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MR BALTIC ON THE TRAIL
What took place at the interview between Gabriel and his father, Dr Graham never knew; and indeed never sought to know. He was a discreet man even for a doctor, and meddled with no one's business, unless--as in the present instance--forced to do so. But even then his discretion showed itself; for after advising the bishop to tolerate the presence of Cargrim until Baltic had solved the riddle he was set to guess, and after sending Gabriel to the palace, he abstained from further inquiries and discussions in connection with murder and secret. He had every faith in Baltic, and quite believed that in time the missionary would lay his hand on the actual murderer. When this was accomplished, and Cargrim's attempt to gain illegal power over Pendle was thwarted; then--all chance of a public scandal being at an end--would be the moment to consider how the bishop should act in reference to his false marriage. Certainly there was the possible danger that the criminal might learn the secret from the certificate and papers, and might reveal it when captured; but Graham thought it best to ignore this difficulty until it should actually arise. For, after all, such a contingency might not occur.
'The certificate of marriage between Krant and his wife will reveal nothing to a man unacquainted with Mrs Pendle's previous name; and without such knowledge he cannot know that she married the bishop while her first husband was alive. Certainly she might have mentioned Pendle's name in the letters, but she would not write of him as a lover or as a possible husband; therefore, unless the assassin knows something of the story, which is improbable, and unless he can connect the name of Mrs Krant with Mrs Pendle--which on the face of it is impossible--I do not see how he is to learn the truth. He may guess, or he may know for certain, that Jentham received the two hundred pounds from the bishop, but he cannot guess that the price was paid for certificate and letters, especially as he found them on the body, and knows that they were not handed over for the money. No; on the whole, I think Pendle is mistaken; in my opinion there is no danger to be feared from the assassin, whomsoever he may be.'
In this way Graham argued with himself, and shortly came to the comfortable conclusion that Dr Pendle's secret would never become a public scandal. Now that Jentham, alias Krant, was dead, the secret was known to three people only--namely, to the bishop, to himself, and to Gabriel. If none of the three betrayed it--and they had the strongest reason for silence--no one else would, or could. The question of the murder was the immediate matter for consideration; and once Dr Pendle's innocence was proved by the capture of the real assassin, Cargrim could be dismissed in well-merited disgrace. With all the will in the world he could not then harm the bishop, seeing that he was ignorant of the dead man's relation to Mrs Pendle. Other danger there was none; of that the little doctor was absolutely assured.
Perhaps the bishop argued in this way also; or it may be he found a certain amount of relief in sharing his troubles with Gabriel and Graham; but he certainly appeared more cheerful and less worried than formerly, and even tolerated the society of Cargrim with equanimity, although he detested playing a part so foreign to his frank and honourable nature. However, he saw the necessity of masking his dislike until the sting of this domestic viper could be rendered innocuous, and was sufficiently gracious on such occasions as he came into contact with him. Gabriel was less called upon to be courteous to the schemer, as, having come to a complete understanding with his father, he rarely visited the palace; but when he did so his demeanour towards Mr Cargrim was much the same as of yore. For the good of their domestic peace, both father and son concealed their real feelings, and succeeded as creditably as was possible with men of their honourable natures. But they were not cunning enough--or perhaps sufficiently guarded--to deceive the artful chaplain. Evil himself, he was always on the alert to see evil in others.
'I wonder what all this means,' he ruminated one day after vainly attempting to learn why Gabriel had returned so unexpectedly to Beorminster. 'The bishop seems unnecessarily polite, and young Pendle appears to be careful how he speaks. They surely can't suspect me of knowing about the murder. Perhaps Baltic has been talking; I'll just give him a word of warning.'
This he did, and was promptly told by the ex-sailor not to advise on points of which he was ignorant. 'I know my business, sir, none better,' observed Baltic, in his solemn way, 'and there are few men who are more aware of the value of a silent tongue.'
'You may be an admirable detective, as you say,' retorted Cargrim, nettled by the rebuke, 'but I have only your word for it; and you will permit me to observe that I have not yet seen a proof of your capabilities.'
'All in good time, Mr Cargrim. More haste less speed, sir. I fancy I am on the right track at last.'
'Can you guess who killed the man?' asked the chaplain, eagerly waiting for the bishop's name to be pronounced.
'I never guess, sir. I theorise from external evidence, and then try, with such brains as God has given me, to prove my theories.'
'You have gained some evidence, then?'
'If I have, Mr Cargrim, you'll hear it when I place the murderer in the dock. It is foolish to show half-finished work.'
'But if the mur--'
'Hold hard, sir!' interrupted Baltic, raising his head. 'I'll so far depart from my rule as to tell you one thing--whosoever killed Jentham, it was not Bishop Pendle.'
Cargrim grew red and angry. 'I tell you it was!' he almost shouted, although this conversation took place in a quiet corner near the cathedral, and thereby required prudent speech and demeanour. 'Didn't Dr Pendle meet Jentham on the common?'
'We presume so, sir, but as yet we have no proof of the meeting.'
'At least you know that he paid Jentham two hundred pounds.'
'Perhaps he did; maybe he didn't,' returned Baltic, quietly. 'He certainly drew out that amount from the Ophir Bank, but, not having traced the notes, I can't say if he paid it to the man.'
'But I am sure he did,' insisted Cargrim, still angry.
'In that case, sir, why ask me for my opinion?' replied the imperturbable Baltic.
If Mr Cargrim had not been a clergyman, he would have sworn at the complacent demeanour of the agent, and even as it was he felt inclined to risk a relieving oath or two. But knowing Baltic's religious temperament, he was wise enough not to lay himself open to further rebuke; so he turned the matter off with a laugh, and observed that no doubt Mr Baltic knew his own business best.
'I think I can safely say so, sir,' rejoined Baltic, gravely. 'By the way, did you not tell me that Captain George Pendle was on the common when the murder took place?'
'Yes, George was there, and so was Gabriel. Mrs Pansey's page saw them both.'
'And where is Captain Pendle now, sir?'
'At Wincaster with his regiment; but the bishop has sent for him to come to Beorminster, so I expect he will be here within the week.'
'I am glad of that, Mr Cargrim, as I wish to ask Captain Pendle a few questions.'
'Do you suspect him?'
'I can't rightly say, sir,' answered Baltic, wiping his face with the red bandanna. 'Later on I may form an opinion. Mr Gabriel Pendle comes to The Derby Winner sometimes, I see.'
'Yes; he is in love with the barmaid there.'
Baltic looked up sharply. 'Mosk's daughter, sir?'
'The same. He wants to marry Bell Mosk.'
'Does--he--indeed?' drawled the agent, flicking his thumb nail against his teeth. 'Well, Mr Cargrim, he might do worse. There is a lot of good in that young woman, sir. Mr Gabriel Pendle has lately returned from abroad, I hear.'
'Yes, from Nauheim.' 'That is in Germany, I take it, sir. Did he travel on a Cook's ticket, do you know?'
'I believe he did.'
'Oh! humph! I'll say good-bye, then, Mr Cargrim, for the present. I shall see you when I return from London.'
'Are you going to ask about Gabriel's ticket at Cook's?'
'There's no telling, sir. I may look in.'
'Do you think that Gab--'
'I think nothing as yet, Mr Cargrim; when I do, I'll tell you my thoughts. Good-day, sir! God bless you!' And Baltic, with a satisfied expression on his face, rolled away in a nautical manner.
'God bless me indeed!' muttered Cargrim, in much displeasure, for neither the speech nor the manner of the man pleased him. 'Ugh! I wish Baltic would stick to either religion or business. At present he is a kind of moral hermaphrodite, good for neither one thing nor another. I wonder if he suspects the bishop or his two sons? I don't believe Dr Pendle is innocent; but if he is, either George or Gabriel is guilty. Well, if that is so, I'll still be able to make the bishop give me Heathcroft. He will rather do that than see one of his sons hanged and the name disgraced. Still, I hope Baltic will bring home the crime to his lordship.'
With this amiable wish, Mr Cargrim quickened his pace to catch up with Miss Whichello, whom he saw tripping across the square towards the Jenny Wren house. The little old lady looked rosy and complacent, at peace with herself and the whole of Beorminster. Nevertheless, her expression changed when she saw Mr Cargrim sliding gracefully towards her, and she received him with marked coldness. As yet she had not forgiven him for his unauthorised interference on behalf of Mrs Pansey. Cargrim was quick to observe her buckram civility, but diplomatically took no notice of its frigidity. On the contrary, he was more gushing and more expansive than ever.
'A happy meeting, my dear lady,' he said, with a beaming glance. 'Had I not met you, I should have called to see you as the bearer of good news.'
'Really!' replied Miss Whichello, drily. 'That will be a relief from hearing bad news, Mr Cargrim. I have had sufficient trouble of late.'
'Ah!' sighed the chaplain, falling into his professional drawl, 'how true is the saying of Job, "Man is born--"'
'I don't want to hear about Job,' interrupted Miss Whichello, crossly. 'He is the greatest bore of all the patriarchs.'
'Job, dear lady, was not a patriarch.'
'Nevertheless, he is a bore, Mr Cargrim. What is your good news?'
'Captain Pendle is coming to Beorminster this week, Miss Whichello.'
'Oh,' said the little old lady, with a satirical smile, 'you are a day after the fair, Mr Cargrim. I heard that news this morning.'
'Indeed! But the bishop only sent for Captain Pendle yesterday.'
'Quite so; and Miss Arden received a telegram from Captain Pendle this morning.'
'Ah! Miss Whichello, young love! young love!'
The little lady could have shaken Cargrim for the smirk with which he made this remark. However, she restrained her very natural impulse, and merely remarked--rather irrelevantly, it must be confessed--that if two young and handsome people in love with one another were not happy in their first blush of passion they never would be.
'No doubt, dear lady. I only trust that such happiness may last. But there is no sky without a cloud.'
'And there is no bee without a sting, and no rose without a thorn. I know all those consoling proverbs, Mr Cargrim, but they don't apply to my turtle-doves.'
Cargrim rubbed his hands softly together. 'Long may you continue to think so, my dear lady,' said he, with a sad look.
'What do you mean, sir?' asked Miss Whichello, sharply.
'I mean that it is as well to be prepared for the worst,' said Cargrim, in his blandest manner. 'The course of true love--but you are weary of such trite sayings. Good-day, Miss Whichello!' He raised his hat and turned away. 'One last proverb--Joy in the morning means grief at night.'
When Mr Cargrim walked away briskly after delivering this Parthian shaft, Miss Whichello stood looking after him with an expression of nervous worry on her rosy face. She had her own reasons to apprehend trouble in connection with the engagement, and although these were unknown to the chaplain, his chance arrow had hit the mark. The thoughts of the little old lady at once reverted to the conversation with the bishop at the garden-party.
'Mrs Pansey again,' thought Miss Whichello, resuming her walk at a slower pace. 'I shall have to call on her, and appeal either to her fears or her charity, otherwise she may cause trouble.'
In the meantime, Mr Baltic, proceeding in his grave way towards Eastgate, had fallen in with Gabriel coming from The Derby Winner. As yet the two had never met, and save the name, young Pendle knew nothing about the ex-sailor. Nevertheless, when face to face with him, he recognised the man at once as a private inquiry agent whom he had once spoken to in Whitechapel. The knowledge of his father's secret, of Jentham's murder and of this stranger's profession mingled confusedly in Gabriel's head, and his heart knocked at his ribs for very fear.
'I met you in London some years ago,' he said nervously.
'Yes, Mr Pendle; but then I did not know your name, nor did you know mine.'
'How did you recognise me?' asked Gabriel.
'I have a good memory for faces, sir,' returned Baltic, 'but, as a matter of fact, Sir Harry Brace pointed you out to me.'
'Sir Har--oh, then you are Baltic!'
'At your service, Mr Pendle. I am down here on business.'
'I know all about it,' replied Gabriel, recovering his nerve with the knowledge of the man's name and inclination to side with the bishop.
'Indeed, sir! And who told you about it?'
'Sir Harry told Dr Graham, who informed my father, who spoke to me.'
'Oh!' Baltic looked seriously at the curate's pale face. 'Then the bishop knows that I am an inquiry agent.'
'He does, Mr Baltic. And, to tell you the truth, he is not at all pleased that you presented yourself in our city as a missionary.'
'I am a missionary,' answered the ex-sailor, quietly. 'I explained as much to Sir Harry, but it would seem that he has told the worst and kept back the best.'
'I don't understand,' said the curate, much bewildered.
'Sir, it would take too long for me to explain why I call myself a missionary, but you can rest assured that I am not sailing under false colours. As it is, you know me as an agent; and you know also my purpose in coming here.'
'Yes! I know that you are investigating the mur--'
'We are in the street, sir,' interrupted Baltic, with a glance at passers-by; 'it is as well to be discreet. One moment.' He led Gabriel into a quiet alley, comparatively free from listeners. 'This is a rather rough sort of neighbourhood, sir.'
'Rough certainly, but not dangerous,' replied Gabriel, puzzled by the remark.
'Don't you carry a pistol, Mr Pendle?'
'No! Why should I?'
'Why indeed? If the Gospel is not a protection enough, no earthly arms will prevail. Your name is Gabriel, I think, sir.'
'Yes! Gabriel Pendle; but I don't see--'
'I'm coming to an explanation, sir. G. P.' mused Baltic--'same initials as those of your father and brother, eh, Mr Pendle?'
'Certainly. Both the bishop and my brother are named George.'
'G. P. all three,' said Baltic, with a nod, 'Do you travel abroad with a Cook's ticket, sir?'
'Usually! Why do you--'
'A through ticket to--say Nauheim--is about three pounds, I believe?'
'I paid that for mine, Mr Baltic. May I ask why you question me in this manner?' demanded Gabriel, irritably.
Baltic tapped Gabriel's chest three times with his forefinger. 'For your own safety, Mr Pendle. Good-day, sir!'
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