Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

14 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



OUR SHORT STORY- SUSPICION. By S. H. BRETLEY. .1 I hr.d deposited my kit-bag in tlot car- riage at \Vsterioo, tied for an iced drink, found a g"irl—a very pretty girl—en- seciLct-d in the opposite corner of the other -tr:o oi the compartment on mv return. She had the mcst f-crumptiou-s, curling, iskir.irncrir.g, waving chestnut hair and wild ijacinth eyes and —— Well, it wasn't til] we had rua twenty mcles that I recollected how rude it was to stare, called myself a- «<id, mentally kicked myself and pulled out the precious budget of papers from my breast jweket. I examined, I counted them, J. read them, I thrilled. Here was I, Lord Heytesbury, bcrn of a family c: I'oois ("As dull as Heytesbury" was a .saying in the' eighties in Froxshire): —here wr«i 1, I say, at twenty-five, aitc-r plodding and grinding at Oxford and start- ling cvei-y" relation and friend I had by the brilliance of n;y degree ("Brain fever. my SAint had quavered prophetically; "He'll die young," ejaculated my uncle hopefully—he inherited ii I u:d ). here was I—Gad, what au invetebrate sentence this is becoming!— here was I with my foot on the lowest rusg ■of the p;rticai ladder, prospective candidate if Ecytc-hury, private secretary to dear old Dii'.ton, the Hotae Secretary, and at the moment engaged on the important basinet •of licaring documents relating to the prose- cit'icn of a fraudulent army contractor .from Westminster to Biatoa's place, Bryony )1 ".n, in Hampshire. Whew! A sentence as long as that calls the Secretary's interference. It ?j?ht to be reduced. On -?-ut the train. On went I reading. Cl-i w.?:Lit t- e t-?ain. (-'in went I rcad?r-,o, again, hut 1daye. Instead, I began .to see her face, in what 'people call the înbd's eye, on the document I studied. I LV0 isaid the carriage was hot. I had a reasm. I remember stuffing the papers in their canvas-lined envelope with its wax- li r, c at the very pretty girl. I remember closing E-: eyes swiftly because elie happened to lo. k up. .:ft.('r that I don't remember much more. I must have dozed, for suddenly, when I ,woke with a start, we were running out from the Guildford tunnel into the light. I remember wondering if I'd looked an awful foe g jaw hanging opw- Gad! I might have been snoring. I won- dered if a iellow ought to apologise. Then suddenly I drew a sharp breath, staring ebout me in bewilderment. The anvelope ha.d vanished! For a mement I sat itozen Then I patted every pocket in case 1. lqad slipped it away "before dropping off to sleep, like the care- less fool I'd been. o pocket held it. My eye.3 searched the ftoor-not there. I stood on the Beat. I opened my "kit-b^g. knowing full well that were hipe- ies-5. 'A w.n doesn't pack and forget all ar.5iit it. The -SB-velope had vanished. I had had it on my kneea. The train w- ,-i an express and hadn't stopped. There was only one other passenger, and since en- velopes can't walk or fiJ- But, hang it, I couldn't s-uspect her! I glanced at her. It happened that she was glancing at me—a little flushed, she was. and there was something like appre- hension in her eyes. She looked hastily away, sitting 'bolt upright on the blie cushions, and I noticed that her hand was trembling a little. Could site have—have abstracted the en- velope? To certain parties the documents it contained would be of incalculable value, for they would expose the entire prosecu- tion's Had I been watched? Had s he been chosen because they knew I wouldn't .suspect her? I admit I felt miserable. I didn't know what to do. Crises like this one fellow* aren't taught to meet at Oxford. What was a man to do? Tax her with it? Hang ° it. it meant suggesting she was a. thief! Well, thieves are pretty—even very pretty sometimes. The envelope was far too heavy to have been blown out of window. It had disap- peared. and »he alone could have taken it. I searched everything again without suc- cess. The precious envelope had gone, so don't think me such a giddy fool as subse- quently i- find it in a pocket or in my bag. It honestly and certainly wasn't there. I looked at her again. Once more our eyes met. I saw that she was disturbed, con- fused—even a little afraid. Her colour was high-flnshed. up under the deep blue eyes, and her Hps moved—they almost trembled. ?L lyegau, tak- in i off I beg your pardon," I began, taking off hat, "I hud an envelope on my knee j list nûw-" She gave me a view of her little back and her shoulder, after opening her eyes at me scornfully. It was a snub,' admirably ad ministered. It made me think her all the more clever and cunning. "It's gone," I added bluntly. Sne di'l'not move. She did not speak. Tlease give it back 1to me," I said steadily. I "Me"' she cried, swinging' round, and talking with more astonished ,fek()mec ta.H'?'&i'n???- "You're mad, .sir! You A n y -),. i can I retorted, for I was sure. "LGok here, I'll let you 0 j ,,ttre. e, I had, leaned forward as I spoke. She leapt her ha-iid shooting up to the chain com- municating with the guard. "I'll stop the train and give you in charge," she cried, a little wildly, but with determination, "unless you I sank badt, shrugging my shoulders. "I am doing my beat for you," I declared, altogether nonplussed. "I promise not to 1 tell the police if you give me the envelope back. Come—you nearly succeeded, but not Quite. You'll gain nothing by refusing, by bluff » She look?d nt me. I felt a thrill of 'j triumph—spoiled by compunction. For there-1 was terror iu her eyes now. She shrank back into her corner, and once or twice she glanced at the alarm. I ffiook, DlY head. ■ j "You can't bluff me," I observed. "Unless -you hand over the envelope before we reach SDeyncombe—the next" stop—I'll call the .guard." "Perhaps that- will be best," she said meekly. "What will you gain?" I expostulated. *'D'von think I want to get you into trouble? I dare say you don't realise that you've—'you've committed a crime—— "Let-lol U3 wait for the guard," was her answer. Had I made a fool of myself? HoW. could I be Wrong"? Of course, there could be no mistake.; Once or twice I pleaded with her. tvufc all t Vhe Te^ofnder I got was: "Let us wait for the v guard. and finally I relapsed into angry, p 'erturbed silence. It had Hoen market day at Deyncombe, and the, rf^atform was paekfd with farmers-- not all of thera too sober. The guard seemed an age in coming down the train First a quarrelsom -» agriculturist stopped biri; tlir-n a dog-fight delayed him; thea he stumbled a c rate of fowls, whose cackling drowned h f'g curses. fowls, whose cackling I jumpad down on to the platform and elbowed m v way to him, glancing backward -over my shoulder each moment. It was -u farmer's gouty foot which must JjRve give n her her opportunity. I kicked it -ac^cidjrota' lly. In a moment a flaming face h-Was into mine, and I learnt all the follow thought of tie, my pareats, my an- cestor and my destination after death. I pacified him, and escax^d, keeping watch once more on the carriage door. But, of course, she nsust have escaped at that very moment, for when. I had bawied my story to the guard and persuaded him, half by force w come back to the compartruent, it woa- emjrt-y. Like a madman I struggled, through the crowd. Outside the. station pandemon- ium reigned—several bullocks and a ram seemed to be playing the principal parts. But there was no sign of my fellow-traveller. The engine-whistled, the.crowd on. the plat- form raised a shout. I remembered my kit- bag, liiled with other papers of lesser im- portance. I flung myself into the press, ■ boarded the train at a run, and found that 'when I had caught the bag up it was too late to get out. There in the carriage I s-jt, my head in my hands, feeling a baftlcd, bested ass. What about palitical ambitions now? What would Di.t.. say ? What would the Attorncy- Geserai say? "■Another Hoytesbury parboiled fool!"— that's about it, but put more politely. So crestfallen, &o dismayed, to bitterly dig- appointed did I fed that I ccu'.dn'o make up my mind to- tell Dinton. They were having tea. on the lawn when I arrived, and he clapped me on the s houlder, saying: "Ha, Haytesbury—glad to see you. Those the papers? Put 'em in my tu-.n the key, there's a good fellow. You're in the clue room, J-ohn'll 8how YOU" f and he motioiud to a footman). "Make haste and come dowa to tea. Owen's in town iGwen is his dai-^JitvX—the youngest—oaly just out, ami I't se<;n her.) "You know Kate, don't you?" '"I shook hands with his daughter, and didn't ceaf-eis. There were people dining, and when I approached him before dinuer. tire Home Secretary laughed at me, crying "Slave-driver! Is'o, III not work to-night. Don't bother me, Heytetbury." So there I was, with my eeerct lying, like a ton of bricks on my, miild. knowing that I ought to have forced him to hear me and yet welcoming the respite. I got down to the drawing-room after dressing before the others I sauntered in -,he lights hadn't been turned on—and was startled by a rustle in a big chair. "I'm Gwendoline," came a very sweet voice frsm its depths. "I've just arrived. Yon were pointed out to me by John. So you-re.Lord Heytesbury "How d'y:• ti do?" I began, holding out my hand. But it wasn't her& mine met. Instead, my fingers closed oilt an envelope, a hea,v o--Ie, a large one. I cried out sharply, peering at her. She laughed, suddenly stepping Lack and switching on a reading lamp. "y 011:" I ejaculated. It waa my fellow passenger, looking radiant, standing there with her h, rcl,, be- hind her, smiling up at me. "Aren't you going to fay thank you 1" she queried sweetly. I stared at the envelope. I drew out its contents. They were intact. They had not been tampered with. "So you fooled me!" I said hotly- "It wasn't a very creditable task. It was too easy. I'm only an inept fool, and you've shown me up. Hope you're proud. You're voung, Miss Gwendohne, but even whe? .ou're old I don't suppose you'll forget wrecking a man's career for a jest. You won't be so amused then." "Oh, dear," she sighed.. "and I thought you'd be so phased with me. You aren't .so forgiving as I," -,he said softly. ''I've for- given' vou-fox two things. Firstly, for frightening me in the train. Secondly, for insulting me—oh, grossly, sir!" she added, laughing, "for daring to think even that I was a thief "You were," I said stubbornly. "Before Heaven, I think you a. thief now. Perhaps I'm. dense, but practical jokes don't appeal to me." "Oh, dear," she sighed, "and I thought l you looked ro Rice in the train." "I thought you %terb tho most beautiful girt I had ever. seea," I replied, "and now I think vou the most callously thoughtless -and recklessly selfish. It amused, you—it's wrecked xme." "Diddid you ;e.Jly think me—that? ebe quened, astoandingly ca lm. "I'm orrv to say I did," said I. How perfectly 'swee ? of you he cried impetuously, a?d then fiti&b?a to che -cts of h<T..lo?lv hair. "rI m?an-?-oh, you know, Lord 'Heytesbury. t t.. keep you in suspense any longer. I didn:t,)ta that in gi'spcB?e anylonger. I didn*t.steal th?t enveloT?e. Say you belief me. didn't even touch "11—ti-ll?ng after .t.ram had left touch Cv Df'YI!ombe- f ? » .<• V' "But —— < ?c?y yo? believe me—say It, she com- manded, with mutinous eyes. »X—I believe you," I said. a-ol, indeed, I'd rather have "believed the papers danced themselves from my possession to hers than have donbted her. "You dear F she cried, and flashed-~no, blushed, a real, honest, good old English blush this time. "I'm sorry-lo forgive me.. Kate says I ought to be back in the-school- room. Lord Heytesbury, this is what hap- pened In the tunnel I heard a scuffliqg, shuffling noise. It terrified me. Then all grew still. Directly we ran out into the light you—you began fidgeting. 1-1 was atraid you were mad "I expect I looked it," I granted. "Then you spoke to mcand I was sure you were, she. went on, biting her lower lip at me apologetically. "That's why 1 didn't dare ring for the guard. I thought you'd finish me ø before -the train stopped. I fancied your story about the envelope was all nonsense. At Deyncombe, when you jumped out, I got ready to escape if the gaiard didn't come. Then suddenly from behind me that scuffling, shufflling" noise started again. I turned round in-terror. A man covered in grime and dust, rolled out from under the seat, an envelope in his handg addressed to my father. I saw the writing as he scrambled to his feet. 116 leapt forward, pushing me aside, and "bounded down on to the platform. There. wasn't a moment to be lost,. I guessed then. who you were—father had told me TOU were expected with Home Office papers. t jumped down after hiti-" "Under the seat I cried, crashing my. fist into the palm of my hand. "Fool that I was—crass idiot! I never thought of it 1: You followed him? How brave of you——" "Bravo!" she echoed scornfully. "Pouf, there was nothing brave in that! I ran after him. By the market square I caught. j him up. I saw a farmer from our part ofVj the world. I shouted 'Stop thief!' Some-J one tripped the ruffian up. The farmer saw. l o p e and g ave' it to, the address on the envelope and gave it to me. I told them to let the man go. I-f.; thought, perhaps, that you'd rather-- "He can go to—to Jericho for n;e I explained. "1 meant that' it would all' come out if the police caught him," she explained. ",I, thought you'd rather it were all kept da, rk, There's no reason why anyone should know., I shan't tell a soul, Lord Hevtesburv." "You—you are a brick, I said-and it; waswt g bit the word I was Boundcrin,r for. "X. ought, to be. picked for yasjtliiB^ yjm." ."Pd rather, be a thief ..than. niad she re- in-I*u.ded me' We'U bo th forget insult_ s, shall we?" "And be pals?" I asked, eagerly.. ".If-if you want to be," she answered, hér eyelids drooping.. y "Ah! nia-king friends with my little girl; ?bM.rycd Di'?ton, cprniBg suddMny i?; "That'6 right. By the way, Heytesbur? you brought thosQ papers?" • I "Hero tb?y are, "sir," I said, holding lip the eni-eloT-,e. "Ard we've made friends, sizr —fast friends. And we're faFt fMcrds stilt, though wo,id been laarried iour years. I






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