“Not a soul. A little man whom I spoke to on the steamer brought me some coffee. That is all.”
Lady Carey yawned and shook out her skirts. “I suppose I’m getting old,” she said. “I couldn’t look as you do with as much on my mind as you must have, and after traveling all night too.”
“After all,” she said, “you know that I am a professional optimist, and I have faith in my luck. I have been thinking matters over calmly, and, to tell you the truth, I am not in the least alarmed.”
Lady Carey looked at her curiously.
“Has the optimism been imbibed,” she asked, “or is it spontaneous?”
“Unless the little man in the plaid mackintosh poured it into the coffee with the milk,” she said, “I could not possibly have imbibed it, for I haven’t spoken to another soul since we left.”
“Paris! Here we are, thank goodness. Celeste can see the things through the customs. She is quite used to it. We are going to the Ritz, I suppose!”
At eight o’clock in the evening Lucille knocked at the door of Lady Carey’s suite of rooms at the hotel. There was no answer. A chambermaid who was near came smiling up.
“Miladi has, I think, descended for dinner,” she said.
Lucille looked at her watch. She saw that she was a few minutes late, so she descended to the restaurant. The small table which they had reserved was, however, still unoccupied. Lucille told the waiter that she would wait for a few moments, and sent for an English newspaper.
Lady Carey did not appear. A quarter of an hour passed. The head waiter came up with a benign smile.
“Madam will please to be served?” he suggested, with a bow.
“I am waiting for my friend Lady Carey,” Lucille answered. “I understood that she had come down. Perhaps you will send and see if she is in the reading-room.”
“With much pleasure, madam,” the man answered.
In a few minutes he returned.
“Madam’s friend was the Lady Carey?” he asked.
The man was gently troubled.
“But, Miladi Carey,” he said, “has left more than an hour ago.”
Lucille looked up, astonished.
“Left the hotel?” she exclaimed.
“But yes, madam,” he exclaimed. “Miladi Carey left to catch the boat train at Calais for England.”
“It is impossible,” Lucille answered. “We only arrived at midday.”
“I will inquire again,” the man declared. “But it was in the office that they told me so.”
“They told you quite correctly,” said a familiar voice. “I have come to take her place. Countess, I trust that in me you will recognise an efficient substitute.”
It was the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer who was calmly seating himself opposite to her. The waiter, with the discretion of his class, withdrew for a few paces and stood awaiting orders. Lucille looked across at him in amazement.