As the tram approached the beginning of that long stone wall it began to slacken speed, there was a grating noise from underneath, and presently it came to an abrupt halt. Ste. Marie looked over the guard-rail and saw that the driver had left his place and was kneeling in the dust beside the car peering at its underworks. The conductor strolled round to him after a moment and stood indifferently by, remarking upon the strange vicissitudes to which electrical propulsion is subject. The driver, without looking up, called his colleague a number of the most surprising and, it is to be hoped, unwarranted names, and suddenly began to burrow under the tram, wriggling his way after the manner of a serpent until nothing could be seen of him but two unrestful feet. His voice, though muffled, was still tolerably distinct. It cursed, in an unceasing staccato and with admirable ingenuity, the tram, the conductor, the sacred dog of an impediment which had got itself wedged into one of the trucks, and the world in general.
Ste. Marie, sitting aloft, laughed for a moment, and then turned his eager eyes upon what lay across the road. The halt had taken place almost exactly at the beginning of that long stretch of park wall which ran beside the road and the tramway. From where he sat he could see the other wing which led inward from the road at something like a right angle, but was presently lost to sight because of a sparse and unkempt patch of young trees and shrubs, well-nigh choked with undergrowth, which extended for some distance from the park wall backward along the road-side toward Vanves. Whoever owned that stretch of land had seemingly not thought it worth while to cultivate it or to build upon it or even to clear it off.
Ste. Marie’s first thought, as his eye scanned the two long stretches of wall and looked over their tops to the trees of the park and the far-off gables and chimneys of the house, was to wonder where the entrance to the place could be, and he decided that it must be on the side opposite to the Clamart tram-line. He did not know the smaller roads hereabouts, but he guessed that there must be one somewhere beyond, between the route de Clamart and Fort d’Issy, and he was right. There is a little road between the two; it sweeps round in a long curve and ends near the tiny public garden in Issy, and it is called the rue Barbes.
His second thought was that this unkempt patch of tree and brush offered excellent cover for any one who might wish to pass an observant hour alongside that high stone wall; for any one who might desire to cast a glance over the lie of the land, to see at closer range that house of which so little could be seen from the route de Clamart, to look over the wall’s coping into park and garden.
The thought brought him to his feet with a leaping heart, and before he realized that he had moved he found himself in the road beside the halted tram. The conductor brushed past him, mounting to his place, and from the platform beckoned, crying out: