“At all events,” Phinuit put in promptly, “I know what I would do if I possessed a little fortune in jewels, and learned that a thief of the ability of this Lone Wolf was at large in France: I would charter an armoured train to convey the loot to the strongest safe deposit vault in Paris.”
“Thereby advertising to the Lone Wolf the exact location of the jewels, monsieur, so that he might at his leisure make his plans perfect to burglarise the vaults?”
“Is that likely?” Phinuit jeered.
Duchemin gave a slight shrug.
“One has heard that the fellow had real ability,” he said.
The servant Jean came in, caught the eye of Madame de Sevenie, and announced:
“The chauffeur of Monsieur Monk wishes me to say he has completed repairs on the automobile, and the rain has ceased.”
Duchemin took back with him to Nant, that night, not only monsieur le cure in the hired caleche, but food in plenty for thought, together with a nebulous notion, which by the time he woke up next morning had taken shape as a fixed conviction, that he had better resign himself to stop on indefinitely at the Grand Hotel de l’Univers and ... see what he should see.
That fatality on which he had so bitterly reflected when; acting as emergency coachman en route from Montpellier-le-Vieux to La Roque-Sainte-Marguerite, had him now fairly by the heels, as it were his very shadow, something as tenacious, as inescapable. Or he had been given every excuse for believing that such was the case. Impossible—and the more so the longer he pondered it—to credit to mere coincidence the innuendoes uttered at the chateau by Mr. Monk and his party.
No: there had been malice in that, Duchemin was satisfied, if not some darker purpose which perplexed the most patient scrutiny.
Now malice without incentive is unthinkable. But Duchemin searched his memory in vain for anything he could have said or done to make anybody desire to discredit him in the sight of the ladies of the Chateau de Montalais. Still the attempt so to do had been unmistakable: the Lone Wolf had been lugged into the conversation literally by his legendary ears.
Surely, one would think, that nocturnal prowler of pre-War Paris had been so long dead and buried even the most ghoulish gossip should respect his poor remains and not disinter them merely to demonstrate that the Past can never wholly die!
Had he, then, some enemy of old hidden under one of those sleek surfaces?
An excellent visual memory reviewed successively the physical characteristics of Messieurs Monk, Phinuit and de Lorgnes, and their chauffeur Jules; with the upshot that Duchemin could have sworn that he had never before known any of these.