“I can do that quite well,” said Celia, with assurance. “And I can tell you the circumstances. The steamer—the Perisco—got into the river at Hull about a quarter to nine and anchored off the Victoria Pier. We understood that she couldn’t get into dock just then because of the tide, and that we must go on shore by tender. A tender came off—some of the people on board it came on our deck. There was a good deal of bustle. I went down to my cabin to see after something or other. Lisette came to me there, evidently much agitated, saying that her brother had come off on the tender to fetch her at once to their mother who was ill in London—dying. She begged to be allowed to go with him. Of course I said she might. She immediately picked up her suit-case and travelling coat out of our pile of luggage, and I went up with her on deck. She and the man—her brother, as I understood—got into a small boat which was alongside and went straight off to the pier: the tender was not leaving for shore for some time. And—that was the last I saw of her. It was all done in a minute or two.”
“Now—the man,” suggested the chief softly.
“A young man—about Lisette’s age, I should say—twenty-seven to thirty anyway. Tallish. Dark hair, moustache, eyes, and complexion. Good-looking—in a foreign way. I had no doubt he was her brother—he looked French, though he spoke English quite well and without accent. Very respectably dressed in dark clothes and overcoat. He would have passed for a well-to-do clerk—that type. I spoke to him—a few words. He spoke well—had very polite, almost polished manners. Of course he was hurried—wanting to get Lisette away—he said they could just catch the last train to London.”
The chief shook his head.
“Not the man who accompanied her to the Paddington Hotel,” he said. “Listen—this is the description of that man, as given to the police by the landlady and her servants: ’Age, presumably between forty and forty-five years, medium height. Brown hair. Clean-shaven. Dressed in grey tweed suit, over which he wore a fawn-coloured overcoat. Deerstalker hat—light brown. Brown brogue shoes.’ That, you see,” continued the chief, “describes a quite different person. You do not recognize the description as that of any man you have ever seen in company with your late maid, Miss Lennard?”
“I never saw my maid in any man’s company,” replied Celia. “Since I first engaged her we have not been much in London. I was in New York and Chicago for a time last year; then in Paris; then in Milan and Turin; lately in Moscow and St. Petersburg. When we were at home, here in London, she certainly had time of her own—her evenings out, you know—but of course I don’t know with whom she spent them. No—I don’t know any man answering that description.”
The chief folded up his papers and restored them to his desk.
“Now that you are here,” he said, “you may as well give me a few particulars about your doings on the Perisco, especially as they relate to Mr. James Allerdyke. When and where did you make his acquaintance?”