The Secret of the Silver Carскачать книгу бесплатно
A LADY INTERRUPTS
Anthony Trent told the obliging manager of the Maids' Head Hotel that he was interested mainly in the study of cathedral churches and since he had now studied the magnificent Norwich cathedral would push on to Ely.
He found England an exceedingly easy place to shake off pursuers despite its small size. There were always junctions where he could change from one line to another without incurring suspicion. He started for Ely but was soon lost among the summer crowds which thronged the university city of Cambridge. The convenient system of merely claiming one's baggage and ordering a porter to take it to car or taxi rendered the tracking of it by baggage checks almost impossible.
While it was true he was not pursued, so far as he knew, he wanted to be careful. It was not likely Langley would charge him with the theft of the Ladigny confession but it was quite probable that the Colonel might suspect the writer of the confession. He might think that Smith had hired a clever American safe breaker to win for him what was very necessary for his freedom of action. And Smith, if he did not already know it, would find the man over whom he held many years in American prisons almost within his clutches.
It was necessary that Anthony Trent should see Smith first and make a bargain with him. It was imperative that he meet the man alone and where he could place the cards on the table and talk freely.
In a room of the quaint half-timbered hostelry in Norwich Trent had come across some useful books of reference. There were, for example, such guides to knowledge as "Crockford's Clerical Directory"; "Hart's Army List"; the "Court Directory of London" and "Lodge's Peerage and Baronetage." The name for which Trent sought diligently was that of Arthur Spencer Jerningham Grenvil. By these names Private William Smith had the legal right to be known. By these names he had signed a confession.
A. S. J. Grenvil had admitted forging a check for two hundred pounds. The signature he had skilfully imitated was that of Reginald Langley of Dereham Old Hall in the county of Norfolk.
There was a copy of a letter written by Colonel Langley to Grenvil dated six years before. On the whole it was a letter which impressed Trent favorably. It was written from rather a lofty altitude by a man to whom family honor and the motto noblesse oblige meant a whole code of chivalry.
"Until you went to Sandhurst you were a credit to your name and the great family from which you spring," he read. "Suddenly, without any warning, your habits altered and you became a gambler. Well, many of your race have gambled, but at least they played fair and paid what they owed. You did not even do that. It was with great difficulty that your father was able to get you your commission in my old regiment. We hoped you would feel that in the presence of so many men of birth and breeding that you must alter your habits and wear with credit your sovereign's uniform.
And now you are a common forger. Of course the signature you forged will be honored. But I require this of you: that you will confess to me your guilt; that you will leave the regiment; that you will do some honest work and re-establish yourself in my eyes. I will see to it that work of a not unpleasing kind is found for you in Australia. On my part I will undertake to keep your secret so long as you keep away from England. Remember, Arthur, there are other discreditable things I could bring to your notice if I chose. I am anxious that my kinsman, your father, should not suffer any more from your escapades. On receipt of this letter proceed to my lawyers whose address you know. They have instructions what to do."
It was plain that the father of the man he had known as William Smith was of rank. The fact that he was a kinsman of Colonel Langley might be explained by reference to the fifth book on the shelf at the Maids' Head – "Debrett's Landed Gentry of Gt. Britain."
He turned to Langley of Dereham Old Hall. Langley's mother, it seemed, was the Lady Dorothea Grenvil daughter of the ninth, and sister of the present Earl of Rosecarrel. Grenvil, therefore, was the family name of the Earls of Rosecarrel.
In the peerage all the particulars concerning the Grenvils were laid bare. The tenth earl, who had been British Ambassador to Turkey, was a Knight of the Garter, etc., etc., had married Elizabeth only daughter of Admiral, Lord Arthur Jerningham and had issue:
First the heir, Viscount St. Just, major in the Royal Horse Guards, V.C.G.C.B. Second and third, two sons killed in the great war. Fourth, Arthur Spencer Jerningham Grenvil of whom no particulars were given. Fifth came the Lady Rhona Elizabeth Onslow married to the Duke of Ontarlier in the peerage of France and last the Lady Daphne Villiers Grenvil, unmarried. Trent reckoned out that she would be a girl of twenty-one. Private Smith would be twenty-six.
The town house of the Earls of Rosecarrel was in Grosvenor Place and their country seats were Alderwood Hall in Cambridgeshire and Rosecarrel Castle in Cornwall.
Alderwood Hall was six miles from the university city and the house could be seen on one of the small hills to the west of the town. A guide book informed Trent that the house was thrown open to visitors on Thursdays at a small fee which went to the local hospital. There were to be seen some notable examples of the "Norwich School" works by Crome, Cotman, Vincent and Stark.
The butler was distressed by the heat of early September and dismissed the visitors as soon as possible. But he regarded the American tourist in a different light for Trent had slipped him a half sovereign.
"I want to take my time," said Trent, "I like pictures and I want to examine these more closely."
"Certainly, sir," said the butler. "Anything I can do to help you I shall be proud to do."
Anthony Trent, who had a wide knowledge of paintings of the outdoors and possessed one of the world's missing masterpieces, none other than The Venetian Masque of Giorgione which he had taken from a vulgar and unappreciative millionaire, looked at the fresh, simple landscapes with joy.
"Is the family in residence?" he asked when he had finished.
"The Earl always spends the summer at Rosecarrel," the man answered. "He keeps his yacht in Fowey Harbour. I'm afraid his lordship is failing. You see the loss of Master Gervase and Master Bevil was a terrible shock. We lost seven out of our twelve gardeners here and two of them that came back won't ever be much good."
"What about Mr. Arthur Grenvil?" Trent asked idly. "I used to know him."
"He's back," the butler said. But the look of affection which the old family servant had shown when he spoke of the two who had fallen was gone. "I'll say this for Master Arthur, he fought too and got wounded. There's none that can say aught against his pluck."
"He is cool enough," Trent said, and thought of the scene in the dug-out when he and Arthur Grenvil waited for death and did not give way to terror. "He's down in Cornwall with the Earl, I suppose?"
"And Lady Daphne," the butler added. "Since the death of the Countess she looks after everything."
Trent visualized one of those managing domineering young women who rule tenants relentlessly but after all exercise benevolent despotism in bucolic matters.
"Was he badly hurt?" Trent asked before he left.
"I hardly knew him," the butler said. "I give you my word I was fair shocked at the difference; isn't for the likes of me to question the ways of Providence but why Mr. Arthur was left and the others taken I don't understand."
Anthony Trent wondered, too. It would have saved him a great deal of worry if things had been reversed. On the whole this mauvais sujet, of an ancient family was a consistent trouble maker.
A Bradshaw's time table showed Trent that as Lord Rosecarrel's yacht was at Fowey he would be wise to make a trip to the Delectable Duchy, as a Fowey author has termed Cornwall, and disguise himself as a tourist and thus pave the way for a meeting with Private William Smith.
He purchased a large scale automobile map of Cornwall and when he reached the quaint seaport had a fair idea of the locality. Rosecarrel Castle lay some ten miles away on the moorland. The local guidebook told him all about it. It was the great house of the neighbourhood, a granite built fastness which had suffered siege many times. The Grenvils were a Cornish family of distinction and happier in their own West Countree than on the Cambridge estates.
Trent had always found the consultation of local newspapers a great help toward knowledge of a community and he immediately solaced himself with what Fowey had to offer. A perusal of the advertising columns gave him a good idea of what he could do to pass his time in a manner that would seem logical to the countryfolk. Since he was not a painter, and Fowey had no golf links, his occupation in the absence of a sailing or power boat was merely that of a sightseer and he felt out of his element in this innocent guise.
The local paper showed him that there were several "rough shootings" that he might rent for the season. These were tracts of farm and moorland where partridges, hares, woodcock and an occasional pheasant might be found. One in the parish of St. Breward on the moors particularly attracted him. The local agent commended him on his wisdom. He did not know Anthony Trent had selected this desolate tract of granite strewn moor because Rosecarrel Castle was but a half dozen miles distant.
Trent had been less than a week in Cornwall when he was installed in a farmhouse, the owner of a spaniel of great local repute, and regarded simply as one of those sportsmen who took the shooting every year and as such was above suspicion. Mr. Nicholls, the loquacious agent who had rented him the shooting and had driven him over to view it, talked a great deal of the great Earl of Rosecarrel. He regretted that since the death of the Countess few guests stayed within the castle. There had been brave days a few years back when Lord St. Just the son and heir had been master of the North Cornwall Foxhounds.
"But there's only the Honourable Arthur Grenvil there now," said Nicholls, "and Lady Daphne. Lord St. Just is military attach? at Washington."
"Since when?" Trent demanded.
"Within a few weeks," said the agent.
That was the reason why the younger brother had been to see him off at Liverpool. It was quite likely that Private Smith assumed Anthony Trent to be dead. Or he might have thought him boasting of another's deeds. But Trent was going to find out if possible. This time he had materials for a compromise. Suddenly Nicholls pointed out a figure on horseback fully a half mile distant.
"Like enough," said the agent, "that's the Honourable Arthur. He rides about on the moors a lot. All this land as far as you can see belongs to the Earl."
Trent could see that the rider was cantering along narrow paths inaccessible to vehicles. Well, the meeting would wait. Some morning he would rein in his horse beside that of Private Smith and see recognition dawn in the eye of the man when the visitor announced himself as Anthony Trent. Then covetousness would follow and the thought of rich reward hearten the ex-private. Trent chuckled to himself as he thought of how the man's face would fall when he outlined his past history and showed him he was in possession of secrets which, once public, must bring him into the clutches of the inexorable, passionless law of the realm.
"Where can I get a horse?" he asked Nicholls.
"John Treleaven over to St. Kew has a good hunting horse he wants to sell. It will be a bargain at sixty pounds Mr. Trent. I'll tell him to ride it over tomorrow if you like."
"All right," Trent said, "and I want saddle and bridle and so on."
So Anthony Trent added Treleaven's stout horse to his possessions and when he was not shooting, rode over the moorlands purple with Cornish heather and yellow with gorse.
Nearly always he rode near the castle of Rosecarrel and was often annoyed to find his pilgrimage shared by arch?ologists and other visitors. Rosecarrel Castle had begun as a fortress; when cannon rendered masonry useless it had become a castellated mansion and now it showed the slow changes of the long centuries and was a delightful residence. The moat was a flower garden and the keeps were now green with grass and bright with roses.
Admission was by presentation of a visiting card on a certain day. It was no part of Trent's purpose to send the name in which might remind Arthur Grenvil of that memorable talk in the dark. When he disclosed himself it would be man to man and he was not able yet to satisfy his curiosity about the great building.
He was gratified to find that the river Camel running through part of the shooting he rented was a notable salmon and trout stream. The trout were small but the sea-run salmon went as high as thirty pounds. In Kennebago where his Maine camp was the land-locked variety seldom went to more than seven pounds. Directly he had secured his license, and the equipment he wired to London for had arrived, he clambered down the steep hill side to the river. But he fished very little that afternoon for as he climbed over one of the granite stiles he came face to face with two other anglers, a man and girl.
The girl was none other than the mysterious lady in blue for whom he had opened Colonel Langley's safe. She came forward hand outstretched when she saw him.
That she was a little confused he was certain, and perhaps a trifle fearful that he might make some allusion to the oddity of the circumstances under which they had first met. The man was almost a hundred feet from her. He was casting and too interested to look at anything but the deep pool in which salmon were wont to lie.
"I was never able to thank you for that, that night at Dereham," she began, "but my father had one of his attacks and I had to leave the very next day just before luncheon. I hope you had good sport."
"Unusually good," he said. It was a great piece of luck that she still assumed him to be of the house party. But what was she doing here? When he asked she said, "We live near here." She looked around to see her companion coming toward her and the stranger.
"This is my brother," she said, "Arthur Grenvil. Arthur this gentleman was staying at Dereham Old Hall when I was there. Mr.?" She looked at him pleadingly, "I'm so stupid about names."
The stranger seemed to be looking at her when he answered, but his eyes were upon Arthur Grenvil.
"Anthony Trent," he said urbanely.
"How do you do," Grenvil said without betraying any emotion. "Had any luck?"
"Not yet," Anthony Trent said still looking hard at him. Things were happening rather more quickly than he liked. Too many discoveries were disconcerting. First this girl was of course Lady Daphne Grenvil. And she had not any other motive in view in abstracting the confession than of helping her renegade brother. Anthony Trent felt himself absurdly pleased to know that. He had thought of her constantly and pitied her because he assumed her to be under the domination of a handsome heartless scamp like the Honourable Arthur.
It was Grenvil's attitude which puzzled the American. The name had apparently aroused no suspicion. It proved the man was more dangerous than he supposed if he were able to master his emotions with such ease. As they stood there chatting about flies and the size of the salmon Anthony Trent had time to study Grenvil's appearance. Assuredly he differed from the mental picture he had formed of him.
To begin with there seemed nothing vicious about him. He was a very handsome man with small regular features, finely formed nose and engaging blue eyes. Anthony Trent thought of the confession he had seen and remembered the talk in the dug-out. He called to mind the hints that the Alderbrook butler had let drop and the lack of enthusiasm the agent Nicholls had shown in speaking of him. From all accounts Arthur Spencer Jerningham Grenvil should be a very highly polished scoundrel but coarsened somewhat from his experiences in the ranks for so many years.
And here he was with a sister he plainly adored, looking with a sort of shy good nature at the stranger.
"It's so jolly to meet another keen fisherman," he said amiably, "I know the Camel so well that I can show you the best pools if you'd care about it."
"That would be very kind of you," Anthony Trent returned. He did not know what to make of the man he had first known as Private Smith. There might be a mistake and yet, if there had been, why should Lady Daphne have risked disgrace in breaking open a safe for his sake. And the voice, the unmistakable voice, was that of the man to whom he had confided all his dangerous, deadly secrets. "I haven't fished the river for almost seven years," the younger man went on.
"My brother has been in the army for more than five years," the girl said, "and he hadn't much chance then. He was badly wounded and we are making him well again."
"I'm being horribly spoiled, Mr. Trent," Grenvil smiled, "and I rather like it. Did you get in the big show by any chance?"
"As long as I could be after my country declared war," Trent said looking at him hard. "We must exchange experiences."
"Please don't," the girl begged, "Arthur's nerves can't stand it. The doctors say he must live outdoors and forget everything."
"And are you able to forget – everything?" Trent asked him.
Arthur Grenvil frowned a little. It was as though the memory of something unpleasing had lingered for a moment.
"Most things," said the other.
"Is it wise?" Trent demanded. This refusing even by a look or a smile to acknowledge that he remembered the memorable talk was disturbing.
"Perhaps not," Grenvil admitted, "but wisdom and I never got on very well together."
The sound of a motor horn broke the silence.
"The car," said Arthur Grenvil to his sister. "We have to run away because people are coming over from the barracks to lunch. I hope I shall meet you again Mr. Trent." He nodded pleasantly. "Come on Daphne."
"Goodbye, Mr. Trent," she said brightly. "I hope you'll land a monster fish."
Anthony Trent flung himself on the grass at the edge of the pool and lighted his pipe. Lordly salmon were no temptation to him at the moment. Private William Smith had beaten him so far. Private Smith had looked as innocent as a babe. He had been polite and gracious but had refused to acknowledge any former acquaintance. Again and again in the few minutes Trent had telegraphed to him plainly, "Well, here I am, the master criminal you were proud to know, what are you going to do?" And every time Private Smith had said, "I do not know you. I never saw you before." It was well enough to postpone the conversation until they were alone, but Trent resented the utter indifference of the younger man to his appeal. A man dare only do that who had no fear. That must be the reason. Grenvil had made only general statements in his half confession, statements which could not convict him. He felt he held the whip hand over the master. There would be a different expression on his face when Trent dropped a hint as to the dangers of forging.
At the farm house where he was living Trent had little difficulty in getting side lights on the Grenvil family. He had never heard such disapprobation showered on a single member of any family as was the case with the farmer and his wife when they spoke of Arthur Grenvil.
They said his scandalous life had killed his mother. It was all bad companionship and drink, Mrs. Bassett the farmer's wife contended. He was all right till he left school to go into the army. He was cruel to animals and false to his friends.
"He doesn't look it," Trent said slowly.
"The devil gives his own a mask to fool the righteous," Mrs. Bassett contended. She was a pious soul. "I ought to know. I was a nursemaid at the castle before I married John Bassett."
Never in all his career as a breaker of laws and an abstractor of the valuable property of others had Trent been so apprehensive as he was in quiet, beautiful Cornwall far from cities. In New York he had schooled himself to look unconcerned at the police he met on every corner. Here there seemed to be no police and yet he looked anxiously at every stranger who passed by the moorland farm. He told himself it was the effect of his war hardships, his wounds and shell shock. But he knew his nerves were steady, his muscles strong as ever and his health magnificent. He was forced to admit that he was on edge because of this meeting with Arthur Grenvil.
"This has got to end," he said after breakfast next morning, "I've had enough uncertainty."
A few minutes later he was on horseback and on his way to Rosecarrel Castle. It might not be easy to see Grenvil in his home surrounded by servants but he would make the attempt. He had no reasonable excuse for infringing the etiquette of the occasion. He had not been invited to call and he knew no common friends of the family. It would be a business call. He would send in his card and say he desired to see Mr. Arthur Grenvil on a matter of importance.скачать книгу бесплатно
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