M. le Marquis
The man with the white hair continued on his course, unhurried, and seemingly indifferent to his surroundings. He took a side turning to the right and anther one to the left. Now and then he hummed a little air to himself.
Suddenly he stopped dead and listened intently. He had heard a certain sound. It might been the bursting of a tyre or it might have been – a shot. A curious smile played round his lips for a minute. Then he resumed his leisurely walk.
On turning a corner he came upon a scene of some activity. A representative of the law was making notes in a pocket-book, and one or two late passers-by had collected on the spot. To one of these the man with the white hair made a polite request for information.
“Something has been happening, yes?”
“Mais oui, Monsieur. Two apaches set upon an elderly American gentleman.”
“They did him no injury?”
“No, indeed.” The man laughed. “The American, he had revolver in his pocket, and before they could attack him, he fired shots so closely round them that they took alarm and fled. The police, as usual, arrived too late.”
“Ah!” said the inquirer.
He displaced no emotion of any kind.
Placidly and unconcernedly he resumed his nocturnal strolling. Presently he crossed the Seine and came into the richer areas of the city. It was some twenty minutes later that he came to a shop before a certain house in a quiet but aristocratic thoroughfare.
The shop, for shop it was, was a restrained and unpretentious one. D. Papopolous, dealer in antiques, was so known to fame that he needed no advertisement, and indeed most of his business was not done over a counter. M. Papopolous had a very handsome apartment of his own overlooking the Champs Elysees, and it might reasonably be supposed that he would have been found there and not at his place of business at such an hour, but the man with the white hair seemed confident of success as he pressed the obscurely placed bell, having first given a quick glance up and down the deserted street.
His confidence was not misplaced. The door opened and a man stood in the aperture. He wore gold rings in his ears and was of a swarthy cast of countenance.
“Good evening,” said the stranger. “Your master is within?”
“The master is here, but he does not see chance visitors at this
time of night,” growled the other.
“I think he will see me. Tell him that his friend M. le Marquis is here.”
The man opened the door a little wider and allowed the visitor to enter.
The man who give his name as M. le Marquis had shielded his face with hand as he spoke. When the man-servant returned with the information that M. Papopolous would be pleased to receive the visitor a future change had taken place in a stranger’s appearance. The man-servant must have been very unobservant or very well trained for he betrayed no surprise at the small black satin mask which hid the other’s features. Leading the way to a door at the end of the hall, he opened it and announced in a respectful murmur. “M. le Marquis.”
The figure which rose to receive this strange guest was an imposing one. There was something venerable and patriarchal about M. Papopolous. He had a high domed forehead and beautiful white beard. His manner had in it something ecclesiastical and bening.
“My dear friend,” said M. Papopolous.
He spoke in French and his tones were rich and unctuous.
“I must apologize,” said the visitor, “for the lateness of the hour.”
“Not at all. Not at all,” said Mr.
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Agatha christie – the mystery of the blue train (2)