Saturday, July 21, 2012

Clouds of Witness cont


The brutes were at his heels as he fled. He struck the foremost with his stick, and it dropped back, snarling. The man was still leaning on the gate, and Grimethorpe's hoarse voice was heard shouting to him to seize the fugitive. Peter closed with him; there was a scuffle of dogs and men, and suddenly Peter found himself thrown bodily over the gate. As he picked himself up and ran, he heard the farmer cursing the man and the man retorting that he couldn't help it; then the woman'  voice, uplifted in a frightened wail. He glanced over his shoulder. The man and the woman and a second man who had now joined the party, were beating the dogs back, and seemed to be persuading Grimethorpe not to let them through. Apparently their remonstrances had some effect, for the farmer turned moodily away, and the second man called the dogs off, with much whip-cracking and noise. The woman said something, and her husband turned furiously upon her and struck her to the ground.

                Peter made a movement to go back, but a strong conviction that he could only make matters worse for her arrested him. He stood still, and waited till she had picked herself up and gone in, wiping the blood and dirt from her face with her shawl. The farmer looked round, shook his fist at him, and followed her into the house. Jabez collected the dogs and drove them back, and Peter's friend returned to lean over the gate.

                Peter waited till the door had closed upon Mr. and Mrs. Grimethorpe; then he pulled out his handkerchief and, in the half-darkness, signaled cautiously to the man, who slipped through the gate and came slowly down to him.

                “Thanks very much,” said Wimsey, putting money into his hand. “I'm afraid I've done unintentional mischief.”

                The man looked at the money and at him.

                “'Tes t'mester's way wi' them as cooms t'look at t'missus,” he said. “Tha's best keep away if so be tha wutna' have her blood on tha heid.”

                “See here,” said Peter, “did you by any chance meet a young man with a motor-cycle wanderin' round here last Wednesday or thereabouts?”

                “Naay. Wednesday? T'wod be day t'mester went to Stapley, Ah reckon, after machines. Naay, Ah seed nowt.”

                “All right. If you find anybody who did, let me know. Here's my name, and I'm staying at Riddlesdale Lodge. Good night; many thanks.” The man took the card from him and slouched back without a word of farewell.

· · · · · · · · · ·
Lord Peter walked slowly, his coat collar turned up and his hat pulled over his eyes. This cinematographic episode had troubled his logical faculty. With an effort he sorted out his ideas and arranged them in some kind of order.
The cinematograph was what the first movie theaters were called.
                “First item,” said he, “Mr. Grimethorpe. A gentleman who will stick at nothing. Hefty. Unamiable. Inhospitable. Dominant characteristic—jealousy of his very astonishing wife. Was at Stapley last Wednesday and Thursday buying machinery. (Helpful gentleman at the gate corroborates this, by the way, so that at this stage of the proceedings one may allow it to be a sound alibi.) Did not, therefore, see our mysterious friend with the side-car, if he was there. But is disposed to think he was there, and has very little doubt about what he came for. Which raises an interestin' point. Why the side-car? Awkward thing to tour about with. Very good. But if our friend came after Mrs. G. he obviously didn't take her. Good again.

                “Second item, Mrs. Grimethorpe. Very singular item. By Jove!” He paused meditatively to reconstruct a thrilling moment. “Let us at once admit that if No. 10 came for the purpose suspected he had every excuse for it. Well! Mrs. G. goes in terror of her husband, who thinks nothing of knocking her down on suspicion. I wish to God—but I'd only have made things worse. Only thing you can do for the wife of a brute like that is to keep away from her. Hope there won't be murder done. One's enough at a time. Where was I?”

                “Yes—well, Mrs. Grimethorpe knows something—and she knows somebody. She took me for somebody who had every reason for not coming to Glider's Hole. Where was she, I wonder, while I was talking to Grimethorpe? She wasn't in the room. Perhaps the child warned her. No, that won't wash; I told the child who I was. Aha! wait a minute. Do I see light? She looked out of the window and saw a bloke in an aged Burberry. No. 10 is a bloke in an aged Burberry. Now let's suppose for a moment she takes me for No. 10. What does she do? She sensibly keeps out of the way—can't think why I'm such a fool as to turn up. Then, when Grimethorpe runs out shoutin' for the kennel-man, she nips down with her life in her hands to warn her—her—shall we say boldly her lover?—to get away. She finds it isn't her lover, but only a gaping ass of (I fear) a very comin'-on disposition. New compromisin' position. She tells the ass to save himself and herself by clearin' out. Ass clears—not too gracefully. The next installment of this enthrallin' drama will be shown in this theatre—when? I'd jolly well like to know.”
The next installment of this enthrallin' drama : Before the main movie feature, an episode of a serial – usually 5 to 15 minutes long, was shown. A serial would be from 10 to 20 episodes in length.
                He tramped on for some time.

                “All the same,” he retorted upon himself, “all this throws no light on what No. 10 was doing at Riddlesdale Lodge.”

                At the end of his walk he had reached no conclusion.

                “Whatever happens,” he said to himself, “and if it can be done without danger to her life, I must see Mrs. Grimethorpe again.”

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