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The Angel of Terror

Country of origin: USA USA
Available texts by the same author here Dokument

Chapter XXIII

   So old Jaggs was in Monte Carlo! Whatever was he doing, and how was he getting on with these people who spoke nothing but French, she wondered! She had something to think about before she went to sleep.
   She opened her eyes singularly awake as the dawn was coming up over the grey sea. She looked at her watch; it was a quarter to six. Why she had wakened so thoroughly she could not tell, but remembered with a little shiver another occasion she had wakened, this time before the dawn, to face death in a most terrifying shape.
   She got up out of bed, put on a heavy coat and opened the wire doors that led to the balcony. The morning was colder than she imagined, and she was glad to retreat to the neighbourhood of the warm radiator.
   The fresh clean hours of the dawn, when the mind is clear, and there is neither sound nor movement to distract the thoughts, are favourable to sane thinking.
   Lydia reviewed the past few weeks in her life, and realised, for the first time, the miracle which had happened. It was like a legend of old--the slave had been lifted from the king's anteroom--the struggling artist was now a rich woman. She twiddled the gold ring on her hand absent-mindedly--and she was married ... and a widow! She had an uncomfortable feeling that, in spite of her riches, she had not yet found her niche. She was an odd quantity, as yet. The Cole-Mortimers and the Briggerlands did not belong to her ideal world, and she could find no place where she fitted.
   She tried, in this state of mind so favourable to the consideration of such a problem, to analyse Jack Glover's antagonism toward Jean Briggerland and her father.
   It seemed unnatural that a healthy young man should maintain so bitter a feud with a girl whose beauty was almost of a transcendant quality and all because she had rejected him.
   Jack Glover was a public school boy, a man with a keen sense of honour. She could not imagine him being guilty of a mean action. And such men did not pursue vendettas without good reason. If they were rejected by a woman, they accepted their congĂ© with a good grace, and it was almost unthinkable that Jack should have no other reason for his hatred. Yet she could not bring herself even to consider the possibility that the reason was the one he had advanced. She came again to the dead end of conjecture. She could believe in Jack's judgment up to a point--beyond that she could not go.
   She had her bath, dressed, and was in the garden when the eastern horizon was golden with the light of the rising sun. Nobody was about, the most energetic of the servants had not yet risen, and she strolled through the avenue to the main road. As she stood there looking up and down a man came out from the trees that fringed the road and began walking rapidly in the direction of Monte Carlo.
   "Mr. Jaggs!" she called.
   He took no notice, but seemed to increase his limping pace, and after a moment's hesitation, she went flying down the road after him. He turned at the sound of her footsteps and in his furtive way drew into the shadow of a bush. He looked more than usually grimy; on his hands were an odd pair of gloves and a soft slouch hat that had seen better days, covered his head.
   "Good-morning, miss," he wheezed.
   "Why were you running away, Mr. Jaggs?" she asked, a little out of breath.
   "Not runnin' away, miss," he said, glancing at her sharply from under his heavy white eyebrows. "Just havin' a look round!"
   "Do you spend all your nights looking round?" she smiled at him.
   "Yes, miss."
   At that moment a cyclist gendarme came into view. He slowed down as he approached the two and dismounted.
   "Good morning, madame," he said politely, and then looking at the man, "is this man in your employ? I have seen him coming out of your house every morning?"
   "Oh, yes," said Lydia hastily, "he's my----"
   She was at a loss to describe him, but old Jaggs saved her the trouble.
   "I'm madame's courier," he said, and to Lydia's amazement he spoke in perfect French, "I am also the watchman of the house."
   "Yes, yes," said Lydia, after she had recovered from her surprise. "M'sieur is the watchman, also."
   "Bien, madame," said the gendarme. "Forgive my asking, but we have so many strangers here."
   They watched the gendarme out of sight. Then old Jaggs chuckled.
   "Pretty good French, miss, wasn't it?" he said, and without another word, turned and limped in the trail of the police.
   She looked after him in bewilderment. So he spent every night in the grounds, or somewhere about the house? The knowledge gave her a queer sense of comfort and safety.
   When she went back to the villa she found the servants were up. Jean did not put in an appearance until breakfast, and Lydia had an opportunity of talking to the French housekeeper whom Mrs. Cole-Mortimer had engaged when she took the villa. From her she learnt a bit of news, which she passed on to Jean almost as soon as she put in an appearance.
   "The gardener's little boy is going to get well, Jean."
   Jean nodded.
   "I know," she said. "I telephoned to the hospital yesterday."
   It was so unlike her conception of the girl, that Lydia stared.
   "The mother is in isolation," Lydia went on, "and Madame Souviet says that the poor woman has no money and no friends. I thought of going down to the hospital to-day to see if I could do anything for her."
   "You'd better not, my dear," warned Mrs. Cole-Mortimer nervously. "Let us be thankful we've got the little brat out of the neighbourhood without our catching the disease. One doesn't want to seek trouble. Keep away from the hospital."
   "Rubbish!" said Jean briskly. "If Lydia wants to go, there is no reason why she shouldn't. The isolation people are never allowed to come into contact with visitors, so there is really no danger."
   "I agree with Mrs. Cole-Mortimer," grumbled Briggerland. "It is very foolish to ask for trouble. You take my advice, my dear, and keep away."
   "I had a talk with a gendarme this morning," said Lydia to change the subject. "When he stopped and got off his bicycle I thought he was going to speak about the shooting. I suppose it was reported to the police?"
   "Er--yes," said Mr. Briggerland, not looking up from his plate, "of course. Have you been into Monte Carlo?"
   Lydia shook her head.
   "No, I couldn't sleep, and I was taking a walk along the road when he passed." She said nothing about Mr. Jaggs. "The police at Monaco are very sociable."
   Mr. Briggerland sniffed.
   "Very," he said.
   "Have they any theories?" she asked. In her innocence she was persisting in a subject which was wholly distasteful to Mr. Briggerland. "About the shooting I mean?"
   "Yes, they have theories, but my dear, I should advise you not to discuss the matter with the police. The fact is," invented Mr. Briggerland, "I told them that you were unaware of the fact that you had been shot at, and if you discussed it with the police, you would make me look rather foolish."
   When Lydia and Mrs. Cole-Mortimer had gone, Jean seized an opportunity which the absence of the maid offered.
   "I hope you are beginning to see how perfectly insane your scheme was," she said. "You have to support your act with a whole series of bungling lies. Possibly Marcus, like a fool, has mentioned it in Monte Carlo, and we shall have the detectives out here asking why you have not reported the matter."
   "If I were as clever as you----" he growled.
   "You're not," said Jean, rolling her serviette. "You're the most un-clever man I know."

Chapter 24 >