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   Chapter 9 AFTERWARDS.

Red Money By Fergus Hume Characters: 23490

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


With amazing and sinister rapidity the news spread that a burglar had been shot dead while trying to raid The Manor. First, the Garvington villagers learned it; then it became the common property of the neighborhood, until it finally reached the nearest county town, and thus brought the police on the scene. Lord Garvington was not pleased when the local inspector arrived, and intimated as much in a somewhat unpleasant fashion. He was never a man who spared those in an inferior social position.

"It is no use your coming over, Darby," he said bluntly to the red-haired police officer, who was of Irish extraction. "I have sent to Scotland Yard."

"All in good time, my lord," replied the inspector coolly. "As the murder has taken place in my district I have to look into the matter, and report to the London authorities, if it should be necessary."

"What right have you to class the affair as a murder?" inquired Garvington.

"I only go by the rumors I have heard, my lord. Some say that you winged the man and broke his right arm. Others tell me that a second shot was fired in the garden, and it was that which killed Ishmael Hearne."

"It is true, Darby. I only fired the first shot, as those who were with me will tell you. I don't know who shot in the garden, and apparently no one else does. It was this unknown individual in the garden that killed Hearne. By the way, how did you come to hear the name?"

"Half a dozen people have told me, my lord, along with the information I have just given you. Nothing else is talked of far and wide."

"And it is just twelve o'clock," muttered the stout little lord, wiping his scarlet face pettishly. "Ill news travels fast. However, as you are here, you may as well take charge of things until the London men arrive."

"The London men aren't going to usurp my privileges, my lord," said Darby, firmly. "There's no sense in taking matters out of my hands. And if you will pardon my saying so, I should have been sent for in the first instance."

"I daresay," snapped Garvington, coolly. "But the matter is too important to be left in the hands of a local policeman."

Darby was nettled, and his hard eyes grew angry. "I am quite competent to deal with any murder, even if it is that of the highest in England, much less with the death of a common gypsy."

"That's just where it is, Darby. The common gypsy who has been shot happens to be my brother-in-law."

"Sir Hubert Pine?" questioned the inspector, thoroughly taken aback.

"Yes! Of course I didn't know him when I fired, or I should not have done so, Darby. I understood, and his wife, my sister, understood, that Sir Hubert was in Paris. It passes my comprehension to guess why he should have come in the dead of night, dressed as a gypsy, to raid my house."

"Perhaps it was a bet," said Darby, desperately puzzled.

"Bet, be hanged! Pine could come openly to this place whenever he liked. I never was so astonished in my life as when I saw him lying dead near the shrubbery. And the worst of it is, that my sister ran out and saw him also. She fainted and has been in bed ever since, attended by Lady Garvington."

"You had no idea that the man you shot was Sir Hubert, my lord?"

"Hang it, no! Would I have shot him had I guessed who he was?"

"No, no, my lord! of course not," said the officer hastily. "But as I have come to take charge of the case, you will give me a detailed account of what has taken place."

"I would rather wait until the Scotland Yard fellows come," grumbled Garvington, "as I don't wish to repeat my story twice. Still, as you are on the spot, I may as well ask your advice. You may be able to throw some light on the subject. I'm hanged if I can."

Darby pulled out his notebook. "I am all attention, my lord."

Garvington plunged abruptly into his account, first having looked to see if the library door was firmly closed. "As there have been many burglaries lately in this part of the world," he said, speaking with deliberation, "I got an idea into my head that this house might be broken into."

"Natural enough, my lord," interposed Darby, glancing round the splendid room. "A historic house such as this is, would tempt any burglar."

"So I thought," remarked the other, pleased that Darby should agree with him so promptly. "And I declared several times, within the hearing of many people, that if a raid was made, I should shoot the first man who tried to enter. Hang it, an Englishman's house is his castle, and no man has a right to come in without permission."

"Quite so, my lord. But the punishment of the burglar should be left to the law," said the inspector softly.

"Oh, the deuce take the law! I prefer to execute my own punishments. However, to make a long story short, I grew more afraid of a raid when these gypsies came to camp at Abbot's Wood, as they are just the sort of scoundrels who would break in and steal."

"Why didn't you order them off your land?" asked the policeman, alertly.

"I did, and then my brother-in-law sent a message through his secretary, who is staying here, asking me to allow them to remain. I did."

"Why did Sir Hubert send that message, my lord?"

"Hang it, man, that's just what I am trying to learn, and I am the more puzzled because he came last night dressed as a gypsy."

"He must be one," said Darby, who had seen Pine and now recalled his dark complexion and jetty eyes. "It seems, from what I have been told, that he stopped at the Abbot's Wood camp under the name of Ishmael Hearne."

"So Silver informed me."

"Who is he?"

"Pine's secretary, who knows all his confidential affairs. Silver declared, when the secret could be kept no longer, that Pine was really a gypsy, called Ishmael Hearne. Occasionally longing for the old life, he stepped down from his millionaire pedestal and mixed with his own people. When he was supposed to be in Paris, he was really with the gypsies, so you can now understand why he sent the message asking me to let these vagrants stay."

"You told me a few moments ago, that you could not understand that message, my lord," said Darby quickly, and looking searchingly at the other man. Garvington grew a trifle confused. "Did I? Well, to tell you the truth, Darby, I'm so mixed up over the business that I can't say what I do know, or what I don't know. You'd better take all I tell you with a grain of salt until I am quite myself again."

"Natural enough, my lord," remarked the inspector again, and quite believed what he said. "And the details of the murder?"

"I went to bed as usual," said Garvington, wearily, for the events of the night had tired him out, "and everyone else retired some time about midnight. I went round with the footmen and the butler to see that everything was safe, for I was too anxious to let them look after things without me. Then I heard a noise of footsteps on the gravel outside, just as I was dropping off to sleep-"

"About what time was that, my lord?"

"Half-past one o'clock; I can't be certain as to a minute. I jumped up and laid hold of my revolver, which was handy. I always kept it beside me in case of a burglary. Then I stole downstairs in slippers and pajamas to the passage,-oh, here." Garvington rose quickly. "Come with me and see the place for yourself!"

Inspector Darby put on his cap, and with his notebook still in his hand, followed the stout figure of his guide. Garvington led him through the entrance hall and into a side-passage, which terminated in a narrow door. There was no one to spy on them, as the master of the house had sent all the servants to their own quarters, and the guests were collected in the drawing-room and smoking-room, although a few of the ladies remained in their bedrooms, trying to recover from the night's experience.

"I came down here," said Garvington, opening the door, "and heard the burglar, as I thought he was, prowling about on the other side. I threw open the door in this way and the man plunged forward to enter. I fired, and got him in the right arm, for I saw it swinging uselessly by his side as he departed."

"Was he in a hurry?" asked Darby, rather needlessly.

"He went off like greased lightning. I didn't follow, as I thought that others of his gang might be about, but closing the door again I shouted blue murder. In a few minutes everyone came down, and while I was waiting-it all passed in a flash, remember, Darby-I heard a second shot. Then the servants and my friends came and we ran out, to find the man lying by that shrubbery quite dead. I turned him over and had just grasped the fact that he was my brother-in-law, when Lady Agnes ran out. When she learned the news she naturally fainted. The women carried her back to her room, and we took the body of Pine into the house. A doctor came along this morning-for I sent for a doctor as soon as it was dawn-and said that Pine had been shot through the heart."

"And who shot him?" asked Darby sagely.

Garvington pointed to the shrubbery. "Someone was concealed there," he declared.

"How do you know, that, my lord?"

"My sister, attracted by my shot, jumped out of bed and threw up her window. She saw the man-of course she never guessed that he was Pine-running down the path and saw him fall by the shrubbery when the second shot was fired."

"Her bedroom is then on this side of the house, my lord?"

"Up there," said Garvington, pointing directly over the narrow door, which was painted a rich blue color, and looked rather bizarre, set in the puritanic greyness of the walls. "My own bedroom is further along towards the right. That is why I heard the footsteps so plainly on this gravel." And he stamped hard, while with a wave of his hand he invited the inspector to examine the surroundings.

Darby did so with keen eyes and an alert brain. The two stood on the west side of the mansion, where it fronted the three-miles distant Abbot's Wood. The Manor was a heterogeneous-looking sort of place, suggesting the whims and fancies of many generations, for something was taken away here, and something was taken away there, and this had been altered, while that had been left in its original state, until the house seemed to be made up of all possible architectural styles. It was a tall building of three stories, although the flattish red-tiled roofs took away somewhat from its height, and spread over an amazing quantity of land. As Darby thought, it could have housed a regiment, and must have cost something to keep up. As wind and weather and time had mellowed its incongruous parts into one neutral tint, it looked odd and attractive. Moss and lichen, ivy and Virginia creeper-this last flaring in crimson glory-clothed the massive stone walls with a gracious mantle of natural beauty. Narrow stone steps, rather chipped, led down from the blue door to the broad, yellow path, which came round the rear of the house and swept down hill in a wide curve, past the miniature shrubbery, right into the bosom of the park.

"This path," explained Garvington, stamping again, "runs right through the park to a small wicket gate set in the brick wall, which borders the high road, Darby."

"And that runs straightly past Abbot's Wood," mused the inspector. "Of course, Sir Hubert would know of the path and the wicket gate?"

"Certainly; don't be an ass, Darby," cried Garvington petulantly. "He has been in this house dozens of times and knows it as well as I do myself. Why do you ask so obvious a question?"

"I was only wondering if Sir Hubert came by the high road to the wicket gate you speak of, Lord Garvington."

"That also is obvious," retorted the other, irritably. "Since he wished to come here, he naturally woul

d take the easiest way."

"Then why did he not enter by the main avenue gates?"

"Because at that hour they would be shut, and-since it is evident that his visit was a secret one-he would have had to knock up the lodge-keeper."

"Why was his visit a secret one?" questioned Darby pointedly.

"That is the thing that puzzles me. Anything more?"

"Yes? Why should Sir Hubert come to the blue door?"

"I can't answer that question, either. The whole reason of his being here, instead of in Paris, is a mystery to me."

"Oh, as to that last, the reply is easy," remarked the inspector. "Sir Hubert wished to revert to his free gypsy life, and pretended to be in Paris, so that he would follow his fancy without the truth becoming known. But why he should come on this particular night, and by this particular path to this particular door, is the problem I have to solve!"

"Quite so, and I only hope that you will solve it, for the sake of my sister."

Darby reflected for a moment or so. "Did Lady Agnes ask her husband to come here to see her privately?"

"Hang it, no man!" cried Garvington, aghast. "She believed, as we all did, that her husband was in Paris, and certainly never dreamed that he was masquerading as a gypsy three miles away."

"There was no masquerading about the matter, my lord," said Darby, dryly; "since Sir Hubert really was a gypsy called Ishmael Hearne. That fact will come out at the inquest."

"It has come out now: everyone knows the truth. And a nice thing it is for me and Lady Agnes."

"I don't think you need worry about that, Lord Garvington. The honorable way in which the late Sir Hubert attained rank and gained wealth will reflect credit on his humble origin. When the papers learn the story-"

"Confound the papers!" interrupted Garvington fretfully. "I sincerely hope that they won't make too great a fuss over the business."

The little man's hope was vain, as he might have guessed that it would be, for when the news became known in Fleet Street, the newspapers were only too glad to discover an original sensation for the dead season. Every day journalists and special correspondents were sent down in such numbers that the platform of Wanbury Railway Station was crowded with them. As the town-it was the chief town of Hengishire-was five miles away from the village of Garvington, every possible kind of vehicle was used to reach the scene of the crime, and The Manor became a rendezvous for all the morbid people, both in the neighborhood and out of it. The reporters in particular poked and pried all over the place, passing from the great house to the village, and thence to the gypsy camp on the borders of Abbot's Wood. From one person and another they learned facts, which were published with such fanciful additions that they read like fiction. On the authority of Mother Cockleshell-who was not averse to earning a few shillings-a kind of Gil Blas tale was put into print, and the wanderings of Ishmael Hearne were set forth in the picturesque style of a picarooning romance. But of the time when the adventurous gypsy assumed his Gentile name, the Romany could tell nothing, for obvious reasons. Until the truth became known, because of the man's tragic and unforeseen death, those in the camp were not aware that he was a Gorgio millionaire. But where the story of Mother Cockleshell left off, that of Mark Silver began, for the secretary had been connected with his employer almost from the days of Hearne's first exploits as Pine in London. And Silver-who also charged for the blended fact and fiction which he supplied-freely related all he knew.

"Hearne came to London and called himself Hubert Pine," he stated frankly, and not hesitating to confess his own lowly origin. "We met when I was starving as a toymaker in Whitechapel. I invented some penny toys, which Pine put on the market for me. They were successful and he made money. I am bound to confess that he paid me tolerably well, although he certainly took the lion's share. With the money he made in this way, he speculated in South African shares, and, as the boom was then on, he simply coined gold. Everything he touched turned into cash, and however deeply he plunged into the money market, he always came out top in the end. By turning over his money and re-investing it, and by fresh speculations, he became a millionaire in a wonderfully short space of time. Then he made me his secretary and afterwards took up politics. The Government gave him a knighthood for services rendered to his party, and he became a well-known figure in the world of finance. He married Lady Agnes Lambert, and-and-that's all."

"You were aware that he was a gypsy, Mr. Silver?" asked the reporter.

"Oh, yes. I knew all about his origin from the first days of our acquaintanceship. He asked me to keep his true name and rank secret. As it was none of my business, I did so. At times Hearne-or rather Pine, as I know him best by that name-grew weary of civilization, and then would return to his own life of the tent and road. No one suspected amongst the Romany that he was anything else but a horse-coper. He always pretended to be in Paris, or Berlin, on financial affairs, when he went back to his people, and I transacted all business during his absence."

"You knew that he was at the Abbot's Wood camp?"

"Certainly. I saw him there once or twice to receive instructions about business. I expostulated with him for being so near the house where his brother-in-law and wife were living, as I pointed out that the truth might easily become known. But Pine merely said that his safety in keeping his secret lay in his daring to run the risk."

"Have you any idea that Sir Hubert intended to come by night to Lord Garvington's house?"

"Not the slightest. In fact, I told him that Lord Garvington was afraid of burglars, and had threatened to shoot any man who tried to enter the house."

All this Silver said in a perfectly frank, free-and-easy manner, and also related how the dead man had instructed him to ask Garvington to allow the gypsies to remain in the wood. The reporter published the interview with sundry comments of his own, and it was read with great avidity by the public at large and by the many friends of the millionaire, who were surprised to learn of the double life led by the man. Of course, there was nothing disgraceful in Pine's past as Ishmael Hearne, and all attempts to discover something shady about his antecedents were vain. Yet-as was pointed out-there must have been something wrong, else the adventurer, as he plainly was, would not have met so terrible a death. But in spite of every one's desire to find fire to account for the smoke, nothing to Pine's disadvantage could be learned. Even at the inquest, and when the matter was thoroughly threshed out, the dead man's character proved to be honorable, and-save in the innocent concealment of his real name and origin-his public and private life was all that could be desired. The whole story was not criminal, but truly romantic, and the final tragedy gave a grim touch to what was regarded, even by the most censorious, as a picturesque narrative.

In spite of all his efforts, Inspector Darby, of Wanbury, could produce no evidence likely to show who had shot the deceased. Lord Garvington, under the natural impression that Pine was a burglar, had certainly wounded him in the right arm, but it was the second shot, fired by some one outside the house, which had pierced the heart. This was positively proved by the distinct evidence of Lady Agnes herself. She rose from her sick-bed to depose how she had opened her window, and had seen the actual death of the unfortunate man, whom she little guessed was her husband. The burglar-as she reasonably took him to be-was running down the path when she first caught sight of him, and after the first shot had been fired. It was the second shot, which came from the shrubbery-marked on the plan placed before the Coroner and jury-which had laid the fugitive low. Also various guests and servants stated that they had arrived in the passage in answer to Lord Garvington's outcries, to find that he had closed the door pending their coming. Some had even heard the second shot while descending the stairs. It was proved, therefore, in a very positive manner, that the master of the house had not murdered the supposed robber.

"I never intended to kill him," declared Garvington when his evidence was taken. "All I intended to do, and all I did do, was to wing him, so that he might be captured on the spot, or traced later. I closed the door after firing the shot, as I fancied that he might have had some accomplices with him, and I wished to make myself safe until assistance arrived."

"You had no idea that the man was Sir Hubert Pine?" asked a juryman.

"Certainly not. I should not have fired had I recognized him. The moment I opened the door he flung himself upon me. I fired and he ran away. It was not until we all went out and found him dead by the shrubbery that I recognized my brother-in-law. I thought he was in Paris."

Inspector Darby deposed that he had examined the shrubbery, and had noted broken twigs here and there, which showed that some one must have been concealed behind the screen of laurels. The grass-somewhat long in the thicket-had been trampled. But nothing had been discovered likely to lead to the discovery of the assassin who had been ambushed in this manner.

"Are there no footmarks?" questioned the Coroner.

"There has been no rain for weeks to soften the ground," explained the witness, "therefore it is impossible to discover any footmarks. The broken twigs and trampled grass show that some one was hidden in the shrubbery, but when this person left the screen of laurels, there is nothing to show in which direction the escape was made."

And indeed all the evidence was useless to trace the criminal. The Manor had been bolted and barred by Lord Garvington himself, along with some footmen and his butler, so no one within could have fired the second shot. The evidence of Mother Cockleshell, of Chaldea, and of various other gypsies, went to show that no one had left the camp on that night with the exception of Hearne, and even his absence had not been made known until the fact of the death was made public next morning. Hearne, as several of the gypsies stated, had retired about eleven to his tent and had said nothing about going to The Manor, much less about leaving the camp. Silver's statements revealed nothing, since, far from seeking his brother-in-law's house, Pine, had pointedly declared that in order to keep his secret he would be careful not to go near the place.

"And Pine had no enemies to my knowledge who desired his death," declared the secretary. "We were so intimate that had his life been in danger he certainly would have spoken about it to me."

"You can throw no light on the darkness?" asked the Coroner hopelessly.

"None," said the witness. "Nor, so far as I can see, is any one else able to throw any light on the subject. Pine's secret was not a dishonorable one, as he was such an upright man that no one could have desired to kill him."

Apparently there was no solution to the mystery, as every one concluded, when the evidence was fully threshed out. An open verdict was brought in, and the proceedings ended in this unsatisfactory manner.

"Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown," said Lambert, when he read the report of the inquest in his St. James's Street rooms. "Strange. I wonder who cut the Gordian knot of the rope which bound Agnes to Pine?"

He could find no reply to this question, nor could any one else.

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