“Parfaitement, as madame pleases. Only, as the train is not full—very much the reverse indeed—only one other passenger, a gentleman—no more—”
The news affected her strangely, and in two very different ways. At first a look of satisfaction came into her face, but it was quickly succeeded by one of nervous apprehension, amounting to positive fear. She turned to talk to her maid in English, while the conductor busied himself in preparing the tickets.
“What are we to do, Philpotts?” This was said to the maid in English. “What if it should be—”
“Oh, no, never! We can’t turn back. You must face it out now. There is nothing to be afraid of, not in that way. I saw him, the gentleman, as we came up. He’s quite a gentleman, a good-looking military-looking man, not at all the other sort—you know the sort I mean.”
Now while I accepted the compliment to myself, I was greatly mystified by the allusion to the “other sort of man.”
“You think we can go on, that it’s safe, even in this empty train? It would have been so different in a crowd. We should have passed unobserved among a lot of people.”
“But then there would have been a lot of people to observe us; some one, perhaps, who knew you, some one who might send word.”
“I wish I knew who this passenger is. It would make me much easier in my mind. It might be possible perhaps to get him on our side if he is to go with us, at least to get him to help to take care of our treasure until I can hand it over. What a burden it is! It’s terribly on my mind. I wonder how I could have done it. The mere thought makes me shiver. To turn thief! Me, a common thief!”
“Stealing is common enough, and it don’t matter greatly, so long as you’re not found out. And you did it so cleverly too; with such a nerve. Not a soul could have equalled you at the business. You might have been at it all your life,” said the maid, with affectionate familiarity, that of a humble performer paying tribute to a great artist in crime.
She was a decent, respectable-looking body too, this confederate whom I concluded was masquerading as maid. The very opposite of the younger woman (about her more directly), a neatly dressed unassuming person, short and squat in figure, with a broad, plain, and, to the casual observer, honest face, slow in movement and of no doubt sluggish temperament, not likely to be moved or distressed by conscience, neither at the doing or the memory of evil deeds.
Now the conductor came up and civilly bowed them towards their carriage, mine, which they entered at the other end as I left it making for the restaurant, not a little interested in what I had heard.
Who and what could these two people be with whom I was so strangely and unexpectedly thrown? The one was a lady, I could hardly be mistaken in that; it was proved in many ways, voice, air, aspect, all spoke of birth and breeding, however much she might have fallen away from or forfeited her high station.