Part 5 out of 5
"I wish to look at those shoes again," he said coldly.
"Certainly, sir," said Ashe.
"I can manage without your assistance," said Baxter.
"Very good, Sir."
Leaning against the wall, Ashe watched him with silent interest,
as he burrowed among the contents of the basket, like a terrier
digging for rats. The Earl of Emsworth took no notice of the
proceedings. He yawned plaintively, and pottered about the room.
He was one of Nature's potterers.
The scrutiny of the man whom he had now placed definitely as a
malefactor irritated Baxter. Ashe was looking at him in an
insufferably tolerant manner, as if he were an indulgent father
brooding over his infant son while engaged in some childish
frolic. He lodged a protest.
"Don't stand there staring at me!"
"I was interested in what you were doing, sir."
"Never mind! Don't stare at me in that idiotic way."
"May I read a book, sir?"
"Yes, read if you like."
"Thank you, sir."
Ashe took a volume from the butler's slenderly stocked shelf. The
shoe-expert resumed his investigations in the basket. He went
through it twice, but each time without success. After the second
search he stood up and looked wildly about the room. He was as
certain as he could be of anything that the missing piece of
evidence was somewhere within those four walls. There was very
little cover in the room, even for so small a fugitive as a shoe.
He raised the tablecloth and peered beneath the table.
"Are you looking for Mr. Beach, sir?" said Ashe. "I think he has
gone to church."
Baxter, pink with his exertions, fastened a baleful glance upon
"You had better be careful," he said.
At this point the Earl of Emsworth, having done all the pottering
possible in the restricted area, yawned like an alligator.
"Now, my dear Baxter--" he began querulously.
Baxter was not listening. He was on the trail. He had caught
sight of a small closet in the wall, next to the mantelpiece, and
it had stimulated him.
"What is in this closet?"
"That closet, sir?"
"Yes, this closet." He rapped the door irritably.
"I could not say, sir. Mr. Beach, to whom the closet belongs,
possibly keeps a few odd trifles there. A ball of string,
perhaps. Maybe an old pipe or something of that kind. Probably
nothing of value or interest."
"It appears to be locked, sir--"
"But where is the key?"
Baxter thought for a moment.
"Lord Emsworth," he said, "I have my reasons for thinking that
this man is deliberately keeping the contents of this closet from
me. I am convinced that the shoe is in there. Have I your leave
to break open the door?"
The earl looked a little dazed, as if he were unequal to the
intellectual pressure of the conversation.
"Now, my dear Baxter," said the earl impatiently, "please tell me
once again why you have brought me in here. I cannot make head or
tail of what you have been saying. Apparently you accuse this
young man of keeping his shoes in a closet. Why should you
suspect him of keeping his shoes in a closet? And if he wishes to
do so, why on earth should not he keep his shoes in a closet?
This is a free country."
"Exactly, your lordship," said Ashe approvingly. "You have
touched the spot."
"It all has to do with the theft of your scarab, Lord Emsworth.
Somebody got into the museum and stole the scarab."
"Ah, yes; ah, yes--so they did. I remember now. You told me.
Bad, business that, my dear Baxter. Mr. Peters gave me that
scarab. He will be most deucedly annoyed if it's lost. Yes,
"Whoever stole it upset the can of red paint and stepped in it."
"Devilish careless of them. It must have made the dickens of a
mess. Why don't people look where they are walking?"
"I suspect this man of shielding the criminal by hiding her shoe
in this closet."
"Oh, it's not his own shoes that this young man keeps in
"It is a woman's shoe, Lord Emsworth."
"The deuce it is! Then it was a woman who stole the scarab? Is
that the way you figure it out? Bless my soul, Baxter, one
wonders what women are coming to nowadays. It's all this
movement, I suppose. The Vote, and all that--eh? I recollect
having a chat with the Marquis of Petersfield some time ago. He
is in the Cabinet, and he tells me it is perfectly infernal the
way these women carry on. He said sometimes it got to such a
pitch, with them waving banners and presenting petitions, and
throwing flour and things at a fellow, that if he saw his own
mother coming toward him, with a hand behind her back, he would
run like a rabbit. Told me so himself."
"So," said the Efficient Baxter, cutting in on the flow of
speech, "what I wish to do is to break open this closet."
"To get the shoe."
"The shoe? . . . Ah, yes, I recollect now. You were telling me."
"If your lordship has no objection."
"Objection, my dear fellow? None in the world. Why should I have
any objection? Let me see! What is it you wish to do?"
"This," said Baxter shortly.
He seized the poker from the fireplace and delivered two rapid
blows on the closet door. The wood was splintered. A third blow
smashed the flimsy lock. The closet, with any skeletons it might
contain, was open for all to view.
It contained a corkscrew, a box of matches, a paper-covered copy
of a book entitled "Mary, the Beautiful Mill-Hand," a bottle of
embrocation, a spool of cotton, two pencil-stubs, and other
useful and entertaining objects. It contained, in fact, almost
everything except a paint-splashed shoe, and Baxter gazed at the
collection in dumb disappointment.
"Are you satisfied now, my dear Baxter," said the earl, "or is
there any more furniture that you would like to break? You know,
this furniture breaking is becoming a positive craze with you, my
dear fellow. You ought to fight against it. The night before
last, I don't know how many tables broken in the hall; and now
this closet. You will ruin me. No purse can stand the constant
Baxter did not reply. He was still trying to rally from the blow.
A chance remark of Lord Emsworth's set him off on the trail once
more. Lord Emsworth, having said his say, had dismissed the
affair from his mind and begun to potter again. The course of his
pottering had brought him to the fireplace, where a little pile
of soot on the fender caught his eye. He bent down to inspect it.
"Dear me!" he said. "I must remember to tell Beach to have his
chimney swept. It seems to need it badly."
No trumpet-call ever acted more instantaneously on old war-horse
than this simple remark on the Efficient Baxter. He was still
convinced that Ashe had hidden the shoe somewhere in the room,
and, now that the closet had proved an alibi, the chimney was the
only spot that remained unsearched. He dived forward with a rush,
nearly knocking Lord Emsworth off his feet, and thrust an arm up
into the unknown. The startled peer, having recovered his
balance, met Ashe's respectfully pitying gaze.
"We must humor him," said the gaze, more plainly than speech.
Baxter continued to grope. The chimney was a roomy chimney, and
needed careful examination. He wriggled his hand about
clutchingly. From time to time soot fell in gentle showers.
"My dear Baxter!"
Baxter was baffled. He withdrew his hand from the chimney, and
straightened himself. He brushed a bead of perspiration from his
face with the back of his hand. Unfortunately, he used the sooty
hand, and the result was too much for Lord Emsworth's politeness.
He burst into a series of pleased chuckles.
"Your face, my dear Baxter! Your face! It is positively covered
with soot--positively! You must go and wash it. You are quite
black. Really, my dear fellow, you present rather an
extraordinary appearance. Run off to your room."
Against this crowning blow the Efficient Baxter could not stand
up. It was the end.
"Soot!" he murmured weakly. "Soot!"
"Your face is covered, my dear fellow--quite covered."
"It certainly has a faintly sooty aspect, sir," said Ashe.
His voice roused the sufferer to one last flicker of spirit.
"You will hear more of this," he said. "You will--"
At this moment, slightly muffled by the intervening door and
passageway, there came from the direction of the hall a sound
like the delivery of a ton of coal. A heavy body bumped down the
stairs, and a voice which all three recognized as that of the
Honorable Freddie uttered an oath that lost itself in a final
crash and a musical splintering sound, which Baxter for one had
no difficulty in recognizing as the dissolution of occasional
Even if they had not so able a detective as Baxter with them,
Lord Emsworth and Ashe would have been at no loss to guess what
had happened. Doctor Watson himself could have deduced it from
the evidence. The Honorable Freddie had fallen downstairs.
* * *
With a little ingenuity this portion of the story of Mr. Peters'
scarab could be converted into an excellent tract, driving home
the perils, even in this world, of absenting one's self from
church on Sunday morning. If the Honorable Freddie had gone to
church he would not have been running down the great staircase at
the castle at this hour; and if he had not been running down the
great staircase at the castle at that hour he would not have
Muriel was a Persian cat belonging to Lady Ann Warblington. Lady
Ann had breakfasted in bed and lain there late, as she rather
fancied she had one of her sick headaches coming on. Muriel had
left her room in the wake of the breakfast tray, being anxious to
be present at the obsequies of a fried sole that had formed Lady
Ann's simple morning meal, and had followed the maid who bore it
until she had reached the hall.
At this point the maid, who disliked Muriel, stopped and made a
noise like an exploding pop bottle, at the same time taking a
little run in Muriel's direction and kicking at her with a
menacing foot. Muriel, wounded and startled, had turned in her
tracks and sprinted back up the staircase at the exact moment
when the Honorable Freddie, who for some reason was in a great
hurry, ran lightly down.
There was an instant when Freddie could have saved himself by
planting a number-ten shoe on Muriel's spine, but even in that
crisis he bethought him that he hardly stood solid enough with
the authorities to risk adding to his misdeeds the slaughter of
his aunt's favorite cat, and he executed a rapid swerve. The
spared cat proceeded on her journey upstairs, while Freddie,
touching the staircase at intervals, went on down.
Having reached the bottom, he sat amid the occasional china, like
Marius among the ruins of Carthage, and endeavored to ascertain
the extent of his injuries. He had a dazed suspicion that he was
irretrievably fractured in a dozen places. It was in this
attitude that the rescue party found him. He gazed up at them
with silent pathos.
"In the name of goodness, Frederick," said Lord Emsworth
peevishly, "what do you imagine you are doing?"
Freddie endeavored to rise, but sank back again with a stifled
"It was that bally cat of Aunt Ann's," he said. "It came legging
it up the stairs. I think I've broken my leg."
"You have certainly broken everything else," said his father
unsympathetically. "Between you and Baxter, I wonder there's a
stick of furniture standing in the house."
"Thanks, old chap," said Freddie gratefully as Ashe stepped
forward and lent him an arm. "I think my bally ankle must have
got twisted. I wish you would give me a hand up to my room."
"And, Baxter, my dear fellow," said Lord Emsworth, "you might
telephone to Doctor Bird, in Market Blandings, and ask him to be
good enough to drive out. I am sorry, Freddie," he added, "that
you should have met with this accident; but--but everything is
so--so disturbing nowadays that I feel--I feel most disturbed."
Ashe and the Honorable Freddie began to move across the
hall--Freddie hopping, Ashe advancing with a sort of polka step.
As they reached the stairs there was a sound of wheels outside
and the vanguard of the house party, returned from church,
entered the house.
"It's all very well to give it out officially that Freddie has
fallen downstairs and sprained his ankle," said Colonel Horace
Mant, discussing the affair with the Bishop of Godalming later in
the afternoon; "but it's my firm belief that that fellow Baxter
did precisely as I said he would--ran amuck and inflicted dashed
frightful injuries on young Freddie. When I got into the house
there was Freddie being helped up the stairs, while Baxter, with
his face covered with soot, was looking after him with a sort of
evil grin. What had he smeared his face with soot for, I should
like to know, if he were perfectly sane?
"The whole thing is dashed fishy and mysterious and the sooner I
can get Mildred safely out of the place, the better I shall be
pleased. The fellow's as mad as a hatter!"
When Lord Emsworth, sighting Mr. Peters in the group of returned
churchgoers, drew him aside and broke the news that the valuable
scarab, so kindly presented by him to the castle museum, had been
stolen in the night by some person unknown, he thought the
millionaire took it exceedingly well. Though the stolen object no
longer belonged to him, Mr. Peters no doubt still continued to
take an affectionate interest in it and might have been excused
had he shown annoyance that his gift had been so carelessly
Mr. Peters was, however, thoroughly magnanimous about the matter.
He deprecated the notion that the earl could possibly have
prevented this unfortunate occurrence. He quite understood. He
was not in the least hurt. Nobody could have foreseen such a
calamity. These things happened and one had to accept them. He
himself had once suffered in much the same way, the gem of his
collection having been removed almost beneath his eyes in the
smoothest possible fashion.
Altogether, he relieved Lord Emsworth's mind very much; and when
he had finished doing so he departed swiftly and rang for Ashe.
When Ashe arrived he bubbled over with enthusiasm. He was lyrical
in his praise. He went so far as to slap Ashe on the back. It was
only when the latter disclaimed all credit for what had occurred
that he checked the flow of approbation.
"It wasn't you who got it? Who was it, then?"
"It was Miss Peters' maid. It's a long story; but we were working
in partnership. I tried for the thing and failed, and she
It was with mixed feelings that Ashe listened while Mr. Peters
transferred his adjectives of commendation to Joan. He admired
Joan's courage, he was relieved that her venture had ended
without disaster, and he knew that she deserved whatever anyone
could find to say in praise of her enterprise: but, at first,
though he tried to crush it down, he could not help feeling a
certain amount of chagrin that a girl should have succeeded where
he, though having the advantage of first chance, had failed. The
terms of his partnership with Joan had jarred on him from the
A man may be in sympathy with the modern movement for the
emancipation of woman and yet feel aggrieved when a mere girl
proves herself a more efficient thief than himself. Woman is
invading man's sphere more successfully every day; but there are
still certain fields in which man may consider that he is
rightfully entitled to a monopoly--and the purloining of scarabs
in the watches of the night is surely one of them. Joan, in
Ashe's opinion, should have played a meeker and less active part.
These unworthy emotions did not last long. Whatever his other
shortcomings, Ashe possessed a just mind. By the time he had
found Joan, after Mr. Peters had said his say, and dispatched him
below stairs for that purpose, he had purged himself of petty
regrets and was prepared to congratulate her whole-heartedly. He
was, however, resolved that nothing should induce him to share in
the reward. On that point, he resolved, he would refuse to be
"I have just left Mr. Peters," he began. "All is well. His check
book lies before him on the table and he is trying to make his
fountain pen work long enough to write a check. But there is just
one thing I want to say--"
She interrupted him. To his surprise, she was eyeing him coldly
and with disapproval.
"And there is just one thing I want to say," she said; "and that
is, if you imagine I shall consent to accept a penny of the
"Exactly what I was going to say. Of course I couldn't dream of
taking any of it."
"I don't understand you. You are certainly going to have it all.
I told you when we made our agreement that I should only take my
share if you let me do my share of the work. Now that you have
broken that agreement, nothing could induce me to take it. I know
you meant it kindly, Mr. Marson, but I simply can't feel
grateful. I told you that ours was a business contract and that I
wouldn't have any chivalry; and I thought that after you had
given me your promise--"
"One moment," said Ashe, bewildered. "I can't follow this. What
do you mean?"
"What do I mean? Why, that you went down to the museum last night
before me and took the scarab, though you had promised to stay
away and give me my chance."
"But I didn't do anything of the sort."
It was Joan's turn to look bewildered.
"But you have got the scarab, Mr. Marson?"
"Why, you have got it!"
"But--but it has gone!"
"I know. I went down to the museum last night, as we had
arranged; and when I got there there was no scarab. It had
They looked at each other in consternation. Ashe was the first to
"It was gone when you got to the museum?"
"There wasn't a trace of it. I took it for granted that you had
been down before me. I was furious!"
"But this is ridiculous!" said Ashe. "Who can have taken it?
There was nobody beside ourselves who knew Mr. Peters was
offering the reward. What exactly happened last night?"
"I waited until one o'clock. Then I slipped down, got into the
museum, struck a match, and looked for the scarab. It wasn't
there. I couldn't believe it at first. I struck some more
matches--quite a number--but it was no good. The scarab was gone;
so I went back to bed and thought hard thoughts about you. It was
silly of me. I ought to have known you would not break your word;
but there didn't seem any other solution of the thing's
"Well, somebody must have taken it; and the question is, what are
we to do?" She laughed. "It seems to me that we were a little
premature in quarreling about how we are to divide that reward.
It looks as though there wasn't going to be any reward."
"Meantime," said Ashe gloomily, "I suppose I have got to go back
and tell Peters. I expect it will break his heart."
Blandings Castle dozed in the calm of an English Sunday
afternoon. All was peace. Freddie was in bed, with orders from
the doctor to stay there until further notice. Baxter had washed
his face. Lord Emsworth had returned to his garden fork. The rest
of the house party strolled about the grounds or sat in them, for
the day was one of those late spring days that are warm with a
premature suggestion of midsummer.
Aline Peters was sitting at the open window of her bedroom, which
commanded an extensive view of the terraces. A pile of letters
lay on the table beside her, for she had just finished reading
her mail. The postman came late to the castle on Sundays and she
had not been able to do this until luncheon was over.
Aline was puzzled. She was conscious of a fit of depression for
which she could in no way account. She had a feeling that all was
not well with the world, which was the more remarkable in that
she was usually keenly susceptible to weather conditions and
reveled in sunshine like a kitten. Yet here was a day nearly as
fine as an American day--and she found no solace in it.
She looked down on the terrace; as she looked the figure of
George Emerson appeared, walking swiftly. And at the sight of him
something seemed to tell her that she had found the key to her
There are many kinds of walk. George Emerson's was the walk of
mental unrest. His hands were clasped behind his back, his eyes
stared straight in front of him from beneath lowering brows, and
between his teeth was an unlighted cigar. No man who is not a
professional politician holds an unlighted cigar in his mouth
unless he wishes to irritate and baffle a ticket chopper in the
subway, or because unpleasant meditations have caused him to
forget he has it there. Plainly, then, all was not well with
Aline had suspected as much at luncheon; and looking back she
realized that it was at luncheon her depression had begun. The
discovery startled her a little. She had not been aware, or she
had refused to admit to herself, that George's troubles bulked so
large on her horizon. She had always told herself that she liked
George, that George was a dear old friend, that George amused and
stimulated her; but she would have denied she was so wrapped up
in George that the sight of him in trouble would be enough to
spoil for her the finest day she had seen since she left America.
There was something not only startling but shocking in the
thought; for she was honest enough with herself to recognize that
Freddie, her official loved one, might have paced the grounds of
the castle chewing an unlighted cigar by the hour without
stirring any emotion in her at all.
And she was to marry Freddie next month! This was surely a matter
that called for thought. She proceeded, gazing down the while at
the perambulating George, to give it thought.
Aline's was not a deep nature. She had never pretended to herself
that she loved the Honorable Freddie in the sense in which the
word is used in books. She liked him and she liked the idea of
being connected with the peerage; her father liked the idea and
she liked her father. And the combination of these likings had
caused her to reply "Yes" when, last Autumn, Freddie, swelling
himself out like an embarrassed frog and gulping, had uttered
that memorable speech beginning, "I say, you know, it's like
this, don't you know!"--and ending, "What I mean is, will you
She had looked forward to being placidly happy as the Honorable
Mrs. Frederick Threepwood. And then George Emerson had reappeared
in her life, a disturbing element.
Until to-day she would have resented the suggestion that she was
in love with George. She liked to be with him, partly because he
was so easy to talk to, and partly because it was exciting to be
continually resisting the will power he made no secret of trying
to exercise. But to-day there was a difference. She had suspected
it at luncheon and she realized it now. As she looked down at him
from behind the curtain, and marked his air of gloom, she could
no longer disguise it from herself.
She felt maternal--horribly maternal. George was in trouble and
she wanted to comfort him.
Freddie, too, was in trouble. But did she want to comfort
Freddie? No. On the contrary, she was already regretting her
promise, so lightly given before luncheon, to go and sit with him
that afternoon. A well-marked feeling of annoyance that he should
have been so silly as to tumble downstairs and sprain his ankle
was her chief sentiment respecting Freddie.
George Emerson continued to perambulate and Aline continued to
watch him. At last she could endure it no longer. She gathered up
her letters, stacked them in a corner of the dressing-table and
left the room. George had reached the end of the terrace and
turned when she began to descend the stone steps outside the
front door. He quickened his pace as he caught sight of her. He
halted before her and surveyed her morosely.
"I have been looking for you," he said.
"And here I am. Cheer up, George! Whatever is the matter? I've
been sitting in my room looking at you, and you have been simply
prowling. What has gone wrong?"
"How do you mean--everything?"
"Exactly what I say. I'm done for. Read this."
Aline took the yellow slip of paper. "A cable," added George. "I
got it this morning--mailed on from my rooms in London. Read it."
"I'm trying to. It doesn't seem to make sense."
George laughed grimly.
"It makes sense all right."
"I don't see how you can say that. 'Meredith elephant
"Office cipher; I was forgetting. 'Elephant' means 'Seriously ill
and unable to attend to duty.' Meredith is one of the partners in
my firm in New York."
"Oh, I'm so sorry! Do you think he is very sick? Are you very
fond of Mr. Meredith?"
"Meredith is a good fellow and I like him; but if it was simply a
matter of his being ill I'm afraid I could manage to bear up
under the news. Unfortunately 'kangaroo' means 'Return, without
fail, by the next boat.'"
"You must return by the next boat?" Aline looked at him, in her
eyes a slow-growing comprehension of the situation. "Oh!" she
said at length.
"I put it stronger than that," said George.
"But--the next boat---- That means on Wednesday."
"Wednesday morning, from Southampton. I shall have to leave here
Aline's eyes were fixed on the blue hills across the valley, but
she did not see them. There was a mist between. She was feeling
crushed and ill-treated and lonely. It was as though George was
already gone and she left alone in an alien land.
"But, George!" she said; she could find no other words for her
protest against the inevitable.
"It's bad luck," said Emerson quietly; "but I shouldn't wonder if
it is not the best thing that really could have happened. It
finishes me cleanly, instead of letting me drag on and make both
of us miserable. If this cable hadn't come I suppose I should
have gone on bothering you up to the day of your wedding. I
should have fancied, to the last moment, that there was a chance
for me; but this ends me with one punch.
"Even I haven't the nerve to imagine that I can work a miracle in
the few hours before the train leaves to-morrow. I must just make
the best of it. If we ever meet again--and I don't see why we
should--you will be married. My particular brand of mental
suggestion doesn't work at long range. I shan't hope to influence
you by telepathy."
He leaned on the balustrade at her side and spoke in a low, level
"This thing," he said, "coming as a shock, coming out of the blue
sky without warning--Meredith is the last man in the world you
would expect to crack up; he looked as fit as a dray horse the
last time I saw him--somehow seems to have hammered a certain
amount of sense into me. Odd it never struck me before; but I
suppose I have been about the most bumptious, conceited fool that
"Why I should have imagined that there was a sort of irresistible
fascination in me, which was bound to make you break off your
engagement and upset the whole universe simply to win the
wonderful reward of marrying me, is more than I can understand. I
suppose it takes a shock to make a fellow see exactly what he
really amounts to. I couldn't think any more of you than I do;
but, if I could, the way you have put up with my mouthing and
swaggering and posing as a sort of superman, would make me do it.
You have been wonderful!"
Aline could not speak. She felt as though her whole world had
been turned upside down in the last quarter of an hour. This was
a new George Emerson, a George at whom it was impossible to
laugh, but an insidiously attractive George. Her heart beat
quickly. Her mind was not clear; but dimly she realized that he
had pulled down her chief barrier of defense and that she was
more open to attack than she had ever been. Obstinacy, the
automatic desire to resist the pressure of a will that attempted
to overcome her own, had kept her cool and level-headed in the
past. With masterfulness she had been able to cope. Humility was
another thing altogether.
Soft-heartedness was Aline's weakness. She had never clearly
recognized it, but it had been partly pity that had induced her
to accept Freddie; he had seemed so downtrodden and sorry for
himself during those Autumn days when they had first met.
Prudence warned her that strange things might happen if once she
allowed herself to pity George Emerson.
The silence lengthened. Aline could find nothing to say. In her
present mood there was danger in speech.
"We have known each other so long," said Emerson, "and I have
told you so often that I love you, we have come to make almost a
joke of it, as though we were playing some game. It just happens
that that is our way--to laugh at things; but I am going to say
it once again, even though it has come to be a sort of catch
phrase. I love you! I'm reconciled to the fact that I am done
for, out of the running, and that you are going to marry somebody
else; but I am not going to stop loving you.
"It isn't a question of whether I should be happier if I forgot
you. I can't do it. It's just an impossibility--and that's all
there is to it. Whatever I may be to you, you are part of me, and
you always will be part of me. I might just as well try to go on
living without breathing as living without loving you."
He stopped and straightened himself.
"That's all! I don't want to spoil a perfectly good Spring
afternoon for you by pulling out the tragic stop. I had to say
all that; but it's the last time. It shan't occur again. There
will be no tragedy when I step into the train to-morrow. Is there
any chance that you might come and see me off?"
"You will? That will be splendid! Now I'll go and pack and break
it to my host that I must leave him. I expect, it will be news to
him to learn that I am here. I doubt if he knows me by sight."
Aline stood where he had left her, leaning on the balustrade. In
the fullness of time there came to her the recollection she had
promised Freddie that shortly after luncheon she would sit with
* * *
The Honorable Freddie, draped in purple pyjamas and propped up
with many pillows, was lying in bed, reading Gridley Quayle,
Investigator. Aline's entrance occurred at a peculiarly poignant
moment in the story and gave him a feeling of having been brought
violently to earth from a flight in the clouds. It is not often
an author has the good fortune to grip a reader as the author of
Gridley Quayle gripped Freddie.
One of the results of his absorbed mood was that he greeted Aline
with a stare of an even glassier quality than usual. His eyes
were by nature a trifle prominent; and to Aline, in the
overstrung condition in which her talk with George Emerson had
left her, they seemed to bulge at her like a snail's. A man
seldom looks his best in bed, and to Aline, seeing him for the
first time at this disadvantage, the Honorable Freddie seemed
quite repulsive. It was with a feeling of positive panic that she
wondered whether he would want her to kiss him.
Freddie made no such demand. He was not one of your demonstrative
lovers. He contented himself with rolling over in bed and
dropping his lower jaw.
Aline sat down on the edge of the bed.
Her betrothed improved his appearance a little by hitching up his
jaw. As though feeling that would be too extreme a measure, he
did not close his mouth altogether; but he diminished the abyss.
The Honorable Freddie belonged to the class of persons who move
through life with their mouths always restfully open.
It seemed to Aline that on this particular afternoon a strange
dumbness had descended on her. She had been unable to speak to
George and now she could not think of anything to say to Freddie.
She looked at him and he looked at her; and the clock on the
mantel-piece went on ticking.
"It was that bally cat of Aunt Ann's," said Freddie at length,
essaying light conversation. "It came legging it up the stairs
and I took the most frightful toss. I hate cats! Do you hate
cats? I knew a fellow in London who couldn't stand cats."
Aline began to wonder whether there was not something permanently
wrong with her organs of speech. It should have been a simple
matter to develop the cat theme, but she found herself unable to
do so. Her mind was concentrated, to the exclusion of all else,
on the repellent nature of the spectacle provided by her loved
one in pyjamas. Freddie resumed the conversation.
"I was just reading a corking book. Have you ever read these
things? They come out every month, and they're corking. The
fellow who writes them must be a corker. It beats me how he
thinks of these things. They are about a detective--a chap called
Gridley Quayle. Frightfully exciting!"
An obvious remedy for dumbness struck Aline.
"Shall I read to you, Freddie?"
"Right-ho! Good scheme! I've got to the top of this page."
Aline took the paper-covered book.
"'Seven guns covered him with deadly precision.' Did you get as
far as that?"
"Yes; just beyond. It's a bit thick, don't you know! This chappie
Quayle has been trapped in a lonely house, thinking he was going
to see a pal in distress; and instead of the pal there pop out a
whole squad of masked blighters with guns. I don't see how he's
going to get out of it, myself; but I'll bet he does. He's a
If anybody could have pitied Aline more than she pitied herself,
as she waded through the adventures of Mr. Quayle, it would have
been Ashe Marson. He had writhed as he wrote the words and she
writhed as she read them. The Honorable Freddie also writhed, but
with tense excitement.
"What's the matter? Don't stop!" he cried as Aline's voice
"I'm getting hoarse, Freddie."
Freddie hesitated. The desire to remain on the trail with Gridley
struggled with rudimentary politeness.
"How would it be--Would you mind if I just took a look at the
rest of it myself? We could talk afterward, you know. I shan't be
"Of course! Do read if you want to. But do you really like this
sort of thing, Freddie?"
"Me? Rather! Why--don't you?"
"I don't know. It seems a little--I don't know."
Freddie had become absorbed in his story. Aline did not attempt
further analysis of her attitude toward Mr. Quayle; she relapsed
It was a silence pregnant with thought. For the first time in
their relations, she was trying to visualize to herself exactly
what marriage with this young man would mean. Hitherto, it struck
her, she had really seen so little of Freddie that she had
scarcely had a chance of examining him. In the crowded world
outside he had always seemed a tolerable enough person. To-day,
somehow, he was different. Everything was different to-day.
This, she took it, was a fair sample of what she might expect
after marriage. Marriage meant--to come to essentials--that two
people were very often and for lengthy periods alone together,
dependent on each other for mutual entertainment. What exactly
would it be like, being alone often and for lengthy periods with
Freddie? Well, it would, she assumed, be like this.
"It's all right," said Freddie without looking up. "He did get
out! He had a bomb on him, and he threatened to drop it and blow
the place to pieces unless the blighters let him go. So they
cheesed it. I knew he had something up his sleeve."
Like this! Aline drew a deep breath. It would be like
this--forever and ever and ever--until she died. She bent forward
and stared at him.
"Freddie," she said, "do you love me?" There was no reply.
"Freddie, do you love me? Am I a part of you? If you hadn't me
would it be like trying to go on living without breathing?"
The Honorable Freddie raised a flushed face and gazed at her with
an absent eye.
"Eh? What?" he said. "Do I--Oh; yes, rather! I say, one of the
blighters has just loosed a ratttlesnake into Gridley Quayle's
bedroom through the transom!"
Aline rose from her seat and left the room softly. The Honorable
Freddie read on, unheeding.
* * *
Ashe Marson had not fallen far short of the truth in his estimate
of the probable effect on Mr. Peters of the information that his
precious scarab had once more been removed by alien hands and was
now farther from his grasp than ever. A drawback to success in
life is that failure, when it does come, acquires an exaggerated
importance. Success had made Mr. Peters, in certain aspects of
his character, a spoiled child.
At the moment when Ashe broke the news he would have parted with
half his fortune to recover the scarab. Its recovery had become a
point of honor. He saw it as the prize of a contest between his
will and that of whatever malignant powers there might be ranged
against him in the effort to show him that there were limits to
what he could achieve. He felt as he had felt in the old days
when people sneaked up on him in Wall Street and tried to loosen
his grip on a railroad or a pet stock. He was suffering from that
form of paranoia which makes men multimillionaires. Nobody would
be foolish enough to become a multimillionaire if it were not for
the desire to prove himself irresistible.
Mr. Peters obtained a small relief for his feelings by doubling
the existing reward, and Ashe went off in search of Joan, hoping
that this new stimulus, acting on their joint brains, might
"Have any fresh ideas been vouchsafed to you?" he asked. "You may
look on me as baffled."
Joan shook her head.
"Don't give up," she urged. "Think again. Try to realize what
this means, Mr. Marson. Between us we have lost ten thousand
dollars in a single night. I can't afford it. It is like losing a
legacy. I absolutely refuse to give in without an effort and go
back to writing duke-and-earl stories for Home Gossip."
"The prospect of tackling Gridley Quayle again--"
"Why, I was forgetting that you were a writer of detective
stories. You ought to be able to solve this mystery in a moment.
Ask yourself, 'What would Gridley Quayle have done?'"
"I can answer that. Gridley Quayle would have waited helplessly
for some coincidence to happen to help him out."
"Had he no methods?"
"He was full of methods; but they never led him anywhere without
the coincidence. However, we might try to figure it out. What
time did you get to the museum?"
"And you found the scarab gone. What does that suggest to you?"
"Nothing. What does it suggest to you?"
"Absolutely nothing. Let us try again. Whoever took the scarab
must have had special information that Peters was offering the
"Then why hasn't he been to Mr. Peters and claimed it?"
"True! That would seem to be a flaw in the reasoning. Once again:
Whoever took it must have been in urgent and immediate need of
"And how are we to find out who was in urgent and immediate need
"Exactly! How indeed?"
There was a pause.
"I should think your Mr. Quayle must have been a great comfort to
his clients, wasn't he?" said Joan.
"Inductive reasoning, I admit, seems to have fallen down to a
certain extent," said Ashe. "We must wait for the coincidence. I
have a feeling that it will come." He paused. "I am very
fortunate in the way of coincidences."
Ashe looked about him and was relieved to find that they appeared
to be out of earshot of their species. It was not easy to achieve
this position at the castle if you happened to be there as a
domestic servant. The space provided for the ladies and gentlemen
attached to the guests was limited, and it was rarely that you
could enjoy a stroll without bumping into a maid, a valet or a
footman; but now they appeared to be alone. The drive leading to
the back regions of the castle was empty. As far as the eye could
reach there were no signs of servants--upper or lower.
Nevertheless, Ashe lowered his voice.
"Was it not a strange coincidence," he said, "that you should
have come into my life at all?"
"Not very," said Joan prosaically. "It was quite likely that we
should meet sooner or later, as we lived on different floors of
the same house."
"It was a coincidence that you should have taken that room."
Ashe felt damped. Logically, no doubt, she was right; but surely
she might have helped him out a little in this difficult
situation. Surely her woman's intuition should have told her that
a man who has been speaking in a loud and cheerful voice does
not lower it to a husky whisper without some reason. The
hopelessness of his task began to weigh on him.
Ever since that evening at Market Blandings Station, when he
realized that he loved her, he had been trying to find an
opportunity to tell her so; and every time they had met, the talk
had seemed to be drawn irresistibly into practical and
unsentimental channels. And now, when he was doing his best to
reason it out that they were twin souls who had been brought
together by a destiny it would be foolish to struggle against;
when he was trying to convey the impression that fate had designed
them for each other--she said, "Why?" It was hard.
He was about to go deeper into the matter when, from the
direction of the castle, he perceived the Honorable Freddie's
valet--Mr. Judson--approaching. That it was this repellent young
man's object to break in on them and rob him of his one small
chance of inducing Joan to appreciate, as he did, the mysterious
workings of Providence as they affected herself and him, was
obvious. There was no mistaking the valet's desire for
conversation. He had the air of one brimming over with speech.
His wonted indolence was cast aside; and as he drew nearer he
positively ran. He was talking before he reached them.
"Miss Simpson, Mr. Marson, it's true--what I said that night.
It's a fact!"
Ashe regarded the intruder with a malevolent eye. Never fond of
Mr. Judson, he looked on him now with positive loathing. It had
not been easy for him to work himself up to the point where he
could discuss with Joan the mysterious ways of Providence, for
there was that about her which made it hard to achieve sentiment.
That indefinable something in Joan Valentine which made for
nocturnal raids on other people's museums also rendered her a
somewhat difficult person to talk to about twin souls and
destiny. The qualities that Ashe loved in her--her strength, her
capability, her valiant self-sufficingness--were the very
qualities which seemed to check him when he tried to tell her
that he loved them.
Mr. Judson was still babbling.
"It's true. There ain't a doubt of it now. It's been and happened
just as I said that night."
"What did you say? Which night?" inquired Ashe.
"That night at dinner--the first night you two came here. Don't
you remember me talking about Freddie and the girl he used to
write letters to in London--the girl I said was so like you, Miss
Simpson? What was her name again? Joan Valentine. That was it.
The girl at the theater that Freddie used to send me with letters
to pretty nearly every evening. Well, she's been and done it,
same as I told you all that night she was jolly likely to go and
do. She's sticking young Freddie up for his letters, just as he
ought to have known she would do if he hadn't been a young
fathead. They're all alike, these girls--every one of them."
Mr. Judson paused, subjected the surrounding scenery to a
cautious scrutiny and resumed.
"I took a suit of Freddie's clothes away to brush just now; and
happening"--Mr. Judson paused and gave a little cough--"happening
to glance at the contents of his pockets I come across a letter.
I took a sort of look at it before setting it aside, and it was
from a fellow named Jones; and it said that this girl, Valentine,
was sticking onto young Freddie's letters what he'd written her,
and would see him blowed if she parted with them under another
thousand. And, as I made it out, Freddie had already given her
"Where he got it is more than I can understand; but that's what
the letter said. This fellow Jones said he had passed it to her
with his own hands; but she wasn't satisfied, and if she didn't
get the other thousand she was going to bring an action for
breach. And now Freddie has given me a note to take to this
Jones, who is stopping in Market Blandings."
Joan had listened to this remarkable speech with a stunned
amazement. At this point she made her first comment:
"But that can't be true."
"Saw the letter with my own eyes, Miss Simpson."
She looked at Ashe helplessly. Their eyes met--hers wide with
perplexity, his bright with the light of comprehension.
"It shows," said Ashe slowly, "that he was in immediate and
urgent need of money."
"You bet it does," said Mr. Judson with relish. "It looks to me
as though young Freddie had about reached the end of his tether
this time. My word! There won't half be a kick-up if she does sue
him for breach! I'm off to tell Mr. Beach and the rest. They'll
jump out of their skins." His face fell. "Oh, Lord, I was
forgetting this note. He told me to take it at once."
"I'll take it for you," said Ashe. "I'm not doing anything."
Mr. Judson's gratitude was effusive.
"You're a good fellow, Marson," he said. "I'll do as much for you
another time. I couldn't hardly bear not to tell a bit of news
like this right away. I should burst or something."
And Mr. Judson, with shining face, hurried off to the
"I simply can't understand it," said Joan at length. "My head is
"Can't understand it? Why, it's perfectly clear. This is the
coincidence for which, in my capacity of Gridley Quayle, I was
waiting. I can now resume inductive reasoning. Weighing the
evidence, what do we find? That young sweep, Freddie, is the man.
He has the scarab."
"But it's all such a muddle. I'm not holding his letters."
"For Jones' purposes you are. Let's get this Jones element in the
affair straightened out. What do you know of him?"
"He was an enormously fat man who came to see me one night and
said he had been sent to get back some letters. I told him I had
destroyed them ages ago and he went away."
"Well, that part of it is clear, then. He is working a simple but
ingenious game on Freddie. It wouldn't succeed with everybody, I
suppose; but from what I have seen and heard of him Freddie isn't
strong on intellect. He seems to have accepted the story without
a murmur. What does he do? He has to raise a thousand pounds
immediately, and the raising of the first five hundred has
exhausted his credit. He gets the idea of stealing the scarab!"
"But why? Why should he have thought of the scarab at all? That
is what I can't understand. He couldn't have meant to give it to
Mr. Peters and claim the reward. He couldn't have known that Mr.
Peters was offering a reward. He couldn't have known that Lord
Emsworth had not got the scarab quite properly. He couldn't have
known--he couldn't have known anything!"
Ashe's enthusiasm was a trifle damped.
"There's something in that. But--I have it! Jones must have known
about the scarab and told him."
"But how could he have known?"
"Yes; there's something in that, too. How could Jones have
"He couldn't. He had gone by the time Aline came that night."
"I don't quite understand. Which night?"
"It was the night of the day I first met you. I was wondering for
a moment whether he could by any chance have overheard Aline
telling me about the scarab and the reward Mr. Peters was
offering for it."
"Overheard! That word is like a bugle blast to me. Nine out of
ten of Gridley Quayle's triumphs were due to his having overheard
something. I think we are now on the right track."
"I don't. How could he have overheard us? The door was closed and
he was in the street by that time."
"How do you know he was in the street? Did you see him out?"
"No; but he went."
"He might have waited on the stairs--you remember how dark they
are at Number Seven--and listened."
"Why? Why? What a beast of a word that is--the detective's
bugbear. I thought I had it, until you said--Great Scott! I'll
tell you why. I see it all. I have him with the goods. His object
in coming to see you about the letters was because Freddie wanted
them back owing to his approaching marriage with Miss
"You tell him you have destroyed the letters. He goes off. Am I
"Before he is out of the house Miss Peters is giving her name at
the front door. Put yourself in Jones' place. What does he think?
He is suspicious. He thinks there is some game on. He skips
upstairs again, waits until Miss Peters has gone into your room,
then stands outside and listens. How about that?"
"I do believe you are right. He might quite easily have done
"He did do exactly that. I know it as though I had been there; in
fact, it is highly probable I was there. You say all this
happened on the night we first met? I remember coming downstairs
that night--I was going out to a vaudeville show--and hearing
voices in your room. I remember it distinctly. In all probability
I nearly ran into Jones."
"It does all seem to fit in, doesn't it?"
"It's a clear case. There isn't a flaw in it. The only question
is, can I, on the evidence, go to young Freddie and choke the
scarab out of him? On the whole, I think I had better take this
note to Jones, as I promised Judson, and see whether I can't work
something through him. Yes; that's the best plan. I'll be
starting at once."
* * *
Perhaps the greatest hardship in being an invalid is the fact
that people come and see you and keep your spirits up. The
Honorable Freddie Threepwood suffered extremely from this. His
was not a gregarious nature and it fatigued his limited brain
powers to have to find conversation for his numerous visitors.
All he wanted was to be left alone to read the adventures of
Gridley Quayle, and when tired of doing that to lie on his back
and look at the ceiling and think of nothing.
It is your dynamic person, your energetic world's worker, who
chafes at being laid up with a sprained ankle. The Honorable
Freddie enjoyed it. From boyhood up he had loved lying in bed;
and now that fate had allowed him to do this without incurring
rebuke he objected to having his reveries broken up by officious
He spent his rare intervals of solitude in trying to decide in
his mind which of his cousins, uncles and aunts was, all things
considered, the greatest nuisance. Sometimes he would give the
palm to Colonel Horace Mant, who struck the soldierly note--"I
recollect in a hill campaign in the winter of the year '93 giving
my ankle the deuce of a twist." Anon the more spiritual attitude
of the Bishop of Godalming seemed to annoy him more keenly.
Sometimes he would head the list with the name of his Cousin
Percy--Lord Stockheath--who refused to talk of anything except
his late breach-of-promise case and the effect the verdict had
had on his old governor. Freddie was in no mood just now to be
sympathetic with others on their breach-of-promise cases.
As he lay in bed reading on Monday morning, the only flaw in his
enjoyment of this unaccustomed solitude was the thought that
presently the door was bound to open and some kind inquirer
insinuate himself into the room.
His apprehensions proved well founded. Scarcely had he got well
into the details of an ingenious plot on the part of a secret
society to eliminate Gridley Quayle by bribing his cook--a bad
lot--to sprinkle chopped-up horsehair in his chicken fricassee,
when the door-knob turned and Ashe Marson came in.
Freddie was not the only person who had found the influx of
visitors into the sick room a source of irritation. The fact that
the invalid seemed unable to get a moment to himself had annoyed
Ashe considerably. For some little time he had hung about the
passage in which Freddie's room was situated, full of enterprise,
but unable to make a forward move owing to the throng of
sympathizers. What he had to say to the sufferer could not be
said in the presence of a third party.
Freddie's sensation, on perceiving him, was one of relief. He had
been half afraid it was the bishop. He recognized Ashe as the
valet chappie who had helped him to bed on the occasion of his
accident. It might be that he had come in a respectful way to
make inquiries, but he was not likely to stop long. He nodded and
went on reading. And then, glancing up, he perceived Ashe
standing beside the bed, fixing him with a piercing stare.
The Honorable Freddie hated piercing stares. One of the reasons
why he objected to being left alone with his future
father-in-law, Mr. J. Preston Peters, was that Nature had given
the millionaire a penetrating pair of eyes, and the stress of
business life in New York had developed in him a habit of boring
holes in people with them. A young man had to have a stronger
nerve and a clearer conscience than the Honorable Freddie to
enjoy a tete-a-tete with Mr. Peters.
Though he accepted Aline's father as a necessary evil and
recognized that his position entitled him to look at people as
sharply as he liked, whatever their feelings, he would be hanged
if he was going to extend this privilege to Mr. Peters' valet.
This man standing beside him was giving him a look that seemed to
his sensitive imagination to have been fired red-hot from a gun;
and this annoyed and exasperated Freddie.
"What do you want?" he said querulously. "What are you staring at
me like that for?"
Ashe sat down, leaned his elbows on the bed, and applied the look
again from a lower elevation.
"Ah!" he said.
Whatever may have been Ashe's defects, so far as the handling of
the inductive-reasoning side of Gridley Quayle's character was
concerned, there was one scene in each of his stories in which he
never failed. That was the scene in the last chapter where
Quayle, confronting his quarry, unmasked him. Quayle might have
floundered in the earlier part of the story, but in his big scene
he was exactly right. He was curt, crisp and mercilessly
Ashe, rehearsing this interview in the passage before his entry,
had decided that he could hardly do better than model himself on
the detective. So he began to be curt, crisp and mercilessly
compelling to Freddie; and after the first few sentences he had
that youth gasping for air.
"I will tell you," he said. "If you can spare me a few moments of
your valuable time I will put the facts before you. Yes; press
that bell if you wish--and I will put them before witnesses. Lord
Emsworth will no doubt be pleased to learn that his son, whom he
trusted, is a thief!"
Freddie's hand fell limply. The bell remained un-touched. His
mouth opened to its fullest extent. In the midst of his panic he
had a curious feeling that he had heard or read that last
sentence somewhere before. Then he remembered. Those very words
occurred in Gridley Quayle, Investigator--The Adventure of the
"What--what do you mean?" he stammered.
"I will tell you what I mean. On Saturday night a valuable scarab
was stolen from Lord Emsworth's private museum. The case was put
into my hands----"
"Great Scott! Are you a detective?"
"Ah!" said Ashe.
Life, as many a worthy writer has pointed out, is full of
ironies. It seemed to Freddie that here was a supreme example of
this fact. All these years he had wanted to meet a detective; and
now that his wish had been gratified the detective was detecting
"The case," continued Ashe severely, "was placed in my hands. I
investigated it. I discovered that you were in urgent and
immediate need of money."
"How on earth did you do that?"
"Ah!" said Ashe. "I further discovered that you were in
communication with an individual named Jones."
"Good Lord! How?"
Ashe smiled quietly.
"Yesterday I had a talk with this man Jones, who is staying in
Market Blandings. Why is he staying in Market Blandings? Because
he had a reason for keeping in touch with you; because you were
about to transfer to his care something you could get possession
of, but which only he could dispose of--the scarab."
The Honorable Freddie was beyond speech. He made no comment on
this statement. Ashe continued:
"I interviewed this man Jones. I said to him: 'I am in the
Honorable Frederick Threepwood's confidence. I know everything.
Have you any instructions for me?' He replied: 'What do you
know?' I answered: 'I know that the Honorable Frederick
Threepwood has something he wishes to hand to you, but which he
has been unable to hand to you owing to having had an accident
and being confined to his room.' He then told me to tell you to
let him have the scarab by messenger."
Freddie pulled himself together with an effort. He was in sore
straits, but he saw one last chance. His researches in detective
fiction had given him the knowledge that detectives occasionally
relaxed their austerity when dealing with a deserving case. Even
Gridley Quayle could sometimes be softened by a hard-luck story.
Freddie could recall half a dozen times when a detected criminal
had been spared by him because he had done it all from the best
motives. He determined to throw himself on Ashe's mercy.
"I say, you know," he said ingratiatingly, "I think it's bally
marvelous the way you've deduced everything, and so on."
"But I believe you would chuck it if you heard my side of the
"I know your side of the case. You think you are being
blackmailed by a Miss Valentine for some letters you once wrote
her. You are not. Miss Valentine has destroyed the letters. She
told the man Jones so when he went to see her in London. He kept
your five hundred pounds and is trying to get another thousand
out of you under false pretenses."
"What? You can't be right."
"I am always right."
"You must be mistaken."
"I am never mistaken."
"But how do you know?"
"I have my sources of information."
"She isn't going to sue me for breach of promise?"
"She never had any intention of doing so."
The Honorable Freddie sank back on the pillows.
"Good egg!" he said with fervor. He beamed happily. "This," he
observed, "is a bit of all right."
For a space relief held him dumb. Then another aspect of the
matter struck him, and he sat up again with a jerk.
"I say, you don't mean to say that that rotter Jones was such a
rotter as to do a rotten thing like that?"
Freddie grew plaintive.
"I trusted that man," he said. "I jolly well trusted him
"I know," said Ashe. "There is one born every minute."
"But"--the thing seemed to be filtering slowly into Freddie's
intelligence "what I mean to say is, I--I--thought he was such a
"My short acquaintance with Mr. Jones," said Ashe "leads me to
think that he probably is--to himself."
"I won't have anything more to do with him."
"Dash it, I'll tell you what I'll do. The very next time I meet
the blighter, I'll cut him dead. I will! The rotter! Five hundred
quid he's had off me for nothing! And, if it hadn't been for you,
he'd have had another thousand! I'm beginning to think that my
old governor wasn't so far wrong when he used to curse me for
going around with Jones and the rest of that crowd. He knew a
bit, by Gad! Well, I'm through with them. If the governor ever
lets me go to London again, I won't have anything to do with
them. I'll jolly well cut the whole bunch! And to think that, if
it hadn't been for you . . ."
"Never mind that," said Ashe. "Give me the scarab. Where is it?"
"What are you going to do with it?"
"Restore it to its rightful owner."
"Are you going to give me away to the governor?"
"I am not."
"It strikes me," said Freddie gratefully, "that you are a dashed
good sort. You seem to me to have the making of an absolute
topper! It's under the mattress. I had it on me when I fell
downstairs and I had to shove it in there."
Ashe drew it out. He stood looking at it, absorbed. He could
hardly believe his quest was at an end and that a small fortune
lay in the palm of his hand. Freddie was eyeing him admiringly.
"You know," he said, "I've always wanted to meet a detective.
What beats me is how you chappies find out things."
"We have our methods."
"I believe you. You're a blooming marvel! What first put you on
"That," said Ashe, "would take too long to explain. Of course I
had to do some tense inductive reasoning; but I cannot trace
every link in the chain for you. It would be tedious."
"Not to me."
"Some other time."
"I say, I wonder whether you've ever read any of these
things--these Gridley Quayle stories? I know them by heart."
With the scarab safely in his pocket, Ashe could contemplate the
brightly-colored volume the other extended toward him without
active repulsion. Already he was beginning to feel a sort of
sentiment for the depressing Quayle, as something that had once
formed part of his life.
"Do you read these things?"
"I should say not. I write them."
There are certain supreme moments that cannot be adequately
described. Freddie's appreciation of the fact that such a moment
had occurred in his life expressed itself in a startled cry and a
convulsive movement of all his limbs. He shot up from the pillows
and gaped at Ashe.
"You write them? You don't mean, write them!"
He would have gone on, doubtless, to say more; but at this moment
voices made themselves heard outside the door. There was a
movement of feet. Then the door opened and a small procession
It was headed by the Earl of Emsworth. Following him came Mr.
Peters. And in the wake of the millionaire were Colonel Horace
Mant and the Efficient Baxter. They filed into the room and stood
by the bedside. Ashe seized the opportunity to slip out.
Freddie glanced at the deputation without interest. His mind was
occupied with other matters. He supposed they had come to inquire
after his ankle and he was mildly thankful that they had come in
a body instead of one by one. The deputation grouped itself about
the bed and shuffled its feet. There was an atmosphere of
"Er--Frederick!" said Lord Emsworth. "Freddie, my boy!"
Mr. Peters fiddled dumbly with the coverlet. Colonel Mant cleared
his throat. The Efficient Baxter scowled. "Er--Freddie, my dear
boy, I fear we have a painful--er--task to perform."
The words struck straight home at the Honorable Freddie's guilty
conscience. Had they, too, tracked him down? And was he now to be
accused of having stolen that infernal scarab? A wave of relief
swept over him as he realized that he had got rid of the thing. A
decent chappie like that detective would not give him away. All
he had to do was to keep his head and stick to stout denial. That
was the game--stout denial.
"I don't know what you mean," he said defensively.
"Of course you don't--dash it!" said Colonel Mant. "We're coming
to that. And I should like to begin by saying that, though in a
sense it was my fault, I fail to see how I could have acted---"
"Oh, very well! I was only trying to explain."
Lord Emsworth adjusted his pince-nez and sought inspiration from
the wall paper.
"Freddie, my boy," he began, "we have a somewhat unpleasant--a
somewhat er--disturbing--We are compelled to break it to you. We
are all most pained and astounded; and--"
The Efficient Baxter spoke. It was plain he was in a bad temper.
"Miss Peters," he snapped, "has eloped with your friend Emerson."
Lord Emsworth breathed a sigh of relief.
"Exactly, Baxter. Precisely! You have put the thing in a
nutshell. Really, my dear fellow, you are invaluable."
All eyes searched Freddie's face for signs of uncontrollable
emotion. The deputation waited anxiously for his first
"Eh? What?" said Freddie.
"It is quite true, Freddie, my dear boy. She went to London with
him on the ten-fifty."
"And if I had not been forcibly restrained," said Baxter acidly,
casting a vindictive look at Colonel Mant, "I could have
Colonel Mant cleared his throat again and put a hand to his
"I'm afraid that is true, Freddie. It was a most unfortunate
misunderstanding. I'll tell you how it happened: I chanced to be
at the station bookstall when the train came in. Mr. Baxter was
also in the station. The train pulled up and this young fellow
Emerson got in--said good-by to us, don't you know, and got in.
Just as the train was about to start, Miss Peters exclaiming,
'George dear, I'm going with you---, dash it,' or some such
speech--proceeded to go--hell for leather--to the door of young
Emerson's compartment. On which---"
"On which," interrupted Baxter, "I made a spring to try and catch
her. Apart from any other consideration, the train was already
moving and Miss Peters ran considerable risk of injury. I had
hardly moved when I felt a violent jerk at my ankle and fell to
the ground. After I had recovered from the shock, which was not
immediately, I found--"
"The fact is, Freddie, my boy," the colonel went on, "I acted
under a misapprehension. Nobody can be sorrier for the mistake
than I; but recent events in this house had left me with the
impression that Mr. Baxter here was not quite responsible for his
actions--overwork or something, I imagined. I have seen it happen
so often in India, don't you know, where fellows run amuck and
kick up the deuce's own delight. I am bound to admit that I have
been watching Mr. Baxter rather closely lately in the expectation
that something of this very kind might happen.
"Of course I now realize my mistake; and I have apologized--
apologized humbly--dash it! But at the moment I was firmly under
the impression that our friend here had an attack of some kind
and was about to inflict injuries on Miss Peters. If I've seen it
happen once in India, I've seen it happen a dozen times.
"I recollect, in the hot weather of the year '99---or was it
'93?--I think '93---one of my native bearers--However, I sprang
forward and caught the crook of my walking stick on Mr. Baxter's
ankle and brought him down. And by the time explanations were
made it was too late. The train had gone, with Miss Peters in
"And a telegram has just arrived," said Lord Emsworth, "to say
that they are being married this afternoon at a registrar's. The
whole occurrence is most disturbing."
"Bear it like a man, my boy!" urged Colonel Mant.
To all appearances Freddie was bearing it magnificently. Not a
single exclamation, either of wrath or pain, had escaped his
lips. One would have said the shock had stunned him or that he
had not heard, for his face expressed no emotion whatever.
The fact was, the story had made very little impression on the
Honorable Freddie of any sort. His relief at Ashe's news about
Joan Valentine; the stunning joy of having met in the flesh the
author of the adventures of Gridley Quayle; the general feeling
that all was now right with the world--these things deprived him
of the ability to be greatly distressed.
And there was a distinct feeling of relief--actual relief--that
now it would not be necessary for him to get married. He had
liked Aline; but whenever he really thought of it the prospect of
getting married rather appalled him. A chappie looked such an ass
getting married! It appeared, however, that some verbal comment
on the state of affairs was required of him. He searched his mind
for something adequate.
"You mean to say Aline has bolted with Emerson?"
The deputation nodded pained nods. Freddie searched in his mind
again. The deputation held its breath.
"Well, I'm blowed!" said Freddie. "Fancy that!"
* * *
Mr. Peters walked heavily into his room. Ashe Marson was waiting
for him there. He eyed Ashe dully.
"Pack!" he said.
"Pack! We're getting out of here by the afternoon train."
"Has anything happened?"
"My daughter has eloped with Emerson."
"Don't stand there saying, 'What!' Pack."
Ashe put his hand in his pocket.
"Where shall I put this?" he asked.
For a moment Mr. Peters looked without comprehension at what Ashe
was holding out; then his whole demeanor altered. His eyes lit
up. He uttered a howl of pure rapture:
"You got it!"
"I got it."
"Where was it? Who took it? How did you choke it out of them?
How did you find it? Who had it?"
"I don't know whether I ought to say. I don't want to start
anything. You won't tell anyone?"
"Tell anyone! What do you take me for? Do you think I am going
about advertising this? If I can sneak out without that fellow
Baxter jumping on my back I shall be satisfied. You can take it
from me that there won't be any sensational exposures if I can
help it. Who had it?"
"Threepwood? Why did he want it?"
"He needed money and he was going to raise it on--"
Mr. Peters exploded.
"And I have been kicking because Aline can't marry him and has
gone off with a regular fellow like young Emerson! He's a good
boy--young Emerson. I knew his folks. He'll make a name for
himself one of these days. He's got get-up in him. And I have
been waiting to shoot him because he has taken Aline away from
that goggle-eyed chump up in bed there!
"Why, if she had married Threepwood I should have had
grandchildren who would have sneaked my watch while I was dancing
them on my knee! There is a taint of some sort in the whole
family. Father sneaks my Cheops and sonny sneaks it from father.
What a gang! And the best blood in England! If that's England's
idea of good blood give me Hoboken! This settles it. I was a
chump ever to come to a country like this. Property isn't safe
here. I'm going back to America on the next boat.
"Where's my check book? I'm going to write you that check right
away. You've earned it. Listen, young man; I don't know what your
ideas are, but if you aren't chained to this country I'll make it
worth your while to stay on with me. They say no one's
indispensable, but you come mighty near it. If I had you at my
elbow for a few years I'd get right back into shape. I'm feeling
better now than I have felt in years--and you've only just
started in on me.
"How about it? You can call yourself what you like--secretary or
trainer, or whatever suits you best. What you will be is the
fellow who makes me take exercise and stop smoking cigars, and
generally looks after me. How do you feel about it?"
It was a proposition that appealed both to Ashe's commercial and
to his missionary instincts. His only regret had been that, the
scarab recovered, he and Mr. Peters would now, he supposed, part
company. He had not liked the idea of sending the millionaire
back to the world a half-cured man. Already he had begun to look
on him in the light of a piece of creative work to which he had
just set his hand.
But the thought of Joan gave him pause. If this meant separation
from Joan it was not to be considered.
"Let me think it over," he said.
"Well, think quick!" said Mr. Peters.
* * *
It has been said by those who have been through fires,
earthquakes and shipwrecks that in such times of stress the
social barriers are temporarily broken down, and the spectacle
may be seen of persons of the highest social standing speaking
quite freely to persons who are not in society at all; and of
quite nice people addressing others to whom they have never been
introduced. The news of Aline Peters' elopement with George
Emerson, carried beyond the green-baize door by Slingsby, the
chauffeur, produced very much the same state of affairs in the
servants' quarters at Blandings Castle.
It was not only that Slingsby was permitted to penetrate into the
housekeeper's room and tell his story to his social superiors
there, though that was an absolutely unprecedented occurrence;
what was really extraordinary was that mere menials discussed the
affair with the personal ladies and gentlemen of the castle
guests, and were allowed to do so uncrushed. James, the
footman--that pushing individual--actually shoved his way into
the room, and was heard by witnesses to remark to no less a
person than Mr. Beach that it was a bit thick.
And it is on record that his fellow footman, Alfred, meeting the
groom of the chambers in the passage outside, positively prodded
him in the lower ribs, winked, and said: "What a day we're
having!" One has to go back to the worst excesses of the French
Revolution to parallel these outrages. It was held by Mr. Beach
and Mrs. Twemlow afterward that the social fabric of the castle
never fully recovered from this upheaval. It may be they took an
extreme view of the matter, but it cannot be denied that it
wrought changes. The rise of Slingsby is a case in point. Until
this affair took place the chauffeur's standing had never been
satisfactorily settled. Mr. Beach and Mrs. Twemlow led the party
which considered that he was merely a species of coachman; but
there was a smaller group which, dazzled by Slingsby's
personality, openly declared it was not right that he should take
his meals in the servants' hall with such admitted plebeians as
the odd man and the steward's-room footman.
The Aline-George elopement settled the point once and for all.
Slingsby had carried George's bag to the train. Slingsby had been
standing a few yards from the spot where Aline began her dash for
the carriage door. Slingsby was able to exhibit the actual half
sovereign with which George had tipped him only five minutes
before the great event. To send such a public man back to the
servants' hall was impossible. By unspoken consent the chauffeur
dined that night in the steward's room, from which he was never
Mr. Judson alone stood apart from the throng that clustered about
the chauffeur. He was suffering the bitterness of the supplanted.
A brief while before and he had been the central figure, with his
story of the letter he had found in the Honorable Freddie's coat
pocket. Now the importance of his story had been engulfed in that
of this later and greater sensation, Mr. Judson was learning, for
the first time, on what unstable foundations popularity stands.
Joan was nowhere to be seen. In none of the spots where she might
have been expected to be at such a time was she to be found. Ashe
had almost given up the search when, going to the back door and
looking out as a last chance, he perceived her walking slowly on
the gravel drive.
She greeted Ashe with a smile, but something was plainly
troubling her. She did not speak for a moment and they walked
side by side.
"What is it?" said Ashe at length. "What is the matter?"
She looked at him gravely.
"Gloom," she said. "Despondency, Mr. Marson--A sort of flat
feeling. Don't you hate things happening?"
"I don't quite understand."
"Well, this affair of Aline, for instance. It's so big it makes
one feel as though the whole world had altered. I should like
nothing to happen ever, and life just to jog peacefully along.
That's not the gospel I preached to you in Arundell Street, is it!
I thought I was an advanced apostle of action; but I seem to have
changed. I'm afraid I shall never be able to make clear what I do
mean. I only know I feel as though I have suddenly grown old.
These things are such milestones. Already I am beginning to look
on the time before Aline behaved so sensationally as terribly
remote. To-morrow it will be worse, and the day after that worse
still. I can see that you don't in the least understand what I
"Yes; I do--or I think I do. What it comes to, in a few words, is
that somebody you were fond of has gone out of your life. Is that
"Yes--at least, that is partly it. I didn't really know Aline
particularly well, beyond having been at school with her, but
you're right. It's not so much what has happened as what it
represents that matters. This elopement has marked the end of a
phase of my life. I think I have it now. My life has been such a
series of jerks. I dash along--then something happens which stops
that bit of my life with a jerk; and then I have to start over
again--a new bit. I think I'm getting tired of jerks. I want
something stodgy and continuous.
"I'm like one of the old bus horses that could go on forever if
people got off without making them stop. It's the having to get
the bus moving again that wears one out. This little section of
my life since we came here is over, and it is finished for good.
I've got to start the bus going again on a new road and with a
new set of passengers. I wonder whether the old horses used to be
sorry when they dropped one lot of passengers and took on a lot
A sudden dryness invaded Ashe's throat. He tried to speak, but
found no words. Joan went on:
"Do you ever get moods when life seems absolutely meaningless?
It's like a badly-constructed story, with all sorts of characters
moving in and out who have nothing to do with the plot. And when
somebody comes along that you think really has something to do
with the plot, he suddenly drops out. After a while you begin to
wonder what the story is about, and you feel that it's about
nothing--just a jumble."
"There is one thing," said Ashe, "that knits it together."
"What is that?"
"The love interest."
Their eyes met and suddenly there descended on Ashe confidence.
He felt cool and alert, sure of himself, as in the old days he
had felt when he ran races and, the nerve-racking hours of
waiting past, he listened for the starter's gun. Subconsciously
he was aware he had always been a little afraid of Joan, and that
now he was no longer afraid.
"Joan, will you marry me?"
Her eyes wandered from his face. He waited.
"I wonder!" she said softly. "You think that is the solution?"
"How can you tell?" she broke out. "We scarcely know each other.
I shan't always be in this mood. I may get restless again. I may
find it is the jerks that I really like."
"You're very confident."
"I am absolutely confident."
"'She travels fastest who travels alone,'" misquoted Joan.
"What is the good," said Ashe, "of traveling fast if you're going
round in a circle? I know how you feel. I've felt the same
myself. You are an individualist. You think there is something
tremendous just round the corner and that you can get it if you
try hard enough. There isn't--or if there is it isn't worth
getting. Life is nothing but a mutual aid association. I am going
to help old Peters--you are going to help me--I am going to help
"Help me to do what?"
"Make life coherent instead of a jumble."
"Don't call me Mr. Marson."
"Ashe, you don't know what you are doing. You don't know me.
I've been knocking about the world for five years and I'm
hard--hard right through. I should make you wretched."
"You are not in the least hard--and you know it. Listen to me,
Joan. Where's your sense of fairness? You crash into my life,
turn it upside down, dig me out of my quiet groove, revolutionize
my whole existence; and now you propose to drop me and pay no
further attention to me. Is it fair?"
"But I don't. We shall always be the best of friends."
"We shall--but we will get married first."
"You are determined?"
Joan laughed happily.
"How perfectly splendid! I was terrified lest I might have made
you change your mind. I had to say all I did to preserve my
self-respect after proposing to you. Yes; I did. How strange it
is that men never seem to understand a woman, however plainly she
talks! You don't think I was really worrying because I had lost
Aline, do you? I thought I was going to lose you, and it made me
miserable. You couldn't expect me to say it in so many words; but
I thought--I was hoping--you guessed. I practically said it.
Ashe! What are you doing?"
Ashe paused for a moment to reply.
"I am kissing you," he said.
"But you mustn't! There's a scullery maid or somebody looking
through the kitchen window. She will see us."
Ashe drew her to him.
"Scullery maids have few pleasures," he said. "Theirs is a dull
life. Let her see us."
The Earl of Emsworth sat by the sick bed and regarded the
Honorable Freddie almost tenderly.
"I fear, Freddie, my dear boy, this has been a great shock to
"Eh? What? Yes--rather! Deuce of a shock, gov'nor."
"I have been thinking it over, my boy, and perhaps I have been a
little hard on you. When your ankle is better I have decided to
renew your allowance; and you may return to London, as you do not
seem happy in the country. Though how any reasonable being can
The Honorable Freddie started, pop-eyed, to a sitting posture.
"My word! Not really?"
His father nodded.
"I say, gov'nor, you really are a topper! You really are, you
know! I know just how you feel about the country and the jolly
old birds and trees and chasing the bally slugs off the young
geraniums and all that sort of thing, but somehow it's never
quite hit me the same way. It's the way I'm built, I suppose. I
like asphalt streets and crowds and dodging taxis and meeting
chappies at the club and popping in at the Empire for half an
hour and so forth. And there's something about having an
allowance--I don't know . . . sort of makes you chuck your chest
out and feel you're someone. I don't know how to thank you,
gov'nor! You're--you're an absolute sportsman! This is the most
priceless bit of work you've ever done. I feel like a
two-year-old. I don't know when I've felt so braced.
I--I--really, you know, gov'nor, I'm most awfully grateful."
"Exactly," said Lord Emsworth. "Ah--precisely. But, Freddie, my
boy," he added, not without pathos, "there is just one thing
more. Do you think that--with an effort--for my sake--you could
endeavor this time not to make a--a damned fool of yourself?"
He eyed his offspring wistfully.
"Gov'nor," said the Honorable Freddie firmly, "I'll have a jolly
good stab at it!"