NEWS FROM GENEVA
The next morning, however, before Mr. Ricardo was out of his bed, M. Hanaud was announced. He came stepping gaily into the room, more elephantinely elfish than ever.
"Send your valet away," he said. And as soon as they were alone he produced a newspaper, which he flourished in Mr. Ricardo's face and then dropped into his hands.
Ricardo saw staring him in the face a full description of Celia Harland, of her appearance and her dress, of everything except her name, coupled with an intimation that a reward of four thousand francs would be paid to any one who could give information leading to the discovery of her whereabouts to Mr. Ricardo, the Hotel Majestic, Aix-les-Bains!
Mr. Ricardo sat up in his bed with a sense of outrage.
"You have done this?" he asked.
"Why have you done it?" Mr. Ricardo cried.
Hanaud advanced to the bed mysteriously on the tips of his toes.
"I will tell you," he said, in his most confidential tones. "Only it must remain a secret between you and me. I did it—because I have a sense of humour."
"I hate publicity," said Mr. Ricardo acidly.
"On the other hand you have four thousand francs," protested the detective. "Besides, what else should I do? If I name myself, the very people we are seeking to catch—who, you may be sure, will be the first to read this advertisement—will know that I, the great, the incomparable Hanaud, am after them; and I do not want them to know that. Besides"—and he spoke now in a gentle and most serious voice—"why should we make life more difficult for Mlle. Celie by telling the world that the police want her? It will be time enough for that when she appears before the Juge d'Instruction."
Mr. Ricardo grumbled inarticulately, and read through the advertisement again.
"Besides, your description is incomplete," he said. "There is no mention of the diamond earrings which Celia Harland was wearing when she went away."
"Ah! so you noticed that!" exclaimed Hanaud. "A little more experience and I should be looking very closely to my laurels. But as for the earrings—I will tell you. Mlle. Celie was not wearing them when she went away from the Villa Rose."
"But—but," stammered Ricardo, "the case upon the dressing-room table was empty."
"Still, she was not wearing them, I know," said Hanaud decisively.
"How do you know?" cried Ricardo, gazing at Hanaud with awe in his eyes. "How could you know?"
"Because"—and Hanaud struck a majestic attitude, like a king in a play—"because I am the captain of the ship."
Upon that Mr. Ricardo suffered a return of his ill-humour.
"I do not like to be trifled with," he remarked, with as much dignity as his ruffled hair and the bed-clothes allowed him. He looked sternly at the newspaper, turning it over, and then he uttered a cry of surprise.
"But this is yesterday's paper!" he said.
"Yesterday evening's paper," Hanaud corrected.
"Printed at Geneva!"
"Printed, and published and sold at Geneva," said Hanaud.
"When did you send the advertisement in, then?"
"I wrote a letter while we were taking our luncheon," Hanaud explained. "The letter was to Besnard, asking him to telegraph the advertisement at once."
"But you never said a word about it to us," Ricardo grumbled.
"No. And was I not wise?" said Hanaud, with complacency. "For you would have forbidden me to use your name."
"Oh, I don't go so far as that," said Ricardo reluctantly. His indignation was rapidly evaporating. For there was growing up in his mind a pleasant perception that the advertisement placed him in the limelight.
He rose from his bed.
"You will make yourself comfortable in the sitting-room while I have my bath."
"I will, indeed," replied Hanaud cheerily. "I have already ordered my morning chocolate. I have hopes that you may have a telegram very soon. This paper was cried last night through the streets of Geneva."
Ricardo dressed for once in a way with some approach to ordinary celerity, and joined Hanaud.
"Has nothing come?" he asked.
"No. This chocolate is very good; it is better than that which I get in my hotel."
"Good heavens!" cried Ricardo, who was fairly twittering with excitement. "You sit there talking about chocolate while my cup shakes in my fingers."
"Again I must remind you that you are the amateur, I the professional, my friend."
As the morning drew on, however, Hanaud's professional quietude deserted him. He began to start at the sound of footsteps in the corridor, to glance every other moment from the window, to eat his cigarettes rather than to smoke them. At eleven o'clock Ricardo's valet brought a telegram into the room. Ricardo seized it.
"Calmly, my friend," said Hanaud.
With trembling fingers Ricardo tore it open. He jumped in his chair. Speechless, he handed the telegram to Hanaud. It had been sent from Geneva, and it ran thus:
"Expect me soon after three.—MARTHE GOBIN."
Hanaud nodded his head.
"I told you I had hopes." All his levity had gone in an instant from his manner. He spoke very quietly.
"I had better send for Wethermill?" asked Ricardo.
Hanaud shrugged his shoulders.
"As you like. But why raise hopes in that poor man's breast which an hour or two may dash for ever to the ground? Consider! Marthe Gobin has something to tell us. Think over those eight points of evidence which you drew up yesterday in the Villa des Fleurs, and say whether what she has to tell us is more likely to prove Mlle. Celie's innocence than her guilt. Think well, for I will be guided by you, M. Ricardo," said Hanaud solemnly. "If you think it better that your friend should live in torture until Marthe Gobin comes, and then perhaps suffer worse torture from the news she brings, be it so. You shall decide. If, on the other hand, you think it will be best to leave M. Wethermill in peace until we know her story, be it so. You shall decide."
Ricardo moved uneasily. The solemnity of Hanaud's manner impressed him. He had no wish to take the responsibility of the decision upon himself. But Hanaud sat with his eyes strangely fixed upon Ricardo, waiting for his answer.
"Well," said Ricardo, at length, "good news will be none the worse for waiting a few hours. Bad news will be a little the better."
"Yes," said Hanaud; "so I thought you would decide." He took up a Continental Bradshaw from a bookshelf in the room. "From Geneva she will come through Culoz. Let us see!" He turned over the pages. "There is a train from Culoz which reaches Aix at seven minutes past three. It is by that train she will come. You have a motor-car?"
"Very well. Will you pick me up in it at three at my hotel? We will drive down to the station and see the arrivals by that train. It may help us to get some idea of the person with whom we have to deal. That is always an advantage. Now I will leave you, for I have much to do. But I will look in upon M. Wethermill as I go down and tell him that there is as yet no news."
He took up his hat and stick, and stood for a moment staring out of the window. Then he roused himself from his reverie with a start.
"You look out upon Mont Revard, I see. I think M. Wethermill's view over the garden and the town is the better one," he said, and went out of the room.
At three o'clock Ricardo called in his car, which was an open car of high power, at Hanaud's hotel, and the two men went to the station. They waited outside the exit while the passengers gave up their tickets. Amongst them a middle-aged, short woman, of a plethoric tendency, attracted their notice. She was neatly but shabbily dressed in black; her gloves were darned, and she was obviously in a hurry. As she came out she asked a commissionaire:
"How far is it to the Hotel Majestic?"
The man told her the hotel was at the very top of the town, and the way was steep.
"But madame can go up in the omnibus of the hotel," he suggested.
Madame, however, was in too much of a hurry. The omnibus would have to wait for luggage. She hailed a closed cab and drove off inside it.
"Now, if we go back in the car, we shall be all ready for her when she arrives," said Hanaud.
They passed the cab, indeed, a few yards up the steep hill which leads from the station. The cab was moving at a walk.
"She looks honest," said Hanaud, with a sigh of relief. "She is some good bourgeoise anxious to earn four thousand francs."
They reached the hotel in a few minutes.
"We may need your car again the moment Marthe Gobin has gone," said Hanaud.
"It shall wait here," said Ricardo.
"No," said Hanaud; "let it wait in the little street at the back of my hotel. It will not be so noticeable there. You have petrol for a long journey?"
Ricardo gave the order quietly to his chauffeur, and followed Hanaud into the hotel. Through a glass window they could see Wethermill smoking a cigar over his coffee.
"He looks as if he had not slept," said Ricardo.
Hanaud nodded sympathetically, and beckoned Ricardo past the window.
"But we are nearing the end. These two days have been for him days of great trouble; one can see that very clearly. And he has done nothing to embarrass us. Men in distress are apt to be a nuisance. I am grateful to M. Wethermill. But we are nearing the end. Who knows? Within an hour or two we may have news for him."
He spoke with great feeling, and the two men ascended the stairs to Ricardo's rooms. For the second time that day Hanaud's professional calm deserted him. The window overlooked the main entrance to the hotel. Hanaud arranged the room, and, even while he arranged it, ran every other second and leaned from the window to watch for the coming of the cab.
"Put the bank-notes upon the table," he said hurriedly. "They will persuade her to tell us all that she has to tell. Yes, that will do. She is not in sight yet? No."
"She could not be. It is a long way from the station," said Ricardo, "and the whole distance is uphill."
"Yes, that is true," Hanaud replied. "We will not embarrass her by sitting round the table like a tribunal. You will sit in that arm-chair."
Ricardo took his seat, crossed his knees, and joined the tips of his fingers.
"So! not too judicial!" said Hanaud; "I will sit here at the table. Whatever you do, do not frighten her." Hanaud sat down in the chair which he had placed for himself. "Marthe Gobin shall sit opposite, with the light upon her face. So!" And, springing up, he arranged a chair for her. "Whatever you do, do not frighten her," he repeated. "I am nervous. So much depends upon this interview." And in a second he was back at the window.
Ricardo did not move. He arranged in his mind the interrogatory which was to take place. He was to conduct it. He was the master of the situation. All the limelight was to be his. Startling facts would come to light elicited by his deft questions. Hanaud need not fear. He would not frighten her. He would be gentle, he would be cunning. Softly and delicately he would turn this good woman inside out, like a glove. Every artistic fibre in his body vibrated to the dramatic situation.
Suddenly Hanaud leaned out of the window.
"It comes! it comes!" he said in a quick, feverish whisper. "I can see the cab between the shrubs of the drive."
"Let it come!" said Mr. Ricardo superbly.
Even as he sat he could hear the grating of wheels upon the drive. He saw Hanaud lean farther from the window and stamp impatiently upon the floor.
"There it is at the door," he said; and for a few seconds he spoke no more. He stood looking downwards, craning his head, with his back towards Ricardo.
Then, with a wild and startled cry, he staggered back into the room. His face was white as wax, his eyes full of horror, his mouth open.
"What is the matter?" exclaimed Ricardo, springing to his feet.
"They are lifting her out! She doesn't move! They are lifting her out!"
For a moment he stared into Ricardo's face—paralysed by fear. Then he sprang down the stairs. Ricardo followed him.
There was confusion in the corridor. Men were running, voices were crying questions. As they passed the window they saw Wethermill start up, aroused from his lethargy. They knew the truth before they reached the entrance of the hotel. A cab had driven up to the door from the station; in the cab was an unknown woman stabbed to the heart.
"She should have come by the omnibus," Hanaud repeated and repeated stupidly. For the moment he was off his balance.