WHEN THE TABLES WERE TURNED
Next morning Angela said nothing to Kate of what had happened in the night. Her thoughts were full of the affair, but since the true version was to be suppressed, it would be better to have no confidant. She asked, however, to see a morning paper, and when it came was disappointed to find no paragraph concerning the thief at the Hotel Valmont. She did not know anything about the making of newspapers, but took it for granted that the story had been too late for press, and became very eager to meet her neighbour, that she might hear all at first hand from him.
She passed him hurriedly the day before, her head bent, because she was afraid he meant to speak, and she would have to snub him. But now the tables were turned. She dressed and went down early, making an excuse to glance over a quantity of magazines and papers in the big hall, hoping that he might appear. But he did not. It was almost, she told herself, as if he were punishing her for avoiding him yesterday, by paying her back in her own coin. Not that she believed he was really doing so. Yet it was extremely aggravating that he should keep out of the way. He ought to have understood that she would want to know what happened after the first chapter of the story was brought to a close by the shutting of the door.
Because she was waiting for him (whether she acknowledged this or not) and because he did not come, Angela thought of the man every moment, without being able to put him out of her mind. He had shown such astonishing tact as well as pluck last night, and was so good-looking, that his very lack of cultivation made him more interesting as a study. She would have liked to ask the hotel people about him; whence he came and what was his name; but, of course, she did nothing of the sort. All she did was to make various pretexts for lingering in the hall till nearly luncheon time; and then the arrival of evening papers partly explained to her mind the mystery of the man’s absence. Also they made her a present of his name, and a few other personal items.
“Nick Hilliard of California Makes Hotel Thief Feel Small,” was the heading of a conspicuous half-column which caught her eye.
The said thief, it seemed, was known to friends and enemies as “Officer Dutchy.” He had “worked” with success in Chicago and the Middle West, but was a comparative stranger in New York. He “claimed” to have been an officer in the German army, but probably lied, though he had evidently been a soldier at one time. He had numerous aliases, and spoke with a German accent. His name appeared on the register of the Valmont as Count von Osthaven, and he admitted an attempt to enter the room occupied by Mr. Hilliard, having reached it by a daring passage along a stone cornice, from his own window, four rooms to the left, on the twelfth storey.