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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Owl Taxi » CHAPTER XX EXIT SENOR SAUNDERS
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Before they got home Amy began to awaken from her unnatural sleep. Greg gave her over to the care of Bessie, who had him carry the little figure up to Bessie's own room, where by methods known to herself she completed her restoration.

Greg learned that during his absence Pa Simmons had sent in a message that de Socotra had returned to his apartment about ten in company with a young Spanish-American whose description suggested Henry Saunders. A little before midnight de Socotra had come out again, leaving the young man within, and Pa Simmons had followed him to the house on East Seventeenth Street, where presumably he still was.

No word had come from Estuban. De Silva still lay in his deep sleep.

As soon as Amy had recovered she asked for Greg. He found her sitting up in bed, pale, great-eyed and smiling. Bessie, it appeared, was not without a secret, feminine fondness for pretty caps and negligees. Producing such articles from a hidden store, she had dressed Amy up like a French doll. After a few moments, the good-hearted Bessie made believe to discover an errand down-stairs, and left them alone.

But they had nothing to say to each other that any one might not have heard. There was no constraint; they gave each other their eyes freely, but they instinctively hung back from the deep waters of speech. They had been through too much to-night; Nature demanded a let-down. Their eyes had reached an understanding, their tongues wagged irresponsibly.

By and by they heard the disturbance incidental to a new arrival in the kitchen below. Amy, recognizing the timbre of the voice, looked at Greg and said:


Ginger McAfee came running up-stairs. Though invited to enter, an excessive delicacy constrained him to deliver his message from the other side of the door.

"It's the young Spanish gent wants to see Miss. Him that come to the yard yesterday morning. Bull's watching him till she says what to do with him."

Amy looked at Greg again.

Said he: "Might as well get it over with."

She nodded. "Let him come up," she called to Ginger.

Se?or Henry rushed into the room, and oblivious to the presence of Greg fell on his knees beside Amy's bed and reached for her hand. "Amèlie! Amèlie!" he cried. A flood of Spanish followed. Gone was the high-bred disdain. His yellow face worked with the uncontrollable emotion of a weak nature.

For some obscure reason Amy blushed and glanced uneasily at Greg. He, no less uncomfortable, looked away.

"Get up," she said curtly to the other. "Speak English."

Se?or Henry obeyed neither command.

"I shall not answer you unless you speak English."

He made the attempt, but it was not easy for him to express his overmastering emotion in the unfamiliar tongue. The stammering effect of it all was: "Come away! This is no place for you!"

"This is where my friends live," said Amy coldly.

It was lost on him. "Come away! I have a cab down-stairs."

"Where to?" asked Amy dryly.

"Back to Se?ora de Socotra."

"And Se?or Francisco? No, thank you."

"Let me take you to a hotel, then."

"In this? I have no other clothes."

Se?or Henry's feelings were too much for him. He relapsed into Spanish. Amy clapped her hands over her ears.

"Speak English!" she commanded.

The dark-skinned youth, guessing that the English was for Greg's benefit, shot a glance of purest hatred across the bed. To Amy he said: "Tell the Se?ora the truth, and she will leave Francisco."

"And die of a broken heart," said Amy. "I'd rather kill Francisco."

"But you cannot remain here among these people."

"Remember, you are speaking of my friends," Amy warned him. "Answer me a question. How did you know you'd find me here?"

"I guessed it."

"That's not enough. How did you guess it?"

"Well, Francisco asked me to spend the night in his apartment, so that the Se?ora would not be left alone. He had to be out late. Bianca telephoned from the sanitarium that you had been carried off. What was I to do? I didn't know where Francisco was. I dared not tell the Se?ora what had happened. Bianca said it was——" he jerked his head across the bed, "so I came down here."

"You knew then that they had put me in a private madhouse," said Amy relentlessly.

He shrugged.

"Perhaps you thought I was mad?"

"I did not. I told Francisco it was an outrage. Nothing I could say would move him. What was I to do?"

"What steps did you take to get me out?"

"Francisco swore to me that it was only for the night. As soon as he could arrange to get a private car, he said, he would send us all home together."

"Why did Francisco put me in that place?"

Se?or Henry shrugged again. "Surely you know that. He had learned that you were working against him in political matters. I warned you, you know."

"You mean criminal matters," Amy amended.

Greg spoke for the first time. "Ask him how Se?or Francisco learned of your activities."

Se?or Henry's shoulders and eyebrows were agitated together. "How should I know?"

"Did you tell him?" Amy asked directly.

He sprang up. "I did not tell him! I swear it! You insult me by asking such a question!"

Amy turned to Greg. "What do you know?"

Greg answered coolly: "He told him, right enough."

"It's a lie!" cried Se?or Henry, turning a little yellower than his wont. "I might have known who put that idea into your head! Would you take the word of this—this cabman, against mine!"

Greg laughed.

"When could he have told him?" Amy asked Greg.

"This afternoon when Se?or Francisco started from the apartment for the train, he met Se?or Saunders at the door. Se?or Saunders entered the cab with him, and they started down-town together. He told him then. That is why Se?or Francisco came rushing back in the state that you saw him."

The Spanish-American youth fell back. Rage and fright made his weak face hideous. A cold sweat had sprung out on his forehead; his teeth were bared. "It's a lie! a lie!" he repeated. "I never saw Francisco until afterwards. How do you know so much about my movements!"

"I drove the cab," said Greg simply.

Se?or Henry stared at him speechlessly.

Amy very quietly started to pull a handsome ring from her finger. It was tight; it did not come easily. Both men watched the action with a fascinated gaze. She finally held out the ring towards Se?or Henry. He refused it with a passionate gesture. She let it drop on the floor.

"Go!" she said.

He burst out in desperate appeals, reproaches, excuses, all in Spanish. Amy turned wearily away.

Greg stood up. "You've had your answer," he said harshly. "Go, before you're helped out."

Se?or Henry stopped short, stared from one to another, biting his lip, then turned, and rushed from the room as violently as he had entered. They heard the front door slam behind him.

Amy covered her face with her hands. "I'm so ashamed!" she murmured. "To think that I could ever have thought—even for a moment—that!"

"Forget the mannikin," said Greg calmly. "He means nothing in your life."

Greg heard Estuban's voice in the kitchen and hastened down-stairs. Their eyes brightened at the sight of each other like old friends. Estuban quickly explained that he had been carried as far as Philadelphia by the express on which he had expected to find de Socotra, and had been obliged to wait there several hours for a returning train.

"What has happened here?" he asked eagerly.

"Quite a bit," said Greg dryly. "We've got both the girl and the book out of de Socotra's hands. That is to say, we got a book."

"The little black book!" cried Estuban, his black eyes gleaming. "Let me see it!"

Greg handed it over, watching for Estuban's verdict with more anxiety than he cared to show. Estuban hastily turned the pages. What Greg read in his face confirmed his worst fears; amazement, incredulity, anger.

"This is not it!" he cried. "He has fooled you! This is an impudent substitute manufactured out of whole cloth!"

"I was half prepared for that," said Greg gloomily.

Estuban went on: "This is what de Socotra meant to carry to the President. Look! testimonials of respect to His Excellency; addresses of felicitation from public bodies of every class in Managuay; the Santiago Chamber of Commerce; the Planters' Association; The Rubber-Gatherers' union! The last is a masterpiece; listen! 'The Rubber-Gatherers' union of Managuay, happy in their situation on a fertile soil under a liberal government, desires to express to his Excellency, the President of the United States,' etc., etc. My God! what sublime impudence!"

"Then our work is still to do," said Greg grimly.

"Do you know where de Socotra is at this moment?" asked Estuban with a dangerous glitter in his eyes.

"At a house on East Seventeenth Street, the headquarters of his gang. He got that book there earlier in the day."

"It was made there under his direction, no doubt, and the original is presumably there."

"If they have not destroyed it."

"They would scarcely do that unless they thought it was in danger of falling into our hands. Think of the handle it will give them against those who dare oppose them in Managuay. The unfortunate ones who made these affidavits will be marked men hereafter."

Greg looked around the kitchen at the men who were awaiting the outcome of this talk, and looked back at Estuban. The corners of his mouth turned up with grim humor. "Let's go and get it," he said suddenly.

Estuban's hand shot out to meet Greg's. "My idea, too," he said with satisfaction.

"We have four good men here," Greg went on, "and a fifth is watching the house now. With the exception of de Socotra himself, that gang is not formidable. Their morale is poor.

"What do you propose?" asked Estuban.

"The simplest plan possible; to get into the house by force or by trickery, and hold them up. Are you armed?"

Estuban nodded.

"They got a gun from me on our last meeting. I'll see what there is in our outfit here."

Greg and Estuban were talking low-voiced in a corner of the kitchen, while the others waited. All thought of sleep had been given up for this night. Even Bessie, infected by the general excitement, had yielded to their solicitations in so far as to prepare a small-hour supper. The clock had just struck three.

"Boys," said Greg. "Are you game to turn another trick before daylight?"

"Try us," said Bull, grinning.

"Me and Blossom was done out of the best fun before," said Ginger.

Greg briefly explained what had to be done. It appeared that their appetites were only whetted for danger. They jumped at the chance. Even Hickey, encouraged by the size of the attacking party perhaps, did not bewail his fate this time. It transpired that both Blossom and Bull possessed revolvers. Greg borrowed Blossom's and let Bull keep his, unloaded.

"You won't mind if I empty out the shells?" he said. "Estuban and I feel that we ought to take the responsibility of any shooting that may be necessary."

Bessie, who had taken everything in, disappeared into the store, and returned with a small object which she offered Greg. Said she: "If you're going to break into the house—mind, I didn't say I held by any such foolishness, but if you're going to do it anyway, better take my glass-cutter. It may come in handy."

"Bessie, you've got a better head than any of us!" cried Greg—"or maybe you're more experienced in house-breaking."

"Go along with you! Mind you bring it back safe. I can't sell window glass without something to cut it."

When they were ready to start, Greg ran up-stairs to bid good-by to Amy. He told her what they designed to do.

It was at the hour of the night when human vitality is at its ebb. The plucky lip trembled. "Must you?" she faltered. "On top of everything to-night?"

"It must be at once, while he is off his guard. He does not yet know of your escape."

"If I could only go too! But to wait here in suspense—how can I endure it?"

"Oh, this is a simple job."

"Simple! You don't know Francisco."

"I must go. Send me with a smile."

She smiled. "I want you to promise me something," she begged. "You mustn't be angry."

He looked his question.

Her eyes searched his deep. "I want you to promise me you will not kill Francisco. I could not have that. After all he has cared for me for nine years, and he is the husband of the one I love."

There was more implied in this than was spoken. Greg understood. "I promise you," he said gravely,—"unless it is a question of defending myself."

"Do not think that I mean to let him go free," she said; "he shall be punished, terribly punished; but it must be in the way that I set."


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