I had not the smallest doubt when I realized with whom I had to do that the unhappy mother had made a desperate effort to redress her wrongs, as she thought them, and had somehow contrived to carry off her baby before she could be deprived of it.
I had met her in full flight upon the Engadine express.
What next? Was she to be overtaken and despoiled, legally, of course, but still cruelly, separated from her own flesh and blood? The Court might order such an unnatural proceeding, but I was moved by every chivalrous impulse to give her my unstinting and unhesitating support to counteract it.
I was full of these thoughts, and still firmly resolved to help Lady Blackadder, when l’Echelle, the conductor whose services I still retained, sought me out hurriedly, and told me that he believed the others were on the point of leaving Brieg.
“I saw Falfani and milord poring over the pages of the Indicateur, and heard the word Geneva dropped in a whisper. I think they mean to take the next train along the lake shore.”
“Not a doubt of it,” I assented; “so will we. They must not be allowed to go beyond our reach.”
When the 6.57 P.M. for Geneva was due out from Brieg, we, l’Echelle and I, appeared on the platform, and our intention to travel by it was made plain to Lord Blackadder. The effect upon him was painfully manifest at once. He chafed, he raged up and down, grimacing and apostrophizing Falfani; once or twice he approached me with clenched fists, and I really thought would have struck me at last. Seeing me enter the same carriage with him, with the obvious intention of keeping him under my eye, he threw himself back among the cushions and yielded himself with the worst grace to the inevitable.
The railway journey was horribly slow, and it must have been past 11 P.M. before we reached Geneva. We alighted in the Cornavin station, and as they moved at once towards the exit I followed. I expected them to take a carriage and drive off, and was prepared to give chase, when I found they started on foot, evidently to some destination close at hand. It proved to be the Cornavin Hotel, not a stone’s-throw from the station.
They entered, and went straight to the bureau, where the night clerk was at his desk. I heard them ask for a person named Tiler, and without consulting his books the clerk replied angrily:
“Tiler! Tiler! Ma foi, he is of no account, your Tiler. He has gone off from the dinner-table and without paying his bill.”
“That shall be made all right,” replied Lord Blackadder loftily, as he detailed his name and quality, before which the employe bowed low. “And might I ask,” his lordship went on, “whether a certain Mrs. Blair, a lady with her child and its nurse, is staying in the hotel?”
“But certainly, milord. They have been here some days. Salon and suite No. 17.”
“At any rate, that’s well, Falfani,” said Lord Blackadder, with a sigh of satisfaction. “But what of your friend Tiler? Thick-headed dolt, unable to keep awake, I suppose.”