Wyndham Martyn.

The Secret of the Silver Car



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He was within two miles of the castle when he saw the man he had come to see mounted on a chestnut polo pony cantering along and driving a white polo ball over the stretch of firm turf.

Grenvil pulled up as he saw the American.

"Trying to get my eye back," he said smiling. "Corking game, polo, ever play it, Mr. Trent?"

"I've had to work too hard," Trent snapped.

"Much better for you I've no doubt," said Grenvil idly, "If one may ask it, what sort of work did you do?"

"You've no idea I suppose?"

Grenvil looked at him mildly.

"How can I have any idea?" he asked.

Anthony Trent from his bigger horse looked down at the man on the polo pony sourly. There was that bland look of irritating innocence that would have convinced any judge and jury. But it did not sway him.

In just such a pleasantly modulated voice, and with no doubt just such an ingratiating smile Private Smith had feared Anthony Trent was dying in very bad company.

"You said you were not able to forget everything. I supposed that my work might be one of the things you still remembered."

At length Trent was able to observe that Arthur Grenvil looked less confident.

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you mean, Mr. Trent."

"The name Anthony Trent calls nothing to mind?"

"Sorry," Grenvil retorted, "I suppose I ought to know all about you."

"That's what you said before!" Trent exclaimed.

"Before?" There was no doubt now as to Grenvil's perturbation.

"Cut that out," Trent commanded angrily. "You did it very well, but I'm sick and tired of fencing. What are you going to do about it?"

He was sure now that the other was frightened. That the emotion of fear did not bring anger in its train amazed Trent.

"Leave you to realize your mistake," Grenvil said after a pause. Then with a sharp stroke he sent the willow root ball spinning in the direction of the castle, and followed it on his swift mount.

The horse that Trent had bought from John Treleaven the farmer was a half bred, a good, weight-carrying nag, a fine jumper, but not equal to the task of overtaking the chestnut thoroughbred. There was nothing to do but pursue Grenvil into the castle grounds or give up the chase. Angry because he could not judge in what degree of peril if any, he stood, Anthony Trent rode back to the farm.

Chapter Five
THE MAN WHO DENIED

Thinking things over that night as he walked along the Camel banks and disturbed the otters at play, Anthony Trent determined to call upon Arthur Grenvil and force him to acknowledge that he had not forgotten the conversation, the confidence that was so fully given, in the dug-out.

Footmen and a butler barred his ingress. They were polite and filled with regrets but the facts remained that Mr. Arthur Grenvil by doctor's orders saw none. The Lady Daphne was engaged. The men-servants could offer him no hope. He was able to see at close range some advantages of the many servants the rich were able to employ to hedge them about with privacy.

The Rosecarrel butler was less urbane than his brother at Alderwood and the opportunity for private conversation was lacking. Trent saw in this rebuff another move in the subtle game Private Arthur Smith was playing.

The next two days were spent in riding over the moors but not a glimpse of Lady Daphne or her brother did he get. He was certain they were avoiding him deliberately. The idea possessed Trent that Arthur Grenvil was not satisfied to obtain merely the rewards that were offered for his apprehension. If he followed the great thefts of the world he would know that four of its most famous stones were still missing. And from Trent's confession he would guess the master criminal still held them. They were even now in Trent's Maine camp ornamenting a brass Benares lamp as though they were merely the original pieces of glass that had occupied the spaces when Trent purchased it. Trent could sell through discreet sources the loot that was hidden in Kennebago for not less than half a million dollars. If Arthur Grenvil chose to command him to do so and share the proceeds what could he do? The hold he had on the other man was slight. Langley might have extorted the confession more as a warning than an instrument to use against a relative. In the two other cases to which Arthur Grenvil had confessed his creditors were those who had been his friends. He had embezzled the mess funds of his regiment. It was unlikely that a cavalry regiment which had fought from Dettingen to Mons would like a story of that sort to get abroad.

On the morning of the third day after his rebuff at the hands of the footmen Trent made up his mind. He would see Arthur Grenvil and see him at once. "If he thinks he can keep me out," said Trent his mouth tightening to a narrow line, "he holds me too cheap."

It happened that Arthur Grenvil knew nothing of the attempt of Anthony Trent to see him. The doctors had indeed ordered him rest. Lady Daphne when she heard of Trent's insistence said nothing but wondered why it was that he should make the attempt. She still thought uneasily of that night at Dereham when he had discovered her with the combination to her host's safe. There was such a thing as blackmail and, after all what did she know of the American except that he had been a guest of the Langleys. In itself this should have been enough to vouch for his position in life.

She found herself more interested in Anthony Trent than in any man she had ever met. And it was because of this concern that in a letter to Alicia Langley she asked about him.

Alicia's letter was astonishing. "I can't imagine, my dear Daphne to whom you refer. There was no Anthony Trent here on the first. The only American was Mr. Conington Warren who was wafted to our shores permanently on the waves of prohibition. I think you knew personally every other man except the Duke of Valladolida. He is, of course, a grandee of Spain, short, slight and bald, but a first rate shot, Reginald says, and plays polo for the Madrid team. Certainly there was no tall, clean-shaven, good-looking man here whom you don't know quite well." Alicia Langley invariably added postscripts. This time it interested the reader more than the letter. "I showed your letter to Reginald and he was almost excited. He said an Anthony Trent had motored over from Norwich and wanted to learn particulars of a private in his regiment. As the private in question was Arthur you may draw your own inferences if you can. Reginald refused to speak so this Trent man of yours doesn't know Arthur's nom de guerre from anything he has learned here. Reginald wants you to tell him where you met the man. Please do as he seems to think it very serious."

While Lady Daphne read this communication, not without agitation, her brother was dressing for dinner. Some people were coming over from Pencarrow. He occupied two splendid rooms facing west and was looking over the moorland to the sea when the handle of the room leading to a large upper hall was opened noiselessly and admitted Anthony Trent. When Grenvil remembered he had not long to make the change from flannels into evening dress, he turned about to see the American sitting in a comfortable chair.

"Please don't try and ring for the servants," Trent advised smoothly, "because I am nearest to the bell and I shall not permit it."

If he expected an outbreak of anger he was disappointed. Instead there was that puzzled expression which could only arise from innocence of Trent's identity or the most finished art.

"Don't think I am a housebreaker," Trent went on equably, "I am not. This is visitors day if you remember and after paying my shilling I looked at the state rooms, pictures and autograph letters and fell asleep. When I woke up I entered this room by mistake."

"And you want to find your way out?" Grenvil returned. "If you will ring the bell I will have you shown."

"Not until I have had the opportunity of talking a little to you. In our first conversation I was indiscreet. You will admit that, won't you?"

"Were you?" Grenvil answered vaguely. "I really don't remember Mr. Trent."

"Then you deny ever having seen me until we met by the salmon pool a few days ago?" Trent looked at him like a hawk.

"I do," Grenvil retorted.

"Then if you do, why don't you resent my butting in like this? Why don't you call some men-servants and have me flung out for a damned nuisance? Say I threatened you, say anything an innocent man could and would say. Your attitude doesn't fool me in the least. You are playing a deep game but I can play a deeper."

Grenvil shrugged his shoulders with a gesture of weariness. "There are many things I cannot explain," he said.

"You are going to begin right now," Trent said. He was not in a mood to be trifled with. He firmly believed that this man was planning to send him to gaol for a period of years so long that he would come out a whitehaired broken man.

He looked round frowning as steps sounded along the corridor and a tap came on the door.

"Let me in Arthur," he heard Lady Daphne say, "I've had a most extraordinary letter from Aunt Alicia. I must see you about it."

She rattled the locked door impatiently. Her brother walked over to it. Trent could offer no objection. He was confused and annoyed that at a moment such as this the girl must interrupt. To Anthony Trent she was as one above and apart. There was no use in concealing that he himself was a crook no matter how differently he pursued the profession from the lesser lights whom he despised. And Arthur Grenvil was as crooked as he with less excuse for it.

Lady Daphne stopped short when she saw Trent rise from his chair and bow. Her greeting was so wholly different from the friendly manner she had shown ere this, that he was at loss to understand it. He did not know that Mrs. Langley was the Aunt Alicia. He could only suppose her brother had hinted that he was not what he seemed.

"I was not told you were here," she said.

"I'm glad you've come," Arthur Grenvil said. Trent could see that he only spoke the truth. From what did he expect his sister to protect him. "Mr. Trent here has an idea I'm deliberately pretending not to know who he is."

"I assure Mr. Trent," she said haughtily, "that at all events I know what he is."

Trent looked at her a little quizzically.

"I wonder if you really do," he commented.

"I shall be very glad to prove it," she answered, "but I am not anxious that my brother should have to listen. I hoped you understood that he is under the doctors' orders and must not be worried. As dinner is almost ready and I have several things to do will you be kind enough to put this discussion off until tomorrow morning?"

"Just as you please," he said. "When and where?"

"You are staying at the Bassetts I think. Very well I will drive over there tomorrow at half past ten."

He flushed. The inference was plain. He was not permitted to meet her within the castle. The servant who showed him out seemed to feel differently today. He felt outcast.

There was a little apple orchard behind the Bassetts' stone built barns where each day Anthony Trent used to practise short approaches with a favorite mashie. He held it as an axiom that if a golfer kept his hand in with short mashie practise he would never be off his game. He was industriously trying to approach over a tall spreading tree when he heard the sound of wheels outside. It was not yet time for his appointment with Lady Daphne but he could see from the higher ground of the orchard that it was she. She was driving a dashing pair of chestnuts to a mail phaeton. By her side sat a man with a powerful unscrupulous face who was evidently amusing her by his conversation. Trent supposed he was a guest at the castle, some man who had the right to meet her by reason of being on the right side of the law.

Almost jealously Anthony Trent saw him help her to alight. He was a heavily built man but not an ungraceful one and he was exceedingly well dressed. Trent judged him to be five and forty and used to dominating men. He had noticed often that men most ruthless with their fellows have the most charming ways with women.

"I shan't be very long," Lady Daphne said laughing, "You will be able to smoke just two cigarettes, Mr. Castoon."

Castoon. Of course it was Rudolph Castoon the banker, the English born member of the great continental firm of bankers and financiers. One of the brothers was a leader among New York capitalists. It was said that each Castoon was loyal to the country where it had been arranged he should be born.

It was in the sweet smelling sitting room of the Bassetts that Trent found her. She was standing up and refused to be seated. Her enmity now was hardly concealed.

"I find," she began, "that you have deceived me. You claimed to be one of the guns at Colonel Langley's shoot."

"I permitted you to assume it," he corrected, "but that is not an excuse."

"Colonel Langley is very anxious to know where it was I saw you and under what circumstances."

"You will hardly inform him as to that," said Trent smiling.

"If it becomes necessary I shall," she replied. "At all events I was in the house of a relative while you were there – "

"As a thief in the night. Thank you."

"You were there as a detective."

She had never seen him lose his calm before. He flushed red and a look of hatred came over his face.

"A detective! I? If you knew how I loathed them you would never suspect me of being that."

"If not why are you down here hounding my brother?"

"Hasn't he told you?"

"He says you persist in pretending to know him."

"Lady Daphne," Trent said earnestly. "Was your brother a Private William Smith, a gentleman ranker in the seventy-eighth battalion of the City of London Regiment?"

"Yes," she answered.

"And wasn't this same man under his own name expelled from Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge."

"Then you are a detective!" she cried.

"On my honor, no," he exclaimed. "Lady Daphne, your brother saved my life, and when I wanted to speak about the very terrible and unusual experience he denied knowing me."

"You are not telling me everything," she said after a pause, "I am glad you are not a detective even though you may be not what I thought you, but is it reasonable you should try to force yourself on a man who quite evidently wants to be alone with his thoughts just to thank him for doing something every soldier was glad to do for any other allied soldier?"

"There was something else," he admitted. "I may as well tell you what. We were, as we had every reason to think, dying. We told each other part of our past lives. Why I don't pretend to understand. Nerves I suppose and the feeling that nothing mattered in the least. I told him part of my past which in effect put a club in his hand to use over me. When I got better I assumed he was killed. I found he wasn't and followed him here to ask what he was going to do with his knowledge. You wondered what errand I had at Dereham Old Hall. It was to read through the confession which you burned. I had read it and replaced it before you came in."

"Then you know all about him?" she gasped.

"I know what was written there," he answered. "I wanted to know so that I could tell him I, too, had a weapon with which to fight. I am not his enemy, far from it."

"You mean you don't want to threaten him or hold your knowledge of what he did over us?"

He looked at her gloomily. To think that this was the impression she had of him hurt.

"So that's what you think of me," he said slowly.

"Indeed it isn't," she answered quickly. "I didn't think it in the beginning and I don't want to do so now, but what was one to think?"

"It was your brother's behaviour that puzzled me," he said, "and still puzzles me. Don't you see I only want to be sure that he won't use what I told him?"

Lady Daphne looked at him curiously. Here was a man whose manners were perfect, who seemed to have the same sports and occupation of the kind of men she knew hinting that he had done things of whose consequence he was afraid. She supposed there were many temptations into which a man might fall, lapses of which he might repent and still go in fear of discovery.

"I don't wonder you were bewildered," she said presently, "and I understand far better than you how it was. Mr. Trent you need never be afraid that the man who was Private Smith will ever say a word to any living souls of what you said to him."

"How can I be certain?" he demanded. "You don't know the rewards that a man might gain for speaking the truth about me."

"Private William Smith and my brother Arthur are two different people."

He looked at her in astonishment. Was the weary chase, the long uncertainty to begin again? There was never a doubt in his mind but that what she told him was true even if it was hard to be believed.

"Then where is Private Smith?" he asked. "Where is the man who knows the real me?"

"At the castle," she said.

He made a gesture of despair.

"It is incomprehensible."

"I am going to tell you about them – about the two utterly different men." She said nothing for a full minute. Then she went to the door and called Mrs. Bassett into the room. "Please tell Mr. Castoon I shall have to keep him waiting rather longer than I thought."

"Certainly, my Lady," Mrs. Bassett said. Later she told her husband that Mr. Castoon looked very black at the news. "He's not the kind to like being kept waiting," she explained.

"Princes of the Blood ought to be glad to wait for Lady Daphne," the tenant farmer cried.

"You learned somehow that Arthur was expelled from Harrow. It is true. He managed to get into Trinity but lasted only a term. Then came Sandhurst and a commission finally and black disgrace. Mr. Rudolph Castoon who is a friend of my eldest brother took pity on him and made him one of his secretaries – he's in Parliament you know – but even he couldn't do anything. Then a little while in Australia and failure there. The last thing he did was to enlist just before the war broke out. Colonel Langley was given the command of a London regiment and found Arthur under the name you knew."

"But you said he wasn't Private Smith," Trent broke in eagerly.

"You will see later what I mean. How did you meet him?"

Trent explained in a few words. But what confessions or boasts he had been betrayed into making he said nothing about.

"My brother was expelled from Harrow when he was eighteen. Until he was seventeen he was one of the sweetest natured boys you could imagine. He was full of fun and mischief but all his tutors loved him and there wasn't a particle of vice in him. Suddenly he seemed possessed of devils. He drank, he gambled – and cheated – he was insolent to his teachers. It broke my mother's heart. It helped to make my father the silent broken man he is today. It was the same when he went up to Trinity and the same when he was at Sandhurst…" There was a long pause. Trent could see she was struggling against tears. There welled up in him an almost divine pity. He wanted to soothe her, comfort her and let her cry on his shoulder.

It was in this moment that Anthony Trent knew he loved her and would always love her. Those passing affections of adolescence were pale, wan emotions compared with this. And it was an hour of grief to him. He realized that his ways of life had cut him off irremediably from marriage with such a woman as this.

"What happened," she said at last, "when you came to after being blown from that dug-out?"

"I was badly hurt," he answered, wonderingly, "those high explosives play the strangest tricks with one."

"This is what happened to my brother. He was unconscious for a very long time and his head was fearfully mangled. When he came out of ether he said very distinctly. 'Oh Bingo, how rottenly clumsy of you.'"

"Who was Bingo?" Trent asked.

"At the time nobody knew. Arthur's uniform was torn off in the explosion and his regiment unknown."

"He could have told them," Trent asserted.

She shook her head.

"You are mistaken. He could not tell them. They thought he was, what's the word, malingering. They thought he wanted to be sent back and get out of the fighting. Then he complained of the dreadful noise. By degrees they found that he did not even know of the war. They thought of course he was pretending. My father heard of the wound and although he had disowned him he had him brought to our house in Grosvenor Place. We had specialists, those new sorts of doctors who don't depend on medicines. Arthur thought he was still at Harrow eight years or more ago. Then I remembered a boy who shared a study with him there, a boy who had stayed here, a son of Sir Willoughby Hosken who has a place near Penzance. Bingo was somewhere in the Struma valley with his battery and in answer to a letter said that the only act of clumsiness he could call to mind was when he accidentally hit Arthur with an Indian club in the gym at school.

"One of the doctors went over to Harrow and found Arthur had been hit like this and was in the infirmary for three days. Mr. Trent, it was after that accident he altered entirely."

"I've heard of such cases," Trent said quickly. "Pressure of some sort on the brain they call it. There was quite an epidemic of such incidents in America a few years ago. It was supposed to be a cure for bad boys. Then you think – "



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