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    Chapter 64

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    Chapter 64
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    The Reverend Gentleman

    "Hanimals are hanimals," said the aggrieved Binger. "They 'ave their places, the same as everything helse."

    "They may have their places, but if you kick my dog," said Jim Morlake, "I shall kick you!"

    "If you kick me, sir," said Binger with dignity, "I shall hoffer my resignation."

    Jim laughed and caressed the lame terrier who was showing his teeth at the valet.

    "A hanimal's place is in the country, sir, if you'll excuse me."

    "I won't excuse you, Binger," said Jim good-humouredly. "Get out."

    He filled his pipe and sat back in the deep chair, scanning the evening newspaper and the terrier, who had resented the gentle kick which Binger had delivered because of a certain missing mutton-bone, put his head between his paws and went to sleep.

    Presently Jim put down his newspaper, went to the bookshelf in his bedroom and brought back a large atlas. He turned the pages until he came to the coast line of Morocco and with a pencil he traced the possible avenues of escape that might lie open to a hunted murderer. He was in the midst of this occupation when Welling came.

    "Planning out a honeymoon trip?" he asked pleasantly and Jim flushed.

    "I am not contemplating a honeymoon trip," he said a little stiffly.

    "Then you're wasting a perfectly good atlas," said the calm detective, laying his hat carefully over the head of the sleeping dog. "Your man is alive."

    "Hamon?" asked Jim quickly.

    The detective nodded.

    "Two bank drafts have been cashed, both in Tangier, for a considerable sum. They were made payable to Hamon in a fictitious name--I only discovered the fact yesterday when I went to one of his banks. Hamon had several accounts running, and it was rather difficult to discover them all; but when I did get on to the right track I made that discovery. The drafts have been honoured--in fact, they're back in England."

    Jim looked serious.

    "Then he got to Tangier?"

    "Undoubtedly, but that would be easy. I am willing to accept your theory that he got through to the Spanish territory. From Tetuan to Tangier is only a step. I think one of the Gibraltar steamers calls at both ports."

    "He'll stay there if he is wise."

    "But he isn't wise," said Welling. "It is dangerous enough for him in Tangier. He'll be tried for the murder of Sadi Hafiz if he is detected. The mere fact that he has drawn this money seems to me to be pretty convincing proof that he's shaking Tangier at the earliest opportunity--probably he is away by now. It is rather curious to see you fiddling with that atlas. I was doing exactly the same thing this morning, guessing the lines he took----"

    "Which would be----?"

    "Gibraltar-Genoa, or Gibraltar-Naples. Genoa or Naples to New York or New Orleans. New York or New Orleans to London, or maybe Cadiz and a banana boat to Thames River--that's more likely."

    "You think he'll come here!" asked Jim in surprise.

    "Certainly," said the other. "And what is more, we shall never take him."

    Jim put down his atlas and leant back in his chair.

    "You mean you'll never capture him?" he asked in surprise.

    The detective shook his head.

    "We may capture him, though at present we've no evidence worth the gum on a penny stamp," he said, "but he'll never hang. Because he is mad, Morlake! I've seen the report of the doctor who examined Sadi Hafiz after he was found, and I can tell you, as a student of medical jurisprudence, that Ralph Hamon is the third lunatic I've met in this case."

    Jim lit his pipe again.

    "Am I one?" he asked ironically.

    "No, there have been three, but you haven't been one. The first was Farringdon, who was undoubtedly mad; the second was Bannockwaite, who is also mad but not dangerous; the third is Hamon, who is the worst of the lot."

    Jim Morlake pondered as he recalled the characteristics of the men.

    "Bannockwaite is the maddest of the lot," he said at last.

    "He has left Tangier," nodded Welling. "The British Minister gave him twenty-four hours to quit, for some reason, which I haven't discovered, but which was probably due to your representation. He went over to Algeciras, but the Spanish people sent him packing. He was in Paris until yesterday. He is in London to-night."

    "How do you know?" asked Jim in surprise.

    "I had him tailed from the station. He is living in a little lodging in Stamford Street, Blackfriars."

    Jim was not sufficiently curious to enquire much about the decadent minister, but now he learnt for the first time that Bannockwaite was practically penniless at the time when he was supposed to have died. He had run through a large fortune, scattering his money lavishly. His only income was from a group of houses the rents of which had been left to him by a maternal aunt in the days when he was so wealthy that he had regarded the legacy with something like contempt. These had been overlooked by him in the final squandering of his patrimony, and when he would have sold them the estate was fortunately in bankruptcy. Enough had been realised to clear his debts, but the administration of this little property remained in the trustee's hands.

    "A remarkable fellow," said Welling, shaking his head. "He built three churches, endowed an orphanage, and brought more souls to the verge of hell than any living man."

    Welling was on his way home. He had lately got into the habit of calling at the flat in Bond Street.

    "Why don't you go back to Wold House?" he asked.

    "I prefer this place for the time being. It is rather cold in the country," Jim excused himself lamely.

    "What are you afraid of?" asked the detective contemptuously. "A bit of a girl!"

    "I'm afraid of nothing," said Jim, going red.

    "You're afraid of Joan Carston, my lad," and he spoke the truth.

    Jim saw him out and went back to his pipe and his atlas, but now he had no interest in tracing possible routes, and closing the book returned it to the shelf.

    Yes, he was afraid of Joan Carston--afraid of what she might feel and think; afraid that, in her less emotional moments, she would feel he had taken advantage of his disguise and sneaked into matrimony--that was his own expression. He was afraid that the marriage was not legal--equally afraid that it was. He might have accepted one of Joan's invitations, that grew colder and colder with repetition, and gone down to Creith House and talked it over with her, but he had shirked the meeting. He heard the front door bell ring and Binger came in.

    "There's a man wants to see you, sir."

    "What sort of a man?"

    "Well, to tell you the truth, my hown impression is that he's hintoxicated."

    "What sort of a man?" asked Jim again.

    "He's what I call the himage of a chronic boozer."

    Jim looked at him and past him.

    "Did he give his name?"

    "Bannockburn is his name," said Binger impressively. "In my opinion it is a put-up job. Shall I say you're hout?"

    "No," said Jim, "he might misunderstand you. Ask your Mr. Bannockburn to come in--by the way, his name is Bannockwaite."

    "It sounds like a piece of hartfulness to me," said Binger and showed the man into the room.

    There was very little improvement in the appearance of the marrying clergyman. He carried himself a little more jauntily, his manner was perhaps less aggressive. He wore a collar and a tie, the former of which had probably been in use since his return to London.

    "Good evening, Morlake," he said with a sprightly wave of his hand. "I think we have met before."

    "Won't you sit down," said Jim gravely. "Put a chair for Mr. Bannockwaite."

    Binger obeyed with a grimace of distaste.

    "And close the door tight," said Jim significantly, and Binger bridled as he went out.

    "I got your address from a mutual friend."

    "In other words, a telephone directory," said Jim. "I do not know that we have any mutual friends except Abdullah the tailor of Tangier. An excellent fellow!"

    The wreck of a man fixed his glass in his eye and beamed benevolently on Jim.

    "A limited but an excellent fellow. The industry of the Moor is a constant source of wonder to me." He stroked his uneven red beard and looked approvingly round the apartment. "It is delightful, perfectly delightful," he murmured. "A touch of old Morocco! I specially admire the ceiling."

    Jim was wondering what was the object of the visit, but was not long left in doubt.

    "I performed a little service for you, Mr. Morlake," said Bannockwaite with an airy wave of his swollen hand. "A mere trifle, but in these hard times, necessitas non habet legem. At the moment I was not aware that we had such a distinguished--er--client, but it has since transpired, though I have not advertised the fact, that the unprepossessing bridegroom was none other than the very interesting and--if I may be excused the impertinence--the very good-looking gentleman who is sitting before me.

    "To turn my sacred calling into commerce is repugnant to all my finer feelings, but a man of your financial standing will not object to a mere trifle of five guineas. I could make an even larger sum if I wrote a little account, one of those frothy, epigrammatical soufflés of literature with which my name was associated at Oxford, and through the good offices of my friend of the editor of the Megaphone----"

    "In other words, if I don't pay your fee of five guineas, you're going to broadcast the fact that I married Lady Joan Carston?"

    "That would be blackmail," murmured the other and smiled jovially. "No, no, I will tell you candidly, intra muros, that I am too lazy to write. My dear fellow, I will be perfectly candid with you--I have no intention of writing," and again he beamed.

    Jim took a note from his pocket and passed it across the table.

    "Mr. Bannockwaite, I often wonder whether you think?"

    "I beg your pardon?" The man leant forward with an exaggerated gesture of politeness, his hand to his ear.

    "Whether I think?" he repeated. "My dear fellow, why should I think? I ask you, in the name of heaven, why I should think? I live for the moment. If the moment is good, I am happy; if it is bad, I sorrow. I have lived that way all my life."

    "You have no regrets?" asked Jim wonderingly.

    The man pocketed the note, smacked his lips and smiled.

    "I shall see you again," he said, rising.

    "If you call again, I will have you thrown out," said Jim without heat. "I hate to say it to a man of your surpassing intellect, but you are altogether horrible."

    The visitor threw back his head and laughed, with such heartiness that Binger opened the door and stared in.

    "My dear fellow," he said, "you lack something in philosophy. I wish you a very good evening."

    When the door closed upon him, Jim rang the bell for Binger.

    "Open the windows and air the room," he said.

    "I should jolly well say so," said the indignant Binger.

    "Then jolly well don't," snapped Jim.

    He looked at his watch. It was eight o'clock and he was conscious that he had not dined. Binger was a bad cook and Mahmet had not returned from Casa Blanca. To avoid starvation or indigestion, Jim patronised a little restaurant in Soho, but to-night he craved for dishes that were home-made, and the very thought of the rich fare that awaited him in Soho made him feel ill. Home dishes, served in a big old-fashioned dining-room, with a fire crackling on the hearth, the rustle of bare boughs in the garden outside, a frozen lawn, and a river where little fishes leapt. He rang the bell.

    "Telephone through to Cleaver and say I'm coming down to-night. Let him get me a large joint of juicy beef, with a mountainous pie to follow. And beer."

    "To-night, sir?" said Binger incredulously. "It's height o'clock."

    "I don't care if it is heighty," said Jim. "Get me my coat."

    Soon he was speeding through the night, the cold wind rasping his cheeks. This was better than Tangier; better than warm breezes and sunny skies were these scurrying clouds that showed glimpses of the moon. There was a smell of snow in the air; a speck fell against his wind-screen and on the south side of Horsham it was snowing fast. The hedges were patched with white and the road revealed by his headlamps began to disappear under a fleecy carpet. His heart leapt at the sight of it. It could not be too cold, too snowy, too rainy, too anything--the country was the only place. There was something wrong about people who wanted to live in town all the year round, and especially in winter. Amongst the attractions of the country he did not think of Joan; yet, if he had thought of the country without her, it would have been drear indeed.

    Cleaver greeted him with just that amount of pompousness that Jim enjoyed and took his wet coat from him.

    "Dinner is ready, sir. Shall I serve?"

    "If you please, Cleaver," said Jim. "Everything quiet here?"

    "Everything, sir. A hayrick caught fire at Sunning Farm----"

    "Oh, blow the hayrick!" said Jim. "Is that all the excitement you've had here since I've been away?"

    "I think so, sir," said Cleaver gravely. "The tortoise-shell cat has given birth to four kittens and the price of coal has risen owing to the strike, but, beyond that, very little has happened. The country is very dull."

    "Are you another of those dull-country people, my man?" said Jim gaily, as he rubbed his hands before the log fire. "Well, get that out of your head! It came on me to-night, Cleaver, that the country is the only place where a man can live. I'll have a fire in my bedroom, and turn on every light in the study, let up the shades and open the shutters."

    Joan, going to bed, looked out of the window as was her practice, and saw the illumination.

    "Oh, you have come back, have you!" she said softly, and kissed her finger-tips to the lights.
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