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   Chapter 25 WE ARRIVE IN PARIS.

The Last Tenant By B. L. Farjeon Characters: 15575

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


As we traveled to the sea I narrated what had occurred in my quest for Dr. Cooper, and was allowed to do so without interruption. Bob was unusually silent in the presence of his nephew and Barbara, and this silence was, as it were, enforced by himself. Several times he seemed to be on the point of interrupting me for the purpose of asking questions, and on each occasion he pulled up short and said nothing. Neither did Ronald speak much. It would have been natural had he made some observations upon the reason of Dr. Cooper's sudden departure in the company of Mr. Nisbet, and had he inquired whether I really believed the two men were traveling together. But respecting these matters he preserved absolute silence, and when he spoke it was upon any other subject than that of our all-engrossing mission. Barbara, also, had very little to say for herself--being altogether lost in the wonder of the adventure which was to introduce her to foreign countries--so we were not a very lively party as we were whirled to Dover. We were less inclined for liveliness when we were at sea, all of us, with the exception of Ronald, being prostrate and helpless, the passage being a bad one. With the earth beneath our feet we soon recovered, and were reconciled to life, though Barbara plaintively inquired if we couldn't get back another way. Her appearance attracted a great deal of attention to us, of which we took no notice, being too deeply occupied with our own affairs. We were only twenty minutes late, and before eight o'clock we alighted at the H?tel de Bade, where we engaged rooms, keeping Barbara as much out of sight as possible. The first thing we did was to go out and purchase a suitable outfit for the child at an immense establishment, the "Old England," where everything in the way of dress could be obtained, and when she was arrayed in her attire she said she felt like a princess. Of course she was in a state of bewildered admiration at the lights of Paris, which she declared beat "a theayter," and I have no doubt she thought either that she was dreaming or taking a part in a ravishing fairy story. Upon our return to the hotel I found a telegram awaiting me from Mr. Dickson, from which we learned that Mr. Nisbet and a gentleman who had accompanied him from London were at the H?tel Chatham. The last words of the telegram were, "Do nothing till you hear from me again. If you make open inquiries you may ruin all." This advice was sound but irritating, our mistaken impression being that by remaining idle, we were playing into the enemy's hands. There was nothing else for it, however; we were bound to wait for further information and instruction. We sent Barbara to bed early, and bade her not to leave her room in the morning till we called for her; then we went out and paced the bright boulevards. As we strolled and chatted Ronald suggested that we ought to ascertain for ourselves whether Mr. Nisbet and Dr. Cooper were at the H?tel Chatham; he had become very restless, and we endeavored in vain to argue him out of the idea. We only succeeded in prevailing upon him to allow Bob to go alone to the hotel, and find some excuse for looking over the book of arrivals in the office for the names of Nisbet and Cooper.

"Mr. Nisbet knows you," I said to Ronald, "and if he should see you we may as well return at once to England, for we shall have put him on his guard and have brought about our own defeat. He may also have some idea of my appearance, either from seeing me without my being aware of it, or from the description given of me by Dr. Cooper, and there would be danger in my going to make inquiries. Your uncle is the safest party; Mr. Nisbet can know nothing of him, and if they meet his suspicions will not be aroused."

Bob went by himself to the H?tel Chatham, not without inward misgivings, for he knew but a few words of French, and Ronald's assurance that the waiters and the managers could all speak English did not set him at his ease. However, he left us at the corner of Rue Daonou, making us promise not to wander away, in case he should not be able to find us upon his return, for he was distrustful of himself in the Paris streets, this being his first visit to the Continent. It was also my first visit, and I could not help thinking how poor a match for Mr. Nisbet Bob and I would have been without the assistance of Ronald Elsdale. Ronald was blind, it is true, but he could speak French and German fluently, and it was really he who guided us through the streets; he was familiar with every shop and building of note, and there was no fear of our losing our way in his company.

Bob was absent fifteen minutes or so, and he came back with the information that the name of Mr. Oliver Nisbet was on the books as having arrived this evening, but that he could not find the name of Cooper.

"Did you see anyone answering to their description?" asked Ronald.

"No one," replied Bob.

"All the better," I remarked.

"Why?" said Ronald. "Do you suppose they have any suspicion that they are being followed?"

"That is a question I cannot answer," I said, "though the probability is that Mr. Nisbet believes himself safe, or he would hardly have gone to so central a hotel as the Chatham; but it is certain that they are proceeding with some degree of caution, or the name of Cooper would have been found in the arrival book. Has any idea suggested itself to you that would be likely to explain the reason of Mr. Nisbet choosing Dr. Cooper as a companion?"

"Many ideas have suggested themselves," answered Ronald, "of which I have not yet spoken; but we will follow this one out, to see if we agree. You paid a visit to Dr. Cooper on Sunday evening, and, as his wife said to you this morning, he let his tongue run too freely. Her remark proves that some conversation must have passed between them as to your visit, and that Dr. Cooper recalled--not very distinctly perhaps--what it was he said. My belief is that this conversation took place in the presence of a third party, who was chiefly responsible for it."

"Of a third party!" I exclaimed.

"The third party," continued Ronald, "being Mr. Oliver Nisbet, who visited the Coopers on the following night. He must have had some motive for this visit, for it is not likely--after what you learned from Dr. Cooper's lips of the feeling he entertained toward Mr. Nisbet--that this gentleman would have paid his accomplice a visit in which there was no direct motive. I speak of them as accomplices because there is no doubt in my mind on the point. Dr. Cooper was bribed to give a false death certificate, false for the reason that he was not in a position to give a true one, and for this service Mr. Nisbet paid him, and made promises (according to Dr. Cooper) which he did not fulfill. Whether these promises were or were not as Dr. Cooper hinted is of small moment in what we are discussing, the one thing certain being that Dr. Cooper labored under a sense of injury, and believed himself to have been wronged. It is more than probable that, in some way, Dr. Cooper conveyed this impression to Mr. Nisbet, and that he was aware of it. This must have occurred years ago, and shortly afterward Dr. Cooper loses sight of his employer, and has no means of communicating with him. If he had known where to write to him he would certainly have done so, in his state of poverty, and would most likely have thrown out some kind of threat. During this interval Mr. Nisbet keeps himself hidden from the man who has served him at a critical time; he has no use for him; all evidence of the crime (the nature of which has yet to be discovered) he has committed is destroyed, and there is only one person in the world who can throw the remotest suspicion upon him; that

person is Dr. Cooper, and even he, if he dared take open action, would find himself implicated in the consequences. So matters rest for a considerable time, and we come now to the present. It is on Sunday only that you are informed by the private inquiry agent you employed that Mr. Nisbet had returned to London and was staying at the Métropole. Again crops up the hidden motive for his return. Was it to visit the house in Lamb's Terrace in which the crime was committed? Was it to seek Dr. Cooper for the purpose of obtaining his assistance in a fresh crime to be committed on foreign soil? Conjecture only will assist us here, for we know nothing; but conjecture, put to a logical use, may lead to the right conclusion. I assert that Mr. Nisbet's visit to London was expressly made either to go to Lamb's Terrace or to see Dr. Cooper; certainly for one of these reasons, perhaps for both. When you learn that he is in London you are on your way to Dr. Cooper's house; you find him; you have a singular conversation with him; you return home, and my uncle informs you of the discovery of the clothes he has found in the attic cupboard. That those clothes belonged to Beatrice and the servant cannot be disputed. On Monday morning, after my uncle leaves you to find a temporary home for poor little Barbara, you also leave the fated house several hours, and you take especial care to deposit the clothes in what you believe to be a place of safety; unfortunately, as it happened, in the place in which they were first discovered. Now, who knows of that place of deposit? You, my uncle, and Mr. Nisbet. During your absence Mr. Nisbet obtains easy admission to the house, goes straight to the attic cupboard, and bears away with him the garments which, by devious circumstantial evidence, might be a danger to him. While he is in the house some signs therein lead him to suspect that it is not absolutely untenanted, and he sets watch upon it in the night. Looking from the window of the room occupied by you and my uncle you see Mr. Nisbet standing in the garden in a watchful, observant attitude; and as he stands there the spectral monitor which has set this inquiry at work gives you a sign--an unmistakable sign from the spiritual throne of justice. Rank heresy or blind fatuity might misinterpret this sign; to you, to my uncle, to me, it is as clear as sunlight. It declared this man to be guilty of a horrible crime; it was like the writing on the wall. Satisfied or not, Mr. Nisbet leaves Lamb's Terrace, and goes to South Lambeth to see Dr. Cooper, of whose movements during the years that have passed he has had full knowledge. Mr. Nisbet is not only a dangerous man and a criminal, he is a man of resource and powerful intellect, and such a man leaves little to chance. Closeted with Dr. Cooper and his wife, he hears of your visit to him the previous evening; he worms out of his accomplice all that the man can recollect of your conversation with him; and he scents danger. Now, as I have said, whether he went to Dr. Cooper in the first instance to obtain his assistance in a fresh crime on foreign soil is hidden from us, but I am convinced that what he learns during this interview induces him to expedite his movements. He bids Dr. Cooper hold himself in readiness, and wins the wife's confidence by giving her money; thus they are both on his side. Were we and Dr. Cooper now in London you would worm nothing more out of him. Forewarned is to be forearmed, and his wife would see that he was not tampered with. When Mr. Nisbet leaves Dr. Cooper last night, he has not quite settled the order or time of his future movements, but considering the matter afterward he sees the advisability of getting out of England without delay. Hence his resolution to leave for the Continent this morning; hence his telegram to Dr. Cooper to meet him immediately for the purpose of catching the early train; hence the hurried and sudden departure, with the particulars of which we are acquainted. Have I made myself clear?"

"Quite clear."

"He does not suspect that he is being followed; he does not suspect that his departure is known; least of all does he suspect that I am taking part in the hunt. But at the same time he recognizes the necessity of caution, and that is why Dr. Cooper is traveling under an assumed name."

A question was trembling on my tongue; it was whether, in the light of all that had been disclosed to him, the delusion he labored under with respect to Beatrice was now dispelled; but I feared to pain him, and I did not give utterance to the question.

"Do you not think," he said, "that Mr. Dickson has been rather remiss in not giving you the name and address of the agent who traveled, unknown to Mr. Nisbet, from London with him?"

"I wish he had done so," I replied, "for then we could have some conversation with him to-night, which might have been of service to us. The telegram he sent me is a long one, and perhaps I shall have a letter from him in the morning."

This proved to be the case. In it Mr. Dickson acknowledged that it would have been as well if he had given me the name and address of his agent in his telegram; the name was Rivers, his address H?tel Richmond. He had not heard from Mr. Rivers, he said, but when he did he would communicate to me everything the letter contained of any importance. I went at once to the H?tel Richmond, which was not more than five minutes' walk from the H?tel de Bade, and inquired for Mr. Rivers, and I took Ronald with me as interpreter, leaving Bob to look after Barbara.

"M. Rivers?" said the waiter, "but he has departed."

"When?"

"This morning early. He slept but one night."

"Do you know where he has gone?"

"No, I do not know; I will ask the manager."

The manager did not know. After his coffee and roll M. Rivers had paid his bill and given up his room. Did he leave in a cab? No, he left on foot, carrying his bag with him. Perhaps he went to a railway station? Ah, it was possible. Perhaps he was still in Paris. Ah, it was possible. If M. Rivers returned to the hotel, would the manager give him my card with a few words in pencil on it, asking him to come immediately to the H?tel de Bade? M. Rivers should have the card, yes, with much pleasure. And so, good-morning.

I half expected to receive a letter from my wife, demanding an explanation of my running away, but there was none for me.

And now, nothing would satisfy Ronald but that Bob should go to the H?tel Chatham, to ascertain if Mr. Nisbet was still there. He went and returned, we waiting for him as before at the corner of the Rue Daonou. Mr. Nisbet had left the hotel.

"I spoke to a fool of a waiter," said Bob, "who thought he could speak English, and that is all I could get out of him."

Ronald walked off at once to the hotel, and, knowing it would be useless to remonstrate, we followed him through the courtyard and into the office. There he entered into a conversation in French with a clerk. Yes, M. Nisbet and his friend had partaken of the usual first meal of the Frenchman, and had paid his bill and given up his room. Did they expect him to return? No, they did not. Had he and his friend occupied one room? Yes, a room with two beds. Did they leave on foot or in a cab? In a cab. For a railway station? Possibly. Did the clerk know for which railway station? He did not; he would inquire, if it was of importance. It was of great importance--would he kindly inquire. The concierge was questioned. He did not know for which railway station. The waiters were questioned. They did not know for which railway station. And so, good-morning again. Thus were we left aground, as it were, with nothing but broken threads in our hands. Mr. Nisbet and Dr. Cooper had escaped us.

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