Penelope of the Polyantha - Edgar Wallace - ebook

Penelope of the Polyantha ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Opis

„There is a man in London – I guess he is still in London, though I have not had news of him in months – he’ll be useful to you, Penn, if you ever need help.” And so begins this story. It is impossible not to be thrilled by Edgar Wallace. „Penelope of the Polyantha” is a crime novel by this pioneer of detective fiction. One of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, Edgar Wallace was an immensely popular author, who created exciting thrillers spiced with tales of treacherous crooks and hard-boiled detectives. During the peak of his success during the 1920’s, it was said that a quarter of all books read in England were written by him. Many of his novels were made into films and TV dramas.

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Liczba stron: 235

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Contents

I. TWO ON THE EMPIRE EXPRESS

II. EL SLICO

III. THE HOUSE BY THE SEA

IV. THE COMING OF MR. WHIPLOW

V. THE STOUT MR. ORFORD

VI. ANOTHER VIEW OF “POLYANTHA”

VII. A NEARER VIEW OF “POLYANTHA”

VIII. THE “STEWARDESS”

IX. THE FLIGHT

X. THE DRUG

XI. A CALL AT VIGO

XII. VIGO

XIII. THE ARREST OF HOLLIN

XIV. A RESCUE

XV. THE CAVE

XVI. WHIPLOW AGAIN

XVII. MR. ORFORD PROPOSES

XVIII. AN ACT OF MUTINY

XIX. UNDER FIRE

XX. ARREST

XXI. THE MEETING

XXII. CHAPTER THE LAST

I. TWO ON THE EMPIRE EXPRESS

“THERE is a man in London–I guess he is still in London, though I have not had news of him in months–he’ll be useful to you, Pen, if you ever need help.”

Penelope Pitt dabbed her eyes savagely with the moist ball of linen that had once been a reputable and ladylike handkerchief, and tried to smile.

“I am a great fool, judge, blubbering like a baby. And I just hate Edmonton–and there is nobody here that I care a pin about. Besides, I shall never get to London. You’ll find me working in a candy store at Moose Jaw.”

“You’ve got your tickets for Toronto?” said the practical old man. “And Moose Jaw is a one-horse place–at least it was twenty years ago. Medicine Hat was worse. Nelson is a live town. I wonder you don’t make for the Kootnay. There are opportunities there. Why, a feller I knew–Here, take this letter, quick!”

The warning whistle had blown.

“Orford–James X. Orford; we were at school together in Berlin. They call it Kitchener since the war. And, Pen, you get through to me if you’re held up in the East.”

She kissed her hand to the white-haired figure on the platform as the train pulled out, the engine bell’s clanging and the rattle and clash of wheels upon cross points drowning the sobs she tried heroically to stifle.

The great adventure had begun.

When she found her seat and had dried her eyes and told herself for the xth time how childish and weak she was to make such a sight of herself, Penelope discovered herself under the calm but inoffensive scrutiny of her vis-à-vis. She had already noticed and admired her, as much as she could notice or admire anything or anybody. Even old Judge Heron had interrupted his incoherent farewells to approve of the lady with the thin spirituelle face and the aristocratic carriage.

“Are you going far?”

The voice was soft and the strange lady had that drawling inflection which Pen associated with English women.

“To Toronto, I think,” smiled Pen. “My plans aren’t–yes, I think I am going to Toronto.”

The woman nodded.

“You hate Edmonton, too? I detest the place. It is so raw and unfinished. You can almost smell the wood in the houses–and the hotels! They overcharge disgracefully.”

Now Pen did not hate Edmonton at all. She loved it. Though she was born in England, Edmonton was her very home, and there was not stick or stone or brick of the city that she did not adore at this moment, when every puff from the big engine and every thump of the car wheels was carrying her away. She did not even hate the middle-aged merchant whose secretary she had been, though he had made violent love to her, and had offered to jettison his responsibilities (he had a daughter as old as she, and a large and pleasant wife) if she would run away with him. She certainly disliked the large and pleasant wife, who, in tidying her husband’s desk, had discovered the draft of a letter which that optimistic man had written, believing that his suit would succeed. In this letter, he took farewell of his wife and family, outlined the material provisions he would make for their comfort, and quoted the Scriptures liberally. He was a churchwarden.

Upon Penelope, already distressed by the revelation of the effect which her grey eyes had had upon a bald-headed and Christian gentleman of no especial charm, swept the tornado of a woman scorned. She came through the interview a little dazed and feeling strangely unclean.

“No, I don’t really hate Edmonton,” she said quickly. “It is a dear town, only–well, I’m glad to get away.”

“Are you thinking of taking a trip to England?”

Penelope laughed.

“That was one of my more extravagant ideas,” she said, her lips twitching. “I might as well have planned a trip to the Pleiades.”

The lady frowned.

“The?”

“The stars,” explained Pen.

Her companion nodded.

She was pretty. Pen had already decided that point. Her eyes were brown, sometimes they seemed almost black. She might have been twenty-eight–possibly she was less. Pretty, but Penelope saw the flaw. It was her mouth. It was too straight and the lips just a little too thin. Otherwise, she was beautiful. It was not Penelope’s beauty–the beauty of the open. Pen was alive, vital. A creature of the prairies, tanned, clear skinned, straight backed. Pen was beautiful or nothing. “Pretty” was a term that could be applied only by those without a sense of word values.

The other woman was all prettiness. She belonged to the category of dainty china and fluffy kittens and all such expressions of the cute and the neat and the pleasing. Except her mouth: when she smiled, as she did quite readily, even that defect was scarcely noticeable.

Pen slept in the berth above her that night, and wondered who she was. She had to keep her mind upon matters that did not count, or she would have wept, for she was suffering an agony of loneliness. The steady thud of the wheels, which lulled her fellow-passengers to sleep, had the effect of making her wide awake. She went over and over her painful experience, neared the end of her mental narrative, and then switched quickly to the woman below, to the snoring sleepers, to the identity of the driver who was standing on the footplate of the engine–to anything.

She dozed at last, but, as it seemed, had scarcely slept before she woke again. Over the edge of her berth she saw the white face of her travelling companion.

Her brown eyes were staring roundly, her lip was trembling.

“Is anything wrong–are you ill?” asked Pen, sitting up.

The woman did not answer. She stood there, in the parting of the curtains, and stared blankly, her white hands gripping the edge of the berth.

Then, just as Penelope in her alarm was preparing to descend, she whispered, with a curious deliberation:

“Suppose he doesn’t die? Have you thought of that, Arthur? Suppose he doesn’t die, or Whiplow tells?”

She was asleep and yet awake. Instantly Pen had slipped from the berth and was at the woman’s side.

She suffered herself to be put to bed again, and in a few minutes was breathing regularly.

Arranging her pillow, Pen disturbed a flat leather case which opened as she took it up. In the dim light of the berth she saw the portrait of an extremely good-looking young man. She wondered if this was “Arthur.”

*     *

*

“Was I talking in my sleep–how fascinating. Do tell me what I said!”

Pen made the revelation in the dining-car at breakfast.

“Very little. I was so scared at seeing you, that I hardly know what you did say. You talked about somebody dying and you mentioned a name–Whiplow, was it?”

The woman was eyeing her gravely.

“No–I don’t know that name. I’ve never walked in my sleep before. I suppose I was a little overtired. Arthur? Oh yes, of course. That was my husband. I am Mrs. Arthur Dorban–Cynthia Dorban. I thought I had told you last night. How queer!”

Mrs. Dorban made no attempt to pursue the subject and it was not mentioned again. She said that she was going through to Quebec after two days’ stay in Toronto. Pen gave confidence for confidence, so far as her natural caution would allow her. She did not mention the amorous stockbroker.

Mrs. Dorban received the girl’s news thoughtfully.

“You haven’t a job to go to? And no friends in Eastern Canada? What was it I heard you telling the old gentleman? I heard almost every word you said. Are you really going to England?”

Pen shook her head laughingly.

“That was a mad scheme of mine–one of my very unsubstantial dreams. I want to go. I was born in London. I’ve always had a longing to see Europe–but, of course, I shall never be able to afford the trip.”

There was a long silence. The train was rushing through a boundless ocean of waving wheat. As far as the eye could reach, the yellow waves billowed and swayed–from horizon to horizon there was no sign of human habitation. Nothing but this waste of billowing yellow.

“Do you get the English newspapers at Edmonton? Naturally they come to you, but do you read them?”

Penelope shook her head.

“I am afraid I am not a very close student of English affairs,” she confessed. “I know that Mr. Lloyd George is Prime Minister, and that there is trouble with Ireland, but–”

Mrs. Dorban changed the subject. She talked for a while about her home in Devonshire, her cliff garden, a wilderness of gorse and pine that sloped steeply up to the edge of Borcombe Downs. Once she made a casual reference to a name that had a familiar sound.

“Lord Rivertor? Oh yes, he has a ranch near our farm–that is, the farm my father had before he came into Edmonton. I lived there most of my life. I never saw him–Lord Rivertor I mean. He died last year, didn’t he?”

“Yes.”

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