Aaron Rodd, Diviner - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

Aaron Rodd, Diviner ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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Opis

Aaron Rodd, who was a shy and awkward being, felt unexpectedly at his ease. He was even anxious for further conversation. He had a rather long, pale face, with deep-set eyes and rugged features. He was soberly, even sombrely dressed in dismal black. He had the air of a recluse. Perhaps that was why the young lady smiled upon him with such confidence.

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Liczba stron: 306

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Contents

I. THE CUNNING OF HARVEY GRIMM

II. POETRY BY COMPULSION

III. AN ALLIANCE OF THIEVES

IV. ULYSSES OF WAPPING

V. THE MYSTERIOUS ASSISTANT

VI. PAUL BRODIE STRIKES

VII. THE INFIDELITY OF JACK LOVEJOY

VIII. THE YELLOW EYE

IX. THE VENGEANCE OF ROSA LETCHOWISKI

X. THE END OF JEREMIAH SANDS

Chapter I. The Cunning of Harvey Grimm

A queer, unexpected streak of sunshine, which by some miracle had found its way through a pall of clouds and a low-hanging mist, suddenly fell as though exhausted across the asphalt path of the Embankment Gardens. A tall, gaunt young man, who had been seated with folded arms in the corner of one of the seats, stared at it as though bewildered. His eyes suddenly met those of a young lady in deep black, who was gazing about her in similar stupefaction. Almost at once, and with perfect spontaneity, she smiled upon him.

“But it is astonishing, this!” she exclaimed. “Sunshine in London–in January!”

The young man was a little confused. He was very diffident, and such lack of conventionality on the part of a perfect stranger surprised him.

“It is unusual,” he admitted.

“It is a thing which I have never seen,” she went on, dropping voice a little and glancing towards a bath-chair close at hand, in which an elderly and very delicate-looking old gentleman was muffled up in furs and apparently asleep. “It is something, even, for which I had not dared to hope. We seem so far here from everything that is bright and beautiful and cheerful.”

Aaron Rodd, who was a shy and awkward being, felt unexpectedly at his ease. He was even anxious for further conversation. He had a rather long, pale face, with deep-set eyes and rugged features. He was soberly, even sombrely dressed in dismal black. He had the air of a recluse. Perhaps that was why the young lady smiled upon him with such confidence.

“You are not English?” he ventured.

She shook her head.

“What we are now, alas!” she sighed, glancing towards the bath-chair, “I scarcely know, for we have no country. Like every one else in such a plight, we come to England.”

“It is your father who sleeps there?” he enquired.

“It is my grandfather,” she told him. “Together–he and I and my brother–we have passed through terrible times. He has lost all power to sleep at night. In the daytime, when it does not rain, he is wheeled out here, and, if it is only not too cold, then he sleeps as he does now, and I watch.”

“You are very young to have charge of him.”

She smiled a little pitifully.

“One grows old so quickly in these terrible days! I am already twenty-one. But you,” she went on–“see how inquisitive I am!–I saw you yesterday from the distance, seated here. There are nursemaids and queer fragments of humanity who seem to pass through these gardens and loiter, and sometimes there are those with affairs who go on their way. But you–what do you think of as you sit there? You are a writer, perhaps?”

He laughed a little harshly. His voice was not altogether pleasant.

“I am a lawyer,” he declared, “without a practice. Sometimes the ghosts who call at my empty office stifle me and I come out here to escape from them.”

“A lawyer? An avocat?” she repeated softly to herself.

Evidently she found something to interest her in the statement. She glanced towards the sleeping man. Then she came a little nearer. He was conscious of a very delightful and altogether un-English perfume, aware suddenly that her eyes were the colour of violets, framed underneath with deep but not unbecoming lines, that her mouth was curved in a fashion strange to him.

“Englishmen, they say, are so much to be trusted,” she murmured, “and a lawyer, too...”

“I am an American by birth,” he interposed, “although I have lived over here nearly all my life.”

“It is the same thing. We need advice so badly. Let me ask you one question. Is it not the first principle of a lawyer to hold sacred whatever confidence his client may confide in him?”

“Absolutely,” he assured her.

“Even if that confidence,” she persisted, “should bring the person who offered it within the hold of the law?”

“A lawyer may refuse a client,” he said, “but he may never betray his confidence.”

“Will you tell me your name and address?” she asked eagerly.

“My name is Aaron Rodd,” he told her. “My address is number seventeen, Manchester Street, Adelphi, and my office is on the third floor.”

“Mr. Aaron Rodd,” she repeated, with a queer little foreign intonation. “That is a strange name and I shall remember it. When might one visit you, monsieur? At three o’clock this afternoon?”

“I shall be in all day.”

“Then au revoir!” she exclaimed, with an abrupt gesture of farewell.

The old gentleman had opened his eyes and was gazing fretfully about. She crossed the asphalt walk swiftly towards him. An attendant, who seemed to have gone to sleep standing on one leg; gripped the handle of the bath-chair. The girl passed her arm around the old man’s shoulders and whispered something to the attendant. They passed away together. The little streak of sunshine had gone. Aaron Rodd thrust his ungloved hands into his coat pockets and made his way in the opposite direction....

About an hour later, a small, rubicund man, a man whose dark hair was turning grey, but whose eyes were bright and whose complexion was remarkably healthy, paused before the door-plate of an office building in one of the back streets leading from the Adelphi. He was dressed with extreme neatness, from the tips of his patent boots to his grey felt hat, and he was obviously of a cheerful disposition. He glanced down the list of names, twirling his cane in light-hearted fashion and whistling softly to himself. Suddenly he paused. His cane ceased its aimless configurations and rested for a moment upon a name about half-way down the list, the name of Mr. Aaron Rodd, Solicitor and Commissioner for Oaths. There was also an indication that Mr. Rodd’s offices were to be found upon the third floor. His prospective visitor glanced around, and, discovering that there was no lift, started out for the stone stairs. On the first landing he encountered a small boy, descending with a roll of papers under his arm. Him the new-comer, whose name was Mr. Harvey Grimm, promptly addressed.

“My young sir,” he said pleasantly, “from the red tape around that bundle of papers which you are carrying, I gather that you have legal connections. You are probably the confidential clerk of the gentleman whom I am proposing to visit. Can you tell me, before I attempt another flight of these very dusty and unsympathetic steps, whether Mr. Aaron Rodd is within?”

The boy glanced at his questioner suspiciously.

“I am not in Mr. Rodd’s office,” he replied. “I’m Steel and Agnett, second floor.”

“That,” Mr. Harvey Grimm sighed regretfully, “is unfortunate. A very excellent firm yours, my boy. Do not let me any longer interfere with your efforts on their behalf.”

Aaron Rodd’s prospective visitor, with a sigh, recommenced the ascent. The boy looked after him for a moment dubiously and then disappeared. Arrived at the third floor, at the extreme end of the corridor the former discovered a door, on which was painted the name of Mr. Aaron Rodd. He knocked, was bidden to enter, and stepped at once into a single, bald and unpromising-looking apartment.

“Good morning, Aaron!” he said cheerfully, closing the door behind him and advancing across the dusty floor.

Aaron Rodd, who had been seated before a desk, apparently immersed in a legal document, first raised his head and then rose slowly to his feet. His first look of expectancy, as he had turned towards his visitor, faded by degrees into a very curious expression, an expression which seemed made up of a great deal of amazement and a certain amount of dread. With his left hand he gripped the side of the desk.

“My God!” he exclaimed. “It’s Ned––”

His visitor held out his hand.

“No, no, my dear Aaron,” he interrupted firmly, “you are deceived by a slight resemblance. You are thinking, probably, of that poor fellow Ned Stiles. You will never see Ned again, Aaron.”

The intelligence appeared to cause the listener no grief. Neither did it carry with it any conviction.

“Harvey Grimm is my name,” the new-comer went on, “Mr. Harvey Grimm, if you please, of Chicago. You remember me now, without a doubt?”

He extended his hand confidently. His smile was ingratiating, his air that of an ingenuous child anxious for a favourable reception. Aaron Rodd slowly thrust out his ink-stained fingers.

“I remember you all right,” he admitted.

The visitor, having established his identity, seemed disposed to abandon the subject. He glanced around the room, and, discovering a cane-bottomed chair on which were piled some dust-covered documents, he calmly swept them away, annexed the chair, which he carefully flicked around with a silk handkerchief, and brought it to the side of the desk.

“Sit down, my dear fellow, I beg you,” he invited, laying his hat on the floor by his side, hitching up his blue serge trousers and smiling in momentary satisfaction at his well-polished shoes. “I have appropriated, I fancy, the client’s chair. Am I right, I wonder, in presuming that there has not been much use for it lately?”

“Perfectly right,” was the grim reply.

“Hard times these have been for all of us,” Harvey Grimm declared, with an air of placid satisfaction. “You are not expecting a client this morning, I presume?”

“Nor a miracle.”

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