The doctor was no sooner out of sight, than Camille raised his eyesfurtively, like a guilty person, and looked irresolutely thigamestop tokenized stock ftxs wayand that: at last he turned and went back to the place where he hadmeditated suicide and murder; looked down at it a long while, thenlooked up to heaven--then fell suddenly on his knees: and soremained till night-fall. Then he came back to the chateau.
"That wcardano price live gbpouldn't do any good.""You'd like to go, I suppose?"
"No, not under the circumstances, unless you wished to. I'm cowardly enough to dread being stared at."He gave a deep sign of relief. "This thing has been troubling me," he said. "I feared you would want to go, and if you did, I should feel that you ought to go.""I fear I'm very weak about it, but I shrink so from meeting strangers. I do thank God for his goodness many times a day and ask for help. I'm not brave enough to do any more, yet."His rugged features became very somber as he said, "I wish I had as much courage as you have.""You don't understand me--" she began gently.
"No, I suppose not. It's all become a muddle to me. I mean this church and religious business."She looked at him wistfully, as if she wished to say something, but did not venture to do so. He promptly gave a different turn to the conversation by quoting Mrs. Mumpson's tirade on churchgoing the first Sunday after her arrival. Alida laughed, but not in a wholly mirthful and satisfied way. "There!" he concluded, "I'm touching on things a little too sacred for you. I respect your feelings and beliefs, for they are honest and I wish I shared in 'em." Then he suddenly laughed again as he added, "Mrs. Mumpson said there was too much milking done on Sunday, and it's time I was breaking the Fourth Commandment, after her notion.""Wondering what? You needn't mind saying; even if it were whether I am a fool. You may be sure of that. Superintendents always are."
Allenby smiled as he said this. His reputation was too securely founded for him to be over-sensitive to criticism, nor was he of the kind to refuse to listen to a subordinate's views."I was just wondering whether you would have judged the two reports quite in the same way if you hadn't had the previous argument.""That's how it looks to you? . . . Well, whatever I think, we'll follow them both up."Mr. Thurlow broke in impatiently: "We're getting nowhere. What I want to know is what you're going to do about Blinkwell's offer."
"I couldn't make such a deal on my own authority. Only the Home Secretary could do that. I was on the point of saying that I propose to report the matter to the Assistant Commissioner immediately, and if he thinks that such a bargain should be made he will doubtless lay the whole matter before Mr. Lambton at once. . . . I expect he'll have done that, more or less, already. . . . But, as I said before, I don't think there's any urgency about letting Blinkwell have our reply. While he's waiting, he's sure to be marking time, and that means that he'll be taking particular care of Miss Thurlow while we're pushing our enquiries on.Mr. Thurlow picked up his hat. "You must go ahead in your own way," he said, "but I'm not hanging about for an hour longer waiting for something to be turned up. I'm going to get Rene home tonight, or someone's going to have a bad time."
"What do you propose to do?""See Blinkwell. And a few others, if it's still necessary after that. But I expect to find that he'll be able to do what I want. . . . Kindell, you'll do no good staying here. You'd better come with me, and be a witness of what I do."Kindell hesitated. He looked at Superintendent Allenby. But that gentleman nodded silent assent. He had no authority to stop Mr. Thurlow, if he were determined to attempt the rescue of his daughter by his own method, and Kindell's company might be advantageous in several ways.Chapter 35 Professor Blinkwell Is Roused To Wrath
WHEN PROFESSOR BLINKWELL relayed the message to Snacklit concerning the dog with the bad ear, he was - need it be said? - concerned for himself only. He had already decided that the dog-killer's use was done, and that his liquidation must be quietly arranged so soon as this annoying episode should be ended in a way which past experiences gave him reason for feeling confident that he could contrive.Neither had he come to a final decision as to what it would be best to do about the girl whom Snacklit had so foolishly guided and admitted to his own premises, after he had allowed her to identify him as the man who had called to collect the case of illicit drugs.But he saw the necessity of restraining Snacklit from irrevocable action before 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.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."