"Mad woman that I am, I am too boisterous. Help me, Rose! she isgoing to faint; her lips are white."Dr. Aubertin and Rose brought a chairbitcoin cash difficulty. They forced Josephine intoit. She was not the least faint; yet her body obeyed their handsjust like a dead body. The baroness melted into tears; tearsstreamed from Rose's eyes. Josephine's were dry and stony, andfixed on coming horror. The baroness looked at her with anxiety.
And why was Jacikusama coin total supplyntha lying sentinel at the foot of the stairs?But this was not all. Now that they were in the room both menbecame conscious of another sound besides the ladies' voices--a verypeculiar sound. It also came from behind the screen. They bothheard it, and showed, by the puzzled looks they cast at one another,that neither could make out what on earth it was. It consisted of asuccession of little rustles, followed by little thumps on thefloor.
But what was curious, too, this rustle, thump--rustle, thump--fellexactly into the time of the music; so that, clearly, either therustle thump was being played to the tune, or the tune sung to therustle thump.This last touch of mystery inflamed Edouard's impatience beyondbearing: he pointed eagerly and merrily to the corner of the screen.Raynal obeyed, and stepped very slowly and cautiously towards it.Rustle, thump! rustle, thump! rustle, thump! with the rhythm ofharmonious voices.Edouard got his head and foot into the room without taking his eyeoff Raynal.
Rustle, thump! rustle, thump! rustle, thump!Raynal was now at the screen, and quietly put his head round it, andhis hand upon it.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.
Even with the short poker in her hand, she did not feel that she would be equal to a struggle with him, nor was she used to settling her differences in such a manner.She took a step back, letting him enter the room. Conventional standards of conduct became dominant again as she said in explanation, and in a voice that was almost apologetic: "I couldn't help it. He wouldn't let me get out of the room."The man looked stolidly at his injured master, and then at her. She was uncertain how he would take it, until he said brutally, "You'll get your neck wrung if you try any games with me." His eyes were evil, but his lips grinned, as though the idea of her resisting him were an enjoyable joke.Snacklit said: "You'll know what's got to be done with her after this. You can call Wilkes, if you need help. . . . Better keep the others out of it, if you can."Irene said boldly: "You won't call anyone, if you're a wise man. I'm going to give a hundred pounds to whoever gets me out of here, and you may as well have the lot." She added, seeing no sign of change in his expression, "The police may be here any minute, and you'd rather I say you're one of those who were helping me to get out.""Tom, she's lying," Snacklit interposed. "But if it's true, you can't be too quick. She saw you and Wilkes crossing the lawn."
The man appeared to take no notice. He said slowly: "You'd give me a hundred pounds? You'd do that if I let you go quiet by the side door?""You can come with me, if you like, and you shall have it as soon as I get home."
Snacklit said angrily: "Don't take any notice of what she says. She'll be your death, if you do."Burfoot made no answer to that. He turned back to the door. "If you'll come with me, miss," he said, in a more civil voice than he had used before, "I'll show you the way out. But I'd put that poker back. You won't want to carry it through the streets."
He had winked at his master as he turned round, and Snacklit said no more. He gave his attention again to his bleeding face, which was now darkened by a long bruise, lividly blue.But an ugly smile came painfully to his face as Irene followed the man through the door. He thought that full payment would soon be made.
Chapter 37 The Home Secretary Wants To KnowTHE HOME SECRETARY had to wait. He was told that Superintendent Allenby was on the Paris telephone, and could not be interrupted, even for him. Impatient though he might be, he had to wait for some time. When he got connected at last, he said: "I want to know just what the position is, and what's being done. I can't think how you could allow matters to get into such a position.""You mean about Miss Thurlow?""Yes, and His Excellency. Where are they now? I hope you're not going to tell me that you don't know."
"We don't know for certain where Miss Thurlow is yet. Her father's out looking for her, with a gun in his hip pocket.""You mean you've - - "
"We've done all we could, of course. And there's still some reason to think it may turn out all right."But there's fresh information just come in from Paris, and the question is really for you, sir. What you think it will be best for us to do. They've got a waiter detained there who's made a statement that Professor Blinkwell murdered Reynard, because he was on the point of revealing to Mr. Thurlow that Blinkwell had got some device for smuggling drugs through with the ambassador's luggage without his knowledge."
"You mean Blinkwell, the director of Vantons? It sounds incredible.""I should say it's true, more likely than not. Blinkwell was certainly at the hotel. And someone finally did get the drugs through in that way, though it was by a different trick from the one that Gustav - that's the waiter - says they were first going to use.
"But to say it's probably true isn't to say it can be proved. There's only Gustav's word, and he gave another version before, which we know was all lies."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 - "