Irene was more worried for Kindell's welfare, and anxious as to what ordeal he might haveetherscan verify contract to face from the French police, but she could not believe that he was in serious danger of conviction for a murder of which she was certain that he could not have been guilty.
"You know!" he exclaimed, in momentary consternation. Again, hermood had affected his own, so that through a few hurrying secondshe felt himself somehow guilty of wrong against this girl, sofrank and so rebuking.cardano launching smart contracts"I heard you in the courtroom," she said. "The dock isn't veryfar from the bench where you spoke to the judge about my case.
Yes, I heard you. It wasn't: Did I do it? Or, didn't I do it?No; it was only that I must be made a warning to others."Again, silence fell for a tense interval. Then, finally, thegirl spoke in a different tone. Where before her voice had beenvibrant with the instinct of complaint against the mockery ofjustice under which she suffered, now there was a deeper note,that of most solemn truth."Mr. Gilder," she said simply, "as God is my judge, I am going toprison for three years for something I didn't do."But the sincerity of her broken cry fell on unheeding ears. Thecoarse nature of the officer had long ago lost whatever elementsof softness there might have been to develop in a gentleroccupation. As for the owner of the store, he was notsufficiently sensitive to feel the verity in the accents of thespeaker. Moreover, he was a man who followed the conventional,with never a distraction due to imagination and sympathy. Justnow, too, he was experiencing a keen irritation against himselfbecause of the manner in which he had been sensible to theinfluence of her protestation, despite his will to the contrary.That irritation against himself only reacted against the girl,and caused him to steel his heart to resist any tendency towardcommiseration. So, this declaration of innocence was made quitein vain--indeed, served rather to strengthen his disfavor towardthe complainant, and to make his manner harsher when she voicedthe pitiful question over which she had wondered and grieved."Why did you ask the judge to send me to prison?""The thieving that has been going on in this store for over ayear has got to stop," Gilder answered emphatically, with all hisusual energy of manner restored. As he spoke, he raised his eyesand met the girl's glance fairly. Thought of the robberies wasquite enough to make him pitiless toward the offender.
"Sending me to prison won't stop it," Mary Turner said, drearily."Perhaps not," Gilder sternly retorted. "But the discovery andpunishment of the other guilty ones will." His manner changed toa business-like alertness. "You sent word to me that you couldtell me how to stop the thefts in the store. Well, my girl, dothis, and, while I can make no definite promise, I'll see whatcan be done about getting you out of your present difficulty."He picked up a pencil, pulled a pad of blank paper convenient tohis hand, and looked at the girl expectantly, with aggressiveinquiry in his gaze. "Tell me now," he concluded, "who were yourpals?"The matter-of-fact manner of this man who had unwittingly wrongedher so frightfully was the last straw on the girl's burden ofsuffering. Under it, her patient endurance broke, and she criedout in a voice of utter despair that caused Gilder to startnervously, and even impelled the stolid officer to a frown ofremonstrance.MYRA WAS PLAINLY nervous. She looked at Kindell with troubled, questioning eyes. She asked:
"You really think you will get it through?"She had had an angry enigmatic contest with her uncle, who had given assurances which appeared to be inconsistent with that which, in the same breath, he required her to do, and which had ended in his telling her that she talked too much, and it was no use her trying to use brains that she hadn't got, and that she must trust his judgment, or go back to England to find another home than she now had."Do you think, my dear Myra," he had asked, "I should entrust anything to you which you might muck? Don't I know that you would give me away in a moment if you thought that you were in the slightest danger from the police which you could ward off in no other way? When you say I'm asking you to do a dangerous thing, you simply call me a fool."The smoothness of his quiet voice had not concealed from her the anger with which he spoke. She cared nothing for the imputations on her own brains, which she had heard often before, but fear made her stubborn as she replied: "I can't see why you won't tell me plainly what it all means. Everyone likes to understand what they do."
"Which is precisely the position in which I have placed you now. You have only to do what you are told - and even you are not stupid enough to go wrong in that - and you'll have nothing to fear. . . . As a matter of fact, I can tell you this. The Customs will pass anything Kindell carries with no trouble at all.""You mean it's an arranged thing?"
"I mean just what I have said. Neither more nor less. When you're in England, you can take the parcel back from him, and keep it till I return, and if you've got any use for a hundred pounds, I'll give you a note of that value when I see you again. But that's on condition that I have no more sulky nonsense to hear, for I've got things of more importance to do."Sulky or not, she had become silent at that, but she was only half assured, and her nervousness was plain for Kindell to see.He answered confidently. "Yes. It will be all right. See what I've brought."He opened a small suit-case, such as would be easy to handle. He showed a false bottom, of a size which proved to be sufficient for the parcel which lay between them. That was well. She had feared, as he spoke, that she would be required to open and repack it. She was in a puzzled doubt as to what it would show, but she was sure that her uncle would not thank her for that.
He said: "You needn't worry. You needn't even be near me. gut anyway I shall get it through."He spoke with literal accuracy. Whatever the parcel might contain, her trouble was meant to be at a later hour. He was to be passed through the Customs with light inspection, by an arrangement the police had made, and then return the parcel to Myra. After that, they would part, and what would happen then would be beyond his knowledge or his control. Actually she was to be shadowed by members of the C.I.D., who would either arrest her with the packet still in her possession or let her go to do with it what she would. The alternatives were to depend upon a wire from the Bureau de S?ret?, which Reynard had undertaken to send so that it would arrive at about the same time as they. Such was the plan which he had proposed in a telephone discussion between his department and the head-quarters of the C.I.D., which had become heated at times, as he had insisted on his own way with less adequate explanation than his colleagues thought they were entitled to have. Did they want, he asked, to alarm the Blinkwells by arresting Myra on a minor charge? Did they want Kindell implicated in a Customs fraud? Or was his connection with the police to be publicly exposed?Did he, it was retorted, really think that the woman was trying to smuggle jewellery through without her uncle's knowledge? That there was no more in it than that?He became voluble in denials. He appealed to the sacred skies, did they think him a fool? But he had a doubt which he must test, and, in short, they must await the wire they would get from him. He would have nothing but that.
His prestige, his irritable volubility, his obstinate certainty encountering nothing more resistant than reasoned doubts, had prevailed at last. So it was to be - and so it wasn't at all, for the plan failed. It came to casual disaster at the English Customs, and, at the H?tel Splendide, to a more tragic catastrophe.The trouble at the Customs arose from the factor which must make all mortal calculation unsure - the physical instability of the human body. There was a Customs officer who was in the confidence of the Yard, and who took instructions from them. He knew what was to be done, and he was not one who would be r likely to fail. He was a man in robust health, who would not be expected to fall suddenly ill. Yet fall ill he did, experiencing a sharp bilious attack which he attributed to a sister-in-law's too sanguine belief in the soundness of last Sunday's mutton, which she had curried the night before. But that is a domestic matter we need not probe.
Yet, however unfit he may have felt, he did not go off duty until he had prompted another officer. This was a man who had recently come on the staff, and who appeared to be of more than average alertness, and therefore fit both to take instructions from a senior officer and carry them out intelligently.He described Kindell to this man, and was explicit upon what should be done. "You needn't be too nosy with him. Just a look-see, and chalk him through."
The man to whom he spoke responded readily. There was no indication that the order would not be exactly obeyed.But it happened that he had been introduced by the Excise authorities for the especial purpose of detecting corruption, which was suspected among the staff. Neither knew of the secret function the other had. It seemed to him that fortune had opened his way to a discovery from which reward and perhaps promotion would be likely to come.He watched for Kindell, and made for him with an elbow in I a brother officer's side. He took him out of turn, letting other passengers stand impatiently behind their open baggage.Kindell was not concerned when he saw him approach in this purposeful manner. It was about what he had expected. He opened the suitcase containing the hidden parcel, and another of more orthodox construction, in the expectation that their contents would receive no more than the flick of a carelessly probing hand, while the routine questions were answered in the routine way.Article by article, his possessions were examined with care. He was closely questioned concerning the origin of those which were least worn. Was it, he wondered with growing impatience, no more than an elaborate pretence? Anyway, he had bought nothing of consequence while in Paris.But the concealment was not destined to last. The zeal of the baffled officer had now become a conspicuous matter. The baggage of other passengers had been passed, and he operated on an otherwise bare bench. He saw that he must succeed for his own justification, and his conviction that there was something to be discovered remained unshaken. His hands felt along the linings of the emptied case, while he considered the expediency of conducting Kindell to a room where he could be personally searched - and then suddenly he knew. "Do you mind," he asked, with an ominous suavity, "opening the lower compartment of this case?"
Kindell had the wit to look blank incomprehension. He said:"I don't know what you mean."
He was answered with a sarcastic:"No? Then I think you soon will."
A little group of interested Customs officials had gathered round them now in the otherwise empty shed. The man measured the outside of the case, and then its interior depth. There was a difference of several inches. He asked:"Don't you see that you'd better open it now?"
Kindell said innocently: "It does look queer. But if there's a pocket, there can't be anything in it. I've never used it. I didn't know it was there," he added in an attempt at natural explanation. "I only bought it quite recently - secondhand."The man, in his moment of triumph, forgot the restraint of language which official correctitude requires, even in dealing with those who are destined to be heavily fined. He said, "Tell that to the marines." He picked up a knife, with, "Well, if you won't, I must," and slit the lower part of the case. Myra's parcel lay exposed."I can only tell you," Kindell said, "that it isn't mine. I'd no idea it was there. I expect you'll have to admit that when you open it. I know you'll find nothing of mine."It was the best line he could take, while still in ignorance of what its opening would reveal. He knew that something had gone wrong. He knew also that while, if he should be in any serious trouble, there were ways in which he might be protected and helped, his connection with the C.I.D. would not be publicly owned. He might be expected to sacrifice even his personal reputation. even his liberty, to the major interests of the state, and of the criminal investigation in which he was taking a minor
With no thought to spare for an anxious, bewildered Myra, leaning from the window of a first-class carriage as the train began to move slowly along the platform, and still hoping to see him board it at the last second, while trying to persuade herself that he might have escaped her observation, and be already upon the train, he watched the opening of the parcel, and saw a glitter of miscellaneous trinkets scattered upon the bench, among which a shell necklace was the largest, if not the most valuable, article.&nbs`; ? ? ? With a smile of satisfaction, the officer swept them together again. "You'd better come to the office with me," he said crisply.
"I suppose it's no use telling you again that I've never seen - " Kindell began, in what he now felt to be futile protest, however true.But he was interrupted by an older officer, who had been watching silently, and now pushed forward to examine the trinkets with experienced eyes. "Talbot," he asked sharply, "what is the charge you propose to make against this gentleman?"
"Well, I should have thought that was clear enough.""It isn't to me." His fingers moved expertly among the baubles. "It's all rubbish. There's nothing dutiable here."
"Then why on earth did he - - ""I've told you already that the rubbish is not mine," Kindell interrupted, "and I didn't know it was there. The question is who's going to pay me for a new case?"The older officer answered with the diplomatic politeness which the incident had come to require."There'll be no difficulty about that, sir, if you send in a claim. We'll find something for you to pack your things in now."
On this pretext, he moved away, drawing with him the officer whose extreme zeal had had so strange a result. As they passed out of Kindell's hearing, his tone changed. "Queer business, Talbot. What made you suspect him?""I do still. There's something fishy about it, even if the things aren't worth tuppence."
"So there is. We see some queer things here, but not many queerer than that. What I asked was why you fastened on him the way you did?""Because, before Gibbons went off duty, he asked me to pass him without looking too hard, and that seemed fishy to me, too."
"Gibbons? You've made a bigger ass of yourself than I supposed. What Gibbons says goes.""You mean you're all in it with him?"