"Yes, yes indeed! Dobitcoin investing basicsn't worry, James. I'll do as you wish."
"That wasn't my meaning, exactly, Tom," resumed Holcroft. "You and I could well afford to let our wives take theipolygon coin stakingr own jog, for they always jogged steady and faithful and didn't need any urging and guiding. But even a dumb critter likes a good word now and then and a little patting on the back. It doesn't cost us anything and does them a sight of good. But we kind of let the chances slip by and forget about it until like enough it's too late.""Well," replied Tom, with a deprecatory look at his wife, "Angy don't take to pettin' very much. She thinks it's a kind of foolishness for such middle-aged people as we're getting to be."
"A husband can show his consideration without blarneying," remarked Mrs. Watterly coldly. "When a man takes on in that way, you may be sure he wants something extra to pay for it."After a little thought Holcroft said, "I guess it's a good way to pay for it between husband and wife.""Look here, Jim, since you're so well up on the matrimonial question, why in thunder don't you marry again? That would settle all your difficulties," and Tom looked at his friend with a sort of wonder that he should hesitate to take this practical, sensible course."It's very easy for you to say, 'Why don't you marry again?' If you were in my place you'd see that there are things in the way of marrying for the sake of having a good butter maker and all that kind of thing.""Mr. Watterly wouldn't be long in comforting himself," remarked his wife.--"His advice to you makes the course he'd take mighty clear."
"Now, Angy!" said Tom reproachfully. "Well," he added with a grin, "you're forewarned. So you've only to take care of yourself and not give me a chance.""The trouble is," Holcroft resumed, "I don't see how an honest man is going to comfort himself unless it all comes about in some natural sort of way. I suppose there are people who can marry over and over again, just as easy as they'd roll off a log. It aint for me to judge 'em, and I don't understand how they do it. You are a very practical man, Tom, but just you put yourself in my shoes and see what you'd do. In the first place, I don't know of a woman in the world that I'd think of marrying. That's saying nothing against the women,--there's lots too good for me,--but I don't know 'em and I can't go around and hunt 'em up. Even if I could, with my shy, awkward ways, I wouldn't feel half so nervous starting out on a bear hunt. Here's difficulty right at the beginning. Supposing I found a nice, sensible woman, such as I'd be willing to marry, there isn't one chance in a hundred she'd look at an old fellow like me. Another difficulty: Supposing she would; suppose she looked me square in the eyes and said, 'So you truly want a wife?' what in thunder would I say then?--I don't want a wife, I want a housekeeper, a butter maker, one that would look after my interests as if they were her own; and if I could hire a woman that would do what I wish, I'd never think of marrying. I can't tell a woman that I love her when I don't. If I went to a minister with a woman I'd be deceiving him, and deceiving her, and perjuring myself promiscuously. I married once according to law and gospel and I was married through and through, and I can't do the thing over again in any way that would seem to me like marrying at all. The idea of me sitting by the fire and wishing that the woman who sat on the t'other side of the stove was my first wife! Yet I couldn't help doing this any more than breathing. Even if there was any chance of my succeeding I can't see anything square or honest in my going out and hunting up a wife as a mere matter of business. I know other people do it and I've thought a good deal about it myself, but when it comes to the point of acting I find I can't do it."There might, he admitted to himself in a mind that was not usually hasty in decision. be some possible explanation, some extenuation which Snacklit might be able to urge, in which idea his logical faculty came somewhat near to the fact. But, if so, he must know, not guess. The position called imperatively for his control, and it was fortunate that he had already provided himself with an explanation for the police. He was on an errand of rescue on their behalf. That was, if he should be in time, and should decide that Irene should be saved; and, in any case, if they should learn where he was about to go, as they might not do.
With these thoughts in his mind, he rang to order his car, and then got through to Myra's bedroom, to be told in a sleepy voice that his niece had retired for the night."Then," he said, "you'd better wake yourself up with a jerk. The quicker you're dressed the better."I'm going after that Thurlow girl, and I want you to be up to take any calls that come, particularly if there should be one from me."And if Kindell 'phones or comes back you're to tell him that I got uneasy as to what might be happening when I heard nothing more from him, and I've gone out again to see whether there's anything more I can do to help."
"He surely wouldn't be coming back at this hour," Myra answered in sulky protest; but she spoke to a dead wire. It would be incredible, even after his experience of the last hour, that there should be rebellion from her. . . .It was not long after he left the house that she found that she had not reversed the process of her evening toilet in vain.
The American ambassador was announced, and Kindell followed him into the room.Mr. Thurlow was polite, but abrupt. "It is Professor Blinkwell we wish to see.""I'm afraid," she answered, "you've come rather too late. But he left a message, in case you should ring up, that he was uneasy about what might be happening, and he has gone out to see what he can do.""Well, we'd better follow him up. Perhaps you can tell us where we should be most likely to find him."
"I'm sorry he didn't say.""But you could make a good guess?" the ambassador persisted.Kindell, who knew Myra's tone of sincerity, thought that she was speaking the truth for once, and that it would be useless to press her further. He was not surprised when she repeated: "I'm sorry I've no idea. He didn't say a word about it."But Mr. Thurlow had not finished. He asked, with the abruptness he had first used, "It wouldn't by any chance be a Dogs' Home?"
Myra was a practised and skilful liar, and she had, in fact, no particular reason for supposing that her uncle had gone to Snacklit's, being ignorant of the concluding events of the day. But the question startled her by its suggestion of a knowledge she had not supposed that they would have had.In half a second she had voice and expression under control, and said, with some trace of natural annoyance: "I keep telling you that I've no idea where. He's sure to be back before long. Would you like to wait?"
But in that half-second Kindell had seen the startled fear in her eyes. He heard the ambassador say curtly: "No, we won't wait. We'll be getting on." As they left the house together, he said, "I suppose it's the Dogs' Home now?""Yes," the ambassador replied grimly. "I reckon I should have won that bet. But I wonder what they've done with Rene there?"
"Know the Snacklit Dogs' ome?" he asked the taxi-driver "Then here's a pound note, and don't stop for the lights if there's a way through.""Right you are, guv'nor," the man said cheerfully, and headed his car to the destination to which one of his fraternity had already gone that day on a journey from which there was no return.Chapter 36 THe Poker or Else The BellSNACKLIT LOOKED AT the three whose conversation his entrance had abruptly stopped, and there was suspicion in his eyes.either Kate nor Billson were, he had good reason to believe, aware of his more sinister activities. Kate was a household servant, engaged through a Labour Exchange a few months before, at a wage sufficiently high to make it a place she would be reluctant to leave.Billson was employed in the business. He acted as porter he worked the lift, he was the routine executioner of the dogs and cats, and any other domestic creatures who had tired the patience of their owners by illness or age, or making it difficult to close their owners' houses.
Snacklit had told him that a young woman had called of whose honesty he was not sure, and that he was not to allow her to leave the premises unless she should be shown out in a regular manner. That had been both a precaution against Irene getting away through the front entrance and a means of keeping Billson in that part of the premises while other things were happening elsewhere of which it was desirable that he should not know.Had Snacklit foreseen that he would have that telephone-call which he could not ignore, he would have made different arrangements. Now he looked round in a well-founded doubt of what might have been said while he was away.
His anxiety and the sense of urgency under which he acted were increased by the fact that he did not return only from receiving and refusing Professor Blinkwell's telephone instructions. He had also interviewed the detective-sergeant whom Superintendent Allenby had sent to the house. He thought he had been successful in turning that enquiry aside; but it had been a plain warning of the activity of the police - of an enquiry which might be concentrating upon him. Suppose they had come with a search-warrant, and had discovered her there - had listened to what she certainly would have said - had looked into the furnace while the taxi-driver's bones were still recognizable? There was no time for further hesitation now. He asked, "What's been happening here?"Kate would have answered, but Billson was quicker than she. He said: "Kate just called me in, sir. I don't know why."
Kate explained: "The young lady said she wanted to go, so I called Billson. You told me to, if she did."Irene saw that, though they might not be prepared to give her further support, they did not betray what she had said, and she got some small comfort from that.
Snacklit said, "Well, you can both go now."Irene became aware that she was desperately afraid of what might happen if she should be left alone with Snacklit again. She said, "They're not going without me.""I suppose," Snacklit retorted, "I can give orders in my own house.""You can't give orders to me. I say, if they go out of the room I go too. . . . If I'm kept here, I mean to be able to tell the police who's in it, and who's not."
The two servants had stood hesitating, evidently interested in what they heard. Snacklit looked at them angrily. Billson said, "Come alone, Kate." He put his hand on her arm and drew her out of the room.Irene would have followed, but Snacklit was too quick for her. He was first at the door, turned the key, and dropped it into his pocket. He faced her, scowling. Here was a fresh reason for doubt. If she were traced to the house (but was that likely?) how much would those two say, if they should be questioned? How safely could they be bribed? Neither of them was of high character. But their degree of loyalty to him might not be great. It was an added risk, but still - if she could be done away with completely without their knowledge, was it not still the one path on which a prospect of safety lay?
"Now," he said, "if you value your skin, you'll sit down quietly and tell me what you really know, or think you know, and what made you follow me in the way you did.""And if you value your skin you'll unlock the door. I shan't tell you anything till the key's back where it belongs,"
"You'll wait a long time, if you wait for that," he said "but I've no time to lose. If you won't talk sensibly to me, f shall have to send for someone who'll treat you differently than I was meaning to do."As he said this, his eyes were on the bell. Irene, having declined his suggestion that she should sit down, was standing near the fireplace. He would have to come close to her to reach the bell-push.
Her own eyes had settled for a moment upon a heavy metal ornament on the mantelpiece. She judged its weight, and the distance between them. She had attended a college where baseball was not unknown. She thought she could manage that."I'll give you one last chance," she said. "If you don't open the door - - "He laughed, and advanced towards her, with a purpose she did not understand, but to which she saw only one sufficient reply. She seized the heavy ornament, and threw with all the force of her desperation, and of a young and vigorous arm. Snacklit ducked, or he would have been worse hurt than he was. But the attack had been so sudden and unexpected that he was not quick enough to avoid it entirely.It did not come full in his face, as had been intended, but it struck him a glancing blow, and he fell forward.
She knew the pocket in which he had put the key. She had it out as he tried dizzily to rise. Seeing what she had done, he snatched at her catching an arm. He was still half-dazed by the blow, but he tried to drag her toward the grate. She misunderstood his intention, and, instead of trying to keep him away, she struggled to be first there. She succeeded in her own aim, which she had supposed to have been his. She caught the poker in her free hand, but as she did so he rose sufficiently to press the lower of the two bell-pushes beside the grate.The next moment the poker came down hard on the hand that held her, and she was free.
She had dropped the key in the struggle, and must come near him to look for it in the thick rug. He was still only raised on one hand, but he made a sudden grab at her foot, pulling her down.At that, in a passion of mingled anger and fear, she struck hard and blindly with the poker across his face. He screamed at the blow, and fell back. "Burfoot!" he called. "Burfoot!" and then tried again to rise and pursue her, as he saw that she was taking no further notice of him, but had already got the key into the door.
"You hell-cat!" he said. "You don't know how you're going to pay for this." He stood swaying, wiping the blood from his face. He thought his cheekbone was broken. He spat out blood and a broken tooth.Irene stood at the open door, where Burfoot blocked her way. She knew him both as the man who had driven the grey car and, more certainly, as one of those who had wheeled the handcart across the garden.