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   Chapter 4 SECRETS.

Red Money By Fergus Hume Characters: 22264

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


The scouting crowd apparently did not catch the name, so busy were one and all in welcoming the newcomer. But the man on the horse saw Miss Greeby's startled look, and noticed that her lips were moving. In a moment he threw himself off the animal and elbowed his way roughly through the throng.

"Sir Hubert," began Miss Greeby, only to be cut short hastily.

"Don't give me away," interrupted Pine, who here was known as Ishmael Hearne. "Wait till I settle things, and then we can converse privately."

"All right," answered the lady, nodding, and gripped her bludgeon crosswise behind her back with two hands. She was so surprised at the sight of the millionaire in the wood, that she could scarcely speak.

Satisfied that she grasped the situation, Pine turned to his friends and spoke at length in fluent Romany. He informed them that he had some business to transact with the Gentile lady who had come to the camp for that purpose, and would leave them for half an hour. The man evidently was such a favorite that black looks were cast on Miss Greeby for depriving the Romany of his society. But Pine paid no attention to these signs of discontent. He finished his speech, and then pushed his way again toward the lady who, awkwardly for him, was acquainted with his true position as a millionaire. In a hurried whisper he asked Miss Greeby to follow him, and led the way into the heart of the wood. Apparently he knew it very well, and knew also where to seek solitude for the private conversation he desired, for he skirted the central glade where Lambert's cottage was placed, and finally guided his companion to a secluded dell, far removed from the camp of his brethren. Here he sat down on a mossy stone, and stared with piercing black eyes at Miss Greeby.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded imperiously.

"Just the question I was about to put to you," said Miss Greeby amiably. She could afford to be amiable, for she felt that she was the mistress of the situation. Pine evidently saw this, for he frowned.

"You must have guessed long ago that I was a gypsy," he snapped restlessly.

"Indeed I didn't, nor, I should think, did any one else. I thought you had nigger blood in you, and I have heard people say that you came from the West Indies. But what does it matter if you are a gypsy? There is no disgrace in being one."

"No disgrace, certainly," rejoined the millionaire, leaning forward and linking his hands together, while he stared at the ground. "I am proud of having the gentle Romany blood. All the same I prefer the West Indian legend, for I don't want any of my civilized friends to know that I am Ishmael Hearne, born and bred in a tent."

"Well, that's natural, Pine. What would Garvington say?"

"Oh, curse Garvington!"

"Curse the whole family by all means," retorted Miss Greeby coolly.

Pine looked up savagely, "I except my wife."

"Naturally. You always were uxorious."

"Perhaps," said Pine gloomily, "I'm a fool where Agnes is concerned."

Miss Greeby quite agreed with this statement, but did not think it worth while to indorse so obvious a remark. She sat down in her turn, and taking Lambert's cigarette case, which she had retained by accident, out of her pocket, she prepared to smoke. The two were entirely alone in the fairy dell, and the trees which girdled it were glorious with vivid autumnal tints. A gentle breeze sighing through the wood, shook down yew, crisp leaves on the woman's head, so that she looked like Danae in a shower of gold. Pine gazed heavily at the ground and coughed violently. Miss Greeby knew that cough, and a medical friend of hers had told her several times that Sir Hubert was a very consumptive individual. He certainly looked ill, and apparently had not long to live. And if he died, Lady Agnes, inheriting his wealth, would be more desirable as a wife than ever. And Miss Greeby, guessing whose wife she would be, swore inwardly that the present husband should look so delicate. But she showed no sign of her perturbations, but lighted her cigarette with a steady hand and smoked quietly. She always prided herself on her nerve.

The millionaire was tall and lean, with a sinewy frame, and an oval, olive-complexioned face. It was clean-shaven, and with his aquiline nose, his thin lips, and brilliant black eyes, which resembled those of Kara, he looked like a long-descended Hindoo prince. The Eastern blood of the Romany showed in his narrow feet and slim brown hands, and there was a wild roving look about him, which Miss Greeby had not perceived in London.

"I suppose it's the dress," she said aloud, and eyed Pine critically.

"What do you say, Miss Greeby?" he asked, looking up in a sharp, startled manner, and again coughing in a markedly consumptive way.

"The cowl makes the monk in your case," replied the woman quietly. "Your corduroy breeches and velveteen coat, with that colored shirt, and the yellow handkerchief round your neck, seem to suit you better than did the frock coats and evening dress I have seen you in. You did look like a nigger of sorts when in those clothes; now I can tell you are a gypsy with half an eye."

"That is because you heard me called Ishmael and saw me among my kith and kin," said the man with a tired smile. "Don't tell Agnes."

"Why should I? It's none of my business if you chose to masquerade as a gypsy."

"I masquerade as Sir Hubert Pine," retorted the millionaire, slipping off the stone to sprawl full-length on the grass. "I am truly and really one of the lot in the camp yonder."

"Do they know you by your Gentile name?"

Pine laughed. "You are picking up the gypsy lingo, Miss Greeby. No. Every one on the road takes me for what I am, Ishmael Hearne, and my friends in the civilized world think I am Sir Hubert Pine, a millionaire with colored blood in his veins."

"How do you come to have a double personality and live a double life?"

"Oh, that is easily explained, and since you have found me out it is just as well that I should explain, so that you may keep my secret, at all events from my wife, as she would be horrified to think that she had married a gypsy. You promise?"

"Of course. I shall say nothing. But perhaps she would prefer to know that she had married a gypsy rather than a nigger."

"What polite things you say," said Pine sarcastically. "However, I can't afford to quarrel with you. As you are rich, I can't even bribe you to silence, so I must rely on your honor."

"Oh, I have some," Miss Greeby assured him lightly.

"When it suits you," he retorted doubtfully.

"It does on this occasion."

"Why?"

"I'll tell you that when you have related your story."

"There is really none to tell. I was born and brought up on the road, and thinking I was wasting my life I left my people and entered civilization. In London I worked as a clerk, and being clever I soon made money. I got hold of a man who invented penny toys, and saw the possibilities of making a fortune. I really didn't, but I collected enough money to dabble in stocks and shares. The South African boom was on, and I made a thousand. Other speculations created more than a million out of my thousand, and now I have over two millions, honestly made."

"Honestly?" queried Miss Greeby significantly.

"Yes; I assure you, honestly. We gypsies are cleverer than you Gentiles, and we have the same money-making faculties as the Jews have. If my people were not so fond of the vagrant life they would soon become a power in the money markets of the world. But, save in the case of myself, we leave all such grubbing to the Jews. I did grub, and my reward is that I have accumulated a fortune in a remarkably short space of time. I have land and houses, and excellent investments, and a title, which," he added sarcastically, "a grateful Government bestowed on me for using my money properly."

"You bought the title by helping the political party you belonged to," said Miss Greeby with a shrug. "There was quite a talk about it."

"So there was. As if I cared for talk. However, that is my story."

"Not all of it. You are supposed to be in Paris, and-"

"And you find me here," interrupted Pine with a faint smile. "Well you see, being a gypsy, I can't always endure that under-the-roof life you Gentiles live. I must have a spell of the open road occasionally. And, moreover, as my doctor tells me that I have phthisis, and that I should live as much as possible in the open air, I kill two birds with one stone, as the saying is. My health benefits by my taking up the old Romany wandering, and I gratify my nostalgia for the tent and the wild. You understand, you und-" His speech was interrupted by a fresh fit of coughing.

"It doesn't seem to do you much good this gypsying," said Miss Greeby with a swift look, for his life was of importance to her plans. "You look pretty rocky I can tell you, Pine. And if you die your wife will be free to-" The man sat up and took away from his mouth a handkerchief spotted with blood. His eyes glittered, and he showed his white teeth. "My wife will be free to what?" he demanded viciously, and the same devil that had lurked in Mother Cockleshell's eye, now showed conspicuously in his.

Miss Greeby had no pity on his manifest distress and visible wrath, but answered obliquely: "You know that she was almost engaged to her cousin before you married her," she hinted pointedly.

"Yes, I know, d-- him," said Pine with a groan, and rolled over to clutch at the grass in a vicious manner. "But he's not at The Manor now?"

"No."

"Agnes doesn't speak of him?"

"No."

Pine drew a deep breath and rose slowly to his feet, with a satisfied nod.

"I'm glad of that. She's a good woman is Agnes, and would never encourage him in any way. She knows what is due to me. I trust her."

"Do you? When your secretary is also stopping at The Manor?"

"Silver!" Pine laughed awkwardly, and kicked at a tuft of moss. "Well I did ask him to keep an eye on her, although there is really no occasion. Silver owes me a great deal, since I took him out of the gutter. If Lambert worried my wife, Silver would let me know, and then-"

"And then?" asked Miss Greeby hastily.

The man clenched his fists and his face grew stormy, as his blood untamed by civilization surged redly to the surface. "I'd twist his neck, I'd smash his skull, I'd-I'd-I'd-oh, don't ask me what I'd do."

"I should keep my temper if I were you," Miss Greeby warned him, and alarmed by the tempest she had provoked. She had no wish for the man she loved to come into contact with this savage, veneered by civilization. Yet Lambert was in the neighborhood, and almost within a stone's throw of the husband who was so jealous of him. "Keep your temper," repeated Miss Greeby.

"Is there anything else you would like me to do?" raged Pine fiercely.

"Yes. Leave this place if you wish to keep the secret of your birth from your wife. Lady Garvington and Mrs. Belgrove, and a lot of people from The Manor, are coming to the camp to get their fortunes told. You are sure to be spotted."

"I s

hall keep myself out of sight," said Pine sullenly and suspiciously.

"Some of your gypsy friends may let the cat out of the bag."

"Not one of them knows there is a cat in the bag. I am Ishmael Hearne to them, and nothing else. But I shan't stay here long."

"I wonder you came at all, seeing that your wife is with her brother."

"In the daring of my coming lies my safety," said Pine tartly. "I know what I am doing. As to Lambert, if he thinks to marry my wife when I am dead he is mistaken."

"Well, I hope you won't die, for my sake!"

"Why for your sake?" asked Pine sharply.

"Because I love Lambert and I want to marry him."

"Marry him," said the millionaire hoarsely, "and I'll give you thousands of pounds. Oh! I forgot that you have a large income. But marry him, marry him, Miss Greeby. I shall help you all I can."

"I can do without assistance," said the woman coolly. "All I ask you to do is to refrain from fighting with Lambert."

"What?" Pine's face became lowering again. "Is he at The Manor? You said-"

"I know what I said. He is not at The Manor, but he is stopping in the cottage a stone's throw from here."

Pine breathed hard, and again had a spasm of coughing. "What's he doing?"

"Painting pictures."

"He has not been near The Manor?"

"No. And what is more, he told me to-day that he did not intend to go near the house. I don't think you need be afraid, Pine. Lambert is a man of honor, and I hope to get him to be my husband."

"He shall never be my wife's husband," said the millionaire between his teeth and scowling heavily. "I know that I shan't live to anything like three score and ten. Your infernal hot-house civilization has killed me. But if Lambert thinks to marry my widow he shall do so in the face of Garvington's opposition, and will find Agnes a pauper."

"What do you mean exactly?" Miss Greeby flung away the stump of her cigarette and rose to her feet.

Pine wiped his brow and breathed heavily. "I mean that I have left Agnes my money, only on condition that she does not marry Lambert. She can marry any one else she has a mind to. I except her cousin."

"Because she loves him?"

"Yes, and because he loves her, d-n him."

"He doesn't," cried Miss Greeby, lying fluently, and heartily wishing that her lie could be a truth. "He loves me, and I intend to marry him. Now you can understand what I meant when I declared that I had honor enough to keep your secret. Lambert is my honor."

"Oh, then I believe in your honor," sneered Pine cynically. "It is a selfish quality in this case, which can only be gratified by preserving silence. If Agnes knew that I was a true Romany tramp, she might run away with Lambert, and as you want him to be your husband, it is to your interest to hold your tongue. Thank you for nothing, Miss Greeby."

"I tell you Lambert loves me," cried the woman doggedly, trying to persuade her heart that she spoke truly. "And whether you leave your money to your wife, or to any one else, makes no manner of difference."

"I think otherwise," he retorted. "And it is just as well to be on the safe side. If my widow marries Lambert, she loses my millions, and they go to-" He checked himself abruptly. "Never mind who gets them. It is a person in whom you can take no manner of interest."

Miss Greeby pushed the point of her bludgeon into the spongy ground, and looked thoughtful. "If Lambert loves Agnes still, which I don't believe," she observed, after a pause, "he would marry her even if she hadn't a shilling. Your will excluding him as her second husband is merely the twisting of a rope of sand, Pine."

"You forget," said the man quickly, "that I declared also, he would have to marry her in the face of Garvington's opposition."

"In what way?"

"Can't you guess? Garvington only allowed me to marry his sister because I am a wealthy man. I absolutely bought my wife by helping him, and she gave herself to me without love to save the family name from disgrace. She is a good woman, is Agnes, and always places duty before inclination. Marriage with her pauper cousin meant practically the social extinction of the Lambert family, and nothing would have remained but the title. Therefore she married me, and I felt mean at the time in accepting the sacrifice. But I was so deeply in love with her that I did so. I love her still, and I am mean enough still to be jealous of this cousin. She shall never marry him, and I know that Garvington will appeal to his sister's strong desire to save the family once more; so that she may not be foolish enough to lose the money. And two millions, more or less," ended Pine cynically, "is too large a sum to pay for a second husband."

"Does Agnes know these conditions?"

"No. Nor do I intend that she should know. You hold your tongue."

Miss Greeby pulled on her heavy gloves and nodded. "I told you that I had some notion of honor. Will you let Lambert know that you are in this neighborhood?"

"No. There is no need. I am stopping here only for a time to see a certain person. Silver will look after Agnes, and is coming to the camp to report upon what he has observed."

"Silver then knows that you are Ishmael Hearne?"

"Yes. He knows all my secrets, and I can trust him thoroughly, since he owes everything to me."

Miss Greeby laughed scornfully. "That a man of your age and experience should believe in gratitude. Well, it's no business of mine. You may be certain that for my own purpose I shall hold my tongue and shall keep Lambert from seeking your wife. Not that he loves her," she added hastily, as Pine's brows again drew together. "But she loves him, and may use her arts-"

"Don't you dare to speak of arts in connection with my wife," broke in the man roughly. "She is no coquette, and I trust her-"

"So long as Silver looks after her," finished Miss Greeby contemptuously. "What chivalrous confidence. Well, I must be going. Any message to your-"

"No! No! No!" broke in Pine once more. "She is not to know that I am here, or anything about my true position and name. You promised, and you will keep your promise. But there, I know that you will, as self-interest will make you."

"Ah, now you talk common sense. It is a pity you don't bring it to bear in the case of Silver, whom you trust because you have benefited him. Good-day, you very unsophisticated person. I shall see you again-"

"In London as Hubert Pine," said the millionaire abruptly, and Miss Greeby, with a good-humored shrug, marched away, swinging her stick and whistling gayly. She was very well satisfied with the knowledge she had obtained, as the chances were that it would prove useful should Lambert still hanker after the unattainable woman. Miss Greeby had lulled Pine's suspicions regarding the young man's love for Agnes, but she knew in her heart that she had only done so by telling a pack of miserable lies. Now, as she walked back to The Manor, she reflected that by using her secret information dexterously, she might improve such falsehood into tolerable truth.

Pine flung himself down again when she departed, and coughed in his usual violent manner. His throat and lungs ached, and his brow was wet with perspiration. With his elbows on his knees and his face between his hands, he sat miserably thinking over his troubles. There was no chance of his living more than a few years, as the best doctors in Europe and England had given him up, and when he was placed below ground, the chances were that Agnes would marry his rival. He had made things as safe as was possible against such a contingency, but who knew if her love for Lambert might not make her willing to surrender the millions. "Unless Garvington can manage to arouse her family pride," groaned Pine drearily. "She sacrificed herself before for that, and perhaps she will do so again. But who knows?" And he could find no answer to this question, since it is impossible for any man to say what a woman will do where her deepest emotions are concerned.

A touch on Pine's shoulder made him leap to his feet with the alertness of a wild animal on the lookout for danger. By his side stood Chaldea, and her eyes glittered, as she came to the point of explanation without any preamble. The girl was painfully direct. "I have heard every word," she said triumphantly. "And I know what you are, brother."

"Why did you come here?" demanded Pine sharply, and frowning.

"I wanted to hear what a Romany had to do with a Gorgio lady, brother. And what do I hear. Why, that you dwell in the Gentile houses, and take a Gentile name, and cheat in a Gentile manner, and have wed with a Gentile romi. Speaking Romanly, brother, it is not well."

"It is as I choose, sister," replied Pine quietly, for since Chaldea had got the better of him, it was useless to quarrel with her. "And from what I do good will come to our people."

Chaldea laughed, and blew from her fingers a feather, carelessly picked up while in the thicket which had concealed her eavesdropping. "For that, I care that," said she, pointing to the floating feather slowly settling. "I looks to myself and to my love, brother."

"Hey?" Pine raised his eyebrows.

"It's a Gorgio my heart is set on," pursued Chaldea steadfastly. "A regular Romany Rye, brother. Do you think Lambert is a good name?"

"It's the name of the devil, sister," cried Pine hastily.

"The very devil I love. To me sweet, as to you sour. And speaking Romanly, brother, I want him to be my rom in the Gentile fashion, as you have a romi in your Gorgious lady."

"What will Kara say?" said Pine, and his eyes flashed, for the idea of getting rid of Lambert in this way appealed to him. The girl was beautiful, and with her added cleverness she might be able to gain her ends, and these accomplished, would certainly place a barrier between Agnes and her cousin, since the woman would never forgive the man for preferring the girl.

"Kara plays on the fiddle, but not on my heart-strings," said Chaldea in a cool manner, and watched Pine wickedly. "You'd better help me, brother, if you don't want that Gorgious romi of yours to pad the hoof with the rye."

The blood rushed to Pine's dark cheeks. "What's that?"

"No harm to my rye and I tell you, brother. Don't use the knife."

"That I will not do, if a wedding-ring from him to you will do as well."

"It will do, brother," said Chaldea calmly. "My rye doesn't love me yet, but he will, when I get him away from the Gentile lady's spells. They draw him, brother, they draw him."

"Where do they draw him to?" demanded Pine, his voice thick with passion.

"To the Gorgious house of the baro rai, the brother of your romi. Like an owl does he go after dusk to watch the nest."

"Owl," muttered Pine savagely. "Cuckoo, rather. Prove this, my sister, and I help you to gain the love you desire."

"It's a bargain, brother"-she held out her hand inquiringly-"but no knife."

Pine shook hands. "It's a bargain, sister. Your wedding-ring will part them as surely as any knife. Tell me more!" And Chaldea in whispers told him all.

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