Meanwhile Tiler and I thought it our pressing duty to utilize these few moments in seeking news of our lady and her party. Had she been seen? Oh, yes, many people, officials, and hangers-on about the station had seen her. Too much seen indeed, for the stories told were confusing and conflicting. One facteur assured us he had helped her into the train going Amberieu way, but I thought his description very vague, although Tiler swallowed the statement quite greedily. Another man told me quite a different story; he had seen her, and had not the slightest doubt of it, in the down train, that for Aix-les-Bains, the express via Chambery, Modane, and the Mont Cenis tunnel for Italy. This was the true version, I felt sure. Italy had been her original destination, and naturally she would continue her journey that way.
Why, then, Tiler asked, had she gone to Amberieu, running back as she had done with him at her heels? To deceive him, of course, I retorted. Was it not clear that her real point was Italy? Why else had she returned to Culoz by the early train directly she thought she had eluded Tiler? The reasoning was correct, but Ludovic was always a desperately obstinate creature, jealous and conceited, tenacious of his opinions, and holding them far superior to those who were cleverer and more intelligent than himself.
Then we heard the whistle of the approaching train, and we all collected on the platform. L’Echelle, as he came from the direction of the buvette, was a little in the rear of the Colonel and the gendarmes. I caught a look on his face not easy to interpret. He was grinning all over it and pointing toward the Colonel with his finger, derisively. I was not inclined to trust him very greatly, but he evidently wished us to believe that he thought very little of the Colonel, and that we might count upon his support against him.
There were seven of us passengers, more than enough to fill one compartment, so we did not travel together. My lord very liberally provided first-class tickets for the whole of the party, but the Colonel took his own and paid for the gendarmes. He refused to travel in the same carriage with the noble Earl, saying openly and impudently that he preferred the society of honest old soldiers to such a crew as ours. L’Echelle, still sitting on the hedge, as I fancied, got in with the Colonel and his escort.
On reaching Aix-les-Bains, we found the omnibus that did the service de la ville, but the Colonel refused to enter it, and declared he would walk; he cared nothing for the degradation of appearing in the public streets as a prisoner marching between a couple of gendarmes. He gloried in it, he said; his desire was clearly to turn the whole thing into ridicule, and the passers-by laughed aloud at this well-dressed gentleman, as he strutted along with his hat cocked, one hand on his hip, the other placed familiarly on the sergeant’s arm.