“This is Quebec, Jacqueline,” I said.
I thought that she remembered unwillingly, but she said nothing.
I dared ask her no questions. I fancied that each scene brought back its own memories, but not the ideas associated with the chain of scenes.
We secured adjacent rooms at the chateau, and leaving Jacqueline to unpack her things, and under instructions not to leave her room and promising to return as soon as possible, I started out at once to find Maclay & Robitaille’s.
This proved a task of no great difficulty. It was a little shop where leather goods were sold, situated on St. Joseph Street. A young man with a dark, clean-shaven face, was behind the counter. He came forward courteously as I approached.
“I have come on an unusual mission,” I began foolishly and stopped, conscious of the inanity of this address. What a stupid thing to have said! I must have aroused his suspicions immediately.
He begged my pardon and called a man from another part of the shop. And that gave me my chance over again, for I realized that he had not understood my English.
“Do you remember,” I asked the newcomer, “selling a collar to a young lady recently—no, some long time ago—a dog-collar, I mean?”
The proprietor shrugged his shoulders. “I sell a good many dog-collars during the year,” he answered.
I took the plate from my pocket and set it down on the counter. “The collar was set with silver studs,” I said. “This was the plate.” Then I remembered the name Leroux had used and flung it out at random. “I think it was for a Mlle. Duchaine,” I added.
The shot went home.
“Ah, monsieur, now I remember perfectly,” answered the proprietor, “both from the unusual nature of the collar and from the fact that there was some difficulty in delivering it. There was no post-office nearer the seigniory than St. Boniface, where it lay unclaimed for a long time. I think madamoiselle had forgotten all about the order. Or perhaps the dog had died!”
“Where is this seigniory?”
“The seigniory of M. Charles Duchaine?” he answered, looking curiously at me. “You are evidently a stranger, monsieur, or you would have heard of it, especially now when people are saying that——” He checked himself at this point. “It is the oldest of the seigniories,” he continued. “In fact, it has never passed out of the hands of the original owners, because it is almost uninhabitable in winter, except by Indians. I understand that M. Duchaine has built himself a fine chateau there; but then he is a recluse monsieur, and probably not ten men have ever visited it. But mademoiselle is too fine a woman to be imprisoned there long——”
“How could one reach the chateau?” I interpolated.
He looked at me inquiringly as though he wondered what my business there could be.