Netta - Fred M. White - ebook

Netta ebook

Fred M White

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Opis

Netta Sherlock was a great singer. It was always important for the singer to have a healthy and sonorous voice. And their fear was to lose it. So it happened to Netta. She lost her ringing voice. A difficult path she has to go.

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Liczba stron: 417

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Contents

I. THE WHITE LADY

II. THE STORM

III. THE VOICE IN THE NIGHT

IV. BEFORE THE DAWN

V. SHOULD SHE SPEAK?

VI. THE CHAMBER OF THE DEAD

VII. THE TWO DICE

VIII. AFTER LUNCHEON

IX. AFTER DINNER

X. HALF-CONFIDENCES

XI. UNDER THE GAS LAMPS

XII. WHAT DID HE KNOW?

XIII. A MIDNIGHT GUEST

XIV. A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION

XV. ADVENTURE

XVI. A MAN OF SCIENCE

XVII. ANOTHER SURPRISE

XVIII. FACE TO FACE

XIX. COMPLICATIONS

XX. IN SOCIETY

XXI. IN THE NAME OF CHARITY

XXII. IN THE DARK

XXIII. PUT TO THE QUESTION

XXIV. A NEAR THING

XXV. RAYMOND BOND

XXVI. THE CAUSE OF THE MISCHIEF

XXVII. A HOUSE OF REFUGE

XXVIII. A SUDDEN RESOLUTION

XXIX. IN THE HEART OF THE CAMP

XXX. ANOTHER FOE

XXXI. NETTA’S ADVENTURE

XXXII. NOT THIS TIME

XXXIII. THREADS IN THE STORY

XXXIV. THE MISSING COAT

XXXV. DANGER

XXXVI. ON THE TRACK

XXXVII. AN UNEXPECTED MEETING

XXXVIII. “THE VERY BUTTON”

XXXIX. CLEARING THE WAY

XL. A PINCH OF SNUFF

XLI. TREMULLION TAKES THE LEAD

XLII. IN THE WINE CELLAR

XLIII. BAFFLED

XLIV. THE COAT AGAIN

XLV. WHEN ROGUES FALL OUT

XLVI. A WARNING TO THE “36”

XLVII. GOOD LUCK

XLVIII. FOUND

XLIX. BEATEN

L. LAST WORDS

I. THE WHITE LADY

NETTA SHERLOCK’S unsteady voice dropped to a hoarse, unsteady whisper. Her long, slender fingers dragged the travelling cloak from about her neck, and she panted like one who has been hard put to it to escape from imminent danger.

“Quick!” she said. “Give me some water, bathe my head with eau-de-Cologne. I hope they noticed nothing in the hall. How stiflingly hot it is, Amy.”

Amy Burke discreetly said nothing. Her mistress lay back on the couch in the luxuriously-appointed bedroom, her dark, stormy eyes half closed. She reclined there for some time till the trembling fit passed away and the white bosom ceased to heave so violently. Then she looked around with scorn on her face.

“So we have got here at last, Amy,” she said. “I am an honoured guest at Loudwater Priory! Just think of it, Amy! Two years ago I was fiddling for my living in the streets, outside public-houses, jeered at and pitied and insulted! And now!”

And now she was in a bedroom a young duchess might have envied.

“I have schemed and lied and plotted to get here,” she went on. “I forced them to ask me. If Sir John and Lady Langworthy only knew the truth!”

“It was a dangerous thing to do,” the maid murmured. “Especially just now, seeing that we are so close to Coalend. If any of the people recognize you–”

“But I had to come, Amy. The inaction was slowly driving me mad. For Reggie’s sake–oh, I could do anything for Reggie’s sake! You don’t know everything. Amy; indeed, it would be impossible to tell you. But the secret is here in this house, the key may be in this room for all I know, and if I can find it, then the disgrace will be lifted from my lover’s name. Amy, I must succeed.”

The little maid with the firm lips and steady eyes smiled. If Netta Sherlock made up her mind to succeed, she would assuredly do so. Had not that indomitable will and genius taken her far already? It was the old story of talent struggling for life amidst the most sordid surroundings. A happy home in childhood, the death of the mother followed by the breakdown and the pathetic end of the father, a soldier and a gentleman–these had been the chief landmarks in her brief career.

Bad as it was, there had been worse to follow. Love had entered into Netta’s life to save her from utter despair. Time was when Reggie Masters had been a friend of the family. Reggie had found Netta out, and told the old, old story. Then the cloud of disgrace burst suddenly, exposure and humiliation and flight had followed with the rapidity of lightning, and Netta was alone again.

Reggie was innocent, Netta was sure of that. He had forwarded to her certain disjointed papers to read in Paris, where he had sent her to study. At first she had found them beyond her grasp, but gradually she mastered them. If she had only had money and influence, if people would only recognize her genius and individuality. But doubtless she would play her fiddle in the streets till she died.

Netta was rehearsing it all again dreamily–that dreadful night when she had eaten nothing all day; the fainting fit and the kindly old German who had asked questions; an engagement or two at a concert and enthusiastic paragraphs in the papers, It was a dream, it must have been. It seemed impossible that such great events could have happened in four and twenty brief months. And yet here was Netta now, the spoilt darling of Society. She had been interviewed in a score of papers, her photographs had sold freely, she had only to name her price for a performance and the money was there. Virtually it had been a romance in real life.

Netta paced up and down the room, quite herself again by this time.

“I’m dreadfully nervous and excited,” she said, “I, who hardly know the meaning of the word except when I first go on the platform. But I shall be all right at dinner. And afterwards I shall play to them, as nobody has ever heard me play before.”

“We don’t stay here to-night?” Amy asked.

“I must be in town by the last train,” Netta replied. “Early to-morrow morning–but you know nothing of that. Sir John has offered his motor car to drive me over to the junction to catch the 11.15 up train. Now, help me to dress for dinner. I’ll have black lace and white roses. No, I’ll have black alone without any relief. There will be no chance of my dress betraying me then.”

Netta surveyed herself presently in the long cheval glass with a sigh of satisfaction. The dead black suited her dark eyes and soulful face to perfection.

“She couldn’t recognize me,” Netta murmured. “Who would recognize in Netta Sherlock the timid little Nellie Landon?”

Amy rushed into the room and closed the door. Her eyes were gleaming with excitement and something like fear.

“I have seen a ghost,” she whispered. “Who do you suppose is here as a servant in a trusted position? But you will never guess, miss. It’s Lucille Ganton!”

“She did not recognize you?” Netta asked, swiftly. “But that would be impossible. You were a mere child in Coalend when Lucille Ganton was tried and acquitted on a charge of poisoning her husband. But if she knows me again–”

A troubled frown gathered on Netta’s face. She had come to Loudwater Priory on a difficult, not to say dangerous, mission. Indeed, but for the strong love she bore Reggie Masters she had never dared to come at all.

“I shall have to risk it,” she said aloud. “Danger I apprehended, but not so soon as this. If that woman knows me, she will discover pretty well what I am doing here.”

“You have greatly changed,” Amy suggested. “I don’t see how that woman–”

“She was in my mother’s service years ago,” Netta said quietly. “Her infamous partner in crime, Neil Jackman, was my father’s valet. Strangely enough, Jackman found his way into the service of my lover before his misfortunes began. The secret of Mr. Masters’s trouble lies in this house. Is it not strange, then, to find Lucille Ganton here? Depend upon it, Neil Jackman is not far off.”

The hall with its lantern roof was a dream of beauty. Netta stood quite lost in it.

“Pardon me, miss, but are you doubtful of the way?” a respectful voice asked. “The door on the left leads to the drawing-room.”

Netta concealed a start successfully. How vividly, those silky tones brought back the past!

“I was admiring the hall,” Netta said, “I know my way. Why do you look at me like that?”

“Your face made me think of Coalend, miss,” came the subtle reply.

“A place close by, is it not?” Netta asked carelessly. “I once had to stay there for a few hours. Why should I remind you of it?”

The woman muttered something; she was evidently baffled by the calm inquiry of Netta’s eyes. A bell rippled in the distance, and the trim maid hurried away. But there was a queer, grim smile on her face as she vanished.

“Am I right or wrong?” she muttered. “The girl is so famous, and the other one... yet I see the likeness. Any way, Jackman will know.”

To a certain extent the skirmish yielded victory to neither side. Neither Netta nor the maid Ganton was sure of her ground. With the doubt still in her mind Netta entered the drawing-room, which seemed to be pretty well filled with guests. Sir John Langworthy was a fine type of English sportsman, tall and well-knit, with an open, bronzed face and a kindly smile. He had a passion for music, and played the violin excellently for an amateur.

“You are rather late,” he said. “You have not seen my wife yet; she was riding when you came. Oh! this is Mr. Falmer–Gordon Palmer–who will take you in to dinner. He is terribly learned from a musical point of view, and a most severe critic.”

A tall man with a shining bald head and wonderfully massive dark eyebrows was bending over Netta’s hand. There was something strong and commanding about Gordon Falmer, she thought. In age he might have been anything between forty and sixty. It was only when he smiled that a sinister expression clouded his face.

“Is it too much to ask you to play?” he suggested.

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