The Secret of the Silver Carскачать книгу бесплатно
"I know," she said emphatically. "He is now exactly as he was when he was a boy, gentle, thoughtful and clean. Our specialists saw the army surgeons and they supposed that in dressing his dreadful wounds they removed the portions of depressed bone and so made this extraordinary cure. They say the war has proved this sort of thing again and again."
The news which spelled salvation to Anthony Trent seemed too tremendous to believe. There was no miracle about it. It was a simple fact demonstrated by surgery and accepted now by the laity. The years in which Arthur Grenvil had sown wild oats and disrupted friendships and relationships was wiped from his consciousness. Trent now understood the half diffident, almost shy manner so inexplicable in a man of the type William Smith had been.
"My father thinks," the girl went on, "that as he will have to find out some of the things he did it will be as well to prepare him for it and shield him against consequences."
"Consequences?" he hazarded.
"I'm afraid," she said gravely, "that it will not be easy. His creditors for example have learned that my father has forgiven him and they are coming down on him. Fortunately my father can afford to pay but there is always the dread of some adventurer turning up and letting us into some dreadful secrets."
"Men like me," he asked.
"You know I didn't mean that," she said. "I think it most wonderful that you are here, because you will be able to tell him something about the good part of his life you know. He is always hoping that his memory will come back but the doctors say it won't." She hesitated a little. "Poor Arthur is very much depressed at times. Could you try and remember as much about him as possible?"
"Surely," said Anthony Trent. "As it happens I met a man out there who knew him well and said he was a good soldier."
"I wish my father could know that," she said. "I'm going to ask you to luncheon tomorrow and to meet a man whose life Arthur saved would cheer him enormously. We shall be alone." She frowned. "I'd forgotten Mr. Castoon who is probably furious at being kept waiting. I promised him I'd be back in two cigarettes time. I was going to drive in to Camelford but I don't think I will. I feel almost that I want to cry." She held out her hand impulsively. "Forgive me for what I thought about you and come to luncheon at one tomorrow."
"You don't know how I'd like to," he said wistfully, "but you have forgotten about my past; and I had no such excuse as your brother."
"You are exaggerating it," she said more brightly. "Anyhow it's all over."
Exaggerating! And even were it all over, which he doubted, a blacker past remained than ever she dreamed of.
"I don't want Mr. Castoon to see that I've got tears in my eyes. Please tell him to wait a little longer while I talk to Mrs. Bassett. Au revoir."
Anthony Trent watched her go and then sighed. And he told himself that had he met her ten years before he would have had the strength to win a fortune honestly and not take the lower road.
He went outside to where Rudolph Castoon was sitting in the phaeton.
The two horses were champing at their bits, a little groom at their heads trying to soothe their high tempers. He approached the financier with no personal feeling of any sort. In the beginning he expected to admire the man as he did all such forceful characters. He often suspected there was more kinship between him and the ruthless financier type that Castoon represented than the world comprehended.
Rudolph Castoon looked at him sourly.
"Well?" he snapped.
Anthony Trent looked at him and knew instantly that he would always share the hate he saw in the capitalist's face. For a moment he was at a loss to understand the reason. Then he saw that it was jealousy, furious, dynamic jealousy. Lady Daphne had come to see Mrs. Bassett. Instead Castoon found she had come to see a younger and better looking man. Trent did not fall into the error of underrating Castoon. In the event of a contest of any kind between them he would walk warily. But he never expected to see the man again and his peremptory way of speaking angered him.
"Well?" Castoon demanded again.
"Thank you," said Trent urbanely, "I find the air of these moorlands of great benefit to me. Formerly I slept poorly but now I sleep as soon as my head touches the pillow. And my appetite is better. I eat three eggs for breakfast every morning. Do you sleep well?"
"I did not come here to sleep," Castoon frowned.
"But if you are here for long you must," Trent said pleasantly.
"I am not in the least interested in your health or how many eggs you can eat for breakfast." Castoon's manner was frankly rude. "I want to know where Lady Daphne Grenvil is."
"She said she had forgotten you," Trent answered, "she also said you would probably be furious at being kept waiting."
"I am," Castoon asserted. "Would it be too much to ask the reason?"
"I expected you to," Trent said affably. The time he took to select a cigarette from his case and the meticulous manner in which he lighted it added to the other man's ill temper just as Anthony Trent intended it should.
"If you are quite finished, sir," Castoon cried, "I should be glad to hear."
"As an American," Trent began airily, "I like the old family servant tradition. Lady Daphne is talking over her childhood days with Mrs. Bassett. My mother was from the Southern states and I suppose I inherit a liking for that sort of thing."
"Will you come to the point, sir?" Castoon exclaimed.
"I thought I told you that Lady Daphne was talking over nursery reminisences with an old servant."
"She may be doing that now, but what was she doing before? I'll tell you; she was talking to you. Do you deny it?"
"My dear man," Trent cried in apparent surprise, "Deny it? I boast about it! It is the only thing I hope will be printed in my obituary notices."
"I'm not sure I should be desolated at reading your obituary notices," Castoon said keeping his temper back. He could say no more for Lady Daphne came hurrying along the hydrangea-bordered path to the gate.
"I'm dreadfully sorry, Mr. Castoon," she cried.
"I can forget everything now that you are here," he returned gallantly, "even the humour of this young man whose name I don't know."
"Mr. Anthony Trent of New York," she told him. "You'll meet him at luncheon tomorrow."
"That will make it a very pleasant function," the financier said grimly. He could say no more because the horses reared impatiently and for a moment there was danger.
"That off horse nearly came over backward," Castoon said when the team had settled down a little and the farm was a half mile behind.
"But it didn't," Lady Daphne said calmly, "so why worry?"
"It would have been his fault," Castoon said venomously.
"You don't seem to like him," she said smiling.
"I hate any man who looks at you as he does."
"How does he look?" she asked with an air of innocence.
"He looks at you as if he was in love with you, and I hate any man to do that."
"You have no right to resent it Mr. Castoon," she said coldly. "I have told you a hundred times that you concern yourself far too much with my affairs."
"I'm going to marry you," he said doggedly. "I never fail. Look at my life history and see where I have been beaten. I know you don't care for me yet. You'll have to later."
"My father doesn't care for you either."
Rudolph Castoon sniffed impatiently.
"His type is dying out. He still remains ignorant that money has displaced birth."
"It's the one thing money won't buy, though," she reminded him.
"Birth can't buy power," the financier said quickly, "and money means power. Your father has had both. It would have been easier for me to marry Daphne, daughter of the Earl of Rosecarrel, Viscount St. Just, Baron Wadebridge, Knight of the Garter, and Ambassador to Turkey, and all the rest of it, than it will be to marry you now your father has abandoned his career."
"That sounds merely silly to me," she exclaimed.
"Someday I will explain to you how very sensible it is. You will understand exactly."
"Do you mean you are so inordinately vain you would rather marry an ambassador's daughter than the daughter of a man who isn't a power politically any more?"
"At least I can say I don't mean that. I am vain, that's true, but I wish you were one of the daughters of a tenant farmer on these purple moors instead of being an earl's daughter." He sighed a little. Then the recollection of Anthony Trent came back. "Who is this man Trent?" he demanded.
"A delightful man," she said, "an American who knows how to behave. I met him at a houseparty somewhere or other. He used to know Arthur."
Castoon could not keep back a sneer.
"That vouches for him of course."
"At least he wouldn't say anything as underbred as that," she cried angrily, and touched one of her high-mettled chestnuts with a lash. Castoon hung on to the seat as the pair tried to get away.
"You'll kill yourself some day driving such horses as these," he said later. He was not a coward; but unnecessary risk always seemed a childish thing to create and he believed himself heir to a great destiny.
If Anthony Trent thought he was to be the guest at a small luncheon party where he could meet Arthur under friendlier circumstances and talk to Daphne intimately, he was mistaken.
Castoon was staying at the castle and a number of people motored over from Falmouth as well as the owner of a big yacht lying for the time in the Fowey river.
Lord Rosecarrel was very amiable. He seemed intensely grateful that Trent gave up a morning's shooting to attend a luncheon. There was no trace of suspicion about him. He had been told that Mr. Trent, an American of means, had been a guest at Dereham Old Hall. His daughter had not informed him of Alicia Langley's letter.
But he was most interested to know that his son had saved the visitor's life. It was the one good act in the black years which had given him so much sorrow.
Also Daphne had told him that Arthur liked Trent and would be a good companion. The physicians who were watching Arthur's case recommended that he should be kept interested. They desired that the apathy which threatened to take hold on him should be banished. The Earl was growing more and more to leave things to the girl. The death of his two sons had been a terrible blow and he was beginning to find in solitary yachting and fishing trips a certain refreshing solace.
From the deference that most of the people paid to Rudolph Castoon it was evident that he was a man of great influence and promise.
Trent sat next to a rather pretty dark girl, a Miss Barham, who had come over from her father's yacht.
"Everybody seems to hang on his words," he said. "Why?"
"He's phenomenally rich," she answered, "and he has a career. He'll probably be Chancellor of the Exchequer in the next cabinet. Finance is bred in the bone of his sort. Hasn't he a brother in your country?"
"A great power in Wall Street," Trent told her, "but we suspect a capitalist; and while Rudolph may get a title and much honor, Alfred in America couldn't get a job as dog catcher."
"Of course you've seen he's simply mad about Daphne?" Miss Barham said later.
"I've seen his side of it," Trent said frowning a little, "but what about Lady Daphne?"
"Power is always attractive," Miss Barham said wisely, "and we English women love politics. One can never tell. I think the earl would be furious but Daphne always gets her way and after all Mr. Castoon is a great catch whichever way you look at it. There's nothing financially shady about him and if Daphne should ever get bitten with the idea of making a salon, he's the man to marry."
"What a brutal way to look at it," he said gloomily.
"Are you young enough to believe in those delightful love matches, Mr. Trent?" the girl asked. "I did till I was almost fifteen."
Anthony Trent should have been amused to find himself on the side of the angels. As a rule life had provoked cynicism in him and here he was fighting for ideals.
"I talked like that until I was fifteen," he smiled, "and I meant it."
Ada Barham turned her dark brilliant eyes on him. She rather envied the girl who had captured him. She felt it was a lover talking.
"Of course you are in love," she retorted. "I always meet the really nice men too late. Dare you confess it?"
"I admit it," he said a little confused.
"American girls are very charming," Miss Barham declared. "I stayed at Newport a month last year. Of course you know Newport?"
"Fairly well," he admitted.
Oddly enough the recollection of his Newport triumphs was not as pleasing as usual. He had made some of his richest hauls in the Rhode Island city.
What an amazing thing, he reflected, that he was here as a guests among people on whom, as a class, he had looked as his lawful prey. Castoon with his millions was the sort of man he would like to measure his wit against. When Castoon looked across the table at him with a kind of innocent stare he decided that it would be a delightful duel.
He knew English women wore little jewelry during the day so he could not estimate the value of what they owned at a luncheon, but he was certain Miss Barham's mother, who was addressed as Lady Harriet, had family jewels worth the risk of seeking to get. A woman whose husband owned a two-hundred feet steam yacht was distinctly among those whom in former days he had been professionally eager to meet.
Before the luncheon Lady Daphne had explained that her brother would not be at the table. The family was anxious that he should not be subjected to the confusion of professing ignorance of some man or event which he ought to know. By degrees he was getting his bearings and reading through files of old newspapers the main events of the years that had been wiped from his mind.
Anthony Trent was taken to the big room by a footman, the same room he had entered unannounced.
"You must have thought me awfully rude," Arthur Grenvil said cordially, "but my sister had told you the reason. She says I used to know you." Grenvil looked at him wistfully, "I think she said I had saved your life."
"You did," Trent answered promptly. And then, because he was sorry for the ex-"Tommy" but more because he loved the other's sister, he plunged into a stirring account of the incident omitting the part of the exchange of confidences.
"Apparently," said Grenvil, "it was the only decent thing I did during those dreadful forgotten years. If you knew the agony of not knowing what I did and dreading every day to learn something more of my career you'd pity me. I couldn't meet Castoon. They say I was a sort of secretary to him for six months and he had to send me away. All I remember of him is that he was my father's private secretary when I was a small boy of ten and my father ambassador at Constantinople. I'm afraid to see any of the people who come here."
"That will pass," Trent said reassuringly, "you'll get a grip on yourself as your health improves."
"That's what Daphne says," Arthur answered, "Isn't she splendid?"
"Indeed she is," Trent said not daring to put the fervor in his voice that he felt. There was almost an uncanny feeling in talking with this new Arthur Grenvil. As a judge of men, and as a man who had met a great number of criminals and could estimate them accurately, Trent had known even in the darkness of the dug-out that Private William Smith was bad.
Despite the absence of coarseness from the speech of the unseen man Trent had felt that he was evil and dangerous, a man to watch carefully. And this same man stripped of his mantle of black deeds was now sitting talking to him with the deferential air of the junior listening with respect to his superior in years and his superior in knowledge.
What a r?le for Anthony Trent, master criminal! But he played it as well as any of the parts he had set himself to enact. He became the elder brother, the sage counsellor, the arbiter, the physical trainer and the constant companion. In the beginning he cheerfully set out to play the part in order to win Daphne's approval. Later he really liked Arthur. He taught him to drive the high powered Lion car that was seldom used by the earl's chauffeurs and discovered in him an aptitude for mechanics which delighted his father.
"You have done more for my son than I imagined could be done by anyone," Lord Rosecarrel said gratefully.
"I owe him no small debt," Anthony Trent retorted, "and it's a very pleasant way of trying to pay it."
It was not often that he saw the earl. Occasionally they played a game of billiards after dinner but the elder man was constantly occupied with reading when he was not aboard his boat. Since he had come to Cornwall, Trent had discovered what an important personage Lord Rosecarrel had been in the political life of his country until his sudden resignation a year before the war. Every now and then Trent would see regret expressed in a London paper or weekly review that he would not place his vast knowledge of the near East at his country's disposal.
There was still considerable trouble centering about the Balkans; and since the earl had been minister or ambassador at Belgrade, Bucharest and Constantinople he knew the country as few could hope to do without his experience.
The prime minister himself, snatching a few days of golf at Newquay, motored over to the castle to lunch and asked his host personally to come from his retirement. It happened that Trent was lunching at the castle and heard the earl's decision not to leave private life. There was an incident in connection with this which made a curious impression on the American.
When he had declined to represent his country finally, Lord Rosecarrel looked over the table at his son who was talking gaily and did not observe the glance. It was a look almost of hate that the earl flashed at him. Then it passed and was succeeded by the melancholy which the old aristocrat's face habitually wore. Trent was certain none had seen but he and he had never seen an evidence of it before.
He reflected that Arthur was never wholly at ease in his father's company. Again and again he had caught a certain shamed look when the earl was speaking. Of course it was the knowledge of how in the forgotten years he had disgraced an honored name. That was understandable. But why should the father who knew all and had forgiven suddenly throw this look of hate over the table at the unconscious son?
"Arthur," said Trent one day to Lady Daphne, "looks as if he were still begging forgiveness. Why?"
"It must be fancy on your part," she said and changed the subject instantly.
He supposed it was some other skeleton, from that full closet, whose rattling bones had not been buried yet. There was something which still rankled in the earl's memory. He knew he would never find its origin from Daphne.
His intimacy with the Grenvils began to alarm him. It was a fellowship which must sooner or later come to an end. He was utterly without vanity when it came to his relationship with Lady Daphne; but his love for her gave him such an insight and sympathy with her that he could not but be conscious that of late a softer mood had come to her when they were alone together.
He knew that she looked for his presence where before she had been indifferent. Sometimes when they touched hands at parting there was the faint, lingering hold which said more than looks or spoken words. It distressed him to hear that she had defended him valiantly when the wife of a nearby landowner had referred to him as an American adventurer and fortune hunter. Daphne had sprung to his rescue in a flash. Half the country gossiped about it. It was very loyal of her, he felt, but also very unwise.
The earl had heard of it and was displeased. But he trusted his daughter and Trent was working amazing changes with Arthur. It was only when the prime minister spoke of the American that Lord Rosecarrel knew he must not ignore the thing any longer.
"And who is the good looking lad upon whose words your daughter hangs?"
"A delightful fellow," the earl said, "I don't know what Arthur would have done without him. He is reconstructing the poor boy."
And indeed the earl was fond of the stranger. But his daughter must marry into her own station in life. His other girl's home was in France and he wanted Daphne to remain in England. It occurred to him as very strange that he had made so few inquiries into Trent's antecedents. He supposed it was the man's personal charm and the fact that he was himself not in good health that had allowed him to be careless. One day at a dinner that came in the week after the prime minister's visit, a dinner to which Trent alone was bidden, he said:
"We shall miss you very much when you have to go, Mr. Trent, but I suppose your affairs in America call you imperatively."
Anthony Trent made no answer for the moment. It was as though sentence of death had been passed upon him. He could only admit that this was the logical if long-delayed end to the pleasantest days of his life. He had brought it on himself by his own weakness. For all his strength he was in some ways deplorably weak. He had been weak to leave the ways of honest men. Primarily he had none of those grudges against organized society which drive some men to crime. He had fallen because he was tired of narrow ways of life and a toil which offered few high rewards.скачать книгу бесплатно
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