“What are we to do now?” asked Mrs. Blair, her nervous trepidation increasing. “I begin to think we shall fail, we cannot carry it through, we shall lose our treasure. It will be taken from us.”
“You cannot, you must not, shall not turn back now,” said the maid with great determination. “We must devise something, some way, of outwitting this Falfani. We did it before, we must do it again. After all he has no power over us; we are in France and shall be in Switzerland by daylight.”
“We ought to go on, you think? Wouldn’t it be better to slip out of the train at the first station and run away?”
“He would do the same. He does not intend to let us out of his sight. And how much the better should we be? It would be far worse; we should be much more at his mercy if we left the train. The journey would still have to be made; we must get to the end, the very end, or we’d better not have started.”
“He will know then, if he sticks to us. We cannot hide it from him, nor where we have taken it; we shall never be able to keep it, they will come and claim it and recover it;” and she cried hysterically: “I cannot see my way; it’s all dark, black as night. I wish—I wish—”
“That you had never done it?” quickly asked the maid; and I noticed a slight sarcasm in her tone that was not without its effect in bracing up and strengthening her companion’s shattered nerves.
“No, no, no; I do not regret it, and I never shall. I did it deliberately, counting the cost fully, and it shall be paid, however heavy it may be. It is not regret that tortures me, but the fear of failure when so near success.”
“We will succeed yet. Do not be cast down, my sweet dear.” The maid patted her on the cheek with great affection. “We shall find a way. This gentleman, the colonel here, will help us, perhaps.”
“Will you?” Who could resist her pleading voice and shining eyes? If I had had any scruples left I would have thrown them to the winds.
“Whatever lies in my power to do shall be done without stint or hesitation,” I said solemnly, careless of all consequences, content to hold her hand and earn her heartfelt thanks. What though I were pawning my honour?
[The Statement of Domenico Falfani, confidential agent, made to his employers, Messrs. Becke and Co., of the Private Inquiry Offices, 279 St. Martin’s Lane, W.C.]
I propose, gentlemen, to set down here at length the story of my mission, and the events which befell me from the time I first received my instructions. You desired me to pursue and call to strict account a certain lady of title, who had fallen away from her high estate and committed an act of rank felony. The circumstances which led up to her disappearance and the partners of her flight are already well known to you.