“Well, that settles it for the present, anyhow. If she still wants to leave the train she must wait now until Amiens. That ought to suit her just as well.”
But it would not; at least, she lost no time in expressing her disappointment at not being able to alight at Boulogne.
We had hardly passed the place when her maid’s (or companion’s) square figure filled the open doorway of my compartment, and in her strong deep voice she addressed a brief summons to me brusquely and peremptorily:
“My lady wishes to speak to you.”
“And pray what does ‘my lady’ want with me?” I replied carelessly, using the expression as a title of rank.
“She is not ‘my lady,’ but ‘my’ lady, my mistress, and simply Mrs. Blair.” The correction and information were vouchsafed with cold self-possession. “Are you coming?”
“I don’t really see why I should,” I said, not too civilly. “Why should I be at her beck and call? If she had been in any trouble, any serious trouble, such as she anticipated when talking to me at the buffet, and a prey to imaginary alarms since become real, I should have been ready to serve her or any woman in distress, but nothing of this could have happened in the short hour’s run so far.”
“I thought you were a gentleman,” was the scornful rejoinder. “A nice sort of gentleman, indeed, to sit there like a stock or a stone when a lady sends for you!”
“A lady!” There was enough sarcasm in my tone to bring a flush upon her impassive face, a fierce gleam of anger in her stolid eyes; and when I added, “A fine sort of lady!” I thought she would have struck me. But she did no more than hiss an insolent gibe.
“You call yourself an officer, a colonel? I call you a bounder, a common cad.”
“Be off!” I was goaded into crying, angrily. “Get away with you; I want to have nothing more to say to you or your mistress. I know what you are and what you have been doing, and I prefer to wash my hands of you both. You’re not the kind of people I like to deal with or wish to know.”
She stared at me open-mouthed, her hands clenched, her eyes half out of her head. Her face had gone deadly white, and I thought she would have fallen there where she stood, a prey to impotent rage.
Now came a sudden change of scene. The lady, Mrs. Blair, as I had just heard her called, appeared behind, her taller figure towering above the maid’s, her face in full view, vexed with varying acute emotions, rage, grief, and terror combined.
“What’s all this?” she cried in great agitation. “Wait, do not speak, Philpotts, leave him to me.... Do you go back to our place this instant; we cannot be away together, you know that; it must not be left alone, one of us must be on guard over it. Hurry, hurry, I never feel that it is safe out of our sight.