Authors: Ann Bridge
5 Genevaâthe Palais des Nations
6 Beatenberg and the Niederhorn
7 The Schynige Platte
9 Interlakenâthe Clinic and the Golden Bear
10 Interlakenâthe Golden Bear and the Gemsbock
11 Beatenberg and Interlaken
12 The Passes
13 The Aares-Schlucht
15 Interlakenâthe Clinic
17 BellardonâBerneChapter 1Glentoran
The red-funnelledFlora Macdonaldsidled skilfully alongside the grey wet quay of the small West Highland port, watched by Edina Reeder, who also scanned the passengers waiting above the gangway; when she saw among them a tall elegant figure with a tawny-gold head she smiled and waved. Presently a porter in a seaman's jersey carried the luggage out and stowed it in a brandnew Land-Rover, while the two cousins kissed and exchanged greetings.
âPhilip and I thought you were never coming back to Glentoran,' Mrs Reeder said. âYou haven't been up since our wedding, and that's nearly two years ago.'
âI know. I was such ages in Portugalâboth times. But it's heavenly to be back now.' As the car shot off from the harbourââThis is a terrific machine,' Julia Probyn said. âPhilip, I suppose?'
âOh yes, everything is Philip. You won't know Glentoran!' Edina replied. âWhen we got married Mother, in her most Early Christian Martyr way, suggested withdrawing to the little dower-house, but of course we didn't allow thatâshe's in the west wing. Philip has turned it into a self-contained flat, with a sub-flat for Forbes, horrid old creature! And we raked up Joannaâdo you remember?âhousemaid ages agoâto be cook; she makes just the sort of horrible food Mother likes, so it's all perfect.'
âI thought the west wing used to be damp,' Julia said.
âAh, but not any more. Central heating throughout! I expect it's very bad for one, softening, and all thatâbut I must say it's exceedingly comfortable to be warm everywhere, after those awful wood fires. And Olimpia adores it, salamander that she is.'
âOh, you've still got Olimpia?'
âYes indeed. Between having a boiling hot bed-sitting-room,and Philip to talk Spanish to her every day, I think she's settled for lifeâand of course her food is better than ever.'
âIt couldn't bebetterâit was always divine.'
âWell it still is; more divine. Colin's here,' Mrs. Reeder then said. âHe was delighted when you rang up to say that you were coming, because he's going off again fairly soon to the Middle East, or one of those troublesome places.'
âOh Iamglad. What luck! Dear Colin.' Miss Probyn was devoted to her other cousin, Edina Reeder's young brother. âHow is he?'
âI fancy he's got something on his mind,' Edina said, slinging the Land-Rover round the curves of a steep hill under huge overhanging beeches, âbut he hasn't uttered. I daresay he'll tell you.' As they reached the top of the hill and emerged into open countryâ
âGoodness! You've ploughed that slope above Lagganna-Geoich!' Miss Probyn exclaimed. âIt used to be all rushes. Whatcangrow there?'
âWinter wheat. It's all been drainedâwith the government grant, of courseâand fenced, as you see.'
Indeed as they now entered on the Glentoran estate, evidences of prosperity and good husbandry appeared on all sides: strong pig-wire fences, Dutch barns, new iron gates painted red; so different from the beloved but rather derelict Glentoran that she had known all her life that Julia fairly gasped. âI can't think how you've got it all done in the time,' she said, after being shown three or four silage-pits, and a herd of pedigree Ayrshire cows.
âOh, Philip works all day and most of the night, and adores it. But I must say it's very nice to have some money to come and go on, and be able to treat the land properly. Wait till you see the hill-pastures, limed and re-seeded and all! Of course the subsidies don't nearly cover it, one has to dip into one's pocket all the timeâbut Philip says he'll be able to bring out a terrific, and quite true, loss on the property for income-tax for this year and next.'
Julia laughed, and returned to the subject of her cousin Colin.
âWhat makes you think he has something on his mind?'
âHe mopes, and jerks his thumb.'
Many of the Monro family had the hereditary peculiarity of double-jointed thumbs, enabling them to turn that member downwards in a spectacular and quite horrible fashion; the operation made an audible creaking sound which was curiously sickening. Edina used this peculiar gift sparingly, being a calm person; but Julia was intensely familiar with it in Colin Monro, as a symptom of nervousness or worry.
However, he showed no sign of either at luncheon, which took place rather late. In spite of all the external improvements, Glentoran within was its old shabby self, rather to Julia's reliefâexcept for the genial all-pervading warmth from the central heating, and a newly-installed fitted basin with scalding hot water in her bedroom. Clearly Philip Reeder believed in spending his good money on useful, practical things rather than on aesthetic amenities; the drawing-room, to which she presently went down, had its old worn and hideous carpet, and the familiar faded cretonne covers. Here Philip gave her a stiff gin, and here also she encountered Colin and old Mrs. Monro, his and Edina's mother.
âHow nice to see you, Aunt Ellen,' Julia said, kissing her, and holding out a casual hand to Colin.
âI can't think why you haven't been near us for so long,' Mrs. Monro said fretfully.
âI've been abroad, you know.'
âEveryone will go abroadâI can't think why. Mary Hathaway has gone abroad, when she might just as well have been here,' Mrs. Monro pursued, in a complaining tone. âShe's gone to Switzerland, of all places.'
âTo stay with an old flame,' Edina put in. âReally oldâabout 80! He lives in Gersau, wherever that is.'
âOn the Lake of Lucerne,' Colin said.
âOh, you know-all! Mother, if you've finished your sherry let's go in, shall we? Julia, bring in your drink.'
Julia, instead, downed it. âI hate spirits at table.'
Over the meal Mrs. Monro resumed her grumbles.
âI can't think why Mary should have wanted to go to Switzerland. I went there once, and I thought it a most horrid placeâall mountains, really there's nowhere to walk on the flat. They took me into an ice-grotto, in some glacier, and it dripped down my neck. I think all that ice and snow about is most unhealthy.'
Philip Reeder, laughing, reminded his mother-in-law that large parts of Switzerland were far from any ice or snow, and really not much more mountainous than Argyllâround Lake NeuchÃ¢tel, for instance. Julia noticed a certain preoccupation in Colin's expression while the talk was of Switzerland, which left it when they turned to discussing local affairs; presently he addressed her in Gaelic, still spoken here and there in the district; they had both picked it up as children from the keepers and the boatmen, and he gave his rather high-pitched giggle of pleasure when, after a second's hesitation, she replied in the same archaic tongue. After that they talked in Gaelic across the table; this irritated old Mrs. Monro, who eventually protestedââI was brought up to think it very ill-bred to talk in a language that others present cannot understand.'
âThey're not ill-bred, Mother; they're merely good linguists,' Edina told her mother. âSo was father, he spoke Gaelic perfectly, the old people always tell meâ“He had the Gahlic” is their phrase. You and I aren't linguists, worse luck for us; if we were, we could have learnt it.'
âMy dear, I never wished to learn such a useless language,' said old Mrs. Monro, with the complete finality of the rather stupid person.
After lunch Colin determinedly took Julia out to stroll in the garden; Philip went off to the farm and Edina, after returning her mother to the west-wing flat, settled down to some overdue correspondence about Girl Guides. Julia was struck afresh by what a little moneyâPhilip's moneyâwas doing to Glentoran: the lawns close-mown; the strangling brambles cut down from the immense species rhododendrons (brought back as seeds by Hooker himself from the Himalayas) along the banks of the burn; all the deadly growth of sycamore seedlings cleared outfrom between the rare shrubs along the upper avenue.
âGoodness, it is lovely to see this place being put to rights again,' she said.
âYes, I suppose so.' Colin soundeddistrait, as though the improvement in what was really his own estate meant very little to him. Presently he stood still.
âI know it's none of my business, but I'm so fond of him that it worries meâ' he paused again, in obvious embarrassment.
âWell?' Julia asked, guessing what was coming.
âWell, howdothings stand between you and Hugh?'
âThey don't stand at all,' Julia said, quite unembarrassed. âHe asked me to marry him in Portugal, and I said No.'
âWhy on earth? He's such a splendid person.'
âI just couldn't feel it the right thing to doâsomehow he didn't seem the same in Portugal as he did in Tangier.'
âWhat do you mean?'
âWhat I sayâand more than that I won't say, because I couldn't explain properly. I'm sorry about it, very, but there it is.'
âDon't you think it's about time you stopped amusing yourself with men, and then turning them down?' Colin said crossly. âFirst it was that wretched Consett, though I admit he was a bit of a wet, and now it's Hughâwho certainly isn't wet.'
âNo, of course he isn't,' Julia said, with perfect good-temper. âBut I can't marry him because he's your boss, and you're fond of him. I must wantbadlyto marry the person I do marry; it wouldn't be fair to them, otherwiseâin fact much more unfair than rubbing them off in good time.'
Colin laughed, rather unwillingly, at the flat way in which Julia brought out this piece of wisdom. Suddenly he gave her a kiss.
âOh well, you're not actually a hag yet,' he said, âeven if you are rather a monster! I daresay you'll find a manyou badly want to marry one of these days. Don't leave it too late, though.'
âTry not to, darling,' Julia said, returning his kiss.
Julia wondered after this conversation whether Colin's gloom had been about her and Hugh Torrens, his chief in the Secret Service, and hoped that having said his piece, the young man might feel better. But he continued abstracted.
The whole party foregathered for tea in the diningroom, which, Julia observed with nostalgic satisfaction, was as gloomy, shabby, and ugly as everâwoodlice still crawled, and died, between the outer panes and the hideous stained glass which defaced the upper half of the windows; the log fire still spat and fizzled ineffectuallyâthough, thanks to the central heating, this made no difference to anyone's comfort. Half-way through the deleteriously ample Scottish meal of two kinds of scone, four different cakes, assorted jams and jellies and honey in the comb, the telephone rang. Philip Reeder had installed an extension in every sitting-room in the house, as well as in his own and Edina's bedroom, instead of the single inconviently-placed instrument in the chilly cloak-room near the front door; he rose from the table and answered the call.
âTelegram for you, Julia,' he said, and held out the receiver.
Besides putting in all these telephones, that practical man Philip Reeder insisted that there should always be a writing-block and a pencil beside each machineâwoe betide his wife if either were ever missing. Both pad and pencil were in place when Julia went over to the table under the woodlice-laden window; she listened, wrote down, questioned, scribbled againâfinally she tore the top sheet off the block, and returned to the table.
âSo sorry, Edina. It's from Mrs. H.'
âWhy does Mary Hathaway need to send you such a huge long telegram?' old Mrs. Monro asked.
âShe's ill, Aunt Ellen, and she wants Watkins to go out and look after her; she's afraid of being a trouble to this old Mr. Waechter and his servants.'
âI'm sorry to hear that,' Philip Reeder saidâhe had soon come to share the Monro family's affection for Mrs. Hathaway, always their prop and stay in any trouble. âWhat's wrong with her?'
âCongestion of the lungs.'
âThere! What did I say?' old Mrs. Monro exclaimed triumphantly. âSwitzerlandisunhealthy. I expect poor Mary went into an ice-grotto!'
âThere are no glaciers within forty miles of Gersau, Mother,' Colin put in.
âThen I expect old Mr. Waechter, who I believe is extremely rich, drove her to one,' his mother said obstinately. Philip put a more practical question to his guest.
âWhy does she wire to you, Julia? Can't Watkins just take a ticket, and go?'
âOh no,' his wife hastily told him. âWatkins can't bear travelling abroadâthat's why Mrs. H. didn't take her along. Julia, I suppose this means that you've got to drag that spoilt old creature out in person, doesn't it? Oh what misery!âwhen you've only just come. I can't think why anyone has a lady's-maid!'
âMy dear, when they existed they were a great convenience,' her husband told herââthough this Watkins person sounds rather an unsuitable type, I must say.'
âWatkins has been with Mary Hathaway for twentyfive years, Philip,' his mother-in-law pronouncedââand she is a most faithful and excellent servant.'
âWell, have you got to go out and take her, Julia?' Colin askedârather to his cousin's surprise.
âYes, I'm afraid I must do just that,' Julia said. âEdina, I am so sorry. Philip, may I send a telegram? I ought to do it after tea.'
âOf course. But send it N.L.T., at half the day price,' her host said, with his usual practicality.
âFine. I must wire to old Watkins too, and tell her to pack her traps and be ready to start when I come. Oh yes, and I must book a flight from Renfrew. What a bore! I was so happy to be up here again!'
âI suppose you'll fly?' her host said. âShouldn't you book plane seats to Switzerland too?'
âOh no; Watkins will never flyâwe must go by train. Yes, of course we must get sleepers.'
âWhere to?' Reeder asked.
âBerne,' Colin pronounced suddenly. âYou change there for Lucerne, and then take a steamer on to Gersau.'
âHow do you know all this?' his sister asked him. The young man jerked his thumb out of joint as he repliedââI justdoknow.'
âNext assignment Switzerland?' his brother-in-law asked. âSounds as if you'd been mugging it up.'
âIt's coming in very handy for me,' Julia said, as Colin merely shook his head, frowning at this attempt at humour.
After tea much telephoning and sending of telegrams took place: a flight was booked from Renfrew for the following afternoon, Cook's promised sleepers from Calais to Berne two days later; Julia just caught her bank manager and organised traveller's cheques. During all this fuss Colin hung about, silent and preoccupied; when Julia saidââWell, that's that'âafter talking to the bank, he put in a word.
âWhat about Watkins's passport?'
âOh Lord!âI never thought of that. I don't for a moment suppose she's got one. Will they be shut now? What are we to do? We shan't have much time to rake up a Minister of Religion or a Justice of the Peace to vouch for her.'
âI think I'd better ring up the office. They will probably be able to fix it.'
âCould you? Would they?' Julia said, immensely relieved. She was also happily surprised by Colin's helpfulness.
âI expect so. What's her Christian name?'
âNo idea,' and âMay,' Julia and Edina said simultaneously.
âJust May? May Watkins? What a name for that old dragoon.'
âYes, May,' Edina repeated firmly. âHer mother doted on old Queen Mary. Endless girls in Watkins's generation were called after “Princess May”.'
âAll rightâthough it sounds pretty silly to me. Now you girls can clear out. I'll tell you what happens.'
Julia and Edina obediently removed themselves; they sat on a new teak seat on the terrace, in the westering sun, looking out over the drifts of daffodils in the rough grass round the lawn, where the pink candles on the great horse-chestnut were just coming into flameâits lower boughs drooped down to the ground.
âHow funny that Colin should lend a hand like this,' Edina said, âafter being so sour when Philip ragged him about Switzerland.'
âI was just thinking the same thing,' Julia replied. âBut anyhow, what a boon! That office of his can fix anything. Still, I do wonder what's behind itâit isn't a bit like him.'
A window was thrown up behind them.
âWhere shall May's passport be sent?' Colin's voice enquired.
âMy flat. No, my club; of course the flat's shut.'
âThat grisly place in Grosvenor Street?'
âYes.' The window was slammed down again.
âGood for him,' Julia said.
Presently Colin appeared on the terrace.
âAll fixed, darling?' Julia asked.
âYes, darling darling.'
This was another piece of youthful nonsense, dating from the long happy holiday summers when Colin was at Eton, and Julia at a finishing school in Paris; they used the word âdarling' then as a sort of call-note, like a bird's special note of alarm, for any secret thing between them. This had irritated old Mrs. Monro even more than their speaking Gaelic at meals, but it warmed Julia to hear Colin use the old silly re-duplication now. And when he said, âCome up to the azalea glenâthey're all out, and you haven't been yet,' she agreed at once.
âShe ought to pack,' Edina said.
âOh, I'll pack tonight.' The two young people went off up the avenue, arm-in-arm.
The azalea glen at Glentoran when in flower is something to see. The banks of a narrow ravine, down which a small burn runs, were planted long ago with azaleas which have grown to an immense size; the great rounded bushes overhang the water, sprawl above the path, below the path, and even encumber the small wooden bridges which here and there span the glenâfallen blossoms are carried away by the clear noisy water. It is a most beautiful place, full of all shades of colour from cream to coral; the scent, with its hint of incense, is almost overpowering. And here, on a rather decrepit wooden seatâPhilip Reeder had not yet extended his new teak benches as far as the glenâColin and Julia sat and talked; and what Julia privately expressed as âthe nub' emerged.
âIf you're really going to Switzerland anyhow, darling, I thought you mightn't mind doing something.'
âWell yes, in a way.' His horrible thumb shot out.
âTell,' Julia said comfortably.
âYes, I will. It's about Aglaia Armitage. Her father's dead and her mother's no goodâshe ran off to the Argentine with a Dago tenor even before poor Armitage died, four years ago.'
âIs Aglaia in Switzerland?' Julia had visions of a girls' school near Lausanne or Ouchy.
âOh no. But her grandfather died the other day.'
âWas he looking after her?'
âNot much, noâshe lived with an aunt in London, her father's sister. But'âColin paused, and his thumb jerked out again. âHe left her quite a lot of money, and she ought to be sure of getting it,' he said.
âWell, can't the will simply be proved, if he left it to her?' Julia asked, puzzled by Colin's obvious anxiety.
âThe money isn't in a will. It's in Switzerland.' He stuck again.
âDarling, do be a little more clear. Why no will?'
âOh, there's a will all right, and she's his heir. Butâdid you ever hear of numbered accounts?'
âNo. What are they?'
âWell people all over the world, if they want to have some of their funds safe and sure, put them in Swiss Banks.'
âOh, funk-money. Yes, very sensible. I expect masses of Levantines and Armenians and rich ones from those unreliable South American republics have millions stowed away there. But what are these numbered accounts?'
âAccounts with a number, but no name. Anonymous, you see.'
âNo I don't, quite. Unless somebody in the Bank knows which name is attached to what number, how does Mr. Sophocles Euripides or Senhor Vasco da Gama get his money out when he wants it?'
âI don't know the exact mechanism, but there's some sort of secret record, or code, and the owner can touch his cash in need. Only it's not quite so easy when the person who made the deposit is dead, and that's the case with Aglaia's fortune.'
âWhat was her grandfather's name? Armitage? The English do this too, do they?'
âI wouldn't know. He wasn't English, and his name wasn't Armitage; that was her father.'
âThen what was the grandfather's name?'
Colin hesitated; he gave a curious youthful giggle of embarrassment before he saidââThalassides; Orestes Thalassides.'
âOh Lord, not the old shipowner? He must have been worth a packet.'
âYes he was. And he did make a will all right, with proper legaciesâdon't you remember, half a million to Cambridge alone for science fellowships?âand more to various Redbricks. But although the papers called her a great heiress, all that didn't leave an awful lot for Aglaia except this Swiss money. Andâ' again he checkedââyou see he may not have told the Swiss Bank that she is his heiress.'
âWon't the will show that?'
âWe hope so, but it isn't dead certain.'
âIf the will makes her his residuary legatee, or whatever they call it, surely she's on velvet?âexcept for death duties.'
âThat's just the point. The lawyers seem to think that the will may have been left a bit vague for that very reason.'
âOh, these smart foreigners! Here are all our own Dukes and peers selling their family portraits to pay those revolting death-duties, and Mr. What's-it-ides puts his dough in a foreign bank to escape paying.'
âDon't be nasty, J.,' the young man said, mildly and rather sadly.
âSorryâno, I won't.' She considered. âBut Aglaia knows this money has been left to her?'
âAnd told you?'
âYes,' Colin said again, blushing.
Julia pounced, so to speak, on the blush.
âColin, are you engaged to Aglaia?'
âM'm'mâafter a fashion.'
âIs she sweet?' Julia asked, with warm interest.
âYes, incredibly sweet. I want to marry her, if only to get her away from this dim aunt she lives with since her mother ran away. Well not âif only'âI long to marry her.'
âWhere did you meet her?'
âOh, in London, like one does. She knows some cousins of the Macdonalds.' He paused. âBut you see I've really nothing to marryon.'
âWell I suppose you really have Glentoranâthough of course you don't want to call that in, with Philip and Edina so blissfully happy here, and making such a go of it.'
âNo, of course I don't, and anyhow I want to go on working. But that doesn't bring in much.'
âDoes that matter, if Aglaia's got plenty?'
âOnly that everyone will think I'm marrying her for her moneyâwhich I'm not. I'd marry her if she hadn't a single Swiss centime, if I could support her. And she wantsto marry me,' Colin added guilelessly, âso she might just as well have her own cash, since it's there. But you do see, darling, that all that is just why I should like someone like you to go andaborderthe Swiss Bank. I mean, you know I'm not after her money.'
âOf course, darling.' Julia reflected for a moment, sniffing at a spray of azalea which she had picked off the nearest bush. âWhat I don't quite see,' she said then, âis why your Aglaia can't simply go out with a copy of the will in her hand, walk into the Bank, give the secret number, and get the cash. How much is it, by the way?'
âAbout half a billion dollars, I believe.'
âThat says nothing to me,' Julia stated airily. âI never can remember if a billion is a hundred million, or a thousand million, or a million million. And anyhow I can't really think in dollarsââdivide by three' is what I say when I place an article in America. But it sounds quite a nice little lump sum, whichever it is! Well, why can't she do what I say?âjust go and collect herself?'
âWell for one thing she's a minor, under 21; and for another, she doesn't know the account number.'
âHow ridiculous! Who does? Don't the lawyers or the executors?'
âNo. It seems these things are kept pretty darkâno one in London has the faintest idea. But there is someone out there who quite certainly does know; her godfather, a Swiss Pastor, who is also her guardian.'
âWhy a Swiss godfather? Oh well, never mind; no odder than a Greek grandfatherâall international! Well, can't she go and get it from him?'
âNot at the moment, no. For one thing her mother has just sent for her to go and pay a dutiful visit in the Argentineâshe's sailing this week.'
âColin, what nonsense! Why must she go to her unpleasant mother?'
Colin hesitated. âWell, it might be a wise move. The lawyers think her mother may have an idea that the numbered account existsâAglaia has told them, of courseâand that if she goes out there it might put the motherand her Dago husband off the scent, and prevent them from trying to get hold of the money. The lawyers have been wondering, and so has Aglaia, how to set things in train in Switzerland in the meantime, very discreetly and quietly, of courseâand now that you're actually going to be out there, it struck me at once that you could have a try. Your lovely silly face is such a help!'
âWell, would you?'
âI don't see why not, when I've got Mrs. H. all settled. It might be rather fun, reallyâand in Morocco I seemed to have quite a light hand with bankers, like some women have for pastry. Have you got the guardian's address, who has the essential number?'
âI can get that for you.'
A huge sound of a distant bell resounded through the glen. Julia sprang up.
âThe dressing-bell! We must fly.'
âWe don't dress,' Colin said, following her down the path between the mountains of blossom.
âNo, but we clean ourselves. And Ronan and his mamma are coming to supper, so I must tidy up a bit.' She ran on.
Out in the avenueââI shall have to have a copy of the will, you know, Colin, or the bank certainly won't play; and somepiÃ¨ces justificativesfor the godfather, or he won't either,' Julia said.
âYes, of course. I'll get you all thatâI shall have to come South and see that you're properly briefed, now that you've agreed to take it on. Darling, Iamglad that you will.' He gave her a quick light kiss. âI needn't tell you to keep it all utterly dark.'
âHardly!' Julia said, with good-tempered sarcasm.
Colin's remarks the previous day about her throwing men over had rather upset Juliaâuntil all the business about Mrs. Hathaway broke they had been wriggling about at the back of her mind like small ugly worms; she had remembered poor Steve in Morocco, whom Colin didn't know about. He made a third. While she quickly changed into a short dress for dinner she thought with discomfortabout Ronan Macdonald, and wished he weren't coming; on some earlier visits to Glentoran he had obviously been attracted by her, and she had flirted with him a little, gaily and un-seriously. She hoped he wouldn't start all that up again, under Colin's very nose.
He did, however. Julia Probyn's unusual lion-tawny blondeness and great grey eyes were something men readily fell for, and did not soon forgetâafter nearly two years Ronan Macdonald had evidently not forgotten them, and tried to begin again where, he hoped, they had left off, when he found himself sitting beside her at dinner. Julia was markedly cool to him, both then, and afterwards in the drawing-roomâhe finally withdrew, hurt, and devoted his attention to his hostess. After the guests had gone Julia stated her intention of going upstairs at once and breaking the back of her packing before she went to bed; Glentoran is a long way from Renfrew, and she would have to make an early start. However, she was extremely disconcerted when Edina, who had come up with her, and sat in an armchair while Julia rapidly and skilfully folded suits and dresses and stowed them in suitcases, tackled her on the subject. After accusing her of being âbeastly' to Ronan all the evening she saidââYou and he had such a carry-on round the time of our wedding that I thought he might be the reason why you turned that Torrens person downâColin's boss.'
âColin shouldn't gossip' Julia said vexedly, snapping a suit-case to and laying it on the floor. âCertainly that had nothing to do with Ronan.'
âI've sometimes wondered if you cared for Colin,' Colin's sister pursued.
âWrong again!' Julia said, putting another suit-case on the bed, on which she had carefully spread her bath-towel to protect the quilt. âI adore Colin, but there never has been, and never will be, any question of our marrying.' Her voice was severe and cold. âReally, you might have realised that, Edinaâyou're his sister.'
âI'm sorryâI expect I've been sticking my neck out. But you do rather go on and on, don't you?'
âAll you young married women think of nothing but making matches for your friends!' Julia said, not without justice. âHowever, I won't hold it against youâI know you can't help it!' Edina laughed, and kissed her Goodnight.
But flying South from Renfrew next day, in between thinking about Colin and his Aglaia, and the general danger of marrying too much money, the wormsâadded to by Edinaâwriggled in Julia's mind more actively than ever. Was there really something wrong with her and her behaviour? Was she abelle bitch sans merci?She laughed her gurgling laugh at her own phrase, but she was troubled all the same. Ought she, next time, to let the thing rip, whatever happened? She continued to brood on this idea till rage at the behaviour of the staff at London Airport mastered all other feelings.Chapter 2Gersau
âThere,' Julia said, returning from the bookstall at Victoria to the carriage where she and Watkins were installed, and throwing a batch of illustrated weeklies and the livelier dailies down on the seat. âNow we shall have something to read. I know you likeThe Queen, Watkins.'
âOh, thank you, Miss. I do indeed. But I'll save that for a bit later on. Do you want theMirror?'
Julia didn't; but before starting onThe Timesshe glanced through theExpressand theDaily Sketch. She was a little startled to find, in both, numbers of photographs of Aglaia Armitage, with flaring headlines: âMillionaire's Heiress goes to join her Mother'ââRichest Girl in Europe sails for South America'; theMirror, she saw, struck a characteristic noteââSo beautiful, so small, and so RICH!' She examined all the pictures of Colin's girl with the deepest interest. Aglaia Armitage was indeed tiny, seen in relation to gangways, police, and bystanders; she could hardly be much over five feet. But she was beautifully made, with lovely feet and ankles, and her face in the studio photographs was attractive and intelligent, as well as undeniably pretty. Fascinated on Colin's account, Julia read the reporters' descriptionsâthings which normally she execrated. Miss Armitage, she learned, besides being âpetite' was ash-blonde, but with dark eyesââan unusual combination.' True enoughâand on the whole she liked the look of the girl her dear Colin loved.
Her study of the papers was interrupted by Watkins.
âDo look at that man, Missâthe tall one, talking to the Inspector on the platform. Do you think he can be a detective? He keeps walking up and down, up and down, watching the passengers.'
Julia and Watkins had arrived early, and so had plenty of time for staring out of the carriage window, as everyonedoes at Victoria, besides reading the papers. Julia now looked obediently where Watkins directed. She saw a tall man, lightly built, with a curious sharply-chiselled face (the word âgothic' sprang into her mind) which besides intelligence showed an amusing quizzical quality; she thought he looked what she called âfun.' He was strolling up and down beside the Inspector, casting rather sardonic glances at the passengers for the Golden Arrow who passed, accompanied by porters wheeling their luggage.
âDon't you think he must be one, Miss?' Watkins pursued. âHe's been doing that for ever so long.'
âShall I ask him if he is?' Julia said, on a gay impulseâgoing abroad always went to her head far more directly than any alcohol.
âWell, why not, Miss?' Watkins said, with a discreet giggle.
Julia slipped along the corridor, stepped down from the train, and went over to the tall man; the Inspector tactfully moved away.
âI beg your pardon, but are you a detective?' she asked, hardily.
The man put a finger to his lip.
âNo. On business,' he said with a faint smileâhis voice and accent were as attractive as his appearance; the small episode seemed to amuse him.
âOh I see. You behave so like one! Please excuse me for asking.'
âA pleasure,' the man said, smiling more broadly; Julia, feeling a little foolish, went back into the train. âHe says he isn't,' she told Watkins, and started onThe Times. But soon she was again interrupted by the maid.
âDo look at that young lady coming along, Miss! Isn't she the proper ditto of that girl in the papers? Can she be going to South America this way?'
âNo, not possiblyâshe sailed yesterday, you know,' Julia said, before she even looked out of the window. When she did she was startled. Walking along the platform between two men was a girl whose resemblance to the photographs she had just been studying was quiteastonishing. She was minute, her hair was the palest blonde possible, and when she turned her head in their direction to speak to one of the men with her, Julia could see that she had dark eyes and eyebrows. How very peculiar! The occurrence was so surprising as to cause Julia a sudden faint sense of unease. She looked carefully at the girl's two companions. One was a tall, dark, handsome young man, slender but athletically built, and distinctly un-English in appearance; the other was shorter, broadly-built with grey hair and a bushy grey beardâhe too didn't look entirely English, nor did he walk like an old man. Julia glanced round to see what had become of the detectiveâshe still thought of him as that, in spite of his denial. Yes, there he was, chatting to the Inspector, and apparently paying no attention to these late arrivals, who so surprised her. She sat back as they passed out of sight.
Presently a whistle blew, and the train pulled out. Julia was so intrigued by the resemblance of the girl on the platform to Aglaia Armitage that as the Boat Express shook and rattled through the suburbs she walked along the corridor to find where the party was sitting. They were in the second coach ahead; she took a good look at all three. Yes, the girl really had dark-brown eyes, and dark eyelashes too; and the older man's grey beard was slightly parted in the middle, she now saw. She went back to her carriage.
Soon a hand-bell, rung along the corridor by a white-coated steward, announced lunch. Julia had frugally brought sandwiches for herself and Watkins for this first meal; they would have to pay a fortune for dinner and breakfast on the other side of the Channel. But she didn't suggest eating at onceâshe gave it ten minutes, and then again walked forward down the train, hoping to find that the party which interested her had gone to eat, so that she could examine the labels on their hand-luggage. They had gone to eat, right enough, leaving overcoats on their seatsâbut there was no hand-luggage! Feeling fooled, and foolish, Julia went back and ate sandwiches with Watkins.
Every time she sat down Julia Probyn was conscious of an unwonted weight against the front of her thighs. Thiswas caused by the âcoffre-fort,' that old ingenious American device by means of which the most careless ladies can carry currency about in almost perfect safetyâa small canvas wallet with two or three compartments, slung on webbing straps from a belt round the waist and worn under the skirt; the slapping against the legs affords comforting evidence that one's money is still there, and the thing can hardly be removed short of an attempt at rape. Mrs. Hathaway, Julia knew, possessed several of these objects, and she had caused Watkins to produce the largest of them âfor our money'; but in fact it contained a copy of the late Mr. Thalassides' will, and signed authorisations by Aglaia's lawyers and bankers in London to the Swiss Bank âto give full information to Miss Julia Probyn' concerning the moneys in the numbered account. There was also a scrawl in Colin's rather crabbed writing giving the name and address of the guardian-godfather who knew the number of the accountâLa Cure, Bellardonâand a cautiously-worded note from the lawyers, suggesting that the Pastor of Bellardon also should give âall facilities' to Miss Probyn.
Colin had flown South from Glentoran on the plane after Julia's, the first on which he could get a seat; he had brought all these documents round to her club, and they went through them togetherâthe other occupants of the half-empty room appeared mostly to be deaf or blind, or both. Julia read through the papers carefully. They were addressed toMessieurs les Directeursof the Banque RÃ©publicaine in Geneva.
âOh, so they do at least know the name of the bank,' she said, folding them up and putting them in her handbag. âOnly a photostat of the will. I see.'
âYes, but you also see that Judkins and Judkins have had it attested by a Commissioner for Oaths. Honestly, I think you've got everything you need now, bar the actual number, which old de Ritter, the guardian, will give you.'
âLet's hope he will,' Julia had said.
Experienced passengers on cross-Channel steamers book a steward the moment they get on board to taketheir luggage ashore on the further side, and see them through theDouaneand into their sleepers; Julia, who usually flew to France, failed to do this till too late. Her French porter, in spite of bribes and adjurings, as usual collected eight other people's luggage beside hers, and kept her and Watkins waiting for more than twenty minutes in the Customs shed before he appeared, behind a barrow piled nearly as high as Mont Blanc. Thiscontretempsprevented Julia from checking on the movements of the girl with the extraordinary resemblance to Aglaia; through the dusty, dirty windows she thought she caught a glimpse of her boarding the Paris train, but she could not be sure. Oh well, it was probably just a coincidence. For the rest of the evening she was diverted by Watkins's reactions to foreign food, and to adjusting her undressing to a sleeper.
The Swiss Customs examination on trains from Calais now takes place at Berne; sleepy, hungry, and feeling generally dishevelled, Julia secured a porter, a tall fair middle-aged man, for their hand-luggage, and deposited this, with Watkins, in the pleasant station restaurantâthen she went off to the Customs. Anothercontretempsâtheir registered luggage had not arrived. Julia, indignant, insisted coolly but persistently in her rather moderate German on being taken to see someone in authority, and was eventually led by the tall porter to a small office adjoining that of the station-master; here she made her complaint to two well-educated, civil-spoken men, who took down all details and asked where she was going?
âTo Gersauâand the luggage must come on at once,frei,'Julia said firmly.
Oh the delightful helpful Swiss, so unlike surly French officialdom, she thought, as her address in Gersau was noted, and she was promised that the missing luggage would be sent on as soon as it arrived in Berne. âThis must have happened in Franceâin Franceanythingcan happen!' one of the officials said. âWe regret the inconvenience to the FrÃ¤ulein.' Julia laughed, thanked him, and went back to the restaurant to tuck into coffee and rolls-and-butter with Watkins.
Emerging some two hours later from the high airy station at Lucerne and crossing the open space outside it to the quay, the lovely heat hit themâblazing sun, brilliant sky, the cobbles and tarmac almost incandescent. âMy word, Miss, I shall be glad to get into a cottom dress,' Watkins observed. âBut this is a clean, pretty place,' the English maid added, casting an approving glance at the trim beds full of bright flowers. âThis seems a clean countryâI noticed the fields and gardens as we came along. That last train was clean, too. I do like things clean!'
Watkins's desire for a cotton frock diminished on the lake steamer, whose swift passage over the blue-green waters made sitting on the deck quite chilly. They retreated into the saloon, where Watkins gazed out through the windows, and continued her comments.
âMy goodness me, Miss, do look at that! Is there any reason for a hill to stick up into the sky like a power-station chimney?' (This was Watkins's reaction to the BÃ¼rgenstock, seen end on.)
âSwitzerlandislike that, Watkins,' Julia replied, laughing. âThe whole place is up on end.'
But though Julia was more familiar than Watkins with the power-station-chimney aspect of Switzerland, since she had twice spent three weeks ski-ing at Zermatt, she knew nothing whatever of the country beyond what could be seen from trains or ski-slopes, or learned from how its hotels are run; of the industrial and commercial, let alone the private life of its inhabitants she was completely ignorant, as most tourists are. Her enlightenment began at once, at Gersau.
This whole small place is compressed into a fold between two of the steep green ridges running down from the Rigi. Along the lake front is a fringe of hotels, restaurants, gardens, and filling-stations, Gersau's public face; but up behind are large unsuspected houses in shady gardens, giving onto narrow quiet streets with occasional small shops, which supply the needs of the inhabitants rather than souvenirs for the tourist.
A tall stately old gentleman in a Panama hat was standing on the little quay, attended by a manservant in a red-and-black silk jacket; as Julia and Watkins stepped off the boat he raised his panama and said, âIs it Miss Probyn? I am Rudolf Waechter,' in perfect English, and then greeted WatkinsââYour mistress will be very pleased to see you.' Julia was surprised to see no sign of a car or even a taxi, but none was necessary; their luggage was placed on a hand-barrow by the manservant and they walked, slightly uphill, barely two hundred yards before reaching a large plastered house with deep overhanging eaves, and passed through a heavy old door of carved walnut into a cool hall. Within, the staircase had walnut banisters, and there was old walnut panelling everywhere; Persian rugs and carpets covered the floors and even the stairs, and on the walls modern French paintings were skilfully juxtaposed with some lovely Primitives which, Julia later learned, were early Rhenish, something in which her host specialised.
âYou will want to see Mrs. Hathaway,' he said, as he took her upstairs. âLuncheon will be at 1.30, so you have timeâAnna will show you your room, and then take you to her. It is very good of you to come yourself to bring her maidâand I am, of course, delighted to have you here.'
On an upper landing Anna, a neat elderly maid, was waiting, and took Julia to her room, Watkins following. âRoom' was an understatement; Julia had been given a suite consisting of a large bedroom, a sitting-room, and a bathroom. Bedroom and sitting-room both opened onto a deep balcony, set with luxuriously comfortablechaises longuesand small tables, an extra room in itself. The bathroom, like all the rest, was of arecherchÃ©perfectionâthe whole thing was so exquisite that Julia almost gasped. She threw her hat on the bed, and then asked Anna where âMiss Watkins's' room was? Anna, beaming, led them out onto the wide landing againâmore superb rugs, Julia noticedâand opened the door of a pleasant bed-sitting-room, also with an adjoining bathroom.
âWell, you will be quite comfy here, Watkins, won't you?' Julia asked.
âProvided the water'shot,'Watkins replied, turning on the tap in the basin. A cloud of steam answered her incredulity; a little abashed, she turned off the tap. âYes, Miss; it's a pretty roomâand quite clean, too.' Julia was satisfied; if Watkins passed the Waechter house as clean, she would give no trouble. She asked Anna to take them to Frau Hathaway.
Watkins had been put in a room next door to her mistress, who was housed in another lovely suite. Julia studied her old friend's appearance anxiously when Anna ushered them in, but it was clear that Mrs. Hathaway was, as she pronounced herself to be, very much better; her colour was quite good, and her voice as firm as ever when she gave directions to her maid.
âI'm glad to see you, WatkinsâI hope you had a good journey. Now go and unpack and get yourself straight, while I talk to Miss Julia. They will bring you some lunch in about half an hour; after that you must rest, and then learn your way about the house; and later you can make my tea, and do some washing for me.' Watkins obediently made her exit.
âMy dear child, this is so good of you,' Mrs. Hathaway said. âI'm sure Edina was furious at having you reft away the moment you got to Glentoran, after so long. But Herr Waechter wouldn't hear of my going to a hospital, and he hasn't a large staff, admirable as they are; I really felt I couldn't impose the strain of having me waited on a moment longer than was necessary.'
Julia said it was fun comingââand what a marvellous house.'
âOh yes, it's bursting with treasuresâpartly inherited, of course, and then he has this passion for Rhenish Primitives and Persian rugs; he has spent a lifetime, and a fortune, collecting them. He only took a fancy to French painting much laterâbut just in time to get some good things. He hasthreeBlue Picassos.'
âGolly! But where did he get his money?' Julia asked, with her usual frankness.
âOh, fine optical glass for precision instrumentsâWaechters are known all over the world for that. Oddly enough, since the War they get that mineral they use for it, the stuff which looks like flour, from a place not so very far from Glentoranâit's three or four per cent purer than anything they can mine even in Czechoslovakia. I wish I could remember its name,' Mrs. Hathaway said, rather wistfully, âbut at the moment I can't.'
âNever mind. And does Herr Waechter still work at this glass performance?'
âOh noâhe only goes to Board meetings occasionally. A nephew runs it now.'
âWhat are the inherited treasures?' Julia asked, surprised, in her English ignorance, that Swiss manufacturers should inherit any heirlooms.
âOh, the furnitureâa lot of it is beyond price; you must get him to show youâand some of the Primitives. His father collected those, and started his interest in them. And of course the house itself, which is over 200 years old; that came from his grandmother, who was a Carmenzind.'
âI saw that name on a shop as we walked up,' Julia said. âI thought it so queer, and pretty.'
âYes, the place is full of them; it's a great Gersau name.' Mrs. Hathaway paused, and looked with shrewd amusement at her young friend. âI don't want to bore you; I don't think I shall, you being youâbut did you ever realise that Gersau was an independent Republic, within the Swiss Confederation, till 1818, or thereabouts?'
âNoâand it seems impossible! This tiny place a Republic? Like San Marino?'
âYes, only perhaps even smaller. Don't go by size for values! And its last President before it was absorbedâeven the Swiss absorb, sooner or later,' Mrs. Hathaway reflected sadlyââwas a Carmenzind; Rudolf Waechter's great-grandfather.'
Anna at this point brought in a tray with Cinzano, ice, and slices of orange. âWill the ladies please serve themselves?' she said, and retired. Julia poured out for both, and sat down again.
âThis is all quite fascinating,' she said. âI had no idea that Switzerland was like this.'
âOf course not, dear child. The English always think of the Swiss purely as a race of hotel-keepers, with a few hardy peasant guides thrown inâand, of course, as makers of cuckoo-clocks. Well they are hotel-keepers, though that is really our fault; it was the English who invented and patented Switzerland as the Playground of Europe. Even dear Rudolf Waechter, besides his glass business, has a controlling interest in three or four of the major hotels. But they have this private life as well, which has been going quietly on for centuriesâand it is a very civilised life, as you will see in this house.'
âI am seeing,' Julia said.
âIt can be combined with hotel-keeping, too,' Mrs. Hathaway pursued. âOthmar Schoeck's parentsâyou know, the great composer, who died not so long agoâkept a delightful hotel in Brunnen, quite near here; I knew him well as a girl. Old Papa Schoeck was an artist. I didn't much care for his pictures, too Landseer-ish, all chamois and eagles. But there he was, painting away in his studio on the top floor in his spare time, while his sons went to the University in ZÃ¼rich, or became great musicians. I don't know who started the idea that hotel-keeping is a low, deadening trade. Can it have been the Americans?'
Julia was just saying that she didn't know any American hotel-keepers, but that so many English hotels were deadly as to suggest that the theory had its origin in England, when Anna again appeared, summoning her to luncheon, and bringing a tray for Mrs. Hathaway. âFrom now on, Miss Watkins will bring up all my trays,' Mrs. Hathaway told the Swiss maid firmly in German. âFor this the FrÃ¤ulein has brought her here.' Anna smirked and nodded, and led Julia down to the first floor, on which were both the drawing-room and the dining-room.
The latter, where they ate a delicious lunch at an early walnut refectory table, was panelled throughout in the same wood; Julia, by way of making conversation, observedthat it was odd to her to see such an ancient table made of anything but oak.
âAh, but you see the walnut has always been our principal furniture tree, not the oak; and since we are not a maritime nation, we seldom imported mahogany.' Her host drew her attention to the old carved dresser and other pieces in the room, including a near-Biedermeier tall-boy between the high windows. âYou will notice that it is not pure Biedermeierâand that is precisely what gives it its value. Here, from the eighteenth century, we copied foreign styles, but always with slight differences; if anyone shows you a piece of antique Swiss furniture which is correct Empire, or correct Biedermeier, you may be sure that it is a fake.'
Julia was delighted with her host. Over coffee in the drawing-room, which also had a broad balcony, she felt secure enough to ask him how he had come to know Mrs. Hathaway?âexplaining that she looked on her almost as a mother. She was touched by the way he told the story. Mrs. Hathaway, as a girl, had come with her parents to stay at one of the family hotels in LuganoââI was the receptionist then; we must all learn our trade, from the bottom up! But there were dances on Thursday and Sunday evenings, when I danced with herâand fell a little in love with her.' Julia loved the gentle reminiscent smile with which the old man said that. âWe both married,' he pursued, more briskly. âShe had sons, I had no children. But our friendship we have kept.'
Julia, entranced by this glimpse into the past, asked what her beloved Mrs. Hathaway had been like as a girl.
âPlain,'Herr Waechter said flatly; âand her mother did not dress her well. But she had a merry laugh, and great intelligence; also she was always what now I believe you call “tough”, though the word was unknown then.'
âAnd was it her toughness you fell in love with?' Julia asked, absorbed by these revelations.
The old man laughed.
âMiss Probyn, you are rather clever! I never phrased itto myself in this way, but in fact I believe that was what I fell in love with.'
Their heavy luggage arrived about 4 p.m.; a telephone call from the quay announced its arrival, and the manservant went down with the hand-cart to fetch it. There was nothing to pay, since the railway was at fault. Again Julia blessed the Swiss.
Mrs. Hathaway had to keep her bed for several days, but once Watkins had got the hang of the house, and could wait on her, Julia was fairly free, and her host insisted on taking her out with him in the car, which a chauffeur drove, when he had to go anywhere. The first of these occasions was a visit to his wine-merchant in Brunnen; Julia in her ignorance was astonished at every meal by the excellence of the Swiss wines she drank, and was delighted at the idea. She was even more delighted by the reality. Accustomed to the urban precincts of Messrs. Berry Brothers or the Wine Society, she was startled to drive into a cobbled yard flanked by a low line of buildings backed up against a steep wooded hill-side; when Herr Waechter, escorted by the foreman, walked all through the sheds, piled high with crates and barrels, to inspect the bottling of some wine in which he was particularly interested, she found it fascinating to see ferns and hazel-boughs poking in at the barred windows. Out of curiosity she enquired about the price of whisky, and was led into a cupboardlike room on whose high shelves were ranged whiskies of every conceivable sort. The well-known brands, owing to the low excise duty, were about the same price as in England, in spite of the high Swiss rate of exchange; but unheard-of varieties were priced at as little as twenty-four shillings.
âCan one drink this stuff?' she asked, holding out a bottle labelledBonnie Bluebellto Herr Waechter.
âThat, no. But this, and this'âhe reached two bottles down off the shelvesââare quite good. Do you drink whisky? I have plenty.'
âYes, I doâand when we leave you I shall want some; Mrs. Hathaway likes it, too. I'd like to buy a little, as I'mhere, and with you to help.' She left with five bottles ofClaonaig Cream, which cost her only six pounds and proved to be a very tolerable whisky indeed.
They drove on to Schwyz, where Herr Waechter said he must see a cousin who made cementââI have a small interest in the firm. And you should see Schwyz; it was the birthplace of the Confederation, and it is a charming town. I ought also to call on two of my sisters-in-law, widows, and not very interesting; but their houses are pretty.' Indeed as they drove across the flat plain towards the twin peaks of the Grosse and Kleine Mythen, which stand up like two gigantic stone axe-heads above the small town, they could see the cement-factory away to their left, its buildings all floury with grey dust. âIt is rather a defacement,' Herr Waechter said regretfully; âbut it gives employment, and brings in money. We seem compelled, today, to live in an increasingly ugly world.'
But there was nothing ugly about the world into which he soon introduced herâthe old Swiss families in the old town of Schwyz. They lived in large houses in big high-walled gardens, full of flowers and fruit-trees; the houses themselves were as stuffed with walnut panelling and period furniture as his own, though without the rugs and French picturesâand they all, it seemed, were related to endless other families alike engaged in industry. Julia got that afternoon, and on subsequent occasions when the calls were returned in Gersau, an unusually intimate picture of theoriginalEuropean democracyâsince the Greek and Italian republics have not survived. All these people kept hotels, or made watches or machinery, or precision instruments; but their homes were in these ancient houses, full of inherited treasures, and they could trace their ancestry back four or five hundred years.
A couple of days later they drove to Zurich. Herr Waechter was writing a history of Gersau, and had already completed a rather learned book on Swiss furniture, now in the press; he wished to discuss these with his publishers there. They lunched at the Baur au Lac (one of the best hotels in the world) in the glass-enclosed outside restaurantbetween the green-flowing river on one side and the great garden, brilliant with flowers, on the other. The restaurant was full of people, all apparently Germans or Swissâit was early in the season for Americans; Julia commented on the fact that there seemed to be no English. âI have so often heard people at home speak of the Baur au Lac.'
âOh, the English can't afford to come here any more,' her host said, matter-of-factly. âNot with this quite ridiculous travel allowance, for which there is really no excuse at all! The pound stands well; this limit of Â£100 is purely a bureaucraticidÃ©e fixe. And it does harm to England's reputation.' He paused, and sipped his wine. âIn Switzerland,' he went on, âwe know a good deal about the standing of all currencies, and we regret this folly very much. The Germans, whom you defeated, can come here and spend as they please; so can the Belgians, who surrendered and left youplaquÃ©soutside Dunkirk; so can the French, who ran away. It is only the English, who stood alone for a year and a half defending European freedom, who may not travel in comfort on the continent theyâand theyaloneâsaved!' The old gentleman spoke the last words with savage severity.
âGood for you, Herr Waechter!' Julia said with warmth. âI couldn't agree more. I wish you'd write a letter toThe Timesabout it.'
âPerhaps I shall, one day. Here in Switzerland we feel deeply about this. We have not forgotten that our tourist and hotel industry, which is of great importance to our economy, was in effect started by the Englishâthe mountaineers who came to climb, who also really created our corps of guides. Hence our first hotelsâand we do not like, now, that English visitors should be forced to stay in second-class places.'
Julia was moved by this, remembering Mrs. Hatha-way's remarks a few days earlier.
The offices of Herr Waechter's publishers were as much of a surprise to her as his wine-merchant's. She had once or twice been taken to cocktail-parties given by London firms, in stately premises in Albemarle Street, or morefunctional ones nearer the Strand, and expected something of the same sort. Not at all. The car bore them up to a hillside suburb overlooking the city, where lilacs and laburnums bloomed along shady streets, and stopped outside a modern villa, with a plate on its gatepost bearing the words âEden-Verlag'. Herr Schmidt, the principal, a middle-aged man with a clever face, greeted her host with respectful warmth and bore him off upstairs, first installing Julia in a sunny room full of flowers and armchairs, and inviting her to amuse herself with the books which lined the wallsââWe do some fine illustrated books.' He laid several on a centre table. While Julia was examining these the door opened and a rather shaky little old man, with tufts of grey hair round his baldish skull, came in and introduced himself in rather bad French as Herr Schmidt's partner; he proceeded to lead her round the shelves, pointing out various books, including several translations into German of novels by well-known English writers. Julia's inveterate curiosity suddenly moved her to ask him whether any of these people used numbered accounts? The question produced an extraordinary outburst.
âNumbered accounts!' He almost spat out the words. âOh yes, often we are asked to pay royalties into numbered accounts by people who do not wish to pay taxes at home! They come here and spend it on winter-sport. Butthesecan get their money when they want itâunlike the heirs of the wretched Jews and Poles and Hungarians, to whom it was refused by the banks.' Again he almost spat the last word, his face twisted with a sort of despairing anger.
âRefused? But why on earth?' Julia asked.
âBecause death certificates shall be produced before the bank will pay! And how many death certificates were given of those who perished in the gas-chambers at Oswieczim' he used the Polish name for Auschwitzâ âor were beaten to death at Mauthausen, or died of starvation in Belsen and Buchenwald? So those who looked ahead and sought to make some provision for their children used their prudence in vain; those of the younger generation who escaped were denied their heritage.'
âHow ghastly,' Julia said; though she was horrified, the little old man was so wrought up, and the story sounded so extraordinary, that she wasn't sure if she quite believed it. âIt sounds impossible,' she added.
âOh, everything is possible! There was more than that,' Herr Schmidt's partner went on. âThe LÃ¼blin Government, the Communist clique forced on us by the Russians, asked the Swiss Government to pay to them 300 million dollars of Polish money, deposited in Switzerland. The Swiss Government paidâI leave you to guess from where they got the money!'
âGood God! That really was too much,' Julia exclaimed.
âQuite so.' Her agreement seemed to soothe the little man; he went on rather more calmly. âThis created a certain scandal; now the Government here are more discreetâother requests of the same nature have been refused. But all over Switzerland these banks are putting up wonderful new buildingsâwith the money of the dead, while their heirs starve!'
Julia was distinctly relieved that at this point Herr Waechter reappeared, and took her away. What she had heard disturbed and worried her; she wondered if it could be true, and longed to ask her host, but for some time she refrained, assuming that a man of 80 would be tired after such an expedition. But quite the contrary; the old gentleman seemed so brisk and spry, quite cheered up by his outing, that eventually Julia asked him what truth there was in the story of the death certificates?
âThe old Petrus will have told you this, of course. It is true that payments are withheld unless a death certificate is produced; this is perfectly natural, and correct; otherwise the door would be open to every sort of fraud. And latterly matters have been arranged better, at least as far as GermansâJews mostly, of courseâare concerned; the German Government is very liberal about granting death certificates to those presumed dead, and also the United Nations circulates lists of names, partly from the very ill-keptrecords of the prison-camps, asking whether there is any evidence as to the life or death of those so listedâif there is no evidence that they are alive a death certificate is granted. But this was not the case in the first years after the war; the machinery had not been established, so the banks were helplessâthey had to abide by their rules.'
âOf courseâI see that,' Julia said. Then she asked about the payment to the Polish Government?
âOh, everyone has heard this story!' Waechter exclaimedââand here also the thing is complicated. No bank may pay out the money of a private individual to anyone but that individual or his legal heirs; that is why the private fortune of the late Czar of Russia is still lying in your banks in London, in spite of repeated requests from the Bolshevik Russian Government that it should be handed over to them. Government money is a different matter; one government may, quite reasonably, hand this over to the established successor of a previous government in a foreign country. What became of those lorry-loads of gold bars which the Polish Government sent down through Rumania to Constanza when the German invasion threatened? You should knowâyour own Consul helped to carry them on board ship!'
Julia didn't know; she had never heard of this episode and enjoyed visualising a sweating Consul humping gold bricks up a gangway in a hot Black Sea port.
âI've no idea,' she said. âDo you know where it is now?'
âNo. It has been suggested that it came hereâwe are such a repository! If it did, our Government would have been perfectly within their rights in handing it over to the Polish Government. But though there has been endless talk about this payment, there is no evidence that it was really madeâand never will be!' he added with finality.
Julia was fascinated by these glimpses of international finance, about which, like most people, she knew nothing. Herr Waechter obviously knew a good deal, and she decided to try to clear up the substance of another of the old publisher's complaints while the going was so exceptionally goodâshe asked if it was true that the splendidnew bank buildings in Switzerland were really being paid for out of âthe money of the dead,' as old Dr. Petrus had said.
Herr Waechter fairly exploded.
âThis is complete rubbish! and libellous rubbish too! I have already told you that machinery is now in operation to clear the accounts of those who died in the prison-camps; but in any case our banks have no need of such moneys. When German shares and Mark obligations were far down, after the War, our banks bought them upâto the great relief of the holdersâand since Germany's wonderful recovery these have enormously increased in value; so much so that our banks hardly know what to do with their money. Very sensibly, they are using it to bring their premises up to date; this gives employment, and helps our young cement industry.'
Suddenly the old man did look tired, Julia saw with compunction.
âI'm sorry I bothered you with all this,' she said. âBut I was upset by what that old man told me.'
âOf course you were, and rightly. Justice and injustice, and human suffering are things about whichallmust be upset.' He spoke with emphasis. âBut may I ask you a question?' he went on. âHow come you to know about numbered Kontos? From Dr. Petrus also? For the English public, I understand, has hardly heard of them, though many English, even in official positions, are now using them.'
Julia concealed wariness by laughter.
âAre they really? Oh, what fun!' She thought quickly, and decided to use Paddy Lynch. âI have a banker friend who told me about them; that's why I asked Dr. Petrus whether any of his English authors used themâand uncovered all this story.'
âA banker in London?'
âNo noâin Casablanca.'
Julia laughed again, and broke off with an enquiry about a church they happened to be passing; HerrWaechter's historical enthusiasm deflected him, as she had hoped, from the matter of numbered Kontos. But all the way back to Gersau, through orchards that were pink drifts of blossom, she was worrying about one thing. Colin had said she had everything she needed to deal with Aglaia's numbered account; but she hadn't got the death certificate of Mr. Thalassides. And quite clearly, from what she had heard today, that was essential.Chapter 3Bellardon
On their return Julia was met on the upper landing by Watkins, who followed her into her room.
âMr. Colin was on the telephone for you at lunch-time, Miss. He seemed very much put about that you was out.'
âWhere from, Watkins?'
âLondon, Miss. He gave me a message, and said you was to have it the moment you came in.'
âWell what was it, Watkins?' Julia asked impatiently. What could Colin want to ring her up for?
âHe saidâ“Tell Miss Julia to get on with the job I gave her as fast as ever she can”. Really, Master Colin has a cheek, to be givingyoujobs!âbut that's what he said, and what's more he made me repeat it,' Watkins said indignantly. (She had dandled Colin as an infant, and still could not take him very seriously.)
âOh yesâhe gave his orders as cool as anything! You was to stay here till you get a letter from him, but to be making arrangements meantime to go and see the clergyman. He said you'd know who he meant. And he kept on sayingâ“Tell her to hurry; it's urgent”. Three times, he said that.'
âThank you, Watkins. Tell Mrs. Hathaway I'll come along to her in a minute or two.'
As she washed and put on powder Julia considered. Mrs. Hathaway really was much better. The doctor, who had been the evening before, had said that in a week or ten days she would be fit to move; he recommended that she should go to Beatenberg, above the Lake of Thun, for two or three weeksâthe air there was peculiarly beneficial. Watkins had by now come to terms with Anna and the rest of the staff, so clearly dear Mrs. H. could safely beleft for the moment. And after supper she asked her host if she might make a telephone call.
âOf course. To England?'
âNoâto a place called Bellardon.'
âIs that in the Canton de Vaud or the Canton de Fribourg? I know it is in one or the other, but they are so intertwined that it is a little confusing.'
âI haven't a clue,' Julia said airily. âDoes it matter which Canton Bellardon is in?'
âYes, certainly. You see here we have an automatic telephone system, with a different call-number for each cantonâyou dial that, and then the number you want in the canton.'
âOh, not by towns? How odd! Well how am I to find out which canton Bellardon is in?'
âThe telephone book will tell us that.' It didâBellardon was in the Canton de Fribourg, whose call-number was 037. (They all begin with an o.) Julia looked through the two or three pages of the Bellardon section, searching for the name de Ritter; it was not under R, nor under D.
âI can't find him!' she exclaimed.
âWhom do you seek?' Herr Waechter asked.
âA Monsieur de Ritter, at Bellardon.'
âOh, the Pastorâyes, such a brilliant man. Look under Pasteur, and you will find him.' And among the Ps, sure enough, Julia found the entryââPasteur de l' Ãglise Nationale, J.-P. de Ritter, La Cure, Bellardon.'She dialled the two numbers, and was through in about fifteen secondsâthe Swiss automatic telephone system works like magicâand the Pastor himself answered. Julia gave her name and said, a little deprecatingly and quite untruly, that she was a friend of his god-daughter's, and wanted to come and see him.
âDear Mademoiselle, I have nearly 150 god-daughters!' the rich voice answered gaily.
âAll English?' Julia asked.
âAh no! Only two English ones.'
âWell, Aglaia is the one, of those two, that I speak of.' (In spite of the automatic telephone, Julia's instinct forcaution made her reluctant to use the surname.) âBut look, I want to come very soon, probably the day after tomorrow.'
âCome from where?'
âThen you must stay the night.'
âYes, but I don't want to be a bother. If you would just book me a room in the hotel I can come in and see you.'
A loud, very engaging laugh came ringing down the line.
âLeave all that to me. Just come!âtelephone your train, and we will meet you at the station.Au revoir.'He rang off.
âHe sounds frightfully nice,' Julia said to her host.
âJean-Pierre de Ritter? He is one of the world's charmers. So was his father, whom I knew very well indeed. They are an old Berne family.' There followed details of inter-marriages with Waechters and Carmenzinds.
Julia waited anxiously for Colin's letter next day. It didn't come by the first post, but she took occasion to tell Mrs. Hathaway that she would probably have to go away for a day or two, on a job for Colinâshe knew that Watkins would have reported his telephone call to her mistress.
âMore Secret Service work?' Mrs. Hathaway asked. âYou know, my dear child, I do think they ought soon to startpayingyou for what you do. It all comes out of the Estimates, after allâwhich means out of our pocketsâand I don't see why the Government should have your services free.'
âOh, this is a private thing of Colin's,' Julia assured her blithely. âNothing to do with the Secret Service at all.'
But Colin's letter, which arrived by the second post, promptly disillusioned her on that score.
âThis business is turning out much more serious and more tiresome than I thought when I asked you to take it on,' he wrote. âIt seems that the old boy, along with his money, deposited some rather hideously important papers. I only heard this when I was having supper with H. last night. He's in rather a flap about it, as indeed everyoneis, because we've heard that somemostundesirable characters are onto this too, and may be taking rapid action of some sort about it. I didn't gather exactly what, but it is quite menacing. And when I mentioned that you were actually going to see you-know-who, H. begged me to lay you on and get you to function as quickly as possible. (He doesn't care to write to you himself, naturally.) But he laid it on me to tell you that it is really vital, repeat vital, that you should get these papers away from where they are and into your own keeping as fast as you possibly can.
âSo please get cracking, darling. Wire me when you are going, darling darling. Endless love, C.'
Julia sat on her pretty shaded balcony looking out at the silver gleam of late spring snow on the mountains across the lake, and frowned over this missive. Hugh again! How tedious to be mixed up in yet another of his jobs. But neither she nor Colin had ever used their call-note âdarling darling' to the other in vain; if she couldn't help Colin without helping Hugh, so much the worseâbut she would help Colin, come Hell and high water. She went and procured a couple of telegraph forms from old Herr Waechterâshe guessed, rightly, that he was a person who still kept telegraph forms in his houseâand presently took a telegram, neatly printed in block capitals, down to the small post-office. She was careful to use Colin's home address. The message read: âYes I will darling but how tiresome stop Starting tomorrow. Love.' She signed it âDarling'. The fatherly old man in the post-office put on his spectacles to spell all this out. âDarling shall meanLiebchen, not?' he asked smilingâand Julia, smiling too, saidâJawohl'.
She refused a drive with Herr Waechter because she wanted to catch the afternoon post with a letter by air to Colinâsitting in her littlesalonshe wrote hurriedly that she was going next day to see âthe parson person'; it was all laid on, and she would do her best. In view of what both Petrus and Herr Waechter had said she added: âWhat I haven't got, andmust have, is a death certificateâthey won't play without. You must take my word for this; I learned it quite by accident, but Iknow. If you can get it in twenty-four hours, post to the Parsonage; if it takes longer than that, probably better send here.'
She paused at that point, and read Colin's letter through again. The passage about the âmost undesirable characters' taking rapid action made her wonder if she ought to mention the curious episode of the girl at Victoria, but when she looked at her watch she decided that there wasn't time; she closed her letter and ran down, hatless, with it to the post-office.
On the way back she slipped into one of the lake-side hotels, borrowed a time-table from the porter, and looked out the trains to Bellardon. It meant an early start, and she did most of her packing before she went to sit with Mrs. Hathaway before dinner; even before doing that, and while Herr Waechter was still out, she put through a call to La Cure giving the time of her train, blessing the anonymity of the Swiss automatic exchanges. If this sort of thing was going on, one couldn't be too careful.
She was off next morning on the first boat to Lucerne, and continued by train to Berne, where she had to change. Her luggage there was carried by the same tall porter; looking from her carriage window Julia caught sight of the detective!âalso seeing his luggage aboard the train for Geneva. Julia saw him first, and watched him furtively; this time he appeared to be much more definitely on the look-out for someone than he had been at Victoria. She studied his face again, and found it more attractive than ever. âGothic' was undoubtedly the word for its rather harsh angles and deeply-incised lines; it was also intelligent, and the expression at once sardonic and gay. It was curious, seeing him again like this; she wondered what he was up to. Couldhebe one of Colin's undesirable characters?
Julia had time in hand, and she was hungry after a 7 a.m. breakfast; when the detective had entered his train she got out and went in search of a sandwich and a newspaper. Returning with both, hurrying through the subwaywhich at Berne Haupt-Bahnhof connects all the platforms, she ran slap into him, coming down the steps. He staredâthen gave his twisted grin, and half-lifted his hat. Clearly he remembered her. Slightly disconcerted, Julia regained her carriage.
The lowland agricultural cantons of Switzerland, like Vaud and Fribourg, are little visited by foreign tourists, and were as unexpected by Julia as Herr Waechter's house. Sitting in the train, thankfully munching herSchinken-BrÃ¶tchen, she noted with a country-woman's interest the methods of the Swiss farmers: the fresh grass being mown by hand in narrow strips and carted off to feed the stalled cows; the early hay hung on wooden or metal triangles to be dried by air as well as sun; the intense neatness of the gardens round the houses, with rows oflettuces and shallots, and a single stick to support the French beans, at present only a green clump of leaves at its foot. The houses themselves surprised her; she had imagined all the Swiss to live in wooden chalets, but here the houses, though deep-eaved, seemed to be much more plaster than timber. Now and again, towards the end of her journey, on her right she caught glimpses of a lake which a fellow-passenger told her was NeuchÃ¢tel; and on the horizon hung the blue shadow of the Jura.
She did not stay in the hotel at Bellardon, for the excellent reason that there is none. It is a tiny place, where tourists are unknown. At the station, where she was the only passenger to alight, Julia was met by a small dark-haired woman, rather beautiful, who said, âYou will be Miss Probyn? I am Germaine de Ritter.' Mme de Ritter caused the stationmaster, the sole railway employee of Bellardon, to pile Julia's luggage onto a small hand-cart with a long handle, the exact duplicate of that used by Herr Waechter's manservant at Gersau; this she pulled after her out into a small sunny street, saying easilyââMy husband had to take the car, but it is only two instants to the house. We are so glad that you have come to us; we are devoted to Aglaia'âwhich made Julia feel fraudulent. They passed along one side of a grassy open space, closedat the further end by the whitewashed bulk of a church with a tall bell-tower. âWe think our church beautiful,' Germaine de Ritter said; in fact, in its solid simplicity, beautiful it was.
La Cure, the Pastor's dwelling, was a very large eighteenth-century house with painted panelling in all the rooms, and gleaming parquet floorsâeverything spotlessly clean. Mme de Ritter drew the hand-cart into the small front garden, saying, âJean-Pierre will bring your luggage up when he returns fordÃ©jeunerâis this sufficient for now?' and as she spoke lifted Julia's dressing-case off the cart. She carried it herself up the broad staircase with its wide shallow treads and polished beech planks, and showed her guest first her pretty bedroomâslightly defaced by a tall cylindrical black-iron stove for heatingâand then, across a wide landing, a bathroom with basin and lavatory.
âIt is a little inconvenient, only to have one bathroom, especially when the children are at home,' she observed; âbut you see this house is Church property, so it is not easy to have alterations made.'
Julia asked about the children. There were eight, all grown-up except Marcel, aged 15, who went daily to aLycÃ©ein Lausanne; five were married, and living near by; two others were in jobs in Geneva, but alreadyfiancÃ©s. âOur children come to see us frequentlyâI hope you will meet them all while you are here,' Mme de Ritter said, and then excused herself. âI have to see to thedÃ©jeuner;it will be at 1.30, as my husband is late today. When you are ready, do sit in thesalonor the garden; make yourself at home.' It was borne in on Julia that her pretty hostess, so girlish-looking that seven adult children seemed an impossibility, probably had to do the cookingâshe learned later that she did the entire work of the house.
Julia unpacked her dressing-case, installed herself, and then went down to the garden. Here she found a curious mixture of beauty and utility. Fine fruit-trees bordered a well-kept lawn, there were seats and wicker chairs on a flagged space under some pleached limes, and beyond these a kitchen-garden, well stocked with asparagus, lettuces,spinach and young beans, and new potatoes. But the flower-borders along the paths beside the kitchen-garden were rather neglected, and clothes-lines, from which hung an array of snowy sheets, ran down two sides of the lawn. Julia went across and felt these; they were perfectly dry. She went back to the house and found her way to the kitchen, where Mme de Ritter was busy with pots and pans on a huge stove.
âThe sheets are quite dryâshall I bring them in?' she asked.
âOh, how kind you are! Yes, do. The linen-basket is in there'âshe gestured with her head towards a doorââand the bag for the pegs.' Julia went into what had obviously once been a scullery, but now housed a vast white-enamelled washing-machine, some wooden towel-horses, and several old-fashioned wicker linen-baskets; she gathered up one of these and the peg-bag, and went out again to the garden, where in the warm sunshine she took down the sheets from the lines, folded them, and laid them in the basket. As she was carrying this load back into the house she encountered her host.
âAh, Miss Probyn! You are very welcome. Please let me take thatâGermaine has already set you to work, I see.'
âNo, I set myself,' Julia replied, surrendering the basket, which the Pastor carried through into the wash-house.
âMa chÃ¨re, is luncheon ready?' he asked. âI must be oft again rather soon.'
âIn five minutes, Jean-Pierre. You said 1.30, and at 1.30 you will be served.' His wife was perfectly tranquil, and equally firm. Laughing, the Pastor led Julia into the big coolsolon, where the numerous chairs and settees were all stiff and rather uprightâthere was nothing to lounge in. On the walls were some rather attractive portraits in pretty old frames, covering, Julia guessed, at least the last three hundred yearsâseveral of them bore a striking resemblance to her host. Jean-Pierre de Ritter was a man of medium height, but he gave the impression of being small, partly because he was so excessively lightly built, with very fine narrow feet and hands; partly because ofthe squirrel-like rapidity of all his movements. He was handsome; clean-shaven, with merry brilliantly-blue eyes under a massive forehead, the only big thing about him; and this peculiar combination of figure and feature was repeated all round the room, on the panelled white-painted walls, looking out from dimly gilt frames in a variety of dress that spanned the centuries.
âWe will not talk about my god-daughter until this evening,' he said at once. âI have to go the moment afterdÃ©jeunerto the Court at Lausanne, to give evidence in a most distressing caseâprobably murder, a thing so rare with us.'
Julia of course said the evening would do perfectly. She looked hopefully round for drinks, after her early start; but none were in evidence, and none were offered. Her host asked suddenlyââDo you speak French? Easily?'
âYes, very easily.'
âThen we shall speak French. It is simpler for me, and even more so for Germaine; she is French, a French Protestant from the Loire valley, where as you probably know there are a number of Protestant communities.'
Julia didn't knowâhowever, French they talked at lunch, to the manifest relief of her hostess. It was all highly political and intellectual, and Julia was quite unable to answer many of her host's questions on what the English thought about the raid on the Rumanian Legation in Berne, the suicide of the Swiss Chief of Police, Dr. Adenauer's attitude to NATO, and the value of the activities of Moral Rearmament in Morocco. His own remarks on these and other subjects were shrewd, witty, and at the same time restrainedâJulia remembered that Herr Waechter had called him a brilliant man. When he left at the end of the brief meal he already commanded Julia's respect.
In the afternoon Henriette, one of the married daughters, arrived in a station-wagon with the whole of her weekly wash, to be done in the vastPharosin the ex-scullery. In theory she merely used her mother's washing-machine; in fact Germaine did all the actual work, pouring in thesoap-powder and bestowing the linen; then rinsing and taking-out while Henriette, in the garden, kept a maternal eye on her two pretty little girls and her toddler son of 2, and did a little desultory weeding. She too talked, endlessly and very well, to Julia, who had undertaken to pick the spinach for supper; crouched over the hot crumbly earth between the rows of succulent green plants, Miss Probyn tried to make reasonably intelligent responses about the works of Kafka and Romain Rolland, and Gon-zague de Reynolde'sQu'est-ce que l'Europe?This last she had readâand praised, throwing leaves into a basket as she spoke; Henriette was pleased.
âOh, I am glad!âfor really he was a formidable writer. But later he became rather Fascist, and I think annoyed the English.'
âYesâI remember that he wrote some terrible nonsense about the Italians andMare Nostrumand all that,' Julia said, rising to her feet and moving two steps further along the green rows. âBut that didn't preventQu'est-ce que l'Europe?from being a splendid book.'
Henriette, much encouraged, asked if Miss Probyn admired Rilke? âYou know that hisbelle amielived at Sierre, and he visited her daily?'
Julia didn't knowâshe felt rather out of her depth in the rarefied intellectual atmosphere of La Cure. She had always imagined Calvinistsâsurely the Swiss National Church was Calvinist?âto be terrific theologians, but completelybornÃ©sand inhibited otherwise; and here she was, being utterly stumped on politics and literature by these same supposedly rigid people. Having piled her basket with spinach, she took it in to Germaine. In the wash-house were two more of the big linen-baskets, full of clean wet sheets and towels. âAre these to go out?' she asked.
âYesâbut I will take them,' her hostess replied.
âWhat rubbish!' Julia exclaimed. âHenriette!' she called through the window, âCome and help me out with yourlinge!' Turning, she surprised a rather startled and happy smile on her hostess's face. When Henriette camein they carried out the two heavy baskets, and pegged the wet linen in the sun and breeze along the lines beside the lawn.
âRilke my elbow!' Julia thought to herself. âWhy not do one's ownwork?' She was becoming quite a partisan of her beautiful hostess. Henriette, as they stretched out sheets, continued to talk, now about her family, and from her lively chatter Julia learned yet other aspects of Swiss life. The Iron-workers' Guild in Berne had given Henriette a smalldotwhen she married, and were going to do the same presently for Marguerite, who was alreadyfiancÃ©e;and they were helping to pay for Marcel's education, as they had done for that of his two elder brothers. Julia was much more interested in this than in Rilke. Were there still Guilds in Switzerland? she wanted to know. Henriette was a little vague.
âWell at least there were, and there are funds still existing, to help those whose families have always belonged to the Guild. It is an hereditary thingâfor of course Papa is not an iron-worker,' Henriette said, with a disarming girlish giggle. âBut he is really a Bernois, and his family have belonged to this Guild forâoh, for centuries; so they help with the boys' education, and our dowries. It is very convenient,en tout cas, for we are so many, and Papa and Maman are not rich.'
However, there was Kirsch, locally made and excellent, with the coffee after supper, before the Pastor bore Julia off to his study, where a business-like desk with a typewriter and two shabby leather armchairs were looked down upon by shelves-ful of books going up to the ceiling: masses of theology, but also plenty of modern stuff in French and German, and in English tooâWinston Churchill, Osbert Sitwell, Virginia Woolf, and of course Galsworthy, for whom Continentals have such a surprising enthusiasm. âBut this Miss Burnettâwhy has she suchrÃ©clame?'the Pastor enquired, fingering a row of modern novels. âClever dialogue, yes; but it is needlessly confusing if one does not know who speaks. And it seems to me that she has little to say except that children often disagree withtheir parents, and that governesses may be more intelligent than their employers! This last the BrontÃ«s told us long ago, and with greater simplicityâand genius.'
Julia already delighted in the Pastor, and would have asked nothing better than to spend the evening discussing books with him, but the urgency of Colin's letter was strong on her; also she had been greatly struck by the welcome and hospitality so freely shown her, without any explanation of her presence being given. She agreed hastily about Miss Burnett, and then pulled out of her bag the copy of Mr. Thalassides' will, and the letters from Aglaia's lawyers and bankers. âAs she is still technically “an infant”, and as I was coming out to Switzerland anyhow, I was asked to look into it,' she said, realising how lame the words sounded even as she spoke them.
M. de Ritter drew up one of the old armchairs for her; then he spread the papers out on his desk, and studied them.
âThe authorisations are quite adequate,' he said at length. âBut I am a little surprised that my god-daughter's lawyers did not come to deal with this matter themselves.' He looked up at her, with a shrewd gaze.
âFor one thing, I'm not sure that they even knew of the existence of this numbered Konto till they were told,' Julia said bluntly.
âWho told them, then?' he asked quickly.
âAglaia, I imagine.'
He tapped on the table, thinking; then he gave a sudden laugh.
âAnd if they do not know, how doyouknow? And why did they authorise you?'
Julia laughed tooâshe liked him so much. But as she laughed she was thinking. Yes, obviously she must come out into the openânothing could be done without him.
âOh, why indeed?' she said cheerfully. âMonsieur de Ritter, it's no good my fencing with you. In fact there is more to this than Aglaia's fortune.'
âThe oil question, I suppose?' he said. âOh dear yes, that was bound to come up. But again'âhe looked at her,in her cool summer frock of lime-green silk, sitting so beautiful and relaxed in the shabby leather chairââWhy you? Are you a very close friend of Aglaia's?'
âNo. I told you a lie about thatâI'm sorry. I've never even met her,' Julia said candidly.
âTiens! De plus en plus drÃ´le!Well, there must be a reasonâeven for your telling a lie! What is it?'
âHer fiancÃ© is a cousin of mine, and as I was coming out here, he asked me to undertake this errand.'
The Pastor pounced on the fiancÃ© aspect.
âYour cousin, you say, is her fiancÃ©? What is he like? Is he well-off?ârich?'
âYes, he's quite well-off; he has a very large property in Scotland. He doesn't need Aglaia's money in the least, Monsieur de Ritter,' Julia said crisply.
He smiled at her disarmingly.
âTrÃ¨s-bien!You see I have to make these enquiries; there is now no one but myself to guard the interests of this childâthe aunt she lives with, her poor father's sister, is a kind woman, butpeu capable. And your cousin directs hisbien, his property, himself, as my sons-in-law do?'
âNo, not at the moment. His sister and her husband are running it for him.'
âBecause he has a job that keeps him abroad a good deal of the time,' Julia said carefully.
The Pastor considered, again tapping the table; then he gave her a look so shrewd as to be almost sly.
âAbroad. And you say he assigned this task to you? Including the oil affair?' Julia noddedâbut the Pastor's next remark came like a bomb-shell. âIs your cousin by any chance an agent of your Government?'
Julia had to take a lightning decision. She had seen enough of Colin and Hugh Torrens to know that in their job Rule I is never to admit to Secret Service activities, if it is at all possible to avoid this. But here speed was essential, and de Ritter was the key to the whole thing; she was really at the point of no return. To cover her hesitation she laughed.
âMonsieur de Ritter, what a man you are!'
âYes, but is he?' the Pastor insisted. âYou see, when Aglaia was staying here last year she confided to my daughter Marguerite that she had recently met a young man who acted as a British Government agent, and that they were much drawn to one another. So naturally I am wondering; is this individual and your cousin the same person?'
âYes, undoubtedly,' Julia said, thinking what a clot Aglaia must be to have spilt these particular beans, and what an even greater clot Colin was not to have told her not to! âBut to put your mind at rest, my cousin Colin is much more worried about the official side of this affair than about your god-daughter's fortune.' She carefully added a little praise of Colinâhis simplicity, his charm, his conscientiousness, his enthusiasm for his work.
âHas he any head forles affaires?' her host asked, practically.
âFor money? No, very little, I think. You and the bankers will have to occupy yourselves with all these billionsâmoney isn't his line at all; it doesn't interest him much. He could look after Glentoranâhis place in Scotlandâall right, when he retires. But Monsieur le Pasteur, since you've guessed what Colin is, and what is at issue, will you let me explain the whole thing?'
He was so elegant about this.
âDo not let me press youâonly tell me what I need to hear. But I should know thisâare you, yourself, of the same profession as your cousin?'
âNo. That is, not officiallyâI have, accidentally, helped him and his friends once or twice; that's all. I retain my amateur status!' she said smiling.
âWell now, tell me just as much as you please. You have satisfied me in regard to the personal aspect, which is the important one.'
Julia liked him very much for saying thatâit fitted in so completely with the whole atmosphere of La Cure; the austerity, the elegance, the hard work cheerfully done; the affection, and the preoccupation with the things of themind. Calvinists or no, these people lived in a wonderful world and one seldom met with in the greedy materialistic twentieth centuryâthe word ârat-race' simply had no meaning at Bellardon! Much more at ease, she explained that initially Colin had only asked her to look into the matter of the inheritanceâbut then had come the telephone call, and the letter explaining that important documents had been deposited along with the money, which should be secured as quickly as possible. In fact, what she wanted was the number of Mr. Thalassides' account.
âYou do not know me in the least,' she ended, opening her bagââbut you have those letters from Aglaia's lawyers, and here is my passport.'
He waved it aside. âA very poor likeness. Why must you hurry so much? We should enjoy a longer visitâmy wife has lost her heart to you! The papers and the money are safe enough in the bank.'
âMonsieur de Ritter, that is just what my cousin's colleagues fear they may not be. They believe that other people are after them. That is why I have come here so suddenlyâthey say the matter isde toute urgence.'
âWho seeks them?'
âI have no ideaâI wasn't told, except that it is the documents they are after.'
He frowned. âIt would be.' He looked again at the papers on his desk. âBut you have no death certificate for the old Greek! You can do nothing without that.'
âI know. I wrote to my cousin yesterday to ask for it. I told him if he could get it at once to post it to me here.'
âHow can he get it at once? Thalassides died in Instan-bul, in the Park Hotel! And in addition, to satisfy the Bank the copy must be stamped and attested by the British Consulate. Latterly he held an English passport.'
âOh glory!' Julia exclaimed in English. âBut all that will take ages!'
âAt least it will take several days,' de Ritter said. âSo you see that you will have to prolong your visit! Germaine will be enchantedâand so shall I.'
Julia didn't respond very adequately to this pretty speech, because she was doing some of her usual practical thinking.
âI wonder if they know in London where he died,' she said. âOh, sorryâhow sweet of you. Yes, I love being here, only it's an awful imposition on your wife. But I think I must let Colin know about Istanbul.'
âWe will telegraph tomorrow, early,' the Pastor said.
Germaine presently took Julia up to her room.
âAt what hour would you like yourpetit dÃ©jeuner?'she asked.
âOh, whenever you all have yours,' Julia said, anxious to be accommodating.
âWe breakfast at a quarter past six,' her hostess said. âYou see Marcel has to catch an early train to Lausanne for his school, and Jean-Pierre likes to be in the church at least by a quarter to seven, to have an hour to say his prayers in peace before the day's work begins. But this is early for youâI can bring you a tray in thesalle Ã mangerat any time. Just name the hour.'
âGolly!' Julia mutteredâand named the hour of 8.30. What people! she thought, just before falling asleep in the narrow but gloriously comfortable Swiss bed, with the smell of lilac coming in at the window.Chapter 4Geneva
Julia gave careful thought to the wording of her telegram the moment she awoke, and went down to breakfast with it written out on a sheet of paper.
âSee my letter stop Grandpa died in Constantinople and paper I asked for must be stamped and verified by our consulate there stop staying here pro tem stop hurry repeat hurry.'
She signed it âDarling'.
The Pastor read this through carefully when she handed it to him.
âYou have put “stop” three times, when really the sense is quite clear without,' he said, pulling out the pen clipped into his breast-pocket. Julia snatched at his hand.
âNo, leave it. It's the way they telegraph. Is it all right otherwise? I don't think it gives much away, do you?'
âNo. Why'âhe turned his blue eyes, usually so dancingly gay, onto her with a certain severity as he askedââWhy do you sign it “Darling”?'
âOh, that's a code word. It just means urgency, between Colin and me,' Julia said airily. As he continued to regard her a little seriously she turned her doves' eyes onto him. âDear Monsieur de Ritter, do take this from me' she said in English. âWould I be busting myself to secure Aglaia's fortune for her, if Colin was really a “darling” to me?'
His expression relaxed.
âVery wellâyes, I accept what you say. But a telegram should be signed with a name, here.'
âWell Darling is a name. There was Grace Darling, the girl in the life-boat,' Julia replied promptly.
He laughed loudly.
âAll right. So now I take this to the Bureau de Poste, and meanwhile you stay with us. How nice!'
When a telegram like this of Julia's reaches a certainheadquarters in London it sets all sorts of activities in motion. Tall men, with rather dead-pan faces, reach for their desk telephones and talk to one another, or walk along corridors to other rooms for conversations face to face; small men, usually in brown felt hats, scurry unobtrusively about Whitehall and the purlieus of the Strand. In this particular case, in a matter of hours, men in rather loud check caps were hurrying through the steep narrow streets of Istanbul, and returning, frustrated by the innate Turkish passion for stalling, to their superiors. Ultimately there were even telephone calls between London and Ankara. And it all took quite a long time, as everything to do with Turkey does.
Meanwhile Julia, when she had breakfasted, asked to be allowed to ring up Gersau; she spoke to Herr Waechter, enquired after Mrs. Hathaway, and learning that she was going on well explained that she, Julia, would not be returning for a few days. âPlease be sure to telephone if she gets worse, or wants me,' the girl said earnestly. âBut I feel sure that in your house, and with Watkins to harry, she will be perfectly all right unless she has a relapse. And I should really stay hereâshe will understand.'
She heard his dry old-man's laugh when she spoke of Mrs. Hathaway harrying Watkins, but he promised to do as she wished.
Julia spent the next five days very happily at La Cure, taking part in a form of life completely new to her, which she both admired and enjoyed. She got quite accustomed, when she went to the bathroom at 7 a.m., to seeing her hostess, in an enveloping check overall, with a cotton kerchief framing her beautiful face, pushing one of those heavy lead-weighted polishing pads on a long handle to and fro across the broad beechen planks on the wide landing, or rubbing up the walnut table and the other pretty pieces of old furniture which ornamented it with real beeswax, mixed with turpentine in a small earthenware jar; the same of course went on downstairs in the hall, thesalon, thesalle Ã mangerand the Pastor's studyâand later in the bedrooms: theirs, hers, Marcel's. In the house-workâwhich was usually finished soon after tenâJulia was never allowed to take any part except to make her own bed, and this only under protest; but in other ways she did what she could to help Germaine. She took plates and cups out of the Swiss version of the Dish-Master and stowed them in cupboards; she picked peas and shelled them, sitting under the arbour of pleached limes in the garden, and did the same for the broad beans; she gathered the first strawberries, weeded the borders, and propped up with twigs gathered from the rubbish-heap the superb white peonies which filled them. Sometimes, if she was in time, she laid the table for lunch.
But these were morning occupations; in the afternoons the Pastor, whenever he could, took her out on his rounds to show her the country-side. This was green and gently rolling, with cherries ripening in the orchards and along the road-sides, and the usual Swiss air of good cultivation and prosperity; here and there were small blue lakes. The villages were often charming, as well as spotlessly clean, and one or two of the old townsâlike Murtag, with its broad street of lovely arcaded buildingsâbeautiful to a degree. Julia felt ignorant and foolish, in that she had never heard of Murtag; nor had she realised that half the Canton was Protestant and half Catholic, as the Pastor now told her, pointing out the different churches in place after placeâsometimes both in one village, more often a different form of worship in each settlement.
But most of all she was interested by her host's conversation. As with literature, where his work was concerned he was both intensely practical, and rather original in his views. His parish was vast and straggling, eighteen miles one way by twenty or more the other, and he scorched about it in a big FrÃ©gate. So Julia was surprised to hear him say one day, when they were discussing the problems confronting the modern world, that he regardedl'autoas the enemy of the good life.
âI should have thought a car was essential for you, simply to cover the ground,' she protested.
âIt depends on how usefully I cover it,' he said. âWhenI walked, or even bicycled thirty kilometres to reason with my parishioners about their misdeeds, or to pray with them, they listened to me, for they felt that I had taken some trouble on their account; when I drive up in a car they do not pay half as much attention, and will almost interrupt my exhortations to ask what she will do at full stretch! It has completely altered their attitude, and our relationship.'
âWell, couldn't you still bicycle about?'
âMiss Probyn, I am 60 years oldâand the work grows from year to year, as the State impinges more and more on individual lives. I spend half my day now at my desk,tracassÃ©by filling in forms, or helping others to fill in their forms, when thirty years ago I could spend all my time on my proper task, that of a shepherd of souls.Les paperassesare even more of an enemy of the good life thanl'auto!'
But on the whole Jean-Pierre de Ritter was optimistic about the present, and the future, of religion.
âThe eruption of evil in the world which the last twenty-five years have witnessedâfirst Hitler's Germany, then the Communists and their prison-campsâhas finally shut the mouths of those who formerly derided the idea of Original Sin, and equally of the deluded people who used to believe in human progress by purely human effort. Who now pays the smallest attention to Bernard Shaw or Bertrand Russell?âor the poor Webbs? Certainly none who have seen the photographs of what the Allied forces found in Belsen, or who have encountered Polish girls with big numbers tattoed in blue ink on their forearms in Auschwitzâor even who have readDarkness at Noon. No!' de Ritter exclaimed, standing on the accelerator in his eager emphasisââThe modern world has met Evil face to face, in Europe at least; and whoever has truly seen Evil is ready, is eager, to look for salvation, redemption. And the only Saviour, the one Redeemer, is Christ.'
He shot past a line of farm carts, slewing dangerously over onto the wrong side of the road; braked to avoid an oncoming lorry, and then proceeded at a more reasonable speed.
âIt is to this that I attribute the quite remarkable resurgenceof religion in Europe recently,' he went on. âWe have it here; in France it is mainly Catholic, and most remarkableâtheJacistes, theJocistes, thePrÃªtres Ouvriers;and look at those amazing Whitsuntide pilgrimages from Paris to Chartres, three thousand or more young people marching, praying, and hearing Mass, over the whole week-end of Pentecost.' He passed a tractor drawing a trailer laden with farm implements. âHow is it in England?' he went on. âHave you the same thing?'
As so often while staying at La Cure, Julia found herself rather out of her depth. She had readDarkness at Noon, and she had heard of the French Worker-Priests, but she had no idea whatJacistesorJocisteswere, nor had she seen much sign of a religious revival in England, bar an article in some paper about a great increase in the number of Catholics recently. The poor old C. of E., judging by the attendance at village churches when she spent week-ends in the country, was far from being on the up-grade, and rather gloomily she told her host so. âOf course there's been Billy Graham,' she added.
âOh, emotional Revivalism!' he said, in rather crushing tones. âBut does that last?âdo you know at all?'
And Julia had to confess that she didn't know.
In the evenings she met the family: GisÃ¨le and her husband came to dine one evening, Henriette and hers another; Antoine and his wife on a third occasionâin each case one or two neighbours were asked as well. Both the girls had some of their mother's rather delicate beauty, while Antoine was the spit and image of the Pastor. He worked at a rayon factory not far off; the two sons-in-law were âworking farmers' (with the accent on working) living on land they ownedâwhat the Scotch used to call âbonnet lairds'. But Lucien and Armand, though they might have been forking dung or filling silage-pits since 5 a.m., could talk about Galsworthy or Rilke with the bestâcould, and insisted on doing so, and on kindred topics. How was Auden regarded as a poet in England? Had the curious preoccupation of the not-so-young intellectuals with the Spanish Civil War died a natural death?
âSurely,' Armand explodedâhe was a blond giant of a manââSurely even Spender must realise by now that this all arose from an attempt to create a Communist enclave in the extreme West of Europe, outflanking England and France?' And Julia, once again, had to confess that she had no idea what Spender now realised or didn't realise.
At last the death certificate arrived, direct by air-mail from the Consulate-General in Istanbul; the combination of the Turkish postage-stamp and the Lion-and-Unicorn embossed on the flap of the envelope aroused the highest interest in the villagefacteurwho brought the letters, rather to Julia's annoyance; it might, she thought, have been sent more anonymously. The Pastor was already out on his rounds in the parish, and till he returned for thedÃ©jeunershe had to pacify herself, and help her hostess, by cutting asparagus and also lettuce for the saladâin Fri-bourg they sow lettuces thick and cut them like hay, to save the bother of transplanting; Julia was by now familiar with this curious trick. She was laying the table for luncheon when she heard her host's step in the hall; she hastened out to him.
âIt's come!' she said. âSo I must be off as soon as possible.'
Jean-Pierre took this announcement, as he took everything, very easily.
âQuel dommage!It has been such a happiness to have you with usâGermaine will be lost without her under-gardener! However, after supper we will arrange everything.'
âCan't I go this afternoon? Colin said it was urgent,' Julia protested.
âThere is no train that will get you to Geneva before the banks close. Noâwe will deal with it tonight. Now come and eat, and enjoy your lunch.'
They dealt with it that evening in his study. Julia again brought down her papers, together with the copy of the late Mr. Thalassides' death certificate, plastered with English and Turkish official stampings, the Turkish in ugly violet ink. The Pastor once more examined them all,then pushed them aside, drew forward a sheet of headed paper, and wrote rapidly; folded the sheet and put it in an envelope which he handed to her.
âThis is the authorisation which I, as Aglaia Armitage's guardian, give you to collect the documents; it is incontestable. It gives the accountnumÃ©ro. I have told them that the money will not be taken away at this stage; her lawyers or her bankers can do that laterâit is their affair. But I have instructed them to show you, if you wish, the certificates which give the extent of her fortune.' He paused, took a card out of his pocket-book, and scribbled on it. âDo not show the authorisation I have given you until you are in conversation with one of these two gentlemen,' he said, handing her the card. âThey are two of the directors of the Banque RÃ©publicaine who know me well. If possible speak with Dutour; Chambertin is sometimesun peu difficile.'
Julia read the card. It saidââJe recommande chaleureusement Mademoiselle Julia Probyn, de Londres, qui voudra discuter des affaires bancaires.'As she put the card away in her bag along with the other papers de Ritter chuckled.
âThey will think you want to open a numbered account,' he said. ThenââWhere do you stay in Geneva?' he asked.
âI hadn't thought. What's a good hotel?'
âHow are you arranged for currency?' he enquired.
âOh, plenty. I get a journalist's allowanceâI write for some of the weeklies, when I feel like it.'
âThen do write about the Canton de Fribourg! Come back to us, and learn more! However, if you are not short of money you had better stay at the Bergues; it is delightful.' He went out into the hall and there and then booked her a room. And the following morning her beautiful hostess once again dragged Julia's luggage down to the station on the hand-cart, and she set out for Geneva and the bank.
Julia, unlike many English people, was always ready to talk in trains. After changing for Geneva at Lausanne she found herself seated opposite a neat little man with a large brief-case, on which he was scribbling notes onnarrow sheets of typed paper that looked like invoices. Julia's appearance of course produced its usual impact; he offered to put out his cheroot if she disliked the smell, enquired whether she wished the window up or down, and promised to show her Mont Blanc when it should come in sight. Soon they were in cheerful conversationâand it proved much more amusing to Julia than most casual conversations in trains. The neat little man presently explained that he held the Swiss agency for an English firm, who made surgical stays in a special air-light elastic weaveââCorsette-Air' was the trade nameâand in Switzerland they had an immense sale; he named a figure for the firm's annual turnover which astonished Julia. She was even more astonished to learn that he had never been to England, and had never met any of the directors of the Yorkshire firm who manufactured âCorsette-Air'âall had been arranged by correspondence, through people who vouched for him. More peculiar still, he could not really speak English, but he could read it sufficiently well to understand the letters from Yorkshire.
âAnd do you reply in English,' Julia asked, fascinated by this odd set-up.
Ah no, he always replied in German. âThey send my letters to Birmingham to be translated, and then reply to me in English.'
To Julia it all sounded quite crazy; but if the sums he had named to her were accurate, obviously it worked. And the little man himself was so eager, so energetic and enthusiastic that she could credit his making a go of anything. In his excitement over telling her about his work he quite forgot to show her Mont Blanc at the place whence it is visibleââAh, quel dommage!'he exclaimed. âFrom Geneva one seldom sees it; in fact you may say never.' Like so many Swiss he was bilingual; he told Julia in French how he wrote to his English employers in German, and howâhe glowed with pride as he spokeââSometimes we even touch La Haute Finance; foreign businessânot English, I mean; international. We are much used, because we are most discreet.'
âHow thrilling!' Julia said, with her customary easy warmth, which really meant nothing.
âIs it not? I see that Mademoiselle comprehends. Listen to thisâonly the other day I, Kaufmann, was called upon to act as intermediary between very importantagencesbelonging to two different nations, and pass informations from one to the other!' The little man was quite carried away, between Julia and his own enthusiasms; the girl could not help smiling at his idea of discretion, but merely said, as warmly as before, that this wasformidable, that he must lead a passionately interesting lifeâto which he agreed eagerly. Then, as the train began to slow down at the outskirts of Geneva, suddenly he became cautious.
âThis is of course most confidential, what I have told Mademoiselle,' he said rather nervously.
âBut naturally. I am discretion itself!' Julia said soothingly. âAnd I am grateful to you for having made my journey so interesting.' Whereupon the little man insisted on giving her one of his trade cards, and urged her to come and see him if she should be in his neighbourhood. The card depicted on one side a rather fully-formed lady wearing a Corsette-Air, and on the other bore his name and address:
Herr Viktor Kaufmann,
Julia suppressed a giggle at the letters âB.O.'âshe already knew that in Switzerland they stand for âBerner Oberland'ânot their usual English significance; she thanked the little man, put the card in a side pocket of her bag, and promptly forgot all about him.
The Hotel des Bergues at Geneva is indeed a delightful place; the Pastor had been quite right, Julia decided within the first five minutes. It is quiet, unobtrusively high-class, with excellent well-mannered service; it standson the embankment beside the huge glass-green RhÃ´ne, close to where the river debouches from the lake, and exactly opposite the Ãle Rousseau, set with Claude-like trees. Upstream, on the lake shore, rises that exoticâand therefore so un-Swissâfantasy, the only fountain in Europe which springs a clear three hundred feet into the air in a snowy jet which sways like a reed or a poplar in the breeze, glittering most beautifully in the sun against the distant blue shores. In theory the whiteness of the fountain's spray should be apendantto that of the summit of Mont Blanc; in fact that tedious mountain seldom shows itself to Geneva.
She unpacked first, as was her habit, and then tried to telephone to the Banque RÃ©publicaineâit was already closed, the porter told her politely. So she went downstairs and strolled across the bridge spanning the RhÃ´ne to the Ãle Rousseau, where she observed with interest the wired enclosure reserved for the black swans, tufted ducks, and other varieties; and laughed at the typically Swiss notice about feeding the sixty-odd ordinary swans who hung expectantly in the strong current below the footbridge leading to the island: âPlease give your bread to the keeper; he will arrange it suitably to feed the birds'. She walked on to the farther side of the river, and strolled about a little; the whole place enchanted her, a city grey in tone, with an austere elegance combined with a certain simplicity. On returning to the Bergues she found that it had a tea-room close to the front hall; many people were having tea and cakes at small tables on the pavement outside, and Julia did the same, enjoying the warmth, the soft light, the shifting tops of the poplars on the island, the grey profile of the other half of the city beyond the river, and idly amused by the sight of the passers-by on the pavement beside her. One of these, a tall lanky man in a light suit of rather foreign cut suddenly checked, started, and came up to her, raising his hatâshe recognised him as a man called Nethersole, whom she had occasionally met in London with her old admirer Geoffrey Consett.
Mr. Nethersole greeted her with the enthusiasm with which men usually greeted Julia, and sat down at hertable. âWhat in the world are you doing here?' he asked.
âOh, just sight-seeing. I'd never been to Geneva before. How beautiful it is.'
âYes, isn't it? I adore it. But have you seen the oddest sight of all?'
âNo, I've only just arrived. What is the odd sight?'
âOh my dear, the Palais des Nations! Well you'd better come and have lunch with me there tomorrow; I work there. Will you? One o'clock, in the restaurant. Oh, what a piece of luck this is!'
Julia accepted this invitation, mentally praising Mr. Nethersole's tact in not asking if she had seen anything of Geoffrey lately. (Anyhow it is always nice to be invited somewhere in a strange place.) Nethersole soon flitted off, and Julia decided to go up to her room and write a full account of La Cure to Mrs. Hathaway before dinner; between helping Germaine and talking with the Pastor, she had only sent her old friend the scrappiest of notes. In the corridor beyond the main hall the lift doors were just closing; the lift-man politely opened them again for her, and she stepped in, saying âTroisiÃ¨me'. Three other people were already in the lift; one of them was the detective.
This time he grinned very broadly indeed, and murmured, âHow we do keep on meeting!' Julia put on her haughtiest expression, and made no response; she got out at the third floor, while he was borne upwards. This encounter disturbed her a little; if he really was one of Colin'smauvais sujets, it was rather tiresome that he should be staying in the same hotel. And half-way through her letter she went down again to the hall and procured from the concierge a small plan of the city; back in her room she looked out the Avenue de la RÃ©publique. It was only a short distance away, across the bridge by the island. Fine, she would walk there tomorrow, and give no address to a taxi to be overheard by bell-hops, hovering for a tip.
She woke next morning in good spirits; Julia had the priceless gift of sound sleep. Leaning from her windowâshe had no idea of her good fortune in being given a front room at the Bergues at twenty-four hours' notice, nor that she owed this entirely to Jean-Pierreâshe first looked entranced at the fountain, profiled golden-white in the sunshine against the blue lake. But what was that, looming mistily and incredibly high into the sky?âalso golden-white, and immense? It could only be Mont Blanc; it was just where the chambermaid had told her to look for it the evening before. Utterly satisfied, Julia rang for her breakfast, which she ate at her window; then, in high heart, she set out on foot for the bank.
The Avenue de la RÃ©publique is full of banks, all enormous, many of them new. The Banque RÃ©publicaine was one of the most grandiose of all; when she stepped onto a door-mat ten feet long, huge bronze and glass doors opened of themselves; within, marble pilasters flanked the doors opening off lobbiesâthere was no human being in sight. She pushed on through this mausoleum-like splendour into a vast central hall, rising to a height of three or four storeys, and furnished with armchairs and sofas; there was no sign of banking whatever except for a few clerks behind glass walls round the sides. There was, however, a single desk at which sat a pimply youth, curiously inadequate to all this pomp and dignity; to him Julia handed M. de Ritter's card, and asked if she could see M. Dutour or M. Chambertin? The youth glanced at the card and went away, taking it with himâwhy not telephone, Julia thought, since there were two instruments on the desk. A long pause ensuedâlong enough to make her, at last, a little nervous. Eventually the youth reappeared accompanied by an older man, who led her to a lift and wafted her up to what he described as thesalle d'attente.
The waiting-room was as rich as all the restâa big desk, heavy leather armchairs, a deep pile carpet, some quite tolerable modern paintings on the walls. But the sun struck full into the room, and it was hot and stuffy; Julia went over and threw open a glass door onto a balcony. This was surrounded by window-boxes full of petunias and godetiasâshe was thinking how early it was for theseto be in bloom when the door opened, and a man came in, holding de Ritter's card in his hand.
âI am Monsieur Chambertin,' he said. âWhat can I do for you?'
Julia took against Chambertin from the start. He was a short man; younger than she had expected, but somehow with an elderly expression, suspicious and slightly sour. As he seated himself behind the desk she decided that this was going to be a sticky interview; and sticky indeed it proved.
She began confidently enough, however.
âYou are doubtless aware that Monsieur le Pasteur de Ritter is theparrainand also the guardian of Mademoiselle Aglaia Armitage?'
âCertainement,'he said very coldlyâindeed he seemed to stiffen a little at the girl's name.
âI come on her behalfâwith Monsieur de Ritter's authority, as you see.'
âMademoiselle, I donotsee. This card refers only to“des affaires bancaires”, not to Mademoiselle Armitage at all.'
Julia apologised and handed over the Pastor's letter. âI have other authorities alsoâpray have the goodness to regard them.' She opened her large lizard bag and drew out the documents from England, which she laid before him on the desk: the copy of Thalassides' will, attested by his lawyers; the authorisations from Aglaia's bank and lawyers to hand over any or all of the property to Miss Julia Probyn, if so requested; finally the photostat of the death certificate, so liberally covered with official stamps. M. Chambertin, adjusting a pair of pince-nez, began to look at them, at first with a rather contemptuous air; but as he read through paper after paper his expression changed from contempt to one of bewildered consternation.âMais c'est impossible, cela!'he muttered to himself; then he rounded quickly on Julia.
âMight I see your passport, Mademoiselle?' he asked. For the first time there was nothing disagreeable in his manner, only what she recognised as genuine concern.She handed over her passportâhe studied it, looked at the photograph, looked at Julia, and then raised his hands in a helpless gesture of despair.
âThis is all completely incomprehensible!' he said.
âWhy?' Julia asked. âSurely these papers are incontestably in order? What is the difficulty?'
âSimply that Mademoiselle Armitage called here in person last week, and took reception of the money in the account.'
âAnd took the'âJulia checked herself in time. âTookeverythingthat you held in Monsieur Thalassides' numbered Konto?'
Julia stood up. She was tall; at that moment she was menacing.
âMonsieur Chambertin, you have been duped! Miss Armitage sailed for the Argentine to visit her mother on the 14th of May, the day before I left for Switzerland myself.'
âHow do you know this?'
âIt was in all the English papers. As Monsieur Thalassides' heiress, whatever she does is news.'
âLa pressecan make mistakes,' Chambertin said, with the air of a man clutching at a straw.
âHardly, in such a case. But in any event her fiancÃ© would not; and he is my cousin.' She paused, thinking with intensity of the girl Watkins had noticed at Victoria, and of her two companions. âDid Mademoiselle Armitage come alone?' she asked, sitting down again.
âBut naturally notâshe is not of age. Her guardian was with her, and gave the authorisation.'
Julia was a little shaken by this.
âDo you mean Monsieur le Pasteur de Ritter?' she asked incredulously. âDid you see him? He says he knows you.'
âNoâI myself did not,' Chambertin replied, a little unhappily.
âThen who did? I can't believe it was Monsieur Dutour; he is a personal friend of the Pastor's too.'
M. Chambertin looked more unhappy than ever.
âNo. It was Monsieur de Kessler, another of our directors, who conducted this interview.'
âDoes he know Monsieur Jean-Pierre de Ritter personally?' Julia asked sharply.
âNo, he does not.' M. Chambertin's unhappiness was now marked.
âAh. I expect these people carefully asked to seehim, instead of you or Monsieur Dutour,' Julia said. âThey are probably very well-informed.' Her confidence mounted with her anger. âMonsieur Chambertin, I think we had better see Monsieur de Kessler.'
âSo do I,' he agreed uncomfortably, and spoke into the desk telephone. He turned back to Julia. âI can assure you that Mademoiselle Armitage and her party produced correct documents. We are extremely particular in these matters.'
âOh, I am sure you are.' But she pounced on the word âparty'. âThere was a third?'
âI understood that the fiancÃ© of Mademoiselle Armitage was also present.'
âNonsense! Her fiancÃ© is in London. I have been speaking to him there on the telephone. And you should perhaps know that I came to Geneva yesterday from La Cure at Bellardon, where I have been staying for the last week; thereforeIknow perfectly well thatMonsieur de Ritterknows perfectly well that Mademoiselle Aglaia Armitage, for the past fortnight, has been on a steamer on her way to the Argentine. Certainly her guardian never came here last week. Would he have given me this letter of authorisation if he had?'
Before Chambertin could answer the door opened and a white-haired man with a pleasant pink face walked in; he was really old, without any doubt.
âAh,mon cher de Kessler, how good of you to come up,' Chambertin said respectfully, rising as he spokeâit was evident that de Kessler was very senior among the directors. âMay I present you to Mademoiselle Probyn?'
De Kessler beamed on Julia as he bowed to her, and then asked Chambertin, rather bluntly, what he wanted?
âA little more information about Mademoiselle Armitage's fortune. Mademoiselle Probyn has been spending the past week at La Cure at Bellardon, and brings me now a letter from Monsieur le Pasteur de Ritter, in a handwriting which I recognise well, giving the number of the late Monsieur Thalassides' Konto and requesting me to hand everything over to her, Miss Probyn. But I understand that you have already dealt with this matter yourself.'
âCertainlyâthe account has been closed. Mademoiselle Armitage came in personâa charming young lady.' He still only looked a little puzzled, and definitely repressive to his junior colleague.
âYou saw her passport?' Chambertin asked.
âAnd made a note of the number?'
âShe provided you withdes piÃ¨ces justificativeswhich satisfied you?'
âMy good Chambertin, for what do you take me? I work in this bank for forty-five years! What is all this? Why these questions?'
âI too come on behalf of Mademoiselle Armitage,' Julia put in, âand I fear very much that something may have gone wrongâsome confusion have occurred. As you know, Mademoiselle Armitage is not of age, and cannot yet take control of her fortune.'
âBien entendu, Mademoiselle. But there was no confusion; she was accompanied by her guardian, who signed all the receipts.' He looked more puzzled, now, and turned to Chambertin. âYou know Monsieur le Pasteur de Ritter? A man of a very old and respected Bernois family.'
Again Julia spoke before Chambertin could reply.
âBut you, yourself, are not personally acquainted with Monsieur de Ritter?'
âTill last week, noâonly by reputation.'
Chambertin made to speak; Julia gestured him to silence.
âMonsieur de Kessler, this guardian who signed thereceiptsâwas he tallish, rather stout, and with an iron-grey beard slightly parted in the middle?'
âExactement, Mademoiselle,' de Kessler said, looking relieved. Julia quickly put a term to his relief.
âMonsieur Chambertin, would you be so good as to describe your old friend Monsieur de Ritter to your colleague? He is more likely to believe you than me.'
In pitiable embarrassment, but firmly, Chambertin saidââMon cher, the Pasteur de Ritter, whom I have known for thirty years, is a short man, and noticeably slender.'
âClean-shaven, also,n'est-ce-pas?' Julia added.
âYesâcertainly.' While de Kessler gaped Chambertin turned to Julia and askedââHow comes it that you know so well the appearance ofâof the man who came and signed the receipts?'
âThe impostor, you mean? Oh, I happened to see him, and the girl who was impersonating Miss Armitage, on my way here; they travelled to Calais on the same train.'
De Kessler, now quite bewildered, said irritablyââMademoiselle, what is all this talk of impostors and impersonators?'
Instead of answering him, Julia turned to his colleague.
âMonsieur Chambertin, wouldn't it be as well to let Monsieur de Kessler see the documentsIhave brought?' âCertainly.Les voici, mon cher.'
De Kessler went round behind the desk, put on his glasses, and studied Julia's papers, muttering to himself as he did so:ââThe bankers, yes, and the lawyers; the executors, yes; and the British Consul-General in Istanbul hasgestempeltthe death certificate.' Last of all he read de Ritter's letter; then turned back and read the date aloudââC'est hier!'Now thoroughly upset, he turned to Chambertin. âBut this is impossible!'
âOh no, Monsieur de Kesslerâunfortunately it's all too possible,' Julia said. âYou have been tricked by a gang of crooks.'
The old man drew himself up (to Julia it was the most pitiable thing of all) and said:
âMademoiselle, this does not happen with la Banque RÃ©publicaine!'
âWell, it has happened this time,' Julia said crisply; she was sorry for the old man, but more important things than his feelings were at stake. She turned to Chambertin. âDo ring up Monsieur de Ritter now, and ask him if he really came in last week and signed Miss Armitage's fortune away? That will settle it. I know he didn't; but it may satisfy Monsieur de Kessler.'
âMademoiselle, I acceptnostatements made over the telephone,' de Kessler said angrily.
âOh very wellâthen we must drag the wretched man down here.'
Chambertin was fluttering the telephone book. âFri-bourg is 037,' Julia told him, âand La Cure is 1101.' When the call came through she firmly took the receiver.âAllo? Ah, c'est toi, Germaine. Ici Julia. Est-ce que Jean-Pierre est lÃ ? Ah, trÃ¨s-bienâj'attends.'She noted the effect of all these Christian names on the two bankers while she waited, receiver in hand. When Jean-Pierre came to the telephone she spoke rapidly in English. âListen, I am at the bank. There has been a complete disaster, which I would rather not discuss on the telephone. Is there the least possibility that you could come downâthis afternoon?'
âOnly with great difficulty? Why?âwhat is happening?'
âWe have been too slow. Those I spoke of have been ahead of us, and have gone off with everything. Someone else signed for them in your name.'
âBut this could not happen! Both the men whose names I gave you know me perfectly well.'
âOf course they do. But unfortunately these persons must have known this too, and were sharp enough to ask for another directorâun charmant vieux monsieur qui ignorait les faits essentiels, et s'est laissÃ© duper.'Julia said the last words in French, deliberatelyâshe saw that cheerful pink face become crimson.
âLe vieux de Kessler?'came down the line.
âExactement. And he now refuses to accept any statementon the telephoneâthat is why I must put you to this trouble. I do apologise; it is not my fault.'
There was a pause. At lastââYes, very well,' the Pastor said. âWho received you?'
âThen please tell him I will be with him at half past four o'clock,Ã peu prÃ¨s'
âI would rather you told him yourself'âand she handed the receiver over.
The Pastor had a very resonant voice, and Julia could just hear his words.âMon cher Alcide, what are your co-directors up to? This is frightful, what has taken place. I shall be with you between four and half past, and please arrange for your colleague to be present, and see that we are given admittance. Tell Mademoiselle that I will call for her at her hotel on the way.'
Chambertin transmitted both these messages, adding afterwards to de KesslerââC'est bien Jean-PierreâI cannot mistake his voice.'
Julia had been thinking as well as overhearing.
âMonsieur Chambertin, surely these people ought to be traced, if possible. Did they give Monsieur de Kessler any address?'
De Kessler said only La Cure at Bellardon, and for thedemoisellean address in London. âChez une certaine Madame Conway, Ã Kensington.'
âThat's Aglaia's aunt, of courseâthat's no help. They gave no indication of their movements?' she asked de Kessler.
âLa demoisellespoke of visiting Interlaken, to see the Jungfrau; nothing more. ThefiancÃ©spoke of making some ascensions.'
âAh yes, thefiancÃ©. Was he tall, dark, with a markedly olive complexion, and the figure of an athlete?' Julia enquired.
âC'est exacte, Mademoiselle,' the old man said. Chambertin had a question to put.
âOn which day did they come? Six days ago, you say? We must alert Interpol, and also theFremden-Polizei, theSecurity Police. It is possible that they have not yet left the country.'
âWouldn't it be better to leave the police till Monsieur de Ritter has been,' Julia counselled. She was thinking that she must try to ring up Colin from the Palais des Nations at lunch-time.
âMademoiselle, the reputation of the Banque RÃ©publicaine is at stake! There is not a moment to lose.'
Julia refrained from pointing out that the bank had already lost six days.
âAs Monsieur de Kessler has their passport numbers, would there be any means of checking at the frontiers whether they have left or not?' she asked. âNo. I expect notâthose men in uniform just open your passport, take a good stare at you, snap it shut and hand it back. They couldn't possibly keep a record.'
Chambertin smiled a little at this description.
âNo, Mademoiselle, they do not. But they are quite observant, and this party of three, whom you seem to have observed very closely, might well be noticed. How was the aspect of the young girl, by the way?'
âAsk Monsieur de Kessler,' Julia said.
âShe was blonde,' de Kessler said, hesitantly.
âYes, but her eyesâthe colourâand tall or short?' Chambertin asked impatiently.
âShe was petiteâandtrÃ¨s jolie,'de Kessler said. Chambertin turned to Julia.
âMademoiselle, can you help us?'
âYes,' Julia said. âThis girl was certainly most carefully chosen as a double of Miss Armitageâneedlessly, since the personnel of the bank failed to notice her appearance.' She could not resist that crack. âShe is very short indeed, very slender, with tiny hands and feet, and though she isâor has been made to appearâash-blonde, her eyes are dark brown.'
Chambertin was scribbling.
âPerfect,' he said. âAnd her clothesâdid you observe these also?'
âYes. A pale cream suit, a little blouse to match, a lightbrown overcoatâand a hat of cream Bangkok straw, trimmed with brown nylon lace to match the overcoat. Shoes and hand-bag of brown crocodile.'
Chambertin went on scribbling. âMiss Probyn, you would be worth a fortune as a detective,' he exclaimed.
âI want to be worth Miss Armitage's fortune, Monsieur Chambertin!' She looked at her watchânearly twelve. âCould someone call me a taxi?' She wanted to tidy up at the hotel before going out to lunch.
She did not, however, let the taxi take her to the Bergues; she got out at the foot-bridge leading to the Ãle Rousseau, and then walked to the hotel. These types seemed to be up to everything; one couldn't be too careful. And there was that damned detective, too, actually staying in the hotel. What on earth was he up to?
In her room she changed into a thinner frockâGeneva heats up in the middle of the dayâand looked in the back of her engagement-book to make sure that she had got Colin's office number. She had, and she would just have to risk telephoning there from the Palais des Nations after lunch; surely it ought to be one of the safest places. Anyhow Colin was usually pretty quick at picking up what she was driving at, either in their âdarling-darling' language or, at the worst, in Gaelic. But oh, why hadn't she written to him about the girl at Victoria? âBecause one's afraid of looking a fool one goes andisa fool,' she muttered, as she put on scent and lipstick. She telephoned down for a taxi, which was waiting when she reached the hall; as she drove off along thequaibeside the lovely green river, in spite of her frustration and worry she began to enjoy herself, and to look forward with pleasure to her luncheon with Nethersole. He was a curious learned creature, but with an amusing outlook on life; what his precise function with UNOâor whatever now used the Palais des Nationsâmight be she didn't know, but he had many forms of strange knowledge, any one of which could make him valuable to these international organisations.Chapter 5Genevaâthe Palais des Nations
The Palais des Nations at Geneva is a very large, completely expressionless building. It isn't ugly, it isn't beautiful; it is just pale in colour, andbig, with a lot of flags fluttering in front of it from tall pale poles. It stands in spacious green grounds, with a parking-space for cars all down the right-hand side of the broad entrance-drive. Within, the bigness and the functional lack of expression are even more marked. An immense hall stretches to right and left inside the door, with racks full of folders, with polyglot girls in light overalls standing behind counters, casually and chipperly answering the questions of even more polyglot enquirers. The enquirers are not only polyglot but polychrome; every shade of colour that the skin of the human race can take on, from splendid deep black to a pinkness like that of M. de Kessler's, were exhibited to Julia's fascinated gaze, standing in chattering knots on the wide marble floor, as she made her way to one of the counters, and asked where the restaurant was?
âLift to the twelfth floor; over there,' a chipper girl said, without giving any indication of the direction.
âOver where?' Julia asked coldly. âCould you take me, if you can't show me?'
âOh sorryâon the right, round the corner,' the girl said carelessly. âLots of lifts.'
Julia walked to the right-hand end of the huge lobby and went round the corner, where there were a great many very large lifts. The lift-men were much more polite than the girlâas indeed men usually are more polite than the teen-age chits who answer so many of the world's telephones, and thus and otherwise conduct so much of the world's business; perhaps one day the world will get round to teaching them that good manners are a key to efficiency. Julia was wafted to the twelfth floor in an outsize lift whichopened into the restaurant itself; an elderly waiter came up to her politely, and asked her pleasure.
âPar ici, Madame'âand he led her out onto a broad balcony, where Nethersole and another man were sitting having drinks. They both rose as she came up to the table; the second man was the detective.
âAh, excellent!' Nethersole exclaimed. âHow good to see youâand how good you look! I couldn't collect a party for you in the time, but here is John Antrobus, who says he doesn't know you, unhappy creature! John, let me complete your education by introducing you to Miss Julia Probyn.'
Julia, already sufficiently disconcerted by her morning at the bank, felt that this was the last straw. For once she was grateful to Nethersole for his elaborations, which usually rather bored her; they gave her time to pull herself together, and when she held out her hand to Antrobus she said coollyââSo now we reallydomeet.'
âWhy, have you met before un-really?' Nethersole enquired.
âOh yesâMr. Antrobus infests platforms! We bump into one another everywhereâand in lifts, too. He seems to cover the whole of Europe.'
âThis is most interesting. But first, what will you drink?'
âA Martini, like you. I'm dying for a drink.' Nethersole ordered another double Martini, which was brought very quicklyâbut not more quickly than Julia was thinking. How could she best turn this meeting to account? Was it a coincidence? Was the detective in with the crooks, or on her and Colin's side? She wished passionately that she had bothered in London to learn more from Geoffrey Consett about what Nethersole really did; UNOâif UNO was what he was inâwas of course liberally bespattered with fellow-travellers. But it was nice up there on the balcony; the air was sunny and warm, the green gardens below were pleasant, blue mountains rose in the distance. After a sip of her cocktail she decided to relax, and pick up what she could while she enjoyed herself.
Once his guest was supplied with a drink, Nethersole returned to the subject of her earlier encounters with Antrobus.
âOh, I was very forward at Victoria; I went up and spoke to him,' Julia said airily.
âShe asked me if I was a detective!' Antrobus interjected.
âOh did you? Why? Do you think he looks like one?' Nethersole asked.
Julia profited by this excuse to examine that amusing face openly and deliberately.
âYes, I think so. Detective-Inspector Alleyne might look very like him, don't you think? And he was behaving like one, too.'
âHow do detectives behave?'
âWell, he was hanging about.'
âLoitering with intent, did you think?' Antrobus asked.
âWell really it was the maid I was taking out who thought it.'
âGoodness, Julia, do you still travel with a maid?' Nethersole asked, with intense interest.
âNo, not still, nor ever!âI was taking her out to an old friend, who has fallen ill out here. But Watkins is very shrewd, and she's been at endless weddingsâalways plastered with detectives to guard the presents. She was positive that Mr. Antrobus was one.'
Both men laughed.
When they went indoors to lunch, in a long restaurant with big plate-glass windows giving onto the balcony, Julia deliberately abandoned that topic, and started another.
âRichard, what do you do in this peculiar place? Tell them about the Arabs, or the Walls of Jericho?'
âThat sort of thing.'
Antrobus supplemented this uninformative remark.
âRichard is a tremendous Arabic scholar, you know. Since Sir Denison Ross died, he has no peer.'
âOh, does UNO go in for scholarship? That's quite a new idea.'
Again the two men laughed, and Antrobus said âSpecialised knowledge generally comes in usefully, even here.'
Julia took him up on that instantly.
âDo you work here too, Mr. Antrobus?'
Did he hesitate? Barely.
âNo, not really.'
âAt Victoria I remember you said that you were on business.'
âHow inquisitive you are! That was to put you off.'
âAnd are you still putting me off? How does one work for UNO un-reallyâas you and I met?'
This time there was no doubt about it; though Antrobus laughed, Nethersole at least was plainly embarrassed.
âJulia, I can't allow you to cross-examine anyone at lunch! Have some more smoked salmon.'
So there it was! Some form of secrecy going onâand she didn't even know Nethersole well enough to be able to get the truth out of him later. âOh yes, please,' she said; âI really like to make a meal off smoked salmon.' As she helped herself she said cheerfully to AntrobusââI'll apologise if you'd like me to; but like all women, since Fatima, inquisitiveness is my middle name.'
âOh don't apologise,' the man said. âIf we ever get onto Christianâor Mahomedan-name terms, I shall call you Fatima!'
Julia was unexpectedly pleased at the idea of being called Fatima by Antrobus. The luncheon passed very pleasantly indeed; both men were amusing and talked wellâAntrobus in particular had a caustic vein which amused Julia, and a free and completely natural approach to any subjectâshe had never yet met a man so disengaged, or so totally devoid of self-importance. Long before the meal was over she had become far more interested in him as a person than in what he did, conscious though she was of her need, indeed her duty, to learn thisâmore than ever after Nethersole had so openly shut her up.
At one point the talk turned on the great variety of Swiss trades; Julia, by nature so open, just stopped herselfin time from telling how the Iron-workers Guild in Berne paid for the de Ritter boys' education, and quite casually substituted the little agent for âCorsette-Air'. She made a funny story of it, with the letters in German going to Birmingham to be translated; Nethersole laughed heartily; Antrobus smiled too, but after a half-second's pauseâwas there a flicker of surprise, of some extra interest, in the grey eyes under those sculptured triangular lids? Almost certainly Yes, for after a moment he askedââWhere do you say you encountered this entertaining individual?'
âOh, in the trainâjust a pick-up,' Julia replied airily. âYou should know that I go in for picking people up.'
But in spite of her growing pleasure in Antrobus's company, when over coffee he offered to drive her back to the Bergues she refused firmly. âI'll make my own way backâI might like to walk. Besides, I hope Richard is going to show me the whole of this lunatic place. Isn't there a sort of Chamber of Babel, where they all shout at one another through microphones which translate as they go along?' Laughing, Antrobus was nevertheless a little insistentâit was a long way, it was very hot, she would be exhausted, etc. Julia was pleased by his persistence, but couldn't help wondering whether possiblyhewasn't as anxious to know about her business as she was to learn about his? In any case she was firm, and the gothic-faced man left alone. When he had goneââWould you really like to see the Salle des Nations?' Nethersole asked.
âYes, if you can spare the time; I don't mind. But first I want to telephone.'
âWhat an idea! I never telephone if I can help it. However, I presume there is one up here.'
This was a mistaken presumption. They were sent down to the main hall, where Nethersole made enquiries of one of the chipper chits at the counters. Oh noâall extraterritorial calls had to be made from the third floor.âRound the corner for the lifts.' Round the corner they went, and up to the third floor, where there was a whole array of telephone-boxes.
âI suppose this is where the Press worthies queue up to send their ghastly nonsense,' Nethersole said, regarding the glass cubicles with a cold eye.
âOh, don't wait,' Julia said. âShow me the Salle another day.' She was suddenly nervous, afraid of being overheard, afraid of almost everything. Nethersole was very quick at the uptake, and said nicelyâ
âI'll go and wait on the lawn outside. I'm in no hurry. But you really ought to see the Salle, it's so portentous.' He went off, and Julia hoped fervently that he supposed her to be ringing up Geoffrey Consett.
She delved into her bag for money, wondering how one said âA. D. and C.' in Switzerland. However, the manâthank goodnessâat the desk was both polite and intelligent; on his advice she made it a personal call, giving Colin's name and the office number. Then she sank down onto a bench, and waited. In no time at all the man called outââLe numÃ©ro onze, Mademoiselle'; Julia bolted into box II, and there on the line, as clear as if they were in the same room, was Colin's voiceââHullo? Who is it?'
âMeâdon't use names.'
âOf course not, darling. What goes on?'
âEvery sort ofdesastre.'She heard him giggle at the Spanish word. âNo. it isn't funny. They've been ahead of us.'
âWhat do you mean?'
âI'll tell you. Listen carefully; I'm going to talk Gaelic' âWell speak very slowly, will you? Mine's got rather buried.'
Julia had been thinking up phrases during the brief moments while she sat waiting on the bench. She now said slowly, using the archaic expressions of that archaic tongue: âTo the House of Gold, in this city, came a maiden who pretended to be one that she was not;agus(and) a youth who said that he was her betrothedâtall, dark-skinned, with the aspect of one who comes from the landsof the Sun's rising.' She paused. âGot that?' she asked anxiously in English.
âI think so. D'you mean a Chink?'
âWith them came abodach(old man) who pretended to be the guardian of the maiden.'
âHold onâthewhatof the maiden?' Colin asked in English.
âOh yes, I see. But do talk slower.'
âAt the House of Gold these three spoke with anotherbodach, old and foolish, who believed their words, and gave them the parchments.'
Colin's command of Gaelic was less than Julia's. âThewhat,'he asked in English again.
âOh God! Oh, damn! Why were you so slow? I told you to hurry.'
âYes, but you hadn't given me the one thing needful, stupidâI had to wait for that,' Julia said sharply. She switched to Gaelic again. âThus six days were lost; and six days since, these went and obtained possession of the parchments.'
âAs near as that?' Colin asked miserably, again in English.
There was a short pause. âLook, I'm finding this lingo rather a strain,' Colin said. âCan't we play our old game?'
âBetter notâthis is much safer. I'll talk very slowly.' She went on in GaelicââMo chridhe(my heart) you should come to me at once.'
âAnd if I cannot?'
âTo what place?'
âBut to the city of the House of Gold! Take wings!' She heard him chuckle at thatâeven in Gaelic there was a phrase for an aeroplane.
âBut there, where do we meet,m'eudail?'(my jewel.)
Julia herself paused, thinking how to say, âRing up' in Gaelic.
âYou speak on a long thin thread with a small bell; you speak with him who is really the guardian of your betrothed one. He will tell you where we can meet. Got that?' she asked smartly in English.
âYes; clever girl! Can you give me the number?'
âBetter not.' She switched back to Gaelic. âHis name is not inscribed; seek the word âshepherd'. Got that?' she asked again.
âI think so. All-same NiemÃ¶ller, yesâno?'
âYes. Good for you! The canton is Fribourg,' she continued in English.
âWhy that? I knew it.'
âYou'll see why. And on what day?' she added, again in Gaelic.
âNo, my heart. The day that follows. I beseech you!'
She heard Colin giggle again.
âGoodness, what a memory you've got! Very wellâwhen you say. I'm sure they'll let me go.'
âObviously they must. Till then.' She closed this peculiar and mixed conversation in Gaelic, âFarewell, my heart'âto which Colin very modernly replied, âBye, darling darling.'
She paid the huge cost of a prolonged personal call from Geneva to London in the middle of the day, and then was lift-borne down three floors to where Nethersole was patiently patrolling the rather poor turf which surrounds the Palais des Nations. Abstractedly, she allowed herself to be shown the portentous Chamber, with its pallid meretricious symbolic bas-reliefs (so like the old Queen's Hall in London), its tables, desks, microphones, and press-galleriesâall the elaborate paraphernalia for international propaganda, and the loud pretending that âthere is peace, where there is no peace'.
âRather dim, isn't it?' Nethersole said.
âNot dimâlurid!' said Julia with vigour.
She had little more than half an hour, when a taxi hadcarried her back to the Bergues, to freshen up and be ready for the Pastor. She decided to wait for him at one of the pavement tables outside the tea-room, so that there would be no giving of names to the hall-porter; certainly Antrobusâshe still thought of him as âthe detective'âknew that she was staying there, but since she had signally failed to learn what he was doing, there was no point in giving away gratuitous information about de Ritter. She ordered an icedcafÃ©-crÃ¨me, paid for it at once, and sat sipping it at a table close to the hotel entrance; the moment the big FrÃ©gate drew up she walked quickly to it, and was getting in at one door before Jean-Pierre had time to get out at the other.
âTiens!You are remarkably prompt! How are you?' he said, as he swung left over the Pont des Bergues.
âDistracted, of course,' Julia said. She looked calm and beautiful, which is a very good thing to do if one is distracted, though few achieve itâde Ritter glanced at her and smiled his shrewd smile.
âYes. Aren't you? This old clot de Kessler has let these crooks carry off all Aglaia's money, and the oil papers, whatever they are.'
âIt is serious,' he agreed, as he pulled up outside the over-magnificent portals of the Banque RÃ©publicaine.
The door-mat didn't let them in at this hour, but a uniformed porter, hovering behind the bronze and glass, did so at once, and took them, not to thesalle d'attentewith the petunia window-boxes, but to a much more severe apartment, where Chambertin and de Kessler awaited them.
Julia enormously enjoyed listening to Jean-Pierre's dealings with the two bankersâhe tore them to shreds with the most urbane skill. Chambertin presently said that enquiries had been sent out by telephone, and that so far as could be ascertained, no such party had crossed the frontier, outward-bound, in the last six days.
âThen they must be waiting hereâprobably to meet someone; some emissary.Ãcoutez, mon cher Alcide, surelyyou realise that for the present any general alert, above all any publicity, is most undesirable? I imagine you must inform Interpol, but do urge discretion on everyone. You understand, of course, that since the passportsces typesused to perpetrate their fraud on the bank were quite certainly forged, they may well use others for their departure. So the passport number may be of little relevance.'
Chambertin agreed to this last point, but he was terribly worried; the bank, he pointed out, was in a frightful positionâhe threw a baleful glance at de Kessler as he spoke.
âWhat I would suggest, if I may,' Jean-Pierre went on, âis that a description of these three persons should be circulated to the Swiss police, with instructions to make enquiriesâit goes without saying with the utmost discretionâat all hotels inle pays. Monsieur de Kessler can probably furnish a description?'
âMademoiselle Probyn can furnish a much better one,' Chambertin said acidly.
âOh never mind how! I happened to see all these crooks when I was coming out,' Julia saidââthe luckiest chance.' And presently she was dictating in French to an elderly male stenographer the best description she could give of the party she had seen at Victoria. âIf only I'd kept the papers!' she exclaimed at the end. âThey were full of pictures of Aglaia, and a photograph is worthpagesof description.'
âWhy were they full of Mademoiselle Armitage's pictures?' Jean-Pierre enquired.
âBecause “Richest Girl in Europe” had just sailed for the Argentine. Of course she isn't that any more, unless these people are caught.'
âYou, yourself, have no photograph of her?' Chambertin enquired.
âIn any case, must they not sign afichewhen they arrive at an hotel?' de Ritter asked.
âYes, they mustâbut in what name will they sign?'Chambertin replied. âIt all turns on whether they are using one set of passports or two. Naturally thefichemust match the passport. If only we had a photograph!'
De Ritter turned to Julia.
âEt le cousin germain?Might heâ'
Julia interrupted him brusquely, âLet us leave that for later.' She turned to Chambertin, âIf I can produce a photograph, you shall have it.'
Outside, in the car, Julia said, âIf you can spare another half-hour, let us go somewhere where we can talk.'
âThen to your hotel.'
âOh noâhotel walls have longer ears than any others!'
He laughed. âThen where?'
âLet's go and sit on the Ãle RousseauâI love it.'
There they went, the Pastor parking his car on the farther side of the Pont des Bergues. Seated at a table under the trees by the river, looking upstream towards the lake, the lofty snowy fountain, and the blue mountains beyond, Julia spoke in English.
âColin is coming out tomorrow. I telephoned to him at lunch-time from the Palais des Nations.'
âBut this must cost a fortune!' the Pastor said, looking quite shocked.
âA fortune is at stake,' Julia saidââand a good deal more, too. But the question is, where can he and I meet? I thought you might know of some modest pension here where he could stay. I don't want him to come to the Bergues.'
âBecause there's a suspicious character staying there. I saw him on the platform in London when I saw those three, and he travelled out on the same trainâand now here he is again. So I'd rather Colin stayed somewhere else.
âAt what hour does your cousin arrive tomorrow?'
âI haven't the faintest idea!âand he wouldn't have told me over the telephone, of course.'
âOh my dear Monsieur de Ritter, people in his job don'tadvertisetheir movements, especially when something like this is going on.'
âHow very interesting! But how then can we establish contact?'
âI told him to ring you up at Bellardon when he arrives, and that you would tell him where to go. So do you know of a small, obscure place?' Julia pressed him urgently.
De Ritter considered for a momentâthen he laughed his loud delightful laugh.
âIndeed I do. Bellardon is very small, and most obscure. Let him come and stay at La Cure; and you,chÃ¨re Mademoiselle, shall return to usâwe shall rejoice to have youâand there you can concert your plans in peace.'
Julia considered in her turnâshe hesitated so long that the Pastor was surprised, and askedâ
âYou do not wish to come back to us?'
âOh, it's not thatâI adore being at La Cure. Only it's rather an imposition on Germaine, and besides I'm just wondering whether we ought all to be under one hat.'
âAll three of us under one roof, if anyone tried something on. I don't want to be alarmist, but one never knows.'
âI am not sure that I understand you.'
For answer, Julia pushed aside her tawny-gold hair and showed the Pastor a long white scar running down one side of her forehead.
âI got that from a bomb in Marrakesh. The people who threw it were trying to blow up Colin, but they got me instead.'
The Pastor looked at the scar in horrified amazement.âC'est affreux!'He reflected. âSuch things are quite outside my experience. Nevertheless, I think Bellardon a goodvenue, and I must confess that I should greatly like to meet Aglaia's fiancÃ©. What do you say?'
On the whole Julia said Yes.
âThen can I not drive you out tonight? How long do you need tofaire vos malles?'
âOh, I can pack in half an hour. But you mustn't pickme up at the hotelâI'll come in a taxi and meet you, somewhere where you can park inconspicuously. What about the station? People putting luggage in and out of cars all the time.'
He laughed. âThis is quite amusing. I feel as if I were living in aroman policier! Very wellâI will park in the courtyard, and will wait for you myself in that restaurant on the left of the station entrance, at one of the outside tables. This is extremely normal.'
âThat's rightânormal is the ticket,' Julia replied.
Julia walked across one side of the rectangled bridge to pack, the Pastor returned across the other to get his car. In the hall of the hotel the concierge handed Julia a letterâit was from Mrs. Hathaway.
âAs soon as you conveniently can, I should like it if you could come back here, and take me to Beatenberg. I am quite fit to travel now, if I have a courierâand I think it would be well to give the staff here a rest. Herr Waechter has taken rooms for us at the Hotel Silberhorn.'
She thrust the letter into her bag, packed quickly, and went down. In the hall stood Antrobus.
âOh, are you leaving already?' he asked.
âYesâI must get back to Gersau, where I have a friend who isn't well,' Julia said deliberately.
He looked at his watch.
âYou will miss the last boat from Lucerne to Gersau tonight,' he observed.
âNo I shan'tâI'm stopping the night with friends on the way.'
âWell if itisany business of yours, not in Berne,' Julia said tartly.
âOh, excuse me. Berne is on the way, that's all. Anyhowbon voyageâI hope we meet again soon.'
Julia hoped this very much too, but merely said, âOn present form it seems almost inevitable, doesn't it?'
At that he laughed, and came out and handed her into her taxi. What a mercy they had settled to meet at the station, Julia thought, as she saidâA la gare!'to the porter.The Pastor had managed to park fairly near the open-air restaurant; he rose from one of the little tables, her luggage was transferred to the FrÃ©gate, and soon they were speeding along the superb Swiss roads, the gentle country-side all golden in the evening light. It was late when they got in, but Germaine was waiting, pretty and fresh; the warmth of her welcoming kiss gave Julia a happy sense of homecoming. Over the excellent supper Jean-Pierre, to Julia's professional dismay, insisted on putting his wife into the picture thoroughlyâGermaine was all interest and sympathy, and delighted at the prospect of having another guest.
âTomorrow? By then more asparagus will be ready,' she remarked. âYou can cut it, Julia.'
In fact it was just as well that Germaine had been told, for when Colin rang up next day the Pastor was out, and she answered the telephone. Recognising an English voiceâthough it spoke excellent FrenchâGermaine, who was much more security-minded than her husband, asked at once, âWould you care to speak with your cousin? She is hereâJulie, I mean.'
âYes, if you please.'
While Julia was telling Colin to come straight on to âthe house of NiemÃ¶ller's colleague' Germaine was consulting the time-table. âTell him to take the train of 15 hours 55 minutes to Lausanne, and change there. He will get a connection in a few minutes, and we will meet him at the station.' When Julia had rung off she said, âEven if he spoke from the airport he will have time to catch that train.' She brushed some fallen peony-petals off the table in the hall into her hand, adding, âQuite so much discretion is really hardly necessary here for internal calls; since everything is automatic there are no operators to overhear. But discretion never does any harm.' She returned to her stove and Julia went out to cut the asparagus for supper, and get fresh flowers for the dining-room.
âCut some roses for your cousin's room,' Germaine called through the kitchen window. âThey are just beginning.'
It was Julia who took the hand-cart down through the clean sunny little village to meet Colin; he gave his boyish giggle over this novel arrangement. âDon't kiss me at La Cure,' Julia said, after his cousinly hug on the platform.
âWhy ever not?'
âJean-Pierre was a little suspicious because I signed that telegram “Darling”. I told him it was just a code-word, but don't go and wreck it all.'
âIs he stuffy and portentous? How frightful.'
âNo. You'll see.'
Colin saw, over a late tea in the arbour beside the lawn, now festooned with the washing of a daughter-in-law. The Pastor was obviously studying his ward's fiancÃ© with the deepest interest, and when they repaired to the study to talkles affaires, Julia could see that he was favourably impressed by the young man's passionate concern over the loss of the documents, and complete indifference about the moneyâhe never asked a single question about that.
De Ritter told Colin that the Swiss police, very discreetly, were on the look-out for the party, and asked if he could supply a photograph of his fiancÃ©e? Colin, jerking his thumb out, an obstinate look on his face, said that he couldn't. He however produced the information that in London it was thought improbable that the impostors had yet left Switzerland; it was considered more likely that they would wait in this ultra-neutral country to contact their principals and hand over their haul. The Pastor innocently asked who the principals were?âJulia laughed at him. âHe couldn't tell you even if he knew.'
It was settled that Colin should go on next day to Berne to see âour people' there, and take them Julia's description of the party of three; Julia then explained that she ought to return to Gersau, to take Mrs. Hathaway to Beatenberg.
âBut how you come and go!' de Ritter exclaimed regretfully. âWe likelongvisits.'
âSome time I'll come and pay you a proper one, and stay ages,' Julia told him, âwhen the job's done'âand rang up Herr Waechter to announce her return next day to take Mrs. Hathaway to Beatenberg the day after.
Later the Pastor drew her aside. âI approve,' he said. âA little immature still in some ways, but time will remedy that.C'est un charmant garÃ§on'Colin for his part, up in Julia's room, said, âHe is most frightfully nice, isn't he? As an in-law I can't imagine anyone I should like more.'
âHe's only a god-in-law,' Julia said. âBut I agree.'
Though Colin was going to Berne and Julia had to pass through it, they carefully arranged to travel not only by different trains but by different routes, he by NeuchÃ¢tel, she via Lausanneâto the Pastor's incredulous amusement. âBut you are in Switzerland!' he said.
âSo are some other people,' Colin replied.
At Gersau next day in thesalonJulia, idly turning over the pages of a fortnight-oldParis-Match, came on a page devoted to Aglaia and her story; there was a full-length studio photograph and, as often withParis-Match, a snapshot (probably bought from a servant) of Colin and Aglaia together, looking very lover-like, in the garden of some country-house. Julia was normally rather scrupulous about other people's newspapers, but in this instance she did not ask Herr Waechter's permission, but took the magazine up to her room and removed the whole page; she cut out the studio portrait, borrowed a large envelope, and posted it herself to M. Chambertin at the bank with a note clipped to itââThis is the likeness you require. J. P.' The snapshot she put in her note-case.Chapter 6Beatenberg and the Niederhorn
Beatenberg is a mountain village perched on a ledge facing South above the Lake of Thun; its chief claim to distinction, apart from its remarkably beneficent air, is the fact that it is over seven kilometres, or nearly five miles, long. A bus careers at fairly frequent intervals up and down the long straggling street, set with hotels, pensions, convalescent homes and shops, from Wahnegg, at the head of the road up from Interlaken at one end, to the top of the funicular railway going down to Beatenbucht to connect with the lake steamers at the otherâthere is no way up or down in between, only sheer cliff. The drive up from Interlaken in the Post-Auto is rather hair-raising: for much of the way the road is narrow, with blind hairpin bends, and the bus vast; it proclaims its advent by blaring out a pretty little tune on six notes, and cars squeeze into the rocky bush-grown banks to allow the great machine to edge past, its outer wheels horribly near the lip of the steep wooded slope. A notice in three languages at the front of the bus adjures passengers not to address the driver, but this is cheerfully ignored both by the local passengers and the driver himselfâif a pretty young woman is on the front seat there is often practically a slap-and-tickle party the whole way.
By this route Mrs. Hathaway, Julia, and WatkinsâWatkins audibly disapproving of the blond driver's goings-on with a black-haired girlâarrived at the Hotel Silberhorn, a medium-sized hotel three-quarters of the way along that endless village street. Since Herr Waechter, brought up in the hotel trade, had recommended the place they had expected something rather good, and were startled by the extreme smallness of the rooms: Mrs. Hathaway's, a double room with one bed taken out, and a cubby-hole of a private bathroom, was quite small enough; as for Julia'sand Watkins's singles, they were like prison cells, though each had a minute balcony with a chairâand all alike shared the view: the whole BlÃ¼mlisalp range stood up, white, glittering and glorious, across the lake. The keynote of the hotel was extreme simplicityâcoconut matting along the corridors, the minimum of furniture in the rooms; but the food was excellent, served piping hot on plastic boxes with pierced metal tops, over night-lights. The huge plate-glass windows of the restaurant commanded the view too; waitresses in high-heeled sandals pattered to and fro across the parquet floor, their heels making a loud clacking noise; their activities were supervised by a grey-haired woman known as FrÃ¤ulein Hanna, who appeared to be a sort of combination of house-keeper, head barmaid, and general organiser.
It was all rather scratch, but there were the essentials, as Mrs. Hathaway said: comfort, cleanliness, good food, and, from FrÃ¤ulein Hanna especially, the utmost consideration. Like all English travellers in Switzerland today Mrs. Hathaway and her party liked to brew their own morning and afternoon tea in their bedrooms, partly because then itwastea, but also because these items were not included in the very highprix fixe;if one took both of them, and coffee after lunch and dinner as well, it added ten shillings a day to one's expenses. Mrs. Hathaway and Watkins both had small electric saucepans with long flexes which would plug in in place of any electric light bulb; on seeing these objects FrÃ¤ulein Hanna, far from showing any resentment, enquired earnestly what their voltage was?âit proved to match that of the hotel, to her manifest satisfaction. All three of course used Mrs. Hathaway's private bathroom; the hotel bathrooms were kept locked, and a charge of five francs, or nearly ten shillings, made for a bath. Watkins was outraged by this. âWell really! How do they expect people to keep clean? And with all that water running to waste down-hill all the time!' (This fantastic charge for baths is in fact a thing which the SwisshÃ´telierswould do well to remedy.)
For the next two days Julia and Mrs. Hathaway exploredtheir end of the village. They found a nice little shop barely three hundred yards away, set in a grove of pine-trees, at which to buy their sugar and NescafÃ©; they walked gently up a fenced path between flowery meadows to the Parallel-Weg, a narrow road running parallel to, but a short distance above the village street, with seats at frequent intervals; they peered in at the open door of the cow-stable just opposite the hotel garden, and saw the huge cream-and-yellow Emmenthaler cows, still tied in their stalls, munching away at fresh-cut grassâout in the meadows the hotel cat, also white and yellow, sat at the edge of the high uncut grass in the evenings, watching for field-mice. Mrs. Hathaway delighted in the place: besides the exquisite view, here was peace, calm, and a native community leading its own pastoral life, untroubled by the tourists, who so early in the season were relatively few.
Colin rang up on the second evening to say that he was coming next day, and would Julia book him a room? He came up on the Post-Auto, which always pulled up opposite a petrol-pump next to the cow-stable; before dinner he and Julia strolled up the little path to the Parallel-Weg, and leaning back on one of the wooden seats, with not a soul in sight, he told her what he had learned in Berne. âThey' had quite definitely not left Switzerland; they were waiting there to make contact with their principals, who would be coming in from abroadâmeanwhile the Swiss police were conducting enquiries at all hotels.
Julia told him about finding the photograph of Aglaia inParis-Match,and how she had sent it to Chambertin.
âOh well, I think that was quite all rightâreally rather useful,' Colin said.
âYou'd got one all the time, hadn't you?' Julia asked.
âYes, of course I hadâbut why should those bastards have it? If they'd had any wits they'd have looked atParis-Matchthemselves.' He sniffed the sweet air, and gazed across at the BlÃ¼mlisalp range, now turning to a pale rose as the sun sank. âHow nice it is here! Do let's relax for a few days till something happens. What's the food like at the pub?'
âGood,' Julia told him.
In fact something happened the very next day. Mrs. Hathaway had quite got over the journey from Gersau, and was perfectly happy either sitting in the garden, or pottering up and down the village street with Watkins, so Julia and Colin decided to go up the Niederhorn, the mountain immediately behind Beatenberg, in the Sessel-Bahn; see the view, and walk down.
The now universal practice of winter sports in Switzerland has conferred one great benefit on travellers at all times of year. Every mountain with slopes suitable for skiing has been provided either with a funicular railway, or at least some form of ski-lift, by which the lazy modern skier can be carried to the summit without effort, shoot down, be carried up again, and shoot down once moreâthey function in the summer too, so that any tourist can reach the tops of the lesser mountains. The Niederhorn Sessel-Bahn is one of the more elegant of these contraptions, with twin seats (slung from a strong steel cable) complete with foot-board and a little sun-canopy overhead, into which an attendant clamps the passengers by a metal bar across their stomachs. Julia and Colin, so clamped, were wafted out of the small station and up through the tops of the pine-trees. It was delicious sailing through the sunny air; people on other seats coming down on the opposite cable, a few feet away, waved to them out of sheerjoie de vivre. Colin pulled out a map and looked out the way downâhe was very map-minded. One path was visible, zig-zagging through the trees close below them; the only other slanted across the upper slopes to descend at the far end of the villageâsheer cliffs cut off the section in between.
Half-way up they swung into a large shed, where the seats were hitched onto an overhead rail and hauled by hand round a semi-circle, to be hooked onto another cable for the upper section of the journey; the sides of this shed were full of enormous white-metal milk-churns.
âWhatcanthose be for?' Julia speculated. âThe cows aren't up on the high pastures yet.'
âHow do you know?'
âBecause they're still down in the village in their stallsâI'll show you. They're only taken up when the lower grass is finished, and it has grown properly up on the alpsâa peasant was telling Mrs. H. about it. You can see that there's hardly a bite up here yet,' Julia said, peering down; they were now above the tree-line and swinging up over open pastures, still pallid and brownish after the recently-departed snow. âOh, look!' the girl exclaimedââThose must be gentians. We must pick some for Mrs. H., she's mad on wild-flowers.' Colin, also peering from his seat, saw some brilliant blue stars shining in the drab grass. âGood idea,' he said.
But on arrival at the small summit station it was at once evident that picking gentians would be a very bad idea indeed. Large placards in four languages proclaimed that the wholeNiederhorn-Gebietwas aNatur-Reserve,where the picking of any flowers was most strictly forbidden. âOh dear,' Julia regretted as they strolled up to the platform on the top, where a panorama of the visible mountains was spread out under a glass frame beside a large telescope. Both panorama and telescope were crowded with tourists, jostling one another for position; Julia and Colin left them alone, and went over and looked down on the farther side. Here the Niederhorn, sloping up easily from the South, ends in a series of vertical cliffs, dropping some hundreds of feet to steep slopes of grass and forest above the Justis-thal, a long narrow valley running in from the Lake of Thun to a grey scree-coveredcolat its head. The valley is bounded on the farther side by similar slopes and cliffs, and a thin white thread of road runs up through the flat green meadows along the valley-floor. Julia was rather startled by the FlÃ¼h, or cliff; she drew back her head. They left the platform and walked away from the tourists, eastwards along the ridge, till from a projecting buttress they again looked over into the valley.
âWhat's the little town down on the lake?' she asked.
âMerligen,' Colin said, without consulting his map.
âMerligen? I have an acquaintance there,' Julia said, remembering the little man from âCorsette-Air'. âColin,wouldn't it be nice to take Mrs. H. to Merligen on the steamer and hire a car, and drive her up the Justis-Thal?âI call it a darling valley. Why Justice, by the way?'
âTwo English missionaries, Justus and Beatus, originally converted this part of Switzerland to Christianity. âEnce the word orse-'air,' Colin said, using an old Glentoran nonsense. âBeatenberg, too. But one can't drive up the Justis-Thal; it's a military area, where no cars are allowed.'
Julia cautiously peered over into the green depths. âIt doesn't look very military,' she said. âI don't see any barracks, or anything.'
âNo, you don't; that's the point. The barracks are in the mountains. Those cliffs opposite, and these plumb under us here, are bung full of ammunition and guns and so forthâin some parts they even have military hospitals inside the mountains, so I heard in Berne. Terrific people, the Swiss.'
Julia sat down on the yellowish turf and lit a cigarette.
âI'm beginning to think so.'
Colin gestured back at the Lake of Thun, of which a segment was visible at the mouth of the valley.
âThat's full of stores, tooâyears' and years' supply of butter and cheese and flour and corn, sunk in metal containers hundreds of feet down. These lakes are very deep.'
Julia was entranced by this.
âBut doesn't it get stale?âespecially the cheese and butter?'
âOh, they howk up the containers every so often, and empty them and put in fresh. A Swiss I met was telling me about it. The butter they always get out while it's still usable; and if the cheese is a bit dry they grate it and sell it in bottles.'
They wandered on a little farther, and came on a patch of still unmelted snow, dirty and pock-marked; round its edges small white crocuses were springing from the brown sodden turf, making a new snowiness to replace the old. âOh, I wish I could take just one to Mrs. H.,' Julia said.
âBetter notâthey mean what they say about pickingflowers, as about everything else,' Colin said. âI saw a type in uniform wandering about near the station. Come back to the pub and have a beer before we go down.'
The pub was a long low building with a restaurant and a broad terrace outside, on which numerous people sat drinking beer or coffee at little tables; Colin and Julia sat there too and drank their beer in the sun. âIt's a nice clean wash-place,' Julia said; âboiling hot water.'
âI wonder how they get their water up here,' Colin speculated. âThere's no sign of a spring.'
âPumped, I suppose,' Julia replied indifferently.
They had strolled and idled so long on the top that Julia said they had better not walk down, or they would be madly late. âLet's come up another day and walk right along and down to the village at the far end.' Colin agreed to this, and presently they were swinging down through the air again, over the high meadows.
Now on the Sessel-Bahn you can see passengers travelling in the opposite direction a hundred yards away or more; and coming up towards them Julia now saw the girl she had seen at Victoria, perched in a seat beside the dark young man. âColin,look!'she breathed.
Colin stared. âIt can't be!' he exclaimed.
âNo, it isn't. It's her double. But look well at the manâit's them all right.'
Colin looked hard at the pair as they were borne past in the air, only a few feet away; then he and Julia discussed rapidly what to do. They decided that Julia should get out at the half-way halt and return to the summit, to see what she could of the pair, while in case she was not in time to meet them, Colin should go on to the bottom and wait there; when they came down he would follow them, whether they took the bus to Interlaken, or the funicular to Beatenbucht and the lake. âThey certainly can't get away at the top,' Julia said, thinking of that dizzy range of limestone cliffs and buttresses.
âUnless they do what we were planning just now, and walk all the way across and down to Wahnegg.'
âOh, she couldn't. She was wearing the silliest littlehigh-heeled shoes. Here we are'âand as they swung into the shed she called to one of the men who were manoeuvring the seats round the circular rail leading to the lower section to unclamp her bar and let her out. âDer Herr auch?'the man asked.
âNein,not the Herr.' She sprang out. âStick to them likeglue,'she called to Colin as he swung out of the shed and off into space.
There was some difficulty about getting a seat up to the summit of the Niederhorn again; though an occasional passenger got off at the halt to walk up the last stretch over the alpine pastures far more, with return tickets, had walked down half-way, and wished to finish their descent airborne. Julia had a booklet of the invaluableFerien-Billets(holiday tickets), which, issued to foreign tourists, enable them to make mountain excursions at half the official price; she produced this, and after some fuss a ticket was acceptedâusually they were only taken at the top or the bottom, she was told. She had to wait some time for a seat, and employed this interval, as was her habit, in ingratiating herself with the people on the spot, men in blue dungarees who manipulated the seats at the halt; from them she enquired about the milk-churns. Oh, those were for water. There was no water at the summit; every drop had to be carried up in the evening after the Sessel-Bahn was closed to passengers, in the churns, and manhandled from the station some hundred yards to fill the cisterns of the restaurant. âBoth guests andGeschirr'(kitchen utensils) âneed water for washing,' an elderly man said, grinning.
At last she secured an empty half of one of the twin seats, and was again borne upwards. She was tremendously excitedâthe more so after the delay at the halt; by keeping a sharp eye on the descending seats she had established that the pair she sought had not yet come down, nor did they pass her in the air. âJust keep your eyes openâthat's all you can do,' she adjured herself as she got out at the summit and began to walk up towards the restaurant.
This activity brought an immediate reward. A littlebelow the path she saw on the grassy slope the sham Aglaia, a bunch ofGentiana vernain her hand, being violently scolded by one of the Nature-Reserve wardens. She ran down to them. The girl was in tears; obviously she could not make out what it was all about. There was no sign of the dark young man.
âThe FrÃ¤ulein does not understand,' Julia told the official.
âThe notice forbidding to pick flowers is also in English,' he said indignantly.
âJawohlâbut the FrÃ¤ulein must not have lookedâI think it is her first journey abroad. Is there some fine to pay?' she asked, opening her bag.
âNein. But letdas MÃ¤dchennot do this again.' He stumped off.
âOh, thank you ever so! What did you say to him?' the girl asked Julia, as they began to walk up towards the restaurant. âHe was being as nasty as anything, and I couldn't understand a single word!'
âHe was scolding you for picking those flowers,' Julia said.
âBecause this is a Nature-Reserve, like our National Parks, and picking flowers is forbidden; there's a big notice in English to say so, just by the station. But I told the man that you hadn't looked at it, because it was your first trip abroad. Is it?' Julia asked, with a friendly smile.
âWell yes, ackcherly. I don't like it much, eitherâthe food's so funny, and I can't talk to people, except the porter in the hotel, silly old thing! He does talk English, though.'
The imitation Aglaia was obviously the commonest of little Londoners; too suburban for anything as genuine as a Cockney, and not very intelligent. Julia was thrilled by this piece of luck, but a little worried about the dark young man. She tried to play her hand carefully.
âDid you come up here alone?'
âOh no. Mr. Wright'âshe corrected herself hastilyââI mean Mr. Monro came up with me; but he likes climbingup things, and he's gone off. He said I was to stay on the terrace and look at the mountainsâbut I hate those old mountains, all snow and ice, and when I saw these little flowers in the grass I came down to pick some. I didn't know it was wrong. I âspose I'd better throw them away, if there's all this trouble.'
âNo, give them to me,' Julia said, and stowedG. vernain her capacious bag.
âWell, that's a good idea. Aoh!' The girl gave a little scream, and nearly fellâJulia put out a hand and caught her. One of her idiotic high heels had turned on a loose stone, wrenching her ankle; between pain and shock she could hardly walk. Julia, an arm round the tiny figure, dragged her up to the restaurant and sat her down on a stool in the wash-room; she borrowed a pantry-cloth from the cheerful Swiss maids and applied this as a cold compress, tying it in place with her own head-scarf.
âIs that any easier?' she asked.
âYes, a bit.'
âThen let's go out and have some coffee on the terrace. Do you like coffee?'
âNot all that muchâbut the tea here is so lousy! Youarebeing kind.'
Julia ordered coffee for two. Perhaps she was being kind; certainly she was enjoying a most blessed stroke of luck, and set about profiting by it. âHow long have you been in Switzerland?' she asked.
âNearly three weeks. Mr. Borovali said it would be a nice holiday for me, but it isn't being, not so veryâand now I've gone and hurt my foot.' She showed signs of tears starting afresh. âI expect he'll be cross! They said at the Agency that he'd be so nice, and give me a lovely time, but he's very often cross.'
Julia was riveted by the word agency, and asked about it.
âOh, the “Modern Face Agency”, off Shaftesbury Avenue. I get my modelling jobs through them. Oh, not artists or the nude, or anything like that!âjust modelling for the ads, you know. I tried for a mannequin, but I'mtoo small, even for Small Woman clothes. But I get a lot of quite good modelling jobs, shoes or jewellery, mostlyâmy feet are a treat for shoes. Oh, do you think this ankle will swell?' Tears again threatened. âMy feet are my fortune, as you might say'âhalf giggling.
Julia realised that the little thing really had had quite a shock, and while she tried to console her about her ankle she ordered Kirsch for them both. âPut it in your coffeeâit will do you good,' she said. She was beginning to see a flood of light, and while the girl sipped, she thought hard about safe questions.
âOh, that does taste funny! No, it's nice, really. Ta.'
âDoes Mr. Borovali pay as well as the Agency?' Julia enquired.
âNot quiteâonly Â£6 a week; but of course I get my keep for the month, and I'm to keep my outfit.'
âMr. Borovali has good taste, has he?'
âOh, perfect. Someexquisitethings I've got.' The pretty little thing looked dreamily out at the glorious forms of the Bernese Alps, shining under the sun like the ramparts of Heaven.'Exquisite,'she repeated rapturouslyâ'Evening frocks and all. Mum wasn't so keen on my coming, just with two gentlemen, but really, the clothes alone have been worth itâand they've been quite all right,' she added confidentially. She paused, and sipped again at her coffee and Kirsch.
âMum isn't all that keen on the modelling either,' she pursued, âbut a girl's got to live, hasn't she? I'm no good in shops, I simply can't get the bills right! And since Dad died I have to help Mum; I usually give her Â£3 a week.'
This was said proudly, but very nicelyâJulia was rather touched. She asked what âDad' had done.
âOh, in business.' This too was said rather proudly. âWell ackcherly he was a traveller for a surgical equipment firm, really quite high-class. I sometimes wish he'd travelled in the garment trade; then Mum and I might have got things on the cheap.' She looked wistfully at Julia. âThat's a heavenly suit you've got onâd'you mind if I ask where you got it?'
Julia glanced down at her own soft, plainly-cut grey-green tweed. In the context she suddenly did mind telling this eager candid child its origin, but she couldn't think of a probable lie in time, and said âHartnell.'
âNever! Well, it looks it.' She figured the stuff almost reverently.
âWhere did Mr. Borovali get your things?' Julia enquired hastily. âThat's such a pretty dress.'
âD'you really like it? I am glad. He got them at a very good wholesale place, only they all had to be taken in, of course. But by the way, I oughtn't to call him Mr. BorovaliâMister de Ritter he likes to be known as, on this tripâin case you should meet him.'
âI'll rememberâthough I don't expect I shall meet him.' She was thinking how to frame her next question.
âHow shall you get back, with that foot?' she asked. âHave you far to go?'
âOnly down to Interlarken. The bus goes from the bottom of this swinging-boat affairâgoodness, isn't it ghastly? As bad as the Wall of Death,Ithink. And from the bus-stop in Interlarken I s'pose Mr. Wrightâsorry, I mean Mr. Monroâwill just have to take a taxi to the hotel.'
âI'm sure he will. Is it a nice hotel?'
âThe Flooss? Oh, not too bad. It's right on the river, and you can see the steamers coming up to the quay, and watch the people going on and off. But Flooss is ever such a silly name, don't you think?âmakes one think of floosies.' She giggled.
From this description Julia surmised, rightly, that the party must be staying at theHotel zum Flussin Interlaken, much praised by Baedeker, and was delighted to have this concrete piece of information for Colin. She felt it safe to ask this obviously foolish child how long she was staying?
âWell I'm not sure. We should have been going home day after tomorrow, but some friends of Mr. BorâI mean Mr. de Ritter's, that he wants to meet, haven't turned up, so we must stay on till they do.'
âOh well, if you're staying on we might meet again,'Julia said brightly. âI'm up here at Beatenberg, at the Hotel Silberhorn, but if I come down I might look you up, Missâ?' Her voice hung on the query.
âPhillipsâJune Phillips,' the girl said briskly. âI'd love to see you againâyou're so kind.' Then her face fell. âSorryâI am too silly, with this foot hurting so! June Phillips is just my trade name; only I get so accustomed to using it. My real name is Aglaia Armitage.'
âSo if I came to the hotel I should ask for Miss Armitage?' Julia asked carefully. Presumably they were still using the forged passports, but she wanted to be sure.
âThat's right.' Then the pretty face clouded again. âD'you know, I'm not sure you'd better do that,' June Phillips said worriedly. âMr. B. doesn't seem to care for me to talk to people; there are some English people at the Flooss, but if they start talking to me, he makes some excuse to get me away. Oh, I am so dull!'
How right Mr. B. was, Julia thoughtâin the circumstances he could hardly do otherwise, saddled with this witless little creature. But she was sorry for poor June, wearing her pretty new clothes in vain. Before she had settled on some suitable response the girl pulled out an envelope with an English stamp on it.
âYou write your name and address on that, do,' she urged. âAnd your âphone number. Then I could ring you up, if I was free any time.'
After a moment's hesitation Julia did as she was askedâafter all it didn't involve Colin in the least. As June Phillips pocketed the envelope Julia put a further question. âSurely Mr. Monro is a pleasant companion?'
âWell not all that much. He's all right, and of course he looks ever so distinguished; but if we come out like this he always wants to go off scrambling on rocks, or climbing up some mountainâwhich is no fun forme,'June said energetically. âAnd the rest of the time he's generally binding away about a situation he lost in one of those Arab countries, and how unfair it was.' She paused, and then leaned confidentially across the table. âI don't think he's really enjoying this job any more than I am, exceptthe climbingâthough he's paid much more than me.'
âYes!âand I do think that's unfair, too. After all, he isn't like anyone.' She caught herself up, dismayed. âSorryâI didn't mean that. I'm just silly today!'
Julia hastened to help her out. âPerhaps Mr. Monro is an expert about something,' she said.
âOh I don't think so, really, or why was he fired? But he has lived in these outlandish countries, and I think he knows these people that Mr. de Ritter is waiting for.'
At this point the young man himself appeared on the path leading up to the restaurant; he was some hundred yards away. June Phillips gave a little gasp.
âOh! There he is! D'you think you'd p'r'aps better go away? I mean, he mightn't like to see me talking to anyone. Only you've been so good.'
âNo. I shan't go away,' Julia said firmly.
âWell, you explain, will you?âhow we met, I mean,' the girl said nervously. âAnd by the way, on this trip he's supposed to be my fiancÃ©,' she added hurriedly. âOh, it is all so difficult.'
âDon't worry,' Julia just had time to say before the young man rounded the corner of the restaurant and saw them. He paused, scowled, and strode over to their table. Julia spoke before he could.
âMr. Monro?' He nodded, his relief evident at once.
âMiss Armitage has had an accident,' Julia pursued blandlyâ âshe has sprained her ankle rather badly. I happened to be close by, and did what I could for her, but I think she ought to get back to her hotel as soon as possible, and see a doctor.'
âOh, thank you, Missâ?'
âProbyn,'Julia said, studying him. Probably a Greek or a Levantine or something like that, she thought, noting the weak mouth, the big melting eyes, the superb Greek-vase figureâa born gigolo. He thanked her again, rather curtly, and then rounded harshly on June Phillips.
âHow did you come to have an accident? I told you to stay here on the terrace.' There was no accent, except thatit was not a well-bred voice; a Levantine educated at a second-rate English school, perhaps.
Julia's presence gave the girl courage to defend herself.
âYes, but you were away such agesâand you never gave me money to buy a morning coffee, or anything! So I went down and picked some flowers, and a man came after me, and was nasty, and this lady came and sent him off. And then I hurt my foot, and she looked after me. More than you were doing!' June said, with a small display of spirit, like a kitten spitting.
âOh well'âas he paused, rather nonplussed, Julia beckoned up a waitress and paid the bill. âWell, we'd better be getting back,' he said to June. âCome on.'
âTry your foot,' Julia said to the girl. âCan you stand on it?'
June Phillips tried, and cried out with pain. âAoh, itdoeshurt!'
âDamnation! What an idiotic thing to do!' the young man Wright exploded.
âOh nonsense,'Julia said coolly. âIf one neglects people, anything can happen. It's not in the least her fault.' He stared at her. âLet's get her down to the Bahnâif we each take an arm she needn't put any weight on her foot.'
âI'll carry her,' the young man said; âshe weighs nothing.' And disdaining Julia's help he threw June over his shoulder like a sack and carried her, giggling, down to the Sessel-Bahn and in at the entrance on the far side. As the seats came up, were vacated, and pulled round the curve for the descent Julia nipped smartly ahead of the other two, secured a place, and was fastened into it by the attendant; June and Mr. Wright got into the next one. There is usually an interval of fifty to one hundred metres between the dangling seats, so as not to put too great a weight on the cable, and Julia reckoned that she would just have time to get hold of Colin and send him away before Wright could see him; since there was no longer any need to tail the party, it seemed to her rather important to do this. Her seat was launched, and she spun down through thesunny air, over the high pastures, among the fragrant pinesâdown, down, down, above the flowery meadows and the Parallel-Weg to the little bottom station. The moment the attendant unclamped the bar and released her she sprang out, waved to June, whose seat was just coming in, ran down the cement steps and walked rapidly along the zig-zag path leading down to the road and the big lay-by where cars and buses wait. From above she saw that Colin was there all right, half-perched on the retaining wall, sweet with plants of thyme and wild phlox, at the bottom of the path; but he was not aloneâperched beside him, smoking a pipe and obviously engaged in most cheerful conversation, was the detective.
Annoyance at this inopportune appearance quite overcame her pleasure at seeing Antrobus. What was he doing there, just at this moment? Her original decision to get Colin away before Wright saw him persisted; but as she walked down the path towards the two men it occurred to her that it might be quite useful if she, at least, stayed to watch the impact of the impostor party on Antrobusâshe might learn something, or she might not; anyhow worth trying. She slackened her paceâthis had got to be planned fastâand glanced up behind her; June and Wright had not yet emerged from the station. In the last twenty-five yards she cast about for an excuse and hit on a poor oneâall the same, she must try it on. She rounded the last corner and approached the pair.
âOh hullo, Mr. Antrobusâhow nice to see you again.' She turned to Colin. âColin darling, I'm out of gaspers. They have those beastly squashy local ones in that little shop just up the road; do go and get me a hundred, darlingâfast, so that we can catch the bus.'
âI've got quite a lot,' Colin said, looking surprised at her knowing Antrobus.
âOh don't be a clot, darling!Ihaven't, though I've got everything else.' She hoped he would take this in. âDo please go, darling darling.'
At this key phrase Colin obediently took himself off up the roadâJulia was surprised to find that she mindeda good deal being forced to use these exaggerated terms of endearment to Colin in front of Antrobus. However, she turned to him calmly.
âAre you staying in Beatenberg, Mr. Antrobus?'
âNoâI came up to have a look round. It seems a cheerful little place.'
âYes, I think it's delightfulâso unspoilt. Where are you staying, then?'
âInterlakenâa most charming town.'
Dead-pan double-talk! Julia pushed ahead.
âSo you know my cousin?'
âWho?âthat beautiful young man? Your cousin, is he? No, we just fell into talk as we sat hereâhe said he was waiting for someone.'
âAnd are you waiting for someone?' Julia asked recklessly, still rather unnerved by his appearance at this critical moment. Why was he everywhere when the impersonators were about? She glanced up the zigzags behind herâat last Wright had appeared, poor June again slung over his shoulder. Antrobus's glance followed hers; June's pretty face was hidden, of course, but Wright's handsome Near-Eastern visage was clearly visible. The man turned back to her.
âNo,' he said, looking her full in the face. âI was simply idlingâFatima!'
The name that in Geneva she had looked forward to hearing from him came, now, like a blow. Wounded, Julia blushedâher apricot blush that was so beautiful under her lion-coloured hair. She was also at once angry and suspiciousâwas he lying, and trying to embarrass her because he was lying? She mastered her temper, and thought very fast; well before Wright and his burden had reached the bottom of the zigzags she had taken a decisionânot to conceal her acquaintance with that pair. Two buses, already half-full of passengers, were drawn up in the lay-by across the road, one for Interlaken, one for the Beatenbucht funicularâas Wright reached the level she went straight up to him and June.
âLet me help you, Mr. Monro. The left-hand bus is theone for Interlaken.' Breathing rather heavily, the young man set June down; Julia took her arm. âMiss Armitage, how do you feel now? Come on, we'll get you a seat close to the door.'
All this was well within earshot of Antrobus; in fact Julia spoke rather loudly, on purpose. She and Wright together supported the girl across the road to the lay-by, where Julia spoke in German to the flirtatious blond bus-driver. âThe FrÃ¤ulein has had aFuss-Brechenon the Niederhorn; she should have a seat by the door.' The driver hopped out, heaved June in, and placed her on the front seat. The little thing leaned forward from the door to speak to Julia.
âOh Miss Probyn, you have been so kind! I'll never forget itânever! If there's ever anything I can do for you, just let me know, and I'll do it!'
âI'll remember,'Julia said. âGoodbye, dear. Take care of yourself.' Impulsively, she mounted the step of the bus, leaned in, and gave the nice, silly little thing a kiss. Then she turned to Wright, who stood by with an open air of concentrated ill-temper not commonly seen outside Athens and the Middle East.
âMr. Monro, do get a doctor to look at that ankle. I'm sure it ought to be seen to at once.'
âO.K.' Wright said sulkily. âMind you, it's all her own fault.'
âOh don't be anass!'Julia exclaimed angrily. âIt's entirelyyourfault for going off to amuse yourself, and leaving her alone. And is that the way to talk about your fiancÃ©e, anyhow?'
Wright crumbled at once.
âSorry,' he said apologetically. âYes, I did go farther than I meant, andâand it's all been a bit upsetting. Of course I'll get a doctor to her the moment we get down. Goodbyeâthanks for looking after her.' He got into the bus and sat beside June; the blond driver gave out tickets and collected cash in a leather wallet, and the huge vehicle pulled out into the road and rolled away.
Antrobus too had strolled across the road, and presumablyoverheard the whole interchangeâhis question as the bus rolled off suggested this.
âFriends of yours?' he asked expressionlessly.
âWhich, the idiotic little girl or the revolting young man?' Julia asked rather sharply.
âWell really I meant both. They seemed rather a unit as they came down that path.'
Julia could not help laughing.
âI ran into the girl up on the mountain today, and succoured her when she sprained her ankle,' she said; for once the truth was completely non-committal. âBut I never met her beforeâBluebeard!'
He laughed loudly.
âVerygood! Only you see you kissed her just now, and then you addressed her rather dreadful escort as Mr. Monro. Your so infinitely more attractive cousin said his name was Monro, too.'
Julia was worried by all this, but tried not to show it.
âMonro is a fairly common name in Scotland, isn't it?' she said. âLike Antrobus.'
He laughed again.
âQuite true. But that young man doesn't look enormously Scotch, would you say?'
Julia also laughed.
âNo. But don't Jews often take Scotch names? They seem to have a penchant for them.'
âThat young man isn't a Jew,' Antrobus said positively. âA lot of other probables, but not that.'
âWhat are your probables?' she asked.
âLevantine; or English father and Syrian mother, or English mother and Greek fatherâalmost any Middle-East permutation and combination. But definitely not a Jew.'
Odd that he should speculate like this to her, if he really was in with them, Julia thoughtâbut perhaps it was just a blind. Anyhow two could ask questions.
âAnd have you never seen them before?' she said, remembering with almost passionate vividness the passage of three people down the platform at Victoria, under his very nose.
Before Antrobus could answer Colin came hurrying up to them, a flowered-paper parcel in his hand.
âThere you are!' he said, thrusting it at Julia. âIt wasn't just up the road, it was at least half a kilometre!' He saw that the Interlaken bus had gone, and looked at her enquiringly.
âOh thank you, darling. Well look, we'd better hurry, or we shall miss our bus. Goodbye,' she said coolly to Antrobus.
Colin also made his farewell to the detective.
âGoodbye,' he said, much more warmly than Julia, and holding out his hand. âYou might do worse than come up here, if you want flowers and walksâI don't know about the birds yet. Let us know if you doâwe're at the Silberhorn.'
âRightâI certainly will, if I do come up. And don't forget to take your old friend who's so keen on flowers up to see the Alpine Garden at the Schynige Platteâshe would love it. I'm probably going there tomorrow myself.'
âDamn, there's our machine moving!' Julia exclaimed. âCome on!'âand she and Colin, running, leapt aboard their bus.Chapter 7The Schynige Platte
âWhy did you push me off?' Colin began at once. âDid you see them up on the top?'
âYesâand learned a whole bagful. Tell you when we get inâno, it must wait till after lunch; we're fearfully late. But I pushed you off because I didn't want them to see youâhim, rather; she's just a little cipher.' She glanced round the bus. âWhat's all this about the Schynige Platte?' she askedâan English couple were sitting close behind them.
âOh, it's some place above Interlaken where they've made a rock-garden and naturalised the wild-flowers and put labels on them, so that you can see what everything is; and there are little paths to walk about, and seats. He's mad on wild-flowersâand birdsâand when I mentioned that Mrs. H. was keen on flowers too he said we ought to take her up. I think she could go; there's a railway right up to it, and a restaurant at the top.'
âA good idea,' Julia said. But both she and Colin found it rather a trial to have to sit through lunch talking on indifferent matters, when she was bursting with her news, and he was impatient to hear it. The Schynige Platte seemed a useful topic with which to entertain Mrs. Hathaway, since neither of them could tell her much about the Niederhorn; that lady was charmed with the idea, and when she went to rest declared that she should read it up in Baedeker while she was lying down. Colin and Julia repaired to a field below the hotel garden and sat in the shade of a mountain ashâthe walls of the Silberhorn bedrooms, like those of many Swiss mountain hotels, were about as sound-proof as paper.
âWell now, what?' Colin asked.
Julia recounted her rescue of June Phillips, and the silly child's revelations. âObviously Mr. Borovali, or whoeveremploys him, went round all these advertising agencies and flipped through their photographs of girls with Pekes or outside banks, till they had the luck to find one who was passably like Aglaia. Then they engaged her for a month, and fitted her out, and brought her along as a sort of corroborative dummy.'
âWouldn't she have had to speak a part at the bank?'
âNot much, would she? Aglaia's a minor still. I expect they just coached her up a bit. Heiresses don't have to be clever!'
âAnd why do you suppose they picked on this Wright person? Is he like me?'
âNot in the least, except that he's tall and has black hair. I imagine,' Julia said, remembering June's words about Wright not being âlike anyone', and her vexation at his larger salary, âthat they routed round till they found someone with a knowledge of these oil countries; and as he's been fired from a job out there and has a chip on his shoulder, what could be better? I think June said something about his knowing these parties who are coming here to collect the blue-printsâthat alone would be ample recommendation, wouldn't it? And he's just the sort of creature to be ready for any crookery, I should say; I feel sure he'd sell his mother's corpse before it was cold for her eyes, for that new operation.'
âBut anyhow, now we know where they are,' Julia said. âSo what next?'
âCould he have had the papers on him today?'
âDefinitely not, coming down. Pale corduroy slacks, silk shirt, and a silk wind-cheaterâwith no bulges! But where could he put them up there, and why?'
âOnly that he went off alone like that.'
âShe says he always doesâanyhow they've had a week to find a much better place to stow them in than the Niederhorn Ridge! How big would the papers be, by the way?'
âI've no idea, I should imagine a fair thickness, though.'
âAnd foolscap size.'
âJulia, I don't know.'
âWell do find out. You and your department and your imaginings!âI never heard of anything so amateurish. I expect Mister de Ritter-Borovali has them in a briefcase in the safe at the Fluss, along with Jewesses' better diamonds.'
Colin grinned, wryly. âHow could we have seen them? They've been locked up in this damned bank.'
âOh well. Anyhow, hadn't you better ring up your firm in Berne, so that they can cause the appropriate department to pounce?'
âM'm. Yesâyes, I had. They may know more now about how long the delay is likely to be.'
âBut why delay at all? Why not pounce tonight, or at least tomorrow?'
âIt's not as simple as all that, in a foreign jurisdiction,' Colin said soberly, rather impressing Julia. âHowever, I will get onto them.'
âWell when you do, do ask if they know anything about this Antrobus man. Have you ever met him before?'
âNoâwe just got talking.'
âHe doesn't belong to your outfit?'
âNot to my knowledge. Why should he?'
âOnly because he keeps on turning up whenever your sham fiancÃ©e is about.' She recounted the episode at Victoria; seeing him entrain at Berne for Geneva, âon the very day, mark you, before these stooges went to the bank'; his presence at the Bergues, and also at Nethersole's luncheon. âAnd now he turns up here, again on the very day that June and the emetic Wright go up to the Niederhorn. You'd think he was watching them; if he isn't, he must be watching out for themâkeepingcave,as one used to say at school. Anyhow, I'd like to know where he stands.'
âIt is all a bit odd,' Colin said thoughtfully. âBut he struck me as a very decent sort of man. He's a member of the Alpine Club.'
âDid he tell you that?'
âWell it emerged.'
âYou could have that checked.'
âYes, of courseâI will.' He brooded. âHow well do youknow this party who asked him to meet you in Geneva?'
âNot well at allâI met him a few times with Geoffrey. He's an archaeologist, when he isn't with UNO. And I remember that Antrobus said he was a tremendous Arabic scholar,' Julia said, trying to bring out all her few facts about Nethersole.
âIsn't he permanently with UNO?'
âI don't think soâno. They lay him on when they want him, I gathered, and he goes if he isn't too busy digging up Jericho, or deciphering Qumran scrolls.'
âThe Qumran scrolls aren't in Arabic,' Colin objected.
âNot? Oh well, anyhow he's in those parts a lot of the time.'
âMiddle East again,' Colin said gloomily. âAnd of course a UNO part-timer could really be anything. Yes, I expect we ought to keep an eye on Antrobus.'
âThat shouldn't be difficult, as he seems to be keeping an eye on us,' Julia said briskly. âButask,Colin.'
âI will. I'll go and ring up now, and see what I get on himâand give them this Interlaken address. They ought to be pretty pleased, J. dear.' He strolled off up the steep field.
Julia remained under the mountain ash, looking across at the white peaks of the BlÃ¼mlisalp range, glowing like praising souls under the sun; she felt relaxed and happy. Colin's âthey' certainly ought to be pleased at this windfall. Of course it was not due to any skill of hers, merely to Wright's lack of conscientiousnessâwell what could you expect, with that face?âand poor little June's incredibly low I.Q. (She hoped that bloody youth really had got a doctor to look at the sprained ankle.) But it was a scoop, all rightâquite a major scoop.
Colin, sooner than she expected, came slouching down across the meadow.
âWere they pleased?' Julia asked as he came up.
âNoâI mean neither of the two chaps was in. I shall go in myself; whatever you may say about the Swiss telephones, I don't care about that box here. The door won't shut, and there's always someone in the Bureau next door.It's only about three hours, anyhow, if I go down by the funicular and get a boat across to Spiez. I'll let you know what goes onâI don't imagine the Bureau-FrÃ¤ulein speaks Gaelic!'
Mrs. Hathaway took Colin's sudden departure as calmly as she took most things, when Julia told her of it over Cinzanos upstairs before supper. She had a corner room, with Watkins's cell next door, so the question of being overheard hardly arose; Watkins was getting a little deaf, and was totally incurious about âMaster Colin' and his affairs.
âHow nice that his work should bring him here just now,' Mrs. Hathaway said as she sipped, gazing happily out of the window. âThe only thing that surprises me is that there should be anything for the Secret Service to bother with, here; the Swiss could hardly get into mischief, one would have thought, because they're so busy; over things like cleaning their cows.'
Julia enquired about this.
âOh yesâa peasant we met on the road told me all about it, this morning. Have you noticed those iron rings in that high wall above the road, just beyond our little shop, next to the glen with the waterfall in it?'
âWell those are where they moor their young beasts, before they take them down to the market; they bring cloths, and buckets to fetch water from the glen, and slosh the creatures down, there on the road-side. Isn't it charming?'
Julia thought it was, and said so. But she had a notion of her own in her head.
âDid you read up about the Alpine Garden at the Schynige Platte? If it's fine tomorrow I thought we might go.'
âIndeed I did!âand it is something I really do want to see. Yes, do let us go tomorrow.'
âYou're sure you're up to it?' Julia felt a little guilty over her own initiative about making this particular expedition.
âWell even if I do get a little tired, doing something Ienjoy will do me good,' Mrs. Hathaway said. âThere are wise ways of spending one's strength, just as there are of spending one's moneyâand really the art of living is to recognise both.'
The next day was superb, and they set out in good time, on the musical bus. The town of Interlaken, small as it is, possesses two railway-stations: the West-Bahnhof, whence one entrains for Spiez and Berne, and the Ost-Bahnhof, or East Station, which serves Meiringen, Grindelwald, and the Lauterbrunnen valley, including Wengen and MÃ¼rren. The Post-Autos all pull up in the big openPlatzoutside the West-Bahnhof, and trains flit fairly often from one station to the other, rattling across an open street and thundering, twice, over the milky-green Aar on iron bridgesâMrs. Hathaway, however, who knew her way about in Switzerland, insisted on taking an open horse-cab from one station to the other. A row of these ancient vehicles is always standing in the Platz, the equally ancient horses drooping their heads, the drivers smoking cheroots and gossiping; in one of them they clop-clopped along the main street between small expensive shops full of souvenirs and summer sportswear, and innumerable hotels, some also small, some large and rich-looking. But what startled and fascinated Julia about Interlaken was that the whole town was full of the scent of new-mown hay. The meadows are all round it, and here and there impinge on the streets, so that the fresh sweet country smell is everywhere, in what is indubitably a town. Towards the end of their drive they passed a building with the words âHotel zum Fluss' across its faÃ§ade; Julia gazed at it with deep interest. Beastly Wright, the enigmatic Mr. Borovali, and poor June were all housed behind that yellow front.
To reach the Schynige Platte one takes the train from the Ost-Bahnhof for Lauterbrunnen, but leaves it after a few minutes at Wilderswyl, a village at the farther side of the flat sedimentary plain between the lakes of Thun and Brienzâpart of this plain is occupied by a military airfield, whose hangars are turfed over to look like grassy mounds. Julia observed them with amusement; appar-entlythe Swiss hadn't yet got round to stowing their operational aircraft in the bowels of mountains or at the bottom of lakes. But she was really keeping an eye open for Antrobus; there had been no sign of him at the Ost-Bahnhof. What a bore if he didn't come, after all! But at Wilderswyl, where they got out and stood on the wide platform, waiting to be allowed to enter the funny little coaches with their red-and-white blinds which carry one up the mountain, there he was; and was introduced to Mrs. Hathaway. It was hot there in the sun, but when an official unlocked the doors of the small train he saidââHave you a wrap, Mrs. Hathaway? If so put it onâit's often fearfully cold going up.'
Watkins was carrying her mistress's wrap over her arm: that old-fashioned but delightful garment formerly known as an âInverness Cape'âa long coat with a cloak slung over it from the shoulders; Mrs. Hathaway's was in a discreet pepper-and-salt tweed, and looked immensely elegant when she put it on. Then they climbed in, and all sat together; Antrobus and Mrs. Hathaway got on like a house on fire, both staring out of the window on the watch for flowers, and pointing out to one another any treasure that they espied. âOh, there'sAstrantia major!Mrs. Hathaway exclaimed in the lower meadows, âand the purple columbineâdo look!' Higher up in the beechwoodsââOh, quickly,Cephalanthera rubra!'Antrobus said, pointing out some tall spikes of a reddish-pink orchis, just before the train plunged into a tunnel. The moment it emerged Antrobus's head was at the window again, indicating the Martagon Lily, in bud, on the bank.
Julia was more pleased with Antrobus than ever because of his niceness and considerateness with Mrs. Hathaway; after a brief halt at the small station of Breitlauenen (âthe Broad Avalanches') it became really chilly in the draughty windowless little carriage. But still there was more to see, and the detective knew all about it.
âCome over to the other side, now,' he said. âIn a big stony valley we're just coming to on the right you might see a marmot.' They all moved across the carriageâthetrain was not very fullâand there on the stone-flecked slopes they actually caught a glimpse of two marmots before they fled whistling into their burrows, frightened, idiotic creatures, by the familiar noise of the train.
âThey look so like seals,' Mrs. Hathaway said, delighted.
At the top they went straight to the Alpine Garden; Antrobus was greeted warmly by the girl at the entrance who sold tickets. It is certainly a most charming place, the wild plants grouped in situations approximating to the natural habitat of each, and every group with a metal label bearing its name; little paths wander to and fro, up and down; at intervals there are seats on which to rest and admire the splendid view. Mrs. Hathaway moved slowly along the little paths, peering, examining, admiring. Presently they came on a girl in breeches and a blue gardener's apron who knelt beside a new bed, carefully arranging stones and setting in some tiny plants; she too recognised Antrobus and got up, wiping the earth off her hands, to greet him in German with a rueful grin.
âAh, you caught us completely overPetasites niveus var: paradoxus!We learn fromyou!'
âThat one is a paradox,' the man replied, smiling.
âPlease send us some moreâyou make usaufmerksam,'the girl said, and knelt down to her task again.
As they strolled on, Antrobus told Mrs. Hathaway about the two girls, youthful botanists from ZÃ¼rich University, who took care of the garden; âThey share that house down by the entrance, and eat at the hotel. They have a laboratory and a library, and prepare specimens. I often send them plants to identify, and they are so helpful and enthusiastic, bless them.'
Mrs. Hathaway presently said that she would sit and rest for a little, and then make her way up to the restaurant. Antrobus instantly suggested that he and Julia should take a short walk outside the garden ââThere's a gate at the top that one can get out by'âand return for lunch. Mrs. Hathaway openly applauded this idea; so, in her heart, did Julia.
The Schynige Platte garden lies at just over six thousandfeet, facing South, on the top of a ridge running East and West above the Lake of Brienz; as with the Niederhorn, on the northern side this ridge falls away in vertical cliffs and buttresses; one or two tall rocky towers stand up from it. A path leads under the nearest of these, known asDer Turm,and Julia and Antrobus wandered along it across the open slopes. Here they were soon among the anemones, the white and the yellowâdrifts of great sulphur and silvery-white stars nearly two inches across, flowering up out of the rough pale grassâJulia fairly gasped at the sight. Then they climbed by narrow zigzags to the crest of the ridge through a miniature forest of Alpenrosen, the Alpine rhododendron, not yet in bloom, and the dwarf juniper,J. nanus;none were as much as two feet high, but it was a true forest all the same, on this minute scale. There were flowers too: the strange-looking Cerinthe and the tiny leafless veronica,V. apkylla,carrying its minute blue heads on bare stalks among the white rocksâAntrobus named them all, as botanists do out of pure love; Julia picked one or two of everything for Mrs. Hathaway.
On the crest itself, where there is a small hut to shelter the wayfarer, withâso Swissâa telephone, they sat on a sun-warmed rock, looking out in front of them at that splendid mountain group of Jungfrau, MÃ¶nch, and Eiger, all blazing and glittering under the sun. Up on the ridge there was nothing but âthe peaks and the sky, and the light and the silence'âJulia herself was silent, suddenly moved; they sat so for a long moment. Then Antrobus turned from the snowy Jungfrau in the distance to the tawny-gold Jungfrau seated beside him.
âI get the impression that this says something to you?' he said.
Julia didn't answer at once. ThenââI never realised that anything like it was possible,' she said, slowly.
âThose are almost exactly the words that Keyserling used about the Taj Mahal,' he said, looking pleased. âBut have you never been to Switzerland before?'
âOnly in winterâZermatt. I can't think why not, since it's like this.'
âWell when you've finished your cigarette we'll see more flowers; we're too high here for some things.'
Julia went off at a tangent.
âThat's the Lake of Brienz down there behind us, isn't it?' she asked, looking over her shoulder. âIs it true that it's full of stores, sunk on the bottom?'
âYes, certainly. Who told you? Not that it isn't common knowledge; the very bus-drivers taking tourists over the Furka-Pass show them the entrances to the underground barracks and hospitals, and the embedded gun-emplacements. In some ways the Swiss are strangely casual about security; curious, because their military dispositions are some of the most complicated in the world.'
âCouldn't the metal containers with all that butter and cheese be spotted from the air?'Julia askedââlike those forts and circles that Crawford or someone used to photograph?'
âNot very well. It's much harder to photograph, or spot, objects under six hundred feet of water than under six feet, or a few inches, of soil. And strange planes cruising over these lakes would stir up a hornet's nest of Swiss fighters to buzz them. But who told you?' he persisted.
Julia regretted her careless question. She was in an idyll at the moment, and the need to mention Colin jerked her back to the world of reality, in which this delightful companion at her side might be an enemyâtheenemy. The thought hurt her surprisingly.
âOh, my cousin,' she said airily, to conceal her discomfort.
âThe second Mr. Monro?'
âOr would you say the first?' she answered brusquely, turning to look him straight in the face.
He smiled his gothic smile at her, and moved one hand in a gesture of brushing something away.
âForget it,' he said gently. âI'm sorry I said that. Just for today can't we sink Fatima and Bluebeard to the bottom of the Lake of Brienz along with the butter and cheese, and simply enjoy ourselves?'
âI was enjoying myself,' Julia said plaintively.
âWell go on! Do please. I'm so sorry; this is all my fault. And by the way I think Julia a much prettier name than Fatima.'
She blushed at thatâhard-boiled as she was in many ways, Julia could never control her blushes, and the man watched the apricots ripening in her cheeks.
âHow did you know?' she asked rather defiantly. âOh, Nethersole of course.'
âYesâdon't you remember that he said you would complete my education?'
âAt least you're continuing mine!âall these names of flowers.'
âAh, they're my besetting sinâflowers, and birds. Now I want to show you some moreâcome on.'
They returned down the zigzags to the path below the Turm; there he stopped, and looked at her feet.
âWhat are your soles?ârubber or nails? Do you think you can manage this slope? It's much quicker than going round by the garden.'
Julia was wearing stout leather shoes with thick ridged rubber soles; she held one up for his inspection.
âYes, those ought to be all right. Better take my hand, though; this top bit is fairly steep.' Without waiting for a reply he took her hand and led her down the rough grassy slope, tacking diagonally across and across it; he went rather fast and Julia, who had never acquired the mountaineers' trick of the loose-kneed descentâtoes out, heels in, and practically sitting back on one's heelsâfound herself rather breathless when they reached the bottom. (Holding his hand was a faintly breathless affair, too.) Here in a grassy hollow stood three grey-shingled wooden sheds, long and low; these, Antrobus explained, wereSenn-HÃ¼tte,the huts to which the peasants repaired when they brought their cows up to the high alpine pastures for the summer monthsâthe great time for cheese-making. As they mounted up a rutted muddy track on the farther slopeââOh, here they are!' he exclaimed. âComing up to get the place ready.'
Down the track towards them came several men, steadying two enormous wooden sledges, whose upcurved runners slithered in the greasy mud; the sledges were piled high with household and dairying effectsâchurns, cooking utensils, mattresses, blankets, tools, and topping all two wireless sets. These last made Julia laugh.
âOh, that's the modern world,' Antrobus said. âToday the radio is an essential, even for cheese-making.' As they stood aside to let the clumsy sledges pass he greeted the men in a language incomprehensible to Julia; they laughed cheerfully as they replied.
âWhat on earth were you talking to them?' the girl asked.
âBerner-Deutschâtheirpatois. It's really more a very archaic form of German than anything else: for instance, instead ofgewesen,for âbeen', they saygesie,taken direct fromsein,the infinitive of “to be”âand they usually swallow the last consonant if they can. I rather love itâGermans think it hideous, of course.'
âHow did you learn it?'
âI used to come here as a childâfor “glands”âand played about with the peasant children. And I've gone on coming a good deal ever since.'
âOh yesâyou climb, don't you?' By now they had reached the lip of the grassy hollow, and were on the broad track leading to the Faulhorn, and the great range opposite was again visible, glittering under the noonday sun. âHave you been up those?' she asked, gesturing at it.
âSeveral of them, yes. The Jungfrau three times, the Eiger twice, the MÃ¶nch only once. And the Morgenhornâdo you see that very silver one? It's the first to catch the sunlight in the morning as you look up from Interlaken; that's why they call it that.'
âPretty,'Julia said. âAny others?'
âYes, the Lauterbrunnen Breithorn, right at the end of the row.'
âThe one that looks like a neolithic axe-head, only white?'
âWhat a good comparison! Yes. I was only fifteen when I did that; it was my first real mountain.' He turned to her. âYou've never climbed?'
âNoâit never came my way.'
âYou should,' Antrobus said, displaying the missionary spirit which is so strong in mountaineers. âI think you wouldâwell, find the right things in it.'
They wandered slowly on along the Faulhorn path, talking as they went; crossing a low ridge they came suddenly on another of those patches of discoloured snow half-filling a grassy saucer, surrounded by the white crocuses as by a miniature snow-storm, held motionless three inches above the wintry turf.
âThat's what I wanted you to see,' the man said.
âIt's exquisite,' Julia responded. A little farther on they came to another hollow, whence the snow had altogether departed, but only recently; here the soldanellas were growing in hundreds, their foolish little fringed lilac bells, with such an odd look of tiny paper caps out of Christmas crackers, nodding over the brownish earthâJulia was enchanted. He told her then about the Faulhorn pathââIt's so broad and firm because it's really an old mule-track, probably dating back to the Middle Ages, by which goods were carried from Interlaken over to the Grosse Scheidegg, and so down to Rosenlaui or Grindelwald; in either case it was a short-cut in the summer monthsâsaved miles.' They were so happy and easy together, there on the sunny mountainside, that Julia at last had the confidence to ask him, outright, what he was really up to? She felt she had to knowâone mustn't lose one's heart to an enemy.
But the attempt was a failure, lightly and gaily as she did itââWhichMr. Monro are you really shadowing?' As he had done at Victoria he smiled, put a finger to his lip, and shook his head; then, serious all of a sudden, he took her hand and held it firmly. âMy dear, I can't tell you,' he said, very gently. âLet it alone, please. I asked you just now, up there by the Turm, to sink Fatima and Bluebeard to the bottom of the lake. Whatever happenslater, for this one day, this one lovely day, do let us just be Julia and John.'
Her failure and his tenderness together quite overset Julia. She turned asideâshe could not walk on, for he was still holding her hand in a firm claspâboth to conceal an unexpected stinging of tears in her eyes, and to think of an answer and then control her voice for it. He pressed her hand, watching her averted head, and pursuedââ Can't you just sayâ“Yes, John,” and leave it at that?âfor today?'
She took a moment or two over itâoh, how difficult! Her watch was on her free wrist, and she looked at it. Then she turned back to face him.
â“We maun totter down, John”âwe shall be late else,' she said.
The man, in his turn, was plainly a little shaken by the quotation. âOh!' That was all he said, but he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it before he let it go. âBut really we maun totter up!âquite a long way,' he added, lightening the thing. âWe mustn't keep your delightful friend waiting. What a charmer she is.'
As they walked back along the mediaeval mule-track and then up a short steep ascent to the hotel, Antrobus pursued the subject of Mrs. Hathaway, who had evidently taken his fancy. âIs she inquisitive too?' he presently asked.
âThat's not fair,' Julia said. âIf I mayn't ask questions, nor may you!'
He laughedââSo sorry.' Bu during lunch in the sunny glassed-in verandah of the hotel Julia got the impression that Antrobus was rather warily assessing Mrs. Hathaway. At one point she mentioned Gersau, and Herr Waechter.
âOh, you know him?' the man said. âSuch a wonderful houseâand what a patriarch!'
âWell, if that is how you describe a childless widower,' Mrs. Hathaway observed, ironically.
Antrobus laughed, and they went on to discuss that so essentially Swiss thing, the long bourgeois pedigrees and the continuing industry and wealth, in the same families. âNo “Death of a Class” here,' Antrobus said at length.
âNo. But don't you have to take neutrality into consideration?'Mrs. Hathaway said. âThe Swiss have escaped two wars, and therefore the penal taxation resulting from those wars. But if others had not fought, and died, and then been taxed almost out of existence, would Switzerland still be free, and able to revel in her neutrality? I have often thought that neutrality, like patriotism, is really not quite enough.'
Julia, who knew that Mrs. Hathaway had lost two sons in their late teens in World War I watched with closest interest to see how Antrobus would deal with this.
âThat is quite true,' he said carefully. âI was oversimplifying. But I still think that the social structure has something to do with it. The Swiss really only have two classes: peasantsâwho as a class are always immortalâand thebourgeoisie. In England we have at least four: the aristocracy; the upper-middle and professional class; the artisans; and again the peasantsâwhom we call âcountry-people'; and of these the first two are of course by far the most vulnerable.'
âAnd possible the most valuable,' Mrs. Hathaway said, a little sharply. âNoâof course true “peasants” always preserve their precious country values, in spite of the wireless.' She considered. âPerhaps a two-class society has a greater survival value,' she said slowly.
Julia put in her oar.
âBut surely in Bolshevik Russia, where they aimed at a “class-less society”, they're now busy creating a new aristocracy all over again, of technicians?'
âA technocracy,' Antrobus corrected her. âSpecialised knowledge has its uses, but there is nothing particularly good about it. The wordaristosmeans “best”, don't forget.' Mrs. Hathaway was pleased; she laughed.
Julia was keeping an eye on the time, and on Mrs. Hathaway for signs of fatigue; they finished their meal rather hurriedly, and caught an early train down. Antrobus went with them as far as Breitlauenen, where he got out to walk down to Wilderswyl, hunting for flowers in the beech forests on the way. âI'll bring you anything amusing that I find,' he assured Mrs. Hathaway.
Julia had already procured, and carried round in herhandbag, a time-table of the Beatenberg buses. This showed her that they would have nearly an hour's wait in Interlaken, and as the Hotel zum Fluss was quite close to the Ost-Bahnhof, curiosity prompted her to suggest that they should fill in the pause by having coffee there, and then drive down to the West-Bahnhof for their bus. Mrs. Hathaway of course agreed; she liked her coffee after lunch, and in their haste they had missed this up at the Schynige Platteâso to the Fluss they went.
This charming hotel has two rather distinctive features. Opposite the entrance, but separated from it by a road where cars can pull up, is a raised terrace or garden shaded by chestnut-trees and set with tables, where light meals are served; also, for the convenience of passengers boarding or leaving the Lake of Brienz steamers, there is a side entrance giving accessâas a discreet notice announcesâtoToilettenfor both ladies and gentlemen. Julia's party availed themselves of both; they ordered coffee on the terrace, visited theToilettenwhile it was being made, and then returned to drink it. It was nice on the little terrace; even here the air was full of the scent of new-mown hay, and resounded with the song of blackbirds. (The Interlaken blackbirds sing more loudly and richly than any others in the world.) A steamer drew in to the quay, and as they watched the passengers disembark Julia thought of June, so lonely and âdull'âimpulsively, she decided to ask for her in the hotel, and went in.
As an excuse she first asked the hall porterâwho was bearded, fatherly, and chatty, the Swiss hotel version of the English family butlerâif he could order them a horse-cab to catch the Beatenberg bus?
âYes, certainly'âin his rather peculiar brand of English. Then Julia asked if Miss Armitage was in?
The old man's expression changed instantly, and rather startlingly, to one of hostility and suspicion.
âNo. They left this morning.'
âOh, I am sorry. I'd hoped to see her. How was her foot? Any better?'
The old porter thawed a little at that.
âAre you the lady who helped her up on the Niederhorn, and bandaged her foot? She said if you came I was to give you this'âhe grubbed in his desk and brought out Julia's head-scarf.
âOh yes, that's mine. Thank you very much. But is her foot better?'
âEin wenig,yesâshe can walk a few steps, the poor child.' The porter's suspicion did not appear to attach to June, and Julia pursued this promising line. At that hour, in mid-afternoon, the hall was practically empty, the guests being either out on expeditions or sleeping off their midday meal upstairs.
âI hope they did get a doctor to see her?' she said, putting anxiety into her voice. âThis young man seemed to me to take her injury rather lightly.'
The porter scowled, and muttered something about afrecher, ekeliger Kerl(an insolent disgusting fellow) into his beard; aloud, and in English, he said, âYes, Miss. The older gentleman toldmeto get a doctor, and I sent for Doktor Hertz; he is excellent; he has a fine Klinik in the town. I know everyone here; thirty years I am Portier in this hotel! So the Herr Doktor strapped up the foot, but he said she should use it as little as possible, and that he would look at it again tomorrow.'
The porter was now obviously in the full vein of gossip; Julia, delighted, continued to probe.
âBut now they have left? Oh, what a pity, since Dr. Hertz is so good. Did they leave an address? Though I have only met FrÃ¤ulein Armitage once, I should like to know how she gets on.'
âNo, they left no address,' the porter said, scowling again. âThey left hurriedlyâand with good reason! Oh,das kleine FrÃ¤uleinis all rightâshe is simply an innocent. But the others!'âhe shrugged, with an expression of ineffable contempt. âCurious customers, if you ask me.'
Julia continued to pursue the June line.
âReally? I should be sorry to think that this young lady was not with nice peopleâshe told me that she had never left England before, and she is so young. Her mother is awidow, too. Have you any idea why they left so hastily?'
The porter leant over his desk towards her, and spoke in a lowered tone.
âThe police came to enquire about them!'
âNo!' Julia professed the expected surprise.
âAber ja!Of course they spoke with me,' the old man said importantly, âand I showed them the register with the names, and said that, as always, the passports had been sent to the Polizeiâthis is done in all hotels here. But then the police brought out a photograph and asked if I recognised it as that of the FrÃ¤ulein Armitage? This is most unusual; in thirty years such a thing has never happened to me.'
âAnd was it of her?' Julia asked, delighted at this evidence that her clipping fromParis-Matchwas being used.
âGewiss!It was badly done, on shiny paper, but certainly it was this poor young lady's pictureâthough why the Polizei should seekher,I cannot understand. And while I was looking at itâhere at this desk, where we standâup comes Mister de Ritter himself to ask some question of me, and sees the photograph, and may have heard the questions asked by the police, for all I know.'
âGood heavens! So then what happened?'
The porter was enjoying his dramatic recital.
âOh, I know my duties! It is not my business to give away our clients to the police, whatever I myself may think of them.“Moment”I sayâand of Herr de Ritter I ask, “Yes, sir, what can I do for you?” He enquired of me then about the times of the steamer to Iseltwald, on the Brienzer-See; I gave them, and he wrote them downâah, that is a cool oneâwhile all the time the photograph of Miss Armitage lies on my desk, under his eyes. He looked well at it, and at the two policeâthough these were inZivil.'(Julia knew that he meant plain clothes.) âAnd he thanked me, and went away.'
One up to Mr. B., Julia thought; crook or no, he had good nerves. âAnd after that?' she asked.
âOh, the police went offâto make a report, I suppose!'the porter said, with some contemptââbeing now satisfied that the FrÃ¤ulein Armitage is here. But less than an hour later she is no longer here! Within thirty-five minutes the valet comes down with the luggage; they pack, pay their bill, and off! Would not anyone think this odd?'
âVery odd indeed,' Julia agreed. âAnd the police made no attempt to hold them?'
'Ach nein!âthe police had gone. And now the birds are flown.'
âDid they go to Iseltwald?' Julia asked.
âNo. They simply went across to the Ost-Bahnhof. I told Johann, who took their luggage, to note where they booked to; but they had aCarnetofOst-West Billeten,as all who are wise do in Interlaken, and they used those. So one knows nothing. From the West-Bahnhof one can travel to anywhere in Europe.'
âAll most peculiar,' Julia said slowly. âAnd did you tell the police they'd left?'
âFrÃ¤ulein, guests are guests!' the porter said pompously. âAs I said before, it is no part of my duties to lay informations to the police. If they ask questions I answer them, as in the matter of the photographâbut that suffices.'
âHow very right. If I ever marry a crook I shall come and stay at the Fluss!' Julia said, and went out to rejoin Mrs. Hathaway, leaving the porter bowing and laughing. âDon't forget our cab,' she called over her shoulder.
âDear child, how long you've been! Can they get us a cab?' that lady asked.
âOh yes; all laid on. I'm sorry I was so slow; the porter was rather a gossipy old thing,' Julia said carelessly, and Mrs. Hathaway asked no further questionsâshe was tired as well as tactful. But all the way back to Beatenberg in the bus Julia was distraite, and rather silent. The reference of the porter at the Fluss to June as âan innocent' exactly matched her own impression of the pretty, silly, good-hearted little thing who proudly gave a lot of her wages to support âMum', now that âDad' was dead; and she was filled with a slow, cold anger that international crookery should get hold of such a helpless creature anduse her simply as a commodity to serve their beastly purposes. âExpendable!' she muttered angrily, thinking of June's boredom, and how she had now been reft away from the excellent Dr. Hertz, who would have seen to her ankle, her source of livelihood.
âWhat did you say, my dear?' Mrs. Hathaway asked.
âOh sorry, Mrs. H.âI was talking to myself. I must be going round the bend!'
âNonsense, dear. I think soliloquies aloud are a sign of intelligent emotionâafter all, where would Shakespeare have been without them? But do look out on the rightâoh no, now it's on the left; these awful hairpins!'âas the bus negotiated another, playing its little six-note tune. âThere! Do you see that Enchanter's Nightshade? Unmistakableâbut it's practically blue.'
Julia tried to pick out the small dull plant which so excited Mrs. Hathaway from among the heaths, whortleberry bushes, ferns, and other greenery which clothed the bank above the terrifying road. âOh yes, so it is,' she said. âHow odd!' Then she returned to her private preoccupations. She was no longer so pleased at the use to which her clipping fromParis-Matchhad presumably been put. It was almost certainly her fault that June's ankle was now going to be neglected. But when she sent the photograph to Chambertin she hadn't met June.Chapter 8Merligen
Colin rang up after tea. âWhere on earth have you been all day? I tried to get you three times.'
âAt the Schynige Platte.'
âOh. Well something very boring has happened. I gave my friends here that address, but I think the locals must have been a bit slow off the markâanyhow your new acquaintances have gone.'
âHow do you know?'
âI just found out. And it was the locals who scared them off, bumble-footing round with a certain photograph, quite openly, silly clots.'
âAny idea where they've gone?'
âNoneâI couldn't learn that.'
âWell can't you learn it? Do try. It's too maddening their vanishing into thin air like this, just when we thought everything was taped. And now we've heard that their principals, who were delayed, are probably arriving by air within the next forty-eight hours.'
âWell wherever my would-be bride and her escorts have stowed themselves.'
âHer beastly escorts,' Julia exclaimed bitterly. âMuch they care about her!'
Colin ignored this.
âWell, darling, you see it's pretty urgent. Do you think you can find out some more, as you're on the spot?'
âNo, I don't see how I can, since they now know that the polus'âshe carefully used the Highland word for the policeââare after them.'
âThey do definitely know that?'
âYesâI told you. That's why they left at half an hour's notice.'
âHowboring. So we've absolutely no clue?'
âNo. Oh by the way, what about the detective?'
âThe man you met yesterday. Is anything known of him by your friends?'
âDamn! I forgot to ask.'
âOh really, you are a tiresome child! I told you, twice, to get a line on him.'
âSorry, darling. But does it really matter?'
âIt could matter a lot.' Julia felt that it probably mattered most to her, but did not say so. âFind outâdon't forget again,' she adjured Colin. âAre you coming back?'
âDon't know yet. We may have to be spread pretty thin at these air-ports. But do try to think something up, darling; because if they keep the girl under cover, as I imagine they will now, we really have no clue at all.'
âNo clue at all.' Those last words of Colin's stuck in Julia's head all the evening, while she saw to Mrs. Hath-away's supper in bed, and straightened out some woe of Watkins's; it was with her as she stepped out onto her balcony last thing, sniffing the sweet air and the scent of the opening rowan-blossom from the tree in the meadow below, and looked across the darkling lake at the BlÃ¼mlisalp white under the moon. Another phrase of Colin's nagged at her while she undressedââif they keep the girl under cover'. She visualised June locked in her bedroom, starved, anything; people like Wright and Borovali could easily be remorseless, now that she had served their turn. She got into bed and switched off the light, but was too troubled to sleep. Suddenly there flashed into her mind the recollection of the Mass that Father Antal, the old Hungarian priest, had said in the private chapel at Gralheira, away in Portugal, on behalf of Hetta PÃ¡loczy, another girl in ruthless handsâand how by a miraculous coincidence Mrs. Hathaway had found and rescued her. Here there was no priest or chapel; the little Catholic church at a bend in the long road through the village onlyopened on Sundays for two Masses. But prayer was always prayer; Julia hopped out of bed, and kneeling on the scanty mat which covered the pine flooring beside it she prayed urgently for safety for June. Then she hopped in again, and slept soundly.
She woke in the morning with a bounce, as the young and healthy do; switched on her electricbouilloirfor her morning tea, and went out in her nightgown onto the little balcony. The sun was striking across the white peaks of the BlÃ¼mlisalp; she thought of Antrobus, and what he had told her about the Morgenhorn, invisible from Beatenberg. An early steamer was crossing the lake from Spiez towards Merligen, hidden behind a ridge running down from the Niederhorn; as Julia watched it, idly, an idea stole into her mind of itself, as ideas sometimes do. The little man from âCorsette-Air' lived at Merligenâand hadn't he said that he had been asked recently to act as intermediary betweenagencesof different nations, and pass information from one to the other? Had he saidagencesoragents?She couldn't be sure; she hadn't been paying much attention. But if there were people like him who did this sort of thing, might it not be just worth while to see him again, and try to find out a little more about the nature of the âinformations' he transmitted?âlearn more of how these things were done? It didn't amount to a clueâbut the idea of going to look him up, having come into her head, persisted. Merligen was so nearâshe would lose nothing by going. It was only the vaguest of hunches, it might be all a fantasy; but her hunches and fantasies had sometimes served well in the past. Had she still got that card? She routed in her bagâyes, there it wasâ
Villa Victoria. Merligen.
Herbouilloirboiled, and she made her tea and drank a quick cup; had a bath in Mrs. Hathaway's cubicle of a bathroom, and dressed hastily. It was probably all a nonsense, but Colin, poor sweet, had been so urgent, and shehad nothing to doâMrs. H. ought to keep quiet today, after yesterday. On her way down to breakfast she looked in on that lady, and found her none the worse for her exertions; she had slept well. âBut I don't feel like being very energetic today.'
âMuch better notâkeep quiet and rest. I'm flipping off on a tiny expedition the moment after breakfast; with any luck I shall be back for lunch, but don't wait.'
Ninety-nine elderly ladies out of a hundred, in the circumstances, would have asked where her young friend was going? Mrs. Hathaway did not, which was one reason why everyone loved her.
âVery well, dear child, I won't. It's a lovely day for anAusflug.'
Julia, as Colin had done two days before, went down in the funicular at the end of the village to Beatenbucht, and thence took a trolley-bus along the lake shore to Merligen, at the mouth of the forbidden Justis-Thal. This proved to be a sweet little place, dreamy and tranquil in the spring sunshine, looking across the lake to the shapely blue pyramid of the Niesen behind Spiez; there was a single large hotel on the shore, many old chalets, and an endless crop of small new villas, mostly on streets inland from the lakeâbut what startled and pleased Julia was that the whole little town was white and sweet as a bride's bouquet with bushes of syringa andSpiraea canescensflowering in every garden. After enquiries she made her way to the Villa Victoria, in one of the new streets; a neat paved path between the usual bridal bushes led up to the front door. Julia, wondering a good deal how she was to work this interview, rang the bell.
The door was opened by a rather sour-looking middle-aged woman in a spotted black-and-white apron, with her hair in a net. Julia asked if she could speak with Herr Kaufmann.
âI am Frau Kaufmann,' the woman said, not at all agreeably.
âAh, good day. Is your husband at home? I come to enquire about surgical stays.'
Reluctantly, casting on Julia the suspicious glance that ugly women so often bestow on beautiful ones, the woman admitted her, and led her from the cramped little hall into a rather modest-sized room, obviously a sitting-room-cum-office: a huge safe stood against one wall, a very large desk heaped with files and papers under the window; a nouveau-art sofa and armchairs, covered with a pattern which suggested an electrical discharge, were grouped round a nouveau-art fireplace. Julia was enthralled by this fresh version of a Swiss interiorâone in which, moreover, thousands of pounds worth of business was conducted annually.
âMy husband is away,' the woman said then; âhe had to leave suddenly, for Lugano. I expect you know that his business is really wholesale? What firm do you represent?'
At this point piercing screams in a child's voice were heard from somewhere upstairs. âWarte ein Augenblick, Franzi', the woman called. But Franzi would not wait; he renewed his screaming. With a snort of exasperation and a hasty âEntschuldigen Sie, bitte'the woman left the room and could be heard stumping up the small narrow staircase, and speaking to a child in the room above.
Julia, without the smallest scruple, instantly went over to the outsize desk and began to examine the papers left strewn on it, clear evidence of the owner's hasty departure. There were some invoices, clipped together; several letters with the âCorsette-Air' letter-head from the firm in Yorkshire, all in Englishânothing to help her there. But tucked in under the blotting-pad, only one corner peeping out, she came, with her inveterate curiosity, on an open envelope; she drew out the letter and read it. It was in German, from a chemist in Berne, and read: âOur client Herr B. left his recent address today. He may shortly be calling on you in person to deposit a valuable consignment of goods.' Julia looked quickly at thedateâyesterday!H'mâher âHerr B.' had undoubtedly changed his address yesterday! Could the Borovali outfit be one of theagences, oragents, for whom Herr Kaufmann had recently been asked to act as an intermediary, to receive and pass onâinformations'? âGoods' might perfectly well mean blueprintsâthis letter could possibly mean something. Hastily she scribbled down the chemist's name and address in her diary; she just had time to put the envelope back under the blotter and sit down on one of the hideous chairs before Frau Kaufmann reappeared, with apologies. The little boy was ill, she said; he had measles, and the fever made him fretful. But now, about the FraÃ¼lein's firm?
Julia expressed sympathy about the childââBut I had better speak with Herr Kaufmann himself. When does he return?'
âI await him tomorrow, or even tonight.Ãbermorgenwould be better for the FrÃ¤ulein to come.'
âThen I will call again. It does not press,' Julia said. The woman asked her name.
âThat is unimportantâI will give it when I return.' Then she asked if she could take any message to the doctor, or the chemist, in the town?
âThank you, no; I telephone,' the woman said, disagreeable to the last.
Walking down the sunny little side street between the snowy gardens, Julia wondered whether Franzi's screams were another wonderful stroke of luck, or whether the letter meant nothing? Anyhow, she thought, Colin ought to have that chemist's name and address, just in case. She decided to telephone from the big hotel by the lake; Berne is a longish call, and she knew from the Silberhorn that Swiss hotels have a little machine in the bureau which clocks up both time and priceâbut of course she had to risk giving the Bureau-FrÃ¤ulein Colin's number in Berne.
Mr. Monro was out. When would he be in? âNo idea.' A cheerful English voice spoke.
âWell please ask him to ring up his cousin'âshe gave the Silberhorn numberââas soon as he can; but only after 3.30.'
âO.K.âgood,' the cheerful English voice replied. âHave you got some news for us?'
Julia laughed. This might be half-clever, or too amateurish for words. But she did not want to lose time.
âNothing hard,' she said down the telephoneââbut thereis an address that I think itmightpay you to keep an eye onâround the clock.'
âFine! I've got a pencil. Go ahead.'
Julia gave the chemist's address, and had it repeated. âAnd the âphone number?' the voice asked.
âOh please look that up yourself!' Julia exclaimedâshe wasn't going to say that she hadn't had time to write it down, over the telephone.
âO.K.,' the cheerful voice said again. âThat shall have attention. Thanks very much.'
Julia paid for her call, and then ordered an iced Cinzano, and sat on the terrace beside the lakeâa drink was always cover of a sort. And while she drank she reflected. Yes, on balance she had probably done right to give the Berne chemist's address to an unknown voiceâbut still she was worried. Oughtn't the Villa Victoria to be watched too? If there was anything in her wild guess about the chemist's letter, Mr. Borovali might call at any moment to drop the papers, and that old sour-puss Frau Kaufmann would pop them in that huge combination safe, and then how could they be retrieved? She lit a cigarette and pondered, gazing at the Niesenâand finally came to another decision. Yes, she would chance her arm with the local police.
At the police-station she handed over her card and asked for theHerr Chef-âshe had no idea what the German for âSuperintendent' was. Rather to her surprise after a moment she was shown into an inner office, where a tall middle-aged man, with fair hair turning grey, courteously asked her her business.
Julia, in her very moderate German, enquired if he spoke English.ââI can express myself better in my own language.'
He smiled at her.
âFortunately, FrÃ¤ulein, it so happens that I do; I spent some time in England before joining thePolizei.'
âOh, I am very glad.' Julia did not smile; she spoke slowly and seriously.
âAll I ask of you is to listen to something I have to tell you. You do not know who I am, though here is mypassport'âshe gave it to himââand I do not expect any response to what I tell you; that will be a matter for you and your superiors. Can you spare me five or six minutes?'
This rather portentous opening caused the official to assume the cautious non-committal mask of police all over Europe. âPlease speak,' he said.
âI believe the police in Switzerland have been circulated everywhere with the photograph of a young English girl,' Julia said; âa girl now accompanied by two men, one old and one young.' She opened her note-case and took out the small snap-shot of Colin and the real Aglaia which she had cut out ofParis-Matchat Gersau, and handed it across the table. âThis is, I think, the same young lady.'
The official took up the photograph and examined it; then went to a cupboard, unlocked it, and took out and laid on the table a coarse photostat of the portrait of Aglaia which Julia had sent to Chambertin. He compared the twoâthen, completely po-faced, he turned to Julia.
âAnd so, FrÃ¤ulein?'
âIn this town there lives a certain Herr Kaufmannâat the Villa Victoria; an agent for “Corsette-Air”, a foreign firm selling elastic stays. Probably you know his name.'
âNatÃ¼rlich'the man, still po-faced, said.
Julia, feeling that she might be making a frightful fool of herself, nevertheless kept steadily on.
âI have reason to think it possible that the two men accompanying the young lady whose picture you have thereâa Mr. Borovali, though his passport is made out in the name of de Ritter, and the young one, whose passport is in the name of Colin Monroâmay possibly call at the Villa Victoria. If they do so, it would almost certainly be to dispose of some documents of the highest importance, which they obtained recently by fraud from the Banque RÃ©publicaine in Geneva. The photograph you have there'âshe put a pink-tipped finger on the photostatââhas been circulated, I think, mainly with a view to the recovery of these documents.'
Still superbly po-facedââAnd so, FrÃ¤ulein?' the official asked again.
âNothing, really,' Julia said coolly, âexcept that it might assist your superiors, who took the trouble to send you that photograph, if a watch were kept on the Villa Victoria. I think you were also furnished with a description of the two men: the one elderly, grey-haired, with a grey forked beard, the younger very tall, slender, black hair and an olive complexion. If two such people came to the Villa they would very probably have the stolen documents with them, and it would be very useful to the bank, at least, if these documents could be apprehended.' She rose. âThat is all.' She made to leave, as expressionless as heâonly no blankness of expression could really make Julia look po-faced.
The official remained seated.
âJust one moment, FrÃ¤ulein; please to sit down again.'
Julia sat down, and the man studied her with a long gaze in which surprise, curiosity, and suspicion were blended with a hint of sterness.
âThe FrÃ¤ulein shows herself remarkably conversant with the personages in an affair which is apparently a crime; and, as you say, you are unknown to me. Have you any documents with you which would throw light on your status? The FrÃ¤ulein will recognise that the circumstances are a little peculiar.'
âI have nothing but my visiting-card and my passport, both of which you have seen,' Julia said, rather stiffly. âBut if you wish you can telephone to the Pasteur of the Ãglise Nationale at Bellardon; he is the real Herr de Ritter, and knows me wellâI have stayed twice at La Cure within the last three weeks. And he is fully conversant with the whole affair.'
The police official made a note, and then askedââThe FrÃ¤ulein is staying in Merligen?'
âNo, at Beatenberg; the Hotel Silberhorn.'
âAnd do you know the present whereabouts of this young lady?' he asked, touching the police photograph.
âBut naturally not! If I did, I should have gone also to the police thereâwherever she is,' Julia said, with a chilly smile.
The official reflected.
âPlease excuse me for a moment,' he said, and left the room. Julia began to wonder if she was going to be put in the cells, or whether he had merely gone to ring up Bellardonâand, again, if what she had been doing was quite idiotic. She pushed her wooden chair over to the window, opened itâJulia was always opening windowsâand sat looking out. Below her were more gardens, white and fragrant with spiraea and syringa; beyond them, across the lake, rose the Niesen, with snowy gleams beyondâprobably the Wildstrubel. There is a certain reassurance, for some people, in the mere presence of mountains; Antrobus had not been wrong in his guess that Julia belonged to this fortunate group. She waited quietly in the bare, clean, official little room; she did look at her watch and saw that it was just after twelve; but she had warned Mrs. Hathaway that she might not be back for lunchâwhich at the Silberhorn, as in most Swiss hotels, occurred at 12.30. She was feeling perfectly tranquil when after a few minutes the greying-blond police officer returned. But the question he instantly put to her was rather upsetting.
âFrÃ¤ulein Probyn, can you explain to me why you connect Herr Kaufmann with the persons of whom you have been speaking?'
Julia hesitated, and thought. The little âCorsette-Air' man's remarks about touchingla haute financeand acting as an intermediary for agencies of foreign powers were far too complicated and tenuous for this blunt intelligent man, with his official limitations. Much better stick to the letter she had read less than two hours ago. She opened her bag and took out what she had scribbled down in the Villa Victoria.
âA certain chemist in Berne,' she said carefully, âwrote yesterday to Herr Kaufmann to say that “Herr B.” might call on him shortly to deposit “A valuable consignment of goods”; he also mentioned that “Herr B.” had left his recent address “today”âthat is to say yesterday. And yesterday morning Mister Borovali left the Hotel zum Fluss in Interlaken at less than an hour's notice, with thatyoung lady and the young man.' As she spoke she reached out and took the snapshot of Colin and Aglaia, and put it in her bag.
âYou require this?' the official asked.
âYesâit is mine. In any case it is not the likeness of the young man who is Borovali's collaborator.'
âThen of whom?'
âOf quite a different person, well known in English society, whom I happen to know. This photograph will not help you, and you already have an adequate likeness'âshe chose her words carefullyââof the young lady in the party.' She paused. âI am sure you have already been informed that she is impersonating someone else.'
The man turned po-faced again. As Julia took up her passport from the table and put it in her bagââAnd the name of this chemist in Berne?' he asked.
âOh yes'âshe opened her bag, read it out, and as he wrote it down, once more closed her bag.
âYou return now to Beatenberg?' the man asked.
âYes, immediately; I'm late alreadyâI shall miss theMittagsessen.'Once more she rose; the official said,âAdieu', and opened the door.
âGoodbye,' Julia said blithely, and went out into the sunny little street to find the trolley-bus.
It was nearly a quarter to two when she got back, but FrÃ¤ulein Hanna had saved her anassiette anglaise(a dish of mixed cold meats, in which veal and tongue predominated) and a bowl of saladâthe kind woman told her thatdie alte Damehad made a good meal, and was gone to rest. Julia made a good meal too, and then went up to her room and brewed some NescafÃ©, which she drank on her balcony, idly watching more hay-cutting in the field below, and wondering whether she had really achieved anything by her morning's excursion. Was it all a mares'-nest, and anyhow would the Merligen policeman do anything?
Presently she was summoned to the telephoneâit was the Pastor.
âMy dear Miss Probyn, what have you been up to?Stealing edelweiss in a Nature-Reserve? The police have been here to enquire about you.'
âOh, splendid!' Julia said heartily; he laughed loudly.
âOh, the English! You really love all police, don't you? But you are all right? You are not being troubled?'
âAny news of these individuals?' he asked, with a change of tone.
âYes, I met two of them, but they've flitted.'
âGone awayâwe don't know where to.'
âAnd you actually saw them? How extraordinary! But what has happened today, to cause this interest?'
âOh, I had a wild idea, so I went and reported it,' Julia said airily. âI'm glad they paid some attentionâI wasn't sure they would.'
âOur Polizisten do not pay attention to wild ideas as a rule,' the Pastor said, again merry.
âWell I hope you gave me a good character,' Julia said. Like Colin she found that the door of the telephone-box wouldn't latch, and there were two or three people in the small lounge outside, which gave onto the gardenâshe wanted to cut the conversation short. âHow is Germaine?âand the family?'
âAll very well. Your cousin is with you?'
âNot at the moment. Give Germaine my love. Goodbye.'
Julia went upstairs feeling on the whole rather pleased. At least the Merligen police hadn't completely ignored her visit; and if they had been activated to the point of ringing up Bellardon, they might possibly do something about the Villa Victoria. She washed out some stockings and hung them on a string across her tiny balcony; then some handkerchiefs, humming a little tune, happily, as she did so; she was just plastering the hankies on the window-panes to iron themâthat invaluable trick of the experienced travellerâwhen there came a tap on the door.
âHerein,'Julia calledâand in came FrÃ¤ulein Hanna, with a distressful face.
âFrÃ¤ulein Probyn, I am most heartily sorry, but thePolizeiare here, and ask to speak with you! I tell them that it must be a mistake, but they give your name, and insist that they must see you.'
âOh never mind, FrÃ¤ulein Hanna; it's quite all right.' She paused, and thought. âBut I don't want Herr Schaff-hausen upset. Where are they now?'
âThey waitim Bureau.'
âThen shall I come down to them, or were it better that they come up and see me here? There are people in theKleine Saal, aren't there?' (TheKleine Saalwas the small hall or lounge containing the telephone-box; the Bureau opened off it.)
âWell then bring them up to me here, in the liftâthat will be less noticeable. Don't worry,' she said, seeing the big kind woman's troubled expression. âYou will see, there will be no unpleasantness.'
âIt ishÃ¶chst unangenehmthat they come to the trouble the FrÃ¤ulein at all,' Hanna said indignantly. âAll this nonsense about passports! But it is perhaps better soâthoughdas FrÃ¤uleinshould not have to receive strange men in her bedroom.' She went out, and returned in a couple of minutes with two large, pink-faced, countryfied policemen, whom she ushered into that exceedingly small room, with its single wicker armchair, the two rugs on the waxed floor, and the wooden bed with its white honeycomb quilt. âShall I remain?' she asked earnestly of the English girl.
âNo, dear FrÃ¤ulein Hanna; I thank you, but do not give yourself this trouble,' Julia said easily. âVery probably I can helpdiese Herrenbetter by myself.' This was of course said in German, and the two pink faces manifested a simple but evident relief. Hanna, casting a baleful glance at them, went out.
âAlso, meine Herren, how can I be of service to you?' Julia askedâas she spoke she sat down in the solitary chair. âI wish I could ask you to be seated, but as you see there is only the bed.'
The Beatenberg police did not fancy sitting on the bed;they stood. It was only a formality, the slightly senior one explainedâcould they see the FrÃ¤ulein's passport? Julia produced this, and the man wrote down her name and the passport number, in a black note-book.
âAnd the FrÃ¤ulein entered Switzerland when?'
âThe date isgestempelt,' Julia said patiently. âAllow me to show you.' She took the passport and showed him the entry stamp, nearly four weeks previously.
âAnd since then the FrÃ¤ulein has been where?'
At dictation speed Julia gave him all her movements: Gersau, with her host's name and address; La Cure at Bellardon; the Hotel Bergues at Geneva; Bellardon again, Gersau again; and finally here at Beatenberg. All policemen write incredibly slowly; so did the Beatenberg worthy, poising his note-book on the small bed-tableâhowever, at last he closed it with an elastic band.
âAnddas FrÃ¤uleinexpects to remain here?'
âFor the present, yes. But,mein Herr, I would like to make one request of you.'
âAnd that is, FrÃ¤ulein?' He looked suspicious at once.
âThat you do not cause the Polizei in Gersau to disturb Herr Waechter with their enquiries. He is a very old man, and it might upset him to have the police calling at the house and asking him about his guests. This cannot really be necessaryâyou know that I am here, and since when, and the police at Bellardon have already verified my presence there at La Cure, on the dates I have given you.'
A slow look of surprise gradually disturbed the bland pinkness of the older policeman's face.
âAnd may I ask how the FrÃ¤ulein knows this?'
âBut because the Herr Pastor himself telephoned, only now, to tell me so!' Julia said merrily. âHe asked if I had been stealing edelweiss on the Niederhornâhe has laughed very much.'
The two policemen grinned a little, though evidently shocked by such levity. âDie Edelweissare not yet in bloom,' the younger one added seriously.
âNicht?But please hear me,' Julia pursued earnestly. âWith the old Herr Waechter it will be otherwise; he willnot laugh, he will be greatly distressed. If it is really essential that you verify my presence in Gersau on these dates, can it not be arranged that thePolizeithere speak only with his servant AntonâAnton Hofer? He is in the house for twenty years. I beg this favour of you.'
Julia's earnestness, and probably also the doves' eyes which she turned on the two bucolic policemen, gained her point. âIt shall be done as the FrÃ¤ulein desires,' the older one said. âHave no anxiety.SchÃ¶nsten Dank, FrÃ¤ulein, for your co-operation.' They bowed themselves out, rather awkwardly, past the end of the bed.
Julia was just wondering whether she ought to ring up Herr Waechter herself, and warn him, when Anni, one of the waitresses, came in to say thatdie alte Damewas about to take tea in the garden, and desired to know if the FrÃ¤ulein would join her? Julia ran down, and found Mrs. Hathaway and Watkins sitting at a table on the gravel, under clipped chestnuts, which constituted the garden of the Silberhorn.
âI thought we would have tea out here, as it's so fine,' Mrs. Hathaway said, âbut perhaps it was a mistake. The tea Watkins makes for me upstairs is much better than this.'
âSwiss tea is Hell,' Julia said, dispassionatelyââit was even at the Bergues. I suppose it's because it isn't their drinkâcoffee yes, tea no. And hadn't we better have some sandwiches or bread-and-butter instead of these ghastlyKuchen?' She had bitten into one of the dismal cakes supplied by the hotel, and as she spoke flung the remainder over the low terrace wall into the hayfield below. âShall I go and order?' she askedâshe knew that Mrs. Hathaway was now drawing an invalid's allowance, and was not limited to Â£100.
Mrs. Hathaway, laughing, said Yes; Watkins beamed; Julia ran in to FrÃ¤ulein Hanna and asked for tongue sandwiches and bread-and-butter and honey to be sent out at once. âAnd how went it with thePolizei?' the Swiss woman asked.
âOh, they couldn't have been nicer; just a technicality,' Julia said, reassuringly.
âThey should not have come,' Hanna said. âThe older one is my cousinâI shall speak with him at Mass on Sunday. Troubling good, polite,excellent Herrschaften.'Julia, laughing, returned to the garden; there she found Antrobus sitting at the table, and the tea-tray littered with botanical specimens. As he rose to greet her, she experienced an almost frightening pang of pleasure.
âOh, how do you do? Bringing your finds to be identified?' she asked teasingly, to conceal her delight.
âDo look, dear childâMr. Antrobus has brought me the Astrantia and the red Cephalanthera,' Mrs. Hathaway said exultingly. âAnd Sweet Woodruffâyou know it grows in the Cotswolds; smell how fragrant it is.' She held up a small flower rather like the common Bedstraw, only larger, with frills of leaves in sixes all up its stalk.
âYesâdelicious,' Julia said, knowingly squeezing the stem as she sniffed.
âThey make a drink of it here with white wine,' Antrobus said; âthey call itMai-Kop. And the peasants call the plant itselfWaldmeister'.
âMaster of the Forest is a much more imposing name than Sweet Woodruff,' Julia observed.
âI've sometimes wondered if it mightn't really be the same idea,' Antrobus saidââ“Woodruff” merely a corruption of “Wood-Reive”, the Warden of the Wood.'
âHow charming; that had never occurred to me,' said Mrs. Hathaway. âI shall look it up when I get home. They make a drink of it in Austria too,' she added, âonly there they call itMai-Bohle.'
Julia again smelled the potent scent of the small flowerâshe liked to think of two different nations using the delicate, precisely-shaped little plant to make a spring drink, and calling it by two such pretty names as May-cup and May-bowl. âI wonder if it grows here,' she saidââif I could collect enough I'm sure FrÃ¤ulein Hanna would make us aMai-Kop.'
âIt's rather early for it as high as this,' Antrobus repliedâsurprising Julia, who had not yet grasped that the seasons in Switzerland depend partly on altitude, and thata difference of three thousand feet may also mean a delay of two or three weeks in the flowering of plants. âBut the woods round Interlaken are full of it,' he went on; âif I can I'll bring up a good bunch tomorrow.'
âThen you must bring it up in time to have the brew made, and stay and dine,' Mrs. Hathaway said happily; she was greatly taken with Antrobus.
âI should be delighted to do that, ifâif I'm not called away,' the man replied, for once showing a trace of embarrassment.
âOh, are you leaving?' Mrs. Hathaway asked, a note of chill coming into her voice. She belonged to a generation which was accustomed to having its invitations accepted or refused, but not left hanging in the air.
Antrobus did his best.
âDear Mrs. Hathaway, I hope very much both to be able to bring you the Sweet Woodruff tomorrow, and to dine with you and drink the product. But I am not altogether my own master.'
âOh.' A pause. âThen who is your master?' Mrs. Hathaway asked, implacably. Julia listened enchanted to Mrs. H. turning the heat onto the detectiveâwhat would he say? She might learn something.
What he said struck the girl at once as being a cover-story.
âMy master is one of these modern Juggernauts, the Press-Barons,' he said. âThey are very arbitrary, and quite unpredictable.' He put this out with a rather graceful aplomb, but Mrs. Hathaway, unmollified, regarded him with a steady look which had all the quelling effect of an Edwardian dowager raising her lorgnette to her face. The very fact that she so liked and approved of this man made her all the more severe, now that his behaviour fell short of her standards.
âOh, you are a journalist?' she said at length. âI should never have suspected it.'
Nor should I, and I don't believe it for a moment, Julia thought to herselfâif that was all he was, why had Nethersole made such a fuss when she asked what he did, atlunch at the Palais des Nations? But she saw Antrobus, at the old lady's tone, actually blush; the ready unconcealable blush of a fair-skinned man. She intervened.
âMrs H., dear, what's wrong with being a journalist? Aren't I one?'
âNot very seriously, my dearâand only with a very nice Press Baroness!' She turned to Antrobus. âWell, if Lord X., or Lord Y., or Lord Z., whichever your so needlessly ennobled “master” is'âshe put a sardonic stress on the word masterââleaves you free tomorrow evening, it will be delightful to see you at dinner. 7.30. Won't you have another cup of tea?'
Not unnaturally in the circumstances, Mr. Antrobus declined a second cup of tea; he took his leave rather hastily, striding out of the garden on his long legs, got into a large car which he had parked near the cow-stable across the street, and drove off. Watkins excused herself at the same time.
âI never saw a car like that before,' Julia said, as she watched him go. âI wonder what on earth it is.'
Mrs. Hathaway was often unexpectedâshe was now.
âIt's a Porsche' she said. âI've seen them in Vienna. Porsche was the man who designed the Volkswagen, and afterwards he made this car tooâon the same principle, but bigger and faster. An Austrian friend was telling me about it. Rather expensive for a journalist, I should have thoughtâthey're practically racing cars.'
âMrs H., what a lot you know! But I think you were rather hard on that wretched man,' Julia said.
âMr. Antrobus? Why is he wretched?'
âHe wasn't, till you made him so. I expect he has quite a sunny nature really,' Julia said, trying to sound casual.
Mrs. Hathaway studied her young friend with a speculative eye. Why this concern for Mr. Antrobus?' She spoke carefully.
âMy dear, I am sorry if I have distressed you on his account. I was taken by surpriseâhis neither accepting nor refusing an invitation was so unexpected, in him.'
âI daresay he really couldn't help it,' Julia said. In factshe had learned nothing from Mrs. Hathaway's pressure except that Antrobus could lie, but not very well. And would he come to dinner tomorrow, after this? She did want him to.
They sat on for a little while, deliberately talking of other things, while the air cooled, and the white peaks across the lake turned to a richer gold; the pine-forests on the slopes in front of them assumed a quite extraordinary colourâa sort of rosy bronze, but with the deep softness of velvet. The white-and-yellow hotel cat came stalking out and sprang and clawed its way up one of the clipped horse-chestnuts, where it stretched and rolled in a broad fork among the branches; Julia laughed at the cheerful animal, and went over to rub its thick coarse furâshe was doing this when FrÃ¤ulein Hanna came stumping out across the grey gravel on her thick grey-stockinged legs.
âOne demands FrÃ¤ulein Probynam Telefon.'
Julia abandoned the cat and went to that insecure telephone-box in theKleine Saal. The voice was Colin's; he sounded cross.
âDarling, what are you up to? You seem to have stirred up an absolute hornets' nest among the local polus, just when we wanted to do everything as quietly as possible. What goes on?'
âI don't know for sure if anything goes on at all,' Julia said, not in the least disturbedâColin was so often cross. âI just had a hunch, and acted on it. The bobbies have been here too,' she added, gurgling.
âHell! Whatever for?'
âJust to check on me. They were quite sweet.'
âWhy did you send them to see the parson?'
âOh, as a Swiss “reference as to character”âreally the only one I've got except Mrs. H.'s old boy-friend, and I made them promise not to worry him.'
âI think you'requitemad,' Colin said angrily.
âCould be. Time will show. But I hope someone is keeping an eye on that chemist's, darling darlingâI really think that might pay off. Your colleague with the nice voice seemed to be willing to.'
âOh yesâthat's being taken care of. Another dead end, I expect,' he said irritably. âI wish to God I knew what all this is about.'
âWell when are you coming back to hear? I'm not going to telephone the whole story, automatic or no.'
âI don't knowâas soon as I can. But do try to keepquiet, will you? This may be rather a crucial forty-eight hours.' He sounded tired, anxious, and overwrought to Julia, who knew his voice so well.
âBless you, I'll try to. Oh by the way'âshe paused for an instantââWhat about the detective?'
A click indicated that Colin had already rung off.Chapter 9Interlakenâthe Clinic and the Golden Bear
A Little before nine on the following morning Julia was finishing her breakfast in the restaurant, vulgarly scraping up the black-cherry jam off her plate with the delicious Beatenberg breadâthe rolls, which come up from Interlaken, don't arrive in time for breakfastâwhen once again she was called to the telephone. An obviously Swiss voice asked, in uncertain EnglishââIt is Miss Probeen who speaks?'
âMiss Probeen herself?'
âAber ja, unbedingt,'Julia said reassuringly. âWho wishes to speak with me?'
âOne moment please, FrÃ¤ulein.' There was a pause, a faint confused noise of voices âoff', and then Julia heard June's unmistakable sub-Cockney tonesââIs that Miss Probyn?'
âYes, Julia Probyn speaking. Is that June?'
âYes. Oh, I am glad I've got you. You couldn't come down and see me, could you? Iamso unhappy!âand my ankle's so swollen, it's terrible. The two gentlemen have gone off, so I thought you might come and see me.'
âOf course I will. Where are you?'
âOh, in ever such a funny little hotelânot a bit like the Flooss! And it's got such a silly name, the Golden Bear. Whoever heard of a golden bear?' June demanded, with a fretful giggle.
âBut where is it? What town, I mean?'
âOh, poor old Interlarken! I don't know why we had to come here; it's ever so small, and one can't see the steamersâwell reelly one can't see anything! And we rushed away from the Flooss in such a hurry, I couldn't pack properly; and here there's no room to hang anything.My dresses will be ruined, staying in the cases, and not folded right.'
âI'll fold them for you.'
âOh you are sweet!âI would be glad. But can you come soon? You see I don't know when they'll get back, but not before dinner-time, I don't think.'
Julia guessed that by âdinner' June meant what she called luncheon.
âI'll come down at once. Not to worry,' she said, employing an idiotic phrase which she hoped would appeal to June. It did; she was rewarded by a happy giggle, and âOh, lovely!' Bye-byeâsee you in no time.'
Outside the telephone-box Julia consulted the bus timetable which is such an essential feature of life in Beatenberg. The next bus for Interlaken left in five minutes; she raced upstairs, collected a jacket, looked in on Mrs. Hathaway withââFlying offâcan't stopâback some timeâand ran down again, out through theKleine Saaland along the gravelled garden to where the bus pulled up, between the cow-stable and a petrol-pump. She just made it, and got the front seat of all, next to the driver.
This happened to be the blond man whose goings-on had exasperated Watkins on the day they arrived. So early in the morning the passengers were mostly local Swiss; they all referred to the driver as âder Chrigl', the Swiss-German diminutive for the name Christianâand from him, on the way down, Julia enquired how to find the Golden Bear? In the Cantonal-Platz, he told her: along the main street, and then a turning to the left soon after the Post-Bureau. âIt is a very small hotel; few foreigners go there,' der Chrigl observed, eyeing her a little curiouslyâand most dangerouslyâas he swung his vast machine round one of the hairpin bends. âBut the FrÃ¤ulein cannot miss the big golden bear over the doorâit glitters.'
The Cantonal-Platz is in the old indigenous Interlaken, which few tourists ever see. Deep-eaved plastered houses line narrow streets, many of which end at the riverâthen the vista is closed, not by more houses but by the green wooded slopes of the Harder-Kulm, rising steeply abovethe farther bank. Local trades are carried on hereâtimber-yards, warehouses for coke and briquettes or for wine, shops for second-hand clothing; Julia paused before a very small window indeed, in which a splendid pair of climbing-boots was displayed for twelve francs, or roughly one pound. She was tempted to go in and try them on, remembering Antrobus's suggestion that she ought to climb; but June was more important, and she walked on. Presently she found the Cantonal-Platz, a very small square, most of one side of which was occupied by the Hotel zum Goldenen BÃ¤ren and its garden, as usual shaded by clipped horse-chestnuts; exactly opposite stood a rival hostelry, the Gemsbock, also with a garden. But there was no mistaking the one she sought, for in the strong sunshine a large gilt bear glitteredâder Chrigl had been quite rightâover the entrance. The small door stood open; Julia tapped on itâa middle-aged woman in black, wearing a grey-and-white flowered apron, emerged from the dark interior of the little hallway.
âGrÃ¼ss Gott,' Julia said. âCould I speak with Miss Armitage?'
The woman, who had a pleasant kindly face, had smiled at the Swiss salutation âGod greet you'; but at the name âArmitage' her expression became troubled and hesitant. âI am not sure that the FrÃ¤ulein iszu Hause,' she said doubtfully.
âAber ja, I know she is. She has spoken with me only a short time agoam Telefon, and I wish to see about her foot,' Julia replied firmly.
âAch so!âyou are the friend.Ja, die Arme, it does not go so well with her foot. Please to enter.'
This interchange confirmed Julia's suspicions about how Borovali and Wright probably dealt with June. She followed the woman along the narrow hall and up two flights of steep stairs; at the top, at the far end of a tiny corridor, the woman in the grisaille apron threw open a door, saying âFrÃ¤ulein Armitage, you have a visitor!'
In a little, low-ceilinged room June was sitting in a small cheap armchair by a small window, looking out overthe Platz, her injured foot propped on a stool; several pieces of luggage, half-opened, with clothes coming out of them, stood about the floor. Besides the bed and the inevitable commode there was a wash-stand with a ewer and basin, a slop-pail under it; a small chest of drawers on which stood a cheap blurred mirror in a wooden frame, and a row of pegs for clothes along the wall in one corner. That was allâthe Golden Bear was clearly a very simple hotel indeed. June greeted her in a way which Julia found quite upsetting.
âOh, youhavecome! Well in a way I knew you would, if you promisedâbut reelly sitting here, I began to think I'd have to live and die in this room. Oh, I do wish I could go home!' As Julia went over to her the little thing stretched up her arms and gave her an almost passionate hug.
âHow is your foot?' Julia asked. âHas the doctor seen it again?'
âNo, and it hurts ever so. I am so worriedâif it loses its shape I shall be finished for modelling. But I'm not allowed to go out, and Mr. B. says he doesn't want the doctor coming here just now.'
Julia could well understand Mr. B.'s attitude, wicked as she thought it. She pulled down June's stocking; above and below the strapping the flesh was purplish and unwholesome-looking.
âDr. Hertz must see this,' she said. âJust waitâI'll go and arrange it.'
âMr. B. will be mad,' June said, half-alarmed.
âLet him be!' She heard June giggle as she left the room and ran downstairs. From a tiny office off the dark hall she telephoned; Dr. Hertz was in, but could not leave his clinic.
âThen I bring you one of your patientsâFrÃ¤ulein Armitage, this young English girl from the Fluss.'
âVery goodâit is time I see this foot again.'
âWell please see hersogleich, when we come,' Julia said firmly. âI think it is urgent, and we shall not have any time to spare.'
âAgreed. Give her name when you arrive.'
Julia asked the woman in black to send for a taxi. âI take the FrÃ¤ulein to the doctor; her foot is very bad.'
âBut she should not leave the hotel!âthose were the wishes ofder Herr'
âIf you do not let her go, I shall fetch thePolizei,'Julia said sharply. âIt is essential that she sees the doctor.'
The woman crumbled. âHeinrich!' she calledâfrom the kitchen regions a rather dirty youth appeared, and was dispatched to fetch a taxi. Julia went upstairs again, pulled a foolish velvet slipper onto June's bad foot, unhooked the pale tweed coat which she had seen at Victoria from one of the pegs, and helped the girl into it. Then an idea struck her.
âWhere are your hats?'
âAll in the hat-box, over there.'
âHave you one with an eye-veil?'
âOh yes, a lovely one! I've only worn it once, when we went to a bank in Geneva. I'd love you to see it.'
Julia was already pulling hats out of a vulgar tartan-covered hat-box, doubtless Mr. Borovali's choice, and laying them on the bed. âThis one?' she asked, reluctantly admiring Mr. B.'s astuteness.
âYes, that's it.' June hobbled over to the dim little mirror on the chest of drawers, powdered her face, addedâquite needlesslyâto her lipstick, and skilfully arranged her pale hair with smart strokes from a semi-circular nylon brushâas she watched this process Julia noticed that a much darker shade was beginning to show at the roots of the prettycendrÃ©hair. H'm!
âHave you always been as fair as this?' she asked casually, while the girl was adjusting the hat to a becoming angle.
âOh no' June replied, without the slightest hesitationââlovely brown hair, mine is; sort of chestnut, with goldy lights in it. But for this job Mr. Borovali wanted me a real ash-blonde, so in the end I agreed. Mum simply loathed it!âbut he paid me twenty quid, in cash, just for the colour of my hair; and I thought that was worth it.'
âIt's frightfully becoming,' Julia said. âNow stop titivating and come on down; the taxi will be waiting. Pull your veil down.' Slowly, they crept down the dark narrow stairs.
Dr. Hertz's clinic was at the far end of the town, beyond the Bahnhof-Platz; it was clean and functional, with trim nurses in attendance, one of whom ushered them into a waiting-room deplorably full of patientsâJulia followed her out into the corridor.
âPlease inform the Herr Doktor that FrÃ¤ulein Armitage is here. He knows that she cannot wait, and will see her quickly; we have spoken on the telephone.'
The nurse put on the face of obstruction common to nurses the world over. âThe Herr Doktor sees his patients strictly in rotation' she said smugly.
âYou deceive yourselfâand seek to deceive me,' Julia said coldly. âThis patient the Herr Doktor will see next.' She took out a card and wrote June's false name on it. âHave the goodness to take this to the Herr Doktor immediately.'
âHe is with a patient,' the nurse said sulkily, barely glancing at the card.
âNaturallyâI do not imagine that he sits alone in his surgery!' Julia said laughingly. âBut you can enter and give the card.' She could hear voices from behind a door a little way off, and moved towards it. âIf you do not,Ido,' she said.
The nurse gave way, and took in the card; in a moment a short man in a white overall, with grey hair and a pale clever face appeared, her card in his hand.
âYou bring Miss Armitage? Goodâin five minutes I see her.' He said this in quite good Englishâthen he disappeared again.
In the surgery Dr. Hertz frowned as he removed the strapping from June's foot.
âThis has been on too long. I arranged it for less than twenty-four hours, and it is now two days'âglancing at a card on his desk. âI went to the hotel on Tuesday, as arranged, and you had left, giving no address.' He felt theankle skilfully while he scolded, his hands more sympathetic than his voice. âWhere have you been?'
âWe went to another hotel,' June said feebly.
âThen why not leave an address?' He pressed a bell on his desk, and a young man, also in white, appeared. âAn X-ray, at once; and I want the films promptly.' In a moment another nurse came in with a wheeled chair, and June was propelled out.
âI'll come in a minute,' Julia told her, and turned to the doctor.
âIs it serious?'
âI think not, but it is better to know. The swelling may have been just from the strapping, which should have been renewed. But what is this nonsense of changing hotels and leaving no address?' He spoke in the arbitrary manner of a clever busy professional.