“The 7.35 for Culoz and beyond by Amberieu to Paris,” I was informed on inquiry.
“A double back,” I concluded on the spot. She had had enough of it, and was going home again. In another minute or two she would have eluded me once more.
My only chance now lay in prompt action. I, too, must travel by this train. To secure a ticket and board it was soon done. I chose a carriage at no great distance from that she had entered; a through carriage to Macon, and which I was resolved to watch closely, but yet I did not mean to show myself to its occupants if it could be helped.
As we were on the point of starting, I scribbled a few lines on a leaf torn from my pocket-book to inform Falfani of my hasty departure and the reason for it. This I folded carefully and addressed to him, entrusting it to Falloon, who was to seek out my colleague at the Hotel Cornavin after the arrival of the late train from Brieg, and deliver it. At the same time I handed Falloon a substantial fee, but desired him to offer his services to Falfani.
I saw no more of the lady. She did not show at Bellegarde when the French Customs’ examination took place, nor yet at Culoz, and I believed she was now committed to the journey northward. But as I was dozing in my place and the train slowed on entering Amberieu, the guard whom I had suborned came to me with a hurried call.
“Monsieur, monsieur, you must be quick. Madame has descended and is just leaving the station. No doubt for the Hotel de France, just opposite.”
There she was indeed with all her belongings. (How well I knew them by this time!) The maid with her child in arms, the porter with the light baggage.
I quickened my pace and entered the hotel almost simultaneously with her. Ranging up alongside I said, not without exultation:
“Geneva was not so much to your taste, then? You have left rather abruptly.”
“To whom are you speaking, sir?” she replied in a stiff, strange voice, assumed, I felt sure, for the occasion. She was so closely veiled that I could not see her face, but it was the same figure, the same costume, the same air. Lady Blackadder that was, Mrs. Blair as she now chose to call herself, I could have sworn to her among a thousand.
“It won’t do, madame,” I insisted. “I’m not to be put off. I know all about it, and I’ve got you tight, and I’m not going to leave go again. No fear.” I meant to spend the night on guard, watching and waiting till I was relieved by the arrival of the others, to whom I telegraphed without delay.
[Colonel Annesley resumes.]
I left my narrative at the moment when I had promised my help to the lady I found in such distress in the Engadine express. I promised it unconditionally, and although there were circumstances in her case to engender suspicion, I resolutely ignored them. It was her secret, and I was bound to respect it, content to await the explanation I felt sure she could make when so minded.