“And Pine had no enemies to my knowledge who desired his death,” declared the secretary. “We were so intimate that had his life been in danger he certainly would have spoken about it to me.”
“You can throw no light on the darkness?” asked the Coroner hopelessly.
“None,” said the witness. “Nor, so far as I can see, is any one else able to throw any light on the subject. Pine’s secret was not a dishonorable one, as he was such an upright man that no one could have desired to kill him.”
Apparently there was no solution to the mystery, as every one concluded, when the evidence was fully threshed out. An open verdict was brought in, and the proceedings ended in this unsatisfactory manner.
“Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown,” said Lambert, when he read the report of the inquest in his St. James’s Street rooms. “Strange. I wonder who cut the Gordian knot of the rope which bound Agnes to Pine?”
He could find no reply to this question, nor could any one else.
A difficult position.
Lord Garvington was not a creditable member of the aristocracy, since his vices greatly exceeded his virtues. With a weak nature, and the tastes of a sybarite, he required a great deal of money to render him happy. Like the immortal Becky Sharp, he could have been fairly honest if possessed of a large income; but not having it he stopped short of nothing save actual criminality in order to indulge his luxurious tastes to the full. Candidly speaking, he had already overstepped the mark when he altered the figures of a check his brother-in-law had given him, and, had not Pine been so generous, he would have undoubtedly occupied an extremely unpleasant position. However, thanks to Agnes, the affair had been hushed up, and with characteristic promptitude, Garvington had conveniently forgotten how nearly he had escaped the iron grip of Justice. In fact, so entirely did it slip his memory that—on the plea of Pine’s newly discovered origin—he did not desire the body to be placed in the family vault. But the widow wished to pay this honor to her husband’s remains, and finally got her own way in the matter, for the simple reason that now she was the owner of Pine’s millions Garvington did not wish to offend her. But, as such a mean creature would, he made capital out of the concession.
“Since I do this for you, Agnes,” he said bluntly, when the question was being decided, “you must do something for me.”
“What do you wish me to do?”
“Ah—hum—hey—ho!” gurgled Garvington, thinking cunningly that it was too early yet to exploit her. “We can talk about it when the will has been read, and we know exactly how we stand. Besides your grief is sacred to me, my dear. Shut yourself up and cry.”
Agnes had a sense of humor, and the blatant hypocrisy of the speech made her laugh outright in spite of the genuine regret she felt for her husband’s tragic death. Garvington was quite shocked. “Do you forget that the body is yet in the house?” he asked with heavy solemnity.