My lord had gone to the Legation, Falfani told him at once, bombastically boasting that everything would yield before him. He had but to express his wishes, and there would be an end of the hunt. But my lord came back in a furious rage, and, regardless of l’Echelle’s—a comparative stranger’s—presence, burst forth into passionate complaint against the Minister. He would teach Sir Arthur to show proper respect to a peer of the realm; he would cable at once to the Foreign Office and insist on this second-rate diplomatist’s recall. The upshot of it all was that his lordship’s demand for help had been refused pointblank, and no doubt, after what the Colonel had heard, in rather abrupt, outspoken terms.
All this and more l’Echelle brought back to us at the Atlas Hotel. He told us at length of the outrageous language Lord Blackadder had used, of his horrible threats, how he would leave no stone unturned to recover his son and heir; how he would bribe the bashaw, buy the Moorish officials, a notoriously venal crew; how he would dog our footsteps everywhere, set traps for us, fall upon us unawares; and in the last extreme he would attack the hotel and forcibly carry off his property. As the fitting end of his violent declamation, Ralph Blackadder had left the hotel hurriedly, calling upon his creatures to follow him, bent, as it seemed, to perpetrate some mad act.
I confess I shuddered at the thought of this reckless, unprincipled man loose about Tangier, vowing vengeance, and resolved to go to any lengths to secure it. My dear Basil strove hard to console me with brave words inspired by his sturdy, self-reliant spirit.
But even he quailed at the sudden shock that fell upon us at the very same moment. Where was Henriette?
After the first excitement, we desired to pass on the news brought by l’Echelle to her, and renew our entreaties for extreme caution in her comings and goings; and with much misgiving we learnt that she was not in the hotel. She had gone out with Victorine and Ralph as usual, but unattended by any of us. One Moor, Achmet El Mansur, was with her, we were told, but we did not trust him entirely. It had been l’Echelle’s turn to accompany her, but he had been diverted from his duty by the pressing necessity of following Lord Blackadder. Basil and I had ridden out quite early on a long expedition, from which we only returned when l’Echelle did.
We dismissed our fears, hoping they were groundless, and looking to be quite reassured presently when she came back at the luncheon hour.
But one o’clock came, and two, and two-thirty, but not a sign of Henriette, nor a word in explanation of her absence.
Could she have fallen a victim to the machinations of Lord Blackadder? Was the boy captured and she detained while he was spirited away?
It was impossible to disassociate Lord Blackadder from Lady Henriette’s mysterious disappearance, and yet we could hardly believe that he could have so quickly accomplished his purpose. We doubted the more when the man turned up in person at the Atlas Hotel and had the effrontery to ask for her.