bert, joe and phil were the three amigos, the three jokers.
they were sales representatives for transatlantic supplies, a company that made office supplies, with its main product being pencil sharpeners.
bert, joe and phil all had great senses of humor.
bert's specialty was poop jokes, joe told fag jokes, and phil told fat lady jokes.
they all got all along great. bert had the north territory, joe had the central, and phil had the south.
of course all three spent most of their time on the road and on the phones, but when they got together it was great.
all three covered for the others when they had to.
then the company hired dave, a fourth sales rep, and reshuffled the territories.
dave was a born-again christian, and told knock-knock jokes and jokes about cute kids.
and the other three just didn't like him.
it was just not the same any more. the old cameraderie, the old sense of fun, were gone.
seventeen months after dave was hired, the company was sold to a larger office supplies company. dave, and joe, were laid off and bert and phil were reassigned to new, smaller territories in the parent company.
bert took early retirement a few months after that.
bert, joe and phil tried to get together every so often but eventually they drifted apart.
bert, especially, always blamed dave for ruining the chemistry they had, and for starting the company's downfall.
bert's wife tried to tell him that nothing lasts forever, but he wasn't buying it.
"robin hood's treasure?" arboreta stared blankly at the diminutive journalist seated on the divan across from her. "sir, i think you must have madwood confused with some other " - she groped for words - "some other out of the way estate here in the hinterlands."
wallace laughed. "well, miss, other people may have confused it - but they have indeed confused it for i have heard from several sources that deeds, and maps, and wills, and the discoveries of long lost cousins have excited numerous persons - including those suspect on the grounds of both sanity and legality - to take a decided interest."
"no one here - here where boredom reigns supreme and fancy has full play - has ever spoken of such a thing."
night has fallen over madwood. all the inhabitants and visitors are asleep except two - garland. and wallace.
after a fruitless discussion, in which arboreta could give him no enlightenment at all on the reputed treasure, the self-styled journalist wallace has been invited to stay the night and on the morning, ask the other members of the family if they know anything of it.
wallace has so far declined the use of the guest room offered him, and sits on the divan, staring at the very low fire, and occasionally lighting a cigarette.
the orphan has accepted the hospitality offered her of a tiny garret room on the top floor, and is fast in a dreamless sleep. too embarrassed to mention her interest in the estate and the treasure, she has, per agreement with wallace, passed herself off as his assistant - a fiction accepted by the unworldly arboreta.
incapable of sleep, garland roams the hallways.
outside, the rain, which had abated, picks up again and lashes the windows.
garland steals downstairs and peers into the drawing room in which the journalist sits smoking. somehow he does not interest her or arouse her curiosity, and she steals away without making her presence known.
making her way to the top floor, she notices the door of a small empty room, usually closed tight, slightly ajar.
cautiously opening it, she sees a form on the bed. she stares at it, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness in the room.
the orphan looks familiar to her, but whether from this life or a previous one, garland is unsure.
suddenly awake, the orphan feels garland's eyes on her.
she is terrified. too terrified to move, or cry out.
when she finally summons the nerve to move her head, garland is gone.
the rain beats.
wallace's questions are met with indifference and incomprehension by the cousins. on another day they might have been a welcome diversion, but the cousins are all preoccupied by the prospect of the will being read later that day.
the ride back to the city is silent, neither wallace nor the orphan having anything to say.
later the orphan learns that the sentinel-trumpet, the newspaper wallace claimed to represent, does not exist.
no further enquiries as to the existence of robin hood's treasure are recorded.
grandmother fotherinton's will contained no surprises.
the murderers of mr barbourforth were never apprehended.
the grounds and inhabitants of madwood continued their irreversible decomposition.
valentine gasped for breath. he could not go on. giving up on pursuing gobbins - what would he gain by overtaking him, except the chance to upbraid him to his face? - he leaned against a streetlamp and considered his miserable condition.
suddenly two burly figures emerged from the fog.
“what have we here, sid?”
“i don’t know, what do we have here?”
valentine had become all too familiar with ruffians of this sort since his expulsion from the ranks of officers and gentlemen. he was in no mood to listen to their idiotic chaffing now. (95)
145. any notion
“very likely, very likely, “ inspector flanders responded absently to craver’s enquiry as to whether he would be required to go down to the yard to make a statement.
hands behind his back in the classic policeman pose, flanders looked around the apartment, which was, he had to admit, in just such disarray as was consistent with craver’s account of the dreadful proceedings.
“while we await the doctor,” he addressed craver, “tell me, do you have any notion as to what an argument might have been about?” (86)
146. proper manners
“off with you, you blithering empty-skulled baboons!” valentine snarled at the two would-be footpads.
he went to threaten them with his stout sword cane - and realized his hand was empty.
he must have dropped it at barbourforth’s in the excitement and frenzy of escaping with his life from the enraged manservant…
his heart gave a lurch. he almost did not perceive the two “baboons” coming closer to him, one from each side.
“damn me, tim, it sounds like his lordship has forgot his proper manners.”
“robin hood’s treasure.”
“i beg your pardon.” flanders gave craver his coldest gaze. “did i hear you aright? robin hood’s treasure?”
“indeed, sir. ridiculous as it sounds. they were arguing over a deed to an estate said to hide robin hood’s treasure.”
“sit down ,sir, sit down. and you too, miss.” the flustered arboreta gestured to the self-styled journalist wallace and to the orphan.
although they had been relieved of their hats and coats by the surly maid, both showed all too evidently the traces of their progress to the house before they had been providentially rescued by the tardy arrival of the fotherinton family limousine.
arboreta had been expecting wallace, though he was not quite what she had expected - someone just a bit more dashing and like a motion picture version of a reporter, perhaps.
the orphan she had not been expecting and did not quite know how to ask who exactly she was. some sort of an assistant to the reporter?
“perhaps you would like a cup of tea?” she finally managed, after the pair had gingerly planted their sodden forms on the faded couches.
“that would be very welcome,” wallace agreed.
149. pleasant company
“forgot your manners, have you , governor?”
valentine tried to clear his head as the two ruffians closed in on him.
“look here, chaps, perhaps i spoke a bit harshly - “
“i’ll say you did, squire, i’ll bloody say you did - “
“but look at me, you can see i’ve already been knackered. i’ve nothing left you want - “
“just the bloody pleasure of your company, governor, that’s all - “
150. the inspector apologizes
despite himself, inspector flanders could not help laughing.
“i’m sorry,” he quickly added - fancy, apologizing to a butler - “that was most improper of me. but tell me - did the deceased gentleman himself -“
“ - yes, mister barbourforth. did he himself believe in this treasure, or just the villains who attacked him?”
“why, sir, mr barbourforth did not exactly confide in me, but if you was to ask my opinion, sir, he seemed to be taking it very seriously indeed .“ craver hesitated.
“go on,” flanders commanded.
“at least he had been until last night. that is ll i can say.”
despite the wind and rain and fog, a crowd quickly gathered in the dusk in montagu square.
"what's going on here?" constable mulgrave shouted. "who's crying murder?"
" it's this gentleman here," exclaimed a woman at mulgrave's elbow.
gentleman? the individual indicated looked to mulgrave's eye to be more likely a manservant, perhaps a butler.
still, more believable than most of the riffraff he dealt with...
138. a door in the rain
"pull yourself together, fellow. now, let's hear about this alleged murder. slow and easy, if you please."
"oh, i am together, officer," craver exclaimed to constable mulgrave. "it's my poor master, mister barbourforth, who is no longer together. who has been most savagely murdered!"
"ah, and where has this savage murder been done, if you please?"
"right there, constable, in that house right there."
and constable mulgrave, following the line of craver's pointed finger, saw a house in the fog with a light apparently flashing off - from a front door which had not been closed behind whoever had run from it, and was swinging back and forth in the rain and wind.
"well then, let's have a look."
mulgrave followed craver back to the house.
139. in the fog
"you bloody fool! you blithering coward!"
valentine corgrave, stumbling through the fog and rain, called after the disappearing form of his erstwhile companion in crime, gobbins.
but it was no use. gobbins had taken a few good whacks from the butler craver when he had suddenly descended on them - from god knows where - as valentine and gobbins were searching the home of mr barbourforth , but valentine had been seriously wounded in the fray.
blood was streaming down his face from a deep gash on his head, and he had taken another fearful blow on his knee, which was now swelling up and making it impossible for him to run.
gobbins disappeared in the fog.
and they had not found the damned document!
all for naught!
garland couldn't sleep, much as she desired release from her distressed and self-lacerating thoughts.
rain was beginning to fall against the single window in her little room.
she got up to make sure the window was tightly closed.
she saw headlights coming down the drive.
it was the family limousine, with pothers at the wheel.
who was in the back?
inside mr barbourforth's house a frightful tableau of violence was displayed.
inspector flanders surveyed it with stolid imperturbability.
"you got a good look at these villains, did you?" he asked craver.
" indeed i did, sir. more than a good look, i gave them a good lick. one of them, especially, i wonder he got away."
"yes, quite. did you recognize them by any chance?"
"i recognized one of them very well indeed."
"who was he, then?"
"a young man calling himself armistead - kelvin armistead."
143. the inspector is skeptical
"judging from the position of the body, and the lack of any sign of struggle, i deduce that the deceased was taken quite by surprise."
"oh, i am sure he was, sir, i am sure he was."
"and these two rascals you describe, you let them in yourself?"
"oh no, sir, it was my night off."
"your night off?" the phleghmatic flanders seemed almost surprised at this.
"yes, it was only by the purest chance that i returned to find them at their grisly work."
"you don't say so." inspector flanders was always skeptical of "purest chance" but of course did not say so.
"this armistead fellow - what do you know of him?"
"why, nothing really. only the name - the name he gave."
"oh, but i asked you first, sir," the orphan insisted to the little man, who had revealed himself to be a journalist.
a journalist on the track of the fotherinton inheritance, whose secret had presumably been slumbering for centuries!
"ah, very well, then," the little man relented with a smile. "i am none other than wallace - walter wallace of the sentinel-trumpet. you are no doubt familiar with the name."
"i could pretend to be, sir, out of misguided politeness, but my imposture would soon be evident. but the truth is, i have led a most sheltered life, in the depths of the countryside - not this countryside."
130. ternwhistle persists
"but surely, sir," ternwhistle, having already absorbed the brunt of mr barbourforth's scorn, persisted, " if you wish to be well and truly rid of the matter, my proposal can not be as ridiculous as all that."
131. a confident declaration
"very likely complete nonsense."
132. added emphasis
"and in saying that, i am charitable."
133. a generous offer
"knowledgeable as i am in affairs of this sort, miss, i can not help but be skeptical. of course, if you wish to pursue your course of action, i have no interest in discouraging you." the reporter who had identified himself as wallace smiled at the orphan with only a hint of condescension. "in fact, if you would like to tell your story to the readers of the sentinel-trumpet, it would be much appreciated."
"oh no, sir," the orphan replied. "i am sure you mean kindly enough, but i have no wish to declare my folly to the world in such a manner."
"but you may as well accompany me to the house, rather than wait here for the return train."
134. waiting game
quiet had settled on madwood as the storm clouds gathered above it.
the cousins had nothing more to say , as they awaited the reading of the will on the following day.
except for arboreta, awaiting the reporter, the verandah was deserted.
136. a quandary
dark clouds were now forming over the railway stop.
as little as she was enjoying mr wallace's company, and as little as she was looking forward to visiting madwood now that mr wallace had torn the veil of folly from her eyes, the orphan saw nothing for it except to accompany him to the home of the fotherntons, if for no other reason than to get out of the rain which now seemed imminent.
but where, indeed, was the promised car?
a few raindrops fell on their heads.
wallace looked up, surveying the sky with more apparent amusement than concern.
though she felt a bit foolish stating something so obvious, the orphan could not forbear saying, "there does not seem to any shelter."
"no, there does not," agreed her companion.
"perhaps, then, we could begin to make our way, and meet the car on the road."