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   Chapter 20 THE DESTINED END.

Red Money By Fergus Hume Characters: 29256

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


As might have been anticipated, Lord Garvington was in anything but a happy frame of mind. He left Silver in almost a fainting condition, and returned to The Manor feeling very sick himself. The two cowardly little men had not the necessary pluck of conspirators, and now that there seemed to be a very good chance that their nefarious doings would be made public they were both in deadly fear of the consequences. Silver was in the worst plight, since he was well aware that the law would consider him to be an accessory after the fact, and that, although his neck was not in danger, his liberty assuredly was. He was so stunned by the storm which had broken so unexpectedly over his head, that he had not even the sense to run away. All manly grit-what he possessed of it-had been knocked out of him, and he could only whimper over the fire while waiting for Lambert to act.

Garvington was not quite so downhearted, as he knew that his cousin was anxious to consider the fair fame of the family. Thinking thus, he felt a trifle reassured, for the forged letter could not be made public without a slur being cast on the name. Then, again, Garvington knew that he was innocent of designing Pine's death, and that, even if Lambert did inform the police, he could not be arrested. It is only just to say that had the little man known of Miss Greeby's intention to murder the millionaire, he would never have written the letter which lured the man to his doom. And for two reasons: in the first place he was too cowardly to risk his neck; and in the second Pine was of more value to him alive than dead. Comforting himself with this reflection, he managed to maintain a fairly calm demeanor before his wife.

But on this night Lady Garvington was particularly exasperating, for she constantly asked questions which the husband did not feel inclined to answer. Having heard that Lambert was in the village, she wished to know why he had not been asked to stay at The Manor, and defended the young man when Garvington pointed out that an iniquitous person who had robbed Agnes of two millions could not be tolerated by the man-Garvington meant himself-he had wronged. Then Jane inquired why Lambert had brought Chaldea to the house, and what had passed in the library, but received no answer, save a growl. Finally she insisted that Freddy had lost his appetite, which was perfectly true.

"And I thought you liked that way of dressing a fish so much, dear," was her wail. "I never seem to quite hit your taste."

"Oh, bother: leave me alone, Jane. I'm worried."

"I know you are, for you have eaten so little. What is the matter?"

"Everything's the matter, confound your inquisitiveness. Hasn't Agnes lost all her money because of this selfish marriage with Noel, hang him? How the dickens do you expect us to carry on unless we borrow?"

"Can't you get some money from the person who now inherits?"

"Jarwin won't tell me the name."

"But I know who it is," said Lady Garvington triumphantly. "One of the servants who went to the gypsy camp this afternoon told my maid, and my maid told me. The gypsies are greatly excited, and no wonder."

Freddy stared at her. "Excited, what about?"

"Why, about the money, dear. Don't you know?"

"No, I don't!" shouted Freddy, breaking a glass in his irritation. "What is it? Bother you, Jane. Don't keep me hanging on in suspense."

"I'm sure I never do, Freddy, dear. It's Hubert's money which has gone to his mother."

Garvington jumped up. "Who-who-who is his mother?" he demanded, furiously.

"That dear old Gentilla Stanley."

"What! What! What!"

"Oh, Freddy," said his wife plaintively. "You make my head ache. Yes, it's quite true. Celestine had it from William the footman. Fancy, Gentilla having all that money. How lucky she is."

"Oh, damn her; damn her," growled Garvington, breaking another glass.

"Why, dear. I'm sure she's going to make good use of the money. She says-so William told Celestine-that she would give a million to learn for certain who murdered poor Hubert."

"Would she? would she? would she?" Garvington's gooseberry eyes nearly dropped out of his head, and he babbled, and burbled, and choked, and spluttered, until his wife was quite alarmed.

"Freddy, you always eat too fast. Go and lie down, dear."

"Yes," said Garvington, rapidly making up his mind to adopt a certain course about which he wished his wife to know nothing. "I'll lie down, Jane."

"And don't take any more wine," warned Jane, as she drifted out of the dining-room. "You are quite red as it is, dear."

But Freddy did not take this advice, but drank glass after glass until he became pot-valiant. He needed courage, as he intended to go all by himself to the lonely Abbot's Wood Cottage and interview Silver. It occurred to Freddy that if he could induce the secretary to give up Miss Greeby to justice, Mother Cockleshell, out of gratitude, might surrender to him the sum of one million pounds. Of course, the old hag might have been talking all round the shop, and her offer might be bluff, but it was worth taking into consideration. Garvington, thinking that there was no time to lose, since his cousin might be beforehand in denouncing the guilty woman, hurried on his fur overcoat, and after leaving a lying statement with the butler that he had gone to bed, he went out by the useful blue door. In a few minutes he was trotting along the well-known path making up his mind what to say to Silver. The interview did not promise to be an easy one.

"I wish I could do without him," thought the treacherous little scoundrel as he left his own property and struck across the waste ground beyond the park wall. "But I can't, dash it all, since he's the only person who saw the crime actually committed. 'Course he'll get jailed as an accessory-after-the-fact: but when he comes out I'll give him a thousand or so if the old woman parts. At all events, I'll see what Silver is prepared to do, and then I'll call on old Cockleshell and make things right with her. Hang it," Freddy had a qualmish feeling. "The exposure won't be pleasant for me over that unlucky letter, but if I can snaffle a million, it's worth it. Curse the honor of the family, I've got to look after myself somehow. Ho! ho!" he chuckled as he remembered his cousin. "What a sell for Noel when he finds that I've taken the wind out of his sails. Serve him jolly well right."

In this way Garvington kept up his spirits during the walk, and felt entirely cheerful and virtuous by the time he reached the cottage. In the thin, cold moonlight, the wintry wood looked spectral and wan. The sight of the frowning monoliths, the gaunt, frozen trees and the snow-powdered earth, made the luxurious little man shiver. Also the anticipated conversation rather daunted him, although he decided that after all Silver was but a feeble creature who could be easily managed. What Freddy forgot was that he lacked pluck himself, and that Silver, driven into a corner, might fight with the courage of despair. The sight of the secretary's deadly white and terrified face as he opened the door sufficient to peer out showed that he was at bay.

"If you come in I'll shoot," he quavered, brokenly. "I'll-I'll brain you with the poker. I'll throw hot water on you, and-and scratch out your-your-"

"Come, come," said Garvington, boldly. "It's only me-a friend!"

Silver recognized the voice and the dumpy figure of his visitor. At once he dragged him into the passage and barred the door quickly, breathing hard meanwhile. "I don't mind you," he giggled, hysterically. "You're in the same boat with me, my lord. But I fancied when you knocked that the police-the police"-his voice died weakly in his throat: he cast a wild glance around and touched his neck uneasily as though he already felt the hangman's rope encircling it.

Garvington did not approve of this grim pantomime, and swore. "I'm quite alone, damn you," he said roughly. "It's all right, so far!" He sat down and loosened his overcoat, for the place was like a Turkish bath for heat. "I want a drink. You've been priming yourself, I see," and he pointed to a decanter of port wine and a bottle of brandy which were on the table along with a tray of glasses. "Silly ass you are to mix."

"I'm-I'm-keeping up my-my spirits," giggled Silver, wholly unnerved, and pouring out the brandy with a shaking hand. "There you are, my lord. There's water, but no soda."

"Keeping up your spirits by pouring spirits down," said Garvington, venturing on a weak joke. "You're in a state of siege, too."

Silver certainly was. He had bolted the shutters, and had piled furniture against the two windows of the room. On the table beside the decanter and bottles of brandy, lay a poker, a heavy club which Lambert had brought from Africa, and had left behind when he gave up the cottage, a revolver loaded in all six chambers, and a large bread knife. Apparently the man was in a dangerous state of despair and was ready to give the officers of the law a hostile welcome when they came to arrest him. He touched the various weapons feverishly.

"I'll give them beans," he said, looking fearfully from right to left. "Every door is locked; every window is bolted. I've heaped up chairs and sofas and tables and chests of drawers, and wardrobes and mattresses against every opening to keep the devils out. And the lamps-look at the lamps. Ugh!" he shuddered. "I can't bear to be in the dark."

"Plenty of light," observed Garvington, and spoke truly, for there must have been at least six lamps in the room-two on the table, two on the mantel-piece, and a couple on the sideboard. And amidst his primitive defences sat Silver quailing and quivering at every sound, occasionally pouring brandy down his throat to keep up his courage.

The white looks of the man, the disorder of the room, the glare of the many lights, and the real danger of the situation, communicated their thrill to Garvington. He shivered and looked into shadowy corners, as Silver did; then strove to reassure both himself and his companion. "Don't worry so," he said, sipping his brandy to keep him up to concert pitch, "I've got an idea which will be good for both of us."

"What is it?" questioned the secretary cautiously. He naturally did not trust the man who had betrayed him.

"Do you know who has inherited Pine's money?"

"No. The person named in the sealed envelope?"

"Exactly, and the person is Mother Cockleshell."

Silver was so amazed that he forgot his fright. "What? Is Gentilla Stanley related to Pine?"

"She's his grandmother, it seems. One of my servants was at the camp to-day and found the gypsies greatly excited over the old cat's windfall."

"Whew!" Silver whistled and drew a deep breath. "If I'd known that, I'd have got round the old woman. But it's too late now since all the fat is on the fire. Mr. Lambert knows too much, and you have confessed what should have been kept quiet."

"I had to save my own skin," said Garvington sullenly. "After all, I had nothing to do with the murder. I never guessed that you were so mixed up in it until Lambert brought that bullet to fit the revolver I lent you."

"And which I gave to Miss Greeby," snapped Silver tartly. "She is the criminal, not me. What a wax she will be in when she learns the truth. I expect your cousin will have her arrested."

"I don't think so. He has some silly idea in his head about the honor of our name, and won't press matters unless he is forced to."

"Who can force him?" asked Silver, looking more at ease, since he saw a gleam of hope.

"Chaldea! She's death on making trouble."

"Can't we silence her? Remember you swing on my hook."

"No, I don't," contradicted Garvington sharply. "I can't be arrested."

"For forging that letter you can!"

"Not at all. I did not write it to lure Pine to his death, but only wished to maim him."

"That will get you into trouble," insisted Silver, anxious to have a companion in misery.

"It won't, I tell you. There's no one to prosecute. You are the person who is in danger, as you knew Miss Greeby to be guilty, and are therefore an accessory after the fact."

"If Mr. Lambert has the honor of your family at heart he will do nothing," said the secretary hopefully; "for if Miss Greeby is arrested along with me the writing of that letter is bound to come out."

"I don't care. It's worth a million."

"What is worth a million?"

"The exposure. See here, Silver, I hear that Mother Cockleshell is willing to hand over that sum to the person who finds the murderer of her grandson. We know that Miss Greeby is guilty, so why not give her up and earn the money?"

The secretary rose in quivering alarm. "But I'd be arrested also. You said so; you know you said so."

"And I say so again," remarked Garvington, leaning back coolly. "You'd not be hanged, you know, although she would. A few years in prison would be your little lot and when you came out I could give you say-er-er-ten thousand pounds. There! That's a splendid offer."

"Where would you get the ten thousand? Tell me!" asked Silver with a curious look.

"From the million Mother Cockleshell would hand over to me."

"For denouncing me?"

"For denouncing Miss Greeby."

"You beast!" shrieked Silver hysterically. "You know quite well that if she is taken by the police I have no chance of escaping. I'd run away now if I had the cash. But I haven't. I count on your cousin keeping quiet because of your family name, and you shan't give the show away."

"But think," said Garvington, persuasively, "a whole million."

"For you, and only ten thousand for me. Oh, I like that."

"Well, I'll make it twenty thousand."

"No! no."

"Thirty thousand."

"No! no! no!"

"Forty, fifty, sixty, seventy-oh, hang it, you greedy beast! I'll give you one hundred thousand. You'd be rich for life then."

"Would I, curse you!" Silver clenched his fists and backed against the wall looking decidedly dangerous. "And risk a life-long sentence to get the money while you take the lion's share."

"You'd only get ten years at most," argued the visitor, annoyed by what he considered to be silly objections.

"Ten years are ten centuries at my time of life. You shan't denounce me."

Garvington rose. "Yes, I shall," he declared, rendered desperate by the dread lest he should lose the million. "I'm going to Wanbury to-night to tell Inspector Darby and get a warrant for Miss Greeby's arrest along with yours as her accomplice."

Silver flung himself forward and gripped Garving

ton's coat. "You daren't!"

"Yes, I dare. I can't be hurt. I didn't murder the man and I'm not going to lose a pile of money for your silly scruples."

"Oh, my lord, consider." Silver in a panic dropped on his knees. "I shall be shut up for years; it will kill me; it will kill me! And you don't know what a terrible and clever woman Miss Greeby is. She may deny that I gave her the revolver and I can't prove that I did. Then I might be accused of the crime and hanged. Hanged!" cried the poor wretch miserably. "Oh, you'll never give me away, my lord, will you."

"Confound you, don't I risk my reputation to get the money," raged Garvington, shaking off the trembling arms which were round his knees. "The truth of the letter will have to come out, and then I'm dished so far as society is concerned. I wouldn't do it-tell that is-but that the stakes are so large. One million is waiting to be picked up and I'm going to pick it up."

"No! no! no! no!" Silver grovelled on the floor and embraced Garvington's feet. But the more he wailed the more insulting and determined did the visitor become. Like all tyrants and bullies Garvington gained strength and courage from the increased feebleness of his victim. "Don't give me up," wept the secretary, nearly beside himself with terror; "don't give me up."

"Oh, damn you, get out of the way!" said Garvington, and made for the door. "I go straight to Wanbury," which statement was a lie, as he first intended to see Mother Cockleshell at the camp and make certain that the reward was safe. But Silver believed him and was goaded to frenzy.

"You shan't go!" he screamed, leaping to his feet, and before Garvington knew where he was the secretary had the heavy poker in his grasp. The little fat lord gave a cry of terror and dodged the first blow which merely fell on his shoulder. But the second alighted on his head and with a moan he dropped to the ground. Silver flung away the poker.

"Are you dead? are you dead?" he gasped, kneeling beside Garvington, and placed his hand on the senseless man's heart. It still beat feebly, so he arose with a sigh of relief. "He's only stunned," panted Silver, and staggered unsteadily to the table to seize a glass of brandy. "I'll, ah-ah-ah!" he shrieked and dropped the tumbler as a loud and continuous knocking came to the front door.

Naturally in his state of panic he believed that the police had actually arrived, and here he had struck down Lord Garvington. Even though the little man was not dead, Silver knew that the assault would add to his punishment, although he might have concluded that the lesser crime was swallowed up in the greater. But he was too terrified to think of doing anything save hiding the stunned man, and with a gigantic effort he managed to fling the body behind the sofa. Then he piled up rugs and cushions between the wall and the back of the sofa until Garvington was quite hidden and ran a considerable risk of being suffocated. All the time the ominous knocking continued, as though the gallows was being constructed. At least it seemed so to Silver's disturbed fancy, and he crept along to the door holding the revolver in an unsteady grip.

"Who-who-is-"

"Let me in; let me in," said a loud, hard voice. "I'm Miss Greeby. I have come to save you. Let me in."

Silver had no hesitation in obeying, since she was in as much danger as he was and could not hurt him without hurting herself. With trembling fingers he unbolted the door and opened it, to find her tall and stately and tremendously impatient on the threshold. She stepped in and banged the door to without locking it. Silver's teeth chattered so much and his limbs trembled so greatly that he could scarcely move or speak. On seeing this-for there was a lamp in the passage-Miss Greeby picked him up in her big arms like a baby and made for the sitting-room. When, within she pitched Silver on to the sofa behind which Garvington lay senseless, and placing her arms akimbo surveyed him viciously.

"You infernal worm!" said Miss Greeby, grim and savage in her looks, "you have split on me, have you?"

"How-how-how do you know?" quavered Silver mechanically, noting that in her long driving coat with a man's cap she looked more masculine than ever.

"How do I know? Because Chaldea was hiding under the studio window this afternoon and overheard all that passed between you and Garvington and that meddlesome Lambert. She knew that I was in danger and came at once to London to tell me since I had given her my address. I lost no time, but motored down here and dropped her at the camp. Now I've come to get you out of the country."

"Me out of the country?" stammered the secretary.

"Yes, you cowardly swine, although I'd rather choke the life out of you if it could be done with safety. You denounced me, you beast."

"I had to; my own neck was in danger."

"It's in danger now. I'd strangle you for two pins. But I intend to send you abroad since your evidence is dangerous to me. If you are out of the way there's no one else can state that I shot Pine. Here's twenty pounds in gold;" she thrust a canvas bag into the man's shaking hands; "get on your coat and cap and I'll take you to the nearest seaport wherever that is. My motor is on the verge of the wood. You must get on board some ship and sail for the world's end. I'll send you more money when you write. Come, come," she stamped, "sharp's the word."

"But-but-but-"

Miss Greeby lifted him off the sofa by the scruff of the neck. "Do you want to be killed?" she said between her teeth, "there's no time to be lost. Chaldea tells me that Lambert threatens to have me arrested."

The prospect of safety and prosperity in a distant land so appealed to Silver that he regained his courage in a wonderfully short space of time. Rising to his feet he hastily drained another glass of brandy and the color came back to his wan cheeks. But for all the quantity he had drank that same evening he was not in the least intoxicated. He was about to rush out of the room to get his coat and cap when Miss Greeby laid a heavy hand on his shoulder.

"Is there any one else in the house?" she asked suspiciously.

Silver cast a glance towards the sofa. "There's no servant," he said in a stronger voice. "I have been cooking and looking after myself since I came here. But-but-but-"

"But what, you hound?" she shook him fiercely.

"Garvington's behind the sofa."

"Garvington!" Miss Greeby was on the spot in a moment pulling away the concealing rugs and cushions. "Have you murdered him?" she demanded, drawing a deep breath and looking at the senseless man.

"No, he's only stunned. I struck him with the poker because he wanted to denounce me."

"Quite right." Miss Greeby patted the head of her accomplice as if he were a child, "You're bolder than I thought. Go on; hurry up! Before Garvington recovers his senses we'll be far enough away. Denounce me; denounce him, will you?" she said, looking at Garvington while the secretary slipped out of the room; "you do so at your own cost, my lord. That forged letter won't tell in your favor. Ha!" she started to her feet. "What's that! Who's here?"

She might well ask. There was a struggle going on in the passage, and she heard cries for help. Miss Greeby flung open the sitting-room door, and Silver, embracing Mother Cockleshell, tumbled at her feet. "She got in by the door you left open," cried Silver breathlessly, "hold her or we are lost; we'll never get away."

"No, you won't!" shouted the dishevelled old woman, producing a knife to keep Miss Greeby at bay. "Chaldea came to the camp and I learned through Kara how she'd brought you down, my Gentile lady. I went to tell the golden rye, and he's on the way here with the village policeman. You're done for."

"Not yet." Miss Greeby darted under the uplifted knife and caught Gentilla round the waist. The next moment the old woman was flung against the wall, breathless and broken up. But she still contrived to hurl curses at the murderess of her grandson.

"I saw you shoot him; I saw you shoot him," screamed Mother Cockleshell, trying to rise.

"Silver, make for the motor; it's near the camp; follow the path," ordered Miss Greeby breathlessly; "there's no time to be lost. As to this old devil-" she snatched up a lamp as the secretary dashed out of the house, and flung it fairly at Gentilla Stanley. In a moment the old woman was yelling with agony, and scrambled to her feet a pillar of fire. Miss Greeby laughed in a taunting manner and hurled another lamp behind the sofa. "You'd have given me up also, would you, Garvington?" she cried in her deep tone; "take that, and that, and that."

Lamp after lamp was smashed and burst into flames, until only one was left. Then Miss Greeby, seeing with satisfaction that the entire room was on fire and hearing the sound of hasty footsteps and the echoing of distant voices, rushed in her turn from the cottage. As she bolted the voice of Garvington screaming with pain and dread was heard as he came to his senses to find himself encircled by fire. And Mother Cockleshell also shrieked, not so much because of her agony as to stop Miss Greeby from escaping.

"Rye! Rye! she's running; catch her; catch her. Aha-aha-aha!" and she sank into the now blazing furnace of the room.

The walls of the cottage were of mud, the partitions and roof of wood and thatch, so the whole place soon burned like a bonfire. Miss Greeby shot out of the door and strode at a quick pace across the glade. But as she passed beyond the monoliths, Lambert, in company with a policeman, made a sudden appearance and blocked her way of escape. With a grim determination to thwart him she kilted up her skirts and leaped like a kangaroo towards the undergrowth beneath the leafless trees. By this time the flames were shooting through the thatched roof in long scarlet streamers and illuminated the spectral wood with awful light.

"Stop! stop!" cried Lambert, racing to cut off the woman's retreat, closely followed by the constable.

Miss Greeby laughed scornfully, and instead of avoiding them as they crossed her path, she darted straight towards the pair. In a moment, by a dexterous touch of her shoulders right and left, she knocked them over by taking them unawares, and then sprang down the path which curved towards the gypsies' encampment. At its end the motor was waiting, and so vivid was the light that she saw Silver's black figure bending down as he frantically strove to start the machine. She travelled at top speed, fearful lest the man should escape without her.

Then came an onrush of Romany, attracted to the glade by the fire. They guessed from Miss Greeby's haste that something was seriously wrong and tried to stop her. But, delivering blows straight from the shoulder, here, there, and everywhere, the woman managed to break through, and finally reached the end of the pathway. Here was the motor and safety, since she hoped to make a dash for the nearest seaport and get out of the kingdom before the police authorities could act.

But the stars in their course fought against her. Silver, having started the machinery, was already handling the steering gear, and bent only upon saving his own miserable self, had put the car in motion. He could only drive in a slip-slop amateur way and aimlessly zigzagged down the sloping bank which fell away to the high road. As the motor began to gather speed Miss Greeby ran for her life and liberty, ranging at length breathlessly alongside. The gypsies tailed behind, shouting.

"Stop, you beast!" screamed Miss Greeby, feeling fear for the first time, and she tried to grab the car for the purpose of swinging herself on board.

But Silver urged it to greater speed. "I save myself; myself," he shrieked shrilly and unhinged by deadly terror, "get away; get away."

In his panic he twisted the wheel in the wrong direction, and the big machine swerved obediently. The next moment Miss Greeby was knocked down and writhed under the wheels. She uttered a tragic cry, but little Silver cared for that. Rendered merciless with fear he sent the car right over her body, and then drove desperately down the hill to gain the hard road. Miss Greeby, with a broken back, lay on the ground and saw as in a ghastly dream her machine flash roaring along the highway driven by a man who could not manage it. Even in her pain a smile crept over her pale face.

"He's done for, the little beast," she muttered, "he'll smash. Lambert! Lambert!" The man whose name she breathed had arrived as she spoke; and knelt breathlessly beside her to raise her head. "You-you-oh, poor creature!" he gasped.

"I'm done for, Lambert," she panted in deadly pain, "back broken. I sinned for you, but-but you can't hang me. Look-look after Garvington-Cockleshell too-look-look-Augh!" and she moaned.

"Where are they?"

"In-in-the-cottage," murmured the woman, and fell back in a fainting condition with a would-be sneering laugh.

Lambert started to his feet with an oath, and leaving the wretched woman to the care of some gypsies, ran back to the glade. The cottage was a mass of streaming, crackling flames, and there was no water to extinguish these, as he realized with sudden fear. It was terrible to think that the old woman and Garvington were burning in that furnace, and desperately anxious to save at least one of the two, Lambert tried to enter the door. But the heat of the fire drove him back, and the flames seemed to roar at his discomfiture. He could do nothing but stand helplessly and gaze upon what was plainly Garvington's funeral pyre.

By this time the villagers were making for the wood, and the whole place rang with cries of excitement and dismay. The wintry scene was revealed only too clearly by the ruddy glare and by the same sinister light. Lambert suddenly beheld Chaldea at his elbow. Gripping his arm, she spoke hoarsely, "The tiny rye is dead. He drove the engine over a bank and it smashed him to a pulp."

"Oh! ah! And-and Miss Greeby?"

"She is dying."

Lambert clenched his hands and groaned, "Garvington and Mother Cockleshell?"

"She is dead and he is dead by now," said Chaldea, looking with a callous smile at the burning cottage, "both are dead-Lord Garvington."

"Lord Garvington?" Lambert groaned again. He had forgotten that he now possessed the title and what remained of the family estates.

"Avali!" cried Chaldea, clapping her hands and nodding toward the cottage with a meaning smile, "there's the bonfire to celebrate the luck."

* * *

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