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Caesar, who was quite willing to give Ravoli his full share of credit, when once assured that his own interests were safe. "He has remained on friendly terms with Captain Lascelles too, and can keep you up to all his moves."
"That will suffice," answered Ellen, still speaking in the same harsh, .business-like tone. "Here is a cheque on my bankers in New Orleans for the reward I promised you, and they shall receive orders afr once to honour your yearly drafts for the income. Here is a letter I had prepared for them; you can post it yourself."
"Then you have no objection to my return to America?"
"Co anywhere you like," she answered, carelessly.
"Thank you," said the Emperor, carefully depositing the precious papers in his pocket; "and the further the better, I suppose.. I must also mention that I gave Ravoli a
bill on you for ten thousand francs, for his share of the work."
"Very well; it shall be paid," replied the widow, curtly. "Now I do not require your services any longer. You may go."
The dismissal was rather abrupt; but Julius Caesar was of a practical turn of mind, and slow to take offence. His work was -done, and the. money was safe in his pocket. With a low bow, and a brief expression of gratitude, he left the room and the hotel.
Ellen Barclay summoned Mona, and wrote a despatch to Ravoli, requesting him to await her in his rooms at five o'clock on the following afternoon, which she ordered her to send off at once. Then, as soon as she was alone in her room, the mask fell, and the miserable woman, overcame by an agony of remorse, burst into hysterical sobs, and beat her breast and tore her flesh with her nails until the blood flowed profusely down her white, heaving bosom.
Cherchez la femme.
On the afternoon of the following day, Major Douglas, the Marchese di Gabrella, and Walter Lascelles were again assembled at the Grand Hotel, in deep and earnest consultation with Monsieur Claude, the famous detective, who had just arrived from Paris. The Baron was not present. He had never yet been brought into direct contact with Monsieur Claude, but he knew that that redoubtable police officer was well acquainted with the darker side of his life, and had long had his eye on him. It is true that the plot had been so carefully combined, and artfully carried out, that he had but little fear of
-detection, and he was utterly indifferent to mere suspicion unaccompanied by any tittle of proof; still he felt an unconquerable aversion to meeting the detective's keen, piercing gaze, and had found in urgent private business a plausible pretext for not being present at the conference.
Monsieur Claude was, or rather seemed to be, at the moment of his appearance in the present history, (for so numerous and perfect were his various disguises that his most intimate acquaintances scarcely knew the face and form which he had been endowed with by nature,) a placid, white-haired and highly benevolent-looking old gentleman of about sixty. An ill-fitting, grey tweed travelling suit, large blue spectacles, and a green etui slung across his shoulder by a broad leather strap, gave him a general resemblance to a German professor on a botanizing expedition. His figure was portly, his gait heavy and plodding, and his expression so extraordinarily vacuous and wandering that the Major and Gabrella had stared almost incredulously as he presented his card, on which was engraved:—
MONSIEUR B. CLAUDE,
Inspecteur De La Brigade De Surety,
Rue de Jerusalem.
There could, however, be no real doubt concerning his identity; and, after the first moment of surprise, Douglas requested him -to be seated, and proceeded to explain to him in minute detail all the circumstances of the case. He listened most attentively, with his face turned towards the speaker; but, if the thick blue glasses had not concealed his eyes, it would have been noticed that they never for an instant wandered from Walter's countenance. He smiled a feeble, watery smile when Ravoli's name was mentioned, and nodded his head several times as