A Poor Wise Man by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Old Anthony's excursion to his daughter's house had not prospered. During the drive to Cardew Way he sat forward on the edge of the seat of his limousine, his mouth twitching with impatience and anger, his stick tightly clutched in his hand. Almost before the machine stopped he was out on the pavement, scanning the house with hostile eyes.
The building was dark. Paul, the chauffeur, watching curiously, for the household knew that Anthony Cardew had sworn never to darken his daughter's door, saw his erect, militant figure enter the gate and lose itself in the shadow of the house. There followed a short interval of nothing in particular, and then a tall man appeared in the rectangle of light which was the open door.
Jim Doyle was astounded when he saw his visitor. Astounded and alarmed. But he recovered himself quickly, and smiled.
"This is something I never expected to see," he said, "Mr. Anthony Cardew on my doorstep."
"I don't give a damn what you expected to see," said Mr. Anthony Cardew. "I want to see my daughter."
"Your daughter? You have said for a good many years that you have no daughter."
"Stand aside, sir. I didn't come here to quibble."
"But I love to quibble," sneered Doyle. "However, if you insist - I might as well tell you, I haven't the remotest intention of letting you in."
"I'll ask you a question," said old Anthony. "Is it true that my daughter has been hurt?"
"My wife is indisposed. I presume we are speaking of the same person."
"You infernal scoundrel," shouted Anthony, and raising his cane, brought it down with a crack on Doyle's head. The chauffeur was half-way up the walk by that time, and broke into a run. He saw Doyle, against the light, reel, recover and raise his fist, but he did not bring it down.
"Stop that!" yelled the chauffeur, and came on like a charging steer. When he reached the steps old Anthony was hanging his stick over his left forearm, and Doyle was inside the door, trying to close it. This was difficult, however, because Anthony had quietly put his foot over the sill.
"I am going to see my daughter, Paul," said Anthony Cardew. "Can you open the door?"
"Open it!" Paul observed truculently. "Watch me!"
He threw himself against the door, but it gave suddenly, and sent him sprawling inside at Doyle's feet. He was up in an instant, squared to fight, but he only met Jim Doyle's mocking smile. Doyle stood, arms folded, and watched Anthony Cardew enter his house. Whatever he feared he covered with the cynical mask that was his face.
He made no move, offered no speech.
"Is she upstairs?"
"She is asleep. Do you intend to disturb her?"
"I do," said old Anthony grimly. "I'll go first, Paul. You follow me, but I'd advise you to come up backwards."
Suddenly Doyle laughed.
"What!" he said, "Mr. Anthony Cardew paying his first visit to my humble home, and anticipating violence! You underestimate the honor you are doing me."
He stood like a mocking devil at the foot of the staircase until the two men had reached the top. Then he followed them. The mask had dropped from his face, and anger and watchfulness showed in it. If she talked, he would kill her. But she knew that. She was not a fool.
Elinor lay in the bed, listening. She had recognized her father's voice, and her first impulse was one of almost unbearable relief. They had found her. They had come to take her away. For she knew now that she was a prisoner; even without the broken leg she would have been a prisoner. The girl downstairs was one of them, and her jailer. A jailer who fed her, and gave her grudgingly the attention she required, but that was all.
Just when Doyle had begun to suspect her she did not know, but on the night after her injury he had taken pains to verify his suspicions. He had found first her little store of money, and that had angered him. In the end he had broken open a locked trinket box and found a notebook in which for months she had kept her careful records. Here and there, scattered among house accounts, were the names of the radical members of The Central Labor Council, and other names, spoken before her and carefully remembered. He had read them out to her as he came to them, suffering as she was, and she had expected death then. But he had not killed her. He had sent Jennie away and brought in this Russian girl, a mad-eyed fanatic named Olga, and from that time on he visited her once daily. In his anger and triumph over her he devised the most cunning of all punishments; he told her of the movement's progress, of its ingeniously contrived devilments in store, of its inevitable success. What buildings and homes were to be bombed, the Cardew house first among them; what leading citizens were to be held as hostages, with all that that implied; and again the Cardews headed the list.
When Doctor Smalley came he or the Russian were always present, solicitous and attentive. She got out of her bed one day, and dragging her splinted leg got to her desk, in the hope of writing a note and finding some opportunity of giving it to the doctor. Only to discover that they had taken away her pen, pencils and paper.
She had been found there by Olga, but the girl had made no comment. Olga had helped her back into bed without a word, but from that time on had spent most of her day on the upper floor. Not until Doyle came in would she go downstairs to prepare his food.
Elinor lay in her bed and listened to her father coming up the stairs. She knew, before he reached the top, that Doyle would never let her be taken away. He would kill her first. He might kill Anthony Cardew. She had a sickening sense of tragedy coming up the staircase, tragedy which took the form of her father's familiar deliberate step. Perhaps had she known of the chauffeur's presence she might have chanced it, for every fiber of her tired body was crying for release. But she saw only her father, alone in that house with Doyle and the smoldering Russian.
The key turned in the lock.
Anthony Cardew stood in the doorway, looking at her. With her long hair in braids, she seemed young, almost girlish. She looked like the little girl who had gone to dancing school in short white frocks and long black silk stockings, so many years ago.
"I've just learned about it, Elinor," he said. He moved to the bed and stood beside it, looking down, but he did not touch her. "Are you able to be taken away from here?"
She knew that Doyle was outside, listening, and she hardened her heart for the part she had to play. It was difficult; she was so infinitely moved by her father's coming, and in the dim light he, too, looked like himself of years ago.
"Taken away? Where?" she asked.
"You don't want to stay here, do you?" he demanded bluntly.
"This is my home, father."
"Good God, home! Do you mean to tell me that, with all you must know about this man, you still want to stay with him?"
"I have no other home."
"I am offering you one."
Old Anthony was bewildered and angry. Elinor put out a hand to touch him, but he drew back.
"After he has thrown you downstairs and injured you - "
"How did you hear that?"
"The servant you had here came to see me to-night, Elinor. She said that that blackguard outside there had struck you and you fell down the stairs. If you tell me that's the truth I'll break every bone in his body."
Sheer terror for Anthony made her breathless.
"But it isn't true," she said wildly. "You mustn't think that. I fell. I slipped and fell."
"Then," said Anthony, speaking slowly. "you are not a prisoner here?"
"A prisoner? I'd be a prisoner anywhere, father. I can't walk."
"That door was locked."
She was fighting valiantly for him.
"I can't walk, father. I don't require a locked door to keep me in.
He was too confused and puzzled to notice the evasion.
"Do you mean to say that you won't let me have you taken home? You are still going to stay with this man? You know what he is, don't you?"
"I know what you think he is." She tried to smile, and he looked away from her quickly and stared around the room, seeing nothing, however. Suddenly he turned and walked to the door; but he stopped there, his hand on the knob, and us face twitching.
"Once more, Elinor," he said, "I ask you if you will let me take you back with me. This is the last time. I have come, after a good many years of bad feeling, to make my peace with you and to offer you a home. Will you come?"
Her courage almost failed her. She lay back, her eyes closed and her face colorless. The word itself was little more than a whisper.
Her father opened the door and went out. She heard him going down the stairs, heard other footsteps that followed him, and listened in an agony of fear that Doyle would drop him in the hall below. But nothing happened. The outside door closed, and after a moment she opened her eyes. Doyle was standing by the bed.
"So," he said, "you intend to give me the pleasure of your society for some time, do you?"
She said nothing. She was past any physical fear for herself.
"You liar!" he said softly. "Do you think I don't understand why you want to remain here? You are cleverer than I thought you were, but you are not as clever as I am. You'd have done better to have let him take you away."
"You would have killed him first."
"Perhaps I would." He lighted a cigarette. "But it is a pleasant thought to play with, and I shall miss it when the thing is fait accompli. I see Olga has left you without ice water. Shall I bring you some?"
He was still smiling faintly when he brought up the pitcher, some time later, and placed it on the stand beside the bed.