“Whether the lady has gone north or south, east or west, may be uncertain; and although I am satisfied in my own mind as to the direction she took, I am willing to await further developments before embarking on any further chase. To my mind the best clue, the real, the only clue, lies here, in our very hands. If we have only a little patience, this Colonel Annesley will act as a sign-post.”
“You think that some communication will reach him from the fugitives?”
“Most decidedly I do. I firmly believe that the lady relies upon him greatly, and will in all probability call him to her, or if not that she will wish to let him know how she has got on.”
For the first time in this unpleasant interview his lordship looked at me approvingly. He quite changed his tone and dropped his aggressive manner.
“I believe you are entirely right, Falfani, and cordially agree with your suggestion,” he said with great heartiness. “Let it be adopted at once. Take immediate steps, if you please, to set a close watch on this pestilent villain Annesley; keep him continually under your eye.”
“We’ve got to find him first,” objected Tiler gruffly and despondently.
“It ought not to be difficult, seeing that he was here half an hour ago, and we can hunt up l’Echelle, who will surely know, and who I have reason to hope is on our side.”
“Do it one way or another. I look to you for that, and let me know the result without loss of time. Then we will confer again and arrange further. Leave me now.”
I accepted my dismissal and moved towards the door, but Tiler hung behind, and I heard him say timidly:
“May I crave your lordship’s pardon—and I trust you rely on my entire devotion to your lordship’s service—but there is one thing I most earnestly desire to do.”
“And that is to follow my own clue, at least for a time. It is the right one I firmly believe, and I am satisfied it would be wrong, criminal even to neglect it. Will you allow me to absent myself if only for a few days? That should suffice to settle the point. If I fail I will return with all speed. If, as I hope and believe, I strike the scent, assuredly you will not regret it.”
“There’s something in what you say. At any rate that line ought to be looked up,” said his lordship. “I am willing to wait a day or two until you return or report, or unless something more definite turns up in the other direction. I suppose he can be spared, Falfani?”
“He will be no manner of use here, it will be better to let him go; let him run after his red herring, he’ll precious soon find out his mistake.”
“We shall see,” said Tiler, elated and cocksure, and I freely confess we did see that he was not quite the fool I thought him.