“You need not trouble any further about my uncle,” she said. “He has returned.”
“Returned!” I exclaimed. “When?”
“A very short time ago,” she answered. “He is very unwell. It will not be possible for any one to see him for a short time. But he has returned!”
“I am very glad indeed,” I assured her.
Her face showed no signs of exultation or relief. I could not help being puzzled at her demeanor. She gave me no further explanation.
There was a ring at the door, and she motioned me away.
“The dressmaker!” she exclaimed.
I went upstairs to my rooms to wait for Louis.
A DANGEROUS IMPERSONATION
Louis appeared, as ever, punctual to the moment. He carried a menu card in his hand. He had the air of having come to take my orders for some projected feast. I closed the door of the outer hall and the door of my sitting-room.
“Now, Louis,” I said, “we are not only alone, but we are secure from interruption. Tell me exactly what it is that you have in your mind.”
Louis declined the chair to which I waved him. He leaned slightly back against the table, facing me.
“Captain Rotherby,” he said, “I have sometimes thought that men like yourself, of spirit, who have seen something of the world, must find it very wearisome to settle down to lead the life of an English farmer gentleman.”
“I am not proposing to do anything of the sort,” I answered.
“For you,” he said, “perhaps it would be impossible. But tell me, then, what is there that you care to do? I will tell you. You will give half your time to sport. The rest of the time you will eat and drink and grow fat. You will go to Marienbad and Carlsbad, and you will begin to wonder about your digestion, find yourself growing bald,—you will realize that nothing in the world ages a man so much as lack of excitement.”
“I grant you everything, Louis,” I said. “What excitement have you to offer me?”
“Three nights ago,” Louis said, “I saw you myself take a man into your hands with the intention of killing him. You broke the law!”
“I did,” I admitted, “and I would do it again.”
“Would you break the law in other ways?” Louis asked.
“Under similar circumstances, yes!” I answered.
“Listen, monsieur,” Louis continued. “It is our pleasure to save you from the unpleasant consequences which would certainly have befallen you in any other place than the Cafe des Deux Epingles after your—shall we say misunderstanding?—with James Tapilow.”
“I admit my indebtedness, Louis,” I answered.
“Will you do something to repay it?” Louis asked, raising his eyes to mine.
“You will have to tell me what it is first,” I said.
“It is concerned with the disappearance of Mr. Delora,” Louis said.