“You know you are talking nonsense. I shall go my own road, and I defy you to do your worst.”
Here, when I was on the threshold of the hotel, I met Falfani full, as he came running out excitedly, holding in his hand the telltale blue envelope, which, with his elated air, indicated clearly that he had just received important news.
I paused for a moment, hoping he might commit himself, and was rewarded by hearing him say aloud:
“It is from Geneva, my lord, from Ludovic Tiler,” he began indiscreetly, and was angrily silenced by my lord, who called him “a triple-dyed idiot,” and with a significant gesture towards me bade him walk away to some distance from the hotel.
The mischief was done, however, for I had of course heard enough to know that the other detective had given signs of life at last, and that the report, to judge by Falfani’s glee, must be satisfactory. The more pleased the other side, the more reason to fear that matters were adverse on ours.
It might be thought that I was too hard on my Lord Blackadder, but only those few indeed who were unacquainted with the circumstances of his divorce would find fault with me. The scandal was quite recent, and the Blackadder case had been in everybody’s mouth. The papers had been full of it, and the proceedings were not altogether to his lordship’s credit. They had been instituted by him, however, on grounds that induced the jury to give him a verdict, and the judge had pronounced a decree nisi on the evidence as it stood.
Yet the public sympathies were generally with the respondent, the Countess of Blackadder. It had been an unhappy marriage, an ill-assorted match, mercenary, of mere convenience, forced upon an innocent and rather weak girl by careless and callous guardians, eager to rid themselves of responsibility for the two twin sisters, Ladies Claire and Henriette Standish, orphans, and with no near relations.
Lord Blackadder was immensely rich, but a man of indifferent moral character, a roue and a voluptuary, with a debilitated constitution and an unattractive person, possessing none of the gifts that take a maiden’s fancy.
Estrangement soon followed the birth of the son and heir to his title and great estates. My lord was a great deal older than his beautiful young wife, and desperately jealous of her. Distrust grew into strong suspicion, and presently consumed him when an old flame of Lady Henriette’s, Charlie Forrester, of the Dark Horse, turned up from foreign service, and their names came to be bracketed together by the senseless gossiping busybodies ever ready to tear a pretty woman’s reputation to tatters. It was so much put about, so constantly dinned into Lord Blackadder’s ears, that he was goaded into a perfect fury, and was at length determined, by hook or by crook, to put away his wife, leaving it to certain astute and well-practised solicitors to manufacture a clear, solid case against her.