“But she would not come forward on her own behalf. She would not defend the action; she did not want to win it, but waited till it was all over, hiding herself away in a far-off corner of the Apennines, where I was to join her with the child, little Ralph.
“There had been no question of that; the possibility of her losing it had never been raised, or she would have nerved herself to fight sooner than give up what she valued more than her very life.
“It fell upon me with crushing effect, although towards the end of the trial I had had my forebodings. Lord Blackadder was to have the custody of his heir, and my dear sweet Henriette was to be robbed for ever of her chiefest joy and treasure. The infant child was to be abandoned to strangers, paid by its unnatural and unfeeling father.
“I had braced myself to listen to all that came out in court, a whole tissue of lies told by perjured wretches whose evidence was accepted as gospel—one of them was the same Falfani whom you know, and who had acted the loathsome part of spy on several occasions.
“Directly the judge had issued his cruel fiat, I slipped out, hurried down-stairs into the Strand, jumped into a hansom, and was driven at top speed to Hamilton Terrace, bent upon giving instant effect to a scheme I had long since devised.
“I found my faithful Philpotts awaiting me with everything prepared as I had arranged. The dear baby was dressed quickly—he was as good as gold—the baggage, enough for my hurried journey to Fuentellato, had been packed for days past, and we took the road.
“I knew that pursuit would not tarry, but I was satisfied that I had made a good start, and I hoped to make my way through to Italy without interference. When I first saw you at Calais I was seized with a terrible fear, which was soon allayed; you did not look much like a detective, and you were already my good friend when the real ruffian, Falfani, came on board the train at Amiens.”
[Lady Claire Standish passed on next to describe her journey from Basle to Lausanne, and the clever way in which she eluded the second detective—matters on which the reader has been already informed.]
“On reaching Geneva I at once opened communications with Henriette. I felt satisfied, now that I had come so far, it would be well that she should join me, and that we should concert together as to our next proceedings. Our first and principal aim was to retain the child at all costs and against all comers. I had no precise knowledge as to where we should be beyond the jurisdiction of the English law, but I could not believe that the Divorce Court and its emissaries could interfere with us in a remote Italian village. My real fear was of Lord Blackadder. He was so bold and unscrupulous that, if the law would not help him, he would try stratagem, or even force. We should be really safe nowhere if we once came within his reach, and, the best plan to keep out of his clutches was to hide our whereabouts from him.