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Chapter 29 "QUICK! FIRE!"

  • Geoff did not reply; he could not. As if the sight of that slow-moving figure,
  • linked with the realization which had now come upon him, had wrought a curiou_umbing effect upon mind and heart alike, he simply stood there, breathin_ard, and looked, and looked, and looked, but said no single word. Eve_ollops could see that there was a glint of something wet and shining in th_rease beside his eye, and that, in spite of tears, he smiled as a man migh_mile if he had waked to find that all the world was his. It was Ailsa tha_ade the first sound, spoke the first word.
  • "Oh, Mr. Cleek, to think that she should be a somnambulist," she said with _ittle catch in her voice, as if she were laughing and sobbing at the sam_ime and fighting hard to do neither. "And to think that you should hav_uessed it when even I, her dearest and closest friend, never suspected it fo_n instant."
  • "Oh, as for that, Miss Lorne, I really deserve very little credit indeed," h_ade answer.
  • For a moment he followed with his eyes the departing figure of Lady Katharin_s it moved fleetly along the path to the stable quarters, where stood th_tile giving access to the paddock and thence, by a far-away wall door, to th_aste land of the open country beyond.
  • "If anybody is to be praised for the discovery of the truth as manifested to-
  • night," he went on presently, "that praise should go to Loisette alone. He ha_aid—that wise Frenchman—that 'the likeness of events acting upon a highl_trung and overwrought mind is likely to produce exactly similar results.'
  • There is his vindication before you. Last night all hope of happiness wa_mitten out of that poor girl's mind by the affair at Clavering Close and th_ertainty that she had lost the man she loves forever. This morning new hop_ame; this evening that new hope was dashed to earth again by her intervie_ith this dear boy, and the future looked blacker and more hopeless than ever.
  • The 'likeness of events' had come; there is the 'likeness of result' befor_ou. Back into her ball dress, back into her cloak, back into everything tha_ad to do with that other time; there she goes now back to Gleer Cottage a_ell!"
  • "God!" said Geoff, with a queer sort of sob; then leaned his curved ar_gainst a tree trunk and hid his face in the crook of it. "And to think what _aid to her, what I thought of her! I ought to be kicked for a brute. And ye_ wouldn't have hurt her for all the world—my dear, dear girl!"
  • "Buck up, my boy, buck up!" said Cleek, patting him on the shoulder, "Th_orld can do with all the brutes of your kind that can be created; for the_ake good sons, good husbands, and loyal gentlemen! She said, did she not,
  • that she would 'show you something that would light the way back to the lan_f happiness'? Well, she's doing it, my boy; and if you were to follow he_his minute you'd find history repeating itself down to the smallest detail.
  • Only, you _mustn't_ follow her; you mustn't let history repeat itself,
  • Clavering. Gleer Cottage is not in the same lonely and unwatched state to-
  • night that it was in last night. The police are there. They mustn't see wha_appens, because I've a fancy for keeping some things with regard to this cas_ff the annals of Scotland Yard and out of the courts of England. You mus_top her, you and Miss Lorne."
  • "Stop her? How? Isn't it dangerous to wake a sleep-walker?"
  • "Yes, if it's done rudely. But people in that condition will answer questions,
  • and—— Who spoke first, when you met last night?"
  • "Why, I did, of course. I was so bowled over when I looked up and recognize_er that I said: 'Kathie! Great Scott, is it you?' before I thought. That'_ow she came to speak to me."
  • "Then go and say it again," advised Cleek. "When she answers, suggest to he_hat you sit down and wait for a moment, as you promised you would do, unti_iss Lorne could join you. Once she sits, be sure the desire to walk will pas_way; she will gradually sink into the natural position for sleeping and wil_leep soundly for a time. As for the rest, you may rely upon the coldness an_he hardness of the earth to half arouse her, and it will be but a step fro_hat to complete wakefulness if Miss Lorne begins to sing very, very softl_nd to rustle the leaves as she comes up and joins you both. Now then, of_ith you, my boy, and move as softly as you can until you come up with her an_peak."
  • Geoff did not hesitate. He only paused to look back at Cleek and say: "B_ove, you know, you are a ripping chap!" and then was off on tiptoe after Lad_atharine.
  • Watching, they saw him come up with her at last, and knew when he spoke by th_anner in which she stopped and looked round at him; they saw her put a finge_o her lips and nod and beckon, and knew when he spoke again and suggested th_hings that Cleek had advised, by the listless manner in which she let he_ands drop, the wavering uncertain way in which she stood swaying and lookin_traight before her.
  • Then, after a moment or two—they could have cheered had they dared—they sa_er look round in the direction of a little knoll to which Geoff pointed an_hen placidly turn and walk with him toward it.
  • "Oh, what a dear, dear friend you are!" said Ailsa, impulsively, as she looke_ound and up at Cleek, with tears in her eyes and a face all smiling. "_onder which is your greater side—your shrewdness or your humanity?"
  • "I can tell you which is my weaker one," he smiled, looking down upon her wit_yes that spoke to hers. "And maybe, some day if you will let me do so——Bu_hat's another story, as our friend Mr. Kipling puts it. Wait! Don't go yet,
  • Miss Lorne. Before you start to join them and to play your little part in th_rama of Lady Katharine's awaking, there's one more favour to be asked.
  • Afterward you will understand why I ask this thing; for the present I wan_nly your promise that you will unquestioningly obey. Will you give me tha_romise? Thank you, I felt sure that you would.
  • "You know the old saying: a bird that can sing and won't sing must be made t_ing. Equally, then, a door that can be opened and will not open by persuasio_r by threats, must be compelled to open by trickery and craft. I am going t_ommit an act of violence under the roof of Wuthering Grange to-night, Mis_orne. I'm going to do a thing that men get sent to prison for, and justly,
  • too, if they are found out; only that I am not going to carry my act into ful_ompletion: merely make a bluff at it, as it were.
  • "Meanwhile I want you to promise me that as soon as you have awakened Lad_atharine and have made her understand that she did go to Gleer Cottage las_ight and really has been walking in her sleep, you will find a pretext—yo_nd Geoff Clavering, between you—to get her as far from the neighbourhood a_ossible for the next two or three hours. Yes, Clavering Close will do. An_lace will do so that neither she nor he is within hailing distance of thi_ouse when my 'act of violence' is committed. Try to do this if possible, Mis_orne; more than you dream of hinges upon it. In any case, promise me that n_atter what excitement is created you will not venture near the house and wil_revail upon them not to do so either. Will you?"
  • "Yes, certainly I will. And if I tell Geoff that it is your wish, I'm sure _ay promise for him as well."
  • "Thank you. That's all. Now I'll be off about my business. You see"—nodding i_he direction of the paddock—"Geoff has persuaded her to sit. Good luck t_our little 'singing tour,' and God bless you. Good-bye. This way, Dollops!
  • Move sharp!"
  • Speaking, he swung off into the darkness, with the boy following close upo_is heels, and forged on in the direction of the wall angle, there to wai_ntil his instructions were acted upon and it was time for him to play hi_ast great card.
  • And lo, as they went, a sweet, soft voice rose in murmuring melody behind the_nd they could just distinguish the words, "Kathleen Mavourneen, the gray daw_s breaking," so softly Ailsa sang them as she passed on in the direction o_he paddock stile.
  • "A good, true woman that, Dollops," said Cleek, pausing to listen. "An_here's nothing better in heaven or out of it than a good woman, my lad.
  • Always remember that."
  • "Yes, sir," said Dollops softly and refraining from further comment.
  • Cleek laughed to himself as they took the angle path again. "I know the secre_f the universe at last, my lad," he said softly. "The way to heaven i_hrough a good woman's eyes!" Then he laughed again, and spoke no more unti_hey were at their journey's end.
  • "Now, then, my embryo Vidocq," he began, halting in the shadow of the wal_ngle and laying a gentle hand on Dollops's shoulder, "a word or two with you.
  • I think you told me earlier in the evening that Mr. Narkom had gone back t_own, did you not? Did he say if he'd be returning to Wimbledon to-night o_ot? I fancy he will be likely to, considering his interest in the Claverings,
  • but did he say he would?"
  • "Yes, sir. Said he'd be back somewheres between nine and ten, sir; that he'_rop in at the police station, and if there was a need for him, he said I'_ind him there."
  • "Right you are! Well, there _is_ a need for him, Dollops; for him and for th_imousine, too. So off with you, my boy, and tell him to be here, at thi_pot, as quickly as he can; and to be ready when I call for him. Now then,"
  • said Cleek, opening the wall door, "off with you as fast as you can travel."
  • For some minutes Cleek stood in deep thought, then he turned and walke_uickly back into the house. He had made up his mind to beard Lord St. Ulme_n his room, and his quick brain was intent on a plan by which he shoul_ecure an entry. Three minutes later he stood outside the door and placed _unch of extinguished matches at the foot of it, while he called softly bu_iercingly.
  • "Lord St. Ulmer! Quick! _Quick!_ _Fire!_ The place is on fire."
  • His heart pounded as he waited, for if the man were asleep his efforts woul_e fruitless. Suddenly, however, there came a faint sound to his strainin_ars, and again he whispered in that sibilant whisper:
  • "Lord St. Ulmer, _fire_!"
  • He did not have time to repeat it, for there came the sound as of an extremel_gile man leaping from his bed, and another moment he heard the snick of a_nfastened lock, then the door opened.
  • Cleek waited not a second, his foot was in the narrow aperture, and he wa_hrough the door and had switched on the light before the other man ha_ealized what had happened. Then he gave vent to a little low laugh of triump_s with his back against the closed door he surveyed the white-faced man wh_ad retreated to the middle of the room.
  • "Good evening! Citizen Paul, good brother Apache, so it is you, is it?" h_aid airily. "Let us have a quiet little understanding, _mon ami_. You nee_ot be distressed. There is no fire. It is merely a bluff. What! You do no_now me. But wait! Look!" The serene face writhed suddenly, and it was as i_nother man took his place. "Ever see a chap that looked like this, frien_aul, eh?"
  • "God! The Cracksman!"
  • "The identical party!" acknowledged Cleek blandly. "Come! I want to have a fe_inutes' talk with you, my friend, and—— Stop! Don't back away! Stop and fac_e. By God! you'll hang for last night's business if you don't!"