Anthony Hope.

Beaumaroy Home from the Wars



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"A hard bargain! It isn't so much that I want the money Ц though I must remark that in my judgment I have a strong claim to it; I would say a moral claim but for my deference to your views, Doctor Mary. But it isn't mainly that. I hate the Radbolts getting it Ц just as much as the old man would have hated it."

"I have given you my Ц my terms," said Mary.

Beaumaroy stood looking down at her, his hands in his pockets. His face was twisted in a humorous disgust. Mary laughed gently. "It is possible to Ц to keep the rules without being a prig, you know, though I believe you think it isn't."

"Including the sack in the water-butt? My sack Ц the sack I rescued?"

"Including the bag in the water-butt. Yes Ц every single sovereign!" Though Mary was pursuing the high moral line, there was now more mischief than gravity in her demeanour.

"Well, I'll do it!" He evidently spoke with a great effort. "I'll do it! But, look here, Doctor Mary, you'll live to be sorry you made me do it. Oh, I don't mean that that conscience of yours will be sorry. That'll approve, no doubt, being the extremely conventionalized thing it is. But you yourself Ц you'll be sorry Ц or I'm much mistaken in the Radbolts."

"It isn't a question of the Radbolts," she insisted, laughing.

"Oh yes, it is, and you'll come to feel it so." Beaumaroy was equally obstinate.

Mary rose. "Then that's settled Ц and we needn't keep Captain Alec waiting any longer."

"How do you know that I shan't cheat you?" he asked.

"I don't know how I know that," Mary admitted. "But I do know it. And I want to tell you Ц "

She suddenly felt embarrassed under his gaze; her cheeks flushed, but she went on resolutely:

"To tell you how glad, how happy, I am that it all ends like this; that the poor old man is free of his fancies and his fears, beyond both our pity and our laughter."

"Aye, he's earned rest, if there is to be rest for any of us!"

"And you can rest too. And you can laugh with us, and not at us. Isn't that, after all, a more human sort of laughter?"

She was smiling still as she gave him her hand, but he saw that tears stood in her eyes. The next instant she gave a little sob.

"Doctor Mary!" he exclaimed in rueful expostulation.

"No, no, how stupid you are!" She laughed through her sob. "It's not unhappiness!" She pressed his hand tightly for an instant and then walked quickly out of the house, calling back to him, "Don't come, please don't come. I'd rather go to Captain Alec by myself."

Left alone in the cottage, now so quiet and so peaceful, Beaumaroy mused awhile as he smoked his pipe. Then he turned to his labours Ц his final night of work in the Tower. There was much to do, very much to do; he achieved his task towards morning. When day dawned, there was nothing but water in the water-butt, and in the Tower no furnishings were visible save three chairs Ц a high carved one by the fireplace, and two much smaller on the little platform under the window.

The faded old red carpet on the floor was the only attempt at decoration. And in still one thing more the Tower was different from what it had been. Beaumaroy contented himself with pasting brown paper over the pane on which Mike had operated. He did not replace the match-boarding over the window, but stowed it away in the coal-shed. The place was horribly in need of sunshine and fresh air Ц and the old gentleman was no longer alive to fear the draught!

When the undertaker came up to the cottage that afternoon, he glanced from the parlour, through the open door, into the Tower.

"Driving past on business, sir," he remarked to Beaumaroy, "I've often wondered what the old gentleman did with that there Tower. But it looks as if he didn't make no use of it."

"We sometimes stored things in it," said Beaumaroy. "But, as you see, there's nothing much there now."

But then the undertaker, worthy man, could not see through the carpet, or through the lid of Captain Duggle's grave. That was full Ц fuller than it had been at any period of its history. In it lay the wealth, the sceptre, and the trappings of dead majesty. For wherein did Mr. Saffron's dead majesty differ from the dead majesty of other kings?

CHAPTER XVII
THE CHIEF MOURNERS

The attendance was small at Mr. Saffron's funeral. Besides meek and depressed Mrs. Wiles, and Beaumaroy himself, Doctor Mary found herself, rather to her surprise, in company with old Mr. Naylor. On comparing notes she discovered that, like herself, he had come on Beaumaroy's urgent invitation and, moreover, that he was engaged also to come on afterwards to Tower Cottage, where Beaumaroy was to entertain the chief mourners at a midday repast. "Glad enough to show my respect to a neighbour," said old Naylor. "And I always liked the old man's looks. But really I don't see why I should go to lunch! However, Beaumaroy Ц !"

Mary did not see why he should go to lunch Ц nor, for that matter, why she should either, but curiosity about the chief mourners made her glad that she was going. The chief mourners did not look, at first sight, attractive. Mr. Radbolt was a short plump man, with a weaselly face and cunning eyes; his wife's eyes, of a greeny colour, stared stolidly out from her broad red face; she was taller than her mate, and her figure contrived to be at once stout and angular. All through the service, Beaumaroy's gaze was set on the pair as they sat or stood in front of him, wandering from the one to the other in an apparently fascinated study.

At the cottage he entertained his party in the parlour with a generous hospitality, and treated the Radbolts with most courteous deference. The man responded with the best manners that he had Ц who can do more? The woman was much less cordial; she was curt, and treated Beaumaroy rather as the servant than the friend of her dead cousin; there was a clear suggestion of suspicion in her bearing towards him. After a broad stare of astonishment on her introduction to "Dr. Arkroyd," she took very little notice of Mary; only to Mr. Naylor was she clumsily civil and even rather cringing; it was clear that in him she acknowledged the gentleman. He sat by her, and she tried to insinuate herself into a private conversation with him, apart from the others, probing him as to his knowledge of the dead man and his mode of living. Her questions hovered persistently round the point of Mr. Saffron's expenditure.

"Mr. Saffron was not a friend of mine," Naylor found it necessary to explain. "I had few opportunities of observing his way of life, even if I had felt any wish to do so."

"I suppose Beaumaroy knew all about his affairs," she suggested.

"As to that, I think you must ask Mr. Beaumaroy himself."

"From what the lawyers say, the old man seems to have been getting rid of his money, somehow or to somebody," she grumbled in a positive whisper.

To Mr. Naylor's intense relief, Beaumaroy interrupted this conversation. "Well, how do you like this little place, Mrs. Radbolt?" he asked cheerfully. "Not a bad little crib, is it? Don't you think so too, Dr. Arkroyd?" Throughout this gathering Beaumaroy was very punctilious with his "Dr. Arkroyd." One would have thought that Mary and he were almost strangers.

"Yes, I like it," said Mary. "The Tower makes it rather unusual and picturesque." This was not really her sincere opinion; she was playing up to Beaumaroy, convinced that he had opened some conversational manoeuvre.

"Don't like it at all," answered Mrs. Radbolt. "We'll get rid of it as soon as we can, won't we, Radbolt?" She always addressed her husband as "Radbolt."

"Don't be in a hurry, don't throw it away," Beaumaroy advised. "It's not everybody's choice, of course, but there are quarters Ц yes, more than one quarter Ц in which you might get a very good offer for this place." His eye caught Mary's for a moment. "Indeed I wish I was in a position to make you one myself. I should like to take it as it stands Ц lock, stock, and barrel. But I've sunk all I had in another venture Ц hope it'll turn out a satisfactory one! So I'm not in a position to do it. If Mrs. Radbolt wants to sell, what would you think of it, Dr. Arkroyd Ц as a speculation?"

Mary shook her head, smiling, glad to be able to smile with plausible reason. "I'm not as fond of rash speculations as you are, Mr. Beaumaroy."

"It may be worth more than it looks," he pursued. "Good neighbourhood, healthy air, fruitful soil Ц very rich soil hereabouts."

"My dear Beaumaroy, the land about here is abominable," Naylor expostulated.

"Perhaps generally, but some rich pockets Ц what one may call pockets," corrected Beaumaroy.

"I'm not an agriculturist," remarked weaselly Mr. Radbolt in his oily tones.

"And then there's a picturesque old yarn told about it. Oh, whether it's true or not, of course I don't know. It's about a certain Captain Duggle Ц not the army Ц the Mercantile Marine, Mrs. Radbolt. You know the story, Dr. Arkroyd? And you too, Mr. Naylor? You're the oldest inhabitant of Inkston present, sir. Suppose you tell it to Mr. and Mrs. Radbolt? I'm sure it will make them attach a new value to this really very attractive cottage Ц with, as Dr. Arkroyd says, the additional feature of the Tower."

"I know the story only as a friend of mine Ц Mr. Penrose Ц who takes great interest in local records and traditions, told it to me. If our host desires, I shall be happy to tell it to Mrs. Radbolt." Mr. Naylor accompanied his words with a courtly little bow to that lady, and launched upon the legend of Captain Duggle.

Mr. Radbolt was a religious man. At the end of the story he observed gravely, "The belief in diabolical personalities is not to be lightly dismissed, Mr. Beaumaroy."

"I'm entirely of your opinion, Mr. Radbolt." This time Mary felt that her smile was not so plausible.

"There seems to have been nothing in the grave," mused Mrs. Radbolt.

"Apparently not when Captain Duggle left it Ц if he was ever in it Ц at all events not when he left the house, in whatever way and by whatever agency."

"As to the latter point, I myself incline to Penrose's theory," said Mr. Naylor. "Delirium tremens, you know!"

Beaumaroy puffed at his cigar. "Still, I've often thought that, though it was empty then, it would have made Ц supposing it really exists Ц an excellent hiding-place for anybody who wanted such a thing. Say for a miser, or a man who had his reasons for concealing what he was worth! I once suggested the idea to Mr. Saffron, and he was a good deal amused. He patted me on the shoulder and laughed heartily. He wasn't often so much amused as that."

A new look came into Mrs. Radbolt's green eyes. Up to now, distrust of Beaumaroy had predominated. His frank bearing, his obvious candour and simplicity, had weakened her suspicions. But his words suggested something else; he might be a fool, not a knave; Mr. Saffron had been amused, had laughed beyond his wont. That might have seemed the best way of putting Beaumaroy off the scent. The green eyes were now alert, eager, immensely acquisitive.

"The grave's in the Tower, if it's anywhere. Would you like to see the Tower, Mrs. Radbolt?"

"Yes, I should," she answered tartly. "Being part of our property as it is."

Mary exchanged a glance with Mr. Naylor, as they followed the others into the Tower. "What an abominable woman!" her glance said. Naylor smiled a despairing acquiescence.

The strangers Ц chief mourners, heirs-at-law, owners now of the place wherein they stood Ц looked round the bare brick walls of the little rotunda. Naylor examined it with interest too Ц the old story was a quaint one. Mary stood at the back of the group, smiling triumphantly. How had he disposed of Ц everything? She had not been wrong in her unlimited confidence in his ingenuity. She did not falter in her faith in his word pledged to her.

"Safe from burglars, that grave of the Captain's, if you kept it properly concealed!" Beaumaroy pursued in a sort of humorous meditation. "And in these days some people like to have their money in their own hands. Confiscatory legislation possible, isn't it, Mr. Naylor? You know about those things better than I do. And then the taxes Ц shocking, Mr. Radbolt! By Jove, I knew a chap the other day who came in for what sounded like a pretty little inheritance. But by the time he'd paid all the duties and so on, most of the gilt was off the gingerbread! It's there Ц in front of the hearth Ц that the story says the grave is. Doesn't it, Mr. Naylor?" A sudden thought seemed to strike him. "I say, Mrs. Radbolt, would you like us to have a look whether we can find any indications of it?" His eyes travelled beyond the lady whom he addressed, they met Mary's. She knew their message; he was taking her into his confidence about his experiment with the chief mourners.

The stout angular woman had leapt to her conclusion. Much less money than had been expected Ц no signs of money having been spent Ц and here, not the cunning knave whom she had expected, but a garrulous open fool, giving away what was Ц perhaps Ц a golden secret! Mammon Ц the greed of acquisitiveness, the voracious appetite for getting more Ц gleamed in her green eyes.

"There? Do you say it's Ц it's supposed to be there?" she asked eagerly, with a shake in her voice.

Her husband interposed in a suave and sanctimonious voice: "My dear, if Mr. Beaumaroy and the other gentleman won't mind my saying so, I've been feeling that these are rather light and frivolous topics for the day, and the occasion which brings us here. The whole thing is probably an unfounded story, although there is a sound moral to it. Later on Ц just as a matter of curiosity Ц if you like, my dear. But to-day Ц Cousin Aloysius's day of burial Ц is it quite seemly?"

The big woman looked at her smaller mate for just a moment Ц a scrutinizing look. Then she said with most unexpected meekness, "I was wrong. You always have the proper feelings, Radbolt."

"The fault was mine, entirely mine," Beaumaroy hastily interposed. "I dragged in the old yarn, I led Mr. Naylor into telling it, I told you about what I said to Mr. Saffron and how he took it. All my fault! I acknowledge the justice of your rebuke. I apologize, Mr. Radbolt! And I think that we've exhausted the interest of the Tower." He looked at his watch; "Er Ц how do you stand for time? Shall Mrs. Wiles make us a cup of tea, or have you a train to catch?"

"That's the woman in charge of the house, isn't it?" asked Mrs. Radbolt.

"Comes in for the day. She doesn't sleep here." He smiled pleasantly on Mrs. Radbolt. "To tell you the truth, I don't think that she would consent to sleep here by herself. Silly! But Ц the old story, you know!

"Don't you sleep here?" the woman persisted, though her husband was looking at her rather uneasily.

"Up to now I have," said Beaumaroy. "But there's nothing to keep me here now, and Mr. Naylor has kindly offered to put me up as long as I stay at Inkston."

"Going to leave the place with nobody in it?"

Beaumaroy's manner indicated surprise. "Oh, yes! There's nothing to tempt thieves, is there? Just lock the door and put the key in my pocket!"

The woman looked very surly, but flummoxed. Her husband, with his suave oiliness, came to her rescue. "My wife is always nervous, perhaps foolishly nervous, about fire, Mr. Beaumaroy. Well, with an old house like this, there is always the risk."

"Upon my soul, I hadn't thought of it! And I've packed up all my things, and your car's come and fetched them, Mr. Naylor. Still, of course I could Ц "

"Oh, we've no right, no claim, to trouble you, Mr. Beaumaroy. Only my wife is Ц "

"Fire's an obsession with me, I'm afraid," said the stout woman, with a rumbling giggle. The sound of her mirth was intolerably disagreeable to Mary.

"I really think, my dear, that you'll feel easier if I stay myself, won't you? You can send me what I want to-morrow, and rejoin me when we arrange Ц because we shall have to settle what's to be done with the place."

"As you please, Mr. Radbolt." Beaumaroy's tone was, for the first time, a little curt. It hinted some slight offence Ц as though he felt himself charged with carelessness, and considered Mrs. Radbolt's obsession mere fussiness. "No doubt, if you stay, Mrs. Wiles will agree to stay too, and do her best to make you comfortable."

"I shall feel easier that way, Radbolt," Mrs. Radbolt admitted, with another rumble of apologetic mirth.

Beaumaroy motioned his guests back to the parlour. His manner retained its shade of distance and offence. "Then it really only remains for me to wish you good-bye Ц and all happiness in your new property. Any information in my possession as to Mr. Saffron's affairs I shall, of course, be happy to give you. Is the car coming for you, Mr. Naylor?"

"I thought it would be pleasant to walk back; and I hope Doctor Mary will come with us and have some tea. I'll send you home afterwards, Doctor Mary."

Farewells were exchanged, but now without even a show of cordiality. Naylor and Doctor Mary felt too much distaste for the chief mourners to attain more than a cold civility. Beaumaroy did not relax into his earlier friendliness. His apparent dislike to her husband's plan of staying at the cottage roused Mrs. Radbolt's suspicions again; was he a rogue after all, but a very plausible, a very deep one? Only Mr. Radbolt's unctuousness Ц surely it would have smoothed the stormiest waves?†Ц saved the social situation.

"Intelligent people, I thought," Beaumaroy observed, as the three friends pursued their way across the heath towards Old Place. "Didn't you, Mr. Naylor?"

Old Naylor grunted. With a twinkle in his eyes, Beaumaroy tried Doctor Mary. "What was your impression of them?"

"Oh!" moaned Mary, with a deep and expressive note. "But how did you know they'd be like that?"

"Letters Ц and the old man's description; he had a considerable command of language, and very violent likes and dislikes. I made a picture of them Ц and it's turned out pretty accurate."

"And those were the nearest kith and kin your poor old man had?" Naylor shook his head sadly. "The woman obviously cared not a straw about anything but handling his money Ц and couldn't even hide it! A gross and horrible female, Beaumaroy!"

"Were you really hurt about their insisting on staying?" asked Mary.

"Oh, come, you're sharper than that, Doctor Mary! Still, I think I did it pretty well. I set the old girl thinking again, didn't I?" He broke into laughter, and Mary joined in heartily. Old Naylor glanced from one to the other with an air of curiosity.

"You two people look to me Ц somehow Ц as if you'd got a secret between you."

"Perhaps we have! Mr. Naylor's a man of honour, Doctor Mary; a man who appreciates a situation, a man you can trust." Beaumaroy seemed very gay and happy now, disembarrassed of a load, and buoyant alike in walk and in spirit. "What do you say to letting Mr. Naylor Ц just him Ц nobody else Ц into our secret?"

Mary put her arm through old Mr. Naylor's. "I don't mind, if you don't. But nobody else!"

"Then you shall tell him Ц the entire story Ц at your leisure. Meanwhile I'll begin at the wrong end. I told you I'd made a picture of the hated cousins, of the heirs-at-law, these sorrowing chief mourners. Well, having made a picture of them that's proved true, I'll make a prophecy about them, and I'll bet you it proves just as true."

"Go on," said Mary. "Listen, Mr. Naylor," she added, with a squeeze of the old man's arm.

"You're like a couple of naughty children!" he said, with an affectionate look and laugh.

"Well, my prophecy is that they'll swear the poor dear old man's estate at under five thousand."

"Well, why shouldn't Ц ?" old Naylor began; but he stopped as he saw Mary's eyes meet Beaumaroy's in a rapture of quick and delighted understanding.

"And then perhaps you'll own to being sorry, Doctor Mary!"

"So that's what you were up to, was it?" said Mary.

CHAPTER XVIII
THE GOLD AND THE TREASURE

Old Mr. Naylor called on Mary two or three days later Ц at an hour when, as he well knew, Cynthia was at his own house Ц in order to hear the story. There were parts of it which she could not describe fully for lack of knowledge Ц the enterprise of Mike and Big Neddy, for example; but all that she knew she told frankly, and did not scruple to invoke her imagination to paint Beaumaroy's position, with its difficulties, demands, obligations Ц and temptations. He heard her with close attention, evidently amused, and watching her animated face with a keen and watchful pleasure.

"Surprising!" he said at the end, rubbing his hands together. "That's to say, not in itself particularly surprising. Just a queer little happening; one would think nothing of it if one read it in the newspaper! Things are always so much more surprising when they happen down one's own street, or within a few minutes' walk of one's garden wall Ц and when one actually knows the people involved in them. Still I was always inclined to agree with Dr. Irechester that there was something out of the common about old Saffron and our friend Beaumaroy."

"Dr. Irechester never found out what it was, though!" exclaimed Mary triumphantly.



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