My lord gave his consent a little grudgingly, but was presently persuaded that it was to his own advantage to have a spy in the heart of the enemy’s camp. That was soon seen when l’Echelle had pocketed his notes and gave us the news in exchange.
“Now that I’m my lord’s man I don’t mind telling you that the Colonel does not mean to stay long in Aix, not one minute longer than till the call comes.”
“He expects a call?”
“Assuredly. He wants you to think he’s a fixture here, but he means to cut and run after my lady whenever she sends to him. He’ll be off then faster than that,” he snapped his fingers, “and you won’t find it easy to catch him.”
“That’s good. You’ll be well worth your money, I can see. Only be diligent, watch closely, and keep us fully informed. We shall trust very greatly to you.”
“Your trust shall not be misplaced. When I take an employer’s pay I serve him faithfully and to the best of my power,” he said with an engaging frankness that won me completely.
Lord! Lord! what liars men are and what fools! I might have guessed how much reliance was to be placed upon a man who, to my certain knowledge, was serving two masters.
Why should he be more faithful to my lord than to the Colonel?
The rest of the first day at Aix passed without any important incident. I was a trifle surprised that the Colonel did not put in an appearance; but it was explained by l’Echelle, whom I met by appointment later in the day. I understood from him that the Colonel had decided to remain down in the town, where he had many friends, and where he was more in the thick of the fun. For Aix-les-Bains, as every one knows, is a lively little place in the season, and the heart and centre of it all is the Casino. The Colonel had established himself in a hotel almost next door, and ran up against me continually that afternoon and evening, as I wandered about now under the trees listening to the band, now at the baccarat table, where I occasionally staked a few jetons of the smaller values.
He never failed to meet my eye when it rested on him; he seemed to know intuitively when I watched him, and he always looked back and laughed. If any one was with him, as was generally the case—smart ladies and men of his own stamp, with all of whom he seemed on very familiar terms—he invariably drew their attention to me, and they, too, laughed aloud after a prolonged stare. It was a little embarrassing; he had so evidently disclosed my business, in scornful terms no doubt, and held me up to ridicule, describing in his own way and much to my discredit all that had happened between us. Once he had the effrontery to accost me as I stood facing the green board on which the telegrams are exposed.
“Where have we met?” he began, with a mocking laugh. “I seem to know your face. Ah, of course, my old friend Falfani, the private detective who appeared in the Blackadder case. And I think I have come across you more recently.”