Ambition’s Slave - Fred M. White - ebook

Ambition’s Slave ebook

Fred M White

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The life of Beatrice Darryll seemed perfect. It was calm without any trouble. The woman was young and energetic, many friends said she was charming. After her words: „The woman suffers most.” Life is full of problems.

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Liczba stron: 488

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Contents

I. A LORD OF MILLIONS

II. MAUDE BEAUMONT

III. WHEN SILENCE IS GOLDEN

IV. A BRIEF RESPITE

V. A VOICE FROM THE PAST

VI. FOR HER MOTHER’S SAKE

VII. LOVE OR HONOUR?

VIII. FOLLOWING IT UP

IX. TEMPTATION

X. STILL FURTHER TRIED

XI. A FREE MAN

XII. PARADISE BUILDINGS

XIII. IN THE HOUR OF NEED

XIV. WELL MET

XV. THE MESH OF CRIME

XVI. ON THE THRESHOLD

XVII. SOMETHING LIKE A GHOST

XVIII. “BEWARE OF THE DOG”

XIX. HOME!

XX. THE MAN, THE WOMAN, AND THE DOG

XXI. BLACK SUSPICION

XXII. KIT HAS SOMETHING TO SAY

XXIII. ROGUES IN COUNCIL

XXIV. THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR

XXV. A PORTRAIT OF A GENTLEMAN

XXVI. THE BYNGTON JEWELS

XXVII. NEWS FROM ABROAD

XXVIII. A FOREIGN NEWSPAPER

XXIX. THE STAR STILL SHINES

XXX. GUESTS AT THE CHASE

XXXI. AN OUTRAGE

XXXII. STRATEGY

XXXIII. A STRONG APPEAL

XXXIV. INSTINCT, OR WHAT?

XXXV. THE DOG AGAIN

XXXVI. COUNTESS DE LARY

XXXVII. THE UNINVITED GUEST

XXXVIII. A BLOW

XXXIX. THE POLESTAR

XL. MUSIC HATH CHARMS

XLI. IMAGINATION

XLII. THE COUNTESS SEES A FACE

XLIII. IN THE BLUE ROOM

XLIV. GRUDGING HOSPITALITY

XLV. PUTTING ON THE SCREW

XLVI. A COLLAPSE

XLVII. THE COUNTESS FINDS OUT

XLVIII. DANGER FOR MINTER

XLIX. THE TURN OF THE WHEEL

L. BLOOD MONEY

LI. MINTER IS CANDID

LII. THE PRICE OF HER FREEDOM

LIII. A HARD MASTER

LIV. THE COUNTESS SPEAKS

LV. FOR HER OWN SAKE

LVI. KIT CAUSES A SURPRISE

LVII. PAVING THE WAY

LVIII. ELI PRICE GOES HOME

LIX. BETWEEN TWO STOOLS

LX. INTO THE NET

LXI. HOME AGAIN

LXII. INTO THE NIGHT

LXIII. A DOUBLE EXIT

LXIV. AMBITION’S FALL

LXV. THE END OF IT ALL

I. A LORD OF MILLIONS

THE night had come, and Marvyn Chase was a blaze of light. The magnificent grounds gleamed with electric arc and other lamps, there were brilliant alleys picked out in flame, two of the finest bands in the county discoursed soft music in the lovely June night.

There were two other bands inside the house, for Graham Minter, South African millionaire, was doing the thing in style, to use his own expression. The long suites of oak-panelled rooms were thronged with guests, most of whom had come down for the occasion by special train, a mob of reporters and press-men generally had the run of the house.

For this was the function of the season–the fancy dress bal masqué given by Mr. Graham and Lady Mary Minter. The thing had been puffed in the papers for weeks before, the grand old house built by the dead and gone Marvyns pictured and photographed over and over again.

Everybody knew now that Graham Minter had gone steerage to Cape Town ten years ago, and that he had come back eighteen months before a millionaire ten times over.

He could have bathed in diamonds had he chosen. He was into everything. The last inter-state war in South America could never have been brought to an issue had he not financed one or the other of the combatants. That he was utterly unscrupulous did not in the least matter. He was very rich and hospitable, he had married the daughter of a marquis, and his entertainments were Arabian Nights up-to-date.

It was a wonderful function, this bal masqué. Money had been lavished on it like water. The finest bands in Europe were here, the electric lighting had cost a small fortune, the supper had been imported from Paris with one of the most famous chefs in charge.

The great function was at its height. Gorgeous figures flitted here and there, the air was heavy with the scent of perfume, the electrics shimmered on a perfect atmosphere of diamonds. The gardens of Bendemeer might have been stripped to provide all those roses there. There were banks of soft green ferns to rest the tired and jaded eye. Quite two hundred couples were waltzing in the big oak hall. Their fancy costumes made a flashing kaleidoscope of colour.

The solitary individual who wore no disguise at all was the master of the house. He was a short, thick-set, clean-shaven man, with a certain bull-dog expression. His evening-dress was quite plain and not in the least loud. He might have been a sporting farmer, and indeed his tastes were in that direction. Hard as Graham Minter was with men, he was fond of dogs and horses, and they were fond of him. He could ride and shoot to perfection. His pink face and bloodshot eyes suggested an over indulgence in good living. But Minter boasted that he could live with the fastest and wake the next day with a head as clear as a bell.

There was a slight frown on the bulldog face and a close-setting of the heavy lips. He seemed to be looking for somebody. He liked to see in the papers that this and that distinguished aristocrat had dined with him, but he cared nothing for all the lavish display and frivolity That was Lady Mary’s doing. It mattered nothing to him that he did not know half his guests by sight. They would have ignored him utterly if they had known him. They came there, they sponged on him, some of them fawned upon him for advice, but he knew what they really thought.

A graceful-looking woman, whose foolish, pretty face was exposed for a moment, flitted by. Minter shot out a hand and detained her with a grip that made her wince. The pretty face grew tearful. Lady Mary Minter was not overdone in the way of brains, she had married her husband because it suited his purpose to have a patrician wife to rule over his great ménage, but with his eyes open he knew that he was going to ally himself with a fool.

“Graham, you hurt me,” Lady Mary whispered.

“Then stop a bit,” Minter growled. “Let those brainless butterflies, those shallow sponges look after them selves for a moment. I asked you to do something for me.”

“Did you, Graham? I had forgotten.”

Minter’s eyes flashed with a murderous light. He came from the class where men beat their wives. Lady Mary fell back whimpering.

“I had forgotten,” she said. “But indeed I did what you asked. Mr. Desborough said he could stay till midnight. And Maude Beaumont remains to sleep. Indeed, I am not so foolish as you think me, Graham.”

“Ain’t ye?” Minter sneered. “Keep those two together. Desborough won’t go so long as Maude is kind to him. And make Kit Clive useful. How is Desborough dressed?”

“As a lawmaker of the early Venice period–like a Doge, in fact.”

“That will do. Don’t you leave him till I tell you, or–”

He glanced at her as he would have done at a badly-broken spaniel, his hand uplifted slightly; a less silly woman than Lady Mary would have been frightened.

He passed out of the great hall into a wide, dimly-lighted corridor, where couples who were not dancing were seated.

Nobody took the slightest notice of him, indeed he might have been one of the servants for all most of them knew or cared.

It was darker still at the end of the corridor. A figure dressed as a monk crept out of the shadows and whispered something in Minter’s ear. He flushed angrily.

“Well, you’ve got a cheek,” he growled. “You’re useful to me in the City, but I’ll wring your neck rather than ask you to my house, Bigglestone.”

“That’s all right,” said the other coolly. “I’m not here as a guest. And there are one or two City men that you would not like to be seen talking to. The thing was imperative, so I adopted this disguise, and here I am.”

“Anything wrong up yonder?” Minter asked uneasily.

“Well, I should say so. Suppose they put Eli Price in the witness-box to-morrow.”

Minter’s square jaw dropped. But the murderous expression deepened in his eyes.

“Do you mean to say they’ve spotted him amongst the other guests of His Majesty at Dartmoor?” he gasped.

“Well, if they have and he tells the truth when the case is called on to-morrow, I’m done. That big South African business collapses and I shall be a beggar. Jove, if some of my friends here only knew this!”

“It’s quite true,” Bigglestone went on. “If only Clifford Desborough wasn’t the leading barrister on the other side it wouldn’t matter. But seeing that he was the leader in the Crown against Bartlett he knows too much.”

“Can’t we manage to keep Eli Price away?” Minter suggested.

“It could be done for money.” Bigglestone smiled meaningly.

“Then let it be done. Money is no object now. To prevent that I am prepared to pour it out like water. Bigglestone, you’ve got a scheme?”

“Of course I have,” Bigglestone chuckled. “You find the money and I’ll not shirk the rest, seeing that it’s going to put £20,000 in my pocket. But I’ve got a better idea up my sleeve.”

“Well, out with it, man. None of your melodramatic mystery with me.”

Bigglestone looked cautiously around him. Nobody was within earshot.

“The thing is quite easy,” he said. “Square Desborough.”

“Of all the fools!” Minter snarled contemptuously. “There isn’t a harder-headed man at the bar than Clifford Desborough. I don’t say he’s particularly honest, but he knows which policy pays best. I admit that he is poor.”

“And pretty considerably in debt,” Bigglestone said meaningly.

“Granted. But lie has a safe seat in the House of Commons and he’s certain to be made Home Secretary when Clifton resigns, as he may at any moment. And he has made up his mind to marry Maude Beaumont who has a large fortune. You might as well try to square the Premier.”

Bigglestone winked knowingly. He believed in the integrity of no man. From his point of view it was only a matter of price. He led the way to a secluded seat amidst the palms and produced a bundle of long narrow strips of blue paper from his pocket. The papers had red stamps in the top left-hand corner.

“Will you kindly look at these?” he asked.

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