It could not have suited me better. There, standing under the shadow of the dwarf plane-trees, but with not the slightest suggestion of concealment, was the exact counterpart of Lady Claire, her twin sister, Lady Henriette Standish, till lately Lady Blackadder. She was staring intently at our train as it ran in, deeply anxious, no doubt, to note the arrival of her sister.
“Give me a short start,” I said to Lady Claire as I jumped out of the coupe. “You will see why.”
Even as I spoke I was satisfied that the pursuing party had recognized the object of their journey. They had all alighted and were coming up the platform in great haste to where she stood. Had any doubt remained, it would have been removed by the appearance of a man who ran out from some back part of the station and waved them forward with much gesticulation.
Here I interposed, and, rushing forward with all the ardour of a football player entering a scrimmage, I took Lord Blackadder by the throat and shook him.
When that audacious and intemperate English Colonel so far forgot himself as to assault my lord the Right Honourable the Earl of Blackadder at Culoz Station in the open light of day before us all, I greatly rejoiced; for, although horror-stricken at his ruffianly conduct, I knew that he would get his deserts at last. The French authorities would certainly not tolerate brawling in the precincts of the railway station, and justice must promptly overtake the sole offender. The blackguard Colonel, the cause and origin of the disturbance, would, of course, be at once arrested and removed.
The fracas had naturally attracted general attention. One or two porters ran up and endeavoured, with Tiler and myself, to rescue my lord from his cowardly assailant. A crowd quickly gathered around us, many passengers and a number of idlers, who drop from nowhere, as it might be, all drawn to the spot by overmastering curiosity. Everybody talked at the same time, asking questions, volunteering answers, some laughing shamelessly at my lord’s discomfiture, a few expressing indignation, and declaring that such a scandal should not be permitted, and the guilty parties held strictly to account.
The gendarmes on duty—a couple of them are always at hand in a French railway station—soon appeared, and, taking in the situation at the first glance, imposed silence peremptorily.
“Let some one, one person only, speak and explain.” The brigadier, or sergeant, addressed himself to me, no doubt seeing that I had assumed a prominent place in the forefront, and seemed a person of importance.
“Monsieur here,” I said, pointing to the Colonel, who, in spite of all we could do, still held my lord tight, “was the aggressor, as you can see for yourselves. Oblige him, I pray you, to desist. He will do my lord some serious injury.”