At that moment a shabbily dressed person approached Falfani, touched his hat, and offered him a note, saying:
“This must be for you, monsieur. I heard your name—”
“From Tiler, my lord, aha! This explains.” And he passed the scrap of paper on to his employer.
“I’ll be hanged if I see it! He says the parties have gone, and that he is in close attendance; yet this fellow here,” pointing to the clerk, “assures us she is in this very house. I don’t understand it, by Gad!”
“There is some fresh trick, my lord, you may be sure. The devil himself isn’t half so clever as this fine lady. But we’ll get at the bottom of it. We shall hear more from Tiler, and we’ve got the lady here, under our hand.”
“Ah! but have we? This chap’s as likely as not to be mistaken. How do you know, sir,” to the clerk, “that Mrs. Blair is still in the hotel? When did you come on duty? What if she left without your knowing it?”
“It could not be, milord. See, it is marked in the register. No. 17 is occupied. I could not let it. Mrs. Blair holds it still.”
“But she may not be in it, all the same. Can’t you see? She may retain it, but not use it.”
“Look, my lord, look, there’s one of her party, anyway,” interposed Falfani, and he called his attention to a female figure standing a little aloof in the shadow of the staircase, and which I had already recognized.
It was Philpotts, “Mrs. Blair’s” maid, and she was trying to attract my attention. Lord Blackadder had not seen her, and now his eye, for the first time, fell upon me. He turned on me furiously.
“You! You! Still at my heels? This is perfectly monstrous. It amounts to persecution. You still dare to intrude yourself. Can I have no privacy? Take yourself off, or I will not answer for the consequences.”
I confess I only laughed and still held my ground, although my lord’s outcry had attracted much attention. Several people ran up, and they might have sided against me, when I heard a voice whisper into my ear:
“Come, sir, come. Slip away. My lady is dying to see you. She is terribly upset.”
I was received with great warmth and cordiality by my friend, and it was made clear to me that my opportune appearance brought her great comfort and support.
“I never hoped for such good fortune as this,” she began heartily. “I had no idea you were within miles, and was repining bitterly that I had let you get so far out of the way. Now you appear in the very nick of time, just when I was almost in despair. But wait. Can I still count upon your help?”
“Why, most certainly, Lady Blackadder.”
“Lady Black—” She was looking at me very keenly, and, as I thought, was much startled and surprised. Then with a conscious blush she went on. “Of course, I might have guessed you would penetrate my disguise, but you must not call me Lady Blackadder. I can lay no claim to the title.”