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George pulled his moustacne and knew not where to look. ‘Hang it all, he thought uneasily, ‘one would suppose she had been listening.’ But Mme. Minart was not of those who need to listen. A glance at the rubicund good-natured countenance of George, now darkened by his openly suspicious and hostile expression, enabled her to divine his sentiments. She instantly ignored him, and appealed only to David's finer intelligence and quicker sympathies. ‘I have written down,” she said simply, “the exact facts—the hours—all I can remember of my conversation with Philippa– to help the police. Here it is.’ She handed some notes across the table, inscribed in a minute exquisite French hand. He read them carefully. “Thank you. Was Philippa in good spirits?” “More than good spirits—excited, delighted with the triumph of her début.” ‘You went into her room ?” “As you will see written. I assisted her to bed. She said she was too sleepy to plait her hair as usual. I promised that she should not be called until ten o'clock unless she rang.’ ‘Did she not ring on Saturday morning * * ‘The servants say not.’ ‘What was the exact hour that her absence was discovered ?” “Between nine-thirty and ten Roper knocked at her door and found her room empty.’ “But the policeman saw her out of doors soon after nine. So she must have left her room before nine.’ ‘Obviously.” ‘Did no one see her go downstairs ?” “They say not.’ ‘You say that Lady Adelstane was, very naturally, overcome by the news which was taken to her at nine o'clock 2' ‘Lady Adelstane had an attack,” said Mme. Minart, in brief, expressive tones; ‘to you I speak frankly—she had hysterics. The house was roused.’ ‘Who went to her ?? ‘Her maid was with her, and Mrs. Joliffe the housekeeper, but she was of no use—weeping and crying. Holland sent for Roper; she would not send for me, because she was jealous, but I went.
The head-housemaid answered the bell, and the doctor was sent for.”
‘Who went for the doctor ??
“No one went—the butler telephoned.’
‘Who went down to tell the butler ?”
‘What was Roper doing * *
Mme. Minart shrugged her shoulders.
“Rubbing Miladi’s hands, holding the salts to her nose; bathing her head. The two maids held together. They would not let me help. I made suggestions and opened the windows.’
‘Who remained in the room when the doctor came 2'
‘Holland and Roper. I remained in the dressing-room with Mrs. Joliffe.”
‘That was at ten o’clock 2 °
‘He was gone before ten o’clock.”
‘And then Roper went upstairs to her young lady ?”
“She went dowstairs first to fetch her young lady's cup of tea, and then up to her room.’
‘Did you not think it strange Philippa should hear none of this commotion ?”
“No ; Philippa's room is on the floor above, and not over or anywhere near Miladi’s room. It is shut off by a baize door from the front part of the house.’
‘Where is your room ?”
‘Down the same passage.”
“And Roper's 2'
‘Further down the same passage.”
“When Roper found Philippa's room empty what did she do * *
‘She went to the breakfast-room, and, finding no one there, supposed Philippa had gone to Miladi while she was fetching the tea. She waited an hour outside Miladi’s room till Holland came out, not daring to knock because the doctor had given a composing draught. Then she learnt that Philippa had not been near Miladi, and then she came to me. I was having my breakfast in the morning room as usual.”
“Had you not been anxious to know how Philippa would take the news of her cousin's death ??
‘I had promised to leave her old nurse to tell her, and withdrawn myself from the affair. I thought she would come to me. When it became evident she was not in the house, we thought she had heard the news and gone out to telegraph to her mother. At twelve Miladi sent for her, and we were obliged to say she could not be found. Miladi thought she had heard the news and gone home, and was very angry. But Pilkington sent a telegram to the station-master at Ilverton to know if Philippa had arrived, and the reply came that she had not. Miladi grew frightened and telegraphed to Lady Adelstane to come.’ ‘Thank you very much. And now tell us,” said David very simply, “what do you think?” * I ?” said Mme. Minart, and a sudden colour flushed her olive chee';s. “I believe you could help us better than anyone, for you have been Philippa's friend and confidante during these past days that she has been away from her mother's care. If there was anything on her mind, you would know it.” “Was she in any scrape 2' said George bluntly. Mme. Minart scarcely deigned to glance at him. * Certainly not,” she said in disdain. * Was she—" David hesitated and coloured all over his bronzed face, the more deeply because he was aware that Mme. Minart was observing him. “Had you any reason to think that she was— or fancied herself—in love 2 ° “Ah, Monsieur,” said Mme. Minart gently, “would you have me betray a young girl's secret if that was so * * ‘Nonsense, she's scarcely more than a child, and in any case her secret would be safe enough with us,” said George. ‘Then there is something of that kind 2’ * She has not told me so,” said Mme. Minart coldly. David came to her side, and took her hand in his impulsive fashion. ‘Madame,” he said, ‘we are asking you to trust us. This child is very dear to us both, for her own sake, and her mother's. Do not, out of mistaken kindness, endeavour to keep back anything.’ “That is the only motive you would attribute to me, Monsieur 2 ° said Mme. Minart emotionally. ‘I would not insult you—after the appeal you have made to us, your voluntary declaration of your affection for her—by supposing that any other motive save kindness to her, or to us, would influenc you to keep back information which might help us to find her,’ he said warmly. VOL. XXV.-NO. 145, N.S. 2
Mme. Minart looked up into the kind, frank, manly face with a very agitated smile, and a tear in her dark eyes. “Ah, Monsieur,” she said, ‘you would never appeal in vain, believe me, to a woman. It is true that the child is in love ; but it is also true that she has not told me so, for a very simple reason.’ “And that is—' ‘That she does not know it herself.” ‘Then it is mere conjecture on your part 2" said George roughly. “If you like to put it in that way, yes, Monsieur,” she retorted. “And for that reason I do not choose to reveal the name of him to whom I believe this young girl, in all innocence, has given her heart.” “Then I don’t see the use of your having told us the fact,” said George sulkily. ‘It is of no use, for it can have nothing to do with her disappearance, since he also is of those who search,” she said patiently. ‘M. le Colonel, however, asked me the question.” ‘And I thank you for answering it,” said David. “But, as Mr. Chilcott says, it is not material if it has nothing to do with her disappearance, and you think it has not ?” ‘ I am sure it has not.’ “Then what do you think 2' he asked, fixing his eyes entreatingly on her face. “Ah, mon Dieu, Monsieur,” said Mme. Minart in agitated tones, ‘you torture me when you question me thus. Do you think I would not help you if I could Her voice was low, almost tender, her dark eyes eloquent with reproach. “Myself, I have the conviction, like Miladi, that she will return safe and sound. She is full of romance. Who can tell where she may have been pleased to go 2 Comfort yourself to think she is strong and healthy, and that she had a purse full of money, and is well able to take care of herself.” “No girl of that age can take care of herself,’ said George sternly. This was the end of their questioning of Mme. Minart, and they felt they had gained nothing from the interview, which had the effect, however, of dispersing David’s suspicions of the companion; and the more especially when the tearful Roper, though evidently detesting her, corroborated her story in every detail. “She knows nothing,” said David to George. ‘I am not so sure,” said George.
‘My dear fellow, you mistrust her, as she says, merely because she is a stranger and a foreigner.’ ‘Perhaps. Anyway, I don't believe a word she says,’ he replied very bluntly. ‘You think Catherine's suspicions are justified then 7° ‘I don't know what to think. The only sure thing is that Philippa has disappeared, and it's either that she's gone off for a lark, which doesn’t seem the least like her, or that she's been decoyed away for blackmailing purposes by someone who had heard of poor Adelstane's death and knew she was his heiress.” ‘Aye, that's just it,” interposed David, ‘that practically exonerates Mme. Minart. How in the name of fortune could she have made up a plot to get Philippa decoyed away, which would necessarily mean employing an accomplice, within a couple of hours of the first possible moment she could have learnt of poor Adelstane's fate 7' George shook his head. ‘Perhaps we are all wrong in mixing up this sad event with Philippa's disappearance. She may simply have gone out to buy something; lost her way and strayed into some unfrequented street—God knows what may have happened to her in that case.’ “Do not put that into Catherine's head,” said David hastily. * No doubt that is what the police fear. Of course there is just the chance, though— ” * Well— ” * Mme. Minart believes her to be in love; of course it’s with this young ass, Kentisbury, who made a conspicuous fool of himself at the Lundys’ dance, following her about,’ said David rather savagely. “She may have taken fright—at him, or herself, or something—girls are very fanciful, you know—and be hiding herself. It doesn’t sound probable, but it's possible.” ‘It’s not at all like Philippa. She is a thoroughly healthy, sensible girl, not a mysterious idiot,” said George stoutly. “And I don’t believe Mme. Minart knows her half so well as she pretends to. Phil is a bit spoilt and obstinate, but she's a well-bred 'un, not the least likely to give herself away if she was in love a dozen times over, with Kentisbury or any other young fool.” ‘I had almost rather it was with any other young fool; the fellow looks such a confounded noodle,” said David gloomily.