“Everything was completed by this morning, and I had settled that my sister, with her dear little Ralph, should get away, but by quite a new route, while I held my ground against the detectives. I felt sure they would soon hear of me and run me down. I hoped they would attach themselves to me, and meant to lead them a fine dance as a blind for Henriette, who, meanwhile, would have crossed to Lyons and gone south to Marseilles. The Riviera is a longer and more roundabout road to Turin, but it was open, and I hoped unimpeded. What do you think of my diplomacy?”
“Admirable!” I cried, with enthusiasm. “Your cleverness, Lady Claire, is colossal. Go on, I beg of you. Surely you have succeeded?”
“Alas! no. Everything was cut and dried and this evening we scored the first point in the game. Henriette went on this evening to Amberieu, the junction for Lyons. She went straight from her hotel, alone, for of course I was obliged to keep close, or the trick would have been discovered, and it was in part.
“For I must tell you that to-day one of the detectives appeared in Geneva, not the first man, but a second, who attached himself to me at Basle. I met him plump on the Mont Blanc Bridge and turned tail, but he came after me. I jumped into a passing tram, so did he, and to throw him off his guard I talked to him, and made friends with him, and advised him to come and stay at this hotel. Then I got out and left him, making my way to the Pierre Fatio Hotel by a circuitous route, dodging in and out among the narrow streets till I nearly lost myself.
“I thought I had eluded him, and he certainly was nowhere near when I went into the hotel. But I suppose he followed me, he must have, and found out something, for I know now that he went to Amberieu after Henriette—”
“You are perfectly sure?”
“She has telegraphed to me from Amberieu; I got it not an hour ago. The man accosted her, taking her for me. He would have it she was Mrs. Blair, and told her to her face that he did not mean to lose sight of her again. So you see—”
“If she goes round by Lyons to Marseilles, then, he would be at her heels, and the scheme breaks down in that respect?”
“Not only that, I don’t see that he could interfere with her, or do her much harm, and at Marseilles she might change her plans entirely. There are ever so many ways of escape from a seaport. She might take ship and embark on board the first steamer bound to the East, for India or Ceylon, the Antipodes or far Cathay.”
“Well, why not?”
“Henriette, my sister, has given way. Her courage has failed her at this, the most critical moment, when she is within a hair’s breadth of success. She is afraid to go on alone with little Ralph, and is running back to me by the first train to-morrow morning, at five or six o’clock.”
“Coming here? Into the very mouths of all the others!”