"And we're enquiring about the owners of all the other cars that might hcardano news in marchave been faked to look like Miss Courtney's. That's an almost certain line of enquiry, though it may not be as quick as the occasion requires.
Dard took the little sneer for sympathy, and proceeded to "thecruellest wrong of all.""When I go into their kitchen to court Jacintha a bit, instead offinding a good supper there, which a man has a right to, courting acook, if I don't take one in my pocket, there is no supper, not tosay supper, for either her or me. I don't call a salad and a bit ofcheese-rind--SUPPER. Beggars in silk and satin! Every sou theyhave goes on to their backs, instead of into their bellies.""I have heard their income is much reduced," said Edouard gently.xrp price live ticker"Income! I would not change with them if they'd throw me in half apancake a day. I tell you they are the poorest family for leaguesround; not that they need be quite so starved, if they could swallowa little of their pride. But no, they must have china and plate andfine linen at dinner; so their fine plates are always bare, andtheir silver trays empty. Ask the butcher, if you don't believe ME.
Just you ask him whether he does not go three times to the smallestshopkeeper, for once he goes to Beaurepaire. Their tenants sendthem a little meal and eggs, and now and then a hen; and their greatgarden is chock full of fruit and vegetables, and Jacintha makes medig in it gratis; and so they muddle on. But, bless your heart,coffee! they can't afford it; so they roast a lot of horse-beansthat cost nothing, and grind them, and serve up the liquor in asilver coffee-pot, on a silver salver. Haw, haw, haw!""Is it possible? reduced to this?" said Edouard gravely."Don't you be so weak as to pity them," cried the remorselessplebeian. "Why don't they melt their silver into soup, and cut downtheir plate into rashers of bacon? why not sell the superfluous, andbuy the needful, which it is grub? And, above all, why don't theylet their old tumble-down palace to some rich grocer, and thataccursed garden along with it, where I sweat gratis, and live smalland comfortable, and pay honest men for their little odd jobs, and"--Here Riviere interrupted him, and asked if it was really trueabout the beans."True?" said Dard, "why, I have seen Rose doing it for the oldwoman's breakfast: it was Rose invented the move. A girl ofnineteen beginning already to deceive the world! But they are alltarred with the same stick. Down with the aristocrats!""Dard," said Riviere, "you are a brute.""Me, citizen?" inquired Dard with every appearance of genuinesurprise.Edouard Riviere rose from his seat in great excitement. Dard'sabuse of the family he was lately so bitter against had turned himright round. He pitied the very baroness herself, and forgave herdeclining his visit."Be silent," said he, "for shame! There is such a thing as noblepoverty; and you have described it. I might have disdained thesepeople in their prosperity, but I revere them in their affliction.
And I'll tell you what, don't you ever dare to speak slightly ofthem again in my presence, or"--He did not conclude his threat, for just then he observed that astrapping girl, with a basket at her feet, was standing against thecorner of the Auberge, in a mighty careless attitude, but doingnothing, so most likely listening with all her ears and soul. Dard,however, did not see her, his back being turned to her as he sat; sohe replied at his ease,--"I consent," said he very coolly: "that is your affair; but permitme," and here he clenched his teeth at remembrance of his wrongs,"to say that I will no more be a scullery man without wages to thesehigh-minded starvelings, these illustrious beggars." Then he heatedhimself red-hot. "I will not even be their galley slave. Next, Ihave done my last little odd job in this world," yelled the nowinfuriated factotum, bouncing up to his feet in brief fury. "Of twothings one: either Jacintha quits those aristos, or I leave Jacin--eh?--ah!--oh!--ahem! How--'ow d'ye do, Jacintha?" And his roarended in a whine, as when a dog runs barking out, and receives infull career a cut from his master's whip, his generous rage turns towhimper with ludicrous abruptness. "I was just talking of you,Jacintha," quavered Dard in conclusion."I heard you, Dard," replied Jacintha slowly, softly, grimly.Mr. Lambton said that he had no doubt of that. He wished to be rung up instantly if anything of importance should occur. Not to his secretary. Not through the Commissioner. Allenby was to report to him direct. He would be at the House for the next two hours, if not three.
Chapter 38 Incidents Of An Active HourIF WE SHOULD be disposed to consider that some of those concerned acted with extreme folly and disregard for almost certain consequences to themselves during the hour with which we are now dealing, we should give due weight to the fact that no one but the three concerned were aware of the conversation which had occurred between Irene, Kate, and Billson. And if we should go on to analyse cause and effect, and to observe the perverse results of the most cautious and intelligent courses, we may see the origin of all that followed in the telephone message from Professor Blinkwell, which caused Snacklit to leave Irene, to which the action of Allenby in sending an officer to enquire concerning Snacklit's car must be added, as it prolonged Snacklit's absence from the room. . . .The long fa?ade of Snacklit House had three entrances. One was closed by the wide gates into the yard. One, the central and most imposing, was that which gave access to the business premises, where dogs and other animals could be bought, or deposited for hospital treatment, or for the destruction of which it was etiquette to speak so delicately, and which was so discreetly, expeditiously and thoroughly done.Beyond that was the entrance to the philanthropist's private residence. It had an appearance of modesty, disguising the fact that it led to luxurious apartments which crossed the complete length of the rear of the building, both at its first and second floors.
Professor Blinkwell, who knew the place, directed his chauffeur to drive to the private entrance, and to wait for him there. He did not intend there should be any appearance of his having made a furtive visit. He acted on his usual principle of conforming to the natural conduct of a man whose conscience is well at ease. In the past, he had found it to be a method which served him well.Kate was the one who normally opened the door, as she did now. Billson was in charge of the main entrance, which was closed at this hour, but there was another reason why he was not on the scene, to which we shall come.
Kate took the Professor's name, which was strange to her. She knew that customers came at all hours, and such she took him to be. She asked him to take a seat in the hall, and went to give Snacklit his name. The Professor gave her a ten yards' start, and then followed her. The carpets were soft and thick and she did not hear him until she had knocked at the door of her master's room. He was close behind her then. He said: "All right, my good girl. I can manage now." She thought it discreet to withdraw.Snacklit called, "Come in," in a voice of irritation, and stared in surprise unmixed with pleasure when he saw who it was who entered. The Professor looked equally surprised at the condition of the man upon whom he intruded with so little ceremony.Snacklit lay back on a settee. There was a swelling on the side of his head where it had been first hit, and the black bruise, streaked with drying blood, had now spread over half his face. He held a reddened towel, with which he was still wiping blood from his mouth."You seem," the Professor said coldly, "to have been making a mess of things, or perhaps I should say that they have been making a mess of you."
"It's that she-devil whose been handling the stuff," Snacklit answered. "She looked as though a mouse could have made her jump; but you never know.""Well," the Professor answered, "you shouldn't have brought her here. It was the act of a fool, and I've come to see what can be done now.""I didn't bring her. She followed me.""We won't argue that. The question is where she is now."
"She's where she'll be no more trouble to us. Burfoot's seeing to that.""You mean - - "
"Yes. She went off with him like a lamb." Snacklit's face was contorted into a difficult smile at the recollection."How long ago was this?"
"Ten minutes. Maybe a bit more.""Then it would be too late to interfere?""That's a safe guess.""Then we won't attempt it. After all, it may be the best way. But I had told you - - ""You didn't know that she'd seen the taxi-man after he'd been knocked on the head?""Did she? That was certainly an argument for ruling a double line. But it is a matter on which I must be sure that there has been no further mistake. I should like to see her before I go."
"She'd be a queer sight by now.""It will be one that I can endure. She would still I suppose be in the gas-chamber?"
"I don't know that. Burfoot wouldn't lose any time. He might have her in the furnace by now.""So I expect he will. I have been informed that he is both thorough and energetic in all he does. Perhaps you will show me the way there? I should like to see for myself, and after that the incident shall not be mentioned between us again."
On this assurance, which sounded satisfactory to him, and in saying which the Professor had spoken with a literal sincerity which he did not always employ, Snacklit rose and led the way down the corridor, and by a back-stair to the walled enclosure beside the garden in which the incinerator was built."You have," Professor Blinkwell remarked, as they approached it, "a furnace of ample size."
Mr. Snacklit was gratified by this recognition, so that he almost forgot the pains he was enduring as he replied that it was his policy to be ready for all emergencies. There were occasions when a large number of dogs had to be destroyed in a short time. It would be objectionable to keep them lying about, as might happen in smaller and less efficient establishments. And the proportion of large dogs (such as Great Danes and mastiffs) which were offered for his ministrations (probably owing to the cost of their food) was high.As he completed this explanation, they reached the door of the furnace, where the man Wilkes, of whom we have seen nothing except that brief moment when he shared the labour of wheeling the dead taxi-driver across the garden, and of whom we know nothing beyond the negative fact that he had not got red hair, was standing by.Snacklit asked, "Anything special put into the furnace just lately?"Wilkes may not have known what answer he was expected to give. Anyway, he was discreet in his reply, "I haven't noticed that close."
Snacklit didn't press the point. He said, "I think Professor Blinkwell would like to look in."Wilkes picked up a long-handled hook and drew back the sliding door. The furnace roared in their faces.
Whether Professor Blinkwell wanted to look or not Snacklit certainly did. He went forward, blinking into the white heat."I can't see anything of her," he said. "Or at least, not to be sure. Nothing could last long in that heat."
Professor Blinkwell said "No, I suppose not." What he gave Snacklit could not fairly be called a kick. It was a mere push with his foot, well judged and well placed. With a shrill scream the man fell forward into the fire."You'd better close the shutter," the Professor said. "He's not pleasant to watch."
Wilkes said no more than, "You're the boss." The hook came into operation again.Chapter 39 Objection To Being Roasted Alive"I DON'T THINK this is the way out. There was panic in Irene s voice which she could not control.Burfoot had stopped and locked the door through which they had come. There might be no certain significance in that, but he was now leading the way to a glass-walled chamber, the use of which was not difficult to guess, even apart from the faint penetrating odour which never left its precincts, even when it was not charged with the fumes by which it destroyed its countless unsuspecting victims, who were repaid for the love and loyalty they had given to men by this murderous treachery.
Burfoot looked at her with the derisive grin she had seen at their first encounter. He said: "You can please yourself. It's all one to me. But I should say a good whiff of gas is better than being roasted alive.""But - you can't mean it!" she answered faintly. "You said you'd show me the way out, and I'd give you a hundred pounds. Suppose we say two? Or what do you want? It's no use trying to frighten me like this. You can't want to be hanged. I've told you the police are on the way here. I know they are. . . ."
She stopped before the malicious amusement in his eyes. Incredible as it must seem, she knew at that moment that he meant to kill her, and that there was no hope in any pleading, and little in appeals either to greed or fear.The inclination to faint came again, as it had done in the room above, and she knew that, if she should do so, there would be no return to consciousness, unless it should be in some horror of mortal pain.
She looked at the man, who was a head taller than herself massive, muscular, able to break her back over his knee, and she knew that, even if she had retained the poker that she had been cajoled into laying down so foolishly, it would have been useless to her. Her wits must save her, or nothing would. And how could her wits avail?The man had listened to her with no sign of relenting. She saw that her terror was amusement to him - that he would find pleasure in that which he was meaning to do. But he answered her, in the tone of one who would show sense to a fool.