“Hester,” she said, “I have had such a dreadful thought.”
“Then don’t tell me,” said Aunt Hester quickly.
“Oh! but I must. You can’t think how dreadful!” Her voice sank to a whisper:
“Jolyon—Jolyon, they say, has a—has a fair beard, now.”
PROGRESS OF THE CHASE
Two days after the dinner at James’, Mr. Polteed provided Soames with food for thought.
“A gentleman,” he said, consulting the key concealed in his left hand, “47 as we say, has been paying marked attention to 17 during the last month in Paris. But at present there seems to have been nothing very conclusive. The meetings have all been in public places, without concealment—restaurants, the Opera, the Comique, the Louvre, Luxembourg Gardens, lounge of the hotel, and so forth. She has not yet been traced to his rooms, nor vice versa. They went to Fontainebleau—but nothing of value. In short, the situation is promising, but requires patience.” And, looking up suddenly, he added:
“One rather curious point—47 has the same name as—er—31!”
‘The fellow knows I’m her husband,’ thought Soames.
“Christian name—an odd one—Jolyon,” continued Mr. Polteed. “We know his address in Paris and his residence here. We don’t wish, of course, to be running a wrong hare.”
“Go on with it, but be careful,” said Soames doggedly.
Instinctive certainty that this detective fellow had fathomed his secret made him all the more reticent.
“Excuse me,” said Mr. Polteed, “I’ll just see if there’s anything fresh in.”
He returned with some letters. Relocking the door, he glanced at the envelopes.
“Yes, here’s a personal one from 19 to myself.”
“Well?” said Soames.
“Um!” said Mr. Polteed, “she says: ’47 left for England to-day. Address on his baggage: Robin Hill. Parted from 17 in Louvre Gallery at 3.30; nothing very striking. Thought it best to stay and continue observation of 17. You will deal with 47 in England if you think desirable, no doubt.’” And Mr. Polteed lifted an unprofessional glance on Soames, as though he might be storing material for a book on human nature after he had gone out of business. “Very intelligent woman, 19, and a wonderful make-up. Not cheap, but earns her money well. There’s no suspicion of being shadowed so far. But after a time, as you know, sensitive people are liable to get the feeling of it, without anything definite to go on. I should rather advise letting-up on 17, and keeping an eye on 47. We can’t get at correspondence without great risk. I hardly advise that at this stage. But you can tell your client that it’s looking up very well.” And again his narrowed eyes gleamed at his taciturn customer.
“No,” said Soames suddenly, “I prefer that you should keep the watch going discreetly in Paris, and not concern yourself with this end.”