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ROGUES&COMPANY BY IDAA R WYLIE AUTHOROF “CHILDRENOFSTORM,”“TOWARDSMORNING,”ETC NEWYORK JOHNLANECOMPANY MCMXXI COPYRIGHT,1921,BYINTERNATIONALMAGAZINECOMPANY COPYRIGHT,1921,BYJOHNLANECOMPANY PressofJ J Little&IvesCompanyNewYork,U S A ROGUES&COMPANY CHAPTERI ITwasaverycuriousanddecidedlyuncomfortablefeeling,andthoughhehada dimideathathehadfeltitsomewherebefore,hecouldremembernothingmore definiteaboutit Asamatteroffactitwasinitselfnothingsoveryunusualmost peopleexperiencethesamesensationsonwakingupatdeadofnightinstrange quarters Onsuchoccasionsthevictimgrowshotandfeverishintheendeavour tolocatethedoorandwindow;hecannotrememberwhoheis,whereheisor howhegotthere;hefeelspainfullylostandhelpless Then,gradually,his facultiesrubtheireyesandarrangethemselves,andthefactthatheisJones,that heisspendingtheweek-endwiththeSmiths,andthattheuncannyapartmentis nothingmoreterriblethantheirbestsparebed-room,dawnsonhimwith comfortingcompleteness,andheturnsoverandresumeshisinterrupted slumbers Butinthiscasetheexperiencewaslesspleasantinitsdevelopmentand considerablymoreoriginal Themorewide-awakehegrewthelessheknew abouthimself Themorehesaidtohimself,“Mydearfellow,pullyourself togetherit’sonlyadream,”themoreobviousdiditbecomethathewassitting onthedoorstepofanunknownhouseinanunknownstreet,withachinglimbs andanachinghead Nowsuchacombinationofcircumstancesisnotaltogether unusualeveninthebestsociety,andhesatandpatientlywaitedforan illuminatingmemory Butnonecame Ifhehad,asheatfirstsupposed,supped notwiselybuttoowell,wherehadhesuppedandwithwhom?Therewasno answertothisnaturalquestion Heshookhimself “Oh,comenow!”hesaidaloud “Surelyyouknowyourownname?” Againnoanswer Evidentlyithadbeenabigbusiness Whenamanhastoresort tohisownvisitingcardtofindoutwhoheisonemaybeforgivenforsupposing thatthisself-forgetfulnessissomethinglessthanpurealtruism Themanonthe doorstepresignedhimselftonecessityandputhishandinhistrouserpocket Nothing Theothertrouserpocketwasalsoemptylikewisethewaistcoatpocket Thiswasdisconcerting Whatwasstillmoredisconcertingwastheholeinthe kneeofhistrousersasrevealedbythelightofastreet-lamp,andhethereupon madethediscoverythatfarfrombeingin evening-dress,ashiscondition suggested,heworeachecksuitofvulgartypeandancientlineage,andthathe wascufflessandcollarless Allthiswasverysurprisingandpainful He addressedhimselfwithseverity “Really,mydearfellow,thiswon’tdocan’tsitouthereallnight,youknownot done—” AtthisjunctureConstableX oftheD Divisionloomeduponthehorizon ConstableX carriedalanternandwasevidentlyonthelookoutforburglarsand othermiscreants,forhedidnotnoticethemanonthedoorstepuntilhehad stumbledoverhislegs WhattheConstablesaidisirrelevant Themanonthe doorstepapologisedprofusely “I’msureI’mextremelysorry,”hesaid Hisownpromptpolitenessledhimat oncetotheconclusionthathisstation’inlifemustbesomethingbetweenashopwalkerandagentleman,butthisopinionwasapparentlynotsharedbyhis victim ConstableX flashedhislanternontothedoorstepandgaveventtoa snortofmingledtriumphandindignation “Atitagain!Eh?”hesaid “Gotyouthistime,haveI?” “Itlookslikeit,”hisprisoneradmitted “Wereyoulookingforme?” “Nowthen,noneofyourtongue,youngfellow!Wotd’yermean?” “Imean,”saidthemanonthedoorstepcourteously,“thatitwouldbeagreat relieftometoknowthatsomeonewaslookingforme—evenapoliceman The factis,youknowI’mlost.” “Oh,soyou’relost,areyou?”TheConstablelaughedwiththerudenesswhichis bornofashatteredtrustinhumannature “Sortoflostdog,eh?” “ThedesignationwilldountilIfindabetterone,”returnedtheother,wearily “ButIdoubtifeventheDog’sHomewilltakemein WhatamItodo?” “Moveon!”saidtheConstable,fromsheerforceofhabit “ButIcan’tkeepon‘movingon’indefinitely.” TheConstablescratchedhishead “You’dbettercomealongwithme,”hesaid “MightIaskwhither?” “Lock-up,”wasthelaconicanswer “ButIhaven’tdoneanything.” “Can’tbesosureofthatandanyhow,you’resittingonsomeoneelse’s doorstep.” “Youdon’tknowthatitissomeoneelse’sdoorstep Itmightbemine.” “Itmightbutitdon’tlooklikeit.” “Youinfer,”hiscaptivesuggested,“thatIdonotgiveyoutheimpressionof beingalandedproprietor?” “Can’tsayasyoudo,”ConstableX admittedfrankly “Yougivesmethe impressionofbeingaverycommonsortofnight-bird.” Themanonthedoorstepshookhishead “Youjudgetoohastily,”heprotested “IfIam,asyousuggest,anight-bird,I havenonethelessthefeelingthatImayturnouttobeoneofnature’s gentlemen Now,lookhere!”Herosestifflyandpainfullyandconductedthe doubtingConstabletothelamp “Whatdoyoumakeofthat!”heenquired triumphantly Heextendedhistwohands ConstableX consideredthemwithhis headcockedastutelyononeside “Cleanish,”hesaid “Uncommoncleanish.” “Sergeant,youareamanofperception Now,glanceoverme Donotlet yourselfbeledastraybythevulgarityofmycostume Considermyface,my mannerandmyspeech Whatdoyouthinkofme?” “Well,youmightbeasortofgent,”ConstableX admitted “Inspector—”theyoungmanbegan “Notyet,sir—”ConstableX protestedwithatouchofcoyness “Nevermind,yououghttobeaninspector,evenifyouaren’t Iwasjudgingyou asyoujudgedmebydeserts IfeelthatIoughttobeagentleman,I’msureyou oughttobeaninspector ButthetroublewithmeisthatIdon’tknowwhoor whatIam.” “Drunk,”suggestedtheinspectorinembryo,consolingly “ImayhavebeeninthepastbutIamcertainlysobernow.” “Yes,youtalksclearenough Gotawishingcardonyou?” “IfIhad,thematterwouldbesimplified Mypocketsareasemptyasmyhead.” TheConstable’ssmilewasunflattering “Can’tyourememberanythink?”heappealed “Notathing I’vebeentryingforthelasthalf-hour What’stobedone?Ican’t stayonthestreetsallnightandasfarasIknowIhaven’tanyclaimonany charitableinstitution.” ConstableX rubbedhischin “It’sacaseoflostmemory,”heannouncedsolemnly “I’ve‘eardofitbefore I knewofanoldladywhowanderedover‘alfLondonbeforetheyfoundoutthat shewasaduchess’Itwasabigthingforthemanwhofound‘er.” “NothinglikesobigasitwouldbeforyouifyoufoundIwasaduke,” interposedthelostonegenerously “IfIamadukesolventofcourseIshallraise youtoapositionofaffluency IswearitbymyancestorssupposingIhaveany.” ConstableX touchedhishelmet “Thankyou,sir,”hesaidwithconsiderablymorerespect “It’sacaseforthe doctorsthat’swotitis,”hewentonthoughtfully,“wottheycallsaspecialist The duchesswasqueerinherupperstorey—seniledecay,astheycalledit.” “Goodheavens,I’mnotasoldasthat,amI?” ”‘Tain’talwaysagethatdoesit,”ConstableX returned,withagraveand significantshakeofthehead “There’sdecaysanddecays You’vegot‘emyoung that’sall.” “Supposewefindthedoctor?”suggestedtheyoungmanhastily “You’resittingon‘isdoorstep.” Theprospectivepatientexaminedthedoorplate “Mr Smedley,”hereadaloud,“veterinarysurgeon Lookhere,Inspector,that won’tdo I’mnotananimal.” “Yousaidyouwasalostdog,”retortedtheConstable,withgrimdelightinhis ownjest “Well,anyhow,there’saDoctorThingummyroundthecorner Icalls ‘imThingummybecause‘e‘asaforeignname,andIdon’t‘oldwithforeign names Notsincethattherewar Iup’oldstheLawmyself,butwotIsaysis, ‘WhenanEnglishmanseesaforeignerheortterbash‘imintheeye,’Idon’t carewhoheis–” “Well,perhapsDr Thingumityonlysoundsforeign,”theyoungmansuggested “Anyhow,we’llgivehimacall Whattimeisit?” “Aboutmidnight.” “Inthatcase,”theyoungmanreflected,“Ifancythatweshallbethebashedones bashedandabashed,youknow.”Hechuckledencouragingly,buthiscompanion remainedunmoved “However,anythingisbetterthanthelock-upandthecold stoneofMr Smedley’ssteps Leadon,Macduff.” “Lookhere,youngfeller,ifyoustartcallingnames—” “I’mnot I’mquoting Ican’trememberwhatfromBibleprobably Anyhow, absolutelyrespectable Wouldn’tinsultyoufortheworld Why—”heexclaimed witharushofpathos“youmaybemyonlyfriend,Constable.” “Well,mindout It’saslikelyasnotyou’reunderarrest,inwhichcaseanything yousaywillbetakendownagainstyou.” “ButI’mnotacriminal.” “Can’tbesure Youcouldn’tsweartoityourself.” “Well,Idon’tlooklikeoneatleastIdon’tfeellikeone.” ConstableX shookhisheadgloomily “Can’tgobythat IfyouknewwotIknewaboutcriminals,you’dbesurprised Therewasafelleraniceupstandingchap,aspleasantspokenasyouplease murderedhiswife,hedid ‘Why,Constable,’hesaidtomegoinguptothedock, ‘Iwouldn’t‘urtakitten.’AndIbelieved‘im But‘iswifeshegoton‘isnerves shewasalwaysahummin’tunesto‘erself,andthemoreheasked‘ernotthe moreshedidit Andoneday,rightinthemiddleof‘AnnieLaurie,’heupsand ‘its‘eroverthe‘eadwith‘isbeer-mug Must‘avecaught‘eron‘ersoftspot,for shenever‘ummedagain But‘eswungforit,poorchap,thoughthejurydidput inextenuatingcircumstances No,sir,youbelieveme,youcan’tbesureof anyoneinthislife—leastofallyourself.” Theyoungmanputhishandtohisforehead “Constable,I’masickman Youdon’twantmetofaint,doyou?” “I’monlydoingmydooty,sir Boundtowarnyou—” “Iknowyoumeanitkindly,”theyoungmanadmittedhumbly “Butit’sallvery uncomfortable.” Thatmuch,atanyrate,wasbecomingcertain Forthefirstfewminuteshis positionhadstruckhimasentirelyhumorous Hehadexpectedeachminuteto bringthedesiredflashofillumination,buthismindhadremainedblank,andthe painatthebackofhisheadwasbecomingtroublesomelyinsistent Whoand whatwashe?Hedecidedthatitwasagreatdealworsethanbeingbornagain, becauseoftheadditionalunpleasantnessofknowingbeforehandalltheawful conditionsintowhichonemightbeflungbyarecklessandindiscriminating Fate HemightbeaDukehehopedhewasbuthefelthisappearancewas againsthim Hemightbewhathisclothessuggested,whichwasintolerable He mightbemarried,andhiswifemightbeAtthispointthepossibilitiesnearly overcamehim,andhewasthankfulforthetoniceffectoftheConstable’sgrip uponhisarm “Hearthat,sir?” “Soundslikesomeonerunning,”thederelictadmitted “Someonelookingfor me,nodoubt—” Thenextinstantanextraordinaryapparitiontoreroundthecornerofthestreet andwasreceivedfullinConstableX.‘sgeniallyoutstretchedarms The constablerosetothesituationwiththesamesangfroidthathehaddisplayed earlierintheevening “Sothereyouare!”hesaid “Gotyou,‘avel?” HiscaptureshowednointelligentappreciationoftheConstable’ssmartness He brokeintoanincoherenttorrentofbadlanguageand,disengaginghimselfwitha dexteroustwist,revealedhimselfasalittledarkman,ofmarkedHebraic descent,inadressing-gown,bed-roomslippersandanungovernabletemper “Youjackassneveranywherewhereyou’rewanteddeafasadoor-postdidn’t youhearmywhistle?What’sthegoodofwhistlingifyoudon’tlisten?Myhouse brokenintoallmysilvergoneandyoustandtherelikealikea—”Heranhis fingersthroughhislongblackhairtillitstoodstraightonend,addinga comicallydevilishtouchtohisunusualappearance “MyGodthiscountry!”he exclaimedfinally,asthoughoverwhelmedbysomeculminatinggrievance “My God!” “Nowdon’tyougogettingabusive,”theConstablewarnedhimcoldly “If you’ve‘adburglars,we’llseeafter‘emallingoodtime.”Thenwithawinkat hisfirstcaptive,heremarkedinastagewhisper“That’s‘im!” Thiscrypticobservationdrewthenewcomer’sattentiontothepresenceofathird person Heswungroundandstaredattheyoungmanwithhishandsthrustdeep inthepocketsofhisdressing-gown “Soyoudidcatchhim Yourprisoner,eh?” ConstableX scratchedhischin “‘Eisand‘eisn’t,”heexplained “‘E’smad.” Thedoctor’smannerchangedinstantly Hedrewoutapairoftortoise-shellrimmedspectacles,adjustedthemonthebridgeofhisthicknoseandconsidered theyoungmanwithadispassionateinterest,whichseemedasoutofplaceasthe purpledressing-gown “Mad?”hesaid “Rubbish Whatdoesanidiotlikeyouknowaboutmadness? Don’ttalknonsense.” “Thankyou,”theyoungmaninterjectedwarmly “Ifeltsurethatourfriendhere hadoverstatedmycase I’mnotexactlymadatleast,Ihopenot ButIdon’t knowwhoIam Infact,I’velostmymemory—” “Rubbish!Thereisn’tsuchathing Youcan’tloseyourmemory Youcanhideit, youcansuppressit,youcanputitawayandturnakeyonit,butyoucan’tlose it IfItoldyouwhatIknewaboutmemory,Ishouldbestandingheretill tomorrowmorningandthenyouwouldn’thaveunderstoodhalfIsaid But thoughyouexpressyourselfinaccurately,Irecogniseyourcondition Itisnot uncommon,but,toacertaindegree,itisinteresting—” “—anduncomfortable.” “Possiblyforyou That—”hewaggedalongreprovingfingerintheyoung man’sface“that,sir,iswherethescientificandtheuntrainedminddiffer You areconcernedwithtrivialpersonalities,Iwithlargeissues,withcauseandeffect andtherelationofonephenomenontoanother You,frankly,consideryour identityasthemainconsideration Tomeitisnotoftheslightestimportance Howlonghaveyoubeeninthisstate?” “Idon’tknow TheConstableherefoundmeonadoorstepabouthalfanhour ago.” “Verybrilliantofhim Andyouhavenothingonyourpersonnoobviousclue—” “Nothing Ihaven’tevenabrass-farthing That’swhat’sworryingmechiefly Yousee,doctor—” “Frohlocken,psycho-analyst,”thedoctorinterruptedwithaslightbow “Thankyou I’msorrythatforobviousreasonsIcannotintroducemyself Well, doctor,Iwantyourhelp,butasI’vealreadymentionedIampennilessandforall IknowImayremainsoandIfeel—” “That,”saidthedoctor,“isasecondillustrationofmypoint Intheverymidstof whatnodoubttoyouseemsacatastrophe,yourmindturnstomoney Whatin God’snamedoyousupposeIcareaboutyourmoney?Youinterestme “And‘owdoyouknowzat?” “Goodheavens,man—”thedoctormadeagestureofincreasingirritability“he theCountdeBeaulieusaidso.” “AndwhoisthisCountdeBeaulieu?” Dr Frohlockenshruggedhisshoulders “AsfarasIamconcernedheisNo 7; speakingwithexactitudethatisallIknowofhim Youmightaswellaskme whoIam.” “Iaskyou‘owyouknow?” “HowIknowwhoIam?” “Iaskyou‘owyouknow‘eis‘e?” Bothpartiesweregrowingmoreheated Dr Frohlockenendeavouredwithvery littlesuccesstocounterfeitanexpressionofjudicialcalm “BeforeIansweryourquestionsIwouldbegladtoknowwhoyouare,”hesaid, “andwhyyouaskthem.” “IaskthembecausenotfiveminutesagoIdid‘earzesocalledComtede BontempsmakezeplanswizmyscullerymaidtorobMonsieurLancasterwho arriveonlythisday Myscullerymaid—ellenesaltrien—sheisinnocent—sheis deceived—‘ypnotisedbyzescoundrel,thisrogue—” Dr Frohlockenwavedhisarmsasthoughheweretryingtoswimthroughthe torrentofwords “It’sintolerable—idiotic Whydon’ttheyteachpeopletosaywhattheymean?I don’tunderstandathingyou’retalkingabout It’sthisdamnedunscientific thinking—” “Excooseme,gentlemen!”Bothcombatantswerearrestedbythedrawling accents Unknowntothemthestrangerontheterracehadceasedcontemplating theheavensandnowstoodnegligentlyleaningagainstthebalcony,acigarstuck inthecornerofhismouth,apeculiarsmileonhiswizenedlittleface “‘Scoose me,”herepeated “Overhearingotherpeople’stalkisallpartofmybusiness,and Ioverheardyours Myname’sWashingtonJones Here’smycard Ifyoudon’t believeitaskMr Lancaster I’mhischarged’affaires,asyoumightsay.” “Ireallydon’tsee—”Dr Frohlockenbegan… “—whatbusinessI’vegotinthisgalere?”Mr WashingtonJonesinterrupted “It’sjustthisIknowwhatyou’retalkingaboutandyoudon’t MonsieurBonnet —thisgentlemenhere—hasgothisnosesomewherenearthescent,butyou’ve madealtogetheranastonishingfoolofyourself,Dr Frohlocken.” Dr Frohlockendrewhimselfupwithdignity “Iexpectproofofthatstatement,sir.” “Waal,Iguessthat’swhatI’mgoingtogiveyou Youthinkthisyoungmanof yoursistheCountdeBeaulieu,don’tyou?” “Idonot Ineversaidso Ialwaysprotested—” “Well,heisn’t!” “Bah!”saidMonsieurBonnet,andsnappedhisfingerstriumphantly Dr Frohlockenranhisfingerswildlythroughhishair “Isthismanmad?”hedemanded “Readthat!”saidMr WashingtonJonesplacidly WithimpatientfingerstheDoctortooktheofferednewspapercuttingand hurriedoverthefirstfewlines Andveryslowlyalightoftriumphspreadover hissallowcountenance “Youmeanthat’shim?”hesaid “That’shim,”saidMr WashingtonJones,withacorrespondinglackofgrammar “Bah!”saidMonsieurBonnettonooneinparticular,butwiththesatisfactionof victory CHAPTERXVI NINEo’clockstruck TheCountandCountesssatoneithersideofthefireplace andsimultaneouslybothglancedattheclockandthenateachother; simultaneouslytheireyesreturnedtotheirbooks Afterthattenminutespassed beforeeithermoved Theirrespectivenovelsmusthaveprovidedponderous reading,forthepageswereleftunturned,andwhentheCountventuredtolook upagainhefoundhiswifewaswatchinghimsurreptitiouslyfromundercoverof hereyeslashes “Youarelookingtired,”sheobservedhastily,asthoughofferinganexplanation “Youarepale.” “Ihaveaheadache,”headmitted “It’stheweather Youdon’tlookverywell either Hadn’tyoubettergotobed?” “Ohno,thankyou Butdon’twaitupforme.” Furthersilence Atintervalsstolenglancesattheclock AtlasttheCountess Theodorarose Herfaceindeedjustifiedherhusband’sstatementthatshewas notlookingwell Itwasdeadlywhiteandthehandsthatplayednervouslywith thelonggoldchainwereobviouslytrembling “Ithink—”shebeganwithalittlegulp“IthinkIshallgotobed,Louis,Iam feelingupset Itistheheatorthecoldorsomething Goodnight.” Heroseandapproachedheranxiously “TheodoracanIgetyouanythingshallIsendforthedoctor?” “Oh,no,no.”Sheheldoutherhandsasthoughtowardhimoffand,instead, yieldedthemwithasuddenimpetuousnessintohisclasp “Ihavebeenvery horridtoyouandyouarevery,verykindtome,Louis Butyoumustnotbother aboutmenever,never!” “Never?”hesaidwithawhimsicalsadness “No,never.”Shehesitated,toyingwithakindofdesperateplayfulnesswiththe buttonsonhiscoat “Really,I’mnotworthbotheringabout,Louis.” “Isn’tthatformetodecide?” “No,no,Iknowbetterthanyou IfifIhadknownyouwereso—sogoodand chivalrousandgenerousIwouldn’thavedoneit—ImeanIwouldn’thave consentedtomarryingyou Itwaswrong—” “I’ddoitalloveragain,”hebrokeinimpetuously “Wouldyou?” Heflushed “No,Iwouldn’t—” “Ah,yousee!” Hislipspartedwithhisoneandonlyreasonthenclosedagain Shelaughed brokenly “Donottrytosoftenit Ihaveunderstood Howcoulditbeotherwise Youhave donewhatyoufeltwasyourdutyandIhavemadeyousuffer.”Shedrewback herheadandforamomentlookedhimfullandstraightintheeyes “Iamsorry foreverythingIhavedonetohurtyou,”shesaidsolemnly “Iwantyouto believethat—thatIcouldn’thelpmyself Hadthingsbeendifferent—” “Ah,hadthingsbeendifferent!”heinterruptedsighing “Whoknowsthen?”Sheshruggedhershouldersrecklessly “Whydowestand heretalkingofthemight-have-beens?Itissofoolishsouselessanditislate Bonsoir,Monsieur,monmari!” “Theodora!” Shelookedbackathimfrombetweenthepartedcurtains “Bonsoir,Monsieur,monmari!”sherepeatedsoftlyasthoughthephrase pleasedherandthenextminuteshewasgone TheCountmadeamovementtofollowher,thenstoodirresolutelystaringatthe spotwhereshehadvanisheduntilwithalarmingabruptnesstheclockstruckthe halfhour Thenhestartedlikeamanawakeningfromadreamand,crossingto hiswritingdesk,tookpenandpaperandbegantowrite “Mywife,”hewroteclearly,“thoughmyknowledgeoftheFrenchlanguageis limitedIbelieveyouhavejustcalledmehusbandforthefirsttimeasthoughyou meantit Icallyou‘wife’forthelasttime,thoughIthinkyouwillremainthatto mealwaysinspiteofeverything Stillitisatitlefromwhichyouhaveevery righttofreeyourself IamnottheCountdeBeaulieuandIdonotknowhowyou evercametosupposeIwas FrommypointofviewIdon’tknowwhoIambut thepersonwhomIwasforcedtointroducetoyouastheCountdeBontemps declaresthatIamhisbrother Asheisascoundrel,IpresumeIamascoundrel alsoIhavecertainlyactedasone ALuckyPig,whichistheonethingIbrought withmeoutofmymysteriousandunknownpast,pointstomybeingthe notoriousWilliamBrown,aliasSlipperyBill Georgeconfirmsthissonowyou knowwhatmannerofmanyouhavemarried HaveIanyexcusetooffer?Well,I thinkIcanpleadthatIwasdrivenintothisfalseposition WhenIrecovered consciousnessafterthataccidentorwhateveritwasIcouldn’tremember anythingaboutmyself InspectorSmytheputtwoandtwotogether,however, andapparentlymadefive,butthatwasn’taltogethermyfault,wasit?Ididnot rememberanyofmypastcrimes,andforallIknewhewasrightindeedifhe hadsaidIwastheEmperorofChinaIshouldhavebelievedhim Afterwards,of coursethankstothatunluckyPigIfoundoutwhoIreallywas,butthenitwas toolate Andnowthegameisup TherealCountandhewasaworsescoundrel thanIwasfordesertingyouforthatfair-haireddollhasturnedup,andit’sonlya questionofhoursbeforeheproveshisidentity InanycaseIshouldhavetoown uptoyou Icouldn’tstanditanylonger Ofcourseitwasnaturalthatyou shouldn’tcareformeandIdon’tblameyou Ideceivedyouandyourfeminine intuitionfoundmeout YougrewtocareforsomeoneelseandIcouldn’tbearit Icouldn’tbeartoseeyouunhappyortoseeyoucaringforanotherman This bringsmeuptothelastpointinmyconfession Iloveyou That’swhyI’moff whyIamgoingtocommitalastcrimeinordertomakegoodmyescapeand whyafterwardsIshalltrytoliveanhonestlife It’stheoneatonementIcan offer “Yourdevotedandunhappyhusband, “TheRogue.” “Areyouready,oldbird?” WilliamBrown,ashewastobefromhenceforth,startedtohisfeet,andthen,as hesawthegrinningfaceinthedoorway,noddedacurtassent “Yes.” “Coastclear?” “YeswaitamomentthoughtillIhaveaddressedthisenvelope.” “Partinglove-letter,eh?” “Holdyourtongue!” Georgegrimacedrudely WilliamBrownfinishedhistaskinsternsilence Then, ashethrewthependownwithasighofbittersatisfaction,hecaughtsightofa secondenvelopeaddressedtohim,proppedupagainstavase,withthe injunction“nottobeopenedtilltomorrowmorning.”Thisletterhethrustinto hispocket “AreyoucomingorareyouwaitingforyourescorttotakeyoutoBuckingham Palace?” “I’mcomingI’mcoming!” Amomentlaterbothmenstoodtogetherinthequietpassage Downstairsthey heardthesubduedstrainsofmusicandthehumofvoices Georgeputhisfinger tohisnose “Granddoings,”hesaidbriefly “Theroadisasclearasitcouldbe Tryandlook innocent,dearboy,andcomealong MylittlefriendSusanhasgivenmethekey toNo 36itwillbeaseasyasflying—” “—andaboutassafe,”commentedtheRoguegloomily Georgechuckledbutmadenoanswer,andinsilencetheyproceededdownthe corridor Theirprogresswasopenandevenostentatious Thechamber-maidwho badethemgood-nightdidnoteventroubletolookafterthemandyawnedher waybacktoherownquarters “Now!”saidGeorgequietly TheyhadreachedroomNo 36 Georgestopped,tookakeyfromhispocketand fitteditintothelock “Susanistomeetmeoutsidethegates,”heobservedcasually “Ihopethedear littlethingwon’tcatchcold.” Butonthiscynicalhopehiswretchedpartnermadenocomment Thekeyturned easily,andwithagracefullyinvitinggestureGeorgemotionedWilliamBrown intothedarkandsilentroom Bothdarknessandsilenceoppressedthelatterwith aneerieprescienceofdanger,buthesaidnothingandclenchedhischattering teeth,desperatelyintentonseeingthebusinessthrough “Thesafe’soverbythewindow,”hiscompanionwhispered “Takethiselectric torchandturnitonwhenItellyou Wemustn’tbewastefulwiththegas.” Ontip-toebothmencrossedtheroomtothespotwhichGeorgehadindicated A smalltravellingsafeofdeterminedappearancehadbeensetagainstthewalland, obeyingacurtcommand,theRogueswitchedonthetorch Itsstraightstreamof lightfellonthelockandtherewasasoftclinkofsteelinstrumentsasGeorgeset towork ThebusinessfilledWilliamBrownwithindescribableandunnatural horror Itwasinsultaddedtoinjurythathecouldn’tevenbedishonestwitha goodconscience Whateverhehadbeeninthepasthewasnowahopeless failure “I’llhavetogostraight,”hethought “Ican’tstandthissortofthingany moreIsimplycan’t.”Hewas,infact,sufferingacutely Everyhoarseraspofthe fileseemedtovibratedownhisbackboneandGeorge’sbreathingmagnified itselfinhisearstothestentoriansnortingofabull Helookednervouslyabout him Ashadowmoved Heattributeditatfirsttothelightthensuddenlyafearful suspiciongrewtoablood-curdlingcertainty “George!”hewhispered “There’ssomebodyintheroomthere—behindthe wardrobe—” Thenextinstantthetorchwasdashedfromhishand Hefelthimselfhalf dragged,halfcarriedtotheopenwindowandbeforehehadtimetouttermore thanagaspofprotesthewasflyingthroughahorriblespacewhichended suddenlyanduncomfortablyinthemouldymoistnessofaflower-bed Choking, hismouthandeye?andnosefullofthedampearth,theRoguescrambledtohis feet Theroomwhichhehadleftthusunceremoniouslywasnowbrightlylitand excitedshadowsranbackwardsandforwardsagainsttheyellowbackground Buthehadnotimetoconsiderthesituation Afigureroseupfromtheflower bedbesidehimandgrippedhimbythearm “We’remugged!”Georgespluttered “Thatvixen—thatblue-eyedcathasdone me Nevertrustawoman—never There’snothingforitbuttoshowacleanpair ofheels Thegate’snogood Makeforthewall Afterthattryforthestationin timefortheexpress I’llkeeptothewoods Offwithyou!” Hisconfederatewaitedfornomore Theinstinctofself-preservationlenthima speedandagilitywithwhichhewouldneverhaveaccreditedhimself Thefivefootwallmighthavebeentwofeetthetwomilestothestationthirtyyards No oneintervenedtocheckhiswildprogressthoughheswervedateveryshadow, andatlastthelightofBunmouthStationhoveinsight Breathless,gaspingand hatless,hedrewupatthebooking-office Theinstinctofself-preservationhad forgottentolendhimameasureofcommonsense,forhisstatewouldhave arousedthesuspicionsofanangel Herealisedthisfactashepassedthebarrier andfacedthefamiliarstationmaster Instinctivelyhepulledhimselfuptomeet theworst Tohisutteramazementthegentlemanindarkbluemerelytouchedhis cap “Closeshave,yourlordship,”hesaidpleasantly “Youseemtohavehadarun forit.” “Ihave,”WilliamBrownadmittedtruthfully “Anotherminuteandyou’dhavemissed,”thestationmasterwenton “I’ve reservedacompartmenthigherup.” WilliamBrownshookhisheadfeeblyasthoughprotestingagainstthecrazy vagariesoffortune,butfollowedunresisting Theexpresswasalreadymovingas theguardunlockedthedoorofafirst-classcompartment “Thereyouare!”hesaid “Justintime,sir!” Thedoorwasslammedtoandthefugitiveheardnomore Hebrokedown helplesslyinacornerseatanddidnotmoveuntilthelightsofthestationhad disappearedroundacurve Thenforthefirsttimeherealisedthathewasnot alone Helookedupandencounteredthehorrified,bewilderedgazeofthe CountessTheodora CHAPTERXVII THEYstaredateachotherforafullminuteinfranklyaghastsilence The Countess’sfacewaswhiterthanmarble;theperspirationstoodoutinbeadson theCount’sforehead Thriceheessayedtospeakandtwicefailed Thethirdtime hemanagedtobringouthername “Theodora!” “Louis!” “Whatintheworldareyoudoinghere?” Shedrewherselfupdefiantly “I’mrunningaway.” “Fromme?Ah,Iunderstand!”Heputhisshakinghandtohiscollar “Youhave readmyletteryouknoweverything?” “Yourletter?Ihaveithere IfounditonyourtablebutIhavenotreadit.” “Notreadit?Thenwhyareyouhere?Whyareyourunningaway?Ah—itisthat Saunders—thatscoundrel—” “Louisdon’tyouunderstand?Whatareyoutalkingabout?Haven’tyougotmy note?” “Yournote?” Hisjawdropped Mechanicallyhetookthecrumpledenvelopefromhispocket andconsidereditasthoughitmighthavebeenabomb “Ihadn’ttime,”hestammered “Idon’tunderstandanythingatall.” “Thenwhyareyouhere?Whyhaveyoucomeafterme?HowdidyouknowI wasinthistrain?” “Know?”WilliamBrownclaspedhishandsinmuteappealtotheunseen powers “Ididn’tknow OtherwiseI’dratherhavebeenhanged,drawnand quarteredthanhavegotintothiscarriage.” “Then—”Sheendeavouredtosteadythetremblingofherlips “Ireallythinkit wouldbesimplerifwebothreadourletters,”shesaiddesperately “Itseemslikeit,”Brownadmitted Insilencetheytoreopentheirrespectiveenvelopes ForaminutetheRogue’s dazedconsciousnessthatshewasreadingtheconfessionofhisvillainyblinded himthenheforcedhimselftoreadthehastilyscrawledlines “Myhusband,IamleavingyoubecauseIamunworthyofyou Iamawicked woman Ihavedeceivedyou Ihavemisusedyourchivalryandgoodness Ihave takenadvantageofyourmisfortune,IamnotTheodoradeMelvilleIneverwas MynamemymaidennamewasTheodoraSaunders Mypeoplearepoor,but, incredibleasitmayseem,honourable Twoyearsago,tohelpthem,Ibecame theCountessdeMelville’scompanionandafterwardsherintimatefriend With herIlearnttospeakFrenchsufficientlywelltodeceiveyouthankstoour arrangementtospeakEnglishinEnglandmyknowledgewasneverputseverely tothetestanditwasIwhofledwithherwhenshecametoEnglandtomarry you Wewaitedforyouattheappointedmeetingplacebutyounevercame We knewnothingoftheshipwreckandtheCountessbelievedthatshehadbeen betrayed Shedarednotreturntoherpeopleanddecidedtotakerefugewitha richauntinAmerica Beforesheleftshegavemeallyourlettersandpresents andbademefindyououtandgivethembacktoyou IdidsoassoonasIheard whereyouwere NaturallyIheardalsothatyouhadlostyourmemory About thattimemyfamilywasindesperatestraits Mybrother,Cecil,whomyoumet, hadmadedebtsofhonourwhichhecouldnotmeetanddarednotconfesstohis father ItwashewhosuggestedtomethatIshouldplaythepartoftheCountess Theodora OurChristiannameswerethesameandIhadyourletterstohelpme LouisallthesameIdidnotmeantogothroughwithitbutthetrickwasso horribly,painfullysuccessful Iwasdrivenonandon Cecilpointedouttome thatevenifIwasfoundoutitwouldn’tbesobad Icouldhaveconcealedmy ownidentityandmyfatherandmotherwouldhavebeensparedthedisgraceofa dishonouredson Youseeitwasachoicebetweenthesonandthedaughterandit isalwaysbetterforthedaughtertogounder,isn’tit?Ofcoursemypeopleknew nothingtheybelieveIamstillearningmybreadhonourably Cecilhelpedmeto deceivethem,butnowthatheisonhiswaytoSouthAfricathereisnoreason whyIshouldgoonwiththecruelfarce Furtherdeceitisuselessanddiscovery imminent InanycaseIcouldnothaveborneitanylonger Ihaveacted wickedly,shamelessly,criminally,butIhavesuffered!Oh,Ihavesuffered terribly WhenIthinkofthatdreadfulwomanthatMrs Pagot-Chump!Ofcourse youhadnoreasontocareformeIhaddeceivedyouandyourinstinctknewit butithurtallthesame Andnowcomestheworstpartofmypunishment:Imust leaveyouandyoumustknowwhoIreallyam Icanhardlybearit Oh,Louis, Fatehasplayedmesuchacrueltrick!ShehasmademecareforthemanIhave treatedsobadlyshehasmademelovehim Oh,Louis,ifyouonlyknewhow miserableIhavebeenyouwouldforgiveasIhopeyouwillforget “Yourlovingandunhappy “Theodora.” WilliamBrownlookedup Hiswifelookedupatthesamemoment Simultaneouslytheybrokeoutintoanhystericalpealoflaughter “Louisyouhumbug!” “Theodoramydarlingadventuress!” “Thenyou’renottheCount?” “No—you’resureyou’renottheCountess?” “Positive!” “ThankHeaven!” Hecaughtherinawildjoyfulembraceandforafulltwominutesdetectives, pursuingpolicemenanddeeplyinjuredFrenchnoblemenwereforgottenina tumultofhappiness ThenWilliamBrowngentlyreleasedhimself “Youdon’tknowwhatI’vedone,Theodora,”hesaid “I’verobbedandforged perhapsmurdered It’saliferatleastifIgetcaught.” “Idon’tcare—I’llwaitforyou—I’llhangwithyou—I’llstandbyyouwhatever happens—whateveryou’vedone!” “Theodora—angel!” “Mydear,dearRogue!” ItwasatthatpreciseandbeautifulmomentthattheExpresswentofftherails Theaccidenthasalwaysbeenoneofthemysteriesofthatparticularlineforthe trainwasnottravellingatagreatspeed Theshockwasneverthelesssufficientto separatethenewlyunitedcoupleandsendtheRogueflyingacrossthe compartment,wherethebackofhisheadencounteredthedoorhandle Hewas brieflyawareofamagnificentdisplayofcelestialfireworksandofsomebody callingtohimfromalongwayofftheneverythingrolledawayintovelvety darknessandpeacefulsilence WhenthevelvetydarknessbegantothintheRoguemadenoattempttohasten theprocess Hewasfeelingverycomfortable,veryhappy,entirelydisinclinedto exerthimself Hewasvaguelyawarethatachangehadcomeoverhimbutwhat thechangewashecouldnotbebotheredtothinkand,whenheopenedhiseyes atlast,thesightofhishotelbed-roomandawhite-hairedmanseatedbesidehim causedhimnoparticularsurprise “Hullo,dad!”hesaidsimplyandcheerfully Theminutehehadspokenhowever, heknewthatsomethingwonderfulhadhappenedthatthevaguelyfeltchange hadbecomedefinite Hesatupwithhishandtohisbandagedheadandstared abouthim “Why,what’shappened?”heasked Theoldgentlemanlaidasoothingaffectionatehandonhisshoulder “Mydearboyyou’verecoveredyourmemorythat’sall,”hesaid “Youknow whoIam,don’tyou?” “Ofcourse—you’remyfather.” “Andyouknowwhoyouare?” “WhyRogerLancasterofcourse!” Dr Frohlocken,whohadbeenstandingconcealedbehindthecurtainsofthe window,appearedatthismoment,likeanunusuallookingDeusexmachina “Maythisbealessontoyouall,”hesaidseverely “ButmorethananyoneI blamethatidiot—thatInspector Didn’tIprotest?Didn’tItellhim? Circumstantialevidence!Nonsense!Rubbish!Utterlyunscientific Andyou yourself,No 7ledastraybyaridiculouspig!However,letthatpass Doyou rememberhowyoucametoLondon?” “Icametostudy.” “Right!YouobserveMr Lancaster—youwillnoteacompleterecovery You rememberhowyoucametoloseconsciousness.” “IbelieveIwasattackedbysomeone.” “Probably—andafterwardswhenyoucameround—doyourememberthat?” Thepatientstaredathisfatherinsuddenwhite-facedconsternation “Whyyes,Ido!”hegasped “Goodheavens—whatanawfulkettleoffish!What shallIdo,sir?GetmeoutofEnglandbeforethatCountandMrs Pagot-Chump catchme,orthere’llbemurder.” Mr Lancasterchuckled “Don’tworry,mydearboy Everythinghasbeenexplained Thankstoan—er— slightscientificmiscalculationtheCountdeBeaulieuwasarrestedyesterdayon achargeoffraudulentmisrepresentation,butIgothimoutthismorningandhe hasacceptedapologies,explanationsandcompensations TheCountessisatthe presentmomentinthenextroom,renewingherfriendshipandexchangingnotes withyourwife.”Hepausedandwatchedhissonnarrowly “Itappearsthatthe CountmadehisescapefromthehospitalinordertofollowtheCountesswhen heheardthatshehadgonetoAmerica HeovertookherinNewYorkandafter variousexplanationsandreconciliationstheyweremarriedoutthere AstoMrs Pagot-Chumpwell,sheassuresmethatthepleasureofmakingyour acquaintanceatonesforanyunpleasantness Soyousee,all’swellthatends well.” RogerLancastershookhishead “It’sallamostgloriousconfusion,”hesaid “Howdidyoufindmeout,sir?” “WhenImissedyouItravelledalloverEuropeafteryou,”theelderman answered “FortunatelyIobtainedtheservicesofthisgentlemanhere.”He indicatedthesmallneatlyattiredindividualwhowasleaningnegligentlyagainst themantelpiece “Ithinkyouhavemetbefore.” “WashingtonJones,PrivateDetective,atyourservice,”thelittlemansaidwith aneasybow “Pleasedtowelcomeyoubacktoyourrightmind,sir ThoughtI knewyouwhenwemetinHerbertStreet,butcouldn’tbesuretillIgotyour fatheronthespot Oneofmybestjobs,sir.” “I’msurewe’reverygrateful,”Rogeranswered Heglanceduneasilyatthedoor “IsaythoughwhataboutGeorgeandthat—thatPig?” Mr WashingtonJones’facecreaseditselfintoinnumerablefoldsoflaughter, thoughhemadenosound “GeorgeandtheLuckyPighavedisappearedandIdon’tsupposeweshallsee eitherof‘emagain,”hesaid “Thisletter,addressedtotheCountdeBeaulieu’s locumtenens,arrivedattheBunmouthHotelthismorning Iventuredtoopenit andhereitis IfyoupermitmetoreadittoyouIguessyouwon’tneedmuch moreexplaining.”Hetookoutadirtysheetofpaperfromhispocketandcleared histhroat “Dearoldbird,”hereadout “YouarenotSlipperyBillyou’remerelyaSilly Duffer WhatelseyouarebesidesthisIreallydon’tknowexceptthatyou’rethe fellowIdroppedonthateveningDr Frohlockenmissedhissilver Ichanged clotheswithyouwhilstyouweredozingonthedoorstepIfearIhaverathera heavyhandandthatishowyoucametohavemyLuckyPig,whichanimal,by theway,Iventuredtonipoffyourwatch-chainatparting InexchangeI intendedtoreturnthegoldwatchIacceptedfromyouatourfirstmeetingbut reallywewereratherpressedfortime,werewenot,andIamsureyouwillnot grudgemethelittlesouvenir PleasegivemyrespectstoDr Frohlockenandtell himhissilverwasreallyverymuchover-estimatedandquitebeneathmynotice AlsosuggesttoMonsieurBonnetthatheforgiveSusanassoonasherecovers histemper Sheisquiteanicelittlethingandshouldmakeanexcellentcook,if herhandsareanythinglikeaslightasherbrains Andnow,good-bye!Youwere notmuchgoodinmyprofession,butyoumadeanexcellentCount,andIhave nottheslightestdoubtthatyouarereallysomethinghighlyrespectable Inany caseIshallalwaysbearyouinaffectionateremembranceasawellintentioned understudyandpartner “Yoursfaithfully, “WilliamBrown,aliasSlipperyBill.” “P S GivemylovetothepoliceandtellthemthatNo 10,HerbertStreetisto letunfurnished.” “Well,uponmyword,Ihopetheydon’tcatchhim!”thelateWilliamBrown declareddelightedly “Andyoucanstakeyourbottomdollarthattheywon’t,”saidMr Washington Jones,“unlesshelandsintheStates,ofcourse,inwhichcase—” ButtheyoungerLancasterwasnotlistening Atthatmomentthedoorhad openedandheheldouthishandsingladrecognition “Theodora!”hesaid Shecametowardshimbravelyandalittledefiantly “Idon’tknow,nowthatyouhaverecoveredyourmemory,ifyouwanttoseeme again,”shesaid “Iwanttoseeandkeepyoualways.” “Youaresure?RememberwhoIamandwhatIhavedone!” “AmanwhohasrejoicedinthenameofSlipperyBillandtriedtorobhisown fatherisscarcelyinthepositiontothrowstones,”observedtheelderLancaster grimly “Infact,sincewe’rerathershadycharacters,”hissonsuggested,“wehavejust gottojoinforces,mywife!” “Rogues&Company!”suggestedDr Frohlockenpleasantly Butasthetwo chiefmembersofhisaudiencewerefartooabsorbedineachothertonoticehim thislaststrokeofgeniuspassedwithoutrecognition THEEND
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