[4 Nov 1999] When the Killing Stopped|
[5 Nov 1999] Worst Crimes of the Millennium
[8 Nov 1999] Four Gates to the City
[9 Nov 1999] Conviction of E. German Chief Upheld
[10 Nov 1999] Prisoner's Dilemma
[11 Nov 1999] The Mechanical Demon
[12 Nov 1999] Psalm 23
[19 Nov 1999] Translator's Note
[22 Nov 1999] Future Shocks
[24 Nov 1999] Worlds Enough, and Time
[26 Nov 1999] Everybody Knows
[29 Nov 1999] The German Atomic Bomb
[30 Nov 1999] The Endless Frontier
[1 Dec 1999] The Scarlet Pimpernel
[2 Dec 1999] Was the Great War Necessary?
[3 Dec 1999] Bullet Proof Soul
[6 Dec 1999] Rocannon's World I
[7 Dec 1999] Rocannon's World II
[8 Dec 1999] Rocannon's World III
[9 Dec 1999] The Intelligence Gap
[15 Dec 1999] A Deepness in the Sky
[16 Dec 1999] Evil Isn't Banal
[17 Dec 1999] The Scarlet Letter
[20 Dec 1999] Political Science
The Mysterious Device
By BARONESS ORCZY
Gently, on tip-toe, she crossed the landing and, like Blue Beard's wife, trembling half with excitement and wonder, she paused a moment on the threshold, strangely perturbed and irresolute.
The door was ajar, and she could not see anything within. She pushed it open tentatively: there was no sound: Frank was evidently not there, and she walked boldly in.
At once she was struck by the severe simplicity of everything around her: the dark and heavy hangings, the massive oak furniture, the one or two maps on the wall, in no way recalled to her mind the lazy man about town, the lover of race-courses, the dandified leader of fashion, that was the outward representation of Sir Percy Blakeney.
There was no sign here, at any rate, of hurried departure. Everything was in its place, not a scrap of paper littered the floor, not a cupboard or drawer was left open. The curtains were drawn aside, and through the open window the fresh morning air was streaming in.
Facing the window, and well into the centre of the room, stood a ponderous business-like desk, which looked as if it had seen much service. On the wall to the left of the desk, reaching almost from floor to ceiling, was a large full-length portrait of a woman, magnificently framed, exquisitely painted, and signed with the name of Boucher. It was Percy's mother.
... Marguerite studied the portrait, for it interested her: after that she turned and looked again at the ponderous desk. It was covered with a mass of papers, all neatly tied and docketed, which looked like accounts and receipts arrayed with perfect method. It had never before struck Marguerite--nor had she, alas! found it worth while to inquire--as to how Sir Percy, whom all the world had credited with a total lack of brains, administered the vast fortune which his father had left him.
Since she had entered this neat, orderly room, she had been taken so much by surprise, that this obvious proof of her husband's strong business capacities did not cause her more than a passing thought of wonder. But it also strengthened in her the now certain knowledge that, with his worldly inanities, his foppish ways, and foolish talk, he was not only wearing a mask, but was playing a deliberate and studied part.
Marguerite wondered again. Why should he take all this trouble? Why should he--who was obviously a serious, earnest man--wish to appear before his fellow-men as an empty-headed nincompoop?
He may have wished to hide his love for a wife who held him in contempt ... but surely such an object could have been gained at less sacrifice, and with far less trouble than constant incessant acting of an unnatural part.
She looked round her quite aimlessly now: she was horribly puzzled, and a nameless dread, before all this strange, unaccountable mystery, had begun to seize upon her. She felt cold and uncomfortable suddenly in the severe and dark room. There were no pictures on the wall, save the fine Boucher portrait, only a couple of maps, both of parts of France, one of the North coast and the other of the environs of Paris. What did Sir Percy want with those, she wondered.
Her head began to ache, she turned away from this strange Blue Beard's chamber, which she had entered, and which she did not understand. She did not wish Frank to find her here, and with a last look round, she once more turned to the door. As she did so, her foot knocked against a small object, which had apparently been lying close to the desk, on the carpet, and which now went rolling, right across the room.
She stooped to pick it up. It was a solid gold ring, with a flat shield, on which was engraved a small device.
Marguerite turned it over in her fingers, and then studied the engraving on the shield. It represented a small star-shaped flower, of a shape she had seen so distinctly twice before: once at the opera, and once at Lord Grenville's ball.