MoboReader > Literature > Red Money

   Chapter 7 THE SECRETARY.

Red Money By Fergus Hume Characters: 21947

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"Was ever a man in so uncomfortable a position?"

Lambert asked himself this question as soon as he was safe in his studio, and he found it a difficult one to answer. It was true that what he had said to Agnes, and what Agnes had said to him, was perfectly honest and extremely honorable, considering the state of their feelings. But the conversation had been overheard by an unscrupulous woman, whose jealousy would probably twist innocence into guilt. It was certain that she would go to Pine and give him a garbled version of what had taken place, in which case the danger was great, both to himself and to Agnes. Lambert had spoken bravely enough to the marplot, knowing that he had done no wrong, but now he was by no means sure that he had acted rightly. Perhaps it would have been better to temporize but that would have meant a surrender young to Chaldea's unmaidenly wooing. And, as the man had not a spark of love for her in a heart given entirely to another woman, he was unwilling even to feign playing the part of a lover.

On reflection he still held to his resolution to go to London, thinking that it would be best for him to be out of reach of Agnes while Pine was in the neighborhood. The news that the millionaire was a gypsy had astonished him at first; but now that he considered the man's dark coloring and un-English looks, he quite believed that what Chaldea said was true. And he could understand also that Pine-or Hearne, since that was his true name-would occasionally wish to breathe the free air of heath and road since he had been cradled under a tent, and must at times feel strongly the longing for the old lawless life. But why should he revert to his beginnings so near to his brother-in-law's house, where his wife was staying? "Unless he came to keep an eye on her," murmured Lambert, and unconsciously hit on the very reason of the pseudo-gypsy's presence at Garvington.

After all, it would be best to go to London for a time to wait until he saw what Chaldea would do. Then he could meet Pine and have an understanding with him. The very fact that Pine was a Romany, and was on his native heath, appealed to Lambert as a reason why he should not seek out the man immediately, as he almost felt inclined to do, in order to forestall Chaldea's story. As Hearne, the millionaire's wild instincts would be uppermost, and he would probably not listen to reason, whereas if the meeting took place in London, Pine would resume to a certain extent his veneer of civilization and would be more willing to do justice.

"Yes," decided Lambert, rising and stretching himself. "I shall go to London and wait to turn over matters in my own mind. I shall say nothing to Agnes until I know what is best to be done about Chaldea. Meanwhile, I shall see the girl and get her to hold her tongue for a time-Damn!" He frowned. "It's making the best of a dangerous situation, but I don't see my way to a proper adjustment yet. The most necessary thing is to gain time."

With this in his mind he hastily packed a gladstone bag, changed into tweeds, and told Mrs. Tribb that he was going to London for a day or so. "I shall get a trap at the inn and drive to the station," he said, as he halted at the door. "You will receive a wire saying when I shall return," and leaving the dry little woman, open-mouthed at this sudden departure, the young man hastened away.

Instead of going straight to the village, he took a roundabout road to the camp on the verge of Abbot's Wood. Here he found the vagrants in a state of great excitement, as Lord Garvington had that afternoon sent notice by a gamekeeper that they were to leave his land the next day. Taken up with his own private troubles, Lambert did not pay much attention to those of the tribe, and looked about for Chaldea. He finally saw her sitting by one of the fires, in a dejected attitude, and touched her on the shoulder. At once, like a disturbed animal, she leaped to her feet.

"The rye!" said Chaldea, with a gasp, and a hopeful look on her face.

"Give me three days before you say anything to Pine," said Lambert in a low voice, and a furtive look round. "You understand."

"No," said the girl boldly. "Unless you mean-"

"Never mind what I mean," interrupted the man hastily, for he was determined not to commit himself. "Will you hold your tongue for three days?"

Chaldea looked hard at his face, upon which the red firelight played brightly, but could not read what was in his mind. However, she thought that the request showed a sign of yielding, and was a mute confession that he knew he was in her power. "I give you three days," she murmured. "But-"

"I have your promise then, so good-bye," interrupted Lambert abruptly, and walked away hastily in the direction of Garvington village. His mind was more or less of a chaos, but at all events he had gained time to reduce the chaos to some sort of order. Still as yet he could not see the outcome of the situation and departed swiftly in order to think it over.

Chaldea made a step or two, as if to follow, but a reflection that she could do no good by talking at the moment, and a certainty that she held him in the hollow of her hand, made her pause. With a hitch of her shapely shoulders she resumed her seat by the fire, brooding sombrely on the way in which this Gentile had rejected her love. Bending her black brows and showing her white teeth like an irritated dog, she inwardly cursed herself for cherishing so foolish a love. Nevertheless, she did not try to overcome it, but resolved to force the Gorgio to her feet. Then she could spurn him if she had a mind to, as he had spurned her. But she well knew, and confessed it to herself with a sigh, that there would be no spurning on her part, since her wayward love was stronger than her pride.

"Did the Gentile bring the gold, my sister?" asked a harsh voice, and she raised her head to see Kara's hairy face bent to her ear.

"No, brother. He goes to Lundra to get the gold. Did I not play my fish in fine style?"

"I took it for truth, sister!" said Kara, looking at her searchingly.

Chaldea nodded wearily. "I am a great witch, as you can see."

"You will be my romi when the gold chinks in our pockets?"

"Yes, for certain, brother. It's a true fortune!"

"Before our camp is changed, sister?" persisted the man greedily.

"No; for to-morrow we may take the road, since the great lord orders us off his land. And yet-" Chaldea stood up, suddenly recollecting what had been said by Pine's wife. "Why should we leave?"

"The rabbit can't kick dust in the fox's face, sister," said Kara, meaning that Garvington was too strong for the gypsies.

"There are rabbits and rabbits," said Chaldea sententiously. "Where is Hearne, brother?"

"In Gentilla's tent with a Gorgious gentleman. He's trading a horse with the swell rye, and wants no meddling with his time, sister."

"I meddle now," snapped Chaldea, and walked away in her usual free and graceful manner. Kara shrugged his shoulders and then took refuge in talking to his violin, to which he related his doubts of the girl's truth. And he smiled grimly, as he thought of the recovered knife which was again snugly hidden under his weather-worn green coat.

Chaldea, who did not stand on ceremony, walked to the end of the camp without paying any attention to the excited gypsies, and flung back the flap of the old woman's tent. Mother Cockleshell was not within, as she had given the use of her abode to Pine and his visitor. This latter was a small, neat man with a smooth, boyish face and reddish hair. He had the innocent expression of a fox-terrier, and rather resembled one. He was neatly and inoffensively dressed in blue serge, and although he did not look exactly like a gentleman, he would have passed for one in a crowd. When Chaldea made her abrupt entrance he was talking volubly to Pine, and the millionaire addressed him-when he answered-as Silver. Chaldea, remembering the conversation she had overheard between Pine and Miss Greeby, speedily reached the conclusion that the neat little man was the secretary referred to therein. Probably he had come to report about Lady Agnes.

"What is it, sister?" demanded Pine sharply, and making a sign that Silver should stop talking.

"Does the camp travel to-morrow, brother?"

"Perhaps, yes," retorted Pine abruptly.

"And perhaps no, brother, if you use your power."

Silver raised his faint eyebrows and looked questioningly at his employer, as if to ask what this cryptic sentence meant. Pine knew only too well, since Chaldea had impressed him thoroughly with the fact that she had overheard many of his secrets. Therefore he did not waste time in argument, but nodded quietly. "Sleep in peace, sister. The camp shall stay, if you wish it."

"I do wish it!" She glanced at Silver and changed her speech to Romany. "The ring will be here," tapping her finger, "in one week if we stay."

"So be it, sister," replied Pine, also in Romany, and with a gleam of satisfaction in his dark eyes. "Go now and return when this Gentile goes. What of the golden Gorgious one?"

"He seeks Lundra this night."

"For the ring, sister?"

Chaldea looked hard at him. "For the ring" she said abruptly, then dropping the tent-flap which she had held all the time, she disappeared.

Silver looked at his master inquiringly, and noted that he seemed very satisfied. "What did she say in Romany?" he asked eagerly.

"True news and new news, and news you never heard of," mocked Pine. "Don't ask questions, Mark."

"But since I am your secretary-"

"You are secretary to Hubert Pine, not to Ishmael Hearne," broke in the other man. "And when Romany is spoken it concerns the last."

Silver's pale-colored, red-rimmed eyes twinkled in an evil manner. "You are afraid that I may learn too much about you."

"You know all that is to be known," retorted Pine sharply. "But I won't have you meddle with my Romany business. A Gentile such as you are cannot understand the chals."

"Try me."

"There is no need. You are my secretary-my trusted secretary-that is quite enough. I pay you well to keep my secrets."

"I don't keep them because you pay me," said Silver quickly, and with a look of meekness belied by the sinister gleam in his pale bluish eyes. "It is devotion that makes me honest. I owe everything to you."

"I think you do," observed Pine quietly. "When I found you in Whitechapel you were only a pauper toymaker."

"An inventor of toys, remember. You made your fortune out of my inventions."

"The three clever toys you invented laid the foundations of my wealth," corrected the millionaire calmly. "But I made my money in the South African share business. And if I hadn't taken up your toys, you would have been now struggling in Whitechapel, since there was no one but me to exploit your brains in the toy-making way. I have rescued you from starvation; I have made you my

secretary, and pay you a good salary, and I have introduced you to good society. Yes, you do indeed owe everything to me. Yet-" he paused.

"Yet what?"

"Miss Greeby observed that those who have most cause to be grateful are generally the least thankful to those who befriend them. I am not sure but what she is right."

Silver pushed up his lower lip contemptuously, and a derisive expression came over his clean-shaven face. "Does a clever man like you go to that emancipated woman for experience?"

"Emancipated women are usually very clever," said Pine dryly, "as they combine the logic of the male with the intuition of the female. And I have observed myself, in many cases, that kindness brings out ingratitude."

Silver looked sullen and uneasy. "I don't know why you should talk to me in this strain," he said irritably. "I appreciate what you have done for me, and have no reason to treat you badly. If I did-"

"I would break you," flamed out his employer, angered by the mere thought. "So long as you serve me well, Silver, I am your friend, and I shall treat you as I have always done, with every consideration. But you play any tricks on me, and-" he paused expressively.

"Oh, I won't betray you, if that's what you mean."

"I am quite sure you won't," said the millionaire with emphasis. "For if you do, you return to your original poverty. And remember, Mark, that there is nothing in my life which has any need of concealment."

Silver cast a look round the tent and at the rough clothes of the speaker. "No need of any concealment?" he asked significantly.

"Certainly not," rejoined Pine violently. "I don't wish my gypsy origin to be known in the Gentile world. But if the truth did come to light, there is nothing to be ashamed of. I commit no crime in calling myself by a Gorgio name and in accumulating a fortune. You have no hold over me." The man's look was so threatening that Silver winced.

"I don't hint at any hold over you," he observed mildly. "I am bound to you both by gratitude and self-interest."

"Aha. That last is better. It is just as well that we have come to this understanding. If you-" Pine's speech was ended by a sharp fit of coughing, and Silver looked at his contortions with a thin-lipped smile.

"You'll kill yourself if you live this damp colonial sort of tent-life," was his observation. "Here, take a drink of water."

Pine did so, and wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his rough coat. "You're a Gorgio," he said, weakly, for the fit had shaken him, "and can't understand how a bred and born Romany longs for the smell of the smoke, the space of the open country, and the sound of the kalo jib. However, I did not ask you here to discuss these things, but to take my instructions."

"About Lady Agnes?" asked the secretary, his eyes scintillating.

"You have had those long ago, although, trusting my wife as I do, there was really no need for me to ask you to watch her."

"That is very true. Lady Agnes is exceedingly circumspect."

"Is she happy?"

Silver lifted his shoulders. "As happy as a woman can be who is married to one man while she loves another."

He expected an outburst of anger from his employer, but none came. On the contrary, Pine sighed, restlessly. "Poor soul. I did her a wrong in making her my wife. She would have been happier with Lambert in his poverty."

"Probably! Her tastes don't lie like those of other women in the direction of squandering money. By the way, I suppose, since you are here, that you know Lambert is staying in the Abbot's Wood Cottage?"

"Yes, I know that. And what of it?" demanded the millionaire sharply.

"Nothing; only I thought you would like to know. I fancied you had come here to see if-"

"I did not. I can trust you to see that my wife and Lambert do not meet without spying myself."

"If you love and trust your wife so entirely, I wonder you ask me to spy on her at all," said Silver with a faint sneer.

"She is a woman, and we gypsies have sufficient of the Oriental in us to mistrust even the most honest women. Lambert has not been to The Manor?"

"No. That's a bad sign. He can't trust himself in her presence."

"I'll choke the life out of you, rat that you are, if you talk in such a way about my wife. What you think doesn't matter. Hold your tongue, and come to business. I asked you here to take my instructions."

Silver was rather cowed by this outburst, as he was cunning enough to know precisely how far he could venture with safety. "I am waiting," he observed in sullen tones.

"Garvington-as I knew he would-has ordered us off the land. As the wood is really mine, since I hold it as security, having paid off the mortgage, I don't choose that he should deal with it as though it were his own. Here"-he passed along a letter-"I have written that on my office paper, and you will see that it says, I have heard how gypsies are camping here, and that it is my wish they should remain. Garvington is not to order them off on any pretext whatsoever. You understand?"

"Yes." Silver nodded, and slipped the paper into his breast pocket after a hasty glance at the contents, which were those the writer had stated. "But if Garvington wishes to know why you take such an interest in the gypsies, what am I to say?"

"Say nothing. Simply do what I have told you."

"Garvington may suspect that you are a Romany."

"He won't. He thinks that I'm in Paris, and will never connect me with Ishmael Hearne. If he asks questions when we meet I can tell him my own tale. By the way, why is he so anxious to get rid of the tribe?"

"There have been many burglaries lately in various parts of Hengishire," explained the secretary. "And Garvington is afraid lest the gypsies should be mixed up with them. He thinks, this camp being near, some of the men may break into the house."

"What nonsense! Gypsies steal, I don't deny, but in an open way. They are not burglars, however, and never will be. Garvington has never seen any near The Manor that he should take fright in this way."

"I am not so sure of that. Once or twice I have seen that girl who came to you hanging about the house."

"Chaldea?" Pine started and looked earnestly at his companion.

"Yes. She told Mrs. Belgrove's fortune one day when she met her in the park, and also tried to make Lady Agnes cross her hand with silver for the same purpose. Nothing came of that, however, as your wife refused to have her fortune told."

Pine frowned and looked uneasy, remembering that Chaldea knew of his Gentile masquerading. However, as he could see no reason to suspect that the girl had betrayed him, since she had nothing to gain by taking such a course, he passed the particular incident over. "I must tell Chaldea not to go near The Manor," he muttered.

"You will be wise; and tell the men also. Garvington has threatened to shoot any one who tries to enter his house."

"Garvington's a little fool," said Pine violently. "There is no chance that the Romany will enter his house. He can set his silly mind at rest."

"Well, you're warned," said Silver with an elaborate pretence of indifference.

Pine looked up, growling. "What the devil do you mean, Mark? Do you think that I intend to break in. Fool! A Romany isn't a thief of that sort."

"I fancied from tradition that they were thieves of all sorts," retorted the secretary coolly. "And suppose you took a fancy to come quietly and see your wife?"

"I should never do that in this dress," interrupted the millionaire in a sharp tone. "My wife would then know my true name and birth. I wish to keep that from her, although there is nothing disgraceful in the secret. I wonder why you say that?" he said, looking searchingly at the little man.

"Only because Lambert is in the-"

"Lambert! Lambert! You are always harping on Lambert."

"I have your interest at heart."

Pine laughed doubtfully. "I am not so sure of that. Self-interest rather. I trust my wife-"

"You do, since you make me spy on her," said Silver caustically.

"I trust my wife so far," pursued the other man, "if you will permit me to finish my sentence. There is no need for her to see her cousin, and-as they have kept apart for so long-I don't think there is any chance of their seeking one another's company."

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder," remarked the secretary sententiously. "And you may be living in a fool's paradise. Lambert is within running-away distance of her, remember."

Pine laughed in a raucous manner. "An elopement would have taken place long ago had it been intended," he snapped tartly. "Don't imagine impossibilities, Mark. Agnes married me for my money, so that I might save the credit of the Lambert family. But for me, Garvington would have passed through the Bankruptcy Court long ago. I have paid off certain mortgages, but I hold them as security for my wife's good behavior. She knows that an elopement with her cousin would mean the ruin of her brother."

"You do, indeed, trust her," observed Silver sarcastically.

"I trust her so far and no further," repeated Pine with an angry snarl. "A Gentile she is, and Gentiles are tricky." He stretched out a slim, brown hand significantly and opened it. "I hold her and Garvington there," and he tapped the palm lightly.

"You don't hold Lambert, and he is the dangerous one."

"Only dangerous if Agnes consents to run away with him, and she won't do that," replied Pine coolly.

"Well, she certainly doesn't care for money."

"She cares for the credit of her family, and gave herself to me, so that the same might be saved."

Silver shrugged his narrow shoulders. "What fools these aristocrats are," he observed pleasantly. "Even if Garvington were sold up he would still have his title and enough to live on in a quiet way."

"Probably. But it was not entirely to save his estates that he agreed to my marriage with his sister," said Pine pointedly and quietly.

"Eh! What?" The little man's foxy face became alive with eager inquiry.

"Nothing," said Pine roughly, and rose heavily to his feet. "Mind your own infernal business, and mine also. Go back and show that letter to Garvington. I want my tribe to stay here."

"My tribe," laughed Silver, scrambling to his feet; and when he took his departure he was still laughing. He wondered what Garvington would say did he know that his sister was married to a full-blooded Romany.

Pine, in the character of a horse-coper, saw him out of the camp, and was staring after him when Chaldea, on the watch, touched his shoulder.

"I come to your tent, brother," she said with very bright eyes.

"Eh? Yes!" Pine aroused himself out of a brown study. "Avali, miri pen. You have things to say to me?"

"Golden things, which have to do with your happiness and mine, brother."

"Hai? A wedding-ring, sister."

"Truly, brother, if you be a true Romany and not the Gentile you call yourself."

* * *

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares