With these particulars began and ended the discoveries made by Ferrari's courier-friend. The police were on the look-out for the lost man-- and that was the only hope which could be held forth for the present, to Ferrari's wife.
'What do you think of it, Miss?' the poor woman asked eagerly. 'What would you advise me to do?'
Agnes was at a loss how to answer her; it was an effort even to listen to what Emily was saying. The references in the courier's letter to Montbarry--the report of his illness, the melancholy picture of his secluded life--had reopened the old wound. She was not even thinking of the lost Ferrari; her mind was at Venice, by the sick man's bedside.
'I hardly know what to say,' she answered. 'I have had no experience in serious matters of this kind.'
'Do you think it would help you, Miss, if you read my husband's letters to me? There are only three of them--they won't take long to read.'
Agnes compassionately read the letters.
They were not written in a very tender tone. 'Dear Emily,' and 'Yours affectionately'--these conventional phrases, were the only phrases of endearment which they contained. In the first letter, Lord Montbarry was not very favourably spoken of:--'We leave Paris to-morrow. I don't much like my lord. He is proud and cold, and, between ourselves, stingy in money matters. I have had to dispute such trifles as a few centimes in the hotel bill; and twice already, some sharp remarks have passed between the newly-married couple, in consequence of her ladyship's freedom in purchasing pretty tempting things at the shops in Paris. "I can't afford it; you must keep to your allowance." She has had to hear those words already. For my part, I like her. She has the nice, easy foreign manners--she talks to me as if I was a human being like herself.'
The second letter was dated from Rome.
'My lord's caprices' (Ferrari wrote) 'have kept us perpetually on the move. He is becoming incurably restless. I suspect he is uneasy in his mind. Painful recollections, I should say--I find him constantly reading old letters, when her ladyship is not present. We were to have stopped at Genoa, but he hurried us on. The same thing at Florence. Here, at Rome, my lady insists on resting. Her brother has met us at this place. There has been a quarrel already (the lady's maid tells me) between my lord and the Baron. The latter wanted to borrow money of the former. His lordship refused in language which offended Baron Rivar. My lady pacified them, and made them shake hands.'
The third, and last letter, was from Venice.
'More of my lord's economy! Instead of staying at the hotel, we have hired a damp, mouldy, rambling old palace. My lady insists on having the best suites of rooms wherever we go--and the palace comes cheaper for a two months' term. My lord tried to get it for longer; he says the quiet of Venice is good for his nerves. But a foreign speculator has secured the palace, and is going to turn it into an hotel. The Baron is still with us, and there have been more disagreements about money matters. I don't like the Baron-- and I don't find the attractions of my lady grow on me. She was much nicer before the Baron joined us. My lord is a punctual paymaster; it's a matter of honour with him; he hates parting with his money, but he does it because he has given his word. I receive my salary regularly at the end of each month--not a franc extra, though I have done many things which are not part of a courier's proper work. Fancy the Baron trying to borrow money of me! he is an inveterate gambler. I didn't believe it when my lady's maid first told me so-- but I have seen enough since to satisfy me that she was right. I have seen other things besides, which--well! which don't increase my respect for my lady and the Baron. The maid says she means to give warning to leave. She is a respectable British female, and doesn't take things quite so easily as I do. It is a dull life here. No going into company--no company at home--not a creature sees my lord-- not even the consul, or the banker. When he goes out, he goes alone, and generally towards nightfall. Indoors, he shuts himself up in his own room with his books, and sees as little of his wife and the Baron as possible. I fancy things are coming to a crisis here. If my lord's suspicions are once awakened, the consequences will be terrible. Under certain provocations, the noble Montbarry is a man who would stick at nothing. However, the pay is good-- and I can't afford to talk of leaving the place, like my lady's maid.'