‘That’s a harsh judgement.’
‘It’s a true one, isn’t it? I don’t go in for being sorry for people. For one thing it’s insulting. One is only sorry for people when they’re sorry for themselves. Self pity is one of the biggest stumbling-blocks in the world today.’
Hilary said thoughtfully:
‘I think perhaps you’re right. Will you permit yourself to be sorry for me when I’ve been liquidated or whatever the term is, in fulfilling this mission?’
‘Sorry for you? No. I shall curse like hell because we’ve lost someone who’s worthwhile taking a bit of trouble over.’
‘A compliment at last.’ In spite of herself she was pleased.
She went on in a practical tone:
‘There’s just one other thing that occurred to me. You say nobody’s likely to know what Olive Betterton looks like, but what about being recognized as myself? I don’t know anyone in Casablanca, but there are the people who travelled here with me in the plane. Or one may of course run across somebody one knows among the tourists here.’
‘You needn’t worry about the passengers in the plane. The people who flew with you from Paris were business men who went on to Dakar and a man who got off here who has since flown back to Paris. You will go to a different hotel when you leave here, the hotel for which Mrs Betterton had reservations. You will be wearing her clothes and her style of hairdressing and one or two strips of plaster at the sides of your face will make you look very different in feature. We’ve got a doctor coming to work upon you, by the way. Local anæsthetic, so it won’t hurt, but you will have to have a few genuine marks of the accident.’
‘You’re very thorough,’ said Hilary.
‘Have to be.’
‘You’ve never asked me,’ said Hilary, ‘whether Olive Betterton told me anything before she died.’
‘I understood you had scruples.’
‘Not at all. I respect you for them. I’d like to indulge in them myself—but they’re not in the schedule.’
‘She did say something that perhaps I ought to tell you. She said “Tell him”—Betterton, that is—“tell him to be careful—Boris—dangerous—”’
‘Boris.’ Jessop repeated the name with interest. ‘Ah! Our correct foreign Major Boris Glydr.’
‘You know him? Who is he?’
‘A Pole. He came to see me in London. He’s supposed to be a cousin by marriage of Tom Betterton.’
‘Let us say, more correctly, that if he is who he says he is, he is a cousin of the late Mrs Betterton. But we’ve only his word for it.’
‘She was frightened,’ said Hilary, frowning. ‘Can you describe him? I’d like to be able to recognize him.’
‘Yes. It might be as well. Six feet. Weight roughly, 160 pounds. Fair—rather wooden poker face—light eyes—foreign stilted manner—English very correct, but a pronounced accent, stiff military bearing.’
‘I had him tailed when he left my office. Nothing doing. He went straight to the US Embassy—quite correctly—he’d brought me an introductory letter from there. The usual kind they send out when they want to be polite but non-committal. I presume he left the Embassy either in somebody’s car or by the back entrance disguised as a footman or something. Anyway he evaded us. Yes—I should say that Olive Betterton was perhaps right when she said that Boris Glydr was dangerous.’
CHAPTER 5 (#ulink_46d336af-cae3-554f-93e6-e1a0d433171a)
In the small formal salon of the Hôtel St Louis, three ladies were sitting, each engaged in her particular occupation. Mrs Calvin Baker, short, plump, with well-blued hair, was writing letters with the same driving energy she applied to all forms of activity. No one could have mistaken Mrs Calvin Baker for anything but a travelling American, comfortably off, with an inexhaustible thirst for precise information on every subject under the sun.
In an uncomfortable Empire-type chair, Miss Hetherington, who again could not have been mistaken for anything but travelling English, was knitting one of those melancholy shapeless-looking garments that English ladies of middle age always seem to be knitting. Miss Hetherington was tall and thin with a scraggy neck, badly arranged hair, and a general expression of moral disapprovement of the universe.
Mademoiselle Jeanne Maricot was sitting gracefully in an upright chair looking out of the window and yawning. Mademoiselle Maricot was a brunette dyed blonde, with a plain but excitingly made-up face. She was wearing chic clothes and had no interest whatsoever in the other occupants of the room whom she dismissed contemptuously in her mind as being exactly what they were! She was contemplating an important change in her sex life and had no interest to spare for these animals of tourists!
Miss Hetherington and Mrs Calvin Baker, having both spent a couple of nights under the roof of the St Louis, had become acquainted. Mrs Calvin Baker, with American friendliness, talked to everybody. Miss Hetherington, though just as eager for companionship, talked only to English and Americans of what she considered a certain social standing. The French she had no truck with unless guaranteed of respectable family life as evidenced by little ones who shared the parental table in the dining-room.
A Frenchman looking like a prosperous business man glanced into the salon, was intimidated by its air of female solidarity, and went out again with a look of lingering regret at Mademoiselle Jeanne Maricot.
Miss Hetherington began to count stitches sotto voce.
‘Twenty-eight, twenty-nine—now what can I have—Oh, I see.’
A tall woman with red hair looked into the room and hesitated a moment before going on down the passage towards the dining-room.