He at once entered on the necessary investigations — without the slightest result so far as Ferrari was concerned. Nobody had seen him. Nobody appeared to have been taken into his confidence. Nobody knew anything (that is to say, anything of the slightest importance) even about persons so distinguished as Lord and Lady Montbarry. It was reported that her ladyship’s English maid had left her, before the disappearance of Ferrari, to return to her relatives in her own country, and that Lady Montbarry had taken no steps to supply her place. His lordship was described as being in delicate health. He lived in the strictest retirement — nobody was admitted to him, not even his own countrymen. A stupid old woman was discovered who did the housework at the palace, arriving in the morning and going away again at night. She had never seen the lost courier — she had never even seen Lord Montbarry, who was then confined to his room. Her ladyship, ‘a most gracious and adorable mistress,’ was in constant attendance on her noble husband. There was no other servant then in the house (so far as the old woman knew) but herself. The meals were sent in from a restaurant. My lord, it was said, disliked strangers. My lord’s brother-in-law, the Baron, was generally shut up in a remote part of the palace, occupied (the gracious mistress said) with experiments in chemistry. The experiments sometimes made a nasty smell. A doctor had latterly been called in to his lordship — an Italian doctor, long resident in Venice. Inquiries being addressed to this gentleman (a physician of undoubted capacity and respectability), it turned out that he also had never seen Ferrari, having been summoned to the palace (as his memorandum book showed) at a date subsequent to the courier’s disappearance. The doctor described Lord Montbarry’s malady as bronchitis. So far, there was no reason to feel any anxiety, though the attack was a sharp one. If alarming symptoms should appear, he had arranged with her ladyship to call in another physician. For the rest, it was impossible to speak too highly of my lady; night and day, she was at her lord’s bedside.
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.’