Death Comes In Shining Armor
PROFESSOR HENRY BOW sat in his dusty jeep, parked on a rock-strewn riverside track somewhere near Carcassonne, rolled a cigarette and watched with grey, meditative eyes the rings that appeared on the water as trout rose. Temptingly, there was no house in sight.
Henry lighted his cigarette. He was so tall that his grey-flanneled knees stuck up bonily on each side of the wheel. He wore a disreputable fishing hat, a leather jacket, an old khaki shirt with a black tie. Among the gear in the back of the jeep was the trout rod without which he seldom traveled.
The river sang contentedly over a fall upstream. Twice in quick succession sounded the splash of a hasty trout. It was too much for Henry. He twisted around to rummage out his rod—and an unexpected sight stayed his guilty hand.
Two people were watching him from a humpbacked, grey stone bridge a score of yards downstream.....a woman and a little girl. They were
above his level, and against the background of trees, hill ridges, clouded sky', the shirts they wore made two patches of gypsy color. They had the game dark, shining hair, the little girl’s in pigtails, the woman’s neatly braided about her head. They had, too, the same berry-brown, clear skin and dark eyes, the child’s face round with the roundness of eight years old, the woman’s fine - drawn, beautiful.
Henry Bow withdrew his hand from his fishing rod as though it had glowed suddenly incandescent. He lifted his hat.
Above the ringing of the waterfall the child’s clear voice said, “C’esí un jeep, maman.”
Hand in hand they walked down the slope of the bridge and came along the track toward Henry with the evident intention of speaking to him.
He got out and stood waiting.
She said. “I notice you have a rod in your car, monsieur and the trout art; rising.”
“It’s no doubt private water, madame,” said Professor Bow virtuously.
But her smile showed that she had divined his unscholarly intentions. It was a smile that brought great charm to a face which in repose had a haunting sadness. She was about thirty, several years younger than Henry.
“It’s our water,” she said. “You are very welcome to fish. And you needn’t be afraid that our coming will have put the trout down. There’s seldom a rod on the river here.”
“I’m most grateful,” Henry said.
Colette held out a twig to which clung a minute lizard, yellow' and black, as gay and dainty as a woman’s brooch. “This is my protector, the Chevalier Bayard,” she told Henry.
“ ‘Without fear and without reproach,’ ” Henry said. “W’ell met, Cheva 1er!”
Colette looked pleased. She glanced up at her mother. “Can I stay and watch monsieur fish?” “Anglers don’t, as a rule, like an audience, Colette,” her mother said, and she smiled at Henry as they turned away. “Good sport, monsieur.” “Thank you,” Henry said.
Standing by the jeep he watched them as they
went back together over the humpbacked old bridge. Strange, he thought, that there should be in the eyes of a woman so beautiful an expression so lost and poignant—
He shrugged, put on his hat, glanced at the river. The trout still were feeding; their rings widened over the water. He began hastily to joint up his rod, in the angler’s usual panic that the rise might cease before he was ready.
ONCE cast ing, dropping his fly far and delicately upstream, Henry had time to reflect, with half his mind, on the coincidence of the mention this afternoon of the Chevalier Bayard. For out of this tawny and fabled country around the castled city of Carcassonne there had come long ago another chevalier, the Chevalier D’Arzac, who had been friend, comrade in arms and rival in might and honor of the Great Captain. And the Chevalier D’Arzac was the reason Henry was here. D’Arzac was the subject of a biography which Henry was writing as a distraction from more serious work.
Sources on D’Arzac were scant. His story interested Henry. It was out of character. D’Arzac had been caught, red-handed, standing armed in his bedchamber in the Castle of Carcassonne, the husband of a woman he loved dead and unarmed at his feet. The squire who had made the discovery
had slammed and bolted the door on both and summoned the guard.
The child Colette’s mention of Bayard, Henry told himself, was a good omen for his mission. Meantime, the trout were taking his fly as though they never had seen such a thing before.
He had half a dozen nice fish in his creel, and was bringing another neatly to the net, when a harsh, sudden voice demanded, “Who gave you permission to fish here?”
Henry glanced up at the bridge. A man in a black suit and a beret, with a market basket on his arm, stood there staring belligerently. He came striding down along the stony bank as Henry, without haste, unhooked and creeled his fish.
“I asked you a question!”
“Yes,” said Henry mildly. He dried his hands, and resting his rod against his shoulder took out his tobacco and papers, glancing thoughtfully from the man’s thick chest to his pugnacious leathery face and jet hard eyes. “I was given permission,” Henry said, “by a lady who came past just now with a little girl.”
The man’s hostility abated a shade. “That’s different,” he said.
Henry offered the cigarette he had just rolled. “I’d like to know,” he said, “the name of the lady to whom I’m indebted?”
The man hesitated for a moment, then took the cigarette and flicked the gummed edge along his tongue tip. “The lady you saw is Madame Hélène Roger, of Ferme Javelle,” he said. “My name is Trante. I work for her.” He smiled grimly as he held a lighter for Henry, then dipped his own cigarette to the flame. “It is like Madame to give a stranger permission to fish,” he said. “You wouldn’t have got it from Monsieur.”
“In that case,” Henry said, “perhaps I’d better move on?”
“Don’t vex yourself,” said Trante. “He left for Paris this morning. We don’t see much of him —a couple of days now and then. If Madame says you may fish, you may fish.” His eyes softened. “Voilà la petite!”
Across the river Colette’s bright shirt had reappeared, a patch of color between two of the tall poplars. Carrying her twig she ran along the opposite bank and vanished among tumbled rocks up near the waterfall.
Henry opened his creel. “Will you take these in your basket, Trante, with my compliments and
thanks to Madame Roger? My name is Bow. Tell Colette the small one there is for Bayard, if the Chevalier has a taste for fish. I wouldn’t know.” The dour Trante actually chuckled. “Good luck, monsieur.”
But as he trudged away over the bridge, he took the luck with him. Henry tried a couple of long casts without success, and was reeling in for a final t;ry when, above the deepening murmur of the fall, a clatter of falling stones, a child’s frightened cry and a sudden splash stopped him dead.
HE HAD forgotten Colette. He dropped his rod and ran with his long, stooping stride along the bank. Accidents to children scared him stiff, and there were some dreadful pictures in his mind as he clambered up the rock outcrop, overhung with trees, alongside the ledge of the waterfall.
Above the fall the water ran smoothly and fairly fast, twilit under tree branches. He saw her at once, standing up to her armpits in the water, clutching her right wrist, with her left hand and looking up at; him with large eyes shocked to solemnity, her teeth chattering.
Relief flowed into Henry, mingled with a tingling consciousness of the height, of the banks here, of how much worse it might have been. "Parbleu,” he said, “here’s a fine thing, Colette!” He scrambled down, lowered himself into the chill water and waded waist-deep across to her.
Colette caught her breath. “It was B-B-Bayard,” she shuddered. “He j-jumped, all of a s-s-sudden. I t.-tried to s-s-snatch him and f-f-f—”
Henry lifted her up, and she put a wet arm round his neck. “He’ll hunt around the rocks, Colette,” he said. “You’ll find him tomorrow when there’s more light.”
He clambered up the bank with her, carried her to the jeep, sat her on the seat, wrapped his leather jacket, around her. She was clutching her wrist again, and gently Continued on page 30
Continued on page 30
This young professor left dusty archives on the trail of death centuries old. He found a lady in distress and murder that was not ancient at all
Death Comes in Shining Armor
Continued from page 19
drawing away the small bloodstained fingers, he saw that she had a nasty jagged cut. He bound it with the soaked handkerchief from his pocket, and worked the wrist about exploratively, watching her.
“Pan du tout.”
“Fine,” Henry said. “You’re as
brave as the Chevalier Bayard himself.” He got in beside her, pressed the starter, reversed the jeep up the track. Hardly knowing whether the moment was judiciously chosen, but with the idea of keeping her mind off her shivering, he enquired, as he shifted gears and drove over the humpbacked bridge, “Did you ever hear tell, Colette, of the great joustiqg between the Chevalier Bayard and his twelve captains from Provence and the Chevalier D’Arzac and his twelve captains from Carcassonne?” “N-n-no,” admitted Colette.
So Professor Bow was enriching her education with a preview of a vigorous chapter from his work in progress when they came, soon, to an arched gateway in a long, whitewashed wall which skirted the right of this remote byway.
“Is this home, Colette?”
“We d-d-don’t use the front part any m-m-more,” Colette explained.
Henry followed the road around to the back. Here the jeep’s lights swiveled over a stretch of lawns and flower beds, enclosed by barns and stables.
“Soon be dry now, Colette,” he said cheerfully, and getting out lifted her from the seat.
In the doorway appeared a gaunt, tall, aproned woman with a saddlecolored, bony face and greying hair scraped back to a tight knot.
“No need for alarm,” said Henry hastily.
“I f-f-fell in the river, M-M-Marthe,” explained Colette, not without pride.
“Ay, maline!” Marthe clutched first her brow, then the child. “And I told Madame you were with Trante, putting the geese in! Monsieur, entrez, je vous en prie—and excuse me, hein?”
SHE bore Colette off in haste, leaving Henry standing alone in an im! mense room with a floor of polished i red bricks. It was a kitchen that evidently was used also as a dining room. The red glow of the coals through the bars of the range had a comforting look to Henry; he was soaked from the waist down, and his own teeth were not far off chattering. He moved forward, rubbing his hands, and. held them ©ut to the glow. Behind a door standing ajar on his left, not the door through which Marthe hid taken Colette, Hélène Roger’s quiet, warm voice was speaking—it seemed on the telephone.
“I know,” she said. “Yes, I know, Paul, only there isn’t anything we can do. No, I made no attempt to speak of it. You know Edouard. He was only here for a couple of days. No, I told you—it would have been useless for you to see him. It would have made everything worse—intolerable. There’s just nothing to be done—”
Henry took up the poker, thrust it between the bars, stirred the coals noisily; but he could still hear her.
“I? It’s not 1 he’d never let go. He has far more potent attractions in Paris—but he’s careful. It’s Ferme Javelle here that he’d go to any length rather than lose. He’s making a great ! deal of money in Paris, now, and spending it; but he knows his luck can’t last. He doesn’t care, so long as there’s always Ferme Javelle behind him—to fall back on, to milk in case of need. Give it to him? Knowing it would be neglected, mortgaged, gambled away? Oh, Paul, if there were only myself to think of—But there’s Colette. Ferme Javelle must go to her, as it came to me. It’s her right. I couldn’t cheat her of it. You wouldn’t ask it. No, I know, my dear. No, nothing, nothing, nothing—except to forget each other. Oh, Paul—”
The break in her voice, the desolate note of a woman who utterly had lost her way, sent Henry back in embarrassment to the far end of the kitchen. He was angry with himself for having heard so much—too much. He didn’t want to face her now. He just wanted to get away; and a step sounding in the yard, he looked with relief at Trante, who appeared in the doorway holding a coach lamp in his hand.
AH, TRANTE,” Henry said.
. “Ccrlette’s had a little tumble in the river. She’s all right; she’s with Marthe. But if I could just have the use of one of your barns for a minute, to change these wet clothes, I’ll be on my way.”
“I’ll take you to the coach house room,” said Trante, with concern. He led Henry up a short flight of stone steps at the side of the coach house, unlocked the door of a room. It was an attractive, simple room; faintly in the air breathed a fragrance of clover hay.
The room seemed to Henry, as by candlelight he changed into a crumpled grey suit from his valise, like Hélène
Continued on page 34
Continued from page 30
Roger herself—frank, graceful, welcoming. Only in the life of her heart, it seemed, was there complexity and j shadow—tragedy.
The mirror reflected his thin face, sombrely meditative, as he knotted his wrinkled tie before the mirror. A knock sounded on the door and Trante osme in, carrying a bottle and glass on a tray, with hot-water bags under his arm.
“Ferme Javelle’s own eau de vie,” he said. “It will warm you, monsieur. Also, your trout are being cooked.” “My trout?” said Henry, turning. “Madame hopes very muoh that you will dine with her,” said Trante. “Further—” he folded back the bedclothes to insert the hot-water bags— “there is a thick mist come up, and the river track could be dangerous for a stranger. See, I am airing the bed for you.”
“It would be a kindness to Madame.” Trante’s bullet head showed greystubbled in the candlelight as he tucked in the sheets. “Ferme Javelle is lonely for her.”
Henry said quietly, “Thank you, Trante.”
HELENE ROGER was waiting for him in the kitchen. She gave him her hand. “Colette has told me what happened. It was very fortunate that you were there, Monsieur Bow.”
“Is she all right?”
“Oh, yes. I’ve put her to bed, though, and I’ve telephoned Dr. Sauvagnac to call as soon as he can, in ¡ case a stitch should be needed in that cut.”
Trante was holding for her the chair at the head of the table. Henry took the place which, he guessed, had been laid for Colette. Marthe, at the big range, was cooking the trout. Trante ladled soup from a big tureen. They were a hard-faced couple, but they held Helene Roger in deep love and respect; it was in their eyes when they looked at her.
The trout were cooked to perfection, and Henry said so.
Hélène smiled. “You hear, Marthe?” “ Monsieur est trop gentil.”
“You know,” Hélène said to Henry, “you’ve put me in a quandary. Colette’s bedtime story hero has been always the Chevalier Bayard. Now you've given him a rival. She wants stories about the Chevalier D’Arzac, because you said he came from over there at Carcassonne. And I’m completely ignorant about him!”
‘Tve an unfair advantage,” Henry said, and told her of the biography he was writing.
He W’ent on to tell her something of D’Arzac’s story. It was easy to talk of, in this quiet, old, homely kitchen; here the long ago seemed not so ¡ remote after all; its actors were flesh j and blood. And Hélène’s dark eyes, as ! she listened, might have been Colette’s, but that there was that sadness in them, that sadness which Henry Bow was powerless to lift.
Hélène refilled his wineglass. His eyes rested for a moment on her brown fingers slender in the candlelight, on the single, plain gold ring she wore. He sheered away from the end of the story. He couldn’t tell this woman, who loved a man not her husband, how the ! Chevalier D’Arzac had died in dishonor for love of a woman who wras another man’s wife.
He took up his glass. “The rest is mystery,” he said. “Bayard himself insisted about his friend, 'The whole story has not been told.’ So it’s left for historians to puzzle over in their idle hours and make an excuse for research trips to Carcassonne—with an illicit
fishing rod and reel in their kit.”
“To catch trout and children in brooks,” said Hélène, smiling.
Henry, though, had just remembered where he had left that rod. He had left it lying on the bank down by the bridge. It was an old split cane, much bound and beglued, but he valued it. He was careful to remind himself again about it as he was smoking a last cigarette in bed in the coach house room, after Trante had lighted him across the misty yard.
HE MUST remember to collect the rod, Henry warned himself; and with a last glance around the pleasant room he put out his cigarette and snuffed the candle. With the darkness, the faint fragrance of clover, came Hélène’s image, her eyes in candlelight, her quiet hands. So you might see and talk casually for an hour with a woman, he thought; or perhaps you might do no more than meet her eyes for a moment in a crowd, and pass on. Though you might forget her, yet still you could be always half in love with her for the rest of your days. Maybe, in the end, the worth and richness of a man was the sum of women so seen, so known yet unknown, so purely loved— The angler repudiated the thoughts of the historian. “I must be sure and remember that rod in the morning.” But it wasn’t to morning that he woke. It was to pitch darkness and the grope of hands, shocking him to rigid alertness.
“Who is it?”
Breath was warm on his face. He felt a touch on his bared throat. The hands crushed tight in sudden murderous constriction.
HE WRITHED. His own hands, flung up, struck forearms taut as bars. His head roared. Colored whorls like nebulae spun in the dark. It was the training and instinct of a man who only a few years before had been a lieutenant of artillery that made him feel for the outside fingers—the little fingers — of the strong hands that gripped his throat. He forced his own fingers under those outside fingers, bent them sharply back. He heard a gasp of excruciating pain as he felt the snap of the bone in the right-hand little finger he gripped. The hands were snatched away, and he lunged upward, hurling the man back from him. He heard a stumble, the crash of a chair, a heavy fall in the blackness as he slid from the bed, bracing himself for a new onslaught. His heart labored; his breath was hurtful in his aching throat; the pulse of blood surged like a tide in his head.
No sound came from the blackness. As his own forced breathing began to come under control, he put out a hand, seeking the bedside chair. It had fallen. He slid a bare foot about the board floor, heard the matchbox rattle. He snatched it up, and the flame, as he struck a match, stabbed his eyes.
He saw the door standing wide open, the fog feeling in like a blind beggar, and on the floor a sprawled, white-faced figure in a belted trench coat.
The match burned his fingers. He dropped it and struck another, looking for the fallen candle. He found and lighted it, jammed it into the candlestick, stooped over the fallen man. The pallor of the haggard, weak, handsome face intensified the blue shave-shadow of the jaw, the redness of the lax lips. The sleek head had struck the edge of the raised, red-brick hearth in falling; and with that kind of a knockout the man should have been breathing stertorously. But he wasn’t.
Henry dropped abruptly on one knee, put an ear to the man’s mouth;
Continued on page 36
Continued from page 34
then, his own heart thudding, he raised the man’s outflung, limp right hand, his fingers circling the warm wrist.
Vaguely he was aware of a dog barking out in the night, of a shout there and running footsteps; but his whole attention was concentrated on the hand he held. He couldn’t believe what his finger tips told him.
There was a step in the doorway. He looked around quickly. Trante, holding the coach lamp, his nightshirt tucked anyhow into his trousers, stood there, staring.
“He’s dead,” Henry said. “Do you know him, Trante?”
Trante’s lips moved dryly. “Monsieur Roger—”
Distantly, from across the yard, a voice called, “Trante? Trante?” It was Hélène.
Trante said harshly, “I am sorry, monsieur.” He jerked the door shut, and Henry heard the key grind in the lock.
Incredulous, he rose, strode to the door. He tried it and it was firm. He could hear Trante running across the yard. He could hear the dog barking and its chain rattle. Again he tried the door. It was of oak, solid and heavy. Shadows wheeled as he swung around to the window, swept back the pretty curtains. The window was open at the top, but the room must have been once a harness room, for through the glimmer of his reflection candlelit on the glass he could see bars.
He set down the candlestick, returned to the door, stood listening. All was quiet; even the dog has stopped barking.
“They’re telephoning the police,” Henry guessed.
He peeled the pyjama top from his brown, thin body, began to dress. The silence made everything seem to him unreal yet abnormally vivid. He had that spectral sense of reliving a previous experience, something that had happened to him before. He knew why he felt this. It was because for months now he had been projecting his imagination back into the life and times of D’Arzac of Carcassonne—on whom the door of a room, where he stood armed over the body of an unarmed man whose wife he coveted, had been slammed and locked.
He went over to gaze down again at the dead man. Edouard Roger, Hélène’s husband, who was supposed to have left for Paris this morning—
It wasn’t the fact that the man was here that seemed to Henry so incredible. What was incredible was the thing he had noticed when he lifted Roger’s right hand to feel for a pulse.
Even now he couldn’t believe that thing. Again he knelt and lifted the hand. He manipulated the little finger gently, exploratively, as he had manipulated Colette’s wrist, feeling for a break. Colette’s wrist hadn’t been broken.
Neither was Roger’s little finger.
HENRY sat down on the bed. He rolled and smoked cigarette after cigarette. His throat ached dully; it was tender when he touched it; it hurt to swallow.
Rut he knew that it wasn’t Roger who had inflicted this damage. Roger hadn’t got a broken little finger. The glaring fact was: Edouard Roger
hadn’t entered this room alive.
Roger cared nothing for his wife, yet he bitterly feared to lose his claim on her property. A man of that calibre, if he suspected a threat to his possession of her, certainly wouldn’t be above pretending a departure, then sneaking back under cover of night and mist to
spy on her. That was what had happened. But he had been caught at it. He had been caught and killed, and his body had been carried, at once and silently, here to the coach house room, andlaid down with the head on the edge of the hearth.
The man who brought him then had made his assault on Henry, not with intent to kill, but to provoke a violent reaction—so that, flung back, the man could pretend a stumble in the darkness, a heavy fall, then slip out soundlessly through the open door, leaving Henry to find the body and draw the obvious conclusion.
HENRY lifted his head suddenly, listening. A long time had passed; on the dressing table the candle had burned down to its final inch. Cars were coming up the road between the tufted poplars. The cars, two of them, pulled up in the yard. Almost at once footsteps sounded outside the door; the latch lifted, but the door wasn’t unlocked. Whoever it was remained outside, presumably on guard. Over at the house, no doubt, questioning was going on, for a good ten minutes passed before more feet sounded on the coach house steps.
This time the key was turned in the lock. And as Henry stood up the door was flung open and a swarthy officer in blue tunic and breeches, Sam Brown and kepi, stepped into the room, a hand on the butt of a leather-holstered revolver.
“See if he is armed, Durand,” he said.
A cloaked gendarme ran skilled hands down Henry’s long flanks. “Rien, inspector—only his passport.” “Good.” The inspector took the passport and said, “Dr. Sauvagnac?” A tall, tanned man, hatless, in a tweed overcoat with the collar turned up, a black case in his right hand, stepped forward. This was the doctor, Henry remembered, to whom Hélène had telephoned earlier in the evening to see Colette. He hadn’t turned up by the time Henry went to bed.
The inspector gestured at the body. “Take a look at him, Paul,” he said.
Paul? The name flicked Henry’s nerves like a whiplash. He shot the doctor a startled glance. He was a man about thirty-five, with a resolute blunt face and thick dark hair. He looked desperately tired, but his brown eyes met Henry’s for an instant, in a swift, searching regard, before he knelt to examine the body.
“Monsieur Bow?” The inspector was riffling the passport.
But Henry’s attention still was on the doctor, kneeling now, his back to the room. He hadn’t turned up, this doctor, this Dr. Paul Sauvagnac, by the time Henry went to bed. But had he, Henry wondered, turned up afterward? Had Paul Sauvagnac been here tonight, to Ferme Javelle, before his visit now with the police?
“Monsieur Bow!” the inspector repeated—sharply this time.
Henry looked at him.
“Suppose you tell us what happened?” the inspector said.
“What happened?” Henry said slowly. He swallowed with his aching throat, putting his hand to it, playing for time—weighing in his mind moral responsibilities and consequences; seeing again the woman and the child standing together on the grey stone bridge; hearing Hélène’s voice as she talked quietly into the telephone; seeing her once more in the carven, highbacked chair, her profile fine-drawn, her eyes in candlelight, her deft and gentle hands. “What happened?” he said. “Why—why, I was attacked in my sleep. I was half throttled—” He
Continued on page 38
Continued from page 36
lifted his chin to show his bruised throat. “I threw the man back from me, got a light going, and — he was as you see him.”
The inspector looked Henry up and down, intently. “That’s all you have to say?”
There was a slow, measured punching in Henry’s chest. He knew what he was doing. He said, “Yes, that’s all.” The inspector nodded. “Durand! Take him out to the car.”
The gendarme snapped a cuff on Henry’s wrist. “Allez!”
Henry went down the steps, another gendarme, ahead, shining a flashlamp on them to light the way. The mist struck chill. Across the yard a yellow shine came from the kitchen window. A shadow that moved across the curtains might have been Helene’s.
HE DIDN’T see her again until she gave evidence at the proceedings held in a bleak, whitewashed room adjoining the building of the Police Judiciaire, in the small town of Laavelle. Not once did she look at him as she gave her evidence, testifying that she had never seen him in her life until the day she had given him permission to fish.
The lawyer representing Henry had told him he had nothing to worry about. “It’s well known here what kind of man Edouard Roger was. The truth is quite obvious. He pretends to leave for Paris; he sneaks back to spy on his wife. He is jealous, suspicious. He places an ugly construction on the presence of a stranger, and in his craven rag«? attacks that stranger as he lies asleep. A mischance, a stumble— poetic justice, perhaps—and it is Roger himself who dies. It is clear-cut, Monsieur Bow. You will be a free man by noon.”
He was only an hour or two out. It was three o’clock when the court rose. The swarthy inspector, trim in his breeches and leggings, his Sam Brown and kepi, walked over to shake Henry’s hand.
“Our gaol will miss you,” he said cordially; “you play a good game of cards, monsieur.”
“I’m really free?” Henry said.
“It was never in doubt,” said the inspector. “Come, your jeep's waiting in the garage. I’ll help you get your things aboard.”
The only thing missing from his kit was the familiar old split-cane rod which he had dropped at the riverside when he had run to help Colette.
His vacation was over. His researches in Carcassonne must wait till some other time; he was long overdue back at his work. Just the same he took the Carcassonne road out of Lajavelle. He drove for a few miles, slowly, thoughtfully, until he came to a culvert where the river ran under the road. He pulled up. The afternoon was wearing on; it was cloudy and still, quiet hut for the mirth of falling waters. He rolled a cigarette, his eyes on the stony track which twisted and climl>ed, following the river up to Ferme Javelle, lonely amid the tawny hills.
He thought, “Shall 1 go and get that rod?” But he knew that it wasn’t a fishing rod he wanted to find—and was afraid to seek.
Suddenly he threw away his cigarette, shifted gears, bumped the jeep off the road onto the river track. Nothing had changed along this way; he saw no living soul. He came to the spot where he had parked that first day.
île got out of the jeep, went down the hank and walked along at the water's edge. He found his rod lying just where he had dropped it. He
picked it up and was reeling in the slack, waterlogged line when he heard the sound of a car. It was coming from Ferme Javelle. It appeared after a minute— a shabby roadster driven by a hatless man in a tweed overcoat with the collar turned up. He glanced down as he drove over the bridge, saw Henry, and pulled up. He got out of the car and walked down along the bank, looking at Henry curiously. “Fishing, Monsieur Bow?”
“Just collecting a rod I left here,” Henry said. He smiled, hut there was a slow, sultry thud in his chest. “Sometimes,” he said, “it can be—unsafe to fish.”
“Thank God,” Paul Sauvagnac said, “that it turned out all right for you today at the hearing. Of course it was hound to—I never had a doubt. Still, a bad business for you, the whole affair.” “Worse for Madame Roger,” Henry said. He detached the reel, put it in his pocket. “How is she?”
“I’ve just driven her and Trante home from the hearing,” said Sauvagnac. “She’s all right.” He was silent for a moment, then said with sudden passion, “I’d like you to know that you’ve nothing in the world to reproach yourself with. Roger was rotten through and through—no loss to anyone. What’s happened will mean a new life, a chance of real happiness at last, for Hélène—and Colette.”
Henry twisted the top joint free. “I hope it may prove so,” he said.
“It will,” said Paul Sauvagnac, and drew in his breath, audibly. “Good-by, Monsieur Bow.”
“Good-by,” Henry said. He didn’t offer his hand. He couldn’t bring himself to do it. It was perhaps better, after all, not to know.
But he saw Sauvagnac’s hand extended. He looked, then, at the resolute, tired face of the man, the brown, deep-set eyes. He took the hand, closing his own wiry fingers hard on it.
“Good-by, Dr. Sauvagnac,” he said, and his spirit soared as though a great weight had been lifted from it. “Good luck,” he said. He stood tall and a little stooped, in his leather jacket and disreputable fishing hat, watching Sauvagnac climb the bank. “Dr. Sauvagnac?” he called suddenly.
The doctor turned.
“Has Trante, by any chance,” Henry said, "got a broken finger?” “Why, yes,” Paul Sauvagnac said. “1 noticed it as we were driving back today. I’ve just set it for him. Why? Did he show it to you first?”
“You know how it is,” said Henry apologetically. “Some of these country people will consult anybody but a doctor.”
HE WATCHED Sauvagnac get into his car and drive off; and as the hum of the motor faded he went up the bank and tossed the joints of the rod into the jeep. He looked back across the river. The light was fast fading; the murmur of the fall had taken on a deeper note. There was one trout still rising—stubbornly, mockingly. There alw'ays was. But Henry Bow was thinking of Hélène. He had got what he had come back for—a memory of one who should be always for him, with her profile fine-drawn, candlelight in her eyes, her deft and gentle hands, of good report.
He got into the jeep. As he drove off it occurred to him that perhaps he had a line for research on D'Arzac now, a definite theory on which to work. It could be that the Chevalier Bayard hadn’t been so far wrong when he had said of his friend, “The whole story has not been told.” It was all a long time ago, of course. Still, Henry could quite see what might have happened. ★