"A few minutes' repose, Francois, that is all. Do not let me bedistbitcoin halvingurbed for an hour.""Attention!" cried Francois. "Colonel wants to sleep."The tent was sentinelled, and Dujardin was alone with the past.
His efforts were useless. He glanced witbitcoin credit card shoph rueful dismay over his shoulder as he thought, "If she falls out, I don't see how on earth I'll ever get her back again."Fortunately the seat slipped back a little, and she soon slid down into a sort of mountainous heap on the bottom of the wagon, as unmindful of the rain as if it were a lullaby. Now that his mind was at rest about her falling out, and knowing that he had a heavy load, Holcroft let the horses take their own time along the miry highway.
Left to her own devices by Holcroft's absence, Mrs. Mumpson had passed what she regarded as a very eventful afternoon and evening. Not that anything unusual had happened, unless everything she said and did may be looked upon as unusual; but Mrs. Mumpson justly felt that the critical periods of life are those upon which definite courses of action are decided upon. In the secret recess of her heart--supposing her to possess such an organ--she had partially admitted to herself, even before she had entered Holcroft's door, that she might be persuaded into marrying him; but the inspection of his room, much deliberate thought, and prolonged soliloquy, had convinced her that she ought to "enter into nuptial relations," as her thought formulated itself. It was a trait of Mrs. Mumpson's active mind, that when it once entered upon a line of thought, it was hurried along from conclusion to conclusion with wonderful rapidity.While Jane made up Mr. Holcroft's bed, her mother began to inspect, and soon suffered keenly from every painful discovery. The farmer's meager wardrobe and other belongings were soon rummaged over, but one large closet and several bureau drawers were locked. "These are the receptercles of the deceased Mrs. Holcroft's affects," she said with compressed lips. "They are moldering useless away. Moth and rust will enter, while I, the caretaker, am debarred. I should not be debarred. All the things in that closet should be shaken out, aired, and carefully put back. Who knows how useful they may be in the future! Waste is wicked. Indeed, there are few things more wicked than waste. Now I think of it, I have some keys in my trunk.""He won't like it," interposed Jane."In the responserble persition I have assumed," replied Mrs. Mumpson with dignity, "I must consider not what he wants, but what is best for him and what may be best for others."Jane had too much curiosity herself to make further objection, and the keys were brought. It was astonishing what a number of keys Mrs. Mumpson possessed, and she was not long in finding those which would open the ordinary locks thought by Holcroft to be ample protection.
"I was right," said Mrs. Mumpson complacently. "A musty odor exudes from these closed receptercles,. Men have no comprehension of the need of such caretakers as I am."Everything that had ever belonged to poor Mrs. Holcroft was pulled out, taken to the window, and examined, Jane following, as usual, in the wake of her mother and putting everything to the same tests which her parent applied. Mrs. Holcroft had been a careful woman, and the extent and substantial character of her wardrobe proved that her husband had not been close in his allowances to her. Mrs. Mumpson's watery blue eyes grew positively animated as she felt of and held up to the light one thing after another. "Mrs. Holcroft was evidently unnaturally large," she reflected aloud, "but then these things could be made over, and much material be left to repair them, from time to time. The dresses are of somber colors, becoming to a lady somewhat advanced in years and of subdued taste."Her right-hand neighbour at the dinner-table was a professor of economics of international reputation, and she concluded soundly that he would not be overwhelmingly interested in the knitting of jumpers, or the style of the season's hats.
On the other hand, her knowledge of economics was not sufficient to give reasonable hope that she could sustain a conversation upon them without exposing greater ignorance than a hostess prefers to show, and with this consciousness, and that of her international duty of entertaining her guest with a suitable topic of conversation, her mind naturally turned to a subject which had largely occupied it during the voluntary seclusion of the previous week. She introduced the question of the desirability of the marriage of cousins with the verbal adroitness which few men and most women have.Its connection with economics (if any) is remote, but the old gentleman was one of those numerous specialists who, having succeeded in establishing a reputation for good crowing on their own dunghills, consider that any other should do equally well; and he was, more exceptionally, of wide interests and an unprejudiced mind.He rose to the bait at once. He said that, like many popular beliefs, the objection to such marriages was only conditionally true. Like to unlike is the law of physical attraction, and cousins are likely but not certain to combine like qualities, both good and bad. The question, should cousins marry, is therefore incapable of absolute reply. Some should, and others should not. A minority of cousins are widely different in temperaments and physique, and, in such cases, if they should both be in good health, their unions might be particularly successful. Nothing can alter the arithmetical fact that the children of first cousins will have less than the normal number of grandparents, and the one who is duplicated may have an abnormally strong influence either, or perhaps both, for good and evil.The learned doctor having a rather penetrating voice, which was more frequently exercised in the classroom than at the fireside, and the guests not being numerous, his remarks gained the attention of a silent table.
A discussion followed, exposing some differences of opinion, but nothing was said to disturb Irene's opinion that the learned doctor was a most able man.Mr. Thurlow, listening without comment at the other end of the table, concluded that if Will Kindell were asked to dinner his daughter would not be vexed, and being a man of prompt action when his decisions were clearly made, he telephoned him next morning, and found, without surprise, that his invitation was promptly accepted.
Kindell came that evening, and found that the ambassador and his daughter were dining alone.Mr. Thurlow explained that he had asked him because he was curious to know what was being done by the police to secure the conviction of Professor Blinkwell (to whom he alluded in language unfitting for the lips of an Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the august country he represented) for his countless crimes, and he enquired with a more personal anxiety to what extent Irene was likely to be involved in the criminal proceedings which had become obviously unavoidable."We don't want," he said, "more publicity than we can't help, but we know the mistakes we've made, and I want Allenby to understand that there'll be no squealing from me.""I told the superintendent that I should see you tonight," Kindell replied, "and he authorized me to say that, so far as Irene is concerned, unless you should wish to prosecute, in which case every facility will, of course, be given, it is not proposed that any action be taken.
"The men principally concerned - Snacklit and Burfoot - are accused, with Wilkes, of the more serious crime of the murder of the taxi-driver; and Snacklit has disappeared.""They expect to apprehend him?""With his face in the state it is, I should say, if he has fortyeight-hours' run, he'll be an exceptionally lucky man. But if he doesn't get caught by this time tomorrow, it's an open secret that there'll be a sufficient reward offered to make it sure that someone will give him away."It isn't only the murder. There's no doubt that he's been up to his neck in the drug racket, and the chance of ending that is too good to miss.
"That's the common-sense view of the matter, though there's one man on it - Inspector Dunchurch - who's been arguing that we shan't find him, because it was his body of which the remains were in the furnace.""That sound improbable. But he has some theory to support it?"
"He has the fact that when the ashes were sifted some buttons were found which bear the name of Snacklit's tailor. There'd be more in that if it hadn't been the usual procedure to give Wilkes rubbish and refuse of every kind to burn in the furnace. The most natural explanation is that some old garment had been thrown in, perhaps after it had been used as a rag.""But it's possible it was he?"
"Possible? I suppose most things are. But it isn't sense. If it were he, it must have been either murder or suicide."I don't say he hadn't some motive for committing suicide, but would anyone choose such a method? And what about Blinkwell having seen him in the lounge a few minutes before? And of Wilkes being in charge of the furnace?"And it isn't as if we didn't know that the taxi-driver had been thrown in an hour or two earlier. And who should want to murder Snacklit? It's just trying to be too clever, and substituting a wild improbability for a reasonable explanation that fits the facts like a glove.""Well, I've nothing to say against that. There are only two things that interest me about it now. The one is whether Irene or I will be required to give evidence, and the second is what's going to happen to Blinkwell.""We're not going to ask you to give evidence. You're clear out of it, so far as our police (or the S?ret? for that matter) are concerned. We can't avoid Irene going into the box. She's one of the most important witnesses, though you can rely on counsel and the Press - being discreet."But as to Blinkwell, I'm afraid I can't do more than pass on the disappointment we're all feeling. We haven't merely decided that we can do nothing ourselves We've been almost down on our knees begging Paris to look at it in the same way.
"We don't think any magistrate would make an extradition order on Gustav's word, which is the only real evidence they've got. And, for ourselves, we don't feel that we've got sufficient to make a case against him on the drug-smuggling issue. We should be just asking for trouble."We may be able to look at it rather differently when we've got Snacklit. He'll probably talk, in an effort to get himself out of the mess. But, even then there's the same difficulty as with Gustav. It's just a criminal's word, and not much use without better confirmation.
"Still I should say that, if we catch Snacklit, we shall soon have the Professor in the same place. Otherwise not. But you can say it's a hundred to one that we'll get him, one way or other, though we may have to go round by another road."Mr. Thurlow was satisfied by the explanation. He thought that Snacklit was unlikely to elude pursuit, which he knew to be a much more difficult enterprise in England than in his own more spacious and (in some respects) more primitive land. He thought therefore, that Professor Blinkwell's remaining days of liberty would not be long.
We may observe the soundness of the Professor's judgment when he used his foot, with such economy of effort, to put Snacklit in his appropriate place.As to what did happen to Professor Blinkwell, which exemplified the familiar proverb that the pitcher which goes often to the well will get broken at last - that is another story, and must be told at another time.
But it may be recorded here that both Burfoot and Wilkes were convicted and duly hanged. Wilkes, in a last effort to dodge the rope, did tell his solicitors of the manner of Snacklit's end, which those gentlemen communicated to the police, who, without considering Wilkes to be a mirror of exact truth, were inclined to credit it, and the promotion of Inspector Dunchurch, which shortly followed, may have been partly due to this confirmation of the theory to which he had held so stubbornly. But it was decided that it would be impossible to prosecute Professor Blinkwell on the unsupported evidence of a convicted murderer, and Wilkes' anticipation that he would be kept alive to give that testimony proved to be a mistake.Irene gave evidence, which the Press treated with that voluntary discretion which is the usual consequence of a word from Whitehall or Downing Street, and that she was the daughter of the American Ambassador was not generally known. . . . The Press of the United States, under banner headlines, had more to say; but it was fortunately of the right kind.Mr. Thurlow, outlining these future events with considerable accuracy in his astute political mind, was feeling content with the world and with those around him. He would have liked to have continued the conversation after coffee was served. But he was a discreet man, and one who knew when silence or withdrawal are positive rather than negative actions. He said that he had matters of urgency with which to deal in his own room.Irene and her cousin were left alone; and it is obvious that there is no means of knowing what took place afterwards, beyond disclosures which either of them made, which were not of a detailed kind. But much may be inferred from an announcement in The Times which Myra read at breakfast only two mornings later.
"A marriage has been arranged - - "She laid down the paper, looked at her uncle, started to speak, and checked herself. Her rather heavy features resumed their usual immobility. But it cannot be recorded that she looked pleased.
As to Professor Blinkwell, he took no notice at all. His mind had strayed erratically to the moment when he had struck a blow from behind at a man's neck hard enough to make silence certain, and from such an angle that there would be little risk of any bloodstain resulting upon a dinner-jacket which it would have been a pity to spoil.THE END
Chapter 1Towards the close of the last century the Baron de Beaurepaire livedin the chateau of that name in Brittany. His family was ofprodigious antiquity; seven successive barons had already flourishedon this spot when a younger son of the house accompanied hisneighbor the Duke of Normandy in his descent on England, and wasrewarded by a grant of English land, on which he dug a mote andbuilt a chateau, and called it Beaurepaire (the worthy Saxons turnedthis into Borreper without delay). Since that day more than twentygentlemen of the same lineage had held in turn the original chateauand lands, and handed them down to their present lord.
Thus rooted in his native Brittany, Henri Lionel Marie St. Quentinde Beaurepaire was as fortunate as any man can be pronounced beforehe dies. He had health, rank, a good income, a fair domain, agoodly house, a loving wife, and two lovely young daughters, allveneration and affection. Two months every year he visited theFaubourg St. Germain and the Court. At both every gentleman andevery lacquey knew his name, and his face: his return to Brittanyafter this short absence was celebrated by a rustic fete.Above all, Monsieur de Beaurepaire possessed that treasure oftreasures, content. He hunted no heart-burns. Ambition did nottempt him; why should he listen to long speeches, and court theunworthy, and descend to intrigue, for so precarious and equivocal aprize as a place in the Government, when he could be De Beaurepairewithout trouble or loss of self-respect? Social ambition could getlittle hold of him; let parvenus give balls half in doors, half out,and light two thousand lamps, and waste their substance battling andmanoeuvring for fashionable distinction; he had nothing to gain bysuch foolery, nothing to lose by modest living; he was the twenty-ninth Baron of Beaurepaire. So wise, so proud, so little vain, sostrong in health and wealth and honor, one would have said nothingless than an earthquake could shake this gentleman and his house.Yet both were shaken, though rooted by centuries to the soil; and byno vulgar earthquake.For years France had bowed in silence beneath two galling burdens--aselfish and corrupt monarchy, and a multitudinous, privileged, lazy,and oppressive aristocracy, by whom the peasant was handled like aRussian serf. [Said peasant is now the principal proprietor of thesoil.]
The lower orders rose upon their oppressors, and soon showedthemselves far blacker specimens of the same breed. Law, religion,humanity, and common sense, hid their faces; innocent blood flowedin a stream, and terror reigned. To Monsieur de Beaurepaire theserepublicans--murderers of women, children, and kings--seemed themost horrible monsters nature had ever produced; he put on black,and retired from society; he felled timber, and raised large sums ofmoney upon his estate. And one day he mounted his charger, anddisappeared from the chateau.Three months after this, a cavalier, dusty and pale, rode into thecourtyard of Beaurepaire, and asked to see the baroness. She cameto him; he hung his head and held her out a letter.
It contained a few sad words from Monsieur de Laroche-jaquelin. Thebaron had just fallen in La Vendee, fighting for the Crown.From that hour till her death the baroness wore black.
The mourner would have been arrested, and perhaps beheaded, but fora friend, the last in the world on whom the family reckoned for anysolid aid. Dr. Aubertin had lived in the chateau twenty years. Hewas a man of science, and did not care a button for money; so he hadretired from the practice of medicine, and pursued his researches atease under the baron's roof. They all loved him, and laughed at hisoccasional reveries, in the days of prosperity; and now, in onegreat crisis, the protege became the protector, to their astonishmentand his own. But it was an age of ups and downs. This amiabletheorist was one of the oldest verbal republicans in Europe. Andwhy not? In theory a republic is the perfect form of government:it is merely in practice that it is impossible; it is only upongoing off paper into reality, and trying actually to self-governlimited nations, after heating them white hot with the fire ofpolitics and the bellows of bombast--that the thing resolvesitself into bloodshed silvered with moonshine.