was a woman--a weak, helpless woman; I could not desert and
abandon her. However reprehensible her conduct might have been, she
had a claim to my protection from ill-usage, and I knew in my heart
that she might count upon a good deal more. I knew, of course, that I
ought not to stand between her and the inevitable Nemesis that awaits
upon misdeeds, but what if I helped her to avoid or escape it?

The opportunity was nearer at hand than I thought. My kindly
intentions, bred of my latest sentiments towards Mrs. Blair, were soon
to be put to the test.




CHAPTER V.


The train reached Amiens punctually at 5 P.M., and a stoppage
of five minutes was announced. I got out to stretch my legs on the
platform. No one took much notice of us; it must have been known that
the train was empty, for there were no waiters from the buffet with
_cafe au lait_ or fruit, or _brioches_--no porters about, or other
officials.

I had not expected to see any passengers come on board the train, a
through express, made up of sleeping-cars and a supplementary charge
on the tickets. But on running into the station (ours was the first
carriage) I had noticed a man standing with a valise in his hand, and
I saw him following the train down the platform when we stopped. He
addressed himself to a little group of conductors who had already
alighted, and were gossiping idly among themselves, having nothing
else to do. One of them indicated our particular attendant, to whom
he spoke, and who brought him directly to our carriage.

Evidently the newcomer was bound for Lucerne _via_ Basle. Here was one
more occupant of our neglected train, another companion and fellow
traveller in our nearly empty sleeping-car. Curiosity and something
more led me to examine this man closely; it was a strange, undefined,
inexplicable sense of foreboding, of fateful forecast, that he and I
were destined to be thrown together unpleasantly, to be much mixed up
with one another, and to the comfort and satisfaction of neither.

Who and what was he? His position in life, his business, trade or
calling were not to be easily fixed; a commercial man, an agent or
"traveller" on his own account, well-to-do and prosperous, was the
notion borne out by his dress, his white waistcoat and coloured shirt
of amazing pattern (a hint of his Italian origin), his rings and the
showy diamond pin in his smart necktie.

I added to this, my first impression, by further observation, for
which I soon had abundant opportunity. When the train moved on, he
came and took his seat on the flap seat (or _strapontin_) just
opposite my compartment. I could not tell why, until presently he
made overtures of sociability and began a desultory talk across the
corridor. My cabin or compartment, it will be remembered, was the last
but one; the newcomer had been given the one behind mine, and here
from his seat he commanded the whole length of the carriage forward,
which included the compartment occupied by Mrs. Blair and her party.

I cannot say that I liked his looks or was greatly attracted by him.
He was not prepossessing. Fair, with a flaccid unwholesome complexion,
foxy haired, his beard cut to a point, small moustaches curled upward
showing thin pale lips, and giving his mouth a disagreeable curve also
upwards, a sort of set smile that was really a sardonic sneer,
conveying distrust and disbelief in all around. His eyes were so deep
set as to be almost lost in their recesses behind his sandy eyelashes,
and he kept them screwed up close, with the intent watchful gaze of an
animal about to make a spring. His whole aspect, his shifty, restless
manner, his furtive looks, all were antipathetic and to his great
advantage. I did not take to him at all, and plainly showed him that
I had no desire for his talk or his company.

It was not easy to shake him off, however. He would take no offence; I
was cold to positive rudeness, I snubbed him unmercifully; I did not
answer his remarks or his questions, which were incessant and
shamelessly inquisitorial. Nothing disconcerted him. I had all but
shut the door of my compartment in his face, but it suddenly occurred
to me that he was capable of wandering on, and when he found the
ladies inflicting his greasy attentions upon them.

I felt that I had better submit to his unpalatable society than let
him bore Mrs. Blair with his colossal impudence.

How right I was in this became at once apparent. He had taken out a
cigar-case and pressed one upon me with such pertinacious, offensive
familiarity that I could see no way out of it than by saying
peremptorily:

"You cannot smoke here. There are ladies in that compartment yonder."

"Ladies indeed! You surprise me," but I saw a look on his face that
convinced me he perfectly well knew they were there. "Ladies, aha! How
many, may I ask?"

"One at least, with her maid and a child," I replied gruffly.

"And a child," he repeated, as if by rote. "Does monsieur, tell me
quickly, I--I--beg--know them! Can he describe them to me?"

"I shall tell you nothing about them. What the mischief do you mean by
asking me questions? Find out what you want for yourself." I was hot
and indignant with the brute.

"By George, you're right. I'll go and ask for leave to smoke. I shall
find out then," and he jumped up, the spring seat closing with a bang
from under him.

The noise concealed the sound of the electric bell which I had pressed
to summon the attendant, as I rushed out and caught the other man by
the arm.

"You'll do nothing of the kind," I cried with very vigorous emphasis,
backed by all my strength. "I'll shake you to a jelly if you dare to
move another inch."

"Here, I say, drop it. Who the deuce are you? None of your bally
nonsense. Hands off, or I'll make you."

But he was too soft and flabby to avail much, and I dragged him back
helplessly with tightened grip, only too delighted to try conclusions
with him.

At this moment the conductor appeared upon the scene, and began to
expostulate loudly.

"Here, I say, what's all this? It can't be allowed. No fighting and
quarrelling are permitted."

"Well, then, people must behave themselves," I retorted. "Don't let
this chap annoy your passengers."

"I have done nothing to annoy them," stammered the other. "You shall
answer for this. I've done no harm."

"I'll see you don't. Get in there and stay there;" and with that I
forced him, almost flung him, into his compartment, where he fell
panting upon the velvet sofa.

"You'd better keep an eye on him," I said to the conductor, who was
inclined to be disagreeable, and was barely pacified by a couple of
five-franc pieces. "Fellows of this sort are apt to be a nuisance, and
we must take care of the ladies."

As I said this I saw Mrs. Blair's face peering out beyond her door a
little nervously, but she ventured to come right out and along the
passage towards me.

"What has happened? I heard some noise, high words, a scuffle."

"Some ruffian who got in at Amiens, and who has had to be taught
manners. I told him not to smoke here, and he wanted to intrude
himself upon you, which I prevented, a little forcibly."

"Where is he? In here?" and she followed the indication of my thumb as
I jerked it back, and looked over my shoulder into the compartment.

"Ah!" The ejaculation was involuntary, and one of acute painful
surprise, the gesture that accompanied it spontaneous and full of
terror.

"That man! that man!" she gasped. "He must not see me; let me go, let
me go!"

But her strength failed her, and but for my supporting arm she would
have fallen to the ground. Half-fainting, I led her back to her own
compartment, where her maid received her tenderly and with comforting
words. There was clearly a strong bond of affection between these two,
possibly companions and confederates in wrong-doing; the delicate and
refined woman, tormented by the inner qualms of outraged conscience,
relied and leant upon the stronger and more resolute nature.

"What's come to you, ma'am? There, there, don't give way," said the
maid, softly coaxing her and stroking her hands.

"Oh, Philpotts, fancy! He is there! Falfani, the--the--you know--"

Of course I saw it all now. Stupid ass! I might have guessed it all
along. I had puzzled my brains vainly trying to place him, to fix his
quality and condition in life, neglecting the one simple obvious
solution to which so many plain indications pointed. The man, of
course, was a detective, an officer or private agent, and his dirty
business--you see, I was already shaken in my honesty, and now with
increasing demoralization under seductive influences I was already
inclined to cross over to the other side of the frontier of crime--his
dirty business was the persecution of my sweet friend.

"What are we to do now?" asked Mrs. Blair, her nervous trepidation
increasing. "I begin to think we shall fail, we cannot carry it
through, we shall lose our treasure. It will be taken from us."

"You cannot, you must not, shall not turn back now," said the maid
with great determination. "We must devise something, some way, of
outwitting this Falfani. We did it before, we must do it again. After
all he has no power over us; we are in France and shall be in
Switzerland by daylight."

"We ought to go on, you think? Wouldn't it be better to slip out of
the train at the first station and run away?"

"He would do the same. He does not intend to let us out of his sight.
And how much the better should we be? It would be far worse; we should
be much more at his mercy if we left the train. The journey would
still have to be made; we must get to the end, the very end, or we'd
better not have started."

"He will know then, if he sticks to us. We cannot hide it from him,
nor where we have taken it; we shall never be able to keep it, they
will come and claim it and recover it;" and she cried hysterically: "I
cannot see my way; it's all dark, black as night. I wish--I wish--"

"That you had never done it?" quickly asked the maid; and I noticed a
slight sarcasm in her tone that was not without its effect in bracing
up and strengthening her companion's shattered nerves.

"No, no, no; I do not regret it, and I never shall. I did it
deliberately, counting the cost fully, and it shall be paid, however
heavy it may be. It is not regret that tortures me, but the fear of
failure when so near success."

"We will succeed yet. Do not be cast down, my sweet dear." The maid
patted her on the cheek with great affection. "We shall find a way.
This gentleman, the colonel here, will help us, perhaps."

"Will you?" Who could resist her pleading voice and shining eyes? If I
had had any scruples left I would have thrown them to the winds.

"Whatever lies in my power to do shall be done without stint or
hesitation," I said solemnly, careless of all consequences, content to
hold her hand and earn her heartfelt thanks. What though I were
pawning my honour?




CHAPTER VI.

[_The Statement of Domenico Falfani, confidential agent,
made to his employers, Messrs. Becke and Co., of the Private
Inquiry Offices, 279 St. Martin's Lane, W.C._]


I propose, gentlemen, to set down here at length the story of my
mission, and the events which befell me from the time I first received
my instructions. You desired me to pursue and call to strict account a
certain lady of title, who had fallen away from her high estate and
committed an act of rank felony. The circumstances which led up to her
disappearance and the partners of her flight are already well known to
you.

The only indication given me, as you are aware, was that I might take
it for granted that she would go abroad and probably by the most
direct route to the South, to Switzerland and across the Alps into
Italy. My orders having only reached me in the early morning, the
theft having presumably been committed during the night previous to
Sunday, September 21, I was unable to ascertain through the tourist
agencies whether any and what tickets had been booked in the
directions indicated.

My most urgent duty then was to watch the outgoing Continental trains,
the first of which left Charing Cross for Dover and Calais at 9
A.M. I closely watched it therefore, and its passengers, and
travelled with it to Cannon Street, where I continued my search, but
without result. I was greatly helped in my quest by the not unusual
fact noticeable on Sundays, that travellers abroad are few in number.

I had no difficulty in satisfying myself that the lady and her party
were not in this train, and I returned at once to Charing Cross in
time for the second Continental train, the 10 A.M.

I had resolved to book myself by that as far as Amiens, for I knew
that, once there, I should have reached a central point or junction, a
sort of throat through which every train moving southward to Paris or
Switzerland must pass.

There remained, of course, the route via Dover by Ostend and through
Brussels; but I had been informed by you that Ludovic Tiler, my
colleague and coworker, was to undertake the inquiry on that line.

It is part of my business to be thoroughly familiar with the
Continental Bradshaw, and I soon ticked off the different trains that
interested me.

There was first the 11 A.M. from Victoria by Dover and
Calais, where it connected with the Paris express and the sleeping-car
Engadine express, both of which run through Amiens, where, however,
the latter branches off to Basle and beyond, with special cars for
Lucerne, Zurich and Coire.

Then came the 2.20 P.M. from Charing Cross to Folkestone, and
so to Boulogne, Amiens and the rest, travelling the same road as the
Engadine express. This was the last of the day service, as it gave
most time, allowing people to start at the very latest moment, and I
felt it quite probable that my lady would prefer to take it.

I reached Amiens a little before 5 P.M., and I had a wait of
half an hour for the first express from Calais. I was greatly
disappointed when at last it appeared issuing from the tunnel, and
passed me where I stood at the commencement of the platform, taking
stock of each carriage as it passed. The train seemed to be quite
empty; there were no passengers, so the officials, the conductors,
informed me when I talked to them, sad and unhappy at the certain loss
of tips. Only one of them had any luck, Jules l'Echelle, of the
Lucerne sleeping-car, who had one or two people on board.

I questioned him not very hopefully, but was agreeably surprised when
he told me that his clients consisted of two ladies with a child, and
one gentleman. English? Yes, all English. The lady, quite a lady, a
_grande dame belle personne_, tall, fine figure, well dressed; her
companion no doubt her servant; the child, well, an ordinary child, an
infant in arms. What would you?

I had them, I felt sure. There could be no mistaking this description.
I held them in the hollow of my hand. Here they were in this car, and
it would be all my own fault if they escaped me. It would be necessary
only to verify my conclusions, to identify the lady according to the
description and photograph given me. For the rest I knew what to do.

But now a quite unexpected difficulty turned up.

As I have said, there was one other passenger, a gentleman, in the
car, and I felt it would be prudent to make his acquaintance. No doubt
I could tell at the first glance whether or not he was an ordinary
traveller, or whether he was a friend and accomplice of the lady under
observation.

I regret to say that he met me in a very hostile spirit. I was at
great pains to be affable, to treat him with all the courtly
consideration I have at command, and I flatter myself that in the
matter of tact and good-breeding I do not yield to princes of the
blood royal. But my civility was quite thrown away. The man was an
absolute brute, abrupt, overbearing, rude. Nothing would conciliate
him. I offered him a cigar (a Borneo of the best brand, at 10s. the
hundred), and he not only refused it, but positively forbade me to
smoke. There were ladies in the carriage, he said (this was the first
reference made to them), and, when declining to be ordered about, I
proposed to refer the question to themselves, he threw himself
violently upon me and assaulted me brutally.

Fortunately the attendant came to my rescue or I should have been
seriously injured. He lifted me into my compartment very kindly, and
acted like an old friend, as indeed he was, for I remembered him as
the Jules l'Echelle with whom I served some time back as an assistant
at the Baths of Bormio.

It was, of course, clear to my mind that my assailant was associated
in some way with the lady, and probably a confederate. I saw that I
must know more about him, with the least possible delay, and as soon
as Jules had left me, promising to return later and talk of old times,
and the changes that had come over us since then, I ventured to look
out and get a glimpse of the other man, I will not call him gentleman
after his conduct.

He was nowhere in sight, but I could hear his voice, several voices,
talking together at the far end. No doubt he had joined his friends in
their compartment, and the moment seemed opportune to visit his. It
was next to mine, and the door stood invitingly open. A few minutes,
seconds even, would be enough to tell me something of his identity,
perhaps all I wanted to.

At least he made no pretence at mystery; his light baggage lay about,
a dressing bag, a roll of rugs, a couple of sticks and an umbrella
strapped together, all very neat and precise and respectable, and all
alike furnished with a parchment tag or label bearing in plain
language all that I wanted to know.

His name was printed "Lieut.-Col. Basil Annesley," and his club, the
Mars and Neptune, that famous military house in Piccadilly.
Underneath, on all, his destination was written, "Hotel Bellevue,
Bellagio, Como." There could never be the least difficulty in finding
this person if I wanted him, as I thought likely. He was a blustering,
swashbuckling army officer, who could always be brought to account if
he misconducted himself, or mixed himself up in shady transactions.

In my great contentment at the discovery I had been wanting in
caution, and I lingered too long on forbidden ground.

"You infernal scoundrel," cried some one from the door, and once more
I felt an angry hand on my shoulder. "How come you here? Explain
yourself."

"It's all a mistake," I began, trying to make the best of it,
struggling to get free. But he still held me in a grip of iron, and it
was not until my friend Jules appeared that I got out of the enemy's
clutches.

"Here, I say!" shouted Jules vaguely. "This won't do, you know. I
shall have to lodge a complaint against you for brawling."

"Complaint, by George!" he replied, shaking his fist at me. "The boot
is on the other leg, I take it. How is it that I find this chap in my
compartment? Foraging about, I believe."

"Indeed no, Colonel Annesley," I protested, forgetting myself; and he
caught at it directly.

"Oho, so you know my name! That proves what I say. You've been messing
about and overhauling my things. I won't stand it. The man's a thief.
He will have to be locked up."

"I'm not the only thief in the car, then," I cried, for I was now mad
with him and his threats.

"I don't know what you're driving at, or whom you think to accuse; but
I tell you this, my friend, that I shall call in the police at the
next station and hand you over."

I looked at the conductor Jules, appealing for protection. I saw at
once that it would be terrible for me to have any trouble with the
police. They could do me no harm, but I might be delayed, obliged to
leave the train, and I should lose sight of the lady, possibly fail
altogether.

Jules responded at once. "Come, come," he said. "You're talking big.
You might own the whole train. Who might you be?"

"None of your confounded impudence," shouted the Colonel, as he
pointed to one of the luggage labels. "That's who I am. It's good
enough to get you discharged before you're a much older man. And now I
call upon you to do your duty. I have caught this man under suspicious
circumstances in the very act of rifling my effects. I insist upon his
being taken into custody."

"There isn't enough for that," Jules answered, still my friend, but
weakening a little before this masterly army officer, and I felt that
I must speak for myself.

"And if you stop me I will have the law of you for false imprisonment,
and bring heavy damages. You will be doing me a great injury in my
business."

"Precisely what I should like to do, my fine fellow. I can guess what
your business is. Nothing reputable, I feel sure."

"I'm not ashamed of it, and I have powerful friends behind me. I am
acting for--"

"Yes?" he asked me mockingly, for I had checked my tongue, fearing to
say too much.

"It is my affair. Enough that you will feel the weight of their hands
if you interfere with me in carrying out their instructions."

"Well, anyhow, tell me who you are. I've a right to know that in
exchange. You chose to help yourself to my name; now I insist upon
knowing yours."

I told him, not very readily, as may be supposed.

"Domenico Falfani? Is that your own or a 'purser's' name? Come, you
know what I mean. It's part of your stock in trade to understand all
languages, including slang. Is that the name he has given you?"--this
to the conductor. "Show me your way-bill, your _feuille de route_."

Jules at a nod from me produced it, and no doubt understood my reason
when in my turn I claimed to see it.

"I have a clear right," I insisted, overruling all objections raised
by the Colonel; and taking it into my hands I read the names aloud,
"Colonel Annesley, Mrs. Blair, maid and child." I pronounced the name
with great contempt.

"You talk of purser's names," I said sneeringly. "What do you think of
this? Blair, indeed! No more the woman's name than Smith or Jones, or
what you please."

"Speak more respectfully of a lady," cried the Colonel, catching me
tightly by the arm.

"Lady? Oho! Don't, Colonel, drop it. At any rate, she is not Mrs.
Blair; you may take that from me," I said as impressively as a judge
on the bench. "And what's more, Colonel, I wouldn't press charges you
can't substantiate against me, or I may hit back with another not so
easy to meet. Try to stop me at the next station, and I'll stop your
pal--ah, don't"--he had a cruelly strong hand--"your Mrs. Blair, and
she'll find herself in a particularly tight place."

"We'll see about that," said the Colonel, who kept a stiff face, but
was, I think, rather crestfallen. "I shall act as I think best.
Anyhow, get out of this, both of you. This is my private berth, and
you are trespassing."




CHAPTER VII.


Whatever may have been the Colonel's intentions when he caught me in
his compartment, something, and I think my last words, led him to
modify them. He felt, probably, that if he attacked me I might
retaliate unpleasantly. I ought to be able to hold my own with him,
although in truth I was not over happy at the course events had taken,
and I could not compliment myself on my good management.

I had not been overprudent; I had pressed my attentions on him rather
abruptly, although I had the excuse that I usually found them well
received, thanks to my affable address; again I had behaved most
incautiously in penetrating his identity.

And, worse than all, I had still no certainty. I could only surmise
that the lady was the one I was in search of, for I had not as yet
clapt eyes on her, and I had been to some extent driven to show my
hand before I had made my ground good. So the first thing I did on
regaining my own compartment was to ring for Jules, the conductor, and
put before him the photograph with which I was provided, and ask him
if he recognized it.

"But perfectly. It is the lady yonder," he said promptly. "Is it your
own, or did you find it or annex it from next door? Ah, your own; and
what have you to do with her?"

"I may tell you some day, Jules. For the present you must know that I
am after her; I have to watch her, stick to her like her shadow until
it is time to act."

"An adventuress, eh?"

"She is in possession of what does not belong to her; something she
abstracted from--from--Never mind where, and it must be recovered from
her here, or after she leaves the car."

"Afterwards, please. We can't have any scandal on board here."

"Five hundred francs wouldn't tempt you to let me have a free hand for
just half an hour? I could do it, say somewhere short of Basle, and on
reaching there make off. No one should be any the wiser, and they, the
women, wouldn't dare to make a fuss."

"It's I who do not dare--not for twice five hundred francs. My place
is worth more than that; and if it is a dog's life, it is better than
lying on the straw. Besides, there's her friend the Colonel, he'll be
on the alert, you may depend."

"So must I be, and I must find some way to circumvent him. I'll be
even with him. He sha'n't beat me, the overbearing, hectoring brute.
It's between him and me, and I think I'm a match for him."

I spoke this confidently to my friend, who engaged for his part to do
all in his power to assist, or at least to do nothing against me, and
I was content to bide my time. Pride goes before a fall. I was not as
clever as I thought, and shall have to tell you how seriously I had
underrated his worth in the coming trial of strength.

As the train sped on and the night began to close in on us, I remained
quietly in my berth, pondering over my position, and in considering
the course I should adopt under various contingencies. The first and
most serious danger was that the lady should succeed in leaving the
train at any of the intermediate stations at Basle, and so give me
the slip. There were Laon, Rheims, Chaumont, and the rest.

It must be my business to keep close watch against any evasion of this
kind, and Jules had promised to help. I did not look for any such
attempt until far into the night, when the stations were empty and
half-dark, and I agreed with Jules to divide the hours till daylight,
he taking the first, I the last. We were due at Basle at 5 A.M., and I
expected to join forces then with Tiler, my colleague, coming from the
side of Ostend, via Brussels and Strasburg.

Meanwhile I kept quiet and made no sign beyond showing that I was
there and on the spot ready to act if it should be necessary. Thus,
when the train slackened speed on approaching a station, I was always
on the move and the first to descend and patrol the platform. The
Colonel always got out too, but he never accosted me; indeed, he
seemed disposed to despise me, to ignore my existence, or dare me to
the worst I could do.

I suppose the lady must have been of the same mind, for when
dinner-time arrived, she came boldly out of her compartment, and I met
her face to face for the first time, on her way to the restaurant. I
was standing at the door of my compartment.

"Dinner is ready," the Colonel said to me significantly, but I did not
choose to understand, and shook my head, holding my ground.

"You are coming to dinner, I think," he repeated in a sharp commanding
way, as if he were talking to his soldiers.

"I shall please myself about that," I replied gruffly.

"Not a bit of it. One moment," he whispered to the lady, who walked
on, and turned again to me: "Now see here, my friend, I do not mean to
leave you behind. You will come to the dining-car with us, and no two
ways about it, even if I have to carry you."

"I won't dine with you," I cried.

"I never asked you to dine with me, but you shall dine when I do. I
will pay for your dinner, but I wouldn't sit at table with you for
worlds," he shouted with scornful laughter. "You're going to dine
under my eye, that's all, even though the sight of you is enough to
make one sick. So come along, sharp's the word, see? Walk first; let
him pass you, Mrs. Blair."

I felt I had no choice. He was capable of again assaulting me. There
was something in his manner that cowed me, and I was obliged in spite
of myself to give way.

There were only three of us in the dining-car, and we were not a very
merry company. Our tables were laid almost adjoining, and there was no
conversation between us, except when the Colonel asked me with
contemptuous civility what wine I preferred. He did not talk to the
lady, or the merest commonplaces, for I was within earshot. But I made
an excellent dinner, I must confess. I had eaten nothing since Amiens.
Then I got back to my berth, where the bed was made. I threw myself on
to it, rejoiced at the prospect of getting a few hours' sleep while
Jules remained on the watch.

He was to call me a little before reaching Basle, and, like an ass
that I was, I fully relied on his doing so, believing him to be my
friend. Such friendship as his did not bear any great strain, as I
learnt presently to my great chagrin.

I slept heavily, but in fitful snatches, as a man does when constantly
disturbed by the whirr and whizzing of the train, the rattle and
jangle of wheels passing over ill-jointed points. After one of the
longest periods of unconsciousness I awoke, aroused by the complete
absence of noise. The train was at a standstill in some station and
making a very protracted halt.

Something moved me to lift the blind and look out, and I saw, not
without uneasiness, that we were at Basle. I thought I recognized the
station, but I soon made out for certain the name "Basilea" (Basle),
and saw the clock with the fingers at five-thirty. People were already
on the move, work-people, the thrifty, industrious Swiss, forestalling
time, travellers in twos and threes arriving and departing by the
early train through this great junction on the frontier of
Switzerland.

Stay! What? Who are those crossing the platform hurriedly. Great
powers! Right under my eyes, a little party of four, two females, two
men accompanying them, escorting them, carrying rugs and parcels.
There could not be a shadow of doubt.

It was the lady, the so-called Mrs. Blair, in full flight, with all
her belongings, and under the care and guidance not only of the
Colonel, that of course, but also of the perfidious Jules l'Echelle.
He had sold me! All doubt of his treachery disappeared when on rushing
to the door I found I had been locked into my compartment.

I rang the electric bell frantically, again and again. I got no
answer; I threw up the window and thrust my head out, shouting for
help, but got none, only one or two sluggish porters came up and asked
what was amiss, answering stolidly, when they heard, that it was none
of their business. "They had no key, it must be a mistake. The
conductor would explain, I must wait till he came."

Presently Jules arrived, walking very leisurely from the direction of
the restaurant, and he stood right under my window with a grin on his
face and mockery in his voice.

"What's wrong? Locked in? Can't be possible? Who could have done it? I
will inquire," he said slowly and imperturbably.

"No, no; let me out first. You can do it if you choose. I believe it
was your trickery from the first. I must get out, I tell you, or they
will escape me," I cried.

"Not unlikely. I may say it is pretty certain they will. That was the
Colonel's idea; you'd better talk to him about it next time you see
him."

"And that will be never, I expect. He's not going to show up here
again."

"There you're wrong; he will be back before the train starts, you may
rely on that, and you'll be able to talk to him. We'll let you out
then," he was laughing at me, traitor that he was. "Here he comes.
We're just going on."

Now I saw my last chance of successfully performing my mission
disappearing beyond recall. I renewed my shouts and protests, but was
only laughed at for my pains. The railway officials at Basle might
have interfered, but Jules answered for me, declaring with a
significant gesture that I was in drink and that he would see to me.

I quite despaired. Already the train was moving out of the station,
when, to my intense joy, I caught sight of Ludovic Tiler, who came
down the platform running alongside us, and crying, "Falfani,
Falfani," as he recognized me.

"Don't mind me," I shouted to him. "I must go on, I can't help myself.
It's for you to take it up now. She's in the restaurant. You'll easily
know her, in a long ulster, with her maid and the child. You can't
miss her. By the Lord, she is standing at the door! Get away with
you, don't let her see you talking with me. She must not know we are
acting in common, and I do hope she hasn't noticed. Be off, I tell
you, only let me hear of you; wire to Lucerne what you're doing.
Address telegraph-office. Send me a second message at Goeschenen. I
shall get one or both. Say where I may answer and where I can join
you."




CHAPTER VIII.


The timely appearance of my colleague, Ludovic Tiler, consoled me a
little for the loss of the lady and her lot. I had failed, myself, but
I hoped that with my lead he would get on to the scent and keep to it.
Ere long, on the first intimation from him I might come into the game
again. I should be guided by his wire if I got it.

For the moment I was most concerned to find out whether Tiler's
intervention and my short talk with him had been noticed by the other
side. If the Colonel knew that another man was on his friend's track,
he would surely have left the train at once so as to go to her
assistance. But he was still in the train, I could hear him plainly,
speaking to Jules in the next compartment. Again, as we sped on, I
reasoned favourably from their leaving me as I was, still under lock
and key. No one came near me until after we had passed Olten station,
the first stopping-place after Basle, where I could alight and retrace
my steps. By holding on to me I guessed that I was still thought to
be the chief danger, and that they had no suspicion of Tiler's
existence.

I laughed in my sleeve, but not the less did I rage and storm when
Jules l'Echelle came with the Colonel to release me.

"You shall pay for this," I cried hotly.

"As for you, l'Echelle, it shall cost you your place, and I'll take
the law of you, Colonel Annesley; I'll get damages and you shall
answer for your illegal action."

"Pfui!" retorted the Colonel. "The mischief you can do is nothing to
what you might have done. We can stand the racket. I've bested you for
the present--that's the chief thing, anyway. You can't persecute the
poor lady any more."

"Poor lady! Do you know who she is or was, anyway?"

"Of course I do," he answered bold as brass.

"Did she let on? Told you, herself? My word! She's got a nerve. I
wonder she'd own to it after all she's done."

"Silence!" he shouted, in a great taking. "If you dare to utter a
single word against that lady, I'll break every bone in your body."

"I'm saying nothing--it's not me, it's all the world. It was in the
papers, you must have read them, the most awful story, such--such
depravity there never was--such treachery, such gross misconduct."

He caught me by the arm so violently and looked so fierce that for a
moment I was quite alarmed.

"Drop it, I tell you. Leave the lady alone, both by word and deed.
You'll never find her again, I've seen to that. She has escaped you."

"Aha! You think so? Don't be too cocksure. We understand our
business better than that, we don't go into it single-handed. You've
collared me for a bit, but I'm not the only one in the show."

"The only one that counts," he said sneering.

"Am I?" I answered in the same tone. "What if I had a pal waiting for
me at Basle, who received my instructions there--just when you thought
you had me safe--and has now taken up the running?"

He was perfectly staggered at this, I could see plainly. I thought at
first he would have struck me, he was so much upset.

"You infernal villain," he shouted, "I believe the whole thing is a
confounded lie! Explain."

"I owe you no explanations," I replied stiffly, "my duty is to my
employers. I only account to them for my conduct. I am a confidential
agent."

He seemed impressed by this, for when he spoke again it was more
quietly. But he looked me very straight in the eyes. I felt that he
was still likely to give trouble.

"Well, I suppose I cannot expect you to tell me things. You must go
your own way and I shall go mine."

"I should advise you to leave it, Colonel," I said, civilly enough.
"I'm always anxious to conciliate and avoid unpleasantness. Give up
the whole business; you will only burn your fingers."

"Ah! How so?"

"The law is altogether against you. It is a nasty job; better not be
mixed up in it. Have you any idea what that woman--that lady," I
corrected myself, for his eyes flashed, "has done?"

"Nothing really wrong," he was warming up into a new burst of passion.

"Tell that to the Courts and to the Judge when you are prosecuted for
contempt and charged as an accessory after the fact. How will you like
that? It will take the starch out of you."

"Rot! The law can't do us much harm. The only person who might make it
disagreeable is Lord Blackadder, and I snap my fingers at him."

"The Earl of Blackadder? Are you mad? He is a great personage, a rich
and powerful nobleman. You cannot afford to fight him; he will be too
strong for you. He has been made the victim of an abominable outrage,
and will spare no effort, no means, no money to recover his own."

"Lord Blackadder is a cad--a cruel, cowardly ruffian. I know all about
him and what has happened. It would give me the greatest pleasure to
kick him down the street. Failing that, I shall do my best to upset
and spoil his schemes, and so you know."

I smiled contemptuously. "A mere Colonel against an Earl! What sort of
a chance have you? It's too absurd."

"We shall see. Those laugh longest who laugh last."

By this time our talk was done, for we were approaching Lucerne, and
I began to think over my next plans. All must depend on what I heard
there--upon what news, if any, came from Ludovic Tiler.

So on my arrival I made my way straight to the telegraph-office in the
corner of the great station, and on showing my card an envelope was
handed to me. It was from Tiler at Basle, and ran as follows:

"They have booked through by 7.30 A.M., via Brienne, Lausanne
to Brieg, and I suppose the Simplon. I shall accompany. Can you join
me at either end--Brieg or Domo Dossola? The sooner the better. Wire
me from all places along the route, giving your movements. Address me
in my train No. 70."

The news pointed pretty clearly to the passage of the Alps and descent
into Italy by another route than the St. Gothard. I had my Bradshaw in
my bag, and proceeded at once to verify the itinerary by the
time-table, while I drank my early coffee in the restaurant upon the
station platform. I was most anxious to join hands with Tiler, and
quickly turned over the leaves of my railway guide to see if it was
possible, and how it might best be managed.

My first idea was to retrace my steps to Basle and follow him by the
same road. But I soon found that the trains would not fit in the very
least. He would be travelling by the one fast train in the day, which
was due at Brieg at four o'clock in the afternoon. My first chance, if
I caught the very next train back from Lucerne, would only get me to
Brieg by the eleven o'clock the following morning.

It was not good enough, and I dismissed the idea forthwith. Then I
remembered that by getting off the St. Gothard railway at Goeschenen I
should strike the old Furka diligence route by the Devil's Bridge,
Hospenthal, and the Rhone Glacier, a drive of fifty miles, more or
less, but at least it would get me to Brieg that same night by 10 or
11 o'clock.

Before adopting this line I had to consider that there was a risk of
missing Tiler and his quarry; that is to say, of being too late for
them; for the lady might decide to push on directly she reached Brieg,
taking a special carriage extra post as far as the Simplon at least,
even into Domo Dossola. She was presumably in such a hurry that the
night journey would hardly deter her from driving over the pass. Tiler
would certainly follow. By the time I reached Brieg they would be
halfway across the Alps, and I must take the same road, making a stern
chase, proverbially the longest.

I turned my attention, therefore, to the Italian end of the carriage
road, and to seeing how and when I could reach Domo Dossola, the
alternative suggestion made by Tiler. There would be no difficulty as
to that, and I found I could be there in good time the same evening. I
worked it out on the tables and it looked easy enough.

Leave Lucerne by the St. Gothard railway, pass Goeschenen, and go
through the tunnel down the Italian side as far as Bellizona. Thence a
branch line would take me to Locarno and into touch with the steamboat
service on Lake Maggiore. There was a fixed connection according to
the tables, and I should land at Pallanza within a short hour's drive
of the line to Domo Dossola. I could be established there by nightfall
and would command the situation. Every carriage that came down the
Simplon must come under my eye.

There could be no doubt that the Bellizona-Locarno Lake line was the
preferable one, and I finally decided in favour of it. I closed my
Bradshaw with a bang, replaced it in my bag, drank up my coffee, and
started for the telegraph office. I meant to advise Tiler of my plans,
and at the same time arrange with him to look out for me just outside
the terminus station at Domo Dossola, or to communicate with me there
at the Hotel de la Poste.

On coming out I ran up against the last person I wished to see. It was
the Colonel, who greeted me with a loud laugh, and gave me a slap on
the back.

"Halloa, my wily detective," he said mockingly; "settled it all quite
to your satisfaction? Done with Bradshaw--sent off your wires? Well,
what's the next move?"

"I decline to hold any conversation with you," I began severely. "I
beg you will not intrude upon my privacy. I do not desire your
acquaintance."

"Hoity toity!" he cried. "On your high horse, eh? Aren't you afraid
you may fall off or get knocked off?" and he raised his hand with an
ugly gesture.

"We are not alone now in a railway carriage. There are police about,
and the Swiss police do not approve of brawling," I replied, with all
the dignity I could assume.

"Come, Falfani, tell me what you mean to do now," he went on in the
same tone.

"Your questions are an impertinence. I do not know you. I do not
choose to know you, and I beg you will leave me alone."

"Don't think of it, my fine fellow. I'm not going to leave you alone.
You may make up your mind to that. Where you go, I go; what you do, I
shall do. We are inseparables, you and I, as much united as the
Siamese twins. So I tell you."

"But it's monstrous, it's not to be tolerated. I shall appeal for
protection to the authorities."

"Do so, my friend, do so. See which will get the best of that. I don't
want to swagger, but at any rate all the world knows pretty well who I
am; but what shall you call yourself, Mr. Falfani?"

"I have my credentials from my employers; I have letters,
testimonials, recommendations from the best people."

"Including the Earl of Blackadder, I presume? I admit your great
advantages. Well, try it. You may get the best of it in the long run,
but you'll lose a good deal of time. I'm not in a hurry," he said with
emphasis, and promptly recalled me to my senses, for I realized that
I could not fight him that way. It must be by stratagem or evasion. I
must throw dust in his eyes, put him off the scent, mislead, befool,
elude him somehow.

How was I to shake him off now I saw that he was determined to stick
to me? He had said it in so many words. He would not let me out of his
sight; wherever I went he was coming too.

The time was drawing on for the departure of the St. Gothard express
at 9.8 A.M., and as yet I had no ticket. I had booked at
Amiens as far as Lucerne only, leaving further plans as events might
fall out. Now I desired to go on, but did not see how I was to take a
fresh ticket without his learning my destination. He would be certain
to be within earshot when I went up to the window.

I was beginning to despair when I saw Cook's man, who was, as usual,
hovering about to assist travellers in trouble, and I beckoned him to
approach.

"See that gentleman," I nodded towards the Colonel. "He wants you; do
your best for him." And when the tourist agent proceeded on his
mission to be accosted, I fear rather unceremoniously, I slipped off
and hid out of sight.

I felt sure I was unobserved as I took my place in the crowd at the
ticket-window, but when I had asked and paid for my place to Locarno I
heard, to my disgust, some one else applying for a ticket to exactly
the same place, and in a voice that was strangely familiar.

On looking round I saw Jules l'Echelle, the sleeping-car conductor,
but out of uniform, and with an amused grin on his face.

"It seems that we are still to be fellow travellers," he observed
casually.

"What is taking you to Lake Maggiore? How about your service on the
car?" I asked suspiciously.

"I have business at Locarno, and have got a few days' leave to attend
to it."

I felt he was lying to me. He had been bought, I was sure. His
business was the Colonel's, who had set him to assist in watching me.
I had two enemies then to encounter, and I realized with some
misgiving that the Colonel was not a man to be despised.




CHAPTER IX.


I secured a place with difficulty; there was rather a rush for the St.
Gothard express when it ran in. It was composed as usual of corridor
carriages, all classes _en suite_, and I knew that it would be
impossible to conceal the fact that I was on board the train. Within
five minutes Jules had verified the fact and taken seats in the
immediate neighbourhood, to which he and the Colonel presently came.

"Quite a pleasant little party!" he said in a bantering tone. "All
bound for Locarno, eh? Ever been to Locarno before, Mr. Falfani?
Delightful lake, Maggiore. Many excursions, especially by steamer; the
Borromean islands well worth seeing, and Baveno and Stresa and the
road to the Simplon."

I refused to be drawn, and only muttered that I hated excursions and
steamers and lakes, and wished to be left in peace.

"A little out of sorts, I'm afraid, Mr. Falfani. Sad that. Too many
emotions, want of sleep, perhaps. You _would_ do _too_ much last
night." He still kept up his hateful babble, and Jules maddened me by
his sniggering enjoyment of my discomfiture.

More than ever did I set my brain to puzzle out some way of escaping
this horrible infliction. Was it not possible to give them the slip,
somehow, somewhere? I took the Colonel's hint, and pretended to take
refuge in sleep, and at last, I believe, I dozed off. It must have
been in my dreams that an idea came to me, a simple idea, easy of
execution with luck and determination.

It was suggested to me by the short tunnels that succeed so frequently
in the ascent of the St. Gothard Alps. They are, as most people know,
a chief feature in the mountain railway, and a marvel of engineering
skill, being cut in circles to give the necessary length and gain the
height with a moderate gradient. Speed is so far slackened that it
would be quite possible to drop off the train without injury whenever
inclined. My only difficulty would be to alight without interference
from my persecutors.

I nursed my project with eyes shut, still feigning sleep; and my
extreme quiescence had, as I hoped, the effect of throwing them off
their guard. Jules, like all in the same employment, was always ready
for forty winks, and I saw that he was sound and snoring just as we
entered the last tunnel before reaching the entrance of the final
great tunnel at Goeschenen. I could not be quite sure of the Colonel,
but his attitude was that of a man resting, and who had very nearly
lost himself, if he had not quite gone off.

Now was my time. If it was to be done at all it must be quickly,
instantaneously almost. Fortunately we sat at the extreme end of a
coach, in the last places, and besides we three there was only one
other occupant in the compartment of six. The fourth passenger was
awake, but I made a bid for his good-will by touching my lips with a
finger, and the next minute I was gone.

I expected to hear the alarm given at my disappearance, but none
reached my ears, as the train rattled past me with its twinkling
lights and noisy road. I held myself close against the side of the
tunnel in perfect safety, although the hot wind of the passing cars
fanned my cheek and rather terrified me. The moment the train was well
gone I faced the glimmering light that showed the entrance to the
tunnel at the further end from the station, and ran to it with all
speed.

I knew that my jump from the train could not pass unnoticed, and I
counted on being followed. I expected that the tunnel would be
explored by people from Goeschenen so soon as the train ran in and
reported. My first object, therefore, was to quit the line, and I did
so directly I was clear of the tunnel. I climbed the fence, dropped
into a road, left that again to ascend the slope and take shelter
among the rocks and trees.

The pursuit, if any, was not very keen or long maintained. When all
was quiet, an hour later I made for the highroad, the famous old road
that leads through the Devil's Pass to Andermatt, three miles above. I
altogether avoided the Goeschenen station, fearing any inconvenient
inquiries, and abandoned all idea of getting the telegram from Tiler
that might be possibly awaiting me. It did not much matter. I should
be obliged now to send him fresh news, news of the changed plans that
took me direct into Brieg; and on entering Andermatt I came upon the
post-office, just where I wanted it, both to send my message and order
an extra post carriage from Brieg.

It was with a sense of intense relief that I sank back into the
cushions and felt that at last I was free. My satisfaction was
abruptly destroyed. Long before I reached Hospenthal, a mile or so
from Andermatt, I was disturbed by strange cries to the accompaniment
of harness bells.

"Yo-icks, Yo-icks, G-o-ne away!" was borne after me with all the force
of stentorian lungs, and looking round I saw to my horror a second
carriage coming on at top speed, and beyond all question aiming to
overtake us. Soon they drew nearer, near enough for speech, and the
accursed Colonel hailed me.

"Why, you cunning fox, so you broke cover and got away all in a
moment! Lucky you were seen leaving the train, or we might have
overrun the scent and gone on."

I did not answer.

"Nice morning for a drive, Mr. Falfani, and a long drive," he went on,
laughing boisterously. "Going all the way to Brieg by road, I believe?
So are we. Pity we did not join forces. One carriage would have done
for all three of us."

Still I did not speak.

"A bit ugly, eh? Don't fuss, man. It's all in the day's work."

With that I desired my driver to pull up, and waved my hand to the
others, motioning to them that the road was theirs.

But when I stopped they stopped, and the Colonel jeered. When I drove
on they came along too, laughing. We did this several times; and when
at the two roads just through Hospenthal, one by the St. Gothard, the
other leading to the Furka, I took the first for a short distance,
then turned back, just to try my pursuers. They still stuck to me. My
heart sank within me. I was in this accursed soldier's claws. He had
collared me, he was on my back, and I felt that I must throw up the
sponge.

"I gave you fair notice that you would not get rid of me, and by
heaven you shall not," he cried fiercely, putting off all at once the
lighter mockery of his tone. "I know what is taking you to Brieg. You
think to find your confederate there, and you hope that, combined, the
two of you will get the better of that lady. You sha'n't, not if I can
prevent you by any means in my power; understand that, and look out
for squalls if you try."

I confess he cowed me; he was so strong, so masterful, and, as I
began to fear, so unscrupulous, that I felt I could not make head
against him. Certainly not alone. I must have Tiler's help, his
counsel, countenance, active support. I must get in touch with him at
the earliest possible moment and my nearest way to him, situated as I
was now, must be at or through Brieg.

So I resigned myself to my fate, and suffered myself to be driven on
with my pertinacious escort hanging on to me mile after mile of my
wearing and interminable journey. We pulled up for luncheon and a
short rest at the Furka; again in the afternoon at the Rhone Glacier.
Then we pursued our way all along the valley, with the great snow peak
of the Matterhorn in front of us, through village and hamlet, in the
fast fading light, and so on under the dark but luminous sky into
Munster, Fiesch, and Morel, till at length we rolled into Brieg about
11 P.M.

I drove straight to the Hotel de la Poste, careless that my tormentors
were accompanying me; they could do me no more harm, and Tiler was at
hand to help in vindicating our position.

There was no Tiler at the Hotel de la Poste; no Tiler in Brieg. Only
a brief telegram from him conveying unwelcome and astounding
intelligence. It had been despatched from Vevey about 2 P.M.,
and it said:

  "Lost her somewhere between this and Lausanne. Am trying back. Shall
   wire you again to Brieg. Wait there or leave address."

My face must have betrayed my abject despair. I was so completely
knocked over that I offered no opposition when the Colonel impudently
took the telegram out of my hand and read it coolly.

"Drawn blank!" he cried, unable to contain himself for joy. "By the
Lord Harry, that's good."




CHAPTER X.

[_The Statement of the Second Detective_, _Ludovic Tiler_.]


I travelled via Ostend, Brussels and Strasburg, and was due at Basle
from that side at 4.35 A.M. My instructions were to look out
for Falfani there, and thought I might do so if our train was fairly
punctual, as it was. We were "on time," and the answer to my first
question was that the Lucerne express was still at the platform, but
on the point of departure.

I got one glimpse of Falfani and one word with him. He was in trouble
himself; they had nipped him, caught him tight, and thrown him off the
scent. I was now to take up the running.

"You've got your chance now, Ludovic," he said hurriedly, as he leaned
out of the carriage window. "I'm not jealous, as you often are, but
it's deuced hard on me. Anyhow, stick to her like wax, and keep your
eyes skinned. She's got the wiles of the devil, and will sell you like
a dog if you don't mind. Hurry now; you'll pick her up in the
waiting-room or restaurant, and can't miss her."

He gave me the description, and I left him, promising him a wire at
the telegraph office, Lucerne. He was right, there was no mistaking
her. Few people were about at that time in the morning, and there was
not a soul among the plain-headed, commonplace Swiss folk to compare
with her, an English lady with her belongings.

She was quite a beauty, tall, straight, lissom, in her tight-fitting
ulster; her piquante-looking heather cap perched on chestnut curls,
and setting off as handsome a face as I have ever seen. And I have
seen and admired many, for I don't deny that I've a strong penchant
for pretty women, and this was the pick of the basket. It was rather a
bore to be put on to her in the way of business; but why should I not
get a little pleasure out of it if I could? I need not be
disagreeable; it might help matters and pass the time pleasantly, even
if in the end I might have to show my teeth.

I saw her looking me over as I walked into the waiting-room,
curiously, critically, and for a moment I fancied she guessed who I
was. Had she seen me talking to Falfani?

If so--if she thought me one of her persecutors--she would hardly look
upon me without repugnance, yet I almost believed it was all the other
way. I had an idea that she did not altogether dislike me, that she
was pleased with my personal appearance. Why not? I had had my
successes in my time, and may say, although it sounds conceited, that
I had won the approval of other ladies quite as high-toned. By and by
it might be my unpleasant duty to be disagreeable. In the meantime it
would be amusing, enjoyable, to make friends.

So far I had still to ascertain the direction in which she was bound.
She had taken her ticket. That might be safely inferred, for she was
in the waiting-room with her porter and her bags, ready to pass out
upon the platform as soon as the doors were opened. (Everyone knows
that the idiotic and uncomfortable practice still prevails in
Switzerland of shutting passengers off from the train till the very
last moment.)

This waiting-room served for many lines, and I could only wait
patiently to enter the particular train for which she would be
summoned. When at length an official unlocked the door and announced
the train for Biel, Neuchatel, Lausanne, and Brieg, she got up to take
her seat, and I had no longer any doubt as to the direction of her
journey. So as I saw her go, I slipped back to the ticket-office and
took my place all the way to Brieg, the furthest point on the line.
This was obviously my best and safest plan, as I should then be ready
for anything that happened. I could get out anywhere, wherever she
did, in fact. After getting my ticket I found time to telegraph to
Falfani at Lucerne, giving him my latest news, and then proceeded to
the train.

I found the lady easily enough, and got into the same carriage with
her. It was one of those on the Swiss plan, with many compartments
opening into one another _en suite_. Although the seat I chose was at
a discreet distance, I was able to keep her in view.

I was wondering whether it would be possible for me to break the ice
and make her acquaintance, when luck served me better than I dared to
hope. One of the Swiss guards of the train, a surly, overbearing
brute, like so many others of his class, accosted her rudely, and from
his gestures was evidently taking her to task as to the number and
size of her parcels in the net above. He began to shift them, and,
despite her indignant protests in imperfect German, threw some of them
on the floor.

This was my opportunity. I hurried to the rescue, and, being fluent in
German as in several other languages--it is part of my stock in
trade--I sharply reproved the guard and called him an unmannerly boor
for his cowardly treatment of an unprotected lady. My reward was a
sweet smile, and I felt encouraged to hazard a few words in reply to
her cordial thanks. She responded quickly, readily, and I thought I
might improve the occasion by politely inquiring if I could be of any
further service to her.

"Perhaps you can tell me, you see I am strange on this line," she
answered with a perfectly innocent air, "do you happen to know at what
time we are due at Lausanne?"

"Not to the minute," I replied. "I have a railway guide in my bag,
shall I fetch it?"

"No, no, I should not like to give you so much trouble."

"But it will be no trouble. Let me fetch my bag."

I went off in perfect good faith, anxious to oblige so charming a
lady. I had not the slightest suspicion that she was playing with me.
Silly ass that I was, I failed to detect the warning that dropped from
her own lips.

When I got back with the Bradshaw I came upon them for just one moment
unawares. The maid must have been making some remarks displeasing to
my lady, who was answering her with much asperity.

"I know what I am doing, Philpotts. Be so good as to leave it to me.
It is the only way."

Then she caught sight of me as I stood before her, and her manner
instantly changed. She addressed me very sweetly and with the utmost
composure. "Oh, how very good of you, I feel quite ashamed of myself."

"Why should you? It is delightful to be of use to you. Lausanne I
think you said?" I asked casually as I turned over the pages of the
guide. "You are going to Lausanne?"

"No, Vevey to Montreux. I only wanted to know whether there would be
time for _dejeuner_ at Lausanne. I think there is no dining-car on
this train?"

"No, it is on the next, which is extraordinarily bad mismanagement.
It is a slow train the next, and we are a special express. But you
will have a clear half-hour to spare at Lausanne. That will be enough,
I presume? Lausanne at 12 noon, and we go on at half-past."

"You, too, are going beyond Lausanne?"

"Possibly, I am not quite sure. It depends upon my meeting friends
somewhere on the lake, either there or further on. If they come on
board we shall run on to Brieg so as to drop over the Alps to Lake
Maggiore by the Simplon route."

I threw this out carelessly but with deliberate intention, and the
shot told. A crimson flush came over her face and her hands trembled
violently. I had not the smallest doubt that this was her plan also.
She was bound to cross over into Italy, that we knew, or our employers
firmly believed it, and as she had been driven off the St. Gothard by
Falfani she had now doubled back by Switzerland to make the journey to
Brieg and across the mountains by road.

I had scored as I thought, but I forgot that in gaining the knowledge
I had betrayed my own intentions, and put her upon her guard. I was to
pay for this.

"Oh, really," she said quietly and with polite interest, having
entirely recovered her composure. "I dare say a very pleasant drive.
How long does it take, have you any idea, and how do you travel?"

"It is about nine hours by diligence," I said, consulting the
Bradshaw, "and the fare is forty francs, but by private carriage or
extra post a good deal more."

"May I look?" and I handed her the book, "although I never could
understand Bradshaw," she added pleasantly.

"I shall be very pleased to explain if you are in doubt," I suggested;
but she declined laughingly, saying it would amuse her to puzzle out
things, so I left her the book and composed myself into a corner while
the train rattled on. I mused and dozed and dreamily watched her
pretty face admiringly, as she pored over the pages of the Guide,
little thinking she was perfecting a plan for my undoing.

The first stop was at Biel or Bienne, its French name, and there was a
halt of ten minutes or more. I made my way to the telegraph office in
the station, where to my great satisfaction I found a message from
Falfani, informing me that he should make the best of his way to
Brieg, unless I could suggest something better.

The answer I despatched at once to Goeschenen was worded as follows:
"Declares she is going to Montreux only. Believe untrue. Still think
her destination Brieg. Come on there anyhow and await further from me.
May be necessary to join forces." We were in accord, Falfani and I,
and in communication.

I was well satisfied with what we were doing, and on receiving the
second and third telegrams at Neuchatel and Yverdun I was all the more
pleased. At last we were nearing Lausanne, and I looked across to my
lady to prepare her for getting out. I had no need to attract her
attention, for I caught her eyes fixed on me and believe she was
watching me furtively. The smile that came upon her lips was so
pleasant and sweet that it might have overjoyed a more conceited man
than myself.

"Are we near then? Delightful! I never was so hungry in my life," and
the smile expanded into a gay laugh as she rose to her feet and was
ready to leave the carriage.

"I'm afraid you will have to wait, Philpotts, we cannot leave that,"
she pointed to the child nestling sound asleep by her side. "But I
will send or bring you something. This gentleman will perhaps escort
me to the refreshment-room."

I agreed, of course, and saying, "Only too charmed," I led the way--a
long way, for the restaurant is at the far end of the platform. At
last we sat down _tete-a-tete_ and prepared to do full justice to the
meal. Strange to say, despite her anticipations, she proved to have
very little appetite.

"I must have waited too long," she said, as she trifled with a cutlet.
"I shall perhaps like something else better," and she went carefully
through the whole _menu_, so that the time slipped away, and we were
within five minutes of departure.

"And poor dear Philpotts, I had quite forgotten her. Come and help me
choose," and in duty bound I gallantly carried the food back to the
train.

I walked ahead briskly, and making my way to the places where we had
left the maid and child, jumped in.

They were gone, the two of them. Everything was gone, rugs, bags,
belongings, people. The seats were empty, and as the compartment was
quite empty, too, no one could tell me when they had left or where
they had gone.

I turned quickly round to my companion, who was, I thought, following
close at my heels, and found to my utter amazement that she also had
disappeared.




CHAPTER XI.


For the moment I was dazed and dumfounded, but I took a pull on myself
quickly. It was a clever plant. Had they sold me completely? That was
still to be seen. My one chance was in prompt action; I must hunt them
up, recover trace of them with all possible despatch, follow them, and
find them wherever they might be.

There was just the chance that they had only moved into another
carriage, thinking that when I missed them I should get out and hunt
for them in the station. To counter that I ran up and down the train,
in and out of the carriages, questing like a hound, searching
everywhere. So eager was I that I neglected the ordinary warnings that
the train was about to start; the guard's _fertig_ ("ready"), the
sounding horn, the answering engine whistle, I overlooked them all,
and we moved on before I could descend. I made as though to jump off
hastily, but was prevented.

"_Was ist das? Nein, nein, verboten._" A hand caught me roughly by the
collar and dragged me back. It was the enemy I had made in championing
my lady, the guard of the train, who gladly seized the chance of being
disagreeable to me.

I fought hard to be free, but by the time I had shaken him off the
speed had so increased that it would have been unsafe to leave the
train. I had no choice but to go on, harking back as soon as I could.
Fortunately our first stop was within five and twenty minutes, at
Vevey; and there in ten minutes more I found a train back to Lausanne,
so that I had lost less than an hour and a half in all.

But much may happen in that brief space of time. It was more than
enough for my fugitives to clear out of the Lausanne station and make
some new move, to hide away in an out-of-the-way spot, go to ground in
fact, or travel in another direction.

My first business was to inquire in and about the station for a person
or persons answering to the parties I missed. Had they separated,
these two women, for good and all? That was most unlikely. If the maid
had gone off first, I had to consider whether they would not again
join forces as soon as I was well out of the way. They would surely
feel safer, happier, together, and this encouraged me to ask first for
two people, two females, a lady and her servant, one of them, the
latter, carrying a child.

There were many officials about in uniform, and all alike supercilious
and indifferent, after the manner of their class, to the travelling
public, and I could get none to take the smallest interest in my
affairs. One shrugged his shoulders, another stared at me in insolent
silence, a third answered me abruptly that he was too occupied to
bother himself, and a fourth peremptorily ordered me not to hang any
longer about the station.

Foiled thus by the railway staff--and I desire to place on record here
my deliberate opinion after many years' experience in many lands, that
for rudeness and overbearing manners the Swiss functionary has no
equal in the whole world--I went outside the station and sought
information among the cabmen and touts who hang about waiting to take
up travellers. I accosted all the drivers patiently one by one, but
could gather nothing definite from any of them. Most had been on the
stand at the arrival of the midday train, many had been engaged to
convey passengers and baggage up into the town of Lausanne, and had
deposited their fares at various hotels and private residences, but no
one had driven any party answering to those of whom I was in search.

This practically decided the point that my lady had not left the
station in a carriage or openly, if she had walked. But that she had
not been observed did not dispose of the question. They were dull,
stupid men, these, only intent on their own business, who would pay
little attention to humble persons on foot showing no desire to hire a
cab. I would not be baffled thus soon in my quest. A confidential
agent who will not take infinite pains in his researches had better
seek some other line of business. As I stood there in front of the
great station belonging to the Jura-Simplon, I saw facing me a small
facade of the Gare Sainte Luce, one of the intermediate stations on
the _Ficelle_ or cable railway that connects Ouchy on the lake with
Lausanne above.

It was not a hundred yards distant; it could be easily and quickly
reached, and without much observation, if a person waited till the
immediate neighbourhood had been cleared by the general exodus after
the arrival of the chief express of the day. There were any number of
trains by this _funiculaire_--at every half-hour indeed--and any one
taking this route could reach either Lausanne or Ouchy after a very
few minutes' journey up or down. To extend my investigation on that
side was of obvious and pressing importance. I was only too conscious
of my great loss of time, now at the outset, which might efface all
tracks and cut me off hopelessly from any clue.

I was soon across and inside the Sainte Luce station, but still
undecided which direction I should choose, when the little car arrived
going upward, and I ran over to that platform and jumped in. I must
begin one way or the other, and I proceeded at once to question the
conductor, when he nicked my ticket, only to draw perfectly blank.

"Have I seen two ladies and a child this morning? But, _grand Dieu_, I
have seen two thousand. It is _idiote_ to ask such questions,
monsieur, of a busy man."

"I can pay for what I want," I whispered gently, as I slipped a
five-franc piece into his hand, ever mindful of the true saying,
_Point d'argent, point de Suisse_; and the bribe entirely changed his
tone.

"A lady, handsome, tall, distinguished, _comme il faut_, with a
companion, a servant, a nurse carrying a child?" He repeated my
description, adding, "_Parfaitement_, I saw her. She was not one to
forget quickly."

"And she was going to Lausanne?"

"_Ma foi_, yes, I believe so; or was it to Ouchy?" He seemed
overwhelmed with sudden doubt. "Lausanne or Ouchy? Up or down? Twenty
thousand thunders, but I cannot remember, not--" he dropped his
voice--"not for five francs."

I doubled the dose, and hoped I had now sufficiently stimulated his
memory or unloosed his tongue. But the rascal was still hesitating
when we reached the top, and I could get nothing more than that it was
certainly Lausanne, "if," he added cunningly, "it was not Ouchy." But
he had seen her, that was sure--seen her that very day upon the line,
not more than an hour or two before. He had especially admired her;
_dame_! he had an eye for the _beau sexe_; and yet more he noticed
that she talked English, of which he knew some words, to her maid. But
whether she was bound to Lausanne or Ouchy, "_diable_, who could
say?"

I had got little in return for my ten francs expended on this
ambiguous news, but now that I found myself actually in Lausanne I
felt that it behoved me to scour the city for traces of my quarry. She
might not have come here at all, yet there was an even chance the
other way, and I should be mad not to follow the threads I held in my
hand. I resolved to inquire at all the hotels forthwith. It would take
time and trouble, but it was essential. I must run her to ground if
possible, fix her once more, or I should never again dare to look my
employers in the face. I was ashamed to confess to Falfani that I had
been outwitted and befooled. I would send him no more telegrams until
I had something more satisfactory to say.

I was now upon the great bridge that spans the valley of the Flon and
joins the old with the new quarter of Lausanne. The best hotels, the
Gibbon, Richemont, Falcon, Grand Pont, and several more, stood within
easy reach, and I soon exhausted this branch of the inquiry. I found a
_valet de place_ hanging about the Gibbon, whose services I secured,
and instructed him to complete the investigation, extending it to all
the minor hotels and pensions, some half-dozen more, reserving to
myself the terminus by the great station, which I had overlooked when
leaving for the _Ficelle_ or cable railway. I meant to wait for him
there to hear his report, but at the same time I took his
address--Eugene Falloon, Rue Pre Fleuri--where I could give him an
appointment in case I missed him at the terminus. He was a long, lean,
hungry-looking fellow, clumsily made, with an enormous head and
misshapen hands and feet; but he was no fool this Falloon, and his
local knowledge proved exceedingly useful.

On entering the car for the journey down I came upon the conductor who
had been of so little use to me, and I was about to upbraid him when
he disarmed me by volunteering fresh news.

"Ah, but, monsieur, I know much better now. I recollect exactly. The
lady with her people certainly went down, for I have seen a porter who
helped her with her effects from the line to the steamboat pier at
Ouchy."

"And on board the steamer? Going in which direction?" I asked eagerly.

"He shall tell you himself if I can find him when we reach the
terminus. It may not be easy, but I could do it if--"

Another and a third five-franc piece solved his doubts, and I
abandoned my visit to the terminus hotel to seize this more tangible
clue, and proceeded at once to the lake shore.




CHAPTER XII.


On reaching the steamboat pier I was introduced to the porter, a
shock-headed, stupid-looking creature, whom I forthwith questioned
eagerly; but elicited only vague and, I felt sure, misleading replies.
The conductor assisted at my interview, stimulating and encouraging
the man to speak, and overdid it, as I thought. I strongly suspected
that this new evidence had been produced in order to bleed me further.
Had he really seen this English lady? Would he describe her appearance
to me, and that of her companion? Was she tall or short? Well dressed,
handsome, or the reverse? What was her companion like? Tall or short?
How dressed, and did he suppose her condition to be that of a lady
like the other, equal in rank, or an inferior?

The answers I got were not encouraging. Ladies? Of course they were
ladies, both of them. Dressed? In the very latest fashion. They were
very distinguished people.

"Were they carrying anything, either of them?" I inquired.

"Yes, when I saw them first they had much baggage. It was for that
they summoned me. Handbags, _sacs de nuit_, rugs, wrappers,
bonnet-boxes, many things, like all travellers."

"And you noticed nothing big, no parcel for which they were
particularly concerned?"

"They were anxious about everything, and worried me about everything,
but about no one thing especially that I can remember."

This did not tally with my own observation and the extreme care taken
of the child in the woman's arms. I began to believe that my friend
was a humbug and could tell me nothing of his own knowledge.

"What time was it?" I went on.

"Some hours ago. I did not look at the clock."

"But you know by the steamers that arrive. You men must know which are
due, and when they pass through."

"Come, come, Antoine," broke in the conductor, determined to give him
a lead, "you must know that; there are not so many. It would be about
2 P.M., wouldn't it, when the express boat comes from Vevey and
Bouveret?"

"Yes, I make no doubt of that," said the man, with a gleam of
intelligence upon his stolid face.

"And the ladies went on board it, you say? Yes? You are sure?"

"It must have been so; I certainly carried their traps on board."

"Now, are you quite positive it was the two o'clock going that way,
and not the quarter past two returning from Geneva?" I had my Bradshaw
handy, and was following the time-table with my fingers.

"The 2.15?" The gleam of light went out entirely from his stolid face.
"I have an idea you are right, sir. You see the two boats come in so
near each other and lie at the same pier. I could easily make a
mistake between them."

"It is my firm belief," I said, utterly disgusted with the fellow, "my
firm belief that you have made a mistake all through. You never saw
the ladies at all, either of you." I turned upon the conductor with a
fierce scowl. "You are a rank humbug; you have taken my money under
false pretences. I've a precious good mind to report you to your
superiors, and insist upon your refunding the money. You've swindled
me out of it, thief and liar that you are."

"Come, come, don't speak so freely. My superiors will always listen
first to one of their own employes, and it will be awkward if I charge
you with obstructing an official and making false charges against
him."

Mine is a hasty temper; I am constrained to confess to a fault which
often stood in my way especially in my particular business. The
conductor's insolence irritated me beyond measure, and coming as it
did on the top of bitter disappointment I was driven into a deplorable
access of rage, which I shall always regret. Without another word I
rushed at him, caught him by the throat, and shook him violently,
throwing him to the ground and beating his head upon it savagely.

Help must have come to him very speedily and to good purpose, for I
soon found myself in custody, two colossal gendarmes holding me tight
on each side. I was quickly removed like any malefactor to the lock-up
in the town above, and was thus for the moment effectively precluded
from continuing my pursuit.

Law and order are not to be lightly trifled with in Switzerland, least
of all in the Canton de Vaud. I had been taken in the very act of
committing a savage assault upon an official in the execution of his
duty, which is true to the extent that every Swiss official conceives
it to be his duty to outrage the feelings and tyrannize over
inoffensive strangers.

The police of Lausanne showed me little consideration. I was not
permitted to answer the charge against me, but was at once consigned
to a cell, having been first searched and despoiled of all my
possessions. Among them was my knife and a pocket revolver I generally
carried, also my purse, my wallet with all my private papers, and my
handbag. Both wallet and handbag were locked; they demanded the keys,
thinking I had them hidden on my person, but I said they could find
them for themselves, the truth being the locks were on a patent plan
and could be opened with the fingers by any one who knew. This secret
I chose to retain.

When alone in my gloomy prison, with leisure to reflect more calmly on
my painful position, I realized what an ass I had been, and I vented
my wrath chiefly on myself. But it was idle to repine. My object now
was to go free again at the earliest possible moment, and I cast about
to see how I might best compass it.

At first I was very humble, very apologetic. I acknowledged my error,
and promised to do anything in my power to indemnify my victim. I
offered him any money in reason, I would pay any sum they might fix,
pay down on the nail and give my bond for the rest.

My gaolers scouted the proposal indignantly. Did I think justice was
to be bought in Switzerland? It was the law I had outraged, not an
individual merely. Besides--money is all powerful in this venal
country--how could I pay, a poor devil like me, the necessary price?
what could I produce in cash on the nail? My bond would not be worth
the paper it was written on.

No, no, there was no chance for me; nothing could save me. I must go
before the correctional police and pay in person for my offence. I
might expect to be punished summarily, to be sent to gaol, to be laid
by the heels for a month or two, perhaps more. Such a brutal assault
as mine would be avenged handsomely.

Now I changed my tactics. I began to bluster. I was a British subject
and claimed to be treated with proper respect. I appealed to the
British Consul; I insisted upon seeing him. When they laughed at me,
saying that he would not interfere with the course of justice on
behalf of such an unknown vagabond, I told them roundly that I was
travelling under the special protection of the British Minister for
Foreign Affairs, the illustrious Marquis of Lansdowne. Let them bring
me my wallet. I would show them my passport bearing the Royal Arms and
the signature of one of H.M. Secretaries of State. All of us in the
employ of Messrs. Becke invariably carried Foreign Office passports as
the best credentials we could produce if we were caught in any tight
place.

The greeting of so great a personage to his trusty and well beloved
Ludovic Tiler had a very marked effect upon my captors. It was
enhanced by the sight of a parcel of crisp Bank of England notes lying
snugly in the pocket of the wallet, which I had opened, but without
betraying the secret of the spring. When I extracted a couple of
fivers and handed them to the chief gaoler, begging him to do the best
for my comfort, the situation changed considerably, but no hopes were
held out for my immediate release. I was promised dinner from a
restaurant hard by, and was permitted to send a brief telegram to
Falfani, to the effect that I was detained at Lausanne by unforeseen
circumstances, but no more. Then bedding was brought in, on which,
after a night in the train, I managed to sleep soundly enough until
quite late next morning.

I had summoned Eugene Falloon to my assistance, and he was permitted
to visit me quite early, soon after the prison had opened. He was
prompt and practical, and proceeded to perform the commissions I gave
him with all despatch. I charged him first to telegraph to England, to
our office, briefly stating my quandary, begging them to commend me to
some one in Lausanne or Geneva, for Becke's have friends and
correspondents in every city of the world. He was then to call upon
the British Consul, producing my passport in proof of my claim upon
him as a British subject in distress, and if necessary secure me legal
advice. I had been warned that I might expect to be examined that very
day, but that several were likely to elapse before the final disposal
of my case.

All that forenoon, and quite late into the next day, I was left
brooding and chafing at my misfortune, self-inflicted I will confess,
but not the less irksome to bear. I had almost persuaded myself that I
should be left to languish here quite friendless and forgotten, when
the luck turned suddenly, and daylight broke in to disperse my gloomy
forebodings. Several visitors came, claiming to see me, and were
presently admitted in turn. First came the Consul, and with him an
intelligent Swiss advocate, who declared he would soon put matters
right. It would only be a question of a fine, and binding me over to
good behaviour on bail. Could I find bail? That was the only question.
And while we still discussed it we found amongst the callers a
respectable and well-to-do watchmaker from Geneva, who had been
entreated (no doubt from Becke's) to do all that was needful on my
behalf. I might be of good cheer; there was no reasonable doubt but
that I should be released, but hardly before next day.

A second night in durance was not much to my taste, but I bore it with
as much resignation as I could command; and when next morning I
appeared before the Court, I paid my fine of one hundred francs with
hearty good-will. I assured my bail, the friendly watchmaker, that he
need not have the smallest fear I should again commit myself.




CHAPTER XIII.


My spirits rose with my release, but there was still more than freedom
to encourage my light-heartedness. I heard now and definitely of my
fugitive lady. Falloon had come upon undoubted evidence that she had
never left the great Jura-Simplon station, but had remained quietly
out of sight in the "ladies' waiting-room" until the next train left
for Geneva. This was at 1.35 P.M., and she must have slipped away
right under my eyes into the very train which had brought me back from
Vevey. So near are the chances encountered in such a profession as
ours.

Falloon had only ascertained this positively on the second day of my
detention, but with it the information that only two first-class
tickets, both for Geneva, had been issued by that train. To make it
all sure he had taken the precaution to ask at all the stations along
the line at which the train had stopped, seven in number, and had
learned that no persons answering to my ladies had alighted at any of
them. So my search was carried now to Geneva, and it might be possible
to come upon my people there, although I was not oversanguine. I knew
something of the place. I had been there more than once, had stayed
some time, and I knew too well that it is a city with many issues,
many facilities for travelling, and, as they had so much reason for
moving on rapidly, the chances were that they would have already
escaped me.

However, with Falloon I proceeded to Geneva without delay, and began a
systematic search. We made exhaustive inquiries at the Cornavin
station, where we arrived from Lausanne, and heard something.

The party had certainly been seen at this very station. Two ladies,
one tall, the other short, with a baby. They had gone no further then;
they had not returned to the station since. So far good. But there was
a second station, the Gare des Vollondes, at the opposite end of the
city, from which ran the short line to Bouveret on the south shore of
the lake, and I sent Falloon there to inquire, giving him a rendezvous
an hour later at the Cafe de la Couronne on the Quai du Lac. Meanwhile
I meant to take all the hotels in regular order, and began with those
of the first class on the right bank, the Beau Rivage, the Russie, de
la Paix, National, Des Bergues, and the rest. As I drew blank
everywhere I proceeded to try the hotels on the left bank, and made
for the Pont de Mont Blanc to cross the Rhone, pointing for the
Metropole.

Now my luck again greatly favoured me. Just as I put my foot upon the
bridge I saw a figure approaching me, coming from the opposite
direction.

I recognized it instantly. It was the lady herself.

She must have seen me at the very same moment, for she halted dead
with the abruptness of one faced with a sudden danger, an opened
precipice, or a venomous snake under foot. She looked hurriedly to
right and left, as if seeking some loophole of escape.

At that moment one of the many electric trams that overspread Geneva
with a network of lines came swinging down the Rue de Mont Blanc from
the Cornavin station, and slackened speed at the end of the bridge. My
lady made up her mind then and there, and as it paused she boarded it
with one quick, agile spring.

With no less prompt decision I followed her, and we entered the car
almost simultaneously.

There were only two seats vacant and, curiously enough, face to face.
I took my place, not ill pleased, for she had already seen me, and I
was anxious to know how my sudden reappearance would affect her. It
was clear she did not relish it, or she would not have turned tail at
our unexpected meeting.

I had not long to wait. She chose her line at once, and without
hesitation addressed me, smiling and unabashed. Her self-possession, I
had almost said her effrontery, took me quite aback.

"Surely I am not mistaken?" she began quite coolly. "Have I not to
thank you for your courtesy in the train a couple of days ago?"

I stammered a halting affirmative.

"I am afraid you must have thought me very rude. I ran off without a
word, didn't I? The truth was my child had been suddenly taken ill and
the nurse had to leave the train hurriedly. She had only just time to
catch me and prevent me from going on. I am sorry. I should have liked
to say good-bye."

"Make no apologies, I beg," I hastened to say courteously. But in my
heart I trembled. What could this mean? Some fresh trick? She was so
desperately full of guile!

"But I thought you were bound for the other end of the lake," she
continued. "Do you make a long stay at Geneva?"

"No. Do you?" I retorted.

"Probably. I begin to like the place, and I have found very
comfortable quarters at the Hotel Cornavin, near the station. You may
know it."

Could this be really so? Her perfect frankness amazed me. I could not
credit it, much less understand it. There was surely some pitfall,
some trap concealed for my abounding credulity.

"I also propose to stay some days, but am not yet established." I made
so bold as to suggest that I had a great mind to try her Hotel
Cornavin.

"Why not?" she replied heartily. "The accommodation is good, nice
rooms, civil people, decent _cuisine_. It might suit you."

She could not possibly have been more civil and gracious. Too civil by
half, a more cautious man might have told himself.

The tram-car by this time had run through the Place Molard, the
Allemand Marche, and was turning into the Rue de la Corraterie,
pointing upward for the theatre and the Promenade des Bastions. Where
was my involuntary companion bound?

She settled the question by getting out at the Place Neuve with a few
parting words.

"I have a call to make near here. I had forgotten it. Perhaps I may
hope to see you again. Do try the Cornavin. If so, _sans adieu_."

Was it good enough? I could not allow her to slip through my fingers
like this. What if her whole story was untrue, what if there was no
Hotel Cornavin, and no such guests there? I could not afford to let
her out of my sight, and with one spring I also left the car and,
catching a last glimpse of her retreating skirts, gave chase.

I cannot say whether she realized that I was following, but she led me
a pretty dance. In and out, and round and round, by narrow streets and
dark passages, backwards and forwards, as adroitly as any practised
thief eluding the hot pursuit of the police. At last she paused and
looked back, and thinking she had shaken me off (for knowing the game
well I had hastily effaced myself in a doorway) plunged into the
entrance of a small unpretending hotel in a quiet, retired square--the
Hotel Pierre Fatio, certainly not the Cornavin.

The door in which I had taken shelter was that of a dark third-rate
cafe well suited to my purpose, and well placed, for I was in full
view of the Hotel Pierre Fatio, which I was resolved to watch at least
until my lady came out again. As I slowly absorbed an absinthe,
revolving events past and to come, I thought it would be well to draw
Falloon to me. It was past the hour for our meeting.

I scribbled three lines of a note and despatched it to the Cafe de la
Couronne by a messenger to whom I fully described my colleague's
appearance, desiring him to show the addressed envelope before
delivery, but having no doubt that it would reach its destination.

Presently Falloon joined me, and as my lady had as yet made no sign, I
bade him continue the watch, while I left the cafe openly and
ostentatiously, so that it might be seen by any one curious to know
that I had given up the game.

Far from it. I designed only to try the Hotel Cornavin to ascertain
the real facts; and if, as I shrewdly suspected, I had been fooled,
to return forthwith and rejoin Falloon at the true point of interest,
taking such further steps as might seem desirable. I was chiefly
anxious to regain touch and combine forces with Falfani.

There was no mistake, however, at the Cornavin Hotel. I had not been
fooled. I was told directly I asked at the bureau that a Mrs. Blair,
accompanied by her maid and child, was staying in the house. Could I
see her? If monsieur would send up his card, it should be given her on
her return. She was not at home for the moment. (I knew that.) Would
monsieur call again?

I was slow to congratulate myself on what seemed a point gained, for I
had still my misgivings, but I would make the most of the chances that
offered to my hand. I secured a room at the Cornavin Hotel, and
bespoke another for Falfani, whom I should now summon at once. With
this idea I took the earliest opportunity of telegraphing to him as
follows:

     "Detained by unfortunate _contretemps_ at Lausanne, happily
     surmounted, clue lost and regained. Desire your
     cooeperation. Come instantly, Hotel Cornavin. She is here.

     "LUDOVIC."

I noted the time of despatch, 4.17 P.M. It would surely reach
Falfani before the last train left Brieg coming my way, and I hardly
trusted myself to anticipate the comfort and relief his appearance
would bring me. Combined we could tie ourselves to our quarry, and
never let her out of sight until our principals could take over and
settle the business.

Then hailing a cab, I drove to a point close by where I had left
Falloon, and found the situation entirely unchanged. No one had come
out of the Hotel Pierre Fatio. Mrs. Blair was paying a very long call,
and I could not understand it. All the time I was haunted with a vague
and ever present idea that she meant to sell me. The more I tortured
my brain to consider how, the less I was able to fathom her
intentions.

The time ran on, and I thought it would be prudent to return to my own
hotel. Mrs. Blair might have given us the slip, might have left by
some other issue, and I felt that my place was at the Cornavin, where
at least I knew she was staying. Falloon should stand his ground
where he was, but I fully impressed upon him the importance of the
duty entrusted to him.

I blessed my stars that I so decided. Mrs. Blair had not returned when
the _table d'hote_ bell rang at the Cornavin, but I had hardly
swallowed the first spoonful of soup when Falloon appeared, hot and
flurried, with very startling news.

"_Elle se sauve._ She is saving herself; she is running away," he
cried. "Already her carriage enters the station--without doubt she
seeks the train for somewhere."

I jumped up, rushed from the room, caught up my hat, and hurried
across the Square of Place Cornavin into the station. It was a clear
case of bolt. There she was ahead of me, quite unmistakable, walking
quickly, with her fine upright figure clad in the same pearl gray
ulster she had worn in the tram-car. She passed through the open doors
of the waiting-room on to the platform where the train was waiting
with engine attached.

"The 7.35 for Culoz and beyond by Amberieu to Paris," I was informed
on inquiry.

"A double back," I concluded on the spot. She had had enough of it,
and was going home again. In another minute or two she would have
eluded me once more.

My only chance now lay in prompt action. I, too, must travel by this
train. To secure a ticket and board it was soon done. I chose a
carriage at no great distance from that she had entered; a through
carriage to Macon, and which I was resolved to watch closely, but yet
I did not mean to show myself to its occupants if it could be helped.

As we were on the point of starting, I scribbled a few lines on a leaf
torn from my pocket-book to inform Falfani of my hasty departure and
the reason for it. This I folded carefully and addressed to him,
entrusting it to Falloon, who was to seek out my colleague at the
Hotel Cornavin after the arrival of the late train from Brieg, and
deliver it. At the same time I handed Falloon a substantial fee, but
desired him to offer his services to Falfani.

I saw no more of the lady. She did not show at Bellegarde when the
French Customs' examination took place, nor yet at Culoz, and I
believed she was now committed to the journey northward. But as I was
dozing in my place and the train slowed on entering Amberieu, the
guard whom I had suborned came to me with a hurried call.

"Monsieur, monsieur, you must be quick. Madame has descended and is
just leaving the station. No doubt for the Hotel de France, just
opposite."

There she was indeed with all her belongings. (How well I knew them by
this time!) The maid with her child in arms, the porter with the light
baggage.

I quickened my pace and entered the hotel almost simultaneously with
her. Ranging up alongside I said, not without exultation:

"Geneva was not so much to your taste, then? You have left rather
abruptly."

"To whom are you speaking, sir?" she replied in a stiff, strange
voice, assumed, I felt sure, for the occasion. She was so closely
veiled that I could not see her face, but it was the same figure, the
same costume, the same air. Lady Blackadder that was, Mrs. Blair as
she now chose to call herself, I could have sworn to her among a
thousand.

"It won't do, madame," I insisted. "I'm not to be put off. I know all
about it, and I've got you tight, and I'm not going to leave go again.
No fear." I meant to spend the night on guard, watching and waiting
till I was relieved by the arrival of the others, to whom I
telegraphed without delay.




CHAPTER XIV.

[_Colonel Annesley resumes._]


I left my narrative at the moment when I had promised my help to the
lady I found in such distress in the Engadine express. I promised it
unconditionally, and although there were circumstances in her case to
engender suspicion, I resolutely ignored them. It was her secret, and
I was bound to respect it, content to await the explanation I felt
sure she could make when so minded.

It was at dinner in the dining-car, under the eyes of her persecutor,
that we arranged to give him the slip at Basle. It was cleverly
accomplished, I think.

[_Here the Colonel gives an account of all that happened between Basle
and Brieg; and as the incidents have been already described by Falfani
it is unnecessary to retell them, except to note that Annesley had
quickly discovered the detective's escape outside Goeschenen and lost
no time in giving chase._]

As may be supposed I rejoiced greatly on reaching Brieg to find that
Falfani had been bitterly disappointed. It was plain from the telegram
that was handed to him on arrival, and which so upset him that he
suffered me to take it out of his hand and to read it for myself, that
a friend, his colleague, no doubt, had been checked summarily at
Lausanne. He said he had lost "her," the lady of course.

I was not altogether happy in my mind about her, for when we had
parted at Brieg it had been settled that she should take the Simplon
route through this very place Brieg, at which I now found myself so
unexpectedly, and I ought to have come upon her or had news of her
somewhere had her plans been carried out. She certainly had not
reached Brieg, for with my ally l'Echelle we searched the town for
news of her that night and again next morning.

The situation was embarrassing. I could decide upon no clear course
but that of holding on to Falfani and clinging to him with the very
skin of my teeth; any light must come from or through him, or at least
by keeping him in full view I might prevent him from doing any more
mischief.

One of us, l'Echelle or myself, continually watched him all that day,
the third of this curious imbroglio into which I was plunged. At night
I took the strong and unjustifiable measure of locking him into his
room.

When he discovered it next morning he was furious, and came straight
at me open-mouthed.

"I'll appeal to the law, I'll denounce you to the authorities, I'll
charge you with persecution and with false imprisonment. You shall be
arrested. I'll be rid of you somehow, you shall not stay here, you
shall leave Brieg."

"With all my heart--when you do. Have I not told you that already?
Where you go I go, where you stay I stay."

"But it is most monstrous and abominable. I will not submit to it. You
have no sort of right to act in this way. Why is it?"

"You can guess my reasons, surely. Only it is not for your _beaux
yeux_; not because I like you. I loathe and detest you. You are a low,
slimy spy, who richly deserves to be thrashed for bullying a lady."

"I'll have you to know, sir, that I am fully entitled to act as I am
doing," he said with a consequential air. "I am the representative of
a court of law; I have great people at my back, people who will soon
bring you to book. Wait a little, we shall see. You'll sing a very
poor song when you have to do with a nobleman. The Right Honourable
the Earl of Blackadder will arrive shortly. I hope this very
afternoon. You can settle it with him, ah! How do you like that, eh?"

I laughed him to scorn.

"Psha, man, you're an ass. I've told you before now what I think of
Lord Blackadder, and if it be necessary I'll tell him to his face when
he gets here."

This conversation took place just before the _table-d'hote_ luncheon,
and immediately afterwards Falfani went out in the direction of the
railway station. I followed, keeping him in sight on the platform,
where, by and by, I saw him, hat in hand, bowing obsequiously before a
passenger who alighted from the incoming train. It would have been
enough for me had I not already known Lord Blackadder by sight. They
walked back together to the hotel, and so, at a certain distance, did
I.

I was lounging about outside the house, wondering what would happen
next, when a waiter came out to me bearing a card, which he tendered,
bowing low, more in deference to the card, as I thought, than to me.

"Earl of Blackadder" was the name engraved, and written just below in
pencil were the words, "would like to speak to Colonel Annesley at
once."

"Well, I've no objection," I began, stiffly. I thought the summons a
trifle too peremptory. "Where is he?"

The waiter pointed back to the hotel, and I saw a white, evil face
glowering at me from a window on the ground floor of the hotel. The
very look on it stirred my bile. It was an assumption of superiority,
of concentrated pride and exaggerated authority, as though everyone
must yield to his lightest wish and humble himself in the dust before
him. I resented this, and slipping the card carelessly in my pocket, I
nodded to the waiter, who still stood awaiting my reply.

"Will monsieur come?" he asked.

"No. Tell his lordship he will find me here if he wants me. That will
do," and I waved him off.

Soon afterwards Lord Blackadder came out. Mahomet came to the
mountain. I liked his face less than ever. It wore an angry scowl
now; his dark eyes glittered balefully under the close-knit eyebrows,
his lips were drawn down, and the curved nose was like the aggressive
beak of a bird of prey.

"Colonel Annesley, I understand," he said coldly, contemptuously, just
lifting one finger towards the brim of his hat.

"That is my name," I responded, without returning the salute.

"I am Lord Blackadder; you will have had my card. I desired to address
you somewhat more privately than this." He looked round the open yard
in front of the hotel. "May I hope you will accompany me to my rooms?
I have to speak to you on a matter that concerns you very closely."

"That I cannot admit. There can be nothing between you and me, Lord
Blackadder, that concerns me very closely; nothing that the whole
world may not hear."

"What I have to say might prove very unpleasant to you in the telling,
Colonel Annesley. You would be well advised in agreeing that our
interview should be private."

"I can't see it, and I must tell you plainly that I do not care one
jot. Say what you please, my lord, and, if you like, as loud as you
please, only be quick about it."

"With all my heart, then, if you will have it so. I wish to tell you,
Colonel Annesley, that you have taken a most unwarrantable liberty in
mixing yourself up with my affairs."

"I am not aware that I have done so."

"You shall not trifle with me, sir. Your conduct is inexcusable,
ungentlemanlike."

"Take care, my lord," I broke in hotly.

"People who forget themselves so far as you have done must accept the
responsibility of their own actions; and I tell you, here and now,
that I shall call you to strict account for yours."

The man was trying me hard, but still I strove to keep my temper.

"I don't care that for your opinion, and I do not allow that you are a
judge of what is gentlemanlike. No one would do so who had read the
public prints lately."

"How dare you, sir, refer to my conduct, or presume to criticize or
question it?" he burst out.

"Ta, ta, ta! It is a real pleasure to me to tell you what I think of
you, Lord Blackadder; and as I am ready to give you every
satisfaction, I shall not stint myself."

"I insist upon satisfaction."

"By all means. It can be easily arranged. We are within a short step
of either France or Italy, and in both countries the old-fashioned
plan of settling affairs of honour is still in force. We shall find
friendly seconds in the nearest garrison town, and I shall be glad to
cross the frontier with you whenever you please."

"You talk like the hectoring, swashbuckling bully that you are," he
cried angrily, but looking rather uncomfortable.... "I will swear the
peace against you."

"Do so by all means. It would be like you. A man who would descend to
espionage, who could so cruelly misuse a lady, is capable of anything;
of making assertions he cannot substantiate, of threatening things he
dare not do."

"I have the clearest proof of what I say. You have chosen to come into
my life--"

"I should be extremely sorry to do so."

"Will you deny that you have sided with my enemies, that you have
joined and abetted them in a base plot to defraud and rob me of
my--my--property, of that which I most highly value and cherish of
all my possessions?"

"I don't know what you are talking about, Lord Blackadder, but
whatever your grievance I tell you candidly that I do not like your
tone or your manner, and I shall hold no further converse with you."

I turned my back on him and walked away.

"Stay, stay. You must and shall hear me out. I've not done with you."
He came hurrying after me, following close and raising his voice
higher and higher. "Your very presence here is an offence. You have no
right to be here at all."

"Do you think that you own all Switzerland, my noble earl?" I answered
over my shoulder as I walked on. "It is not your ground to warn me
off."

"I tell you you shall not remain here to annoy me and work against me.
I forbid it, and I will put a stop to it. I give you plain warning."

"You know you are talking nonsense. I shall go my own road, and I defy
you to do your worst."

Here, when I was on the threshold of the hotel, I met Falfani full,
as he came running out excitedly, holding in his hand the telltale
blue envelope, which, with his elated air, indicated clearly that he
had just received important news.

I paused for a moment, hoping he might commit himself, and was
rewarded by hearing him say aloud:

"It is from Geneva, my lord, from Ludovic Tiler," he began
indiscreetly, and was angrily silenced by my lord, who called him "a
triple-dyed idiot," and with a significant gesture towards me bade him
walk away to some distance from the hotel.

The mischief was done, however, for I had of course heard enough to
know that the other detective had given signs of life at last, and
that the report, to judge by Falfani's glee, must be satisfactory. The
more pleased the other side, the more reason to fear that matters were
adverse on ours.




CHAPTER XV.


It might be thought that I was too hard on my Lord Blackadder, but
only those few indeed who were unacquainted with the circumstances of
his divorce would find fault with me. The scandal was quite recent,
and the Blackadder case had been in everybody's mouth. The papers had
been full of it, and the proceedings were not altogether to his
lordship's credit. They had been instituted by him, however, on
grounds that induced the jury to give him a verdict, and the judge had
pronounced a decree nisi on the evidence as it stood.

Yet the public sympathies were generally with the respondent, the
Countess of Blackadder. It had been an unhappy marriage, an
ill-assorted match, mercenary, of mere convenience, forced upon an
innocent and rather weak girl by careless and callous guardians, eager
to rid themselves of responsibility for the two twin sisters, Ladies
Claire and Henriette Standish, orphans, and with no near relations.

Lord Blackadder was immensely rich, but a man of indifferent moral
character, a _roue_ and a voluptuary, with a debilitated constitution
and an unattractive person, possessing none of the gifts that take a
maiden's fancy.

Estrangement soon followed the birth of the son and heir to his title
and great estates. My lord was a great deal older than his beautiful
young wife, and desperately jealous of her. Distrust grew into strong
suspicion, and presently consumed him when an old flame of Lady
Henriette's, Charlie Forrester, of the Dark Horse, turned up from
foreign service, and their names came to be bracketed together by the
senseless gossiping busybodies ever ready to tear a pretty woman's
reputation to tatters. It was so much put about, so constantly dinned
into Lord Blackadder's ears, that he was goaded into a perfect fury,
and was at length determined, by hook or by crook, to put away his
wife, leaving it to certain astute and well-practised solicitors to
manufacture a clear, solid case against her.

Lady Blackadder, who hated and despised her lord, foolishly played
into his hands. She never really went wrong, so her friends stoutly
averred, especially her sister Claire, a staunch and loyal soul, but
she gave a handle to innuendo, and more than once allowed appearances
to go against her.

There was one very awkward story that could not be disproved as it was
told, and in the upshot convicted her. It was clearly shown in
evidence that she had made up her mind to leave Lord Blackadder; more,
that she meant to elope with Major Forrester. It was said, but not so
positively, that she had met him at Victoria Station; they were seen
there together, had travelled by the same train, and there was a
strong presumption that they had arrived together at Brighton; one or
two railway officials deposed to the fact.

Lady Blackadder denied this entirely, and gave a very different
complexion to the story. She had gone to Brighton; yes, but quite
alone. Major Forrester had seen her off, no doubt, but they had parted
at the carriage door. Her visit to Brighton had been for the purpose
of seeing and staying with an old servant, once a very confidential
maid for whom she had a great liking, and had often taken refuge with
when worried and in trouble. She thought, perhaps, to make this the
first stage in the rupture with my lord.

This maid had earnestly adjured her not to break with her husband, and
to return to Grosvenor Square.

This flight was the head and corner-stone of Lady Blackadder's
offending. It was interpreted into guilt of the most heinous kind; the
evidence in support of it seemed overwhelming. Witnesses swore
positively to the companionship of Major Forrester, both at Victoria
and Brighton, and it was to be fairly assumed that they were at the
latter place together.

No rebutting evidence was forthcoming. The maid, a woman married to an
ex-French or Swiss courier, by name Bruel, could not be produced,
simply because she could not be found in Brighton. They were supposed
to be settled there as lodging-house keepers, but they had not resided
long enough to be in the Directory, and their address was not known.
Lord Blackadder's case was that they were pure myths, they had never
had any tangible existence, but were only imported into the case to
support an ingenious but untenable defence.

It was more than hinted that they had been spirited away, and they
were not the first material witnesses, it was hinted, in an intricate
case, conducted by Messrs. Gadecker and Gobye, who had mysteriously
disappeared. So the plausible, nay, completely satisfactory
explanation of Lady Blackadder's visit to Brighton could not be put
forward, much less established, and there was no sort of hope for her.
She lost her case in the absence of the Bruels, man and wife. The
verdict was for Lord Blackadder, and he was adjudged to have the care
and custody of the child, the infant Viscount Aspdale.

I had not the smallest doubt when I realized with whom I had to do
that the unhappy mother had made a desperate effort to redress her
wrongs, as she thought them, and had somehow contrived to carry off
her baby before she could be deprived of it.

I had met her in full flight upon the Engadine express.

What next? Was she to be overtaken and despoiled, legally, of course,
but still cruelly, separated from her own flesh and blood? The Court
might order such an unnatural proceeding, but I was moved by every
chivalrous impulse to give her my unstinting and unhesitating support
to counteract it.

I was full of these thoughts, and still firmly resolved to help Lady
Blackadder, when l'Echelle, the conductor whose services I still
retained, sought me out hurriedly, and told me that he believed the
others were on the point of leaving Brieg.

"I saw Falfani and milord poring over the pages of the _Indicateur_,
and heard the word Geneva dropped in a whisper. I think they mean to
take the next train along the lake shore."

"Not a doubt of it," I assented; "so will we. They must not be allowed
to go beyond our reach."

When the 6.57 P.M. for Geneva was due out from Brieg, we,
l'Echelle and I, appeared on the platform, and our intention to travel
by it was made plain to Lord Blackadder. The effect upon him was
painfully manifest at once. He chafed, he raged up and down, grimacing
and apostrophizing Falfani; once or twice he approached me with
clenched fists, and I really thought would have struck me at last.
Seeing me enter the same carriage with him, with the obvious intention
of keeping him under my eye, he threw himself back among the cushions
and yielded himself with the worst grace to the inevitable.

The railway journey was horribly slow, and it must have been past 11
P.M. before we reached Geneva. We alighted in the Cornavin
station, and as they moved at once towards the exit I followed. I
expected them to take a carriage and drive off, and was prepared to
give chase, when I found they started on foot, evidently to some
destination close at hand. It proved to be the Cornavin Hotel, not a
stone's-throw from the station.

They entered, and went straight to the bureau, where the night clerk
was at his desk. I heard them ask for a person named Tiler, and
without consulting his books the clerk replied angrily:

"Tiler! Tiler! _Ma foi_, he is of no account, your Tiler. He has gone
off from the dinner-table and without paying his bill."

"That shall be made all right," replied Lord Blackadder loftily, as he
detailed his name and quality, before which the employe bowed low.
"And might I ask," his lordship went on, "whether a certain Mrs.
Blair, a lady with her child and its nurse, is staying in the hotel?"

"But certainly, milord. They have been here some days. Salon and suite
No. 17."

"At any rate, that's well, Falfani," said Lord Blackadder, with a sigh
of satisfaction. "But what of your friend Tiler? Thick-headed dolt,
unable to keep awake, I suppose."

At that moment a shabbily dressed person approached Falfani, touched
his hat, and offered him a note, saying:

"This must be for you, monsieur. I heard your name--"

"From Tiler, my lord, aha! This explains." And he passed the scrap of
paper on to his employer.

"I'll be hanged if I see it! He says the parties have gone, and that
he is in close attendance; yet this fellow here," pointing to the
clerk, "assures us she is in this very house. I don't understand it,
by Gad!"

"There is some fresh trick, my lord, you may be sure. The devil
himself isn't half so clever as this fine lady. But we'll get at the
bottom of it. We shall hear more from Tiler, and we've got the lady
here, under our hand."

"Ah! but have we? This chap's as likely as not to be mistaken. How do
you know, sir," to the clerk, "that Mrs. Blair is still in the hotel?
When did you come on duty? What if she left without your knowing it?"

"It could not be, milord. See, it is marked in the register. No. 17 is
occupied. I could not let it. Mrs. Blair holds it still."

"But she may not be in it, all the same. Can't you see? She may retain
it, but not use it."

"Look, my lord, look, there's one of her party, anyway," interposed
Falfani, and he called his attention to a female figure standing a
little aloof in the shadow of the staircase, and which I had already
recognized.

It was Philpotts, "Mrs. Blair's" maid, and she was trying to attract
my attention. Lord Blackadder had not seen her, and now his eye, for
the first time, fell upon me. He turned on me furiously.

"You! You! Still at my heels? This is perfectly monstrous. It amounts
to persecution. You still dare to intrude yourself. Can I have no
privacy? Take yourself off, or I will not answer for the
consequences."

I confess I only laughed and still held my ground, although my lord's
outcry had attracted much attention. Several people ran up, and they
might have sided against me, when I heard a voice whisper into my ear:

"Come, sir, come. Slip away. My lady is dying to see you. She is
terribly upset."




CHAPTER XVI.


I was received with great warmth and cordiality by my friend, and it
was made clear to me that my opportune appearance brought her great
comfort and support.

"I never hoped for such good fortune as this," she began heartily. "I
had no idea you were within miles, and was repining bitterly that I
had let you get so far out of the way. Now you appear in the very nick
of time, just when I was almost in despair. But wait. Can I still
count upon your help?"

"Why, most certainly, Lady Blackadder."

"Lady Black--" She was looking at me very keenly, and, as I thought,
was much startled and surprised. Then with a conscious blush she went
on. "Of course, I might have guessed you would penetrate my disguise,
but you must not call me Lady Blackadder. I can lay no claim to the
title."

"May I be forgiven if I trench on such a delicate subject, and assure
you of my most sincere sympathy? Everybody felt for you deeply. I
hope you will believe that I am, and ever shall be, at your orders and
devoted to your service."

"Yes, yes, I am sure of it; I know I can depend upon you fully, and I
mean to do so now at once. You know, you have heard, that Lord
Blackadder is here, and actually in this hotel?"

"I came with him. I was watching that fellow, the detective Falfani,
when his lordship came upon the scene. We had words, a quarrel, almost
a fight."

"Pfu! He would not fight! I only wish you had thrashed him as he
deserves. But that won't help matters now. How am I to escape him?"

"With the child?"

"To be sure. Of course, I do not fear him in the least for myself."

"You want to keep the child?"

"Naturally, as I carried it off."

"And still more because you had the best right to it, whatever the
Court might direct. You are its mother."

Again she blushed and smiled, rather comically. "I certainly shall not
surrender it to Lord Blackadder, not without a struggle. Yet he is
very near getting it now."

"In there?" I nodded towards the next room. "It is a close thing. How
are you to manage it?"

"There would not have been the slightest difficulty; it was all but
done, and then some one, something, failed me. I expected too much
perhaps, but I have been bitterly disappointed, and the danger has
revived."

"Come, come, Lady Blackadder, keep up your courage. Let us take
counsel together. We can surely devise some fresh plan. Don't give way
now; you have been so plucky all through. Be brave still."

"Thank you, Colonel Annesley, I will." She put out her hand with
enchanting frankness, her fine eyes shining gratefully. A man would
have dared much, endured much, to win such gracious approval.

"It is getting late, but you must hear all I have to tell before we
can decide upon the next step. Will you listen to me? I shall not bore
you. It is a long story. First let me clear the ground a little. I
must disabuse your mind on one point. I am not Lady Blackadder--no,
no, do not misunderstand me--not on account of the divorce, but I
never was Lady Blackadder. She was Henriette Standish. I am Claire,
her sister Claire."

"What a fool I've been!" I cried. "I might have guessed."

"How should you? But let me go on. I shall never forget that
detestable trial, those awful days in the Divorce Court, when the
lawyers fought and wrangled over my darling sister, like dogs over a
bone, tearing and snarling at each other, while the judge sat above
like a solemn old owl, never moving or making a sign.

"Henriette positively refused to appear in the case, although she was
pressed and entreated by her legal advisers. She could have thrown so
much light on the worst and darkest part. She could have repudiated
the cowardly charges made, and cast back the lies drawn round her to
ruin her. If the jury had but seen her pretty, pathetic face, and
heard from her own sweet lips all she had endured, they would have
come to a very different verdict.

"But she would not come forward on her own behalf. She would not
defend the action; she did not want to win it, but waited till it was
all over, hiding herself away in a far-off corner of the Apennines,
where I was to join her with the child, little Ralph.

"There had been no question of that; the possibility of her losing it
had never been raised, or she would have nerved herself to fight
sooner than give up what she valued more than her very life.

"It fell upon me with crushing effect, although towards the end of the
trial I had had my forebodings. Lord Blackadder was to have the
custody of his heir, and my dear sweet Henriette was to be robbed for
ever of her chiefest joy and treasure. The infant child was to be
abandoned to strangers, paid by its unnatural and unfeeling father.

"I had braced myself to listen to all that came out in court, a whole
tissue of lies told by perjured wretches whose evidence was accepted
as gospel--one of them was the same Falfani whom you know, and who had
acted the loathsome part of spy on several occasions.

"Directly the judge had issued his cruel fiat, I slipped out, hurried
down-stairs into the Strand, jumped into a hansom, and was driven at
top speed to Hamilton Terrace, bent upon giving instant effect to a
scheme I had long since devised.

"I found my faithful Philpotts awaiting me with everything prepared as
I had arranged. The dear baby was dressed quickly--he was as good as
gold--the baggage, enough for my hurried journey to Fuentellato, had
been packed for days past, and we took the road.

"I knew that pursuit would not tarry, but I was satisfied that I had
made a good start, and I hoped to make my way through to Italy without
interference. When I first saw you at Calais I was seized with a
terrible fear, which was soon allayed; you did not look much like a
detective, and you were already my good friend when the real ruffian,
Falfani, came on board the train at Amiens."

[_Lady Claire Standish passed on next to describe her journey from
Basle to Lausanne, and the clever way in which she eluded the second
detective--matters on which the reader has been already informed._]

"On reaching Geneva I at once opened communications with Henriette. I
felt satisfied, now that I had come so far, it would be well that she
should join me, and that we should concert together as to our next
proceedings. Our first and principal aim was to retain the child at
all costs and against all comers. I had no precise knowledge as to
where we should be beyond the jurisdiction of the English law, but I
could not believe that the Divorce Court and its emissaries could
interfere with us in a remote Italian village. My real fear was of
Lord Blackadder. He was so bold and unscrupulous that, if the law
would not help him, he would try stratagem, or even force. We should
be really safe nowhere if we once came within his reach, and, the best
plan to keep out of his clutches was to hide our whereabouts from him.

"Fuentellato would not do, for although I do not believe he knew the
exact spot in which Henriette had taken refuge, he must have guessed
something from the direction of my journey, and that I was on my way
to join her. If he failed to intercept me _en route_, he would make
his way straight there. I had resolved he should not find us, but
where else should we go? Farther afield, if necessary to the very end
of the world. Lord Blackadder, we might be sure, would hunt high and
low to recover his lost heir, sparing no expense, neglecting no means.

"It was, however, essential to elude his agents, who were so near at
hand and likely to press me close. That was another reason for drawing
my sister to me. I had hit upon a cunning device, as I thought it, to
confuse and deceive my pursuers, to throw them on to a false scent,
lead them to follow a red herring, while the fox, free of the hunt,
took another line."




CHAPTER XVII.


"There should be two Richmonds in the field! That was my grand idea.
Two sets, two parties, each of them consisting of one lady, one maid,
and one baby, exactly similar and indistinguishable. When the time was
ripe we should separate, and each would travel in opposite directions,
and I hoped to show sufficient guile to induce my persecutors to give
chase to the wrong quarry. Run it to the death, while the party got
clear away.

"I had made a nice calculation. Fuentellato was at no great distance
from Parma, on the main line of railway. If she started at once, via
Piacenza to Turin, she could catch the Mont Cenis express through to
Modane and Culoz, where she could change for Geneva, so as to reach me
some time on Tuesday.

"This was exactly what happened. My sister carried out my instructions
to the letter, and I met her here on arrival. I had taken up my
quarters in this hotel because it was so near the station, but I
thought it prudent that Henriette should lodge somewhere else, the
farther the better, and she went to a small place, the Hotel Pierre
Fatio, at the other end of the town.

"It is a long story, Colonel Annesley, but there is not much more, and
yet the most interesting part is to come.

"We now devoted ourselves to the practical carrying out of the scheme,
just we four women; our maids, both clever dressmakers, were of
immense help. It was soon done. You can buy anything in Geneva. There
are plenty of good shops and skilful workers, and we soon provided
ourselves with the clothes, all the disguises really that we
required--the long gray dust cloaks and soft hats and all the rest, so
much alike that we might have been soldiers in the same regiment.
Philpotts and Victorine, my sister's maid, were also made up on a
similar pattern, and a second baby was built up as a dummy that would
have deceived any one.

"Everything was completed by this morning, and I had settled that my
sister, with her dear little Ralph, should get away, but by quite a
new route, while I held my ground against the detectives. I felt sure
they would soon hear of me and run me down. I hoped they would attach
themselves to me, and meant to lead them a fine dance as a blind for
Henriette, who, meanwhile, would have crossed to Lyons and gone south
to Marseilles. The Riviera is a longer and more roundabout road to
Turin, but it was open, and I hoped unimpeded. What do you think of my
diplomacy?"

"Admirable!" I cried, with enthusiasm. "Your cleverness, Lady Claire,
is colossal. Go on, I beg of you. Surely you have succeeded?"

"Alas! no. Everything was cut and dried and this evening we scored the
first point in the game. Henriette went on this evening to Amberieu,
the junction for Lyons. She went straight from her hotel, alone, for
of course I was obliged to keep close, or the trick would have been
discovered, and it was in part.

"For I must tell you that to-day one of the detectives appeared in
Geneva, not the first man, but a second, who attached himself to me at
Basle. I met him plump on the Mont Blanc Bridge and turned tail, but
he came after me. I jumped into a passing tram, so did he, and to
throw him off his guard I talked to him, and made friends with him,
and advised him to come and stay at this hotel. Then I got out and
left him, making my way to the Pierre Fatio Hotel by a circuitous
route, dodging in and out among the narrow streets till I nearly lost
myself.

"I thought I had eluded him, and he certainly was nowhere near when I
went into the hotel. But I suppose he followed me, he must have, and
found out something, for I know now that he went to Amberieu after
Henriette--"

"You are perfectly sure?"

"She has telegraphed to me from Amberieu; I got it not an hour ago.
The man accosted her, taking her for me. He would have it she was Mrs.
Blair, and told her to her face that he did not mean to lose sight of
her again. So you see--"

"If she goes round by Lyons to Marseilles, then, he would be at her
heels, and the scheme breaks down in that respect?"

"Not only that, I don't see that he could interfere with her, or do
her much harm, and at Marseilles she might change her plans entirely.
There are ever so many ways of escape from a seaport. She might take
ship and embark on board the first steamer bound to the East, for
India or Ceylon, the Antipodes or far Cathay."

"Well, why not?"

"Henriette, my sister, has given way. Her courage has failed her at
this, the most critical moment, when she is within a hair's breadth of
success. She is afraid to go on alone with little Ralph, and is
running back to me by the first train to-morrow morning, at five or
six o'clock."

"Coming here? Into the very mouths of all the others!"

"Just so, and all my great scheme will be ruined. They cannot but find
out, and there is no knowing what they may do. Lord Blackadder, I
know, is capable of anything. I assure you, Colonel Annesley, I am in
despair. What _can_ I do?"

She looked at me in piteous appeal, the tears brimming over, her hands
stretched towards me with a gesture at once pathetic and enchanting.

"Say, rather, what can _we_ do, Lady Claire," I corrected her. "This
is my business, too, if you will allow me to say so, and I offer you
my advice for what it is worth."

"Yes, I will take it thankfully, I promise you."

"The only safe course now is the boldest. You must make another
exchange with your sister, Lady Blackadder--"

"Call her Lady Henriette Standish. She has dropped the other
entirely."

"By all means. Lady Henriette then has determined to take the first
train from Amberieu at--Have you a Bradshaw? Thank you--at 5.52
A.M., which will get her to Culoz at 6.48. You must, if
possible, exchange babies, and at the same time exchange _roles_. I
feel sure that you, at any rate, are not afraid of going to Marseilles
with the real baby."

"Hardly!" she laughed scornfully. "But Henriette--what is to become of
her?"

"That shall be my affair. It is secondary, really. The first and
all-important is for you to secure the little Ralph and escape with
him. It will have to be done under the very eyes of the enemy, for
there is every reason to fear they will be going on, too. The other
detective, this Tiler--I have heard them call him by that name--will
have told them of her ladyship's movements, and will have summoned
them, Falfani at least, to his side."

"If I go on by that early train they will, no doubt, do the same. I
must not be seen by them. They would fathom the trick of the two
parties and the exchange."

"Yet you must go on by that train. It's the only way."

"Of course I might change my appearance a little, but not enough to
deceive them. Cannot I go across to the station before them and hide
in some compartment specially reserved for us?"

"It might be managed. We might secure the whole of the seats."

"Money is no object."

"It will do most things, especially in Switzerland. Leave it to me,
Lady Claire. All you have to do is to be ready to-morrow morning, very
early, remember. Before 5 A.M."

"If necessary I'll sit up all night."

"Well, then, that's settled. I'll knock at your door and see you get
some coffee."

"Philpotts shall make it; no one in the hotel must know. There will be
the bill."

"I will see to that. I'll come back after you're ensconced, with the
blinds drawn. Sick lady on the way, via Culoz to Aix-les-Bains, must
not be disturbed. It won't matter my being seen on the road, all the
better really if my lord is there, for I have a little plan of my own,
Lady Claire--no, please don't ask me yet--but it will help matters, I
think."

"You are, indeed, my true and faithful friend," she said, as she put
out her hand and wished me good night. She left it in mine for just a
second, and I flattered myself that its warm pressure was meant to
assure me that I had established a substantial claim to her regard.




CHAPTER XVIII.


On leaving Salon No. 17 I descended to the ground floor, seeking the
smoking-room and a little stimulant to assist me in deciding the best
course of action for the following day.

As I passed along the corridor I caught sight of l'Echelle, whom I
considered my man, in close confabulation with Falfani in a quiet
corner. They could hardly have seen me, at least l'Echelle made no
reference to the fact when he came to me presently and asked if I had
any orders for the morning. I answered him sternly:

"What was Falfani saying to you just now? The truth, please, or you
get nothing more from me."

"He is a _vaurien_ and _faineant_, and thinks others as bad as
himself; said my lord would give me five hundred francs to know what
you were doing, and find out whether the lady who travelled with us to
Basle last Sunday is here in this house."

"I've no objection to your taking his money if you will tell me
something. How long does my lord mean to stay here? Have you any
idea?"

"They all go on by the early train to Culoz or farther. A pressing
telegram has come from their man at Amberieu."

"Ah! Indeed. Then you may say that I am also going by that early
train. They're not going to shake me off very easily. Tell them that,
and that if they want the lady they'd better look for her. She isn't
here."

I lied in a good cause, for a lady, as a gentleman is bound to do. I
shall be forgiven, I think, under the circumstances.

The free use of coin had the desired effect at the railway station.
Soon after 5 A.M. I was met at a private door and escorted,
with my precious party, by a circuitous route to where the 5.48 was
shunted, waiting the moment to run back to the departure platform.
There was a coupe ready for Lady Claire, and she took her place
quietly, observed by no one but the obsequious official who had
managed it all.

As for me, I walked boldly to the hotel and hung about the hall till
the Blackadder party appeared and had left for the station. Then I
asked the hotel clerk for Lady Claire's bill, paid it, with my own,
and went over to the train, selecting a compartment close to the
coupe. As I passed it I knocked lightly on the window pane, giving a
signal previously arranged between us.

I do not think that Lord Blackadder saw me then, at the start. But at
Bellegarde, the Swiss frontier, where there was a wait of half an hour
for the Customs examination, an irritating performance always, but
carried out here with the most maddening and overbearing
particularity, everyone was obliged to alight from the train, and for
the moment I trembled for Lady Claire. But the appeal addressed to the
French brigadier, "_un galant homme_," of an invalid lady, too ill to
be disturbed, was effectual, especially when backed by two five-franc
pieces.

Lord Blackadder was on the platform with the rest, and directly he saw
me he came up with the same arrogant air, curiously blended with
aggrieved helplessness.

"This will end badly, Colonel Annesley. I give you fair warning. I
shall appeal to the authorities. We shall be on French soil directly,
and I know something of French law. It affords protection to all who
claim it against such people as you."

"If you talk like that I'll give you some reason to seek the
protection of the gendarmes or police," I cried, but checked myself at
once.

I had made up my mind how to deal with him, but the time was not yet.

"Your insolence, sir, outsteps all bounds, and you shall answer for
it, I tell you."

But now the cry was raised "_En voiture! en voiture!_" and we were
peremptorily hustled back to our seats. Lord Blackadder hurried to his
compartment at the end of the train some way from mine and the coupe.
As I passed the latter, seeing the road clear, I gave the signal, and,
taking out my railway carriage key, quickly slipped in.

She received me with her rare sweet smile, that was the richest
payment a man could ask.

"The critical moment is at hand, Lady Claire," I said, speaking
mysteriously. "It is essential that we should have a few last words
together. Naturally we must now be guided very much by the way things
happen, but so far as possible we must prepare for them. We have
managed capitally so far. I don't believe Lord Blackadder has any idea
you are in the train, and I much doubt that he expects to find Lady
Henriette at Culoz. You think she will really be there?"

"I feel sure of it. It is just what she would do."

"Then everything will depend on you. You must be alert and prompt, on
the _qui vive_ to seize your opportunity. It will be your business to
make your way to her with the dummy the instant the train stops."

"I shall have to find her."

"That is the first and chief thing on your part. You _must_ find her
at once. There are very few minutes for the whole job. Find her,
exchange burthens, send her to the train for Aix-les-Bains. It will be
waiting there. You hurry back to this coupe, lie low, and, if all goes
well, you will be travelling on toward Amberieu before the enemy has
the least notion what has occurred."

"But one word, please. What will the enemy have been doing at Culoz?
Say they catch sight of Henriette as soon as we do?"

"I hope and trust they may. I count upon that as part of my
programme."

"But they will catch her, stop her, deprive her of our dear little
Ralph."

"Wait, wait. You will see. It will be settled in a moment now. But
before it is too late let us arrange how you may communicate with me.
We shall both be moving about, and the best address I can give will be
in London. Telegraph to me there to my club, the Mars and Neptune,
Piccadilly. I will send instructions there to have all telegrams
opened and retelegraphed to me at once. They shall be kept informed of
my whereabouts daily. But now, here we are, close to Culoz and already
slowing down. Look out, please."

It could not have suited me better. There, standing under the shadow
of the dwarf plane-trees, but with not the slightest suggestion of
concealment, was the exact counterpart of Lady Claire, her twin
sister, Lady Henriette Standish, till lately Lady Blackadder. She was
staring intently at our train as it ran in, deeply anxious, no doubt,
to note the arrival of her sister.

"Give me a short start," I said to Lady Claire as I jumped out of the
coupe. "You will see why."

Even as I spoke I was satisfied that the pursuing party had recognized
the object of their journey. They had all alighted and were coming up
the platform in great haste to where she stood. Had any doubt
remained, it would have been removed by the appearance of a man who
ran out from some back part of the station and waved them forward with
much gesticulation.

Here I interposed, and, rushing forward with all the ardour of a
football player entering a scrimmage, I took Lord Blackadder by the
throat and shook him.




CHAPTER XIX.

[_Falfani again._]


When that audacious and intemperate English Colonel so far forgot
himself as to assault my lord the Right Honourable the Earl of
Blackadder at Culoz Station in the open light of day before us all, I
greatly rejoiced; for, although horror-stricken at his ruffianly
conduct, I knew that he would get his deserts at last. The French
authorities would certainly not tolerate brawling in the precincts of
the railway station, and justice must promptly overtake the sole
offender. The blackguard Colonel, the cause and origin of the
disturbance, would, of course, be at once arrested and removed.

The fracas had naturally attracted general attention. One or two
porters ran up and endeavoured, with Tiler and myself, to rescue my
lord from his cowardly assailant. A crowd quickly gathered around us,
many passengers and a number of idlers, who drop from nowhere, as it
might be, all drawn to the spot by overmastering curiosity. Everybody
talked at the same time, asking questions, volunteering answers, some
laughing shamelessly at my lord's discomfiture, a few expressing
indignation, and declaring that such a scandal should not be
permitted, and the guilty parties held strictly to account.

The gendarmes on duty--a couple of them are always at hand in a French
railway station--soon appeared, and, taking in the situation at the
first glance, imposed silence peremptorily.

"Let some one, one person only, speak and explain." The brigadier, or
sergeant, addressed himself to me, no doubt seeing that I had assumed
a prominent place in the forefront, and seemed a person of importance.

"Monsieur here," I said, pointing to the Colonel, who, in spite of all
we could do, still held my lord tight, "was the aggressor, as you can
see for yourselves. Oblige him, I pray you, to desist. He will do my
lord some serious injury."

"Is one an English milord, _hein_? Who, then, is the other?"

"An abominable _vaurien_," I answered with great heat. "A rank
villain; one who outrages all decency, breaks every law, respects no
rank--"

"_Bus, bus_," cried the Colonel, in some language of his own, as he
put me aside so roughly that I still feel the pain in my shoulder.
"That'll do, my fine fellow. Let me speak for myself, if you please.
Pardon, M. le brigadier," he went on, saluting him politely. "Here is
my card. I am, as you will perceive, an officer of the English army,
and I appeal to you as a comrade, for I see by your decorations, no
doubt richly deserved, that you are an _ancien militaire_. I appeal to
you for justice and protection."

"Protection, forsooth!" I broke in, contemptuously. "Such as the wolf
and the tiger and the snake expect from their victim."

It made me sick to hear him currying favour with the gendarme, and
still worse that it was affecting the old trooper, who looked on all
as _pekins_, mere civilians, far inferior to military men.

"Protection you shall have, _mon Colonel_, if you have a right to it,
_bien entendu_," said the sergeant, civilly but cautiously.

"I ask it because these people have made a dead set at me. They have
tried to hustle me and, I fear, to rob me, and I have been obliged to
act in my own defence."

Before I could protest against this shameless misrepresentation of the
fact, my lord interposed. He was now free, and, gradually recovering,
was burning to avenge the insults put upon him.

"It is not true," he shouted. "It is an absolute lie. He knows it is
not true; he is perfectly well aware who I am, Lord Blackadder; and
that he has no sort of grievance against me nor any of my people. His
attack upon me was altogether unprovoked and unjustifiable."

"Let the authorities judge between us," calmly said the Colonel. "Take
us before the station-master, or send for the Commissary from the
town. I haven't the slightest objection."

"Yes, yes, the _Commissaire de police_, the judge, the peace officer.
Let us go before the highest authorities; nothing less than arrest,
imprisonment, the heaviest penalties, will satisfy me," went on my
lord.

"With all my heart," cried the Colonel. "We'll refer it to any one you
please. Lead on, _mon brave_, only you must take all or none. I
insist upon that. It is my right; let us all go before the
Commissary."

"There is no Commissary here in Culoz. You must travel to
Aix-les-Bains to find him. Fifteen miles from here."

"Well, why not? I'm quite ready," assented the Colonel, with an
alacrity I did not understand. I began to think he had some game of
his own.

"So am I ready," cried his lordship. "I desire most strongly to haul
this hectoring bully before the law, and let his flagrant misconduct
be dealt with in a most exemplary fashion."

I caught a curious shadow flitting across my comrade Tiler's face at
this speech. He evidently did not approve of my lord's attitude. Why?

I met his eye as soon as I could, and, in answer to my inquiring
glance, he came over to me and whispered:

"Don't you see? He," jerking his finger toward the Colonel, "wants us
to waste as much time as possible, while my lady slips through our
fingers and gets farther and farther on her road."

"Where is she?"

"Ah, where? No longer here, anyway."

The train by which we had come from Geneva was not now in the station.
It had gone on, quite unobserved by any of us during the fracas, and
it flashed upon me at once that the incident had been planned for this
very purpose of occupying our attention while she stole off.

"But, one moment, Ludovic, that train was going to Macon and Paris. My
lady was travelling the other way--this way. You came with her
yourself. Why should she run back again?"

"Ah! Why does a woman do anything, and particularly this one? Still
there was a reason, a good one. She must have caught sight of my lord,
and knew that she was caught."

"That's plausible enough, but I don't understand it. She started for
Italy; what turned her back when you followed her, and why did she
come this way again?"

"She only came because I'd tracked her to Amberieu, and thought to
give me the slip," said Tiler.

"May be. But it don't seem to fit. Anyway, we've got to find her once
more. It ought not to be difficult. She's not the sort to hide
herself easily, with all her belongings, the nurse and the baby and
all the rest. But hold on, my lord is speaking."

"Find out, one of you," he said briefly, "when the next train goes to
Aix. I mean to push this through to the bitter end. You will be
careful, sergeant, to bring your prisoner along with you."

"_Merci bien!_ I do not want you or any one else to teach me my duty,"
replied the gendarme, very stiffly. It was clear that his sympathies
were all with the other side.

"A prisoner, am I?" cried the Colonel, gaily. "Not much. But I shall
make no difficulties. I am willing enough to go with you. When is it
to be?"

"Nine fifty-one; due at Aix at 10.22," Tiler reported, and we
proceeded to pass the time, some twenty minutes, each in his own way.
Lord Blackadder paced the platform with feverish footsteps, his rage
and disappointment still burning fiercely within him. The Colonel
invited the two gendarmes to the _buvette_, and l'Echelle followed
him. I was a little doubtful of that slippery gentleman; although I
had bought him, as I thought, the night before, I never felt sure of
him. He had joined our party, had travelled with us, and seemed on our
side in the recent scuffle, here he was putting himself at the beck
and call of his own employer. My lord had paid him five hundred
francs. Was the money thrown away, and his intention now to go back on
his bargain?

Meanwhile Tiler and I thought it our pressing duty to utilize these
few moments in seeking news of our lady and her party. Had she been
seen? Oh, yes, many people, officials, and hangers-on about the
station had seen her. Too much seen indeed, for the stories told were
confusing and conflicting. One _facteur_ assured us he had helped her
into the train going Amberieu way, but I thought his description very
vague, although Tiler swallowed the statement quite greedily. Another
man told me quite a different story; he had seen her, and had not the
slightest doubt of it, in the down train, that for Aix-les-Bains, the
express via Chambery, Modane, and the Mont Cenis tunnel for Italy.
This was the true version, I felt sure. Italy had been her original
destination, and naturally she would continue her journey that way.

Why, then, Tiler asked, had she gone to Amberieu, running back as she
had done with him at her heels? To deceive him, of course, I retorted.
Was it not clear that her real point was Italy? Why else had she
returned to Culoz by the early train directly she thought she had
eluded Tiler? The reasoning was correct, but Ludovic was always a
desperately obstinate creature, jealous and conceited, tenacious of
his opinions, and holding them far superior to those who were cleverer
and more intelligent than himself.

Then we heard the whistle of the approaching train, and we all
collected on the platform. L'Echelle, as he came from the direction of
the _buvette_, was a little in the rear of the Colonel and the
gendarmes. I caught a look on his face not easy to interpret. He was
grinning all over it and pointing toward the Colonel with his finger,
derisively. I was not inclined to trust him very greatly, but he
evidently wished us to believe that he thought very little of the
Colonel, and that we might count upon his support against him.




CHAPTER XX.


There were seven of us passengers, more than enough to fill one
compartment, so we did not travel together. My lord very liberally
provided first-class tickets for the whole of the party, but the
Colonel took his own and paid for the gendarmes. He refused to travel
in the same carriage with the noble Earl, saying openly and impudently
that he preferred the society of honest old soldiers to such a crew as
ours. L'Echelle, still sitting on the hedge, as I fancied, got in with
the Colonel and his escort.

On reaching Aix-les-Bains, we found the omnibus that did the _service
de la ville_, but the Colonel refused to enter it, and declared he
would walk; he cared nothing for the degradation of appearing in the
public streets as a prisoner marching between a couple of gendarmes.
He gloried in it, he said; his desire was clearly to turn the whole
thing into ridicule, and the passers-by laughed aloud at this
well-dressed gentleman, as he strutted along with his hat cocked, one
hand on his hip, the other placed familiarly on the sergeant's arm.

He met some friends, too,--one was a person rather like himself, with
the same swaggering high-handed air, who accosted him as we were
passing the corner of the square just by the Hotel d'Aix.

"What ho! Basil my boy!" cried the stranger. "In chokey? Took up by
the police? What've you done? Robbed a church?"

"Come on with us and you'll soon know. No, really, come along, I may
want you. I'm going before the beak and may want a witness as to
character."

"Right oh! There are some more of us here from the old shop--Jack
Tyrrell, Bobus Smith--all Mars and Neptune men. They'll speak for a
pal at a pinch. Where shall we come?"

"To the town hall, the _mairie_," replied the Colonel, after a brief
reference to his escort. "I've got a particular appointment there with
Monsieur le Commissaire, and the Right Honourable the Earl of
Blackadder."

"Oh! that noble sportsman? What's wrong with him? What's he been
doing to you or you to him?"

"I punched his head, that's all."

"No doubt he deserved it; anyhow, Charlie Forrester will be pleased.
By-by, you'll see me again, and all the chaps I can pick up at the
Cercle and the hotels near."

Then our procession passed on, the Colonel and gendarmes leading,
Tiler and I with l'Echelle close behind.

We found my lord awaiting us. He had driven on ahead in a _fiacre_ and
was standing alone at the entrance to the police office, which is
situated on the ground floor of the Hotel de Ville, a pretty
old-fashioned building of gray stone just facing the Etablissement
Thermale, the home of the far-famed baths from which _Aix-les-Bains_
takes its name.

"In here?" asked my lord; and with a brief wave of his hand he would
have passed in first, but the officers of the law put him rather
rudely aside and claimed precedence for their prisoner.

But when M. le Commissaire, who was there, seated at a table opposite
his _greffier_, rose and bowed stiffly, inquiring our business, my
lord pushed forward into the front and began very warmly, in passable
French:

"I am an aggrieved person seeking justice on a wrong-doer. I--demand
justice of you--"

"_Pardon, monsieur, je vous prie._ We must proceed in order, and first
allow me to assure you that justice is always done in France. No one
need claim it in the tone you have assumed."

The Commissary was a solemn person, full of the stiff formality
exhibited by members of the French magistracy, the juniors especially.
He was dressed in discreet black, his clean-shaven, imperturbable face
showed over a stiff collar, and he wore the conventional white tie of
the French official.

"Allow me to ask--" he went on coldly.

"I will explain in a few words," began my lord, replying hurriedly.

"Stay, monsieur, it is not from you that I seek explanation. It is the
duty of the officers of the law now present, and prepared, I presume,
to make their report. Proceed, sergeant."

"But you must hear me, M. le Commissary; I call upon and require you
to do so. I have been shamefully ill-used by that man there." He
shook his finger at the Colonel. "He has violently assaulted me. I am
Lord Blackadder, an English peer. I am entitled to your best
consideration."

"Every individual, the poorest, meanest, is entitled to that in
republican France. You shall have it, sir, but only as I see fit to
accord it. I must first hear the story from my own people. Go on,
sergeant."

"I protest," persisted my lord. "You must attend to me--you shall
listen to me. I shall complain to your superiors--I shall bring the
matter before the British ambassador. Do you realize who and what I
am?"

"You appear to be a gentleman with an uncontrollable temper, whose
conduct is most improper. I must ask you to behave yourself, to
respect the _convenances_, or I shall be compelled to show you the
door."

"I will not be put down in this way, I will speak; I--I--"

"Silence, monsieur. I call upon you, explicitly, to moderate your tone
and pay proper deference to my authority." With this the commissary
pulled out a drawer, extracted a tricolour sash and slowly buckled it
round his waist, then once more turned interrogatively to the
sergeant:

"It is nothing very serious, M. le Commissaire," said the treacherous
gendarme. "A simple brawl--a blow struck, possibly returned--a mere
_rixe_."

"Between gentlemen? _Fi donc!_ Why the commonest _voyous_, the
_rodeurs_ of the _barriere_, could not do worse. It is not our French
way. Men of honour settle their disputes differently; they do not come
to the _police correctionnelle_."

"Pray do not think it is my desire," broke in the Colonel, with his
customary fierceness. "I have offered Lord Blackadder satisfaction as
a gentleman, and am ready to meet him when and how he pleases."

"I cannot listen to you, sir. Duels are in contravention of the Code.
But I recommend you to take your quarrels elsewhere, and not to waste
my time."

"This is quite unheard of," cried my lord, now thoroughly aroused.
"You are shamefully neglecting your duty, M. le Commissaire, and it
cannot be tolerated."

"I am not responsible to you, sir, and will account for my action _a
qui de droit_, to those who have the right to question me. The case
is dismissed. Gendarmes, release your prisoner, and let everyone
withdraw."

We all trooped out into the square, where a number of persons had
assembled, evidently the Colonel's friends, for they greeted him
uproariously.

"The prisoner has left the court without a stain upon his character,"
the Colonel shouted in answer to their noisy inquiries.

"But what was it? Why did they run you in?" they still asked.

"I refer you to this gentleman, Lord Blackadder. Perhaps some of you
know him. At any rate you've heard of him. We had a difference of
opinion, and I was compelled to administer chastisement." A lot of
impudent chaff followed.

"Oh! really, pray introduce me to his lordship," said one. "Does your
lordship propose to make a long stay in Aix? Can we be of any use to
you?" "You mustn't mind Basil Annesley; he's always full of his
games." "Hope he didn't hurt you. He didn't mean it really;" and I
could see that the Earl could hardly contain himself in his rage.

Then, suddenly muttering something about "bounders" and "cads," he
forced his way through and hurried off, shouting his parting
instructions to us to join him as soon as possible at the Hotel
Hautecombe on the hill.

We followed quickly, and were ushered at once into his private
apartment. It was essential to confer and decide upon some plan of
action; but when I asked him what he proposed to do next, he received
my harmless request with a storm of invective and reproach.

"You miserable and incompetent fools! Don't expect me to tell you your
business. Why do I pay you? Why indeed? Nothing you have done has been
of the very slightest use; on the contrary, through your beastly
mismanagement I have been dragged into this degrading position, held
up to ridicule and contempt before all the world. And with it all, the
whole thing has failed. I sent you out to recover my child, and what
have you done? What has become of that abominable woman who stole it
from under your very noses? Blackguards! Bunglers! Idiots! Fat-headed
asses!"

"Nay, my lord," pleaded Tiler humbly, for I confess I was so much
annoyed by this undeserved reprimand I could not bring myself to
speak civilly. "I think I can assure your lordship that matters will
soon mend. The situation is not hopeless, believe me. You may rely on
us to regain touch with the fugitives without delay. I have a clue,
and with your lordship's permission will follow it at once."

I saw clearly that he was set upon the absurd notion he had conceived
that the lady had gone westward, and I felt it my duty to warn the
Earl not to be misled by Tiler.

"There is nothing in his clue, my lord. It is pure assumption, without
any good evidence to support it."

"Let me hear this precious clue," said his lordship. "I will decide
what it is worth."

Then Tiler propounded his theory.

"It might be good enough," I interjected, "if I did not know the exact
contrary. The lady with her party was seen going in exactly the
opposite direction. I know it for a fact."

"And I am equally positive of what I saw," said Tiler.

His lordship looked from one to the other, plainly perplexed and with
increasing anger.

"By the Lord Harry, it's pleasant to be served by a couple of such
useless creatures who differ so entirely in their views that they
cannot agree upon a common plan of action. How can I decide as to the
best course if you give me no help?"

"Perhaps your lordship will allow me to make a suggestion?" I said
gravely, and I flatter myself with some dignity, for I wished to show
I was not pleased with the way he treated us.

"Whether the lady has gone north or south, east or west, may be
uncertain; and although I am satisfied in my own mind as to the
direction she took, I am willing to await further developments before
embarking on any further chase. To my mind the best clue, the real,
the only clue, lies here, in our very hands. If we have only a little
patience, this Colonel Annesley will act as a sign-post."

"You think that some communication will reach him from the fugitives?"

"Most decidedly I do. I firmly believe that the lady relies upon him
greatly, and will in all probability call him to her, or if not that
she will wish to let him know how she has got on."

For the first time in this unpleasant interview his lordship looked
at me approvingly. He quite changed his tone and dropped his
aggressive manner.

"I believe you are entirely right, Falfani, and cordially agree with
your suggestion," he said with great heartiness. "Let it be adopted at
once. Take immediate steps, if you please, to set a close watch on
this pestilent villain Annesley; keep him continually under your eye."

"We've got to find him first," objected Tiler gruffly and
despondently.

"It ought not to be difficult, seeing that he was here half an hour
ago, and we can hunt up l'Echelle, who will surely know, and who I
have reason to hope is on our side."

"Do it one way or another. I look to you for that, and let me know the
result without loss of time. Then we will confer again and arrange
further. Leave me now."

I accepted my dismissal and moved towards the door, but Tiler hung
behind, and I heard him say timidly:

"May I crave your lordship's pardon--and I trust you rely on my entire
devotion to your lordship's service--but there is one thing I most
earnestly desire to do."

"Go on."

"And that is to follow my own clue, at least for a time. It is the
right one I firmly believe, and I am satisfied it would be wrong,
criminal even to neglect it. Will you allow me to absent myself if
only for a few days? That should suffice to settle the point. If I
fail I will return with all speed. If, as I hope and believe, I strike
the scent, assuredly you will not regret it."

"There's something in what you say. At any rate that line ought to be
looked up," said his lordship. "I am willing to wait a day or two
until you return or report, or unless something more definite turns up
in the other direction. I suppose he can be spared, Falfani?"

"He will be no manner of use here, it will be better to let him go;
let him run after his red herring, he'll precious soon find out his
mistake."

"We shall see," said Tiler, elated and cocksure, and I freely confess
we did see that he was not quite the fool I thought him.




CHAPTER XXI.


On leaving his lordship I descended to the grand entrance to the hotel
with the intention of beating up the Colonel's quarters in Aix.
Although the hotels were certain to be crowded at this, the height of
the season, the town is not really large, the visitors' lists are well
posted with new arrivals, and there are one or two public places where
people always turn up at some time or other in the day. The _cercle_
or _casino_ and its _succursale_ the Villa des Fleurs, with their many
spacious rooms, reading-room, concert-room, baccarat-room, their
restaurants, their beautiful gardens, are thronged at all hours of the
day with the smart folk of all nationalities.

I stood on the top of the steps waiting for the private omnibus that
plies between the hotel and the town below, when I heard my name
called from behind, and turning, was confronted by Jules l'Echelle.

"Hullo!" I cried, eying him suspiciously. "What brings you up here?"

"The Colonel, my master--for I have taken service with him, you must
know--sent me here to inquire whether we could have rooms."

"Why does he choose this hotel of all others?" I asked in a
dissatisfied tone, although in my secret heart I was overjoyed.

"It's the best, isn't it? Haven't you come here?"

"My Lord Blackadder has, but that's another pair of shoes. There's
some difference between him and a beggarly half-pay Colonel who will
very likely have to black the boots to work out his bill. They know
how to charge here."

"The Colonel, I take it, can pay his way as well as most people.
Anyhow, he's coming to stop here."

"For any time?"

"Likely enough. He said something about going through the course,
taking the baths, and among the rest asked me to find out the best
doctor."

"That'll mean a lengthened stay; three weeks at least."

"Well, why shouldn't he? He's his own master."

"Then he's finished with that foolish business about the lady; had
enough of it, I suppose; burnt his fingers and done no earthly good."

"How do I know? It's not my business; but I fancy I have fallen into a
snug berth, a soft job, better than making beds in a sleeping-car and
being shaken to death in express trains."

"Good wages, if it's a fair question?"

"Fifty francs a week, _pour tout potage_."

I looked at him hard, revolving in my mind how best to approach him.
L'Echelle was a Swiss, and with most of his sort it is only a question
of price. How much would it take to buy him?

"Well, how have you fared? Have you succeeded in getting your rooms?
Will your Colonel move up?"

"What would his lordship say? Wouldn't like it much, I expect. Shall I
prevent it? It will be easy to say there are no rooms. I'll do just as
you please."

"You're very obliging."

"I'm willing enough to oblige, as I've always told you--at a price."

"Put a name to it; but don't forget you've had something on account.
Last night I gave you five hundred francs."

"Bah! I want a lot more than that, a thousand francs down and fifty
francs a day so long as I serve you. Do you agree to my terms?"

"My lord won't. He looks both sides of his money, and pays no fancy
prices for a pig in a poke."

"Then I'll take my pigs to another market. Suppose I let the Colonel
know what you've been at, trying to tamper with me. This hotel
wouldn't be big enough to hold him and your patron together."

"Well,"--I hesitated, not willing to appear too anxious,--"let's say,
just for argument's sake, that you got what you ask, or something near
it. I'm not in a position to promise it, no, not the half of it. But
we'll agree what you'd do for us in return?"

"Anything you chose to ask."

"Would you come over to us, belong to us body and soul? Think first of
my lord, put his interests before the Colonel's; tell us what the
Colonel's doing, his game from day to day, read his letters, and tell
us their contents; spy on his actions, watch him at every turn, his
comings and his goings; the houses he calls at, the people he meets,
every move he makes or has in view?"

"If I promise to do all that will you promise not to give me away?
You'll keep your own counsel and protect me from the Colonel? If he
got a whisper I was selling him I'd lose my place and he'd half kill
me into the bargain."

"Not a soul shall know but my lord and myself. I must consult him, or
you won't get the money."

"But there is that other chap, the one who joined us at Culoz, and who
was with you at the Commissariat, a new face to me. One of your own
party, wasn't he?"

"To be sure, Tiler; he's on the job, too, came out when I did from
London. But he's gone, left us half an hour ago."

"For good and all? Sacked, dropped out, or what?"

"Gone to follow up a game of his own. He thinks he knows better than
any one else; believes the lady has harked back, and is following her
to Amberieu, Macon, Paris, England perhaps. God knows where. It's a
wild goose chase, of course; but my lord leans to it, and so it is to
be tried."

"You don't agree?"

"How can I when I'm satisfied he's wrong? She was seen in the express
for Modane, making for the Mont Cenis tunnel. Of course that's the
true direction. She was aiming for Italy from the first; the other
sister, the divorced lady, is there; we've always known that. Go back
to England! Bah! absolute rot. I'd stick to my opinion against fifty
fools like Tiler."

"It's a bargain, then; I can count upon the cash? How soon shall you
know? I'd like to begin at once; there's something I would tell you
here, and now, that would interest you very much. But money down is my
rule."

"Let me run up and ask his lordship. I won't keep you five minutes."

My lord gave his consent a little grudgingly, but was presently
persuaded that it was to his own advantage to have a spy in the heart
of the enemy's camp. That was soon seen when l'Echelle had pocketed
his notes and gave us the news in exchange.

"Now that I'm my lord's man I don't mind telling you that the Colonel
does not mean to stay long in Aix, not one minute longer than till the
call comes."

"He expects a call?"

"Assuredly. He wants you to think he's a fixture here, but he means to
cut and run after my lady whenever she sends to him. He'll be off then
faster than that," he snapped his fingers, "and you won't find it easy
to catch him."

"That's good. You'll be well worth your money, I can see. Only be
diligent, watch closely, and keep us fully informed. We shall trust
very greatly to you."

"Your trust shall not be misplaced. When I take an employer's pay I
serve him faithfully and to the best of my power," he said with an
engaging frankness that won me completely.

Lord! Lord! what liars men are and what fools! I might have guessed
how much reliance was to be placed upon a man who, to my certain
knowledge, was serving two masters.

Why should he be more faithful to my lord than to the Colonel?




CHAPTER XXII.


The rest of the first day at Aix passed without any important
incident. I was a trifle surprised that the Colonel did not put in an
appearance; but it was explained by l'Echelle, whom I met by
appointment later in the day. I understood from him that the Colonel
had decided to remain down in the town, where he had many friends, and
where he was more in the thick of the fun. For Aix-les-Bains, as every
one knows, is a lively little place in the season, and the heart and
centre of it all is the Casino. The Colonel had established himself in
a hotel almost next door, and ran up against me continually that
afternoon and evening, as I wandered about now under the trees
listening to the band, now at the baccarat table, where I occasionally
staked a few _jetons_ of the smaller values.

He never failed to meet my eye when it rested on him; he seemed to
know intuitively when I watched him, and he always looked back and
laughed. If any one was with him, as was generally the case--smart
ladies and men of his own stamp, with all of whom he seemed on very
familiar terms--he invariably drew their attention to me, and they,
too, laughed aloud after a prolonged stare. It was a little
embarrassing; he had so evidently disclosed my business, in scornful
terms no doubt, and held me up to ridicule, describing in his own way
and much to my discredit all that had happened between us. Once he had
the effrontery to accost me as I stood facing the green board on which
the telegrams are exposed.

"Where have we met?" he began, with a mocking laugh. "I seem to know
your face. Ah, of course, my old friend Falfani, the private detective
who appeared in the Blackadder case. And I think I have come across
you more recently."

"I beg you will not address yourself to me. I don't know you, I don't
wish to know you," I replied, with all the dignity I could assume. "I
decline to hold any conversation with you," and I moved away.

But several of his rowdy friends closed around me and held me there,
compelled to listen to his gibes as he rattled on.

"How is his lordship? Well, I hope. None the worse for that little
_contretemps_ this morning. May I ask you to convey to him my deep
regrets for what occurred, and my sincere wishes for his recovery? If
there is anything I can do for his lordship, any information I can
give him, he knows, I trust, that he can command me. Does he propose
to make a lengthened stay here?"

"His lordship--" I tried vainly to interrupt him.

"Let me urge him most strongly to go through the course. The warm
baths are truly delightful and most efficacious in calming the temper
and restoring the nerve-power. He should take the Aix treatment, he
should indeed. I am doing so, tell him; it may encourage him."

"Colonel, this is quite insufferable," I cried, goaded almost to
madness. "I shall stand no more of it. Leave me in peace, I'll have no
more truck with you."

"And yet it would be wiser. I am the only person who can be of any use
to you. You will have to come to me yet. Better make friends."

"We can do without you, thank you," I said stiffly. "His lordship
would not be beholden to you, I feel sure. He can choose his own
agents."

"And in his own sneaking, underhand way," the Colonel answered
quickly, and with such a meaning look that I was half-afraid he
suspected that we were tampering with his man. "But two can play at
that game, as you may find some day."

When I met l'Echelle that same evening as arranged, at the Cafe Amadeo
in the Place Carnot, I questioned him closely as to whether his master
had any suspicion of him, but he answered me stoutly it was quite
impossible.

"He knows I see you, that of course, but he firmly believes it is in
his own service. He is just as anxious to know what you are doing as
you are to observe him. By the way, have you heard anything of your
other man?"

"Why should I tell you?"

"Oh, don't trouble; only if I could pass him on a bit of news either
way it might lead him to show his hand. If Tiler is getting 'hot'--you
know the old game--he might like to go after him. If Tiler is thrown
out the Colonel will want to give help in the other direction."

"That's sound sense, I admit. But all I can tell you is we had a
telegram from him an hour or two ago which doesn't look as if he was
doing much good. It was sent from Lyons, a roundabout way of getting
to Paris from here, and now he's going south! Of all the born idiots!"

"Poor devil! That's how he's made. It's not everyone who's a born
detective, friend Falfani. It's lucky my lord has you at his elbow."

We parted excellent friends. The more I saw of l'Echelle the more I
liked him. It was a pleasure to work with a man of such acute
perceptions, and I told him so.

Nothing fresh occurred that night or the next day. I was never very
far off my Colonel, and watched him continually but unobtrusively. I
hope I know my business well enough for that.

I was rather struck by a change in his demeanour. It was very subtle,
and everyone might have noticed it. He wore an air of preoccupation
that spoke to me of an uneasy mind. He was unhappy about something;
some doubt, some secret dread oppressed him, and more than once I
thought he wished to keep out of sight and avoid my searching
interrogative eyes.

"You're right," said l'Echelle. "He's down on his luck, and he don't
want you to see it. He's dying for news that don't seem in a hurry to
come. Half a dozen times to-day he's asked me to inquire if there's a
telegram for him, and he haunts the hall porter's box continually in
the hope of getting one. Have you heard any more from Tiler?"

"Yes, another mad telegram, this time from Marseilles. Fancy that! It
will be Constantinople next or Grand Cairo or Timbuctoo. The folly of
it!"

"What does my lord say?"

"Plenty, and it's not pleasant to bear. He's getting fairly wild, and
cart ropes won't hold him. He wants to go racing after Tiler now, and
if he does he'll give away the whole show. I hope to heaven your boss
will show his hand soon."

"It's not for me to make him, you must admit that. But cheer up,
_copain_, things may mend."

They did, as often happens when they seem to be at their worst.

I have always been an early riser, and was specially so at Aix, now
when the heat was intense, and the pleasantest hours of the day were
before the sun had risen high. I was putting the finishing touches to
my toilette about 7 A.M. when I heard a knock at my door, and
without waiting permission l'Echelle rushed in.

"Already dressed? What luck! There is not a moment to lose. Come
along. I've a _fiacre_ at the door below."

He gave the _etablissement_ as the address, and we were soon tearing
down the hill. As we drove along l'Echelle told me the news.

"It's come, that satanic telegram, and just what he wanted, I'm
prepared to swear. He simply jumped for joy when he read it."

"But what was the message? Go on, go on, out with it!" I shouted
almost mad with excitement.

"I can't tell you that, for I haven't seen it yet."

"Are you making a fool of me?"

"How could I see it? He put it straight into his pocket. But I mean
to see it pretty soon, and so shall you."

"You mean to abstract it somehow--pick his pocket, or what?"

"Simplest thing in the world. You see he's gone to have his bath, he
likes to be early, and he's undergoing the douche at this very moment,
which means naturally that he's taken off his clothes, and they are
waiting in the dressing-room for me to take home. I shall have a good
quarter of an hour and more to spare before they carry him back to the
hotel in his blankets and get him to bed."

"Ha!" I said, "that's a brilliant idea. How do you mean to work it
out?"

"Take the telegram out of his waistcoat pocket, read it, or bring it
to you."

"Bring it; that will be best," I interrupted, feeling a tinge of
suspicion.

"But I must put it straight back," continued l'Echelle, "for he is
sure to ask for it directly he returns to the hotel."

Within a few minutes he had gone in and out again, carrying now one of
the black linen bags used by _valets de chambres_ to carry their
masters' clothes in. He winked at me as he passed, and we walked
together to a shady, retired spot in the little square where the
cab-stand is, and sat in the newspaper kiosk on a couple of
straw-bottomed chairs of the Central _cafe_.

"Read that," he said triumphantly, as he handed me the familiar scrap
of blue paper.

"Have got safely so far with nurse and baby--entreat you to follow
with all possible speed--dying to get on.--CLAIRE, Hotel
Cavour, Milan."

"Excellent!" I cried, slapping my thigh. "This settles all doubts. So
much for that fool Tiler. My lord will be very grateful to you," and I
handed him back the telegram, having first copied it word for word in
my note-book.

"It means, I suppose," suggested l'Echelle, "that you will make for
Milan, too?"

"No fear--by the first train. You'll be clever if you get the start of
us, for I presume you will be moving."

"I haven't the smallest doubt of that; we shall be quite a merry
party. It will be quite like old times."




CHAPTER XXIII.

[_Colonel Annesley again._]


I had no reason to complain of the course of events culminating in the
affair at Culoz. I defended to myself the assault upon Lord Blackadder
as in a measure provoked and justifiable under the circumstances,
although I was really sorry for him and at the poor figure he cut
before the police magistrate and gendarmes. But I could not forget the
part he had played throughout, nor was I at all disposed to turn aside
from my set purpose to help the ladies in their distress. Every man of
proper feeling would be moved thereto, and I knew in my secret heart
that very tender motives impelled me to the unstinting championship of
Lady Claire.

I was still without definite news of what had happened between the two
sisters while I was covering their movements at Culoz. I could not
know for certain whether or not the exchange had actually been
effected, and I did not dare inquire about the station, for it might
betray facts and endanger results. I had no hope of a message from
Lady Henriette, for she would hardly know where to address me. Lady
Claire would almost certainly telegraph to me via London at the very
earliest opportunity, and I was careful to wire from Culoz to the hall
porter of my club, begging him to send on everything without a
moment's delay.

Then, while still in the dark, I set myself like a prudent general to
discover what the enemy was doing. He was here in Aix in the persons
of Lord Blackadder and his two devoted henchmen, Falfani and Tiler. I
had heard the appointment he had given them at the Hotel Hautecombe,
and I cast about me to consider how I might gain some inkling of their
intentions. Luckily I had desired l'Echelle, the sleeping-car
conductor, to stick to me on leaving the police office, and I put it
to him whether or not he was willing to enter my service.

"I will take you on entirely," I promised, "if you choose to leave
your present employment. You shall be my own man, my valet and
personal attendant. It is likely that I may wander about the
Continent for some time, and it may suit you to come with me."

He seemed pleased at the idea, and we quickly agreed as to terms.

"Now, l'Echelle," I went on, "after last night I think I may trust you
to do what I want, and I promise you I won't forget it. Find out what
the other side is at, and contrive somehow to become acquainted with
Lord Blackadder's plans."

"How far may I go?" he asked me plump. "They are pretty sure to try
and win me over, they've done so already. Shall I accept their bid? It
would be the easiest way to know all you want."

"It's devilish underhand," I protested.

"You'll be paying them back in their own coin," he returned. "_A
corsaire fieffe corsaire et demi._ It will be to my advantage, and you
won't lose."

"Upon my soul, I don't quite like it." I still hung back, but his
arguments seemed so plausible that they overcame my scruples, and I
was not sorry for it in the long run.

[_The reader has already been told how Falfani craftily approached
l'Echelle, and found him, as he thought, an easy prey. We know how
the communication was kept up between the two camps, how Falfani was
fooled into believing that he kept close watch over Colonel Annesley
through l'Echelle, how the latter told his real master the true news
of the progress made by Tiler. When there could be little doubt that
the chase was growing warm and had gone as far as Lyons, the Colonel
felt that there was danger and that he must take more active steps to
divert the pursuit and mislead the pursuers. The Colonel shall
continue in his own words._]

I was much disturbed when I learnt that Tiler had wired from Lyons. I
saw clearly what it meant. The next message would disclose the
whereabouts of the Lady Claire, at that time the only lady, as they
thought, in the case, and the lady with the real child. It would soon
be impossible for me to make use of the second with the sham child to
draw the pursuers after her. In this it must be understood that,
although I had no certainty of it, I took it for granted that the
little Lord Aspdale was with his aunt and not with his mother, who, as
I sincerely believed, had already reached Fuentellato.

It was essential now to persuade my Lord Blackadder and his people
that this was the case, and induce them to embark upon a hasty
expedition into Italy.

I therefore concocted a cunning plan with l'Echelle for leading them
astray. It was easy enough to arrange for the despatch of a telegram
from Milan to me at Aix, a despatch to be handed in at the former
place by a friend of l'Echelle's, but purporting to come from Lady
Claire. My man had any number of acquaintances in the railway service,
one or more passed daily through Aix with the express trains going
east or west; and with the payment of a substantial douceur the trick
was done.

The spurious message reached me in Aix early on the third morning, and
the second act in the fraud was that l'Echelle should allow Falfani to
see the telegram. He carried out the deception with consummate skill,
pretending to pick my pocket of the telegram, which he then put under
Falfani's eyes. The third act was to be my immediate exit from Aix. I
made no secret of this, very much the reverse. Notice was given at the
hotel bureau to prepare my bill, and insert my name on the list of
departures by the afternoon express, the 1.41 P.M. for Modane and
Italy. It was quite certain that I should not be allowed to go off
alone.

And suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, came a complete change in the
situation. Not long after I had consumed my morning _cafe au lait_ and
rolls, the conventional _petit dejeuner_ of French custom, a letter
was brought to my bedside, where, again according to rule, I was
resting after my bath.

I expected no letters, no one except the porter of my London club knew
my present address, and the interval was too short since my telegram
to him to allow of letters reaching me in the ordinary course of the
post.

I turned over the strange missive, the address in a lady's hand quite
unknown to me, examining it closely, as one does when mystified,
guessing vainly at a solution instead of settling it by instantly
breaking the seal.

When at last I opened it my eye went first to the signature. To my
utter amazement I read the name, "Henriette Standish." It was dated
from the Hotel de Modena, Aix-les-Bains, a small private hotel quite
in the suburbs in the direction of the Grand Port, and it ran as
follows:

"DEAR COLONEL ANNESLEY:--I have only just seen in the
_Gazette des Etrangers_ that you are staying in Aix. I also am here,
having been unable to proceed on my journey as I intended after
meeting my sister at Culoz. I thought of remaining here a few days
longer, but I have also read Lord Blackadder's name in the list.

"What is to be done? I am horribly frightened, and greatly vexed with
myself for having put myself in this painful and most embarrassing
position.

"May I venture to ask your counsel and help? I beg and entreat you
will come to me as soon as possible after receipt of this. Ask for
Mrs. Blair. Although I have never had the pleasure of meeting you,
your extreme kindness to Claire emboldens me to make this appeal to
you. I shall be at home all the morning. Indeed, I have hardly left
the house yet, and certainly shall not do so now that I know _he_ is
here.

"Always very gratefully and sincerely yours,

"HENRIETTE STANDISH."

Here was a pretty kettle of fish! Lady Blackadder in Aix! Was there
ever such a broken reed of a woman? Already she had spoilt her
sister's nice combinations by turning back from Amberieu when the road
to safety with her darling child lay open to her. Now for the second
time she was putting our plans in jeopardy. How could I hope to lure
her pursuers away to a distance when she was here actually on the
spot, and might be run into at any moment? For the present all my
movements were in abeyance. I had reason to fear--how much reason I
did not even then realize--they would be interfered with, and that a
terrible collapse threatened us.

I dressed hurriedly and walked down to the Hotel Modena, where I was
instantly received. "Mrs. Blair" had given orders that I should be
admitted the moment I appeared. I had had one glimpse of this tall,
graceful creature, who so exactly reproduced the beautiful traits of
her twin sister that she might indeed at a distance be taken for her
double. There was the same proud carriage of her head, the same lithe
figure, even her musical voice when she greeted me with shy cordiality
might have been the voice of Lady Claire.

But the moment I looked into her face I saw a very distinct
difference, not in outward feature, but in the inward character that
is revealed by the eyes, the lines of the mouth, the shape of the
lower jaw. In Lady Claire the first were steady and spoke of high
courage, of firm, fixed purpose; the mouth, as perfectly curved as
Cupid's bow, was resolute and determined, the well-shaped, rounded
chin was held erect, and might easily become defiant, even aggressive.

Lady Henriette was evidently cast in another mould. Her eyes, of the
same violet blue, were pretty, pleading, soft in expression, but often
downcast and deprecating; the mouth and chin were weak and irresolute.
It was the same lovely face as Lady Claire's, and to some might seem
the sweeter, indicating the tender, clinging, yielding nature that
commonly appeals to the stronger sex; but to me she lost in every
respect by comparison with her more energetic, self-reliant sister.

I heard the explanation, such as it was, without the smallest
surprise; it was very much what I expected now when I was permitted to
know and appreciate her better.

"What shall I say, Colonel Annesley, and what will you think of me?"
she began plaintively, almost piteously. "But the moment I found I
had to part with my child my courage broke down. I became incapable of
doing anything. I seemed quite paralyzed. I am not brave, you know,
like my dearest Claire, or strong-minded, and I quite collapsed."

"But I hope and trust you have made the exchange. Lady Claire has
little Lord Aspdale and has left you the dummy? Tell me, I beg."

"Oh, yes, yes, we made the exchange," she replied, in such a
faltering, undecided voice that I doubted, and yet could not bring
myself to believe that she was not telling the truth.

"So much depends upon it, you see. Everything indeed. It would be a
very serious matter if--if--"

"The contrary was the case," I wanted to say, yet how could I? I
should be charging her directly with wilfully misleading me, and
deceiving me in this moment of extreme peril.

"But what will happen now?" she said, her voice faltering, her eyes
filling, and seemingly on the very verge of hysterics. "What if
Blackadder should find that I am here, and--and--"

"He can do nothing to you unless he has a right to act, unless," I
answered unhesitatingly and a little cruelly perhaps, regardless of
the scared look in her face, "you have good reason to dread his
interference. Lady Henriette, you have not been quite straight with
me, I fear. Where is little Lord Aspdale?"

"In there!" she pointed to an inner room, and burst into
uncontrollable tears.




CHAPTER XXIV.


To say that I was aghast at the discovery of Lady Blackadder, or, as
she preferred to call herself, Lady Henriette Standish, in Aix, and
with the precious child, would but imperfectly express my feelings.
For the moment I was so utterly taken aback that I could decide upon
no new plan of action. I sat there helplessly staring at the poor
creature, so full of grief and remorse that I was quite unable to rise
to the occasion. I had counted so securely upon tricking Lord
Blackadder into a barren pursuit that my disappointment was
overwhelming and paralyzed my inventiveness.

Only by slow degrees did I evolve certain definite facts and
conclusions. The most essential thing was to get Lord Blackadder away
from Aix. So long as he remained he was an ever present danger; our
game was up directly he awoke to the true state of affairs. He could
appeal now to the police with better result than when claiming my
condign punishment. How was he to be got away? By drawing him after
me. Clearly I must go, and that not alone, but take them with me,
following me under the positive impression that I was leading them
straight to their goal. Not one hint, not the slightest suspicion must
be permitted to reach them that their quarry was here, just under
their feet. Undoubtedly I must adhere to my first plan. When I had
gone on with the others at my heels, the coast would be clear for Lady
Henriette, and she must double back once more and go into safe hiding
somewhere, while the hunt overshot its quarry and rolled on.

So soon as Lady Blackadder recovered from her agitation, I essayed to
win her approval of my plans. But the idea of parting from me now that
she had laid hold of me was so repugnant to her that she yielded once
more to her nerves.

"I beg and implore you, Colonel Annesley, not to leave me again. I
cannot possibly stay here alone. Let me go with you, please, please.
I'll do what you like, disguise myself, go third class, anything; but
for goodness' sake don't desert me, or I don't know what will
happen."

"There is simply no help for it, Lady Henriette. You simply must. It
is imperative that you should remain here at least for a day or two
while the others clear out of your way. It would be quite fatal if
they saw you or you came across them."

"Oh, you're too cruel, it is perfectly inhuman. I shall tell Claire, I
am sure she will take my part. Oh, why isn't she here, why did I let
her leave me? I think I am the most wretched and ill-used woman
alive."

These lamentations and indirect reproaches rather hardened my heart.
The woman was so unreasonable, so little mindful of what was being
done for her, that I lost my patience, and said very stiffly:

"Lady Henriette, let us quite understand one another. Do you want to
keep your child? I tell you candidly there is only one way to save
it."

"My darling Aspdale! Of course I want to keep him. How can you suggest
such a horrid idea? It is not a bit what I expected from you. Claire
told me--never mind what; but please understand that I will never give
my baby up."

I was nettled by her perverseness, and although I tried hard to
school myself to patience, it was exceedingly difficult.

"Indeed, Lady Henriette, I have no desire to separate you from your
child, nor would I counsel you under any circumstances to give it up.
But quite certainly while you are here in Aix you are in imminent
danger of losing it. You ought never to have kept it--it was madness
to come here and run straight into the jaws of danger."

"How was I to know?" she retorted, now quite angrily. "I really think
it is too bad of you to reproach me. You are most unkind."

"Dear, dear," I said fretfully, "this is all beside the question. What
is most urgent is to shield and save you now when the peril is most
pressing."

"And yet you propose to leave me to fight it out alone? Is that
reasonable? Is it generous, chivalrous, to desert a poor woman in her
extremity?"

"I protest, you must not put it like that. I have explained the
necessity. Surely you must see that it would be madness, quite fatal
for us, to be seen together, or for you to be seen at all. I must
still hoodwink them by going off this afternoon."

"And leave me without protection, with all I have at stake? If only
Claire was here."

"It wouldn't mend matters much, except that Lady Claire would side
with me."

"Oh, yes, you say that, you believe she thinks so much of you and your
opinion that she would agree to anything you suggest."

"Mine is the safest and the only course," I replied, I am afraid with
some heat. "You must, you shall take it."

"Upon my word, Colonel Annesley, you speak to me as if I were a
private soldier. Be good enough to remember that I am not under your
orders. I claim to decide for myself how I shall act."

She was no longer piteous or beseeching; her tears had dried, a flush
of colour had risen to her cheeks, and it was evident that her despair
had given place to very distinct temper.

I was in a rage myself, and sprang to my feet with a sharp exclamation
of disgust.

"Really, Lady Henriette, you will drive me to wash my hands of the
whole business. But I came into it to oblige your sister, and I owe it
to her to do my best without reference to you. I have marked out a
line for myself, and I shall follow it. Unless you are disposed to
change your views, I shall stick to mine; and I do not see the use of
prolonging this interview. I will bid you good day."

I moved towards the door, still keeping an eye on her, believing her
to be quite set in her fatuous refusal to hear reason. She still held
herself erect and defiant, and there seemed to be small hope of doing
anything with her. Then suddenly I saw symptoms of giving way. Signals
of distress were hung out in her quivering lip and the nervous
twitching of her hands. All at once she broke down and cried
passionately:

"No, no, no; you must not leave me--not like that. I cannot bear it; I
am too miserable, too agitated, too terrified. I have no one to lean
on but you. What shall I do? What shall I do?" And she collapsed into
a chair, weeping as if her heart would break.

The situation was awkward, embarrassing. At another time I might have
been puzzled how to deal with it, but this was a moment of supreme
emergency. A great crisis was imminent, the ruin of our scheme and the
downfall of our hopes were certainly at hand if I gave way to her.
Everything depended upon my action, and I knew that the only chance
of safety lay in the execution of my design.

This being so, her tears made no great impression on me. I may be
called a hard-hearted brute, but I really had no great sympathy with
her in her lamentations. It was not an occasion for tears, I felt; and
I must be firm and unwavering, whatever she might think of me. I
counted, at any rate, and with some assurance, on the approval of Lady
Claire if the details of this painful scene should ever come to her
ears.

Nor could I wait till she chose to regain her composure. Time was too
precious to be wasted in any attempts to win her back to common sense,
and without waiting for permission I crossed the room, rang the bell,
and begged the waiter to summon the lady's maid. She was a strongly
built, matter-of-fact French woman, probably not easily disturbed; but
she glanced apprehensively at her mistress, and turned a suspicious
look on me.

"You had better see to your lady," I said sharply. "She has an attack
of nerves. I've no doubt it will soon pass, but I'm afraid I have
imparted some distressing news. Be good enough to tell her when she
recovers that I shall come back in half an hour, when I trust she
will be ready to accompany me."

"What is this?" broke in Lady Henriette, suddenly interposing and
evidently roused to deep interest in my words. "Accompany you? Where,
I should like to know?"

"Is that of much consequence? You have entreated me not to leave you.
Well, we shall not part; I propose to take you away with me. Do you
object? It was your own wish."

"I retract that. I will not go with you; certainly not in the dark.
You must tell me first where you think of going, what you mean to do.
Is it likely that I should trust myself alone with an almost complete
stranger--a man who has shown me so little consideration, who has been
so unkind, so cruel, and who now wants to carry me off goodness knows
where, because he is so _obstinately determined_ that his is the right
way to proceed."

"Lady Henriette," I said civilly but very coldly, and putting the drag
on myself, for I confess she was trying me very hard, "let there be no
misunderstanding between us. Either you consent to my proposals
absolutely and unhesitatingly, or I shall withdraw altogether from
your service. I have felt that I had a duty to Lady Claire, and I
have been honestly anxious to discharge it, but by your present
attitude I feel myself absolved from that duty. I am not unwilling to
accept responsibility, but only if I am allowed to act as I please."

"Oh, how like a man! Of course you must have your own way, and every
one else must give in to you," she cried with aggravating emphasis,
giving me no credit for trying to choose the wisest course.

"I know I'm right," I urged, a little feebly perhaps, for I was nearly
worn out by her prejudice and utterly illogical refusal to see how the
land lay. But I quickly recovered myself, and said quite peremptorily,
"You shall have half an hour to make up your mind, not a minute more,
Lady Henriette. You shall give me my answer when I return. I warn you
that I shall bring a carriage in half an hour, and I strongly advise
you to be ready to start with me. Have everything packed, please, and
the bill paid. I will take no denial, remember that."




CHAPTER XXV.


I returned to my hotel vexed and irritated beyond measure by my
passage at arms with Lady Henriette Standish, and hating the prospect
of any further dealings with her. I very cordially echoed her repeated
cry for Lady Claire. Matters would have been very different had her
strong-minded sister been on the spot to use her influence and help us
with her counsel. What a contrast between the two women! I was more
and more drawn to the one, and more and more heartily despised the
other.

With my mind full of the beautiful creature who had made me a willing
captive to her charms, her gracious presence was recalled to me by a
message from under her own hand. As I passed the threshold of my
hotel, the hall porter gave me a telegram from Lady Claire. It had
come via London, but the office of origin was Marseilles.

     "Reached so far, yesterday," it said. "One of them turned up
     this morning--have no fear--exchange not effected--shall
     remain here for the present--Hotel Terminus.

     "CLAIRE."

I read and re-read this passage with a delightful feeling that it
brought me into touch with my love, and I may be permitted for seeing
in it clear proof of her bright wit and intelligence. She told me just
exactly all that it was essential to know: of the pursuit, of the
absence of pressing danger, of the abortive attempt to exchange
babies, and where she was to be found. Suppose that I had not met Lady
Henriette, I was fully prepared for anything that might occur.

It was now barely 10 A.M., and the time intervening before
the departure of the eastward bound express (three and a half hours)
was none too much to carry out my intentions as to Lady Henriette.

I first of all ordered a covered landau to be harnessed as speedily as
possible, and to be sent to await me in a side street near the Hotel
Modena; then I summoned l'Echelle and bade him make all ready for the
journey. I also told him that I should be busily engaged that
forenoon; but that as I might be obliged to run it very close for the
train, he was to make all preparations, to take the tickets, and await
me on the platform. I had debated anxiously with myself how far I
should betray the presence of Lady Henriette in Aix to l'Echelle, and
decided that, although I had no particular reason to doubt him, I felt
that it would be more prudent to keep the fact to myself. For the same
reason I kept him busily engaged in my bedroom packing, lest he should
spy upon my movements. There was still the fear that Falfani might be
on the watch, but I had been assured by l'Echelle that the Blackadder
party were so satisfied by the news he gave them that they left the
business of shadowing almost entirely to him.

I was pretty sure that I reached the Hotel Modena unobserved. I came
upon the carriage by the way, and as I passed briefly desired the
driver to follow me to the Hotel Modena. Arriving there, I sent up my
name, and followed it, a little unceremoniously, to Lady Henriette's
sitting-room.

She was there, dressed in hat and jacket, and so far disposed to
comply with my wishes. Her maid, Victorine, was with her, the baby on
her knee. Her baggage, happily light enough, was there, packed and all
ready for a start.

But if I thought that Lady Henriette meant to yield without another
skirmish I was sadly mistaken. I was in for much more than a skirmish;
it was to be a battle royal.

"The carriage is at the door," I said as pleasantly as possible. "We
have nearly an hour's drive before us, and I am delighted to think
that you are ready and willing to go with me."

"I am ready, as you see, but not willing," she answered, bridling up
with a scornful air. "Very much the reverse indeed. The more I think
over it the more outrageous and preposterous your behaviour seems.
Where are we going? I insist upon knowing. I must have a plain
categorical answer or I will not move an inch." Her dogged, determined
air was belied by her dress and the obvious preparations already made
for departure. Her present attitude I set down to the vacillation of
her character. She might make up her mind one moment and one way, and
yet be quite prepared to change it the next.

"You are fully entitled to know where you are going, and I have not
the smallest desire to keep it from you," I replied, still speaking in
a smooth, courteous voice. "I propose that you should take up your
residence for a time--the very shortest time possible--at Le Bourget,
a small place at the head of the lake. You may know it; there is a
snug little hotel in the village, the Dent du Chat. You will like it."

"I shall not like it. I dislike the whole idea exceedingly. Why should
I be buried alive in such an out-of-the-way spot?"

"It will be no worse than Fuentellato, a place you chose for
yourself."

"I have a house of my own there--my own servants. It is perfectly
safe."

"Not now, believe me, they will come upon you there; trace you easily
and quickly, and they are capable of any violence to capture and
deprive you of your treasure." I pointed to the child on the maid's
knee.

"I shall be more at their mercy here in Aix."

"Be guided by me. I am certain of what I say. All will be well if you
will only keep out of the way now for a few hours, perhaps at most a
couple of days. If they do not find you at once they will never find
you. Only let me have a short start ahead and I'll lead them a pretty
dance, and take them further and further away. You may rely on it, and
I assure you they will never be able to find you or do you any harm."

"I wish I could believe you," she said. "If I could only believe in
you and trust you as Claire does," she murmured pathetically, still
tortured by doubt. "Why has Claire deserted me? If she were only here,
or I knew where to find her!"

I was on the point of imparting my last news, but I checked myself.
Lady Henriette had seen her last, and must be well aware of the
direction she was taking to Lyons and Marseilles. It would only
unsettle her to know that her sister was at Marseilles to-day, and
would be at Genoa to-morrow. She would be mad to join her, and it was
my most earnest wish that, for the present at least, Lady Henriette
should keep quiet in the background with her charge.

"You will soon be able to communicate with her, no doubt. Of course
you arranged that at Culoz?"

"We arranged nothing. It was all so hurried, and we had much to talk
about. She was so hard on me when I declared I could not part with my
blessed boy. We had words--"

"Ah!" I had heard enough to know that there had been a strong
difference of opinion, a sharp quarrel probably, and that Lady Claire
had not spared her sister at this fresh exhibition of ridiculous
weakness.

"May I ask, please, whether you were to believe in me or not?" I
resumed, taking up the discussion where I had left it. "We must be
moving if we are to go at all."

Her acquiescence, now tardily given, was surly and ungracious.

"I suppose I cannot help myself; I am quite at your mercy. You may be
sure I shall not easily forget this, or forgive your overbearing
treatment. I will go, but under protest."

She led the way herself and entered the carriage first, motioning to
Victorine to hand her the baby and take her seat inside. She made no
such sign to me, although I followed close behind. But I also got in
without invitation, only explaining that it might not be wise to show
myself on the box.

The coachman had his orders, and he drove off briskly along the
Marlioz road till he reached the turning towards the head of the
lake. In less than an hour we pulled up before the Hotel Dent du
Chat, a simple, unpretending hostelry, to which I had telegraphed in
advance, stating my needs. We were received with profuse civility, the
best of everything placed at our disposal, a best at which Lady
Henriette, as I might have expected, turned up her nose, sniffing and
scornful.

She uttered no complaint, she would not address a word to me; her air
was one of lofty, contemptuous reserve; she intimated plainly that we
were "dead cuts."

Only at the last, just as I was driving away and lifted my hat in
farewell, she yielded to an impulse of despair, and seized my arm in
almost frenzied appeal.

"You must not, you cannot desert me; I will not be left like this. No
man, no gentleman would do it. I beg and implore you to remain within
reach, somewhere near at any rate. I can never face this place alone."

Her last appeal touched me to the quick. Once more I sought to explain
the dire necessity for this act that seemed so barbarous, but she was
deaf to all my arguments, and still clung to me nervously as I climbed
into the carriage.

When at length I got away, and I persisted in leaving, being so fully
satisfied it was for the best, her piteous, reproachful accents still
rung in my ears, and I shall count that return drive to Aix as the
most miserable hour I have passed in my life.

The whole episode had occupied much time, and it was already past one
when I reentered the town. I drove straight to the railway station,
and was met outside it by the faithful l'Echelle.

"Monsieur, monsieur, will you believe it? They have gone half an hour
ago, and not by the eastern but the western express."

"You saw them?"

"I spoke to them. Falfani himself told me of the change in their
plans. The latest news from their man in the south was so positive,
and has so convinced my lord, that he is hastening full speed to join
Tiler, and they are only too delighted to leave you behind."

I laughed aloud with intense satisfaction.

"You do not mind, monsieur? You have no reason to fear them?"

"Not the least in the world, they are playing into my hands. I, too,
have changed my plans. I shall now remain in Aix for some time
longer. I shall be glad to go on with the baths."

But I was thinking really of that poor creature I had abandoned at Le
Bourget, and overjoyed to think that I might now meet her wishes, and
perchance regain something of her good-will.

Once more I took the road to Le Bourget, driving over by the first
_fiacre_ I could pick up on the stand, a much slower journey than the
first, and it was nearly 3 P.M. when I reached the little
hotel.

It was indeed a day of surprises, of strange emotions and moving
incidents.

When I alighted and asked for "Mrs. Blair," I was answered abruptly
that she was gone.

"Gone? When? How?" I cried, in utter amazement.

"Madame went very soon after monsieur," said the _patronne_, in high
dudgeon. "She was not complimentary, she said this place was too
_triste_, that it got on her nerves. She called me up and said I was
to bring her the _Indicateur_. Then she must have a carriage as soon
as it could be prepared to drive her to Culoz, fifteen miles away,
meaning to take the train from there."

"Not to Aix?"

"Assuredly not, for when I suggested that she could more easily find
the train there she told me to hold my tongue, that she knew very well
what she was about, and wanted no observations from me."

To Culoz? She was bound then to follow her sister, I felt sure of it;
and I was aghast, foreshadowing the new dangers opening before her.




CHAPTER XXVI.

[_The Lady Claire Standish has her say._]


It was as much as I could do to restrain myself when I saw my gallant
knight, the Colonel, rush at that despicable creature, Lord
Blackadder, and shake him. I wanted to put my head out of the window
and cry, "Well done!" But I saw the folly of it, much as I was
delighted, and checked any demonstration of joy. I had no time to
spare for anything outside our settled plan, so I jumped out on to the
platform at once, and closely followed by Philpotts joined Henriette,
and cried:

"Quick, quick, dear, the train goes on in less than ten minutes. Give
me the child, we must exchange again."

"What do you mean?" she gasped, and looked at me dazed and bewildered.
"Why should I part with my boy, my own boy! I cannot, indeed I cannot.
Why? Why?"

"Because Blackadder is over there, and in another minute or two the
child will be taken forcibly from you. Luckily I can still save it."

"Oh, but please, Claire, please explain. I do not understand, not in
the least. What am I to do? I haven't heard, I do not know."

"Go on to Fuentellato with the dummy. It is the easiest thing in the
world. They will follow you, Colonel Annesley will see to that, while
I carry our darling to some secure hiding-place and keep out of sight
until we can meet. There, do not, for heaven's sake, delay. Give me
the child."

"I can't, I can't. I will not part with it. My own, my precious babe.
Never. Nothing will induce me."

"Upon my word, Henriette, you are too aggravating and impossible. To
think that now at the eleventh hour you should fail me and break down.
Are you going to spoil everything! Let me take little Ralph;" and I
put out my arms for the child, which Victorine held.

But the mother stood between us, seized the baby convulsively, and
with a gesture of repulsion cried:

"Go away, go away, you shall not have him. I don't care what happens,
I will keep him against all the world."

I pleaded and stormed in turn, I tried everything but force, all
without avail. My foolish sister seemed to have taken leave of her
senses; she thought nothing of the nearly certain collapse of our
schemes, her one overmastering idea was, like any tigress, to resist
all attempts to deprive her of her cub.

Meanwhile the time ran on. Already the officials were crying "_En
voiture_," and I knew my train was timed to leave at five minutes past
8 A.M. If I lingered I should lose it, no great matter perhaps, seeing
that the exchange, my principal object, had not been made; but if I
remained with Henriette, she with her baby and I with mine, the whole
of the artifice might at any moment be laid bare.

I had to decide then and there, and all I could think of at the time
was to keep the enemy in the dark as to the doubled part of the baby.
At first I thought of sending Philpotts on alone with her charge and
remaining with Henriette. She was so helpless, so weak and vacillating
that I had small hope of her getting through to Fuentellato by
herself. That was clearly the wisest course, and I should have taken
it, but I was sorely vexed and put out by her obstinate refusal to
play her part; and I told her so.

"Once more and for the last time, Henriette, will you do what I want?"
I asked her peremptorily.

She only hugged her baby the closer and whispered a soft lullaby.

"Then I shall go on with the other. It may be best. They may still be
drawn after me, and leave you to your own devices. The only thing for
you to do is to take the first train the other way,--it will be here
in ten minutes,--keep low and you may get through into Italy
unobserved."

"Are you really deserting me?" she cried piteously. "When shall I see
you again?"

"I shall go round the long journey to Marseilles, by the South of
France, and will join you at Fuentellato. There is no reason why you
should not get there. Colonel Annesley will detain the others here,
you may be sure of that. Good-bye, now," and without another word
Philpotts and I ran round, regained the up platform, resumed our seats
by the narrowest margin and proceeded on our way to Amberieu.

The reaction from this agitating scene was little less than despair
and collapse. So soon as I could bring myself to think calmly and at
leisure, I realized that I had done a very foolish thing. Was it
possible for Henriette to get off by herself? Hardly, she had not the
nerve, I had almost said the wit, to escape alone from the toils and
snares that encompassed her. I blamed myself, I became a prey to the
bitterest self-reproach for having abandoned her, for allowing myself
to give way to temper, and treat her so cruelly. As the train rattled
on, one thought took possession of me. I must get out and go back
instantly, at least at the very first opportunity. I must retrace my
steps and return again to Culoz, where I hoped to be in time to
support and strengthen her, please God save her from the consequences
of my unkind and ill-considered action.

Accordingly, at the very next station, Virieu, I alighted. It was
still no more than 8.21. In less than an hour I was in the return
train and once more at Culoz, where, sending Philpotts to hide with
her charge in the inmost recesses of the ladies' waiting-room, I
vainly explored the station for any signs of Henriette, but to my
delight she was nowhere in sight. I was fairly entitled to suppose
that she had gone on.

The place was still in a turmoil, the consequences no doubt of the
affray expressly begun by Colonel Annesley to befriend me. I narrowly
escaped being seen by some of my enemies, but they were evidently too
much preoccupied by their indignation at the outrage put upon that
great personage, Lord Blackadder. I passed within an inch or two of my
gallant Colonel and was sorely tempted to speak to him, but was
deterred by the possible mischief it might entail.

I was relieved when they all took seats in the eastward bound train,
going only as far as Aix-les-Bains, where, as I heard it stated by the
Culoz officials, the case was to be submitted to the Commissary of
Police. I felt sure that my gallant Colonel would hold his own, I felt
no very great concern for him. Although not fully satisfied as to
Henriette, I was so far satisfied by coming upon all the parties,
Ralph, Blackadder, and the rest, at Culoz, that she had disappeared
from the scene without interference.

I had now to decide upon my own movements. I debated with myself
whether I should not follow my sister to Fuentellato, to which I made
sure she had gone, and I had every reason to hope that I could
eventually join her there. But it seemed to be throwing away that same
chance of mystification which I had always kept in view, which might
have served me so well but for her weakness, and I still clung to my
hope of drawing them after me on the wrong scent.

At one time I thought of venturing boldly into their midst and
appearing openly at Aix; but this would probably end in abruptly
pricking the bubble, and nothing more was to be done. I thought of
sending Philpotts to hunt up the Colonel and convey a letter to him
detailing my situation, and was much taken with this idea, which I
presently rejected because I did not clearly see what good could come
of it. I was tortured with doubts, unable to decide for the best, and
at last, from sheer inability to choose, resolved to adhere to my
original plan of travelling south.

I would at least go to Marseilles, which I could reach that very
night, and once there would be guided by circumstances, seeking only
to control them to the extent of reporting my whereabouts to Henriette
at Fuentellato, and to the Colonel via London as arranged.

This as it proved was the very wisest course I could have adopted, as
will presently appear.

I was doomed to a long wait at Culoz. There was no train due westward
till 12.40, and I had to put in nearly three solid hours, which I
spent in wandering into the village, where I found an unpretending
_auberge_ and a rather uneatable breakfast.

Everywhere I was met with wearisome delays. A slow train to Amberieu,
a still slower cross journey to Lyons, which I did not reach till
nearly 4 P.M., and learnt that another hour or more must
elapse before the departure of the next Marseilles express.

The journey seemed interminable, but just as I was losing all
patience, I received a fillip that awoke me to alertness, and set all
my nerves tingling.

The man Tiler, the second detective, the man whom I had already
befooled more than once, was there now on the platform, waiting like
myself to embark upon the 5.19 train south to Marseilles.

He had come after me; that was perfectly clear. He, and he alone, and
I rejoiced greatly that I had to do entirely with him. I had tried my
strength with him more than once already, and felt myself his equal
in guile. Although he owed me a grudge and would certainly be upon his
guard, I thought myself strong enough to face and outwit him.




CHAPTER XXVII.


When I first caught sight of Mr. Ludovic Tiler he was busily engaged
in conversation with one of the guards and a couple of porters. From
his gestures, no doubt, he was describing our party, and I was
half-inclined to walk up to him and say "Behold!" But then I drew back
hesitating. I did not fear him in the least, but he would be sure to
draw the others to him, and I did not quite like the idea of having
three of them on my hands at once, and with no Colonel on my side.

I could only communicate with Colonel Annesley by a roundabout
process, and it might take him some time to reach me, even if he was
not otherwise engaged by Henriette.

This Tiler man would of course stick to me and follow me if he had the
faintest clue, and I let him have that by directing Philpotts to show
herself, passing quite close to him and walking on towards the train.
She was to return then to the waiting-room, where together we made
some change in our appearance. There were other cloaks in the bundle
of rugs, which we put on over those we were wearing. I got out a thick
veil, and Philpotts replaced her neat bonnet by a soft motor cap. More
than all, we made away with the dummy child, broke up the parcel,
resolved it into its component parts, a small pillow and many wraps,
all of which we put away in the same convenient receptacle.

Tiler certainly did not recognize us as we walked separately to the
train. He was looking for a party of two and a baby, and all he saw
was one woman who might remind him of me, but without her attendant or
any encumbrance. He had his suspicions, however, for as soon as we
started he walked through the long line of _couloir_ carriages,
deliberately peering and prying, examining the passengers of every
compartment. He passed us at first, and was much put out, I could see,
disappointed no doubt, but he came back presently and stood for some
time at our window, while I hid my face in among the rugs, and
Philpotts cowered in a corner.

He came back more than once during the journey and stared. No doubt he
would have taken a seat in our compartment, but it was reserved for
_dames seules_ or ladies alone. He was evidently in great doubt, so
much so that I began to fear he would sheer off altogether. That we
were the women he wanted was probably borne in on him, but what had
become of the baby? I could enter into the workings of his mind on
that point. What could we have done with it? Hidden it, left it
somewhere on the road in the lost property office or at a foundling
hospital? All sorts of suggestions probably presented themselves to
him, but none would satisfy him; for why, he would reason, were we
travelling to Marseilles or anywhere else without it?

To tie him still to our heels, I took the opportunity of having the
compartment to ourselves to revive and reconstitute the dummy. The
baby was quickly reborn behind the drawn blinds of the carriage, and
when at last we arrived at Marseilles at 10.30 P.M. we sallied forth
and marched in solemn procession to the Terminus Hotel under the very
eyes of our watchful detective. I almost laughed in his face as we
entered the lift near the outer door, and were carried up to our rooms
upon the second floor.

I slept late, and when I woke, refreshed and fortified against
anything that might come, I looked out on to the little square with
its fringe of plane-trees, and saw my friend Mr. Tiler walking to and
fro like a sentry on his beat. He had the hotel under observation that
was clear, and it was little I should be able to do that day unknown
to him.

It did not worry me in the least, for in the early hours of calm
reflection that followed deep, restful sleep, I had thought out the
course I should pursue. I no longer dreaded pursuit; let them all
come, the more the merrier, and I meant to fully justify Mr. Tiler in
calling them to him.

I dressed slowly, lingered leisurely over my _luncheon-dejeuner_, and
then ordered a carriage, a comfortable landau and pair. I meant to
lead my follower a fine dance, starting with the innocent intention of
giving myself and my belongings an airing. It was a brilliant day, the
Southern sun struck with semi-tropical fervour, the air was soft and
sleepy in the oppressive heat. I brought out the baby undeterred, and
installed it, slumbering peacefully, on Philpotts's knees in the seat
before me, and lying back with ostentatious indifference, drove off
in full view of the detective.

I shot one glance back as I turned down the long slope leading to the
Grace-a-Dieu Street, and was pleased to see that he had jumped into a
_fiacre_ and was coming on after me. He should have his fill of
driving. I led him up and down and round and round, street after
street, all along the great Cannebiere and out towards the Reserve,
where Roubion's Restaurant offers his celebrated fish stew,
_bouillabaise_, to all comers.

Then when Mr. Tiler's weedy horse began to show signs of distress, for
my sturdy pair had outpaced him sorely, I relented and reentered the
town, meaning to make a long halt at the office of Messrs. Cook and
Son, the universal friends of all travellers far and near. I had long
had an idea in my mind that the most promising, if not the only
effective method of ending our trouble would be to put the seas
between us and the myrmidons of the Courts. I had always hoped to
escape to some far-off country where the King's writ does not run,
where we could settle down under genial skies, amid pleasant
surroundings, at a distance from the worries and miseries of life.

Now, with the enemy close at hand, and the real treasure in my foolish
sister's care, I could not expect to evade them, but I might surely
beguile and lead them astray. This was the plan I had been revolving
in my mind, and which took me to the tourist offices. The object I had
in view was to get a list of steamers leaving the port of Marseilles
within the next two or three days, and their destination. As everybody
knows, there is a constant moving of shipping East, West, and South,
and it ought not to be difficult to pick out something to suit me.

The obliging clerk at the counter gave me abundant, almost unending,
information.

"To the East? Why, surely, there are several opportunities. The P. and
O. has half a dozen steamers for the East, pointing first for Port
Said and Suez Canal, and bound to India, Ceylon, China, and the
Antipodes; the same line for Gibraltar and the West. The Messageries
Maritime, for all Mediterranean ports, the General Navigation of Italy
for Genoa and Naples, the Transatlantique for various Algerian ports,
Tunis, Bone, Philippeville, and Algiers, other companies serving the
coast of Morocco and especially Tangier."

Truly an embarrassing choice! I took a note of all that suited, and
promised to return after I had made a round of the shipping
offices,--another jaunt for Tiler, and a pretty plain indication of
what was in my mind.

After full inquiry I decided in favour of Tripoli, and for several
reasons. A steamer offered in a couple of days, Sunday, just when I
wanted it, although it was by no means my intention to go to Tripoli
myself. That it was somewhat out of the way, neither easy to reach nor
to leave, as the steamers came and went rarely, served my purpose
well. If I could only inveigle my tormentors into the trap, they might
be caught there longer than they liked.

Accordingly, I secured a good cabin on board the S.S. _Oasis_ of the
Transatlantique, leaving Marseilles for Tripoli at 8 A.M. the
following Sunday, and paid the necessary deposit on the passage
ticket.

It was a satisfaction to me to see my "shadow's" _fiacre_ draw up at
the door soon after I left, and Mr. Ludovic Tiler enter the office. I
made no doubt he would contrive, very cleverly as he thought, to find
out exactly what I had been doing with regard to the _Oasis_.

Later in the day, out of mere curiosity, I walked down to the offices
to ask a trivial question about my baggage. It was easy to turn the
talk to other matters connected with the voyage and my fellow
passengers.

Several other cabins had been engaged, two of them in the name of
Ludovic Tiler.

There was nothing left for me but to bide my time. I telegraphed that
evening to Colonel Annesley, reporting myself, so to speak, and
counted upon hearing his whereabouts in reply next day.

Tiler did not show up nor trouble me, nor did I concern myself about
him. We were really waiting for each other, and we knew enough of each
other's plans to bide in tranquil expectation of what we thought must
certainly follow. When I was at dinner in the hotel restaurant he
calmly came into the room, merely to pass his eye over me as it were,
and I took it so much as a matter of course that I looked up, and felt
half-inclined to give him a friendly nod. We were like duellists
saluting each other before we crossed swords, each relying upon his
own superior skill.

[_We need not reproduce in detail the rest of the matters set forth by
Lady Claire Standish while she and the detective watched each other
at Marseilles. Tiler, on the Saturday morning, made it plain, from
his arrogance and self-sufficient air as he walked through the hotel
restaurant, that all was going well, and he had indeed heard from
Falfani that he would arrive with Lord Blackadder that night._

_Later on that Saturday a telegram from Culoz reached Lady Claire from
Colonel Annesley giving the latest news, and bringing down Lady
Henriette's movements to the time of her departure for Marseilles. He
promised a later message from somewhere along the road with later
information, and soon after 9 P.M. Lady Claire was told they were
coming through by the night train, due at Marseilles at 4 A.M. next
morning. Thus all the parties to this imbroglio were about to be
concentrated in the same place, and it must depend upon the skill and
determination of one clever woman to turn events her way._]

She goes on to say:

It was a shock to me to hear that Henriette still lingered on the
fringe of danger, and I was very much disturbed at finding she might
be running into the very teeth of it. But I trusted to my good
fortune, and, better still, to good management, to keep her out of
harm's way until the coast was clear.

I was on the platform at 10 P.M. watching for the Blackadder
lot when they appeared. Tiler was there to receive them and spoke a
few words to my lord, who instantly looked round, for me no doubt, and
I slipped away. I did not wish to anticipate a crisis, and he was
quite capable of making a scene, even at the hotel at that time of
night. I was relieved at seeing him pass on, and the more so that he
did not take the turn into the Terminus Hotel, my hotel, but went
towards the entrance where a carriage was waiting for him. He meant of
course to put up in the town, either at the Noailles or the Louvre.

I lay down to take a short rest, but was roused in time to be again on
the platform at 4 A.M. to meet my friends. It was a joyful
meeting, but we lost little time over it. Henriette was fairly worn
out, and all but broke down when she saw me. The Colonel came to the
rescue as usual, and said briefly, after we had shaken hands:

"Take charge of her, Lady Claire, I will see to everything now. We can
talk later."

"Can you be at the entrance to the hotel in a couple of hours' time?
I shall want your advice, probably your assistance."

"You know you have only to ask," he answered, with the prompt,
soldierlike obedience, and the honest, unflinching look in his eyes
that I knew so well and loved in him. Here was, indeed, a brave, loyal
soul, to be trusted in implicitly, and with my whole heart.

I felt now that I should succeed in the difficult task I had set
myself. The plan I had conceived and hoped to work out was to send
Lord Blackadder to sea, all the way to Tripoli, with Philpotts and the
sham child.




CHAPTER XXVIII.


We drove down, Philpotts and I, to the wharf where the steamers of the
Transatlantique Company lie. The _Oasis_ had her blue peter flying,
and a long gangway stretched from her side to the shore, up and down
which a crowd passed ceaselessly, passengers embarking, porters with
luggage, and dock hands with freight. At the top of the slope was the
chief steward and his men, in full dress, white shirts, white ties,
and white gloves, who welcomed us, asking the number of our stateroom,
and offering to relieve us of our light baggage.

One put out his arms to take the baby from Philpotts, but she shook
her head vigorously, and I cried in French that it was too precious.

Next moment a voice I recognized said:

"Certainly they are there, and they have it with them. Why not seize
it at once?"

"Not so fast, Lord Blackadder," I interposed, turning on him fiercely.
"No violence, if you please, or you may make the acquaintance of
another police commissary."

I had heard the whole story of the affair at Aix from the Colonel, who
I may say at once I had seen shortly before, and who was at no great
distance now.

"Go on, Philpotts, get down below and lock yourself in," I said
boldly. "Our cabin is thirty-seven--" checking myself abruptly as
though I had been too outspoken.

"But, Lady Claire, permit me," it was Lord Blackadder behind, speaking
with quite insinuating softness. "Do be more reasonable. Surely you
perceive how this must end? Let me entreat you not to drive me to
extremities. I mean to have the child, understand that; but we ought
to be able to arrange this between us. Give it up to me of your own
accord, you shall not regret it. Ask what you choose, anything--a
pearl collar or a diamond bracelet--"

"Can you really be such a base hound, such an abject and contemptible
creature, as to propose terms of that sort to me? How dare you think
so ill of me? Let me pass; I cannot stay here, it would poison me to
breathe the same air. Never speak to me again," I almost shouted,
filled with bitter shame and immeasurable scorn, and I turned and left
him.

Down-stairs I found Philpotts in the cabin, busily engaged in putting
her "doll" to bed in the third berth.

"Are you at all afraid of being left with these wretches?" I asked a
little doubtfully, counting upon her devotion, but loth to lay too
great a burden on her.

"Why, how can you suppose such a thing, my lady? What can they do to
me? They will be furiously angry, of course, but the laugh will be
against them. If the worst comes to the worst they will appeal to the
captain, and they will get no satisfaction from him. I can take care
of myself, never fear. You shall hear from Tripoli to the same hotel
in Marseilles."

"If we go on your letter will follow us. Come back there as soon as
you possibly can and you will find further instructions. Now it must
be good-bye, there goes the bell to warn people ashore. One last word:
I advise you when well out to sea to go to my lord and offer to go
over to his side and desert me altogether. Tell him you will help him
to get the child,--that you will put it into his hands indeed,--at a
price."

"As if I would touch his dirty money, my lady!"

"It will be only spoiling the Egyptians! Squeeze all you can out of
him, I say. But that is as you please. You know I shall always be your
firm friend whatever you do, and that I shall never forget what I owe
you."

I should have said much more, but now the second bell was ringing, and
if I was to carry out my scheme it was time for me to go.

On leaving the cabin I walked forward along the lower deck seeking
another issue, the position of which I had fixed the day before,
having visited the _Oasis_ on purpose. In a minute I had emerged into
the open air, and found myself in the midst of the sailors sending
down cargo into the forehold. I should have been utterly confused,
bewildered, and terrified, but I felt a strong, firm hand close on
mine, and a quiet, steady voice in my ear.

"This way, Lady Claire, only a couple of steps," said the Colonel as
he led me to the side of the steamer farthest from the shore. A ladder
was fixed here and a boat was made fast to the lowest rung. Carefully,
tenderly guided by my ever trusty henchman I made the descent, took my
seat in the stern of the small boat, it was cast loose, and we pushed
off into the waterway. Half an hour later we were back at the Terminus
Hotel.

For the first time in all that stirring and eventful week I breathed
freely. At any rate the present peril was overpast, we had eluded
pursuit, and had a clear time of perfect security to consider our
situation and look ahead.

As soon as Henriette was visible, I went up to her room to talk
matters over. She was very humble and apologetic, and disarmed me if I
had intended to take her to task for all the trouble and anxiety she
had caused us. But when I magnanimously said, "I am not going to scold
you," she was in my arms at once.

"Scold me! I should think not! I have been scolded quite enough these
last twenty-four hours. I never met a man I disliked so much as your
fine friend, that Colonel Annesley, the rudest, most presuming,
overbearing wretch. He talked to me and ordered me about as if I was
still in the schoolroom, he actually dared to find fault with my
actions, and dictated to me what I should do next. I--I--"

"Did it, Henriette? Like a lamb, eh? That's a way he has, my dear," I
laughed.

"I don't envy you one bit, Claire. You'll be a miserable woman. You
hate to give way, and he'll make you. He'll tame you, and lord it over
you, he'll be a hard, a cruel master, for all he thinks so much of you
now."

"And does he?" What sweeter music in a woman's ear than to be told of
the sway she exercises over the man of her choice?

"Why, of course, he thinks all the world of you. He would say nothing,
decide nothing until you had been consulted. Your word is law to him,
your name always on his lips. You know of your latest conquest, I
suppose?"

"There are things one does not care to discuss, my dear, even with
one's sister," I answered, rather coldly. I was a little hurt by her
tone and manner, although what she told me gave me exquisite pleasure.

"Come, come," Henriette rallied me. "Make a clean breast of it.
Confess that you are over head and ears in love with your Colonel. Why
not? You are free to choose, I was not," and her eyes filled with
tears at the sad shipwreck of her married life.

I strove hard to calm her, to console her, pointing to her little
Ralph, and promising her a future of happiness with her child.

"If I am allowed to keep him, yes. But how can I keep him after that
wicked decision of the Court, and with such a persistent enemy as
Ralph Blackadder? For the moment we are safe, but by and by he will
come back, he will leave no stone unturned until he finds me, and I
shall lose my darling for ever."

The hopelessness of evading pursuit for any time sorely oppressed me,
too. There seemed no safety but in keeping continually on the move, in
running to and fro and changing our hiding place so soon as danger of
discovery loomed near. We were like pariahs ostracized from our
fellows, wandering Jews condemned to roam on and on, forbidden to
pause or find peace anywhere.

Yet, after a pleasant _dejeuner_, the three of us held a council of
war.

"The thing is perfectly simple," said my dear Colonel, in his
peremptory, but to me reassuring fashion. "I have thought it all out
and can promise you immediate escape from all your difficulties. You
must go as quickly as you can get there, to Tangier."

"Tangier!" I cried, amazed.

"Yes, Lady Claire, Tangier. It is the only refuge left for
criminals--forgive me, I mean no offence," and he laughed heartily as
he went on. "You have broken the law, you are flying from the law, and
you are amenable to it all the world over, save and except in Morocco
alone. You must go to Tangier, there is no extradition, the King's
warrant does not run there. You will be perfectly safe if you elect to
stay there, safe for the rest of your days."

"You seem very anxious to get rid of us and bury us at the back of
beyond," I said, nettled and unable to conceal my chagrin at the
matter-of-fact way in which he wished to dispose of us.

"I venture to hope I may be permitted to accompany you, and remain
with you--"

It was now Henriette's turn to laugh outright at this rather blunt
proposal, and I regret to add that I blushed a rosy red.

"To remain with you and near you so long as my services may be
required," he went on, gravely, by no means the interpretation my
sister had put upon his remark; for he fixed his eyes on me with
unmistakable meaning, and held them so fixedly that I could not look
away. There could no longer be any doubt how "it stood with us;" my
heart went out to him then and there, and I nodded involuntarily, more
in answer to his own thoughts than his suggestion. I knew from the
gladness on his frank, handsome face that he understood and rejoiced.

"You see," he went on, quickly, dealing with the pressing matter in
hand, "I know all about the place. I have soldiered at Gibraltar and
often went over to Africa. It's not half bad, Tangier, decent hotels,
villas furnished if you prefer it. Sport in the season, and plenty of
galloping ground. The point is, how we should travel?"

I could be of service in this; my inquiries at Cook's had qualified me
to act as a shipping clerk, and we soon settled to take a steamer of
the Bibby Line due that afternoon, which would land us at Gibraltar in
two or three days. Thence to Tangier was only like crossing a ferry.
The Colonel's man, l'Echelle, was sent to secure cabins, and we caught
the ship in due course. Three days later we were soon comfortably
settled in the Hotel Atlas, just above the wide sweep of sands that
encircle the bay. It was the season of fierce heat, but we faced the
northern breezes full of invigorating ozone.




CHAPTER XXIX.


Tangier, the wildest, quaintest, most savage spot on the face of the
globe, was to me the most enchanting. Our impressions take their
colour from the passing mood; we like or loathe a place according to
the temper in which we view it. I was so utterly and foolishly happy
in this most Eastern city located in the West that I have loved it
deeply ever since. After the trying and eventful episodes of the past
week I had passed into a tranquil haven filled with perfect peace. The
whole tenor of my life had changed, the feverish excitement was gone,
no deep anxiety vexed or troubled me, all my cares were transferred to
stronger shoulders than mine. I could calmly await the issue, content
to enjoy the moment and forget the past like a bad dream.

It was sufficient to bask in the sunshine, revelling in the free air,
rejoicing in the sweetness of my nascent love. We were much together,
Basil and I; we walked together, exploring the recesses of the native
town, and the ancient citadel, with its memories of British dominion;
we lingered in the Soko or native market, crowded with wild creatures
from the far interior; we rode together, for his first care was to
secure horses, and scoured the country as far as the Marshan and Cape
Spartel. I sometimes reproached myself with being so happy, while my
darling Henriette still sorrowfully repined at her past, with little
hope of better days. But even she brightened as the days ran on and
brought no fresh disquiet, while her boy, sweet little Ralph,
developed in health and strength.

A week passed thus, a week of unbroken quiet, flawless as the
unchanging blue of a summer sky; not a cloud in sight, not a suspicion
of coming disturbance and unrest. It could not go on like this for
ever. To imagine it was to fall asleep in a fool's paradise, lulled
into false serenity by the absence of portents so often shrouded and
unseen until they break upon us.

One day a cablegram reached me from Philpotts. She had arrived at
Marseilles on her return voyage from Tripoli, and was anxious that I
should know without delay that we had not shaken off Lord Blackadder.
They had recrossed the Mediterranean together in the same ship, the
_Oasis_.

"So far all well," she said, "but am watched closely, will certainly
follow me--send instructions--better not join you at present."

This message fell on us two poor women like a bolt from the blue.
Basil looked serious for a moment, but then laughed scornfully.

"His lordship can do us no harm. There is not the slightest fear. He
may bluster and bully as much as he pleases, or rather, as far as he
is permitted to go. We will place ourselves under the protection of
the Moorish bashaw. I always intended that."

"Not seriously?"

"Indeed, yes; I have already consulted our Minister. Sir Arthur is an
old friend of mine, and he has advised me, privately, of course, and
unofficially, to be on our guard. He can do nothing for us, but he
will not act against us. If Lord Blackadder should turn up here, and
sooner or later he will, most assuredly he will not assist him. He
promises that. At the same time he can give you no protection. We must
take care of ourselves."

"You believe that Lord Blackadder will find his way to Tangier?"

"Most certainly. He has Philpotts under his hand, but he would not
trust only to her. Diligent inquiry at Marseilles would be sure to
reveal our departure for Gibraltar. He will follow with his men, they
are well-trained detectives, and it will be mere child's play for them
to track us to Tangier. You may look for them here any day. We must be
ready for them at all points."

"There is no saying what Ralph Blackadder may not attempt."

"Indeed, yes, he is equal to anything, guile of course, treachery,
cunning, stratagem, absolute violence if the opportunity offers. It is
of the utmost importance not to play into his hands, not to give him
the smallest chance. The child must be watched continually in the
house, awake and asleep, wherever he goes and whatever he does."

"Then I think Henriette must be warned not to wander about the town
and on the sands in the way she's been doing with Victorine and the
child, all of them on donkey back. I don't think it's at all safe."

But when I cautioned her she was not particularly pleased. Was she to
have no fresh air, no change of scene? I grudged her the smallest
pleasure, while I was racing up and down flirting and philandering
with Basil Annesley all day and every day; she was to sit indoors,
bored to extinction and suffering torments in the unbearable heat.

Basil and I agreed that it was cruel to restrict her movements even
with such a good excuse, and had she been willing to accept the
irksome conditions, which she certainly was not. We arranged a
surveillance, therefore, unknown to her. The Colonel, his man, or
myself invariably accompanied her or followed her within eyeshot; and
we hired two or three stalwart Moors, who were always to be near
enough to render help if required.

Then came confirmations of our worst fears. L'Echelle, who had been
unaccountably absent one morning, returned about midday with news from
the port. Lord Blackadder and his two henchmen had just landed from
the _Jose Pielago_, the steamer that runs regularly between Cadiz and
Algeciras, Gibraltar, and Tangier. He had seen them in the
custom-house, fighting their way through the crowd of ragged Jew
porters, the Moorish egg merchants, and dealers in luscious fruit.
They had mounted donkeys, the only means of conveyance in a town with
no wheeled vehicles; and l'Echelle made us laugh at the sorry picture
presented by the indignant peer, with his legs dangling down on each
side of the red leather saddle. Their baggage was also piled on
donkeys, and the whole procession, familiar enough in the narrow
streets of Tangier, climbed the hill to the Soko, and made for the
Shereef Hotel, reputed one of the best in Tangier, and lying outside
the walls in the immediate neighbourhood of the British Legation.

L'Echelle, who seems an honest, loyal fellow, thought he would serve
us best by marking them down, and, if possible, renewing his
acquaintance with the detectives, one or both of whom he knew. After
hanging about the outside of the hotel, he entered the garden boldly
and went up to the shady trellised verandah where they were seated
together, smoking and refreshing themselves after their journey.

L'Echelle was well received. Falfani, my friend of the Calais train,
believed he had suborned him at Aix, and now hailed his appearance
with much satisfaction. L'Echelle might again be most useful; at
least, he could lead them to us, and he wisely decided to let Falfani
know where we were to be found in Tangier. The fact would surely be
discovered without him. It was better, he thought, to appear frank,
and, by instilling confidence, learn all there was to know of their
plans and movements.

My lord had gone to the Legation, Falfani told him at once,
bombastically boasting that everything would yield before him. He had
but to express his wishes, and there would be an end of the hunt. But
my lord came back in a furious rage, and, regardless of l'Echelle's--a
comparative stranger's--presence, burst forth into passionate
complaint against the Minister. He would teach Sir Arthur to show
proper respect to a peer of the realm; he would cable at once to the
Foreign Office and insist on this second-rate diplomatist's recall.
The upshot of it all was that his lordship's demand for help had been
refused pointblank, and no doubt, after what the Colonel had heard, in
rather abrupt, outspoken terms.

All this and more l'Echelle brought back to us at the Atlas Hotel. He
told us at length of the outrageous language Lord Blackadder had used,
of his horrible threats, how he would leave no stone unturned to
recover his son and heir; how he would bribe the bashaw, buy the
Moorish officials, a notoriously venal crew; how he would dog our
footsteps everywhere, set traps for us, fall upon us unawares; and in
the last extreme he would attack the hotel and forcibly carry off his
property. As the fitting end of his violent declamation, Ralph
Blackadder had left the hotel hurriedly, calling upon his creatures to
follow him, bent, as it seemed, to perpetrate some mad act.

I confess I shuddered at the thought of this reckless, unprincipled
man loose about Tangier, vowing vengeance, and resolved to go to any
lengths to secure it. My dear Basil strove hard to console me with
brave words inspired by his sturdy, self-reliant spirit.

But even he quailed at the sudden shock that fell upon us at the very
same moment. Where was Henriette?

After the first excitement, we desired to pass on the news brought by
l'Echelle to her, and renew our entreaties for extreme caution in her
comings and goings; and with much misgiving we learnt that she was not
in the hotel. She had gone out with Victorine and Ralph as usual, but
unattended by any of us. One Moor, Achmet El Mansur, was with her, we
were told, but we did not trust him entirely. It had been l'Echelle's
turn to accompany her, but he had been diverted from his duty by the
pressing necessity of following Lord Blackadder. Basil and I had
ridden out quite early on a long expedition, from which we only
returned when l'Echelle did.

We dismissed our fears, hoping they were groundless, and looking to be
quite reassured presently when she came back at the luncheon hour.

But one o'clock came, and two, and two-thirty, but not a sign of
Henriette, nor a word in explanation of her absence.

Could she have fallen a victim to the machinations of Lord Blackadder?
Was the boy captured and she detained while he was spirited away?




CHAPTER XXX.


It was impossible to disassociate Lord Blackadder from Lady
Henriette's mysterious disappearance, and yet we could hardly believe
that he could have so quickly accomplished his purpose. We doubted the
more when the man turned up in person at the Atlas Hotel and had the
effrontery to ask for her.

Basil went out to him in the outer hall, and, as I listened from
within, I immediately heard high words. It was like a spark applied to
tinder; a fierce quarrel blazed up instantly between them.

"How dare you show yourself here?" began Basil Annesley.

"Who are you to prevent me? I come to demand the restoration of that
which belongs to me. Take my message to those two ladies and say I
will have my boy," replied my lord.

"Do not try to impose on me, Lord Blackadder. It is the most impudent
pretence; you know perfectly well he is not here."

"I will not bandy words with you. Go in, you men, both of you, Tiler
and Falfani, and seize the child. Force your way in, push that
blackguard aside!" he roared in a perfect paroxysm of passion.

I could not possibly hold aloof, but called for help from the hotel
people, and, with them at my back, rushed out to add my protest
against this intemperate conduct.

A free fight had already begun. The three assailants, Ralph Blackadder
behind egging them on, had thrown themselves upon Basil, who stood
sturdily at bay with his back to the wall, daring them to come on, and
prepared to strike out at the first man who touched him.

"At him! Give it him! Throw him out!" cried Ralph passionately. But
even as he spoke his voice weakened, he halted abruptly; his hands
went up into the air, his body swayed to and fro, his strength left
him completely, and he fell to the ground in sudden and complete
collapse. When they picked him up, there was froth mixed with blood
upon his lips, he breathed once or twice heavily, stertorously, and
then with one long-drawn gasp died in the arms of his two men.

It was an apoplectic seizure, the doctors told us later, brought on by
excessive nervous irritation of the brain.

Here was a sudden and unexpected _denouement_, a terribly dramatic end
to our troubles if we could but clear up the horrible uncertainty
remaining.

What had become of my sister and little Ralph?

While the servants of the hotel attended to the stricken man, Basil
Annesley plied the detectives with eager questions. He urged them to
tell all they knew; it should be made worth their while; they no
longer owed allegiance to their late employer. He entreated them to
withhold nothing. Where and how had Lord Blackadder met Henriette?
What had he done with her? Where was she now?

We could get nothing out of these men; they refused to answer our
questions from sheer mulish obstinacy, as we thought at first, but we
saw at length that they did not understand us. What were we driving
at? They assured us they had seen no lady, nor had the unfortunate
peer accosted any one, or interfered with any one on his way between
the two hotels. He had come straight from the Villa Shereef to the
Hotel Atlas, racing down at a run, pausing nowhere, addressing no one
on the road.

If not Lord Blackadder, what then? What could have happened to
Henriette? Tangier was a wild place enough, but who would interfere
with an English woman in broad daylight accompanied by her servant, by
an escort, her attendant Moorish guide? Full of anxiety, Basil called
for a horse, and was about to ride off to institute a hue and cry,
when my sister appeared in person upon the scene.

"Getting anxious about me?" she asked, with careless, almost childish
gaiety. "I am awfully late, but I have had such an extraordinary
adventure. Why, how serious you look! Not on my account, surely?"

I took her aside, and in a few words told her of the terrible
catastrophe that had just occurred, and for a time she was silent and
seemed quite overcome.

"It's too shocking, of course, to happen in this awful way. But
really, I cannot be very sorry except for one thing--that now he will
never know."

"Know what, Henriette? Have you taken leave of your senses?"

"Know that I have discovered the whole plot of which I was the
victim. My dear, I have found Susan Bruel, and she has made a full
confession. They were bribed to go away, and they have been here
hiding in Tangier."

"Go on, go on. Tell me, please, all about it."

"You must know we went out, the three of us, on our donkeys, and the
fancy seized me to explore some of the dark, narrow streets where the
houses all but join overhead. I got quite frightened at last. I was
nearly suffocated for want of air. I could not even see the sky, and
at last desired Achmet to get me out into the open, anywhere. After
one or two sharp turns, we emerged upon a sort of plateau or terrace
high above the sea, and in full view of it.

"There was a small hotel in front of it, and above the door was the
name of the proprietor, would you believe it, Domenico Bruel!

"It was the name of Susan's husband, and no doubt Susan was there. I
could not quite make up my mind how I should act. I thought of sending
Achmet back for you or the Colonel, but I could not bear parting with
him. Then, while I was still hesitating, Susan herself came out and
rushed across to where I was, with her hands outstretched and fairly
beside herself, laughing and crying by turns.

"'Oh, my lady! It _is_ you, then? What shall I say to you? How can I
tell you?' she began, quite hysterically. 'We behaved most
disgracefully, most wickedly, but indeed it was Domenico's doing. He
insisted they offered us such a large sum, enough to make us rich for
life, and so we consented to come away here. I have never had one
happy moment since. Can you forgive me?'

"All this she poured forth, and much more of the same sort. I could
see she was truly sorry, and that it had not been entirely her fault.
Besides, I began to hope already that, how we had found her, we might
get the case reopened, and that wicked order reversed. It will be put
right now, now that Ralph can no longer oppose it."

I bowed my head silently, thankful and deeply impressed with the
strange turn taken by events and the sudden light let in upon the
darkness that had surrounded us.

The rest of the adventures that began in the sleeping-car between
Calais and Basle, and came abruptly to an end on the North African
shore, may soon be told. Our first act was to return to England at
the very earliest opportunity, and we embarked that evening on a
Forwood steamer direct for London, which port we reached in less than
five days.

Town was empty, and we did not linger there. Nothing could be done in
the Courts, as it was the legal vacation, but Henriette's solicitors
arranged to send out a commission to take the Bruels' evidence at
Tangier, and to bring the matter before The President at the earliest
opportunity.

As for ourselves, I persuaded Henriette to take a cottage at Marlow on
the Upper Thames, where Colonel Annesley was a constant guest, and
Charlie Forrester. We four passed many idle halcyon days on the quiet
river, far from the noise of trains, and content to leave Bradshaw in
the bottom of the travelling-bag, where it had been thrown at the end
of our feverish wanderings.

Once again we had recourse to it, however, when we started on our
honeymoon, Basil and I. Once more we found ourselves at Calais with
Philpotts, but no encumbrances, bound on a second, a far happier, and
much less eventful journey by the Engadine express.


THE END.




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Announcement List
of New Fiction


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wrong clue, are the ingredients from which Major Griffiths has
concocted a clever, up-to-date detective story. The book is bright and
spirited, with rapid action, and consistent development which brings
the story to a logical and dramatic ending.


The Morning Glory Club. BY GEORGE A. KYLE.

Cloth decorative, with a colored frontispiece
by A.O. Scott                                          $1.25

The doings of the Morning Glory Club will furnish genuine amusement to
the reader. Originally formed to "elevate" the village, it quickly
develops into an exchange for town gossip. It has a saving grace,
however, in the person of motherly Mrs. Stout, the uncultured but
sweet-natured and pure-minded village philosopher, who pours the oil
of her saneness and charity on the troubled waters of discussion and
condemnation.

It is a series of clear and interesting pictures of the humor of
village life.


The Chronicles of Martin Hewitt, Detective. NEW ILLUSTRATED EDITION.
BY ARTHUR MORRISON, author of "The Green Diamond," "The Red Triangle,"
etc.

Cloth decorative, with six full-page drawings
by W. Kirkpatrick                                      $1.50

The success of Mr. Morrison's recent books, "The Green Diamond" and
"The Red Triangle," has led to an imperative demand for the reissue of
"The Chronicles of Martin Hewitt," which has been out of print for a
number of years.

It will be remembered that Martin Hewitt is the detective in "The Red
Triangle," of whom the _New York Tribune_ said: "Better than Sherlock
Holmes." His adventures in the London slums were of such a nature that
the _Philadelphia North American_ said: "The reader who has a grain of
fancy or imagination may be defied to lay this book down once he has
begun it until the last word is reached."


Mystery Island. By EDWARD H. HURST.

Cloth decorative, with a colored frontispiece          $1.50

A hunting camp on a swampy island in the Florida Everglades furnishes
the background for this present-day tale.

By the murder of one of their number, the secret of egress from the
island is lost, and the campers find themselves marooned.

Cut off from civilization, conventional veneer soon wears away. Love,
hate, and revenge spring up, and after the sterner passions have had
their sway the man and the woman are left alone to fulfil their own
destiny.

While there is much that is unusual in the plot and its development,
Mr. Hurst has handled his subject with fine delicacy, and the tale of
their love on the beautiful little island is told with deep sympathy
and feeling.


The Flying Cloud. By MORLEY ROBERTS, author of "The
Promotion of the Admiral," "Rachel Marr," "The Idlers," etc.

Cloth decorative, with a colored frontispiece          $1.50

Mr. Roberts's new book is much more than a ripping good sea story such
as might be expected from the author of "The Promotion of the
Admiral." In "The Flying Cloud" the waters and the winds are gods
personified. Their every mood and phase are described in words of
telling force. There is no world but the waste of waters.

Mr. Roberts glories and exults in the mystery, the passion, the
strength of the elements, as did the Viking chroniclers of old. He
understands them and loves them and interprets them as no other writer
has heretofore done. The book is too big for conventional phrases. It
needs Mr. Roberts's own richness of imagery and masterly expression to
describe adequately the word-pictures in this epic of wind and waves.




Selections from
L.C. Page and Company's
List of Fiction

WORKS OF
ROBERT NEILSON STEPHENS

_Each one vol., library 12mo, cloth decorative         $1.50_


The Flight of Georgiana

A ROMANCE OF THE DAYS OF THE YOUNG PRETENDER. Illustrated by
H.C. Edwards.

"A love-story in the highest degree, a dashing story, and a remarkably
well finished piece of work."--_Chicago Record-Herald._


The Bright Face of Danger

Being an account of some adventures of Henri de Launay, son of the
Sieur de la Tournoire. Illustrated by H.C. Edwards.

"Mr. Stephens has fairly outdone himself. We thank him heartily. The
story is nothing if not spirited and entertaining, rational and
convincing."--_Boston Transcript._


The Mystery of Murray Davenport (40th thousand.)

"This is easily the best thing that Mr. Stephens has yet done. Those
familiar with his other novels can best judge the measure of this
praise, which is generous."--_Buffalo News._


Captain Ravenshaw

OR, THE MAID OF CHEAPSIDE. (52d thousand.) A romance of Elizabethan
London. Illustrations by Howard Pyle and other artists.

Not since the absorbing adventures of D'Artagnan have we had anything
so good in the blended vein of romance and comedy.


The Continental Dragoon

A ROMANCE OF PHILIPSE MANOR HOUSE IN 1778. (53d thousand.)
Illustrated by H.C. Edwards.

A stirring romance of the Revolution, with its scene laid on neutral
territory.


Philip Winwood (70th thousand.)

A Sketch of the Domestic History of an American Captain in the War
of Independence, embracing events that occurred between and during
the years 1763 and 1785 in New York and London. Illustrated by
E.W.D. Hamilton.


An Enemy to the King (70th thousand.)

From the "Recently Discovered Memoirs of the Sieur de
la Tournoire." Illustrated by H. De M. Young.

An historical romance of the sixteenth century, describing the
adventures of a young French nobleman at the court of Henry III., and
on the field with Henry IV.


The Road to Paris

A STORY OF ADVENTURE. (35th thousand.)
Illustrated by H.C. Edwards.

An historical romance of the eighteenth century, being an account of
the life of an American gentleman adventurer of Jacobite ancestry.


A Gentleman Player

HIS ADVENTURES ON A SECRET MISSION FOR QUEEN ELIZABETH. (48th
thousand.)
Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill.

The story of a young gentleman who joins Shakespeare's company of
players, and becomes a friend and protege of the great poet.

       *       *       *       *       *




WORKS OF
CHARLES G.D. ROBERTS


Red Fox

THE STORY OF HIS ADVENTUROUS CAREER IN THE RINGWAAK WILDS, AND OF
HIS FINAL TRIUMPH OVER THE ENEMIES OF HIS KIND. With fifty
illustrations, including frontispiece in color and cover design by
Charles Livingston Bull.

Square quarto, cloth decorative                        $2.00

"Infinitely more wholesome reading than the average tale of sport,
since it gives a glimpse of the hunt from the point of view of the
hunted."--_Boston Transcript._

"True in substance but fascinating as fiction. It will interest old
and young, city-bound and free-footed, those who know animals and
those who do not."--_Chicago Record-Herald._

"A brilliant chapter in natural history."--_Philadelphia North
American._


The Kindred of the Wild

A BOOK OF ANIMAL LIFE. With fifty-one full-page plates and
many decorations from drawings by Charles Livingston Bull.

Square quarto, decorative cover                        $2.00

"Is in many ways the most brilliant collection of animal stories that
has appeared; well named and well done."--_John Burroughs._


The Watchers of the Trails

A companion volume to "The Kindred of the Wild." With forty-eight
full-page plates and many decorations from drawings by Charles
Livingston Bull.

Square quarto, decorative cover                        $2.00

"These stories are exquisite in their refinement, and yet robust in
their appreciation of some of the rougher phases of woodcraft. Among
the many writers about animals, Mr. Roberts occupies an enviable
place.--_The Outlook_.

"This is a book full of delight. An additional charm lies in Mr.
Bull's faithful and graphic illustrations, which in fashion all their
own tell the story of the wild life, illuminating and supplementing
the pen pictures of the author."--_Literary Digest._


The Heart That Knows

Library 12mo, cloth, decorative cover                  $1.50

"A novel of singularly effective strength, luminous in literary color,
rich in its passionate, yet tender drama."--_New York Globe._


Earth's Enigmas

A new edition of Mr. Roberts's first volume of fiction, published in
1892, and out of print for several years, with the addition of three
new stories, and ten illustrations by Charles Livingston Bull. Library
12mo, cloth, decorative cover                          $1.50

"It will rank high among collections of short stories. In 'Earth's
Enigmas' is a wider range of subject than in the 'Kindred of the
Wild.'"--_Review from advance sheets of the illustrated edition by
Tiffany Blake in the Chicago Evening Post._


Barbara Ladd

With four illustrations by Frank Verbeck.
Library 12mo, cloth, decorative cover                  $1.50

"From the opening chapter to the final page Mr. Roberts lures us on by
his rapt devotion to the changing aspects of Nature and by his keen
and sympathetic analysis of human character."--_Boston Transcript._


Cameron of Lochiel

Translated from the French of Philippe Aubert de Gaspe, with
frontispiece in color by H.C. Edwards.

Library 12mo, cloth decorative                         $1.50

"Professor Roberts deserves the thanks of his reader for giving a
wider audience an opportunity to enjoy this striking bit of French
Canadian literature."--_Brooklyn Eagle._

"It is not often in these days of sensational and philosophical novels
that one picks up a book that so touches the heart."--_Boston
Transcript._


The Prisoner of Mademoiselle
With frontispiece by Frank T. Merrill.

Library 12mo, cloth decorative, gilt top               $1.50

A tale of Acadia,--a land which is the author's heart's delight,--of a
valiant young lieutenant and a winsome maiden, who first captures and
then captivates.

"This is the kind of a story that makes one grow younger, more
innocent, more light-hearted. Its literary quality is impeccable. It
is not every day that such a heroine blossoms into even temporary
existence, and the very name of the story bears a breath of
charm."--_Chicago Record-Herald._


The Heart of the Ancient Wood
With six illustrations by James L. Weston.

Library 12mo, decorative cover                         $1.50

"One of the most fascinating novels of recent days."--_Boston
Journal._

"A classic twentieth-century romance."--_New York Commercial
Advertiser._


The Forge in the Forest

Being the Narrative of the Acadian Ranger, Jean de Mer, Seigneur de
Briart, and how he crossed the Black Abbe, and of his adventures in a
strange fellowship. Illustrated by Henry Sandham, R.C.A.

Library 12mo, cloth, gilt top                          $1.50

A story of pure love and heroic adventure.


By the Marshes of Minas

Library 12mo, cloth, gilt top, illustrated             $1.50

Most of these romances are in the author's lighter and more playful
vein; each is a unit of absorbing interest and exquisite workmanship.


A Sister to Evangeline

Being the Story of Yvonne de Lamourie, and how she went into exile
with the villagers of Grand Pre.

Library 12mo, cloth, gilt top, illustrated             $1.50

Swift action, fresh atmosphere, wholesome purity, deep passion, and
searching analysis characterize this strong novel.

       *       *       *       *       *




WORKS OF
LILIAN BELL


Carolina Lee
With a frontispiece in color from an oil painting by Dora Wheeler
Keith.

Library 12mo, cloth, decorative cover                  $1.50

"A Christian Science novel, full of action, alive with incident and
brisk with pithy dialogue and humor."--_Boston Transcript._

"A charming portrayal of the attractive life of the South, refreshing
as a breeze that blows through a pine forest."--_Albany Times-Union._


Hope Loring
Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill.

Library 12mo, cloth, decorative cover                  $1.50

"Tall, slender, and athletic, fragile-looking, yet with nerves and
sinews of steel under the velvet flesh, frank as a boy and tender and
beautiful as a woman, free and independent, yet not bold--such is
'Hope Loring,' by long odds the subtlest study that has yet been made
of the American girl."--_Dorothy Dix, in the New York American._


Abroad with the Jimmies
With a portrait, in duogravure, of the author.

Library 12mo, cloth, decorative cover                  $1.50

"Full of ozone, of snap, of ginger, of swing and momentum."--_Chicago
Evening Post._


At Home with the Jardines
A companion volume to "Abroad with the Jimmies."

Library 12mo, cloth, decorative cover                  $1.50

"Bits of gay humor, sunny, whimsical philosophy, and keen indubitable
insight into the less evident aspects and workings of pure human
nature, with a slender thread of a cleverly extraneous love story,
keep the interest of the reader fresh."--_Chicago Record-Herald._


The Interference of Patricia
With a frontispiece from drawing by Frank T. Merrill.

Small 12mo, cloth, decorative cover                    $1.25

"There is life and action and brilliancy and dash and cleverness and a
keen appreciation of business ways in this story."--_Grand Rapids
Herald_.

"A story full of keen and flashing satire."--_Chicago Record-Herald._


A Book of Girls
With a frontispiece.

Small 12mo, cloth, decorative cover                    $1.25

"The stories are all eventful and have effective humor."--_New York
Sun._

"Lilian Bell surely understands girls, for she depicts all the
variations of girl nature so charmingly."--_Chicago Journal._

_The above two volumes boxed in special holiday dress,
 per set,                                              $2.50_

       *       *       *       *       *




WORKS OF
ALICE MacGOWAN AND GRACE MacGOWAN COOKE


Return

A STORY OF THE SEA ISLANDS IN 1739. With six illustrations by
C.D. Williams.

Library 12mo, cloth                                    $1.50

"So rich in color is this story, so crowded with figures, it seems
like a bit of old Italian wall painting, a piece of modern tapestry,
rather than a modern fabric woven deftly from the threads of fact and
fancy gathered up in this new and essentially practical country, and
therein lies its distinctive value and excellence."--_N.Y. Sun._

"At once tender, thrilling, picturesque, philosophical, and dramatic.
One of the most delightful romances we have had in many a
day."--_Chicago Record-Herald._


The Grapple
With frontispiece in color by Arthur W. Brown.

Library 12mo, cloth decorative                         $1.50

"The movement of the tale is swift and dramatic. The story is so
original, so strong, and so finely told that it deserves a large and
thoughtful public. It is a book to read with both enjoyment and
enlightenment."--_N.Y. Times Saturday Review of Books._


The Last Word
Illustrated with seven portraits of the heroine.

Library 12mo, cloth, decorative cover                  $1.50

"When one receives full measure to overflowing of delight in a tender,
charming, and wholly fascinating new piece of fiction, the enthusiasm
is apt to come uppermost."--_Louisville Post._


Huldah
With illustrations by Fanny Y. Cory.

Library 12mo, cloth decorative                         $1.50

Here we have the great-hearted, capable woman of the Texas plains
dispensing food and genial philosophy to rough-and-ready cowboys. Her
sympathy takes the form of happy laughter, and her delightfully funny
phrases amuse the fancy and stick in one's memory.




WORKS OF
MORLEY ROBERTS


Rachel Marr

Library 12mo, cloth decorative                         $1.50

"A novel of tremendous force, with a style that is sure, luxuriant,
compelling, full of color and vital force."--_Elia W. Peattie, in
Chicago Tribune._

"In atmosphere, if nothing else, the story is absolutely
perfect."--_Boston Transcript._


Lady Penelope
With nine illustrations by Arthur W. Brown.

Library 12mo, cloth decorative                         $1.50

"A fresh and original bit of comedy as amusing as it is
audacious."--_Boston Transcript._


The Idlers
With frontispiece in color by John C. Frohn.

Library 12mo, cloth decorative                         $1.50

"In 'The Idlers' Mr. Morley Roberts does for the smart set of London
what Mrs. Wharton has done in 'The House of Mirth' for the American
social class of the same name.... It is a powerful novel, a merciless
dissection of modern society similar to that which a skilled surgeon
would make of a pathological case."--_The London Literary World._

"It is as absorbing as the devil. Mr. Roberts gives us the antithesis
of 'Rachel Marr' in an equally masterful and convincing work."--_The
New York Sun._

"It is a work of great ethical force."--_Professor Charles G.D.
Roberts._


The Promotion of the Admiral

By MORLEY ROBERTS.

Library 12mo, cloth decorative, illustrated            $1.50

"If any one writes better sea stories than Mr. Roberts, we don't know
who it is; and if there is a better sea story of its kind than this it
would be a joy to have the pleasure of reading it."--_New York Sun._

"There is a hearty laugh in everyone of these stories."--_The
Reader._

"To read these stories is a tonic for the mind; the stories are gems,
and for pith and vigor of description they are unequalled."--_N.Y.
Commercial Advertiser._

       *       *       *       *       *




WORKS OF
STEPHEN CONRAD


The Second Mrs. Jim

By STEPHEN CONRAD. With a frontispiece by Ernest Fosbery.

Large 16mo, cloth decorative                           $1.00

Here is a character as original and witty as "Mr. Dooley" or "the
self-made merchant." The realm of humorous fiction is now invaded by
the stepmother.

"It is an exceptionally clever piece of work."--_Boston Transcript._

"'The Second Mrs. Jim' is worth as many Mrs. Wiggses as could be
crowded into the Cabbage Patch. The racy humor and cheerfulness and
wisdom of the book make it wholly delightful."--_Philadelphia Press._


Mrs. Jim and Mrs. Jimmie
With a frontispiece in colors by Arthur W. Brown.

Library 12mo, cloth decorative                         $1.50

This book is in a sense a sequel to "The Second Mrs. Jim," since it
gives further glimpses of that delightful stepmother and her
philosophy.

"Plenty of fun and humor in this book. Plenty of simple pathos and
quietly keen depiction of human nature afford contrast, and every
chapter is worth reading. It is a very human account of life in a
small country town, and the work should be commended for those
sterling qualities of heart and naturalness so endearing to
many."--_Chicago Record-Herald._




WORKS OF
ARTHUR MORRISON


The Green Diamond

Library 12mo, cloth decorative, with six illustrations $1.50

"A detective story of unusual ingenuity and intrigue."--_Brooklyn
Eagle._


The Red Triangle

Being some further chronicles of Martin Hewitt, investigator.

Library 12mo, cloth decorative                         $1.50

"Better than Sherlock Holmes."--_New York Tribune._

"The reader who has a grain of fancy or imagination may be defied to
lay this book down, once he has begun it, until the last word has been
reached."--_Philadelphia North American._

       *       *       *       *       *




WORKS OF
G. SIDNEY PATERNOSTER


The Motor Pirate

Library 12mo, cloth decorative, with frontispiece      $1.50

"Its originality, exciting adventures, into which is woven a charming
love theme, and its undercurrent of fun furnish a dashing detective
story which a motor-mad world will thoroughly enjoy reading."--_Boston
Herald._


The Cruise of the Motor-Boat Conqueror

Being the Further Adventures of the Motor Pirate.

Library 12mo, cloth decorative, with a frontispiece
by Frank T. Merrill                                    $1.50

"As a land pirate Mannering was a marvel of resource, but as a
sea-going buccaneer he is almost a miracle of devilish ingenuity. His
exploits are wonderful and plausible, for he avails himself of every
modern device and applies recent inventions to the accomplishment of
all his pet schemes."--_Chicago Evening Post._




WORKS OF
T. JENKINS HAINS


The Black Barque
With five illustrations by W. Herbert Dunton.

Library 12mo, cloth                                    $1.50

According to a high naval authority, whose name must be withheld, this
is one of the best sea stories ever offered to the public. "The Black
Barque" is a story of slavery and piracy upon the high seas about
1815, and is written with a thorough knowledge of deep-water sailing.


The Windjammers

Library 12mo, cloth                                    $1.50

"A collection of short sea stories unmatched for interest."--_New York
Sun._


The Voyage of the Arrow
With six illustrations by H.C. Edwards.

Library 12mo, cloth                                    $1.50

"A capital story, full of sensation and excitement, and a rollicking
sea story of the good old-fashioned sort. The reader who begins this
exciting voyage will sail on at the rate of twelve knots an hour until
it is finished."--_Boston Transcript._

       *       *       *       *       *




WORKS OF
REGINALD WRIGHT KAUFFMAN


Miss Frances Baird, Detective

A PASSAGE FROM HER MEMOIRS.

Library 12mo, cloth decorative, with a frontispiece
by W.F. Kirkpatrick                                    $1.25

"Miss Baird ravels and unravels circumstantial evidence in her search
for the murderer in a most bewildering and thoroughly feminine
fashion.... The story is brimful of excitement, and no little
ingenuity is displayed in its construction."--_Boston Herald._


Jarvis of Harvard
Illustrated by Robert Edwards.

Library 12mo, cloth decorative                         $1.50

A strong and well written novel, dealing with the life of a young man
in a modern college. Studies, athletics, social life, and the outside
influences surrounding the youth of a college town are clearly
depicted.

"Mr. Kauffman's treatment of his subject is dignified, restrained,
sincere, and in admirable good taste throughout."--_New York Mail and
Express._

       *       *       *       *       *






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