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Red Money By Fergus Hume Characters: 22426

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

"Beng in tutes bukko!" swore Chaldea in good Romany, meaning that she wished the devil was in some one's body. And she heartily meant what she said, and cared little which of the two men's interior was occupied by the enemy of mankind, since she hated both. The girl was disappointed to think that Lambert should escape from her snare, and enraged that Garvington's production of one revolver and his confession that Silver had the other tended to this end. "May the pair of you burn in hell," she cried, taking to English, so that they could understand the insult. "Ashes may you be in the Crooked One's furnace."

Lambert shrugged his shoulders, as he quite understood her feelings, and did not intend to lower himself by correcting her. He addressed himself to his cousin and turned his back on the gypsy. "Silver shot Hubert Pine," he repeated, with his eyes on Garvington's craven face.

"It's impossible-impossible!" returned the other hurriedly. "Silver was shut up in the house with the rest. I saw to the windows and doors myself, along with the butler and footmen. At the inquest-"

"Never mind about the inquest. I know what you said there, and I am now beginning to see why you said it."

"What the devil do you mean?"

"I mean," stated the other, staring hard at him, "that you knew Silver was guilty when the inquest took place, and screened him for some reason."

"I didn't know; I swear I didn't know!" stuttered Garvington, wiping his heated face, and with his lower lip trembling.

"You must have done so," replied Lambert relentlessly. "This bullet will fit both the revolvers I gave you, and as you passed on one to Silver-"

"Rubbish! Bosh! Nonsense!" babbled the little man incoherently. "Until you brought the bullet I never knew that it would fit the revolver."

This was true, as Lambert admitted. However, he saw that Garvington was afraid for some reason, and pressed his advantage. "Now that you see how it fits, you must be aware that it could only have been fired from the revolver which you gave Silver."

"I don't see that," protested Garvington. "That bullet may fit many revolvers."

Lambert shook his head. "I don't think so. I had that brace of revolvers especially manufactured, and the make is peculiar. I am quite prepared to swear that the bullet would fit no other weapon. And-and"-he hesitated, then faced the girl, who lingered, sullen and disappointed. "You can go, Chaldea," said Lambert, pointing to the French window of the library, which was wide open.

The gypsy sauntered toward it, clutching her shawl and gritting her white teeth together. "Oh, I go my ways, my rye, but I have not done with you yet, may the big devil rack my bones if I have. You win to-day-I win to-morrow, and so good day to you, and curses on you for a bad one. The devil is a nice character-and that's you!" she screamed, beside herself with rage. "The puro beng is a fino mush, if you will have the kalo jib!" and with a wild cry worthy of a banshee she disappeared and was seen running unsteadily across the lawn. Lambert shrugged his shoulders again and turned to his miserable cousin, who had sat down with a dogged look on his fat face. "I have got rid of her because I wish to save the family name from disgrace," said Lambert quietly.

"There is no disgrace on my part. Remember to whom you are speaking."

"I do. I speak to the head of the family, worse luck! You have done your best to trail our name in the mud. You altered a check which Pine gave you so as to get more money; you forged his name to a mortgage-"

"Lies, lies, the lies of Agnes!" screamed Garvington, jumping up and shaking his fist in puny anger. "The wicked-"

"Speak properly of my wife, or I'll wring your neck," said Lambert sharply. "As to what she told me being lies, it is only too true, as you know. I read the letter you wrote confessing that you had lured Pine here to be shot by telling falsehoods about Agnes and me."

"I only lured him to get his arm broken so that I might nurse him when he was ill and get some money," growled Garvington, sitting down again.

"I am well aware of what you did and how you did it. But you gave that forged letter to Silver so that it might be passed on to Pine."

"I didn't! I didn't! I didn't! I didn't!"

"You did. And because Silver knew too much you gave him the Abbot's Wood Cottage at a cheap rent, or at no rent at all, for all I know. To be quite plain, Garvington, you conspired with Silver to have Pine killed."

"Winged-only winged, I tell you. I never shot him."

"Your accomplice did."

"He's not my accomplice. He was in the house-everything was locked up."

"By you," said Lambert quickly. "So it was easy for you to leave a window unfastened, so that Silver might get outside to hide in the shrubbery."

"Oh!" Garvington jumped up again, looking both pale and wicked. "You want to put a rope round my neck, curse you."

"That's a melodramatic speech which is not true," replied the other coldly. "For I want to save you, or, rather, our name, from disgrace. I won't call in the police"-Garvington winced at this word-"because I wish to hush the matter up. But since Chaldea and Silver accuse me and accuse Agnes of getting rid of Pine so that we might marry, it is necessary that I should learn the exact truth."

"I don't know it. I know nothing more than I have confessed."

"You are such a liar that I can't believe you. However, I shall go at once to Silver and you shall come with me."

"I shan't!" Garvington, who was overfed and flabby and unable to hold his own against a determined man, settled himself in his chair and looked as obstinate as a battery mule.

"Oh, yes, you will, you little swine," said Lambert freezingly cold.

"How dare you call me names?"

"Names! If I called you those you deserved I should have to annex the vocabulary of a Texan muledriver. How such a beast as you ever got into our family I can't conceive."

"I am the head of the family and I order you to leave the room."

"Oh, you do, do you? Very good. Then I go straight to Wanbury and shall tell what I have discovered to Inspector Darby."

"No! No! No! No!" Garvington, cornered at last, sprang from his chair and made for his cousin with unsteady legs. "It might be unpleasant."

"I daresay-to you. Well, will you come with me to Abbot's Wood?"

"Yes," whimpered Garvington. "Wait till I get my cap and stick, curse you, for an interfering beast. You don't know what you're doing."

"Ah! then you do know something likely to reveal the truth."

"I don't-I swear I don't! I only-"

"Oh, damn you, get your cap, and let us be off," broke in Lambert angrily, "for I can't be here all day listening to your lies."

Garvington scowled and ambled out of the room, closely followed by his cousin, who did not think it wise to lose sight of so shifty a person. In a few minutes they were out of the house and took the path leading from the blue door to the postern gate in the brick wall surrounding the park. It was a frosty, sunny day, with a hard blue sky, overarching a wintry landscape. A slight fall of snow had powdered the ground with a film of white, and the men's feet drummed loudly on the iron earth, which was in the grip of the frost. Garvington complained of the cold, although he had on a fur overcoat which made him look like a baby bear.

"You'll give me my death of cold, dragging me out like this," he moaned, as he trotted beside his cousin. "I believe you want me to take pneumonia so that I may die and leave you the title."

"I should at least respect it more than you do," said Lambert with scorn. "Why can't you be a man instead of a thing on two legs? If you did die no one would miss you but cooks and provision dealers."

Garvington gave him a vicious glance from his little pig's eyes, and longed to be tall, and strong, and daring, so that he might knock him down. But he knew that Lambert was muscular and dexterous, and would probably break his neck if it came to a tussle. Therefore, as the stout little lord had a great regard for his neck, he judged it best to yield to superior force, and trotted along obediently enough. Also he became aware within himself that it would be necessary to explain to Silver how he had come to betray him, and that would not be easy. Silver would be certain to make himself extremely disagreeable. Altogether the walk was not a pleasant one for the sybarite.

The Abbot's Wood looked bare and lean with the leaves stripped from its many trees. Occasionally there was a fir, clothed in dark green foliage, but for the most part the branches of the trees were naked, and quivered constantly in the chilly breeze. Even on the outskirts of the wood one could see right into the centre where the black monoliths-they looked black against the snow-reared themselves grimly. To the right there was a glimpse of gypsy fires and tents and caravans, and the sound of the Romany tongue was borne toward them through the clear atmosphere. On such a day it was easy both to see and hear for long distances, and for this reason Chaldea became aware that the two men were walking toward the cottage.

The girl, desperately angry that she had been unable to bring Lambert to book, had sauntered back to the camp, but had just reached it when she caught sight of the tall figure and the short one. In a moment she knew that Lambert and his cousin were making for Silver's abode, which was just what she had expected them to do. At once she determined to again adopt her former tactics, which had been successful in enabling her to overhear the conversation between Lambert and Lady Agnes, and, following at a respectful distance, she waited for her chance. It came when the pair entered the cottage, for then Chaldea ran swiftly in a circle toward the monoliths, and crouched down behind one. While peering from behind this shelter, she saw Silver pass the window of the studio, and felt certain that the interview, would take place in that room. Like a serpent, as she was, the girl crawled and wriggled through the frozen vegetation and finally managed to get under the window without being observed. The window was closed, but by pressing her ear close to the woodwork she was enabled to hear a great deal, if not all. Candidly speaking, Chaldea had truly believed that Lambert had shot Pine, but now that he had disproved the charge so easily, she became desperately anxious to learn the truth. Lambert had escaped her, but she thought that it might be possible to implicate his wife in the crime, which would serve her purpose of injuring him just as well.

Silver was not surprised to see his landlord, as it seemed that Garvington paid him frequent visits. But he certainly showed an uneasy amazement when Lambert stalked in behind the fat little man. Silver was also small, and also cowardly, and also not quite at rest in his conscience, so he shivered when he met the very direct gaze of his unwelcome visitor.

"You have come to look at your old house, Mr. Lambert," he remarked, when the two made themselves comfortable by the studio fire.

"Not at all. I have come to see you," was the grim response.

"That is an unexpected honor," said Silver uneasily, and his eyes sought those of Lord Garvington, who was spreading out his hands to the blaze, looking blue with cold. He caught Silver's inquiring look.

"I couldn't help it," said Garvington crossly. "I must look after myself."

Silver's smooth, foxy face became livid, and he could scarcely speak. When he did, it was with a sickly smile. "Whatever are you talking about, my lord?"

"Oh, you know, d-- you! I did give you that revolver, you know."

"The revolver?" Silver stared. "Yes, why should I deny it? I suppose you have come to get it back?"

"I have come to get it, Mr. Silver," put in Lambert politely. "Hand it over to me, if you please."

"If you like. It certainly has your name on the handle," said the secretary so quietly that the other man was puzzled. Silver did not seem to be so uncomfortable as he might have been.

"The revolver was one of a pair which I had especially made when I went to Africa some years ago," explained Lambert elaborately, and determined to make his listener understand the situation thoroughly. "On my return I made them a present to my cousin. I understand, Mr. Silver, that Lord Garvington lent you one-"

"And kept the other," interrupted the man sharply. "That is true. I was afraid of burglars, since Lord Garvington was always talking about them, so I asked him to lend me a weapon to defend myself with."

"And you used it to shoot Pine," snapped Garvington, anxious to end his suspense and get the interview over as speedily as possible.

Silver rose from his seat in an automatic manner, and turned delicately pale. "Are you mad?" he gasped, looking from one man to the other.

"It's all very well you talking," whimpered Garvington with a shiver; "but Pine was shot with that revolver I lent you."

"It's a lie!"

"Oh, I knew you'd say that," complained Garvington, shivering again. "But I warned you that there might be trouble, since you carried that letter for me, so that it might fall by chance into Pine's hands."

"Augh!" groaned Silver, sinking back into his chair and passing his tongue over a pair of dry, gray lips. "Hold your tongue, my lord."

"What's the use? He knows," and Garvington jerked his head in the direction of his cousin. "The game's up, Silver-the game's up!"

"Oh!" Silver's eyes flashed, and he looked like a rat at bay. "So you intend to save yourself at my expense. But it won't do, my lord. You wrote that letter, if I carried it to the camp."

"I have admitted to my sister and to Lambert, here, that I wrote the letter, Silver. I had to, or get into trouble with the police, since neither of them will listen to reason. But you suggested the plan to get Pine winged so that he might be ill in my house, and then we could both get money out of him. You invented the plot, and I only wrote the letter."

"Augh! Augh!" gulped Silver, unable to speak plainly.

"Do you confess the truth of Lord Garvington's statement?" inquired Lambert suavely, and fixing a merciless eye on the trapped fox.

"No-that is-yes. He swings on the same hook as I do."

"Indeed. Then Lord Garvington was aware that you shot Pine?"

"I was not! I was not!" screamed the head of the Lambert family, jumping up and clenching his hands. "I swear I never knew the truth until you brought the bullet to the library to fit the revolver."

"The-the-bullet!" stammered Silver, whose smooth red hair was almost standing on end from sheer fright.

"Yes," said Lambert, addressing him sharply. "Kara, under the direction of Chaldea, found the bullet in the trunk of the elm tree which was in the line of fire. She came with me to The Manor this morning, and we found that it fitted the barrel of Lord Garvington's revolver. At the inquest, and on unimpeachable evidence, it was proved that he fired only the first shot, which disabled Pine without killing him. The second shot, which pierced the man's heart, could only have come from the second revolver, which was, and is, in your possession, Mr. Silver. The bullet found in the tree trunk will fit no other barrel of no other weapon. I'm prepared to swear to this."

Silver covered his face with his hands and looked so deadly white that Lambert believed he would faint. However, he pulled himself together, and addressed Garvington anxiously. "You know, my lord, that you locked up the house on that night, and that I was indoors."

"Yes," admitted the other hesitating. "So far as I knew you certainly were inside. It is true, Noel," he added, catching his cousin's eye. "Even to save myself I must admit that."

"Oh, you'd admit anything to save yourself," retorted his cousin contemptuously, and noting the mistake in the wording of the sentence. "But admitting that Silver was within doors doesn't save you, so far as I can see."

"There is no need for Lord Garvington to excuse himself," spoke up Silver, attempting to enlist the little man on his side by defending him. "It was proved at the inquest, as you have admitted, Mr. Lambert, that he only fired the first shot."

"And you fired the second."

"I never did. I was inside and in bed. I only came down with the rest of the guests when I heard the firing. Is that not so, my lord?"

"Yes," admitted Garvington grudgingly. "So far as I know you had nothing to do with the second shot."

Silver turned a relieved face toward Lambert. "I shall confess this much, sir," he said, trying to speak calmly and judicially. "Pine treated me badly by taking my toy inventions and by giving me very little money. When I was staying at The Manor I learned that Lord Garvington had also been treated badly by Pine. He said if we could get money that we should go shares. I knew that Pine was jealous of his wife, and that you were at the cottage here, so I suggested that, as Lord Garvington could imitate handwriting, he should forge a letter purporting to come from Lady Agnes to you, saying that she intended to elope on a certain night. Also I told Lord Garvington to talk a great deal about shooting burglars, so as to give color to his shooting Pine."

"It was arranged to shoot him, then?"

"No, it wasn't," cried Garvington, glaring at Silver. "All we wanted to do was to break Pine's arm or leg so that he might be laid up in The Manor."

"Yes, that is so," said Silver feverishly, and nodding. "I fancied-and for this reason I suggested the plot-that when Pine was ill, both Lord Garvington and myself could deal with him in an easier manner. Also-since the business would be left in my hands-I hoped to take out some money from various investments, and share it with Lord Garvington. We never meant that Pine should be killed, but only reduced to weakness so that we might force him to give us both money."

"A very ingenious plot," said Lambert grimly and wondering how much of the story was true. "And then?"

"Then Lord Garvington wrote the letter, and when seeing Pine, I gave it to him saying that while keeping watch on his wife-as he asked me to," said Silver with an emphasis which made Lambert wince, "I had intercepted the letter. Pine was furious, as I knew he would be, and said that he would come to the blue door at the appointed time to prevent the supposed elopement. I told Lord Garvington, who was ready, and-"

"And I went down, pretending that Pine was a burglar," said Lord Garvington, continuing the story in a most shameless manner. "I opened the door quite expecting to find him there. He rushed me, believing in his blind haste that I was Agnes coming to elope with you. I shot him in the arm, and he staggered away, while I shut the door again. Whether, on finding his mistake, and knowing that he had met me instead of Agnes, he intended to go away, I can't say, as I was on the wrong side of the door. But Agnes, attracted to the window by the shot, declared-and you heard her declare it at the inquest, Noel-that Pine walked rapidly away and was shot just as he came abreast of the shrubbery. That's all."

"And quite enough, too," said Lambert savagely. "You tricky pair of beasts; I suppose you hoped to implicate me in the crime?"

"It wasn't a crime," protested Silver; "but only a way to get money. By going up to London you certainly delayed what we intended to do, since we could not carry out our plan until you returned. You did for one night, as Chaldea, who was on the watch for you, told us, and then we acted."

"Did Chaldea know of the trap?"

"No! She knew nothing save that I"-it was Silver who spoke-"wanted to know about your return. She found the letter in Pine's tent, and really believed that Lady Agnes had written it, and that you had shot Pine. It was to force you by threats to marry her that she gave the letter to me."

"And she instructed you to show it to the police," said Lambert between his teeth, "whereas you tried to blackmail Lady Agnes."

"I had to make my money somehow," said Silver insolently. "Pine was dead and Lady Agnes had the coin."

"You were to share in the twenty-five thousand pounds, I suppose?" Lambert asked his cousin indignantly.

"No; Silver blackmailed on his own. I hoped to get money from Agnes in another way-as her hard-up brother that is. And if-"

"Oh, shut up! You make me sick," interrupted Lambert, suppressing a strong desire to choke his cousin. "You are as bad as Silver."

"And Silver is as innocent as Lord Garvington," struck in that gentleman, whose face was recovering its natural color.

Lambert turned on him sharply. "I don't agree with that. You shot Pine!"

Silver sprang up with a hysterical cry. He had judged like Agag that the bitterness of death was past, but found that he was not yet safe. "I did not shoot Pine," he declared, wringing his hands. "Oh, why can't you believe me."

"Because Garvington gave you the second revolver and with that-on the evidence of the bullet-Pine was murdered."

"That might be so, but-but-" Silver hesitated, and shivered and looked round with a hunted expression in his eyes.

"But what? You may as well explain to me."

"I shan't-I refuse to. I am innocent! You can't hurt me!"

Lambert brushed aside this puny rage. "Inspector Darby can. I shall go to Wanbury this evening and tell him all."

"No; don't do that!" cried Garvington, greatly agitated. "Think of me-think of the family!"

"I think of Justice! You two beasts aren't fit to be at large. I'm off," and he made for the door.

In a moment Silver was clutching his coat. "No, don't!" he screamed. "I am innocent! Lord Garvington, say that I am innocent!"

"Oh, -- you, get out of the hole as best you can! I'm in as big a mess as you are, unless Lambert acts decently."

"Decently, you wicked little devil," said Lambert scornfully. "I only propose to do what any decent man would do. You trapped Pine by means of the letter, and Silver shot him."

"I didn't! I didn't!"

"You had the revolver!"

"I hadn't. I gave it away! I lent it!" panted Silver, crying with terror.

"You lent it-you gave it-you liar! Who to?"

Silver looked round again for some way of escape, but could see none. "To Miss Greeby. She-she-she-she shot Pine. I swear she did."

* * *

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