I turned quickly round to my companion, who was, I thought, following close at my heels, and found to my utter amazement that she also had disappeared.
For the moment I was dazed and dumfounded, but I took a pull on myself quickly. It was a clever plant. Had they sold me completely? That was still to be seen. My one chance was in prompt action; I must hunt them up, recover trace of them with all possible despatch, follow them, and find them wherever they might be.
There was just the chance that they had only moved into another carriage, thinking that when I missed them I should get out and hunt for them in the station. To counter that I ran up and down the train, in and out of the carriages, questing like a hound, searching everywhere. So eager was I that I neglected the ordinary warnings that the train was about to start; the guard’s fertig ("ready"), the sounding horn, the answering engine whistle, I overlooked them all, and we moved on before I could descend. I made as though to jump off hastily, but was prevented.
“Was ist das? Nein, nein, verboten.” A hand caught me roughly by the collar and dragged me back. It was the enemy I had made in championing my lady, the guard of the train, who gladly seized the chance of being disagreeable to me.
I fought hard to be free, but by the time I had shaken him off the speed had so increased that it would have been unsafe to leave the train. I had no choice but to go on, harking back as soon as I could. Fortunately our first stop was within five and twenty minutes, at Vevey; and there in ten minutes more I found a train back to Lausanne, so that I had lost less than an hour and a half in all.
But much may happen in that brief space of time. It was more than enough for my fugitives to clear out of the Lausanne station and make some new move, to hide away in an out-of-the-way spot, go to ground in fact, or travel in another direction.
My first business was to inquire in and about the station for a person or persons answering to the parties I missed. Had they separated, these two women, for good and all? That was most unlikely. If the maid had gone off first, I had to consider whether they would not again join forces as soon as I was well out of the way. They would surely feel safer, happier, together, and this encouraged me to ask first for two people, two females, a lady and her servant, one of them, the latter, carrying a child.
There were many officials about in uniform, and all alike supercilious and indifferent, after the manner of their class, to the travelling public, and I could get none to take the smallest interest in my affairs. One shrugged his shoulders, another stared at me in insolent silence, a third answered me abruptly that he was too occupied to bother himself, and a fourth peremptorily ordered me not to hang any longer about the station.