On the Night Express - Fred M. White - ebook

On the Night Express ebook

Fred M White

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Rupert Bascoe and Wakefield are the main characters of the story. They rode in the night express. They were familiar, even more, they had an affair. However, Miss Wakefield did not trust her partner. Let us dive into the past of our heroes and find out that Miss Wakefield had a tough action. Therefore, she constantly carries a weapon with her, like a wristwatch. But is it correct that she took it on a trip?

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Liczba stron: 226

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER I

Constance Wakefield flashed a challenging glance across the library table at the big man with the hard mouth and the menacing eyes, at the same time wondering subconsciously why she both feared and mistrusted Rupert Bascoe in spite of the decided fact that she owed the very bread she ate to him.

To begin with, she was to all practical purposes, the mistress of that fine establishment known as Uppertons, which was a very haven of rest after the stormy years that followed after the cataclysm of 1914 and a Europe on the verge of collapse with ruin and starvation, especially in Eastern Europe where Connie had passed her early childhood with the now dead Countess Inez Matua, her second mother, for she had no recollection of her real one and, strange to say, no knowledge of her father at all. But then little girls in their early teens–as Connie was when the tempest burst and Serbia was swept by the flood–do not trouble much about such things so long as they are happy, as Connie was in the Countess’s castle with the love of in the gracious lady to protect her.

Then out of the blue the flood of invasion. Death and peril on every hand and the flight into the unseen. The bursting of shells round the old castle and the awful death of the only friend Connie knew to the world and after that, misery unspeakable for the affrighted Serbians and Connie–then in her 14th year–picked up by the grace of God and attached to the Red Cross in the role of a bewildered but willing worker.

And so on to the end by which time she had become a competent nurse and, for her own protection, an accomplished revolver shot. She still was an expert by the way, and kept it up, even though in her present peaceful and refined surroundings, it was no more than a pastime. About the only one she had in that quiet house. So that she generally carried that silver mounted weapon in her pocket much as most people carry a watch. She had it with her now, for she intended to go out into the grounds of Uppertons presently and indulge in an hour’s practice.

Meanwhile she was looking into the menacing eyes of her guardian, Rupert Bascoe and striving out of loyalty for past favours to shake off that mistrust of the man which had possessed her ever since the day when he had sought her out in a London hospital and told her that he was a distant relative of her mother’s and that he had something more than an ordinary name to offer her. And Connie, with no friends and poor prospects, had gladly accepted on the understanding that she was to ask no questions.

“Better not,” Bascoe had suggested at the time. “The story is a sad one and none too creditable to your father, so it is just as well to let sleeping dogs lie. Uppertons, my property in Kent, is a fine one and there is a fine income behind it. You can be practically mistress of it, and when I die it will be yours. There is only one condition and when you hear what I have to say you will see the necessity of complying with it.”

We shall see all in good time what that condition implied and the dramatic consequences that it entailed.

Meanwhile Connie stood there in the library that perfect morning with Bascoe on the other side of the big table, pointing down at some documents which he has curtly ordered Connie to sign. And that without a single word of explanation. And, once more, that wave of mistrust and dislike and fear swept over the girl as she flushed before the almost brutal demand. She knew already that Bascoe could be sinister and cruel when crossed–a year or two under the same roof had taught her that.

“I am not quite a child,” she said coldly. “Why should I sign those papers without knowing their contents? I hate these mysteries. There have been too many of them since I came here. At any rate I demand the right to read them first.”

Bascoe’s thin lips hardened under his short, black beard. There was a cruel gleam in his eyes that set Connie’s heart beating faster. She was glad that the little revolver lay in the pocket of her sports coat. The man meant mischief.

“Sign,” he said hoarsely, “sign and be damned to you.”

“Not till I have read them,” Connie challenged.

A second later and her wrist was in Bascoe’s grip. Connie’s right hand slipped down to her coat pocket. Then the door of the library was flung open without ceremony and a young man came into the room bringing an air of mirth and cheerfulness with him.

“Hullo, hullo,” he cried. “Why this assumption of the tragic muse? Let dogs delight to bark and bite, what? Come, Bascoe, old chap, you really can’t spiflicate Desdemona on a lovely morning like this. It isn’t done.”

“You’d joke at your mother’s funeral, Marrable,” Bascoe said with a growl. “What the devil do you want?”

The young man called Marrable laughed. He belonged to the enviable class that always finds life a comedy. An artist by instinct and inclination, Jimmy Marrable, without a penny in the world, was content to take life as he found it without a murmur until fate chose to smile on him. Meanwhile he obtained a living of sorts by acting as comedian to any travelling concert party in need of his services. And it was during a disastrous tour of one of these that Bascoe had found him stranded in a Northern watering place trying in vain to raise the price of his lodgings by selling some of his sketches. And Bascoe, whose one weakness was to pose as a painter, could see the outstanding merit of these drawings in water colour and had promptly invited the volatile Jimmy down to Uppertons.

Jimmy knew exactly what the invitation meant after Bascoe had shown part of his hand. He was to make a long stay at Uppertons and paint pictures which Bascoe could pass off as his own. Or, at best, touch up Bascoe’s work until it might pass as something brilliant and original. And Jimmy agreed, despite the fact that he was an old public school boy with good connexions. Anyway, he was on the rocks for the moment and his humorous philosophy saw nothing wrong in the innocent imposture.

“Oh, very well,” he said. “If I am de trop I will remove my hated presence. But if you want that new sketch completed–”

Bascoe hastened to interrupt. That weak vanity of his must not be exposed to anyone, least of all Connie.

“Very well,” he said. “I’ll come along to the studio now. I think I told you last night–”

The sentence trailed off outside the library door and Connie was left alone. In a haste that she failed to understand, Bascoe had forgotten those papers lying on the table–the papers he had been trying to force the girl to sign.

Connie wondered why. The sudden change from Bascoe’s almost Berserk manner to that of a schoolboy detected in some act of meanness puzzled, and at the same time alarmed her. It was all in keeping with that air of mystery that had come to Uppertons in the last few months. And then another thought struck Connie, and she moved across to the table where Bascoe had placed the papers and bent over them eagerly. If there was any sort of a secret here she was going to find it, but beyond a name or two, which was utterly unfamiliar, she could see nothing until there came the words ‘Le Forest,’ that seemed to strike a cord of memory somewhere.

For a moment or two Connie pondered over this until recollection came like a flood. The old, bad days were back again–the days of deadly peril and the crashing of shells on the old castle in Serbia, and the memory of the last few words she had heard from the woman who had acted as a second mother to her. It all came back now.

The box, the little box that the Countess had placed into her hands, and which she had never lost during all that dreadful time when she had drifted backwards with the Serbian army. The tiny gold box she carried on a thin chain round her neck, until she reached England, and which was now somewhere upstairs amongst her other treasures.

Strange that she had forgotten it so entirely all this long time. And now she remembered that the box contained no more than an address of some bank in Paris, and a tiny steel key with a gold stem, and, on it, in blue enamel, the words ‘Le Forest.’ And the Countess had told her she was never to part with it.

All this was a matter of a few seconds, and then Bascoe was back again with a threatening cloud on his brow. He pointed to the papers, on the table and took up a pen.

“Now, then,” he said roughly. “Your signature.”

“Never,” Connie said. “Never, until you explain to me what those papers mean and what the allusion to Le Forest stands for. Oh, yes, I have glanced at those papers in your absence. There is something underhanded here that I don’t understand.”

“Don’t you?” Bascoe sneered. “Do you forget I could turn you out of this house at a moment’s notice? Do you forget that a certain action of mine made it possible for you to pass as an English subject and saved you from being deported as an alien? Now, then, are you going to sign?”

Connie shook her head resolutely. With his teeth set and violence in his eyes, Bascoe dashed round the table, only to find himself facing Connie’s little revolver.

“Go back!” she said. “If you touch me I shall shoot. I swear I will. Go back, you coward!”

Just for a moment, Bascoe hesitated, then with a contemptuous laugh, flung himself down into a chair.

CHAPTER II

With her head high in the air, Connie walked out of the library into the hall, where she came almost in contact with a tall and graceful girl, who looked at her with a question in her rather magnetic eyes.

“Well, my dear,” the parlourmaid asked, with what might have been termed flippant familiarity. “Oh, I couldn’t help hearing. So you have found him out at last, have you? Actually threatened you, didn’t he?”

Connie laid her finger to her lip and beckoned the pretty parlourmaid to follow her into the morning room. As a matter of fact, Nita Keene was not precisely a maid-servant in the ordinary sense of the word. She was a lady by birth and education who, in her fierce independence, preferred to get her own living to marrying the man whom her father had endeavored to foist upon her. She had been at Uppertons for some considerable time, and had confided her story to Connie, feeling sure that the latter would understand and sympathise. And so the two had become something more than mistress and servant, though Bascoe had not the slightest idea of this.

“Now, tell me all about it,” Nita said, as she closed the door of the morning room behind her. “I always told you that Rupert Bascoe was a real bad lot. Ah, my dear, I have seen more of the world than you have, though perhaps from a different angle. Oh, I know men–I ought to, after my experiences when my mother died. And that is why I spotted Bascoe for what he is directly I came here. And I remained because I took a fancy to you, feeling that sooner or later you would want a friend. Now, tell me what it was that the quarrel was all about.”

Connie told her story, to which Nita listened with almost flattering attention.

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