"Well now, Angy," said Tom, "if you averaged up husbands in these parts I guesbitcoin news spam emails you'd find you were faring rather better than most women folks. I let you take the bit in your teeth and go your own jog mostly. Now, own up, don't I?"
But he saw the necessity of restraining Snacklit from irrevocable action befcardano ada investmentore his own mind should be made up. To defer it might increase Snacklit's risk, if the car should be traced to his door, but Professor Blinkwell was not equally clear that it would increase his own, which was his single concern.He had a doubtful hope that the police would accept the offer which he had made, in view of the nationality and position of the missing girl, and he saw advantages to himself if he should appear as one who could find and rescue her when they had been foiled. It was not a tale for their own credit, that they would wish to have widely known. . . . And there would be her father's gratitude. Something could surely be made of that.
But he saw that it would not be an easy bargain to make or define, and he did not expect to get an immediate reply. Superintendent Allenby's judgment had been sound when he had said that, while the reply was delayed, the Professor would be likely to use his influence in the right way.That on which Allenby did not calculate, and which was even more surprising to the Professor than it would have been to himself, was that the Professor would find that his authority was not enough. Yet such was the fact.Snacklit hurried to the telephone in response to the urgent call he received, and was instructed in cryptic words, but such as he could not possibly misunderstand, that Miss Thurlow must be treated with every possible consideration until further orders should be received. Snacklit, worried though he would have been, in view of the disappearance of a taxi-driver concerning which he would surely have to face a hostile investigation if Irene should be released, would probably have done what he was told, but for what he knew that Irene had seen.Unfortunately, to narrate this episode was, in spite of its ingenious complexity, beyond the resources of the code he used. He felt that the occurrence itself, joined to his inability to report it, justified some independence of action. Without possibility of such explanation as might, even to Professor Blinkwell's merciless discipline, have gone some way toward condoning his insubordination, he made it clear that he could not undertake to comply with the instructions he had received.He was curter in this than he might otherwise have been because he was uneasy at having left Irene, which he had not intended to do until he had satisfied himself that she had told him all that she could and he had disposed of her in a final manner, for which his plans had been made.
But Professor Blinkwell received his message with a mingling of astonishment and anger which was not free from an under-current of fear. A gang which operates outside the law, which handles large sums of money, and the members of which must depend upon a common loyalty for their own protection, is only held together by ruthless discipline, such as Professor Blinkwell had shown himself able and resolute to enforce. No one knew these facts better than Snacklit, who had been executioner of more than one on whom the Professor had passed sentence of death which might be unknown to the victim until he found himself in the hands of those by whom he would be bound, drugged, and thrust into the asphyxiating chamber, for the existence of which there was such an excellent pretext - or perhaps even thrown into the incinerator without that preliminary, if there should be occasion for haste. . . . Was there not a reason for that incinerator also which all nice-minded people would approve? Who would wish to see a daily heap of dead dogs of all shapes and sizes shovelled into a cart in the open street?To the Professor's mind the fact that Snacklit should venture upon an insubordinate attitude in the moment of common peril had a note of ominous warning beyond anything he had encountered during this most vexatious episode of his career of well-ordered crime. It brought him to an instant decision to take the matter in hand himself, and carry through the imaginary programme which he had suggested to the consideration of the police. If he should be too late - well, even so, the bold course might be the best. Snacklit might then be silenced - removed - and all trace of what had occurred obliterated, so that the utmost efforts of the police would be exerted vainly to ascertain what had occurred, and with no fear whatever that his own part in it could be more than an ugly doubt.Then--how we young people of an unceremonious age should havestared--the demoiselles de Beaurepaire, inasmuch as this was theirmother's first appearance, lowered their fair heads at the same timelike young poplars bowing to the wind, and so waited reverently tillshe had slightly lifted her hands, and said, "God bless you, mychildren!"It was done in a moment on both sides, but full of grace and piety,and the charm of ancient manners.
"How did our dear mother sleep?" inquired Josephine. Aubertininterposed with a theory that she slept very well indeed if she tookwhat he gave her."Ay, IF," suggested Rose, saucily."I slept," said the baroness, "and I wish I had not for I dreamed anugly dream." They all gathered round her, and she told her dream."I thought I was with you all in this garden. I was admiring theflowers and the trees, and the birds were singing with all theirmight. Suddenly a dark cloud came; it cleared almost directly; butflowers, trees, sky, and birds were gone now, and I could see thechateau itself no more. It means that I was dead. An ugly dream,my children, an ugly dream.""But only a dream, dear mother," said Rose: then with a sweet,consoling smile, "See, here is your terrace and your chateau.""And here are your daughters," said Josephine; and they both cameand kissed her to put their existence out of doubt. "And here isyour Aesculapius," said Aubertin. "And here is your Jacintha.""Breakfast, madame," said Jacintha. "Breakfast, mesdemoiselles.
Breakfast, monsieur:" dropping each a distinct courtesy in turn."She has turned the conversation very agreeably," said the baroness,and went in leaning on her old friend.
But the sisters lagged behind and took several turns in silence.Rose was the first to speak. "How superstitious of you!""I said nothing.""No; but you looked volumes at me while mamma was telling her dream.For my part I feel sure love is stronger than hate; and we shallstay all our days in this sweet place: and O Josey! am I not a happygirl that it's all owing to HIM!"At this moment Jacintha came running towards them. They took it fora summons to breakfast, and moved to meet her. But they soon sawshe was almost as white as her apron, and she came open-mouthed andwringing her hands. "What shall I do? what shall I do? Oh, don'tlet my poor mistress know!"They soon got from her that Dard had just come from the town, andlearned the chateau was sold, and the proprietor coming to takepossession this very day. The poor girls were stupefied by theblow.If anything, Josephine felt it worst. "It is my doing," she gasped,and tottered fainting. Rose supported her: she shook it off by aviolent effort. "This is no time for weakness," she cried, wildly;"come to the Pleasaunce; there is water there. I love my mother.
What will I not do for her? I love my mother."Muttering thus wildly she made for the pond in the Pleasaunce. Shehad no sooner turned the angle of the chateau than she started backwith a convulsive cry, and her momentary feebleness left herdirectly; she crouched against the wall and griped the ancientcorner-stone with her tender hand till it powdered, and she spiedwith dilating eye into the Pleasaunce, Rose and Jacintha pantingbehind her. Two men stood with their backs turned to her looking atthe oak-tree; one an officer in full uniform, the other the humansnake Perrin. Though the soldier's back was turned, his off-handed,peremptory manner told her he was inspecting the place as its master."The baroness! the baroness!" cried Jacintha, with horror. Theylooked round, and the baroness was at their very backs."What is it?" cried she, gayly."Nothing, mamma.""Let me see this nothing."They glanced at one another, and, idle as the attempt was, the habitof sparing her prevailed, and they flung themselves between her andthe blow.
"Josephine is not well," said Rose. "She wants to go in." Bothgirls faced the baroness."Jacintha," said the baroness, "fetch Dr. Aubertin. There, I havesent her away. So now tell me, why do you drive me back so?
Something has happened," and she looked keenly from one to theother."O mamma! do not go that way: there are strangers in the Pleasaunce.""Let me see. So there are. Call Jacintha back that I may orderthese people out of my premises." Josephine implored her to becalm.
"Be calm when impertinent intruders come into my garden?""Mother, they are not intruders.""What do you mean?""They have a right to be in our Pleasaunce. They have bought thechateau.""It is impossible. HE was to buy it for us--there is some mistake--what man would kill a poor old woman like me? I will speak to thisgentleman: he wears a sword. Soldiers do not trample on women. Ah!that man."The notary, attracted by her voice, was coming towards her, a paperin his hand.Raynal coolly inspected the tree, and tapped it with his scabbard,and left Perrin to do the dirty work. The notary took off his hat,and, with a malignant affectation of respect, presented the baronesswith a paper.The poor old thing took it with a courtesy, the effect of habit, andread it to her daughters as well as her emotion permitted, and thelanguage, which was as new to her as the dialect of Cat Island toColumbus."Jean Raynal, domiciled by right, and lodging in fact at the Chateauof Beaurepaire, acting by the pursuit and diligence of MasterPerrin, notary; I, Guillaume Le Gras, bailiff, give notice toJosephine Aglae St. Croix de Beaurepaire, commonly called theBaroness de Beaurepaire, having no known place of abode"--"Oh!""but lodging wrongfully at the said Chateau of Beaurepaire, that sheis warned to decamp within twenty-four hours"--"To decamp!""failing which that she will be thereto enforced in the manner forthat case made and provided with the aid of all the officers andagents of the public force.""Ah! no, messieurs, pray do not use force. I am frightened enoughalready. I did not know I was doing anything wrong. I have beenhere thirty years. But, since Beaurepaire is sold, I comprehendperfectly that I must go. It is just. As you say, I am not in myown house. I will go, gentlemen, I will go. Whither shall I go, mychildren? The house where you were born to me is ours no longer.Excuse me, gentlemen--this is nothing to you. Ah! sir, you haverevenged yourself on two weak women--may Heaven forgive you!"The notary turned on his heel. The poor baroness, all whose pridethe iron law, with its iron gripe, had crushed into dismay andterror, appealed to him. "O sir! send me from the house, but notfrom the soil where my Henri is laid! is there not in all thisdomain a corner where she who was its mistress may lie down and die?
Where is the NEW BARON, that I may ask this favor of him on myknees?"She turned towards Raynal and seemed to be going towards him withoutstretched arms. But Rose checked her with fervor. "Mamma! donot lower yourself. Ask nothing of these wretches. Let us loseall, but not forget ourselves."The baroness had not her daughter's spirit. Her very persontottered under this blow. Josephine supported her, and the nextmoment Aubertin came out and hastened to her side. Her head fellback; what little strength she had failed her; she was half lifted,half led, into the house.Commandant Raynal was amazed at all this, and asked what the deucewas the matter.
"Oh!" said the notary, "we are used to these little scenes in ourbusiness.""But I am not," replied the soldier. "You never told me there wasto be all this fuss."He then dismissed his friend rather abruptly and strode up and downthe Pleasaunce. He twisted his mustaches, muttered, and "pested,"and was ill at ease. Accustomed to march gayly into a town, and seethe regiment, that was there before, marching gayly out, or viceversa, and to strike tents twice a quarter at least, he was littleprepared for such a scene as this. True, he did not hear all thebaroness's words, but more than one tone of sharp distress reachedhim where he stood, and the action of the whole scene was soexpressive, there was little need of words. He saw the noticegiven; the dismay it caused, and the old lady turn imploringlytowards him with a speaking gesture, and above all he saw hercarried away, half fainting, her hands clasped, her reverend facepale. He was not a man of quick sensibilities. He did notthoroughly take the scene in at first: it grew upon him afterwards."Confound it," thought he, "I am the proprietor. They all say so.
Instead of which I feel like a thief. Fancy her getting so fond ofa PLACE as all this."Presently it occurred to him that the shortness of the notice mighthave much to do with her distress. "These notaries," said he tohimself, "understand nothing save law: women have piles of baggage,and can't strike tents directly the order comes, as we can. Perhapsif I were to give them twenty-four days instead of hours?--hum!"With this the commandant fell into a brown study. Now each of ushas his attitude of brown study. One runs about the room like hyenain his den; another stands stately with folded arms (this one seldomthinks to the purpose); another sits cross-legged, brows lowered:another must put his head into his hand, and so keep it up tothinking mark: another must twiddle a bit of string, or a key; granthim this, he can hatch an epic. This commandant must draw himselfup very straight, and walk six paces and back very slowly, till theproblem was solved: I suspect he had done a good bit of sentinelwork in his time.
Now whilst he was guarding the old oak-tree, for all the world as ifit had been the gate of the Tuileries or the barracks, Josephine deBeaurepaire came suddenly out from the house and crossed thePleasaunce: her hair was in disorder, her manner wild: she passedswiftly into the park.Raynal recognized her as one of the family; and after a moment'sreflection followed her into the park with the good-naturedintention of offering her a month to clear out instead of a day.But it was not so easy to catch her: she flew. He had to take hisscabbard in his left hand and fairly run after her. Before he couldcatch her, she entered the little chapel. He came up and had hisfoot on the very step to go in, when he was arrested by that heheard within.Josephine had thrown herself on her knees and was praying aloud:
praying to the Virgin with sighs and sobs and all her soul:wrestling so in prayer with a dead saint as by a strange perversitymen cannot or will not wrestle with Him, who alone can hear amillion prayers at once from a million different places,--canrealize and be touched with a sense of all man's infirmities in away no single saint with his partial experience of them can realizeand be touched by them; who unasked suspended the laws of naturethat had taken a stranger's only son, and she a widow; and wept atanother great human sorrow, while the eyes of all the great saintsthat stood around it and Him were dry.
Well, the soldier stood, his right foot on the step and his sword inhis left hand, transfixed: listening gravely to the agony of prayerthe innocent young creature poured forth within:--"O Madonna! hear me: it is for my mother's life. She will die--shewill die. You know she cannot live if she is taken away from herhouse and from this holy place where she prays to you this manyyears. O Queen of Heaven! put out your hand to us unfortunates!Virgin, hear a virgin: mother, listen to a child who prays for hermother's life! The doctor says she will not live away from here.
She is too old to wander over the world. Let them drive us forth:we are young, but not her, mother, oh, not her! Forgive the cruelmen that do this thing!--they are like those who crucified your Son--they know not what they are doing. But you, Queen of Heaven, youknow all; and, sweet mother, if you have kind sentiments towards me,poor Josephine, ah! show them now: for you know that it was I whoinsulted that wicked notary, and it is out of hatred to me he hassold our beloved house to a hard stranger. Look down on me, a childwho loves her mother, yet will destroy her unless you pity me andhelp me. Oh! what shall I say?--what shall I do? mercy! mercy! formy poor mother, for me!"Here her utterance was broken by sobs.
The soldier withdrew his foot quietly. Her words had knockedagainst his very breast-bone. He marched slowly to and fro beforethe chapel, upright as a dart, and stiff as a ramrod, and actuallypale: for even our nerves have their habits; a woman's passionategrief shook him as a cannon fired over his head could not.Josephine little thought who was her sentinel. She came to the doorat last, and there he was marching backwards and forwards, uprightand stiff. She gave a faint scream and drew back with a shudder atthe sight of their persecutor. She even felt faintish at him, aswomen will in such cases.Not being very quick at interpreting emotion, Raynal noticed heralarm, but not her repugnance; he saluted her with militaryprecision by touching his cap as only a soldier can, and said rathergently for him, "A word with you, mademoiselle."She replied only by trembling."Don't be frightened," said Raynal, in a tone not very reassuring.
"I propose an armistice.""I am at your disposal, sir," said Josephine, now assuming acalmness that was belied by the long swell of her heaving bosom."Of course you look on me as an enemy.""How can I do otherwise, sir? yet perhaps I ought not. You did notknow us. You just wanted an estate, I suppose--and--oh!""Well, don't cry; and let us come to the point, since I am a man offew words.""If you please, sir. My mother may miss me.""Well, I was in position on your flank when the notary delivered hisfire. And I saw the old woman's distress.""Ah, sir!""When you came flying out I followed to say a good word to you. Icould not catch you. I listened while you prayed to the Virgin.
That was not a soldier-like trick, you will say. I confess it.""It matters little, sir, and you heard nothing I blush for.""No! by St. Denis; quite the contrary. Well, to the point. Younglady, you love your mother.""What has she on earth now but her children's love?""Now look here, young lady, I had a mother; I loved her in myhumdrum way very dearly. She promised me faithfully not to die tillI should be a colonel; and she went and died before I was acommandant, even; just before, too.""Then I pity you," murmured Josephine; and her soft purple eye beganto dwell on him with less repugnance."Thank you for that word, my good young lady," said Raynal. "Now, Ideclare, you are the first that has said that word to me about mylosing the true friend, that nursed me on her knee, and pinched andpinched to make a man of me. I should like to tell you about herand me.""I shall feel honored," said Josephine, politely, but withconsiderable restraint.
Then he told her all about how he had vexed her when he was a boy,and gone for a soldier, though she was all for trade, and how he hadbeen the more anxious to see her enjoy his honors and success."And, mademoiselle," said he, appealingly, "the day this epaulet wasput on my shoulder in Italy, she died in Paris. Ah! how could youhave the heart to do that, my old woman?"The soldier's mustache quivered, and he turned away brusquely, andtook several steps. Then he came back to Josephine, and to hisinfinite surprise saw that her purple eyes were thick with tears.