"What? you are within an inch of crying for my mother, you who haveyour own trouble at this hour.""Monsieur, our situations are so alike, I mtao bitcoin atm near meay well spare some littlesympathy for your misfortune.""Thank you, my good young lady. Well, then, to business; while youwere praying to the Virgin, I was saying a word or two for my partto her who is no more.""Sir!""Oh! it was nothing beautiful like the things you said to the other.
When at last he came in and threw off his waterproof coat, the kitchen was in order and his wife was sitting by the parlor fire with Thomson's "Land and the Book" in her hand.bitcoin cash rise"Are you fond of reading?" he asked.
"Yes, very.""Well, I am, too, sort of; but I've let the years slip by without doing half as much as I ought.""Light your pipe and I'll read to you, if you wish me to.""Oh, come now! I at least believe in Sunday as a day of rest, and you need it. Reading aloud is about as hard work as I can do.""But I'm used to it. I read aloud to mother a great deal," and then there passed over her face an expression of deep pain.
"What is it, Alida? Don't you feel well?""Yes, oh, yes!" she replied hastily, and her pale face became crimson.The long fa?ade of Snacklit House had three entrances. One was closed by the wide gates into the yard. One, the central and most imposing, was that which gave access to the business premises, where dogs and other animals could be bought, or deposited for hospital treatment, or for the destruction of which it was etiquette to speak so delicately, and which was so discreetly, expeditiously and thoroughly done.
Beyond that was the entrance to the philanthropist's private residence. It had an appearance of modesty, disguising the fact that it led to luxurious apartments which crossed the complete length of the rear of the building, both at its first and second floors.Professor Blinkwell, who knew the place, directed his chauffeur to drive to the private entrance, and to wait for him there. He did not intend there should be any appearance of his having made a furtive visit. He acted on his usual principle of conforming to the natural conduct of a man whose conscience is well at ease. In the past, he had found it to be a method which served him well.Kate was the one who normally opened the door, as she did now. Billson was in charge of the main entrance, which was closed at this hour, but there was another reason why he was not on the scene, to which we shall come.Kate took the Professor's name, which was strange to her. She knew that customers came at all hours, and such she took him to be. She asked him to take a seat in the hall, and went to give Snacklit his name. The Professor gave her a ten yards' start, and then followed her. The carpets were soft and thick and she did not hear him until she had knocked at the door of her master's room. He was close behind her then. He said: "All right, my good girl. I can manage now." She thought it discreet to withdraw.
Snacklit called, "Come in," in a voice of irritation, and stared in surprise unmixed with pleasure when he saw who it was who entered. The Professor looked equally surprised at the condition of the man upon whom he intruded with so little ceremony.Snacklit lay back on a settee. There was a swelling on the side of his head where it had been first hit, and the black bruise, streaked with drying blood, had now spread over half his face. He held a reddened towel, with which he was still wiping blood from his mouth.
"You seem," the Professor said coldly, "to have been making a mess of things, or perhaps I should say that they have been making a mess of you.""It's that she-devil whose been handling the stuff," Snacklit answered. "She looked as though a mouse could have made her jump; but you never know.""Well," the Professor answered, "you shouldn't have brought her here. It was the act of a fool, and I've come to see what can be done now.""I didn't bring her. She followed me."
"We won't argue that. The question is where she is now.""She's where she'll be no more trouble to us. Burfoot's seeing to that.""You mean - - ""Yes. She went off with him like a lamb." Snacklit's face was contorted into a difficult smile at the recollection.
"How long ago was this?""Ten minutes. Maybe a bit more."
"Then it would be too late to interfere?""That's a safe guess."
"Then we won't attempt it. After all, it may be the best way. But I had told you - - ""You didn't know that she'd seen the taxi-man after he'd been knocked on the head?""Did she? That was certainly an argument for ruling a double line. But it is a matter on which I must be sure that there has been no further mistake. I should like to see her before I go.""She'd be a queer sight by now.""It will be one that I can endure. She would still I suppose be in the gas-chamber?""I don't know that. Burfoot wouldn't lose any time. He might have her in the furnace by now."
"So I expect he will. I have been informed that he is both thorough and energetic in all he does. Perhaps you will show me the way there? I should like to see for myself, and after that the incident shall not be mentioned between us again."On this assurance, which sounded satisfactory to him, and in saying which the Professor had spoken with a literal sincerity which he did not always employ, Snacklit rose and led the way down the corridor, and by a back-stair to the walled enclosure beside the garden in which the incinerator was built.
"You have," Professor Blinkwell remarked, as they approached it, "a furnace of ample size."Mr. Snacklit was gratified by this recognition, so that he almost forgot the pains he was enduring as he replied that it was his policy to be ready for all emergencies. There were occasions when a large number of dogs had to be destroyed in a short time. It would be objectionable to keep them lying about, as might happen in smaller and less efficient establishments. And the proportion of large dogs (such as Great Danes and mastiffs) which were offered for his ministrations (probably owing to the cost of their food) was high.
As he completed this explanation, they reached the door of the furnace, where the man Wilkes, of whom we have seen nothing except that brief moment when he shared the labour of wheeling the dead taxi-driver across the garden, and of whom we know nothing beyond the negative fact that he had not got red hair, was standing by.Snacklit asked, "Anything special put into the furnace just lately?"
Wilkes may not have known what answer he was expected to give. Anyway, he was discreet in his reply, "I haven't noticed that close."Snacklit didn't press the point. He said, "I think Professor Blinkwell would like to look in."Wilkes picked up a long-handled hook and drew back the sliding door. The furnace roared in their faces.Whether Professor Blinkwell wanted to look or not Snacklit certainly did. He went forward, blinking into the white heat.
"I can't see anything of her," he said. "Or at least, not to be sure. Nothing could last long in that heat."Professor Blinkwell said "No, I suppose not." What he gave Snacklit could not fairly be called a kick. It was a mere push with his foot, well judged and well placed. With a shrill scream the man fell forward into the fire.
"You'd better close the shutter," the Professor said. "He's not pleasant to watch."Wilkes said no more than, "You're the boss." The hook came into operation again.
Chapter 39 Objection To Being Roasted Alive"I DON'T THINK this is the way out. There was panic in Irene s voice which she could not control.
Burfoot had stopped and locked the door through which they had come. There might be no certain significance in that, but he was now leading the way to a glass-walled chamber, the use of which was not difficult to guess, even apart from the faint penetrating odour which never left its precincts, even when it was not charged with the fumes by which it destroyed its countless unsuspecting victims, who were repaid for the love and loyalty they had given to men by this murderous treachery.Burfoot looked at her with the derisive grin she had seen at their first encounter. He said: "You can please yourself. It's all one to me. But I should say a good whiff of gas is better than being roasted alive.""But - you can't mean it!" she answered faintly. "You said you'd show me the way out, and I'd give you a hundred pounds. Suppose we say two? Or what do you want? It's no use trying to frighten me like this. You can't want to be hanged. I've told you the police are on the way here. I know they are. . . ."She stopped before the malicious amusement in his eyes. Incredible as it must seem, she knew at that moment that he meant to kill her, and that there was no hope in any pleading, and little in appeals either to greed or fear.
The inclination to faint came again, as it had done in the room above, and she knew that, if she should do so, there would be no return to consciousness, unless it should be in some horror of mortal pain.She looked at the man, who was a head taller than herself massive, muscular, able to break her back over his knee, and she knew that, even if she had retained the poker that she had been cajoled into laying down so foolishly, it would have been useless to her. Her wits must save her, or nothing would. And how could her wits avail?
The man had listened to her with no sign of relenting. She saw that her terror was amusement to him - that he would find pleasure in that which he was meaning to do. But he answered her, in the tone of one who would show sense to a fool."You didn't think we should let you live? You know a damned sight too much for that."
"If I knew that you had saved my life, wouldn't that be a good thing for you?"It was shrewdly suggested. For one moment he may have hesitated as to whether it would not be best to take whatever money she might promise now and afterwards prove able and willing to pay, and to take the credit of saving her from Snacklit's hands. But would it save him? It is no sufficient legal defence to say that you declined to kill a young lady at night, if it can be proved against you that you helped to murder a taxi-driver at any earlier hour. No, there was one way, and only one, that was sure. . . . And then there was the noise of a key turning in a locked door, and Billson stood in the entrance.