"I think not, general; but the whole bastion is. And we found ithad been opened in the rear, and lately half a dozen broad roads cutthrough the masonry.""To let in re-enforcements?""Or to let the men run out in ease of an assault. I have seen fromthe first an able hand behind that part of the defences. If weassault the bastion, tethereum address searchhey will pick off as many of us as they canwith their muskets then they will run for it, and fire a train, andblow it and us into the air.""Colonel, this is serious. Are you prepared to lay this statementbefore the commander-in-chief?""I am, and I do so through you, the general of my division. I evenbeg you to say, as from me, that the assault will be mere suicide--bloody and useless."General Raimbaut went off to headquarters in some haste, a thoroughconvert to Colonel Dujardin's opinion. Meantime the colonel wentslowly to his tent. At the mouth of it a corporal, who was also hisbody-servant, met him, saluted, and asked respectfully if there wereany orders.
"Do you think she'd go tonight?"bittorrent-tracker webtorrent"Oh, yes! Guess so. A little cold water'll be a good change for her."
Mrs. Wiggins was seen, and feeling that any change would be for the better, readily agreed to go for very moderate wages. Holcroft looked dubiously at the woman's heavy form and heavier face, but felt that it was the best he could do. Squeezing Mrs. Watterly's cold, limp hand in a way that would have thawed a lump of ice, he said "goodby;" and then declaring that he would rather do his own harnessing for a night ride, he went out into the storm. Tom put on his rubber coat and went to the barn with his friend, toward whom he cherished honest good will."By jocks!" he ejaculated sympathetically, "but you have hard lines, Jim. What in thunder would I do with two such widdy women to look after my house!"Chapter 9 Mrs. Mumpson Accepts Her MissionAs Holcroft drove through the town, Mrs. Wiggins, who, as matters were explained to her, had expressed her views chiefly by affirmative nods, now began to use her tongue with much fluency."Hi 'ave a friend 'herhabouts," she said, "an' she's been a-keepin' some of my things. Hi'll be 'olden to ye, master, hif ye'll jes stop a bit hat the door whiles hi gets 'em. Hif ye'll hadvance me a dollar or so on me wages hit'll be a long time hafore I trouble ye hagain."
The farmer had received too broad a hint not to know that Mrs. Wiggins was intent on renewing her acquaintance with her worst enemy. He briefly replied, therefore, "It's too late to stop now. I'll be coming down soon again and will get your things."In vain Mrs. Wiggins expostulated, for he drove steadily on. With a sort of grim humor, he thought of the meeting of the two "widdy women," as Tom had characterized them, and of Mrs. Mumpson's dismay at finding in the "cheap girl" a dame of sixty, weighing not far from two hundred. "If it wasn't such awfully serious business for me," he thought, "it would be better'n going to a theater to see the two go on. If I haven't got three 'peculiar females' on my hands now, I'd like to hear of the man that has.""Kate thought this was about how it'ud be. But I'm not standing for it. It's a bit too thick. . . . You should have left the key in the lock if you didn't want me to come butting in."
Burfoot cursed to himself. It was true that he had not given a thought to the duplicate keys that always hung in the outer hall those that Billson, who did the routine killing, was accustomed to use. And he was not a quick-witted man. He was used to carrying out the orders of others, not to plan for himself."It's the master's orders," he said at last. "You'd better talk it over with him.""Yes. I'll do that. He'll have to know that we don't stand for murder, not Kate or I. You'd better come and hear what I've got to say.""We'll wait here till you get back."
"Mr. Billson," Irene exclaimed, in a fresh access of terror, "you're not going to leave me here?""No. I won't do that. And I've changed my mind about seeing the master. We'll clear out without any more words."
He had guessed that, if he should leave them together, there would be no change in the programme that he had interrupted and, after that, was it likely that he would be allowed to escape? He remembered Wilkes. A man as powerful and perhaps even more brutal than the one who confronted him now If he should go upstairs, he might come down to find that Kate had been already dealt with, and that he had to face two men as desperate, and each as strong as himself.One, at least, had become desperate now. Burfoot said, "No, you don't." His arm swept round, striking Irene with a force which threw her against the wall, from which she collapsed on to the floor. He leapt forward. "You yellow rat!" he cried savagely, as his left shot outward for Billson's chin.It was a blow which might have been decisive, but Billson swerved, and it did no more than graze the side of his head. It was returned next moment with equal force and more smashing contact, and then the two men fought like raging beasts, while Irene struggled to her feet, to be swept off them again by a rush which was regardless of her.She tried to dodge the quick movements of the combatants to get past them and through the door, but it was not easy to do without taking the risk of blows which were not intended for her and which she would have been less fit to endure than were those upon whom they fell.
But as she watched for the moment of clear passage that she required, there came what may have been the most welcome sound that her ears had heard - her father's voice calling her name, as he hurried along the passage at a pace which left Kate behind, whose part it had been to show him the way."Hands up!" he cried sharply, pulling out the weapon on which he had learnt to rely during the adventurous passage of earlier years. But he spoke to those who were too fully engaged upon their own affairs to heed a summons that was less familiar to their ears than it had been to those of his native state.Even to one of his emphatic habits, exasperated as he was by the sight of a dishevelled daughter at the further side of the room, it was not a possible programme to make indiscriminate slaughter of the struggling men, one of whom must presumably be his daughter's champion, though he had no clue to which it might be. So they survived the peril natural to those who ignore the customary American greeting.But though he did not immediately empty the contents of his gun into their contending bodies, he was in no mood to wait patiently for the struggle, which had become an all-out wrestling match rather than a fight, to proceed to its natural end.
Watching his chance, he interposed an adroit foot, which brought Billson heavily to the ground. His opponent found himself confronted by a new antagonist, and a levelled gun. The sharp order, "Stand back, or you're a dead man," came in a tone which the wildest person would be unlikely to disregard. Burfoot did not raise his hands, but they dropped to his sides. Scowling, and breathing hard, he backed toward the sliding glass partition of the lethal chamber.He made no resistance when Kindell, who had entered immediately behind the ambassador, passed a precautionary hand over his pockets.
"Irene, are you all right?" her father asked, without taking his eyes off the two men, the second of whom had now risen from the floor, and was using the back of his hand to improve the sight of a blackened and bleeding eye. "Then you'd better tell me who's who in this mix-up.""It's the one you've got covered," Irene replied with ungrammatical lucidity. "He was trying to kill me. Mr. Billson was trying to get me away. I think we owe him a hundred pounds."
It was an opportune testimonial, for the police, whose coming Irene had foretold on such dubious grounds, were now crowding into the room."Do you charge this man?" a detective-sergeant asked briskly."I charge him with trying to murder me," Irene said, with a fierce hatred in her heart which is easy to understand, "and with helping to kill the driver who brought me here.""That's enough to go on with," the sergeant answered."It was just a bit of a game," the man said sullenly. "And what about what she'd done before? Bashed Mr. Snacklit's head with a poker before I got her away."But as he spoke the handcuffs were on his wrists, and Mr. Thurlow was putting away a gun which had done its part. As he did so, the voice of Professor Blinkwell gave some confirmation to the allegation that Burfoot had made. "It is certainly true that Mr. Snacklit has been rather badly hurt, but, from admissions which he made to me a few moments ago, I should say he brought it upon himself, and Miss Thurlow did no more than was justified by the detention to which she was subjected."
The reception of this statement, and the general consciousness of his entrance which it brought, was certainly without warmth, but the Professor showed no consciousness of that. The sergeant said only, "I'd better see Mr. Snacklit. Where is he now?""I left him," Professor Blinkwell answered, "in the lounge upstairs. He was resting on a couch there, his face being badly injured. From what he told me, I felt that Miss Thurlow might be requiring assistance. I found this man" - he looked at Wilkes standing somewhat in the rear, as he said this - "in the back premises, and he guided me here."
With the same absence of comment, the sergeant said, "You'd better show me where Snacklit is."The Professor showed no unwillingness to oblige, but when they reached the lounge, it will be readily believed that Mr. Snacklit was not there.
Chapter 40 Professor Blinkwell Was PleasedMR. LAMBTON RECEIVED Superintendent Allenby's report before leaving the House, and it went far to relieve his mind. The American Ambassador had returned to Grosvenor Square with a daughter who had been no more than superficially damaged, and without having involved himself in any further homicidal episodes. International amity seemed unlikely to be disturbed.
So far, good. But there were other aspects of the matter such as might still lead the most cautious Secretary to make one of those blunders which cause the Home Office to be regarded as the most perilous stage of a climbing politician's career.Allenby ended his report by saying: "Snacklit made himself scarce, knocked about though he certainly was, as soon as our men entered the building. It's difficult to guess how it was done, as we had every exit watched. It looks as though he'd got a getaway planned beforehand, and when he knew we were there he saw that the game was up. Anyway, it was pleading guilty in a loud voice, and he shouldn't take long to catch. Not with his face marked as it is."Mr. Lambton said he supposed not. What arrests had actually been made?"Only the man Burfoot. It'll be a long stretch, if not the gallows, for him. We've brought another man named Wilkes in for questioning, but we haven't gone further than that. There are one or two others who won't leave Snacklit House without our having something to say. But I told Sergeant Duckworth to go slow till we'd thought it out."
"Quite right. What about Blinkwell?""We've done nothing so far. We've not got much to go on. And I didn't know what you would wish. . . . Of course, there are those extradition papers on the way. We can't ignore them."
"No. They can't be ignored. But there's no need to do more tonight. I'll see Sir Henry in the morning, and talk it over with him."Mr. Lambton, his mind greatly relieved, though not unaware of further problems ahead, went home for a short night's sleep.
But Allenby had still instructions to give, such as would keep some of his best men busy through the night, and then, before leaving for his own neglected bed, he gave orders that Professor Blinkwell should be rung up at an early hour, with a request to call during the morning at Scotland Yard, "not before ten-thirty, or say ten-forty-five, We ought to know where we are by then." By that time he would have Sir Henry's instructions. He would have spoken to the S?ret? again. It was possible that the extradition papers would be on his desk. . . .Professor Blinkwell was punctual. It was exactly ten-fortyfour when he stepped out of his car, and he was shown up to Superintendent Allenby's room without delay.
"It was good of you," he said as he entered, "to ring me up. But I should, in any case, have given you a call this morning. It appeared to me that you ought to know just what I saw and heard at Snacklit's House, though I am not sure that it will be of material assistance to your investigations. But that is for you to decide."."Yes.""You will like to have what I say taken down?""Sergeant Temple is doing that."
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?"