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HOME > Classical Novels > Red Money > CHAPTER XI. BLACKMAIL.
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 Having come to the only possible arrangement, consistent with the difficult position in which they stood, Lambert and Lady Agnes took their almost departure from The . The young man had merely come to stay there in response to his cousin's request, so that his avoidance of her should not be too marked, and the suspicions of Pine excited. Now that the man was dead, there was no need to behave in this way, and having no great love for Garvington, whom he despised, Lambert returned to his forest cottage. There he busied himself once more with his art, and waited patiently to see what the final decision of Agnes would be. He did not expect to hear for some weeks, or even months, as the affairs of Garvington, being very much involved, could not be understood in a moment. But the lovers, parted by a strict sense of duty, eased their minds by writing weekly letters to one another.  
Needless to say, Garvington did not at all approve of the decision of his sister, which she duly communicated to him. He disliked Lambert, both as the next heir to the estates, and because he was a more popular man than himself. Even had Pine not prohibited the marriage in his will, Garvington would have objected to Agnes becoming the young man's wife; as it was, he stormed tempests, but without changing the widow's determination. Being a selfish creature, all he desired was that Agnes should live a life as a kind of banker, to supply him with money whenever he chose to ask for the same. Pine he had not been able to manage, but he felt quite sure that he could his sister into doing what he wanted. It both and surprised him to find that she had a will of her own and was not content to obey his egotistical orders. Agnes would not even remain under his roof—as he wanted her to, lest some other person should get hold of her and the desirable millions—but returned to her London house. The only comfort he had was that Lambert was not with her, and therefore—as he hoped—she would meet some man who would cause her to forget the Abbot's Wood . So long as Agnes retained the money, Garvington did not particularly object to her marrying, as he always hoped to cajole and bully ready cash out of her, but he would have preferred had she remained single, as then she could be more easily .
"And yet I don't know," he said to his long-suffering wife. "While she's a widow there's always the chance that she may take the bit between her teeth and marry Noel, in which case she loses everything. It will be as well to get her married."
"You will have no selection of the husband this time," said Lady Garvington, whose sympathies were for Agnes. "She will choose for herself."
"Let her," retorted Garvington, with . "So long as she does not choose Noel; hang him!"
"He's the very man she will choose;" replied his wife, and Garvington, uneasily conscious that she was probably right, cursed freely all women in general and his sister in particular. Meanwhile he went to Paris to look after a famous chef, of whom he had heard great things, and left his wife in London with strict injunctions to keep a watch on Agnes.
The widow was speedily made aware of these instructions, for when Lady Garvington came to stay with her sister-in-law at the Mayfair , she told her hostess about the conversation. More than that, she even pressed her to marry Noel, and be happy.
"Money doesn't do so much, after all, when you come to think of it," Lady Garvington. "And I know you'd be happier with Noel, than living here with all this wealth."
"What would Freddy say if he heard you talk so, Jane?"
"I don't know what else he can say," rejoined the other reflectively. "He's never kept his temper or held his tongue with me. His liver is nearly always out of order with over-eating. However," she added cheering up, "he is sure to die of apoplexy before long, and then I shall live on tea and buns for the rest of my life. I simply hate the sight of a dinner table."
"Freddy isn't a pretty sight during a meal," admitted his sister with a . "All the same you shouldn't wish him dead, Jane. You might have a worse husband."
"I'd rather have a than a , Agnes. But Freddy won't die, my dear. He'll go to Wiesbaden, or Vichy, or Schwalbach, and take the waters to get thin; then he'll return to eat himself to the size of a prize pig again. But thank goodness," said Lady Garvington, cheering up once more, "he's away for a few weeks, and we can enjoy ourselves. But do let us have plain and no sauces, Agnes."
"Oh, you can live on bread and water if you choose," said the widow good-humoredly. "It's a pity I am in mourning, as I can't take you out much. But the motor is always at your disposal, and I can give you all the money you want. Get a few dresses—"
"And hats, and boots, and shoes, and—and—oh, I don't know what else. You're a dear, Agnes, and although I don't want to ruin you, I do want heaps of things. I'm in rags, as Freddy eats up our entire income."
"You can't ruin a woman with two millions, Jane. Get what you require and I'll pay. I am only too glad to give you some pleasure, since I can't attend to you as I ought to. But you see, nearly three times a week I have to consult the lawyers about settling Freddy's affairs."
On these conditions four or five weeks passed away very happily for the two women. Lady Garvington certainly had the time of her life, and a portion of her lost youth. She in shopping, went in a quiet way to theatres, patronized skating rinks, and even attended one or two small winter dances. And to her joy, she met with a nice young man, who was earnestly in pursuit of a new religion, which involved much fasting and occasional meals. He taught her to eat nuts, and meats, talking meanwhile of the powers which such would develop in her. Of course Lady Garvington did not this , but she was thankful to meet a man who had not read Beeton's Cookery Book. Besides, he quite nicely.
Agnes, pleased to see her sister-in-law enjoying life, gave her attention to Garvington's affairs, and found them in a woeful mess. It really did appear as if she would have to save the Lambert family from ever-lasting disgrace, and from being entirely submerged, by keeping hold of her millions. But she did not lose heart, and worked on bravely in the hope that an adjustment would save a few thousand a year for Freddy, without any of Pine's money. If she could manage to secure him a sufficient income to keep up the title, and to prevent the sale of The Manor in Hengishire, she then intended to surrender her husband's wealth and retire to a country life with Noel as her husband.
"He can paint and I can look after the cottage along with Mrs. Tribb," she told Mrs. Belgrove, who called to see her one day, more painted and dyed and padded and tastefully dressed than ever. "We can keep and things, you know," she added .
"Quite an idyl," tittered the visitor, and then went away to tell her friends that Lady Agnes must have been in love with her cousin all the time. And as the contents of the will were now generally known, every one agreed that the woman was a fool to give up wealth for a dull existence in the woods. "All the same it's very sweet," sighed Mrs. Belgrove, having made as much as she possibly could. "I should like it myself if I could only dress as a Watteau shepherdess, you know, and carry a lamb with a blue ribbon round its dear neck."
Of course, Lady Agnes heard nothing of this ill-natured , since she did not go into society during her period of mourning, and received only a few of her most intimate friends. Moreover, besides attending to Garvington's affairs, it was necessary that she should have frequent with Mr. Jarwin in his Chancery Lane office, relative to the large fortune left by her late husband. There, on three occasions she met Silver, the ex-secretary, when he came to explain various matters to the . With the consent of Lady Agnes, the man had been discharged, when Jarvin took over the management of the millions, but having a thorough knowledge of Pine's financial dealings, it was necessary that he should be questioned every now and then.
Silver was rather sulky over his dismissal, but cunningly his real feelings when in the presence of the widow, since she was too opulent a person to offend. It was Silver who suggested that a reward should be offered for the detection of Pine's assassin. Lady Agnes approved of the idea, and indeed was somewhat shocked that she had not thought of taking this course herself. Therefore, within seven days every police office in the United Kingdom was placarded with bills, stating that the sum of one thousand pounds would be given to the person or persons who should denounce the culprit. The amount offered caused quite a flutter of excitement, and public interest in the case was revived for nearly a fortnight. At the conclusion of that period, as nothing fresh was discovered, people ceased to discuss the matter. It seemed as though the reward, large as it was, would never be claimed.
But having regard to the fact that Silver was interesting himself in the endeavor to his patron's death, Lady Agnes was not at all surprised to receive a visit from him one foggy November afternoon. She certainly did not care much for the little man, but feeling dull and somewhat lonely, she quite welcomed his visit. Lady Garvington had gone with her admirer to a lecture on "Souls and Sorrows!" therefore Agnes had a spare hour for the ex-secretary. He was shown into her own particular private , and she welcomed him with studied politeness, for try as she might it was impossible for her to overcome her mistrust.
"Good-day, Mr. Silver," she said, when he bowed before her. "This is an unexpected visit. Won't you be seated?"
Silver accepted her offer of a chair with an air of shyness, and sitting on its edge stared at her rather hard. He looked neat and dapper in his Bond Street , and for a man who had started life as a Whitechapel toymaker, his manners were inoffensive. While Pine's secretary he had to pick up hints in the way of social behavior, and he was clever, since he so readily adapted himself to his surroundings. He was not a gentleman, but he looked like a gentleman, and therein lay a subtle difference as Lady Agnes . She unconsciously in her manner, affable as it was, suggested the between them, and Silver, quickly contacting the atmosphere, did not love her any the more for the hint.
Nevertheless, he admired her statuesque beauty, the fairness of which was by her sombre dress. Blinking like a well-fed cat, Silver stared at his hostess, and she looked questioningly at him. With his foxy face, his reddish hair, and manners, too careful to be natural, he more than ever impressed her with the idea that he was a dangerous man. Yet she could not see in what way he could reveal his .
"What do you wish to see me about, Mr. Silver?" she asked , but did not—as he swiftly noticed—offer him a cup of tea, although it was close upon five o'clock.
"I have come to place my services at your disposal," he said in a low voice.
"Really, I am not aware that I need them," replied Lady Agnes coldly, and not at all anxious to accept the offer.
"I think," said Silver dryly, and clearing his throat, "that when you hear what I have to say you will be glad that I have come."
"Indeed! Will you be good enough to speak plainer?"
She colored hotly when she asked the question, as it struck her suddenly that perhaps this plotter knew of Garvington's slip regarding the check. But as that had been burnt by Pine at the time of her marriage, she reflected that even if Silver knew about it, he could do nothing. Unless, and it was this thought that made her turn red, Garvington had again risked contact with the criminal courts. The idea was not a pleasant one, but being a brave woman, she faced the possibility boldly.
"Well?" she asked calmly, as he did not reply immediately. "What have you to say?"
"It's about Pine's death," said Silver bluntly.
"Sir Hubert, if you please."
"And why, Lady Agnes?" Silver raised his faint . "We were more like brothers than master an............
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