In the Gare de Perrache Lanyard witnessed an affecting farewell scene between the little man and Dupont. Not much to his surprise he discovered that the former was not travelling to Paris that night, after all; it was on Dupont’s account alone that he had taken so much trouble to secure the change of reservation.
And when Monsieur le Comte de Lorgnes had wavered through the gateway in tow of a luggage-laden porter; and Dupont had torn himself away from his fond familiar and lurched after the count; and Lanyard, after a little wait, had followed in turn: he was able to see for himself that Dupont had contrived to be berthed in the same carriage with de Lorgnes; proving that he did not mean to let the count out of sight, day or night.
Well weary, Lanyard proceeded to his own compartment, in the car ahead, and turned in. A busy day, and not altogether unprofitable; whatever expectations had been thwarted in this mild outcome, one had learned much; and to-morrow one would resume the chase anew and, one rather fancied, learn a deal more.
But he was not of those who sleep well on trains. In spite of his extreme fatigue he woke up every time the rapide stopped. He was awake at Dijon, at four in the morning, and again at Laroche, about a quarter after six. There, peering out of the window to identify the station, he was startled to see the broad, round-shouldered back of Albert Dupont making away across the rails—leaving the train!
It was not feasible to dress and pursue, even had it been wise. And Lanyard was vexed. Dupont, he felt, was hardly playing fair, after giving one every reason to believe he meant to go through to Paris. And what under heaven did the brute think to accomplish in Laroche? Was he still after the Comte de Lorgnes? Then the latter must likewise have fled the train! Or else ...
Something sinister in the slant of the Dupont shoulders, as he vanished, something indescribably evil in his furtive yet heavy tread of a beast of prey, struck a thrill of horror into the mind of Lanyard. He shuddered, and warned himself he must learn to hold his imagination in better check.
The newspapers of Paris, that day, had a sensation that crushed into insignificance the news from Chateau de Montalais: in a compartment which he had occupied alone on the night rapide from Lyons, a man had been found with his throat cut, his clothing ripped to rags, even his luggage slashed to ribbons.
Whether through chance or intention, every possible clue to the victim’s identity was missing.
In London, about noon of that day, a gentleman whom Lanyard most often thought of by the name of Wertheimer deciphered a code message whose contempt for customary telegraphic brevity was quite characteristic of the sender, indeed a better voucher for his bona fides than the initials appended in place of a signature. With some editing in the way of punctuation, it follows: