The Slave of SilenceFred M. White / Mystery & Detective
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THE SLAVE OF SILENCE
Nothing daunted, the pair made a rush at Berrington whofired right and left. FRONTISPIECE. _See page 191._]
THE SLAVE OF SILENCE
F. M. WHITE
AUTHOR OF TREGARTHEN'S WIFE THE WHITE BATTALION THE ROBE OF LUCIFER ETC ETC
BOSTON LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY 1906
Copyright, 1904, BY FRED M. WHITE.
Copyright, 1906, BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.
* * *
_All Rights Reserved_
Published November, 1906
Printers S. J. PARKHILL & CO., BOSTON, U. S. A.
CHAPTER I 1
CHAPTER II 9
CHAPTER III 17
CHAPTER IV 25
CHAPTER V 33
CHAPTER VI 41
CHAPTER VII 49
CHAPTER VIII 57
CHAPTER IX 65
CHAPTER X 73
CHAPTER XI 81
CHAPTER XII 89
CHAPTER XIII 97
CHAPTER XIV 105
CHAPTER XV 113
CHAPTER XVI 121
CHAPTER XVII 129
CHAPTER XVIII 137
CHAPTER XIX 145
CHAPTER XX 153
CHAPTER XXI 161
CHAPTER XXII 169
CHAPTER XXIII 177
CHAPTER XXIV 185
CHAPTER XXV 193
CHAPTER XXVI 201
CHAPTER XXVII 209
CHAPTER XXVIII 217
CHAPTER XXIX 225
CHAPTER XXX 233
CHAPTER XXXI 241
CHAPTER XXXII 249
CHAPTER XXXIII 256
CHAPTER XXXIV 264
CHAPTER XXXV 272
CHAPTER XXXVI 280
CHAPTER XXXVII 288
CHAPTER XXXVIII 296
CHAPTER XXXIX 304
CHAPTER XL 312
Nothing daunted, the pair made a rush at Berrington, who fired right and left _Frontispiece_
Richford stood there shaking and quivering with passion _Page_ 49
The police-officer looked suspiciously at the figure 107
THE SLAVE OF SILENCE
The girl turned away from the splendour of it and laid her aching headagainst the cool windowpane. A hansom flashed along in the street belowwith just a glimpse of a pretty laughing girl in it with a man by herside. From another part of the _Royal Palace Hotel_ came sounds of mirthand gaiety. All the world seemed to be happy, to-night, perhaps to mockthe misery of the girl with her head against the windowpane.
And yet on the face of it, Beatrice Darryll's lines seemed to havefallen in pleasant places. She was young and healthy, and, in the eyesof her friends, beautiful. Still, the startling pallor of her face wasin vivid contrast with the dead black dress she wore, a dress againstwhich her white arms and throat stood out like ivory on a back-ground ofebony and silver. There was no colour about the girl at all, save forthe warm, ripe tone of her hair and the deep, steadfast blue of hereyes. Though her face was cold and scornful, she would not have giventhe spectator the impression of coldness, only utter weariness and atiredness of life at the early age of twenty-two.
Behind her was a table laid out for a score of dinner guests. Everythingwas absolutely perfect and exceedingly costly, as appertained to allthings at the _Royal Palace Hotel_, where the head waiter condescendedto bow to nothing under a millionaire. The table decorations were red intone, there were red shades to the low electric lights, and masses ofred carnations everywhere. No taste, and incidentally no expense hadbeen spared, for Beatrice Darryll was to be married on the morrow, andher father, Sir Charles, was giving this dinner in honour of theoccasion. Only a very rich man could afford a luxury like that.
I think everything is complete, madame, a waiter suggested softly. Ifthere is anything----
Beatrice turned wearily from the window. She looked old and odd anddrawn just for the moment. And yet that face could ripple with delightedsmiles, the little red mouth was made for laughter. Beatrice's eyesswept over the wealth of good taste and criminal extravagance.
It will do very nicely, the girl said. It will do--anything will do.I mean you have done your work splendidly. I am more than satisfied.
The gratified, if slightly puzzled, waiter bowed himself out. The bitterscorn in Beatrice's eyes deepened. What did all this recklessextravagance mean? Why was it justified? The man who might have answeredthe question sauntered into the room. A wonderfully well-preserved manwas Sir Charles Darryll, with a boyish smile and an air of perennialyouth unspotted by the world, a man who was totally unfitted to copewith the hard grip and sordid side of life. There were some who saidthat he was a grasping, greedy, selfish old rascal, who under the guiseof youthful integrity concealed a nature that was harsh and cruel.
Well, my dear child, Sir Charles cried. And are you not satisfied?That table-setting is perfect; I never saw anything in more exquisitetaste.
It will all have to be paid for, Beatrice said wearily. Themoney----
Will be forthcoming. I have no doubt of it. Whether I have it at thebank or not I cannot for the moment say. If not, then our good friendStephen Richford must lend it me. My dear child, that black dress ofyours gives me quite a painful shock. Why wear it?
Beatrice crossed over and regarded her pale reflection in the glassopposite. The little pink nails were dug fiercely into the still pinkerflesh of her palm.
Why not? she asked. Is it not appropriate? Am I not in the deepestmourning for my lost honour? To-morrow I am going to marry a man whofrom the bottom of my heart I loathe and despise. I am going to sellmyself to him for money--money to save your good name. Oh, I know that Ishall have the benediction of the church, less fortunate girls will envyme; but I am not a whit better than the poor creature flaunting hershame on the pavement. Nay, I am worse, for she can plead that love wasthe cause of her undoing. Father, I can't, can't go through with it.
She flung herself down in a chair and covered her face with her hands.The boyish innocence of Sir Charles's face changed suddenly, a wickedgleam came into his eyes. His friends would have found a difficulty inrecognizing him then.
Get up, he said sternly. Get up and come to the window with me. Now,what do you see in this room?
Evidences of wealth that is glittering here, Beatrice cried.Shameless extravagance that you can never hope to pay for. Costlyflowers----
And everything that makes life worth living. All these things arenecessary to me. They will be with me till the end if you marry StephenRichford. Now look outside. Do you see those two men elaborately doingnothing by the railings opposite. You do? Well, they are watching _me_.They have been dogging me for three days. And if anything happened now,a sudden illness on your part, anything to postpone to-morrow'sceremony, I should pass the next day in jail. You did not think it wasas bad as that, did you?
The man's face was livid with fury; he had Beatrice's bare arm in acruel grip, but she did not notice the pain. Her mental trouble was toodeep for that.
It's that City Company that I hinted at, Sir Charles went on. Therewas a chance of a fortune there. I recognized that chance, and I becamea director. And there was risk, too. We took our chance, and the chancefailed. We gambled desperately, and again fortune failed us. Certainpeople who were against us have made unhappy discoveries. That is whythose men are watching me. But if I can send the chairman a letterto-morrow assuming innocence and regret and enclosing a cheque forL5,000 to cover my fees and to recover all the shares I have sold, thenI come out with a higher reputation than ever. I shall shine as the onehonest man in a den of thieves. That cheque and more, Richford haspromised me directly you are his wife. Do you understand, you sullen,white-faced fool? Do you see the danger? If I thought you were going toback out of it now, I'd strangle you.
Beatrice felt no fear; she was long past that emotion. Her weary eyesfell on the banks of red carnations; on the shaded lights and theexquisite table service. The fit of passion had left her indifferent andcold. She was not in the least sullen.
It would be the kindest act you could do, father, she said. Oh, Iknow that this is no new thing. There is no novelty in the situation ofa girl giving herself to a man whom she despises, for the sake of hismoney. The records of the Divorce Court teem with such cases. For thebattered honour of my father I am going to lose my own. Be silent--nosophistry of yours can hide the brutal truth. I hate that man from thebottom of my soul, and he knows it. And yet his one desire is to marryme. In Heaven's name, why?
Sir Charles chuckled slightly. The danger was past, and he could affordto be good-humoured again. Looking at his daughter he could understandthe feelings of the lover who grew all the more ardent as Beatrice drewback. And Stephen Richford was a millionaire. It mattered little thatboth he and his father had made their money in crooked ways; it matteredlittle that the best men and a few of the best clubs would have none ofStephen Richford so long as Society generally smiled on him and fawnedat his feet.
You need have no further fear, Beatrice answered coldly. My weaknesshas passed. I am not likely to forget myself again. My heart is dead andburied----
That's the way to talk, Sir Charles said cheerfully. Feeling better,eh? I once fancied that that confounded foolishness between MarkVentmore and yourself,--eh, what?
A wave of crimson passed over Beatrice's pale face. Her little handstrembled.
It was no foolishness, she said. I never cared for anyone but Mark, Inever shall care for anybody else. If Mark's father had not disownedhim, because he preferred art to that terrible City, you would neverhave come between us. But you parted us, and you thought that there wasan end of it. But you were wrong. Let me tell the truth. I wrote to Markin Venice, only last week, asking him to come to me. I got no reply tothat letter. If I had and he had come to me, I should have told himeverything and implored him to marry me. But the letter was notdelivered, and therefore you need have no fear of those men in thestreet. But my escape has been much nearer than you imagine.
Sir Charles turned away humming some operatic fragment gaily. There wasnot the least occasion for him to give any display of feeling in thematter. It had been an exceedingly lucky thing for him that the letterin question had miscarried. And nothing could make any difference now,seeing that Beatrice had given her word, and that was a thing that shealways respected. All Beatrice's probity and honour she inherited fromher mother.
Very foolish, very foolish, Sir Charles muttered benignly. Girls areso impulsive. Don't you think that those carnations would be improved bya little more foliage at the base? They strike me as being a little setand formal. Now, is not that better?
As if he had not either care or trouble in the world, Sir Charles addeda few deft touches to the deep crimson blooms. His face was careless andboyish and open again. From the next room came the swish of silkenskirts and the sound of a high-bred voice asking for somebody.
Lady Rashborough, Sir Charles cried, I'll go and receive her. And dofor goodness' sake try to look a little more cheerful. Stay in here andcompose yourself.
Sir Charles went off with an eager step and his most fascinating smile.Lord Rashborough was the head of his family. He was going to giveBeatrice away to-morrow; indeed, Beatrice would drive to the church fromRashborough's town house, though the reception was in the _Royal PalaceHotel_.
Beatrice passed her hand across her face wearily. She stood for a momentlooking into the fire, her thoughts very far away. Gradually the worldand its surroundings came back to her, and she was more or lessconscious that somebody was in the room. As she turned suddenly a tallfigure turned also, and made with hesitation towards the door.
I am afraid, the stranger said in a soft, pleading voice; I am afraidthat I have made a mistake.
If you are looking for anybody, Beatrice suggested, my father hasthese rooms. If you have come to see Sir Charles Darryll, why, Icould----
It struck Beatrice just for a moment that here was an adventurer afterthe silver plate. But a glance at the beautiful, smooth, sorrowful facebeat down the suspicion as quickly as it had risen. The intruder wasunmistakably a lady, she was dressed from head to foot in silver grey,and had a bonnet to match. In some vague way she reminded Beatrice of ahospital nurse, and then again of some _grande dame_ in one of theold-fashioned country houses where the parvenue and the Russo-Semiticfinancier is not permitted to enter.
I took the wrong turn, the stranger said. I fancy I can reach thecorridor by that door opposite. These great hotels are so big, theyconfuse me. So you are Beatrice Darryll; I have often heard of you. If Imay venture to congratulate you upon----
No, no, Beatrice cried quickly. Please don't. Perhaps if you tell meyour name I may be in a position to help you to find anybody you maychance----
The stranger shook her head as she stood in the doorway. Her voice waslow and sweet as she replied.
It does not in the least matter, she said. You can call me the Slaveof the Bond.