"Two of the cars of same pattern and colour recently sold were to members of the family of the Earl of Barleigh. There's not much hope there. We already know that one's in a garage in Lancashisheesha finance uniswapre. Another's in Belgium. Another belongs to Snacklit, the man who runs the well-known Dogs' Home. There's a chance there, but nobody'd call it good. The Divisional Superintendent says they've never had any complaint against him. Quite the other way. Still, we're taking nothing for granted. We're enquiring about his car now - where it is, and whether it's been out during the day.
It was a lusty young woman, with a comely peasant face somewhatfreckled, and a pair of large black eyes surmounted by coal-blackbrows. She stood in a bold attitude, her massive but well-formedarms folded so that the pressure of each against the otherbitcoin lightning network earnings made themseem gigantic, and her cheek red with anger, and her eyes glisteninglike basilisks upon citizen Dard. She looked so grand, with herlowering black brows, that even Riviere felt a little uneasy. Asfor Jacintha, she was evidently brooding with more ire than shechose to utter before a stranger. She just slowly unclasped herarms, and, keeping her eye fixed on Dard, pointed with a domineeringgesture towards Beaurepaire. Then the doughty Dard seemed no longermaster of his limbs: he rose slowly, with his eyes fastened to hers,and was moving off like an ill-oiled automaton in the directionindicated; but at that a suppressed snigger began to shake Riviere'swhole body till it bobbed up and down on the seat. Dard turned tohim for sympathy."There, citizen," he cried, "do you see that imperious gesture?
That means you promised to dig in the aristocrat's garden thisafternoon, so march! Here, then, is one that has gained nothing bykings being put down, for I am ruled with a mopstick of iron. Thankyour stars, citizen, that you are not in may place.""Dard," retorted Jacintha, "if you don't like your place, I'd quitit. There are two or three young men down in the village will beglad to take it.""I won't give them the chance, the vile egotists!" cried Dard. Andhe returned to the chateau and little odd jobs.Jacintha hung behind, lowered her eyes, put on a very deferentialmanner, and thanked Edouard for the kind sentiments he had uttered;but at the same time she took the liberty to warn him againstbelieving the extravagant stories Dard had been telling about hermistress's poverty. She said the simple fact was that the baron hadcontracted debts, and the baroness, being the soul of honor, wasliving in great economy to pay them off. Then, as to Dard gettingno supper up at Beaurepaire, a complaint that appeared to sting herparticularly, she assured him she was alone to blame: the baronesswould be very angry if she knew it. "But," said she, "Dard is anegotist. Perhaps you may have noticed that trait in him.""Glimpses of it," replied Riviere, laughing."Monsieur, he is so egotistic that he has not a friend in the worldbut me. I forgive him, because I know the reason; he has never hada headache or a heartache in his life."Edouard, aged twenty, and a male, did not comprehend this piece offeminine logic one bit: and, while he puzzled over it in silence,Jacintha went on to say that if she were to fill her egotist'spaunch, she should never know whether he came to Beaurepaire forher, or himself. "Now, Dard," she added, "is no beauty, monsieur;why, he is three inches shorter than I am.""You are joking! he looks a foot," said Edouard."He is no scholar neither, and I have had to wipe up many a sneerand many a sarcasm on his account; but up to now I have always beenable to reply that this five feet one of egotism loves me sincerely;and the moment I doubt this, I give him the sack,--poor littlefellow!""In a word," said Riviere, a little impatiently, "the family atBeaurepaire are not in such straits as he pretends?""Monsieur, do I look like one starved?""By Jove, no! by Ceres, I mean.""Are my young mistresses wan, and thin?""Treason! blasphemy! ah, no! By Venus and Hebe, no!"Jacintha smiled at this enthusiastic denial, and also because hersex is apt to smile when words are used they do not understand."Dard is a fool," suggested Riviere, by way of general solution. Headded, "And yet, do you know I wish every word he said had beentrue." (Jacintha's eyes expressed some astonishment.) "Becausethen you and I would have concerted means to do them kindnesses,secretly; for I see you are no ordinary servant; you love your youngmistresses. Do you not?"These simple words seemed to touch a grander chord in Jacintha'snature.
"Love them?" said she, clasping her hands; "ah, sir, do not beoffended; but, believe me, it is no small thing to serve an old, oldfamily. My grandfather lived and died with them; my father wastheir gamekeeper, and fed to his last from off the poor baron'splate (and now they have killed him, poor man); my mother died inthe house and was buried in the sacred ground near the familychapel. They put an inscription on her tomb praising her fidelityand probity. Do you think these things do not sink into the heartof the poor?--praise on her tomb, and not a word on their own, butjust the name, and when each was born and died, you know. Ah! thepride of the mean is dirt; but the pride of the noble is gold.""For, look you, among parvenues I should be a servant, and nothingmore; in this proud family I am a humble friend; of course they arenot always gossiping with me like vulgar masters and mistresses; ifthey did, I should neither respect nor love them; but they all smileon me whenever I come into the room, even the baroness herself. Ibelong to them, and they belong to me, by ties without number, bythe many kind words in many troubles, by the one roof that shelteredus a hundred years, and the grave where our bones lie together tillthe day of judgment."** The French peasant often thinks half a sentence, and utters theother half aloud, and so breaks air in the middle of a thought.Probably Jacintha's whole thought, if we had the means of knowingit, would have run like this--Besides, I have another reason: Icould not be so comfortable myself elsewhere--for, look you"--Jacintha clasped her hands, and her black eyes shone out warmthrough the dew. Riviere's glistened too.Professor Blinkwell looked at the officer seated at the further end of the room as though he had not observed him before. "It is a good method," he said. "It saves both repetitions and doubt."
"Yes. . . . You know Snacklit?""It is a matter of how you use the word. He consulted me some time ago regarding the composition of a gas which he is accustomed to use. At that time he struck me as a humane man.""When was that?""The date may be of importance? It is hard to see how. But in that case I should prefer to consult my diary before I reply."
"Approximately?""If you please, I prefer accuracy. I will consult my diary and let you know."
"You might help us materially if you would say what drew your suspicions in his direction?"For the first time, the Professor showed signs of embarrassment. "I was afraid," he said, "that you would ask that. It was through a private matter, which I should prefer not to explain.""I am afraid I must press it."He still hesitated. Kindell, he said at last, is an attractive young man."
"Yes. What of that?""And I have a niece who is still young. . . . Miss Thurlow is younger.""No doubt she is. But I fail to see - - ""Mr. Kindell had engagements he did not, and perhaps could not, explain. You understand that better than I. Curiosity was aroused."
"You are explaining nothing at all.""Perhaps jealousy would be a more adequate word."
"Perhaps it might. But I still fail to see - - ""Is it necessary that you should? What I desired to convey was that curiosity - or jealousy - being aroused, things were noticed - perhaps I should say discovered, which would otherwise - I think I must have made myself sufficiently clear."
"No. I can't say that you have. What I asked was what had first caused you to suspect Snacklit.""I am afraid that I must decline to be more specific. I may already have said too much. And it is not, in fact, an explanation that could help you at all. What I thought I ought to tell you is what occurred when I reached Snacklit House, a short while before Mr. Thurlow intervened, perhaps more effectually than I should have been able to do.""You don't mind our questioning Miss Blinkwell?""About what I have said? It would be a gaucherie which I should regret. But it would not be within my power to prevent If you would imply that it might disclose some indiscretion of mine - which is absurd - no, I should not object at all.""Very well. . . . Then we will come to what happened at Snacklit House.""I saw Mr. Snacklit in the lounge on the first floor. The girl whom I afterwards heard called Kate, showed me up, or, at least would have announced me, but I followed her without waiting for that.
"I found him on the couch, his face very badly cut and discoloured, and my first question was naturally to enquire how he had come to be in such a condition. He said something about a hellcat, or some such word, and I replied that Miss Thurlow would certainly not have committed such an act unless the provocation had been extreme. It was a shot in the dark, but it went home."He looked frightened, and, I thought, conscious for the first time of the indiscretion of what he had said before. He said something about not knowing what I meant, and I became seriously alarmed as I considered the kind of scene which must have occurred, and how he could have disposed of her subsequently.
"I told him that I was enquiring for Miss Thurlow, and that, in view of his condition, and what he had said about it already, it was useless to profess ignorance."I said that I had no wish to create any disturbance and, in view of the punishment he had received, nothing more might be said about the matter, if he would allow me to take her quietly away.
"He said I could take anyone away as far as he was concerned, but as he didn't know who I was talking about he couldn't say more than that."I told him that I must take that as permission to search the house, and he told me to go to hell.
"He gave me the impression of a man who was in such a state of combined mental desperation and physical pain that he was hardly conscious of what he said."I left him then, and went down some back stairs, and found myself in a lighted passage. I went along that, and came to a large incinerator built out from the house, and a man was there stoking up.""You mean Wilkes?""I did not have occasion to ask his name."
"We arrested him for murder an hour ago.""From his appearance and manner I cannot say that it is an incredible charge. But when I told him that I was looking for a young lady who was known to be on the premises, he said he could probably take me to the right place, and that he certainly did.
"I must find some satisfaction in thinking that I should almost certainly have been in time, even if Mr. Thurlow had not been there, though I might not have been able to intervene so effectually, and what assistance I might have received from Wilkes can be a matter of conjecture only.""You say you left Snacklit on the couch in the lounge?"
"Yes.""He showed no sign of following you?"
"No. Nor did he look equal to doing it. I should have said that he was incapable of great exertion. . . . He might, of course, have got into a car.""We know he didn't do that.""Am I to conclude that it was for his murder that you have arrested Wilkes?""Not at all. We have no reason to suppose that he has been murdered. But the man who drove Miss Thurlow certainly was. She saw his body being wheeled to the incinerator, and when we drew the fire there were obvious human remains, which a few further hours would have reduced to unrecognizable ashes. No doubt it was done on Snacklit's orders, and that's probably why he disappeared in the way he did."
"Do I understand," the Professor asked, "that the heat of the incinerator would be sufficient to destroy a human body - even the bones - beyond recognition within so short a time?""Yes. That is so. The wonder really was that we were able to secure such definite evidence after the time which had elapsed. But you can understand why Wilkes was busy stoking the fire."
Professor Blinkwell said that that was certainly what he would be likely to do. He observed silently (it was not a matter to be spoken aloud) that Wilkes and Burfoot would probably be most justly hanged - as in fact they were - for the murder of the taxi-driver, on the unjust evidence of the remains of Mr. Snacklit which the furnace had been allowed insufficient time to consume entirely. Would Wilkes try to save himself by asserting the truth that it was Snacklit's body, and that Professor Blinkwell had pushed him in? It would be a most improbable thing, and, even if it were believed, it would be worse than useless to him, for he would have to admit that he had done nothing to intervene or denounce the crime. It would be to make his fate sure, even beyond the faint hope of reprieve which may follow conviction for the foulest crime, if a doubt of guilt, however slender, can be suggested to the Home Secretary's mind. . . .Mr. Allenby rose. With a toneless forn;ality, he thanked Professor Blinkwell for the information he had given. Actually he saw no reason to doubt its substantial accuracy, apart only from the nature and extent of his knowledge of Snacklit, and his reasons for supposing that Irene would have been in his hands.
Professor Blinkwell rose also. He spoke with simple sincerity when he said that there was no occasion for thanks. Whatever little he had been able to do at Snacklit House had been a pleasure to him.Chapter 41 But Myra Felt Differently