SIX BOTTLES OF CHAMPAGNE
Once decided upon a course of action, Liane Delorme demonstrated that she could move with energy and decision uncommon in her kind. Under her masterly supervision, preparations accomplished themselves, as it were, by magic.
It was, for example, nearer three than four o’clock when the expedition for Cherbourg left the door of her town-house and Paris by way of the Porte de Neuilly; the limousine leading with that polished pattern of a chauffeur, Jules, at its wheel, as spick and span, firm of jaw and imperturbable of eye as when Lanyard had first noticed him in Nant; the touring car trailing, with the footman Leon as driver, and not at all happy to find himself drafted in that capacity, if one might judge by a sullen sort of uneasiness in his look.
Nothing was to be expected in the streets or suburbs, neither speed nor any indication of the intentions (if any) of Dupont. Lanyard spared himself the thankless trouble of watching to see if they were followed—having little doubt they were—and took his ease by the side of Liane Delorme.
Chatting of old times, or sitting in grateful silence when Liane relapsed into abstraction—something which she did with a frequency which testified to the heavy pressure of her thoughts—he kept an appreciative eye on Jules, conceding at length that Liane’s adjective, superb, had been fitly applied to his driving. So long as he remained at the wheel, they were not only in safe hands but might be sure of losing nothing on the road.
It was in St. Germain-en-Laye that Lanyard first noticed the grey touring car. But for mental selection of St. Germain as the likeliest spot for Dupont to lay in waiting, and thanks also to an error of judgment on the part of that one, he must have missed it; for there was nothing strikingly sinister in the aspect of that long-bodied grey car with the capacious hood betokening a motor of great power. But it stood incongruously round the corner, in a mean side street, as if anxious to escape observation; its juxtaposition to the door of a wine shop of the lowest class was noticeable in a car of such high caste; and, what was finally damning, the rat-faced man of Lyons was lounging in the door of the wine shop, sucking at a cigarette and watching the traffic with an all too listless eye shaded by the visor of a shabby cap.
Lanyard said nothing at the time, but later, when a long stretch of straight road gave him the chance, verified his suspicions by looking back to see the grey car lurking not less than a mile and a half astern; the Delorme touring car driven by Leon keeping a quarter of a mile in the rear of the limousine.
These relative positions remained approximately unchanged during most of the light hours of that long evening, despite the terrific pace which Jules set in the open country. Lanyard, keeping an eye on the indicator, saw its hand register the equivalent of sixty English miles an hour more frequently than not. It seldom dropped below fifty except when passing through towns or villages. And more often than he liked Lanyard watched it creep up to and past the mark seventy.