Jeffery Farnol.

Peregrine's progress online

. (page 22 of 31)
Online LibraryJeffery FarnolPeregrine's progress → online text (page 22 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


lifted my gaze from the scrawled name and saw that he
had removed his hat again and was staring at me with an
expression as strange as his voice, his eyes fixed and intent
as though they stared at things I could not see, brow
wrinkled, nostrils expanded, chin more aggressive than
usual. " Devereux ! Nephew, you are sure it was
Devereux ? "

"Absolutely, sir."

" Hum ! " said my uncle, putting on his hat. " I '11
trouble you for that scrap of paper, Nephew. Thanks !
Now let us go on. Your headache is better, I hope? "

" Much better, sir. But pray take my coat, you are
shivering."

" Thank you, no there is nothing like the early morn-
ing, it fills one with a zest of life, the joie de vivre
though I will admit I am seldom abroad at this hour."

Now despite his light tone, I noticed two things, his eyes
were still fixed and intent and a thin trickle of moisture
gleamed beneath his hat brim.

"Poor child!" sighed my uncle. "Let us hope her
bruised spirit has found rest, a surcease from all troubles.
Let us hope she has found the Infinite Happiness if there
be such in the Great Beyond. Haredale hum! Have
you any recollection of this man, Perry; his looks, air,
voice could you describe him ? "

" He was tall, sir, as yourself, or very nearly looked
younger than his years a cold, imperturbable man,
dark, but of pale complexion, with deep-set eyes that



312 Peregrine's Progress

seemed to glow strangely. A man of iron will who fronted
Lord Wyvelstoke unflinchingly even after his arm was
shot and broken ! " And here I described the incident as
fully as possible.

" And what was the name Lord Wyvelstoke used? "

" Devereux, sir."

" Hum ! " said my uncle. And thereafter we walked in
silence through streets beginning to stir with the busy
life of a new day.

Reaching my uncle's chambers in St. James's Street, he
paused in the doorway to glance up and down the street
with that same expression of fixed intensity, that far-
away look of absorption.

" This," said he, speaking almost as with an effort,
" this has been a somewhat eventful walk of ours, Pere-
grine. I will not invite you to breakfast, remembering
you have guests of your own. Au revoir."

" Uncle Jervas," said I, as we clasped hands, " this has
indeed been an eventful walk, for to-day I have learned to
know you better than I ever expected, or dared to hope
sir, are you ill? " I questioned anxiously, for despite that
trickle of moisture at his temple, the hand I held felt
deadly cold and nerveless. " Are you ill, sir? "

" Never better, Perry ! " he laughed, clapping me lightly
on the shoulder. " Get you to your guests. And by the
by talking of ghosts and grimly spectres egad,
Perry, I almost believe they do haunt this sorry world,
sometimes ! " So saying, he laughed, turned, and was
gone, leaving me to stare after him in anxious wonderment.



CHAPTER II

INTRODUCING JASPER SHKIG, A BOW STREET RUNNER

"HAM, Peregrine?"

' Thank you, no, Anthony ! " said I, shuddering slightly.
"But where are the others? Asleep still?"

" Gone, Perry. At sight of this ham Jerny shied like
a wild colt, Devenham moaned, and together they tottered
forth into the bleak world. Did you say ham, Perry?"

"I did not!"

" Beef then beef looks excellent ! Beef ? "

" Horrible ! " I exclaimed, turning my back on the
breakfast table. "Eat if you can, Tony, but talk you
must and shall."

"Of last night, Peregrine?"

"Of Diana. I've scarcely had a word with you since
your arrival."

" Which was last night."

"How is she, Anthony? Is she indeed handsomer
lovelier? Did she seem happy? Did she talk about
did she happen to mention "

" She did, Perry, talked of you frequently, very much
so! Won't you try a cup of coffee and a crust "

"Tell me how where you first met her."

" It was at the ambassador's ball and mark you, Perry,
there were some uncommonly fine women there, though
none of 'em, no, damme, not one to compare with my Love-
liness, of course "

"You mean Barbara?"

"Of course. Well, my boy, we'd made our bow and
here was Loveliness worrying in her pretty fashion be-
cause my cravat had shifted or some such, and here was
I pulling at the thing and saying, ' Yes, dear/ and making
it worse when, as the poet says, ' amid this glittering
throng of lovely women and gallant men ' my charmed



314 Peregrine's Progress

eye alighted upon a haughty beauty, a ravishing creature
condescending to be worshipped by a crowd of fawning
slaves, civilian, soldier and sailor of all stations and
ranks, from purple-faced admirals and general officers to
pink, downy-whiskered subalterns. ' Egad, Loveliness,'
says I, jerking at my cravat, 'what asinine fools brave
men and gallant gentlemen can make of themselves for
lovely woman look yonder!' * Where?' says she.
* There ! ' says I, ' the dark, dazzling beauty yonder ! ' So
Loveliness looks, and at that very moment Beauty breaks
from the abject circle of her fawning slaves and comes
running. * Diana ! ' cries Loveliness. * Barbara ! ' cries
Beauty, and they are in each other's arms and there
you are, Perry. Astonishing how they love each other.
So when I left to attend this birthday of yours, Loveliness
must stay with her Diana I miss her most damnably ! "

"Has she so many admirers?" I sighed.

"Hordes of 'em, Perry! Troops, squadrons, regi-
ments, begad ! So has my Loveliness, for that matter."

"And are you never jealous?"

" Devil a bit, dear fellow. Though," said he, slowly
clenching his right hand into a powerful fist and scowling
down at it, " given the occasion I could be, Perry, y-e-s,
madly, brutally I could kill do murder, I believe.
Oh, pshaw! My Barbara is so sweet, so purely a thing
of heaven that sometimes I I hate myself for not having
been better more worthy. Women are so infinitely
better than ourselves, or so infinitely worse. And she
sent you a letter here it is ! "

"A letter? Diana? Where?"

" A snack of ham or beef first, Perry, love letters don't
go over-well on empty stomachs " But here I caught
the letter from him and sat with it in fingers that shook
a little, staring at the superscription.

" Her writing has improved amazingly ! " said I.

"Dear fellow," he answered, sharpening the carving
knife quite unnecessarily, " go away and read it, seek
some quiet spot and leave me to eat in peace."



Introducing a Bow Street Runner 315

" Thanks, Tony," said I gratefully, and hastened into
the next room forthwith, there to read and re-read the
superscription, to commit all those tender follies natural
to lovers and finally to break the seal.

DEAR, DEAR MY PEREGRINE:

Very soon we shall see each other, and this thought makes
me tremble with alternate happiness and dread. Yes, dread,
my Peregrine, because these years have changed me in many
ways oh, shall I please you as I am now ? Will you love
me as you did when I was only your humble Diana of the
Silent Places ? For Peregrine, you loved me then so very
much, so truly and with such wonderful unselfishness that
I am afraid you may not love the Diana of to-day quite so
well as the Diana of two years ago. But dear Peregrine,
know that my heart is quite quite unchanged ; you will al-
ways be the one man of all others, the Peregrine whose gen-
erous love lifted me high above my girlish dreams but never
oh, never any higher than his own heart. So Peregrine, love
me when I come back to you or these long two years will
have been lived in vain and I shall run away back to the
Silent Places and die an old maid. Perhaps I shall seem
strange when we meet, but this will only be because I fear
you a little and doubt a little how you may feel towards this
new Diana so love me, let me see it in your eyes, hear it
in your voice. It is so much easier to write than to say, so
I will write it again Love me, Peregrine, love me because
I am yours now and always.

DIANA.

Having read this letter I laid it down and took from
an inner pocket another letter, somewhat worn and frayed
by over-much handling, which bore these words, smudged
and blotted a little, though written with painful care.

DEAR PERRYGREEN:

Your letter has made me cry dredfully. I cannot bear to
think of you so lonly because I am lonly to. I cannot bear
to think of you on your nees I would rather think of you as
I saw you last so brave and determined. Pray for me as
I pray for you only don't rite to me or I shall run back to



3i 6 Peregrine's Progress

you because I am not very brave and want you so. O dear
Perrygreen always love

YOUR DIANA.



" You 're looking confoundedly glum, Perry ; I hope the
billet is quite sufficiently dotuc? "

" Quite indeed, quite ! " said I, starting out of my
reverie. *' It is a letter such as only Diana could have
written "

" Then your woe undoubtedly proceeds from stomach ;
for the emptiness of same I prescribe ham, shall we say
mingled judiciously blended with beef

" Abhorrent thought ! " I exclaimed. At this moment,
after a discreet knock on the door, my valet Clegg en-
tered.

" Sir," said he in his soft and toneless voice, " the
groom is below; shall you ride or drive this morning?"

" Neither!" I answered, whereupon Clegg bowed and
withdrew.

" Excellent ! " nodded Anthony. " Nothing like walk-
ing to make an empty stomach aware of its vacuity. By
the way, queer article that Clegg fellow of yours face
like a mask ! Where did you pick him up? "

" I don't remember. He had excellent references, I
believe. Why do you ask? "

" Fancy I 've seen him before. Come, let us adventure
forth in search of your appetite."

To us in the hall came Clegg to bring our hats and
canes.

" Were you ever in the service of a Captain Danby ? "
enquired Anthony, his keen gaze on Clegg's impassive face.

"Yes, sir, I was valet to Captain Marmaduke Danby
two years ago."

" I saw you with him once at a small inn called * The
Jolly Waggoner.' '

Clegg bowed deferentially, but when he looked up his
pale eyes seemed to glow strangely and his pallid cheek
was slightly flushed.



Introducing a Bow Street Runner 317

" Yes, sir, Captain Danby sent for me to attend him
there I found him in bed exceedingly unwell. He
was suffering, sir. He suffered quite a good deal of
pain, sir of pain."

Saying which, Clegg bowed us out into the street with
a deeper obeisance than usual.

" Strange ! " said Anthony, taking my arm. " You
have probably forgotten this Danby, the fellow I had the
pleasure of thrashing, Perry? "

" I shall never forget how you stood on him and wiped
your boots, Anthony."

" I did chastise him somewhat severely, I remember.
But I learned something more of his villainy from Bar-
bara, as we drove away, and I returned next day to give
him another dose but found him in bed bandaged like a
mummy and this Clegg fellow of yours beside him. I
learned afterwards that he was friend to that same
scoundrel Barbara's father was forcing the sweet soul to
marry, damn him ! "

" The world seems full of unhanged villains ! " said I,
through shut teeth.

" Oh, is it, begad? "

" It is ! "

" You 're devilish gloomy, Perry."

" I fear I am."

" All stomach, y' know, dear fellow. I 've noticed this
poor old world is generally blamed most damnably, purely
because of the night of the morning after more es-
pecially upon an empty "

" Don't say it again, Anthony, for heaven's sake ! "

" But you 're curst gloomy and devilish doleful -

" Anthony, dear man, while you were snoring blissfully
this morning I watched a poor, beautiful young creature
dragged out of the river."

"Dead, Perry?"

"Yes. She was probably drowning herself last night
while we drank and rioted poor despairing child ! " and
here I described the dreadful incident very fully. " You



3 1 8 Peregrine's Progress

have never met or heard of any one named Haredale, have
you, Anthony ? " I ended.

" No," he answered, " no ! Gad, Perry," he burst out
with a vicious twirl of his cane, " there are times when
killing is a laudable act ! ". After this we walked in
silence for some time.

"Where are we going?" he questioned suddenly.

Hereupon I glanced up, for I had walked with my gaze
bent earthward, and saw that we were close upon the river.

" Since we are here," I answered, " I will show you where
it she lies. It was yonder they found her, and over
there, beyond those trees, is a wretched tavern

" And on the other side of the hedge, Perry, is a small,
unpleasant person who peeps and peers and follows. Let
us investigate ! "

So saying, Anthony turned suddenly and confronted a
small, mean-looking fellow who starting back out of reach,
touched a shaggy eyebrow, cringed, and spoke:

" No offence, my lords an' gents none in th' world,
s' help me true ! " Having said which, he clapped fingers
to mouth and whistled very shrilly. " Not by no means
nowise meanin' no offence, my lords," quoth he apologeti-
cally, " but dooty is dooty an* 'ere 'e be ! " Glancing
whither he pointed, I saw a man approaching, a shortish,
broad-shouldered, square-faced, leisurely person in a
broad-brimmed, low-crowned hat and full-skirted frieze
greatcoat; a man of slow gait and deliberate movement
but with a quick and roving eye.

"Th' little 'un's th' gent, guv'nor 'e's th' cove!"
whispered the mean-looking fellow hoarsely, and now I
recognised him as one of the two waterside characters I
had met that morning with my uncle Jervas. The man in
the frieze coat removed his hat, bobbed round head at
Anthony, at me, and spoke, addressing himself to me :

" 'T is in ewidence, sir, as you an' another gent 'appened
to be a-passin' by when a lately de-funct o' the fe-male
persuasion vas took out o' th' river at the hour o' four-
two-two pre-cisely, this 'ere werry mornin'. Am I right ?"



Introducing a Bow Street Runner 319

" That is so," I answered.

'T is also in ewidence, sir, as you an' your friend
'appening to pass by chance or de-sign, so werry re-
markable early in the mornin', stopped to ob-serve same
de-funct party o' the fe-male persuasion. Am I right
again ? "

" We did."

" 'T is furthermore in ewidence, sir, that upon ob-serving
corpse, you an' your friend seemed werry much took
aback, not to say overcome. Am I "

" They was, Jarsper, they was oncommon ! " quoth
the smaller man hoarsely.

" 'Enery, 'old your tongue ! Now, sir, am I right or
am I not ? "

"We were both very naturally shocked," said I.

:< Vioh feelin's, sir, does you both /credit oceans.
But 't is further in ewidence as your friend did commit a
assault upon the body o' one Thomas Vokins by means
of a cane an' there an' then took, removed, appre'ended
or ab-stracted ewidence in the shape o' a piece o' paper
as 'ad fell from right 'and o' said corpse. Am I right
once more ? "

" Not altogether ! " said I. " The man wrenched open
the dead girl's fingers so brutally that my companion
very properly rapped him with his cane and noticing the
piece of paper, ordered the man to give it to him."

"Good werry good! Now I puts it to you, sir
vere is that piece o' paper? "

" Probably in my companion's possession."

"Good again! An* vere might 'e be?"

" That I decline to tell you ! "

" Vy then, sir, dooty bein' dooty, I '11 take a valk."

" As you will ! " said I. " Come, Anthony ! " and turn-
ing, we began to retrace our steps. But we had gone
but a little way when I faced suddenly about, for the
man was plodding at our heels.

"Why the devil do you follow us?" I demanded,
greatly exasperated.



320 Peregrine's Progress

" Becos' dooty is dooty, sir, an' dooty demands same,"
he answered imperturbably.

"Who are you, fellow?"

" Jarsper Shrig, Bow Street officer werry much at
your service, sir ! "

" And what do you want of me? "

" A piece o' paper, sir, as ewidence to establish i-dentifi-
cation of de-funct young party o' the fe-male persuasion
in a case o' murder or feller-de-see "

Here I turned and walked on again in no little per-
plexity.

"What am I to do, Anthony?" I muttered.

" Bring the fellow to your chambers, despatch a note
to Sir Jervas and leave it to his decision."

So we walked on, perfectly ignoring this very per-
tinacious Bow Street officer; but I, for one, was not
sorry when at last we reached the door of my chambers,
and halting, turned to behold the Bow Street officer, who
had stopped also and appeared to be lost in contempla-
tion of the adjacent chimney pots. And as he stood thus,
I was struck by his air of irreproachable respectability
and pervading mildness ; despite the formidable knotted
stick beneath his arm, he seemed indeed to radiate benevo-
lence from the soles of his stout boots to the crown of his
respectable, broad-brimmed hat.

" A re-markable vide-avake young man, yours, sir,"
said he gently, still apparently lost in contemplation of
the chimney pots, "a re-markable vatchful young man
an' werry attentive ! "

"What do you mean, officer?"

" I mean, sir, as he 's opened your door afore you
knocked."

Glancing at the door, I saw indeed, to my surprise,
that it stood slightly ajar; hereupon I reached out to
open it when it swung wide and my man Clegg stood before
us.

" I saw you approaching, sir," he exclaimed, bowing us
in.



Introducing a Bow Street Runner 321

Reaching my small library, the officer seated himself
nt my invitation and depositing hat and stick very pre-
cisely beneath his chair, sat looking more unctuously mild
than ever, there was about him a vague suggestion of
conventicles, and a holy Sabbatarian calm.

"You said your name was Shrig, I think?" said I.

" Jarsper Shrig, sir, at your sarvice."

" Then perhaps, while I write my letter, you will take
a glass of wine, Mr. Shrig? "

" Sir," he answered, " not beating about no bushes, I
vill Mr. Werricker, sir."

" You know my name? " I exclaimed a little sharply.

"I dedooce same, sir, from them three letters on your
secretary as is a-staring me straight in the face, Mr.
Werricker."

" Pray, Anthony, oblige me by ringing the bell ! " said
I, taking up my pen.

Soft-treading, the discreet Clegg duly brought in de-
canter and glasses, and Mr. Shrig, watching him pour
out the wine, drew from his capacious pocket a little book
and opened it, much as though he would have read forth
a text of Scripture, but all he said was:

" Thank 'ee, my man ! " and then, as the door closed
upon the discreetly silent Clegg, " Your 'ealth, gen'el-
men ! "

The letter to my uncle Jervas being written and des-
patched, I turned to find Mr. Shrig busied with his little
book and a stumpy pencil, much as if he had been com-
posing a sermon or address, while Anthony, lounging
upon the settee, watched him with lazy interest.

" A on-commonly taking cove, sir, that young man o*
yourn ! " said Mr. Shrig, pocketing book and pencil.

"Not more so than other servants, I believe," I an-
swered.

"And all valets," murmured Anthony, "all valets are
predatory by nature, of course "

" I mean as he *s a likely cove. Now, talkin' o' corpses
" began Mr. Shrig.



322 Peregrine's Progress

" But we are not ! " said I.

"Axing your parding, sir, but I am and, perfession-
ally speakin', never 'ave I seen a prettier corp', than this
'ere young fe-male in question "

"And your experience in such is vast, I take it?"
murmured Anthony.

" None waster, sir ! Wast is the werry vord for it."

" Do you tliink this is a case of suicide or murder? "
enquired Anthony.

" Can't say, sir. But somevun 's allvays bein' mur-
dered, murderin' or goin' for to murder somevun, somevere
or t' other."

" Sounds cheery ! " murmured Anthony. " Do you
catch many murderers ? "

" Pretty fair, sir, pretty fair. I got a special aptitood
for it; I can smell murder in the werry air, feel it, taste
it "

" Must be devilish unpleasant ! " said Anthony.

" 'T is a nat'ral gift wi' me, sir. Lord love ye, gen'el-
men, I can p'int you out a murderer afore the fact 's com-
mitted I 've got the names o' four on 'em no, five
wrote down in my little reader, five werry promisin' coves
as is doo for the deed at any moment ; I 'm a vaitin' for
'em to bring it off, sirs. Lord, I 'm a vatchin' over 'em
like a feyther an' mother rolled into vun, an' v'en they
do commit the deed, I shall appre'end 'em red-'anded an'
up they '11 go."

" Your methods are highly original, Mr. Shrig," said
I, "but do they always work correctly?"

" Ever an' always, sir barrin' accidents. O' course,
there's many a promisin' murderer died afore 'e could
do the deed, death 'as no more respect for vould-be mur-
derers than for their wictims. But whenever I sees a cove
or covess with the true murderer's face, down goes that
cove or covess' name in my little reader, an' I vatches an*
vaits for 'em to bring it off, werry patient."

" Have you written down the name of Haredale in your
little book?" I enquired.



Introducing a Bow Street Runner 323

" Haredale, Mr. Werricker, sir ? V'y no, I ain't. V'y
should I, sir? Vot ha' you to tell me about any party,
name o' Haredale?"

" Only that you will find such a name on the piece
of paper you are after."

Mr. Shrig's roving eye fixed me for a moment.

"Haredale?" he muttered, shaking his head, "Hare-
dale?"

At this juncture, with a soft knock on the door, Clegg
presented himself, bearing the following letter from my
uncle.

MY DEAR PEREGRINE:

I am grateful for your forethought, but you may suffer
the man to visit me, for the law is the law besides, the
man Shrig is an old acquaintance. Moreover I have learned
all I desired from the scrap of paper and it is therefore en-
tirely at Mr. Shrig's service. Should you still be suffering
from spleen, liver or the blue devils, go for a gallop on
your " Wildfire."

With which salutary advice to yourself and good wishes to
your friend Mr. Vere-Manville,
I REST,

YOUR AFFECTIONATE UNCLE,

JERVAS.

" Mr. Shrig," said I, " you have my uncle's permission
to wait upon him at once. Sir Jervas is acquainted with
you, it seems?"

" Sir Jervas ? " repeated Mr. Shrig, reaching down for
hat and knobby stick. " Ackvainted? I should say so,
sir ! A reg'lar bang-up blood, a downright 'eavy toddler
oh, I know Sir Jervas, ackvainted is the werry i-denti-
cal name for it! So, with your permission, sir, I'll be
padding on my vay."

"You will find him at his chambers in "

" St. James's Street, nigh opposite to Vite's, Mr. Wer-
ricker, sir. Ah many 's the drop o' French brandy, glass
o' port or sherry as I 've drank to the 'ealth o' your uncle



324 Peregrine's Progress

in them werry i-dentical chambers, sir. A gent wi' a
werry elegant taste in crime is Sir Jervas. No, don't
trouble to come down, sir, your young man shall let me
out. A reg'lar treasure that 'ere young man o' yours,
Mr. Werricker! Good morning, gen'elmen both, my best
respex ! "

So saying, Mr. Shrig bobbed his head to us in turn,
beamed as it might have been in benediction, and took
himself away.



CHAPTER III

CONCERNING A BLACK POSTCHAISE

" BEGAD, Perry, but that 's a vicious brute of yours ! "
cried Anthony. This as Wildfire curvetted, snorting,
sidled and performed an impassioned dance upon the
footpath.

" Not exactly vicious, Tony," I demurred when I had
quelled this exuberance, " merely animal spirits. Wild-
fire is a high-strung creature requiring constant thought
and attention and is consequently interesting, besides
which "

Here a shriek and hoarse shouts as, by means of whip
and curb and spur, I swung the animal in question from
the dangerous proximity of a shop window and checked
his impulse to walk on his hind legs.

" Scarcely a lady's pad, Peregrine ! " grinned Anthony,
as I came perilously near upsetting a coster's barrow, to
its owner's vociferous indignation. " Egad, a four-footed
devil warranted to banish every other worry but him-
self!"

" Precisely," said I, when my steed, moderating his ar-
dour, permitted me coherent speech. "And this is the
reason I ride him. No one mounted on Wildfire can think
of anything but Wildfire and this is sometimes a blessing."

"How so, Perry?"

" Well, I am harassed of late by two obsessions the
memory of that poor drowned child I cannot forget
her face ! "

"But, deuce take it, man this was days and days
ago."

"And the other is, strangely enough Diana,
thought that I shall meet her so soon a nameless doubt
an indefinable dread "



326 Peregrine's Progress

"Dread, Perry? Doubt? What the dooce d' yc
mean ? "

"That's the devil of it, Anthony I don't know.
But I have a vague fear a presentiment, if you like. I
feel as if there was a dreadful something impending a
shadow "

"Oh, pshaw, man! Shadow? Tush an* be damned
to it ! You 're in a devilish low state indubitably



Online LibraryJeffery FarnolPeregrine's progress → online text (page 22 of 31)