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The Amateur Gentleman (Chapter49)

2006-08-28 16:16

  Chapter XLIX. Which, Being Somewhat Important, is Consequently Short

  "My dear fellow," said the Viscount, stifling a yawn beneath the bedclothes, "you rise with the lark,——or should it be linnet? Anyhow, you do, you know. So deuced early!"

  "I am here early because I haven't been to bed, Dick."

  "Ah, night mail? Dev'lish uncomfortable! Didn't think you'd come back in such a deuce of a hurry, though!"

  "But you wanted to see me, Dick, what is it?"

  "Why,——egad, Bev, I'm afraid it's nothing much, after all. It's that fellow Smivvle's fault, really."

  "Smivvle?"

  "Fellow actually called here yesterday——twice, Bev. Dev'lish importunate fellow y'know. Wanted to see you,——deuced insistent about it, too!"

  "Why?"

  "Well, from what I could make out, he seemed to think——sounds ridiculous so early in the morning,——but he seemed to fancy you were in some kind of——danger, Bev."

  "How, Dick?"

  "Well, when I told him he couldn't see you because you had driven over to Hawkhurst, the fellow positively couldn't sit still——deuced nervous, y'know,——though probably owing to drink. 'Hawkhurst!' says he, staring at me as if I were a ghost, my dear fellow, 'yes,' says I, 'and the door's open, sir!' 'I see it is,' says he, sitting tight. 'But you must get him back!' 'Can't be done!' says I. 'Are you his friend?' says he. 'I hope so,' says I. 'Then,' says he, before I could remind him of the door again, 'then you must get him back—— at once!' I asked him why, but he only stared and shook his head, and so took himself off. I'll own the fellow shook me rather, Bev, ——he seemed so very much in earnest, but, knowing where you were, I wouldn't have disturbed you for the world if it hadn't been for the horses."

  "Ah, yes——the horses!" said Barnabas thoughtfully. "How is your arm now, Dick?"

  "A bit stiff, but otherwise right as a trivet, Bev. But now——about yourself, my dear fellow,——what on earth possessed you to lay Carnaby such a bet? What a perfectly reckless fellow you are! Of course the money is as good as in Carnaby's pocket already, not to mention Chichester's——damn him! As I told you in my letter, the affair has gone the round of the clubs,——every one is laughing at the 'Galloping Countryman,' as they call you. Jerningham came within an ace of fighting Tufton Green of the Guards about it, but the Marquis is deuced knowing with the barkers, and Tufton, very wisely, thought better of it. Still, I'm afraid the name will stick——!"

  "And why not, Dick? I am a countryman, indeed quite a yokel in many ways, and I shall certainly gallop——when it comes to it."

  "Which brings us back to the horses, Bev. I 've been thinking we ought to get 'em away——into the country——some quiet place like——say, the——the 'Spotted Cow,' Bev."

  "Yes, the 'Spotted Cow' should do very well; especially as Clemency——"

  "Talking about the horses, Bev," said the Viscount, sitting up in bed and speaking rather hurriedly, "I protest, since the rascally attempt on 'Moonraker' last night, I've been on pins and needles, positively,——nerve quite gone, y'know, Bev. If 'Moonraker' didn't happen to be a horse, he'd be a mare,——of course he would,——but I mean a nightmare. I've thought of him all day and dreamed of him all night, oh, most cursed, y'know! Just ring for my fellow, will you, Bev?——I'll get up, and we'll go round to the stables together."

  "Quite unnecessary, Dick."

  "Eh? Why?"

  "Because I have just left there."

  "Are the horses all right, Bev?"

  "Yes, Dick."

  "Ah!" sighed the Viscount, falling back among his pillows, "and everything is quite quiet, eh?"

  "Very quiet,——now, Dick."

  "Eh?" cried the Viscount, coming erect again, "Bev, what d' you mean?"

  "I mean that three men broke in again to-night——"

  "Oh, Lord!" exclaimed the Viscount, beginning to scramble out of bed.

  "But we drove them off before they had done——what they came for."

  "Did you, Bev,——did you? ah,——but didn't you catch any of 'em?"

  "No; but my horse did."

  "Your horse? Oh, Beverley,——d'you mean he——"

  "Killed him, Dick!"

  Once more the Viscount sank back among his pillows and stared up at the ceiling a while ere he spoke again——

  "By the Lord, Bev," said he, at last, "the stable-boys might well call him 'The Terror'!"

  "Yes," said Barnabas, "he has earned his name, Dick."

  "And the man was——dead, you say?"

  "Hideously dead, Dick,——and in his pocket we found this!" and Barnabas produced a dirty and crumpled piece of paper, and put it into the Viscount's reluctant hand. "Look at it, Dick, and tell me what it is."

  "Why, Bev,——deuce take me, it's a plan of our stables! And they've got it right, too! Here's 'Moonraker's' stall marked out as pat as you please, and 'The Terror's,' but they've got his name wrong——"

  "My horse had no name, Dick."

  "But there's something written here."

  "Yes, look at it carefully, Dick."

  "Well, here's an H, and an E, and——looks like 'Hera,' Bev!"

  "Yes, but it isn't. Look at that last letter again, Dick!"

  "Why, I believe——by God, Bev,——it's an E!"

  "Yes,——an E, Dick."

  "'Here'!" said the Viscount, staring at the paper; "why, then——why, Bev,——it was——your horse they were after!"

  "My horse,——yes, Dick."

  "But he's a rank outsider——he isn't even in the betting! In heaven's name, why should any one——"

  "Look on the other side of the paper, Dick."

  Obediently, the Viscount turned the crumpled paper over, and thereafter sat staring wide-eyed at a name scrawled thereon, and from it to Barnabas and back again; for the name he saw was this:

  RONALD BARRYMAINE ESQUIRE.

  "And Dick," said Barnabas, "it is in Chichester's handwriting."

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