"I'll have it breth price may 2021ought from town on the stage."
"We miss our merry, spirited companion," said the baroness with agrim look at Rose. Both young ladies assented with ludicrouseagerness.adventure golden freddyThat night Rose came and slept with Josephine, and more than onceshe awoke with a start and seized Josephine convulsively and heldher tight.
Accused of egoism! at first her whole nature rose in arms againstthe charge: but, after a while, coming as it did from so revered aperson, it forced her to serious self-examination. The poor girlsaid to herself, "Mamma is a shrewd woman. Am I after all deceivingmyself? Would she be happy, and am I standing in the way?" In themorning she begged her sister to walk with her in the park, so thatthey might be safe from interruption.There, she said sadly, she could not understand her own sister."Why are you so calm and cold, while am I in tortures of anxiety?Have you made some resolve and not confided it to your Rose?""No, love," was the reply; "I am scarce capable of a resolution; Iam a mere thing that drifts.""Let me put it in other words, then. How will this end?""I hardly know.""Do you mean to marry Monsieur Raynal, then? answer me that.""No; but I should not wonder if he were to marry ME.""But you said 'no.'""Yes, I said 'no' once.""And don't you mean to say it again, and again, and again, tillkingdom come?""What is the use? you heard him say he would not desist any themore, and I care too little about the matter to go on persisting,and persisting, and persisting.""Why not, if he goes on pestering, and pestering, and pestering?""Ah, he is like you, all energy, at all hours; but I have so littlewhere my heart is unconcerned: he seems, too, to have a wish! Ihave none either way, and my conscience says 'marry him!'""Your conscience say marry one man when you love another?""Heaven forbid! Rose, I love no one: I HAVE loved; but now my heartis dead and silent; only my conscience says, 'You are the cause ofall your mother's trouble; you are the cause that Beaurepaire wassold. Now you can repair that mischief, and at the same time make abrave man happy, our benefactor happy.' It is a great temptation: Ihardly know why I said 'no' at all; surprise, perhaps--or to pleaseyou, pretty one."Rose groaned: "Are you then worth so little that you would throwyourself away on a man who does not love you, nor want you, and isquite as happy single?""No; not happy; he is only stout-hearted and good, and thereforecontent; and he is a character that it would be easy--in short, Ifeel my power here: I could make that man happy; he has nobody towrite to even, when he is away--poor fellow!""I shall lose all patience," cried Rose; "you are at your old trick,thinking of everybody but yourself: I let you do it in trifles, butI love you too well to permit it when the happiness of your wholelife is at stake. I must be satisfied on one point, or else thismarriage shall never take place: just answer me this; if CamilleDujardin stood on one side, and Monsieur Raynal on the other, andboth asked your hand, which would you take?""That will never be. Whose? Not his whom I despise. Esteem mightripen into love, but what must contempt end in?"This reply gave Rose great satisfaction. To exhaust all awkwardcontingencies, she said, "One question more, and I have done.Suppose Camille should turn out--be not quite--what shall I say--inexcusable?"At this unlucky gush, Josephine turned pale, then red, then paleagain, and cried eagerly, "Then all the world should not part us.
Why torture me with such a question? Ah! you have heard something."And in a moment the lava of passion burst wildly through its thinsheet of ice. "I was blind. This is why you would save me fromthis unnatural marriage. You are breaking the good news to me bydegrees. There is no need. Quick--quick--let me have it. I havewaited three years; I am sick of waiting. Why don't you speak? Whydon't you tell me? Then I will tell YOU. He is alive--he is well--he is coming. It was not he those soldiers saw; they were so faroff. How could they tell? They saw a uniform but not a face.Perhaps he has been a prisoner, and so could not write; could notcome: but he is coming now. Why do you groan? why do you turn pale?"Anyway, the S?ret? seem to have their tails in the air. They say they're sending through the extradition papers at once, and they want us to fetch Blinkwell in before he can get word of what's going on."
"Well, they've a right to ask that. Whether they'll get the extradition depends, of course, on what evidence they can produce. And that's a matter for the court to decide. I'm not concerned about that. It's the American - - ""But that's just where the difficulty comes in. Blinkwell's made an offer, almost in plain words, to hand over Miss Thurlow if we promise to leave him and his gang alone. Of course, he doesn't call it his gang, but I should say that's what it is. The question is, if we arrest him now, how's it going to affect that?""You know where Blinkwell is now?""Not exactly. We know that Thurlow went to his house and was out again in about three minutes, driving almost certainly to a Dogs' Home in Hampstead. I should say there'll be quite a party there before long."
"You mean you let His Excellency - - ""I couldn't have stopped him without knocking him down. We've got a good man - not one of the regular force - in his car with him. And there's another car following him wherever he goes, though he isn't likely to know that. Besides that, when I heard which way he was heading, I sent a squad straight to Snacklit's place. That's the Dogs' Home. I saw them off just before I took the Paris call. They ought to be there by now."
"Well, I expect you've done all you could. We must just hope for the best. I suppose we shall soon know.""Yes, sir. I think we have. And as to pulling Blinkwell in - ""I shouldn't do that, unless you think it will help you in this matter. I want you to put the Thurlows' interests first. Get them out of it, and then - - ""Yes, sir. I understand."
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.